Impressions: Tower of Druaga, BLASSREITER, Madlax, Saiunkoku and Dennou Coil

So I’m taking iknight’s advice and actually looking at who is directing these shows because all my snarky comments aside, I probably should be.

Tower of Druaga: I’ll be fair about this one. Right now, I could go either way. If they decide to make the entire fantasy world some sort of online game and make the main character both a failure in the game and in real life then it would be really cool. If it’s just the standard, young guy must train hard so that he can defeat the evil that lurking in the tower then it’ll still be good. (No matter what those stupid people over at ANN say.) So far I’ve been watching this on YouTube and the quality is decent enough.

BLASSREITER: So far I’ve seen the first two episodes, and it seems pretty standard. Nothing great, nothing bad. I do like that the whole BOOMER-esque “Machines that can meld with other machines and become super machines” thing it has going on. But other than that, I’m not sold on it either way. Although Ichiro Itano, the director on this one, has some interesting titles under his belt, like Gantz. And he was the animation choreographer on Macross Plus, which explains why those bike scenes are done so well.

Madlax: So I decided to pick up Madlax again after I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for about a year and a half. (I’ve watched it once and I hadn’t gone back to it since.) And the truth is that I’m just as unsure about it as last time that I watched it. It’s definitely a fun series. Especially the Madlax episodes. I mean how can I not like the top notch assassin who goes around killing people like it’s well… a nine to five job, but still acts a little bit like a kid herself. The Margaret Burton episodes are a little boring, mostly because Margaret Burton is a little bit boring. But the story does pick up and keep going at a fairly even pace. Although the lesbian undertones would probably be better if there was a little bit more yuri, a little less hinting at it.

But the one thing I can’t figure out about this series is whether or not it’s hinting at a yin and yang relationship in the human psyche, which would be a really simple interpretation. But just seems a little too easy, and if that’s the case then I’m not so sure if I like it. Or if the series is about how the West treats the developing world. Now if that’s the case then this is a show worth watching. And looking at the director on this one straight up doesn’t help. On the one hand he directed Noir, on the other hand he directed Irresponsible Captain Tylor. I don’t know.

Saiunkoku: Well other than for the one interesting note I made earlier, this show is still just okay. It’s gotten past its tea parties and flower picking phase and now actually has a kind of solid plot. But I still have a hard time worrying about what’s actually happening to Shuurei. It’s starting to get into the politics a little more, which could be good, could be bad. Because this show really is a mixed bag. I guess I’m not surprised when I found out there was a rookie director on this one.

Dennou Coil: Okay this series just proves that evidently, I have no taste whatsoever. I mean everyone and their dog loves this series. But I just can’t get into it. I’m not worried about these kids. I don’t really care too much about their metabugs. And the “oh-so-cute” elementary school crushes make me want to gag. Much like Noien, this show really suffers with having a cast that is too young for me to relate to. But unlike Noein, I don’t feel like they’re in enough danger for me to care.

Persona ~trinity soul~: And yet another anime to prove that I have no taste whatsoever, only in the other direction. I actually like this one. I mean it’s not perfect by any means. It lags. A lot. Like for entire episodes. But when it does get going, it’s actually fairly enjoyable and I really like the artwork and the character designs. Those two things by themselves are enough to make me want to watch. Even though I’m not quite sure what’s going on some of the time. Strangely enough there was another rookie director on this one


Impressions: BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad

WARNING: Do not start watching this show for the first time at 2 a.m. or you will likely find yourself still clutching the remote at 2 p.m., staring at the TV screen with bleary eyes.

Or at least that’s what happened to me. I slipped that first disk in, expecting that I would watch an episode and then go to bed. But after I finished the first episode, I decided that I’d watch one more. And then twelve hours later I was still rocking out with Koyuki and the rest of Beck. I swear to God it is that addictive of a show.

Part of what makes it so great is Koyuki himself. Now I’ll freely admit that none of the characters have a great amount of depth or breadth to them. They aren’t really flat, so much as just straight-forward. Koyuki is a nice guy, who feels like he’s already stuck in the rut that the rest of his life will run through. He starts off average, a little wimpy, but not anymore than what I’d expect out of a fourteen-year old protagonist. Then he meets Ryuusuke and the rest of his life will never be the same.

What is great about this show is that nothing is ever easy for Koyuki. It isn’t like he picks up the guitar and suddenly knows how to play. In fact, for about the first third of the show, he and Ryuusuke aren’t even talking. He’s stuck learning how to play from a creepy, washed up, ex-swimmer named Saito (who is arguably one of the more interesting characters in the show.) He has to practice and practice and practice some more, and even when he gets better, he isn’t great. It isn’t until much further into the show that he has a breakthrough and learns how to play well. But he has to get extorted by bullies, come face to face with dozens of never weres and has to even overcome class lines to get what he wants.

And the music, well it rocks. Even in (heavens forefend) the dub, the music still rocks. Oh and the small nods and large nods to other musicians, in particular Koyuki’s T-shirts, were really neat too. But mostly to the amateur music geek like me. Although I have a feeling the professional music geeks could have picked up a lot more in there.

While I can say that there’s nothing horribly offensive about the characters, there’s nothing amazingly spectacular about them either. There are large chunks of back story that we never really get. And Beck also has a really bad tendency of not showing characters that aren’t important. And not putting dialogue in that might be interesting, if not necessary. In fact the whole thing has a sense of being pared down to what’s necessary to tell the story and the main subplots. Other than that, it doesn’t waste a lot of time.

In a lot of ways this is the type of show that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to, or else other little things will creep up on you. In particular the really idealistic theme that “they’re making music that will change the world.” Man, if I heard that one more time toward the end of the show I would have started hitting my head against a Stratocaster until it bled Chuck Berry red. Really. And none of this was helped by the wishy-washy ending, which didn’t so much feel like a conclusion, more like a way out of the story.

And that’s the thing about Beck. It’s a feel-good story. For a show that talks so much about art and music, it’s exactly what it preaches against – bubblegum pop.

But even I like some sugar in my coffee sometimes.

Impressions: Code Geass, VOTOMS, Master Keaton, Kaiji and Dennou Coil

Sorry that I haven’t posted for a week, but I had a bad case of real life and not a whole lot to say. Well except for the whole ADV announcement. And all I can say is finally… but still no word on Kurau. And I just shelled out to buy the first three disks. And no word on Welcome to the NHK either. Which isn’t a good thing. But I’ve got my fingers crossed and breath held on that one.

Anyways on to what I’ve been watching.

Code Geass: You know I hate to be one of those pretentious people who gush over this show. But… damn. There’s so much about this show that I like that it’s hard to sort it all out. Yes, I like Lelouche. To be fair, I did like him better as the anti-hero at the beginning because he was strangely unaware that he was treating people like his father had treated people. And I have to say the combination of genres didn’t bother me in the slightest. I really enjoyed the dichotomies and the dramatic irony. Good lord, did that show have some dramatic irony.

In fact, if I have any problem it’s that it had a tendency to either rush complications or drag them out too far. Slight spoiler ahead. For instance, they kill Clovis off really quick, but Cornelia’s still alive by the end of the series. The same thing with Mao. There’s a bunch of scenes hinting at his character, but when he finally came up he got killed off really quick. It ended up making him feel more like a plot device (or an explanation for what happens with Euphie.) But it really is a small gripe in what was overall one of the best mecha shows I’ve seen in a long time.

Armored Trooper VOTOMS: So OnDemand has an Anime Selects channel and they have (or had depending on when you’re reading this post) the first seven episodes of this series up. Now, I’ll admit that a lot of the Gundam that I’ve watched has made me a bit leery of 80s mecha shows. But again, this one actually surprised me. First of all, no whiny boy pilot. Yeah, that’s right; the pilot in this one is a veteran solider who gets caught up in a larger conspiracy. He does get a bit angsty a couple of times. And he put the tacit in taciturn, but a cast of rakes, scoundrels and corrupt cops makes up for it. Really I don’t have any other way of describing it except for, “This is what would happen if you crossed Gundam with Blade Runner.”

My only complaint are the costumes. In a show that is as dark as this show is, all of the side characters are wearing stuff that looked like it’d gotten dropped out of an episode of Superfriends. But if you can get past that this is honestly a good show.

Master Keaton: Okay, so this is a series I bought because it’s been compared with Monster. And it’s a good series so far (I’ve only watched four episodes of it), but it is episodic, which doesn’t really bode well. It’s at least worth a rent if you can find it. And so far it’s a fun series. But I’m going to have another blog post about something pretty specific this show does that is interesting.

Kaiji: Yes, I bit the bullet and started watching this one. And I have to say, it’s good in that action movie kind of way. It’s main saving grace is that Kaiji is a jerk. And that the stuff that the characters go through is inventive in a “just believable enough so I can suspend my disbelief” kind of way. But it isn’t something I couldn’t live without. I’ll admit that I love the OP on it though. Man, I wish I could find a copy of that, because that alone would be worth it.

Dennou Coil: This is a show that my mind isn’t made up on either. On the one hand, it’s got crazy cyberspace going ons, creepy anti-virus drones and a fairly interesting mystery. On the other hand, I’m not in love with the characters. It isn’t that they’re bad. It’s just that they’re pretty flat right now. Not completely flat, but certainly not piquing my interesting. I’m holding out hope that it gets better.


Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

Impressions: On a bunch more stuff

Claymore: So I finished up this series the other day and after a lackluster first four episodes, all I have to say is: AWESOME. Seriously, this isn’t a show that does anything really all that novel. It’s got a pretty classic shounen fighting show format. The characters meet badass monster. Badass monster powers up. Characters power up and beat badass monster. But the combination of powering up and “beware when you hunt monsters, lest you become one,” made a lot of the fight scenes more tense, especially towards the end. I don’t even mind the loose ends it left laying around. Although they do scream sequel. All in all, I’m glad Funimation decided to pick this one up.

Le Chevalier D’Eon: I finished this one too, and… I’m not sure about it. It isn’t bad, but the ending kind of left me scratching my head. It almost felt like there were about six or so episodes missing somewhere between the time the characters were in England and when the came back to France. Also there were quite a few deaths that just seemed awkward, like the creators needed to plop a Deus Ex Machina into the show so that they didn’t need to explain stuff later. Although overall, I do think it’s an interesting show and worth watching again.

Legend of Black Heaven: I watched the first disk of this one so far, and I have to say it’s pretty good. But the dub is horrible. Honestly half the laughs it got from me were those squirmy “oh my god it sounds like they aren’t even watching the screen when they recorded this”. And that’s saying a lot. But on the other hand, I haven’t really seen the likable loser archetype in anime too often, so it’s nice to see it here. And it has some interesting conflict between trying to re-live your glory days and being happy with where you are right now.

Code Geass: Okay, I broke my rule here and downloaded it. Mostly because I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. And I have to say, the first three episodes are good. I do kind of hope they work “a year and a day” somewhere into the anime, although I doubt they’ll go that far into the mythology that they’re borrowing from. But Lancelot is an appropriate name for the mech. And Lelouche is interesting. I’m not sure how much I like him yet. It does feel like we get thrown into the middle of his story.

Saiunkoku: So I’m about four or five episodes into this one, and all I want to know is why does it get compared to Twelve Kingdoms? Why? I mean on the one hand we have a series that spans countries and details the rise of a queen as she learns to rule by walking among her people (among other things). On the other hand we have tea ceremonies, pretty boys and a fairly standard love story. It’s not a bad series, don’t get me wrong. But comparing the two seems like comparing Lord of the Rings to Dragonheart.

Anyways, that’s everything I’ve been watching recently. Well except for Twelve Kingdoms, again. But it’s pretty obvious how I feel about that show.

Impressions: On a whole bunch of stuff

Okay, so I’ve been watching about five series at the same time. Which is really odd for me, since I used to watch one series all the way through and then move onto the next one. But lately, I’ve found that I don’t enjoy marathoning series as much, and when I do I end up disliking it. So I thought I’d give a quick blurb on what I’ve been watching and my impressions.

Persona ~trinity soul~: Wow spiritual giant robots that pop out of people and steal souls. I mean what’s not to love about this show. It’s got everything. And it’s got a snazzy OP. Definitely more fun than a box of rocks.

Claymore: My jury’s still out on this one. It’s definitely wins the “really pretty” award. But I’ve only gotten about four episodes into it and mostly it’s kind of become the show I watch when I don’t feel like watching anything else. But the fight scenes are good. The sword is totally badass. The male lead is pretty cool. And yeah Clare is a bit tsundere, but not too too bad. At least she’s understandable.

Le Chevalier D’Eon: Okay, I’m not sure what to say about this show. On the one hand, it has the Comte St. Germain, who is my favorite occult character of all time. Or at least ever since I read Umberto Eco’s Focault’s Pendulum. On the other hand, it makes all of my history sensors go off. It’s like watching the dub of a foriegn movie. I know the words they’re saying aren’t the words that are coming out of the screen and their mouth is off just enough to aggravate me. Overall, it’s enjoyable and it does have some good scenes and some great betrayals. Honestly worth a second view.

Monster: Oh my God… this show rocks. Granted, I’m only seven episodes in, but it’s already raised the “Hitler Question” (if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a child, would you? Assuming that you knew what he would do when he grew up.) I really enjoyed it in the Dead Zone. And I really enjoy it here. Although, I really don’t know how they’re going to stretch it out across 74 episodes. That will be a bit of a stretch, but so far, so good.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Yang Wen-li is the man. The more I watch this show, the more I enjoy it. And that’s after watching 50 or so episodes of a 110 episode series. It’s got epic space battles, political intrigue, fanatics and two larger than life heroes with drastically different world views. The only failing is that I don’t like the Empire as much as the Alliance. The characters are interesting, but it doesn’t have the same kind of tension after the first season ends. But it’s still a great series even after 30 or so years.

And that’s what I’ve been watching. I also got the first couple disks of ROD TV from Netflix. But I haven’t watched them yet.

Initial Impressions: Macross Frontier ep 1

A long time ago, back when I was a kid, I watched Robotech. Now I mention that because for a long time, Robotech was largely the holy grail of anime. I never saw enough of it to know exactely what the show was like, but I’d read the artbooks and I played the roleplaying games. I even studied the schematics for the SDF-1.

So I have a special place in my heart for Macross. Or at least the Macross arc in Robotech, which I’ve heard is a lot like the show (sans protoculture). Then again, it’s not a show that stands the test of time. It’s horribly cheesy (there are times when the entire city is destroyed and then it’s magically put back together). The plot drags more often than not. All in all, it isn’t that great.

So I started watching Macross Frontier with a bit of trepidation. I may be nostalgic for the original, but the logical part of my head says the original wasn’t really good enough to be nostalgic for.

And Macross Frontier does have all the traditional Macross elements. One teenage boy who wants adventure and excitement. A city traveling through space. A bizarre alien race that appears out of nowhere. And planes that transform into giant robots. In fact, the entire show watches like Macross in the 21st century.

Which is good. In fact, the slightly angsty main character might prove interesting. At the very least (as iknight pointed out in his blog) he isn’t overcome with indecision. Only time will tell if he falls into the the “war sucks, why am I doing this” rut, but for right now he’s at least moderately interesting.

What the update on the traditional story does do is take away the cheese and make the battles much more kinetic. The use of CG in space has gotten to the point where I don’t notice it, so the fairly long space battle actually is a lot more fluid then the original. Also I get the feeling that the city isn’t going to get rebuilt in a day. (I doubt today’s anime fan would buy into that.)

And I do have to make a note of the music. It’s awesome. And that is something good that they carried over from the original. Even underneath the hero’s introductory scene, there’s a rock beat playing, which peps up what otherwise would have been an otherwise stereotypical scene.

If they manage to drain the cheese away from the original, and don’t descend too heavily into the tropes that I expect from the traditional war epic. Then I think this one might actually be a winner.

But we’ll see.

Impressions : Seirei no Moribito

Sometimes there are shows that I watch where there’s no good reason that I like them. iKnight made an interesting comment on his blog that “I like it” and “This is good.” can be two totally different things.

Seirei no Moribito was one of those shows for me. To be honest, really what threw me off about this series was the first five episodes. To give people a basic idea, there’s this badass bodyguard named Balsa who’s asked to defend Chagum, the younger prince, from his father who’s trying to kill him.

Sounds like a great set up? Well it is. I won’t spend to much time gushing about how well the fight scenes are choreographed, or how amazing the animation is. A lot of other bloggers have done that better than I could and with a lot more depth.

But after that great setup, I was expecting a Run for Your Life type of story. But that initial onslaught of action quickly gets pushed to the side, and we spend episode after episode exploring the day to day life of Chagum and Balsa as they’re in hiding. As I was watching it, I kept thinking to myself, “Geez, I should be really bored here. Absolutely nothing is happening.” In fact, the majority of the series nothing happens. Or at least that’s what I thought.

That’s when I realized that the story isn’t really about Chagum getting hunted, or “how are they going to get out of this scrape?” It’s really a Coming of Age story both for Chagum and Balsa. And each of these episodes are really life lessons that Chagum or Balsa are learning as they grow closer.

To be fair, the series does have it’s problems even at that angle. Chagum is interesting because unlike other young anime heroes, he’s very reserved. He doesn’t whine, doesn’t complain, doesn’t get angry (except toward the end of the series) and doesn’t wail against his fate. While this is refreshing, I couldn’t help but think that he’s too reserved. There are a lot of times when the lack of tension between him and Balsa actually made me want him to whine a bit more.

To be honest, I’m not sure whether these thwarted expectations are a good thing or a bad thing. After how much people complain about how X character is just another Y type, I would think that playing with those expections would be excellent. But on the other hand, Seirei no Moribito may play with those expectations too much and too often. Both on a plot level and on a character level, so while it’s an enjoyable series, it never really captures the level of dramatic tension that I want from a character driven story, or the level of physical danger I want from a plot driven story.