Archive for the English Anime Category


Dear Brother Anime, Box Set 1 (English)

October 7th, 2014

DB1I never actually thought I’d ever write a review like this, but here I am today, reviewing Osamu Dezaki’s masterful anime based on Riyoko Ikeda’s manga, Oniisama E, translated for an English-speaking audience on physical media. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

Today we speak of the first ever release of Dear Brother on DVD in English.

The story, about “average” girl Nanako, who is caught up in the affairs of her school’s brightest and most influential, is fraught with emotional highs and lows I’ve never seen in any other school life drama.  Nanako finds herself surrounded by people so powerful and so eccentric, it makes the Yamayurikai look pretty much like the normal girls they are.

This first box set covers the intense and often depressing or shocking first thirteen episodes. Issues are dealt with that modern-day dramas merely handwave. Depression, obsession, suicide, drug use…and that’s just Rei. The casual, institutional and individual emotional sadism we see in the first third of the story is breathtaking and heart breaking. The plot offers up unhealthy helpings of manipulation and bullying, but it’s tempered with some pointed socio-political commentary as well.

Like Dezaki’s other masterwork, Rose of Versailles, I can only take Dear Brother in small doses and need a lot of One Piece to wash it down with, or it’s too bitter a pill to swallow. This is Drama with a capital D. And it hurts. Much like GUNJO, you’re walking a knife bridge with Dear Brother and the tension never really lets up. I’m tense when watching any and every episode. I know, I make it sound so appealing, right? But it’s worth it.

The translation is good enough to completely ignore – which is exactly what I want out of a  translation. It should be there to facilitate my understanding, not clash with it.

But what really stands out to me is the animation. Yes, the characters styles are dated (and yes, I far far prefer them to the current character design trends) but the backgrounds, wow. Remember, when you looks at Miya-sama’s hair, or the smears on a chalkboard, or the way cloth is rendered – all that was done by hand. Every shadow, every seam was inked by someone without help of software. Every once in a while, I’m standing at Mandarake in Nakano and a cel from this series is for sale, and I stare at knowing I will never pay the price to own it, but wanting to oh so badly. (I’ve already got a Drama CD fetish, I’m not going near cels.)

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 10
Yuri – 3
Service – 4 Of a different sort, with the Beautiful Ones far, far more beautiful than high school students are in the real world.

Overall – 9

With a combination of tightly wound story-telling, unforgettable characters and timeless art, Dear Brother is, IMHO, a pinnacle of shoujo anime, a classic that I’m very proud to have helped bring to DVD.





Yuri Anime Sabagebu! (English) Guest Review by Elizabeth V.

September 30th, 2014

sabaaeIt is once again my sincere pleasure to welcome a brand new Guest Reviewer to the Okazu family! I want you all to please welcome Elizabeth V and give her your full attention. The floor is yours, Elizabeth!

Sabagebu – Survival Game Club!, is a madcap, sometimes hilarious series that doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite some actual violence.

Momoka Sanokawa, a new student at an all-girls school, is coerced into joining the school’s survival game club by its president, Miou, a pretty and popular upperclassman with a wide violent streak. As the series progresses, Momoka, Miou, and their friends in the club undergo a series of wacky adventures ranging from fighting off upskirt photographers to an all-out road war in the Australian outback against a senior citizens’ survival club. Other members include the beautiful model Maya, the quiet cosplay fanatic Kayo, and the bubbly but ultimately violent Urara, whose obsessive crush on Miou is speedily transferred to Momoka in the first episode.

Animated by Pierrot+ and airing on Crunchyroll (regional restrictions may apply) this past summer season, the series’ pacing is speedy and each episode after the first has two or three stand-alone stories. An unseen, adult male narrator helpfully offers additional, often sarcastic remarks which occasionally cause the characters to break the fourth wall. The seemingly sweet Momoka is swiftly revealed to be rather cold and ruthless, undermining the common “innocent, good-hearted moe heroine” trope. She violently reacts to Urara’s extreme advances, often punching and slapping the younger girl (who always returns with even more fervent, masochistic devotion), but while this relationship is mostly played for laughs, it doesn’t come across as homophobic or demeaning, and by the end we are led to believe that in spite of it all, Momoka doesn’t actually find Urara that objectionable.

One thing which might bother some viewers is the amount of violence in the series. Although the narrator reassures us in the first few episodes that the bloody gunshot wounds and subsequent “deaths” only occur in the characters’ imaginations as they play their games with pellet-firing replica guns, the gory visuals might be upsetting. I have to admit, at first I was not at all interested in this series after seeing a screenshot from the first episode in which a character lies “dead” with bullet wounds in both breasts, but I reconsidered and started watching Sabagebu in earnest. I’m glad I did, however, the imagery might be too off-putting for some, so view at your own discretion.

Overall, although the humor of a few of the stories fell flat, the series was funny and enjoyable. Fanservice was mostly concerned with Maya’s generous assets. The characters’ outrageous adventures kept me laughing throughout, despite my initial reservations. Aided by side characters such as a stereotypical otaku called Fried Chicken Lemon, Momoka’s bizarrely cheerful and equally violent mother, and the club’s danger-prone advisor Miss Sakura, the Survival Game Club managed to keep me entertained despite my initial doubts, and gave me a new appreciation for pretend weaponry and the “magical gun-toting girl” transformations that accompanied it.

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 5
Service – 6
Overall – 7

Thank you, thank you Elizabeth for the terrific review – and for the reminder that I should watch the rest of this series. I quite enjoyed the manga volumes I read. ^_^ 





Yuri Anime: Card Captor Sakura (English)

September 16th, 2014

ccsSo, the last month or so I have been mainlining all 70 episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura on Crunchyroll.  And y’know…I like it all over again. ^_^

You have to remember, we were coming off a Sailor Moon high the first time. All those amazing voice actresses, and there they were scooped up the immensely talented all-woman studio, CLAMP, no less. It was a perfect set up for Yuri fans.

And then…it started going all bent and alt-sexuality right away. The BL fans went gaga (rightfully so) over Touya and Yukito, fans of intergenerational relationships had Terada-sensei and Rika, and Kaho and Touya, and Fujitaka and Nadesico. Yuri fans had Sonomi’s feelings for her cousin Nadesico, mirrored by Tomoyo’s feelings for Sakura. So, basically everyone had something to be weird about. Boy with wings and long silver hair? Here’s Yue. Androgynous cute being? Have Ruby Moon. There was something for everyone, wrapped in a pretty CLAMP animation with ribbon and cake.

NIS did a really decent job with the translation, until they didn’t. And when they didn’t, it  became one of those moments that you just suck it up and do the best you can and hopefully realize that you can’t just ignore the honorifics and hope they go away. (Only companies keep making the same mistake over and over. How about we learn to translate names as they are presented, already and stop fighting it, huh?) So instead of Li-kun becoming Xialoang (a transliteration I 100% approve of, btw. It is correct), they struggle with Xiolang to…um, “bestie.” Yeah, no.

The film quality is great, and when/if I get this, I think getting Blu-Ray will be worth it. NIS has a Hybrid Blu-Ray (Amazon/ RightStuf) version available.

It actually felt more Yuri to me this time around – Tomoyo is well and truly besotted, much more so than her mother. (Bonus for us seiyuu otaku, Sonomi is is played by Itou Miki, who played Sachiko in Marimite.)

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Ratings:

Art – 8 One of CLAMP’s most colorful and swoopy
Story – 8 Weird, but fun
Characters – 10 Enduring in a lot of ways. There never would have been a Tamao in Strawberry Panic, if there hadn’t been a Tomoyo in CCS.
Yuri – A steady, underlaid 3
Service- 6 Not physical, but psychological hoo-whee!

Overall – 9

It’s been a long time since I watched this series and I think I enjoyed it more this time around. ^_^





Viz Presents the Sailor Moon Dub Moonlight Party Friday, September 5th, 2014

September 5th, 2014

Viz Moonlight PartyPress Release: VIZ Media Presents – MOONLIGHT PARTY! An Official Sailor Moon Streaming Event

Join your friends from the Sailor Moon team at VIZ Media for a celebration of the UNCUT English dub premiere of Sailor Moon! Starting at 8:00 PM Pacific time on September 5, 2014

Starting at 8:00 PM Pacific time (11:00PM Eastern) we’ll be hosting a special slumber party live from the VIZ office in San Francisco steaming on our YouTube channel. We’ll be watching the dub premiere on Hulu or Neon Alley as well as playing games, asking SAILOR MOON trivia questions and having lots of fun with fans all across the nation. You’ll get to meet the team working on SAILOR MOON and even have a chance to ask them questions about the upcoming releases!

Did we mention there will be prizes? Be sure to watch to find out how you can win some extra special Sailor Moon treats!

So, get your friends together, grab your favorite jammies, plushes & slumber party treats and snuggle up with us for a whole lot of Sailor Moon awesomeness.

(Hulu is only available in the USA at this time but this streaming event will be open to fans in the US, Canada and more)





Rose of Versailles Anime, Part 2, Disk 4 (English)

August 28th, 2014

Rose-of-Versailles2Rose of Versailles, Part 2 continues to be pointedly relevant and prescient right to the very last disk.

On the eve of the French Revolution, Oscar and Andre’ finally break past the barriers that have been keeping them apart. They “become husband and wife” as the series delicately puts it, while showing us an artistic rendering of them naked.

The events of the the storming of the Bastille and the subsequent days of bloodletting play out after our principles have all been taken off the board, to be relayed by the Greek chorus of Alain, Bernard and Rosalie.

In my ongoing research as I watched this final disk, I learned that the French Guards did indeed side with the people over the royal household and they were a key element at the storming of the Bastille. That was interesting.

The thing that will haunt me, however, is the scene when the Army faces an angry mob and fires into it, killing a child. The scene was chilling in the light of the recent events in Missouri, where a belligerent police department punished protesters and left me feeling quite hollow.

The story draws to a close, but I’m not going to lie, it’s a bitter ending to a story that was too realistic to ever have a happy end.

TRSI did a bangup job on this series, and this was really hammered home on this final volume when I ran into one bit of translation that could have been better. It was such a rare occurrence that it really highlighted the overall quality of the translation. And, the visuals looked damn good for an old anime. I’m impressed and after a rest to recharge my ability to handle emotionally wrecking anime, I’ll get started on Dear Brother! ^_^;

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters 9
Yuri – 0
Service – 1 (on principle)

Overall – 8

There is no doubt in my mind that this series is a classic. There is also no doubt in my mind that it will be another 20 years before I watch it again….phew.