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branchandroot: Fay grinning (Fay grin)
It's been a while since I did an anime review, but this one is special.

So, you know how there's been a fad for "let's do something with the historical figure of Oda Nobunaga" anime lately? Most of them are silly or boring or both. This one... you kind of had to be there.

So, our main focal characters are a shy schoolgirl who's the reincarnation of Oda Nobunaga and a cool-type silver-haired bishounen who's the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper (only actually it's weirder than that). Together they fight alien monsters!

Along with the reincarnations of Mahatma Gandhi, lecherous schoolboy, and Issac Newton, busty blonde bombshell. You... kind of had to be there.

Our Heroine, Shiho, is a strategic genius when it's really crunch-time, and when she can take time out from madly fangirling the tanks and jets she suddenly finds herself surrounded by. Did I mention she's a total weapons geek without any influence from her "E gene progenitor" at all? She is. It's unspeakably cute when she starts getting shoujo sparkles over military hardware. And she invariably saves the day with her enormous gun. She's every shounen fighting trope ever, mashed up with every shoujo wallflower trope ever. I love it.

The best part, though, is how our focal characters are, in fact, a classic romantic trope! Kind of. They fight like cats and dogs, and only stop bickering to wreak bloody mayhem... at which point they really get along. They bond romantically over their mutual occupation as bloodthirsty psychopaths. They get these identically insane smiles. It's adorable.

...possibly you had to be there for that one, too.

The ending is a little abrupt if you're expecting several seasons of action, but if you watch it as, essentially, a one season romance of bloodthirsty psychopaths saving the world, it totally works. It also helps if you envision the writers running around behind the scenes jamming lampshades on every single trope they can cram in, cackling with glee all the while.

In short, I definitely recommend it!

Star Driver

Dec. 8th, 2011 06:08 pm
branchandroot: Ginji and Akabane with a heart (Ginji Akabane Heart)
Crunchyroll loves me. They have acquired the anime Star Driver, and it's coming out weekly.

This one is almost as good as the commando maids in sensible footgear.

The genre is magical mecha. There are no pretentions to genuine technology, just a few trappings of it. All the time is lavished on the interpersonal suspense between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys, usefully heightened by the fact that quite a few of the Bad Guys are in it for complicated reasons of their own and might, in fact, be considered Good Guys of a sort.

That makes it sound thoughtful. It isn't. It's silly and melodramatic and adorable. But it does have some interesting characterization to keep your brain a little bit busy.

The series does suffer from Feminine Clothing Impairment, alas, but in exchange the guys wear things every bit as silly. Indeed, the very silliest are the mecha themselves. The strongest of them are Renaissance fashion mecha, complete with poofy shoulders and poofy hips and high heels. This on the boys, mind you. There are plasma plumes on top and codpieces. Okay, not actual codpieces, but there's architecture that sure serves the same fashion purpose. And the transformation sequence for Our Hero is the swishiest thing you have ever seen. Be sure you're not drinking anything when you watch the first ep, because the first transformation is pretty much a guaranteed spit-take.

Amazingly, given this, the show manages to pretty much entirely avoid my dorkitude squick. Our Hero is a throughgoing sweetheart, and sufficiently self-aware and effective that his silly moments are cute. His love interest is determined and responsible, sometimes too much for her own good. His friend/rival/love-interest's-fiance/other-love-interest is polite and kind when he's not losing his shit because of his phenomenal cosmic power. The three of them struggle kind of adorably to remain a threesome instead of a couple and a spare, in any of the possible configurations.

(It's a canonical threesome! People spend time talking about how important it is that they remain a group of three! Crunchyroll loves me.)

Best of all, the women (despite clothing impairment) actually fight meaningfully. They have their own mecha, which are not about healing or support or any of that; no, they're about kicking ass, which they do both as well and as poorly as the men. The cast features a lot of strong talent (including Ishida Akira to voice Our Villain), and while most of the artwork is not especially nuanced the facial expressions in particular are wonderfully done.

I definitely recommend this one, especially if you need a pick-me-up.


Dec. 8th, 2011 05:27 pm
branchandroot: butterfly on a rose (butterfly rose)
One of this season's new anime is Chihayafuru. It's that rare beast the gender-neutral sports anime.

This one has been compared to Hikaru no Go, and there are indeed a few similarities. The plot is only loosely similar in that they are both sports anime. The real point of likeness is the suspense. Chihayafuru is about a poetry card matching game. On the face of it, nothing should be less likely to be thrilling and heart-pounding. Like HnG, however, it really kind of is. The story gets inside the players' heads and engages you in their reasons for playing and wanting to advance, the struggle to form a club and a full team, the way the game catches everyone differently.

The most intimate focus is on Chihaya, our heroine, Arata, our angsty hero, and Taichi, our ambivalent hero. Their relationships provide a lot of the dynamic tension, and the series succeeds wonderfully in showing that all three of them are human. They each have great strengths and equal weaknesses. Chihaya has natural ability in the game but also a tendency to obsess and pretty striking emotional immaturity. Arata is a genius, and deeply conflicted over the game that he once lived for and now feels he shouldn't have. Taichi is bright, popular, and desperately messed up by a fear of only being second best. All of them are, in turn, deeply exasperating and amazingly sweet, and only together do they seem to have any stability.

(They are just begging to be a threesome, especially as the romantic thread intensifies.)

This one is very worth watching, especially if you've been craving a good sports series. It opens with our focal characters' entry into high school, and almost immediately flashes back to how the trio met and played years ago. That section may feel like it's moving slowly, but it sets up the return to the present beautifully.

And on the basic eye-candy side, the art of this one is really lovely.
branchandroot: two cocktails by a pool (cocktails by pool)
Fic appears to be happening for this one, so I figured it behooved me to review it.

07 Ghost is an ongoing manga with an anime that covers what we might think of as the introductory arc. It's shounen magic-adventure wherein a poetically licensed version of the Catholic church serves as the magic. There's a lot of spirits running around being solid, Bishops with license to kill, reincarnation, a very Luciferean villain, and a very interfering Heavenly Ruler. All this is set in a small and physically improbable world of floating continents, navigated by means of huge avians and huger dragons fitted out with armor and engines.

Initially, the story looks fairly straight-up. Our Hero, Teito, is the target of the Evil Empire and it's Huge Military, and especially Our Villain, Ayanami. Teito must be brave and determined to escape Ayanami and his ominous minions with the help of the Church! There will be touching scenes with Teito's blond classmate boyfriend (Mikage), and his blond roommate boyfriend (Hakuren), and his insanely buff blond bishop boyfriend (Frau)! I'm not entirely joking.

This is about where the anime leaves it, and I should probably mention right now that Frau, the insanely buff blond bishop who runs around shirtless, is voiced by Suwabe Junichi. The anime is available on Crunchyroll, and has been completed with a not entirely conclusive but reasonably so ending.

The manga gets more involved.

There is a fairly complex backdrop of a war that took place ten years before the story opens. There are multiple stories about what caused the war, and they all come out of what different people know or were told about the spiritual drama of containing our Luciferean villain, how that containment has been managed in the past, and why it's failing now. The true story surfaces slowly, and involves all the continents, the church and state, plots and corruption, and Teito's emerging role as the one who journeys to find truth and redeem what appear to have once been the ruling houses. Woven through this is a growing sub-plot about exploitation, slavery, technology, and how scientists are really damn scary.

Introducing some characters, with very mild spoilers )

So basically the whole thing is fangirl catnip.

The manga is available on Mangafox up to a point. After that point, you will have to seek out the [livejournal.com profile] 07ghost comm on LJ and do the brief "I am a human with a working brain" dance to join. Check the profile first thing. The pilot issues are especially worth finding. ETA: The manga is commercially available in German.

And, of course, there's Suwabe Junichi. *wicked grin*
branchandroot: Tsuzuki squeeing (Tsuzuki squee)
This is a cheesy, silly, melodramatic shounen fight show. It features a stoic (and unreasonably tall) hero with vast power. He's also seriously socially maladroit and does things like giving people a (cheesy) thumbs up gesture instead of actually speaking, is terrified of a lot of (perfectly reasonable for a normal guy) things, and rides a dinky little scooter. His knees stick out. Also? His magical-boy transformation armor is really silly looking. Did I mention he turns into a red crystal unicorn when he transforms without assistance? He does.

He is matched with a tiny little girl who believes in him unreasonably and has no super powers of her own except to safely activate his. She sky-dives out of airplanes without a parachute and hits her target dead on, has too much pride to ask for his help because her sister is entombed in crystal, and generally has all the spine and motivation for both of them.

Also, she has a mansion full of wildly competent and not over-endowed commando maids in sensible footgear. There is a sleek-looking butler in command, who is clearly completely gone on the girl and not too fond of the hero (who he is nearly a full head shorter than but twice as seme as, except with the girl).

I am just unreasonably delighted by the whole thing, and I'm only two episodes in.

ETA: Also featuring a shirtless Rival guy whose pants show his hipbones. Just to round things out.
branchandroot: Killua looking wry (Killua wry)
So, there's a new anime this season that I find myself ambivalent about.

It's got good production values. It has, so far, an episodic yet lively plot that manages to be interesting even with limited overall plot to tie it together. Most of the episodes are essentially horror, but so far psychological suspense outweighs disturbing gore. I don't like horror, and I'm still watching it anyway.

The thing is it's very... Gainax. There are lots of women! On the face of it they're independent-minded and powerful women! And yet... so many of them wind up helpless or destroyed.

It's not glaring. In fact, it's pretty subtle on the usual scale of these things. But this is the kind of show that feels like a technical Bechdel pass while violating the spirit of that litmus test.

And yet! Lots of women! Engaging characters! Really quite subtle drama and suspense! Very few characters who are hamming it up, and those are lampshaded for it! And, to be fair, the vast majority of the male characters are just as agency-less in the end.


The premise... )

I have hopes that the yomihime will turn out to have their own agendas, and so far the horror is rarely past my "dark" threshold, so I'm still watching. We shall see.

In closing, Our (first) Hero is quiet and thoughtful and competent, and kind of unfairly hot, and Our (first) Heroine snarks a blue streak.

branchandroot: Shio, character for salt (salt)
I keep meaning to write up actual reviews of what I've been watching, and then I keep having to grade papers instead. So have a quick set of thumbnail recs, instead. These are all off Crunchyroll.

This way to the thumbnails, some spoilers in places, this is me after all )

So there you go. Conclusion: anything Anime no Chikara puts together is worth a look-in.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

I just recently watched this, having heard of it here and there for a while, and it’s delightful. I heartily recommend it. It has good ink and good music and a charming story which sometimes rips out your heart and stomps on it.

SO is the tale of a boy and his demon shikigami. Masahiro, the boy in question, is the grandson of Abe no Seimei, the greatest onmyouji of all time, so a major theme is, of course, his attempt to make his way out of his grandfather’s shadow and stand on his own merits. It helps that he’s a gutsy kid who has what it takes. Once he steps up to his destiny, though, he immediately has to deal with all sorts of Things That Go Bump In The Night, and the (very Heian) history and politics surrounding that make up the major plot. In doing so he has the occasional help of his grandfather’s twelve shikigami, and the constant help of one, in particular.

This one is a total angst-bunny with a Dark Past, and he’s a grumpy woobie to boot. Also darn hot and very devoted to Masahiro. Slashers rejoice, because this almost doesn’t qualify as sub-text. I mean, seriously, during the intro they reach out to each other and lace fingers. (For those who do not follow these things, laced fingers = sex. It’s one of the most unmistakable visual metaphors there is, right up there, for recognizability, with pinky fingers connected by a red thread.) His interactions with Masahiro are the cutest thing in the history of cute.

Het shippers should also rejoice, however, because Masahiro has a het love interest, who is also young and gutsy, if not always sensible. She is, in her person, a locus of politics, which adds interest, because normally Masahiro would be too low in rank to ever marry her. This does not stop them from being amazingly cute, too. She has her own independent interactions with family and shikigami and is actually her own character, which is refreshing.

Seiyuu spotters will also enjoy an all-star cast. Masahiro is voiced by Kaida Yuki, and his pet demon shiki by Konishi Katsuyuki. The young Seimei is done by Ishida Akira. The shikigami seiyuu include Minagawa Junko and Morikawa Toshiyuki. Suwabe Junichi voices one of the villains, and Seki Toshihiko one of the frequent side characters.

The original story is told in a series of light novels, eighteen to date. The anime covers the first two major arcs, which is the first handful of novels. Radio dramas have carried on to cover later arcs, and we can, perhaps, hope for those to be animated eventually.

There were licensing issues with this show, early on, since Genon took it and then tanked, and the conscientious subbers and fans who stopped for the license were left dangling for months and months. In the end, the subbers chose to finish the series, and all twenty-six episodes are available now. I suggest going to isohunt.com and getting the Yoroshiku torrent while we wait to find out whether Funimation will really take over the license and release it officially as has been rumored.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

This series is a sort of continuation from of a fairly standard and not terribly engaging mecha anime, Fullmetal Panic!. I highly recommend it. With this second season/series, it turns from action into romantic comedy and the characters, who were somewhat flat in the first series, fall into place and click with each other delightfully.

Imagine fanon!Heero Yui, an orphan picked up by a military concern who is utterly, direly unsocialized and communicates only in a) grunts or b) over-precise mission reports.

Now imagine that he’s dropped into a Japanese high school, told off to bodyguard a very short-tempered and active young woman who’s busy being class representative. You could call her spirited, but she’d whap you over the head with her harisen for it.

Now imagine they’re falling for each other, each in his or her own rather tongue-tied way, impeded by the usual alternative suitors, her temper, and his lack of socialization, to say nothing of their classmates, teachers and fellow soldiers.

And then there’s the mouse suit.

The production values of this series are better than they were for the first series, possibly because Fumoffu is much shorter. The humor is far more engaging than I usually find romantic comedy humor to be, and I definitely recommend it if you are in the mood for something sweet and funny and still fast-paced.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
A little review for those who have not picked this one up yet.

It's huge fun.

Longer review: It's about half way through a 24 ep run. The story centers around a fine arts college, so a tolerance, at the least, for classical music is kind of a must to enjoy this one. Fond memories of high school band or fine arts camp will likely make it a shoo-in. The style is rounder and more ink-y than ultra-shoujo releases like, say, Code Geass. The characters actually look like they might conceivably be Japanese. Most episodes feature an annoying amount of still frames while people are playing music, but every now and then we'll get the playing animated in detail and it is glorious.

Our Hero, Chiaki (voice by Seki Tomokazu, incidentally) is fantastically talented and equally short tempered. What's not to love? He's a nitpicking perfectionist control freak and a merciless music critic. He wants to be a world famous conductor. As is the way of these things, Our Heroine, Nodame, is also extremely talented, but one of those wild and wooly musicians who plays by ear and totally fails to follow little technicalities like tempo, volume, etc. She also tends to utterly ignore other little things like cleaning her apartment; or herself, if she's really caught up in the music. Despite this absorption, she has no ambition to speak of. She drives Chiaki up the wall just by breathing.

They're falling in love. You expected that by now, right?

Nodame is adorable in an absent-minded but not air-headed way. The romantic thread is funny without being too slapstick, especially when Chiaki winds up feeding and cleaning up after Nodame, growling and snapping all the while. She's very naive without being an idiot, and humanizes Chiaki astonishingly.

Yaoi fans are not left out, though, and should have no trouble at all slashing Chiaki with Mine, another wild-wooly type in a bleach-blond rocker sort of way. The really obvious buildup between Chiaki and Nodame will have to be ignored, but that should be a familiar manuver. There is also an official gay male with a crush on Chiaki, but he's a bit over the top and doesn't get nearly the chemistry that Mine does.

There are several groups subbing this. Froth Bite is usually the fastest, but their translations are excessively idiomatic and interpretive. I recommend C1 for your permenant collection. I cannot, alas, review A-Keep's releases, because they are such fat-assed huge mkv files that my computer can't play them, even with everything else shut down.

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