Mid-Semester Anime Roundup

October 12th, 2010 – Anime Reviews, Other Articles, Reviews

It’s Fall Break now, which means that this semester’s Showing is already halfway over.  So I’ve put together this handy little article for those of you who might have missed the first half of Showing, who think they might forget what’s going on over Fall Break, or who want to waste a few minutes on the internet.  For each of the shows we’ve watched thus far, I’ve assembled a description of the series, a summary of the plot, and a quick review of what I’ve thought about it so far.  Plot summaries will almost certainly contain spoilers, so if you want to watch the series for yourself, you may want to skip these.

Darker than Black

Summary – Several years ago, a mysterious area appeared in Japan which was soon dubbed “The Gate.”  Naturally, the product of crazy stuff happening is that a bunch of people get superpowers.  Governments are forced to simultaneously fight against and take advantage of these people.  The story follows a character named Li, who by night dons a mask and grappler to take advantage of his electrical abilities for the benefit of the organization he works for.

TL;DNR: Electric Batman fights with other superpowered enemies.

Plot – There’s not really a point in trying to explain any plot here.  The series breaks down into arcs which are, so far, 2 episodes long, each focusing on one incident.  Although there appears to be an underlying plotline, there isn’t really much information I can tell about that.  A few terms you may want to familiarize yourself with: Contractor – A human who has gained supernatural abilities.  Each has a unique “Price” which they must pay in return for the use of their powers, and each is ruled by a particular star in the sky.  Doll – A being with supernatural abilities but devoid of personality.

Review – I REALLY like this series.  From its epic opening you can just tell that the series will be great.  There hasn’t been very much so far in terms of an overall plot, but the universe itself is interesting enough as it is to keep me fascinated.  There’s not a huge amount of fighting between contractors, but the fights are good, and may increase in frequency in the future.  I’m excited to see where this series goes, and even if it stays where it is, I’d be pretty content.

Sola

Summary – Yorito is a boy who is obsessed with the sky.  As an aspiring photographer, he uses the sky almost exclusively as his subject.  Matsuri is a girl whose situation prevents her from being able to ever see the sky, which fosters a similar obsession.  So naturally, the two meet up.  The story follows the intrigue around Matsuri’s … condition, and how Yorito handles the things happening around him.

TL;DNR: Night demon wants to see the sky.

Plot – Well, if you read the summary, you know that I mentioned some sort of condition for Matsuri, but didn’t elaborate.  Well, that’s because it goes in this section.  Matsuri is a “Calamity of the Night,” which basically means that she is immortal but is harmed by the sun.  Also in the mix is a man who is trying to kill Matsuri, and the young girl that he is travelling with.  Recent episodes have caused me to speculate that she is his sister, and was transformed into a Calamity of the Night herself, but there may be a different direction to take with that.  The cast also includes Yorito’s sister Aono, who is bedridden in the hospital, Yorito’s friend Mana, and her sister Koyori.  In our last episode, we found out that Matsuri already knows Aono, because – SURPRISE! – she is ALSO a calamity of the night. This leaves the state of a lot of the characters in question.

Review – The music is nice, and there’s certainly a story to tell, but I really can’t say that I’m blown away by Sola.  It’s taking far too long to develop the plot, and there have only been two action sequences in 6 episodes.  However, the plot twist introduced in our sixth episode is more than enough for me to see this through to its conclusion.

Now and Then, Here and There

Summary – A young boy named Shu meets a mysterious girl, Lala Ru.  As he tries to help her, he is dragged into a different world, where water is scarce and everything seems to be wrong.  He has to fight to stay alive, but even more so, to protect his ideals and his friends.

TL;DNR: Everything is bad.

Plot – Shu sees a strange girl sitting atop a smokestack, and climbs the adjacent one to attempt to talk to her.  Suddenly, they are attacked by mecha snakes piloted by time-travelling Nazis!  (Okay, they’re not technically Nazis, but they seem like them.)  They abduct Lala Ru, while Shu is brought back with her in his attempts to fight the evil forces off.  Shu tries to run away with Lala Ru, but they are stopped, though her pendant gets lost during the attempted escape.  The next three episodes or so feature the torture and raping of small children as prominent themes!  (ßExaggeration (not really))  Shu then gets forcibly enlisted into the child army, where he finds that he may need to go against his beliefs just to get by.  He gets dragged along on a mission to capture more child soldiers, and the twisted nature of this army is further reinforced.  However, another character, Sarah, actually manages to escape, marking the first time I’ve seen one of the “good guys” actually do something productive.

Review – There’s only one thing I can say for sure about this anime – It has one of the worst openings I’ve ever seen.  It’s as if they produced the entire show and were about to air it, when somebody pointed out, “Hey, shouldn’t something go at the beginning of the episode?”  Beyond that, I have difficulty saying much else about the series.  Shu is admirable but so far ineffective, Lala Ru doesn’t seem to be more than worthless, and most of the other characters are either pitiable or despicable.  I’m interested in where the series is going, but I’m not sure it’s among my favorites.

The Skull Man

Summary – Hayato is a reporter working for a second-rate newspaper who returns to his hometown to pursue the story of a mysterious killer known as ‘The Skull Man’.  On his way there, he is joined by Kiriko, a young photographer who hopes to become famous through her pictures.  Together, they will attempt to unravel the mysteries in the city.  It’s a series full of intrigue, action, a bit of comedy, and even a touch of the supernatural.

TL;DNR: Mysterious murders lead to awesomeness and plot overload.

Plot – Okay, now here’s the deal with The Skull Man.  EVERYTHING IS PLOT.  A character knows another character?  PLOT.  A character selects a particular kind of coffee.  PLOT.  It’s impossible to summarize the plot of The Skull Man, because there is NOTHING TO CUT OUT.  There is so little filler in this show that there isn’t even a recap of the last episode at the start!  If you want to keep up with The Skull Man, go and watch it from the beginning (and I HIGHLY advise that you do).

Review – This series is INCREDIBLE.  A really cool opening perfectly sets the stage for the episode to follow.  And then – EVERYTHING HAPPENS.  People find clues, try to interview suspicious parties, and then The Skull Man makes an appearance and you know that SH*T IS GOING DOWN!  This is one of my FAVORITE series this semester.  (And thus ends my rampant abuse of the shift key.)

BREAK

Summary – Break is when we stop watching anime for a short period of time!  Far from being a time of sadness, we have great fun discussing the preceding episodes, other anime, and random other things.  Shenanigans ensue.

TL;DNR: 20 minute dance party!

Plot – Before break, The Skull Man comes to an end, leaving everyone with lots of new information and, probably, questions.  All these and more fall into conversations taking place primarily at the back of the auditorium.  Shenanigans ensue.  And then it’s back to anime.

Review – I really like to use the word ‘shenanigans’.

Toradora!

Summary – Ryuji is a high school student with the face of a delinquent, who is feared by many.  Taiga is a high school student whose small stature has not prevented her from becoming one of the most intimidating of her schoolmates.  In reality, though, Ryuji is a caring neat freak and Taiga a driven klutz.  Ryuji is in love with Taiga’s best friend Minori, and Taiga with Ryuji’s best friend Yusaku.  A series of events bring Ryuji and Taiga together to try to win over their respective loves.

TL;DNR: Boy and girl help each other get respective girl and boy.

Plot – Ryuji likes Minori; Taiga likes Yusaku – this is already established.  In the first episode, Taiga slips up and puts a love letter into Ryuji’s bookbag instead of Yusaku’s.  When he gets home, he looks inside the envelope – and shortly thereafter, is attacked by Taiga, trying to recover her letter.  Ryuji manages to find enough time in the fight to tell Taiga that she had forgotten to put her letter into the envelope, which stops Taiga in her tracks.  In order to comfort Taiga, he tells her about his crush on Minori, and they decide to help each other out (though, along the way, Ryuji agrees to be like a dog for Taiga).  In episode 2, Taiga confesses to Yusaku, who responds with one of the strangest turn-downs that I’ve ever heard.  Episode 3 has Ryuji spending time helping Minori, where it is revealed that he somehow understands her better than anyone else (despite Taiga’s immediately preceding comment that it wasn’t possible).  In episode 4, we find out that, what’s this, Yusaku was in love with Taiga?  And she turned him down?  And NOW she’s crazy about him?!  Episode 5 introduces the last of the main cast, Ami, who acts like an adorable airhead despite her actual nature as a manipulative attention-seeker.  In our last episode before break, Ryuji tries to get Ami’s real personality out, per Yusaku’s request.  Surprisingly he is successful in only one episode (with oblivious assistance from Taiga).  Oh, and then Ami makes a move on Ryuji while Taiga walks in, creating some crazy tension.

Review – If you didn’t guess, 5 minutes into the first episode, that Ryuji and Taiga would end up together, then you’re probably the sort of person that watches Shonen anime and wonders whether the hero(es) will win in the end (i.e. I can’t help you).  We all think we know where it’s going, but the fun of the series is seeing how they get there.  Now, if it turns out that things DON’T work out like this, I’ll be the first one to be shocked.  All of that aside, this is a really good series.  It has great themes at the start and end of the episode (as in, ones that get stuck in your head forever).  The entire cast is enjoyable, and there’s a comfortable mix of light comedy and relationship drama.  The previous episode seems to be taking a slightly more serious turn, which is by no means a bad thing.  This is one of my favorites so far.

RahXephon

Summary – Ayato is just a normal boy attending high school in Japan.  Oh wait, he’s not!  A mysterious attack on his hometown leads him to discover that his whole world is a lie, and thrusts him into the cockpit of a giant known as the RahXephon.  He now has to fight to protect humanity while struggling to learn the truth about the world.

TL;DNR: Super robot is the only thing that can keep up with baddies.

Plot – When Ayato’s hometown comes under attack, he and his friend Mishima find their way to the RahXephon , which brings a swift end to the conflict.  The next day, Ayato awakes to wonder if these events actually occurred.  A mysterious woman, Haruka Shitow, tries to explain to him the reality of the world, when they arrive back at the underground temple and the RahXephon.  The two escape to the real world, where Ayato discovers that his entire life had taken place in a place called “Tokyo Jupiter”, where the “enemy of mankind” has their base of operations.  Ayato is taken to the base of human resistance to these foes, where he becomes a defender of the humans as the only viable pilot of the RahXephon.

Review – Well, I suppose that the series might sound a bit cliché so far.  We’ve got a “world turned upside-down” scenario, an angsty teen who’s given more power than any teenager should have, and an evil enemy to mankind. That being said, the series does well by the little things that set it apart, as well as by the characters which populate this universe.  RahXephon is legitimately good, even if the plot might seem flat at times.  It’s definitely worth watching (although I enjoyed the manga more, so far.  They have different stories, so there’s no reason not to give both a try).

Gunbuster

Summary – The human race is threatened by space monsters!  Mankind assembles a force of giant robots to face this new foe!  Add the terrible destruction of science and gratuitous amounts of fanservice, and you’ve approximately got Gunbuster.  This is the only one of our series that has been completed thus far (which is going to make setting up showing a PAIN for me).

TL;DNR: Fan-service!!!

Plot – Since the series is complete, this will be a full plot summary.  If you want to watch the series yourself, you might want to skip this section.  In reality, though, knowing the plot won’t really have any effect on the show.  For the first 3 and a half episodes, our main character, Noriko, alternately promises that she’ll work hard to get better and whines profusely that she is incompetent.  Her mentor, known only as Coach, pushes her on (despite the fact that it seems utterly ridiculous to pick her over some of her peers).  Episode 2 gives us some of the most blatant fanservice of the entire series (all 3 female characters in the episode in the bath together), as well as a robot fight between the two “strongest” females, who aren’t really important despite such things as “skill” and “talent”.  Episode 3 features a character that gets killed off within 10 minutes.  But he’s clearly very important because after that, Noriko won’t SHUT UP ABOUT HIM.  Halfway through episode 4, Noriko finally turns into a badass by piloting the Gunbuster.  We finally find out why she was picked as its pilot – it’s clearly powered by screaming.  Episode 5 reveals a huge secret in the series – Coach’s name is actually Kochiro!  Oh, also Noriko and friend pilot the Gunbuster into a swarm of Space Monsters and blow up a spaceship to kill them off.  With plenty of screaming and impossible attacks. Finally, years later Gunbuster needs to lead one last attack against the space monsters.  It defends against hordes of enemies, then goes to manually detonate the Black Hole Bomb designed to completely obliterate the enemy (and manages to work fanservice into the plot, somehow).  The Gunbuster then takes 12,000 Earth years to return, where Noriko and her co-pilot are rightly greeted as heroes.

Review – Oh, god, Gunbuster…  it’s just incredibly silly, really.  And they attempt to justify it with “Science Shorts” in which they explain how the physics that we all know and love are completely destroyed.  There’s nothing gravely wrong with the series, but if you’re looking for giant robots, you could do better.  And if you’re looking for fanservice, you could probably do better as well.  HOWEVER!  The last of the science shorts is one of the FUNNIEST THINGS I HAVE SEEN IN AGES.  Sadly, it isn’t relevant unless you watch the rest of the series.

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Summary – When a young girl loses her parents, she is comforted by a prince who bestows a ring upon her.  Years later, that girl is in high school, and was so impressed by that prince that she vowed to become one herself!  She now finds that her ring has her involved in a mysterious game with magic and swordplay, with one of her classmates as the ultimate prize!

TL;DNR: Prince girl swordfights with other wannabe princes.

Plot – There’s not much to say about plot but to simply reveal some of the details that we have thus far.  Utena is our protagonist who wishes to be a prince, the student council makes up the other competitors in the game, and Himemiya is the prize.  The student council members range from admirable to despicable, but all have been getting letters from “End of the World”.  Himemiya is somehow blessed with the power of Dios, who appears to be a god in this world.  Nothing else is particularly important plotwise, just know that someone will challenge Utena to a duel for Himemiya, they’ll play the Absolute Destiny Apocalypse song, and then Utena will thrash her challenger.

Review – As far as the things we’re watching goes, I feel that this just isn’t that interesting (at least thus far).  Each arc pretty much stands alone, most are a single episode long, and several follow the same pattern of challenge-development-duel.  The music isn’t particularly impressive, and Ultimate Destiny Apocalypse, which plays every time that Utena enters the arena, is painfully bad (but almost amusingly so).  I’ll be continuing to watch it for now, but I don’t think it’s something I’d ever watch on my own, especially with it being an extra-long series.

Eden of the East

Summary – A boy wakes up naked in front of the White House with no memories.  In his possession are a gun, which he quickly disposes of, and a cell phone, with billions of yen on it and a contact who can make just about anything happen.  He meets a girl there, Saki, and they begin to travel together.  Taking the name Takizawa, the boy needs to figure out why he was in such a situation in the first place, and where he has to proceed from there.

TL;DNR: Cell phones are like magic, man.

Plot – Some time back, a missile attack was made on Japan.  No people were harmed, though, and the incident became known as “Careless Monday” and fell out of people’s remembrance.  Another missile has now struck, and claimed two lives, bringing the prior events back to mind.  Takizawa follows all the leads he can get, eventually finding out that he is one of 12 “Selecao”, and has been given the money on his phone for the purpose of “saving Japan”.  There are a number of rules associated with this money, though – it must be all be spent, and not in the form of cash; when it is all spent, if the Selecao has not saved Japan, he will be killed; and if one of the Selecao succeeds in his mission, all others will be killed.  Takizawa seems to have found a way to complete his mission in a program called “Eden of the East”, which was developed by Saki and her friends.

Review – This is a very interesting series, though it’s certainly not flashy and it certainly doesn’t have much in terms of action.  The use of cell phones is almost overbearing, though it seems to be a very intentional move.  The music is fairly good, and the plot is at a fairly good balance of direction and open-endedness.  I wouldn’t put it at the top of my list this semester, but it’s a very solid show, and I’m very happy watching it.

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One Response to “Mid-Semester Anime Roundup”

  1. I just want to throw in that the last time we watched Utena, enough people loved Absolute Destiny Apocalypse so much that there was a back of the room sing-along dance party every time it was played. Just…f.y.i., at least some portion of other people do not find the song to be bad.

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