Archive for the English Anime Category


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. ^_^)





Madoka Magica: Rebellion bilingual DVD/BD Guest Review by Eric P.

May 6th, 2015

PMMM3rebellionOnce again it is Guest Review Wednesday and it is my very real pleasure to welcome back our long-time Okazu Superhero and friend Eric P. with his take on the dub of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion DVD/Blu-ray combo.  (I’ve linked to the entry on the Yuricon Store, so you have links to Amazon or TRSI) Take it away Eric!

 Some time after Puella Magi Madoka Magica came to an end, creator and director Akiyuki Shinbo came out with Rebellion, a direct film sequel as well as a kind of extended epilogue to the series. Its story and very existence met very mixed reactions at best from its dedicated fanbase, leaving some angered that it ruined the show’s “happy” ending (depending on how one interpreted it). It was a definite conclusion either way to the story it was telling, while Rebellion was technically more of a supplement, so in that regard the movie may not have been “needed” per se. Necessary or unnecessary, we have it either way regardless, so the real question is whether or not we could/should accept it.

The first time I watched Rebellion, I admit to having had mixed feelings as well. Upon second viewing, I made up my mind and decided that it’s in fact a great and worthy companion piece to the series, having become “necessary” after the fact. Although I agree the series had a good ending, I disagree about it being the perfect conclusion its hardcore fanbase made it out to be, since there were still a few things I found problematic. For instance, it just didn’t sit right with me at all for Kyuubey to not get the retribution he deserved, for purposely taking advantage of the girls’ naivety and ruining their lives. Only in Rebellion do we get that (after he attempted doing something truly despicable), among several other awesome moments that amount to a worthwhile view.

The visuals alone are undeniably beautiful, going beyond what was achieved in the series, to the point of overwhelming sensory overload. Some fans complained especially about the direction of Homura’s character, but her “likability” was never really the point. The choices she made were arguably still true to her character, and for those who didn’t recognize that need to give the series a fresh new look. Even though that’s Madoka’s name in the title, recognizing that Magica may in fact have been Homura’s story all along only puts a more solid perspective on everything that happens in Rebellion.
For many it took only one view to recognize how special the Madoka Magica series really was, whereas for Rebellion it would probably take at least one extra view as it did for me to recognize and appreciate its own merits and intent. Especially as a standalone feature, I know I only keep appreciating it with each new viewing.

Aniplex USA has put together a very nice physical set for this movie’s bilingual DVD/Blu-Ray release. Although not hardcover like the original import, it’s still a glossy cardboard artbox that comes with the magnificent soundtrack CD in its own blu-ray case, a couple of postcards and a booklet. Minus the staff interviews, it’s pretty much the same booklet as from the import release, but this time containing English translations, so we could read everything in one place. If I had one disappointment with this release, I wish Aniplex had thought to sub the ending theme song, so I could know and better appreciate what Kalafina was singing as we watch the spectral silhouettes of Madoka and Homura dancing together while the credits rolled.

As for the English audio in this bilingual release—to start with, the dub for the series has always been decently better than average. But for the movies, especially for Rebellion, all the English voice actors are at the top of their game, having grown familiar with the characters and knowing just what they need to convey. Cassandra Lee has always nailed Kyuubey’s innocent evilness, Christine Marie Cabanos continues reflecting Madoka’s moe cutesiness without being one-dimensional, while Cristina Vee especially almost perfectly captures Homura’s passionate feelings in Rebellion. In the scene where Homura delivers her speech to Kyuubey about love being the driving force behind her actions, many people have interpreted that moment as solid proof of the inherent Yuri in Madoka Magica, while others continued believing it’s still subtext. But when listening to Homura deliver that exact same speech in English, whatever subtext there was is practically gone, and I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way at all. Having watched Rebellion subbed twice before, I consider the English version interchangeable with the Japanese version, which is no doubt the highest passing grade a dub can get, just short of being the superior version. And yes, they actually and cleverly dub the cake-rap song, which they certainly deserve special kudos for.

Just as beautiful and haunting as it is cruel, if this be the final ending to Madoka Magica, it works as a fitting conclusion that doesn’t betray the overall story’s tone, even if it’s not what the fans would have expected or even “wanted”. Whether it be sad, bittersweet, or possibly even deceptively happy (despite the title and role Homura takes) is left totally up to the viewers where any interpretation is perfectly valid, both similar and dissimilar to what the series achieved. However, if this is not the end of Madoka Magica, and assuming that any further continuation is a direct sequel to Rebellion, one could not have imagined a more intriguing prelude to a brand new chapter, one that may well lead to truly epic heights. I for one am still genuinely curious of what would lay further ahead in Homura’s journey. Oh, and Madoka’s too as well, I guess.

Ratings:Overall—9 (minus one point for not subbing the ending song—as well as for the couple inappropriate fanservice shots of Mami’s pronounced chest, my one and only real nitpick against the movie itself)

Erica here again. I have not watched Rebellion for any number of reasons, but I have to say, Eric, you may have convinced me to try it. I agree that the series can easily be seen as Homura’s story and while generally, I’m against retribution when the point is (or should be) saving the innocent, you’ve made a strong case for this being worth our time. Thank you for the great review!





Yuri Anime: Dear Brother Set 2, Disk 2 (English)

April 30th, 2015

DearBrother2With Disk 2 of  Dear Brother set 2, we finally encounter the full depths of madness that runs in between Miya-sama and Saint Just and, if we are completely honest, we find it pitiable.

Miya-sama who, we learn, was always an entitled jerk, was jilted by her first love at 12 years old, and has spent the last 6 years wallowing in her own bile and torturing her half-sister because she’s a sadistic jerk.

Now, on the brink of adulthood, her sadism and jerkishness are about to hit a wall…the common decency of a decent commoner.

Miya-sama takes the coincidence of Nanako’s relationship with Henmi personally, and in the twisted scales she uses to judge everyone but herself, finds Nanako to be a threat. She’s tried threatening her, controlling her through the sorority, and in the bottoming out of her sanity, even attempts to seduce her. Luckily for Miya-sama, Nanako is a kind and decent human being and is neither seducable or attracted by insanity. Unfortunately for Saint-Just, she is.

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Now we know everything there is to know about Miya-sama and not one iota of it is good.

Nanako is firming up as the drama deepens. Tears have been replaced by confidence and defiance and she’s such a good person that she’s successful in dragging Mariko back into the world. If Nanako were a real person, I would have no doubt at all that she would be the Sorority club president as a third-year and radically redefine both the school and the sisterhood as her legacy.

It’s not going to get any easier as we move forward, but at least we’ve lanced the wound fully and now we just have to let it drain.

Ratings;

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 3
Service – 1

Overall – 9

Miya-sama is a terrible person. Hold onto that thought.

Now, remember, this anime ran on Japanese TV in 1991-1992. And 7 years later, Tenjou Utena ran into a haughty Student Council member who was cruel to her, who had a head of pre-Raphaelite curls and a name as upper-class as Ichinomiya. Imagine, then, what Arisugawa Juri was supposed to make us feel when we first saw her, as she is meant, quite specifically, to recall Miya-sama. When we first saw Juri, we felt…fear.