Review: Persona 3 The Movie #1: Spring of Birth- New Beginnings

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Synopsis: The Dark Hour is a time between midnight and the next day where creatures known as Shadows prowl and attack humans who are awake during it. Makoto Yuki is a new transfer student at Gekkokan High and after transferring to the school he awakens to a mysterious power known as Persona and together with his classmates who are part of a group called SEES must battle against the  shadows in order to unlock the truth behind the Dark Hour and a tower known as Tartarus which only appears during it.

Review

I’m a huge fan of the Persona franchise and the original Persona 3 game was the first thing that got me into it. Needless to say that I was glad to hear it was finally getting an animated adaption though I was a bit worried about it first due to being helmed by Seiji Kishi, the infamous director of Persona 4: The Animation which was a pretty mediocre adaptation of the original game and he’s since gone on to do lackluster adaptions of other game franchises before returning to Persona.  However despite my low expectations, Persona 3’s first movie has risen to the challenge of combating Kishi’s mediocrity and has a shot at being a proper adaptation of the game that started it all for me.

In comparison to Persona 4 which balances out it’s darker elements with lightheartedness and fun, Persona 3 is a much more somber story and the movie captures that tone successfully as opposed to the more erratic nature of the Persona 4 anime.  The film covers up to the third of the shadow boss fights from the game and maintains it’s dark tone throughout as we’re introduced to the setting and the story takes it’s first steps in unraveling the mysteries surrounding the Dark Hour.

Like with Persona 4’s adaptation the film does do several events differently from the game but it’s mostly for the better as it allows the story and character introductions to flow a bit better in this format and it expands on some of the plot points briefly touched on in the game. Some of the game elements are also integrated fairly well as the Velvet Room system from the games woven into the storyline much like with Persona 4’s anime but it feels less tacked on and helps to drive things further. The film does suffer from some pacing issues due to how much its adapting and the scene transition can be a bit annoying for those not familiar with the game, but everything is meshed together well for the most part and negative elements aren’t too distracting.

One of the major focuses of the film is on Makoto Yuki’s development and its given the attention it needed. Much like Yu Narukami from Persona 4, Makoto is a bit of a “blank slate” protagonist like in the original game but where Yu was given a somewhat outgoing personality, Makoto is much more reserved and apathetic, being seemingly uncaring towards others, somewhat robotic and unnerved by death but as the film progresses we see that there’s a bit more to him below the surface as he takes his first steps towards bonding with his new comrades and by the end it’s apparent that he cares a bit more than he lets on.

The film also takes some steps in developing the other SEES members as well as it puts some focus on class-clown Junpei’s  rivalry with Makoto and how they slowly start to become friends. Similarly,  Fuuka, who is one of the support members of the team, is given a fairly big role in the first movie as her struggles with bullying is expanded on a bit and in some ways is handled better than it was in the original game.

On the technical side of things the film looks very solid animation wise and the big battles look as good as they’re  supposed to. The character designs are also adapted pretty well from the games and though the art is somewhat forgettable during the daytime scenes as the Dark Hour scenarios look fantastic. The film also features most of the soundtrack from the game and it’s very much appreciated as it’s an excellent musical score and it helps to pump up a lot of the larger battles.

In spite of the odds Persona 3’s first film is the kind of adaptation the game deserved. There’s still plenty of room for the future films to falter but for now it’s looking like smooth sailing and hopefully the upcoming adaptation of Persona 4 Golden will take some cues from this one.

Overall 8.6/10

Review: Ergo Proxy- “Me, Myself and I”

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Description: In a futuristic world almost barren of life, mankind is confined to mechanized domed cities where A.I.’s control all aspects of life. In this world, humans are no longer born, they are manufactured in a production line; and alongside them live androids known as autoreivs. Within one of these domed sanctuaries named Romdeau lives Re-l Mayer, one of a few citizens who aren’t entirely prevented from thinking. Her grandfather’s prominent position and the affection of the scientist Daedalus have left her more free will than is normally allowed, but Re-l has started to question the sanctity of the city and the citizens’ perfect way of life. With mysterious beings known as proxies causing havoc and a man named Vincent causing great influence on her life, Re-l must travel outside of the city to find the answers she seeks and discover the mystery behind “the awakening”.

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Review

Helmed by Dai Sato the writer of Eureka Seven and Manglobe who brought us shows like Samurai Champloo and most recently Samurai Flamenco, Ergo Proxy is very much a show with it’s own ego. It constantly scoffs at the viewer, doing things in it’s own way and demanding your full attention in order to even begin to comprehend it. The air of pretentiousness that surrounds it is almost enough to push you away at first as you wonder how you could even begin to resonate with such a self-absorbed show. However the further along you go with the show the more you begin to see that that the show’s ego has it’s own meaning to it and that you have to face it head on to get anywhere with it.

The show opens up with a pretty typical cyberpunk/dystopian setting as we’re abruptly thrown headlong into the story through the eyes of our heroine Re-l, an officer who shows a pretty clear disgust for the way the society she lives in currently is and finds herself bored with it. On a mission she discovers the existance of a bizarre looking monster and begins delving into the mystery surrounding it and its seemingly insignificant immigrant known as Vincent Law. The conspiracy surrounding the two drives much of the main storyline as we slowly discover the truth behind the dystopia, the existance of more of these monsters which are later revealed to be god-like beings known as Proxies and of course the ultimate fate of mankind in a world they ravaged  and attempted to abandon. It has a pretty solid, if overly complex sci-fi narrative and is fairly interesting on just that aspect alone despite how maddening the last few episodes get.

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Everything’s gone cuckoo

However despite how things may initially appear, most of the show’s insane sci-fi plot is merely a pretext for what it’s really trying to convey and the show really isn’t as concerned with it as it first wants you to believe it is. In fact, a lot of the backstory for the series is presented to us in a hilarious but bizarre quiz show episode just to get it out of the way(and it’s even conveniently broadcast in a way so every important character sees it and is up to date on what’s happening). So then if not a complex sci-fi plot, then what is a show so wrapped up in it’s own ego ultimately trying to say? The answer is almost unsurprisingly fitting.

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Yeah…this show gets weird

Beneath the layers and layers of pretext, the core of the show lies within the examination of the human ego and our sense of “self” in the world at large and it does so through several stages and characters.

The first stage looks at how self absorbed we can be within our own egos and how it can affect the way we view the world around us. This is primarily done through Re-l who spends much of the series as being privileged, extremely self centered and driven solely by her own desires, often manipulating others or distancing herself from them, deeming them not worth the effort to understand if they don’t immediately serve her ends. However this affects her ability to really comprehend the actions taken by others and it’s during a situation where her ego and drive serves no real purpose in getting her where she wants to go that she finally beings to see that the world doesn’t revolve around her and lets the feelings of others in

The second stage involves how we see ourselves through others and how that gives our sense of ego purpose. This is done through two of the characters Daedelus and Iggy through their relationships with Re-l, who both see as the center of their world. Daedelus starts off as being helpful and in love with Re-l but the further the story goes the more apparent it is that his “love” for her is a crazed obsession and little more than a way for him to project his sense of “self” onto her and he says as much later on. For Iggy when he sees how little he matters to Re-l in proportion to how much she defines his existence he loses it and his mind fluctuates back and forth between the self he wants Re-l to see him as and the self that the despises her for ignoring him. For both it ends in a mental (and physical just to make sure the point is driven in) death and it’s fairly disturbing.

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Please don’t hate me

The third stage examines the suppression of the ego and it’s looked at through the characters Pino and Raul. Pino is an A.I. with a soul and it allows her to evolve bit by bit over the course of the show and she values the emotions she obtains even though the world in the series intitally considers it a defect for an A.I. to have it’s own will. Raul on the other hand is a prideful and scheming character but ultimately one who wants to be in full command over his own ego and exert his will on the world despite some of the consequences that may bring. However when both realize that neitheris really as special as they believed and isn’t in full control of who they are, Raul’s pride drives him to the brink while  Pino’s evolution allows her to accept who she is despite that fact.

The final and largest stage is of course accepting one’s self and one’s purpose.  This is  done through the true protagonist of the series Vincent who is constantly at odds with who he is, having  his true self suppressed and hidden in an attempt to be free of his struggles and imperfections, the dystopian setting being an almost literal metaphor of this Though much like how none of us can escape who we are as people, Vincent also can’t really run away from who he is either despite  his many subconscious attempts. As the series progresses and he comes closer and closer to confronting who he is his character design becomes notably more distinct and defined, signifying his evolution as a person.

Appropriately, the final boss Vincent must confront at the end of the series isn’t one of the other proxies (whose purpose is general to serve as various metaphors for Vincent taking a step further in facing himself) but quite literally himself, and though he’s offered a final opportunity to walk away from it all, he finally realizes that even though life is painful and there are problems we don’t always want to deal with, you have to face up to who you are in order to truly value the people and things that come with it. The series ends with him fully embracing who he is and though from a narrative standpoint it may not feel completely satisfying, thematically speaking it’s an extremely appropriate choice.

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“I am a shadow the true se-” Oh wait never mind.

Done at the now mostly defunct New Generation Pictures, the dub for the series is extremely well done. The leads bring out the best in it as  Liam O’ Brien brings his A-game to Vincent Law’s character and fully captures the tale of a man dealing with his internal struggles. Karen Thompson also brings a strong performance for Re-l, capturing the right amount of arrogance and slyness for when she’s being manipulative. The supporting characters  all bring good performances as well though the most notable would be Yuri Lowenthal as Daedelus who manages to make the character sound appropriately creepy.

Animation-wise the series looks pretty consistent having a pretty solid action budget and mostly avoiding looking off model despite how the art style looks. The art itself looks very distinct and somewhat gritty as the human characters are designed as real world looking as possible and this also carries over to some of the A.I. designs a bit which can make them look a bit creepy. It’s grittiness also helps  define the setting a bit more as the barren wastelands of the mostly destroyed world look incredibly so and the dystopian cyberpunk city looks almost isolated at times which feels appropriate. The soundtrack for the show is also pretty good having an extremely memorable opening theme in “Kiri” by Monoral which is sung in pretty good english and whose lyrics  match the theme of the show pretty well though the instrumental ending theme “Fellow Citizens” is pretty forgettable.

Ergo Proxy is a show with a lot on it’s mind and interesting ideas sitting below the surface. Though it’s not perfect narratively it does a remarkably solid job in what it wants to convey and it’s themes are pretty thought provoking. It can be a bit of a pain to sit through at first given how utterly egotistical the show can be at first about what it is, but it’s a rewarding experience in the long run. If you want to see something that makes you think a bit it’s worth checking out.

Overall: 8.5/10

Available on Hulu, Funimation.com

Review: Kill la Kill- Dressed to Impress

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Kill la Kill is a 2013 series and the first original TV project by Studio Trigger who houses most of the creative staff that brought titles such as Gurren Lagann, FLCL and Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. The story takes place in an alternate post-WWII fantasy setting where Honnouji Academy is run by Kiryuin Satsuki and her student council who wield Goku Uniforms, uniforms that enable the wearers with crazy powers. One day a rebel student named Ryuko Matoi arrives at the school, seeking to track down her father’s murderer and after learning Satsuki has some kind of connection to the killer, vows to end her reign over the academy.

Being Trigger’s first TV project, Kill la Kill had a lot of expectations to live up to. Trigger needed to prove that they were still capable of making an action series as solid and fun as Gurren Lagann and that they could deliver on making something relatively profitable so that they could continue to make new projects. Fortunently Kill la Kill more than managed to meet those expectations and has show that the creators haven’t lost their edge just yet

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IRA GAMAGOORI DECLARES THIS SHOW TO BE EXCELLENT!!

The first half of the series is relatively formulaic as Ryuko typically fights the Club President of the Week but it does a good job of introducing us to the setting and characters. We learn bit by bit about the backstories of the Elite Four (Satsuki’s personal guard) and Ryuko respectively and the balance is generally between comedy and crazy fight scenes as the truth behind the academy slowly starts to reveal itself.

Of course the second half of the show is where it truly starts to shine. Plot twists become rampant while still generally being shown to have been hinted at well enough in advance  to not seem like their making up things as they go along and the  character development for Ryuko and Satsuki respectively becomes prominent. Each episode escalates in insanity and finale delivers on everything it needed to and wraps up satisfactorily.

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“MY ARMS!! DO YOU KNOW HOW IMPORTANT THOSE ARE?!”

Much like Gurren Lagann one of the greatest strenghs of the show is it’s sense of style and in a lot of ways it actually outdoes it in that area. The battles and actions are always ridiculously over the top and the series continually escalates in that area making it a lot of fun to see what kind of action will be coming next. There’s pretty much never a dull moment to be had in the show and it almost always manages to entertain.

However if style is the greatest strength of the series, then substance is one of it’s problems. The content of the story itself more or less delivers but there are a couple of notably weak episodes such as episode 7 which is unusually straightforward and generic for the series. It’s over the top use of fanservice (mostly in the first half of the show) can also be a bit of a turn-off though it fits the style of the show and thankfully avoids being a bit too distracting where it shouldn’t The characters also aren’t quite as developed as in Gurren Lagann (though the cast in general is arguably the more fun of the two) and the overall theme of the show (stuck somewhere between individuality and the importance of family) isn’t quite as definitive as Gurren Lagann’s theme of “doing the impossible and never giving up” but the show is fun enough that these issues don’t drag it down too much and it remains enjoyable throughout.

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Yep. It’s the Gainax crew alright…

The cast of characters for the series are all pretty entertaining to watch as lead character Ryuko starts off as a pretty typical loner delinquent but gradually  matures as she discovers the importance of family through her friend Mako. Similarly the other heroine Satsuki also becomes a lot more level headed throughout the series though her exact motivations aren’t made apparent until fairly late into the show. Mako also makes for a pretty interesting sidekick as her quirky speeches and personality are generally what keep some of the situations in the series from getting a bit too ridiculous and she’s done in just the right way to come off  as charming rather than annoying. The other characters of the series are all a bit more straightforward even if they are fun though the main villain Ragyo is notable for being in the running with Gendo Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangellion for being the worst anime parent of all time. 

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                      My, what excellent parenting skills. Gendo would be proud.

The animation budget for the series is pretty great overall as there are a lot of fantastically done action sequences though much like back when the creators worked at Gainax, the budget isn’t spread very even as it’s always pretty apparent when their trying to save on animation. It’s character designs are pretty distinctive though the art style resembles that of western animation a bit in terms of shading and zaniness. It also has a pretty great soundtrack and the insert song “Don’t Lose Your Way” is always great to listen to. The theme songs for the series are all pretty great as well though the second ED song is kind of take it or leave it.

Trigger has made the magic happen once again with Kill la Kill as it delivers on everything it needed to as an action series. Though it doesn’t quite have the same level of depth as it’s predecessor, it more than makes up for it in style and sheer fun. It stands as one of the strongest shows of 2013 and hopefully it won’t be too long before Trigger gets the opportunity to wow us once again

Overall: 9.4/10

Avaialble on Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Hulu

Review: Samurai Jack- I’ll Be Back, Back to the Past

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Samurai Jack is a 2001 series created by Genndy Tartavosky who is also known for creating Dexter’s Laboratory and more recently Sym Bionic Titan. The story kicks off long ago in feudal Japan where Aku a shapeshifting being of darkness is resurrected and ravages the land. To stop him, the young prince of the land is taken to train all across the world under different cultures and masters for the final confrontation and is given a magic sword which holds the only power that can harm Aku. He eventually manages to confront Aku and nearly defeats him but before the final blow could be struck, Aku used his powers to open a portal in time and fling the prince into the distant future in which Aku’s evil is law. Now trapped in the future and given the nickname “Jack” by the locals, he must now seek a way to return to the past and undo Aku’s evil.

Samurai Jack was one of my favorite shows growing up as a kid and over a decade later the show is still pretty well remembered and remained enough of a classic to get a run on the current late night version of Toonami, but does it still hold up that well? The answer is mostly yes.

Though the end goal of the series is laid out pretty clearly from the get go, Samurai Jack is more of an anthology than an ongoing epic as there’s very little continuity between episodes outside of the occasionally episodes that expand both Jack and Aku’s respective backstories. While that might initially seem detrimental to an action show, it works in its favor as it allows for the series to take on a somewhat different approach in style. Even though Aku is generally involved somehow in the plots of most episodes, many of them function like standalone mini-films allowing for the series to take different approaches in style.

In fact style is generally the series greatest strength as the series pays great homage to action films of all kinds ranging from noir films, to kung-fu movies, and even giant robots. Of course, given the title of the show, the style it tends to stick to the most are samurai films and the show tends to rely on music more than dialogue to create atmosphere as Jack fights all manner of opponents from demons to robot bounty hunters and the show delivers on having tons of action pretty much all the time while occasionally dishing out thematic stories though they aren’t quite as frequent.

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                                                       For Lulu…sweet thing

The show also pays a great homage to its samurai film origins in terms of violence. Though it’s a TV-Y7 rated show and the mutilation of actual people wouldn’t exactly go over well with the censors, the series is usually pretty creative about getting around that as the frequent robotic opponents that Jack fights tend to meet their end pretty horrifically and there are many instances where it’s blatant that the staff is making fun of the fact that they’d never get away with some of the violence displayed if Jack was fighting human opponents.

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                                  That oil seems an awful lot like blood splatter…

That being said one of the largest grievances in the series is that Jack’s foes tend to be robots a bit too often, even sometimes when they clearly shouldn’t be and there are instances where clearly organic looking creatures are revealed to be robots shortly after getting butchered which can be somewhat annoying. Additionally as the show is mostly an anthology while there are a lot of strong episodes, there are some pretty weak ones as the series is forced every now and then to cater towards it’s target younger audience. Thankfully they tend to have titles that are obvious enough to avoid (looking at you “Jack and the Farting Dragon”) but it does hurt the series somewhat.

As the series doesn’t have much continuity, Jack and Aku are the only really notable characters in the series though both are interesting enough in spite of that. Jack is more or less the classical samurai archetype and it generally works for him as his sense of justice is both his greatest strength as it keeps him from abandoning his mission and his greatest flaw as it often costs him opportunities to make his return to the past due  to his need to put others first. Meanwhile Aku is a pretty straightforward evil overlord, but he makes up for the genericness of his archetype with sheer hamminess as his trolling and villainy are usually just over the top enough to be entertaining though his overuse of it also tends to cost him many opportunities to finish Jack for good. Another character of note is The Scottsman, who is pretty much the only other recurring character and the closest thing to a best friend Jack has in the future and though he doesn’t appear in too many episodes he’s pretty amusing to watch when he does as his brash nature tends to play off of Jack’s calm demeanor pretty well.

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                                    Behold his GREAT FLAMING EYEBROWS!!!

The artstyle of the show is the part of it that holds up the least as it feels a bit dated now, but style of the series tends to make it work for the most part and there are some occasional visual shifts that are pretty cool to watch. Since the show tends to rely on music more than dialog as mentioned earlier, music is another of the show’s strong suits as the soundtrack is typically very distinct and goes very well with many of the show’s action sequences though the show’s theme song is kind of hit or miss.

Samurai Jack is a show with a lot of style and that style is what has kept the show well remembered even today as it’s a pretty unique kind of action show. Though some episodes don’t hold up as well as others and there’s no definitive ending yet (hopefully Genndy will get to make that movie finale he wanted some day) the series is more about the journey than the destination and its a pretty action-packed journey.

Overall: 8.1/10

Available on streaming on Netflix, Currently airing on Toonami

 

Review: Log Horizon- Livin’ in the Database

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Log Horizon is a 25 episode series animated by Satelight and based off a series of light novels by author Mamare Touno who also wrote the original novels for Maoyu: Archenemy and Hero. The premise starts off when one day players of an MMORPG known as Elder Tale one day find themselves trapped in the world of the game and are unable to log themselves out. Now the players must figure out how to survive in their new world and discover a way back home.

Having been announced and airing during a time where  “gamer” type shows were rampant with adaptions such as Btoom!, Accel World  and most famously Sword Art Online, Log Horizon had to prove that it was different from the rest of the pack in an over-saturated market.  Thankfully over the course of the show Log Horizon has not only managed to prove itself to be different from other shows of it’s genre but it’s also proven itself to be a shining example of a  genre defining show as it stands out from its predecessors.

One thing that stands out as different from similar shows at the beginning of the series is that the players aren’t explicitly told they’ve been trapped in the game, as they all have to find that out for themselves, and they aren’t given any indication as to how to escape from the game world either. Additionally there’s no threat of death as players can respawn at the local Cathedral and be on their merry way. So what is there to do exactly? Well the first few episodes are spent exploring this as main character Shiro along with his two companions Naotsugu and Akatsuki kind of aimlessly travel through their sector of the game world before taking on a request to rescue a girl named Serara from a guild ran by a over the top mustache twirling villain (okay well there’s no mustache but you get the idea).

On their journey they see how other players are dealing with their situation. Some are taking advantage of it to obtain power and dominate  other players and guilds since there aren’t any consequences to killing them. Others are wallowing in misery as they try to find something meaningful to do or get excited over (and it doesn’t help that the food in the game world has no taste). After completing the rescue in epic fashion and getting over some of his loner issues, Shiro decides to start his own guild called Log Horizon and to try to make the world a better place for all the players in it.

It’s at this point that Log Horizon ceases to be a regular “trapped in the game” esque show and evolves into something else entirely as it dips into more fantasy world elements. Shiro’s plan to change things directly coincides with his desire to save a pair of young twin players from yet another evil guild of mustache twirling villains and thus he manipulates the other guilds of their home server Akibahara to do his bidding (mostly through solving the aforementioned food problem from earlier) and apts to force them all into a alliance of sorts to establish a quasi-government and provide some order to the town.  Political battles and tactics become the norm as Shiro and the other members of the alliance must deal with the NPCs who are also known as the People of the Land, as they’re revealed to have their own agendas and goals in mind and the two sides compete to stay on top of the other.

Through it all though, Log Horizon never fully abandons its RPG fantasy premise. The mechanics of the game after often worked into the world itself with the players having the ability to dramatically twist the rules to their benefit and later revelations show that there are consequences to death for the players. There’s also a much more typical RPG-ish threat that takes up most of the middle section of the series and has more traditional action going on through the first season ends with another potential political threat.

There are some minor issues with the show as Shiro’s plans, while generally exciting, can sometimes be a little bit too perfect and overshadows some of his character flaws at times. Additionally the clear-cut villains of the show tend to be over the top and extremely blatant in their evil which can be a little grating for a series where motivations and planning are otherwise complex. These issues thankfully aren’t enough to drag the show down much but they do cause some bumps in the road every now and then.

The cast of characters for the show are all largely likeable and entertaining. Shiro is a pretty interesting lead as he starts off as a bit of a loner and though he largely stays in the background for his plans (and eventually earns the nickname “The Villain in Glasses” due to the underhandedness of his plans) he learns to open up to his guild mates and by the end of the first season they become the backbone of his desire to change the world. The supporting characters are also fairly interesting as some such as Crusty who is one of the leaders of Shiro’s alliance and Princess Lennesia  prove themselves to be little more than who they largely have to play the part as, with both of them having some unique sides to them beneath the mask. Some of the other characters are a bit more true to their archetypes but the largest surprise in the supporting cast is Minori, who is one of the twins Shiro rescued earlier on as she largely admires Shiro and slowly learns to adopt his way of thinking, largely becoming a bit of a mini-Shiro herself and becoming a good tactician in her own right.

Production values for the show are fairly average as is typical for NHK produced shows though the animation can occasionally step up a bit for some of the actual fight scenes. The character designs are also pretty standard though some as Nyanta’s (a cat-man) do stand out a bit. It’s music is pretty solid with some strong orchestral tracks here and there and it’s opening theme song Database by Takuma-Feat stands as one of the most ear-wormy and ridiculously catchy songs of 2013 and once you hear it you’ll never be able to forget it regardless of whether or not you like it.

Log Horizon is vastly different from other shows of it’s genre in that it isn’t so much as struggle to survive as it is a struggle to maintain order and living life  comfortably. It’s largely thanks to that though that it has evolved into a genre-defining series and stands out as not only being a pinnacle of the genre, but also as one of the best shows of 2013.

Overall 9.5/10

Avaiable for streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll

Review- The Irresponsible Captain Tylor: The Tale of an Unconventional Man

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The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is a 1993 series done by Tatsunoko Productions who is best known for japanese superhero series such as Casshan, Yatterman and recently Gatchaman Crowds. The story takes place at some point in the distant future and depicts a war between an military group known as the United Planet Space Force and aliens known as the Raalgon who want revenge due to the Space Force supposedly being behind the death of their emperor. Meanwhile a mysterious man named Tylor sees an ad for the Space Force and decides to enlist, thinking it’ll lead him to an easy life. After a few bizarre incidents he eventually ends up becoming the captain of one of the Force’s ships known as the Soyokaze and travels with his crew to participate in the war.

Despite the vague sci-fi plot mentioned above that’s not really what the show is about. The show is really all about Tylor as the viewers along with his crew members slowly start to understand exactly what kind of man he is as he’s a bit of an enigma. At the start of the series he comes across as a clueless idiot, strolling along and doing things for seemingly no real reason and luck being the primary factor in his gradual rise to fame/infamy in the force.

However as the series goes on it slowly becomes apparent that Tylor may not be quite as stupid as he seems or perhaps pretends to be (it’s purposely left ambiguous which is to the show’s credit as painting him as one or the other would kind of ruin things). There’s a lot of things he does that he clearly couldn’t pull of if he were really an idiot and at the same time there are situations he’s put in that he wouldn’t always be able to plan himself out of if he were secretly a genius. He does things his own way and while a lot of it seems to be pure madness there’s a method to it and by the end it becomes apparent that Tylor’s own words are the way he operates: “Do the best you can and let the rest take care of itself”.

Of course while Tylor himself his pretty much the show’s main draw his interactions with his fellow crewmembers also drive the story as they slowly grow into a group of loyal companions and learn a little from Tylor’s way of thinking. The most notable instance occurs in character involving the ship’s nurse Harumi whose real identity plays into things in a large way and brings us the first real instance where we can see that some of Tylor’s shtick may be an act and that he can take things more seriously than he lets on. Some other characters such as the First Lieutenant Yamamoto grow a bit too as he starts off as a by the book solider but gradually learns to bend the rules a bit as the show goes along which eventually ties into the final couple of episodes where the show’s main lesson is more or less spelled out.

While the characters are the show’s greatest strength, the narrative does suffer from some minor issues. The major battle between the Raalgan the Space Force, while done in a rather glorious manner, is done kind of anti-climatically and though the series is mostly clean of clear-cut villains, the one really notable villain, the Raalgan empress’s advisor, never actually gets to accomplish much of anything and eventually thrown into the backburner by the time the finale arrives.

The production values for the show are pretty typical of 90’s series and the animation is generally solid though the character designs are a bit aged. The orchestral music for the series is also pretty good with a few notable tracks here and there and the opening theme song “Just Think of Tommorow” is pretty catchy and sets the mood for the show well.

The english dub of the series houses one of the first notable roles from legendary voice actor, Crispin Freeman as Tylor, and though it was before the time where his career took off and and he became popular, he does a solid job contrasting Tylor’s goofiness with some of the depth underneath. The supporting characters provide decent but mostly forgettable performances but the dub is servicable enough to get by and worth listening to if only to hear Crispin Freeman act like a goofball for 20 minutes.

How much you enjoy The Irresponsible Captain Tylor will largely depend on your assesement of the lead character himself.  Is he a idiot? Is he a brillaint mastermind? The show never fully answers that question but it’s an enjoyable experience trying to find out exactly which it is and it makes more a pretty interesting ride along the way.

Overall: 8.5/10

Available on Hulu

 

 

Review- Okami-san and Her Seven Companions: Doesn’t Quite Bear It’s Fangs

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Okami-san and Her Seven Companions is a 2010 series done by JC Staff. The story depicts the tale of a girl named Ryoko who’s also known as Okami-san (the wolf) who is a member of the Otogi Academy’s, Otogi Bank, a club designed to handle student requests in exchange for favors (no not that kind) to be repaid later on. One day while returing home from the club she encounters a boy named Ryoshi who’s known for not particularly standing out and has a fear of being stared at by other people. He confesses his love for Ryoko and though she rejects him on the spot he soon ends up joining the club in an attempt to get closer to her.

The show is mostly a comedy and a fairly self aware one, as the narrator frequently comments on some of the pandering and zaniness that occurs. Though the show is rarely laugh out loud funny it manages to be a pretty fun romp in that aspect. It also balances the growing romance between the two leads fairly well as Ryoko slowly starts to become attracted to some of Ryoshi’s better qualities.

Drama and characterization are also a fairly big thing for the show. Though the show is called Okami-san and Her Seven Companions only a a few of the group members are given some serious focus but the focus they do get is handled decently as we learn some of the reasons behind their individual quirks and they do grow a little bit although not too much as it’s a comedy and status quo has to be maintained in some fashion. However while the serious moments are mostly alright it’s also where some of the shows problems lie

It’s made apparently very early on that though Ryoko maintains a tough girl image , it’s mostly a facade to hide some of the deeper issues she has going on. This mostly works as the show gradually alludes to the trauma she went through in middle school with her supposed (?) rapist ex-boyfriend (the exact nature of the relationship isn’t made that clear) and why she  shuts herself off from other people but the the show never goes into full detail over the incident. Additionally though a good half the show is spent on developing a conflict between the Otogi Bank and a rival school run by rapist-ex boyfriend the conflict is never fully settled and though his actions over the course of the show include kidnapping, assault and most likely attempted rape (again it’s not terribly clear) he doesn’t receive any serious comeuppance for his actions and the final episode of the show is devoted to an entirely seperate plot.  There are also some occasional issues with balancing the serious and comedic moments as the narrator, while mostly funny, can sometimes be a bit too intrusive  and it can take away from the episodes a bit, even during some of the comedy scenes.

The production values for the show are fairly solid as the show delivers on some surprisingly well animated action sequences by JC Staff standards though the show doesn’t stand out much otherwise as the character designs are fairly average for a comedy series. The music is also a little forgettable though the opening theme song by May’n is pretty good and the  ending theme song is a little catchy.

Funimation’s dub of the series more or less delivers and is as solid as you’d come to expect from their work. Joel McDonald’s Ryoushi works and Briana Palencia pulls off Ryoko’s tough girl act well enough as is her standard typecasting. The rest of the dub cast is fine as well although some of the voices do occasionally sound a bit too deep for what are supposed to be teenagers.

Okami-san and Her Seven Companions is a mostly fun little romp but some of its issues prevent it from being as solid as it could have been since  the larger story at hand isn’t really resolved. It’s not highly recommended from me  but if you want a mostly cute romantic comedy it works out enough in spite of it’s looming problems.

Overall: 6.9/10

Available on Hulu, Funimation.com and Netflix

Review- Rurouni Kenshin Live Action Film: Blade’s Still Sharp

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Okay so I know this isn’t technically animation and that’s what I was going to stick to as far as reviews go for this site(otherwise I’d have to change the name to something else) but it’s an adaption of something based on animation so we can make an exception right? Right? After all it’s friggin Kenshin. Now that that’s settled let’s move on.

Rurouni Kenshin is a 2012 movie adaptation of the manga/animated series of the same name . It tells the story of a samurai named Himura Kenshin who was once as assassin for the revolutionary army. However after the revolutionaries won the war and a new era arrived he became a rurouni (wanderer) vowing to never kill another soul with his blade. The movie covers the first 4 volumes of the manga including everything from the beginning of the  series to the end of the Kanryu arc while adding in Saito as a bonus and for the most part it blends the arcs together very well. Kanryu takes up the lion’s share of villany in the film(somehow managing to be even worse of a human being than his manga counterpart) as several of the other iconic opponents from the early parts of the manga serve under him though some of the villains are blended together into one character for the sake of convenience.

Kenshin’s character arc is the main focus of the film as he is constantly questioned as to whether or not he can still be capable of protecting others while still maintaining his vow and his resolve is tested more than once as he tries to overcome the memories of his past sins.  The arc is given a pretty meaningful resolution with the Jin-e fight and in a lot of ways it works better here than in the manga and anime versions of the encounter since there’s a lot more buildup on Kenshin’s struggle.

Though the film mostly maintains it’s focus on Kenshin there are some issues here and there. Yahiko and Sano are kind of awkwardly added into the film and while Sano specifically is initially introduced as a minor antagonist his shift towards becoming an ally is downplayed and mostly seems to happen for the sake of convenience as do a few other story elements which are handled a bit awkwardly, but these are thankfully minor enough that they don’t totally drag down the film.

One of the greatest strengths of the film however are the fight scenes. The action sequences are very well choreographed and deliver on all of the action you’ve come to expect from the series though since Japan’s live action films typically don’t have the same budget as that of a Hollywood film there are a couple of instances where the theatrics look a bit too over the top and almost come across as silly. The film also has issues keeping Kenshin’s design consistent since while his hair is usually bleached orange like in the manga/anime there are a couple of scenes  where the bleach isn’t there and his hair is black instead which can be a little weird.

Despite some minor story problems the film mostly delivers on everything it needed to and provides a solid adaptation of the original series. It’s a solid example of how a live action manga adaptation should be done and hopefully the upcoming sequel films will follow in its footsteps.

Overall: 7.8/10

Available fansubbed

 

Review- Gargoyles: From The Dark Ages

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Gargoyles is a 1994 animated series created by Disney and is the show that brought now legendary producer Greg Weissman to fame. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the show as a kid but I could never remember the details of it and after seeing the level of praise it has maintained over the years and finding out the whole series is available to watch on Youtube, I decided to do my first full on dive into the show.

The storyline kicks off in 994 AD, Scotland during the ages of myth and superstition. In those days humans lived alongside humanoid looking bat creatures called Gargoyles, who turn into stone by day and are ferocious warriors by night. The Gargoyles protected the people from outside threats but were eventually betrayed by them having most of their clan slaughterted and the survivors frozen in time by a magic spell. 1000 years later, genius billionaire David Xanatos breaks the spell and relocates the Gargoyles to Manhatten, New York where they soon find themselves in conflict with him and forced to adapt to a new era.

In many ways the show feels as though its a product of a different era itself. The show doesn’t shy away from showing serious violence when the time calls for it and it generally carries itself in a very sophisticated manner as the characters often act and speak in the way their roles should(though the show does embrace more typical action show dialog as time goes on) and it avoids dumbing itself down for its audience. The opening episodes of the series even feature some minor swearing and the relationship between lead Gargoyle, Goliath and the group’s human companion Elisa is played off very subtlety unlike in modern shows even including some japanese animation. It does remember who its target audience is however so it typically strays from getting too dark for its own good though disturbing things certainly happen from time to time.

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Bleeding from a gunshot wound. You know. For the kiddies.

The show also encompasses several different genres over the course of its run as it functions as an urban fantasy, a gritty crime drama and a Shakespearean tragedy (the show actually borrows pretty heavily from Shakespeare as Weissman has admitted he’s a huge fan of his works). Despite this it maintains a tight continuity with almost every episode directly tying  into another and though it gets slightly more episodic in its later half, it makes sure to never contradict itself and foreshadows its future events relatively well.

Its also largely supported by its cast of characters who come across as strong yet flawed and many of them undergo their own individual character arcs over the course of it’s run. The villains of the piece are also executed very strongly as the show general averts cliche villainy and gives each of the villains sympathetic or relatively understandable motivations for their actions. Even Xanatos who would normally be portrayed as a typical rich evil mastermind, actively learns from his mistakes, tries to be as pragmatic as possible with his plans and is slowly humanized more and more throughout the series to the point where you can almost question how evil he really was to begin with. The characters themselves are largely supported by top-notch voice acting from the voice cast (many of whom you may know from the original Star Trek) and the show delivers some pretty powerful performances in some of the more dramatic scenarios in the show.

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There’s a reason it’s called the Xanatos Gambit

Despite the shows many strengths however, it is flawed. Though the series maintains its continuity  and it does feature some character development throughout it, the Avalon Journey arc quickly becomes a bit too episodic and dragged out to the point where it feels like it could have been half as long as it ultimately ended up being. Additionally the series lacks a complete conclusion due to the third season known as The Goliath Chronicles being considered non-canon by Weissman  due to him having little influence in it though the season two finale is relatively satisfying.

Gargoyles is a product of an age gone by and though it has its flaws the show deserves to be acknowledged as a prized relic, demonstrating a level of storytelling and characterization that many shows today can learn from. It stands today as one of the greatest pillars of western animation and hopefully more shows will follow in it’s footsteps.

Overall: 8.9/10

Available on Youtube

Review- Psycho Pass Premium Edition: Law and Evil

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Psycho Pass is a 2012 series helmed by Production I.G. who has brought us series such as Ghost in the Shell and written by industry superstar Gen Urobuchi who brought us the masterpiece Madoka Magica. The show has pretty solid production values though the animation falters here and there and the soundtrack for the show is pretty memorable as are it’s two opening themes Abnormalize and Out of Control (the latter of which has surprisingly good english). I first saw the series simulcasted during it’s run in 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed the series. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the series even more in my second viewing of it than in the initial run as seeing the whole picture allows for a bit more clarity on certain aspects of the story’s themes.

The storyline centers around a future where people are judged by a creation known as the Sybil System which can read people’s minds and determine if they have the mentality of a potential criminal or not. Once judged a potential criminal, a person becomes an outcast destined to either be imprisoned or executed. To track down actual criminals, the law enforcement of the series decides to use people who have been deemed as potential criminals to hunt them down and  bring them to justice. The first half of the series slowly explores this world and its characters as we’re introduced to various cases with different motivations and each discussing certain themes about society at large and how those themes affect individuals. One particular case involving a criminal who killed people whose online avatars were famous and then assumed to take their online identities and flawlessly imitate them asks the question of whether or not the internet brings people closer together or further apart and this is just one of the many questions the series asks in its run.

The second half of the show is more  centralized in its themes as it specifically questions the concept of law and order in general through dealing with criminal mastermind Makishima(who also happens to be behind most of what happens in the first half as well). The characters are forced to choose between protecting the law itself and exacting justice and the show eventually questions whether or not the law is truly capable of protecting people. The ending to this conflict plays out surprisingly realistically and though its grounded in cynicism it also provides a slight nudge of hope that society may eventually get to the point where people can someday live up to the ideals that the law embodies.

The series is in many ways like its leading female character Akane. The good and evil of every concept it observes is looked at in great detail and it comes to understand how to accept them for what they are. Though the show doesn’t hesitate to show how evil the Sybil System is (and it’s true nature is quite disturbing) it also demonstrates that simply removing it won’t make society better and it’s existance is one that people have come to depend on. Similarly though Makishima’s views are mostly shown to be correct the show is also quick to note the evils behind his actions as well. It maintains a cynical yet neutral stance on things and its intent is more to open ones views on its subjects rather than directly challenge them.

The characters of the show help to lay out the show’s stance as we see Akane slowly change her viewpoint over the course of the series from an idealist to a well intentioned cynic.  Some of the other cast members are also pretty strong as we have the male lead Kogami whose conflict between the law and his personal sense of justice drives the final confrontation along with Ginoza and Toyomi whose respective character arcs play off each other and ends up leading down a similar path. The main villain Makishima is also a bit of a show stealer as you can occasionally find yourself agreeing with his arguments even though he’s clearly a sociopath.

The show does have it’s issues though as two of the central characters in the series Yayoi and Shion don’t actually come across as being terribly important despite having an entire episode devoted to the former’s backstory and their largely left in the background. The series can also occasionally get a bit too over the top in terms of its graphic content  and can sometimes seem as though it’s trying too hard.

Despite my initial skepticism over Zac Bolton directing it, Funimation’s english dub for the series delivers a series of solid and strong performances across the board. Long time veteran, Robert McCollum brings just the right amount of grit for Kogami and Kate Oxley successfully captures Akane’s progression from a naive rookie into a hardened detective. Newcomer, Alex Organ  also delivers pretty strongly as Makishima and though he initially starts off a little rough around the edges compared to his seiyuu counterpart Takahiro Sakurai, he grows into the role very quickly and delivers a satisfying performance.

The release itself is also pretty nice. The box the set comes is good looking though not perfect material and some of the extras include the soundtrack CDs for the show and interviews with some of the creative staff behind the series at Sakura-Con which can provide a little bit of insight as to what their intentions for the series actually were.

Though the show isn’t quite perfect it juggles the themes it covers very well and it knows how to address thinking of them without directly challenging your view on them and it understands how to accept them for what they are. I highly recommend checking it out.

Overall: 9.2/10

Available through RightStuf, Funimation.com, Amazon and Robert’s Anime Corner Store