Friday, November 30, 2012

"Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo" Thoughts So Far (Episodes 1-8)

Before this current anime season kicked off, my first glances at the synopsis’s of the shows were actually kind of negative. The only shows that struck me as something to watch out for was Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and the continuation of Sword Art Online. Everything else looked like it would be generic, stale, and boring. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo in particular was a show that early on I decided to not watch due to my initial thoughts. However after some time passed, I began reading all over the internet how the quirky and likeable cast along with the beautiful visuals was turning Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo into one of the must watch shows. Seeing how I was already caught up on my other anime, I decided to add Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo to my regular watching schedule.

The first episodes are no different than any other slice of life type show; we spend most of the time introducing all the major characters that we will see interact with each other for the coming episodes. The main focus of the show is put on Sorata and his every day teenage struggles. Kanda is portrayed as a typical high school boy who has no idea what his ambitions might be. To make this worse, the dormitory he lives in is full of other teenagers that are all very well known in their field of choice. We have the computer genius Ryuunosuke (not the murder crazy guy from Fate/Zero), anime creator Misaki, writer Jin, and world renowned artist Mashiro. All of these characters have unusually remarkable talents and have already secured their place in society well after they graduate high school. This is one thing that I like about the show, it is very easy to connect and be brought down to Sorata’s level of understanding. He was just like I was in high school, absolutely clueless on what I wanted to take up as a trade. To make things worse all of his roommates are a little off (you know, weird). Misaki and Mashiro are a little too comfortable with themselves (or maybe just oblivious to modern society’s rules) so they walk about almost stark naked and Jin spends his nights with multiple mistresses. This is where the show puts it main focus on for the first six or so episodes; trying to get Sorata out of this building. The only reason he remains living in the building is because of the cats that he has picked up around town. The dormitory on campus does not allow pets so over the course of the first couple episodes he tries to find homes for his pets. Nanami, a work-a-holic who has a crush on Sorata, eventually helps Sorata start looking for homes for the cats because she feels that ever second he spends living around the rest of the cast is more time for him to become just as weird as them. Everything was going as planned until Sorata became exposed to Mashiro. Mashiro like I stated before is a child prodigy when it comes to art. While she is extremely skilled in drawing, she lacks all the common sense that a high school girl should have. Sorata finds himself preparing her laundry, meals, and pretty much everything else you can think of. This is the real focus of the show; the growing bond between Sorata and Mashiro. Sorata at first resents Mashiro due to the fact that she can pretty much do anything she puts her mind towards with little to no effort. Over the course of a couple episodes however, he finds that this resentment is actually admiration in disguise. He begins to become more and more interested in Mashiro to a point where he actually does not mind living with a bunch of weirdoes. He also in the process picks up computer game designing as a possible profession thanks to some help from Ryuunosuke.
That lengthy summary basically catches you up to speed on what is going on. After these past eight episodes, I feel very connected and attracted to the show. I actually want to see how things develop between Sorata and Mashiro but at the same time I also want to see something flourish between Sorata and Nanami. Also it’s not only the character development that has me hooked but the visuals the show sports. Everything is very bright, colorful, and defined. You might find this a little weird but I love the way the eyes are drawn in this show. They are very inviting and match very well with the character’s facial expressions. When they become surprised, you see the eyes contract in unison with the facial expressions. All of the characters are stunning in their own ways and this is quantified by the voice actors’ performances.
Each character’s voice actor seems to match their respective character very well. They are able to express their character's emotions very well as shown in many scenes such as when Misaki has a mini breakdown when seeing Jin and Mashiro having their date.

This show doesn’t feel fake or generic at all and in fact feels strangely mature for a slice of life high school anime. Sorata deals with real problems that kids his age have to face. Figuring out what you want to do in life is extremely hard for most of us. I was hooked on this show after episode four and wish in a weird way I didn’t pick it up until it finished airing. Every week I strain myself waiting for the next episode to come out. If you are looking for a relaxed yet somewhat deep slice of life show to watch, I strongly recommend Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo to you. It definitely caught me off guard and blew away my expectations. 

Winter Season Update

I'm not really sure if I have any returning "fans" or readers but the past couple weeks have been extremely busy with school, music, and job searching getting in the way so my posts have suffered. I have been keeping up with my watching schedule but I have been quite lazy in jotting down my ideas. Look for some posts on Sword Art Online, To Love-Ru: Darkness, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, Little Busters, and possibly a review of Otome Youkai Zakuro this weekend.

P.S.: Finals suck -___-

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Sword Art Online" (Anime) Episodes 18-20 Thoughts

Since my last post of Sword Art Online, Lyfa and Kirito have made their way closer to the world tree and even saved an entire race from total destruction. Compared to what I remember reading in the light novel version, I honestly have to say it has been very accurate. Since we last left off, Lyfa and Kirito ventured into the mountain range that was placed in their way. Inside the mountain is a safe town for travelers as well as their log off destination. On the way however they find out they are being tracked. When the enemies catch up, there is an all-out brawl between the two groups and of course Kiritio’s group comes out victorious. After befriending one of the enemies, they find out that the Salamanders plan on attacking two of the other factions at a treaty convention in order to gain more power. After hearing about this, the two protagonists race off in order to cut off the forces. A spectacular fight erupts between Kirito and the caption of the attacking force and of course Kirito comes out the winner. 

So essentially we are getting to the real meat of this story arc. In the light novel series, Kirito and Lyfa make it to the World Tree fairly quickly after this event so I do not know if A-1 Pictures plans on adding some filler episodes (please god do not). Also I won’t spoil anything but a major event does happen between Lyfa and Kirito that may or may not change some things. The animation has remained stunning; the fight scenes in these past few episodes have been fantastic. The quality of the lighting, the very fluid frame rate, and very beautiful backgrounds really bring out the best of this new MMO world. When I was reading this arc in the light novel series, I picture a similar setting for this town inside the mountain with the surrounding lake. The music fits well but it hasn’t been spectacular by any means. Props to the voice actors though because every new character introduced has done a pretty good job expressing their character very well. Things are about to speed up in the episodes to come so I will be looking forward to the events to come. I may even go back and start re-reading the light novel series just so I can picture the events from two different sources.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Katanagatari" Anime Review

Katanagatari is an anime that I have had to watch a couple times in order to fully pull my thoughts together. The first time I watched it I was very interested in the relationship between Shichika and Togame but the ending left a very bad taste in my mouth. After recently finishing it for the third time however, I have a revitalized liking to the show because after carefully deducting the plot, I am at peace with the ending.

Story: 8.8/10
A basic run down of the plot is that Togame (a self-proclaimed strategist) travels to hire Shichika in order to help her collect the twelve deviant blades that were left behind in the previous war. Unlike typical anime that have a runtime of around twenty minutes per episode, Katanagatari runs about fifty minutes per episode. When it first started airing, it only provided one episode per month so this pacing really made it a unique experience that both worked well and hindered the plot and sequence of events. Just a fair warning if you do not like excessive dialogue and the typical “I’m going to name all my attacks and tell you exactly what is on my mind at all times” speeches then steer far away from this anime. The very clever and witty dialogue between all the characters never gets boring or excessive in my opinion but to someone who is used to watching very cut up and short scenes, they might begin to lose focus. Everything about this anime feels like it’s continuously flowing on and never stopping or backtracking. Also the way each episode feels like a self-contained story focusing on one sword per episode is an example of how the runtime helped the anime feel more enjoyable. With all that screen time however there are some issues that affected me personally. While most of the dialogue is enjoyable and relevant to the story, in the earlier episodes there is quite a lot of rambling that honestly I think was put in to fill up some time. Also the real eureka moment where everything falls into place and you receive all the pieces of the puzzle doesn’t start formulating until around the ninth or so episode so while the earlier on episodes are entertaining on their own, I felt a little left out of the picture. These two negatives are the only reason I gave this anime less than a ten on the story section; it is a very well written story that’s ending will pull on your heart strings and also feel very rewarding for sitting through.

Animation: 8.7/10
A first glance at the animation will make you think it looks “cheap” and “plain” and you are completely right in a sense. The animation style is very simplistic but yet at the same time very unique and beautiful. The backgrounds, character models, and fight scenes are all very quality work. It is also apparent that as the show progresses, the animation quality does in tandem. It still retains its style and presence but we see better reflections, more color depth, and much more fluid fight scenes. Each character we run into looks very refined and unique. The anime tradition of including obscure camera angles of certain lady parts comes into play in the later episodes but it is by no means ecchi. Overall it starts out a very unique looking anime and by the last episode, it blossomed into a truly beautiful work of art. It’s just too hard to score it higher when compared to other great looking anime (Fate/Zero, Nisemonogatari, Redline, ext).

Sound: 9/10
I have to say that from a total music geek’s perspective, Katanagatari COMPLETELY caught me off guard. While most people will watch this anime and not really notice the score backing the show, it was very apparent to me from the beginning that the music not only set the moods perfectly but also as standalone musical tracks sounded great. The anime offers a very diverse offering of music ranging from pop and synth heavy parts to some of the best orchestral arrangements I have heard in a show. The music in the last episode really impressed me to a point that during my previous watch I grabbed my guitar and starting playing while watching the show. Not only is the music well done but also the voice acting of the Japanese staff. Since this anime relies on long drawn out conversations as a means to introduce different plot devices, it is very key to have voice actors that can bring out their character’s personalities and quirks. Each character in this anime was voiced very well and was distinctive from everyone else. I felt like this show really nailed all the acoustical elements needed for any form of film.

Characters: 8.2/10
For a show that introduces a lot of characters, I felt as if most of them were given ample amounts of time to have decent character development presented. There were essentially three “factions” in this anime; Togame and Shichika, the Maniwa Corps (a faction of ninja that broke away from the government), and Princess Hitei and her servant Emonzaemon (there is also another character that acts on his/her own accord but I don't want to ruin the surprise). All three of these groups play major roles of who controls what swords and information. While some of their intentions are not shown until very late into the show, you could honestly side with any of them. There really wasn’t a “bad guy” presented until the very late stages of the show. Each group had rational reasoning for their actions so you felt more inclined to their cause. Another thing that I really like about the characters in this anime was how the Maniwa Corps was represented by different animals. Each member was symbolized by a different animal and their techniques mostly resembled their animal counterpart. Overall each main character performed very well and had a lasting impression on me. There were however some characters (mostly the Maniwa Corps members that had almost no screen time and a couple of the sword owners) that really did nothing for me. They just had no awe inspiring personality and in some cases were left out almost completely. One BIG example was the swordsmen Hakuhei Sabi who took the sword made out of glass. His character was described in such a way that made him sound like the most badass sword fighting character in recent anime history and when the episode came that they would fight him, I was completely stoked...except that they didn’t show it AT ALL. So that I don’t want to spoil what really happened during that episode but as for the fight between Shichika and Hakuhei, they just skip over it entirely and in the final minutes of that particular episode they briefly go over the fight and just say how close and amazing it was. But they never show it; it really pissed me off.

Overall: 8.7/10
This show has gotten to a point where when new anime watchers ask what they should dive into first, I usually recommend this one first. It is just such a unique watching experience that I have never felt before. While I wish the plot was more prominent in the beginning and that some of the characters were explored a little more, this anime did more than offer an interesting adventure; it crafted a unique tale that had the best sense of growth that I have seen in recent anime. The ending ties up a very interesting plot that honestly caught me off guard. This anime has all the action, fighting, and beautiful set pieces you would expect from a high quality studio that made other great anime such as Steins;Gate. White Fox did an amazing job and I hope one day you will take the time to watch these brilliant twelve one hour episodes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei" Anime Review


Formulating this review was actually quite difficult because while I both admired and enjoyed the visuals and characters of this anime, I felt as if I had to force myself to sit through it.

Story: 7.5/10
The plot and how each episode flows within each other is actually done very cleverly. Essentially we follow Watashi as he struggles in college to find pure enjoyment and love. His so called friend Ozu is always causing trouble and leading Watashi down the wrong path but they always end up sticking up for each other. The love interest of the show Akashi isn’t utilized as much as she could have been but overall she plays a pretty important role in the story. So essentially in the beginning episodes we get a deji vu feeling because we see the same timeline played over and over again with the clubs Watashi joining changing every time and playing out differently but arriving at the same outcome. It isn’t until the final episodes that everything comes together and you get that, “OHH so that’s why that happened” satisfaction. Still even after eleven episodes I wonder why I sat through this show. I will admit that the plot was interesting and original but it still provided little enjoyment.

Animation: 8.2/10
This show sports a very abstract scheme that works very well with the universe. We see a lot of different animation styles used in many different ways to set the mood. My general opinion is that Madhouse really is one of the great forerunners of animation. This show was very visually appealing to watch.

Sound: 6.2/10
There wasn’t really a lot to comment on about the sound of this anime. While the music wasn’t distracting, it wasn’t anything to really comment on. The only praise should go to the voice actors. Atashi, Ozu, and Watashi had spot on performances and their voice actors really brought out their personalities well.

Characters: 8.9/10
The only other thing that I found this show delivered on other than the animation was the characters. To me a really well done character is someone you remember weeks or years after you watch a show. While I just recently finished this anime, the cast really left a lasting impression on me. The way the characters interacted with each other was very amusing and overall was what kept me coming back. A well done cast can help keep viewers stay hooked even if the plot is lacking or unenjoyable (Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, Angel Beats!, K-On!, ext.).

Overall: 7.7/10
While I did not enjoy this show, the abstract animation style and close nick pack of characters really helped turn this deji vu, soul searching anime into something that I could sit through. Now I really bashed the plot and I do not want this to turn you away from watching the show. The plot IS original and thought provoking; I just either wasn’t in the correct mindset or mood to watch a show of this nature. First glances made me believe it was a lighthearted comedy but it turned out to be something drastically different. Regardless I only review with the facts and what I can explain so taking my personal feelings about the show out of the question, it’s worth your time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Initial D Fifth Stage" (Anime) Episode 1 Thoughts

Ahh after a very lengthy wait, Initial D is back hoping to keep its main protagonist Takumi moving on up in the drift racing world. I spent a lot of my very early anime watching days on all of the Initial D seasons because while it wasn't the best looking anime, it was by far one of the most enticing ones. Never have I been so glued to the screen so excited for the next race to start. With the limitations they had with animation during the late 90's they made this anime one of the best action/car racing shows in existence.

I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people have not heard of Initial D since it is a late 90's anime that didn't have overwhelming visuals and sound. The premise of Initial D follows Takumi Fujiwara as he strides to become the best drift racer in Japan. Along his way he runs into Keisuke and Ryousuke Takahashi who over the course of the various seasons from a racing team that takes on all challengers. If you truly want to enjoy this anime I strongly encourage you start from the beginning and work your way up to this current season because other than a very short and vague into, you will not be brought up to speed on what happened in the previous seasons. This show starts guns blazing right after the Battle Stages as a direct continuation of the main story.

What really set me back during this first episode was the animation style the show is continuing to sport. While it isn't horrible, the character models remain very similar to the previous works of the anime. They have been of course overhauled and look much better than say the first and second stages (seasons) but the overall look of the show stays intact. Usually when we see a show make its way back to tv after a lengthy break, the animation will look much different and more refined. What Initial D has shown is that you can have a show retain older characteristics while still making it appealing to the audience. Keep in mind though that this anime will not be the best animated work that you will see. Unlike today's anime that tries to make each male and female lead as attractive as possible to the opposite sex, the characters in this anime have a much more real look to them. No fancy smancy character models; just typical looking Japanese people. Not a whole lot of driving was showcased in this first episode but where it was present was pretty decent. It is by far a HUGE step forward compared to the previous seasons as the cars flow much nicer between frames.

This first episode seems like the typical, "Ok this is what the season's goals are and let’s introduce some new characters". Overall all that it ends up getting reveled in this episode is that Takumi is still on the racing team and he still only wants to further his skills. The team in general still has a mission statement of proving that they are the best downhill and uphill racing team in Japan. It is unclear if they (the animation studio) will introduce a new plot device as the whole “We are going to so and so region to kick some teams butts. Then we are going to so and so to do the same thing again.” is getting a little boring.

 I am very much looking forward to this season as I hope it continues to showcase some amazing car battles along the roads of Japan's most dangerous mountain passes.