Archive for the English Anime Category


Re-Kan! Anime (English) Guest Review by Alice D

July 1st, 2015

75b2c08e6d279f5975a7ae77168da2881428009461_fullWelcome to Guest Review Wednesday! Today we have a brand new Guest Reviewer, Okazu Hero Alice D! I just love Guest Reviewers, it always gives me a thrill to be able to offer up a perspective that is not my own here on Okazu. ^_^ Take it away, Alice!

Though billed as a horror comedy Re-Kan! abandons the horror aspect almost immediately, for the audience anyway. The show starts with Amami, our main character with the titular “re-kan” (sixth sense) that lets her interact with ghosts, heading out for her first day of school in a seemingly normal fashion. At a crosswalk she suddenly starts hopping across and collapses in the middle of it where Inoue takes her by the hand and half-drags her to the other side of the street. Amami apologizes and explains that it was just a little boy spirit playing a prank. Inoue is confused at first but, predictably, freaks out when she catches a glimpse of it in a street mirror, and thus our two leads meet.

At school we learn that Inoue is terrified of ghosts, has a passive-agressive tsundere personality, and is very much a “grandma’s girl” to the point where her grandmother is, for lack of a better term, haunting her. We also meet Amami and Inoue’s friends consisting of Esumi, a former gangster, Uehara, Esumi’s childhood friend and occult blogger, Ogawa, who loves zombies, and Yamada, who… we’ll get to in a moment. It’s this group of friends that provides the comedy portion of the show through their interactions with each other and the ghosts that show up around Amami. There is also a rather perverted cat who very much wants to see panties, as Amami can apparently talk to cats as well (the link between ghosts and cats I am unclear on) this cat bothers her quite a lot.

As for Yamada, I still have no idea what purpose he serves. He’s the “genki girl” stereotype in boy form: loud, obnoxious, prone to breaking up moments that might otherwise serve to provide development with the Amami/Inoue relationship, and gets punched/kicked/has things thrown at him because of how annoying he is by one of other characters, usually Esumi and/or Uehara (which is suppose to be funny but is more of a relief because he finally shuts up at that point). At least with pervert cat and his quest to see girls’ panties A) he doesn’t show up as often, B) none of the characters really notice that he’s there, mostly due to C) it’s the various ghosts that stop him (which provides some characterization through their protectiveness of Amami and her friends and can be worth a laugh). The show would probably be better off without either Yamada or pervert cat though given a choice between the two I’d take the cat.

The story progresses in usual slice-of-life fashion though with the “twist” of ghosts being part of daily life for Amami who goes out of her way to provide offerings and assistance to them. There is a beach episode, of course, in which Yamada’s older, just as annoying, and slightly creepy older brother makes an appearance, and a cultural festival episode where they meet Amami’s father, who is every bit as scared of ghosts as Inoue is. This leads Esumi to point out the old saying about girls falling for people who resemble their fathers, Inoue reacts to this in standard tsundere fashion while Amami seems oddly happy about it. After this, at least once and episode, Esumi and/or Uehara go fishing for reactions from Inoue by insinuating that Inoue likes Amami a bit more than she lets on.

The best parts though, by far, come when the comedy is left behind, usually when Amami and Inoue have screen time alone. Fortunately they are fairly abundant. It’s in these moments that Inoue can show some genuine human emotion removed from the tsundere stereotype that she is locked into while the other characters are around. Most notably in the penultimate episode Inoue shows up to (nearly literally) kick Amami out of her depression by dragging her around town where they run into various people whom Amami had helped out using her sixth sense, culminating in a tearful almost love confession, but not quite (“I want to be friends with you forever”).

The final episode is a return to a “normal” life where the group goes to an amusement park, accompanied for some reason by Yamada’s brother, and have a sleep-over at Amami’s (the boys have to sleep in the yard). It ends almost as expected with the relationship between Amami and Inoue being an ambiguous ‘they have more-than-just-friends feelings for each other but won’t actually come out and say it’ sort of thing. However, the show closes on Amami and Inoue waking to the realization that they had spent the entire night holding hands and becoming very embarrassed over it. And on the roof of Amami’s house the pervert cat wakes up due to the fuss they’re making, stretches and says “Yuri? Oh yes.” before walking off screen. That parting line is certainly debatable though, it could be an indirect admission from the staff that that is the direction Amami and Inoue’s relationship is headed in or, cynically, since pervert cat could be considered an audience stand-in, it’s not to be taken seriously and is just wishful thinking. Given that the rest of the show has the other characters (except Yamada) providing good-natured ribbings to Amami and Inoue regarding their feelings for one another, I’m inclined to believe the former is the case.

Ratings:

Art – 5: middle of the road
Characters – Varies: Amami and Inoue would be around a 7, the supporting cast a 5, and Yamada a 1.
Service – 3.5: Surprisingly little for having a cat who’s only goal in life is to flip skirts and see panties, though their skirts could stand to be a hand-span longer.
Story – 6.5: (most episodes) 8: (episodes 3, 8, 11, and 12)
Yuri – 5: Most of the cast is aware of Amami and Inoue’s feelings for each other and won’t hesitate to point it out.
Overall- 6.5ish: Nothing to write home about, but definitely worth a watch if you have the time.

Erica here: I probably would never have even heard of this had it not been for you. I always appreciate the extra eyes and ears of the Yuri Network. ^_^ Thank you! 





Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 3 (English)

June 21st, 2015

SM1P1LE

On the third and final disk of Sailor Moon Season 1, Part 1, we settle in to a pattern of a sort. Usagi gets involved in a situation – and it takes Sailor Moon to get out of it.

Which leads me to think that if the Generals just stopped targeting Azabu-Juuban, they might have slightly better luck. It’s not like Usagi and the others are gonna hop a train to Akita to deal with a monster outbreak….

This series is not fair to Nephrite at all. Jadeite gets two disks worts of screwing up before he’s decommissioned, and as soon as Nephrite steps up, there’s Zoisite up his nostrils. And then Nephrite does something extra idiotic;, he falls for the normalest girl in the series, Naru. We spend slightly more time on this than you might imagine. Naru is able to see through his glamour almost immediately, which in any other series might indicate that she is meant to be part of the team. But not here. Here, Naru represents the Ur-girl. The non-magical, not-extra stupid, extra-smart, extra-psychic girl, and who, perhaps surprisingly, sees the most clearly.

Tucked in between this drama, we digress for a moment back into the nascent Sailor Moon x Tuxedo Mask romance. For those of us watching Sailor Moon Crystal, which, in taking it’s cue from the manga, is almost single-mindedly focused on their romance, this seems like a small enough nod, in between watching Nephrite struggle against his own idiot Queen, his rivals Zoisite and Kunzite and that damned Sailor Moon.

Ratings:

Art – 4
Story – 6 (Naru and Nephrite actually works better for me than Usgi and Mamoru)
Characters – 6
Yuri – 0  Although we don’t really know what Ami and Rei are up to, as they barely have any screen time  ^_^
Service – 1 on principle

Overall – 6

The most ironic episode must surely be the one in which we learn all about how much animators care about making a great anime…even as the already stretched-thin budget of this first season hits a low point. ^_^

Previous Reviews of Sailor Moon, Season 1, Part 1:

Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 1

Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 2

Thanks to Viz Media for the review copy and the chance to revisit old friends. ^_^





Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 2 (English)

May 19th, 2015

SM1P1LEI have learned two very important lessons rewatching Sailor Moon from the very beginning:

Firstly, most fans of the original anime are fans of the edited versions of the characters they have cobbled together inside their heads, stuffed full of remnants of old fanfic and fanart and internalized identification, sewn together with nostalgia and softened by time.

I know this because Disk 2 primarily consists of Usagi whining, conniving, whining some more, bickering with Rei, whining and crying. She is not, at this point, a likeable character.

The second thing I realized is that, in it’s own way, Sailor Moon is a primeval tap on “girl” things, in the way that The Iliad (which I am re-reading again) is a primer on “boy” things. That is to say, it renders down an entire gender into the most superficial characteristics as if seen by an alien race, labels them essential, and obsesses over them, even if a real person might occasionally take a break from wanting a dress or a gemstone, or a fast racehorse or the most plunder.

However, there are two episodes of note here on Disk Two.

“I Want a Boyfriend: The Luxury Cruise Ship Is a Trap”, episode 12 which was the dub episode that got me interested in the series in the first place and “A New Enemy Appears: Nephrite’s Evil Crest”, episode 15, in which something important and something not important, but damned interesting, happened.

In episode 15,  which originally aired in Japan in 1992, Naru had to tell Usagi that her use of “onee-sama” did not indicate that the other girl was a blood sister, but that she was like a sister to her. The idea of onee-sama had fallen enough out of favor, that it had to be explained. This trend would reverse again  a few years later when Maria-sama ga Miteru made it not only nerdy cool, but also so much of standard anime trope that no one in, say, PreCure ever needs to have it explained to them. Not important, but kind of interesting.

The important thing, though happens in that same episode. For the very first time, Usagi helps someone out of actual empathy for them. She wants to help Naru, because she wants to help Naru. This one thing may not seem like a huge shift, but it is. It’s the first time we’ve seen Usagi do thing out of pure kindness, because helping her friend to be less sad is a good thing to do. It’s the first time she doesn’t really speak about herself when talking about a “girl’s dream”. It’s the first time we see Sailor Moon, and not Tsukino Usagi in a Senshi costume.

As I reach this part of the anime I brace myself for a number of changes to come. Soon, we and the Senshi will start to understand that there is more to this series than a monster of the day. Soon, but not yet.

For those of you still not convinced to get this series – these episodes will not be the ones to convince you. The original animation is hilariously, painfully, awful, as Toei learned that it was going to get a lot more episodes, but not more budget. The dialogue is execrable and the bickering between Rei and Usagi is enough to make you want to pluck Ami out, set her in a nice quiet library and read a good book together.

Ratings:

Art – 4
Story – 5
Characters – teetering on the cusp of 5
Yuri – 1
Service – 1 on principle

Overall – 5, and I’m being kind.

Sincere and immense thanks to Viz Media for a review copy. Everytime Ami says all she can do is study, my heart breaks. In a just world, she gets to be Queen and Usagi runs cruises.





Ikki Tousen: Shugaku Toshi Keppu-roku OVA

May 18th, 2015

IKKIXX As a bonus in the Ikkitousen Xtreme Xecutor set, is a post-series OVA called Shugaku Toshi Keppu-roku. And, even with the absurd service one must expect from an Ikkitousen series, this comes very close to being a really decent story.

The three kingdoms, erm, schools; Nanyou, headed by Hakufu, Seito headed by Ryuubi and Koucho, headed by Sousou, are coincidentally headed to Kyoto at the same time. They are going, or so we are told, to collect tsuba that hold spiritual energy. (Tsuba are the hand guards on Japanese swords.)

The schools clash early on as they search, not only for individually powered tsuba, but for the master tsuba which commands them all. The first big clash is between Shimei Ryomou and Shiryuu Chouun to the bgm of Heart & Soul, the Ikkitousen: Dragon Destiny OP, sung by Kariyuki Mai. It’s a good song and a good fight. Stuff like this makes this utter crap worth watching

But the featured fight is between Kan’u Unchou, champion of Seito and Sonsaku Hakufu, the idiot leader of Nanyo. The background music is  my favorite of all the Ikkitousen OPs, No x Limit  from Ikkitousen: Great Guardians, also sung by Kariyuki Mai. (I jog to it, it takes my mind off how much I hate jogging. ^_^) The climax of the fight takes place under the eaves of  a Kyoto temple. As the two fighters collapse with their efforts, the temple rains down tsuba upon them and we are left to imagine a series exactly like Ikkitousen without the pervasive and awful service and think how wonderful it might be, in that alternate world.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 8 Fantastic fights, animated for people who don’t really care about the fights
Characters – 8
Service – Far more than is reasonable, but I guess someone likes it.
Yuri – 1

Overall – 8, because the fights are just that good, even though they are animated for the benefit of the creepiest of creepy viewers.

Last year a new Ikkitousen project was announced. And I’ll probably watch it, too. Because. But I’ll still wish it was fundamentally a better thing than it is. Because.

 





Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 1 (English)

May 7th, 2015

SM1P1LEWhen Sailor Moon first hit Cartoon Network, I found it entertaining in a way I hadn’t ever before experienced. Things…changed. The characters grew over time, they remembered what had happened last week and learned new things as the series went on. They got more powerful, and braver and more competent as the series progressed. The story wasn’t about just defeating the bad guys. We learned about the characters themselves, too – what they liked and didn’t like. They had complex relationships – sometimes the closest of friends, sometimes they’d be distant. It was something so amazing, so different from the animation I had grown up with, that I was hooked.

It was 1998. Seriously? I have been obsessing about this series for 17 years? Good heavens.

Pioneer originally released the series on VHS. We don’t have all of the VHS tapes because they were impossible to find in order, or as a set. You’d get one volume of episodes at Suncoast and thne search forever to find the next one, maybe discovering it at an anime con, or the bargain rack at The Wall. Or not, and you’d have that hole in your collection forever. When Pioneer put the set out on DVD, I scarfed them up. Cartoon Network had hacked and slashed the third season up in the weirdest possible way, making cross-dressing Haruka and her flirtatious possibly-girlfriend Michiru into a creepy pair of incestuous cousins, and we were thrilled beyond belief to have Sailor Moon S in its subtitled, uncut weirdness.

In 2014 we got the new Sailor Moon Crystal anime. Predictably, fandom spent more time being unhappy about it than glad. My favorite complaints are that the animation is bad and the faces are all the same. The complaint that we spend too little time with the characters is entirely valid. The season went from 40 episodes down to 13, mirroring the manga, which means the anime has both the strengths and the weaknesses of the the manga. We lost some character building time for the Senshi, that is true. We also lost many other things.Viz has put out a brand new master of the original Sailor Moon anime. I am rewatching every single episode, even the bad ones, and let me tell you, there are some stinkers in this thing.

Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 1 begins with the moment that clumsy, crybaby Tsukino Usagi meets a talking cat, Luna and learns that she is a Guardian of Love and Justice, Sailor Moon. She is also stalked by this creepy dude in a mask and tux, cleverly called Tuxedo Mask.

No one is going to beat me in my love for this series, but I have to be honest with you, episode 4 really bites. In fact, the first 7 episodes are probably my least favorite among all 200 and I am including all of “R” and “Super S” in that. Chibi-Usa kissing a unicorn sucks less that the episode where Usagi is worried about losing weight. If I could destroy that episode so no one ever had to see it again, I would, gladly. And truly, the animation is abominable. Remember, that no one at Toei knew whether this would fail and they pulled out no stops at all. The animation is bad even for its time. So when you complain that the animation is bad in Crystal, remember that Sailor Moon has a 20-year tradition of bad art. ^_^

And let’s talk about the writing for a second. In Crystal, because we don’t have monsters of the day, only enemies of the day, we don’t get lines like “Frilled-neck lizards, albino Mexican salamanders, and the human face fish are all mad!” I don’t know whether to call that a loss or a victory, ^_^

This all having been said, the one thing that made the series work for me starts up in Episode 8, with the addition of Mizuno Ami to the team. The rapport between the characters was always what made Sailor Moon work for me (although I admit to loving the monsters of the day for their inherent absurdity). When Ami first shows up, she looks lonely. That look will leave her face as time goes on, because one of the key points of anime is that you are stronger with friends. Seeing Ami smile was worth it. It’s always worth it.

Last, but not at all least, I have to commend Viz. The remastering is as good as anyone could have ever hoped and the translation not only is accurate, but includes cues to character voice, so that Usagi’s lines sound like a child, while Ami’s are a bit more mature. Top marks from me on that. (As an aside, when I began watch Crystal, I though that Mitsuishi Kotono-san was voicing Usagi a bit babyish, but the more I listen to the original, the more I think it fits. About episode 7 or 8, she starts sounding a bit more babyish, so clearly that was what they were going for.)

In general, the Viz edition is clean, simple and appealing. For folks who want fancier layouts, there are multiple versions, with physical and content extras. The more basic Limited Edition is available on Amazon and RightStuf through the Yuricon Shop.

It was both wonderful and excruciating revisiting this disk and I have no doubt that my feeelings will remain the same for the next two disks. Onward – more Senshi await.

Ratings:

Art – 6 tops
Story – 7 Still more plausible than Weiss Kreuz
Characters – 7, soon to climb
Yuri – 0
Service – 1 unless you count Tuxedo Mask and I don’t, but there is inevitable bathing.

Overall – 7, but watch it crescendo as we move forward.

Sincere and immense thanks to Viz Media for a review copy. It’s like visiting old friends (and remembering why you didn’t visit them any more. ^_^)