List o the weak: Anime that time has forgotten

So there are some series that make such an impression that they seem to rock the foundations of anime fandom: Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain, Fullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Beebop, etc. It’s not that these shows are universally beloved, but they’re definitely universal. They’ll come up at least once in any conversation you have about anime.

And then there are shows that seem to spark, fizzle and fade away. Now for the most part, they probably deserve to. I mean how many people really are going to talk about Project A-ko or El Hazard. Not that these shows are bad, it’s just that they didn’t leave much of an impression.

And then there are shows that are good, but surprisingly don’t seem to show up in any conversations. Now none of these shows are perfect, and they may have come at the end of a glut of other shows, or they might have just gotten a little too much bad press. But these are my top five overlooked anime.

Number Five: Otogi Zoshi

Okay, so the first thirteen episodes of this are better than the second, but even with that this show has two kickass openings, swords, mysterious quests and some really excellent animation (courtesy of Production I.G.) The first thirteen episodes follow the adventure of Hikaru Minamoto as she assumes her brother’s identity to save Japan. Yes, it sounds like a cheap rip-off of Mu Lan. But trust me, this isn’t Disney at all. It’s got blood and dying and tragedy and all of the good stuff.

Now the second half does take place in a modern Tokyo and does seem more like an epilogue to the first part rather than a story in its own right. But it’s still enjoyable enough.

Number Four: Noein

There’s just something about this show. Yeah, it does focus on a bunch of elementary school kids in their last summer before they go on with the rest of their lives. But how they get caught up in this inter dimensional war is great. The kids themselves get routinely upstaged by their adult counterparts. In particular, Kurasu, who is the older version of the male lead, is at times dark and mysterious and times tragic and at times cruel and occasionally insane. He makes for one of the better heroes I’ve seen in anime. Now I wouldn’t necessarily put him in Lelouch or Suzaku territory, but he’s still loads of fun.

And the other characters are just as enjoyable. Even Atori, who at first just seems like the classic anime wack job actually gets some fairly decent development. In fact, my only complaint about this series is the ending, which just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the series. But otherwise it’s definitely worth checking out. Here’s Anime Diet’s first look at it.

Number Three: Argentosoma

Um… did you notice my banner up there? Yeah, that’s Ryu Soma. Probably one of the best anti-heroes in anime. He’s as interesting of a character as Lelouch or Kaiji. He’s probably more interesting than a lot of the heroes on my top eight list (with the exception of Brandon Heat). Now, I spent an entire analysis piece a while back going over him, so I won’t repeat everything I said there. But the dynamic between him and Hattie is really what sells this show to me.

Now the side characters aren’t necessarily as interesting, but that’s okay. The plot is fairly good and provides an excellent backdrop for the conflict between those two characters and the conflict within the main character himself.

Number Two: Starship Operators

So I had a hard time deciding whether this should be number two or number three, but it’s probably the more obscure show. I’ll be honest though, it does an amazing job at capturing the relationship between the media, the government and the military in times of war. In fact, it could just as easily be a case study for the nature of modern warfare as it is a story about some high school students who hijack a ship.

The only bad thing I can say about it is that it has a nasty case of red shirt and a missing denouement but otherwise it’s an excellent show.

Number One: Kaze no Yojimbo

Okay, so I’ve talked about this one before. But if you’re tired of hardboiled heroes who go soft halfway through the series, than watch this show. If you want a little more realism in your anime, then watch this show. If you just want something that’s different, then watch this show. I mean if Dashiell Hammett had a Japanese love child, it would be George Kodama. And if he’d happened to set The Red Harvest in Japan is would be Kaze no Yojimbo.

But… the character designs do have a bad tendency to switch a little. But honestly if you can put up with the ever shifting character designs of GitS: Standalone Complex, then you shouldn’t have a problem with this one.

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Anime Blogs as Rock Genres: Punk

So a while ago I started a post trying to classify blogs as particular rock genres. Mostly it fell apart because I didn’t have enough experience with anime blogs and bloggers yet. But I’m starting to get a handle on it. I thought it would be fun to give it a shot. So here it goes. I’m not going to name names here, mostly because I don’t need that drama.

Anyways here we go.

Punk

Punk blogs all have some similar traits. They’re loud. They’re angry. And they’re right. Even if they’re wrong they’re right and nobody better tell them otherwise. That’s not to say that they’re trolling for flames, but they’ll use whatever wording they see fit. Generally you can count on one inflammatory remark per post.

They differ from heavy metal blogs though because their anger is generally directed by reason though. Often interspersed between the bullshits, the fucks and the other cuss words, there is a good point. Now some are lighter than others, and some are better than others, but no matter which way you go, they’re always angry.

Oi Punk: Oi Punk Blogs are the second easiest to spot. They’re the ones waving around the rebel flag, yelling about how the industry is dumb, other bloggers are dumb, the whole world needs to collectively pull their heads out of their asses. Generally their posts are not made for the eyes of readers. They tend to be lengthy and dislike the idea of capitalism, or society in general. They’re the most likely to open up a can of hate on you if you disagree with them.

Sometimes as they get older they can start to mellow out and write a little more understandably. But they’ll always tend to be on the angry side.

Skate Punk: Where oi punk says fuck you, skate punk says “whatever”. They’re still angry about the stuff that they care about, and can make remarks poking fun at the wholes in the system. But they’re still a bit angry and they’re usually loud. But so much easier to understand. For that reason, skate punk blogs tend to be more popular. Generally the blogger responds to hate with a quick kick to the nuts, and responds to like with a self-effacing sure.

Now don’t make any mistake, skate punk blogs still hate capitalism, commercialism and society in general. But they’re just as likely to let it keep doing whatever the hell it’s going to do. They may cross over into pop punk occasionally or as time goes on, but most of the time they don’t need to.

Pop Punk: Much like skate punk blogs, these ones are even more mellow. In fact, they could almost pass for a top forty song some of the times. Of all the punk type blogs, these are the most likely to be episode review blogs rather than editorial blogs. They’re usually funny, a bit irreverent, but rarely angry, well unless it calls for it. There is a ska variant on this which tends to be pretty similar except they play trumpets. Or they don’t.

Now pop punk blogs can occasionally get a bit emo, but they make up for it with some good one liners and a whole lot of funny commentary.

Emo: Emo blogs are the easiest to recognize because no one understands them. Generally they’re a mix of personal posts about how much life and people suck, and diatribes about how much other fans suck. Often they do troll for attention. And when they get it they wonder why everyone’s picking on them. That’s not to say that they don’t have good points occasionally, if you’re willing to wade through the whining. They always take themselves too seriously and as a result take everyone else too seriously as well.

But we all love them anyways.

Okay so that’s all I can think of. If you have any additions or think I missed any of them please leave a comment or e-mail iniksbane@gmail.com

List o the Weak: My top five favorite anti-heroes

Okay, so I’m going to take a pretty liberal definition of anti-hero here. Traditionally the anti-hero actually has to be the main character of the story, but I do have at least one character in here that is a ally of one of the protagonists. And one that is briefly allied with one of the protagonists.

That said, there’s something about an anti-hero that just appeals to me. Whether it’s their twisted sense of ethics, their self-delusion or just the fact that they’re an out and out jerk. I can’t help being interested in how they’re going to play out. And I certainly can’t help hoping that they’ll either grow up or get what they deserve or at least get their revenge.

So here it is, my top five favorite anti-heroes in anime.

Number Five: Kei Kurono, Gantz

There’s something about a jerk. It isn’t that they’re likable, although I do have to say that Gantz is stocked with fairly likable characters, it’s that they can say what the audience is really thinking and get away with it.

And Kurono is exactly that character. He starts off simply thinking about how miserable he is, and how the world treats him unfairly and when it starts REALLY treating him unfairly he reacts in a backlash. To be honest, he does do some pretty heroic things, but in general they’re out of a sense of wanting to fit in rather from an actual desire to do good things.

The only reason he ended up so low on the list is that his whining does get a bit annoying occasionally. And towards the end, he actually does play the hero.

Number Four: Paul von Oberstein, Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Ahh… what a Machiavellian countenance. To be honest, he looks a lot nicer in this picture than he actually is. (He’s the piebald guy in the background.) Generally, the type of anti-hero I enjoy the most is the type who has the best interests in mind, but his methods are a little bit suspect. And while Reinhard von Lohengramm is starting down the road to being an anti-hero, he’s being lead there by Oberstein.

Case in point, he allows an entire planet to get nuked so he can use it as a propaganda tool. Granted it worked. He also cuts Reinhard off from his sister to pull him out of his moping. Again, the sensible move, but also the nasty move. He is what Machiavelli meant when he said, “It is better for your subjects to fear you, then to love you.”

Number Three: Saito, Rurouni Kenshin

And of course, I couldn’t let an anti-hero list go by without mentioning one of my favorite abberant characters. What makes this guy so much fun is his twisted sense of justice. I mean how couldn’t I enjoy a character who is a spy, police officer and executioner all rolled into one. Probably what I enjoy most about him, is that he doesn’t have any angst about what he’s doing. He truly feels that he’s acting in the best interest of the nation by eliminating the world of it’s scum.

Now, I know that it’s always in vogue to rip on the popular character. But I think Saito holds up well even on repeated viewings. And how can I not like a guy who says, “I’m glad he’s gone, so now I can kill you.” or at least something like that.

Number Two: Guts, Beserk

I had a hard time deciding whether or not Guts should really go on this list. Overall, I think it’s a testament to Beserk that it doesn’t overtly offer up Guts as a classic anti-hero. But overall, his values ARE pretty warped (he just wants to fight, because he enjoys fighting.) Also he’s friends with Griffin, who is a whole different type of anti-hero.

And really, not only is he an interesting anti-hero, but he’s also and interesting character. Just watching his arc from where he joins up with Griffin to the point where he leaves to the point where he comes back. He is a character who learns to accept his inner darkness, but ends up not being able to accept what that cost him.

And my number one all time favorite anti-hero is:

Ryu Soma
Like I said, there’s just something about a jerk and Ryu Soma is the king of all jerks. He starts off the series as a self-involved scientist, who gets caught up in his own pity party. At times he has moments of understanding and while eventually he gets it, he does remain an anti-hero throughout the course of the show.
Probably the best part of it though, is that he doesn’t buck the plot. Unlike other anti-heroes *cough* Shinji *cough* we aren’t stuck with hours of “Do I really want to do this? Why doesn’t my daddy love me?” Instead, we get someone who’s trying to figure out how to take revenge on the actual hero.

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Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail iniksbane@gmail.com

List o’ the weak: Famous Last Words

In almost every anime, there is a moment right before a character dies when I know that they’re dead. Now sometimes the mortality rates for these moments aren’t always that high, but these are the five most notable times when I know that someone’s going to kick the bucket.

Now these aren’t in any real particular order, because a lot depends on the tone of the series. But any time the series skews dark and one of these shows up, especially if they show up repeatedly, you can be pretty sure that some’s going to join the choir invisible.

Number Five: Remember when…

Oh the flashback, you’ve taken some of my favorite characters. The mortality rate for flashback episodes later in the series is pretty high. Generally this holds true for lesser characters or later in the series. Last Exile comes to mind when I think about this trick, but it also pops up in X and to a lesser extent Blood +.

Now, I have to differentiate this from the recap episode in longer series. Usually this flashback episode will contain new information the viewer hasn’t seen. And generally is a trick for the creators to build up some kind of connection between the viewer and the character before they off the character.

Number Four: You’re getting pretty good at this.

Any time a mentor character says these words, you can almost always expect them to be dead in the next few episodes. This one is a favorite trick of “real” robot shows, particularly of the Gundam variety. Mostly, this one has started to fade into the background with the newer shows. In fact, now it’s become more popular it seems to have the mentor be a flawed character in their own right. Or even a main character in their own right.

But it still holds true enough for me to put it on the list.

Number Three: When this is all over…

When a character says this there’s at least an 80 percent chance that they’re dead, especially when they say it more than once. And if it’s combined with the flashback episode, then it’s sure to spell the death of the character.

Although sometimes it isn’t the character that I might think it is. Blood + pulled a switchup on this one with the death of one the characters. So I’d have to say, that it’s the character who’d most likely cause the largest emotional impact if they died. Cute, funny characters are usually the first on that list, followed by noble, long suffering sidekicks.

Number Two: For Glory and Honor.

What’s that saying, “There’s no such thing as an old hero.” Now mostly this holds true with war epics or any time there’s a character who is willing to sacrifice themselves for a higher cause. But any time I hear a character say something like, “I won’t run away.” or “For the glory and honor of X thing” I know that they’re dead.

Now granted, this doesn’t neccesarily hold true for the main protagonist, unless it’s toward the end of the series.

And the Number One all time famous last words are:
Revenge is all I live for.

Ahh, yes. The character who’s sold his life for revenge will always die. But only after they have a chance to complete their revenge or at least attempt to complete their revenge. Now whether they suceed or not really depends on the tone of the series, but you’re almost guarunteed to get blood from this statement.

List o’ the Weak: Top Five Hardboiled Heroes

So I’ve been writing a bunch of heavy stuff, which has kind of left my brain soggy. So I thought I’d lighten it up a bit and write something a little more fun. As always any comments, ideas or questions, you can e-mail iniksbane@gmail.com or leave a comment. So on with the fun.

I have to say I’ve always liked noir. I like film noir, I like hardboiled detective novels, I like anything that’s dirty and gritty where the hookers are angels and the angels are hookers. And anime has its share of tough guys who walk the mean streets. So lets all tip our fedoras in that dark and stormy night to these hardboiled heroes.

Number five: Roy Revant, Solty Rei

So there’s something about a ex-cop that I always enjoy, especially when you add loose cannon into that mix. Roy isn’t the best out there, but he’s one of the few that walks the fine line between avenger and criminal. In some ways, he’s one of the closest heroes to really being a bad guy at the beginning of the series. In particular, I really like the crusty exterior he has for the first part of the series. I do think he gets a bit sappy about halfway through, but outside of that he definitely deserves a spot on this list.

Oh yeah, and he has a really awesome gun. And a really neat narration at the beginning of the series. I’m totally up for the effective voice-overs.

Number four: Mirielle Bouquet, Noir

I’ll admit it, I’m a big fan of this series and Mirielle is the reason. Mostly I find Kirika to be a bit dull and distant. And while some people might say that’s her role in the series, I still find Mirielle to be the more interesting character. Both because she has a past and because she exudes a sense of cool that would rival the Fonz. I could just imagine her walking down the streets of Paris in the middle of summer and the entire street stopping to let her pass. Seriously, she’s so cool that ice cream is jealous.

Plus her past gives the series a lot of strength that it would have lacked. And unlike the more contrived Madlax, it’s actually somewhat plausible.

Number three: Saiga, Speed Grapher

Okay, so I just need to write this line to explain why Saiga is on this list, “It’s been over a decade since the Bubble war, when the global economy burst. The rich got richer and the poor were out of luck. Welcome to Tokyo, the city where all the winners came to jerk each other off.” That’s the first thing we hear when we see Saiga. Unlike Revant, he’s not on a revenge kick. No he’s just embittered, angry and cynical. Basically, the perfect noir hero.

I mention Revant because like him Saiga goes soft about halfway through the story. He doesn’t quite lose the edge he had at the beginning of the series though, which is why he places higher in my list.
Number two: Jet Black, Cowboy Bebop

And what list would be complete without a note from the grandaddy of a anime noir series. I know a lot of people would have picked Spike or Faye, but I like Jet more. First because he’s actually closer to my age. And I’ve always liked the disillusioned cop archetype more than the reformed criminal or the femme fatale. Seriously, Black Dog Serenade is one of my favorite episodes.

My only complaint is that he doesn’t get enough sceen time. Generally, he’s pushed aside by the more sexy characters and regulated to either moments of comic relief or doing research.
And my Number One favorite Hardboiled Hero is:

George Kodama, Kaze no Yojimbo
If Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler had a love child who happened to be Japanese it’d be George Kodama. This guy is a tough guy through and through, from taking on the powers that be to the local Yakuza, he plays them all. And still comes out on top. Or at least somewhere near the top.

After rewatching this series, I’m impressed that the guy never really softens. He’s harsh with the people who deserve it, kind to the people who deserve that. And in general ends up being the very pinnacle of hardboiled heroness without any catchy one-liners or voice overs.
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Agree or disagree? Post a comment below or email iniksbane@gmail.com

List o’ the Weak: My top five least favorite anime

Number Five – Spiral

When I popped in the first disk of this series, I was excited, really excited. Here was a mystery, a real honest to goodness mystery, that wasn’t going to get solved in one episode. It sucked me right in and I was on the edge of my seat for the first three disks. I knew it. This was going on my list of all time favorite anime. I haven’t been this sucked into an anime for a long long time.

And then it just broke my heart. Much like that first date that never calls you back, it simply started showing filler episodes. And then more filler episodes. And what started with such a bang, just went out with a whimper and NEVER solved the mysteries that it proposed.

And now I’m stuck with six disks that I don’t even want to give away because I don’t want to inflict this series on anyone.

Number 4: Record of Lodoss War OVA

Yeah, so I already wrote an entire Why Not segment on this series. But a lot of it bears repeating. The pacing was bad. The characters were stiff and unbelievable. The plot was trite and predictable. And worst of all, it had Elves. Seriously, for a story based on a Dungeons and Dragons game, I could expect something more, something better than this.

Seriously. If Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman could write the Dragonlance Chronicles based on this game, then it is possible to come up with a good solid plot with believable characters.
Number Three – A.D. Police

So I picked up this series on the cheap a few years ago, and boy did I ever find out why. The two main characters are the stereotypical good cop/bad cop down to a T. Seriously, no show this bad should end their previews with the line “Things are going to get worse.” It started to sound like a threat.
On top of that, the stories were just plain boring. There was little imagination put into it. There wasn’t any really sense of the cyberpunk future that I’ve been promised from BGC. On top of that there were more of those changing into monster scenes that really made BGC Tokyo 2040 cheezy. Tonally it was a complete mess. Sometimes it was campy, sometimes it was serious. Basically, it was a nightmare.

(And now for the hate mail.)
The number two and number one slots here contain what are largely considered classics of anime. And yes, I think they deserve these spots.
Number Two – Nadia and the Secret of the Blue Water

When I first considered buying this series, I checked out the reviews on ANN. They usually read like, this is the beginning of the filler arc at X place. Granted it wasn’t for every disk, so I thought maybe that there was a section that wasn’t filler arc. I’d watched the first two disks and that second disk was really good. It had a bunch of action, really laid the tension on thick, I was excited. It was impossible that my good friends at GAINAX were going to then produce 25 episodes of filler. They hadn’t really lead me astray before this.

But that’s exactely what they did. For the next 25 episodes, it was one set of filler episodes after another set of filler episodes. I’ve already said that I don’t think anime does well with an episodic format and this series did not prove me wrong. And by the time it did get around to finishing up its story, I’d long since stopped caring.

And my number one all time least favorite anime of all time:

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Yes, that darling of the critics. That favorite of the intelligensia. Oh, how I despise thee. The problem with this series isn’t it’s fundamentals though. The characters are good. The idea is pretty amazing. No, the problem with this series is all in the execution. Basically, no matter which way you cut it, it’s a show that is designed for children.

Take for instance, the lack of overarching character development. Sure, occasionally they get some, but it never really sticks. Much like Cowboy Beebop, the characters simply repeat the same roles over and over again. They have to same reactions to the same stimulus. And while in Cowboy Beebop, it’s cool because there’s so much more going on, in Utena it’s a weakness. Because in Beebop, the characters aren’t the centerpiece for the show, the plot is. In Utena, the characters should be the core that holds everything together. And to do that, they have to change, but instead, they just go through the same steps, over and over and over again, like a waltz with a permanent coda.

And speaking of music – the synth rock soundtrack simply gets old as well. I realize that the series is on the older side, but a little variation in the themes would be nice. And the animation looping gets old too. How many times does she need to be walking up those stairs. Can we say stalling for time? Even the fight scenes are weak. Maybe I’m being to harsh, but for something that is hailed as a post-modern fairytale, I expected some meat, some real examination of the issue of gender. But all I got was a brain numbing, hackneyed, piece of trash.

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Agree or disagree? Post your comments below, or email iniksbane@gmail.com.