Archive for the English Anime Category


Yuri Anime: R.O.D. – Read or Die

February 19th, 2017

How surprised am I to find I have never reviewed R.O.D. – Read or Die here? Very surprised. Although, in retrospect, I guess it’s not all that surprising, as it was released on DVD here in the US in 2003 (by Manga Entertainment! Wow, that was a long time ago) and we were talking more about anime on the Yuricon Mailing List than here on Okazu back then. When I pulled the DVD off the shelf, I found it had a little blue sticker on it, which denoted the fact that we had shown it at Yuricon in June 2003. ^_^ 

Friday I had a visit from one of our Superheroes, Alice D, and, while we were chatting, playing phone games, eating cookies and watching stuff, I decided to start my next epic rewatch, this time of the R.O.D. series (plural.)

And so I am watching R.O.D. – Read or Die for the first time in more than a decade.  And in that decade, I read all the novels, both the R.O.D. and Read or Dream manga series and watched the R.O.D. The TV series, so my perspective is somewhat different than it was back in those heady days of the early 2000s. Check out my reviews here on Okazu, from 2003-to 2014 when I finished the last novel that existed at the time. We’re supposed to get the final novel in the next year. If I were Kurata, I know exactly how I’d end it, too.

R.O.D – Read or Die, introduces us to bibliomaniac Yomiko Readman, AKA “The Paper” a secret agent for the British Library. While cloned geniuses from the past are engaged in an effort to destroy everyone in the world, special agents from British Library, The Paper and Miss Deep are hard at work, protecting humanity from a plan to make us all listen to Beethoven’s “Suicide Symphony.”

This 3- episode OVA is action-packed. From the first moment we see Yomiko use her paper powers to the last, we have to marvel at the creativity of the animators. This is especially true for the fight scenes, in which Yomiko’s obsessive bibliomania and skill with paper each serve an important place in the narrative.

The most interesting quality of the animation is the color palette, in which green and purple feature significantly in and around a London background. The animation itself does not hold up all that well to be watched at higher-res than existed when Studio Deen first did the work. If I have a specific criticism of Studio Deen it is that – their animation rarely seems to wear well with the passage of time.

Of course I asked myself as I hit the play button, “Are Nancy and Yomiko actually into each other?” I mean, it’s been 15 years since we first watched it. Maybe we made that up in our heads!

As we wrapped up, Alice and I agreed that no, we really didn’t make that up. There was a very definite chemistry between Nancy and Yomiko and no amount of rationalization was making that disappear. Yomiko makes Nancy question her affection for the leader of the I-jin, Nancy makes Yomiko see another person the same way she had only ever looked at books. Or so we thought.

Because of course, Yomiko already has a lover, although we in the OVA audience don’t know that. And that lover is already gone from her life, although we don’t know that, either. And soon she will be asked to guard a young novelist and her feelings will be unguarded once again. (Correction: This series is post- Nenene, as I missed the content of the notes in Yomiko’s apartment, thanks Sean, Matt and Shannon for the correction. I was chatting with Alice and the notes were subtitled in black so I missed them completely.) And then the world will explode and everything we thought we knew about Yomiko Readman will be rewritten. 

Ratings:

Art – 5 /cough/Not so good/cough/
Story – 9 Really everything you could ask for from a fantasy-action series, although I could do with less boob movement. Bras work, guys.
Characters – 9 This was the Yomiko we all fell for, not the creepy obsessive of the novels
Yuri – 6 Yup. Definitely. Not our imagination.
Service – 4 Breasts that act as if bras and gravity do not exist.

Overall – 8

It was great fun to re-watch this after so long. More well-written than I remembered, less well-animated than I remembered, and definitely Yuri. ^_^

Special thanks to Okazu Superheroes Alice and Louis, who were both loads of fun for me this weekend!

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Sound Euphonium, Season 2 Anime (English) Guest Review by Michelle Denise N

February 1st, 2017

Woo hoo! It’s Guest Review Wednesday and we have a Guest Review! I love that so much. ^_^ Today, I hope you will welcome new Guest Reviewer Michelle Denise N of Lonelypond,and make her feel as welcome as possible.  The floor is yours, Michelle!

Sound Euphonium, the animated series, follows the haphazard learning process of euphonium (or baritone) player Oumae Kumiko, a somewhat reluctant first year member of the Kitauji High School Concert Band. Kitauji suffered a schism the year before, when the more serious first (now second) years quit over their lazy seniors’ lack of effort.  A new instructor, Taki Noburo, has taken over leadership, which attracted Kumiko’s fellow first year, trumpet virtuoso Kousaka Reina to the school. Kumiko had been trying to escape both band and Reina, after a ‘dud gold’ placement in middle school. SE’s first season built up a certain amount of dramatic tension between the two girls, which the second season glances at in the first episode, but then takes Kumiko and the rest of the episodes in an entirely unexpected ramble through the other relationships in the band.

If you love the trumpet, Sound Euphonium Season 2 is worth watching; the trumpet solos are sublime. If you watch anime not for music, but plotting and story pacing, SE2 would have trouble rating a dud bronze.

Kumiko is a mild, friendly, pleasant enough character. Through the first season, she spent most of her time with Reina. In the second season, they tossed Reina to the side, leaving her to pine over sensei while Kumiko wandered wide-eyed through relationships she didn’t really understand. There is also some attention paid to Kumiko’s relationship with her sister and Kumiko’s need to play music with someone she has an emotional connection to. The resolution to that plot point was shoehorned uncomfortably into the end of the season in a way that didn’t strike true for me with any of the characters involved. However, the smaller stories about other band members were short arcs that did actually catch my interest and my heart, unlike any of Kumiko’s antics. I mostly just felt like she was wildly out of her league emotionally, very naive.

Yuri: Let’s get the KumiRei question out of the way first off; it’s never really caught my interest as a combination, both girls seemed to be playacting. The first season of Sound Euphonium, Reina’s crazy boldness and how much I disliked her caused me to start yelling ‘devil trumpet player’ at the screen during her antics. The wonder and puzzlement of Sound Euphonium Season 2, is that just as I started to sympathize with her, she disappeared from the story.

If you look at Sound Euphonium Season 2, with no expectations it becomes the story of a young euphonium player’s innocent trampling through relationships more adult than she is capable of understanding, while searching for an emotional connection. Meanwhile, her weirdly intense best buddy from Season 1, the piercingly talented trumpet player with a crush on teacher, slips from story center to a near silent sideline participant, though still an epic trumpet player.

Non existent KumiRei chemistry gets eclipsed by the fragilely emo oboe player, Yoroizuka Mizore and the slightly swaggersome former flute, Kasaki Nozomi, suffering from one of those mutual misunderstandings that seem to plague fictional young girls who might have mad crushes on each other but never seem to talk about ANYTHING. This phenomenon always puzzles me when sighted in the wild. But this time, we get to an understanding, and a bonus nice moment that might lead the audience to think flautist and oboeist had kissed and made up at some point, but were refraining due to public location. And then Reina and Kumiko make fun of them, acing their callow youth best. There are also some exchanges that could be mistaken for flirting between several of the other band members, as well as the continued pining of trombone player, Tsukamoto Shuuichi, male, after Kumiko.

And we also have a pool episode, complete with bikinis.
 
RATINGS
Art 7 — some nice lighting, lots of outdoors moments, makes playing in band not visually boring
Story 5 — too unfocused
Characters 7 — many of them interesting, but leads let down by plot/pacing issues
Yuri — 3 (is that the right level for make it up and/or close your eyes and imagine)
Service 2
Overall 6 (watch it for the music and the flute player so get at least halfway through)

Erica here: Sound Euphonium, Season 1 and 2 are available streaming over at Crunchyroll. 

Thank you! I appreciate both the balanced perspective and the appreciation for music, although I’ll always be biased for woodwinds over brass. ^_^

The phenomenon you speak ofwhen characters just do not *talk to one another,  I refer to as “Jondalar syndrome” after the male protagonist of The Mammoth Hunters, who desperately wants to have sex with female protagonist Ayla, but just never tells her, for 400 pages. It was excruciating. Irritated the pants off me. ^_^

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Sailor Moon S Anime , Part 1, Disk 3 (English)

January 11th, 2017

Today’s review begins with my very heartfelt gratitude to Okazu Superhero Ivan L. Upon reading in an earlier review that my computer had crashed and taken my Blu-ray player with it, Ivan generously donated one to Okazu. And so, because of Ivan’s kindness, I am able to report on Sailor Moon S, Part 1, Disk 3 on BD.

Sailor Moon S looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray. ^_^ As a quick test, I rewatched an episode in DVD. It looks great, but damn, that Blu-ray is smokin’. There’s no going back now. ^_^

The episodes of Disk 2 and 3 are arguably the reasons that so many fans love this series. These episodes are where we spend so much time with each individual Senshi, learning about their hopes and dreams and the self-doubts that hold them back. It gives them time to be people, rather than just archetypes.

On Disk 3, we also have the second-best episode* of the entire season, Uranus’ origin episode, Episode 106. By this point, the animation has really settled in. 20 years ago, Michiru’s drawing of Uranus was pretty and a little sexy. 20 years later it looks as good as – perhaps better than – new, as our screen resolution can finally really capture the movement and light in it.

For this episode, I also watched the dub. You may not appreciate the leap of faith that took for me, but trust me – this is my second-favorite episode of  all 200.* I had to believe that Erica Mendez and Lauren Landa were going to voice Haruka and Michiru in a way that wouldn’t make me cringe. So when I tell you that I thought they did a fantastic job, it has meaning and weight. My sincere thanks to both of them. It meant a lot to me to see Uranus and Neptune voiced “right.” The script isn’t exact to the Japanese, but it works beautifully and I have no major complaints. (Of course I have minor ones…I’m an otaku. ^_^)  The rest of the cast is also excellent – it was an actual pleasure to watch a dub. I don’t think I have ever said that before in my life. 

20 years later, I’m watching Haruka being mean to Michiru on a ship that inexplicably has a painting of the entire city being destroyed by a giant tidal wave and the painting is so vivid and so extraordinary a thing that I had to comment, “What a thing to have on a ship!” And then be sucked back into a story I have watched dozens, perhaps, hundreds of times.  Haruka, Michiru, two 15 year olds torn between their own dreams of the future and the past, and between desire for each other and to save the world. It’s a pretty intense episode, in a series that is about to take a turn into intensity.

However, before we do that, we have Eudial and her terrible driving, the ongoing gag of her parking tickets and her terrible Daimons, and a discussion of a rosy future. There’s one last gasp of humor to come, before this all goes dark, but we’ll have to wait for it in the second set. I cannot wait for the second set!

Ratings:

Art – 8 
Story – 9 Haruka and Michiru
Characters – 10 Haruka and Michiru
Yuri- 7 Haruka and Michiru 
Service – 4 

Overall – 9 Did I mention Haruka and Michiru?

I’ve written about this before, but the line “I won’t let you go home tonight” was a well-known pickup line in the 90s, when Sailor Moon S came out. It is suggestive to a Japanese audience in a way that an American audience might miss. And by “suggestive” I mean it wasn’t suggestive of driving all night long, it was a blatant come-on. Which is why Michiru says “ara” in that pleased/slightly scandalized tone. I’m sorry they changed it in English, but I’ll give them a bye on it. I can’t expect too many folks at Viz to know ancient pickup lines….although they could just ask me. ^_^ 

Thanks once again to Viz Media for the review copy, special thanks to Erica Mendez and Lauren Landa for their excellent jobs voicing roles that are so foundational to so many of us. And many, many thanks to Ivan. You all made me cry, in a good way. (T_T)

* If you can’t guess which episode is the favorite, then you’ll just have to wait. There’s really only one possible candidate. ^_^

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Sailor Moon S Anime , Part 1, Disk 2 (English)

January 3rd, 2017

Disk 2 of Sailor Moon S, Part 1 is a large part of what arguably makes this series so compelling. It is on this disk we do something that changes the series completely…we spend time with the Senshi.

We’ve met the Professor and Kaolinite and we understand that they  – and Uranus and Neptune – are after the “three talismans” whatever they may be and no further information is offered in that regard. Instead, we get a chance to actually see what matters to Ami, Rei, Makot and, Minako  and in doing so, we see well-developed characters who struggle with self-doubt and who rely on their friends and the people around them to find renewed purpose.

In addition, as we visit the Senshis’ inner dreams and hopes  we see something that thrills me to no end – we see the concern and affection and understanding they have for one another. This is not just Usagi running behind them, shouting their name, dragging the others along, this is the Inners supporting each other. Rei and Makoto talking quietly in the hallway outside Rei’s room is one of my favorite scenes of the season.  These are the episodes during which you understand at last, that Rei takes her shrine duties very seriously. That Makoto, who so often shrugs off her strength, wants more than anything to be able to rely on it. That Minako cares that she’s no longer playing volleyball, even though she knows why and that Ami’s worried that there’s no her in the middle of all that studying. And, in many ways, this disk goes a really long way to giving Mamoru the first glimpse we ever get of a real personality. In my opinion, these are the finest episodes of Sailor Moon S

This disk also includes the two-part episode on Usagi’s birthday, which is the second time we encounter the song “Ai no Senshi” while Usagi pleads with Haruka and Michiru to not allow people to be sacrificed. 

This disk shows my favorite qualitiy of storytelling – the plot is driven forward by character development with a backdrop of monsters, rather than just being one monster after another in tedious succession. 

Ratings:

Art – 8 
Story – 9
Characters – 10 Eudial! Best bad guy ever.
Yuri- 5 Haruka and Michiru deny being a couple, I have  theory about that
Service – 5 Sexualized Daimons are still sexualized

Overall – 9

Did I mention Eudial has arrived! Wahoo. I love Eudial. ^_^

Many many thanks to Viz for the review copy and for their fantastic remastering!

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Top Yuri Anime of 2016

December 28th, 2016

When I say that I could not have written this list without you, my dear readers, I am not being hyperbolic in the slightest. If it hadn’t been for your guest posts and suggestions on Twitter, this list would have been three series – and two of them would have been Sailor Moon. ^_^ So, thanks to everyone who helped! As always, please feel free to disagree by posting your choices for Top Ten in the comments.

 

10. Any series you think ought to be on this list

I’m weaseling out on the first item, because being told by some random person that a series is Yuri is, for me, not quite sufficient to get on a Top Ten, but I also strongly believe that fanon has a very important place in a healthy fandom. Ultimately Yuri is the one genre that, by it’s heterogeneous nature, is defined by fan perception. Therefore, insert whatever series you think ought to have been here. ^_^

 

Tied for 8. Izetta, The Last Witch and Harmony

These series had enough Yuri (or Yuri service) to get mentions this year. Whether you see them as “Yuri” or akogare or loyalty or friendship is entirely up to you.  

Izetta The Last Witch is available on Crunchyroll, Harmony is available on Amazon Video or DVD/Blu-ray combo from Funimation

 

7. Riddle Story of Devil

This series is more “Yuri because they said so” than substantively Yuri, but there is one canon couple a priori and another by the end. It wasn’t as good as I hoped nor was it as bad as I feared. I have yet to watch Funimation’s home video release, but I am looking forward to refreshing myself on the series. ^_^

Riddle Story of a Devil is available on Crunchyroll and on DVD from Funimation.

 

6. MAGICAL GIRL RAISING PROJECT

Sister Nana and Winterprison  are a canonical couple. That their story is not a happy one puts it towards the bottom of the list. So if you’re using this list to find cool anime to watch, do be warned. Nonetheless, one of the signs of a mature genre is when not all the endings are happy. (But, yeah, ugh.) If anyone is interested in reviewing this series for us here, do let me know!

Magical Raising Project is available on Crunchyroll 

 

5. Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon 

This entry is on the list entirely because of the strong case for Yuri made by Mariko S in her Guest Review for Okazu.  Like so many series that include Yuri as a plot element, it’s as much service as Yuri, but canonically lesbian characters is pretty acceptable. 

Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon is available on Crunchyroll

 

4. Flip Flappers

Again, a series appears on this list not because of my opinion, but someone (in fact multiple someones) else’s opinion.  Miles Thomas is not alone in reading this series as a queer narrative. I’m almost moved enough by the passionate defense of this series to give it a try myself. Again, if you’ve watched and would like to write a guest review, do contact me!

Flip Flappers is available on Crunchyroll.

 

Okay, here we are at my top three of the year, and none of these are likely to surprise anyone, although undoubtedly, there’ll be some eyerolling. ^_^

My Top 3 Yuri Anime of  2016….

 

3. Sailor Moon Crystal, Season 3

This was the manga come to life. This was the Haruka and Michiru Takeuchi Naoko wanted us to see in the first place. This was the tender embrace and touch of two young women with no one except each other to rely on. 

I hope you’ll understand all the many “whys” that, for me make this series my third best Yuri anime of the year.

Sailor Moon Crystal, Season 3 is available on Crunchyroll, on Viz’ website (and it will become available on DVD and Blu-ray, eventually.) 

 

 

 

 
2. Yuri Kuma Arashi

Talk about a big old “duh.” By it’s nature, Yuri Kuma Arashi has to be on the list, doesn’t it? Even though it’s more like a game of Madlibs or Cards for Humanity than a story, this anime has something I’d long wanted to see – Morishima Akiko’s characters come to life.  

The story is indubitably Yuri, as is the ending, and all the middle bits and the empty spaces between – there’s pretty much never going to be a series that is more “Yuri” than this one, to the point of obsession and beyond. 

In 2016, it was released in English by Funimation, which makes it totally worth a rewatch! Yuri Kuma Arashi is available on Crunchyroll or in DVD/ Blu-ray combo pack from Funimation.

 

 

Here we go, my number one anime title of the year is…

 

1. Sailor Moon S 

I’ve been writing Okazu for almost 15 years now and obsessing about Yuri for longer than that. And through all those years, the Queens of Yuri have been – and always will be – Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, struggling to live…and to die…together. They are the reason I am here, and the reason so many of you are, as well. 

Sailor Moon S is available streaming on Viz’s website and on DVD/Blu-ray combo from Viz Media.

If Haruka and Michiru make an appearance in any given year on Okazu, they are always going to win by default.

And so they do, this year, where my Top Yuri Anime for 2016 (and for now and forever) is Sailor Moon S.

 

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