Friday, January 28, 2011

Anime Line-up Change-up!

Well, I know what I said I'd be watching/reviewing for this month. I must apologize right now, since due to a heavy course load and a rather good line-up for Winter '10/'11 anime, I just won't be getting to a few! So what am I watching?

Asura Cryin'- This is staying on my 'watching' list. I'm in a 'Let's Watch' group for it.
Kimi ni Todoke Season 2- It FINALLY started airing! Initial impression as of Ep. 3? I'm shocked. I love it more than the first season. Sweet, adorable, heart-warming.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica- An original work by SHAFT. Not your typical Magical Girl. Impressions as of episode 4? Princess Tutu dark, probably darker than that. At the same time, it's compelling and intriguing with Faustian themes. I was completely misled by the descriptions and preview- this is NOT for the kids!
Mirai Nikki OVA- Review will be posted soon. No comment at the moment.
Gosick- A Victorian Age duo pair up to solve mysteries in a foreign land. Impressions as of Episode 1: Fun. If only for Victorique- so Shinku, and yet so fun! I have a feeling this will be more about the characters than they mysteries, though.

Ones I plan on picking up soon:
Hourou Musuko- As awesome as this looks, I have to read a few chapters into the manga in order to watch the anime. It starts a volume or two into the story. However, I've heard rave reviews.
Fractale- Why not? The previews looked interesting. But trying to fit it in with these other shows is dragging on me.

Ones I'm not touching:
Beelzebub- I'm reading the manga. And I've heard that the anime is a crass aprody of it. Also, I don't have the time.
Bakuman- Again, I'm reading the manga. I've heard from a reliable friend who has also read the manga that the anime brings nothing new to the table.
Freezing- Inless I hear that this is an Amazing Super Above-Average Shounen, I won't touch it. There are just too many ecchi shounen out there with average stories and plots.

Manga: Easier to do, since I can read fater than watch. What am I into right now?

Fruits Basket- It's classic. And I haven't read it. Will be upcoming.
Special A- Another one that's huge, and I haven't read. For shame!
Yume Kira Dream Shoppe- A one-shot manga volume for next month's Manga of the Month on one of my forums. Can't wait!

So as you can see, I've got a lot on my plate for this season. And I'm sooooo excited about it! I should have a few more reviews out on various shows I've already seen, but this is what's going to be for the new ones!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

“Anywhere You Are” – Now and Then, Here and There (anime) – 10/10 Disco Balls

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

Genre: Drama/Action/Sci-fi

Review Status: Complete (13 Episodes/13 Episodes)

Licensed: This anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Both have stood the test of time. The art and animation is comparable to many titles today, though the colors do seem a tad faded or darkened in many scenes.

Summary: Shu is a typical Japanese boy, but has an unbeatable, optimistic and determined attitude. However, when he sees a mysterious girl with strange eyes named Lala-Ru up on a smokestack, he is soon pulled into a strange desert world. Shu soon discovers the true terrors of war, which includes genocide, brutal torture, hunger, thirst, and child explotation. Now Shu is trying to save Lala-Ru, as well as his hard earned, and often relunctant, new friends from the insane dictator, Hamdo. Whether Shu can possibly accomplish saving those he cares about while still holding up to his values remains to be seen. (Source: ANN)

Review: Give me a moment to dry my eyes….. This anime seems to have the sole purpose to make as many viewers as possible cry. This takes the typical “boy saving the world” premise and takes it up another notch. He doesn’t have to face ten billion enemies; he only has to face one- Hamdo, who wants nothing more than to rule the world, and will do everything in his power to do so.

This ramps it up in what he must face. This being war, there is torture of many types. Girls are raped to breed new soldiers. And when he does catch a break, it’s in a place where a fever of revenge has taken hold and places him and his new friends in grave danger.

This takes a fairly typical plot but puts interesting and believable characters into it. While Shu is the typical shounen hero, he’s backed by a quiet and almost unfeeling heroine. While she eventually comes around it’s hard to tell how much he affected her until the end. Hamdo, the antagonist, is not just cruel- he’s insane. He doesn’t care who he hurts, how many he has to hurt, or how brutally he hurts them in order to get what he wants. And his second in command is willing until the end to follow him and make his wishes true.

Virtually everyone Shu meets ends up important to the story, whether he knows it or not. This means that a rather large cast gets very distinctive personalities and behaviours. It’s amazing that they all play important parts in the time they get, and that’s a definite benefit.

While the story is heartbreaking, it’s still well-paced, with everything told in it’s own time. It never feels rushed. Both the sub and dub are good, though the dub can sounds stilted in some places. And the violence depicted never is without a reason, as senseless as that reason is. It’s not done without discretion in what’s depicted.

Overall, this was a heartbreaking but beautiful anime.

Recommended: Yes. But 17+ for some language (less in the sub than the dub), rape (implied but not shown), torture, massacre (very little gore but lots of blood), some graphic death (getting shot point-blank in the heart and head). And of course, showing the mental aftermath of going through that.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Grave of the Fireflies (anime)
Bokurano (anime and manga)
Kino’s Journey (anime and light novels)
Saikano (manga)
Shadow Star (manga)
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (anime)

Monday, January 10, 2011

“He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” – Imadoki! (manga) – 4/10 Disco Balls

We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it. ~John Lennon

Genre: Romance/Comedy

Review Status: Complete (5 Volumes/5 Volumes)

Licensed: This manga is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Typical shoujo with big eyes and sparkles. Nice to look at.

Summary: For Tanpopo Yamazaki, life at the elitist Meio Academy seems way out of her league. The daughters of wealthy families snub her, other students make light of the fact that she actually tested into Meio instead of relying on family connections, and the cute boy she saw tending a dandelion the day before wouldn't even acknowledge her existence. Hoping to make friends and have some fun, Tanpopo starts up a gardening committee, but will this help her survive in a school where superficiality and nepotism reign supreme? (Source: Viz)

Review: When you only have so much time to tell a story, it becomes a mash of rushed story and undeveloped characters. I’m grateful that for this story, it wasn’t the case. There were some good things- one of the side characters ends up in a bad relationship, ends up pregnant, but through her friendship with Tanpopo gains confidence in herself and her ability to lead a good life with her new baby. The story wasn’t that rushed, and characters were given a decent amount of time to develop.

However, the good things didn’t outweigh the bad. The mains are faaar to cliché for me to enjoy them- the guy is an arrogant, mean teen on the outside with a small gentle side on the inside. Tanpopo is the typical energetic teen, a bit of an airhead and somewhat clumsy. The others are also typical characters, such as a jealous girl who’s interested in Koki (and later becomes Tanpopo’s somewhat-friend), and another typical love-life-meddling friend.

The story wasn’t really that ingenious either- you have a girl who’s in a school she doesn’t really fit in, and she finds love and friends. It mixed a recycled plot with indifferent characters- a mix that leaves me less than impressed.

Overall, this just wasn’t the best romance manga I’ve read.

Recommended: Not really. But if you’re really interested, then ages 14+. One of the characters is pregnant and not married- but becomes a better person through her friendship with Tanpopo. There is a bit of fanservice, such as when Tanpopo shows Koki where he helped bandage her leg but accidentally lifts her skirt too high, which shows her panties. She’s highly embarrassed by that.

Other titles you might enjoy: Kimi ni Todoke (anime and manga)
Special A (anime and manga)
Lovely Complex (anime and manga)
Toradora! (anime and manga)
Skip Beat! (manga)
Ouran Host Club (anime and manga)
Fruits Basket (anime and manga)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

“A Touch Of Makeup” – Beauty Pop (manga) – 5/10 Disco Balls

No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they're pretty, even if they aren't. ~Marilyn Monroe

Genre: Comedy/School/Romance/Shoujo

Review Status: Complete (10 Volumes/10 Volumes)

Licensed: This manga is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Typical shoujo, with large eyes and sparkles. Nice to look at but nothing special.

Summary: Although a truly gifted hairstylist, Kiri Koshiba has no interest in using her talent to pursue fame and fortune, unlike the three popular boys in the "Scissors Project" at school. Determined to become the best makeover team in Japan, they give showy makeovers to handpicked girls. As much as Kiri tries to shy away from the Scissors Project spotlight, she finds herself responding to beauty's call... (

Review: What can a haircut do for you? A good haircut can make you feel better about yourself by revealing your best features. Kiri knows the power of a good haircut, and discreetly offers to give makeovers to girls that need a boost of self-confidence.

That’s how she comes to the attention of the Scissors Project- a group of boys at school who are style all-stars, choosing only the girls with the most promise to make over. They feel that only girls with promise can be made beautiful- and Kiri shows them up. And so goes a rivalry that turns into a reluctant alliance when they go into a national styling competition. Kiri manages to find friends, win the competition, and find love within this story.

I have to say, overall this isn’t too bad. You do have your typical shoujo clichés- the five boys of scissors project are total shoujo stereotypes- and the storyline is fairly predictable. All the same, this does have some good points. I did like Kiri’s personality, which reminded me a lot of one of my other favorite shoujo leads. Kiri also isn’t the only one to find love. Her best friend does too, which is somewhat rare.

My rating reflects how I overall felt about it. There were some things that I liked (the competition and Kiri’s past were pretty interesting), others that didn’t strike as much of a chord with me (unresolved relationships and some plot points), but on the whole, the whole story was just… okay. Nothing particularly special.

Overall, this was a decent title, but for a younger age set- it would make a great starter manga for a younger sister.

Recommended: 7+. This has some bullying in it that’s resolved very quickly. One of the boys is “allergic” to girls and breaks out in hives when he’s touched by one. There is a slap or two that occurs during the course of the story when something really mean is said.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Ouran Host Club (manga and anime)
Lovely Complex (anime and manga)
Skip Beat (manga)
High School Debut (manga)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

“And Her Seven Knights” – Pretear: The New Legend of Snow White (manga) – 6/10 Disco Balls

Although stepfamilies rarely make as smooth transition as the Bradys, it is possible to successfully blend a family. It depends on how and when you start and what you put in the blender. ~Kela Price

Genre: Mahou Shoujo/ Fantasy/Romance/Drama

Review Status: (Complete (4 Volumes/4 Volumes)

Licensed: This manga is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: The art is typical shoujo- lots of sparkles and bit eyes. But it’s still pleasant to look at.

Summary: Himeno Awayuki is a high school student who's having trouble adjusting to her new lifestyle. Her mother past away when she was a child, and her father Kaoru married the richest woman in town, Natuse. Kaoru always seems to take Natuse's side, and Natuse's two daughters aren't too fond of Himeno. Himeno's new life changes when she takes a shortcut to school and runs into a young boy, who takes her to a magical world on the brink of extinction. This world needs the help of a magical princess called the Pretear, who happens to be Himeno herself. (

Review: I look for Magical Girl titles like a lion looks for fruit salad. So when this happened to catch my eye while I was in a fit of boredom, I couldn’t help but be attracted to the promise of fluffy times and romantic drama that this promised. This manages to be a bit more than your standard magical girl fare, which was a pleasant surprise.

This story titles itself as “The New Legend of Snow White”. In a way that’s true- this does manage to bring elements of Snow White into the story. However, this is only in the way that she has seven knights protecting her and her mother is jealous of the attention her father gives her- there are far more elements of Cinderella in this, with her mean stepmother and sisters and her rage-to-riches story.

The overall story is interesting, with a power of making Leafe (a substance similar to The Force) passed from Pretear to Pretear as generations pass. One of the Pretears of past fell into the darkness of her own heart and became the Princes of Darkness. Himeno, the new Pretear, must defeat her and the darkness within herself.

There are still some typical clichés in here, from the angry and standoffish guy being the one who becomes the romantic interest to At least the characters are fairly likeable…. The ones you actually get to know…

Because there are seven knights, there just isn’t time to like them beyond the superficial ‘they’re cute and have tragic backstories’ way. This leads to a somewhat shallow part as Himeno grieves over the loss of one of the knights. The knights that the manga does focus on are the ones that are part of the love triangle that causes much of the drama in the story. They’re also very clichéd personalities, with one being the surly, angry guy and the other being the sweet, understanding one. Himeno ends up being a decently convincing personality- she’s no pushover. Though she’s hurt by her stepsister’s actions, she has no problem standing up for herself. Having a strong (both physically and mentally) heroine was a welcome change.

The story itself suffers from compression, with relationships and characters not fully developed, details not fully explained (how did her friend end up knowing their identities again?), and the general feel of the story being rushed.

Overall, while this was a fun, quick read, I would recommend the anime over this.

Recommended: If you can’t get your hands on the anime. 12+, as there is a shot of her cleavage in a bra in one panel. Her friend also implies that maybe she and her knights were having sex (this isn’t the case at all- it’s just something assumed off of something that Himeno says). The one swear word is replaced by #$*%& symbols.

Other titles you might enjoy: Princess Tutu (anime)
Fushigi Yuugi: Mysterious Play (manga or anime)
Kamichama Karin (manga or anime)
Ceres: Celestial Legend (manga)
Gakuen Alice (manga)
Shugo Chara (manga or anime)
Time Stranger Kyoko (manga)

Monday, January 3, 2011

“Blood As Thick As Water” – Tokyo Godfathers (anime) – 10/10 Disco Balls

Family is just accident.... They don't mean to get on your nerves. They don't even mean to be your family, they just are. ~Marsha Norman

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: This anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Typical Satoshi Kon. Realistic, if not always pretty-looking characters. The animation is excellent.

Summary: Three homeless companions -- a runaway girl, a transvestite, and an alcoholic -- find an abandoned newborn on Christmas Eve while foraging through trash. Using clues found next to the baby, they fan out through Tokyo to find the parents, along the way confronting reminders of their own lives they have nearly abandoned. (

Review: On Christmas Day was born a savior. On Christmas Day, a newborn is found by three homeless friends. They in turn go through a wild adventure to try and find the baby’s family, and in turn find their own.

This was one of the first anime I was ever exposed to, and it got me from the start. The three are a band of misfits, who’ve had their lives destroyed in some way and feel that they can’t go back to before. They are eachother’s family- they may fight, but they care for eachother. Each is a distinct person, from the happy and determined Hana, who loves being the ‘mother’ of the group, to Gin who’s very much a cynical man with a soft spot for the other two and still hold hope of being able to do something for his daughter, and then Miyuki who feels an incredible amount of guilt and shame over what she did that caused her to leave home- and makes her feel that she can never go back again.

The baby throws all of this in sharp relief as they try to find out why the baby was left to die. Miyuki covertly is a tad jealous since the baby obviously had a family at some point, a happy one by the looks of it. Gin gets wrapped up in his feelings for Miyuki, and through her, his daughter that was her age when he last saw her. And Hana showers the baby with the love that she can’t give her lover since he died.

But the baby seems to be a Christmas miracle- as they travel around Tokyo, strange coincidences and bouts of luck happen to keep them going on their quest. Even when things seem to be at their worst- deception and danger are the special of the day as the baby is cast into a catalyst for one woman’s grief and loss- there is always hope, and people are brought together by the small miracles that happen.

Overall, this was a heartwarming Christmas story about family and friends.

Recommended: 16+, as the English word for cigarette is thrown about as a slur for homosexuals. One of the character is a homosexual and is referred to as such many times. Various other light swears are thrown about occasionally.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Haibane Renmei (anime)
A Distant Neighborhood (manga)
Bunny Drop (manga)
Yotsuba&! (manga)
Minami-ke (anime)
Kure-nai (anime)
A Distant Neighborhood (manga)

“Playing Dress-up” – Princess Jellyfish (anime) – 10/10 Disco Balls

The finest clothing made is a person's skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this. ~Mark Twain

Genre: Comedy/Josei/Gender-bender

Review Status: Complete (11 Episodes/ 11 Episodes)

Licensed: This anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Overall this looks very cute. It’s not very stylized, but that works in its favor. The colors are bright and the animation very good.

Summary: The story centers around Tsukimi Kurashita, a huge fan of jellyfish and moves to Tokyo to become an illustrator. She moves into "Amamizukan," an apartment complex that is full of fujoshi (diehard female otaku) with a no-men-allowed rule. However, one day, Tsukimi invites a stylishly fashionable woman to stay at her room at Amamizukan — only to discover that the guest is not who "she" seems to be. (Source: ANN)

Review: This anime is all about the characters. From the eccentric residents of the apartments, to Kuranosuke and his family, to the various others that become part of the cast, this anime shows how they all act, interact, and influence each other’s lives.

Kuranosuke and Tsukimi’s meeting was a wonderful coincidence- they started bonding over Tsukimi’s love of jellyfish, and Kuranosuke- intrigued by the girl who dressed oddly but had a passionate love for something- quickly makes himself at home in the apartments. Then you start really getting to know the characters.

The great thing is how well they get along together! Mayaya, the ever-enthusiastic lover of Records of the Three Kingdoms and Banba, the afro’d train-crazy gal, are good comedic foils for each other, feeding off of each other’s excitement and generally making things more wacky. Jiji gets pushed to the side and ignored for the most part, but she’s fond of older men. You have the mysterious mangaka living upstairs who passes all edicts of behavior and problems from underneath her door. Chieko, the doll-lover and talented seamstress, keeps order in the day-to-day activities of the girls. All of them work off of eachother’s energy and create an interesting bunch of friends.

The rest of the cast is equally engaging, which makes it a joy to watch as they are all confronted with life choices and bits of the past that still affect them. The other thing that makes it interesting is that, while the characters and their characteristics are somewhat exaggerated, the situations they are in aren’t. It never failed to be amusing to watch these girls try to deal with everyday occurrences, such as trying to keep their home from being torn down. This manages to keep about three plots and sub-plots going at once, but never gets confusing, which is amazing and makes it all more interesting.

It was easy to cheer for them and fun to watch them engage life. And the ending, while it didn’t tie up all the story ends, still managed to go out on a high note. I don’t think I could have asked for better.

Overall, this was a sweet, fun show that gave me warm fuzzies. I will for sure be picking up the manga after this!

Recommended: YES! 15+, though. In one episode someone is given what’s apparently a date-rape drug. While they pass out, even though no sex occurs, pictures that imply such are taken and used as blackmail. One of the character’s outfits are a bit slinky, but no nudity occurs- bathing suit amount of skin is shown. One of the guy characters acts very girly for a full-grown man, which is sometimes a bit disturbing. And one of the main characters is a cross-dresser, though he’s heterosexual.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Paradise Kiss (manga and anime)
Ouran Host Club (anime and manga)
Wallflower (manga and anime)
Tatami Galaxy (anime)
Mishounen Produce (manga)
½ Prince (manga)
High School Debut (manga)
Kimi ni Todoke (anime and manga)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

“A Small Town in the Woods” – Shiki (anime) – 7/10 Disco Balls

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: Horror/Mystery/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete (22 Episodes/ 22 Episodes)

Licensed: This is currently licensed in the US

Art/Animation: While the animation is decent, the art takes some getting used to. There are wild hairstyles in wild colors, and in some scenes you can tell someone was playing a little too much with the color/texture maker.

Summary: During a fiercely hot summer in Sotoba, a peaceful and quiet village with a population of 1300 people, a series of bizarre deaths begin to occur. At the same time, a strange family moves into a long abandoned mansion in the region. As time goes on, more people start dying, and their families start to disappear. A few recognize why this is and begin to fight back, culminating in a battle between the living and the undead.

Review: This anime manages to get you at the beginning. Not just because of the strange and unusual hairstyles, but because it so clearly conveys the tension the characters have. Megumi is dying to get out of the town, while Natsuno just doesn’t care. The town doctor is dealing with a bunch of deaths that have no explanation, while the junior monk is dealing with the stress of being stalled in one of his stories and having to deal with an unusual amount of deaths in the village.

Each episode brings you into a little more of the story, with the Shiki gradually being revealed, seeing how they start taking over the village, how the families are affected, how the affected are controlled, and what’s going on in the minds of the Shiki.

This goes a route that few vampire stories today do- it brings in the various feelings of different Shiki, from those who are happy to be murderers, to those who merely want to be with their loved ones forever, to those who are tortured by how they must survive, and those who refuse to become killers because of the shame they would feel.

At the same time, you see how the few who do recognize what’s happening deal with the Shiki invading the town, while the other villagers scoff at them and rationalize the events.

There are a few downsides to the interesting story- the pace for the first half is pretty slow. Apparently, they animated one chapter per episode. For some, this will prolong the tension that is in the episodes- some won’t even feel bored. For others, this will drag out the story and prolong it more than necessary.

Even so, with the 14th episode and the last 5 episodes, there is definite payoff. You get a very good idea of what can and can’t kill the Shiki, as well as finally seeing the bloodbath that a vampire hunt can become. You get a definite look at good and evil in them, with the villagers becoming the predators instead of prey, and in some cases becoming monsters that are just as bad as the ones they’re hunting.

Unfortunately, this didn’t have a very conclusive ending. You see the destruction of most of the Shiki, the destruction of what the villagers were trying to save, but the ending implies that things aren’t quite over between the Shiki and the villagers.

Overall, this was an interesting story that went back to the predator nature of vampires.

Recommended: 16+. The violence gets very graphic, with episode 14 all about finding out how you can kill a vampire, and the last 5 episodes about hunting them and anyone who might be associated with them down and killing them. Lots of blood and death, such as having stakes being driven through hearts, some bodies being hacked to pieces, and one Shiki’s head being crushed before she was staked.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Shiki (light novels and manga)
Blood+ (anime)
Higurashi: When They Cry (anime Season 1, Season 2 and manga)
Hellsing (manga)
Hellsing Ultimate (anime)
Monster (anime or manga)
Mail (manga)
Ghost Hunt (anime and manga)
Kakureno: Hide-and-Seek (anime)
Blood: The Last Vampire (anime)
Bizenghast (manga)
Doubt (manga)