Archive for Anime

Anime Review: Bamboo Blade (Part 1)

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Toraji Ishida is a bad high school kendo instructor with practically no money in his bank account. One day he is shooting the breeze with an old pal / former teammate of his, and they issue a challenge to each other. Since they both went on to become high school kendo instructors, why don’t they relive their days of competitive glory with their two teams going at it? If Toraji’s team wins, he gets a lifetime supply of sushi, which would be the perfect solution to his little financial crisis.

There’s just one slight problem with the bet – Toraji’s team is so pathetic that there is only one active member still left on it!

So he sets off to recruit a team of new freshmen to revitalize the club and win that precious all-you-can-eat sushi prize. Among his finds is Tamaki Kawazoe, a soft-spoken shy girl who is a phenomenal kendo player. Now with this star fighter on his team, does Toraji finally have a competent kendo lineup?

On the outside, Bamboo Blade looks like your typical moé fluff anime series, complete with a harem of highly characterize pretty girls, a weak female lead, and silly comedic antics. But if you actually take the time to watch it, you’d see that this is actually a wonderfully written series with some fine voice acting.


Anime Review: Evangelion 1.01 – You Are (Not) Alone

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

An event known as “Second Impact” changed the world when a massive explosion in the arctic melted the polar ice caps and flooded over Japan. Fifteen years later, Tokyo-3 has rebuilt itself as a retractable underground city, and a whole new generation of kids has been born and raised in the post-Second Impact era.

Then one random day, a giant monster appears and moves his way towards the city. These monsters, known as “Angels”, have one target in mind. Buried deep underground of Tokyo-3 is Lilith, the Angel at the heart of Second Impact. If Lilith were to make contact with another Angel, Third Impact will occur and all of humanity will be destroyed forever.

The Japanese military are useless against stopping the approaching Angel, so they call on the government agency NERV to take care of the monster. NERV commander Gendo Ikari enlists his estranged 14-year-old son, Shinji, to pilot the giant bio-mechanical robot known as Evangelion. And so suddenly thrust into battle, we begin the epic story of a timid and reluctant teenager who suddenly becomes mankind’s final hope against the Angels and Third Impact.

… but really, do I need to explain the plot to you? Are you the only otaku in the world who has not seen Eva before?

The 1995 anime TV series was a landmark achievement that turned the giant robot genre into a psychological trip that dove deep into the human condition. It blew my mind when I first saw it eight years ago, and it still goes down as my favorite anime series of all time.

However, Eva had the misfortune of being released just before the anime industry shifted from hand drawn animation to digital. This change in technology drastically improved the visual look of anime and made the lines crisper, colors more vibrant, and eliminated the need to recycle old sequences again and again through out a series. Even though it is less than 15 years old, the hand drawn Eva series appears very dated among all the digitally animated shows from the past decade.

So director Hideki Anno set out to create a brand new remake of his anime masterpiece over the course of four theatrical films. Evangelion 1.01: You Are (Not) Alone is the first of these films, and it retells the first six episodes of the TV show. While the film does not diverge too far from the original just yet at this stage of the series, it still offers enough visual enhancements to make this fanboy nearly blow his load while watching it.


Anime Review: Dragonaut: The Resonance (Part 1)

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Dragonaut: The Resonance is the sci-fi story of Jin Kamishima, a boy who has felt alone in the world after surviving a space shuttle accident that killed the rest of his family. Suddenly one day, he discovers Toa, a beautiful and powerful pink-haired babe that has sworn to protect him and stay by his side forever. With the appearance of this mysterious girl, Jin is thrown into the clutches of the ISDA, a protection agency that is secretly researching how to save the Earth from an asteroid heading directly for the planet.

Not too long ago, the ISDA had discovered an alien egg deep in the ocean. They use the egg to create “Dragons”, artificial humanoid beings that are able to morph into large flying mechanical weapons that look like… well… dragons! When a dragon is born, they’re paired with a human Dragonaut. The dragons fully obey their human Dragonauts and serve as their slave and protectors in peace, and the Dragonauts pilot their dragons during battle.

The ISDA figures out that Toa is a dragon and that Jin has unexpectedly become her Dragonaut, but there is something different in this situation. Toa was not created by the ISDA, she’s a naturally born dragon and far more powerful then any they’ve seen before. And not only has Jin partnered up with Toa, but he’s also taken control of Gio, a newly-born dragon who already has partnered with another Dragonaut.

Can the ISDA utilize Jin and Toa to help them save the world from the deadly asteroid, or will the reluctant two refuse to become lab rats to the organization’s secret operation?


Anime Review: Blassreiter (Part 1)

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

In a fictional modern day Germany, a new terror has emerged as bio-mechanical zombies called “Demoniacs” reek havoc on the unsuspecting masses. The XAT, Xenogenesis Assault Team, fight the Demoniacs in an attempt to keep the people safe and to figure out where these monsters are coming from.

Enter Gerd Frentzen, a prized motorcycle racer who’s suffered an accident that will paralyze him and end his career for sure. Left with no other option, he takes an experimental drug to regain feeling in his legs. It works, but the side effect is that it turns him into a Demoniac himself.

Unlike the other Demoniacs, Gerd is not dead, he’s still alive. So he becomes of interest to the XAT as a test subject and a weapon against other monsters. But as Gerd’s personal life falls apart in front of him, will he be able to stay a hero to the human race, or will he succumb to the bio-mechanical beast he’s turning into?

Over a year ago, Blassreiter made anime history for being one of the first titles to be simulcasted around the world via legal internet distribution. Many folks doubted if the simulcast idea would work out or if it could possibly hurt the chances of the show seeing a proper American release.

Well, twenty months later, the simulcast trend is still going incredibly well, and Blassreiter has finally seen an R1 release with the first 13 episodes in this two disc box set. So how does this landmark series stand up?


Anime Review: Welcome to the NHK

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

After a summer of amazing anime and with a packed November quickly approaching, FUNimation has been pretty sparse as far as October new releases go. A good bulk of the review units coming in lately have been either re-releases or re-releases of previous re-releases for the anime giant.

So rather than going a fourth week sans anime review, I decided to look through this stack of re-releases and pick out the best of the best to pop into the ol’ DVD player and take another look. And sure enough, FUNimation had released an all time favorite of mine, Welcome to the NHK, in a complete series box set a few weeks ago.

Tatsuhiro Satou is a hikikomori, a shut-in unable to leave his apartment to find a job or meet new friends. But after nearly four years of not leaving his room, he begins to freak out. The walls are caving in on him, the house appliances have started speaking to him, and his goddamn otaku neighbor won’t stop playing the same goddamn magical girl theme song that has been on repeat for days. On top of all this, he is convinced that the Japanese public broadcast network, the NHK, is really a huge elaborate government conspiracy that is out to get him. After all, why wouldn’t he believe this? The refrigerator and air conditioner told him it was true.

In comes Misaki, a relatively harmless teenage girl who discovers the shut-in while going door-to-door passing out pamphlets. For reasons unknown to anyone, she offers to personally consult Satou on how to shed his hikikomori ways. Now thanks to Misaki’s pet project, Satou goes down a long and twisted road filled with otaku, hentai video games, internet addictions, porn, pyramid schemes, suicide pacts, and every other real-life national pandemic that is scaring the citizens of Japan these days.

And would you believe this is all a comedy?


Anime Review: Sgt. Frog (Season 1 Part 1)

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Sgt. Keroro is a frog from outer space on a mission to invade Earth and enslave the human race. There’s a small problem – he’s a complete idiot. His plan for world domination is cut short when he is accidentally discovered by the Hinata family after hiding out in their household. The humans quickly out wit the simple alien to give up on his plans and take care of their housework instead. And so hilarity ensues as Keroro and his alien comrades attempt to restart their quest to take over the world, only to have their plans foiled by their own incompetence each and every time.

I call the Sgt. Frog manga, “the best manga series you have never read.” On the outside, it looks like a children’s series, as the simple character designs of the amphibian aliens gives off a Hello Kitty level of cuteness that often turns off most American otaku.

But if you actually picked up one of these books and read through the first chapter, you would discover a really funny and really geeky comic. There are plenty of otaku-related jokes and enough light fan service that any manga fan could easily get into it. On top of that, the humor is random and wacky, but not as over-the-top as most Japanese gag comics are. This translates very well into English, and it seemed to me like a happier version of the American cult-classic cartoon Invader Zim more than anything else.

I love the manga series, so I had very high expectations when ADV had originally announced their acquisition of the Sgt. Frog anime adaptation. But like most recent ADV acquisitions, it eventually ended up in the hands of FUNimation. About a year ago, FUNi had released a “pilot” dubbed episode of the series onto their Youtube channel and asked for feedback from the fans.

“We took all that feedback,” says FUNimation rep Adam Sheehan to a packed room at Otakon last July, “and we made the decision not to change a damn thing.” This declaration of keeping the original funny script intact was met with a huge cheer from the Otakon audience, including yours truly.

But Sheehan was wrong. They did change a damn thing. They actually changed a lot of damn things about the original script. They changed so much of it that the overall tone of the English adaptation is far different from that of the Japanese version.

And oh my God, did they ruin this once great series! (T_T)


Anime Review – Dragon Ball (Season One)

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, please forgive me as I’m about to lose a shed of my “professional journalist” facade in order to go totally fanboy over my review today.

Like any geeky adolescent in the late 90’s, I was a fan of the Dragon Ball Z series being aired on the Cartoon Network. I have a lot of strong memories of going over with all my buddies to a friend’s house after school to catch the latest episode of the Freeza saga.

Around the time I started going to high school, a cousin of mine gave me the first two volumes of the Dragon Ball manga for Christmas. At first I was bummed because 1) I had never read manga before and I had no interest in starting now and 2) this was the lame Dragon Ball series and not the awesome Dragon Ball Z I had come to known on Cartoon Network.

But I was curious, so I started reading it there while the rest of the family was having Christmas dinner. After figuring out this weird thing about reading the book backwards, I was introduced to a hilarious story with all the familiar DBZ characters telling dirty jokes, acting perverted, and occasionally getting naked, including a topless shot of female heroine Bulma.

And to the mind of a teenager, this was amazing. I maybe, just maybe, found myself loving this Dragon Ball much more than I loved Dragon Ball Z.

While FUNimation did eventually air the Dragon Ball anime on Cartoon Network in 2001, they were unable to release the first 13 episodes on home video due to those rights belonging to the show’s first North American distributor. But that license is now expired, so for the first time ever, FUNi is releasing the complete Dragon Ball series in seasonal box sets.

And oh lawd, it’s freaking sweet!


Anime Review: Higurashi – When They Cry

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

In June of 1983, transfer student Keiichi and his new friends, a colorful group of female classmates, hang out together and explore around their tiny village of Hinamizawa. It is time for the town’s annual cotton drifting festival, where the townsfolk pay tribute to their guardian spirit, Oyashiro.

A few years ago, an outside development team had plan to build a dam in the quiet rural village, which outraged the locals into a mass protest and lead to an ultimate cancellation of the project. But ever since that year, people who were in support of the dam have been mysteriously murdered every year during the night of the cotton drifting festival, an occurrence that the townsfolk call the Curse of Oyashiro.

This year is no exception, as a traveling photographer and his companion end up dead by the end of the night. Since Keiichi and his friends had known the victims, they end up in the middle of the investigation themselves. But as Keiichi learns more about the Curse of Oyashiro and the back story of his new pretty girl companions, he starts to spiral into the madness and horror of this quiet town. And by the end of the fourth episode, Keiichi and every one of the main characters are dead, each one of them meeting a gruesome bloody death at their own hands or murdered by one of their friends.

The End.

Wait. Did I just give away a spoiler?

Nope, because when the fifth episode begins, everything starts all over again from the beginning. It’s June of 1983, and Keiichi and the girls are all alive, happy, well, and they’re preparing for the upcoming cotton drifting festival. And this time around, they might not all meet the same bloody fate they had in the first four episodes.

I am a sucker for creative nonlinear narrative, so I absolutely loved the way Higurashi – When They Cry goes above and beyond anything I’ve seen before in an anime series.


Anime Review: Gunslinger Girl – Il Teatrino

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Gunslinger Girl – Il Teatrino is the recently released 13-episode sequel to the 2003 anime series. In Rome, Italy, a covert government operation takes in orphan girls on the verge of death, implants them with cybernetic technologies, and trains them to become the ultimate killing machine to take out the terrorist and bad guys that threaten their country. The combination of extreme violence being coldly perform by these cute little girls has become a trademark of this franchise.

The Il Teatrino season focus on a particular story arc involving Pinocchio, a teenage male version of the gunslinger girls. An orphan himself, Pinocchio was adopted by a huge underground crime boss and was equally trained to be a cold-blooded killer, albeit without cybernetic implants. But the boy is an excellent assassin, and executes his adopted father’s orders flawlessly with almost little hesitation. Will the girls be able to take them down, or have they finally met their match with this male rival?


Anime Review: Big Windup!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Big Windup! is the story of Mihashi, a spineless wimp of a high school baseball pitcher who nervously joins his new school’s hardball team. Back when he was in middle school, Mihashi was his team’s starting pitcher and lead his team to loss after loss. In fact, he has never won a game at his old middle school, and he’s afraid that the only reason he was their pitcher in the first place was because his grandfather was the owner of the school.

Now with his self-esteem and ego seriously damaged, he goes out of his way to transfer to Nishiura high school to start over again. But when the new school’s spunky female baseball coach spots him lingering around the practice field, she forces the reluctant boy to throw a few balls to their team’s catcher, Takaya.

The catcher quickly realizes that Mihashi isn’t a bad pitcher at all, he’s just been misguided and underestimated by his former teammates. Now with Takaya’s brilliant game play strategy and Mihashi’s dormant pitching ability, the brand new Nishiura high school baseball team is on their way to greatness in this fantastic first half to the 26-episode sports anime series.