Tag Archives: review

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re: ZERO -Starting Life In Another World –

I’ve been fairly distant from anime for some time, but it’s not as though my interests have changed in any drastic way. This behavior of mine actually follows my usual patterns all a little too well. I’ll become overly obsessed and absorbed into something and then burn out on it. This applies to most things in my life. Who knows when I will have those interest rekindle. Oh well, now is the time for anime again I suppose.

This anime is one I remember hearing about from a colleague at work and decided to give it go. I was interested in watching it at the time and never got around to it, so it’s been sitting in the back of my mind for awhile. Since there are just too many anime out there to worry about I’ll just have to choose by instinct what I want to actually sink my time into. That’s how I’ll approach anime for now.

As far as the story goes, after both seasons are complete there is still much unexplained. This isn’t a bad thing though! I was certainly satisfied with the stopping point at the end of season two. What I mean is that there is plenty of room for the story to grow, and that is most definitely a good thing. I’m much more used to a series hitting a stopping point and, well it could end right there, yet it develops another season and a new story picks up out of nowhere. With Re:ZERO there are obvious developments that haven’t played out yet, so the anticipation for a continuation is all the more palpable.

So what is this anime about? Well, basically a guy we know little or nothing about, Subaru, is dropped into a fantastic world out of the blue.

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Being someone who is familiar with light novels, anime, and typical story tropes, he isn’t fazed by the situation at all and begins acclimating himself rather quickly to the new world around him. Bungling along, he is helped by a half elf girl who wields magic and has a strange fuzzy companion. She seeks something that was stolen from her and Subaru wishes to help in order to repay her for helping him. So, they spend the day together trying to track down the thief and just when they seem close to meeting with this thief in person… everything goes awry. The place they come to in the night is dark and quiet and Subaru investigates alone. He peers into the room with a lantern and sees a myriad of objects: weapons, a suit of armor, chests, and boxes, but no one is around. He steps into something soft and wet, and when he looks, a horrid realization seizes him as he looks upon a severed arm lying on the floor, further away lies a mutilated corpse. Intense fear grips him and a voice calls out of the darkness. In the next instant he lies in a pool of his own blood. The half elf girl, who had stayed outside comes now looking for him, but she soon joins him on floor. He grips her hand in his own as his life flies away and promises that he’ll save her–and then he’s standing there, there back in town, back before so much began. Somehow he’s been sent back in time.

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More is learned about this strange phenomenon, or power later on, but this is one of the key features of the story. When Subaru dies, he goes back in time. Like a video game, as he progresses through the events surrounding him, the point to which he returns changes like a save point. Or at least this is how he seems to describe this ability. If he dies, he has failed, but he gets to try again. He must find a way to not only live, but succeed in protecting those important to him. By doing that he can escape the cycle of death.

My impressions concerning Subaru’s character took a downward spiral as the series progressed. His motivations and his personality became questionable, but we were just finally learning what kind of person he was before this story began. Yet he is able to change; he is able to grow. I don’t know if I’ve come this close to hating a character and than having that sentiment turn around on me like this before. Please don’t stop watching if you find yourself loathing Subaru! You’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there.

Subaru is a true imperfect hero who must change and grow. What ended up impressing me most about him was his capacity to forgive. It doesn’t become much of a focus of the series or anything, but simply a part of who he is. Because of his ability to return back in time upon death, Subaru sees many different sides of people depending on how the events play out. Sometimes such people might treat him coldly or in unimaginable ways. Yet you can tell he holds no malice for them. It makes me wonder if I could do the same if I were in his place. I hope I could anyway. So yes, the characters are well done and actually show growth, which is something of a boon in the series I watch lately.

Another satisfying element to this anime were the fight scenes. The were choreographed well and tense. Some anime I’ve watched hype up their fights only end up giving you the dull and predictable. Unfortunately that included some anime that had fighting as one it’s main features. It’s nice to see something more original for a change.

Overall I was very pleased and hope that the anime adaption continues.

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Let’s Watch One Punch Man – Episode 1

I started hearing a stir about this new anime called One Punch Man right around when I went to Anime Weekend Atlanta.  While there, I witnessed a few trailers that looked not only made the anime look interesting, but impressive as well. Recently my friend has also been telling me good things about the anime, so I finally got around to taking a look myself.

I have to say that so far this has been one of my favorite viewing experiences in a while and it’s just getting started. Let’s begin with episode 1:

Episode 1 – The Strongest Man

To start things off, we’re in a modern world where super heroes and super villains are a thing. There is even something called the Heroes Association. Currently, a powerful villain is terrorizing the city and causing serious destruction, but don’t worry, there are super heroes on the way to save the day, like Smile Man and Lightning Max. Yes, I can already tell that this anime doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I can’t wait to see what happens next. Things aren’t looking good for the city as the Heroes Associate scrambles to rise against the threat.

Enter our hero, who arrives on the scene in spectacular form:

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“Just a guy who’s a hero for fun.”

The monstrous villain goes into a rant of rage, appalled that such a person should challenge him, who is the epitome of furious destructive power. And what does this so called hero do in response? A single punch that utterly destroys the super monstrosity, yet the hero doesn’t seem very pleased.

The scenarios and situations hilariously poke fun at super hero stories and tropes and so far it’s genius. While somehow managing to raise the tension with epic fight scenes, One Punch Man also throws such comedic twists in that I can’t help but laugh out loud as I watched this.

So the story is that Saitama decided to become a hero three years ago and somehow became this overpowered superhero that he is today.

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Saitama three years ago

Apparently the training he underwent was so difficult and arduous that it made him go bald and become the most plain looking guy on the planet. After achieving his dream of becoming a hero, Saitama finds himself in a lackluster state–because all it takes to defeat his enemies now is just one punch.

He reflects on himself:

“There’s no sign that the evils of the world are disappearing. It’s still the same as before I became a hero. In other words, you could say that I haven’t made a difference. I’m not necessarily sad about that. But something’s been bothering me lately.”

“As the days pass, my emotions grow more distant. Fear, tension, joy, anger.. I don’t feel any of them anymore. In exchange for power, have I maybe given up something essential to being human?”

With such thoughts brooding in his head, he goes to sleep. Suddenly he is awoken by an attack on himself and his home. The enemies are strong and fierce which takes Saitama by surprise. As he realizes his enemies are the real deal we see a bit of his old self come through as a light fires in his eyes.

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“This rush! This tension! It’s been so long, I’d forgotten… the exhilaration of a real fight!” The excitement and thrill of a real challenge is just what he needs.

Unfortunately he can’t sleep forever…

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…and has to wake up as the strongest man, where one punch is all it takes to defeat his enemies.

Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront) Impressions

To try to explain Kekkai Sensen… is difficult. The problem is that not all has been explained thoroughly enough that I can put all the pieces together and haven’t watched all the episodes out yet. I actually have had a little trouble following all of the details because so many things have been introduced.

Let’s break it down into parts:

Hellsalem’s Lot

Hellsalem's Lot

“Formerly New York City. Three years ago, in  the unprecedented disaster known as the ‘New York Apocalypse,’ a large gate opened up in the city’s center that connected to another realm known as the ‘Otherworld.’ Ever since, the world’s attention has been focused on Hellsalem’s Lot as a hyper-abnormal city, mixing this world with the Otherworld. It is said that whoever controls Hellsalem’s Lot will be poised to rule the world for the next thousand years. The fog that is emitted from the gate envelops the entire city, making entry from the outside world difficult. Transit in and out of the city is conducted via the one remaining bridge.”

A place filled with criminals, terrorists, conglomerates, religious groups, mafia organizations, refugees, spies from every nation… in other words a melting pot and a powder keg ready to explode. Three years ago this city was New York City, but after a gate to the Otherworld opened in the city it has become known as Hellsalem’s Lot. A conflagration of monstrous humanoids and creatures now live within the boundaries of Hellsalem’s Lot which is cut off in from the rest of the world by a strange mists. Within the waters there are gigantic creatures that attack anything that comes close the city.

Libra – The Secret Society of Sealed City of Magic

“A secret society of super humans that claim to strive for the balance of worlds in Hellsalem’s Lot. There is no precise information regarding its exact organization. It is said that the Otherworld is willing to pay billions for such intel.” The organization whose responsibilities lie in battling against the more deviant aberrations from Otherworld. Most members use their own blood as part of their special abilities and most members are also capable fighters.

Leonardo Watch

Leonardo Watch

Leonardo Watch is the newest member of Libra who has been accepted because of his coveted ocular powers, the Eyes of God. It is not entirely clear as to what these eyes are capable of, but some of its uses have been shown. One obvious use is to see what normally would not be able to be seen, such as objects or beings that are not normally observed. This includes creatures that move unbelievably fast–so fast that the eye cannot perceive. This also includes objects or beings that are under some kind of illusion or spell that either changes their appearance or makes them invisible altogether. Another use of the Eyes of God has something to do with changing the vision of others. This power was more confusing to understand than the first and I haven’t quite grasped how it functions or the entirety of its uses. The Eyes of God are a very rare artifact granted by a powerful entity from the Otherworld.

Fortunately, I recently had the honor of meeting Daisuke Sakaguchi, the voice actor of Leonardo Watch, and even was able to ask him a few questions. Since he had gotten into voice acting with goal of working on a Gundam series character, it should be no surprise that his favorite line comes from his character Uso Ewin from Mobile Suit Victory Gundam. He has also previously followed the Trigun manga.

Klaus V. Reinherz

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The leader of Libra is Klaus V. Reinherz, a large gentlemanly man with fierce strength and powers. He has a very honest, compassionate, and genuine air to his character and not only is he an incredibly skilled fighter, he is also calculatingly intelligent. He is often seen playing chess on his computer or on a game board, usually against the second-in-command Stephen A. Starphase. He also plays a complex and mind numbing game called Prosfair.

“A chess-based board game originating from the Otherworld. Enjoys avid players in both the Otherworld and the human world. Marked by its highly versatile rules, which change to match the skill levels of the competitors. Has also attracted a large number of collectors, due to the artistic value of the pieces themselves.”

Although the game is similar to chess, as the game continues and the competition intensifies the complexity of the game increases. As time continues to pass the difficulty rises exponentially as new game pieces and game boards are added to the game.

As for his fighting style, Klaus uses the Brain Grid blood style which creates cross shaped weaponry and is known for its sealing techniques. One of the weapons Klaus seems to favor most is similar to a brass knuckle, except it is shaped into the form of a cross which he wears \on his left hand. Klaus is able to perform various techniques, one in which he strikes the ground and raises deadly crosses from beneath his enemies.

Oh, and anyone this beastly with Takamura’s voice from Hajime No Ippo is just bound to be epic.

Stephen A. Starphase

Stephen A. Starphase, as said previously, is the second-in-command of Libra who seems to be involved in gathering intelligence for the group. Stephen uses the Esmerelda Blood Freeze style, which emphasizes the use of kicks for its techniques which create ice or freeze the opponent when a kick makes contact.

Zapp Renfro

Zapp Renfro

Zapp Renfro uses the Big Dipper blood fighting style which uses blades and explosions. Zapp can manipulate his blood into a wire that he lights with a metal lighter he carries. Despite being shown to be quite a capable fighter, Zapp is no match against Klaus, whom he constantly challenges, but always fails against. A typical day for Zapp: wake up with a hang over, goes to eat fast food, makes some money (probably by beating up some unfortunate thugs who try to prey on him unknowlingly), loses said money gambling, drinks and womanizes, repeat. Zapp spends the most time with Leonardo out of the group and despite being a heavy nuisance, actually seems to care about Leonardo.

Chain Sumeragi

Chain works as part of the Lycanthrope Intelligence Agency with speed in unquestionable as the fastest character met in the series thus far. Chain is a werewolf, or as Zapp calls her, “Inu Onna (Dog Woman),” who does reconnaissance work for Libra.

Blood Arts

The fighting techniques and skills used by sine Libra members involve the use of their own blood to create weapons or devastating attacks. The styles used seem to be passed down through a master and student relationship as we have met one such master in the series who has taught two of Libra’s members. Blood style martial arts also vary over a wide category. Kekkai Sensen has introduced perhaps only a small number of these styles: sealing spells, explosions, manifesting weapons, blood bullets, and freezing. As Zapp’s master has shown, it is possible two master more than one style, but obviously is much more difficult to obtain.

So far I have been impressed by the fight sequences and the flexible nature of how the story has progressed. There isn’t much in the way of limitation as to what kind of situations the characters may find themselves in. You’re kind of tagging along with the antics sometimes, but I don’t dislike it. The style of the character’s expressions and their design is very nostalgic for me since Kekkai Sensen is a work by Yasuhiro Nightow, who previously created Trigun. There have even been times where I definitely see some homage to his previous work in the new series. There were three things have particularly stood out to me as relating to Trigun. Let me know what you think these are in the comments.

And so…

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Hopefully this will be long series, but thinking back on Nightow’s previous work Trigun I get the feeling that it will be cut short somehow. Disappointingly, I have yet to finish the Trigun manga despite being a big fan of the work. I don’t read much manga to begin with which is probably why I haven’t gotten around to it. The character Vash from Trigun is still one of my all time favorite characters of any fiction.

Naruto – has it been that long already?

Naruto

When I started this series, it marked when one of those transitions in my anime life style. At the time I wasn’t nearly as familiar with the vast library of what anime was comprised of. I also hadn’t watched many subtitled series at this point. Naruto ushered in a new age for me, so allow me a little slack in my praises for the series. Take the ridicule for the series however way you want. I’m not quite caught up to the current releases, but I’m getting there.

Fillers

So I’ve been watching Naruto in order to catch up to the recent releases and what do I get? Fillers. Fillers. Oh, and more fillers. The best that these episodes get out of me is faint amusement. I think out of the Naruto fillers I’ve seen, there was only one good one. The ratio of normal episodes to filler episodes is just plain ridiculous. How I wish there could be more anime releases like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, where there is absolutely zero filler. It would be nice. If it weren’t for the fillers I’d be able to rate the Naruto series so far as high as an 8/10, but with things the way they are it’d be more like 5/10. In the past I’d skip fillers, but lately.., “what the hell, I’ll watch the fillers.” Sometimes you have to anyway, since they’ll sometimes mix in real material with the filler.

It hurts my head how bad the fillers can get
It hurts my head how bad the fillers can get

When it comes to filler episodes, I’m trying to decide which method I like better: integration or separation. I would probably have to go with integration, because if the filler is separate from the ongoing story, than there is too much freedom in coming up with things that are incompatible with the original intention of the story. Throwing in things that make no such when compared to the built up canon is something I want to avoid as much as possible. Of course if I could, I’d just have the series with no filler at all.

Over the long haul

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Without exception, long series face a number of common problems, but I’d say that Naruto does a decent job of handling them. One such problem is character growth. Characters in a series like Dragon Ball or Bleach have a tendency of over reaching their limits. Being able to blow up an entire planet for instance is reaching the limit I would think. Once characters reach the limit, it’s hard to curb anything realistically down. If a character reaches a point where there should be no more room for growth, but they still have to grow as a character, then there is a problem.

So far Naruto has been doing a good job of maintaining a believability in the growth of its characters. There are some cases that come to mind where limits have come to bear, but throughout there has been mostly a gradual leveling of its characters and I’m highly appreciative of that.

Another problem I’ve seen in these long winded series is that when the main protagonist takes on the brunt of the action (which is normal to expect), they completely overshadow all the other supporting characters. The supporting characters usually become nothing more then one time saviors or movers of the story. They carry no real weight behind them after they’ve served their purpose and become nothing more than useless baggage. Most of the time these supporting characters can’t even get the job done themselves and eventually rely on the main protagonist to finish the job for them.

Naruto does a good job divvying out the fights to various characters in Naruto and building those characters up. Characters you’d never expect to be in the spotlight have a way of making their debut in surprising ways. In this way we get to see many different characters fight it out, with a large variety of fighting styles clashing against each other.

There are probably other reasons, but supporting characters from other shounen series I’ve watched (with the exception of Hunter x Hunter) have disappointed me in losing out too much to the main character.

Epic Fights

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There are times the animation goes into serious mode and those fights are just crazy spectacular. I don’t quite know what the conditions are for the animation change, but they are some of the best fights I’ve seen in anime. I’ll put the first of these fights aside though (I didn’t enjoy that one as much). If you’re new to Naruto and you come upon this animation change, just be sure that you’re about to witness some crazy s!*$#.

It’s Been Ten Years

Oh.. god its been this long. For most of the series I watch, I watch through the marathon method. Which means they are usually complete, done. I can watch it all relatively quick. There aren’t many long series that I’ve watched, so to still be watching a series that I watched what seems like way back feels so odd. It’s going to be sad when it finally comes to end.

Who Raised Naruto Anyway?

I’ve been wondering this recently after some flashbacks, but who raised Naruto? It’s bugging the hell out me.

Steins; Gate

Okay, I’m a fan of science fiction, I can’t help it. I’m drawn to it. So when I started picking up that Steins; Gate had to do with time travel, butterfly effects, and other such things, I was beginning to feel a great desire to watch it. Then I saw an AMV at AWA that sealed the deal.

Mysterious beginnings

Story

Steins; Gate was definitely an experience that needs repeating. We have a cast of characters, some slightly bizarre (especially a certain self proclaimed “mad scientist”), who are currently striving for who knows what goal at the Future Gadget Laboratory. Now don’t go imagining something remotely close to a normal conception of what this laboratory should look like however, since it is after all only a kind of studio apartment above a CRT store. The Future Gadget Laboratory is currently highly interested in the development of its eighth invention: the Phone Microwave (name subject to change). While working on this newest gadget, a strange glitch in the microwaves function was found. To operate the microwave, instructions are sent by phone, but when these instructions are sent in the incorrect format… bizarre things happen to what is microwaved. Perhaps the most strange effect being the gelification of microwaved bananas. As the development of this gadget continues, our characters soon find themselves in the middle of a heavy conspiracy that will soon lead our “mad scientist” on a journey that will truly test his sanity.

Gel bananas

Characters

Ahem… of course we have the “mad scientist” HOUOUIN KYOUMA! Or just call him by his real name Okabe Rintarou. He’s a little… imbalanced or at least appears to be. His true nature shows itself in time. Then there is his faithful right arm and Lab Member 003, Super Hacker Itaru Hashida, better known as Daru. Daru is a bit of an otaku who has some pretty amazing skills. We also have Lab Member 002 and childhood friend of Okabe, Mayuri Shiina. Mayuri has been around Okabe the longest and has no complaints of being his “hostage” by choice. These three are the original members of the Future Gadget Lab. Some additional members to the lab are made as the story progresses. The characters exhibit some of the moe characteristics prevalent in anime, yet the characters go far beyond the typical moe role.

Disbelief

Impressions

Steins; Gate follows the dramatic arc very well with everything building towards that single moment around the middle of the series. After that turning point is reached the conclusion finds its way nicely. There were times during this anime I was genuinely shocked (I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing/hearing sometimes). I find it hard to probe at any mistakes in the plot and now I’m highly interested in seeing whether I’ll enjoy the Chaos; Head or Robotics; Notes anime adaptations as much as I enjoyed Steins; Gate. Steins; Gate is one of the few anime I became glued to my seat for. If I wasn’t working I might have watched the 24 episodes in one sitting. It became nearly impossible for me stop after the climax of the story.

Plot: 10/10
Music: 8/10
Animation: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Sentiment: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Fullmetal Alchemist: A Comparison (spoiler warning)

Plot

Oh the plot I and just don’t know where to begin. From my understanding, the original series was made with the intention of not having the same ending as the manga. The problem is for the first half of the anime it closely follows the manga with a few deviations and fillers. When I’m trying to explain Brotherhood to people who have seen the first anime, I say that it starts off pretty much the same, but will suddenly branch off on its own. At that point the story in Brotherhood picks up and only gets better and better. Unfortunately, because the first anime used plenty of material from the manga, it creates an assortment of plot holes and problems the more it deviated from the manga.

Some key problems:

An antagonist incapable of creating her own philosophers stone

Really? This prime mover of the events taking place can rally the homunculi, spread incomprehensible war, and secretly lead the actions of a nation, but she can’t find out how to create a philosophers stone. The plot falls apart for me here. It’s absolutely absurd that she is relying on others like Ed or Scar to create a philosophers stone when they have as about the same chance of discovering the method as she does. Deconstruct the plot further and more problems arise. Originally there seems to be a motive brewing among the Homunculi to become fully human, but that vein never goes anywhere except a few dialogues with Lust. At that point the method to create a philosophers stone is actually already understood when Ed is nearly tricked into transmuting prisoners into a stone. You would think that for someone who apparently saw the “Truth” twice would have the alchemical knowledge and ambition to have already created a philosophers stone by attempting to transmute a large number of lives. It’s hard to fathom why such a roundabout method was used. Sink people into despair in order to push someone into trying to create a philosophers stone. Yeah.

Failed Human Transmutation Remains

Anyone notice where the failed transmutation went? In Brotherhood, Ed, Al, and Pinako bury the remains, because they believe that it was their mother and that they had only failed in some way to successfully complete the transmutation. However, in the first series Dante conveniently discovers the “homunculus” (why and how did she know to be there?) and take it away from there without anyone knowing.

Naming convention for the homunculus

Well now there’s something to discuss. Why on earth are these homunculi named after the seven deadly sins in the first series? If any number of alchemists can attempt human transmutation, then there would certainly be more than seven homunculus at a time in the world. Of course there is actual meaning to be found in Brotherhood, where homunculus are not created the same way.

“Truth” = Our world

Perhaps the most bizarre happening is discovering that what lies beyond the gate is our world. How does looking beyond the gate to our world translate to alchemical knowledge, especially when alchemy doesn’t exist in our world? It’s utterly baffling. Once again, such things aren’t found in Brotherhood which takes a much more likely course in revealing the secrets behind the “Truth.

A randomly aging homunculus

Dante can create an aging homunculus somehow, but can’t create a philosophers stone. Enough said. And yes, the reason for an aging homunculus is actually given in Brotherhood.

The Branch

As mentioned before, the first half the original series closely follows the manga. I think that because of this, the production of the similar part in Brotherhood took some liberties. The pace of the beginning in Brotherhood is just too fast. I can’t see someone getting the same feeling of familiarity with characters as the first series. It’s all rushed with the expectation that the viewer has pretty much seen this part already. Even an entire episode was omitted (Youswell Mining Town), because I assume it would have been an exact replica from the first series. There were a few marked differences in some events, but there is a strong similarity. I disagree with the approach of assuming people have watched the first series though. Brotherhood is after all a completely different anime. It may share the characters a bit, but you really can’t say that Brotherhood is a sequel. So I think that the beginning portion is better handled in the first series and that when producing an anime one should leave assumptions behind.

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I’m sure there are other problems as well. With Brotherhood, the scale of what’s going on is so much larger and the plot remains consistent. With the first series it seems like the direction of where the plot was going couldn’t make up its mind. Brotherhood has an overall better story development and has an appropriate main antagonist who doesn’t arbitrarily appear towards the end of the story.

Action

For me there is no comparison between the two. Brotherhood far surpasses its predecessor on the action front. Many characters get to shine in the limelight whereas in the first series there is hardly any action scenes to speak of, at least memorable ones. Perhaps the greatest fight from the first series was when Ed fought against Greed. The problem is this fight is a carbon copy of a fight from the manga and new series. The only difference being the purpose, resolution, and location of the fight. In Brotherhood we get to see some really impressive alchemy fights as well as some more physically demanding brawls–a nice variety.

Let us analyze the difference between the original anime and the manga adaptation in terms of action. One of the key things to note is that is one exceptional fight from the original (Greed versus Edward) is in fact a carbon copy of a fight from the manga. The differences lie in the circumstances of the fight as well as the resolution afterward. As for how the fight plays out, it is exactly similar. What I appreciate in Fullmetal Alchemist is the lack of obstacles being overcome by Deux Ex Machina type power ups and bursts of training, things you would see in other action styled anime. In Fullmetal Alchemist, the majority of problems are solved on the mental front, using strategy rather than brute force.

In the original series there are a scarce number of occasions where we’ll see characters show their fighting abilities. Mustang makes a few turns in the spotlight, though not nearly as much as in Brotherhood. Throughout the manga and adaptation thorough attention is given to various characters each getting a decent amount of treatment. Some of the more impressive bouts come from the battles involving the homunculi. Both alchemic prowess and physical strength take their roles and one can’t be dissatisfied.

Characters

What was said above about characters receiving due attention applies again. In the original series there are characters who remain to the side, but in Brotherhood they actually find use in the story. I’m mostly talking about Mustang’s team here. There are also more characters then in the first anime. More characters and more character development equals better anime, at least in that regard.

Music

This is the one category where I will acknowledge the first series as triumphant hands down. The music was memorable and fit so well to the anime. If only Brotherhood had the music from the first series. The music in Brotherhood isn’t bad or anything. It’s just that the music from the first series was so good.

Overall Rating

Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Plot: 3/10 10/10
Music: 10/10 7/10
Animation: 8/10 8/10
Characters: 7/10 9/10
Action: 5/10 10/10
Comedy: 7/10 4/10
Overall: 6.5/10  8/10

Durarara!!

Impressions

Something different… that excites me.  This anime is episodic in nature, but tends to build towards a conclusion. I especially appreciate the depth behind the characters. A new kind of slice-of-life anime I could get used to.

Perspective

There’s a narrator and prime perspective given to each episode, but the perspective doesn’t stay limited narrowly following only a few characters. No, the focus roams freely and doesn’t necessarily follow what’s happening to the narrator at the time. The narrator gives their direction and thoughts upon what’s happening and we as the viewer gain a broader knowledge of them and the events taking place. Those narrations, along with what’s being shown, make up our perception of the characters in the anime. We listen to their thoughts and we see their actions.

Plot lines

While various plot lines unfold, the characters are laid out and help the viewer grasp the nature of Ikebukuro. There’s a lot going on this city and so equivalently many peoples stories are being told. At first it may seem like these stories are disjointed and unrelated from one another, but as things progress the fuller picture will be seen.

Initially the anime starts off slow. The plot being as unique as it is, involves characters and events to be brought to light slowly. Further along things begins fitting into place and better understood. I say it starts off slow, but what’s happening is enough to grab my curiosity and interest. With my attention in tow it doesn’t take long to get into this story. There really isn’t a main character. As I said, the perspective changes during each episode and those episodes tend to follow different characters as well. Interesting bit after bit leads to the growing form of the plot.

Synopsis

Introduction

Ryugamine Mikado has just moved to Ikebukuro and is very apprehensive. He’s never been to Tokyo before and well, he’s never been on any school field trips either. Okay, he’s never been out of town. Perhaps a sheltered life? Anyway, the reason he has come here is that he will be attending Raira Academy. After some convincing by his old friend from elementary school, Mikado had decided to make this endeavor. Upon arriving, Mikado quickly meets up with this friend, Kida Masaomi.

After meeting up with his friend, Mikado gets a small tour of Ikebukuro, and we meet a few more characters along with him.

Many introductions are made to viewer, so its a lot to take in all at once. There are the “dangerous” people not to get involved with: Heiwajima Shizuo and Orihara Izaya. There are also the color gangs as well as the mysterious urban legend of a headless motorcycle rider. Oh and let’s not forget Simon Brezhnev, one of the owners of Russia Sushi (the name speaks for itself). After some introductions and a few peaks into the shady side of the city, Durarara!! follows the various lives of characters in Ikebukuro.

Strongest in Ikebukuro

Heiwajima Shizuo

What I love most about Durarara!! are the characters. The cast of characters is definitely my favorite thus far out of the anime I’ve seen. And if I’m talking about Drrr!!, then it’s all about Heiwajima Shizuo!

“It’s pretty scary how dangerous he is. […] He’s like a wolfman or a devil or something. […] It’s impossible to compare him to anything.”

This is someone who you don’t want to to be on their bad side.

And what is it like to be the enemy of violence incarnate?

Epic Face Dent

Something like that.

Dressed like a bartender, with a temper unmatched, Shizuo is more of a natural phenomenon than a human.

The main cast of characters get some good background story treatment. Somehow each character’s story weaves together into the complete fabric of Ikebukuro. As the interweaving stories come together, they tell an overarching plot line of intrigue, deception, and friendship.

Colors and Colorless

Ikebukuro can be divided out among the most influential groups. The most noticeable of these being the colored gangs and the so called, “colorless” gang called the Dollars. To describe the colored gangs is straightforward: they are gangs who use a single color as a sign of their membership. The Dollars are a bit unconventional. Little is known about them except that they have no color. They are “invisible.” Rumor has it that the Dollars are involved in all kinds of dubious activities, though whether there is any truth to that…

The other consistuent parts of Ikebukuro are an urban legend known as the headless rider, the yakuza, and the mysterious one known only as “the Slasher.” The forces of the city tug and pull on one another bringing about some intriguing events.

罪歌 (Saika)

母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母母

What is this? A troll? Ah yes, the mysterious Saika. During the anime, there are times when the scene cuts to an online chat forum between three unidentified characters, each with their own alias. They are: Tanaka Taro, Setton, and Kanra and they are usually discussing relavant events taking place in the story. These characters are definitely in the know. Anyway, the chat begins to be trolled by Saika, with messages like the above (the kanji for mother over and over which reads out “hahahahahaha…,” as in laughter). Apparently this alias has something to do with the so called “Slasher” incidents, but exactly what I leave to be found out.

The Breathing, Living City

Ikebukuro

“I’m finally seeing the world I’d only witnessed through comics and websites…”

The setting of our story can be considered a character in itself, Ikebukuro, the entertainment and commercial district of Toshima, Tokyo, Japan. As there are so many characters and side characters, one begins to feel an affinity for the life here in Ikebukuro. The soul of the city lives in its people. We see the shady side along with bright side of this city. Often times that soul of the city clashes against itself and the drama is something to behold.

Conclusion

The plot is diverse, and so too are the characters. What plays out is the story of the city. The characters are great: realistic, urban, ancient, powerful, manipulating, conspiring, captivating, and scheming. A plethora of ideals clashing together, how can I not love it. This series also has a nice animation style that is somewhere between realistic and moefied with more weight towards the realistic side. Be patient! This anime starts slow, but its well worth hanging in there for a few episodes to get into the series. A few twists and surprises with each character having some secret to tell and an interesting story. I’m looking forward to watching Baccano!, which I understand was made by the same author and anime studio. Apparently some Baccano! characters made a cameo as well.

Plot: 9/10
Music: 6/10
Animation: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Action: 8/10
Comedy: 7/10
Overall: 8/10

Other thoughts

At center of all that’s happening, there is definitely a prime mover. Exactly what the motives are behind this person remains unclear.

I hope to actually see more of Durarara!! considering that the light novels and manga are still coming out. It’s a matter of some of the loose ends and some less developed characters.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

A girl is presented with a choice: become a magical girl and in exchange….

Introduction

The light of love you lit in your eyes one day
trancends time,
and surely destroy one dream
of this world and hurries to its ruin.

Swallow down your hesitation.
What is it that you wish for?
On the path of yearning as greedy as this,
will there be a good future?

Like ancient magic
that I dreamed of when I was young,
with the power to slash the darkness,
I want to meet the smiling you.

In these frightened hands of mine,
I have the courage of hand-picked flowers.
My feelings alone are all that I rely upon,
a wish that awakens… the light.

~ ED Theme Magia by Kalafina

Dream of Catastrophe

“This unavoidable destruciton, this sorrow… you can change it all.”

“Can someone like me really do something to stop this?”

“Of course you can! Form a contract with me and become a magical girl!”

Impressions

So I have in front of me an anime that has this feel good flow going. The seriousness of the matters at hand are told to me numerous times by various characters, but I’m going along with that feel good vibe anyway. I mean how serious can a mahou shoujo (magical girl) type anime get? This anime is deceptive. Besides the epic beginning scene, the anime starts off in a lighthearted vein. I’m carried along with that, but there is this feeling underneath that has me thinking somethings up.

The setting itself isnt’ very important–some city in Japan. This story could have taken place anywhere. As the story picks up so too does the action and fascination. The scenes within the witch barriers certainly grab your attention. The action scenes are also of good praise.

The serious aspect of things hit hard. I can’t remember the last time I was shocked like that. The unexpected quality of it was done so well, so purposefully. Even the first ending! I can almost hear your subliminal words… “No worries. Friendship. Happiness. Upbeat!” Messes with my mind. Of course all along the viewer is warned of the severity of the world of a magical girl, as Tomoe Mami says, “That’s right. I put my life on the line.” But still….

Synopsis

There’s Kaname Madoka, a carefree school girl who has had a strange dream. The next day she meets a new transfer student, Akemi Homura, who seems to have a strange interest in Madoka. After school, while hanging out with her friends, Madoka hears a voice, “Save me.” Following the voice, she comes upon a strange injured creature. Homura appears and seems to be after this creature’s life. A tense meeting, a quick escape, and then… trapped. What follows… find out yourself.

Magical girls represent the good, while witches represent the bad. Witches are said to be behind various instances like suicides, natural disasters, and other events, and it is the job of the magical girls to defeat those witches. For compensation, when a witch is defeated, sometimes a Grief seed or Witches Egg is found. These grief seeds are used to restore a magical girl’s soul gem (the symbol of her power) after depleting its magic. There seems to be more to this system and how the soul gem works, but this is the general explanation given to new magical girls.

Grief Seed and Soul Egg

Tamago

At the crux of battling witches are the eggs. Soul eggs represent the power of the magical girl. It’s use allows a magical girl to transform herself to weild incredible powers of magic. Soul eggs are also useful in finding witches. Apparently the closer one is to a witch, the more the soul egg resonates with a kind of pulse. Witch eggs are found upon destroying a witch, but not familiars, which are kind of like weak witches.

Kyubey

Apparently only some girls are compatible to become magical girls and it is Kyubey, a mysterious creature, who forms contract with with these girls in order for them to become magical girls. This contract entails the girl being able to have a single wish fulfilled and in return that girl gives her life over to battle against the witches of the world.

“What’s a witch? Are they different from magical girls?”

“If magical girls are said to be born from positive desires like wishes, then witches are born from negative desires like curses. Magical girls spread hope, where witches spread despair. And to make matters worse, they can’t be seen by normal humans. Doubt and suspicion; extreme anger and hate. They bring seeds of catastrophe to this world.”

Madoka

Madoka isn’t very sure of herself, but she is cared deeply for by her friends. The first problem that faces her is what to wish for. Becoming a magical girl is a solemn sort of act, but really Madoka is simply fascinated by the courage and strength shown to help others. As I said before, lighthearted attitudes abound. Madoka and her friend realize the importance of this choice, so they bide their time to make the best judgment as to what they want. As things become a bit darker, the weight of this choice becomes greater still.

“You just need to stay Kaname Madoka, like you have so far.”

These are the words of the new tranfer student, Akemi Homura. She’s strong, smart, and pretty much amazing, but very cold. What exactly is her interest in Madoka? Her warning seems very premoniscent. As the severity of world pushes down on her, Madoka stays by her friends and continues to search her heart for an answer. Truths beget sorrow and the path becomes harder for her to follow. Hidden motives guide her from two sides, but who will she follow them?

Witches Barrier

Within the barrier

The majority of the action takes place in a witch’s barrier, a kind of illusionary world that hides and protects a witch from others. The fights are spectacular and nearly make the anime worth watching alone. A witch must be tracked down by the magical girl and defeated within the barrier. Unable to decide upon her fate, but also unable to leave her friends, Madoka finds herself in a witches barrier many times.

Conclusion

Stunning visuals, epic music, and a story to rend your petty conception of Mahou Shoujo. The animation, especially the scenes dealing with witch barriers, was great beyond expectation. The uniqueness of it appeals to me. Along with that, the music carried my heart along and I felt that it had all control of me. I will never think of the Mahou Shoujo genre the same again. I’m going to have to rethink what anime I consider to be in my top ten, because this may take the top.


Plot: 10/10
Music: 10/10
Animation: 10/10
Characters: 9/10
Action: 10/10
Sentiment: 8/10
Overall: 10/10

SPOILER ALERT – Disection/Ranting/Analyzing

Some unedited thoughts I wrote while trying to analyze this series.

Homura

Why is it that Homura does not age? How is it that she is so much more physically powerful if she simply reverts back to that time. Seemingly she would only retain her memories if it were the case that she were given the chance to relive her meeting Madoka. Despite this theory, Homura does not seem to just retain her memory, but her strength as well. If this is the case, shouldn’t she also age? Exactly how many times has she relived those months? During her battle against the dreadnought, Homura seems to have played out this battle countless times. Everything was precisely choreographed. She should indeed be older… oh, I see. I had forgotten that she was “no longer human.” In that case the possibilities transcend. Her soul continues to age, her container does not. What I may assume is that her soul matured during the many trials that have met her in her path to find a solution. This maturity gives her the strength necessary. Homura is thus allowed to retain her memory and growth each time she travels back in time. Homura is the one in control. My question is: how is it that Homura is capable of traveling this span of time under her own power? I would assume that such a passage of time would require quite a bit of magical power on her part, perhaps enough to deplete her soul egg? This part has me thinking. During the flash backs we see nothing of Homura restoring her power after these trips. Hmmm. Of course, it may be that Homura’s wish is the counter balance to this possibility. If it required all of her power to return to that moment in time, then she wouldn’t be able to relive her meeting Madoka. Therefore, she atleast has been given enough power to not only return to the past, but also “protect” Madoka. In that regard, I see Homura’s wish as something slowly being granted. Obviously she was not immediately given the power to protect Madoka. When she returns for the first time to the past, Homura is still very much immature. She’s the weakest character. I find the progression very interesting. When we first meet Homura, she is the strongest, coolest, and coldest of characters. Seeing Homura in such a light was enough to take me aback. Is this really her? I seem to be answering some of my own questions, but I’m not entirely convinced of some of the mechanics involved here. I would like to know more about the limits of the various characters’ powers, especially Homura’s, since she is the pivotal character.

Kyubey = Mephistopheles

Is it me or does this contract business remind one of Faust? Let’s make a deal with the price of your soul. In exchange a single gift: a wish. What is your desire? I’m not particularly familiar with the story, but I’m sure that deals of this sort never turn out well.

Familiars

Witch – Oktavia von Seckendorff

What are witches and familiars? I assume that a familiar is a kind of offspring from a witch. That is, a witch has taken enough lives to divide itself and spawn a familiar. These familiars carry a small portion of power and do not at first have a grief seed. By taking lives the familiar grows in power and eventually becomes a witch. It may be then that this is the reason why not all witches have grief seeds. Mami mentions this fact while explaining to Madoka and Sayaka about the eggs. While the familiar has indeed grown powerful enough to be considered a witch, it did not originate from a magical girl. Thus, the so called witch does not have a grief seed or witches egg.

Exam x Spiders x Joystation

A boy, with only the faintest trail, searches for his father.

A man who has lost everything searches for those who took it from him.

A family of assassins poised to kill anyone for the right price.

A man who lusts only to fight the strong and win.

Hunter x Hunter is my favorite Shonen Jump anime. It started off slowly with the introduction of characters and the moments leading up to the first arc, but once it reached that point… one word, epic. We have Gon, the central character, who after finding out that his father is still alive, goes searching for him. Leorio and Kurapica are also introduced, but their motives are left unrevealed until later. What brings these characters together is the Hunter Exam, a test to receive the title of Hunter, which promises access to money, information, and power. Gon strives to become a Hunter to find his father who precedes him, but getting to the exam proves difficult in itself (a sort of pre-exam used to weed out the weak). The exam tests the wit, strength, and courage to find those who are worthy enough to receive the prestigious title of Hunter.

I was surprised with the direction this anime took. It was certainly unexpected to see how serious the story became at times. Life and death, epic fights, deadly foes… This anime brought a glimpse of a world full of mystery, intrigue, and peril unimagined.

This anime is one of the greats. The characters, the music, the plot, the fights, the banter. It was so much fun to watch. My hopes are with the new remake series.

As true as toasted toads, I’m reading this again

It’s been a long time since I picked up this series and I find myself quite forgetful of everything that has happened in the nine books I read. So this of course means that I can’t continue reading on until I’ve reread what I’ve forgotten, somewhat of a hassle, but I’ll enjoy it.

For whatever reason, fantasy type stories became one of my main haunts. The fantasy genre is the only category of books that I have a series of. I generally have a broad interests in my reading, but I find something especially appealing in the stories and characters that the fantasy genre brings. Knowing my interests, my friend introduced me to the Sword of Truth series nearly about ten years ago. There books coming out still and I haven’t kept up with the last few. My memory sucks, so now I’ve forgotten some of whats happened. I decided I would reread the series.

After being recommended and lent to me by my friend, I quickly became pulled into this world of catastrophic strife. Never before had my mind touched upon some of the things I’ve seen there. The enemies are of such an evil that I had never met before. The heroism was righteous and devastating. And the story led me through such emotions that would leave one breathless and begging for more. This series of books has proved to be of a different sort than what I was used to.

How to describe the story… well each book has its own central problem which gives its own climax and resolution, but each books leads the overarching story onwards. To give a taste of what to expect, imagine:

There is a power in the world tied to life and death and there are few, if any capable of controlling this power. The one who can wield this power has dominion over all living. If that person wishes it, death is swift and unstoppable. However, the wielder of this power also has the capacity to do great good. They may heal the sick, and let the land flourish. Now imagine that a man of the most evil contempt and devious mind were to control that power. Yes, such a person is on the brink of grasping this power for his own and there is only the slimmest hope of stopping him–the Seeker of Truth.

This is the synopsis of just the first book.