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Anime Review: Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ


Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ is one of the Universal Century Gundam series that had yet to receive a US release. Bandai Entertainment USA had announced a US release prior to them shutting their doors several years ago, but now that RightStuf has been working to bring out various Gundam series to the US, which means that fans here can finally take a look at the show legally.

As a head’s up, there are some spoilers for the show here, but I’m going to work to keep them to a minimum. There will be some heavy spoilers for Gundam Zeta, which are somewhat essential due to how the show starts. Continue reading → Anime Review: Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ

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Anime Review: Ouran High School Host Club


Anime comedies, are absolutely willing to get self-referential, in some cases going full parody. Now, you can get a bad parody by shoving random jokes and references into the work because they can (the Seltzer & Friedberg films), or come from a place where you actively hate and dislike the genre they are satirizing, and in turn can end up creating works which are poor examples of that genre.

By comparison, the best parodies are those which are also good examples of the work in question, and such is the case with Ouran High School Host Club. Continue reading → Anime Review: Ouran High School Host Club

Anime Review: Moyashimon (Seasons 1 & 2)


When it comes to manga about various real-world topics, there is an educational element to the work, but it’s usually ancillary to the main thrust of the story. Hajime No Ippo/Fighting Spirit is a boxing manga, and Hikaru No Go is a Go manga, and both use elements of their actual sports or games in the narrative of the story itself, but the sport and game in question are secondary to the actual thrust of the story from the very beginning.

There are a few manga which take the opposite tack – put the main thrust of the story on the thing they’re talking about, and then will bring in other plots to give additional structure of the story. On the seinen side there is Drops of God, which is primarily a manga about wine, but which incorporates side plots to keep things from getting monotonous – and there’s also the show I’m reviewing – Moyashimon. Continue reading → Anime Review: Moyashimon (Seasons 1 & 2)

Anime Review: Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond


Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond are a pair of anthology films from Studio 3°C. Anime anthology films often open up a lot of opportunities for experimentation and exploration of the craft, and Studio 3°C in particular is a studio who likes to nurture this degree of experimentation. I’ll be discussing both of the two films together, as the films were originally planned to be released together. Continue reading → Anime Review: Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond

Anime Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978)


I’m something of a fan of Leiji Matsumoto’s work, and particularly the character of Captain Harlock. Harlock made his first appearance as a supporting character in Matsumoto’s other major series from the 1970s – Galaxy Express 999. However, he was popular enough to get his own series in its own separate continuity in 1978. I figured I might as well give my thoughts on the show. Continue reading → Anime Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978)

Anime Review: Dallos


Dallos is an anime that reminds me a lot of what got me into anime in the first place. I came into anime as a fan of science fiction and fantasy, and I came in through OVAs and films like AkiraDemon City Shinjuku, Ghost in the Shell, and Record of Lodoss War. So, when I found out that Dallos, an anime considered to be the first OVA (or one of the first alongside the Cream Lemon series), and which was directed by Mamoru Oshii (who also directed Ghost in the Shell and Angel’s Egg – which I’ve previously reviewed), had been licensed by Discotek Media, and later made available for streaming on Crunchyroll, I put it on my to-watch list. Continue reading → Anime Review: Dallos

Anime Review: Bodacious Space Pirates – Abyss of Hyperspace


Bodacious Space Pirates was a show, back from 2012, which was a fantastic anime series, which had all the fun of old-school Juvenile SF, but without the problematic elements that those works often run into (and the problematic elements from some contemporary SF). However, the end of the series left me hoping for more, and in 2014, a film sequel to the series came out, subtitled Abyss of Hyperspace, with US release coming later in 2016. At long last, I’ve finally had a chance to watch it, so it’s time to give my thoughts. Continue reading → Anime Review: Bodacious Space Pirates – Abyss of Hyperspace

Anime Review: Soul Eater


Shounen fight anime and manga, in the past few decades, has developed a very definite style from Dragonball (and Dragonball Z) on – no matter the tone, the series tend to have a bright color palette for both characters and for the overall visual style of the series. Things might get dark and stormy in bits with narrative and tonal weight, but the colors for the characters themselves will maintain that color. You’re never going to see Naruto, for example, putting on an all black traditional ninja outfit for a really serious or dramatic mission. This gives Soul Eater a visual edge that really makes it stand out from the pack. Continue reading → Anime Review: Soul Eater

Anime Review: Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya (Season 1)


The Fate universe has, in the works I’ve reviewed thus far, has generally formed a cohesive narrative whole – with the exception of clear comedic side-stories that are deliberately intended to be outside continuity like Carnival Phantasm. Others have adapted alternate routes of the visual novels that are part of Type-Moon’s Nasuverse (like Fate/Stay Night mostly adapting the Fate route and Unlimited Blade Works adapting that route). Fate/Prisma Illya is a true alternate take on the Fate Universe. Continue reading → Anime Review: Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya (Season 1)

Anime Review: The Garden of Sinners (Kara no Kyokai)


Before Kinoko Nasu created Tsukihime or Fate/Stay Night, he put out a light novel series titled “Garden of Sinners” (or Kara no Kyokai). The books set up some concepts that would be folded into to the collection of series that is generally known as the “Nasuverse” – though the series aren’t exactly in direct continuity with each other. In the mid-to-late 2000s, they were adapted into a series of animated films by Ufotable, prior to them getting the gig for Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works. Continue reading → Anime Review: The Garden of Sinners (Kara no Kyokai)

Anime Review: Tsukihime (2003)


Thus far, the three shows in the Type-Moon universe that I’ve covered: Fate/Stay Night (F/SN), Fate/Zero, and Unlimited Blade Works (UBW) have been two-cour shows – spending 24 episodes to tell their story. In the case of F/SN and UBW, they have each adapted one route from the first Fate game – with the former title dropping a few elements of UBW in to give Rider a little screen time. However, Fate was not Type-Moon’s first game. Before this came Tsukihime, which set up elements that came up later in F/SN and Fate/Zero, and it too received an anime adaptation, one that came out prior to the release of F/SN – and with only a single cour (12 episodes). The question then becomes, how well can it tell its story in half the length? Continue reading → Anime Review: Tsukihime (2003)

Anime Review: Mushibugyo


Mushibugyo is a series that has a real issue with tonal whiplash. There are anime series that have mixed creepy elements and comedy with tremendous effect – Ghost Hunt is an anime series adapted from a light novel with some strong comedy elements, which doesn’t overlook the creepier and more horrific elements of the narrative, with a well done escalation into further horror.

Mushibugyo doesn’t do that. Mushibugyo starts off with super-colorful characters, an over-enthusiastic and incredibly dense shonen protagonist, and numerous fanservice jokes, but which also contains some surprisingly horrific elements created to the show’s primary menace. Continue reading → Anime Review: Mushibugyo

Anime Review: Nanoha StrikerS


The Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise has been interesting when it comes the Magical Girl genre of anime. The original series was something of a conventional Magical Girl vs. Dark Magical Girl show, like the Pretty Cure franchise, with the difference being that the battles between Nanoha and her opposite number, Fate, played out a lot like a superhero fight.

The later series played up this concept, with the second series, Nanoha As setting up a battle of superhero teams (or superhero and super-anti-hero teams), with Nanoha, Fate, Arf, taking on a team of opponents with more-or-less similar abilities. The series also played down the school adventure side of the traditional magical girl story, with Nanoha’s school friends, who were very much a prominent part of the narrative for the first series, being pushed to the side very early.

Nanoha StrikerS dumps the “civilian life” side of the equation entirely, with series protagonists Nanoha Takamachi & Fate Testarossa working as, basically, state-sponsored superheroes, and spending all of the series well away from Earth. Previous series had introduced the Time Space Administration Bureau (or TSAB), the bureaucracy behind it, and that the government that it answers to is based on a world called Mid-Childa. StrikerS spends almost the entirety of it’s runtime there.

The premise of the series is that it’s set a little over 10 years after the events of Nanoha As, which would put Nanoha and Fate in their early-to-mid 20s. Nanoha and Fate have become part of a special unit as part of the TSAB, lead by Hayate, the befriended antagonist of As. The objective of the unit is to hunt down Lost Logia, lost pieces of magitech which can be incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. As part of this unit, Nanoha, Fate, and the Wolkenritter (Hayate’s now-less-dark Magical Girl superteam from As), are also training another team of, for lack of a better term, Magical Superheroes.

From a narrative position this setup puts the audience in an amazing position to see how the protagonists who we’ve followed through the last two series have matured, and it’s certainly successful at that. In particular, Fate and Nanoha have become the de-facto parental figures for two kids who are now part of their unit, Erio and Caro. While they were not actually adopted by Fate, they were adopted by Fate’s stepmother – Lindy, with Fate helping to raise them in a maternal/older sister role.

This leads to Fate & Nanoha. The writing of the first two series loosely implied that the two were homosexual. StrikerS, on the other hand, strongly implies that the two are in relationship with as strong a subtext as you can get without actively crossing over into text – like, stronger than the handhold in Legend of Korra.

The new protagonists, Erio, Caro, Subaru, and Teana, are generally well written, and have really strong chemistry. Erio and Caro, and Subaru and Teana have some romantic chemistry, which is read stronger for me with Subaru and Teana.

The overall story of the series serves to bring back together some plot threads going back to the original series. Hayate’s team, Riot Force 6, ends up coming into conflict with a mad magical scientist named Jail Scaglietti, who has been engaging in genetic engineering to create artificial mages and cyborgs for combat. The research he’s working on is similar to that that was done by Fate’s birth mother, Precia, in her attempts to raise her deceased daughter, Alicia from the dead – work that lead to the creation of Fate. The level of conflict here is nice and personal, and gives the conflict a strong direct tie to our protagonists that makes up for the lack of any real civilian life our heroes have.

That said, the animation doesn’t quite back up the story. This is a 2007 anime from studio Seven Arcs, who animated the earlier Nanoha series, along with the Triangle Heart OVA, and somehow, I can’t quite say why, but the animation here doesn’t feel quite right. The Digicel animation feels a little overly flat and stilted, particularly towards the end of the series. Now, it’s been awhile since I watched the first two shows, and maybe they’re just as bad, but with this series it feels like it stands out more, especially towards the end of the show.

There are also some weird decisions with the animation that seem to make little sense. The show cuts around some early stages of some very emotionally significant fights later in the series, showing the aftermath of the action instead of the action. Now, when we hit the climaxes of those fights, we see the full conclusion, but with this particular fight, the early stage was really important, and it was really disappointed with the fact that we didn’t get a chance to see it.

There are some issues with the costume design. The designs for the TSAB staff, and Riot Squad 6 are fine. However, there is Jail Scaglietti’s team of combat cyborgs, The Numbers. They wear these skin-tight outfits that leave as little to the imagination as the animation budget will allow, without actually showing skin. It’s the kind of outfit that 90s comics were mocked for putting female characters in, with boob socks and precisely defined butt-cheeks. The plugsuits in Evangelion didn’t go nearly as far in their form-fitting nature.

I enjoyed the show enough to finish it, but it was the characters who kept me coming back for the rest of the show, and in particular the fact that I’d come to appreciate these characters and their stories through the last two series. If it wasn’t for the writing and the characters, I probably would have dropped the show due to my issues with the animation.

That said, with how the show wraps up, considering the fourth series, Nanoha Vivid (focusing on a character that Fate and Nanoha adopt in this series), has not yet gotten a US release, StrikerS does make for a decent conclusion to the Nanoha series.

Nanoha Strikers had gotten a brief DVD release by Bandai USA, and is now available for streaming through Amazon Prime as part of their Anime Strike package.

Anime Review: Fate/Stay Night – Unlimited Blade Works (2014-15)


Fate/Stay Night, as a visual novel, had a several routes the player could take through the game. The original F/SN anime adapted the Fate route, with the inclusion of some elements of the Unlimited Blade Works route, with varying degrees of success. After Ufotable’s successful adaptation of Gen Urobuchi’s novel, Fate/Zero, there was question of what it would look like if they were to adapt one of the routes of the game, and in particular the Unlimited Blade Works route in its entirety. Two years ago, we got that adaptation. Continue reading → Anime Review: Fate/Stay Night – Unlimited Blade Works (2014-15)

Anime Review: Fate/Zero (Seasons 1 & 2)


Gen Urobuchi has gotten a tremendous reputation as a writer of animation, particularly through his deconstruction of the magical girl genre with Puella Magi Madoka Magica. In 2011, he did something slightly different, by doing a novel prequel to the hit visual novel Fate/Stay Night, covering the events of the previous Holy Grail War, which set the events of the original game and anime in motion. The show shifted animation studios from Deen, to Ufotable, who had only a handful of shows under their name at that time – though the animators had years of experience from TMS. Continue reading → Anime Review: Fate/Zero (Seasons 1 & 2)