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January 07 2011

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Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica - Episode #1

When you have an all star cast of ShinboxUrobuchixKajiuraxAoki working on an original series, you know you are going to get something interesting, if not something amazing. The first episode of Madoka Magica didn't fail to meet my high expectation. It's typical mahou shoujo affair, yet with your usual Nitro+ flavour of fk up ness couple with the grand celtic music from Kajiura.

I have to clarify something first, I never watched Nanoha, not even the first series which Shinbo directed. I have little to none knowledge regarding to the mahou shoujo genre other than a few odd CCS episodes I catch when I was really young. Some of the elements in this show might be present in other shows in the genre, but I'll probably fanboy over them since I never seen them before.

The tone of the episode is contrasting between the dark and surreal tone and the happy-go-fluffy school scene. In the first minute you are already introduced to an artsy world full of symbolic and fked up artifacts. Elegant laces, simple yet bold patterns in the background, gigantic floating tree, and a world of emptiness yet filled with menacing powers. All these on the backdrop of the blasting score from Kajiura. It's not going to be your usual Mahou Shoujo affair.

Then the focus changed to the ordinary fun school scene, where it just look so peaceful and normal. The introduction of a certain character also means the shift in  tone as you realise that something deeper is in the works. There's not much that can spoiled as so far the story didn't give you much, but I expect to go back to watch this episode again after the series has finished since it's obvious that there are hidden agendas behind characters' behaviours. The forces at work behind the whole scenario can be count as pretentious, but at the moment it's quite interesting.

As you are beginning to think that the dark and surreal scene in the beginning is nothing but a bad dream, the story hits you from a complete blindside. If you think that the opening scene is weird enough, wait till you get to the final few minutes of the episode. It's what makes me so hooked to this episode, the mind fk supernatural phenomenon is great.

Compare with the awesome set up, majestic music and crazy backdrop, Madoka Magica does suffer from a few weak links. Even as I am slowly getting adjusted to the look, Ume Aoki's design still stood out quite a lot. However I gathered that it might plays into the whole fluffy magical girls vs dark Nitro+ overtone business, so I'll just wait and see if it plays out nicely. The character animation, however, is not up to par. Often I got distracted by the weird still shots, and the action scenes just doesn't look that smooth when compare to other studios. It's not flaky per se, but seems like the characters are restrained by something when moving in fast pace. I know this series might not be your action shows, but I would so love to see some freedom in the mobility(especially when i just came off watching Hyakka Ryoran, and that's not a pun).

I quite like the OP and its animation. It's like 80 fluff and 20 sadness. While the ED did not make its presence this time, I expect something awesome from Kalafina in the next episode. I don't think I need to emphasis how much I love Yuki Kajiura's music.

Overall the show did its hype justice, even when there could be so much more to make it great. It's currently on my recommended list, and we'll see how the show will pan out. If his previous works are any indication, this will not end well (in terms of story). When they can make the transformation scene look badass, you know there's something good from it.

December 24 2010

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Hyakka Ryōran Samurai Girls

Being an avid anime watcher, I learnt not to judge anything from their first impression alone. Sadly, that's not usually the case for other watchers. Just like ARMS' previous work Queen's Blade, people often get fixated on the nudity aspect and quickly judge the series as nothing than "another Ikkitousen". Just for clarification, I was feeling neutral about Ikkitousen until that BJ scene, which then I drop it immediately afterwards. However, HRSG managed to capture my attention with great visual, awesome combat, fun characters, interesting personalities and not to mention a solid plot.

Hyakka Ryoran Samurai Girls is another HobbyJapan-ARMS production. Similar to QB earlier, the focus is on the cast of beautifully designed characters. However HRSG this time contains a more coherent plot having had a light novel series predate the anime adaptation.

The setting is in the alternative universe in modern Japan, where the souls and the spirits of Samurai and Generals still exist in the modern time. The show is best described as a "high school samurai comedy" (thanks RandomC), with most of the fun take place in the dojo between the main character Yagyu Muneakira and his fellow samurais. There are a number of name references of the famous Japanese characters, for example Yukimura, senhime and Jubei. It's a small harem you might say, and most of the comedy/story revolves around this tiny group of people, with occasional life stories on bond and trust. The series feel quite short however since the setting is mostly at one place, however HRSG has a very clear focus in the story as in your typical "must stop the resurrection of the final boss". It's not original, but I'm not asking too much in a series that focuses more on characters, and it did execute the story nicely.

You cannot talk about this show without mentioning the visual style. ARMS goes all out employing a grainy oriental ink painting direction when doing the backgrounds on top of using bold outlines on the characters. What it does is making the series just look absolutely beautiful. The backdrop looks amazing, and comparatively the character looks a lot cleaner than you normally associate in any other anime series. Sufficient to say, HRSG has got one of the best looks this year.

The combat sequence is quite awesome as well. Compare to Queen's Blade where they are stuck on earth and feel more like ancient medieval sluggish fightings, HRSG broke that restriction with the use of ink blots. Think filming a fight in the rain. When there's a huge collision you will see water splash on the camera lens. HRSG uses the ink blots to create similar effect during fight scenes. It's not CoD's jelly vision per se, but enhances the overall feel of dynamism during the fights. Several characters also use figurative ink as ways of combat. Start from stepping onto ink platforms in mid air to them as energy fields, this show is quite stylised in the combat department as well, not to mention the fluidity of animation.

Being an ARMS production, fanservice has to be there, otherwise it's such a shame leaving those beautiful character designs to waste. That being said, the fanservices are just that, fanservice. It doesn't come often in the story, and by the time you are hooked it's not the main focus anymore. Another thing I love about this series is their use of censorship. Instead of the generic light beam or black hole, they employs different ink blots onto the screen. Those ink blots fits into the overall theme of the story, and the show actually looks nicer with those on than them being removed.

The seiyuu are quite good, however I'm not that knowledgeable into this field so I won't talk too much about it. I'll just say that they fit the characters quite well. The OP and ED are really nice. Compare to shitty ones from QB, ARMS has certainly stepped up in their game. Those two are the ones I will not skip the OP nor ED during watching.

Overall how would I rate HRSG?
Is it a masterpiece? no. 
Does it deserve more credits than those rubbish the internet people sprout out? Definitely.
I would not call this series a guilty pleasure simply because it has a lot more on offer than your generic fan service. It's a solid series by itself, and I strongly recommend this show to anyone who's not offended by the occasional scenes of tastefully censored nudity. 

October 02 2010

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The Legend of Legendary Hero ep14

I'm really getting sick of writing episodic reviews now......

the contrast between the two major factions are explored here, the battle scene is nice, and seems like our benevolent king is starting to get corrupted.

won't bother doing another rating, just saying that the presentation is steady, on par with other normal episodes. No big emotional scene here.

September 28 2010

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The Legend of Legendary Hero ep13

The plane has reached the stratosphere, and the quality of the story progression continues to maintain at a decent level. 
I quite like the introduction of the new characters in this episode, and once again highlights the meaninglessness of war. There are no good or bad people, just that they don't trust each other to work to a common goal. The leader of the "opposing" faction is a very nice guy if only the story follows on him. As much as I hate to say it, but I do believe that those sacrifices are necessary to save lives. It's like Rance when it's painful for you to invade other people because they are just so nice as characters......
The events that happened reminds me of something sad, though it's probably not the most obvious part the people associates with.

I'm really intrigued as to how the story will play out. At the moment I'm quite hooked to this series.

Both the new OP and ED sounds a bit weak though, when comparing with their predecessors.

September 04 2010

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High School of the Dead ep9

Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! Saeko! 

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The Legend of Legendary Hero ep10

Following on from last episode's cliffhanger, we had the love confession between the idiot couple, another lovely moments from another idiot couple, politics at play, and potentially a possible adopted child for the comedy duo.
The pacing is well enough to kept me engaged to the story throughout, and despite the occasional cliche predictable outcomes, the story has put in a lot more thought than your stereotypical fantasy anime. I quite like the "introduction to fantasy medieval politics 101" the show presents itself with, giving you more insight toward what's happening in a world of war. It's not Code Gayass "which person to manipulate next" per se, more of what battle plan to employ next for the sake of the country.
The story finally presents with a countdown clock to the politic side of the story, which would rationalise some of the more radical decision makings. That being said, I still have bad aftertaste for the last few episodes of Angel Beats!, so hopefully this show will execute the idea better for me to digest it.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, I still don't think the show is destined for greatness, albeit just a little short.

August 28 2010

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The Legend of Legendary Hero ep8&9

Ep8. The focus is onto the Sion side, showing the politics side with the neighbouring countries, and how the disharmony between the subordinates unfolds. It's a nice refreshing change of focus instead of onto the same duo everytime. We know more about the world, what the political situation is, and gain insight into the new king's policies. 
Ep9. Back to the comedy duo again, this time we are given more history into the main character's past. I always has a fascination into how the role of the demon lord plays out. It can be the most tragic place in the world, with the conflict between your own intention and what the god commands you to do. A lot more action in this episode. The ED changed to the 2nd verse.
Overall those two are quite entertaining and continues a good story to watch. Luckily this series has not let me down so much yet.

August 23 2010

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Amagami ep8

Another 4 weeks gone past, another route finished. The Kaoru Tanamachi arc continues the idea of a stupid couple finding love. Compare to the last arc this one seemed a bit more tame. Instead focusing on the stupid crazy interactions, this one is more about realising the feeling for each other. It's not a big bang, but gives a nice soothing tone to the story. 
Though having said that, the ending is quite abrupt. Instead of the "10 years after" scene, we were given just one still pic with the bike footage shown during in the sponsor scene. Apparently "having two people on the bike is dangerous and should not be shown on tv" according to the studio/tv broadcaster. It just felt like nothing much has happened. This can be either a good thing or a stupid thing, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt.

August 18 2010


High School of the Dead ep7

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It's really hard to get excited about this show simply because I had read the 2nd volume already a couple of years ago, and especially when the anime is doing frame-by-frame exact adaptation. The bounces are good though.
Anyway, this episodes explored the usual survival mentality to the ones that are still alive, we got a new member joining the party, and there's a loli urinating scene. Not to mention Busujima senpai in full action in that signature attire. The action scenes are nice, and I like the inclusion of the ED really early into the episode. 
Like I'd said earlier, fanservice shots are not a bad thing if it's not being really focused in the story. Heh, this series is full of fanservices if you go back to the basic definition instead of the implied definition. There are scenes for the gun fanatics, zombie fans, action lovers, and also people that don't mind a few nudity now and then.
I wonder what my expectation and excitement will be if I didn't read those chapters in advance. Then again, I probably wouldn't be anticipating this series as much as I am now had it been the case.

P.S. I wish there's more to the 5 stars rating on soup, a lot of times it's really hard to distinguish between 7.7 and 9.2 out of 10 on this rating system.

August 14 2010

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The Legend of Legendary Hero ep7

A show where the main character has already had him moment of brilliant early  on, now it's the turn for the supporting cast. I got the same tedious feeling that I got from after watching episode 1 back. It's back to the usual stupid adventure game. While in ep5 and 6 you got a sense of the shadow lurking in the background, this episode skimmed too much of the melancholic aspect of the history that it kind of felt forced. 
New characters are introduced but they felt like stock characters. Previously annoying character got fleshed out, but felt like there should be more time dedicated to her past instead of the present stupidity. Not much is really explained in this episode which might've be the reason why I don't really have much fun watching it.
The dragon does look cool though
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Amagami ep7

This episode is surprisingly tame, going back to the usual light drama romantic story. It's not rushed, but felt like there are a lot of untapped potential that got cut out due to the 4 episodes worth of time available. 
The visual seems to suffer a bit in this episode, hopefully that just means more is put toward the arc finale next week.

August 08 2010

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Cat Shit One (ep1?)

How do you define anime? Japanese 2D animation? If so, do Cat Shit One and Usavich count as anime then? I would certainly hope so because they are both great shows
Cat Shit One is your general stereotypical American special soldier's mission in the middle east action movie style, but as rabbits fighting camels and lizards. It's so cute and manly at the same time that I don't know how to feel about this.
The graphics are top tier 3D animation with each strands of hair visible, the gun are fairly accurate and very detailed, not to mention the explosions are fun to watch.
There isn't much to expect for the story, but the execution itself was done very nicely. You get what you expect from it and it's a fun viewing experience.

P.S. rabbit = Usagi (in Japanese) = USA  GI
I just love the wordplay~ :D

August 07 2010

still can't believe mitsudomoe can have a boring
but then it redeemed itself with 2 brilliant skits in the 2nd half of the episode.
The interaction between the characters are still superb
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Amagami ep5&6

Moving onto the arc for Kaoru "sexy hair" Tanamachi. I like her characeter. The story is moving on at a decent pace, the art is still nice so is the sound. The story incorporates the themes of friends-to-bf/gf, single parent family....etc. Not sure if they can expand them out in the 4 episodes given, but it's nice to see some more elements when compare to the previous arc.
The perverted play comes early this time at episode 6. I was wrong to say that it's a normal pure romance story. The selling points are those absurdly hilarious perverted plays between the main characters. For some reason they don't feel ecchi, but embarrassing in the funny way.
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The Legend of Legendary Hero ep6

Sorry I forgot to do a quick rundown of thoughts from ep5. Put it simply, ep5 continued the feeling of helplessness and carry on the tentative overtone that can be found in abundance in first 3 episodes (i'm so going to ignore the official ep1 here). A slight change in direction in terms of storyline, but the overall theme is still there nonetheless.
Ep6 expands the story into the neighbouring nations, more political backstabbings, more combats, more deaths (albeit minor characters), and introducing more characters with ambiguous roles. It's a nice change to the suffocating tone in the first arc, and I welcome those changes. Somehow you grow attached to the characters more once you know them a little bit better..

July 24 2010

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Mitsudomoe ep4

Oppai, violence, and Pantsu.

Not the best episode, but still worth watching.
It's a show when other people think they are perverts but in reality they aren't.
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The Legend of Legendary Hero ep4

After what was an exhilarating episode this one sets up to be a linking episode between the arcs. However, just like Durarara ep12, this show still provides some highlight to the story progression so far. 
We see more character development, more emphasis behind the message, and gains an brief insight into what could be a grand political turmoil. It provides a nice down time, and felt like the ending of the first volume of the original novel.
Though having said that, I'm kind of sweating on which direction will the show go next. Like i'd said in my first impression article, I'm not really found of the stupid adventure style the first episode offered. Granted that might be lack of connection to the characters, and could be improved once more people are introduced in a nice pacing. I'm just not sure about the prospect, and really hope it can surprise me in a pleasant way.
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Amagami ep4

The final chapter of the first arc. The gentle nature of a love story that's more on the realistic side is somewhat a nice welcome to the absurd and crazy world of the romance in anime. 
There was laughter, there were awkward moments, but most importantly, there is a connection felt between the couple. It would be a shame to see her screen time diminishing, after all the attachments build up in the short arc.
It's a nice good ending to the route, not sure if it's the best story the series can offer but as a start it has bring out the softness that this show promises. Even if 4 eps per arc seems like rushing, the final episode by itself has done its job in finishing the story.
the little touch of "10 years later" provides a good separation between the parallel worlds, and also gives a glimpse to what happens to this stupid couple down the track. 
Now it's time to say goodbye to Morishima senpai.

July 19 2010

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Seitokai Yakuindomo ep3

The trip to Kyoto!!!!!
This episode separates the cast into two groups, the ones that ventured into the traditional location and ones that don't. Kaijo is as perverted as always, the sidekick as usual provides the extra layer to the absurdity, and they are joined by the perverted cameraman who's on the hunt. On the other side our main guy is building some relationship points with the shorty. Somehow the two storylines parallel each other at the end, you'll just have to see yourself to find out how.

For once the bath place is not as steamy as in other shows,which is a surprise~
I think the studio is slowly getting the hang of doing episodic jokes now, which is a good sign. The punchlines are delivered much better in the last 2 shows. The animation is also smooth.
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Mitsudomoe ep3

The episode of communication breakdown, my favourite type of sitcom. 
The exploration into pantsu, occult, and pantsu again brings a weird sense of humour to what's already an eccentric show. The series of weird imaginations just raised the level of hilarity to the show. The music helps a lot, especially the epic ones that just provide a perfect juxtaposition to what's going on screen.
More characters are introduced, especially male ones. They provide great supporting role to the skits and are nice additions to the show. 
Then again, I start to notice the deficit that comes with a low budget studio. The background characters don't move at all, and some of the shadings are either flat or forgotten...However that does not take away the weird comedy that the show excels at. 
P.S. Loving the art style surrounding one of the most misunderstood character.
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