Archive for the English Anime Category


Yuri Anime: Yamibou, Disk 3 (English)

July 8th, 2016

YamiboWell, here we are at Yamibou, Disk 3.

The disk begins with an arc that immediately has the potential for being extremely good or extremely horrible, but manages to thread between them for something that doesn’t need to be in this series at all, but isn’t terrible; about a colonization ship that would have just failed in space if Lilith hadn’t been there. Hazuki is pretty much window dressing for the arc.

In the middle of the space ark arc, we digress into an extremely tedious arc with Gargantua and his trolls, that ultimately turns out to be the climax of the whole story. Eve/Jill/Hatsumi returns, sends Gargantua and Ritsuko to live happily ever after, while leaving Hazuki in an alternative version of the one she came from in which she has, at least, a mother.

We learn that Eve is not, in fact, Hazuki’s sister, but Lilith’s sister, who should have been tending the library, but was traveling through the books.

It’s not a great ending, but not just because Hatsumi leaves Hazuki with a weird obsession about the child she will one day bear or because we return to the most tedious service of the series, but because it could have been, with one tweak, a much, much better ending.

If the point of the series had been to tell Hazuki’s story, all they would have needed was to bring Hazuki to the library until she died. She’d have her Hatsumi and lived happily ever after, the end. But that was never truly the point of the series. Traveling through the stories was the point and Hazuki was merely the vehicle.

For an incredibly messy ending with loose ends all over the place, it wasn’t as stabbingly awful as I remembered it. It still think the incest and child thing is creepy at best, but your mileage will obviously vary.

I did quite like Tamamonomae’s floating compound, and the idea that if there is a library in which all the books are worlds, then there could be a compound which had access to them all. I would love to see someone with talent take a stab at that, although, on second thought, I think Borges already came close in the stories “The Library,” “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, all in Labyrinths. (I strongly recommend this book if you have not read it. It deeply informs my writing and my reading. ^_^ So if you want to understand me, this book is a great place to begin.)

The art really didn’t hold up well. It was surprising to see that this was Studio Deen, although, they did get much better with time. As excruciating as it was to watch this again , I don’t think I hated it and maybe even can find some “like” in there for it.

Ratings:

Art – 5 Still crappy art
Story – 6 How *easy* it would have been to make this a good story
Characters – 7 How *easy* it would have been to make this a good story about good characters
Yuri – 6
Service – 8 It almost disappeared there for a bit, but then came back with a vengeance.

Overall – I’d give this series a 7, exactly what I gave it the first time around in 2004. ^_^

Hazuki is still gay. She’ll spend years falling for girls who look or sound like Hatsumi for a while, then settle down with a nice girl and have that daughter.

Once again, many thanks to Media Blasters for the review copy and for bringing this early Yuri Anime out in English!





Yuri Anime: Yamibou, Disk 2 (English)

July 5th, 2016

YamiboYamibou, Disk 2, is about as good as this series gets.

We learn a little about Jill/Eve/Hatsumi’s backstory, who Gargantua is and his relationship to Jill/Eve/Hatsumi and Hazuki has a few opportunities to be a little more than just a sailor-fukued Heathcliff. And, in doing so, brings humanity to the series, rather than just an unending string of fetishized tropes.

In the episodes with Quill and Fujihime, we get to see a glimpse of Hazuki outside of her burdensome desire for Hatsumi and she seems like a nice person. And, yet again, I find myself desperately wishing I could pluck the nice young lesbian out of the crappy story, take her home, talk to her about life and put in her a better story. ^_^;

Ratings:

Art – 5 It’s still crappy art
Story – 6 “Better” doesn’t mean “good.”
Characters – 7 Such brief glimpses, but you can imagine what it might be like
Yuri – 8
Service – a grillion and one

Thanks so much to Media Blasters for the review copy. It was nice to see the Fujihime episodes still didn’t totally suck.





Sailor Moon ‘S’ Trailer Screened at Anime Expo

July 4th, 2016

Viz Media held a special Sailor Moon panel yesterday at Anime Expo, where they announced the cast, timing and extras for the first part of the Sailor Moon S video release, ANN has all the details, as you might expect.

S was slightly delayed because, after complaints about the visuals and sound in earlier sets, Viz announced that they were changing the process.

Well, the new extended trailer, dubbed, is up on YouTube and I have an opinion about it. ^_^ If this is what we’re going to be getting for the dub – this may well be the best dub ever made. I do not say this lightly. I don’t much like dubs, but the video and audio quality here looks and sounds…well, terrific.

Watch the trailer for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments!





Yuri Anime: Yamibou, Disk 1 (English)

June 30th, 2016

YamiboYami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito anime was originally released in 2003. Based on an ero-game visual novel, in 2004 when I reviewed it, I said, Hazuki was one the “most openly lesbian character in all of 2003.”

It’s quite extraordinary how much changes in 13 years. There are series I loved when they debuted, that upon aging, never really held up. And there are series that I really loathed at the beginning but, as they and I aged, we both mellowed a bit.

It’s even been 8 years since Touka Gettan, the main selling point of which was that it was by the same team that brought us Yamibou (not much of a selling point, I thought then and still think.)

Somewhat surprisingly, Yamibou, which has been released by Media Blasters under their Anime Works imprint, is both better and worse than I remembered.

Let’s get the bad out of the way quickly. I had technical difficulties playing the disk. We had to dig out a computer with an old version of Windows Media Player to get it to work. Our DVD player and my several media payers failed to do more than open up the title page. The title page is slim, but typical of Media Blasters, you’re just never quite sure your choice has stuck, until the video starts. ^_^

The art is….well, of course, it’s all subjective, but it’s worse than I remembered. Obsessively male gaze, and the faces are the most absurdly big eyes – small mouth I’ve ever seen. Almost a parody of the worst bits of the genre.  Lots of high-contrast light and gel lens effects and do not get me started on the “shaky camera” that is so overused I was beginning to feel seasick. UGH, animators who use a shaky camera, there is a special place in hell for you.

The story is, well, it’s better than I remembered, if only because it’s got an actual story within all the story jumping. I only remembered dribs and drabs of the narrative.

The first part of the story is, of course, our introduction to high schooler Azuma Hazuki, who is in lust with her older sister , Hatsumi. On Hatsumi’s 16th birthday, she disappears, Hazuki follows her into a library in which millions of stories exist, all of which are a world that Hazuki, and the keeper of the Library, Lilith enter, ostensibly to look for Hatsumi, but more realistically so we can lasciviously leer at the sexual harassment of a variety of female characters.

We learn that Hatsumi is actually Eve and that the melodramatic Adam by the name of Gargantua, is looking for her…for reasons. Reasons which include being insane and obsessing over Eve’s ability to give life and therefore immortality.

Mostly we’re watching Hazuki wander through worlds in which she is cast as the strong but silent and broody type that all the girls fall in love with, including Lilith. She’s cool, if you like that type and she’s voiced by Noto Mamiko, which I hadn’t remembered at all. (Shimizu Ai plays Hatsumi, although admittedly, not a chewy part what with Hatsumi being mute for huge chunks of the story and all.)

If this anime was re-done to not work so hard to be appealing to a truly lowest denominator audience who imagine that young women objectify and sexualize their objects of desire the way a male audience is presumed to, it might not be bad. Instead it vacillates between deeply cringe-making and not-entirely-awful. ^_^;

Ratings:

Art – 5 what was I thinking in 2004?
Story – 5
Characters – 7
Yuri – 7
Service – a grillion

Overall – 7 If you know what you’re getting into, it still has moments that are worth watching for.

Another thing that has changed, in 2003 I apparently didn’t like the music, but Aitai, the OP, has been on my MP3 player for a decade and I still like it, so in your face younger me. :-P

Thanks so much to Media Blasters for the review copy. It is truly a blast rewatching this.





Love Live Anime, Second Season (English) Guest Review by Day

June 22nd, 2016

LLSIPS1Annnnddd…..it’s Guest Review Wednesday! Today we have an encore from Day, who wanted a chance to continue to look at a popular idol anime. Take it away, Day!

The second season of Love Live! School Idol Project opens in the wake of the failure of our heroines to make it to the Love Live, but with the future bright as their beloved school’s been saved. Things are looking even brighter, though, when it is announced that there will be a second Love Live held during the school year. Despite some initial doubt, the girls soon plunge into preparations, knowing that with a change to the rules they’re up against the formidable A-RISE if they even want to qualify for the finals.

For the most part, the second season of Love Live exacerbates the first season’s problems, in that it is largely about the bland adventures of some generically cute high school girls rather than about the idol competition it’s named for. Despite introducing a more clearly defined competitive structure, the overall focus is weaker, with time set aside for dire material like dieting. And while characters sometimes acted in ways that didn’t quite add up in the first season, here they become frequently unmoored from anything approaching believable behavior in service of the particular fetishes of viewers. Previously level-headed people like Honoka’s mother and sister behave like there’s a cancer diagnosis when Honoka gains a few pounds, while we learn in another episode that sixteen year old, elite student Maki still believes in Santa Claus.

It’s odd, then, that among all the dreck we get, are the two best episodes in the series. The latter of these is an episode which features one of the idol performances, something which is nearly derailed by bad weather. While intellectually there’s never any doubt that they’ll overcome the obstacles, the show does manage to infuse some sense of tension. It also finally integrates the idol group into the broader school community in the course of resolving the tension, as their schoolmates pitch in to help get the girls to the performance venue on-time.

The other is focused around Nico, who is turns out has been leading a life of rampant lies at home so that her younger siblings think that she’s a very famous solo idol. This has involved Nico resorting to amateur photo-manipulation, and claiming that the other girls are all back-up dancers. While the show takes pains to have it all end with a smile, the whole situation is a bit creepy and works to demonstrate just ultimately how damaging Nico’s flaws are.

But, this leaves us with eleven episodes otherwise. For the most part, they’re merely dull, but there are also sequences, even entire episodes, which are simply horrible. I made reference to dieting previously, and an entire episode is devoted to this when Honoka gains roughly four and a half (invisible) pounds. There’s also the girl who believes in Santa Claus, and a girl who nearly faints when the other girls start discussing their lack of romantic experience and who covers her faces and shrieks when there’s kissing in a movie.

Speaking of which, while the visual fanservice is fairly low, this sort of foolishness in which high school girls were apparently raised in a hermetically sealed, eternally-pre-1950 environment is rampant. And that *is* fanservice, as the target audience is made up of men who demand that their idols, fictional and not, be unworldly and eternally virginal, tainted not even by a passing interest in boys, even as the lyrics they sing often are romantic (when one of the girls suggests writing a love song, everyone gets indignant and claims that they’ve never done a love song before – which is blatantly false – and that it isn’t true to the group).

However… something interesting happened when this franchise made it into English-language fandom. While the usual suspects clamored, a lot of women and girls got into Love Live, including ones who hadn’t previously been into anime. And, of these women and girls, a lot of them are queer. And… I’m one of them! I think the TV anime for the franchise is terrible, but I love the queer fandom surrounding it and the other bits of the franchise like the mobile game. Fans invest a lot of time into creating vibrant personal works that imbue the cast with depth they never are granted in the official canon, and full of expansive possibilities; for me, that’s what makes Love Live worth it.

Yuri for this season is… well. I want to say “higher”, but that isn’t quite it. None of these girls are kissing, none of them are declaring their love, none of them are coming out of the closet… Shipbait is happily provided for those who would ship, but it’s a lot of clattering over gestures that don’t read as particularly queer if you take off the Yuri goggles. I was a high school girl myself not too terribly long ago, and I can tell you that gushing at a friend about their cuteness while trying to encourage them is, if anything, more common among straight girls (an established heterosexual identity means not typically having to personally worry about homophobia, after all). So, sure, this season delivers potato-sharing, declarations of cuteness, happy tackling, etc., but it’s all still firmly in the land of suggestion rather than confirmation.

Ratings:

Art – 8 (the animation gets a slight kick up)
Story – 3
Characters – 6
Yuri – 2
Service – 6 (primarily it’s the pandering to fetishes about purity and ignorance I complained about)
Overall – 4 (but worse than the first season)

Erica here: Well thank you Day, and I agree with you completely that the hermetically sealed virginal idol is irrefutably a form of fanservice. I also agree with Mariko that sex and sexiness are not always service.

In my definition, service is catering to fandom fetishes – like making a the redhead, twin-tailed girl passive-aggressive, when the story would fare as well with her merely being competent and uninterested (and would include less shouting.) It’s “service” in the sense that it ticks off a checklist item for fans and is a form of “just add water” character development for lazy writers. Bouncing boobs aren’t the only form of service in anime.