Saturday, February 20, 2010

Test week

Sorry, really super behind schedule this week because of all of my tests that I have to prepare for. This would be so much easier if I didn't have to teach myself statistics...My tests end on Tuesday, so I should be able to start writing again on Wednesday.

Thank you to the few people who are reading this blog and I encourage you to spread word about the existence of it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black Lagoon

Title: Black Lagoon
Genre: Black Humor, Action, Comedy
Length: 2 seasons (both 12 episodes)

Black Lagoon is one of those series that comes along and tosses you a curve ball in the way story. Really great story that grabs you first episode and takes you for a hell of a ride. Kinda like mugging some guy while you are drunk and riding him like a horse down the road- really funny but kinda messed up.
Yeah. just like that...
Anyways, story introduces us to mister Rokuro Okijima, a man who's work is the only lovin' he gets. He has been sent by his company on a business trip to somewhere via boat with a disk that contains some of the company's top classified secrets. Everything is peachy until Lagoon Company, who is employed by the Russian Mafia, shows up and rocks the boat, stealing the disk and taking Rokuro hostage. This does not make Rokuro's company too happy, so they employ their own mercenary force to hunt down Lagoon Company and retrieve the disk. After avoiding the first batch of mercenaries, Lagoon Company and Rokuro, who has been dubbed "Rock" by the leader of Lagoon Company, retreat via boat, and on the way to their next destination where they are to drop Rock off, contact is finally made with Rock's company where he is told to die for the honor of protecting the company's secrets and not to worry because they are going to give him a promotion and a very nice company funeral. Immediately after hearing this, a helicopter gunship armed to the teeth comes flying in and attempting to sink the ship. Long story short, the choppa gets destroyed by Rock's plan and instead of going back home, he joins Lagoon Company in their endeavors.
The way the rest of the show is set up really helps give it more impact, making the series into short, 3 episode story-arcs, allowing themes, ideas, and character progression to shine more than the story itself. The situations are short and simple, but really entertaining, which really helps the show stay interesting and involving, because in all honesty, I don't think you could make one huge story arc out of this show without screwing it up. The reason why you couldn't is because the series is about the characters themselves and what they have to deal with and how they change from it; adding a plot would take away from the magic of it all, not necessarily destroying it, but dulling it a noticeable amount.

Madhouse would really have to try to screw up a series they animated. With that being said, the animation is pretty great. Character design wise, hooo boy, character design. Perfect characters. You can look at Lagoon Company and see that they are pirates. The way they are designed and drawn really helps draw out that sort of freedom theme of the show with the idea of being a pirate. And besides, I don't think you are gonna find many women that look more kick ass than Remy in Daisy Duke's.

THIS is where the show is. I don't even know where to start. I guess number one I should comment on should probably be the social obligation vs free will, with the prime example being episodes 1 and 2. In Japan, there is unwritten moral binding of the people to their society, called "giri." In this concept, an individual is deeply tied into their society, as shown by the collectiveness of Japan as a whole, and in order to keep the society functioning properly for themselves and everyone else, a deep, self-sacrificing devotion is made by each person (or at least the people who want to, which is quite a few) to do their part in keeping Japan working well, which normally consists of doing what the hell you are told without any flak. There is no friendship in the workplace, and there are no big dreamers, either; in return for doing your job well, you stay employed. I personally think this concept is amazing and I have no idea how it was accomplished, but hell if it didn't work, because unemployment rates in Japan are pretty much nonexistent. But there is a point to where giri stops and choice beckons. This is shown by Rock's choice to join Lagoon Company as opposed to being a good little desk-jockey and getting gunned down in the middle of the ocean by his own company. To discuss this even further, I have to warn you of spoilers, so...
With that said, Rock's ongoing moral conflict with giri and the idea of choice really takes a toll on Rock in the last episodes of the last season with the death of Yukio. Yukio gets on Rock's case about how he is always the neutral party, refusing to take sides, causing him to only conform to the world as opposed to being distinguished from it. The truth is that he is scared to do so as he doesn't know what the consequences are, but as he witnesses Yukio's suicide after her entire gang is wiped out, he finally gets the picture. Yukio had made her choice to obligate herself to her gang, knowing full well that death would await her and her team, and from this, Rock realizes that even with death as the consequence to her choice, Yukio was still happy with her choice, more than she could have ever been had she remained a student and let her gang go to waste.

Other Factors:
Black Lagoon is a very existential show, playing a lot with subjectiveism and that things, ideas, and values mean different things depending on who witnesses them. This ties into the theme of choice, as people themselves choose to define what things mean to them, not the other way around where an object or act defines the person. To one world, a man could be a murderer, and yet another may herald him as a saint, but in reality, a person really is only a person and he is defined by the way he chooses to define himself.
Besides all that other serious stuff, there is always the comedy to discuss. Whoever though of this series knew what black humor was all about and made this series to be a perfect representation of it. Black humor itself is not meant to be really 'ha-ha' stand up comedy funny, but rather the situation where it is present is funny within the grand scheme of things. Revy is all laughs and smack talk until she gets the shit smacked out of her by the maid she was just heckling.

Life is fun and games until you make fun of a maid.
Watch the show, you'll get it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Coming up...

Just a heads up for all who might be wondering, I am trying to put out a new review about every two days. So, after Black Lagoon is Martian Successor Nadesico, then either Needless or Gurren Lagann. It will probably in that order. These should all be done by the end of the week.

After rethinking Nadesico a bit, I have decided to instead review Armitage III.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Big O


Title: The Big O
Genre: Action, Mecha
Length: 2 Seasons (13 episodes each)

Paradigm City is the last inhabited city left on a now ruined Earth due to some cataclysm that struck 40 years prior to the start of the city. The denizens of Paradigm City, due to this cataclysm, were left without a single memory of the event or anything prior to it, but due to the adaptive qualities of the human species, the city was able to carry on. But within the depths of the city lies the remnants of this cataclysm, waking every so often to walk the Earth, wanting to be remembered. Enter Roger Smith, Negotiator. As a Negotiator, he is hired by citizens of the city to negotiate and resolve whatever request a client might have, with the occasional calling to lay a reawakened, giant mechanized memory to rest with his own iron clad ghost of the past- The Big O.
For such a simple storyline, Big O gets rather complex in its second season. While I guess it was nice to have some sort of closure in the end, what really drew me in was the first season. Each episode was a short, self-contained story, which normally would agitate me, but in the case of Big O, it worked really well with the whole noir style, so it really didn't bother me too much. In retrospect, I guess the second season had to switch from self contained stories to an actual story arc because Big O was a show that had to be short. Since the story was done in the pulp fiction style, the story got to have its fun in the first season, but in order to preserve the anime, the second season closed it in an opened ended fashion. If the series had gone on with the self contained gig, it would have fallen by the wayside with all the other mecha anime that ran outta magic and were running on hopes and dreams.

The animation, just like the story, was tailored for American audiences. Sunrise studios, the makers of Big O, had previously subcontracted for some of the Batman animated series which is really cool because just by looking at character designs and scenery, you can see a lot of influence from Batman, shown by Roger and Norman, who really have the Bruce Wayne and Alfred going on, black suits and all. The city itself was really cool looking, being modeled after New York City, which made me feel a bit closer to the anime, seeing as it was based on home soil as opposed to Japan. The fact that it was based close to home is kinda nice to see every once in a while, which is actually a really dangerous move for Japanese animators, because if their stuff doesn't fly well enough in Japan, it runs the risk of never reaching America. Series like Trigun and Big O normally aren't well received in Japan simply because it isn't really in their taste and they couldn't identify well with the characters.
Big O himself was really neat and refreshing to see in action. Now-a-days, every mech is some sort of sleek, streamlined, hyper-light speed ninja robot that has Fort Knox rammed up its ass for armaments and some sort of 10 Billion Kill-a-Watt Rainbow Beam Blaster that runs off of emo-kids with crazy hairdos. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some super robots and God knows I would swear off sex (maybe) to pilot Gundam Deathscythe, but Big O was just a kick ass mech; a manly-man's mech if you will. He was made simple in design with the simple concept that he was meant to be big, so they gave him weapons that fit that idea (piston-punches, laser beam eyes, missiles in his abs, hands that transform into laser gatling guns) and a body to match (over sized appendages, barrel chested, sharp lines that give more edges to him).

In the beginning, everything was simple- super robot comes and saves the day or what have you and stuff, and then second season everything gets deep and weird. Like I said, it had to be done, but it could have been done better. The whole ending season was dealing with self-identity and figuring out what is real in life and what never even existed. The depth would have been a bit more tasteful if the series had been lengthened to 30 episodes. It might have been enough time too give it the depth it needed. OR maybe a MOVIE *coughMAKEONEPLZhack*.... *ahem*

Other Factors:

Big O is an amazing example of how cool noir films and pulp fictions are. Everything fit so well, from Roger's monologues in between scenes with that low smoky sax accompaniment to the hazy skies casting showering the city in a shady cloak. I am just really surprised at how the whole series turned out and how well it meshed. Also, while the story was rushed, the uniqueness of the show helps to cope with that, and in all honesty, the ending wasn't as horrible as it could have been.
I also would like to point out that it is useless watching this show in another language besides English. It is like choosing a piece of cake made at Friendly's or a cake made by Emeril. The voices are perfect to the point that it was almost like the characters were drawn specifically to match the vocal cast, which, in a sense, is kind of what happened.

The metal spawn of a giant mech and Humphrey Bogart. It ain't the prettiest thing to walk the Earth, but damn if it ain't cool lookin'.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Yay! A few viewers!

To the few people that may be viewing this blog, I implore you to please spread the existance of this blog. It is critical to this blog that debate be sparked in order to promote discussion in order to further an immersion in this art we call anime.

On a side note, I have 3 reviews lined up for the immediate future:

Big-O which will recieve a grade of B-, Black Lagoon which will recieve a grade of A-, and Tenchi Muyo Ryo-Ohki. The review I am going to give Tenchi is going to piss people off, which is the point of all of this.

Due to the fact that I need to give a bad review, I will probably post Tenchi first, but that is after I catch up on my college work. I have been working on this for the past few days as opposed to the work, so I need to finish up that and hopefully, I can have the Tenchi review out by midnight.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Birdy the Mighty Decode

Title: Birdy: The Mighty Decode
Genre: Sci-fi Action
Length: 2 Seasons (13 and 12 episodes, respectively), 1 OVA to bridge the seasons.

The story is great for a sci-fi and is constantly present during the whole show, which is really the beauty of 12 episode series. Birdy, an interstellar special forces agent of sorts, follows a group of aliens that had stolen a very dangerous piece of technology that can erase civilizations, and during an epic battle in an abandoned school, Tsutomu Senkawa, who was exploring prior to the fighting, is picked up by the one of the fugitives and thrown at Birdy as a distraction. Blinded by some light the perpetrator was emitting, all Birdy sees is an outline of a figure lunging at her, so she does the first thing any respecting bad-ass would do: Punch the shit out of it. With one plasma infused punch, Tsutomu's torso is turned to ketchup and he blacks out. The next day, he wakes up, very confused about his state of being, positive that he had the religion smacked out of him by some glowing chick the night prior, but, seeing that he is one piece he goes about his life. Within the next couple of days, he finds out that while his mutilated corpse is being repaired by Birdy's people, he has to share a body with Birdy in order to go on about his life as an apology for being caught in the cross fire as Birdy continues her search for the illegal aliens.

Dear God in Heaven, if for nothing else, watch this anime for the animation! Every character looks great, every movement is natural, and the battle scenes- good God the battle scenes- are perfectly animated. Everything is so cool looking in the battles and chases; for example: Birdy's boots release a sort of energy boost when she jumps or lands, or her punches, which are infused with energy that is delivered to the target whenever they connect. The animation will change in some fights, becoming very rugged and wild, as shown in the second season in during a flashback where Birdy as a young girl takes on a horde of invading robots that had destroyed her android mother unit/caretaker earlier in the invasion. This crazed animation style emphasizes the young Birdy's emotional distraught and rage, us not just telling us the fact that she is mad, but rather letting the audience see Birdy's anger in closer context. A little of the action was impaired by the art style, making it unclear what was happening in some movements, but it is very short and is cleared up by the next few frames. The characters are constantly moving as well, so it just isn't mouths moving in a conversation, but rather involving exchanges and dialogues where body language, positions and changing expression really move the character interaction.

The show is as deep as a puddle. No underlying message, no hidden agendas; just plain show, which works in this series favor because it wasn't meant to be something to make you think, you are just meant to enjoy.

Other Factors:
This show is exactly why I love short, 12 episode series. There weren't any break episodes like "Birdy Goes to the Beach" or whatever. The show has a purpose and that is to tell a good, solid story that keeps you focused with amazing animation. Short series really let a story shine because there isn't time in an episode to lallygag with unnecessary scenes- each episode progresses the story which keeps people interested. That is why I really dislike all these 20 season convoluted excuses for anime. Fillers are for hamburgers, not art. It is like cutting up a Michelangelo and putting each piece in a random room in a house. What the fuck good is a painting if I have to run up and down stairs to get the whole picture?
Also, Birdy is just genuinely a good heroine. It has been a while since I have seen a decent heroine who isn't there just for eye candy. Sure, she looks good, but she kicks ass, she is a dynamic character who changes over the course of the series, and while she is fearless, she still has a lot of emotions that drive her and the story as well.
Watched this one in Japanese dub which worked very well. The voices fit the characters like gloves, human and alien alike.

An anime you can just enjoy and not write a thesis paper on.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oh! My Goddess

Well, it's time to get this jitney moving. 1st anime up to bat is probably my favorite.

Title: OH! My Goddess!
Genre: Romance
Length: 2 Seasons (26 and 24 episodes, respectively), 1 Movie

The story is perfect. Nothing super wacky or wild, just plain great story. The concept for the whole thing was original and automatically a classic from the very first episode, which is where so many shows mess up horribly. Very first episode- a simple setting, a solid event, and well defined characters; simple, effective, and successful. Keiichii Morisato, a student at a university, dials out for food on a lonely evening all by his lonesome and accidentally makes a call to the "Goddess Helpline"- Heaven's helping hand for those poor bastards with good hearts and shit luck- where our beloved Belldandy receives his call and appears in the room to grant him one wish. Keiichii (after a short conversation with Belldandy), in his infinite low self esteem, only wishes from the bottom of his pure and honest heart that he could have "a Goddess like you (Belldandy) stay by my side (Keiichii's) forever." With those few words, his wish was made and granted, starting a romance unlike any other.

The animation was really great and the character designs were perfect- the characters matched their looks and personalities, each character is recognizable in an instant (especially the main characters), and none of them get boring. There are very few recycled frames and everything flows very amazingly, which just adds to the level of greatness of this anime.

Great depth for a romance. The show has full and sturdy background concepts and ideas, fleshing out a Heaven and Hell that intertwines with the story to hold it all together, adding a really nice depth that makes each episode kind of pop (good pop like fireworks, not like a dislocated shoulder). The situation that starts this romance also gives the anime a some points to debate, seeing as Keiichii did wish for Belldandy to stay there, raising the question of the validity of the love in the relationship (which, btw, is covered in the anime, but you need to watch it to find out.)

Other Factors: The whole show is just damn cute. I could watch this over and over again and not get tired of crying at how great this show is. I have YET to find a romance anime as perfect as this one. Every episode is cute and funny, but at the same time well engineered. Each situation the characters are put in are the classical romance plots- main character gets deceived by a girl, some confusion or misunderstanding brings up a fight, main character sneaks around in a way that makes the girl think he is cheating- but they are carried out perfectly with the right amount of humor which is balanced by the end of each situation, which is where a lot of the magic is for this series. When a problem is solved, it is a milestone in the series and the characters develop noticeably, giving it a sense of a timeline and not just jumbled up days like in some series where you can skip and miss episodes and it doesn't matter because only the first 5 and last 3 episodes matter. You watch it and can think, "Hey, Keiichii has really matured since then."
I watched the sub, the Japanese voices were great, and I demoed the English, which were pretty good as well. Some of the English voices are kind of odd, but I guess they fit.

This is a show that everyone needs to watch. It will make the world a better place if everyone does.
Seriously, after watching this, I had the Doki~Doki sickness BAD. I was pissin *LOVE~LOVE* rainbow beams for like a week.
Hello to all I know and all of those I have yet to know.

I have debated creating a blog for quite a while, so, after becoming fed up with the short and limiting nature of Facebook status posts as a medium for my opinions, I finally bring to you...

A blog of cynicism, debate, and, yes...Anime.

I bring this blog to life to give a more defined look at anime as a whole in an effort to differentiate art from simple animation from past, present, and future releases. I look forward to acquiring readers and spurring debate.