Mid-Semester Anime Review – Spring 2011

March 29th, 2011 – Reviews

Spring Break has come and gone, which means another half-year of Showing is already behind us.  So, one more time, I’ll be looking back on what we’ve already seen, so you can catch up, check that you’re on the same page, or just decide if you’re interested in the series.  For each show, I’ll summarize the premise, quickly go over the plot, and then provide my own thoughts.  Be warned, plot summaries will probably contain spoilers.

Darker than Black

Summary – Several years ago, a mysterious area known as, “The Gate,” appeared in Japan.  Once it did, random people began to get supernatural abilities.  Governments now fight with and against these super-powered people.  Li is one of these people, a Contractor, who uses his electrical abilities to carry out missions for the mysterious organization he works for.

TL;DNR: Electric Batman fights with other super-powered enemies.

Plot – While there definitely is an underlying plot to the series, each two-episode arc of this series can be watched separately without missing too much.  This being the case, I’m not going to try to explain here the slightly complex plotline, as it requires a lot of definitions and explanations that are worked into the series fairly fluidly.

Review – This remains one of my favorite series that we’re showing this semester.  The opening is good, the plot is interesting, and it does a fascinating job of characterizing people who are supposedly devoid of personality.  If you just want to watch a single arc, they are great at setting up a coherent story for each in the first episode, and then bringing in the main body of the action in the second.  If you want to watch the entire series, the hidden plot is interesting enough on its own to string together the separate arcs.  I definitely recommend this series to anyone who likes their action more serious.

El Hazard – The Magnificent World

Summary – Makoto, his teacher, his worst enemy, and his female classmate are transported to a mysterious other world filled with magic after Makoto encounters a strange woman in ruins located under his school.  Makoto and his friends have to help protect a kingdom from the evil Bugrom Empire if they want to have any hope of returning home.  They have all gained a special ability by coming to the world of El Hazard, but with Makoto’s enemy leading the Bugrom, and a mysterious third party pulling strings, the heroes have their hands full.

Plot – Because we’ve already completed this series, I’m not going to go into the plot here.  As a heads-up, Makoto has to impersonate a princess for a chunk of the series, but luckily they don’t drag on the cross-dressing gag for TOO long.

Review – This series is pretty good.  The visuals are very nice, and it has an interesting story, albeit one that isn’t entirely original.  However, there are a large number of characters, and only 7 episodes, so some of the cast doesn’t get to be entirely fleshed-out.  I wasn’t ever really blown away by the plot, though it was fairly enjoyable throughout.  If you’re looking for a short series to watch, it’s probably worth giving El Hazard – The Magnificent World a chance.

RahXephon

Summary – Ayato is just an ordinary boy living in Tokyo with his mother.  Well, actually, he’s not, or else we wouldn’t have a story.  Ayato is the only one capable of piloting the RahXephon, a robot which could be mankind’s only hope against an unknown enemy known as the Mu.  But secrets and suspicions permeate the atmosphere, and Ayato starts to lose track of what he should really be doing.

Plot – Ayato is a Mulian (told you there would be spoilers).  It takes him quite a while to discover this, of course, as the only obvious difference between humans and Mulians is blood color, and it appears to be a trait that does not immediately manifest itself.  For quite some time beforehand, Ayato has been fighting against the attacking Mulian, out of a sense of duty to protect people. But his resolve has been severely shaken, as he no longer understands who he is, what he should do, or who he can rely on.

Review – This is an interesting, though confusing, series.  I absolutely love the opening theme, and the animation is overall a very good quality.  RahXephon bears some resemblance to Evangelion, and, unfortunately or otherwise, this includes some very confused teenagers.  Given the unusual situation that Ayato is thrust into, though, it is somewhat understandable, and a good portion of the series is about seeing how Ayato reacts to the things going on in his life.  If you’re looking for a series with a lot of great giant robot fights, stick with G Gundam.  If you’re looking for something which uses the giant robot as a device to put pressure onto a troubled character, then RahXephon is probably right down your alley.

Ga-Rei: Zero

Summary – The world is filled with ghosts, spirits, and other supernatural beings that the majority of the populace is unaware of.  The Japanese Ministry of Environment has a special task force given the task of controlling these beings.  Kagura is the daughter of a powerful family of vanquishers who is just now getting involved in these fights.  With the guidance of Yomi, who she views as a sister, she has to become stronger and come to terms with the world she is a part of.

Plot – Now, the first episode of this show is absolutely incredible to watch (as is the second, to a slightly lesser extent).  I wouldn’t want to deprive people of that experience, so if you want to watch this series, I strongly advise you to skip this section.

If you’re still with me, the first episode of Ga-Rei follows a group from the Ministry of Defense as they try to control a major situation in the city involving a large number of very powerful ghosts.  After a significant effort and great ingenuity, their original goals are completed, but every one of them ends up dead when the end credits roll.  Their entire purpose was apparently to benchmark the strength of the enemy that the team from the Ministry of Environment has to face.  When this team, including Kagura, shows up, they come to the shocking discovery that Yomi, who had been missing for some time, was for some reason fighting against them.  Over the course of this episode, Yomi all but single-handedly eliminates the entire team, until only Kagura is left.  Kagura loses the ensuing fight, and is apparently cut down.  When the third episode begins, the ‘rewind’ button has been pressed, and we go back to Kagura’s first meeting with Yomi, and follow the series of events to find out how things turned out as they did.

Review – Another series that I like quite a bit.  The combat isn’t sparse, but still the series manages to stay far away from any shonen stereotypes – fights are serious and frantic, consequences are very real, and characters really react to the weight that is put on them.  I would definitely recommend this if you want a series with a heavy take on fighting ghosts.

Break

Ah, halfway through.  That’s quite a lot of writing there, isn’t it?  You should have seen it LAST semester when I did a mid-semester review.  Hoo boy, was that thing long.  I feel like I’ve gotten better at this since then.  Well, let’s continue, shall we?

Toradora!

Summary – Taiga is a small girl who strikes fear into her classmates.  She is best friends with Minori, and in love with Yusaku.  Ryuji is a kind, caring guy whose scary face intimidates his classmates.  He is best friends with Yusaku, and in love with Minori.  Ryuji and Taiga begin to work together to help win over their respective love interests.

Plot – Toradora! is a pretty standard high school drama.  And I don’t say that as a bad thing.  We seem to be moving ever closer to the inevitable Ryuji x Taiga pairing, and I still don’t mind.  I could sit here and explain every aspect of the plot, but I’m not going to.  Toradora! is easy enough to jump into, and you should really be experiencing everything as it was meant to be seen.

Review – Toradora! is still one of my favorite shows.  In this second season, we’ve unfortunately lost the super-catchy opening and closing, but the character interactions more than make up for it.  None of the cast feels one-dimensional, even minor characters.  There is a great mix of comedy and drama permeating the series.  I would highly recommend Toradora! to … well, just about anyone who likes high school dramas.

The Tower of Druaga

Summary – One day, a mysterious tower appeared within the desert, populated with demons.  A hero, Gilgamesh, fought his way to the top of the tower, and slew the demon, Druaga, who was its master.  Many years have passed, and the tower has reappeared, larger than ever.  The young warrior, Jil, wishes to build a party and ascend to the top of the tower to slay Druaga once more.

Plot – The first episode of this show is absolutely incredible.  They use EVERY SINGLE shonen stereotype, just so that’s all out of the way when the series actually gets into swing.  After that, it seems to be a fairly straightforward adventure series with the ragtag party of adventurers trying to reach the top of the tower.  You probably don’t need to know much more to be able to watch this series.

Review – The Tower of Druaga is simply a fun series.  Even though it’s ostensibly a fight to protect the future of mankind, the main characters’ personalities are always hilariously at odds.  Not to mention that the general of a massive, well-trained army is constantly used as additional comic relief.  Is it without its serious moments?  Certainly not.  Will it take a darker turn?  It very well may, but I’m quite enjoying it as it is.  I’m definitely recommending this series to anyone that seems the tiniest bit interested.

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Summary – Utena is just a normal girl, who wants to grow up to be a prince!  Hilarity ensues!  Wait, scratch that last bit.  Utena’s ring marks her as a duelist for the hand of the Rose Bride, who is engaged to whoever is the current champion of the duels.  Though she isn’t happy with the idea of being engaged to her classmate, Anthy, she continues to fight so that Anthy doesn’t have to be a prize.  At stake is the mysterious power to revolutionize the world (whatever THAT means) and eternity (immortality?  I’m not going to claim this makes a lot of sense).

Plot – For the first half of the series, the plot is: Utena gets challenged to a duel, Utena goes to the duel with stock footage, Utena starts fighting, Utena wins with stock footage.  It’s broken up a bit by comedic filler episodes, but it’s still pretty methodic.  The next arc has a more significant plot, but the entire thing gets retconned at its conclusion.  The only important revelation here is that Anthy’s brother is pulling all of the strings behind the duels (shocking!  But it explains why he’s so creepy when we meet him).  We’re now in the third arc, and although the formula still hasn’t changed much, everything has gotten so ridiculous that it’s become a hundred times more amusing.  Even though every one of the characters is now revealed to be totally messed up.  Oh, and shirtless guys in a speeding red Camaro.

Review – Yes there are a lot of people that really like Utena, but I’m not looking to start a flame war (been there, done that).  Go ahead and respectfully disagree with my opinion if you’d like, don’t tell me I’m wrong.  With that out of the way…

Utena is FINALLY getting good.  The characters have become more interesting, the plot has become a bit thicker, and things have gotten so incredibly crazy that you can’t help but be amused.  That being said, it has taken FAR too long to get to a point where I can enjoy this series.  If a show fails to catch me in the first few episodes, that’s a significant problem – when it doesn’t get me until about 20 episodes in, there’s no chance I’ll be watching it on my own.  I might recommend skipping around a bit in the series, but I don’t think I’d tell anyone to watch the whole thing.  Even if it is a “classic”.

Sengoku BASARA

Summary – What if all of the players in Feudal Era Japan fought at the same time?  And had ridiculous fighting abilities?  Well, then you’d get something like Sengoku BASARA.

Plot – The many warlords of Japan are fighting amongst themselves to gain complete control.  However, a threat to all of them has arisen – Oda Nobunaga, the Demon King.  Now, several armies are joining forces in order to wipe out this threat.

Review – This may be one of the BEST SERIES EVER.  It is completely and utterly outrageous.  Powerful opponent meet each other with fire and explosions.  Date Masamune breaks out with his awesome Engrish, horse with motorcycle handlebars, and six swords.  There is just so much awesome packed into this series.  I recommend it to EVERYONE.

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One Response to “Mid-Semester Anime Review – Spring 2011”

  1. [...] Cornell Japanese Animation Society Posted in Anime Tags: 2011, Anime, MidSemester, Review, Spring « To Aru Kagaku No Railgun #13,5 You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. [...]

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