Archive for the English Anime Category


Harmony Anime (ハーモニー) (English) Guest Review by Eric P.

November 30th, 2016
harmony
It’s Guest Review Wednesday and today we have a visit from long-time reader and occasional Guest Reviewer Eric P! Please welcome him as always! 
 
 
The ambitious Project Itoh trilogy is a trio of anime film adaptations based on the works of award-winning sci-fi author Satoshi Ito, spawned by Noitamina and animated by three different studios. It first began with The Empire of Corpses, followed closely by the middle story of the anthology, <harmony/>, (ハーモニー) animated by Studio 4*C and co-directed by Michael Arias, who did Tekkonkinkreet.
 
Set in the future, <harmony/> reveals a world where society has achieved a systematic Utopia. Everyone is connected to the collective WatchMe software program, where health and psychological well-being is constantly monitored and regulated, and “necessary” information is constantly provided so everyone knows the “right” things to do for better living, and everyone knows everybody just by looking at them and are likewise always supportive of each other. The vast majority have apparently become accustomed to and content with this way of life, but two high school friends, Tuan and Miach, recognize it as a imposing, oppressive regime robbing people of their free wills. The enigmatic Miach is the leader of the two, who learned of what the world once was through the books she read. She draws Tuan into her beliefs and actions through physical intimacy and affection (more on that later). They agree to rebel against the world through the ultimate act of selfishness, via suicide. Tuan fails in the attempt, while Miach seemingly left the world and her in it.
 
Resigned to live since then, the now-adult Tuan works for the World Health Organization, a kind of medical police force, but continues to find society a stifling birdcage as she tries getting by and retaining some personal control. But then chaos disrupts society’s superficial perfection, as minds are being hijacked, spurring mass suicides, followed by growing collective paranoia. The more Tuan looks into it, the more it mirrors the Miach she remembers, with signs pointing to her as the puppet master. The plot is a slide down a rabbit hole as Tuan uncovers Miach’s past and intentions along with additional puzzles and truths, and in the end, determines the fate of society and the world itself.
 
One of the major criticisms Harmony received was for its animation, with it’s uneven blend of 2D/3D-animation. While some of the CG moments were definitely a little crude and clunky here and there, some other moments I thought were interestingly done. There are some shots of the camera panning around the characters’ heads, which move fast enough to make it look like immersive 2D to me, but the scenes that might look most impressive to other viewers would be the virtual conference calls that Tuan attends. The one sequence that stood out the most to me was a restaurant scene, in which Tuan converses about Miach with a childhood friend from their past, and the camera circles around them within their environment, closing in. Even long before we find out the big reveal later, one already gets a gradual discomforting sense of an evil presence descending upon them before the big shock that takes place, setting the whole story in motion.
 
The story stays true to its discomforting atmosphere all the way to its end, which involves a final confrontation between Tuan and Miach. However you interpreted their past relationship from the flashbacks – whether or not Miach was just twisted and took advantage of Tuan, or what Tuan herself truly thought of their bond in retrospect after all this time –  their true connection ultimately comes to the forefront. Miach makes her final offer, and Tuan responds with making one last free decision, this time out of a personal act of selfishness. The ending is bleak, which that may leave some viewers frustrated. But after watching it twice, I realize the story itself was not a happy one to begin with. And if one were to ask if the characters were likeable, then the answer would be a general “not really.”
 
But after two Project Itoh movies, it is made apparent to me that a happy plot with likeable characters is not necessarily what one looks for when going into an Itoh story. One instead goes in for the hard sci-fi with the kind of world-building that is his distinctive personal style, and for the philosophical ideas and pondering that relate to the story being told, often generally about consciousness and the nature of the soul. With <harmony/> in particular, the characters mainly serve as vehicles for the viewer’s journey in Itoh’s world, and it can be philosophical to the point where the dialogue is almost pure info-dumping. But that is something I had grown used to after watching every iteration of Ghost in the Shell, and rather than putting me off it merely forces me to pay attention.
 
All in all, your mileage may well vary with <harmony/>.
 
Ratings: 
 
I would not call it either great or terrible, but I deem it interesting enough to check out at least once. For that, I give it my usual overall rating of 7.
 
Erica here: Thank you again Eric, for this review, next time I’m in a mood for dystopian futures (which is almost never, to be honest ^_^,) I know where to look. ^_^
 




Sailor Moon S is here! Join the Moonlight Party tonight!

November 11th, 2016

15027551_10154726708513552_1227742607169247655_nTonight Viz Media is having a Moonlight Party, featuring Sailor Moon S clips with the new dub, trivia and more. 

I don’t know about you, but I have never needed Sailor Moon more than I do right now, so please join me and other Sailor Moon fans on the official Viz Media YouTube channel.

I’m really looking forward to the dub of this and have all my digits crossed that it’s excellent. ^_^

Also in Sailor Moon News. if you joined the official Sailor Moon fanclub, today is the day you received your link to the Fan Club website. Remember, Chrome can automatically (poorly) translate the page, if you can’t read the Japanese! Ironically, I wanted only one of the official items, and found it last week in Kinokuniya. ^_^ I’ll be doing a review in days to come.

See you at the Moonlight Party!





Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon Anime (English) Guest Review By Mariko S

September 28th, 2016

caradIt’s Guest Review Wednesday here on Okazu! Today we have returning Guest Guest Reviewer, Mariko S, who will be handling a request I get here rather often, a look at the Cross Ange series.  

If you know of some media that you consider Yuri or lesbian and want it reviewed, but haven’t seen it here, take a look at our Guest Review Guidelines and consider offering to write a review. 

So please welcome back Mariko and give her your undivided attention. Take it away, Mariko!

Compared to a couple of decades ago, it has never been easier to acquire and enjoy Yuri. Before, outside of a couple of pantheon-level characters and series, we Yurifans were mostly relegated to overblowing curiously timed blushes and offhand remarks. Now there’s more dedicated Yuri content released than ever before.

Of course, the dark side of this evolution has been the ossification of the Yuri genre around the “pure schoolgirl” archetype. This has resulted in seemingly endless series devoted to a plain girl entering a prestigious private all-girls school in a world where men don’t exist, and all the girls are gay. Nothing much happens over the course of a season, and at the end you get a kiss between the leads (maybe).

Where can we turn to break out of this doldrum? Where there is a real story, with a detailed plot, and things of consequence happen to a diverse cast in a richly developed world that happens to contain lesbian characters? In search of such a thing, I have delved into the world of seinen series, home of old to various evil lesbian predators or joke Yuricrushes. And to my delight, amongst the awful dreck of your Koihime Musou and Valkyrie Drives, there is some worthwhile stuff being produced! Today I come to talk to you about Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon, available on Crunchyroll (behind an adult themes warning.)

We are introduced to an idyllic world, seemingly free of all strife, and the magi-tech power called Mana that enables it. Our heroine Angelise is a spoiled, ignorant princess who, as it turns out, is one of the outcast “norma,” people (always female) who cannot use Mana. Her unmasking and downfall is orchestrated by her scheming brother, and as a result she is rudely ripped from her perfect life of privilege and thrown into the hidden war that enables the rest of society’s bliss.

As she finds out, when norma are discovered they are sent to a distant island where they are forced to use non-magic weapons in the form of fighting jet-robots called para-mails to battle extradimensional invading dragons. Most of the girls have been there since birth and know no other life.

The series has a remarkably good pace of character development for Ange. She has lived all her life believing that norma were antisocial monsters that must be eliminated, and it is not a quick or easy process for her to accept that she is one and how to restart her life as one. Additionally, the layers of truth and fiction surrounding the reality of the show’s universe are revealed in a gradual but compelling way. Things do not stay static long on this show.

Ok, so I will outright say it – many aspects of the show can get pretty ridiculous. The service is liberally sprinkled around: the battle uniforms are glorified fetishwear, too many conversations take place in baths, and there’s no shortage of boobs and butts flying around. However, as far as the plot is concerned, as crazy as many of the developments seem as they come out, for the most part I have to give the show credit for hanging together by its own internal logic to the end. There is only one truly horrendous asspull for which you will have to pretend they came up with a better explanation.

There are situations of violence and sexual coercion meant to emphasize Ange’s vulnerability. There’s lots of violence overall; although most of it isn’t especially gruesome, some scenes could be difficult if you are sensitive. Finally, the token male lead/love interest Tusk has a running gag of ending up face-first in Ange’s crotch at every opportunity. It isn’t funny the first time, and gets less funny every time after.

But that out of the way, unlike many of its contemporaries, this show has a brain and a heart. Ange goes on quite the journey from a weak, irritating, unlikeable brat to a strong, seasoned, fair leader. The series wants to say something about the way groups of people are marginalized and demonized to maintain a false sense of security. It brings together a diverse cast of people who are not stereotypes or tokens, but who have pasts, presents, and futures to explore. It draws a distinct contrast between the way the main villain says he wants “strong women of intelligence” by his side, but really just wants obedient servants, and the truly strong women who oppose him. It’s not a masterpiece, but it has ambition, and that is commendable.

Make no mistake, this is a series with Yuri, and plenty of it. But also, make no mistake, this is a seinen series through and through, and wears its fanservice badge proudly and frequently. For the first half of the series, lesbian attraction and lesbian sex serves primarily as titillation. To the show’s credit, there is never any “but we’re both girls” or a sense that it’s a stand-in because men aren’t around. Some of the sex is about power, some is about genuine attraction. The only character who thinks it’s “wrong” is Ange herself, and that is part of her character development.

In the end, while she does not return the feelings of the girl who loves her, she accepts them and even chastises her for feeling that her attraction is “weird.” Her response was pretty amazing to me for a show like this: “Who says it’s weird? That’s the ridiculous world we’re going to destroy together, isn’t it?”

In fact, there are three canonically lesbian characters who are all fully developed and have arcs both including and apart from their sexuality. They are not by any means one-note side characters or jokes. And that, whatever other shortcomings this show has, makes it worth any Yurifan’s time and money.
Ratings:
Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Yuri– 8
Service – 10

Overall – 7

Thank you very much, Mariko!





LGBTQ: Steven Universe, Season 4 (English)

September 15th, 2016

sulogo-300x194I consider Steven Universe, Season 1 to be good, Season 2 to be excellent, Season 3 to be compelling. So it should come as no surprise to hear that Season 4 of Steven Universe is sublime.

To begin with, Season 4 starts with something we haven’t had before – a plot that is not driven by character development. A full-blown rollicking action adventure, as we learn of  “The Cluster” at the center of the Earth which is about to destroy the planet.

Which is not to say that there is no character development, just that the plot itself is as much classic sci-fi with gadgets and robots as it is character development. We get our very first glimpse of a real Diamond, (Yellow Diamond, voiced perfectly by Patti Lupone, swoon, I always do fall for the nasty ones). Peridot is put on the gangplank and her reaction…is not what we might expect. But Steven has a surprising effect on people and Gems.

Having saved the Earth again, we are rewarded by the most absurd handwave in cartooning – a character being so rich that money is never an object. Hey, if it works for Batman, why not?

And yet, nothing that you’d expect happens with this handwave. I know that if I were to come in to 10 million dollars, I wouldn’t change a thing about my life at the moment. I’d travel more often – and first class – but that’s about it. So, while this handwave might affect everything…it actually affects very little. I appreciated that. But it does make the rest of the season possible.

Because, what follows are two of the most amazing cartoon episodes ever. In “Mr. Greg,” wrapped in a facile and silly musical episode, Pearl – thinking she’s alone – sings a heart-rending ode to the loss of her love, Rose. She uncovers the seed of her resentment for Greg and in doing so is able, finally, to let it go.

The season could rest there, but no.  In what has to be one of the most extraordinary episodes ever (throughout which I kept saying “holy crap,” over and over) the story takes on the tangled web of Lapis Lazuli’s history of a forced fusion and an abusive relationship with Jasper. “Alone At Sea” deserves an Emmy.

Once again, having uncovered pain, the plot can move forward. And so, we turn once again (as we have over and over) to Connie and Steven who are now fighting in tandem and becoming stronger. So much so, that Amethyst’s low-self-esteem becomes an issue…again. By the time the season ends, we can see that Amethyst isn’t the only one who feels inadequate to the task. Steven is keenly aware that he’ll never be Rose Quartz. And Jasper is still out there and will have to be dealt with.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story- 10
Characters – 10
Service –  3 Pearl in a tux is definitely a kind of service
Yuri – 9

Overall – 10

You should be watching this cartoon.





LGBTQ: Steven Universe, Season 3 (English)

September 12th, 2016

sulogo-300x194Season Three of Steven Universe is some of the most amazing animation I’ve ever sat though.

With one exception, every episode of Season 3 is strong…and they build on each other to an amazing extent. Which is why the first episode of the season is so damn annoying.

In Season 1, we’re introduced to the characters, and start to get a feel for their personalities and back stories. In Season 2, even as we start to truly understand the alien nature of the Crystal Gems and the war for Earth’s independence which isolated them from the Gem Homeworld, we come to appreciate their essential “humanity.”

The first episode, however was a misguided attempt by Cartoon Network to promote the unwatchable Uncle Grandpa. To salve our annoyance a genuine plot point is added, which moves the entire story forward in a leap.

From that point on, this season is two steps forward and one look back. We learn key backstories and by doing so, we can see just how much the Crystal Gems have changed from their days with Rose Quartz, in which they were far more alien than they are now.

Which makes it that much more poignant as the story forces every single one of them to confront their own fears, relationships and bonds. And just as they seem to come out the other side, Peridot joins the crew, which really highlights the changes they’ve gone through.

We now can say with complete confidence that Garnet is a fusion of two gems who are in love, that Pearl’s feelings for Rose go beyond a mere crush and that Amethyst is, at heart, a surprisingly fragile Gem. In the center is Steven, who is more like his mother than anyone has yet admitted – inspiring cooperation and fierce loyalty in others.

The humans in Beach City are not immune to this, either. Steven brings a little humanity to several of the town’s bored teens and we get to see a side of Greg we hadn’t really recognized – his ability to weather crises with a calm perspective. Maybe, we think, he was a good match for Rose, after all.

Let me once again wind up with Connie. Two of my favorite episodes in the series are in this season and both focus on Connie. In “Sworn to the Sword,” in Connie decides to train to be Steven’s knight. Steven’s affection for Connie brings about a shockingly raw admission from Pearl and in the resolution, we can see all three of them maturing as a result of the conrontation.

This is followed by “Nightmare Hospital,” in which Connie is forced to use her newfound strength to face the greatest monster of all – parental disapproval. Again, the resolution is satisfying on all levels.

At this point, I should probably note that the music for Steven Universe is as catchy as can be. I’m really hoping they just put together a soundtrack album, because I’d love to have all the music in one place. In the meantime, Season 2 has a “best of” songs episode, episode 101, “Steven’s Greatest Hits.”

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story- 10
Characters – 10
Service – Not visually
Yuri – 7 (“That’s my Laffy Saffy”)

Overall – 10

I’ve posted this here before, but it’s worth mentioning again, because once I start singing it, it takes a week to get it out of my head. Here’s “Do It For Her/Do It For Him” from “Sworn to the Sword.”