Thursday, June 24, 2010

"A Sunflower By Any Other Name..." - Samurai Champloo (anime) - 9/10 Sugar Cubes

A true friend is one who thinks you are a good egg even if you are half-cracked. ~Author Unknown

Genre: Adventure/ Comedy/ Action/ Historical (sorta- not the most accurate!)

Review Status: Full (26 Episodes/ 26 Episodes)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Samurai Champloo has fantastic art and fluid animation, is filled with bright, vibrant colors and very well-choreographed fight scenes.

Summary: Mugen's a buck wild warrior - violent, thoughtless and womanizing. Jin is a vagrant ronin - mysterious, traditional, well-mannered and very strong as well. These two fiercely independent warriors can`t be any more different from one another, yet their paths cross when Fuu, a ditzy waitress, saves them from being executed when they are arrested after a violent swordfight. Fuu convinces the two vagrant young men to help her find a mysterious samurai "who smells of sunflowers." And their journey begins. This is a story about love, friendship and courage... NOT! (Source: AniDB)

Review: If you know anime, then chances are you’ve heard of this title. It’s very popular- for good reason! This is a great samurai action title loaded with historical anachronisms, amazing fight scenes, and a great story. This was really the breakout title for Manglobe Studios, which has produced amazing anime titles such as Ergo Proxy and House of Five Leaves.

Samurai Champloo has fantastic art and fluid animation, is filled with bright, vibrant colors and very well-choreographed fight scenes. Most of it is set to various hop-hop and funk music, with many being incredibly catchy, such as the opening song “Battlecry” and the closing song “San Francisco”. All the songs fit very well with the anime, capturing the scene and mood that’s being set. Not only is the soundtrack great, but the story is also a lot of fun, with pop-culture references and anachronisms that make this look as cool as anything (16th century designer sunglasses, anyone?). The only thing that could be a downside is that, while there is a constant reminder almost every episode that they have to find ‘the samurai that smells of sunflowers’, the plot is pretty episodic. There’s a lot of travel, but they don’t get anywhere fast. Not that the pacing is slow, by any means! Every episode, though fairly self-contained, has great stories and adventures, like the counterfeiters and the gay Dutchman that came to experience Japanese culture. And eventually, the series does come down to the reason they were travelling in the first place, with a somewhat surprising end to it all which might leave some wanting. Though it also seems fitting- I don’t think it could all have ended any other way for these three!

Of course, the characters can make or break a series, no matter the plot and animation- and that’s where this series seems to shine. From the innocent and sometimes obnoxious Fuu, to the arrogant and wild Mugen, and the stoic, honorable Jin, all the characters are well-developed. They all have their own motivations and personalities, and the bonds that form between them are as strong as any. Thankfully, the voice acting is strong enough to carry these characters well. I was lucky enough to hear it in both Japanese and English. While the English acting is fairly good, the Japanese is definitely the way to go if you can follow subtitles.

Overall, while the violence and sexual themes in this anime might put some off, for anyone who wants to see the ‘classics’ of anime, or just a really cool samurai action title, this isn’t to be missed!

Recommended: YES! Older teens and up, due to heavy violence, sexual themes, and language.

Other titles you might like: Cowboy Bebop (anime),
Sword of the Stranger (anime),
Baccano! (anime)
Seirei no Moribito (anime)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

“To Have And To Hold” – Tail of the Moon (manga) - 3/10 Sugar Cubes

Love, and a cough, cannot be hid. ~George Herbert

Genre: Shoujo/ Romance/ Comedy / Drama/ Action

Review Status: Full (15 Volumes/ 15 Volumes)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art: Typical shoujo- all of the bishies look alike except for their hair. All the girls are gorgeous and chesty (except for the main, because we can’t have a busty main, now can we?). It looks like every other ancient-Japan-shoujo manga out there.

Summary: Usagi is the granddaughter of the leader of a presitgious ninja village, but she's such a klutz that she's never made it out of the kiddie class. Frustrated with Usagi's lack of progress, her grandfather sends her to marry Lord Hanzo and have lots of ninja babies. But the lord has no interest in her or her childbearing potential! (Source: Viz Media)

Review: This is a story about Usa, a girl that washes out of being a ninja at the age of 15 due to laziness and is immediately sent to the local lord to marry him and have his kids. In the first chapter. After that, it goes downhill.

So! She proclaims to not go back until she’s successful, and starts on a mission to improve her ninjutsu and become a worthy bride. There’s the obligatory rivals, the embarrassing situations, drama out the wazzoo, and a whole lot of values dissonance- the story clearly states that this takes place in the 1500’s, so there’s a lot of talk about getting pregnant at ages that would be considered totally unacceptable today, and some co-ed bathing (and these aren’t kids we’re talking about, here) and almost-rape.

Now, some of those things can be used well in a manga. Except the characters’ terminal stupidity means that these don’t work well- at all! Even though Usagi is a lazy idiot (Mary Sue, I should say- she only has one redeeming plot device skill), she’s sent on very important, very dangerous missions…. Where she consistently messes up due to her stupidity, such as leaving a message on the floor with important information. Just leaving it there, with no thought to the danger it would put her and her partner in if it were discovered! And, being the main character, all the men want her. Badly. All of them.

This does have a happy end- after a brief, non-inspired, non-inspiring speech about revenge and how it’s not good. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t impressed.

Overall, this sends incredibly mixed messages about what this manga is. The content says it’s for older teens, the execution says it’s for pre-teens. It’s just not that good.

Recommended: No. Not for anyone, unless they’re into sappy, sexual-tension-filled, poorly-executed romances. Probably 15+ due to somewhat graphic instances of sex and constant references to it. There's also some violence and blood.

Other titles you might like:
Paradise Kiss (manga),
NANA (manga and anime),
5 Centimeters per Second (anime),
Red River (manga),
Kanon (anime),
Seirei no Moribito (anime)
Romeo x Juliet (anime)
Castle in the Sky (anime_=)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

“Life Is In The Eye Of The Beholder” - Aoi Bungaku (anime) – 9/10 Sugar Cubes

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die" - a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live. ~Mark Twain

Genre: Psychological/ Horror/ Historical/ Seinen

Review Status: Full (12 Episodes/ 12 Episodes)

Licensed: Unlicensed in the US

Art/ Animation: Wow. For the most part, this remains in the ‘breathtaking’ mode, with bright colors, excellent shading, and animation that is fluid and wonderful.

Summary: The series consists of adaptations of six modern classics of Japanese literature: Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human (Ningen Shikkaku) & Run, Melos! (Hashire, Melos!), Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro, Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Hell Screen (Jigoku Hen) & The Spider's Thread (Kumo no Ito), and Ango Sakaguchi's In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom (Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita).

No Longer Human (Ningen Shikkaku) - A high school student becomes lost and alienated. Despondent and aimless, he falls into a cycle of self abuse, depression and drugs that taints his life for years. Told in three chapters, each chapter deals with a different point in his life and the final chapter leaves him standing alone - an empty and hollow charicature of his former self.

In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom(Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita) - A love story between a 12th-century woman and a mountain bandit who abducts her.

Kokoro - A 1914 tale of a young man's life journey during the Meiji era. The work deals with the transition from the Japanese Meiji society to the modern era, by exploring the friendship between a young man and an older man he calls "Sensei". It continues the theme of isolation developed in Soseki's previous works, here in the context of interwoven strands of egoism and guilt, as opposed to shame

Run, Melos! (Hashire, Melos!) - An updated retelling of a classic Greek tale of the story of Damon and Pythias. The most prominent theme of "Run, Melos!" is unwavering friendship. Despite facing hardships, the protagonist Melos does his best to save his friend's life, and in the end his efforts are rewarded.

The Spider's Thread (Kumo no Ito) - The Buddha Shakyamuni chances to notice a cold-hearted criminal suffering in Hell. But this criminal did perform one single act of kindness in not stepping on a spider in a forest. Moved by this selfless act, Shakyamuni takes the silvery thread of a spider in Paradise and lowers it down into Hell, but it falls upon the criminal to seize the opportunity and pull himself out - if he can.

Hell Screen (Jigoku Hen) - A famous artist is commissioned by a great lord to create a series of paintings depicting scenes of the 'Buddhist Hell'. The artist is unable to paint scenes that he has not seen himself, prompting him to torture and torment the Lord's staff to create his imagined images of hell. His creative efforts taint the household, as the story descends into madness and destruction.(

Review: As these arcs are essentially six different stories, they each deserve a paragraph to themselves. Overall, though, this is a fantastic adaptation of literature. While I can’t attest to how accurate they are, I was nonetheless intrigued, horrified, and touched by this anime. It has everything- stories that draw you in, art and animation that’s above par, and music that only adds to the experience.

No Longer Human was an interesting experience. I take that back- it was mind-bending. The worst scars to heal are the ones that you can’t see, and this man had ones that never did. As both a study of a man, and almost an autobiography of the author, it reveals depths of insanity fostered by someone who had a traumatic past and was never able to overcome it. It is the longest of the arcs, and perhaps the most horrifying as a psychological study.

In The Forest was just outright horror, with an interesting execution (ha, ha, ha). What happens when love goes very, very wrong? This happens. A man is willing to give everything, the lives of his wives, the heads of local nobles, etc, to get a woman to love him- and the sad part is, he was just caught up in her madness and vanity. Trust me, just because you’re cutting the heads off of people doesn’t make you instantly insane. And this was also a surreal experience due to how the animators and writers decided to stylize the violence as a Noh drama, with screens and popping red flags to indicate death. And the opening for the entire arc? Completely misleading. This…. Is not a happy story.

Kokoro was fascinating because the writers decided to add a part of the story that wasn’t originally in the book. Since it was told from first-person, and they decide to show the story from both POV’s, the person watching gets to decide who the unreliable narrator is- or decide that neither one is trustworthy. IS it the story of a man who sees his friend intimidate a woman into intimacy, and marries her to save her from it? Or is it the story of a man’s friend who falls in love with a woman, but sees the man steal her away out of jealousy?

Run, Melos! came the closest to a ‘happy story’ out of all these- a story of best friends and a betrayal that nearly broke one of them. How can one write about friendship when he no longer believes in it himself? When writing a play, he finds himself seeing the story from both sides, but not believing that the other side is sincere. Interesting as the writers/animators decided to insert the characters into the play that was being written, and thereby showing how closely they paralleled.

The Spider’s Thread- As this was written for children, it is perhaps the easiest of themes and ideas to understand. A man, a killer with no remorse or regrets is put to death, but is so consumed by his anger and narcissism that he is unable to escape hell when salvation is offered by a lone creature that he spared. The hell scenes are trippy, but very effective, and overall is an interesting story.

Hell Screen: while in real life the story is unrelated to Spider’s Thread, the anime keeps a character from the previous by choice of the writers and animators. It was also chosen to be portrayed in the same story universe that Spider’s Thread had. As a story, it’s also an interesting look at people- how much suffering and despair do you see before you go mad? Before you start to subvert those in power that are causing it? An artist is ordered by his tyrannical king to paint the city as it is on the walls of his mausoleum, and the artist does…. With a different interpretation of ‘as it is’. Unfortunately, you see the depths that the madness has driven him to, so that he no longer cares about showing the King how wrong he is, but you also see the madness that the King possesses.

Overall, this has a lot to offer someone looking for insights into characters and people. Or people who just want mind-bending stuff that could easily be considered nightmare fuel. Either way, this will satisfy!

Recommended: Sure, for those 17 and over. 16 if mature enough to handle the subject matter. With at least one semi-graphic sex scene (a few implied), somewhat grpahic murder, suicide, and death.

Other titles you might like:
Higurashi no Naku koro ni (anime and manga),
Monster (anime and manga),
Bizenghast (manga),
Franken Fran (manga),
Shinigami no Ballad (anime and manga),
Hell Girl (anime),
Denpateki na Kanojo (anime)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Just An Ordinary Day" - Aria (anime) - 10/10 Sugar Cubes

*Note- This is a review for all three seasons
I know what things are good: friendship and work and conversation. These I shall have. ~Rupert Brooke

Genre: Slice-of-life/ Sci-fi/ Fantasy

Review Status: Full (52 Episodes/ 52 Episodes) *The first season is Aria the
Animation, the second Aria the Natural, the last Aria the Origination

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art/Animation: While some of the art isn't terrific (obviously CG, such as the ocean in some shots), the colors are very nice, the animation is fairly consistent, and some bits are absolutely beautful.

Summary: “Drift peacefully into Neo Venezia, a city on the planet Aqua (formerly known as Mars). By the 24th century, humans have found a way to colonize the previously uninhabitable planet. As futuristic as that sounds, Neo Venezia is still teeming with rustic beauty; gondolas on wide canals and waterways are the main mode of transportation. The city itself is a faithful replication of Manhome’s (the planet formerly known as Earth) Venice.

To make sure that residents and tourists alike get the most from Neo Venezia’s many wonders, companies offering guided tours via gondola were formed, one of which is named Aria Company.

This is the workplace of Akari Mizunashi, a free spirited teenager from Manhome who is now a novice Undine (the title given to tour guides). Join Akari as she becomes intimately acquainted with other Undine, tourists, Neo Venezia’s residents, and even the city itself, learning many valuable life lessons along the way, such as the wonderful truth that there are such things as manmade miracles.” (from

Review: This is an anime in which, at first glance, you can’t be sure about what you’re going to get. The cover for the first season might imply a bunch of fanservice, the summary might imply slapstick comedy, while the description of the content might imply that it takes place in a complete fantasy world or is totally inappropriate for anyone under the age of 16.

In reality, this is none of that. This is a story where nothing happens. And I mean that in the most wonderful way. There are no giant monsters attacking the city, there are no intense space battles, there is nothing that could possibly be considered offensive to…. anyone, really!

The story revolves around Akari and her friends learning to be gondoliers and learning about eachother and the wonderful city they live in. You watch as they make new friends and experience life in Neo-Venezia and the wonderful things it offers. They truly take joy in life’s little things- from the baked potato offered along one of the banks, to the celebrations that take place, to the people that they interacts with every day, there is always something magnificent that waits to be found.

As this is a story about these girls wanting to be gondoliers, you also follow them on their journey of mastering their skills. There’s talk about how to give a proper tour of the city (in fact, one episode is entirely about Akari giving a tour of the city- it’s one of the most heartwarming and breathtaking episodes). You follow as they share training experiences, sometimes making mistakes, often succeeding. You see that rowing a gondola isn’t as easy as it may appear at first- one of the reasons Akari is still in training is due to her learning how to row one the wrong way while she was still on Manhome (Earth).

These things fill the first two seasons. The third takes a decidedly different tone as the girls start to truly master their craft (there is an interlude OVA between the second and third seasons, called Aria ~Arietta~, which is packaged with the third season and has a separate review, which is the first sign of the change in tone). This is where themes of change and time begin to take on more importance. While the beauty of Neo-Venezia remains, the gondoliers who share it’s beauty change, and it’s marked by a bittersweet moving on by a beloved member of the cast. This is where I recommend watching to the very end of the last episode of the third season- which shows that, even as things change and time moves on, there’s certain things that will always live on.

As an aside, because it’s confusing to most people who start watching the anime, yes, that funny-looking white creature with the weird eyes in the beginning of the first episode is a cat-. It’s a Mars cat, which looks different from those that were brought from Earth more recently. And he is considered the “President” of the company in name only- it’s an honorary title given to the cat mascot of a gondolier company, for good luck.

Overall, this is one of the sweetest, most heartwarming anime out there.

Recommended: For watching after a bad day- guaranteed to give a mood lift! Appropriate for all ages.

Other titles you might like: Aria and Aqua (manga)
Yotsuba& (manga),
Hidamari Sketch (anime),
Ah! My Goddess (anime and manga)
Natume's Book of Friends (anime and manga)

"Time And Again" - The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (anime) - 9/10 Sugar Cubes

Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either, but with ropes of steam and spark-spattered wheels and a hoarse roar of power or terror. It's passing, yet I'm the one who's doing all the moving. ~Martin Amis

Genre: Romance/ Sci-fi/ Drama

Review Status: Full (1 movie/ 1 movie)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art/animation: The visuals are stunning- the colors are vibrant, the characters clearly distinguishable (and look good), and the backgrounds are incredibly detailed.

Summary: When 17-year-old Makoto Konno gains the ability to, quite literally, "leap" backwards through time, she immediately sets about improving her grades and preventing personal mishaps. However, she soon realizes that changing the past isn't as simple as it seems, and eventually, will have to rely on her new powers to shape the future of herself and her friends. (From

Review: This is a story about much more than this, though. It's a story about a girl who's realizing that her childhood is slowly slipping away, that she and her friends are changing, and that the days she has with them are as precious as gold. When she gains the ability to time-travel, she also gains the ability to relive her most precious times as she wished she could before. The ability comes with a price, though. If you've ever wondered how your life would be if you'd just done something else, well.... she finds out. And often, it's not what she wanted to happen.

Often, each consequent option has worse consequences than the one before, and it spirals into a horrific unending sequence of trying to fix the mistake, but making things worse- and they do get worse before they get better. But through it all, she realizes that sometimes, life is good as it is, that you should cherish your time with your friends, and that choices shouldn't be made lightly, since you only live once. This is a great movie. The music is incredibly good, and incredibly fitting for each scene. The characters could be people you meet on the street- very realistic, very sweet, very much able to worm their way into your heart.

Overall, this is definitely a must-see anime. After all, time waits for no one!

Recommended: Yes. This is something that you can watch with all but the youngest, who probably will be bored with the lack of action and wouldn’t understand the themes of time passing one by. 13+ for two brief references to masturbation and some light violence.

Other titles you might like:
Lovely Complex (anime and manga)
5 Centimeters Per Second (anime)
Voices of a Distant Star (anime)
Summer Wars (anime

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"A Forever Kind Of Love" - Romeo x Juliet (anime) - 10/10 Sugar Cubes

Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end. ~Author Unknown

Genre: Romance/ Fantasy/ Drama/ Action

Review Status: Full (24 Episodes/ 24 Episodes)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Fantastic! The character designs may take some time to get used to (they’re a tad on the long and lanky side), but the detail in the clothes, the backgrounds, the swordfights…. Yeah. Totally worth it.

Summary: “In the floating continent of Neo Verona, the Montague family seized control and murdered every member of the Capulet family with the exception of Capulet's daughter, Juliet Fiammata Asto Capulet. 14 years later, Juliet and the remnants of Capulet's retainers live hidden from the iron fist of the Montague family. Juliet has long forgotten the murder of her family or her identity, and cross dresses as Odin and the town's hero of justice, "Red Whirlwind". A sudden escape in her daily escapades leads her to meet Romeo Candorebanto Montague, the kind son of the tyrannical Montague. Destiny has been set as these two individuals soon to be "star-crossed lovers" are cruelly toyed with by fate in the midst of war. Loosely based on the play by William Shakespeare.” (

Review: When they say it’s loosely based on the traditional Romeo and Juliet, it’s pretty loosely based. From the Capulets becoming overthrown nobility, to being on a floating island, to various other things in the anime, this is not the Romeo and Juliet that you’re familiar with. Even so, this stands on its own merits. It’s truly a Romeo and Juliet love story- love at first sight, defiance of their families, and, well, the end…

The characters are wonderfully reimagined, with Juliet becoming not just someone who wants to avoid a marriage to someone she doesn’t love, but someone who must hide everything about her identitfy for fear of her life but willing to risk capture to ensure that justice is carried out against the corrupt officials. Romeo is now a prince who wants nothing more than the happiness of his people, and is watching his father descend into greed and politics, becoming nothing more than a tyrant, and even so is willing to defy his father for the woman he loves. Everyone else are characters, to say the least.

The anime itself has many things going for it, from beautiful animation, to lovely music. It has a number of shout-outs to the Bard himself, which gets a laugh from those familiar with his works, but even so some of them will be pretty obvious, and may bring a smile to the viewer’s face. There are themes of love, friendship, sacrifice, and standing up for those who can’t protect themselves, presented in a way that isn’t too obvious. This may not be the traditional story of Romeo and Juliet, but it’s a wonderful watch for those who are looking for some action and romance.

Overall, if you love a good love story, pick this one! It’s not one to regret!

Recommended: 13 and over. There’s sacrifice and death, sometimes fairly graphic and bloody, and one or two brief glimpses of dead bodies. One man throw himself onto a fire.

Other titles you might like:
5 Centimeters Per Second (anime),
Ef - A Tale of Memories and Ef- A Tale of Melodies (anime),
Air (movie and anime),
Kanon (anime),
Clannad and Clannad Afterstory (anime),
Wolf’s Rain (anime)
Spice and Wolf (anime)
Millenium Actress (anime)
Emma: A Victorian Romance (manga and anime)
The Place Promised In Our Early Days (anime)

"So Far Away" - Kieli (manga) - 8/10 Sugar Cubes

War does not determine who is right - only who is left. ~Bertrand Russell

Genre: Supernatural/ Drama/ Spiritual/ Fantasy

Review Status: Full (3 Volumes/ 3 Volumes)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art: What can I say about the art? It’s somewhat stylized, but wonderfully detailed. It… just… looks…. Good.

Summary: “Kieli sees ghosts. It's an odd ability for a 14-year-old girl, and it makes her a bit of an outcast at her boarding school. Her only friend, in fact, is the (semi-) departed spirit of a girl who used to inhabit her room. That is until the two encounter a young man who appears to share Kieli's "gift." It doesn't take long to discover, though, Harvey is an altogether different sort of creature - one of the infamous Undying, the reanimated corpse of a dead soldier. Could it be that in this cursed fellow Kieli has finally found a kindred spirit? Throwing in her lot with this strange, soulless man and his possessed radio, she means to find out...” (

Review: The story is very interesting. This does not waste time with filler, instead going straight to the story, from Kieli meeting the Undying soldier, to being intrigued enough to follow him, to discovering that what she knows is a fabrication and that the war was far more complex and horrible than she had learned. It has just the right complexity, with it being more than a fight-the-bad-guys, but not complex enough to hinder the story. There’s an interesting bad guy, a good guy that has a history, and a girl who is drawn in not entirely unwillingly, but ends up in something bigger than she expected.

The characters are all well-rounded and complex. Kieli is a normal girl who’s been disillusioned, but has mostly come to terms with her experiences and what her life is like. She’s kind, but is no pushover. Harvey is trying to atone for the pain he inflicted on others. He’s not always the nicest, but his sensitive side does come out fairly early, giving an explanation for why he is like he is. And he’s willing to sacrifice himself to protect his friends. Corporal was sympathetic- a soldier that had seen the horrors of war, had a strong sense of duty, but also had a soft side for his friends, even if he wasn’t inclined to show it and it isn’t as soft as others you might compare him to.

It isn’t afraid to play around with themes of war and isolation, from the Church being separated from the people and hiding the truth to Kieli believing they were abandoned by God. And it uses these themes effectively, even in the short volumes this story was given.

My only regret was how short this manga was- it covers the first light novel incredibly well, but since there are more light novels, you get a feeling that the story, even though it has a solid end to it, isn’t complete.

Overall, this is a great manga, but I’d suggest picking up the rest of the light novel series to find out the rest of the story.

Recommended: Sure! This is a nice short read, and gives you something to think about.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Mail (manga),
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (manga),
Natsume's Book of Friends (anime and manga)
Ayakashi –Japanese Classic Horror and the spinoff of the Bakeneko arc, Mononoke (anime),
Ghost Hound (anime),
Ghost Hunt (anime),
Zombie Loan (manga),
Shinigami no Ballad (anime and manga),
Bizenghast (manga)

"A Song Of Love" - Macross Frontier (anime) - 9/10 Sugar Cubes

“The impact of space activities is nothing less than the galvanizing of hope and imagination for human life continuum into a future of infinite possibility.” ~ Vanna Bonta

Genre: Sci-fi/ Drama/ Romance/ Action

Review Status: Full (25 Episodes/ 25 Episodes)

Licensed: Unlicensed in the US

Art/Animation: Stunning. Especially for a TV series! The characters are all recognizable, the mecha are beautifully designed, the colors are bright and vibrant, while the animation is smooth and consistently wonderful.

Summary: “After being threatened by extinction at the hands of alien invaders called the Zentradi, humanity undertook the task of guaranteeing itself a future by launching fleets of colony ships into space. On Macross Frontier, one such fleet, high school student Saotome Alto's life is changed forever: the fleet is suddenly attacked by unidentified creatures while he is performing aerial stunts for a concert by the wildly popular idol Sheryl.

Alto quickly finds himself in the cockpit of a new-model fighter struggling to protect Ranka Lee, a young girl he met only hours earlier, from the invaders' swath of destruction. Noting his performance during this incident, the S.M.S. Skull Squadron private military company invites Alto to join their organization, where he continues protecting his friends and Macross Frontier.” (

Review: One of the latest installments of the Macross franchise, Frontier was made for the 25th anniversary of it, and they pulled out all the stops. This has everything that you could want in an action/romance anime, from fantastic, well-rounded characters with interesting histories and goals that they’re fighting for. The alien attackers, the Varja, are genuinely terrifying. You learn little about their motivations or goals until late in the game, and the not knowing mixed with how deadly they are makes for a truly involving story.

The visuals are fantastic, with bright, vibrant colors, great CG, and spaceships that look pretty darn good. The music is also fantastic, and voice acting above par. Unfortunately, this also works against the series, due to the sheer amount of songs that there are- the royalties would be astronomical! There’s not much more that you could ask from this series, which does very well as a stand-alone (there is one episode where you get a tie-in with something earlier, though), but unfortunately, as good as the ending is, will leave a lot vaguely unsatisfied. I can’t say anymore without spoiling it!

Overall, if you’re a mecha fan, or even if you just love a good story, this show will not fail to deliver!

: Duh? But probably for those 12 and over, because there are somewhat gory deaths (usually off-screen, but the blood spatter can be somewhat graphic), and some sexual innuendo (those girls love Alto, and I can’t blame them!)

Other titles you might enjoy:
Macross Zero (anime),
Legend of the Galactic Heroes (anime),
Eureka 7 (manga and anime),
Cowboy Bebop (anime),
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (anime)

"To Be Or Not To Be" - Time of Eve (anime) - 10/10 Sugar Cubes

“A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. [The Third Law of Robotics]” ~ Isaac Asimov

Genre: Sci-fi/ Drama/ Romance

Review Status: Full (6 Episodes/6 Episodes)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Superior in every respect. It uses some innovative animation techniques and mixed CG and cel animation. And it looks fantastic.

Summary: “The future, probably Japan. Robots have long been put into practical use, and androids have just come into use.

Influenced by the Robot Ethics Committee, it's become common sense for people to treat androids like household appliances. Their appearance - indistinguishable from humans except for the ring over each android's head - has led some people to empathize unnecessarily with androids. Known as "android-holics", such people have become a social problem.

Rikuo, a high school student, has been taught from childhood that androids are not to be viewed as humans, and has always used them as convenient tools. One day Rikuo discovers some strange data in the behavior records of his family's household android, Sammy.

Rikuo and his friend Masaki trace Sammy's movements, only to discover a mysterious café that features a house rule that "humans and robots are to be treated the same"...” (Official Website- English)

Review: While this hasn’t yet been released onto DVD, it’s well worth the time it takes to watch it on the free legal streaming site Crunchyroll. This anime is similar to I, Robot and Bicentennial Man in exploring the relationships between humans and androids, and does it very well. You have multiple layers to the story, such as Rikuo’s and Masaki’s encounters in the café, and figuring out how they feel about the situation. Then you have the social consequences and ideas about androids, mostly played out and expressed through Rikuo’s sister. Then they saw fit to add a third political layer concerning robots and humans into the mix!

While the OVAs are too short to really flesh out what’s happening with politics and the incident that happened years ago concerning the Ethics committee (and leaves tantalizing clues as to why the café exists, and Nagi’s history), this still does a solid job with the stories it does flesh out.

This will also draw in simply because the animation seems very different. They used a mix of CG and animation to add a layer of visual interest, using moving camera angles, and behaving as if a scene was been seen by a character- and the perspective it’s seen from changes, too. But even if this were outright animation, it would still be beautiful. Everything is in such detail that you can almost smell the coffee, and it often looks like a still painting. The music, and sometimes lack of it, really draws the viewer into the scene.

Overall, this is an anime that should be seen by all those that love sci-fi and robots. And when you’re done, ask yourself whether you enjoyed your time at Time of Eve.

Recommended: Yes. This can be watched by the whole family, but some of the themes might be better suited for those over the age of 10.

Other titles you may enjoy:
Eureka 7 (manga and anime),
Chobits (manga and anime),
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and SAC 2nd Gig (anime),
Real Drive (anime),
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (manga),
Hotel (manga)

"To Follow A Star" - Shadow Star (manga) - 5/10 Sugar Cubes

A characteristic of the normal child is he doesn't act that way very often. ~Author Unknown

Genre: Sci-fi/ Drama/ Action/ Horror

Licensed: Licensed in the US. The English release has stalled at 7 volumes/

Review Status: Full – (7 Volumes/ 7 Volumes) of the Enlgish release to date and all of the Japanese release (12 Volumes/ 12 Volumes)

Art: The art, while is excellent for fighter pilots and cities, isn’t so effective for people. For many of the girls, the only real way to tell them apart is their hair, and even that doesn’t help sometimes! This means that who’s who can get confusing very quickly, which shows that this mangaka still has a ways to go, unlike a mangaka like Naoki Urasawa, who can create and wield a cast of characters just as large, but make each one memorable and individual.

Summary: “Shiina Tamai, an atheletic and energetic sixth-grader, found a star-shaped creature on the seabed during her visit to her grandparents' house. She befriended it and named it "Hoshimaru" (round star) and found it has some supernatural powers, such as flying and incredible strength. Later she found that there are other kids having similar creatures of their own, and not all of them are friendly. Furthermore, those creatures also resemble what her father (a former Japan Air Self-Defense Force pilot) had seen in mid-air many years ago.” (from

Review: While the story starts out as light-hearted and intriguing, do not be fooled. This may have some cute pokemon-looking creatures, this may feature young children, but this is not a manga that should go near young children. By the end of the first volume, you know that things are only going to get worse. This manga has some things going for it- there are multiple issues of child psychology that are brought up, from those who are abused or abandoned, or are placed in roles that make them mature faster than normal. There are issues of the morality of war, and what would happen if countries got their hands on nearly invincible weapons (of course, this assumes that there are certain unscrupulous individuals within the government that would attempt to use them, and go unchecked). Less prominent are some ideas about the nature of the Earth, and what humans are doing it by pillaging the environment.

Even so, this has far more things against it that fail to make it an effective look into psychology and morality. The story seems disjointed and fails to flow well. It’s hard to start caring about anyone other than the main character and her father. This has a huge cast of characters, and they aren’t used as effectively as they could have been- some seem outright useless, such as Shiina’s mother. The author also keeps throwing new characters into the mix, some right at the last moment (one that comes totally out of right field at the last moment is related to Shiina’s parents divorce, and was “in” the story from the beginning, but the connection is tenuous, and when you find out what/who she is, it feels like a wallbanger). There are also so many factions within the story that, even with the best mangaka, it would be difficult to keep them straight and understand what each was fighting for. Unfortunately, this means that it’s a tangled mess in this manga.

Overall, While this does have some interesting points to it, there are probably better manga out there that explore similar themes. This isn’t worth the time or money to read it unless you’re into nihilistic endings.

Recommeded: Not really, but if you really want to, then I’d say mature 16-year-olds and over due to the content.

Other titles you might like instead:
Eureka 7 (anime),
Macross Frontier (anime),
Bokurano (anime and manga),
Dennou Coil (anime)
To Terra (anime series and manga)
Beast Master Erin (anime)

"A Stitch In Time" - A Distant Neighborhood (manga) - 10/10 Sugar Cubes

If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck

Genre: Drama/ Slice-of-life/ Seinen

Review Status: Full (2 Volumes/ 2 Volumes)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art: Very realistic, very nice and detailed.

Summary: “After a tiring business trip, a 48-year-old businessman took the wrong train and, instead of heading his home at Tokyo, the train took him to his birthplace at Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture. Being slightly drunk, he allowed himself to be taken back to his hometown, followed by visiting his mother's grave. There, he suddenly felt sleepy, and when he woke up he found himself in the same graveyard -- 34 years ago, wearing his middle school uniform.” (

Review: What if you were able to go back in time, knowing what you do now? That’s what happens to Hiroshi when he gets on the wrong train and ends up in his hometown. He doesn’t understand why he was taken back, or what to do about it, until he realizes that he was taken back a few months before a life-changing event. With his knowledge of the future, he sets out to find out why it happens and try to stop it.

This is a great manga. The art is very well done- you can tell the mangaka put a lot of heart into the details. The main character is very sympathetic, as a man who’s going through a midlife crisis and wondering what exactly is happening with his life. You also get involved with the side characters- even though you don’t get as involved with them, because of how short the manga is, they still come across as real people with their own worries and lives. While the story comes to a very solid conclusion, the reader may have some lingering questions, such as how much did his travel change the past. Even so, this is a delightful manga that would be a great short read for something that makes you think about where your life is going.

Overall, this is must-read. Absolutely fantastic.

Recommended: Yes, but I think that mostly those that are over thirteen would start to understand the nostalgia value this has for older readers. There's some smoking and drinking, but other than that anyone could read it.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Adventure Boys (manga),
Bunny Drop (manga),
Hotel (manga),
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (manga),
Seizon LifE (manga),
Undercurrent (manga)
Ikigami (manga)

"Closing a Door, Opening a Window" - Seizon LifE (manga) - 10/10 Sugar Cubes

It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons. ~Johann Schiller

Genre: Mystery/ Drama/ Seinen

Review Status: Full (3 Volumes/ 3 Volumes)

Licensed: Unlicensed in the US

Art: The characters look like vaguely cartooned-versions of people you would meet on the street. Very nice, and very appropriate for the story. The art is consistently good.

Summary: “Takeda is diagnosed with cancer and feels that he has nothing to live for. Hopeless, he decides to end his life. But when he is about to hang himself, the phone rings: the police have just found the corpse of his daughter, Sawako, who disappeared more than 14 years ago. Under Japanese law, the statute of limitations for murder only lasts 15 years. Takeda has only six months left: six months to live, six months to find his daughter's killer and deliver him to the authorities. After 14 years of silence and obscurity, the family ties are reborn...” (

Review: This is a story of a man’s search for justice for his daughter. Takeda starts out as a man who believes that he has nothing to live for, since the disappearance of his daughter and subsequent loss of his wife means he no longer has family. When he is diagnosed with a fatal cancer, the same type that killed his wife very slowly and painfully, he believes that the best way to end the pain is to die. However, he is reinvigorated with a desperate will to live when he finds out that the police have found the body of his long-missing daughter, and the statue of limitations on her murder will run out in six months- the amount of time he is estimated to have left to live.

This is as much a story about his finding the will to live on as it is a story about a man who is desperately trying to find his daughter’s killer before time runs out. There are times when it doesn’t seem like he’s going to make it, times when it seems impossible for him to keep on going, but he does. The art is very well done, bringing to mind the works of Naoki Urasawa. The story is very engaging, gripping at times. There are times when the clues to her murder seem contrived, but it doesn’t really detract from anything. There is also a bit of a time-jump, however, that is because there is a period of time where no new information is found. There are intriguing twists to the story, wonderful characters, and an ending as heartwarming as any.

Overall, this is a very good manga. Perhaps not the best mystery manga, perhaps a little on the short side, but awesome nonetheless.

Recommended: Yes. This is a beautiful manga, with lots of drama and twists to the story. I’d recommend 12 and up due to the somewhat graphic violence, but if they can handle CSI or NCIS, they can handle this.

Other series you might like: A Distant Neighborhood (manga),
Detective Conan (manga or anime),
Quest for the Missing Girl (manga),
Flat (manga),
Bunny Drop (manga)