Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, the new year has arrived in my little corner of the world, and so a new batch of reviews will be coming up.

Unfortunately, I didn't get all the reviews I wanted to do done, but I got a heckuva lot of them! This month, I will be reviewing

Tokyo Godfathers (got a good watch in on New Year's Eve, so it's fresh in my mind!)
Shiki (anime)
Kuragehime (anime)

- these for sure will be getting a review. Ones that I hope to get around to include

Now and Then, Here and There (anime)
Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom (anime)
Slayers (Season 1) (anime)
Asura Cryin' (Season 1) (anime)

and a few random manga reviews.

Hope you all have a great new year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

“The Game of Love” –The World God Only Knows, Season 1 (anime) – 7/10 Candy Canes

Forget love - I'd rather fall in chocolate! ~Sandra J. Dykes

Genre: Comedy/Romance/Shounen/Harem/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: This anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Decent. The characters seem pretty individual and are drawn nicely, and the colors are nice and bright. Though, you may notice a definite visual similarity between Elsie and a certain girl from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

Summary: Keima Katsuragi, a second-year high school student, is an avid dating sim gamer. He is known on the Internet as "The Capturing God" for his legendary skills to be able to "capture" any 2D girl in games. However, in his actual school life, Keima is known as otamegane, a derogatory portmanteau of the two words otaku (オタク) and megane (メガネ-"glasses").

At the start of the series, Keima receives an e-mail offering him a contract to "capture" girls. He accepts what is thought to be a challenge, and a demon from Hell nicknamed Elsie appears. She asks for his cooperation to help her in catching the runaway spirits. These spirits hide themselves inside the girl's heart, and Elsie suggests that the only method to force the spirits out is by "capturing" their hearts—making them fall in love. Appalled by the idea, Keima refuses after clarifying to Elsie that he is only interested in "capturing" 2D girls and that he detests reality. Nevertheless, with the contract already accepted, Keima would have to help Elsie no matter what; if they fail, both Elsie and Keima would lose their heads. (Source: Wikipedia)

Review: I saw the MAL page for this about half a year before it started airing- at that time it started generating a buzz. Some went out and started reading the manga. I was one of the ones who waited for the anime. I have to say, this proved a pleasant surprise- this turned out to be a decently funny, relatively ecchi-less harem title!

The first thing that drew me in was the opening sequence. The music was catchy and rather impressive, and the scenes itself were rather interesting. And then it got into the story. One of the draws to this show was how amusing it was to see this guy who had no interest in 3D girls have to get them to like him. It was pretty funny to listen to him describe the differences in 2D and 3D relationships, why 2D was superior, and to see him attempt to apply the ‘romance skills’ he learned from games to real life. And perhaps the biggest laugh I got was seeing them fail, and then slowly start to win the girls over.

I definitely see how outrageous they seemed- showing up at the girl’s track meet every day, with giant banners and headbands proclaiming love and victory. But at the same time, those are still very sweet gestures. It was easy to see how the exaggerated antics could win the girls over eventually.

Keima and a few of the girls that he met were definitely stars of the show- they all had definite obstacles to overcome, they all reacted in different ways, and his romancing of them were all individual. It was interesting (but also slightly disappointing) to see how these girls fell into his gaming stereotypes.

I enjoyed the first few arcs, but the library arc is where this fell through. That girl was a bit too much of a stereotype, and I just couldn’t get excited or as into Keima’s wooing of her as I had the others. Especially when there was just so little of his wooing- it was mostly her, thinking things over and through as she encountered him once or twice an episode. It may have been more reasonable/realistic, but it just wasn’t half as interesting as the other arcs. Elsie also fell a little flat. She really offers very little in terms of comic relief- she’s a cookie-cutter of all the other comic-relief airhead characters out there. It is a bit of a relief when she’s relegated to the background of a show, though occasionally she does come in useful to the plot.

The episodes were overall well-paced, giving a good amount of time to each girl and her plight, and how Keima was winning them over. Unfortunately, this didn’t hold true to all of the episodes- the library arc seemed a little drawn out, and if I didn’t know that there was a second season, I would have been very disappointed by that last episode. Not only did it not feel like a proper closing episode, but the ending song was just terrible! I don’t think my eardrums will recover from that horrid singing for a while.

Overall, this was overall a fun series, and I will definitely be watching the second season.

Recommended: 13+. Elsie claims that she’s the illegitimate child of Keima’s father, which causes a lot of marital discord (Keima’s father is kicked out and never heard from for the rest of the season). There is a little bit of fanservice when Keima and Elsie end up in the bathroom together. The viewer doesn’t see anything, and the scene quickly passes. There is also a decent amount of skin showing when Keima's mother is in the shower. This does last about a minute or so, but is about as much skin as a bikini.

Other titles you might enjoy: The World God Only Knows (manga)
The World God Only Knows Season 2 (anime)
Tatami Galaxy (anime)
Welcome to the NHK! (anime and manga and light novel)
Sugar Sugar Rune (anime and manga)
Kanon (2006) (anime)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

“Band of Brothers” – Baby & Me (manga) – 9/10 Candy Canes

Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero. ~Marc Brown

Genre: Slice-of-life/Drama/Shoujo

Review Status: Complete (18 Volumes/ 18 Volumes)

Art: It’s definitely 90’s artwork, but not as ‘girly’ as most shoujo from that era.

Licensed: The manga is licensed in the US

Summary: Takuya is a normal Japanese elementary student whose mother died not very long ago, leaving him alone with his father and his baby brother Minoru. But his father is a busy man, and Takuya has to look after Minoru. Because of this responsibility that would normally never burden a child of his age, Takuya sometimes resents his fate and his baby brother... but his love for Minoru gives him the strength to carry on. (Source: ANN)

Review: One of the things that kids must go through when a parent dies is that there are so many ways a parent fills our life that it can be hard to fill their shoes. Takuya can no longer be a normal boy, he must also be a mother at a very young age.

This is equal parts learning to be a parent and brotherly adventures. Takuya attempts to teach his brother to eat correctly, not throw a fit, share and be nice to others. Then you have how Takuya and the other brothers in the series bond over their sibling’s misadventure and childish love triangles. Many times what happens never fails to draw a smile out of me- possibly because, as an older sister, I can relate to many of these stories and events.

Because of the variety of side-characters, you can see the different attitudes towards family that are taken by some of the guys- you have the reluctant and bored older brother who doesn’t want to take care of his siblings (Gon, who has both parents but a sister that unfortunately takes after the dad’s side of the family), and one from a very large family, where playing with the youngest is given to the one that has the least responsibility around the house.

Not all story arcs are serious. Many are just fun or silly, like the two times we get to go on ‘dream adventures’ with the characters. You have festival arcs and beach ars, buit all offer something a little different to the story.

This is for the most part a decent depiction of life as an older sibling, and resonates with how a household would be with a missing parent. My small complaints are that some of the story arcs get a little farfetched- at one point, Takuya and Minoru are in a bank robbery, and in another must deal with a guy who got stabbed.

Also, Minoru and Takuya are fairly static characters, with little growing-up or changing. This does change a bit near the end, when Takuya deals with issues about resentment about his brother, and it boils over when Minoru has a temper tantrum, but this is for 2 volumes out of 18. That’s not much. Minoru remains a fairly typical 3 year old throughout the story. Even so, this did little to hamper my enjoyment of the manga.

Overall, this is an interesting manga about two brothers growing up without a mother.

Recommended: Definitely! 13+ though, since there are more mature themes dealt with here. There’s an arc about a mother who’s overwhelmed with her baby and starts abusing him (this never gets too violent, and is resolved fairly quickly). There is some sexuality present- one of the women tries to attract the father by doing some scandalous things, such as having him get his Valentine’s Day chocolates from between her breasts (not as dirty as this initially sounds) and the father having pre-marital sex is implied. One child gets hit by a car later in the series- this is not graphic but may be disturbing for younger readers. The boys occasionally go shirtless, as when they’re at the beach in bathing suits or Minoru needs his short changed. In one arc a man is stabbed (he gets better). Takuya was conceived out of wedlock, but his parents married before he was born. And there are arcs dealing with bullying, other abuse, and a friend of Takuya’s going through a physiological thing that all teenage boys go through and needing to talk to Takuya’s dad. This conversation is just implied, though Takuya does ask what they talked about. There is also some corporal punishment such as slapping and spanking, some playful/comedic violence (lighter than Looney Tunes), and one of the side characters smokes and gambles on a regular basis.

Other Series You Might Enjoy:
Aishiteruze Baby (manga and anime)
Flat (manga)
Bunny Drop (manga)
Yotsuba (manga)
Minami-ke (anime)
Tokyo Godfathers (anime)

Monday, December 27, 2010

“The Beating of My Heart” – Angel Beats (anime) - 5/10 Candy Canes

God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled. ~Author Unknown

Genre: Drama/Action/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete (13 Episodes/ 13 Episodes) + Episode 13.5 + Special

Licensed: This anime is not licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Very good. While it doesn’t reach how amazing Kanon (2006) and Clannad look – Angel Beats has a different animation studio- this still looks above-average.

Summary: In a world after death, angels fight for their fate and their future. Yuri, the leader of the Shinda Sekai Sensen, rebels against the god who destined her to have an unreasonable life. On the other hand, Tenshi, the chairperson of the student council for the world after death, battles against the SSS members. SSS members utilize armed weaponry to battle it out against the angels harnessing supernatural powers.

Review: This is perhaps the anime that I’ve heard the most about this year. I’ve heard people proclaim it awesome, I’ve heard people saying it’s terrible. So when I got this in a Secret Santa anime swap, I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
For me, this anime falls firmly into the ‘mediocre’ range. It’s not so much that the show itself is mediocre and unremarkable, it’s that the good (and great) things balance out the bad (and terrible) things.

The first place to start is by saying this is not Haruhi with explosions. This ends up being both a blessing and a curse, as there are so many references and similarities that I felt somewhat familiar with the main characters already, but the things that made Haruhi a decently fun experience were taken out and changed up. For instance, there are still physical-comedy shenanigans, but instead of being Charlie Chaplain turn out to be more like Three Stooges comedy- and lack Kyon’s wit and the general humor of the show to make it more palatable. The writers tried to make this funny, but it falls flat and repetitive as most of the jokes center around the characters calling themselves or others ‘dumba---s’.

The other problem with the cast is that it is just too big to get to know the characters in it well enough to really like them. It’s easy to feel sorry for them because of their pasts, but for those who don’t get that showcasing you see that one speaks bad English and breakdances, one likes Judo and beef udon, etc... and apparently you’re supposed to feel for and like these characters. It’s simply impossible given the size of the cast and the time that we’re given- though there are a few that you can get to know and like even within this time frame. I find that Yurippe isn’t half as obnoxious as Haruhi was, and Kadane has a little more of a spark of personality than Yuki did. Otonashi may not have the sarcasm of his predecessor, but he becomes a deeper and more engaging personality as the show goes on.

The plot itself isn’t half-bad, and has spanned numerous theories over the internet about where they are, what the nature of the place they’re in really is, and what happens after they graduate. And I could honestly see some good plot threads that were bumbling around but never really got utilized to their fullest potential, along with leaving a huge amount of unanswered questions and inconsistancies in the story.

For instance, what exactly is the nature of the world that they’re in? It appears to be some sort of computer-controlled place (since they discover they can manipulate it with programming), but other than that… And why hasn’t anyone tried going outside the school grounds? What exists out there?

If the NPCs are supposed to act like regular people, why don’t they react when the SSS members act like nuts in class, or are bothered by having guns pointed at them (except for one notable time), or are bothered by one of the guys bringing a huge giant battleaxe to class?

If Kanade makes her weapons the same way the SSS does, then why don’t any of the members of the SSS also have Hand Sonics or the ability to clone themselves, and have to rely on smelting and manual labor to create guns?

If the characters are immortal, then why is it a big deal for one of them to ‘die’? Otonashi himself gets ripped to shreds in the first episode, and no one makes a big deal out of it. So when they’re caught in traps in the later episodes, why can’t they just continue on when they revive?

It starts out as an easy story, with the SSS needing to defeat Kanade (nicknamed “Tenshi”) to go head-to-head with God. That plot point had essentially disappeared by the third episode, as the goal goes from defeating her to making her cry. By the fifth episode, the goal is to merely keep existing in the world. They aren’t questioning how to break the ‘programming’, don’t ask Kanade where she comes from or why she has the goal of comforting students, nothing except trying to keep from disappearing. What’s worse is the disappearing bit- the SSS operates under the assumption that when you disappear, you get reincarnated as some lower life form like a barnacle. However, in the third episode, someone defies how kids normally disappear- but no one questions how this could have happened and why she disappeared. They eventually figure it out by episode 8, but that’s a long time between those episodes.

The story itself has a lot of pacing issues- episode 4 was used to create drama instead of move the plot forward or explain anything (this was where the sole goal was to make Tenshi feel bad via baseball game. Seriously?!). A lot of time is spent on the band. When you’re trying to figure out what this place is and why the students are there, you get to watch the band play for a few minutes. In several episodes. The only thing that makes that okay instead of outrageous is that the songs range from mediocre to pretty good.

As for Episode 13.5 and the special, they didn’t help explain things at all. 13.5 (titled “Another Epilogue”) hinted at a possible second season, which A) didn’t interest me and B)wasn’t as good as the original ending. The special was essentially the same.

Overall, while this had stuff going for it, the execution wan’t up to par.

Recommended: Not really. But if you want to watch it, 16+. The humor tends toward Three Stooges with Knives- that is, physical and sometimes bloody. You’ll get people hit with giant hammers, crushed under a ceiling, and impaled on a knife- and sometimes this is supposed to be funny. While there is a decent amount of blood, there is very little actual gore. People get shot, and there are bodies lying around a field at one point. The language is pretty strong, as at least once an episode they toss around the word dumba—-s, the d-word is said several times, God’s name is taken in vain and turned into a swear, and at least once you get the f-bomb.

Other titles you might enjoy instead: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (anime)
Kanon (2006) (anime)
Clannad and Clannad Afterstory (anime)
Haibane Renmei (anime)
Ef- a Tale of Memories and Ef- a Tale of Melodies (anime)
Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora (anime)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Game On" - Game Plan (manga) - 5/10 Candy Canes

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where the should be. Now put the foundations under them. ~Henry David Thoreau

Genre: Drama/Comedy/Romance/Christian

Review Status: Complete (2 Volumes/2 Volumes). However, I am reviewing the official online version, not the print version.

Licensed: This manga is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: Overall, it's pretty good. Definitely reaching professional-quality. However, there are several places where how rough it is really shows through- leftover sketchlines show up. There are very minor differences in the art between the online version and the printed version, mainly in the cover and insert art.

Summary: They need an artist for the Christian video game idea that they have- and he's the artist they want to help with it. But Locke is a loner and has deep problems... can Sonia help him move past them?

Review: I approach recommended manga and anime with a certain amount of trepidation- after all, your taste and someone else's are naturally going to be different. So I picked this up rather hesitantly, though the review I heard was very enthusiastic. And while I don't think that this is the pinnacle of Christian manga, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

It was really nice to see that in Sonia's group of friends and fellow game-makers there was also someone who wasn't Christian- and presented in a good light. The main character is a pretty funny, nice girl who wants to have fun and make friends. While her friends don't get a lot of screentime... barely any... they all are characters.

The premise is very good- someone who'd lost their faith and is hurting finds a friend who helps them. I liked Sonia's description of why there's pain and suffering- it was very well done.

There were also some fun little shout-outs that I thought were hilarious ("Strongbad", anyone?! and Samus, too!)

Of course, this does have it's problems. The story feels very rushed in places- there's a lot of 'tell, don't show', which breaks a golden rule about storytelling. The first instance happens very early in the manga, when Sonia flashes back to how Locke is in school. Then it happens several times thorughout the manga, which is a shame.

Locke's mother spills pretty much everything about Locke and his past to Sonia when they first meet. Realistic? Maybe. However, she reveals so very much that it's again, a "tell, not show" and again makes the story feel rushed. Locke's behaviour also falls into this, with none-too-subtle hints that he isn't into being around other people. Most loners don't always mention that they're into being alone or generally speak like he does.

Sonia's "Pain and Suffering" bit was brought down by being just too early in the story. Some of the other Christian themes weren't very well blended into the storyline (the God's Chosen People thing in the game and unequal yokes) and sometimes don't make sense considering the characters that are talking (unequal yokes and Tremble. He's not Christian. Why would he care?). And then some themes seem like they're being beated into the reader's head, such as praying for Locke's salvation- and only his salvation- when it's fairly obvious that he has other issues that deserve it as much as that.

A minor jab at people who need antidepressents and infering that people who need them aren't good people ticked me off, since I have friends and relatives who do need them- and are good people. There was also an odd comment near the end about Christians not getting angry, when Locke hadn't ever really gotten angry before. So why would he get angry about something silly at that point?

I was also disappointed in Sonia's explanation of how she would talk to someone who hadn't had a miraculous experience like that. It really didn't make any sense. And the miraculous events go from interesting and touching to becoming Deus Ex Machinas when there were two very convenient ones to make characters Christian and repent. It's too much, at least within the short legnth of the story.

What really, really brings down my opinion of this, though, is instead of telling Locke that there's such a thing as child protective services, or that the police could stop it, or even reporting the abuse to the CPS and the police himself, his teacher brings out a Bible. Do you know what kind of message that sends? "It's totally okay that I'm leaving you in this horrible abusive situation that you could die from because I've saved your soul."

F--- you, teach. F--- you.

Overall, this had a lot of things going for it, but the things that brought it down really brought it down.

Recommended: 10+. There is some blood and some hitting- mainly in the form of child abuse. Parents or older siblings might want to read it with the youngest.

Other titles you might enjoy: Kimi ni Todoke (anime and manga)
Fruits Basket (manga and anime)
Mars (manga)
Full Moon wo Sagashite (anime and manga)
Ouran Host Club (anime and manga)
High School Debut (manga)
Cat Street (manga)
Dengeki Daisy (manga)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

“Redemption” – Deathbed (manga) – 5/10 Candy Canes

To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead. ~Samuel Butler

Genre: Christian/ Drama

Review Status: Complete (1 Chapter/ 1 Chapter)

Licensed: This manga is available for online viewing here: , though not published. Technically, it is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: Rough, sketch-like. It isn’t bad for a basic outline.

Summary: A man is dying. Can his soul be redeemed before the end?

Review: The problem with this one-shot is that it’s so short. I can tell that there’s more to the story- or if there isn’t, there should be.

A man is dying. What of isn’t important. However, what is interesting is that he mentions that he can’t end it sooner himself. Why is that? Is he paralyzed and unable to pull a trigger or tie a noose? Is he under constant surveillance for something? There is no good explanation given for his being unable to commit suicide- especially since at that point, he’s not a believer. It also is odd that he can’t drink or smoke- there are patients who decide that, if they’re going to die they might as well do what they want. Would there be a bad reaction with the medicine?

A month passes (it just skips from the beginning of the month to the end- no interim of possible last-minute medical treatments or continuations of them, which could annoy many who have had to deal with the prolonged passing of a loved one. Especially when he apparently knows that at the end of the month exactly, he’s going to die. Anyone who’s had to deal with this knows that people don’t die on a schedule). He’s in the depths of despair and remembering the wife that he loved, thinking that God is cruel for letting them both die.

This is where the shortness of the manga becomes an issue. He’s told that “if he believes in God, he can see his wife in Heaven”. Well, we’re never told that she was a believer. And his conversion is very simple- “you don’t really die because God says so”. If it were that easy, then most people on the deathbed would convert. So where are the arguments that people who reject God on their death beds go? The ones that she uses are not real arguments- they’re ones that Christians who have never dealt with non-believers like to use and then scoff at the non-believer’s stupid arguments. This might be due to the length of this, since it’s hard to fit in sold theological reasoning in ten pages.

Having viewed only two of the mangaka’s (Calbhach) works, I can’t decide whether she’s writing purely for a Christian audience or whether she seriously expects non-believers to be moved by her work. I am leaning towards the former, as she draws manga that would only appeal to Christians that had never come across anything but the Christian stereotypes of non-Christians and how conversion and belief works.

With this, though, she has an outline for a potentially interesting, deep philosophical conversation about God and Jesus and heaven.

Overall, while I am better inclined towards this since it takes a more realistic/believable premise than her other work (Heaven Bound), it fails to be anything but mediocre.

Recommended: 5+, since the man is dying. Parents or older siblings would want to read it with their kids and talk about it afterward.

Other titles you might enjoy: Shinigami no Ballad (anime or manga)
Tokyo Godfathers (anime)
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (manga)
The Emblamer (manga)
Kino’s Journey (anime)
Haibane Renmei (anime)
Ikigami (manga)
Watashitachi ni Shiawase na Jikan (manga)

Friday, December 17, 2010

“It’s Called Responsibility” – Aishiteruze Baby (anime) – 7/10 Candy Canes

Family life is a bit like a runny peach pie - not perfect but who's complaining? ~Robert Brault

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Drama

Review Status: Complete (26 Episodes/26 Episodes)

Licensed: This anime is not licensed in the US, but the manga is.

Art/Animation: Light and sketch-like, but with harder lines and more definite character designs than Bunny Drop. Somewhat of a cross between Bunny Drop and shoujo manga designs (which makes sense- it is a shoujo anime!). The colors are bright and vibrant, and the animation is very good and smooth.

Summary: Katakura Kippei is in every way a high school playboy. Spending his days flirting with any female he can see, responsibility is the last thing on his mind. Life takes an unexpected turn for him as one day he returns home to find himself with the fulltime task of caring for his 5 year old cousin. Kippei's aunt Miyako had disappeared, appearing to have abandoned his cousin, Yuzuyu. With Kippei's lack of responsibility and knowledge of childcare and Yuzuyu's injured heart with the disappearance of her mother, their time together is in for a bumpy ride. Based on the manga by Maki Youko. (

Review: When you've been abandoned by your mother and left with relatives you've never met, what will life like for you?

This anime takes a hard look at the darker side of it. Kippei discovers that none of his family members want to deal with Yuzuyu- his parents claim they're too busy, his sister doesn't want her to drag her style and personal life down, and the gradparents are too old- and everyone feels that he needs a sharp dose of reality and responsibility because of his philandering ways.

Yuzuyu feels the brunt of this- Kippei, not her aunt or mom, is who makes her lunch (rather awkwardly and badly), which gets her made fun of for only having onigiri. He's the one who picks her up, which gets her shunned for not having a mom. And some girls get jealous of her, which gets ber bullied again and really hurts her self-confidence. She also expresses her pain by acting out inappropriately.

Kippei himself has to learn to deal with this. He's schooled by Yuzuyu's teachers about appropriate lunches, has to juggle leaving early at school to pick her up with school projects, and must take care of her basic physical and emotional needs. Kippei has no idea about how to do it.

So while he learns how to deal with a young, troubled girl, he also ends up caught asking help from a classmate of his. Kokoro and Yuzuyu end up connecting fairly well- both have emotional issues and insecurities, and that helps Kippei understand them in turn. They become a little of their family of their own- until Yuzuyu's mother comes back into the picture.

This anime had me on a lot of emotional downs- it always seemed more depressing to watch this anime than joyful, as their hardships kept coming and their triumphs over them seemed more minor. I also will admit that I didn't fully understand some of their emotional issues, especially when it came to Kokoro. And some of those issues seem pushed to the wayside and left unresolved, which was a major disappointment. Unfortunately, the ending that this had also left me a little wanting- it seemed rather abrupt. But it didn't fail to deliver on the emotion.

Overall, this anime has more drama and deals with heavier issues than your usual slice-of-life.

Recommended: 12+ due to some of the playboy antics that Kipei pulls (making out with girls between classes, not being faithful to one girl) and the heavier issues that pop up (the mother having depression, one of the girls having an eating disorder, various bullying issues that happen throughout).

Other titles you might enjoy: Bunny Drop (manga)
Yotsuba&! (manga)
Seirei no Moribito (anime and light novel)
Saturn Apartments (manga)
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (manga)
Grave of the Fireflies (anime)

“A Drop Of Love”- Bunny Drop (manga) – 10/10 Candy Canes

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ~Jane Howard

Genre: Slice-of-life/Drama

Review Status: Incomplete (3 Volumes/ ? Volumes)

Licensed: This manga is licensed in the US

Art: Simple and airy. It seems like the sketches were lined in. The art is decently detailed.

Summary: Going home for his grandfather’s funeral, thirty-year-old bachelor Daikichi is floored to discover that the old man had an illegitimate child with a younger lover! The rest of his family is equally shocked and embarrassed by this surprise development, and not one of them wants anything to do with the silent little girl, Rin. In a fit of angry spontaneity, Daikichi decides to take her in himself! But will living with this overgrown teenager of man help Rin come out of her shell? And hang on, won’t this turn of events spell doom for Daikichi’s love life?! (Yen Press)

Review: This has to be one of the best manga I’ve come across in a while. You know the premise from the summary, so here’s what I thought about it:

Bunny Drop is alternately hilarious and tearjerking. You followe Rin as she deals with learning to like and trust Daichi, deals with scornful classmates, and makes a friend who understood. You see her little ups and downs in life, from the grief from missing her father to the interest of losing her first tooth. You also see the world from Daichi’s POV, from how to pick a good daycare and the sacrifices that come with being a single caretaker to the small joys that come from being able to be loved and trusted by Rin.

This gets into some interesting territory that you won’t often see. You get interesting discussions between him and a coworker about the cultural differences that come with being a working parent, and how the expectations of parenthood are different between men and women. There is also a lot of heavy thought about Rin and her mom.

What’s nice is that you see Rin grow up. While I didn’t read all of Volume 4, in it she has grown into a lovely young woman who’s got a lot on her mind. I will definitely be updating on this when

Overall, this is a sweet story about a man and a girl learning to live with an love eachother.

Recommended: 12+ for some alcohol consumption (and the tipsiness that comes with it). Rin’s mom refuses to take responsibility for her or even meet her. There is also some minor language, which peters out when Daichi realizes that he shouldn’t say it in front of Rin. This probably won’t interest anyone who doesn’t like little kids, or prefer less realistic manga.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Yotsuba&! (manga)
Aishiteruze Baby (anime or manga)
Kurenai (anime)
Flat (manga)
Saturn Apartments (manga)
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (manga)

“Stuck With You” – Minami-ke (anime) – 8/10 Candy Canes

Some family trees bear an enormous crop of nuts. ~Wayne H.

Genre: Comedy/Slice-of-Life

Review Status: Complete (13 Episodes/13 Episodes)

Art/Animation: Simple but good. Reminicent of Azumanga Daioh.

Summary: There are three of the Minami sisters: Haruka, Kana and Chiaki, who have an average life. The girls only have each other to depend on and help each other get through everything from love confessions to cooking. (

Review: Anyone who has siblings knows that, though you may not always like your siblings, you do always love them. No matter what- including all the hijinks and annoying things that may be forced upon you! What I first noticed about this anime was that it shows some pretty realistic family dynamics, even though the characters might be exaggerated personalities.

The oldest, Haruka, is the one who holds the family together. She’s very reliable, but also very lazy. Chiaki, the youngest, really looks up to her. Chiaki could be described as a bit of a tsundere- very cold to those who she’s not close with, and even with those she is, but really wants to be like Haruka. Kana is the wild one- constantly sleeping in, making wild exaggerations out of everything, and the unfortunate cook of the family who has ruined more than one meal with her convoluted cooking logic. Kana and Chiaki rarely get along-which creates havoc of its own- but when they do, something might be about to go very wrong!

They act very much like siblings- they argue, fight, are disappointed in each other, but they also share in each other’s happiness and joys. They fight over what tv shows they want to watch, they harass each other when the other sibling is relaxing, and they help each other out when they need it.

But this is also about more than them. A surprising amount of time is spent with the sisters and their friends. Their friends don’t always get enough screen time to develop- it’s helped with the second and third seasons- but you come to see that the sisters treat and care for their friends like family. This makes a lot of sense, since they don’t have parents to help out. And their friends are as different and varied as the girls are! It’s great to see how the girls act both inside and outside the family home- you get to see different facets of their personality and interactions that you do otherwise.

I have to say, the comedy started out rough. I was really thrown by how it started out. But as I kept watching, I was drawn in by the characters and the humor quickly became something that I could appreciate. The art isn’t as nice as some other series, but more than adequate for a comedy series that relies on situational humor. The OST isn’t anything special, but the VAs did a great job with their characters.

Overall, this is a nice comedy about a family, though not exactly a family comedy.

Recommended: 13+ for some of the jokes that are in there (one of the sisters really wants to know how to kiss, and attempts to use her little sister as a practice dummy- this is a joke that thankfully only lasts a few minutes and is not a running joke) and comedic violence of the sort that you would see in a Saturday Morning Cartoon.

There is an incident where Chiaki wants to know about one of the shows that her older sisters watch (there is a teacher-student relationship in it, and the implication is that they’re getting it on). One boy who’s crushing on the youngest sister dresses in girl’s clothes so that she’ll let him near him. He does start enjoying critiquing girl’s clothing- used for comedy. There is also discussion about the color of underwear in one of the episodes- and in a few others, stuff that you could expect in an all-female household (some talk about breast size and getting dressed).

Other titles you might enjoy: Yotsuba&! (manga)
Minami-ke Okawari (second season)
Minami-ke Okaeri (third season)
Minami-ke Betsubara (OVA)
Azumanga Daioh (anime or manga)
Planetes (anime)
School Rumble (anime)
Bunny Drop (manga)

“Grow in Strength and Love” – Seirei no Moribito: Guardian of the Sacred Spirit (anime) – 9/10 Candy Canes

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

Genre: Action/Fantasy/Adventure

Review Status: Complete (26 Episodes/ 26 Episodes)

Licensed: This anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Beautiful. The colors are deep and vibrant, the backgrounds are gorgeous, and the people look like people – are all individual and easily recognizable.

Summary: At a time when the balance of nature still held the civilizations of mankind in thrall, a single drought could spell the end of a society and doom its inhabitants to piteous deaths. Prince Chagum has been imbued with the power to stave off the drought and bring new life to his empire. However, this is a suspicious time, and he is accused of possession by an evil spirit.

Court advisors only see one solution. Chagum must be put to death by his own father's hand. His salvation is in the form of Balsa, a spear woman and mercenary from Kanbal, the kingdom across the mountains. Her skills are legendary, and although reluctant, she is held by a mysterious vow to save eight souls before she dies. Can she fend off an entire empire and make Chagum her eighth soul?

Review: This anime started off with a bang- pretty much literally, as the bridge that the Prince was crossing collapsed, and Balsa dove into the river to save him. It was a great way to hook me in- there was action and the introduction of two of the main characters. From there the story snowballs into an adventure filled with ancient lore, old magic, forgotten culture, and the fate of an empire.

The story drew me in- I saw the danger that the Prince was in, and rooted for him and Balsa to escape their pursuers. It was hard not to feel for Chagum as he encountered a world and culture that he had never experienced before- as he and Balsa hid in the countryside, he learns more about the people in his country and how different his life in the palace from theirs. He and Balsa, and two others that live with them, learn more about each other and become a family as they travel to different places and learn more about the spirit egg within him.

This isn’t necessarily action-packed, but the action that is there is incredibly fluid and well-done. The characters all are fairly developed- even the ones that don’t appear for very long. It was great to have a strong but not tsundere woman taking the lead role as protector and fighter. Chagum may have been a sheltered prince, but he held a strong respect for his people and good-naturedly (though somewhat awkwardly) started to learn how to fit in with them.

The bonuses to this anime were the great acting and OST. The VAs really did very well in this. I was very pleased with Mabuki Andou, who voiced Balsa. Her voice was a nice change to the high-pitched tones of most female leads. Instead, she had a very mature, deep-toned voice that fit the character perfectly. The OST is filled with beautiful background pieces that are reminiscent of traditional folk songs.

My only nitpick with this is that during the middle of the series the pacing goes from good to verrrrry sloooow. I really did enjoy the episodes where Balsa and Chagum are living in the village and learning to fit in, and some important things did happen during those episodes. However, the rate at which those happened made those episodes drag on more than they needed to.

Overall, this is a great anime that should appeal to many, many people.

Recommended: 12+. This is a surprisingly clean anime- while there is some violence, there is a minimal amount of blood and gore. Actual death is rare, and when there is in a proper somber light. Actual death tends to be offscreen. There is next to no language (in fact, I can’t remember a single swear being said during the entire show). It is fantasy, so there is a water spirit that’s responsible for bringing the rain and helping the land flourish.

The only questionable content that I can think of is that Saya, a somewhat minor character who is about 11 or 12, nearly goes through an arranged marriage. You would need to explain to younger kids about cultural differences and expectations for the time period that this takes place. Luckily, the marriage doesn’t go through, and she is able to make a home with the boy that she cares for (their relationship is shown in an entirely innocent light).

Also, near the end of the story, Chagum suggests that Tanda (a childhood friend of Balsa's who is in love with her) that he just sleep with her, and suggests that they have children and marry. This scene ends quickly, with Tanda explaining that he couldn't burden Balsa like that when she has a need to take care of her own affairs.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (anime)
Xam’d: Lost Memories (anime)
Seirei no Moribito (light novels)
Full Metal Alchemist (manga, original series, Brotherhood)
Planetes (anime)
Blood: The Last Vampire (anime)
Kieli (manga and light novels)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

“We’re All Crazy Together” – Kyouran Kazoku Nikki (anime) – 7/10 Candy Canes

A family is a little world created by love. - Unknown

Genre: Comedy/ Sci-fi

Review Status: Complete (26 Episodes/ 26 Episodes)

Art/Animation: The colors are bright and the animation nice. Nothing spectacular, but more than enough for the crazy things that go on! The fight scenes are consistently good. The characters are a fairly standard design, though they all look nice regardless.

Summary: Midarezaki Ouka is used to having strange things happen, after all he is the 1st counter department squad captain of the Great Japanese Empire Paranormal Phenomena Bureau of Measures. But when he catches a small, cat girl in the shopping district stealing apples, his whole like rearranges to fit a new operation...OPERATION COZY FAMILY. Thousands of years ago the God of Destruction, Enka, was killed. However, with a dying breath it claimed that its child would appear and destroy humanity. Now in Futuristic Japan, all of the potential Children of Enka have been found and placed into a haphazard family.

Teika the lion, Gekka the jellyfish, Yuuka the Oni, Ginka the cross-dressing mafia son, Hyouka the bioweapon, with their parents Ouka and Kyouka (the lord of a demon underworld, also calls herself a god) , all live under one roof in a Family Frenzy.

Review: A man. An agent. Someone who’s out to protect the world. Who’s told to go to a house and make a family out of the assorted variety of people and creatures that could potentially destroy the world. How can he do this?
By being the best dad/husband he can be!

While seeing the personalities that invade this house in the first place is fairly amusing, the majority of comedy comes from seeing them act and interact with each other and helping with each other’s problems. They come up with the most interesting schemes, from making Yuuka’s classmates think she’s a magical girl with powers, to drinking all the water in the house to get rid of an alien that wants Ouka for herself. Many of these problems are hilarious with great comedic solutions, but the problems tend to stem from the dark histories that many of them have.
While it doesn’t overshadow the humor, it does serve to remind the viewer that their dark histories are what led to them being placed together- because if they hadn’t been taken out of those situations, and if they aren’t kept feeling happy and protected, the world could end.

Near the end of the series the story takes a turn for the more serious side of things, with Gekka (a minor side character throughout all of this) becoming a player of great importance. While the humor doesn’t disappear, it does take a seat to the gravity of the situation- the possibility of the world ending.

My biggest qualm is that, while the ending was okay, it didn’t really feel like an ending. You could tell that there was more to the story. It was enough that, even though I hadn’t loved the series, I definitely wanted to continue it and see what was going to happen next!

Some of the humor I found odd or didn’t quite understand- I suspect it was because I had watched this soon after I had started getting into anime. Looking back and rewatching some episodes, I found it a lot funnier. It does have a few random funny bits that were a bit much (in the way of Excel Saga and Pani Poni Dash), but if you’re used to anime humor, it should provide quite a few laughs.

Overall, this is a wacky comedy that is a bit hit-or-miss.

Recommended: 14+. There’s some innuendo going around and some language. Some potty humor (literally- in one episode some family members get the runs from some food and you get shots of them on the toilet). Minor swears, but often enough that it might not be appropriate for younger viewers.

Other titles you might enjoy: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (anime)
Gintama (anime)
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! (manga)
Yotsuba&! (manga)
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (anime)
Minami-ke (anime)
Flat (manga)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"A Bright Life" - Yotsuba&! (manga) - 10/10 Candy Canes

Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today. ~James Dean

Genre: Comedy/Slice-of-Life

Review Status: Incomplete (9 Volumes/ ? Volumes)

Licensed: This is licensed in the US (ADV manga)

Art/Animation: The art is simple, but nice to look at. The story it tells doesn’t need lots of detail to tell the story it does

Summary: Yotsuba's daily life is full of adventure. She is energetic, curious, and a bit odd – odd enough to be called strange by her father as well as ignorant of many things that even a five-year-old should know. Because of this, the most ordinary experience can become an adventure for her. As the days progress, she makes new friends and shows those around her that every day can be enjoyable. (

Review: This is perhaps the sweetest, most heartwarming manga I’ve ever read. It follows Yotsuba, a gullible and energetic girl, as she learns about life and grows up. She deals with everything from her first move, to getting a bike, getting milk to her neighbor, and being in a local festival. While she is a bit of an airhead and makes mistakes, she never fails to be in a good mood. She really does view every day as an adventure, with new things to learn and experience!

Along with Yotsuba’s adventures, you get to see how she and her father live (he’s an amazing father- he takes her on trips, helps her learn to ride a bike, and generally is a good-natured, happy man). You see how she and her neighbors become friends and interact. They do all sorts of things together, like going to the beach and making cakes.

It’s just a joy to watch them hang out and have fun.

Overall, this is a story that everyone can enjoy.

Recommended: Anyone of any age can read this. There is no language, no nudity, nothing offensive! Definitely pick it up- it’s a wonderful, funny manga.

Other titles you might enjoy: Aria/Aqua (manga or anime)
Azumanga Daioh (anime)
Saturn Apartments (manga)
Bunny Drop (manga)
Flat (manga)
Minami-ke (anime)
Sketchbook: Full Color's (anime)

Monday, December 6, 2010

“A Long Journey Home”- Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (anime) – 9/10 Candy Canes

Other things may change us, but we start and end with family. ~Anthony Brandt

Genre: Drama/ Josei

Licensed: This anime is not licensed in the US

Review Status: Complete (11 Episodes/11 Episodes)

Art/Animation: Range from “very nice” to “beautiful”. The stark, clean images in the OP are beautiful and poignant images of destruction. The art in the series tends to be very good, with great detail to the backgrounds and scenery. And the animation is also pretty good- not as smooth as you would occasionally like, but still nice.

Summary: The story centers on Mirai, a middle school freshman girl who goes to Tokyo’s artificial Odaiba Island for a robot exhibition with her brother Yuuki at the start of summer vacation. A powerful tremor emanates from an ocean trench, the famed Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge crumble and fall, and the landscape of Tokyo changes in an instant. With the help of a motorcycle delivery woman named Mari who they meet on Odaiba, Mirai and Yuuki strive to head back to their Setagaya home in western Tokyo. (

Review: I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into when I watched this show. The first episode I discovered the series was from the viewpoint of the older sister, Mirai, and was filled with pre-teen whining and trying to deal with her family, which she sees as annoying and uncool. Her mom is trying to deal with working a full-time job, her dad is just as busy, and her brother is too “uncool” for her. But she gets stuck taking her brother to a show that he’s been dying to see- and disaster strikes.

When you get to that point, you start to see that her obnoxious behavior is just normal teenage behavior, and she really does care and worry about her brother and her family. She tries to keep a brave face for Yuuki and Mari as they deal with many perils, from having no food or water, to dealing with the effects of aftershocks and obvious dangers of being in an earthquake.

That’s one area where the series shines- the creators did an obviously thorough job of researching what happens during and after earthquakes. Nothing about the circumstances seem out of place or exaggerated.

The other is in the characters- Mirai goes from unsympathetic whiny teen to one who’s worried about her family but trying to stay strong for her brother. Mari is a mother who worries about her own family as her home is endangered by fire, but still willing to take care of two kids who are on their own, and takes care of them in their time of need. The amount of sacrifice she shows is amazing, even though you can tell how agitated she is about the plight of her own daughter and mother. And Yuuki is a sweet boy who obviously adores his sister, and comes to be closer to her as they make their way home.

There is a lot of drama and tension in the series, from Yuuki going missing in the initial earthquake, to narrowly escaping falling debris, to sickness that can’t be fixed with cold medicine. I admit it, this series had me weeping for the last two episodes, as the drama took a tragic, but ultimately moving turn. In the end, this show was about family and how important those bonds are.

Overall, this is an amazing anime about two siblings that come together under disaster.

Recommended: 10+, for implied death. You see one or two brief flashes of body parts sticking out of the rubble.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Grave of the Fireflies (anime)
Yomigaeru Sora: Rescue Wings (anime)
Now and Then, Here and There (anime)
Taiyo no Mokushiroku: A Spirit of the Sun (anime)
20th Century Boys (manga)
Alive: The Final Evolution (manga)
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (manga)

The Family Season!

Well, here in the States we're well into the holiday season- a season that celebrate love and family, above all. So I'm going to be doing themed reviews on family!

Upcoming reviews:
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (anime)
Tokyo Godfathers (anime)
Bunny Drop (manga)
Aishiteruze Baby (manga)
Minami-ke (anime)
Yotsuba&! (manga)
Seirei no Moribito (anime)
Kyouran Kazoku Nikki (anime)
Baby & Me (manga),

And a bonus- I signed up for a Secret Santa Anime! What will it be? It could be anything! I'll be getting the name of the anime on Christmas, and will have the review up by the end of the year!

Most of these I've already seen, so it will be a matter of skimming through/fast-forwarding to remind myself of what's in them. Some will be incomplete reviews due to being ongoing manga. But they all are reviews I'm looking forward to writing!