Archive for the English Anime Category


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

December 25th, 2016

In 1994, Sailor Moon S debuted on Japanese TV and, for many people, it was a life-changing series. When I first saw it, in 1998 or so, it was definitely a life-changing series for me. ^_^

Yesterday, my wife and sat down almost 20 years later to watch Viz Media’s newly remastered edition of Sailor Moon S, Part 1.

I had a computer crash the other day, so we had to start with a DVD, as my computer is the only Blu-ray player we have. ^_^;

Even in DVD, the improved quality of the video and sound are instantly apparent. And so is the restoration of color. We just re-watched the opening episode back to back and the remastering not only restores (and saturates) colors, it restores details that has been lost in the Pioneer version. This was not Pioneer’s fault, you may remember. Toei was notorious for not providing masters to localization companies, so Pioneer had the equivalent of 3rd generation tapes to work off.

Viz, having been given the chance, has really done a great technical job with the series. Admittedly the art for this series was always orders better than the first two seasons. Director Ikuhara Kunihiko (later of Shoujo Kakumei Utena) cared about the art.

We didn’t watch the dub, yet. I promise I will, but for now I was just able to revisit the moment that changed my life, when Haruka walked into the Crown Game Center and said “Hey girls…” We were both pleased to note the moments that had been kept intact for Sailor Moon Crystal – that iconic step over the game center’s lintel among them.

My wife commented that the humor in this season is a large part of what made it the “best” series for her and as we giggled our way through episodes 90-96, I have to agree. When I watched this series back in the day, I assumed that Kaolinite was in love with the Professor, but as I watched this time I was surprised to note that it seemed much more like she hated him. How did I never notice that before? He’s a complete freak, so you gotta sympathize with her. I also wondered out loud on Twitter which was better, Kaolinite in the red dress or the black. Black won, but I think I like the red better. ^_^

I have, as you might suspect, a lot of thoughts about Haruka and Michiru, but I’m going to hold off until a future disk to wax philosophic about them. ^_^

The Limited Edition came with a lovely booklet with episode summaries, character profiles, and random art that made us smile.

Ratings:

Art – 8 It’s so much better than Season 1 and 2
Story – 7 Monster of the Day for the moment, but…Uranus and Neptune!
Characters – 10 Uranus and Neptune!
Yuri- 6 Uranus and Neptune!
Service – 5 Way up from previous series, the Daimon are all overtly sexualized

Overall – 8

The Viz edition of Sailor Moon S proved that sometimes…you can go home again. Thanks so much to the fine folks at Viz for providing a review copy.

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The Great “Girl With Guns on the Run” Trilogy Rewatch

December 23rd, 2016

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve finally done something I promised to do years ago. I rewatched Noir, Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja back to back.

And it was good. ^_^  (From Sean G, a link to concise, amusing summaries of the main characters.)

I said as I began El Cazador de la Bruja, “If Noir is a knit narrative, then Madlax is crochet and El Cazador is macramé. Each successive iteration of the elements has more holes.” Upon reflection, though, I’m not sure I was right. 

Noir spends the most time building the story. More happens in the first episode of Madlax, than happens in the first 6 episodes of Noir.

It’s not that it’s killing time, but Noir is filling in all the details very slowly and carefully, with a lot of time spent in simply watching Kirika and Mirielle function as hitmen. Their relationship is built through this action, rather than through speaking. In fact, of the three series, this one has the most silences. 

The music here is a cue mostly only to that they are again in a shootout. It’s awesome music, though and worth re-hearing. And, by the time Kirika and Mirille’s full history is filled in, we kinda guessed already. ^_^ The climax of the series is satisfying and Soldats just ends up looking stupid and ham-handed.

In the end, I realized that I think of Noir, not as Kirika’s story, but as Mirielle’s.

Madlax starts with a completely different pace than Noir. There’s an obvious initial almost-schizoid split between episodes with Madlax and Margaret. Nonetheless long before Margaret goes to Garth-Sonika, we’ve figured out that there’s some connection between the two.

Where Noir takes place in identifiable places in our world, Madlax takes place in places that seem familiar, but are wholly fictitious. Nafrece might be France or England or Japan, but it’s not. This gives the story a lot of leeway to adding fictive elements, like a arms-dealing conspiracy driven by magic and the desire for more magic and allows for the entire climax to happen in a place that isn’t even of the world at all. 

Friday Monday is still a stupid bad guy with a ridiculous name.

Although Noir probably still wins for overall body count, there’s more deaths of people we cared about in Madlax than in Noir. In fact, I was pretty surprised to realize how dark Madlax was. Dark and dense. It was slow going, with so many storylines that had to converge. 

The music in Madlax is practically a character, it plays such a significant role.

El Cazador de la Bruja almost feels like a reaction to the intense darkness of Madlax and Noir. While there’s still a lot of shooting, the overall body count is much less. Nadie mostly shoots to disarm. And the general tone is much lighter and cheerier.

We’re back in the “real” world for this series, in an American Southwest-ish. There’s a President and a White House and Taco chains, but there’s also magic that works visibly.

This is the only story of the three with a deranged stalker who won’t take no for an answer.  Where Nadie and Ellis help each other to become more human, LA ends up being more and more a wounded animal who needs to be put out of his misery. To accomplish this, even some of the initially silliest plot elements end up fitting into the apparently hole-filled puzzle by the end. In fact, as I watched the final episodes tonight, I was surprised to find the climax much more tightly scripted than I remembered.

The music is purely window dressing, without much meaning as it was in the first two series. Rosenberg was a delightfully horrible bad guy whom we will not mourn.

While all three series end with a journey renewed,  El Cazador de le Bruja wins for the utter sappy wonderfulness of the ending, which could leave no doubt as to the fact that the main characters are incontrovertibly a couple. Squee.

Top characters of each series for me: Noir – Mirielle, Madlax – Rimelda , El Cazador de la Bruja – Jody “Blue Eyes” Hayward. So Hisakawa Aya beats Mitsuishi Kotono 2-to-1. ^_^ 

Still three of my favorite series, with some of the best music I’ve ever loved.

Ratings:

Noir – 10

Madlax – 9

El Cazador de la Bruja  – 10

This was a long time in coming, but it was loads of fun! I’ll do it again in another 10 years. ^_^

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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. ^_^
 
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