Thursday, June 30, 2011

“Into The Light” – Grave of the Fireflies (anime) – 10/10 Pools

A great war leaves the country with three armies - an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~German Proverb

Genre: Historical/Drama

Review Status
: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Recognizably Ghibli. The characters are a bit baby-cheeked, a bit softer in design than you usually see. However, that doesn’t detract from the story. The animation is, as expected, very good, flowing smoothly and well. Something I particularly liked was the use of Seita’s and Seitsuko’s spirits (colored red) to move the scene from one moment to another. You could see them revisiting all the places that their story took place. While these were brief scenes, it made it appear that the regular parts were almost like the memories of the siblings as they reviewed their lives.

Dub Vs. Sub: Unfortunately, due to an incident concerning my laptop and the dvd, I was unable to view the sub (though this might be a blessing in disguise- I can’t be that emotionally distraught more than once a week). However, in the sub they used children that were the ages of the characters to add authenticity, whereas they used grown voice actors in the dub.

Summary: In the aftermath of a World War II bombing, two orphaned children struggle to survive in the Japanese countryside. To Seita and his four-year-old sister, the helplessness and indifference of their countrymen is even more painful than the enemy raids. Through desperation, hunger and grief, these children’s lives are as heartbreakingly fragile as their spirit and love is inspiring. Grave of the Fireflies is a tale of the true tragedy of war and innocence lost, not only of the abandoned young, but of an entire nation. (Back of the DVD cover)

Review: When people get caught up in the idea of war, it’s all about the soldiers- the people who are actually fighting. It can be hard to remember that there are more people who are affected by it. When the US was attacking Japan, far more civilians were harmed in the fire bombings than soldiers were. This anime tells the story of two siblings that are caught up in one of them, losing their mother due to burns and being forced to travel to the country to live with their aunt, and awaiting the return of their father.

When a movie starts off with a boy dying and seeing the ashes of a young dead girl, you know that it will not be a happy movie. It’s the tactful way that it is told, the gentleness and honesty of the scenes that make this memorable and heartbreaking. Things are told from the beginning, the story of the siblings starting out in their home with a mother who loves them and a father that is overseas. Getting ready for the bombing is surprisingly not worrisome for the family. They’ve obviously drilled for it, and know what to do. Their mother goes on ahead, but the children stick behind for a while longer, and end up in a shelter that’s distant from where their mother was supposed to meet them. It’s a blessing as disguise, as after they discover their mother has been burned badly and might not make it. Scenes like this don’t need blood and gore to make them horrifying. Their mother is covered in bandages and is shriveled with the heat and injuries. Overnight, she ends up dying. Seita decides to keep it from his sister, in order to keep her spirits up, and they travel to the only person they know who might be able to help them.

Things seem to get better for Seita and Seitsuko. Their aunt takes them in, helping feed them and making sure they have a roof over their heads. They share all they have with her so that they can help out, from Seito getting the food and supplies that he had buried in the ground before their house was destroyed, to selling off their mother’s kimonos. There are little things that they still have and treasure, such as a tin of fruit snacks. However, appearances can be deceiving. As kind as she seems, their aunt becomes less hospitable the moment she discovers that their mother has died. She tells Seitsuko that their mother is dead, behind Seita’s back. It’s the little things she does that just make her seem less and less likeable, such as spooning just broth into Seita’s bowl while ladling vegetables and noodles into her daughter’s and husband’s bowls.

It’s no wonder that Seita feels that he and his sister should leave, when it’s clear that they are no longer welcome. However, they have no place to go! Not anyplace with family, at least, as they don’t know where any other relatives live. Seita discovers a little bomb shelter near a river, by the town. It seems ideal- there’s enough room for the two of them, it’s decently large… but how can they feed themselves? Food in the town is scarce, and the situation is getting worse by the day. Nuts and vegetation seem to sustain them for a while, but they go to sleep with hunger more often than not. Even so, they manage to enjoy their lives. Seitsuko plays in the water, makes little sculptures out of mud, and enjoys the fireflies that they capture to light their little home. Seito worries about where their next meal will come from and wonders why the fireflies must die so quickly.

Things only get worse and worse. Seito scraps for food, avoiding authorities and raiding burning homes for food and items to sell. He becomes more focused on finding food and surviving, blinding himself to the fact that his sister is becoming lethargic and unwell. She complains of being hungry and having diarrhea. While they continue to have some good times, they still miss their parents, and things just get harder as they scrap for the few things that they can eat. Through it all, both start showing signs that things aren’t well, including rashes over their bodies.

What hurts the most about this is when Seita finally takes Seitsuko to the doctor, the doctor says that it is merely malnutrition and that she should eat. Seita looks at him furiously and demands to know what he is supposed to feed her with. There is no food- anywhere. The doctor, perhaps not caring but also possibly having been desensitized to it because he had seen it before, merely calls in the next patient. There is no offer for them to come to dinner, no opening of a home or attempt to find them one. There is merely a blank look and the implication that it is their problem, not his.

Good news finally comes with the bad. Seito, waiting for his father, finally goes to get money from the bank to buy food, something that he has been putting off for ages due to the dangers of travelling. It comes too late- the war is over, his father is dead, and as he comes back to his sister he discovers she is delusional with hunger. She breathes her last that day, and Seito is left with nothing except the will to bury his sister, shouldering her death as heavily as he has all his other losses. Seeing him lose hope and the will to live is almost as heart wrenching as the death of his sister. She died smiling and loving her brother deeply. Seita dies in grief and hopelessness, the starvation that took his sister overtaking him as well.

This is not a movie for the sensitive or faint-hearted. However, it is a movie that everyone should see at some point. The issues addressed, how they are told, are beautiful in their own ways. Some things should not be ignored, and the way war affects regular people is one of them.

Overall, this was a beautiful anime about two sibling’s love and loss.

Recommended: Yes. However, this is harsh stuff. I think 10+ would be the lowest you could comfortably go with who was watching this. There is no fanservice, some nudity on the sister's part when he helps her bathe (entirely non-sexual). You have the firebombings, and Seita gets a bit beaten up by a soldier as he steals food. You see maggots falling off their mother's wrapped body, and several bodies being tossed into a mass cremation. You also see some of the cremation for Seitsuko. This isn't gruesome in the least. There is also the scene in the beginning where you see Seita die. There is a certain air of not caring that surrounds the people that discover his body.

Other titles you might enjoy:
The Music of Marie (manga)
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutashi wa Mada Shiranai (anime)
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (anime)
Ginban Kaleidoscope (anime)
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (anime)
Utahime (manga)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

“Shattered To Pieces” – Fractale (anime) – 4/10 Pools

Technology... the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it. ~Max Frisch

Genre: Sci-fi/Adventure/Fantasy

Review Status: Complete (11 Episodes/11 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: Overall the art is very nice, especially the backgrounds. However, a few poor choices in coloring the characters made a key point impossible to guess, and actually seems silly when you think about it (this does have something to do with Nessa and Phryne’s hair in the promo art).

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: The story takes place on an island, where a "Fractale System" is beginning to collapse. One day, Clain finds an injured girl called Phryne under a cliff. She disappears leaving a pendant. Clain sets out for a journey with the girl-shaped avatar Nessa to look for Phryne and discovers the secret of the Fractale System. (

Review: This started out with bright promise. Clain, our hero, is a boy who lives alone in a small village, with his father and mother’s “dopples” (computer-generated avatars) looking after him. Virtual Reality has been taken to a new level- people are implanted at birth with machines that allow them to access Fractale, a program that allows people to interact with a virtual world in every way that’s important, except for touching them. He discovers a girl, helps her get better, she disappears, and within the pendant she leaves is a unique dopple named Nessa.

The next episode is full of him and Nessa exploring their world, discovering just how unique she was. And then they are kidnapped by a rogue faction named “Lost Millennium”, a group that is against humans being dependant on the Fractale system.
That is where the show takes a logic leap over the cliff. Everyone, regardless of which side they are on in the debate, is either

A) Evil
B) Insane

To some extent. Clain is very right when he says late in the series that both sides have right ideas and wrong ideas. However, they are completely unable to work together. Everyone views the other side as completely monstrous or a nuisance. In order to try and stop the Fractale system to be removed, the group that Clain and Nessa fall in with decides to attack the Church when they are dealing with people and the system. This does mean they end up shooting innocent civilians. The Church fires right back to defend themselves- killing still more innocent people. This is the first clear sign that everyone is bad news around here!

only gets worse from there. Sunda, the leader of one town’s Lost Millennium group, treats those he disagrees with as inferior- he bullies them. And there’s another leader that makes him look downright nice in comparison! This anime also decides to propagate the idea that the Church is run by evil manipulators and madmen. Phryne’s father figure lusts for her in a very obvious, creepy way. One of the other leaders is jealous and insane. It all means that there’s no one that you can really sympathize with, and Cain himself teeters between the sides the entire time.

There are other little things that only bring my opinion of this down lower. Virtually all of the comedy revolves around Cain being called a pervert. It’s only amusing so many times, and that joke far outstays its welcome. The romantic development between Phryne and Clain seems forced and convenient for plot purposes. Clain never develops beyond an indecisive boy who’s only looking out for Nessa and Phryne. Phryne is an unfeeling stoic character for most of the series. Almost none of the characters are genuinely likeable, except for Nessa! She’s a bright, enthusiastic spot in the middle of madmen, murderers, and dull people.

All if these things made this show one long chore to watch. I was highly unimpressed. Nice visuals and a great soundtrack do not a good story make. Buy the OST and make up your own story for it- anything would be better than what this studio put out.

Overall, this was a disappointment in so very many ways.

Recommended: No. 16+, though, since although this seems like it’s for kids, there are people killed onscreen quite a few times, constant references are made to men being perverts (“naughty” in the subs). In one episode Clain wakes up to a pair of knockers in his face, and the lady teases him about what a wild night they had the night before (nothing happened, as it turns out). She says she has a collection of date rape drugs that they could take and have a wild time with. Phryne’s father figure insists that the only way to make sure she’s fit to be the ‘key’ is to see whether she is still pure- she ends up getting into stirrups (if you don’t know what I mean, ask your mother) but is saved before the examination can take place.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Dennou Coil (anime)
Ghost Hound (anime)
Origin: Spirits of the Past (anime)
Ghost in the Shell (manga and anime)
Summer Wars (anime)
Time of Eve (anime)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

“Live And Let Go” – Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutashi wa Mada Shiranai (anime) – 10/10 Pools

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~From a headstone in Ireland

Genre: Slice-of-life/Supernatural/Drama

Review Status: Complete (11 Episodes/11 Episodes)

Licensed: No, this anime is not licensed in the US

: Very nice. The lines are crisp and clear, the colors bold and bright (no pastels here!). The animation on-par for what a slice-of-life should be, pretty smooth.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: A group of childhood friends drifts apart after one of them, Meiko "Menma" Honma, dies in an accident. Years later, the leader of the group, Jinta Yadomi, has become withdrawn and lives as a recluse. An older Meiko appears to him, and says that she must have a wish granted, though she does not know what it is. (Wikipedia)

Review: Death is inescapable. How we deal with it differs, though. As adults, most of us have gone through various stages of grief and grieving. Children, though, are much more complicated. How can they deal with death when one of their friends dies? For this group of friends, they all still carry wounds from that day. Every one of them feels that they contributed to her death in some way. Mix that with complicated emotions that they were dealing with at the time, issues left unresolved, and all of them have had their lives affected in big ways.

In this anime, they have a chance to heal. Menma has appeared to one of them, and with that he realizes that she needs to move on. However, his emotions war with that. As a child he loved her, and those feelings haven’t died. His guilt over what happened- having run away from the clubhouse caused her to follow him, and she subsequently ended up drowning. All his friends deal with similar issues, from Anjou’s love for Jinta and guilt for being happy Menma was dead, Yukiatsu’s unrequited love for Menma and being unable to stop her as she ran after Jinta, Tsuruko’s jealousy over never being able to have Yukiatsu’s love… Even Poppa hides some serious guilt and agony over her death.

Jinta’s friends struggle to believe that Menma is actually back, they come together regardless to support each other because of their strong ties with one another. Their guilt over what happened and lingering bonds of nostalgia and friendship are what keep them coming back, even when they don’t truly believe.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all is well. Each person has their own level of belief as to whether Menma is really there, and their grief plays into that. Yukiatsu was so driven by his grief that he has a tendency to ‘become’ her- he dresses in a wig and dress similar to what she looked like, and tries to use it to cast doubt on Jinta’s claims. Poppa is so driven by being unable to stop her death that he fully believes that she has come back and is unable to rest properly.

Trying to find out what her last wish was, why Menma is back and unable to rest, drives them together as their belief is sharpened through several unmistakable signs that she is there. Seeing it all come together is beautiful. Each step brings them closer to what her final wish is. Each episode shows more of their past and what fuels their guilt and brings them together so many years together. The last episode may leave some wanting, as the issues that they are dealing with were aired out, but they aren’t truly resolved. However, that’s the first step to healing, and they still have a lot of that to do. All of them do end up with resolution over Menma, and are able to say a final goodbye- something that they desperately needed.

Overall, this was a beautiful anime about love, loss, and the healing that comes after.

Recommended: Yes. Ooooh, so yes. 13+ due to some sexual innuendo- there is an allusion to Jinka getting ‘excited’ when Menma sits in his lap (the look on his face and the sound effect conveys it all). He also peers between his fingers to her covered bosom to mention that she hasn’t grown that much. Anjou is nearly forced into a love hotel against her will, and there are two mentions about her virginity. Rumors spread around school about her being a prostitute. Jinta and Yukiatsu nearly get into a fight, and Yukiatsu ends up strangling Jinta for a bit. I can only remember one swear in the entire series- one instance of the ‘d-word’ in a very appropriate situation.

Other titles you might enjoy
Grave of the Fireflies (anime)
The Music of Marie (manga)
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (anime)
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (anime)
Rainbow (anime)
Ginban Kaleidoscope (anime)
Millennium Actress (anime)

“Getting To Know You” – Kimi ni Todoke (Season 2) (anime) – 8/10 Pools

Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. ~Kahlil Gibran

Genre: Romance/Slice-of-Life/School

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: No, this anime is not licensed in the US

Art/Animation: There really isn’t anything unique about the character designs, but the colors are bright and lovely, and the backgrounds are mainly lovely watercolors. The animation is sub-par for a slice-of-life anime. It tends to be on the rough side, surprising since there isn’t a whole lot of movement and there is no action per say.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: The continuation of the first season. Sawako Kuronuma and her friends have just begun their second year of high school and they are in the same class together again. To make matters more interesting a male student newly transferred into their class is seated right next to Kuronuma and has taken an interest in her. What hurdles will Sawako and Kazehaya face next? (from

Review: While I wasn’t impressed by the pacing in the first season, this second one took it up a notch. It started off with a bang- a new guy transferring in, and he’s not impressed by the main couple’s dithering around! So of course he offers to help Sawako and be her friend. Quite a few episodes are spent building up the tension as Kazehaya watches them get close and is infuriated by it.

This plays around with some of the things that often show up in shoujo romances- for instance, it’s Kazehaya that gets up in arms when he sees Sawako getting close to the new guy. The really nice thing about this is that he neither sees the need to get ‘revenge’ or behave like Sawako is his property during it. He doesn’t have that personality, and the author stays true to it.

The second season is also where The Confession happens. Finally! The ball gets moving between our main protagonists. What was also very pleasant about this story is that it’s not all ‘I love you everything’s good and we can live happily ever after’. There is no way that the story could end up like that! The mangaka kept in mind that Sawako is the most feared, avoided girl in the school, and that there would be little to no chance people would accept their relationship right off the bat. So while the confession does happen, they spend a few episodes going through people’s reactions to their relationship.

Why am I not as impressed by this as I could be? The love triangle. I’m very, very tired of this particular shoujo cliché. I’m just glad that it acted as an immediate catalyst for the confession. Sawako had to be particularly clueless for a few minutes after, but within the next episode everything was back to rights, and the main couple was official. The other thing that I was disappointed in was how the last episode ended. Yes, they’re together, but there was a clear cliffhanger for a potential third season. I should expect it within the next few years. Until then, you might want to pick up the manga if you need to see their relationship grow and solidify before then.

Overall, if you liked the first season, you’ll love the second!

Recommended: Yes! 10+, this is a very family-friendly romance. Pin (one of the teachers) is a little perverted, but most of what he says will go over the heads of younger kids. No fanservice, no language, the ‘scary’ scenes of Sawako being the town ghost aren’t scary since you know how sweet she is and it’s not presented in a frightening way… This season is almost as clean as a whistle.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Kimi ni Todoke (Season 1 and the manga)
Train Man (manga)
Princess Jellyfish (anime)
Emma: A Victorian Romance (anime and manga)
Lovely Complex (anime and manga)
Ouran Host Club (anime and manga)
Clannad and Clannad Afterstory (anime)
Ah! My Goddess (anime and manga)
Fruits Basket (manga)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

“A Picture of Heaven” – Tamayura (anime) – 9/10 Pools

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

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Comedy/Spiritual

Review Status: Complete (4 Episodes/4 Episodes)

Licensed: No, this anime is not licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Not as good as you would expect from an OVA series. The animation is decent, and the colors light- like pastels. The art is pretty simple and undetailed, but has clean lines.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this.

Summary: In the Seto Islands, there is a town that Fu and her family has moved back to. She and her friends hang out and have good times while they search for a place a special photograph was taken of her now-deceased father.

Review: Memory fades, but a picture lasts forever. Fu tries to capture moments both big and small with the camera left to her by her now-deceased father. Nostalgia permeates the story, something that shouldn’t be surprising since the director was also in charge of ARIA. It’s brought about by a photograph that was taken by Fu when she was younger, a picture of her father surrounded by little balls of light that she refers to a ‘Tamayura’, little balls of happiness that appear in a photo when everyone involved is at peace and happy.

Life is slow and peaceful for these girls. They go to school, talk about what they want to do for the future, pose for Fu’s pictures, enjoy Fu’s grandmother’s cake, and go on a few adventures to discover where the photograph was taken. All of them have interesting personalities- unfortunately, due to the length and amount of the episodes, they are more distinctive due to their quirks than anything. One enjoys whistling, and whistles almost everything, another is hyperactive and adores Fu’s younger brother to pieces, and the third seems like a very personable, level-headed girl who’s ever so slightly annoyed by her sister’s antics.

What this anime emphasizes is that it’s not always the destination, but the journey. They don’t always find what they’re looking for, or know where they’re going, but it’s always fun and an adventure, one that’s worth going on. And sometimes life takes you interesting places that you never dreamed of, or meet people that you never would have hoped of meeting before.

Overall, this was a sweet slice of life that really captures Fu and her gentle personality.

Recommended: Yes! All ages. There’s no language, no violence, and the only nudity is Barbie-doll nudity as they visit a bathhouse. Most of the characters are underwater, and it’s all very non-sexual, just them relaxing and having a good time. I would compare it to the bathing scene in My Neighbor Totoro.

Other titles you might enjoy:
ARIA (anime and manga)
Hidamari Sketch (anime)
Natume's Book of Friends (anime and manga)
Yotsuba (manga)
Minami-Ke (anime)

"A Turn Of Fortune" - Mistress Fortune (manga) - 4/10 Pools

I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value. ~Hermann Hesse

Genre: Romance/Comedy/Fantasy/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US.

Art: Very, very typical shoujo. With super-big eyes, small noses, thin, clean lines, this fails to distinguish itself stylistically from any other shoujo art out there.

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Kisaki Tachikawa has psychic powers. She works for the PSI, a secret government agency that fights aliens. She’s in love with her partner Giniro, but PSI won’t allow operatives to get involved. Just when Kisaki thinks she may be getting closer to Giniro, she finds out she’s going to be transferred to California! (from back cover)

Review: Kisaki, a teenage agent with the PSI, is in love with her partner. But how can she confess her attraction when she is forbidden to by the PSI, and has to deal with fighting aliens and Giniros’ own perverted personality? This is a story told in three chapters- the first introductory chapter, the second one where more drama is introduced, and the third with resolution! This also has two bonus chapters to fill out the rest of the manga.

The first chapter consists of Kisaki and Giniro working together to stop one of the EBEs, little aliens that are invading the world. Why? Who knows! However, one is on the attack in town, and they must stop it. You get to see how Kisaki has issues with her powers, and how far she has to catch up to Giniro. Due to a mistaken wish on her part, an EBE is set loose on town. Eventually it’s captured, giving the manga it’s requisite cute mascot. The second one starts out with the EBE having learned to talk and having joined them for various unexplained reasons. The team of Mistress Fortune comes closer together as they deal with yet another EBE, and find a way to communicate outside of the agency. The third, starting out with Kisaki having been called to America, is about how Giniro comes for her, admitting his feelings, and they manage to find a way to talk to his mother who has been in a coma for many years.

This is so very shoujo. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fall into the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ territory. Kisaki is a very typical shoujo heroine- not very good at what she does, unable to speak her feelings to the guy she likes, and somewhat hot-tempered when it comes to her man. She’s a cookie-cutter of a hundred other shoujo girls. Giniro is a little more perverted with most, and with only three chapters manages to stay out of the cold-hearted stereotype that plagues the genre. To top it off, this is a manga you should never put in front of someone who knows their science. I was both frustrated and annoyed by how this explained things. I won’t go into details, since it would be passable to those who don’t know anything about physics or electromagnetic waves, but this is one to avoid if you know what you’re reading about.

Even the mangaka acknowledges how very mediocre this manga is in the back notes. Even though Arina Tanemura says that it was fun to do a majou shoujo for once, she says she might come back to it someday. Most mangaka give bright notes that they had such fun with it and hope to do more on it one day. It’s minor, but very obvious when one has read many of those author notes.

The two side stories are just that: minor stories that are just for fun. The first is about EBE and how it wants to get a nice place to live- and so goes out to find a job. This completely breaks the world that the story is in, since EBE is obviously not human, and yet the PSI is trying desperately to keep these things out of the public eye. It’s rather fun and sweet, but a typical storyline that I see in this genre. The second is about how the two members of team Mistress Fortune are trying to discover whether their team leader is a guy or girl- which can be slightly hard to tell given his very bishie long hair and looks. However, their ways of telling are either very stereotypically masculine (having a messy house) or very culture-specific (how he eats his ramen in the PSI cafeteria). Also somewhat typical in these stories, but still somewhat fun in execution. However, they don’t save the main story from being a mess.

Overall, this wasn’t anything special- I would read something else instead. Preferably her amazing series The Gentlemen’s Alliance or Searching for the Full Moon!

Recommended: No. Um, 13+ because Giniro keeps talking about her breasts and how large they are. In most cases, this is less violent than Looney Tunes, as it tends to be off-screen or you only see the light from the attack.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Gakuen Alice (manga)
Fruits Basket (manga)
The Gentlemen’s Alliance (manga)
Searching for the Full Moon (manga or anime)
Shugo Chara! (manga)
Time Stranger Kyoko (manga)
Kamichu! (anime and manga)

"Seeing is Believing" - The Animatrix (anime) - 8/10 Pools

I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world. ~Albert Einstein

Genre: Action/Sci-fi

Review Status: Complete (9 Episodes/9 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Different for each short due to them all having been created by different directors. I have detailed this in the reviews for each because of it.

Dub Vs. Sub: Both are perfectly watchable. The sub is very decent- a few voices might sound a little deep for the character, but nothing terrible. The dub has some very excellent acting, though the lines tend to be stilted in some due to trying to match lip flaps that were obviously created for Japanese words and sentences.

Summary: Detailed in the reviews for each.

Review: Each episode of the Animatrix is approximately 10 minutes long, and within those ten minutes, each director had to create a story that either built on the world that was presented in the Matrix movies, or stay true to the themes and ideas that are in it. This creates some very interesting scenarios.

The Final Flight of the Osiris
Just so you know, the title says it all in terms of what the story is about. This has some of the best CG I’ve seen in a while- in certain scenes, the people looked very real. The effects were very flashy, and it had some good pacing for most of it. Unfortunately, this segment was perhaps the weakest of them all. The opening would do nothing to dissuade someone that anime wasn’t all violence and sex- two characters are engaging in training, which involves a lot of swordplay that gradually is stripping them of their clothes. For something that’s about to be very tragic, it doesn’t set the mood very well. Neither does it add to the story. It takes far too much time, which could have been spent adding to the actual fight and destruction of the ship. The pacing also goes off near the end, with a conversation with an old woman throwing a wrench into the intense action scenes that it’s spliced with. It left me a little less than impressed, with some of the scenes that were supposed to touch me leaving me feeling cold.

The Second Renaissance Part 1 and 2
This title is used ironically- the Renaissance was a time of enlightenment, when people expanded their worldviews. Instead of doing that and embracing or engaging the robots that have gained souls and emotions, mankind rejects them and- out of fear- end up bringing about their own destruction and the rise of the machines. This falls into a more traditional 2D art style, with some CG thrown in. This is a very direct story. How did the machines rise in the first place? How did the earth become like it is in the movies? It’s a fairly typical sci-fi premise, and yet is pulled off with a few twists. There’s a lot of symbolism to the story, most of it aiding the flow and pacing, but also enriching it. And as people who have seen the trilogy know, this doesn’t have a happy ending for us. It’s a very good piece, one that really can draw the viewer in.

Kid’s Story
While this OVA was done in traditional animation, the art itself has a sketchy and surreal look to it. I’m indifferent for what it does to the plot. This ends up being perhaps the most uplifting piece of them all, which can be considered a surprise. This echoes the first movie’s premise, and will feel very familiar to those who’ve seen it. A young teen, dissatisfied with how he feels towards life, sends out a question- “Am I alone?” The answer is that he’s not. But to find out the truth, he must escape his school and the reality constructed for him. Because I have seen the movies, this felt a little too close to Neo’s own awakening to really stand out.

In a scenario that blurs the line between CG and traditional stylized animation, a woman is put to the test: Will she follow the man she loves into the arms of forgetfulness and the machines as Zion is threatened? Or will she keep forging ahead to the future and the truth? Almost the entire ten minutes is made of the debate between them and the literal fight between them. How far would they go once the decision has been made? Again, this hearkens back to the first Matrix movie and a scene within it. Overall, I can’t say much about the ending- it was conclusive but rather unsatisfying as a whole.

World Record
In a style of animation that hearkens back to comic books or visual novels, this story has the most potential to be uplifting and heartbreaking- a man who is charged with drug use must fight to win his medals back… but through his running, might be able to break the slumber that keeps him from the truth of the Matrix. With dramatic shading and dark but vibrant colors, each step of his downfall to his rise again is documented, from training to the personal issues that he must surpass or fight against to be considered the best. All the while, the machines are keeping watch on him. What happens when he comes close to awakening? This was perhaps my personal favorite due to the unique style in how it approached the Matrix and how it leaves the viewer interpreting the ending as either hopeful or not.


While searching for her cat, a girl discovers a place that the children of the neighborhood have known about- one where things are a bit stranger than normal. Defying gravity, strange weather patterns, all of it takes place in a house that the machines have marked out as having errors. The art is bright and colorful, closer to the traditional anime style that most are familiar with. As the computers realize that there’s an issue with the system and rush to fix it, she realizes that there’s something more out there, something strange about this world, and when it’s over, is only left with the memories of having glimpsed something more. This I would rank highly since it speaks to all who have had an experience that leaves them wondering- but have been unable to recapture it.

A Detective Story
Film noir is the order of the day in this black-and-white, incredibly realistic-looking OVA. A detective is hired to find the hacker ‘Trinity’, and delves into the Alice in Wonderland themes that brought Neo back to reality. He discovers that others that have followed the trail have been lead to horrible fates. However, one is still alive- and there he discovers the Red Queen, and makes a plan to meet her. Sometimes, being told the truth about your reality isn’t good for your health. It’s true that no one who has followed Trinity’s trail has had a good fate. Will his be any different? The anachronistic style of the detective’s POV with the technology and weaponry that is around him is well-known to the detective, and he makes a decision that changes his own world and the path of his life forever. I think that this is perhaps the best of them, as it is true to the style and tone of the Noir films that it is an homage to. It also manages to be an incredibly interesting story, even if the action seems to be lacking.

If you can't get them from without, get them from within. This is the policy taken by a group of rebels against the machines. They choose ones with above-average inteligence, capturing and hooking them into a program designed to show them that they could live together, that humanity is more than something to be detroyed. This follows one such machine as he is taken through stylized worlds designed to show him humanity. Too bad things aren't all sunshine and flowers- the place comes under attack. What will their fate be? This one is highly depressing, but very well-executed. Using great CG and stylized art, this shows that sometimes humans can't fight things they have aversions to... and being alone is a terrible thing for anyone. Definitely one of the better shorts in the series.

Overall, this was an interesting look into different perspectives on what’s happening within and outside of the Matrix.

Recommended: 18+. Some of the images presented here are very violent or disturbing, from people being gruesomely impaled to heads being crushed and exploding. Not every OVA has something violent happening, or has blood being spilled, but you can’t tell which ones will beforehand. Some have sexual undertones- in one, a woman walks around in little more than her undies, in another the couple are cutting off eachother’s clothes during training, turning it into forepay (he eventually is in nothing while she in nothing more than underwear, though you never see any genitals), and in a third, a couple are engaging in similar sexual teasing. In that same one, the characters are stylistically nude- that is, they are floating people-looking things made of different colored lights, and the nudity is like Barbie-dolls.

The nice thing is, you don’t necessarily have to have seen the movies to enjoy the ideas and concepts presented in most of them (though you would want to watch The Second Renaissance beforehand to get a background on what’s happening). However, I think that for maximum understanding of what’s happening would be for those who have, since there are various concepts that would only be understood by doing so (who Neo is, what the significance of putting a letter into a mailbox is when inside the Matrix).

Other titles you might enjoy:
Ghost in the Shell (movie, SAC, 2nd Gig, manga)
Dennou Coil (anime)
Serial Experiments Lain (anime)
Ergo Proxy (anime)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Coming Back To Haunt Us" - Origin: Spirits of the Past (anime) - 8/10 Pools

The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it. ~Anonymous

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Romance

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed within the US

Art/Animation: Very nice! The art is consistently good (in some places, stunning), with lush forest scenes and stark valleys. While the CG might not always be well-blended in, it still looks very good and not entirely out-of-place with the world and scenery. The animation is also very good quality, with smooth, fluid motion, even in the most action-packed scenes.

Dub Vs. Sub: Both are equally nice. While you do have some line changes due to the differences in language, they don’t try force the Japanese lines into the equivalent English, making other, similar lines that flow more naturally with the lip flaps. I’m not fond of Toola’s voice in the dub, for the most part, though when the VA isn’t trying to make her sound high-pitched, it’s rather pleasant.

Summary: Ages past, the forest was awakened and the Moon unleashed a ravenous Beast upon the Earth. Man cowered in fear… Three hundred years since and the landscape of the world has been drastically rewritten. The remains of humanity are divided as never before. Half seek a tenuous coexistence with the Forest, half seek to dominate and subdue that which they cannot understand. Agito, the son of an aged hero, inadvertently sets in motion the destruction of all that is left when he revives the young Toola from her timeless slumber. Unable to reconcile life as she once knew it from the world as it is now, Toola calls forth ancient technology to reshape the future from the ashes of the past. With the blessing of the forest, Agito must first save the girl from herself in order to rescue them all… (from the back of the DVD cover)

Review: After viewing this movie twice, once by myself and the other with my family, we decided unanimously that the rating for this movie comes in several parts:

Art: 10
Music: 10
Story: 8

The first thing that this anime did was showcase the art and music. In one of the most interesting, well-done openings to a movie I’ve ever seen, the events that preceded the events of the anime (the destruction of the moon and travel of the Forest to the earth) is set to a very interesting, beautiful song. The visuals as well as how great the music is, are consistently high quality. The world seems rich and vibrant, and the music draws you in, never seeming inappropriate for the scene.

The story, while still very good, doesn’t quite hold up to the promise that the rest of it gives.

What do you do when you are one of the last people who remember what Earth was like before an apocalyptic event? For Toola, the answer is to seek out others who might remember- others that were also put into suspended animation and survived. She is thrust into circumstances very different from what she knew, and believes that things before were far better. Agito attempts to bring her around to seeing that things really aren’t so bad. Life can be hard, but they have a steady supply of water, have food, and are generally happy.

It’s easy to see how lonely Toola is- there is a haunting, memorable scene that impresses that deeply- but we never see how life from Before really is better from life After. The case is never properly made. In fact, the one thing that really seems to drive her over the edge and into the hands of those that would destroy the forest is the idea that a person can bond with and borrow energy from the forest. With genetic mutations and enhancements a common thing in sci-fi and fantasy stories, this doesn’t seem as outrageous or scary as she makes it out to be.

Failure to really compare why things in advanced cities are better than the life they have in the ruined city also makes the drive of the main protagonist seem unrealistic and overzealous, especially when the main goal to return things to the way they were wouldn’t bring back the technology that they lost or the loved ones that have died- it would merely make the vegetation less likely to attack someone.

However, even with that uncertain logic, the story still flows well and is well-told. The characters are likeable, if a little stereotypical. The action is exciting and draws the viewer in. You can’t help but root for Agito to be able to find the ability to bring Toola back and convince her to not destroy the forest, and Shunak makes a good, fairly convincing antagonist. While the environmental message might be there, it’s no stronger than anything you wouldn’t see in a Ghibli movie, and ends up being fairly well-integrated and not overbearing.

Overall, the production values may have outshone the core story, but it was still a fun movie to see.

: 8+. There are some comedic injuries- early on in the movie, one of the boys manages to fall pretty hard onto a sharp rock… on his butt. Obviously very painful and played for laughs, but it’s no more violent than the Looney Tunes. You do also have some fighting where the injuries caused are more serious, however no blood is spilled and all the characters are perfectly fine afterwards. There is implied death, and you do see skeletons for a few moments near the beginning. When Toola’s medical scrubs get wet (and they look like a short dress) you do get some skin-tone showing, but nothing detailed. This only happens once near the beginning. In one scene where you see the forest spirit ‘avatars’- two young girls- they are portrayed in a very stylistic way though they are nude in it. It’s like looking at a classical painting for dryads or nymphs. There is also a scene where the girls ‘meld’ into one being- this is not graphic, nor is there any blood or gore.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (anime and manga)
7Seeds (manga)
Seirei no Moribito (anime)
Princess Mononoke (anime)
Avatar: The Last Airbender (anime)
Please Save My Earth (manga)
King of Thorn (manga)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Anime Season 2011!

And with Summer about to be in full swing, the official list is out!

Watching for sure:
Hellsing Ultimate 8
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée
Kamisama Dolls
No. 6
Usagi Drop
FMA movie
Kokuriko-Zaka Kara

Will watch a few episodes of:
Dantalian no Shoka
Kami-sama no Memo-chou
Mawaru Penguindrum
Uta no Prince-Sama

With any luck, one of these will be a winner (though I already have high hopes for Usagi Drop!)

“A Love In Time…” – Red River (manga) – 9/10 Pools

Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. ~Anonymous

Genre: Historical/Romance/Supernatural/Action/Shoujo/Adventure

Review Status: Complete (28 Volumes/28 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US.

Art: This was started in ’95, and it does show a bit. Our main’s hair is a little on the large side, and her clothes are very much from that era. However, the lines are clean, the shading is well-done, the detail in the pictures looks very nice. If you can forgive the slightly-dated look, then this is above-average.

Summary: A seemingly ordinary modern day teenager, Yuri, is suddenly whisked away to the Hittite empire in ancient Anatolia, where an ambitious queen wants the girl for a blood sacrifice in order to murder all heirs but her son, thus seizing control of the throne. Luckily, the timely intervention of Prince Kail saves Yuri from the queen's grasp. Kail promises to send Yuri back to her home, but the queen's persistent schemes to kill them both, plus their growing feelings for each other, keep those plans delayed. (Source: Wikipedia)

Review: They don’t write a whole lot of shoujo like this one. From the beginning, this marks itself out as a gritty, fairly realistic historical manga, mixing a few bad clichés (such as Yuri being irresistible to every powerful foreigner that comes along) with a whole ton of inventiveness and novelty. The good guys are flawed, the bad guys are repulsively evil. You get a taste of this in the first two volumes, when two people that helped Yuri and looked like people she loved have terrible ends- one by being skinned, another by being hanged.

The ultimate goal of trying to get Yuri back to her time, avoiding her death and foiling the plans of Kail’s stepmother, is remembered throughout the series. That is what all the plots center around, all the internal politics that swirl around Yuri and Kail, and the international politics between Anatolia and Egypt. These hold true to events that occurred during that time, as far as historical records can enlighten us. The things that might be less detailed still hold to a great deal of realism, with nepotism and birth order and murder all entwining to make things difficult for our heroine and her Prince. They have serious opposition from both family and rulers of city-states, and must deal with civil war as well as the threat of invasion.

What was nice was that it was realistic and gritty enough that my brother ended up perhaps even more addicted to the series than I was. He enjoyed the action and politics, and found the relationship aspects to it to be realistic and low-key enough to not bother him. So this title is definitely one that has a strong crossover ability for its demographic.

The characters help pull this story off beautifully. Kail may have taken Yuri in as seemingly a whim, but is clever enough to have known it would vex his stepmother. He has depth as a character, deftly manipulating politics to favor him, while being more than just a typical love interest to Yuri. Yuri is a modern girl, and her sensibilities and knowledge of that both are an advantage and disadvantage. What might gain her popularity among the commoners often works against her in court. She grows from a somewhat impulsive girl to one that thinks over her actions, acting out of thought and wisdom. As they work together and deal with various incidents that threaten both their lives, the attraction grows from lust into genuine feelings. It’s far from overnight, and feels deeper and more real (and realistic) than those of many shoujo manga.

This isn’t always happy. There isn’t a good ending for a good deal of characters. Those that manage to survive don’t have easy lives ahead of them. But this does have its moments where there is tenderness and joy, and affirmations of life and love.

Overall, this is a shoujo that pushes traditional boundaries, and becomes memorable for it.

Recommended: Mature readers only! 16+ at least, since there is death both on page and off page. Some tend to be particularly powerful ones. There is attempted rape a few times, and undetailed scenes of sex are occasionally depicted, or sex is implied. There is some language, but it is relatively rare and never more powerful than the b-words.

Other titles you might enjoy
Emma: A Victorian Romance (anime and manga)
Fushigi Yuugi: Mysterious Play (manga or anime)
From Far Away (manga)
InuYasha (manga or anime)
Saver (manga)
The Story of Saiunkoku (anime)
Twelve Kingdoms (anime or manga)
Samurai Champloo(anime)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

“It’s A Revolution!” – Le Chevalier d’Eon (anime)- 8/10 Pools

To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity. ~Roy P. Basler

Genre: Historical/ Supernatural/ Action/ Mystery

Review Status: Complete (24 Episodes/ 24 Episodes)

Art/ Animation: Abso-freakin-tastic! The art is lovely, with an amazing amount of detail put into the clothes and backgrounds (having been in Paris, most of the scenes there were like reliving my memories). The clothes for the most part remain true to the Rococo era (except for one dreadful allowance to a lolita outfit). The characters… Well, the faces can look fairly similar. The animation ranges from decent to astounding, especially for the swordfighting scenes, which are top-notch!

Summary: 18th Century, France. Lia de Beaumont, loyal servant of Versailles and its King, Louis XV, is found dead in the river Seine. Floating inside a coffin, on which the word "Psalms" was written, her body had been poisoned by mercury, thus preserving decay. According to the Church, the soul that belonged to a corpse incapable of being consumed by the soil will forever wander in the human realm, unable to go to Heaven.

This greatly affects D'Eon de Beaumont, Lia's brother and one of the king's spies. He vows to discover by whom - and why - she was murdered. But he never expected that the one who conducting the revenge would be Lia, now possessing D'Eon's body! And what will the knight do when this quest might risk France itself?

History is retold in this supernatural tale of vengeance, loyalty and betrayal. (

Review: This is a title that is not afraid to play around with history, yet still manages to stay true to the stories, personalities, and politics of the time. Virtually every character in this story existed in some form or another, from D’Eon, who had existed, to his sister Lia, who was his alternate personality in real life. The characters are all fantastically brought to life, with each having their own motivations and stories that are brought to light over the course of the anime. All of this has to do with the Royal Psalms, and ancient book that foretells the future of the world and gives power to rule it to those that possess it. Each character’s story weaves around it, from commoner to noble, and no one is left untouched by its power.

The story itself is ingeniously done. Politics of the time hold very true to the era and what was happening then, and things that seem insignificant at one point can later have great consequences. And the line between fantasy and reality blurs with each political move made and historical figure introduced, as real events are often accurately depicted, with some bits of imagination thrown in.

The pacing is very slow and deliberate, with bits and pieces of the story behind the psalms and the politics behind them coming to light with each episode. It isn’t until the last four episodes that most of the clues and information that were givenares brought together for a heart-pounding climax. Even so, the anime can seem to move at a snails’ pace, with a decent amout of action to liven up a story that is mostly political.

However, the sheer complexity does have its downsides. I found myself needing to marathon it and write down people and connections as I did to keep track of what was happening. Some of the answers seem stretched to fit the occurrences. Some answers seem nonsensical… and sometimes the answers don’t come at all. Not all the symbolism- such as the passages used to create magic- are explained fully within the show. However, for all the things that happen, a remarkable amount of the story is explained and makes sense within the context of the story. And most of the plotlines also lead to the heart of the story- what it truly happening in France, and the future that is coming for it.

Overall, if you’re a fan of historical or political anime, you might want to look at this.

Recommended: Probably not for those under the age of thirteen. There is a decent amount of violence- people get shot and stabbed, though none of it is graphically violent. You do see dead bodies and hear about how they’ve been desecrated, and rather terribly at that. There is some language, but it’s mild and rare. This does have something that could be considered sacrilege, in that some Bible passages can be used for magic. This doesn’t hold true for every Bible, only special ones. There is a specific one, passed down from great leader to great leader, which holds the ones that can change nations.

Other titles you might enjoy:
20th Century Boys (manga)
Towards the Terra (anime and manga)
Rose of Versailles (anime)
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (anime)
Romeo x Juliet (anime)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

“Bad Girl Gone Good” – Serenity (manga) (Review Part 2) – 3/10 Pools

You can tell the size of your God by looking at the size of your worry list. The longer your list, the smaller your God. ~Author Unknown

Review Part 1 found HERE

Genre: Christian/comedy/slice-of-life

Review Status: Complete (10/10)

: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US. OEL, actually.

Art: Better than the first few volumes. It’s still good-quality doujinshi art, not really professional-looking, but not bad. The backgrounds are still undetailed, and there’s a high number of no-background panels. The clothes still look silly, the art is still left-to-right instead of like the Japanese right-to-left, and there’s more American influence than Japanese.

Summary: Her name is Serenity Harper and she’s one obnoxious little bundle of attitude, anger, and animosity. Can the case and concern of Derek, Kimberly, and the rest of the Prayer Club break through Serenity’s tough shell- and prove to her that true love does exist? (from the back cover of the first volume)

Review: I had a very hard time deciding whether this was better or worse than the first five volumes. In some ways, there is a marked improvement. The storytelling becomes less rushed, more about everyday life and having fun, casually mentioning the Bible and Serenity’s struggles with it. And I will say, for the most part, the ‘movie’ sections of the manga were fairly entertaining.

However, this still struggles with many of the same issues that the first half struggled with.

The pacing might be better, but the characterization? Except for the ninth volume where you get a surprisingly in-depth look at Christian morality about casual sex and the struggles with it, it goes from staggered and unbelievable to nonexistent. It’s like the author just stopped caring back in the third volume where they started her praying. Does she still ‘struggle’ with her faith? Yes. However, it’s beyond superficial. If there was any doubt before the seventh volume, at that point it ends. She’s talking to God and going to church. The 8th and 9th volumes are there to take up space.

No, no, I’m wrong. They’re there to show how hateful and irrational non-Christians are. You have more disparaging remarks from her mother (who, as I’ve said before, is completely out of character to be saying what she’s saying, considering how she’s into every other religion on earth). She has a rather magical softening towards her daughter. And then you have the completely irrational attacks by the school counselor, who goes to insane lengths to…. Well, we never find out. Unresolved plot threads ahoy!

That’s right. Instead of cutting the movie sections out – or even cutting them short- they decide to go with them and leave a few important side plots dangling. What makes it worse is that in volume 9, the end to the movie section is also left hanging! Volume 10, though, had to be the worst offender. This was a very heavy-handed Author Tract on not accepting God’s love, twisting a brilliant story on God and man, nature and breeding (Frankenstein, to be specific), into a very poorly-written metaphor.

I believe I mentioned before how much I disapprove of teaching bad theology. This continues the trend in volume 6. C.S. Lewis’ insanity-liar-truth triad has been taken apart by both Christian and non-Christian theologian alike, and yet is presented and used in it. Serenity does have bigger, harder questions, though, and when she asks them? HEY LOOK A DISTRACTION! Yep, they are avoided, and avoided hard. This does everything it can to not have to deal with those, and when someone coming from a background as Serenity fails to follow up for answers and becomes Christian regardless, I have to headdesk. It would be nice to see things such as doctrinal divisions between churches dealt with, especially since those are massive hurdles to someone who’s new to the faith. This is probably why her teacher’s (and youth group’s pastor) denomination is never mentioned, and the most in-detail they go into them is saying that one of the members goes to a different church.

Yet again, I am highly disappointed. While some things improved over the first five volumes, there were an equal amount that went down the drain.

Overall, Serentiy fails to be a compelling conversion story- on any level.

Recommended: No. Just no.

Other titles you might enjoy
Manga Messiah (manga)
Shelter of Wings (manga)
High School Debut (manga)
Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight (anime)
Gakuen Alice (anime or manga)
Aria (anime and manga)
Aishiteruze Baby (anime or manga)
Train Man: A Shoujo Manga (manga)