Author Topic: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)  (Read 29800 times)

Offline CX

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #250 on: October 11, 2015, 04:18:07 PM »
Robot Carnival
(1987 movie)

It's films like this that really make me like '80s anime.  An anthology, it showcases the work of nine different animation directors, some of whom were just starting out as directors.  A more modern example might be Halo Legends or Batman: Gotham Knight, with the main difference being that those examples had entire studios behind the short stories that made up those movies, and the shorts in this movie are the work of only one to two individuals.  Really, though it was done by a different studio, this movie could be thought of as another example of Neo Tokyo, which I reviewed earlier.

I can't help but feel the need to gush about this movie, and about '80s anime in general, really.  There's a level of detail to it that you just don't see in modern anime, in spite of the fact that technology has actually made it easier to create animation compared to when this movie was made.  True, there are some real stinkers, some of which I've already reviewed, but what decade doesn't have its fair share of them?  Then there's the subject matter, with older anime seeming to be a lot more willing to delve into sci-fi than modern anime, which seems way more interested in the antics of some nerdy high school kid(s).  Compare that to robots running amok in Robot Carnival and Neo Tokyo, and frankly I find them a lot more interesting to watch, but that's me.  ;)  This movie, and others like it, also serve as something of a time capsule, and there's an added level of entertainment due to the '80s corn.


So very, very '80s...

Getting back to the actual review, as I mentioned, this movie is an anthology, made up of eight distinct short stories, with only two of them having any actual dialog.  This actually made for a pretty interesting contrast, as stories being told entirely visually isn't something that's done very often.  That being said, the types of stories being told vary greatly in tone, and also in the amount of symbolism being used.  Most of them are comedies, though some are dramas, with one in particular being quite sad, at least in my opinion.  This does leave me with something of a problem, as I'm not entirely sure how to go about reviewing this movie.  It's obvious that I'm going to have to discuss each story individually, but I'm somewhat reluctant to go into too much detail, because frankly I think you should watch this movie for yourself and I don't want my review to make that seem like it would be redundant.

Opening/Ending/Epilogue:  Much like Neo Tokyo, this movie also has a kind of framing story.  The difference here is that in Robot Carnival, it's much more meta, directly referencing the title by making it a giant sand crawler, reaping destruction across a swath of the post-apocalyptic desert.  It's rather cartoonish, and has a very dark sense of humor, making death and destruction kind of funny.  The ending actually shows a brief history of the carnival, back when it was more of a traveling circus, but even the opening kind of hints at this.  Essentially, this sequence continues the theme of the short "The Order to Stop Construction" from Neo Tokyo of robots becoming destructive if left on their own for too long.  This shouldn't be much of a surprise, though, as both stories were done by the same director, whose dark humor would later go on to produce Kite and Mezzo Forte.  Incidentally, the visual style of this piece also reminded me a bit of Nausicaš, which made it a little more amusing for me.

Franken's Gears:  There isn't a whole lot to this short, which is mostly just fun to watch.  It's about a crazy old scientist who builds a robot, Frankenstein style in an appropriate-looking laboratory, filled with old school sci-fi equipment, which includes plenty of levers, hand cranks, and giant gears.  It's a bit slap-sticky, cartoon sound-effects and all, and yet very fitting of this film's theme, which includes some more dark humor thanks to the scientist's creation imitating him a little too well.  The sci-fi nerd in me noted some similarity to old-school German sci-fi, but that's about all the more I could tell you about this short, other than that it was kind of fun to watch.

Deprive:  This is a very stereotypical '80s anime sci-fi, featuring an alien invasion, a kidnapped girl, and a heroic robot who comes to her rescue.  That's pretty much it, aside from the fact the heroic robot somehow is able to make himself look like a generically good looking '80s guy (according to anime standards), and that the bad guy in charge of the alien robot invaders looks like an '80s rock star (seen in the picture above).  It was also kind of fun to watch, though more for the '80s corn than anything.

Presence:  This is my favorite short of the entire anthology, and is frankly the only one that has any real layers to it.  It takes place in a kind of neo-Victorian setting, which might take a little explaining.  Basically, most of the architecture and dress of the characters in this setting scream Victorian England, yet there are extremely human-looking androids, hover cars, and a huge cyber-punk factory made entirely of pipes and valves that dwarfs the town most of the action is set in.  The main character of this short is a rather stiff man who seems to have a strained relationship with his family, apparently at least in part due to the fact his wife seems to be the primary bread winner while he works in a factory and tinkers with toys and his sex-bot in his spare time.

Okay, to be fair this isn't explicitly stated, it's just that he made an android who looks like a young '80s female pop star, and mentions some stuff about not really feeling fulfilled with his marriage and needing something more "fundamental," so what else am I supposed to think?  Plus this short isn't exactly lacking in symbolism, even to someone fairly oblivious to it.


SYMBOLISM!!

This short might actually be kind of fun to analyze, though my own take on it is fairly straightforward.  For me, the sadness comes from the loneliness of the robot this man creates, apparently out of a sense of emptiness within himself.  However, much like this his family, he seems unwilling or unable to emotionally connect with his creation, and this is what makes it a little unclear as to what exactly he was hoping to accomplish by building this living doll.  Unfortunately for the robot, when she shows him some affection, this causes him to freak the hell out and beat her to death.  Years later, his regret manifests itself when he starts seeing visions of his robot reaching out to him, and the sort plays with the audience a bit as to whether the visions are actually real or not.  My own interpretation of this man's creation is that the robot is actually an idealized version of his wife, because until the very end of the short, her face is purposely left obscured.  Apparently, the robot's open affection for him was just too much for him to handle for whatever reason, but like I said, this is my interpretation of what I saw.

This is also one of only two dubbed shorts, and while some people like to bitch no matter what about dubs, I actually quite liked the dubbing here.  Effort was put into it to make it fit the setting, and I thought it helped add to the mood as much as the effective, if simple soundtrack.  I did try watching the Japanese version for comparison, but unfortunately the subs followed the same script as the dub, so all I can really say is that the Japanese version had a lot less dialog in it.

Star Light Angel:  A little more standard fare, this short follows a teenager and her best friend as they spend an evening at a robot theme park.  They do pretty typical teenager stuff, so much so that the lack of dialog is no impediment on the story structure.  This includes finding out in the most awkward way possible that her boyfriend is a complete bastard who started cheating on her with her best friend, with the two of them apparently unaware of the other's connection to the main character.  So basically this short is typical teenage soap opera drama, but with robots.  This includes a fight with a giant robot that appears out of thin air, because anime.  Again, not much depth here, but enjoyable to watch nonetheless, if nothing else because it looks so awesome.

Cloud:  I can't say I really cared for this short, which really stands out from all the others.  It's about a robot born out of a cloud, that walks in front of clouds, until finally becoming a real boy at the end.  Supposedly, the clouds represent time or some such, and at times I did make out the shapes of dinosaurs, and the anime version of "The Creation of Adam," weeping angels, followed up very quickly by the apparent nuclear armageddon.  All while our little jaded robot apparently doesn't notice, apart from the weather becoming crappier during the nuclear war.  According to what I read, there was supposed to be Romans and stuff in there, but I sure never saw it.  Visually, it's very plain and simple, storyboard-like, really.  Personally it's something I'd skip through on rewatching this movie.

A Tale of Two Robots:  This is apparently a parody of WWII-era Japanese propaganda, and I can definitely see it.  It's set in the 1800s and features a giant robot fight, because what's anime without giant robots?  Steampunk fans would also probably like the fact that the Japanese mecha is wooden and steam-powered to contrast the Westerner's electrically-powered brick mecha.  Story-wise, it features a "Westerner" trying to take over Japan with his giant mecha, "the product of his genius" as he calls it.  In his way stands a small group of Japanese, who just so happen to have made a giant mecha out of wood for a parade that had been planned for the festival that was being interrupted by this foreign invasion.  Destruction abounds, and much fun is to be had, as the writer/animator obviously had tongue very firmly in cheek.


Also, this happens.

There was apparently some butthurt over the dub of this short, with those involved being accused of racism for making the Japanese characters have very Engrishy voices.  The people upset about this should be slapped and kneed in the groin, because the fact that this short was a parody of WWII propaganda was apparently lost on them, with the dub company adding to it by parodying American WWII-era propaganda.  Incidentally, the Japanese dub actually does have an English-speaking voice actor as the Westerner, which is why there are hard-subs for Japanese audiences during all of his dialog.  Unfortunately I can't judge the Japanese, as I don't speak it and the subs provided only repeated the English dub.

Nightmare:  Older anime seems a lot more influenced by Western culture and animation, which isn't surprising as the big-eyed look of anime is actually derived from the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, being influenced by Disney.  Which makes it that much more ironic because this short seems to be very heavily influenced by two Disney works.  Essentially, this is another "robots run amok" short, which is very reminiscent of Neo Tokyo's "The Order to Stop Construction," in just the shear scope of the robot action.  It's also very reminiscent of Fantasia's "Night on Bald Mountain" in that as darkness falls in downtown Tokyo, a robotic Chernabog suddenly appears and begins to create robots out of random objects and machines scattered throughout the city with the help of a robot "horseman."  I call him that, because while all this is going on, a single drunken homeless man awakens to see the machines overrunning the city, and tries to run away while the "horseman" chases him.  The drunken human has often been called the chicken man, and I can't help but be reminded of the Disney version of Ichabod Crane.  Of course, the director admitted as much, so there's that added bit of fun to this short.  There's also how almost all sound during this short is made using musical instruments.  Overall, it's pretty fun to watch, and it's actually one of my favorite shorts of this movie.

If I could gush over another aspect of this movie besides its animation, I'd also like to highlight the music used throughout this movie.  Each short was given a distinct sound, which was perfectly appropriate for them, and helped to set the mood for each of them.  Much of it is very '80s, but then, as I said, that isn't really a bad thing in my opinion, as it helps to make this movie a kind of time capsule.  There was a certain fascination with robots in the '80s, besides just in Japan, and this movie perfectly captures that while having fun, as well as taking a moment or two to explore the more sci-fi aspects of artificial life.

I can't encourage you enough to watch this movie.  Honestly, I wish that there were more movies like this, as long as the quality was at least as high as this movie's.  Here's the trailer made for the American release.  Really, seeing the trailer and reading even less about this movie than I've written about it right now was enough to get me to give this movie a try, so I hope the information I've given you can help you. 

It's kind of hard for me to stick a rating on this due to its nature, but I think it was a bit better than Neo Tokyo, which I gave a 7.  I think I'll rate this movie an 8/10, then.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline CX

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #251 on: October 12, 2015, 11:12:03 AM »
Whoops!  Guess I already posted my newer reviews when I first wrote them.  Guess I'm all caught up, then.  :-\
« Last Edit: October 12, 2015, 11:15:00 AM by CX »
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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #252 on: February 23, 2016, 01:12:04 AM »
The Big O
(26 episode series)

Iím not quite sure what to make of The Big O.  One the one hand, itís a wonderful mix of film noir, pulp fiction, and old school giant robot anime, and on the other, itís an odd mix of Twin Peaks and Evangelion.  Well, to be fair, not having watched Twin Peaks yet, I can only go off of what Iíve read about it, so sufficed to say, it gets a little weird, especially at the end.  The ending in particular seems to be a divisive topic among fans, but Iíll get into that later.

The series itself follows protagonist Roger Smith, a rich playboy negotiator, styled very much like Bruce Wayne from Batman: The Animated Series.  He even has a talented British butler who looks after both him and his toys, named Norman Burg, and a femme fatale love interest named Angel who could be compared to Catwoman.


I donít recall Alfred ever wielding a machine gun, though.

R. Dorothy Wayneright doesnít really fit the Batman comparison very well, other than as a sidekick of sorts, though she is something of an odd competitor for Rogerís affections given that sheís a gynoid and all. 


One wonders if sheís fully functional and anatomically correct;) 

Of course these comparisons arenít all that surprising once one considers that Sunrise Studios, the studio responsible for this series, subcontracted with Warner Brothers to help make Batman: The Animated Series.  Though, the other film noir influences, such as the heavily referenced Metropolis, do come as something of a surprise to me given that this seriesí country of origin.  Hell, you donít see much in Western media that uses any of the camera angles or visual design from film noir, for that matter.

Anyway, the story takes place in Paradigm City, which is the audience is initially informed to be the only surviving city following some unknown calamity that took place 40 years prior to the seriesí start.  Unknown because no one seems to have any memories from prior to the event, which is why Paradigmís other name is ďThe City of Amnesia.Ē  Some people, Roger Smith included, seem to have memories or memory fragments from before ďThe Event,Ē which gives them something of a leg up on everyone else in the city, allowing them to attain great wealth, hence Roger Smith and his primary antagonist, Alex Rosewater.  These memories also make them aware of the existence of the giant robots of the series, called megadeuses, which really represent a form of power, not unlike the lost technology of the killer robots the government in Desert Punk was seeking, and itís even hinted at that the megadeuses might somehow tie into The Event, perhaps as a cause.  This isnít helped by the major separation between rich and poor, with the rich living in opulent surroundings enclosed within artificial domes, while the poor live in varying degrees of urban decay, as sections of the city are literally in ruins.  Aside from the close by Electric City, which is in fact a hydroelectric dam, the rest of the world seems to be a desert wasteland.  Underneath everything is a vast network of tunnels, which Roger Smith utilizes to transport his megadeuse, Big O, to wherever he happens to need it by simply calling for it into his radio watch.  And which everyone is apparently afraid of, for some reason (the tunnels, I mean).

The overall story is primarily about discovering just what The Event was, what caused it, and what the world was like prior to it.  Of course, Roger Smith is hardly the only interested party, and this brings him into conflict with others, which leads to the episodic giant robot fights.  Admittedly, a lot of the conflict in each episode could come off as just an excuse to have a giant robot fight, but the atmosphere created by the visuals, score, and yes, the writing, made me personally not really care all that much if the giant robot fights didnít necessarily fit in all that well with the seeming high art concepts of the seriesí influences and overall story.  The mystery of the storyís plot was also a major draw for me, though it could also be a source of frustration, which ties back into the odd ending.


But if all you care about are giant robots punching each other, thereís plenty of that.

The characters were also very well done in this series, with all of them being at least somewhat complex and interesting to watch.  It was easy to get invested in not only Roger Smithís character, but also R. Dorothy and the more aloof Angel, which was helped somewhat by the odd love triangle between them.  I say odd because it wasnít exactly straightforward, which in turn made it more interesting to watch as these characters grew attached to each other in their own ways.  There are also friendships, like the one between Roger and Dan Dastun, a Jim Gordan-like character who was a man of integrity who is increasingly frustrated by the government he serves.  Even Alex Rosewater and Alan Gabriel, the seriesí main antagonists are fairly complex and are not straightforwardly evil, at least not until fairly late in the series.  Psychotic or sociopathic, maybe, but not evil exactly.

Where the series really misses, in my opinion, is the ending.  Iíve already hinted at how weird it is, but you almost have to watch it for yourself to truly appreciate it.  (This is also major spoiler territory, so skip to the last paragraph if you want to avoid that.)  Everything seems to be leading up to the revelation that everything about Paradigm City is artificial, that the people were grown as mindless vessels complete with barcodes, and given their basic identities 40 year prior to become what they are from that point on, though the motivations behind this remain a mystery.  This also doesnít gel with an earlier episode which seemingly has Roger Smith wandering as a homeless man through the streets of Paradigm City prior to The Event, encountering people he already knows in much different roles, though they seem to have the same names.  But all of that falls apart in the last episode.  Everything just keeps building and building, like someone blowing up a balloon, and just when you think youíre finally going to get all the answers, someone lets all the air out of that balloon instead.  So instead of the world literally being a stage, we end up with something more along the lines Evangelion, with the world and all the people in it being there specifically because a person decides that they exist.  Then everything resets.  This pissed a lot of people off, but Iíd say what I felt was more along the lines of disappointment and disgust.  I kind of felt led on, like with Lost, where all this mystery was built up with no real resolution or pay-off.  Of course the argument could also be made that not everything, or even anything needs to be explained, and that the series is simply leaving things open to interpretation by the audience.  There is some merit to this argument, but while I like a certain amount of symbolism and having to interpret or figure things out for myself, Iím still ultimately disappointed by the story seeming to refuse to resolve itself.  Itís like someone slamming on the brakes just before the end of a rollercoaster ride.  And letís face it, prior to the second season, this show was pretty straightforward, and it was mostly about giant robots fighting.  So I couldnít help but feel a bit cheated.

After rewatching it a second time, the show actually did set itself up for its odd ending from the very first episode of its second season.  Itís my understanding that the show was always planned to be a standard 26 episode series, but that it got cancelled and cut short to 13 episodes, with the ending to this first season being made with the hope the show would be picked up again later.  It was, but not for two years, and by the Cartoon Network of all things.  Apparently the show was much better received in the US than in its own country of origin.  It mustíve been frustrating for fans of the show when it originally aired, but for me, marathoning it long after the fact, the most abrupt thing I noticed (aside from the series taking on a weirder tone) was that Norman suddenly had a different voice. 

Looking back at the series as a whole, I canít help but wonder if how the second half of the series ended up being what it was always meant to be, or if Cartoon Network interfered in some way.  Admittedly, while Roger lost some of his wise-ass humor, the show overall seemed to gain a more comedic tone to it even as the plot got more Ergo Proxy-like.  Still, it very well could be that the ďI think therefore you areĒ was always the original direction of the show, even as unseen or barely seen forces battled to gain memories, or to destroy them, while Roger Smith tried to convince himself that memories werenít really that important.  And even as the audience was given glimpses of some apocalypse involving giant robots, and we were informed of a program which implanted the memories of others into children, we were also straight up told by the character who wrote about this apocalypse in that Metropolis book that everything in it was a lie.  And wouldnít you know it, but it turned out to be.  That doesnít change my disappointment at the ending, though.

Still, I would say that overall I very much enjoyed this series.  It had an interesting story surrounding an intriguing plot, interesting characters, a great visual design and soundtrack, and the dub is right up there with Cowboy Bebop (and even features many of the same voice actors).  I would definitely recommend this series, though it would be with the caveat about the ending being somewhat disappointing.  But if you liked Ergo Proxy and Batman: The Animated Series, chances are youíll probably like this series.  8/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Online Fiery Little One

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #253 on: February 23, 2016, 03:16:50 AM »
Sage put this one on a Top 10 list he did some time ago, plus the robot featured on a top ~20 list. Hmmm, might track this one down at some point.
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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #254 on: February 27, 2016, 01:04:00 PM »
Blade of the Immortal
(13 episode series)

While somewhat interesting to watch, and featuring fairly complex characters and ideas, Iíd say that I found this series to be disappointing more than anything else.

As the title suggests, it follows the exploits of a man who cannot die, or at least is very difficult to  kill, named Manji.  Heavily scarred and missing an eye, heís known mainly for his body count, allegedly 100.  He served a lord like most samurai, but went rogue and killed his master when he found him to be corrupt.  This made him an outlaw, and as a result he ended up killing his own brother-in-law, a lawman, in front of his younger sister, which was such a shock to her that her mind reverted to that of a child, according to the seriesí backstory.  Prior to the seriesí start, Manji was infected with some kind of parasitic worms by and old woman, which will quickly heal him and even bring him back to life, even if someone blows his brains out with a musket or chops him into little pieces.  This in media res start is one of the more frustrating aspects to the series, because it left me feeling like Iíd missed something, like I was missing the first volume of the series and had actually started a few episodes in.  Still, I was drawn into the series because I wondered if it might not be a bit like Highlander in that it would start in the Edo period and skip ahead to modern Japan.


Largely due to this image from the opening and commercial title card.

Unfortunately that wasnít the case.  I suppose part of my disappointment comes from that, and my lack of interest in hack-n-slash samurai stories in general, since when it came down to it, thatís all this series was.  The novelty comes from the protagonist being able to overcome impossible odds that would kill a normal man, even an especially skilled warrior such as himself, by simply being able to come back to life after being hacked to bits after being overwhelmed or otherwise meeting his match.

As the series starts, Manji is mainly angry at his immortality, and the difficulties in caring for his sister, who damn near eats horse apples because she thinks theyíre bean cakes.  Heís ready to go straight from his life of crime, right up until some other men come to avenge the deaths of some of the 100 heís already killed.  Of course instead of killing him, they end up killing his sister instead.  Following this he swears to kill 1000 evil men to make up for the 100 men heís murdered in the hopes that the old woman will free him from the blood worms and allow him to die and join his sister in the afterlife.  And thus starts the stereotypical heroís journey, even if Manji is more of an ani-hero than a hero.  Because as luck would have it, he comes across Rin Asano, who is fresh on a quest to avenge her parentsí deaths at the hands of the Ittō-ryū.  Not terribly skilled as a warrior herself, and being very naÔve, she hires Manji as a bodyguard and assassin.  And thus Manji gets a pretty good start on that body count of 1000.

The series is ok-ish.  Production I.G is involved, so as youíd expect, it looks pretty nice.  But the story only held enough of my interest to want to see how it all turned out.  As you might guess from my introduction, the story is pretty much what youíd expect.  Essentially Manji has to take on members of the Ittō-ryū either one on one or in small groups, with varying amounts of difficulty. 

Honestly this aspect of the series comes down to taste, and it just wasnít to mine.  For me, the real strength of the series was with its characters, ironically more with the antagonists than with the protagonists.  The series was very good about painting the majority of them in a sympathetic light, and even the Ittō-ryū group in general while criticizing an aspect of Japanese culture that is practically deified.  This would be the strict adherence to a particular school of combat, along with the kind of snootiness that tends to come along with belonging to a particular school.  The Ittō-ryūís ethic is that you do whatever is necessary to win.  Naturally this rubs basically every other school the wrong way, which lead to the Ittō-ryū being ostracized.  In response, the Ittō-ryū started to fight and slaughter the members of these other schools.  Which is what lead them to Rin Asanoís family, as her father was the teacher at one of these schools.  Of course, the thing that put the Ittō-ryū in the wrong was the rape and murder of Rinís mother, which was done by a particularly sick member of their group.  And just to double down on that, he taxidermied the motherís head and had it sewn to his shoulder, opposite his wifeís head.  You know, just in case there was any doubt this guy was evil, since I guess there had to be at least one of those.  The leader of the Ittō-ryū, Anotsu Kagehisa, is mainly just cold-blooded, and is only twisted in that he liked to paint odd designs on womenís nude bodies. Yet he does hold to a personal sense of honor, because when Rin attacked him with her pathetic knife-throwing attack (using the Russian method), rather than killing her, he actually gave her constructive criticism and told her to get better at fighting before facing him again.

One particularly weak area was with Rin, which is kind of bad considering how heavily she features in the series.  The series kept going back and forth on the idea of her becoming a fighter, or just settling down and accepting that she was a woman.  Itís a little pathetic that this series from the 2000s would carry essentially the same message as Fist of the North Star from the Ď80s, but I guess thatís Japan for you.  About the best that can be said is that she wasnít as naÔve at the end of the series as she was at the start of it.

As for Manji, there honestly wasnít a lot to him from what I could see.  He was a somewhat stereotypical anti-hero Ė a killer that was somewhat remorseful of the deaths he caused, while steadfastly defending the necessity of most of them (self-defense, getting rid of his corrupt leader, killing other bad people, etc.).  He also serves as the pragmatic voice of reason to Rinís naivety.  The series does kind of tease at Ďshipping them, but nothing ever really comes of it.

Of course, thatís kind of how I feel about the series as a whole.  The ending just kind of sneaks up and never really resolves anything.  The overall watching experience is like maybe you only got the middle volumes in one of Crunchyrollís random anime boxes.  This may be because the manga the anime was adapted from had not quite finished yet, and there was some hope of a second season that hasnít yet materialized, or it could because theyíre hoping youíll read the manga.  Either way Iíd only rate this series at 7/10.  If you like samurai stuff thatís at least semi-realistic, you might like this show, but in my view itís nothing really special even in that light.  Really the only thing it has to stand out is the immortality of some of its characters.  I canít really fault them for their utilization of this factor, as it was decisive in some of the fights, but it just wasnít enough to make the series stand out in my opinion.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline CX

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #255 on: March 07, 2016, 05:04:52 PM »
Princess Jellyfish
(11 episode series)

Iím not sure what it is about shows like this that get so many of my fellow nerds excited.  Thatís not to say that I donít like seeing shows about other nerds, as I liked Otaku no Video (come to think of it I should probably write a review for that show at some point).  But while I havenít watched shows like The Big Bang Theory or The Community, this is mainly because the things Iím hearing about it in a positive light do not appeal to me in any way.  Iím a nerd, but for me this is a nonissue, and frankly I donít go out of my way to watch shows about other nerds.  I suppose some of it has to do with seeing negative aspects to a fandom I might be part of.  Kind of like how I consider myself a Trekkie and yet cringe at much of what I saw in the documentaries made about my fandom.  I got another taste of this by watching a couple episodes of Americaís Greatest Otaku.  Sure, I can poke fun, but at the same time, I canít escape the fact that Iíd be associated with the aspe uber-nerds from the perspective of someone on the outside looking in on the fandom as a whole.  So I like to just avoid seeing as much of it as possible, because while I can derive some enjoyment out of making fun of it, I just donít go out of my way to do so.

Before anyone starts in on me, I only watched this series because my friends all voted for it for our little informal anime club.  Plus, at least one of them really liked it and hoped the rest of us would like it, too.  And thereís also the entertainment some of them got out of seeing me suffer through watching a show that emphasizes cuteness and all the cringeworthy things the protagonist and her fellow nerds did.  So if you want to blame someone for the lashing Iím about to give this show, blame them.  ;) 

So as you might guess, I didnít particularly enjoy this show.  There were a couple aspects to it I liked, though not really in a way I would consider to be objectively good Ė more in the sense of ďfun.Ē


The uncle character being one of these aspects.

The series follows protagonist Tsukimi Kurashita, a geek who is super-obsessed with jellyfish owing to pleasant memories of time spent at the aquarium with her mother who died when she was still young.  She lives in an apartment building called Amamizukan with other female geeks who also have no job, no formal higher education, or social skills, but apparently have parents who will pay for them to live in their own apartment, otherwise known as NEETs.  They jokingly refer to themselves as being nuns, like most geeky or nerdy people who canít get laid might, although this is largely due to their inability to be near men out of nervousness or general dislike, along with anyone they might consider to be fashionable.  Along the way, she meets a fashionable drag queen who actually makes a pretty passible woman by anime standards.  Apparently she and her cohorts can overcome the fashionable part (after a while), but not the fact this drag queen, Kuranosuke Koibuchi, is physically male.  So Tsukimi does her best to keep this secret from them and talks Kuranosuke into going only dressed as a woman with this as a requirement for being at Amamizukan on his many frequent visits.

Kuranosuke is the product of an affair between a Western fashion model and a Japanese politician from a family that apparently has a many of its members in politics.  Cross-dressing is apparently his way of being closer to his mother in the sense that she is no longer actually in his life and her location is being kept from him (for reasons never adequately explained), and also to avoid any expectation that he might get involved in politics himself.  He is attending a university for, uh, something, but apparently the writers didn't think it was important enough to ever have him say what it was, or even to depict him at his university for more than a very brief time in one episode.

This series is a romantic comedy, through and through.  There's the standard difficulties couples in pretty much every standard rom-com go through, like not even recognizing they have a thing for each other at first, a bit of a brief love triangle between Kuranosuke, his older half-brother, and Tsukimi, and random drama thrown in to give them an external reason to bring them together.  This is where the main "plot" of the show, I guess, comes in, which is that there is some kind of corporation that wants to develop the area Amamizukan is in, and Kuranosuke has involved himself enough with this group of nerds and what they have there that he practically forces them to rally together to save their own building.  You know, in between giving them makeovers they donít want, because thatís funny, I guess.  There is also a sub-plot involving Kuranosukeís half-brother being blackmailed by a woman working for the development company who utilized date-rape drugs to fool him into thinking theyíd had a one night stand. 

Bit of a brief side discussion here - I found the bit between the half-brother and this woman to be completely tasteless, mostly because it was played for comedy, and because later on, it was hinted at that the two of them were genuinely developing romantic feeling toward each other.  She drugged him, stripped his clothes off, and staged a photo of herself snuggling up to him in bed with which to blackmail him with.  Which she does, repeatedly.  I guess sexual assault and blackmail is funny when you swap the sexes, apparently.

Back on topic, most of the series focuses on Tsukimi and her NEET friends, educating the audience on the particulars of NEET culture and what pathetically special little snowflakes they are, usually in the form of a cute little cartoon jellyfish with a pointer and a chalkboard.  I honestly could not care less about any of that crap.  Iíve never been one to walk on eggshells, and if someone is unable to be functional within society, well, I guess I already used the word ďpatheticĒ so there you have it.  About all I can say positive on that end is that at least they all show a little growth.  Well, except for the misanthropic hikikomori manga artist who draws boy-love hentai for a living, who we never actually see on screen.

Iíd be lying if I said I didnít get any laughs out of this show, though, even if they were cruel laughs at the expense of at least some of the characters.  Things like the fact Tsukimi is only an ugly duckling because she wears glasses, sweats, and no makeup, or the various quirks of the NEETs that didnít make me want to facepalm.  Probably the two most enjoyable aspects of the series for me had to do with two characters.  One was an uncle of Kuranosuke (see the picture above) who is secretly an otaku at home who indulges his cross-dressing nephew in basically everything while being the respectable politician in public.  The other was the cool driver for this family who was obsessed with Mercedes cars and can make really good drawings of these cars, but of nothing else.  Part of this is because he can be blackmailed by Kuranosuke (or anyone, really) into doing things by threats of him putting smudges on the car, which the driver is almost constantly washing and waxing.

This wasnít a horrible anime by any means, it just really wasnít something I could get into.  Failing to really resolve the love-triangle thing didnít really help it either, in my view.  But hey, if you like watching a show about other nerds, this would probably be a show that youíd like.  I just canít rank it above a 6/10, and only that high due to the artistic quality of the series, or I might rank it lower due to my lack of enjoyment of the series.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #256 on: March 29, 2016, 02:17:07 PM »
Lily C.A.T.
(Single episode OVA)

This OVA is very much a product of its time Ė that time being the late 1980s.  I say that, because itís very obviously influenced by two very influential movies that came out in the decade prior to this OVAís release (1987) Ė Alien and The Thing.  Having seen both of these movies prior to seeing this OVA, I have to say I had mixed feelings about it.  It wasnít bad exactly, and this OVA made good use of atmosphere that made it pretty enjoyable to watch, itís just that I could see the all the elements from Alien and The Thing for what they were.

As you might guess, the story is about a small-ish group of people who are essentially trapped on a large space ship.  Itís also a very ensemble show, without much of an obvious protagonist, mostly to keep it very open as to who might die (even if it is somewhat heavily telegraphed when a character is going to die).  The story is essentially that a ship has been hired by a multinational company to drop colonists off on a planet thatís set for colonization.  To get there, the colonists and crew go into cryogenic sleep, including a cat that belongs to one of the female colonists, who just happens to be the daughter of the companyís president.  The ship runs in an automated mode until it gets close to its destination and revives its crew.  Just as it approaches its destination, the shipís sensors pick up an unknown organic substance and it brings it inside using a Space Shuttle-inspired crane.  Since someone failed to set proper limits on the movement of the crane, it opened up a hole in the ship and the alien sample ends up in a water tank somewhere in the ship and dissolves.

Of course, at first the crew doesnít know anything about this.  Instead, what they have is a partial message warning them that they have two imposters aboard, compounded by the fact that the colonists are all from different countries due to the multinational nature of their company, and none of them actually know each other.  As the characters explain, this actually makes a lot of sense, given the length of time journeys like theirs take (20 years one way), as, if they are able to return to Earth, theoretically they and their crimes might be forgotten.  Or, as this a colonization mission, they could simply make a new life for themselves on the planet being colonized.

Itís never explicitly stated what crime the imposters are accused of committing, at least not in the dub, so the shipís captain quite pragmatically states that thereís no real point to trying to determine who the imposters are, as itís a small ship and they have nowhere to go, and it might actually endanger them if they try to root them out by causing the alleged criminals to panic.  To add to that, not long after they wake up, a person dies, so the captain figures that problem takes priority.  Unfortunately, the employee from the Australian branch of the company comes across the partial message warning of imposters and insists on interviewing everyone and comparing their answers against their computer records.  So pretty much everyone sees him as an asshole for prying into their private lives in front of everyone (apparently it never occurred to anyone to conduct private interviews).  If that wasnít bad enough, the only doctor on board dies from an alien bacterial infection that he describes as being similar to Legionnairesí disease.


As if that wasnít bad enough, some mysterious party has apparently coopted control of the ship and the main computer is seemingly cutting portions of the ship off from itself and destroying them in an effort to protect itself from corrosion brought on by the same bacteria thatís been killing the humans on board.  Itís made very clear that this is also a case of ďcrew expendableĒ as at least two members of the crew die as a result of this, not to mention that itís spelled right out for the audience just like it was in Alien.


Literally just like in Alien.

And if that wasnít weird enough, the bodies of the people who were killed end up disappearing.  Even the cat gets killed in a horribly gory way as itís torn apart as itís pulled into a hole thatís been corroded in the bulkhead of a corridor. 

The thing about this OVA is that it has aspects to it that make it somewhat good, but there are other aspects to it that end up making it mediocre.  For instance, one of the things that made Alien so good is that it introduced the setting and the characters very well.  While Lily C.A.T. borrows heavily from Alien, it doesnít accomplish this anywhere near as effectively as Alien did.  And the thing is, there was some material there which would have made this possible, but for the most part it ends up being dialog in passing, which means we get a hint of something that could have been better, but instead end up with the majority of the characters being essentially stereotypes, if they even get that much attention (the majority of the shipís crew suffers from this).  But some examples of what they got kinds of right would be the brief discussion of how old the shipís captain and first officer actually are, and the effect these decades-long missions has on their lives, like the captain leaving an infant son and coming back to see a fully grown son, now physically older than he is, and that his next trip out had him return to a grown-up grandson.  This aspect of how cyro-sleep and interstellar travel can affect people is really what potentially could have made this a good sci-fi.  Especially in light of some of the characters failing to really consider that while it seemed like just a nightís sleep for them, 20 years have gone by on Earth.  Like the character who brags about having a bunch of dogs heís proud of after theyíve woken up at the end of their trip apparently not realizing that all of those dogs are probably dead and have been for some time now.  This after criticizing the company presidentís daughter for bringing her cat with and having it explained to him that she did so because otherwise her cat would die before she ever got to see it again.  And of course thereís the way anyone returning to Earth after 40-50 years and just one trip essentially becomes a living relic, completely out of time, and looked down on by the rest of humanity because of it.

Other aspects I liked were the attention to detail to things like the ship having to flip around backwards to slow down as it approached its destination, having certain timetables that theyíd have to follow to land on a particular site on the planet they plan to colonize, having to unzip multiple layers of a spacesuit, and even at one point showing how a couple of characters improvise flamethrowers.  Though, one aspect they got wrong is that on a ship with artificial gravity, shooting a firearm or one of those flamethrowers would not throw the person who fired it backwards - it would only do that in a low or zero-gravity environment.  Still, between that and the talk of how cyro-sleep can be both a blessing and a curse, it shows that at least some thought went into this OVA, even if it very awkwardly rips off some other movies.

Speaking of, while the aspects of Alien are fairly obvious as far as the look of the ship and its computer, as well as the apparent callous nature of the company running the colonization effort, the The Thing aspects mainly come from the effort to suss out who the fake colonists are, as well as the nature of the alien that develops from the bacteria after itís digested its victims. As I mentioned earlier, the bodies of previous victims disappeared, and as it turned out, itís because the bacteria that had basically filled their lungs and drowned them then went on to digest them, forming an odd slime monster out of the tissue that could then physically attack people and eat them.

Other than that, the only real stand-out aspect of this OVA are some point-of-view shots that are done pretty well, like a shot where a character walks from one corridor into another.  In a normal movie, this would be nothing, but in something animated, that would take a lot of work.  Unfortunately, not much else stands out.  The soundtrack is mostly just there as, well, kind of like wallpaper.  I barely noticed it except for a few scenes.  And, as I said, there isnít much about the story or characters to make them stand out.  The story was somewhat oddly paced as well.  This OVA is only about an hour long, but it manages to feel longer because of this.  It goes from rushing things along rather quickly (where it probably shouldnít), to slamming on the brakes for some exposition, and this includes the discussion about how the technology of the story affects humanity.  The thing is, while I like that aspect, I feel it wasnít executed very naturally, as it was mainly just exposited, and really just as a way of breaking up a fight.

And this is where we get into the dumber aspects of the story.  This means spoilers, so if you want to avoid those, just skip ahead to the last paragraph.  Because while itís obvious this OVA wanted to be Alien (for the most part), it really didnít plot things out in a way to really exploit that.  And what I mean by that is that thereís really nothing ominous about the company wanting to automate these interstellar ships that go on these colonization or supply runs.  In fact, it could be argued as a way of sparing human crews from being out of time and out of place.  What makes them bad and frankly stupid is that they apparently implemented this while still having a human crew on board, essentially just so control could be snatched away from them during this crisis which their robot/computer combo caused to begin with.  And then thereís the really dumb aspect, which is seemingly only done to give the OVA its name.  Because the mysterious party that takes control of the ship is a robotic cat, named and modeled after the cat the presidentís daughter brought on board.  And if that wasnít dumb enough, the robot cat tries to attack the crew when they try to regain control of the ship, because the ship is being set on a return course to Earth and will bring this alien bacteria along with it.  Itís also implied that the robot cat infected the doctor who was trying to find a way to fight the bacteria at the beginning of the story.  And its name has to be one of the lamest acronyms Iíve seen: Computerized Animal-Shaped Technological Robot.  And since it's named after the real cat that was named Lily, the title of the OVA.


"The Master"

I can kind of understand a robot, even if the reasoning behind it is flawed as hell, but a robotic cat?   Anyway, it turns out that the Australian guy and Japanese quasi-protagonist Hiro are the two imposters, and the message itself was staged, including the garbled ending that no one could figure out how the imposters might have managed to attempt deleting.  Hiro apparently murdered some men for kidnapping and turning his little sister into a crack whore, which he awkwardly exposits about along with how she died not long after he found her.  The Australian guy is with INTERPOL or at least is some kind of detective, and is so focused on getting Hiro that he almost doesn't seem to care about, you know, the alien infection thing that threatens all their lives, right up to the point his infected body is ripped apart to form a Thing even as he's handcuffed to Hiro.  And if that wasn't pathetic enough, it's not that this detective had a strong sense of justice or anything and just feels Hiro went too far by killing people out of revenge instead of letting the law take care of it, no, he straight up says that it's because Hiro screwed up his drug investigation that would have let them take down an entire criminal organization.  I suppose this could be seen as a "needs of the many" argument, but it comes off as this detective having some really messed up priorities.

Oh, if you're wondering why Hiro is the only character I actually name, it's because his is the only name I remember, partly because my odd sense of humor imagined Enrique Iglesias singing his song "Hero" every time Hiro's name came up, and the other characters failed to make enough of an impression on me beyond their stereotype or the role they played in the story.

Basically everyone ends up dying except for Japanese quasi-protagonist Hiro and the blonde American president's daughter, everyone dies, with the captain destroying the ship so it can't return to Earth and spread the bacteria.  Of course, who knows if the two young colonists can survive on the planet they land on or not, as they escaped on an old style space shuttle that the captain kept on board as a good luck charm and may or may not have any supplies on board, or, more importantly, if the two of them might be infected and end up becoming bacterial blobs that go on to infect the entire planet's biosphere.  After all, this is what happened to the Australian detective, and was starting to happen to the captain as he was sabotaging his ship.

So basically what it comes down to is that this is a somewhat disappointing hour-long OVA.  It borrows heavily from Alien and The Thing, but fails to really make good use of what it takes from these movies, to the point this movie could really be called a rip-off, especially of Alien.  And while it sets up some interesting themes, it fails to really exploit them.  Likewise the characters are never really given much of a chance to shine, and only the captain was somewhat interesting, probably because his pragmatism appealed to me.  So my overall opinion on this OVA is that it was just good enough to make me wish it was better.  6/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Online Fiery Little One

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #257 on: March 29, 2016, 03:30:32 PM »
Another one that Sage looked at. I believe he praised a bit more than you did.
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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #258 on: March 31, 2016, 11:25:04 PM »
I don't remember what he said about it, honestly.  I'm going to guess that we probably will have some overlaps simply because we seem to have fairly similar tastes.  We both seem to hate "cute" stuff, though I seem to be much more willing to give newer anime a try than he is.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #259 on: April 01, 2016, 01:10:17 AM »
I just finished a binge of AA, so it's relatively fresh in my mind. He was mostly praising the little details like the fact that they bothered to show a couple of characters getting out of their space suits in a realistic way instead of 'unzip and go' as they could have. Plus he found the revelation that some of the characters were much older than they appeared somewhat jaw dropping because when he originally watched it, it wasn't a detail he had honestly thought about at the time.

(I mostly keep bringing him up in a "I've-heard-of-this-one-and-this-is-where-I-had-heard-of-it-from" sense. I'm not saying I agree with whatever he says. Sometimes I've watched an episode where it's something I've actually watched and I think he couldn't be more wrong in his thinking.)
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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #260 on: April 06, 2016, 12:42:57 PM »
Venus Wars
(1989 movie)

One of the things about sci-fi, particularly older sci-fi, is that there tends to be a rather iconic mode of transportation associated with it, whether it's the Enterprise, a DeLorean DMC-12, a phone booth, or a police box, there just tended to be that kind of an association.  This includes lesser-known sci-fis like Venus Wars, which I found thanks to the fandom that apparently still has a thing for the weird monocycle everyone seems to obsess over in this anime.


Something that seems designed to kill its own rider.

The opening is a text scrawl describes a comet (described as an ice planet in the dub) striking Venus and changing its climate enough to enable its colonization.  The date of the comet strike was the far-off year of 2003, and colonization began in 2018.  I have to admit, text crawls at the beginning of movies are kind of a bad sign.  There are a few exceptions (Star Wars being the obvious example), but usually it's a bad sign.  They can bring the audience up to speed on the story, but they can also serve as something of a crutch for lazy writing - telling rather than showing.  Though in this case, it's more that it's completely unnecessary, and mainly just adds a little amusement in the overly-optimistic dates used in what was apparently seen as far enough in the future for inter-planetary colonization to take place.  The point is, though, that the opening text has very little to do with the plot of the movie, which is a fairly standard military conquest story set in a dystopian cyber-punk future, told from the point of view of some civilians.  You know, basic '80s sci-fi goodness, or at least it would be if it was executed in a way that made it anything other than kind of a chore to watch.

Some of you may have seen Bennett "The Sage" review this movie already, and if you haven't, I encourage you to watch, well, all of his reviews, really.  We tend to overlap at times, because, well, we seem to have similar tastes in anime, apparently.  Also, I'm not against watching something I know is bad just to make fun of it, but I have to admit that what I read about Venus Wars on Wikipedia and TV Tropes actually made it sound like it might be somewhat interesting on its own merits.  You know, '80s sci-fi goodness.  It seems like he was a bit harder on it than I'm going to be, though we do agree on one important point when it comes to the plot structure of this movie - it isn't structured like a movie's plot structure should be.  Which is to say it almost seems to meander aimlessly rather than having a proper build-up to a climax followed by a falling action and resolution.  I actually have a theory about that, though the Wiki article doesn't say anything about it and Sage didn't either, but I got the distinct feeling as I watched it that it was actually a three-episode OVA that had been re-edited into a movie.  Because rather than just meandering, the plot structure actually seemed like it could have had distinct build-ups, climaxes, falling actions, and resolutions for multiple episodes.  I'll get into the specifics later, as well as an additional bit of supporting evidence, but I've already put off the actual review part of this review for long enough.

The story is basically about a militaristic nation called Ishtar invading and conquering the nation of Aphrodia (based on real names for the actual "continents" of Venus), which is where the story takes place.  It initially follows an investigative reporter named Susan Sommers, who we are introduced to as she is strip searched at a spaceport after landing on Venus.  She is very much the stereotypical driven reporter, who manages to be both incredibly naÔve and incredibly insane at the same time.  After all, she's not only anxious for the invasion to start, but she actively places herself in the line of fire.  The story then abruptly shifts to follow a group of monocycle racers as they participate in a race that reminded me very heavily of the MST3K-featured movie The Sidehackers.  Specifically the team calling itself the Killer Commandos, though a teenager named Hiro (two in a row for me ;) ) becomes the focus as the story progresses.  The invasion actually interrupts a race in progress, where Hiro is showing just how awesome a racer he is by abusing the hell out of his monocycle, only for him to have to contend with giant planes dropping giant tanks that seem to be inspired by the British Tortoise assault tank from WWII.

From there, the story is about what you would guess, with the protagonists getting tired of living under the amusingly named General Donner and try to fight back which culminates in two separate confrontations with General Donner by our two different protagonists.  This also involved getting shanghaied by a group of self-described freedom fighters that seems to be made up of the remnants of Aphrodia's military, which incidentally makes heavy use of militarized monocycles that are armed with cannons capable of killing the ridiculously armored Ishtar tanks (somehow).

The main theme of the movie is essentially a kind of nihilism.  Essentially it argues that people can't count on their government, as Hiro and his family was amongst many that were all part of a failed agriculture project that was played up by the government as a huge success in the terraforming effort on Venus, and later the way the young people of the Killer Commandos team were exploited by this group of freedom fighters.  Oh, and then there's the way the Aphrodia government quickly folded and became a puppet to the invading general, to the point that for no real reason I can figure out, the police were really ridiculously desperate to kill Hiro because he ran from a raid on an apartment he was visiting, again for no reason I could really discern.  Another aspect that was brought up was the way many within the capital city seemed to want to pretend that nothing had changed in spite of the invasion being fought in their streets just the day before, and how odd this attitude was, even if it's somewhat understandable since most people have their own day-to-day concerns they're worried about.  And while I'm somewhat sympathetic to that viewpoint, the way the movie presented this argument actually made me somewhat annoyed at essentially being preached to, though I suppose part of that could be because I was annoyed with the mouthpiece being used to preach it, Hiro.

The characters are one of the more taxing aspects of this movie.  Well that and its odd mood swings.  Susan Sommers is one of the most annoying protagonists I've seen.  Not only is she the stereotypically obsessed reporter, she's arguably insane, and completely self-centered.  At one point she literally throws a temper tantrum because her squeeze won't let her go with him on an attack mission.  At another point, she berates Hiro for wanting to go back to his city and see if he can find his kind-of-girlfriend, Maggie, accusing him of cowardice even though it really just amounted to not wanting to be exploited by the rebel army they'd gotten kidnapped by following their own failed attempt at attacking an Ishtar tank.  Which, speaking of Hiro, the other protagonist of this movie is also one of the more annoying aspects of this movie.  The story eventually shifts almost exclusively to his viewpoint, but he basically comes off as a rebel without a clue more than anything else.  He's basically angry for the majority of his screen time, seemingly at everything he sees, including his rich, naÔve, would-be girlfriend, Maggie, who is ridiculously tolerant of his bullshit.  The thing is, he never comes across as a particularly strong or sympathetic character because he doesn't actually seem to advocate for anything so much as against almost everything, excepting the previously mentioned failed attack on a single tank that worked out about as well as one would expect infantry fighting an armored doom turtle to go (they're no Wolverines). 

Then there's the antagonist, General Donner, who is essentially the stereotypical military dictator.  There really isn't much to him, and most of his screen time is dedicated to being the stereotype he is, threatening the captured government and such.  He's so full of himself that it doesn't seem to concern him very much when someone actually pulls a gun on him, right up until that person actually tries to pull the trigger.  In the meantime he made one of the dumbest arguments I've ever seen anyone make regarding war and who is to blame for the deaths and damage that occur in it.  Donner's excuse is to blame war itself.  Generals are just bureaucrats and administrators who don't actually personally kill anyone, and the soldiers who do the actual killing people and wrecking their shit aren't actually responsible because they're just following orders according to him.  I've seen that argument before regarding real world events, but it rings pretty shallow even when it's not coming from a military dictator trying to convince someone not to shoot them.  Of course, Donner isn't terribly bright anyway, as evidenced by his later lack of understanding of how tank cannons are ranged weapons, and how gravity works.

Gary, the head mechanic and owner of the Killer Commandos is probably the most interesting characters in this movie, but then I like me a good pragmatic old fart.  It turned out that he was smuggling weapons into the occupied capital city, but it seemed more like a money-making scheme on his part.  He actually argued against his team going on the attack, and he was actually right on the money in that none of them had any real idea what they were in for, and frankly were treating the guns like toys.  He probably only went along with the attack because he wasn't succeeding at talking the team out of it, and was probably hoping to keep any of them from getting themselves killed.  This actually makes him something of a tragic character, though most of his screen time seemed dedicated to comedy relief.

The mood swings of especially the beginning are another major failing of this movie.  The story keeps shifting between some very serious subject matters, like civilians getting caught up in war, police hunting down unarmed civilians like sick dogs, and the effects of invasion and occupation by a foreign power from the perspective of people who aren't all that different from the people in the audience, and the goofy shenanigans of the kids on the Killer Commandos team and the crotchety old man who owns the team.  So, basically this is like a sci-fi Red Dawn that insists on constantly injecting comedy relief for no real reason, other than that apparently someone thought the mood needed to be lightened.  I might complain about how that made this movie hard to take seriously, but this movie has plenty of other things that prevent that, yet actually make it somewhat enjoyable to watch in a "so bad it's good" way.


Like this, for example.

Yes, in another case of "apparently someone thought this was good idea," this anime has a few sequences that were filmed out in a desert somewhere, with animation being superimposed over the top of the image.  Now, I'd guess this was an attempt to save money, though it's also possible this was an attempt to add realism, but I can't help but be reminded of a film called Epic: Days of the Dinosaur, which Brandon's Cult Film Reviews covered a while back, at least as far as how convincing it looked.  Though, to be fair, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is about the only example I can think of animation on a live action background being done well.

Another example would be the mono-moped Hiro made his escape from the police on.  After going through a ridiculous amount of punishment on his flight, Hiro falls off of it after getting grazed in the leg as the moped goes down a short flight of stairs.  This happens in slow motion, up until the moped hits the wall at the bottom of the stairs, which as executed looks like it was just barely enough to break the headlight before it flops over and promptly explodes.  It's obvious that the writer just needed the explosion and raging inferno to cover Hiro's escape from the police and soldiers pursuing him (they presume him dead), but it just looks hilarious to see the moped seem to just gently tap the wall and explode after all the impossible jumps and overall rough ride Hiro gave it up to this point.

There's also quite a few odd expressions from characters in this movie, especially if they're in the background, as well as the signs and graffiti older anime seems to have that's good for a laugh.  Examples here include "Ishtar must die the death!" "Getout! The invaders" and just "Death!" in random places.  There's also a bit at the end of the movie that has Susan Sommers allegedly writing something about the war she saw on Venus, but is actually a paper about Reagan and Gorbachev agreeing to nuclear disarmament, and then prints out as a paper about the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.  And as much as some of you weebs like to complain about dubs, the delivery in this movie's dub has its moments, too.  Of course for me, that's usually part of the charm of older anime like this.  Plus it can lend itself quite nicely to riffing.  ;)

Other than that, probably the most interesting aspect of this anime is its visual design.  I know some people are really in love with the monocycles, but I kind of liked the ridiculousness of the tanks, and the giant airplanes that looked like something out of Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind

That said, this movie can still be a real chore to watch, but like I said earlier, I think this is because this movie was originally meant to be a three episode OVA.  While the beginning of the story seems to have trouble actually getting started (way too much prelude), eventually there is a build-up and a climax in the form of a battle at the race track the movie started at.  Then the story suddenly hits the brakes as the Killer Commandos find themselves shanghaied and begins a distinctly new storyline.  There isn't as much of a build-up or a climax compared to the first "episode," other than that one of the racers ends up getting killed.  There's then another slow-down before the story moves into its overall resolution with the final battle to retake the capital city.

It's not perfect, especially since what would theoretically be the first episode actually takes up more than half the movie (the rest of the movie just seems longer), but this could be explained by the last two episodes being heavily edited to reduce the overall run time down to something closer to an hour and a half run time (just a pity they didn't edit out more of the beginning).  I do have a little bit of supporting evidence, in the form of this guy who is only introduced in the last half-hour of the movie as he offers Hiro a couple of hours of buttsex to kill time:


Pow!  Right in the kisser!

And it's not just that this character is suddenly introduced just before the end of the movie, but that he has a significant screen presence during the rest of the movie's runtime, not to mention that Hiro has some flashbacks to random stuff this character apparently said to him, but that we didn't actually get to see him make the first time.

I could be wrong, of course.  This disjoined feeling could just be the result of a really awkward adaptation that tried to follow a little too closely to the source material, which was a four volume manga.  Not having read it for myself yet (and not likely to any time soon), I can only guess based on what I saw in the movie.  But whether this is a repurposed OVA or a poorly executed adaptation, it's still kind of fun to watch to watch the train wreck, especially with friends.  I suppose I am kind of disappointed in that I didn't get an actual good sci-fi that could have explored the themes it presented in a better way, but it probably would have actually been an OVA to accomplish that, since there was obviously more material than could be fit into a single movie (not for lack of trying, though).  Never even addressed were the effects of the unique day, year, and rotation of the planet on the people living on Venus, even if it was somehow made magically habitable, or how colonization would have resulted in independent nation states rather than colonies of whatever nation sent the people to the planet.

Anyway, it drags in parts, especially the beginning, but this movie is still fun to watch, even if it isn't what I would really consider to be "good" in the traditional sense.  If you can stream it or otherwise watch it without having to go through too much trouble, it might be worth it to watch it and make fun of it with some friends.  6/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #261 on: April 17, 2016, 09:21:46 PM »
H20: Footprints in the Sand
(12 episode series)

I honestly can't remember how this one ended up on my watch list, and now that I've seen it, I'm not quite sure what to make of it.  It's essentially a fairly typical harem anime, with the typical silliness and, for me, eye-rolling shenanigans that one would expect from such an anime.  There's even plenty of soft-core fan service thrown in for fun, which can be quickly spoiled if you remember that these are middle school or junior-high-aged children.  This series is actually adapted from an adult visual novel, which had erotic content and an "emergency button" to click on in case someone comes into the room and you don't want anyone to know you're looking at pr0n.  The thing that keeps it from being just another clone of every harem anime ever is that it actually does have a serious dramatic plot mixed in there amongst all the attempts at cute.  So basically it has the same issues with mood swings that made Higurashi something of a mixed bag for me.  H2O further complicates this by adding something of a psychological aspect to it that made me wonder what actually happened versus what was just in the main character's head.

Of course, this isn't the only confusing aspect of this series.  Hell, just the title has taken up more of my thought about the show than it probably should have, as "Footprints in the Sand" is actually a Christian poem about walking on the beach with Jesus.  I actually got a copy of the poem on a bookmark for my confirmation that I still have, uh, somewhere, which is why my mind immediately goes to that.  The fact that the small Japanese village the story is set in actually has a Christian church (at least in appearance) further adds to this, though religion isn't ever discussed in the story itself, and while town meetings take place in the church, there are never any services seen or talked about.  Plus, a Christian church in Japan?  According to Wikipedia, less than 1% of Japanese claim Christian belief, so why is there a church and why does it seem to be a major focal point of the town even though the story barely has anything to do with it?  About the best I can figure out is that this might be a reference to the nature of the story as seen from the viewpoint of the protagonist, as there is a spirit involved that only he seems to be aware of.  And I suppose it might be an excuse for the series to be bookended with a reading of the poem itself, though the reference seems to be more connected to a boy's mother, or perhaps the spirit in her relationship to the protagonist.

Okay, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.  The story follows Takuma Hirose, a young blind boy, just after he has been moved in with his uncle in a small village following the death of his mother.  His blindness is itself left something of a mystery initially, though it's made fairly obvious that it's probably connected in some way to his mother's death since it's stated that he became blind after this happened.

And just a brief aside, but am I the only one amused by the way blindness is often represented in anime by having the character have their eyes closed all the time?  Of course this does lend itself to riffing in the form of "just open your eyes!" and the like whenever the character in question complains about their blindness.  :D

Anywho, we're introduced to a character Takuma refers to as Otoha, a young blonde girl, at the same time we're introduced to him, which involves being chased out of the woods by a wild pig in an attempt to take a shortcut to school.  Initially it seems like she's just some friend of his, except that as he collides with Hayami Kohinata, another student from his class, it's made obvious that he's the only one who is aware of her presence (almost said "see" there).  Otoha actually comes out and says as much not long afterwards, as a setup to explain Takuma suddenly being able to see not long afterwards, and for the majority of the series.  This miraculous restoration of his sight is essentially the set-up to the series, as Otoha explains that he's been given his sight back to accomplish something.

What that something is becomes readily apparent as it's soon shown that Hayami is essentially the school's and the village's whipping boy (so to speak).  She's shown to be generally a good person as she helps Takuma find his way to school following their rather rough introduction to each other, even as she becomes really anti-social afterwards.  Takuma naturally has no idea what the hell is going on, yet for some reason everyone seems to think he should.  And really what it comes down to is that other students will use pretty much any excuse to bully and beat the crap out of Hayami, with others, including the teacher, basically just pretending that it isn't happening.  Takuma reacts the way most people would to this and intervenes, but at least initially he seems to have new guy immunity. 

The story of the show then becomes Takuma trying to figure out why the hell everyone treats Hayami like a pariah.  And I do mean everyone.  Hayami lives in the woods by herself in an isolation enforced by village taboo, and at best, people pretend she doesn't exist or just talk shit about her based on how horrible her family was supposed to be (for that matter, it's still kind of a mystery as to what exactly happened to Hayami's family).  Meanwhile, Takuma is trying to just get everyone to get along, all while dealing with basically every girl in school displaying an odd amount of romantic interest in him, especially considering he just showed up.  Oh, and this naturally includes a token loli, because it just wouldn't be a harem anime without one.  ;)


It's not easy being a pimp.

This mystery aspect to the series, along with Takuma fighting the bigoted nature of the village are what really appealed to me.  The downside is that, much like Higurashi, what could be a really interesting story is constantly interrupted with the stereotypical harem aspects of the anime.  Your mileage may vary, of course, but the harem stuff was at best something for me to poke fun at.

Another area of amusement was the portrayal of the village itself, though partly due to how universal some of the stereotypes are, not to mention how disturbingly accurate those stereotypes can be sometimes.  The way people tend to gossip about one another, the way going into a bigger town can be a special occasion that you make a day trip out of, and I hate to say it, but the way certain families can be treated deferentially as kind of community leaders, while others are looked down upon, and it can all be based on something that their grandparents or some other extended member of the family might have done back in the 1950s.  Shiki kind of captured aspects of this as well. 

Another area of commonality between this series and Shiki is the way in which people could otherwise act like good people, and yet have a dark side to them.  In Shiki it was the casual way the villagers would go about killing vampires who were people they had known in life, and in this series, it was the way everyone could go from being super nice and hospitable to  Takuma, to turning around and acting like completely horrible people to Hayumi.  Hell, early on, some of them get toilet water and dump it on her.  Or there's the way one of the village elders forced his youngest granddaughter to replace and live as his oldest granddaughter, who died in an accident.  More messed up is that she was the granddaughter he and the rest of the village looked down on as a disappointment to the family while the granddaughter who died had been the stereotypical prodigal daughter.  And then there was the way everyone would talk about how fortunate it was that she'd been the one who died rather than her older sister after the switch has taken place.  And if that wasn't messed up enough, apparently her grandpa was planning on setting her up with Takuma so that the two of them would get married and presumably Takuma would inherit the unofficial leadership role the old man had within the village.

It might sound a bit weird for me to say this, but these were actually the aspects of the series that appealed the most to me due to the dramatic elements in them.  So hopefully it's understandable why all the cutesy harem aspects of this show tended to bring it down for me.  Because just as we're starting to learn more and more about what's going on in this village, or watching Takuma playing peacemaker and extending a helping hand out to Hayumi, the anime throws out a beach episode or something like that. 

The story turns out about how you'd expect, given that it is a happy ending (I think), though there are a couple of odd twists toward the end of it which I'll get into in the more spoiler-heavy discussion later on, along with the confusion I have from it.

I hate to say it, but the characters didn't have a heck of a lot to them beyond the stereotypical roles one might find in any harem anime, beyond a few things here and there to make them somewhat unique.  Takuma was an average student, and his blindness and seemingly miraculous recovery was about all that made him stand out, at least until you got into the story and the way he acted in the face of the village's treatment of Hayumi. Granted, those are good things about his character, itís just that there isnít much more to him, and he comes off as a generic good guy character.  This makes a kind of sense given the source material, but I feel Takuma is an example of the duality of this series.  It wanted to have some depth to it, but it wanted to be cute, too, and in Takumaís case, this results in his character lacking any real depth to it.  We know his mother died and that his blindness is most likely a result of the trauma this caused.  We know that heís generally a good person, open to people and ideas, but not sure what to make of all the attention showered on him.  Which is another thing Ė almost everyone seems to like him for no real reason, even the bigoted, scheming village elder, and it takes a lot of him standing up to peopleís bigotry toward Hayumi and refusing to abide by their messed up rules for some of them to dislike him.  I kind of got the ďinsta-friendĒ vibe when it came to his interaction with the majority of his classmates.  It isnít until almost the end of the series that we get to really learn much about him, and even then itís limited, and the drama involved with that comes off as rather contrived.  And most of the other characters are the same way.  Takumaís uncle is, for the most part, the generic meddling relative who is very open with his affection, as well as his desire to see Takuma get a girlfriend and get laid.  Heís easy to like, but the thing that made him stand out for me was that one point where he had a bit a brevity with Takuma in discussing what exactly happened with his motherís death and what was involved in it.  As a supporting character he didnít really need much depth, but his moment of brevity is another example of what Iím talking about when I say Iím disappointed there wasnít a bit more to this show as far as the drama went.  The only characters we learn much about are Hayumi and Hinata/Hotaru as the series explores that whole mystery aspect as far as why everyone hates Hayumi and what happened to lead up to that.  I already spoiled that a bit as far as Hinata/Hotoru, actually.  But I feel that this exploration into their characters through exploring the story allowed them to at least somewhat step aside from the clichťd character types that they are introduced as.  Actually, the story is a little clever in that it presents these clichťd character types as the role the characters play within the community, though this angle is never really explored very much.

And hereís where we get into real spoiler territory, so if you want to avoid that, skip ahead to the last paragraph for my final thoughts and score.

Man this show is messed up. 

I already got into the whole thing with how Hinata is actually Hotoru, who took on the name and role of her sister basically to save face for her family.  But the really disgusting thing is that it shows that Hotoru was every bit as smart and academically talented as her sister, and all sheíd have needed was the love and support sheíd gotten as Hinata.  I really wish this point had been explored, well, at all, really, but no one ever confronted her grandpa about this point, and no one else in the village was confronted about it either (you know, all the people saying how lucky it was Hotoru died instead of Hinata, because Hotoru was the stupid one and a disappointment to the family).  Of course, either the people in the village were stupid in that they couldnít tell one girl from the other, because the sisters were not twins, or they were essentially brainwashing themselves into believing it.  Even more messed up is the reason why Hotoru was looked down on by basically everyone, which amounts to being bad at math and good at art.  So when we find out later that she had the ability to excel academically, we also have to keep in mind that she had potential as an artist, too.  Then, of course, thereís the other thing she was looked down on for, which was that she was friends with Hayumi.

It is never explained what exactly the village had against Hayumiís family, and it seems the only thing they seem to have against Hayumi herself is that she was a member of that family.  Actually this is one of the more frustrating aspects to the show.  Itís simply put out there and accepted that Hayumiís family were just horrible people.  And the only example we get is that her family apparently had arranged a marriage between one of their sons and Takumaís mother, and apparently when she broke it to marry another man, they kept pressuring her about it, even after Takuma was born, to the point that she apparently committed suicide.  And thatís basically used as a monkey wrench for the relationship that had been building between Takuma and Hayumi.  But nothing is ever shown or explained as to why the village got so pissed off at Hayumiís family to the point that they burned down their house and either kicked them out of the village or straight up murdered them.  Which brings up two other questions: why is Hayumi still in the village and why did the state never get involved?  I mean, maybe itís different in Japan versus the US, but at least on this side of the pond, kids donít get to just live by themselves out in the woods.  Is Haymi being kept there against her will?  Why is she there?  If her family was banished, why didnít she go with them?  If her family was murdered, why was there no apparent police involvement?  Why then is Hayumi not a ward of the state?  Yes, I know the real reason for this is so that we have a show, but I couldnít help but go back to these questions as I watched the series.

But then, there are plenty of questions like that which come up during the course of the series.  Questions like, where is Takumaís father in all of this?  We literally never see him, and yet heís the man Takumaís mother broke an arranged marriage for.  Where are Hinata/Horutoís parents?  Maybe I missed an explanation, but her life seems dominated by her grandfather with basically no room for her parents in the story.  Is she orphaned? 

And then thereís what exactly happened to Takumaís mother, and to Takuma himself for that matter.  Itís implied that Takuma knew all along that his mother didnít actually commit suicide, but rather died attempting to save a small child who apparently was too stupid to live (dove in front of an oncoming train after his soccer ball).  Why then does everyone claim his mother committed suicide?  I mean there would have been the kidís body along with Takumaís mother, not to mention a family wondering where their kid went.  And to complicate this, at least for me, is that Takumaís realization of this happens as Hayumi apparently makes the same sacrifice.  Or did she?  Because the way itís shot, it sure looks like the train takes her and another kids whoís too stupid to live out.  But the ending epilogue shows us Takuma and his classmates as adults, and an infant that looks like what you would expect of a combination between Takuma and Hayumi by anime logic.  Wikipedia says this is actually the product of a crossdresser and another character, but those characters were always on the periphery and I didn't even catch that the one character actually was a crossdresser, so it would be pretty easy to make the mistake I did about the infant.

Of course this is following Takuma regressing into childhood and thinking that Hayumi is his mother.  So just a bit of Oedipus complex thrown in there for fun, I guess.  But this is why he connects what happened to his mother to something that was happening as he and Hayumi are standing at a train crossing just as the gates are closing. I guess the upshot of this was that Otoha (who is apparently the spirit of Hinata) was sent to help Takuma to get over his blindness by accepting what happened to his mother, and that she never intended to leave him as she did (hence she didn't actually commit suicide and that aspect of it was all in his head, apparently).

Maybe Iím reading too much into it and the ending messed with me more than it should have, but then one of the other things put forward by the climax of the series is that Takuma had been blind all along through the series, and everything he thought heíd seen had been all in his head all along.  The scenes that play behind the credits and as a stinger to them only added to my confusion, as Otoha makes an appearance just before Hayumi shows up again some time after the scene at the train crossing (everyone is grown up now), and both in the dialog leading up to this and in Takuma's reaction to seeing Hayumi left it pretty ambiguous as to whether she was actually alive or simply a spirit as Otoha was.  Which basically lead me as a viewer to wonder what exactly was real as far as the series went, and hence a bit more disappointment on my part because I feel kind of cheated by having to ask that question to myself.

Eh, maybe Iím overanalyzing things.  My friends were pretty convinced that Hayumi was alive and the baby we saw another of their friends carrying at Horuto's house was definitely a product of Takuma and Hayumi (though it's actually the product of a couple characters named Hamaji and Maki).

I guess what it comes down to is that while this series has an interesting premise with some potential to it in terms of being a drama with some mystery elements to it, I feel that this was somewhat overshadowed by the harem aspect of the series, as well as the constant need to inject ďcuteĒ throughout.  This made for quite a bit of mood whiplash watching it.  However, if cute is your thing, especially with a slice of life feeling to it, you might like this show, though the mood whiplash might get to you from the darker elements.  It made for an interesting watch once through, I doubt Iíll ever make a point of watching it again.  6/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #262 on: October 28, 2016, 02:19:35 PM »
Patlabor: The TV Series
(47 episode series)

I had originally planned to watch this series after watching the original OVA and the first movie, but my anime group voted to watch it so I ended up watching this series first out of the franchise.  From what I can gleam from reading about it, this doesn't really matter because the TV series was its own adaptation of the original manga source material.  As for how it was...  Eh, it wasn't bad, I guess.

This series follows the "Mobile Police, Division Two," a police department that specializes in the use of a type of combat mecha that is itself part of a larger category of machines known as "labors," because as the opening of each episode informs us, they were initially used in construction and industrial applications, until criminals figured out they could use them to commit crimes with.  Then, much like with Ghost in the Shell and the internet and internet crimes, there was a police response that created the "Mobile Police" which used specially made "patrol labors," hence the "Patlabor" name.  Division Two are essentially the underfunded underdog of the police force, even compared to other mobile police divisions that use patlabors, constantly needing to justify its existence and expense, in spite of actions that often result in some rather high amounts of damage.

The series is largely episodic, and has an overall light tone.  There are a few continuing story arcs throughout the series, which actually apparently caused to series to be inflated from an originally planned 24 episodes to its nearly 50 episode run.  For instance there's an arc that features a continuing terrorist threat against some kind of UN initiative called the Babylon Project (something lent itself rather well to Babylon 5 riffs), which itself was never really explained all that well beyond that it was some kind of international/globalist effort that terrorists were constantly trying to attack.  There was also an arc that dealt with the military-industrial complex that involved a labor company trying to get test data for its labors by secretly testing them in combat against military and police labors, and while there could be humor in those stories, they tended to get more serious in tone than usual.  For the most part, though, the series is interested in showcasing the antics of Division Two, which tended to be rather hit and miss.  There were some pretty hilarious episodes, though, like the one where one of the mechanics goes to New York but it's all in his head so it comes off as this weird mirror universe version of Division Two.

While it could be argued that Noa Izumi is the protagonist of the series, it's actually more of an ensemble.  Noa is a fun character, in part because she reminds me quite a bit of a woman I've had a crush on for a long time, not only in her looks but in her enthusiastic attitude and her competence in combat. 


*sigh* :)

Actually one of the more humorous aspects of the series is that Noa is basically the most competent member of Division Two, not only in terms of piloting her mech (which she names Alphonse), but as a police officer, in spite of being a rookie when it comes to piloting the labors.  This contrasts her with the other labor pilot in her division (they only have two labors), Isao Ohta, who seems to see himself more as a soldier than as a police officer, and is responsible for most of the damage caused by Division Two.  He's a bit like a Japanese Dirty Harry, only he sucks at his job.  There are a few other interesting characters, like the half-American/half-Japanese Kunuka Clancy, who initially starts out as something of a competitor for Noa until the two earn each other's respect, and Asuma Shinohara, who is actually the son of the head of the company that produces the labors for the police (and most of the world, apparently), and ends up being something of a will they/won't they romantic interest for Noa later on in the series.  Aside from Noa, my favorite character has to be Captain Kiichi Goto, who has to be the most laid back authority figure I've seen in any show.  He's strict when he has to be (like when Noa and Ohta end up doing a lot of damage), but for the most part he channels his inner Dude.  We're talking about a guy who barely raised an eyebrow to being confronted with the ghost of a samurai warrior and just calmly grabbed the closest thing to defend himself with (you'll just have to watch that episode for yourself ;) ).

This was a fairly entertaining series to watch, though it could really be boring at times, and it was pretty obvious that it was aimed more at younger crowd, even without the knowledge that some of the labors were introduced on the show to sell toys.  You can just tell right off watching it that it was made for kids, because it really comes off as a Saturday morning cartoon.  That isn't to say that it's a bad show (I watched and enjoyed Avatar, after all), just that you have to be ready for what you'd be getting yourself into when watching this.

Another issue many people might have is the dub.  This isn't to say that it was especially horrible or anything, just that it's exactly what one might expect of a dub made during the earlier days of localization.  Most of the cast is okay, it's just that a couple of them had some pretty bad delivery.  The actress that dubbed Noa in particular stood out, probably at least in part because she was a central focus of the show and thus had a lot of lines.  But when she tried to sound excited or scream or pretty much anything that didn't call for a completely flat delivery, she came off sounding like a kid playing make-believe.  It just didn't fit with the character in my opinion, but I didn't hate the dub or her in particular or anything.  If anything I see it as something to take in stride as being part of the experience of watching an old anime like this.  Doesn't mean I won't bitch about it, though.  :D

There really isn't much to do in way of analysis or further commentary to make for this series, other than that it does touch somewhat on the military-industrial complex, as well as the relationship between the military and law enforcement, and the importance of the distinction between the two.  Probably the only extra thing I can really say is to poke a bit of fun at the patlabors for their use of giant revolvers instead of having integrated weaponry, but that's just kind of a mecha thing in general that I like to make fun of.  There's also the premise that the top-of-the-line Ingram patlabors used by Division Two have to be customized to their pilots, which is just ridiculous from an engineering point of view, along with the notion that prototypes are somehow better from the production model of something (rather than being the working model used to identify and eliminate problems).

I'd say that this is a somewhat fun series to watch, though probably not something you can marathon, and probably not something you would get much rewatch value out of.  I have to admit that this is partly because of the length in my case, but the boring stretches of filler certainly don't help either.  I don't want to sound too negative, as there are plenty of good episodes in this series' 47 episode run, it just probably isn't worth watching them more than once.  This, for me, makes it slightly above average (but not much), earning it a 6/10 on my nebulous scale of good.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Online Fiery Little One

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #263 on: October 28, 2016, 04:49:52 PM »
Hmm... If I'm reading this right... One part Gundam... One part Dominion Tank Police... One part Ghost in the Shell: SAC... With a dash of Mad Bull 34.
Open your mind to new possibilities
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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #264 on: October 28, 2016, 11:07:43 PM »
Probably closest to Tank Police.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #265 on: October 29, 2016, 12:12:22 AM »
Hmm... Fair enough.
Open your mind to new possibilities
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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #266 on: November 24, 2016, 05:17:05 AM »
Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV
(6 episode series)
A year or so ago Square Enix announced they would release multiple tie-ins to Final Fantasy XV (which has been in development for a decade), including Brotherhood and the CG movie Kingsglaive (which I will review later).  The first 5 episodes are available for free on Youtube and detail the friendships between the main cast of FFXV.  The sixth episode is only available with certain pre-orders of FFXV and covers Lunafreya (aka Luna) one of the key NPCs of FFXV.  Each episode varies in length, the shortest is only 11 minutes or so long and the longest one is over 17 minutes long.  There is no English dub.  Brotherhood is basically a prequel of sorts to FFXV.  I should point out that the world of FFXV is much like the modern world, but with monsters (some being skyscraper sized), magic, and airships.  There's also quite a few Final Fantasy Easter eggs scattered about.

The first episode introduces the cast.  Noctis, the main PC and crown prince to the Kingdom of Lucis, and his friends/bodyguards Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto.  They are on their way to meet up with Lady Lunafreya of Tenebrae to plan Noctis' wedding to her.  Lucis is in control of a crystal which gives its king magic powers.  Niflheim wants the crystal to take over the world and as part of a peace treaty with Lucis is to wed Noctis to Lunafreya (Niflheim took over Tenebrae 12 years earlier) {more on this in the Kingsglaive review}.  This is probably the second most action packed episode of the series, with Noct and the gang fighting Niflheim robot soldiers and the start of a fight with a giant snake woman monster.

The 2nd episode shifts to what the bulk of the series focuses on, the friendship between Noctis and his buddies.  This episode focuses on Prompto the only member of the group who wields a firearm (a revolver).  And we get to see what Insomnia (the capital of Lucis) looks like, if you've seen any anime set in a city in Japan, then you pretty much know what it looks like (aside from the massive wall in the background).  Its interesting that the Crown Prince would attend a public school with regular kids, Prompto being one of them.

The 3rd episode focuses on Gladiolus, who's basically The Muscle of the group.  The 4th episode focuses on Ignis, the smart guy.  This one is the longest episode of the series and has some interesting political discussions and tie-ins with Kingsglaive.

The final episode picks up and finishes the fight with the giant snake lady (Marilith, a recurring boss in the FF series).  It also expands on the flashbacks in the first episode as this was the monster that nearly killed Notcis 12 years ago, and presumably leads to the injury he is treated for in Tenebrae in the prologue of Kingsglaive.

It's hard to rate this series.  It tugs a fair amount of emotional strings and serves its purpose of introducing us to the main characters of FFXV but outside of that there's not much else.  I'd recommend it to Final Fantasy fans or those curious about FFXV, but I'd wager that most of the people who fit in the first category have seen it already.  Aside from psyching me up for FFXV it makes me want a "proper" Final Fantasy anime, i.e. a unique Final Fantasy world made in anime form rather than game form.  Or perhaps revisit one of the previous game's worlds in anime form (like Advent Children but not CGI).
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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #267 on: November 29, 2016, 02:19:04 PM »
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
(CGI Movie, 110 minutes long)
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is part of an expanded universe that includes Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV and the game Final Fantasy XV (and some other projects).  It serves as a prequel to FFXV, and borrows a good bit from the trailers for Final Fantasy Verses XIII (which is what FFXV started out as 10 years ago).  Especially considering the casting I’d be tempted to put this in a “normal” movie review thread, but it’s classified as anime so it’s going here.  Although Nausica (I probably spelled that horribly wrong) had Patrick Stewart and Edward James Olmos in the English dub…

Two kingdoms Lucis (a kingdom of magic) and Niflheim (a kingdom of “magitek”) war over the power of the Crystal.  Insomnia, Lucis’ capital city, is protected by a magical energy wall called “The New Wall”, which is maintained by the Crystal and King Regis (Sean Bean).  During the prologue the backstory is given by Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (Lena Headey), and tells of Niflheim’s attempt on King Regis and Noctis’ life during their visit to Tenebrae to treat Noctis for his injuries from the giant snake lady in Brotherhood.
In order to combat Niflheim King Regis forms the Kingsglaive from refugees displaced by the war.  These elite soldiers are able to borrow the King’s power and wield magic, including the royal family’s “warp strike” technique, which involves throwing your weapon and then teleporting to the weapon’s location.  The film’s main protagonist is a member of the Kingsglaive named Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul).  After the prologue the movie opens with a battle between the Niflheim forces and the Kingsglaive on a fort built onto a rock bridge over a canyon.  It’s an action packed sequence which all goes to hell for the Kingsglaive when the Niflheim forces bring in Cerberuses and a Diamond Weapon daemons.  Despite the Kingsglaive’s order to retreat and the Niflheim forces’ obvious victory, the Niff (as they’re called in the movie) forces pull back.  Later Chancellor Ardyn Izunia of Niflheim shows up at Insomnia’s gate alone to “negotiate” a peace, in return for sparing Insomnia and ending the war Lucis must give up all territories to Niflheim and marry Prince Noctis to Lady Lunafreya.  As the Wall is taking its toll on King Regis and Lucis is unable to raise a proper offense in the war, they accept the terms and agree to the signing of the peace treaty.  And things go downhill (for Lucis anyway) from there.

As I mentioned before the movie borrows several elements from the early trailers of Final Fantasy XV.  The peace conference was going to take place in original builds of the game but was cut.  As such a scene where Noctis and Lunafreya meet in the early trailers is copied and replaced with a scene of Lunafreya and Nyx interacting.  Likewise a scene with King Regis having a show down with Niflheim’s Emperor Iedolas Aldercapt is taken from early trailers of the game as well.

The CGI in this movie is freaking amazing.  It’s damn near photorealistic.  There’s lots of action and political intrigue.  It’s almost funny watching Nyx, with his little kukri dagger, blocking General Glauca’s massive sword (while skyscraper sized magically animated statues fight equally skyscraper sized daemons in the background).  This movie really shows off Final Fantasy XV’s “reality meets fantasy” world as you’ve got fairly normal looking cars (including an obvious product placement from Audi), Insomnia itself looks like any modern metropolis with stoplights, glowing ads, and rundown areas.  Average pedestrian’s clothing looks normal, even the interiors of the airships look more or less like you would expect from a blimp or naval ship.

Comparing this to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, I’d say this is the better movie.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Advent Children, it’s just that Kingsglaive feels more like a standalone movie where as Advent Children kinda feels like something made just to see the Final Fantasy VII cast again.  While you can enjoy this movie without playing Final Fantasy XV, it seems that you’d get more out of it from watching the movie and playing the game.  However, I’d highly recommend watching this; let’s say 8/10 just to give it a numbered score.   I think it’s available online but I’m not sure for certain, I know it actually got shown in some theaters.  There's a post credits scene that's pretty much a lead in to Final Fantasy XV, interesting to note as it has really bad lip syncing compared to the rest of the movie.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2016, 03:28:59 PM by TNC »
ďBattle is not a simulation. Itís blood and screams and funerals.Ē Ė Capt. Georgiou Ė Star Trek: Discovery Ė ďThe Vulcan HelloĒ

Offline CX

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #268 on: December 12, 2016, 12:12:49 AM »
I've been thinking of starting a video review series for a while now, and while it will still be quite some time before I can actually start on it, I figure it doesn't really hurt to get some ideas going for it.

First up, should I keep the anime and movie reviews separate, or should I make an all-encompassing show? My main inspiration for this show is SF Debris in that it would be all voice-over with relevant clips from whatever I'm reviewing and maybe a few images for bits of humor. The main difference is that while SF Debris largely summarizes and makes commentary throughout, I would focus more on review and analysis.

Aside from the format of the show, one of the first hurdles for me is coming up with a name. I kind of suck at coming up with names for things, which is why my text reviews are all called something along the lines of "My Anime Reviews."
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Online Fiery Little One

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #269 on: December 12, 2016, 02:01:10 AM »
If by keep them separate, you mean like this thread and and your movie thread... Yeah, I'd say keep the anime show its own thing.

SF Debris as your inspiration for how to do it, huh? Well, I've been watching him since he joined Channel Awesome so you could do worse.

Names... Well, for anybody not familiar with him, SF Debris typically uses 'An Opinionated Look at...' So... 'A Critical Eye on...' perhaps?
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Offline CX

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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #270 on: December 16, 2016, 10:01:59 PM »
Based on the feedback I've gotten from other places, I think I'm just going to do a single review show rather than two different ones.  And while I'm not really much closer to a title, I like the suggestion that it not actually have "anime" in the title, so in essence I can treat the anime like everything else.  I suppose the same could be said of sci-fi, because while I tend to focus there, I probably shouldn't limit myself in case I want to do something else.
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Re: Teh CX Animu Review Thread (Contains some spoilers)
« Reply #271 on: December 18, 2016, 06:03:59 PM »
Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist
(12 episode series)

This is by no means "The Anime to Save Anime" that at one point many fans claimed it to be, but it is a fun satirical look at censorship culture and the effects it might have if carried out to its logical conclusion.  Its real strong point is how it manages to be light and funny in spite of tackling a rather serious subject matter that is rather relevant in current times.   So while it's too much to say that this show is going to somehow save anime, it did happen to be in the right place at the right time.

As the beginning of every episode informs us, this series takes place in the Orwellian future of Japan, which has passed a law called "The Law for Public Order and Morals in Healthy Child-Raising" that essentially bans anything that could be considered lewd or otherwise immoral.  This not only includes things like porn or the figurines from your favorite ecchi series, but also cussing or using any other words the state has forbidden on the grounds of Helen Lovejoy's favorite argument.  This is actually somewhat comparable to the PC future of 1993's Demolition Man, except that this series takes it even further.  For instance, rather than simply having a computer print out tickets whenever you cuss, instead the not at all symbolic collar you wear around your neck will start sounding a shrill alarm that informs you that the morality police (yes, they actually call them that) are going to come and arrest you, perhaps by even busting into the place you happen to be and beating the crap out of you the way American SWAT teams like to do to pot smokers.  And just to make sure you don't draw anything lewd since you can't just buy porn, the little omni-tool bracelets you wear around your wrists and use like a smart phone also keep track of your hand movements and likewise alert the morality Gestapo.  Hell, it would probably alert them if you tried fapping or playing the slots or twisting the tentacles or whatever, too, provided you even knew how to do it since you'd be childishly naive about anything relating to sex.

The series follows Tanukichi Okuma on his first day at Tokioka Academy, "Japan's most elite public morals school."  He's looking forward to reuniting with his childhood friend/crush, Anna Nishikinomiya, who is serving as his new school's student president.  He actually practically idolizes her, as when he was a child, she was the only one to not ostracize him following his father's arrest as an "ero-terrorist" for attempting to distribute condoms on the steps of the Diet building (while shouting "free the penis" :D ).  Unfortunately for him, he gets caught up defending someone he knows to have been falsely accused of groping a woman on the train, which in turn leads to him getting saved by the ero-terrorist known as Blue Snow.  He very quickly finds out that the man he saved, Raiki Gouriki, actually was stalking him on that train as he suspected, and that he's on the student council as well.  Also, it turns out that Blue Snow is actually Ayame Kajou, student vice-president and Anna's best friend.  The way Tanukichi ends up finding this out is after Ayame kidnaps him and essentially blackmails him into forming SOX with her in her effort to spread what amounts to sex education to their school, as well as her normal activities of spreading porn and shouting dirty jokes.



I saw this series referred to as the "anime to save anime" during the time it originally aired, but I have to say that as much as I liked it, I wouldn't really call it that.  It's essentially a romantic comedy with a message, and considering its subject matter (not to mention Blue Snow's disguise consisting of a pair of panties on her face and a white sheet with nothing underneath it), it's actually fairly tame fan-service-wise, though at one point they totally manage to sneak a giant dick in past the censors thanks to one of the character's hairstyles.  The series is well paced, had plenty of humor of both the well-thought-out and just straight up sex joke variety, and is just overall competently done, but I wouldn't say it's a masterpiece or anything, and to be fair the series doesn't really set out to be.  It just happens to stand out for its competence thanks to so much of anime these days consisting largely of moť/ecchi that's pretty much just made to pander to the plastic-collecting otaku fanbase.

The story is fairly straightforward, with Tanukichi helping out Ayame, at first rather reluctantly, while being torn with what he feels to be his duty to Anna to turn Blue Snow in to her and the knowledge that this would probably crush her since Blue Snow is actually her best friend.  Not to mention the way he idolizes Anna and feels this will keep him from living up to his image of her.  Along the way SOX gathers more members, including an artistic prodigy who helps with the whole distributing porn thing by drawing it, though she has to do it with her mouth to avoid her "Peace Maker" bracelet going off and drawing the "morality" police.  Later they come into conflict with another ero-terrorist's group led by "White Peak," who steals other people's used underwear and makes a body-suit out of them that he wears.  He also claims to be allied to SOX, which makes things a bit worse for SOX by being associated with actual terrorist acts, like bus hijackings, rather than Blue Snow's immature antics aimed more at education and protesting the morality laws/censorship.

Ayame is helped by a gift from her father, who was likewise arrested for being an ero-terrorist (though she claims he was framed), which is an old-school flip-phone that is programmed to jam the PM devices within its range for 3 minutes per day.  This enables her to cuss and say other banned words, and to make lewd gestures without setting off the collars and bracelets she or the others around her wear.  And while it's never spelled out, I'm guessing it somehow keeps the authorities from tracking her.

The series is very entertaining to watch, with plenty of good moments along the way that made me laugh so hard I actually had to rewind a bit to avoid missing anything.


Moments like this...

The characters are somewhat cliched, but that's about what one can expect from what amounts to a harem romantic comedy with a twist.  I know some people might object to the "harem" label, but if you think about it, almost all the supporting characters have a thing for Tanukichi, including hyper-masculine Gouriki (which is played for laughs).  Not all of them are as bad as Anna, but it's there to a certain extent in all of them, even if it's just to tease Tanukichi.

Anna is the "pure" love interest, and the twist here is that Tanukichi, for as obsessed as he is with her, is actually not interested in her in a sexual way, though this seems to be in keeping with his view of her as "pure" with himself as being unworthy for her.  Which means the other twist is that it's actually Anna aggressively pursuing him rather than the other way around, and is also played for laughs, but I'll get into more depth on that later.

Ayame/Blue Snow is this show.  She may not be the protagonist/viewpoint character, but she is this show, which is very much a statement against censorship in Japan.  She's every bit as dirty-minded and lewd as one might expect from the stereotypically perverted guy, and she has the kind of forceful personality that makes her really interesting to watch as she stands up to her oppressive government and its prudish demonization of sexuality, and combats the childish ignorance of her peers and even some adults.

Not to forget about Tanukichi himself, I have to say that that's kind of his problem in a way, in that he's kind of forgettable because of how plain he is compared to all the other, even minor characters.  I wouldn't be quite cruel enough to label him a self-insertion character, but he very much serves the role of the "average high school student" that one would see in pretty much any harem anime out there.  I feel that this is probably mostly so that Ayame, the true voice of the show, can be that much more prominent.  Of course, this show is also very comedic in its satire, so he also functions as the straight man for that comedy, giving Ayame someone to contrast her and bounce her outlandish ideas off of.  He could be seen as something of a voice for reason, except that he's also something of a coward with a chip on his shoulder.  Having both him and Ayame have fathers labeled as dirty joke terrorists was something of a nice touch by giving them something in common there.  This served as a nice starting point for the more "romantic" aspect of their relationship, which blossomed more or less naturally, especially as it became clear that Tanukichi wasn't interested in romance from Anna, and he went from grudgingly going along with Ayame's plans to a mutual respect developing between them.

There are a lot of characters in this show, though I wouldn't really call it an ensemble, because even the antagonists of the show are somewhat bit parts.  While Anna's parents are the more overall antagonists in that they are politicians pushing for even stricter anti- obscenity laws and more pervasive surveillance (though I don't know how much more Orwellian they could get), probably the most prominent antagonist was White Peak, the leader of a group he called "Gathered Fabric."  I mentioned them briefly before, but essentially their goal was to steal people's used underwear (preferably the ones they were literally wearing) for them to wear, with White Peak wearing nothing but a bodysuit made out of them.  I feel this is because White Peak embodied the kind of argument most moralist busy-bodies used while pushing for the morality they want to legislate, and Anna's parents actually do just that, as well as conflating Gathered Fabric's actions with those of SOX's.

Which brings me to the more in depth part of this review.  While I usually try to avoid going into politics too much, that's pretty much unavoidable in this case, as this touches very close to home for me.  Because while this show was actually targeted at censorship in Japan, the themes of this series fit rather well into the United States given the militarization of the police and their tendency to go way overboard in their response to any perceived threat (even if only to their authority), or if they just decide they don't like someone's attitude, as well as the more recent efforts to ban anything perceived as objectifying women and just undermine free speech in general.  The series actually gives us an example of this early on in the first episode by having a woman scream that a man groped her (she admits this was entirely intended to blackmail him out of money), and even though he actually didn't (he was actually stalking the protagonist), the accusation was enough to have the morality police come running to give the guy a beat down before hauling him off to prison.  So while the title of the legislation in this anime and the rhetoric of the main antagonists of this show calls back to the Jerry Falwell, conservative Christian, "moral majority" of the '80s and '90s, the censorship and authoritarianism is equally applicable to the feminist, "progressive" liberals who also no doubt see themselves as being akin to the "moral majority."  After all, they seek the same kind of censorship, and even use some of the same rhetoric (i.e., the objectification or exploitation of women), even if it the reasoning they use is different (conservatives demonize female sexuality and feminists demonize male sexuality).

This is essentially the crux of what Shimoneta is getting at, and actually just comes right out and spells this out for the audience more than once, that sexuality is a natural and important part of humanity and shouldn't be demonized, even if there are those that go too far and infringe on the rights of others.  It also calls out the childish nature of the reaction that calls for censorship and demonizes its opposition.  After all, not only is the reaction itself completely self-centered and childish, but the outcome of this is to perpetuate this childishness in others by either acting ignorant for the "benefit" of others, or actually causing ignorance by withholding information about something as simple as how babies are made.  Of course people still talk about it on the sly, and a few even act like they know more than their peers, but they're still completely ignorant about it and feel completely confident in their sense of moral superiority over others they consider perverts for actually knowing what they only think they know about and whisper about to their friends.  After all, for as much as feminists complain with righteous indignation about what they perceive as objectifying women, they will often do very much the same thing to men (as can be seen in various articles on feminist sites like The Mary Sue about Orlando Bloom's dick and pictures of male Olympians in their Speedos) while being completely confident in their own moral superiority.  The series gives us an example of this through Anna, who sees herself and is seen by others as being moral and pure, and doesn't see the hypocrisy in her objectification of Tanukichi and her later sexual assault and rape of him.  Her reasoning is that since she wants it, and she's moral and pure, that makes her desires moral and pure.

It's because of these themes that I feel this series is very relevant to the current political climate, in part because I feel it really isn't all that exaggerated in the way Demolition Man felt in response to '90s PC culture.  So your enjoyment of the series is very much going to depend on your views of the censorship of speech/expression and your perception of a threat to free speech/expression from the government and/or busybodies.  If you are concerned with these things, this series will likely resonate with you at least somewhat.  If you are pro-censorship or otherwise agree with the rhetoric behind censorship, you probably won't like this show.  Actually I've seen comments on anime boards from people upset that this show glossed over the "positive aspects of censorship," so I know that this is going to be the main thing that determines whether you like or dislike this show.

As you might be able to tell by this point, this series resonated with me quite a bit, and I really enjoyed this series, not only for its thoughtful story and themes and characters, but also for its humor and sense of fun.  Personally the only real problem I had with this show was its use of the old trope of female on male rape being funny thanks to Anna's persistent attacks on Ayame and the reaction of other characters to these attacks.  To be fair, Tanukichi does go from having fun at Ayame's expense to expressing disgust at Anna over it, especially as things go from Anna trying to get Ayame to drink her "love nectar" (you can probably guess) to her getting more rapey and threatening to stab him at one point over another girl he claimed was his cousin living in his apartment.  I suppose it could be seen as the series being consistently irreverent, and perhaps as a sly way of addressing this double standard, but given the straightforwardness of pretty much everything else in the show, that could be over-analysis on my part, or, you know, just looking for a way to excuse what I see as a problem with this series. 

So while this wasn't the "anime to save anime," I still feel that it is important and worth a watch.  It manages to get its message across without coming across as a lecture through its heavy use of humor.  Its characters are a bit clichťd, but still extremely fun to watch.  That being said, your enjoyment of this series is going to depend entirely on your outlook toward censorship.  It's a bit hard for me to score this, but I think I'm going to call it a good solid 8 inches out of 10.  :D


"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR