Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Best Sci-fi: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
You just cant get any better than this masterpiece. It was a perfection of it’s era, painting a vivid and multi-layered world while juggling a complex array of stories and characters that came together to form a wonderful series. Everything from the writing, which was by Dai Sato, to the directing, provided by Kenji Kamiyama, was perfectly formed. The series was able to portray a whole new world to the viewer without being to blunt or apparent. It seemed to just instantly throw you into this complex new setting, but somehow, instead of turning away it encouraged people to keep watching. Some how the mystery of how this futuristic society worked seemed to make the viewer even more engrossed in the story. And when you finally get a grasp on the concept of this world you didn’t feel like you were watching a stereotypical futuristic world of plain robots and spaceships. Some how this world seemed like a real possibility of what could be to come; which made the stories that much more relevant and powerful. The characters in the series were masterly crafted as well. Not only showing depth and the ability to make fleshed out characters, they were even able to make icons. The Laughing Man has become an enduring figure to anyone who has watched the show and even became a bit of an internet icon. On top of all of this GITS also possessed the dub which many claim to be the best to date. Casting a long list of famous and highly skilled voice actors they were able to make a dub that even non-dub-fans had to enjoy.
Best Drama: Cowboy Bebop
This is an instant classic in my book. From start to finish this series created classic characters and stories that went on to become some of the best known and highly acclaimed of the decade. The characters and so fleshed out and likeable that while watching the series you find yourself becoming attached to them, which makes the emotional aspect of the stories that much more effective. From episode one it hits you with a power house collaboration of the all star staff which makes a notable impact on the psyche. And on top of the flawless action sense and powerful emotional aspects, it also has some of the best music ever used in an anime. This series mastered the art of using music to set the mood of the story in a way that few series have been able to match.
Best Fantasy: Mushi-shi
No matter how many times I watch this series it never fails to move me. The stories are so unique and powerful and the directing doesn't try to push action or anything. The series is a one of a kind that can never be replicated quite as good as it was. It puts you into this strange new world but you don’t feel lost in it, in fact you accept it. Each episode gives you an in depth look into the world in which mushi exist and the characters surrounding them. And the stories are quite modest but at the same time seem to hit you the hardest. The creatures that are called mushi throughout the series are some of the most imaginative and unique things I’ve ever heard of. Just the thought of them gives you the feeling of something magical that is unreal and yet surreal at the same time. It wins best fantasy hands down.
Best Mecha: Gurren Laggan
Its not just your run of the mill mecha series. There is always more to it beyond the jokingly stereotypical super robot story they hide a message of hope and encouragement. I think it's this message which gave the series life and made it such a big success. When you were done watching the series you were left with a feeling that if you try hard enough you can reach the starts. I think this spoke to allot of people and that’s why the catch phrases of the anime can all to often be heard shouted throughout the halls of any given anime con.
Best Comedy: Lucky Star
Sometimes this anime is seen as the bastard child of Kyoto Animation in between the two Haruhi seasons but in many ways I find Lucky Star to be better. The style of comedy is one that had never been seen in anime before and, I think, really broke the mold of your typical comedy anime. It's style of showing life-like events in a comedicly clumsy light makes it the type of comedy that makes you think "it's funny because it's true." And the use of everyday conversations gives it it's unique Seinfeld-esk feel. When your asking for best comedy there is really no other option, its Lucky Star hands down.
Best Adventure: Darker Than Black
Personally I found this series to be far superior to his companion Full Metal Alchemist for the main reason that it didn’t cheapen the drama or suspense. Darker Than Black was just an amazing show, period. I can think of few others that are able to balance drama, action, and a few cases of comedy in same way this adventure does. Sure they aren’t looking for treasure or something cliché like that but that doesn’t make this series any less of an adventure. The action scenes were very well done and the animation was a testament to how great Bones studio is. From start to finish this series kept me interested and watching as the plot thickened and the story unfolded. And you can bet that I have a back log of the new season just waiting to be watched. This series actually went above my expectations and blew its competitors out of the water.
Best Action: Samurai Champloo
Is it really that much of a surprise? When I first saw this series aired on Adult Swim I was blown away by the intensity and precision the action sequences were done. This anime mastered the genre in a way to no other has before, leaving the critics breathless. I find it hard to even fathom a discussion of anime action without Samurai Champloo quickly becoming a point of conversation. No other series can and, most likely, will be able to match the amazing fight scenes that were shown in this series. And on top of that it had some amazing music. Fallowing in the shoes of Watanaba’s previous works, this series incorporated music as a key aspect of the series. This was the first time most Americans had ever heard of the artist Nujabes and it definitely wouldn’t be the last.
Best Mystery: Ergo Proxy
Sure I would have liked to say Monster but I haven’t finished it yet so I don’t find that fair. And sure most people would say Death Note but I think I speak for everyone that half way through the series it has a major drop in quality of story. So there is only one real choice here today and that would be Ergo Proxy. This series was able to present a mystery that I think few can match. There are so many mysteries to solve in this series it’s enough to make your head spin. You basically start off completely in the dark about nearly everything, but as the story goes on you learn new things that make you see this world in a new light and bring you one step closer to solving everything. It’s the type of series that pulls you along taunting you to try and solve the riddle. And the setting is very interesting, a cyber punk/post-apocalyptic world that has a strong undertone of darkness.
Best Shonen: Soul Eater
Few shonen anime manage to entertain me but this one just blew me way. It had everything perfectly done great music, imaginative plot, unique setting, and some mind blowing action scenes. I honestly cant find anything to complain about with this series. Only a hand full of shonen series has managed to impress me but this one goes above and beyond and stole a special place in my heart. This is not only my favorite of the decade but my favorite shonen of all time. If you haven’t seen this series yet you should asap.
Best OVA: Now and Then, Here and There
This was a tough call for me to make, I love FLCL and Now and Then equally but I had to make a choice and it went to Now and Then. I figured enough people were already going to praise FLCL as it was and Now and Then need some love. This series is one of the best and most depressing things I have ever seen. In as few as 12 episodes it puts you through a whole story that is often enough to make you cry. It doesn’t let up from being depressing and power at the same time. It makes you get attached to the characters and you hate to see all the bad things they go through over the course of the series but some how that’s what is so great about it. It’s a beautiful masterpiece that everyone must watch.
Best Movie: Undecided
This was a category that I just couldn’t deice on. I was able to narrow it down to 5 choices though. I’d have to say that the 5 best movies this decade were Spirited Away, The Girl Who Lept Through Time, 5cm Per Second, Millennium Actress, and Paprika. These movies set the bar up higher than most creators can ever hope to reach and they’ve set the standard for excellence for years to come. I think few could argue with a list like this. Each of these movies mastered their craft and put forth their best effort in animation, story, characters, and entertainment. These will be the legends of this decade that future anime creators will strive to succeed.
Best of manga list still to come!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
I’m going to kick off May with a marathon of Makoto Shinkai reviews. I see the most reasonable way to start this marathon is by looking at the Director himself. In this article I’ll be looking at what makes this young director so great and promising. But let’s first take a look at his background.
Makoto Shinkai was born February 9th, 1973 in the Nagano Prefecture. He spent his child hood here and graduated from in 1991. After that he went to Chuo University where he majored in Japanese Literature. He then took a job at Falcom for 5 years before quitting so that he could work on anime full time.
The first thing that he actually worked on (from what I can gather) is a short called “Other Worlds”. But his first recognizable success would be She And Her Cat which was released in 1999. This was what first started to get him attention. After this he worked on the movie he’s most known for, Voices of a Distant Star. From there he went on to make his other noted movies such as The Place Promised In Our Early Days and 5 cm per second.
Now that we got that out of the way let’s move on to looking at his actual directing. It’s no secret that Makoto Shinkai’s signature, if you will, is touching love stories. When looking at movies like Voices of a Distant Star and 5cm Per Second we see that his stories often involve young love standing against all obstacles. Some would argue that the type of love that he presents in his stories are idealistic and foolish, but when you see his movies all you can do is think “that is love”.
With this much passion being put into his movies you’d think that he was pulling these ideas from the raw experiences of his love life. But in the director’s interview on 5cm Per Second’s dvd, he reveals that this is not true. He said that people often ask him if his stories are based off events in his real life. He said no, that he hasn’t even had a long distance relationship (like the one from 5cm Per Second) except for one which only lasted a few months. I actually found this to be a bit funny. People often say that you should write about what you know, and yet he’s writing amazing scripts out of just plain imagination.
Aside from his unique sours of inspiration, Makoto Shinkai has become known as an unorthodox director from many other reasons. One of which is that fact that he is so involved in the making of his movies. When looking at the credits for his more popular movies we see the name Makoto Shinkai pop up countless times listed under many different jobs. Doing everything from Directing, to Story Board, to even Theme Song Lyrics he’s like a one stop movie man. It’s hard to believe that one person could do so much work. This ‘do it your self’ mentality is epitomized in the movie Voices of a Distant Star in which Makoto did nearly everything on his own over the course of 2 years. While making this he even tried his hand at voice acting for the original director’s version.
I think I should end it here for now, other wise I won’t have much to talk about when reviewing his actual works. Next time I’ll be reviewing the astounding Makoto Shinkai movie, The Place Promised in Our Early Days.
P.S.: If you don’t feel like reading my reviews on Shinkai I would suggest his fan site to gather info on him. They have a large amount of information on him that helped me write this.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
As for the screenplay, it was written by some one very different than you’d expect. A man by the name of Hiroyuki Yamaga. You might recognize him as the producer of FLCL, or as the animation producer for Neon Genesis Evangelion. He’s usually a producer or an episode director so it’s odd to see him take on the task of screenplay writer (aside from The Wings of Honneamise).
I’d like to finally mention Koji Sugiura. He was the art director in 0080, and he did a good job. He is quite a successful artist working on other Gundam series like 08th MS Team and 0083: Star Dust Memory. He has also worked on shows like Full Metal Alchemist, End of Evangelion, Eureka Seven, and more.
The English cast is also something worth mentioning with people like Beau Billingslea (who is best known for his work as Jet from Cowboy Bebop), Wendee Lee (with a list of works as long as the mind can imagine), and Brianne Siddall (who is know as Gimmy from Gurren Lagann, and Tsukasa from .Hack//SIGN). There are more great voice actors in this anime but those are just some people I decided to throw out there.
There has been a recent release of War in the Pocket in an Anime Legends box set. It’s quite cheap at only $18.74 at rightstuf.com. The set is well put together and I’d suggest picking it up if you like the show.
It’s time for my final focus. I really like this OVA, it’s probably my favorite Gundam. It is a classic and I’d encourage everyone to at least watch it once. It has a really powerful story good directing. There is no reason to not like it. Unless your one of those people who thinks that Grave of the Fireflies sucks because it’s sad. If so, GET OVER IT! IT’S SUPPOSES TO BE SAD! THAT’S AN AMAZING MOVIE! I’m better now. The point that I’m getting at is that this is a very good 6 episode OVA and I think anyone reading this should go out and watch it. It’s a sadly over looked part of Gundam history and I think it needs more praise than it gets.
Next time… I’m actually not sure what I’ll review. But it’ll be good. I might do my first product review. Probably involving the state side releases of 20th Century Boys or Pluto, But no promises.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
As I said in my review on They Were Eleven, I’ll be doing a manga this time. I decided to not only do my first Manga review but my first negative review as well. When I thought of this the first series that came to mind was the little known series called MxO.
MxO is a series about a young boy named Taiga Kuzumi who (after being denied acceptance) brakes into a school. But this is no ordinary school. It’s a magical school called Seinagi Private High School. Incase your wondering, your not the only one who thinks that this is Harry Potter. When he gets in there he finds that the people there can use magic and ends up getting into a fight with the whole school. After some how beating all the students off and then fighting and beating a teacher by using magic. He get’s taken into the school. After this he falls head over heels for a girl named Aika Hiiragi who loves to laugh at corny jokes. As it goes on you learn that the only way for the students and teachers to use magic is if they have special cards that represents their rank and that they are on the school premise. For a weird reason that is explained in the series, Kuzumi is given a fake card that is made to look like a gold card (the highest ranking car) and is suppose to some how trick everyone into thinking that he is a great magician. He has to depend on smarts, skill, and luck to trick the whole student body. Also, this magical card (known as the MO card) has the hidden ability to negate any magic that he wishes.
Although I’m going to be giving MxO an over all bad review I’d like to say that it’s not all bad. I was at first (after the first few chapters) really enjoying this series. It had some funny moments, a few good action parts, and some interesting characters and goals. The only problem is that the series is cancelled before these goals are met, or the character conflicts are resolved. So picture reading a 99 chapter series that keeps saying that they’re building up to these big goals and events and what not, and next thing you know it’s over. It doesn’t really go down with the sweetest taste in your mouth.
Another fault of the series is the fact that in the ending they go into this long arc of him trying to advance his MO card. This is accomplished by a ghost having him climb a wall or something and if he does than he advances his card. Unfortunately for the writer this arc happens just before the end of the series. So nothing really comes from it.
Another negative for the series was the over use of moe characters. The series is crawling with them. But I guess this is to be expected from a modern Shounen series. An example of this is the fact that Kuzumi is, eventually, fallowed around by a little naked woman who has undying love for him. It’s enough to make Daryl Surat go blind with fury and destroy Yasukiro Kano.
I guess I should just rap this up already. I would say that this is an ok series to read up until chapter 70ish I guess. I would advice no one to ever read this to the end. It is an awful ending that made me stressed and over all pissed off for the next week or so. I felt like Inuyasha even had a better ending than this. That’s my review of MxO. Once again, I wish I could have given this an ok review, but I can’t. It was a waste of time. If they ever get a new ending some how then I’ll enjoy it.
Next time I’ll be reviewing one of my favorite mecha anime of all time. It’s a little OVA by the name of Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
If you feel that this movie would interest you and would like to watch it or buy it then you’re in luck. The dvd is available on rightstuf for $7.49. Or you can always rent it from Netflix and see if you like it first. Well I hope you enjoy this movie and the review. Next time you can expect me to be reviewing a manga. I’m not sure which one yet but a manga none the less.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Another character that I just have to bring up is Straight Cougar. This is my favorite character of the series. He is an Alter User for HOLY who seems to know more than he should, and he’s cocky as hell. His Alter ability is known as “Radical Good Speed”. As the title of it says, it involves speed, lots and lots of speed. He is part romantic, part fighter, part preacher, and part jester. He is a great character.
Now if you’re watching the series and start thinking “for some reason this seems to remind me of Code Geass.” Well you’re not alone; when I first watched Code Geass all I could think was that something about it reminded me of s-CRY-ed. So I looked into it, and found allot of reasons for them to be similar. First up is the director of s-CRY-ed. His name is Goro Taniguchi, but he is better known for his work with Code Geass. He was the original creator of Code Geass and the director. Another important, and obvious, similarity is that Kotaro Nakagawa did the music for both series (although I like the s-CRY-ed music better). I was quite relieved to see that I wasn’t just being paranoid and that my suspicions were confirmed.
The great thing about this series is the action in it. Every episode it’s up to Kazuma to fight another Alter User and beat the crap out of them. As the series goes on the powers just get crazier and crazier. It seems like the writers were just trying to one up each other to see who could create the most bad ass Alter Power out there. Some of the powers can be simple, like a giant gun. While others are more unique, like the ability to turn things into water. This large rang of powers makes the series that more interesting. You never know what kind of crazy fight there’s going to be next.
Other thing that’s so great about this series is all of the anime clichés that they use. One that I really enjoyed was the episode that was made to be a tribute to old super robot series. In this episode (trying not to spoil anything) an Alter User has the power to create a giant robot that is complete with transforming abilities and crazy finishing moves. Another kind of “wink wink, nudge nudge” in this series is that of harem. In the series on Alter User’s ability allows him to create living puppets to his liking. He creates 3 ladies who serve him no matter what, he seems to do this because of his lack of success with real women and his over sized ego. It might not have been an intentional reference to harem series but I saw it. It also seems like Goro Taniguchi might have got his ideas of how to portray Ashferd Academy from this series. One episode of the series completely takes place in HOLY. It starts to be allot like the Ashferd Academy scenes from Code Geass. It’s complete with mellow drama and cheesy comedy moments. Of course this is all for a reason, but I don’t want to explain that because it would be a spoiler. You’ll just have to watch it.
Another thing that I’d like to talk about is the dub used in this series. This had an amazing cast for the English dub. For Kazuma we had my favorite voice actor of all time Steven Jay Blum (Spike from Cowboy Bebop, Roger Smith from Big O, Kyoshiro Tohdoh from Code Geass, Marj Gueldoa from Macross Plus, ext.). Then we had Crispin Freeman (Togusa from Ghost in the Shell, Jeremiah Gottwald from Code Geass, Tabool from Now and Then Here and There, Alan Gabriel from Big O, ext. He also did allot of ADR scripting and directing.) playing Straight Cougar. Those alone make it a great dub for me, but there are plenty of other great voice actors who worked on this series.
Over all I’d say that I really enjoyed this series. I wouldn’t put it on my top 10 list or anything like that, but it’s a very entertaining series. It’s got good character development, good directing, good action, and a good story. I don’t see any reason not to watch s-CRY-ed. I have to say that it’s well worth the money to buy it. Right now there is an Anime Legends box set that runs for about $50. But I would say that the better deal is in the s-CRY-ed complete collection, which is being sold for about $30 at rightstuf.com. Now sure, if they wanted me to pay $60+ then I wouldn’t have even bothered. But after seeing that it was so cheap, I couldn’t help myself. I would suggest this series for anyone who is looking for a good, cheap, action series.
So there is my first review. I would really like some feed back form who ever might be reading this. Also, if you have any question please feel free to ask. I’d like to thank you for reading my first review, and I hope you continue to come back.