Archive for the English Anime Category


Ikkitousen Xtreme Xecutor Anime, Disk 1 (English)

April 21st, 2015

IKKIXXI want to talk today about violence in comics. In particular, my love of violence in comics. Over the years, I’ve been really upfront about how I love fighting comics and animation and characters that beat the crap out of each other. Not surprisingly, I’ve received a lot of shit for it and I understand why, so I want to talk about what I mean when I say, “I like violence.”

To me there is a clear and important line between a fight between equals and an abusive situation  – and that line is the balance of power. Horror as a genre has never appealed to me, because there is always a presupposition of a power imbalance. The stalker, murderer, evil thing has the power and the rest of the cast are victims running away from or forced to fight against the character(s) with power. I suppose that a lot of people enjoy horror because at least one victim wins, usually by gruesomely destroying the bad guy. It’s not my cup of tea. Neither are portrayals of abusive situations. These are not entertainment for me.

I prefer a consenting human, who has chosen their situation, to step into a battle with a fairly matched other consenting person. Even if the fighting itself is not “fair”, the presupposition is that both fighters know what they are getting in to. (This is all relevant this week, by the way, I’ll be referring back to this conversation later, so keep it somewhere you’ll remember to find it. ^_^)

In the meantime, today, we’re going to talk about Ikkitousen, one of the honestly crappiest series I’ve ever enjoyed. My review of XX back in 2010 said this, “In Ikkitousen: Xtreme Xecutor, we pretend that Ikitousen:GG never happened and go crawling back to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms with our heads down, asking humbly for it to take us back.”

And that’s pretty much exactly what happens. Where I was wrong was on the lack of service. The TV release may have had less service, but as this is the “home theater” version, we are forced to to do the tits and crotch dance repeatedly, endlessly, pathologically. I will never have anything but utter pity for folks that actually find this stuff titillating as it’s so boring and pedestrian. You have the whole Internet to be pervy on. Go find something interesting.

So, post the Battle of Red Cliffs that was sort of recreated in Ikkitousen: DD, in the Romance of the Three Schools, a tournament of fighters is announced (again). Someone claiming to be Kentei (again) is setting Fighters up (again) this time to get at the leaders of the three schools – all of whom do not attend for separate reasons. Sousou can’t fight or Cao Cao will take over his body again, Ryuubi can’t fight or her Dragon will go out of control and Hakufu misses the boat because she’s an idiot. This leaves their champions to duke it out with the new crazy fake-Kentei and the not-quite-as-crazy sisters from Nanban. Mouyuu is notable (to me) for being voiced by Toyoguchi Megumi (Sei’s voice actress from Maria-sama ga Miteru) and for having an fetching eyepatch. Put her in some decent clothes and she’d be perfect. ^_^

I’m not going to get into the plot particularly, but I very much like that the characters are extremely aware of their histories and that when Bachou Mouki arrives, they are all instantly convinced that a new recreation of an ancient battle is on the table. Kanu and Ryomou seem to be the most tied into historical awareness – another thing that makes the two of them awesome characters.

There’s a lot of talking in this volume as we set up the fights, but I’m gonna give the story its props, the final episode on this disk ends with a fantastic scene as Hakufu and Gakushu save Ryuubi and company’s asses. I really like Gakushu. He gets the second most “aww”s from me after Ryomou. ^_^

In conclusion, Ikkitousen XX is a hideous perversion of the Chinese epic with gross amounts of service and every once in a blue moon, a terrific fight sequence that makes it all worth watching, if you like watching people beat the shit out of one another. Which I do*.

Ratings:

Art – I guess it’s okay, but why bother? 7
Story – Weirdly 9. The story is actually why I watch it.
Characters – Also weirdly 9.
Service – 10 I can’t complain, because it is what it is, but snooze.
Yuri – 2 It’s there, but all pushed to the background.

Overall – Let’s say 8 if you’re me and 2 if you’re sensible.

*After watching fantasy fighting in Ikkitousen last night, I tuned into UFC to watch a really excellent real-life MMA fight between Paige Vanzant and Felice Herrig at the end of which both I and the live audience were on our feet for Vanzant’s efforts. Two equally matched fighters, both of whom go into it knowing what they are doing, makes for an amazing bout.





Yuri Anime: Dear Brother Set 2, Disk 1 (English)

April 20th, 2015

DearBrother2When people referred to the anime based on Riyoko Ikeda’s Dear Brother manga as Yuri, it was primarily this section of the series they were talking about. Disk 1 of the second Dear Brother set is pretty much the pinnacle of Yuri in the series – it’s also a brief moment of life and joy and happiness in what is otherwise an extraordinarily dark series.

In this disk we start to realize that the drama – all of the drama – is centered upon a single person. Ichinomiya Fukiko, known as Miya-sama, is not just a terrible person, she is a pathologically controlling and sadistic person. As Saint Just starts to recover herself, rediscovering a small joy in the physical activity of basketball, Miya-sama reels her back in repeatedly, like a fisherman tiring out his prey.

But even on the darkest days, the sunlight can sometimes shine through the clouds and Saint Just finds enough of herself left to enjoy – fully and totally – basketball again. Mariko, Nanako and Tomoko are friends and can laugh and joke together without the jealousy we saw in the first set. Through Nanoko’s eyes, we discover that Mariko has fallen in love with Kaoru no Kimi. Not content to be a fan or admirer, Mariko has taken a kind of small possession of Kaoru’s well-being and not been rebuffed. This triggers thoughts in Nanako’s mind that she’s never had before and she considers the idea that she is in love with Saint-Just. Saint-Just does her best to prove to Nanako that she is not lovable at all.

But it’s when Miya-sama “teases” Nanako with veiled threats and unfunny jokes that we realize there is something much, much larger than the obvious going on. In the end, it his Ichinomiya Takashi, Miya-sama’s older brother who gives us the first clue to what it might be. We are left wondering why, when she has Saint Just on such a short leash, Miya-sama cares so much about Nanako?

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 5
Service – 1

Overall – 9

Enjoy the laughter and the respite from the dark…in Disk 2 the clouds will thicken again.





Yuri Anime: Yurikuma Arashi (English)

April 14th, 2015

yurikumaThe Yurikuma Arashi anime from Funimation is, like so many of Ikuhara Kunihiko’s works, a fairy tale. Like so many of his previous works, in this fairy tale the fairy ex machina is the tale itself.

Tsubaki Kureha has met – and forgotten – a childhood friend who is a bear. Ginko has never forgotten her childhood friend and seeks to become a girl to be with Kureha. Surrounding this bastard child of The Gift of the Magi and every outsider story ever, is a series of repeated, variably meaningful images and a story that is never quite sure if it believes in itself or not.

Because there’s no coherence in the story in and of itself, there’s a lot of time to just enjoy the random bits of imagery and wonder what it means to Ikuhara, since it’s almost never given any meaning in the context of the story.

Buried as we were  in overuse of “Yuri” imagery, some with overtly sexual connotation, some completely lacking anything of the kind, all those lilies ceased to have any meaning, which was sort of interesting. Lily petals, whole lily flowers showering down upon the heads of characters and yet, it had almost no connection to the narrative.

There were two standout qualities of the series for me – first and foremost, seeing animated versions of Morishima Akiko-sensei’s art made watching this series worthwhile. Additionally – and I have thanked her personally on Twitter for this – I really appreciated Yuriika, an honest-to-goodness, Evil Psycho Lesbian character. She was my favorite and her death was utterly meaningless, as befits someone who is so pointlessly obsessed.

Yurrika

I do not feel that this series was compelling, in the way Utena, or even Mawaru Penguindrum was, but the ending was not predictable, none of the loose ends were tied up and everything we experience in the body of the story turned out to not be true, so that has to count for something. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8 Two great tastes that tasted deeply odd together
Story – 7 Once upon a time…oh fuck it.
Characters – 7 Uncarved blocks, one and all. Just remove everything that isn’t a bear
Yuri – 14 million
Service – 7 Much higher than I’d like

Overall – 7

My final thought on the end of Yurikuma Arashi is this: There’s something right/not right about “Ave Maria” becoming a Yuri anthem.





Yuri Manga: Yuri Kuma Arashi, Volume 1

January 25th, 2015

yurikuma1Today I wanted to talk about something that has been much on my mind…

Picasso.

You know, Pablo Picasso, painter. Mostly famous for his Cubist paintings, but he was a prolific artist and evolved throughout his life, so while his work is undoubtedly his, it changed as time went on, as he changed, aged, evolved.

He’s on my mind a lot as I read and watch Yuri Kuma Arashi. And we’ll get to the “why” in a bit, but first, let’s just talk about the manga.

In Volume 1 of the Yuri Kuma Arashi manga (ユリ熊嵐), we meet Tsubaki Kureha, a shy, retiring student, who has recurring dreams of being rescued by a bear princess who, coincidentally, looks just like her popular and outgoing classmate Yurishiro Ginko. Ginko takes a liking to Kureha and starts to cultivate her friendship and develop her personality.

Kureha admits that she knows Ginko is a bear and all about the tragic backstory of her planet, but Ginko’s reaction is to fall apart in laughter a such a preposterous story!

Ginko lives with her late father’s sister as her mother is forever overseas (and unbeknownst to her, maybe, is her aunt’s lover). When a new girl transfers in claiming to be in love with Ginko, it throws a wrench in Kureha’s emotional gears; she was just deciding she “liked” Ginko, you know. If it weren’t enough that Lulu is a love rival, there are persistent rumors that Ginko and the Student Council President (male) are going out. Kureha doesn’t know what to believe, honestly.

When Lulu, Ginko and Kureha accidentally burn down their dorm cooking, Ginko has both of them come live with her. And, at last, we learn that Kureha may have been right about Ginko all along. Kureha swears to protect Ginko as the volume comes to an end, with many questions and few answers.

As you know, if you have been watching the Yuri Kuma Arashi anime and/or are familiar with Ikuhara Kunihiko’s style, these questions may not have any answers.

The manga is very much Morishima Akiko-sensei’s brand of cute/sexy art, with slightly more typical fanservice than usual. Unlike the anime, which has so much fanservice it’s actively crowding out the plot (if there is one) at the moment. And, if you are familiar with Ikuhara’s work, it’s important to remember that the repetitive scenes may never have any meaning per se, just visual impact, that we will later layer with meaning. The best way to approach his work is to not try to guess what it all means, but simply go along for the ride and see where it takes you.

***

Support Yuri News and Reviews –  Subscribe to Okazu withSubcribe with Patreon

***

Which brings me back to Picasso.

One of the things Picasso was seeking to do in his Cubist portraits was show two or more angles of a person simultaneously.  His masterwork Guernica takes this to another level, in which he is simultaneously showing us all three dimensions at once, among other things. And this is why he has been much on my mind. If you treat the simultaneously released versions of Yuri Kuma Arashi as two unique perspectives on the same story, there is still no guarantee that it will make sense, but it gives you a completely different understanding of the whole.

It’s unlikely that Yuri Kuma Arashi is Ikuhara’s Guernica, but heck it might yet be, we won’t know until it’s over and we can see all the angles. And the relics of other series that echo back at us like blood red buildings by day, have started to be integrated into – maybe – a new stylist tic, as they turn blue at night. Indicating what? Who knows…yet. Or ever.

I’ve only seen two episodes of the anime as of yet, but I do want to say that of all the random repeated elements, the one I actually like is “Kuma Shock”, which @twiitar has turned into a nifty ringtone. Thanks Phil! ^_^

The service in the anime is off-putting for me, as it’s not nearly at the level of creeping horror subtlety we’ve become used to. It feels a bit slap in the face-ish.  The one element that I truly do not care for is the use of the word “Yuri” and the image of the lily as a bludgeon, for no apparent reason. Yes, yes the girls are all named Yuri something, got it. Yuri and honey imagery. Yuckers.

I hold no hope that the “trial” scenes will ever make sense.

The one thing about the anime that I genuinely find appealing is that the character designs are very much Morishima-sensei’s art, animated. ^_^

Ratings for the manga only:

Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 8 They appear more coherently formed than in the anime
Yuri – 9
Service – 6

Overall – 8

By the time Volume 2 comes out, if indeed it does, the anime will likely be over and I’m sure we’ll have concocted meanings for all the things that don’t mean anything at all. ^_^





Psycho-Pass 2 Anime, Guest Review by Katherine H

January 14th, 2015

P-Pass_S2Waaahhhh!!!  Two event reports and two guest reviews in two weeks! And more great stuff to come in days ahead. This. Is. So. Cool. Please welcome back Okazu Superhero and our friend Katherine H of Yuri no Boke as this week’s Guest Reviewer!

Psycho-Pass 2 (streaming for free, legally, with regional restrictions on Funimation.com, as Episodes 23-33) picks up one-and-a-half years after season 1 ended. Akane is still a seasoned badass, Shion’s still the computer person, Yayoi continues to enjoy an unusually long lifespan as an Enforcer while looking good in a suit, Gino is suddenly a worrywart over Akane, there’s a new Enforcer named Shou who doesn’t matter, there’s a new Enforcer named Tougane who is an evil dick with a mother complex, and the new Inspector who joined the team at the end of season 1, Mika, is an asshole who hates Akane and latent criminals because of her backstory but has a thing for Yayoi. Kougami’s mentor Saiga also joins to help out. Besides Tougane, villainy here comes in the form of Kamui, who wants to mess with the Sybil System for his own reasons.

This season isn’t boring and has some cool ideas and scenes, but some writing and story choices made me go “??” Think what you want about Urobuchi Gen’s story choices, but his plotting is pretty airtight, and I missed that consistency this past season. I ended season 1 confident that its writers knew exactly what they were doing, which wasn’t the case this season. My software developer girlfriend complained as we watched that the Sybil System has a terrible IT department.

Yuri-wise, Yayoi and Shion are still banging away, as evidenced by that scene in episode 7, and as I mentioned above, Mika has a thing for Yayoi. Sadly, Yayoi spends most of her time as far as we see interacting with Mika even though she isn’t interested in her at all. Mika isn’t an asshole to Yayoi like she is to her other co-workers, but their interaction mainly consists of Yayoi having the patience of a saint and advising Mika to do something, then Mika ignoring it. Mika’s decisions result in horribleness and grandma-kidnapping, so clearly the real point of her character arc isn’t her serving as a dark mirror to Akane’s development in season 1, it’s that horrible things happen when you don’t listen to your lesbian sempai.

Regarding what this season ultimately contributes—it brings up why Akane has such a clear hue, goes into how Sybil was created, and gives Sybil a new ability, but is resolved in such a way that its events probably won’t impact the movie’s new story.

Story: 7 to ??
Art: Not as good as season 1’s, but good enough for an 8. The direction took a hit, though.
Characters: All over the place. Biggest plus is Akane’s badassery, biggest disappointment is that I expected Mika to redeem herself in some way.
Yuri: 7

Overall: Didn’t hate it, but I look forward to season 1’s writers making better use of the world they created in the Psycho-Pass movie, which looks like it will focus on what things are like outside the sealed off world of Sybil System Japan. Like season 1, season 2 broached that subject a little, and I’m interested in seeing it fleshed out.

Erica here: I’m still so torn about this. I want to watch the non-horrible creepy violence stuff, but was left fairly traumatized by the excellent writing of the first season and don’t think I have it in me to put myself through the meat grinder without an amazing payoff. So thank you Katherine, for weighing in and not helping me decide at all!  I’m glad Ubakata left the lesbians alone, at least. ^_^