Well, the time has come to talk about the most recent Hayate the Combat Butler TV series, and potentially the last series to come out, for reasons which I’ll get into, but also a series that is something of a return to form for the franchise’s anime incarnations. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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? (more…)

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. (more…)

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.

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

2015’s revival of Ushio and Tora by Studio MAPPA is not the first revival of an older anime and manga series in the 21st century. In 2008, JC Staff revived the classic fantasy anime series Slayers, with a fourth season after an almost decade gap. The series was was released as a split-cour show, with the first 12-episode cour being subtitled “Revolution”, and the second “Evolution-R”. When the show originally was announced, the big question that fans had was would this show come back with a Dragon Slave sized blast, or would it fizzle like a wet firework? (more…)

This time I’m reviewing the fantasy anime series “Record of Lodoss War” from 1990.

Footage:

Music:

“Little Lily Swing” – Tri-Tachyon
Used under a Creative Commons License.

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Notes: Matt Walton suggested that I cover some of the material I’ve previously covered in my fanzine on the show – this is meant to be a part of that – I did an article on Western Fantasy in Anime that covered Lodoss and several other shows that I’ll get to in future episodes.

Akira (film)
Akira (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’m re-watching Akira again, for the first time after having seen the first part of Megazone 23. It’s interesting to compare Megazone 23 Part 1 and Akira. Both came out within 3 years of each other – Megazone 23 in 1985, the year I was born, and Akira in 1988. Both have similar leads – biker punks who get in over their heads with sinister government conspiracies. Both series have hawkish military figures who overthrow the elected government in a coup, and both figures are certainly antagonists. However, it’s interesting to see how in Megazone 23, the military figures are clearly evil, while in Akira, the Colonel’s actions are given a stronger justification.

 

This is kind of a spoiler for Megazone 23, so don’t read further if you’re worried about having the story spoiled:
(more…)