Sunday, August 21, 2011

“Space Invaders” – Mars of Destruction (anime) – 1/10 Notebooks

"...why I'm so sympathetic to the monsters. The answer is simple. Because I am one." ~Laurell K. Hamilton

Genre: Sci-fi/Horror

Review Status: Complete (1 Episode/1 Episode)

Licensed: No, it’s not licensed in the US. Thank goodness.

Art/Animation: Even though this was made in 2005, the animation would only be acceptable in 1990- MAYBE. It’s choppy, slow, inconsistent, and in some places non-existent. The art is standard, nothing exceptional.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub. The sub, however, is overdramatic and perhaps the sorriest thing about it is that the voice actors seem to be trying. It’s not done well, though.

Summary: Some time after a space mission to Mars ends in destruction, strange monsters called "Ancients" begin appearing around Tokyo. A group of specialists consisting of three girls and one troubled young boy must fight the Ancients until they can come to understand exactly what it is they are fighting. When one of the Ancients tells them that they are the true invaders of Earth, they must search within themselves to grasp what truly is reality. (Source: ANN)

Review: This is a title that is well-maligned in the circles of anime fans as being one of the worst anime out there. Just to see whether this could hold up to such high standards, I gave it a shot.

There is no exaggeration when people say that this is a terrible anime. It starts out somewhat promising, with some lovely classical music, along with some shots of Mars and space to go along with it. And then you get to the re-entry of a spaceship into the atmosphere, which is dialogue set to a still shot. It doesn’t get any better from there.

This is filled with some of the worst dialogue and logic I’ve ever heard. There was an astonishing leap of logic when someone said that DNA from Mars started humanity on earth (wha?) and another man said that it meant humanity originated in Japan. There was an assertion by one of the ‘aliens’ that they had been awakened by the virus that had destroyed life on Mars, even though the aliens had only shown up a few months before and life on Mars had been gone for thousands of years. The worst of it, though, had to be when the characters were in the hospital. They were in an ICU unit, not surgery, but you heard calls for a ‘heart massage’, and someone said that the girl whose head had exploded wasn’t going to make it. Really? I would never have guessed! To top that off was the interesting way that guns didn’t injure the “Ancient” at all until the young man on the task force had shot him once. Then the bullets proceeded to rip into the alien’s flesh.

Of course, a train wreck of this proportion would be nothing without some stellar characters to carry it through. You have the members of the elite force that are young teenage girls of multi-colored hair. None of them are ever given a name. The only one that seems to be of any importance is the guy, who’s forced into a suit that should give him some serious internal injuries, and forced to fight these creatures. Too bad all we know about him is that his father created the suit and that one of the girls on the team likes him.

There is no reason to like or care about anything in this OVA. The characters are cookie-cutter, the plot entirely nonsensical, and the animation completely sub-standard. It’s a complete waste of the space it takes up, on the internet, on cellulite, and in my mind.

Overall, only watch this if you haven’t seen anything worse than Speed Racer, and you need something to compare it to.

Recommended: Um, no. 16+, though, for the gore. People are killed in this- one girl’s head explodes, two cops have holes shot in them.

Other titles you might enjoy: Anything else. However, for some shows with similar, better storylines…
Ga-Rei Zero (anime)
Macross Frontier (anime)
Super Dimention Fortress Macross (anime)
Gantz (manga)
Birdy the Mighty: Decode (anime)
Bubblegum Crisis (anime)

Friday, August 12, 2011

“Amazing Grace” – Sound of the Sky (anime) – 6/10 Notebooks

Sometimes I think it should be a rule of war that you have to see somebody up close and get to know him before you can shoot him. ~ M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter

Genre: Sci-fi

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US. It’s available on DVD, or for free viewing on

Art/Animation: The animation is wonderful, very fluid and consistently good. The art is a little more iffy. The character designs are similar to those of the girls from K-On!, and not surprisingly gets a lot of flack for this. They really aren’t that memorable. While the art tends to be very well-done, the CG can be a little harsh and ugly, feeling very out-of-place in comparison to the rest of it.

Dub Vs. Sub: This is only available in subtitles.

Summary: In a lonely corner of the world, on the edge of No Man’s Land, sits Clocktower Fortress. It’s home to the 1121st Platoon of the Helvetian Army, and their newest member is a 15-year-old volunteer named Kanata Sorami, who enlisted to learn how to play the bugle. When she was a child, Kanata was saved by a beautiful soldier and found inspiration in the clear, golden sound of her trumpet. From that day forward, Kanata decided music would be her life. As the other platoon members train her how to be a bugler and a soldier, Kanata's enduring optimism will inspire them to look for happiness and beauty, even in a world haunted by war. (

Review: The world as we know it has ended- a war has split the world into many countries, the old technology has been lost for the most part, and all that remains is a legend of maidens at a city at the edge of the border to nowhere, and a song that has managed to last through time.

At this outpost in the middle of nowhere, four girls welcome their newest member and interact with the villagers in ways that wouldn’t be approved of by the military or Church headquarters. They take part in local celebrations, help the children that the Church also takes care of, illegally make and sell wine to supplement their meager rations, and fix an old tank left over from the war that ended scant years before.

These activities make for some memorable episodes, from the one where they get involved in a tomato-throwing festival, to an episode where they foil some yakuza and scare Sorami in the process, to the one where the villagers honor the dead in a time-honored tradition. The first two thirds of this series are all about daily life in the fort and village, and while not all of it stood out, it most definitely had its moments. The less memorable moments would have been far better had the characters been stronger- as it is, they’re just carbon copies of all the other girls from 5-girl shows. There’s nothing really memorable about them or their personalities, so it’s the situations themselves that end up being what you really remember.

Then you get to the last few episodes. The drama really begins there, with a girl from the other side of No Man’s Land having traveled to find the village that was spoken of in tales from her homeland. From here on in, the story is serious business. There’s risk of attack, the fort is taken over by the main military force, and there is a surprising, out-of-nowhere reveal about one of the girls. And of course, music helps save the day.

As nice as this is, the first two thirds of the story aren’t all that special though it does have it’s moments.

Overall,this was a nice but indifferent slice of life (until the military storyline kicked in, which is where it became an indifferent story about the war).

Recommended: 13+. There’s no real language, a little bit of inappropriate humor (one of the girls has to stay in front of a phone until it rings and almost has an accident in one of the episodes). There’s one or two scenes with undetailed nudity, one when a girl is dressing and another with the girls in the bath- they’re having a slumber-party setup- but it’s like Totoro in execution. There is also some violence in the last few episodes. You see a battle that one of the girls was involved in- her squadron is killed in action. You do see the bodies. She also comes across a skeleton of a soldier that died many years ago, and hallucinates that it’s telling her to give up and commit suicide.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:
K-On! (anime)
Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko (manga)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (anime and manga)
Library Wars (anime and manga)
Haibane Renmei (anime)

“Just A Drop” – Chibi Vampire (manga) – 8/10 Notebooks

“All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves.” ~ Amelia Barr

Genre: Romance/Comedy/Supernatural/Drama/School

Review Status: Complete (14 Volumes/14 Volumes)

Licensed: This manga was previously licensed by Tokyopop. As they have gone under and no one has yet picked it up again, it is currently unlicensed.

Art: Nice, clean, bold lines. It reminds me a bit of Toradora!, but the art tends to be sharper than that for Toradora! All the characters are distinct and memorable, while the backgrounds can be terrifically detailed.

Summary: Karin is a cute little girl who also happens to be a vampire… with a twist. Once a month she experiences intense bleeding from her nose- we’re talking gushers! In other words, she’s a vamp with blood to spare, so rather than stealing blood from humans she actually gives her blood to them. If done right this can be an extremely positive experience that benefits the ‘victim’ as much as the vampire. The problem is that Karin can never seem to do things right! (Tokyopop)

Review: Because this is the first manga I ever read, I definitely had some nostalgia filters on my memories of it. Thankfully, since I own it I was able to go back and re-read it to see whether it was as good as I remembered it to be. While it wasn’t the 10/10 I remembered it to be, this is still a solid romcom manga.

Karin has known she was different for a long time- she didn’t really ever want to leave the human world, and when the time passed when she should have managed to get her vampire powers, disaster struck- she had a massive nosebleed that showed that she would never be a normal vampire. When you’re in a family where the oldest is most definitely a vampire and the youngest is a vampire prodigy and turning to a full vampire early means that the rest of the family worries for her. Things escalate as they discover that there is more to her than the fact that she’s giving blood- like the fact that he little quirk could kill her.

At the same time the family realizes they can no longer protect her from the sun, so they leave her daily care in the hands of Kanta Usui, a classmate that witnesses one of her nosebleeds and nearly is bitten himself. They share what’s wrong with her and he volunteers to be bitten when she needs it- if only he can actually get her to bite him! However, Karin’s growing feelings for him make her nervous and unsure about doing it, since it does affect and change the person who’s bitten for a temporary time.

This manages to mix interpersonal drama- between Karin and her family, between Karin and Kenta, between Kenta and his family- with a rather good overarching story. Karin is drawn into a problem the vampires have with reproducing, which is key to her own strangeness. And while she’s at it, she must deal with balancing school, work, her budding romance, and one interesting family. I love the characters in this manga, from Karin who’s not always bright and perky like most shoujo heroines, to her little sister who’s collection of possessed dolls is a scream, to her parents and grandmother that have quite an interesting dynamic between them. Kenta is also a charmer. He’s hardworking and determined, and really very smart. I also feel so bad for his mom, who’s past history with men is full of misery, but still manages to provide a warm and loving home for her son. While some of the problems that they all encounter border on unbelievable, most of it I’ve seen happen to various degrees, adding a feel of realism to this story that I can enjoy and empathize with the characters.

It’s not perfect-score material, though. The jokes can fall a little flat, and it can fall into ‘silly’ and ‘melodramatic’ at times. Certain parts of the story can feel stupid, like Kenta’s mom fooling the police into closing down a prostitution ring. That wasn’t the bad part, but the execution felt very off. However, the ending seemed fitting, since Karin was never able to live in both worlds.

Overall, this was a sweet romance that had a somewhat bittersweet ending.

Recommended: 16+ is what they have on the back, and I think that’s about right. There’s an instance or two of Barbie-doll nudity, or where the genitals have been covered up. There is a handful of rough language, from the d-word to the b-word. Karin’s older brother is also a playboy, and while it’s never explicitly stated it’s clear he’s both draining blood from and having sex with the girls he picks up. And the fanservice never crosses the line into ecchi, though there are a few boob-grabs and mentions of how jealous someone is/how big they are.

Other titles you might enjoy:
NG Life (manga)
Hana to Akuma (manga)
Vampire Game (manga)
Tsukiyomi: Moon Phase (anime and manga)
Tsukihime (Visual Novel)

“Wellspring Of Knowledge” – GOSICK (anime) – 8/10 Notebooks

"Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known?" ~Charles de Lint

Genre: Mystery/ Romance/ Historical/ Shounen

Review Status: Complete (26 Episodes/26 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US. You can watch it free, legally, on

Art/Animation: The art is pretty standard for anime, but it looks nice regardless. The colors are bright and vibrant. The animation is also standard, nothing really stand-out. The notable exception to both the art and animation is the opening, which looks like a stained-glass picture come to life. The art and animation for that is simply exquisite.

Summary: The year is 1924, the place, Sauville, a small European country neatly tucked beside the Alps...

Kazuya Kujo has been studying abroad at the prestigious Saint Marguerite Academy, where urban legends and horror stories are all the rage. Most Kazuya ignores but the story of the Queen Berry, a mysterious ghost ship, really gets to him. Of course, his brainy friend Victorique is much more intrigued by true stories, and she uses her unrivaled logic to solve mysteries even the town's famous detective can't. Ironically, it is Victorique's inquisitive nature that leads the duo to board a ship that matches the Queen Berry's description to a tee, a ship that might just hold the key to solving a sinister mystery... (Source: Tokyopop)

Review: This anime was quite a surprise- one part mystery anime, one part character drama, one part romance, GOSICK manages to blend all its elements surprisingly well. None of these elements overpowers the others, and all are important to the overarching storyline. From the beginning you’re drawn into the mysteries that are presented. They all are given facades of the supernatural, from the ghost ship where children were massacred in an evening, to an undead alchemist. However, in the face of Victorique’s logic and ability to unravel a mystery (with the help of her trusty sidekick Kujo!), none of the mysteries remain unsolved. What can be frustrating is that since it isn’t a straight mystery anime, the viewer isn’t presented with all the clues that could help solve the case. This relies on some Dues-Ex-Machina on the part of Victorique.

However, it would be wrong to say that this weakens the story. The mysteries often tie together and reveal something about Victorique and her circumstances, such as her relationship with her brother and why she is stuck in the school. The mysteries aren’t the main part, they just help supplement the main storyline.

The main story is actually Victorique herself- her past, her parent’s past, her future. There are strange things going on in the country of Sauville, and she is at the heart of it. From the third arc onwards, the mysteries reveal the history of the nation, the ongoing war between the factions within it, and why Victorique herself is both reviled and needed by her father.

None of this would work well if the characters weren’t likeable or understandable. It’s hard not to like a tsundere in a Victorian dress, apparently. Victorique is far more likeable than many of her counterparts- she is logical and practical (for the most part), not flying into rages at the blink of an eye. Yet she still has her moments where she’s flustered and frustrated, not liking to ask people for help. And when she has her warm, caring moments, they might embarrass her, but they are still genuine. Kujo is a little less memorable. As an all-around nice guy, he’s often confused by Victorique’s pouts and moods. However, the relationship between the two is firm and strong. He’s willing to get right in the middle of family issues, calling out her brother when he’s wrong and doing small, thoughtful things for Victorique. The way his and Victorique’s feelings grow and change for one another is quite believable and makes you root for them at the end. While the rest of the characters get very little development except for Victorique’s brother, they do play important parts in moving the story along.

This anime held true to the light novels that it was based off of, telling the stories well and having good pacing and characterization. However, when the mystery arcs ended towards the end and went straight to a drama of two lovers torn apart, the story suffered. The war was highly condensed, and this made for some scenes that were glassed over in a way that made no sense- for instance, there was one where Kujo’s legs had disappeared and he was in a sea of sand. How did he lose his legs? Were they really lost? Where was he? And in the next scene he’s getting off a boat in Japan and meeting Victorique. While that was nice to see, it didn’t stop the previous scene from making no sense whatsoever and being completely unexplained.

Even with these issues, on the whole the story was strong, and was a good adaptation of the source material. I think I will be picking up the light novels if they’re ever translated to get the story behind some of the scenes in the epilogue, though.

Overall, this was a good show with a rushed ending, but still very enjoyable.

Recommended: Sure! 13+, as some of the deaths and dead bodies are shown but not in graphic detail. Some could be slightly disturbing (one man is burned alive, for instance). Others have the situations surrounding them be even more disturbing, as apparently one deals with children that were made paranoid enough to kill each other. One man apparently can be possessed by the ghosts of ancestors to tell the future. This is only relevant to one story arc, and is not pertinent to the storyline… only a relationship within the story. Some people are drugged. There are also a few other scenes that are violent- a beheading is done offscreen, you see a head roll onto the floor, some people are stabbed onscreen (this is not prolonged, the actual stabbing is offscreen or with the figure in shadows), and there is a burial on the seas.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Detective Conan (manga and anime)
Rozen Maiden (anime and manga)
Occult Academy (anime)
Denpateki na Kanojo (anime)
Detective Academy Q (anime)
Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning (manga)