We finished watching Chrno Crusade. I just realise there is no first episode review of it, even though we did check out the first episode before we decided to collect the series.

Main character of the series is Rosette, a young nun in the Order of Magdalena. The Order specialises in exorcisms. Exorcisms with ‘holy bullets’, sacred barriers, vials of holy water and special armor piercing bullets laced with spells.
Rosette has a partner, the demon Chrno. Chrno has lost his horns and thus can not tap into the ‘life energy’. He has made a contract with Rosette: she supplies him with life energy, and he helps her in her quest. Most of the time he maintains a human form (which consumes less energy) but when he has to go all-out, the clock-pendant that Rosette wears is unsealed. While Chrno assumes his true (demonic) form and dukes it out with whatever nasty is threatening Rosette, the clock runs backwards like crazy…
Rosette’s brother, Joshua, has special powers. He has been abducted by Aion, a high-ranking demon with nefarious plans. Aion’s group is called ‘The Sinners’, and Chrno was part of his group before he defected.

The plot...

The cast of characters is certainly likable: the lively Rosette, the cautious Chrno, the innocent Azmaria and the stubborn Satella. The series also begins quite action-packed, but as the series progresses and the main plot starts, it starts to lag. The quality of the storytelling of the individual episodes is quite uneven as well: one episode may greatly advance the plot, while the next episode is filled with non-related goofiness. That was a bit of a letdown.
Also, the fanservice focussing on nuns is… something different, to say the least.

Good things:
– Great animation;
– Interesting plot.
Bad points:
– Ending is not really satisfying;
– Plot isn’t moved along smoothly;
– Lots of shouting. It’s in the plot, all right — but it is a bit tiresome to have whole episodes with certain characters never saying a single thing in a normal tone of voice.

I’ll give it a 6.5.

New anime

We’ve checked out some more new anime.

There was Amaenaide yo!. Ikko is an apprentice monk at a Buddhist temple. All the other apprentices are… girls. Ikko isn’t very good in chanting sutras or warding off evil spirits — until he sees a naked girl. Then he ‘awakens’ and a huge spiritual power is unleashed through his person, vanquishing any evil spirits lurking nearby.
When a series features nudity even before the opening credits started, you know what to expect from the rest. It’s a pretty lame excuse for nudity too.

There was Eien no Aseria. Yuto and his younger sister-in-law Kaori go to visit the graves of their parents (Rule #1 of anime: get rid of the parents or any other responsible adult) and end up in another world. Kaori is taken hostage by the king of the land, and he forces Yuto to wield a weird sword in a fight against another kingdom. The rules of both kingdoms use fairies/spirits/elfs (invariably female) to do their fighting for them, and much magic battle mayhem ensues.
It’s based on a game, and it shows. There is probably a plot involving the sword (it keeps mumbling ‘Accept me!’), but meanwhile we get lots of attractive elves hanging around him. And it’s not even that well animated.

There was SHUFFLE!. Ten years ago, the gates between the human world and those of the demons and gods were opened. Since then, demons and gods alike have come to live in the human world like ordinary citizens, though they have special powers and pointy ears. Rin lives with Kaede, his childhood friend, ever since the accident that killed his parents and Kaede’s mother (see Rule #1 above). There is some romantic tension between them, but that is downplayed by Rin.
Then, one day, two transfer students are introduced. They are the daughters of the king of gods and the king of demons, respectively. Rin has been selected as a marriage candidate for the both of them, and both kings are determined to have their daughter marry to him. As it turns out, they all have become neighbours…
It threatens to become a harem anime, but the demonic and divine give it an extra twist. Also, it is gorgeously animated.

There was The Ghiblies. It is about a ‘fictional’ animation studio named ‘Ghibli’, and the assorted characters that work there. This is what you get when animators make a parody of their colleagues, showing off how they can create character with minimal fuss. Fun and easy-going.
It’s not exactly a series, even though there are two ‘episodes’ out — the first episode was made in 2000 (it shows photos of the Spirited Away pre-production party), the second episode in 2002…

There was Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid. FMP is back in full swing: we get dropped right into the action as we witness the Urzu squad participating in a mission in some banana republic, evacuating refugees. Things get tense as the local army turns out to have some seriously advanced weaponry at their disposal. Sousuke goes off on his own to neutralise this threat, while his colleagues hold the fort…
The great thing about FMP is the ‘realistic’ military situations. We were right back into the feel of what modern warfare with mecha would be like. Even though the Mithril AS are more powerful than those of the local army, they are not all-powerful. The tactical considerations are very interesting indeed. And of course, Chidori is available at the end of the episode to serve Sousuke with a smack in the head for some school-related issue.

There was Tide Line Blue. Fourteen years ago, Earth was hit by a catastrophe, and most of the world population has perished. The survivors cling to the few remaining islands, slowly building up their lives, and even forming a new United Nations of sorts. Main character is Keel, a young boy who scams unsuspecting sailors out of their money. But then Gould, a naval officer who got tired of the bickering between the ‘nations’ of the new UN, attacks the island in an attempt to unify the whole world under his reign. And to top things off, Keels friend (girlfriend?) has to give birth in the middle of the attack!
An interesting series, to say the least. It has a distinct Kenran Butoh Sai-feel, which is promising.

Finally, there was Suzuka. Yamato starts living with his aunt who is the manager of an all-female apartment complex. He pays his way by doing various chores (mainly cleaning the bath). He meets Suzuka, the girl next door (literaly!) who is on the school’s jumping team. She is insecure about meeting the high expectations of those around her.
A sports anime with a twist. I’m sure the romance between Yamato and Suzuka will deepen, complicated by the various indiscrete female students living in the complex and Suzuka’s jumping carreer.

We’ve finished watching Uta~Kata. My first episode review is here.

Ichika is introduced into the world of the Djin. The talisman she received from Sai, one of her tutors, has twelve stones set in a yin-yang sign. By wishing it, she can come into contact with Djinn — spirits of nature that command a certain aspect. She received this power from Manatsu, a mysterious girl who came out of the spooky mirror at school.
Oddly enough, people are willing to accept the story that Manatsu is Ichika’s mail-friend — including Ichika’s parents who let Manatsu stay for the summer.

Over the course of the summer, Ichika has many adventures, using her power to communicate with the Djinn to help her friends. But not all is what it seems: her mysterious neighbour is keeping tabs on her movements, and mumbles things like ‘the trials of the season have begun’…

What is really going on...

The series is twelve episodes, but there is also an OVA which is the thirteenth episode. The OVA is not essential, but it does give a nicer sense of closure.
The series is set in Kamakura, and several Kamakura landmarks feature in the series. We’ve been in Kamakura once, and it was very amusing to ‘spot the place’.
Designs are very attractive, and the animation is decent but not terribly high-budget. The series is pretty big on the fanservice though: we get quite a few pantyshots and Ichika’s Djinn-costumes show more flesh than they cover. Luckily, it is not the focus of the series.
There is a lot of fore-shadowing that doesn’t really pay off. From the first episode, people are making ominous remarks when Ichika can’t hear them, but it takes too long for things to become clear. Only during the last episode is everything revealed.

Good points:
– Designs are attractive;
– Story is fun;
– Set in an actual town with actual scenery.
Bad points:
– Too much foreshadowing and too little payoff;
– Tad too much fanservice.

It’s an OK ‘coming of age’ story, much like Pretear. It does have it’s downsides, but overall it’s worth a 7.

New anime

We’ve checked out another bunch of new anime.

There was The Snow Queen. Next to a charming village somewhere northern and mountainy, there is a forest. Sometimes, the villagers can hear a bell rining from within the forest. Rumour has it that there is a church in the middle of the forest — but since the forest is impenetrable, no-one has ever seen it. Gerda and Kay, two kids, venture into the forest to find it.
It has a very ‘Hansel and Gretel’-like story. Designs are not that great, and the ‘all-knowing narrator’ is pretty irritating. We’re going to watch a second episode before we reach a final verdict.

There was Kidou Shinsengumi Moeyo Ken TV. In Kyoto, monsters live alongside with humans — as long as they have a license. Unlicensed monsters are brought up by the ‘Kidou Shinsengumi’-corporation. Of course, the warriors of the corporation are all bueatiful females with hot tempers. One day, the son of the company director returns home from a long absence, and he has a run-in with some of them…
It wasn’t that interesting — it promises to become a ‘monster of the week’-show, alternated with rivalry between the company and the princess, sprinkled with some antics between the female warriors and the director’s son. Takahashi Rumiko’s designs are looking positively dated too.

There was Sasuga no Sarutobi, which is technically not new but is only now being fansubbed. The series is from ’82, and it shows. Computer-aided animation has helped a lot to make modern animation look so much more slick and dynamic, it seems.
Nikumaru (‘Meatball’) is being transferred to the Ninja Academy! Mako, his childhood friend and daughter of the principal, is absolutely delighted that he has returned — but to prove his worth, Nikumaru has to steal a scroll from the toughest teacher! Hilarity ensues as Nikumaru uses trickery and deceit to get what he wants.
It’s dated allright, but if you like some slapstick with your ninjas, then this might be for you.

New anime

The new season has started, and some new anime has been trickling in.

There was Okusama wa Joshikosei (“My wife is a highschool student”). Asami is a 17-year old highschool student. She is secretly married to her physics teacher, Kyosuke. They haven’t done the nasty yet — Asami’s father had Kyosuke sign a solemn pledge not to have sex with his daughter, but that doesn’t stop Asami from trying to get Kyosuke to “give her lots of love”.
It’s not funny or romantic, and it’s not overly ecchi. It bored and annoyed me.

There was Da Capo ~Second Season~. Two years have passed since the events in Da Capo, and Asakura is still single, though he has several girls following him around.
It seems like a repeat of Da Capo, only more boring. Just like I liked Ai Yori Aoshi but couldn’t get excited about Ai Yori Enishi, it seems that, while I liked Da Capo, I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for this new offering.

There was Kamichu! Yurie, a middle school student, turns into a kami. (Kami are the spirits or gods of the animistic Shinto religion.) She can see spirits, but she doesn’t know just what her powers as a goddess are. Her friends help her find out, which results in a typhoon!
Great characterisation, great animation. The spirits and Yurie are cute, and the premise is very interesting. One to watch.

We also saw “The Diary of Tortov Roddle“, which is technically not an anime. It’s a 16-minute animation, telling of the surreal travels of Tortov Roddle in the form of a series of short stories. I think that bakenius would certainly enjoy that one…

We’ve finished watching Air TV. My first episode review is here.

It is based on a bishoujo game, so after the first episode we thought we knew what to expect. But we were wrong.
For starters, the male protagonist, Yukito, has a character. Yes, he isn’t just some ‘kind older brother’ or somesuch — not a set piece for the cute female characters to play off of. Yukito has a goal: he is searching for a winged girl in the sky. He has inherited some kind of magic from his mother who has tasked him with this quest. Using the magic, Yukito animates a puppet, living hand-to-mouth and travelling.

In the village where the series plays out, he meets three girls.

There is something with each of them...

Through various trials, Yukito (and we) learn about the nature of the winged girl in the sky, and how she affects those back on earth.

The story is very, very deep with multiple layers. And it is very, very sad. The ending had me in tears. But it is also very, very good. I saw a certain resemblance with Kanon, and that is not a coincidence: Visual Arts/Key also made that game/anime.

Good points:
– Animation and character designs;
– Not your average bishoujo anime;
– Very deep, multilayered story.
Bad points:
– Sad, sad ending.

I give it a 9.

We’ve finished watching Samurai Champloo. My first episode review is here.

Samurai Champloo is set during the latter days of an anachronistic Tokugawa Shogunate. Main character is Fuu, a girl who is looking for the samurai who smells of sunflowers. During the first episode, she saves the hides of two samurai, Jin and Mugen. Jin is calm, cool and collected, while Mugen is a wild boy who likes to do outrageous things. They both got into trouble with the local (corrupt) government officials and were about to lose their heads when Fuu saves them.
Thus their journey begins — taking them all the way to Edo and to Nagasaki. During their travels, they meet many interesting characters and get into lots of trouble…

This series has been described as ‘Cowboy Bebop with samurai’, and I can see how one would draw that conclusion. The main characters don’t particularly like each other but are forced to cooperate due to the circumstances, they are perpetually hungry, and the music of the series plays a large part in setting the tone and style of the series (hip-hop in this case). Ah yes, the music: there are rapping peasants, graffiti-painting Yakuza, and it is all set to a snazzy hip-hop beat. Transitions are frequently accompanied by scratching.
So, this being like Cowboy Bebop, there’s a lot of good stuff there. But it has also the bad attributes from Cowboy Bebop: it’s episodical, and some of the episodes are a bit repetitive: Fuu gets into trouble, Mugen and Jin quarrel, and then go and save her.

That is not to say that the series is dull: there are quite a few enjoyable moments there, and some episodes are brilliant — but apparently the writers found it hard to maintain the high standard of quality. The narratives are uneven.
However, the setting is pretty interesting: we see how people travelled the highway, or what the Hakone checkpoint is like — a bit in the style we saw at Tsumago when we were there. Without being preachy or inserting a long lecture about the everyday life of the period, we get quite a lot of backgroun information.

Unlike Cowboy Bebop, this series doesn’t have a definitive ending, which is, to me, the major weak point of the series.

Good points:
– Animation and character designs;
– Music adds to the style;
– Lots of background information.
Bad points:
– Some episodes are a tad repetitive;
– No definitive ending;
– Uneven quality of the episodes.

In the end, I find it very hard to be very enthousiastic about this series, while I do recognize the quality. I’ll give it a 7 — it just hasn’t got that ‘wow-factor’.

New anime

We’ve watched the first episode of Zettai Shonen. Ayumu is spending the summer at his father’s place (his parents are divorced), in some remote village in the mountains. The locals all are a bit… odd. And the summer is odd as well, or so various characters remark.
Ayumu is riding his new mountain bike through the mountain when he meets Wakkun. Wakkun is a small boy, who suddenly dissapears. And then it seems that the fireflies are, in fact, tiny spaceships…
This had a bit of a Twin Peaks-like feel about it: sleepy town that, upon closer inspection, has a lot of secrets hidden underneath the surface… The designs are pretty nice, and the whole washed-out color palette seems very appropriate as well. One to watch!

‘New’ anime

What with the move and all, I’m seriously behind on the first episode reviews of new anime series. I’ll be trying to catch up, so as not to dissapoint kees_s too much. 😉

We’ve seen Gokuji Seitokai. I think it can best be described as a cross between Maria-sama ga Miteru and Azumanga Daioh. Confused?
It’s the story of a girl who transfers to Miyagami Academy. She has a hand-puppet that ‘speaks’, that she has lots of discussions with — this is the main source of comedy in the first episode. The apartment building where she was to stay, has burned down, so she has no place to stay. The school is governed by the student council, who all live in the school apartments — and that is why one of her new classmates gets her elected as class president. After her handpuppet defeats an arsonist (!), she is given a secretarial position in the council.
My summary doesn’t do the episode justice — it is genuinely funny in a wacky way.

We’ve seen Haru wo Daiteita — pure and unadulterated yaoi. And because it’s an OVA, they get away with a lot more than would be possible if this had been a TV series. It’s not hentai though — we don’t get any closeups.
Two AV (‘Adult Video’, read: ‘pr0n’) actors are rivals for a part in a TV-series based on a series of books written by an exceedingly gay writer. At first, they are jealous of each other, but as their work together continues, they start to develop feelings for eachother.
Watch it if you’re into yaoi, this wasn’t really our thing.

We’ve seen Trinity Blood. ‘Lost technology’ (quite steampunkish), the Vatican and aliens that are, basically, vampires…
We meet Father Nightroad, who is on a mission, travelling via airship from London to the Vatican. He seems friendly but rather scatterbrained. A vampire attacks the ship and programs it to crash-land into the very hart of the Vatican, after brutally killing the ship’s crew (and some of the passengers). Word of this reaches the Vatican, where the pope (a really young boy) has to decide what to do with this ship — and he is councilled by a male and a female (!) cardinal, in rather outrageous costumes. Nightroad confronts the Vampire, and turns out to be an even more fearsome creature…
The character of Nightroad irritated me a bit (too goofy, until he turns himself ‘on’), but the series might turn out to be really entertaining, what with the mix of steampunk and catholicism twisted beyond recognition.

We’ve seen Speed Grapher. Saiga, a photoreporter, has a knack of getting very interesting scoops. His editor-in-chief asks him to investigate a rumour of a club where the wealthy can get anything they desire, when the price is right. Through various adventures, Saiga manages to infiltrate the club, but he isn’t prepared for what he encounters there. Add a sadistic ballet dancer who doubles as an assassin, and a sinister plot is starting to heat up…
Quite interesting, and this being a Gonzo title, it looks good to boot.