Sakura Wars TV Series 1 (Reviewed 2003-02-10, Updated 2003-11-23)
Based on the console game, the TV series draws on the very first version (have lost count of the number of subsequent versions). This is set in an alternative 1920s setting where the Taisho era didn’t all go horribly wrong and Imperial Japan is quite nice and not militaristic or fascist at all. Oh, there was this Great Demonic War just five years ago too and it’s Steampunk.
The members of secret Imperial Capital Defence group (Hanagumi), who also have day jobs as revue/operatic performers, use their spiritual powers and armoured mecha (Kobu) to fight supernatural evil which threatens Tokyo with destruction. The Kobu have crystal hearts and need to be synchronised with their users who are almost all female except for the token self-insert guy. Is anyone thinking else Neon Genesis Evangelion meets X-TV? And why is Tokyo is always the centre of the whole world? At least Washington D.C. isn’t threatened as much in US movies.
Ok, ok. NERV HQ certainly didn’t masquerade as an opera house no matter how good Shinji might look in drag or how Asuka would make a natural diva (bitch! hissss! scratch! does sterling performance. Or not.).
The series had a slooooooow start. My suspension of disbelief was really stretched by: Shinguuji Sakura is a great swordswoman. Shinguuji Sakura is a klutz. Reconcile. There were quite a few filler episodes too – oooh, let’s delve into this character’s history even though it advances the plot as much as trench warfare. Bit like those dating sim animes that are running amok in 2003.
But I still managed to keep enough momentum to watch the whole thing at one go. Cute girls. Mecha. Cool weapons. Ok villains. Supernatural stuff. Explosions. Hints of treachery. Entertaining but not a classic.
I couldn’t love this series because I couldn’t bring myself to love Sakura.
Scrapped Princess (Reviewed 2003-12-11)
Genre? Thought this was a good ole sword and sorcery anime until it crossed over into science fiction. This could be related to a programmer friend’s point that modern day technology is really like magic – even to those of us living in the modern era. Simply because many of those don’t really understand the scientific basis of our technological products. They work simply because we execute a set of rituals – programming languages could be spells (do you need to understand machine code?), your computer could be some kind of sacred altar and so on.
Selfish Sacrifice? Pacifica is not my favourite character but she, like her real brother, Forcis, do care about others almost more than themselves and question the sacrifice involved in securing her own survival. However, if you come from Shannon’s perspective, one must be willing to fight and struggle for one’s own survival and not to escape through guilt. Afterall, what kind of world is worth having if it didn’t even allow his little sister to exist?
Free will. This is a big theme throughout the series as many characters have made decisions on which the fate of the world hinges (can’t believe how corny that sounds, unfortunately). It reminds us that many things are the results of our own choices and that we should be mindful of our own desire for freedom when attempting to influence other people’s choices. Good affirmative series overall though a tad disappointed at the abruptness of the ending.
I still vividly remember Raquel-nee’s I Will Now Fight You With My Full Power apology at the beginning and her wail of despair towards the end.
Saikano – She The Ultimate Weapon (3 May 2003)
Saikano is really a bittersweet romance dressed up as an action/war series. More on that elsewhere.
One might be more charitable to the “useless” Shuuji if the following are taken in account: (1) Your girlfriend suddenly turns out to be a powerful weapon and killing machine – this inverts his male role as protector and wielder of violence thus making him “useless”; (2) he struggles mightily to come to terms with this – he still manges to love Chise and to communicate that love which grows as the series progresses; (3) he resists very real and quite strong temptation that could have allowed him to flee from Chise.
Personally, Episode 9 was particularly poignant and moving with the death scene of a supporting character where she pours out her heart. It bears out the platitude that death shows how valuable life is, how fragile life is and how life is often lived in fear of possibilities, buried by absurdity, banality and excuses which are all swept away – the realization coming too late, oh, too late – by the threat of imminent death.
Some might be disappointed by the vaguely Evangelionesque thirteenth (and final) episode which was pretentiously abstract and apocalyptic as well as rather pointless in terms of plot/character resolution. Didn’t regret watching the whole series though.
IIRC the Ep 9 scene I mentioned made jpmeyer (?) LOL though but I still really like it. Can’t check it, of course, as minaidehazukashii.com has destructed. And Saikano compares really poorly to Iriya no Sora now that I’ve seen the latter.
Lunar Legend Tsukihime (2004-04-25)
I am in complete agreement with my esteemed striped colleague. I felt let down by how the anime ended, mainly because of the sheer multitude of unresolved plot threads and unanswered questions. The disappointment was all the more painful due to the strong feeling of wasted potential of the source plot and of the waste of the beautiful character design, animation, music and so on.
Tsukihime is composed of two major threads: the Tsukihime thread that details the conflict between Acrueid and Loa, between the True Ancestors and the Turned. How do Chaos Immortals fit into the picture between the two? It is also not explained or explored if and how the Loa caused Acrueid to fall into bloodlust. Is Acrueid the only remaining True Ancestor? What happened to the other True Ancestors? Was she appointed to purge the Turned or is it her duty as the last remaining True Ancestor?
The other major plot thread is the Tohno thread which, in my opinion, is the more interesting one. It details the history of the Tohno family and its demonic taint. In the anime, the clearest link between the Tsukihime and Tohno threads are Shiki’s attack on Arcueid and the Loa’s posession of the original Tohno Shiki. The anime is missing the crucial thread of Kohaku’s plotting and machinations which set the game’s plot into motion and into fruition.
Some questions include: Why did Shiki attack Arcueid initially? Why doesn’t he attack her after that? After Shiki’s dismemberment of Acrueid in Episode One, who recovered him from the playground? What is the difference between Nanaya Shiki’s and Tohno Shiki’s eyes that can see those red lines of death? This was apparently an important point when Shiki managed to defeat the Loa-possessed Tohno Shiki at the end. What is the significance of that knife that Shiki carries? It seems to represent him and his power in the opening sequence of the anime. Is is merely a link to his past as a Nanaya? Is the knife magical? Why does he leave it behind at the end after meeting Aoko-sensei again?
It must be positive spillover from Kara no Kyoukai but I actually bought the Tsukihime DVDs. Yet to rewatch them though. My favourite scene still has to be the end of the first episode/beginning of the second episode when Shiki sees Arcuied sitting on the swing and she greets him with the best Konnichiwa EVAR.
Trigun (Reviewed 2003-11-30)
Vash the Stampede is a legend of destruction (somewhat like Lina Inverse of the Slayers series) with a huge bounty on his head. To get the story going, the insurance companies put two lady investigators on his trail in this desert planet which is like a country Western with some space tech. Vash turns out to be a very nice guy (definitely nicer and less mercenary than Lina). However, as the series progresses it becomes clear that he is not an ordinary person. The anime delves into the character’s deep history which is intimately linked with that of all the human settlements on this planet. Vash must finally confront his Evil Twin without giving up the better part of his nature.
I bought the DVD of this series on the strength of online reviews and recommendations. Rather disappointed. The story was reasonably well thought out and developed with qutie a few humourous moments as well as some excellent fight scenes. But it was quite draggy and repetitive (especially the short flashbacks with Vash’s mother figure and the blast door slamming shut). Vash also wrestles with his conscience, guilt and painful past – just a bit too much which was irritating and made him really wimpy and whiny on a Shinji Ikari-esque scale. His nemesis Knives is simply too one-dimensional with his needless (and almost childish) cruelty, anger and insecurity despite of his power. The contrast was made even more stark with Legato Bluesummers and especially Nicholas D. Wolfwood who were much cooler characters. Cool being an important factor of the swagger of that cowboy western atmosphere.
Lots of others seemed to have really enjoyed it but while it was ok for entertainment, I don’t count myself as a fan.
Once the Wolfwood arc was over, it was all over for me too. And I sold off my DVDs right after I watched them.
Voices of a Distant Star (Reviewed 2003-11-26)
One episode stand-alone anime that is apparently the work, loving crafted, of one man, Makoto Shinkai. And it is shows.
But first, let me bitch about the irritants. The girl lead, Mikako, is selected as a pilot for the United Nations (UN) space expedition fleet’s Tracer robots. This is a reinforcement of the stereotype that the performance of future technological gadgets will depend much more on the innate capabilities of the operator-pilot than on such boring things as years of training, internalising doctrine on strategy and tactics and experience with the platform. Somehow, young school kids seem to fit the bill for enlistment and deployment. Mikako goes out into space and even when they are light-years away from Earth, the UN doesn’t see fit to issue them with outlandish figure-hugging combat uniforms or suits (another cliche) but leaves her to fight in her school uniform, which in my mind, only serves to pander to the particular fetishes of the Japanese audience. But if looked at charitably, the school uniform is an important plot reminder about the growing physics/physical gap between Mikako and male lead, Noboru.
That gap is why Voices is a romantic anime par excellence. The two lovers are separated not just by space, but time – or should i say, space-time. Because the UN fleet is employing light-speed travel, time runs slower for Mikako than Noboru. In effect, Noboru ages “normally” on Earth while Mikako stays the same age. (Aside: Rather good for Dirty Old Men/DOM-wannabes who like their girls really young.) With the help of light-speed transmitted Short Message Service (SMS), they manage to keep in touch even thought as the anime progresses, the messages take more than a year to go back and forth. The fight scenes are excellent, general animation looks refreshing and painstakingly put together and the character designs are sympathetic. There is some Evangelion Ep 26 type frames of empty everyday scenes but these do serve to enhance the romantic (but not necessarily lovey-dovey) atmosphere and mood. The conclusion with that desperate climatic space battle was a powerful affirmation of how love can overcome.
In short, this is a romantic anime disguised as a Cute Girl and Giant Robot in Space anime. I am so not a fan of the romance genre but i was sufficiently awed by Voices to purchase the DVD. (Btw, i like the Director’s Edit, which uses his and his wife’s own voices for Noboru and Mikako, better. And this anime’s title is actually more appropriate in English than in Japanese.)
Now that I’ve finally read The Forever War, I’m amazed at how it’s a completely different story that deftly uses some of the novel’s basic ideas. But it’s not that different too especially if you think about the novel’s protagonist’s happily ever after.
You’re Under Arrest! TV Series 2 (Reviewed 2002-03-05)
Much better animation quality than the first series and also able to explore the characters beyond the constraints of the manga more than the first half of the first series.
One of the things I kept wondering about was how the traffic department gets mixed up in so many other types of crime and I don’t think you get so many car chases in Japan, but it’s all in good fun so I won’t bitch too much about that.
Additional angle on the Natsumi-Miyuki partnership when Sayuri, a high school girl they saved in the first series, joins the station as a police woman. Inspired by her sempais, she brings the refreshing air of rookie, idealistic and gung-ho in the execution of her duties. Much hilarity and sweatdrops ensue.
The 4 or so episodes when the Natsumi-Miyuki partnership come under stress were IMHO the best in the season (even if some of that territory was already covered in the 4th ep of the 1st OVA). Also, rather less ham-fisted treatment of the Nakajima- Miyuki was an improvement in this season. Esp now when contrasted with the moving-on-and-living-life-to-the-fullest attitude of Tokairin-Natsumi.
This is one of my absolute favourite series and I would declare all of it classic (even the 2000 movie), but as you might have guessed, I’m biased. And oh yeah, Natsumi kicks arse!
This is very odd. I recall Sayori and this series in general much less fondly…
And that’s the last of the pre-blog entries retrieved and archived!