Next weekend is Armageddon- the one big genre con held in Wellington each year. Last year Tam hit the merchants and got some great deals on anime box-sets. Some of these were really good, some mediocre. In order to make her an “informed shopper”, we have been watching the first disks of many different series the last few weeks. And with a rainy weekend predicted, we popped down to Amalgmated Video on Taranaki street and got 6 more disk-1’s of different series.
Restocking our anime is important, as we do a great deal of anime-based socialization, with two anime-nights a week (Tuesday with Sharon, Friday with Geoff, Beth, Mikhail and Linn). Hopefully Tam can get us sufficient supplies to make it through another year of regular entertainment.
Opinions on what we have seen.
Last Exile- a visually stunning piece set in an alternate universe which is reminiscent of pre-WWI European powers, in that there are wars between these powers, but those wars are fought “like gentlemen, with chivalry and honor”. Of course, in this universe all the battleships fly, which is part of the visual spectacle. High wow factor. The protagonists, pilot and navagator of a small airplane (Vanship) are not annoying, and seem to have some interesting depth. Occasional comments speak volumes about the world the commoners live in- when they go to an Aristocrats mansion to pick up a message for delivery they remark on the fountain out front “wow, you can see through the water! I bet you could even drink it without boiling it first!” Along they way they find another (crashed) Vanship pilot, mortally wounded, and agree (under the code of their Union) to take on his mission. We look forward to seeing where the rest of this series goes. Consensus- buy it if available.
Noir- This is a series set in the present day, with a pair of young women assassins trying to stay alive as a mysterious organization, possibly the Catholic Church, hunts them down. The Japanese character is clearly based on Rei Ayanami from Evangelion, in that they were trying to do the “creepy and not quite human” thing. In the end they got the “I am a piece of cardboard” thing. And when in episode 4 we were seeing the same freaking flashback for the third time *that epidose*, and about the eigth time that series, the repitition broke us. They wanted a moody and thematic show, but they ended up with a slow moving and repetitive one. By the end of the first disk we didn’t care about the protagonists, the secret organization trying to kill them (which seems to have an infinite supply of faceless thugs for them to gun down), or anything else about the universe. Consensus- avoid.
Arjuna- When the protagonist dies in the opening credits it tends to grab one’s attention. As she hovers above her lifeless body on the operating table, a spirit tells her that he can bring her back to life, if she will join them in their fight to save the world. Basically the damage that humans have done (pollution, contamination, deforestation) has given birth to destructive spirits that are destroying the worlds’ very ability to sustain life, and she must help fight them. (people who have played White Wolf’s Werewolf game could always look for plot ideas here) After the first three episodes we are not sure how the series will go. Could be meat, could be cake. I think we will try and watch disk 2 before deciding to buy or not, as it could become an interesting twisted spiritual journey where you must fight without killing (or something), or it could devolve into a lame “highschool girl with superpowers” piece. We shall see.
NeiA Under 7- This is another work by Yoshitaka Abe, the person who brought us Haibane Renmei, which is probably on of the best peices of anime I have ever seen (the power of great writing and directing!). NieA is an alien living in our protagonists closet. But that is not all that unusual, aliens are all about since the mothership crashed nearby some years ago. This is one of those “wacky hijinks ensue” sort of show, and while there are many amusing moments, I cannot stand NeiA. She is one of those “I am a cute and impish 12-year-old troublemaker who is lazy, greedy, hungry, and always causing trouble- don’t you just think I am ADORABLE?!?”. I would leave out poisoned biscuts for her by the third night. Consensus- an okay show, but nothing I would want to watch over and over (when showing to friends), so we will skip it.
Witch Hunter Robin- There are people who gain powers of The Craft (witches). They are dangerous. They are hunted by a secret organization, of which young Robin (age 15) is the newest replacement for a Hunter they lost previously. We could only watch the first 3 episodes of 5 on disk, due to damage on the rented disk. Always a danger with rented DVD’s. So far we are liking what we see. Where in Noir they tried to do a silent and spooky character and got cardboard, with Robin with have a quiet young woman, but who has depth and is interesting. Little things can make all the difference. She has a wacky hairstyle (common in the genre), but she takes it out to sleep, and has to laboriously re-apply it every morning. Little touches like that make a character seem much more human, more real, and thus makes it easier for us to care about her. The show is also doing well with giving subtle hints that suggest some future fun character development for other members of the team. Consensus- but it if available.
Full Metal Panic- This is set in a near-future alternate history where the Soviet Union is still intact, and there are mecha running about (called Arm Slaves in this case). There is a secret mercenary orgganization (Mithril) which sends a team off agents to protect a young Japanese schoolgirl, as they think the KGB may be after her. Sounds very formulaic. But the writers realized “if suspension of disbelief is a problem, a dose of surreality will liven up the audience!” Basically the young soldier they send to infiltrate the high school so he can stay close to her at all times is a hoot. Total straight-man, and tightly wound to boot. Anything that looks like a threat (those KGB agents could be ready to strike at any moment!) generates an instant response, but of course she cannot know tht she is being protected. The “it’s a conincidence” sequence in the train station left Tam and I hooting with laughter. Looking forward to seeing how this all turns out, as the writers clearly decided to twist-the-tail of the standard shonen-style giant-mecha show with very amusing results. I guess it is a bit like The Irresponsible Captain Tyler, where it is a comedy universe (some of the time), yet many characters don’t realize this fact. Consesus- buy it if available.
Argento Soma- It’s the mid 21st century and aliens are attacking the earth. The aliens have a veryEvangelion feel. The first episode is certainly fast moving, but many of the plot aspects are downright nonsensical (severe suspention of disbelief issues). Anyways, our heros girlfriend is killed by an alien, he swears revenge and goes off to join an alien-hunting organization. Our hero is, unfortunately, a total jerk. This makes watching his angst-ridden antics rather less fun. Maybe we will rent the second disk some day to see if it improves. Maybe not.
We have two more series to watch tonight, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (which fills me with fear), the Voices of a Distant Star, which is a short 1-shot piece that might be very intersting. It’s a SF story where one character is approaching light speed while the other has stayed behind on earth, so time dialation between the two lovers results in mesages coming further and further apart for one, but not the other. Oh, and the one is space has gone off to defend earth from the Rampaging Alien Menace.