Seven Months of Sin

Well at this point, as this got lost in the jumble of folders on my desktop, its more like nine or ten months, but that doesnt really scan as well.

I’m afraid that I just thought the subject line sounded cool and that there are tragically few sins catalogued below and none of them are the “”sexy”” sins like lust or wrath – theyre more along the lines of sloth and gluttony. Or to gaze behind the veritable waterfall of linguistic shit for a second – what follows are a few brief thoughts and comments on the various games I’ve played and things I’ve watched over the past seven months (and because I just cant help myself a sexy helping of random thoughts about life and the universe). I suppose in a very loose way what follows could be considered mini-reviews, but really I consider non-technical reviews to be so useless that I would possibly find such a categorisation bordering on offensiveness.

It’s a conclusion I’ve been coming to for a good while now but recent events have fully cemented my opinion that reviews are really a waste of time. Technical reviews are manifestly objective (well as objective as we cant get etc.) and as such I still find them useful, but the more common opinion based review has so often proved useless as to entirely remove my faith in it. What a lot of people tend to forget is that at the end of the day the reviewer is just a normal person, he has no god given gift which allows him to experience something and assign it an objective numerical measure of quality. He’s just some guy (or girl) who has found an efficient method of dissemination for his opinion. And unless you share nearly identical tastes to the reviewer in question his reviews are more or less useless to you as anything other than another viewpoint – which can at times be useful but can often unfairly prejudice an experience.

Really at the end of the day your better of asking one of your friends what they thought of the media product in question as your likely to have a much better handle on their likes and dislikes than on those of a fairly anonymous reviewer. Even then direct experience is probably the only true gauge of quality as your friends opinions are often clouded by the dynamics of the relationship in question and relevant shared history. To give an example, Matt generally receives a slagging about his recommendations as there’s a meme that his opinion in such things is highly suspect (which isn’t entirely unfounded, Razorblade Smile for fuck sake), while, say, Steve’s opinions on such things might be given a bit more weight among the social group in question. Yet I know that if Matt recommends something it is much more likely to match my tastes than something Steve recommends, because I know the kind of things that both of them like.

Anyhow, tedious anecdotes and ranting aside, on with the show (I think I use the word “”Anyhow”” too much).

Sosei no Aquarion – ***

This was a pretty enjoyable big robot show. The basic story was interesting and had some novel ideas which I found quite engaging. The big robot stuff featured an interesting blend of 3d and 2d animation, which can sometimes be a bit hit and miss but which looked quite nice in this. However the show seemed to be unsure of its tone which was all over the place throughout the length of the series, a more dedicated and concrete thematic tone would have elevated this from good to excellent. Nowhere was this more evident than at the end of the series as the ending seemed strangely out of keeping with the rest of the show (and was also vaguely confusing). I’d like to see it finished off properly in an OVA or film, as long as it didn’t go the route of the (truly awful) Nadesico movie. Well after checking ye olde internet it appears there is an OVA but it’s an alternate re-telling rather than an epilogue/conclusion. Oh well.

Kiba – ****

Yet another long anime, weighing in at 51 (odd number it’s usually 52) episodes. Overall it’s pretty enjoyable but there are one or two hiccups along the way. The most major of these is the ending, there’s a lot crammed into the last episode and frankly it feels rushed. There are plenty of dangling plot-lines (mainly involving romances) which are left hanging or seemingly entirely ignored in the last episode. Well actually that’s really the only hiccup, the story and pacing of this one was pretty impressive.

Mainly due to the fact that every time I thought it was taking a dip in quality I was proved wrong. After I finished watching it I was looking through some stuff about it in wikipedia and it turns out that it may be tied into some card game licence. But I have to say that that information would be pretty hard to gather from just watching the anime. As the quote on wikipidea from the producer says, there are no elements in this show which are compromised due to merchandising. In fact it could be argued that it goes a bit far and some of the deaths can feel a bit arbitrary (though again this is mainly in the end and may be caused by the rushed feeling I mentioned above).

Most of the episodes build upon one another, which provides a nearly continuous flow of story, which is something I like to see in longer series (which are more commonly episodic in format). Now I’m just hoping for sequel/film/ova to wrap it all up. The ending sequence certainly did seem to set it up for something like that.

Beet the Vandel Buster – ***

There was just something about Beet that didn’t work. While there were plenty of cool bits and interesting characters (as well as a world setup I thought to be quite novel) it just didn’t seem to gel for me. Perhaps it was the sheer scope of the story and the (correct) feeling one gets that it’s just not going to be fully addressed. By the end of the first series (52 episodes) we’ve only really seen the coming together of four out of what looks to be a five man team and the series cuts off right in the middle. But apart from that there’s something that just doesn’t work for me, something that I find rather hard to put my finger on. This is still worth a watch, because if it works for you there’s plenty there and even if it isn’t it may be worth watching the first five or so episodes just for the novelty value of the world setup and the Vandel designs. I’m hoping that the sequel to this (Beet the Vandel Buster: Excellion) will manage to draw out and sustain the high points of the series.

Black Blood Brothers – ****

BBB seemingly sets out to do one thing – entertain – and it certainly achieves that goal. There’s not a huge amount of depth to this, no particularly deep characterisation or complex theme’s and moral shades. It’s just a cool setting with cool characters doing cool things, and I can really appreciate that. You can sit down in front of BBB and your guaranteed to be entertained for the next few hours. And at the end of the day that’s really all one can ask from a media product. I’d suggest
getting the first episode and watching that, if after the first five minutes your not interested then you might as well move
along (its rather like Samurai 7 in that manner).

Argento Soma – **

Not really sure what to make of this. It seems to change a lot over the course of the series and nothing ever really becomes that clear. It also has a main protagonist who is very hard to like, but unlike other such dislikeable leads (Guts from Berserk, Sunabozu from same, etc.) has nothing which really redeems him in terms of interest (other than his snazzy hair cut). I think it’s the murkiness of the plot that leaves me with a general sense of dislike for the series. While the major plot points are addressed (or thrown away in PLOT TWISTS!!) there is a veritable multitude of other issues which don’t get addressed. All in all this series just left me feeling a bit meh

Gaiking – *****

Gaiking is extremely enjoyable, but does require the same kind of acceptance of genre tropes as most “”traditional”” super robot shows, as its a genre I like though this is something of a non-issue for myself (and really should be a non-issue for anyone – its like watching a slasher flick and complaining when someone goes off alone). The robot designs are fairly “”retro”” in appearance, which isn’t overly surprising as this is a “”re-imagining”” of an earlier anime series (one which you don’t need to be familiar with). The animation is fluid and the plot development, while not amazing, is certainly a cut above average with some nice twists and a fairly interesting setting explanation (I found it particularly interesting as it would be eminently thieveable for an rpg setting). It also avoids some plot clichés which I find annoying, particularly the protagonist whingeing about having to kill – while it works in some contexts it often feels forced and so I’m glad Gaiking didn’t really bother it (as I don’t feel it fits).

In terms of giant robot action Gaiking certainly delivers, nearly every episode a new weapon or combination or mecha is revealed and its all done in a very enjoyable fashion. In many ways I rate giant robot shows (and a lot of other things) by how many times they make you think “”Fuck yeah”” (or your affirmative phrase of choice) and Gaiking is packed with moments like this.

Its intro is also worth a mention, Super-Robot shows tend to have cool (for certain values of cool) intro’s with amazingly cheesey lyrics and a veritable symphony of hair rock, in fact I’ve watched or purchased some shows based purely on the intro alone. Gaiking’s intro is among the very best, while the song is catchy enough it’s the manner in which it ties into the intro animation that really sells it (it’s the island exploding, just does it for me).

Demonbane – *****

The main attraction for me of Demonbane is certainly conceptual, though the execution was enjoyable, it was the setting that it presented that really appealed to me. It was an excellent and intriguing intermingling of the Cthulhu mythos and giant robot action – the timing of my viewing was also probably quite fortunate in that on Sunday I watched the end of Tenpu Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi (which had some interesting material about wearing gods) and then spent yesterday morning reading all extant material on Hellboy and B.P.R.D. (which is also heavily influenced by the Cthulhu mythos). Really Demonbane appealed to the main reason I consume entertainment media – to acquire fuel and inspiration for my own imagination. Demonbane served excellently in that regard and spawned a lot of interesting ideas and alternate takes on its core precepts. The only possible negative might be in the delivery and design of the mecha. Some people don’t like the recent trend of intermingled 3d and traditional animation, though its handled quite well in the show. And the mecha designs are certainly unique, and while they may not be instantly appealing they do fit the source material well. The particular fansub I watched was also very well done with notes on all of the mythos stuff mentioned in the episode presented after the ending song, which would be of great use to the more casual viewer.

Superman Returns – ****

I really enjoyed this, I found the messianic undertones to be especially engaging and would have preferred them to be paid more attention than the somewhat formulaic and tedious love story. The only things I disliked about the film were the kid and Spacey’s performance, he seemed to be projecting saturday morning camp while the rest of the film was going for a much darker tone. I thought the special effects were excellent and visually the whole thing was great and certainly presented well the kind of epic scale that a Superman tale should have.

Blades of Glory – **

An enjoyable enough comedy outing, extremely reminiscent of Dodge Ball for no obvious reason that I could put my finger on. Good for a few laughs, but not breaking any new ground.

Fantastic Four – ***

This wasn’t as bad as people had made it out to be. Now perhaps that’s because most of the people I talked to about it were expecting “”Classic”” Doom, and were completely blind-sided by the Doom presented in the film. However anyone who was familiar with Ultimate Fantastic Four would already have been subjected to the rubbish that is Ultimate Doom and as such the poor quality of Doom in the film won’t be a complete shock.

As far as spectacle goes I really enjoyed this film, the special effects were slick, impressive and never jarring. The quality of the acting wasn’t great over all but I thought Jessica Alba was particularly poor as Sue Storm, I didn’t feel she came across as anything other than an occasionally useful accessory or pointless eye candy (pointless for two reasons a) if I want eye-candy I’ll watch porn and b) why put in a hot chick who’s going to be invisible most of the time). Still this was a fairly enjoyable hour and a half and probably in the upper half quality wise of the recent rash of superhero stuff.

Talladega Nights – **

See Blades of Glory above.

Tokyo Majin Gakuen Kenpucho: Tou – ****

This is a pretty enjoyable action piece that has some unexpected depth. The fansub “”liner notes”” frequently link this to the Shin Megami gameline, in particular the Persona games and I have to agree that there are a large number of corollaries between the two – particularly in regards to the darkness of the world and the heavy apocalyptic symbolism. The series can be a little impenetrable at first at it starts “”in media res”” and the flashbacks and backstory are often intermingled with the main storyline without any of the common visual and auditory cues. While the first time this happens its a little jarring I found it to be engaging (as it demands audience attention) and interesting. Its nice to see narrative experimentation likes this and I felt it added quite nicely to the feel of the show (akin to the disjointed chronology of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzuimiya). The action is well done and nicely animated and while there’s a fair bit of it usually serves as a backdrop to the character development as opposed to an end in and of it itself. The only slight flaw with the show is that it’s the first “”volume”” as it were, of a larger series and the second volume won’t start broadcast in Japan until sometime this July.

Hot Fuzz – ***

This film wasn’t particularly funny, but it was pretty amusing. Much preferred it to Sean of the Dead, which isn’t saying much as thanks to Patrick and JP that film was turned from a “”meh”” into “”Sweet jesus turn it off before I harm myself””.

Bleach (1-136) – *****

This series isn’t finished and so I never really got around to writing up my opinion of it blog stylee, its also been a while since I watched it, and when I watched it I only watched the Soul Society story arc (up to about episode 70). However, as part of the dvd authoring practice I mentioned above I needed to scribble down something about it. I really enjoyed Bleach, hardly surprising, after all it’s probably not as popular as it is because its shit. Bleach is in many ways a very typical Shonen anime, I might even go so far as to say at its heart it’s a tournament anime, but lord knows I wouldn’t want to be hunted down by offended Bleach fanboys.

Anyhow, Bleach is well worth a watch, it’s cool, entertaining and engaging. It also has a somewhat unique (and very welcome) plot structure in that every episode follows on directly from the last (as opposed to the episodic nature of a lot of the longer anime series)

Update: Started Bleach again from the beginning, re-watching the soul society arc (which wraps up around 68) and then the two filler Bounto story arcs. For filler they were quite good, though the second story arc was much weaker than that. But then when it gets back to the main story line again – all I can say is “”Fuck yeah”” (see Gaiking above for full explanation of the significance). Its just one fucking sweet bit after another, the only annoying thing about is now I’ve caught up I have to watch it week to week like a peon.

Witchblade – ****

Witchblade was a comic I never really had much time for. It was a product of the “”Iron Age”” Image based design aesthetic of the mid-nineties; all half naked chicks and an entire cast of people with super defined musculature. I also found the main character to be extremely annoying. I believe Matt picked up the first collected volume of it and that was how I got my hands on it.

So when I sat down to watch the anime I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the new main character was not Sara Pezzini (the main character from the comic) but a japanese woman, and that the basic premise of what the witchblade was also seemed to have changed (though it was a topic that the anime never really went into).

The anime was still largely what I expected, lots of action, cool visuals and not a huge amount of plot. This was largely what I got and I was quite happy with it. Some of the characterisation was extremely good and the quality of the animation was top notch and the action, while largely over the top, also managed to maintain a fluidity and clarity that can be lacking in some action anime.

Half way through the series I thought that the main witchblade costume had changed to be more like the comic one i.e. extremely revealing. After a bit of research it turns out that the costume was actually drawn differently for the tv and dvd versions and the later fansubs were based off dvd rips. A comparison of the two costumes can be seen here. Personally I prefer the TV version as the amount of flesh revealed in the DVD one seems somewhat gratuitous and I just generally think the more armoured TV version looks cooler.

Overall I found the anime to be much more enjoyable than the comics. But the anime did inspire me to give the comics another chance, though I’ve just finished the first issue or two and remain unimpressed. I shall see how it develops.

Air Gear – ****

This feels a lot like Jet Set Radio: The Anime, which is fine with me as I really “”dug”” Jet Set Radio. It’s a pretty enjoyable series, very well animated and high on style (though arguably low on substance). It’s very similar to Tenjho Tenge, which is at times a bad thing. It’s also not very shocking considering that both Air Gear and Tenjho Tenge were created by the same guy. Unfortunately like Tenjho Tenge the air gear anime stays very true to the manga, usually a good thing, but in this case when the manga story is considerably longer than the run of the anime it can lead to the story feeling cut of slightly. It wouldn’t be unfair to accuse both shows of pulling a Halo 2.

That aside it also shares Tenjho Tenge’s weirdly addictive viewing, this is the first time in a while I’ve sat down and watched a full length series through in one go (which needless to say fucked my plans of restoring my sleeping pattern to normal). I’d certainly recommend it, but like Tenjho Tenge you should be warned that if the story appeals you will be reading the manga to find out what happens (which I’ve done in both instances so as a complex form of viral marketing its certainly been successful).

Cardcaptor Sakura – ****

Cardcaptor Sakura is entwined in my mind with memories of watching it (and Pokemon I believe) on “”The Den”” while living in Ashbrook with Addi, Matt and the other one. But I won’t hold that against it.

Cardcaptor Sakura is probably the longest shoujo anime I’ve watched. But I don’t feel that its dominant genre label did anything to impede or detract from my viewing pleasure, it’s such a mix of genre’s that the shoujo elements never become annoyingly dominant.

I found Cardcaptor Sakura to be an enjoyable watch, the monster of the week formula and the slowly building backstory worked well in tandem with the growing complexity of the inter-personal relationships (what I really want is a CLAMP series all about Sakura’s older brother). Really I haven’t yet seen anything from CLAMP that I’ve actively disliked and it’s nice to finally get a full understanding of the series as it makes the references to it in Tsubasa Chronicles (why is there no third season you bastards) more understandable.

I also watched the second Sakura movie as it serves as an (excellent) cap for the series itself. The movie was very enjoyable with pretty good quality animation and most importantly it finished off all dangling plot lines to my complete satisfaction.

Solty Rei – ****

I enjoyed this series. The animation quality was good and the 50’s noir aesthetic was a welcome change of pace from the usual cyberpunk dystopia that is seen in these kinds of show. Which brings me to the second thing I liked about it, it escapes the usual formulaic approach that some of these shows can have through a series of quite clever plot twists which are largely unexpected and quite welcome. It also wraps things up entirely, which can sometimes feel like something of a novelty. Though, perhaps ironically, in this case I found the ending – clearly meant to be upbeat – to be depressing.

Witchblade #001 – ~057

Witchblade starts off a bit shite, well apart from Michael Turner’s art. But to be honest I find that his art while good can quickly wear out its welcome. Which is unfortunate for me as he’s the main artist for quite a while. But with Herculean perseverance I waded on through it and the story does improve (the best bits usually involving a crossover from The Darkness – certainly one of the superior Top Cow titles).

Unfortunately the story prolapses out its own arse around the mid-30’s. The plot is going nowhere and spiralling of in random directions (e.g. one episode involves demon hunting ninja’s who were never mentioned before and are never mentioned again). What few attempts there seem to be at reigning in the plot just end up adding unwanted and unneeded complexities to what is already a somewhat over-complicated affair. Evidently at the time this was noticed by the editors as an entirely new creative team are taken in for issue 40+. There is a marked improvement in the story, the only annoying thing being the entirely unexplained ret-con’s (Jake who was moved to a different police department is Sara’s partner again, her old “”new”” partner is just excised from the story – along with his weird Witchblade knock off or the fact that her fathers killer no longer seems to be her fathers killer,etc.). I also really liked the new artwork which is much less stylised than Turner’s work and suits the new (darker) tone of the comic much better.

Story quality takes a downturn in issue 54 with the introduction of the second “”all new creative team””, which unfortunately leaves one of the original writers as solo writer for the comic.

Well I didn’t make it past (or to the end of) the Tombraider/Witchblade crossover which took place somewhere around issue 57. By that point the series had really lost all appeal to me. Perhaps at some distant point in the future when I feel the need for some mental flagellation I will finish of the series, but it’s unlikely

Civil War – ****

Finally started reading the “”full”” Civil War. While the actual comic itself is only seven issues long the full story consists of over 100 issues across various titles. After nearly breaking myself reading 52 (which was extremely good) in one sitting I was somewhat leery of tackling this. The first thing that hits you (in comparison to 52 which it was essentially competing with) is that it lacks the same focus and intricate story development. Which is fair enough because while 52 was one story across one title this is one story across ten or more titles and so the continuous shifting of narrative focus can be a little jarring. So far I’m about one quarter of the way through and it’s been quite enjoyable so far. Though the artwork for X-Factor is incredibly off-putting and Heroes for Hire should probably be titled Titties for hire. Ah well once more into the fray.

Nearing the end now, something I shall almost certainly regret when I get up for work after too few hours sleep. Overall it’s been a very enjoyable read, with some odd moments of dissonance (Thunderbolts #110 in particular). And even though he’s appeared only sparingly, in anything really, I just have to say – The Sentry – who is (and I quote) “”filled with the power of one million exploding suns”” – that just sounds fucking retarded. Not only does it sound stupid it also takes the “”Superman”” problem and cranks it up to eleven. A problem which is only slightly mitigated by the fact he’s more or less a basket case. But still he’s too powerful in general and certainly too powerful for the normal marvel universe – every time he appears – especially when they mention his power – it creates a veritable cascade of cognitive dissonance which I find extremely annoying.

Well after having read Civil War #7 (the last of the core issues) I have to say that I’m somewhat disappointed. The ending of it was anti-climatic and smacked of the same post-911 jingoism that unfortunately seems to pervade (admittedly unavoidably) nearly all of America’s cultural exports. In a general way it has also left a “”new”” marvel universe that I frankly have little to no interest in. Though of course, as seems to be the style, there is a new “”event”” to follow hot on the heels of this one. Perhaps “”World War Hulk”” will rekindle my fading interest in Marvel, though admittedly it has cut down on my already meagre comic purchases so I probably shouldn’t complain (p.s. sure do hate me some iron man).

52 – ****

Reading this in one sitting nearly broke me, looking back I’d say it was much worse than Civil War which was twice its length. I think that’s probably due to the “”denseness”” of the story and information been presented. Everything was connected to everything else and when those everything’s are spread across a large cast of characters across the galaxy it can be a tad mentally exhausting to consume it all. That aside I really enjoyed 52, the story was well written, well paced and very engaging. It also introduced and made interesting a wide range of what would be regarded as “”C”” class or below characters. It was however soured by getting to the end, which wraps nearly everything up, only to find it’s the beginning of yet another event. I’m just getting tired of all the universe wide “”events”” that comic companies seem to be resorting to rather than focusing on individual titles. I mean look at DC it went from Identity Crisis -> Infinite Crisis -> 52 -> Countdown, that’s nearly four years worth of stuff. The same thing on the marvel side with Disassembled -> House of M -> Decimation -> Civil War -> World War Hulk. I don’t know how people can afford to follow these things. Anyhow, 52, well worth a read.

Ares – *

Marvel decide that they need an Ares too. Tedious story with equally tedious dialogue, art and character design (apart from Ajax’s fucking sweet hammer).

The Mighty Avengers – *

Following the end of Civil War there are now two groups of Avengers. The Avengers featured in New Avengers which consist of Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Doctor Spectrum, Spider-Woman, Ronin, Iron Fist & Echo – not hugely powerful (apart from Doc S) but pretty cool and well written – also all criminals in continuity. Then you have the Mighty Avengers aka. Tony Starks Avengers aka. the “”Official”” Avengers – they consist of Iron Man, Ms Marvel (the leader), Wasp, Black Widow, Sentry and Ares – extremely powerful, one of the most powerful groups in the Marvel Universe I would say. Also total shit, the artwork is oddly off kilter in a way I cant quite put my finger on but find annoying and the writing is rubbish (bit odd as Bendis does both) the gimmicky “”thought bubbles”” in particular. I also dislike Iron Man, Ms Marvel and Ares, not crazy about Wasp or Black Widow either and I’m fairly ambivalent to the Sentry conceptually. It also further compounds its sins by taunting me with the obviously fake death of Iron Man.

The Ultimates Volume 2 – ***

This took far too long to come out, the only series I can think off that’s taking longer is Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. This volume just didn’t “”work”” as well for me as the first volume did. It’s far too concerned with pushing the authors almost offensively transparent political stance and it seems to equate giant battles with good plot development (and not in an amusingly self ironic way either). Really the gigantic gatefold insert in the last issue sums up this entire volume.

Ultimate X-Men – ***

It feels a bit like Kirkman is losing his way, or perhaps his momentum and originality. While some of the twists are interesting some of the recent material is feeling far too much like an uninspired rip-off rather than a clever riff off (I’m sorry ;) ) the classic X-Men stuff. That being said its still an enjoyable enough read with some interesting twists (Rogues Arm and Ultimate Cables identity).

Kasimasi – Girl Meets Girl – ***

My main issue with this series was that the first few episodes present what could be a solid grounding for a quite amusing comedy/romance affair but about one third or a quarter of the way in the series seems to loose its way and veers of into a frankly tedious series of unfortunate romantic collisions. The fact that I disliked two of the characters in the main love triangle didn’t help matters much. It helped even less that the remaining character in the love triangle, who I did like, gets completely shat on. The only reason I finished watching this series was probably due to the fact that I am almost obsessively against half watching/reading/playing something. It’s probably a good thing I did as the series does redeem itself somewhat at the end, but the weirdest thing about it is probably the main characters blasé reaction to the loss of his knob.

Death Note – ***

Like Berserk, Sunabozu and a slew of others Death Note features a protagonist who is, not to mince words, a complete cunt. In fact nearly all of the characters in Death Note are unlike able cunts (apart from one, the only character I liked and she gets shit on repeatedly), but luckily they are quite entertaining and engaging cunts. Death Note is in many ways a spin on the classical murder mystery tarted up with some odd supernatural trappings. However it is the unfolding of the investigation which is the main thrust of the series and forms the basis of the narrative for nearly its entire length. I did feel that the latter part of the series flagged a little, especially the stuff following the L story arc. While it did pick up towards the end I thought the actual ending itself was crap and quite out of keeping with the general feel and direction of the story. I thought it sold out the theme and pathos which had been built up to that point and seemed almost as if the story “”chickened out”” and chose to resolve itself in a tiredly formulaic manner.

Still probably worth a watch, it’s pretty engaging and the animation is top notch. The second opening is also the only anime opening I can think of the top of my head that a) sounds like (well actually is) japanese heavy metal and b) uses the word fucker.

Gah, the ending of it is still pissing me off. If your going watch it I suggest you stop reading now as I am about to unleash some SPOILER fury.

***SPOILERS***

Even though I disliked him, why the fuck couldn’t they have just let Light “”win””? It would have made more sense, as opposed to letting that little cockend Near outsmart him. It also would have fit much better with the rest of the series and served as an enjoyable “”cap”” for the generally perverse nature of the narrative. Fuck, even if Light had been done in by a betrayed Misa I would have preferred it. Even better would have been a flash forward a decade or two in the future where you see an older, victorious Light surveying his “”perfect world”” and Ryuk smirking in the background as he writes Lights name in his book. Agh stupid ending, perhaps I shouldn’t write about things directly after I see them, perhaps I need some “”distance””.

***SPOILERS END***

Man its far too fucking hot. I would also suggest not trying to watch this “”marathon”” fashion as the denseness of the story can lead to burnout. Probably better to “”digest”” it in 5 episode servings.

Shuffle! – ***

This series is an enjoyable harem comedy right up until about episode eighteen where for all intents and purposes the series ends, but for some reason the writers failed to grasp the quintessential point of a harem comedy and continue the series for another five or six episodes. Five or six episodes filled with painfully over-angsty character “”development”” which sullies your previous opinion of most of the characters and which towards the end involves a tediously telegraphed plot twist. It’s a pity really as a little bit of plot re-scheduling would really have saved what had previously been an enjoyable experience.

Koutetsushin Jeeg – ****

A homage to the classic Jeeg of the seventies this thirteen episode OVA is extremely enjoyable and delivers everything I want in classic super robot action – cool mecha, sweet fights, polarised morality and the odd plot twist and heroic sacrifice. All in all extremely enjoyable stuff.

Black Lagoon – *****

This is one of the best anime I’ve watched recently, and one of the best general action anime I’ve seen in quite some while. Unlike a lot of stuff I’ve been watching recently its set in the modern day and features a cast consisting of more or less normal people (well falling into the “”normal people”” model of stuff like “”The Killer””). Its also one I’ve had for a while, but didn’t get around to watching as most reviews and comments on it had painted it as a very dark and grim show about a bunch of morally ambiguous modern pirates operating in the south east Asia area. And while it certainly is all those things the actual “”darkness”” of the show is usually fairly understated and masked by the action and excellent character interaction. However there are times when the darkness is dragged front and centre and some of it is quite dark indeed.

In particular the first few episodes of the second series (Black Lagoon – The Second Barrage) have some content that is a bit rough and depending on how much things like snuff and child pornography upset you may be a tad too much. But that aside it’s certainly worth a watch, as well as the generally excellent action the show is also packed with various extremely well done homage’s and in-jokes ranging from Chow Yun-Fat (My favourite and the basis for one of the coolest bits in the series) to the wild bunch.

It also (thankfully) keeps the momentum and interest up all the way to the very end and doesn’t suffer from the seemingly endemic problem of blowing its load just before the climax. The ending is satisfying while leaving the viewer wanting more, which is really how most endings should be. Its feel is quite reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop, though it’s more cohesive plot-wise (though the music isn’t as good, but then what is).

And if that isn’t enough to sell it then it’s probably worth mentioning that Black Lagoon gave us the character of Revy which lead these ladies here and here to cosplay as her, so surely it deserves some kudos for that alone?

Himawari! – ****

It was only based on the very last post credit scene and a quick internet search that I realised there was a sequel to this. Which is good and which I’m looking forward to as I imagine it will address a wide range of material which was hinted at in the first series but never really expanded upon. That’s not to say that the first series isn’t complete in itself, it certainly is and any of the unresolved issues I’ve mentioned are largely tangential to the main thrust of the storyline.

This was all in all a quite enjoyable show, nothing particularly ground breaking but at the same time it delivered everything that was “”on the box”” so to speak. Ninja action, comedy and a smattering of feel good character development, all of that managed without skewing off into the wildly depressing or bizarrely surreal. Which may not seem like much, but just wait till you’re watching a happy romantic comedy and then you get blind-sided by incest or suicide or murder or all of them and more, and then you’ll see. Anyhow, I watched Himawari to entertain myself for a few hours without taxing the old grey matter too much and as a method of cleansing the mental palette as it were. Which it achieved.

Ninja Nonsense – ****

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I hated anime comedies, then along came Tenchi Muyo and opened my eyes. Now many years (and uncountable hours of watched anime) later I find that I really like comedy anime. Especially the really absurdist stuff like this or Excel Saga or Galaxy Angel. I suppose the difference is that now I’m able to spot the various cultural cues, in-jokes and satires that comedy relies on.

Anyhow, that amazingly interesting piece of introspection aside, Ninja Nonsense is an absurdist comedy piece with vague ninja themes; if you like this brand of humour then you’ll more than likely enjoy it – if you don’t then you probably wont. Though this is one of the more accessible of the “”pure”” comedy anime shows so it may be worth your while to have a look at an episode or two and see what you think.

Don’t Leave me Alone Daisy – ****

The trailer for this show was what sparked the great “”chesticles”” vs. “”flame titties”” debate “”back in the day””. After having watched the show though I have to say that the trailer (and its attendant voice over) would have been hard pushed to give a more incorrect view of it. In many ways its impossible to pin down what exactly this show is – romance comedy, introspective examination of adolescence and first love, absurdist satire of global war politics, cutting commentary on the destructiveness of love taken too far – its really all of these and more.

I feel like a cunt for writing something like this, but Don’t leave me alone Daisy isn’t so much watched as experienced, the way in which it transcends genre’s forces the viewer into a more active position in interpreting just what exactly the show is trying to say. Yes well, art school wank out of the way the obvious question is “”Yes, that’s nice, but is it any good?”

It’s an older show and as such the quality of the animation is certainly sub-par to more modern fare, this doesn’t bother me (especially as I’ve been working through older anime I missed at the time) but if you watch anime solely for the lovely looking animation it may put you off. That aside I think it is good, though in many ways how much you get out of it may depend on how much you want to read into it. If you take it at face value then some people may not get past the first episode as it presents a fairly creepy “”extreme stalker”” situation that could turn some people off. And certainly the first time I watched it I thought “”Hmm not sure about this””, but while somewhat creepy it’s also quite intriguing and dragged me back in. In the end though it’s hard to recommend this as I have a feeling it’s one of those highly polarised media products where everyone loves it, hates it or completely ignores it.

Hyper Police – ***

Hyper Police, Hyper Police, Radioactive Hyper Police – is tragically both misleading and nothing to do with the anime in question. My lyrical stylings aside, Hyper Police is another mid-nineties anime that I missed the first time around and which I’ve watched now in my continuing quest to test the operational lifespan of my eyeballs. It share’s a certain mid-nineties aesthetic which newer anime fans (or even older ones who lack the myopic eye of nostalgia) may find offputting. But it’s a style I find to be quite enjoyable – probably as it’s the style of anime that was in vogue when I first started watching it and as such formed the mental foundations on which my love of the medium was built.

Anyway, introspective blather aside, Hyper Police is a fairly by the numbers action series with the usual flavouring of romance, comedy and character development. The plot is fairly episodic with no particularly entrenched back-story. This makes it excellent for casual viewing as most episodes can be watched in isolation. In some ways it comes across as “”Wicked City PD Blues”” or “”Renegade: Demon City Shinjuku””. Now whether those analogies a) make sense to you and b) intrigue you is not my problem. While Hyper Police isn’t bad there’s probably a lot of other stuff you could (and should, yes that’s right should) be watching instead. But for a “”backup”” series that you can casually throw on in the background it may be worth a look.

Gatekeepers – ****

I love Gatekeepers. Every cheesey thing I’ve loved about the sixties and seventies super spies and alien invasion genre’s is in this show, only turned up a notch. It’s also a nice change of pace to see an anime set in the late sixties/early seventies as it’s not a time period that I’ve encountered that often in the medium. This show clearly doesn’t take itself entirely seriously, but at the same time it doesn’t have the self-mocking pretentiousness that such a stance can often lead to. At its core Gatekeepers is a fun, enjoyable watch

G Gundam – *****

At first I just couldn’t get into this. The oldness of the animation didn’t bother me that much, I think it was just the fact that it was so different from the standard Gundam shows that was the reason I didn’t get into it. I have to say I’m glad I persevered as it turned out to be one of my favourite Gundam franchises.

Really this isn’t a typical Gundam series – it’s a tournament based fighting anime where they just happen to be fighting in Gundams. If that sounds rubbish to you, then wander on your merry way. If however you have the wit to grasp the inherent genius of giant robots unleashing martial arts fury on each other then get a hold of this.

As well as that it also has some of the most engaging characters and some of the best mecha designs in the Gundam series.

Haunted Junction – ***

Pretty average action comedy outing with the occasional flash of genius. However it’s pretty short, but there’s a lot of better stuff you could be spending your time watching.

Magikano – ****

I really enjoyed this. It was a nice looking and original departure from your standard magical harem comedy. It’s usually the intra-personal relations that form the main appeal for these shows and while said relations are pretty good in this in many ways it was the developing plot which held my interest.

Sadamistu The Destroyer – *****

I love the Japanese Bōsōzoku aesthetic, as well as the general (positive) caricature of the same in anime. I also like spaghetti westerns, sentient armoured cyber suits, alien invaders and super=powered ass kicking. So when you roll them all together you can be sure I’m going to enjoy it. And I did. Though there really should be more of it because it’s deadly.

Cutie Honey: Live Action – * / ***

Yeah, this is really bad. I mean really. And I like bad films. It just really has so few saving graces that I can’t recommend watching it – unless your Matt, in which case go ahead. The beginning of the film is actually pretty good but sadly the quality descends fairly steadily with the occasional flash of brilliance (and some pretty interesting camera techniques). I’d probably avoid it.

Addendum: After actually watching some Cutie Honey I’m going to increase the rating I gave this purely because it is actually such an excellent homage to the original and now that I’m familiar with the Cutie Honey franchise it makes a lot more sense and bits I thought were shite are actually pretty amusing/enjoyable. So as a caveat, be familiar with Cutie Honey before watching this movie (I’d suggest the Re Cutie Honey OVA)

Ultraman (2005) – ****

Ah, men in plastic suits battling other men in plastic suits across tiny cities made of balsa wood. My childhood viewing returns. After starting to watch (the pretty good) Ultraman Nexus I saw a trailer for this modern remake of the classic Ultraman story and got a hold of it. I have to say it was extremely enjoyable and the special effects were a nice blend of cgi and classic guy in suit action. It’s certainly up there with the best of the more modern Kaiju films such as Godzilla: Final Wars.

Onegai Teacher – **

This series certainly wasn’t bar per se, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into it, perhaps it was the rather slow beginning or the clearly telegraphed relationships – but for some reason it just didn’t really click for me.

Sumomomo Momomo – ***

I thought this was a pretty enjoyable and frequently amusing mixture of martial arts epic and romantic comedy.

Saiunkoku Monogatari – *****

What starts off as a rather “”pink”” shoujo love story develops into an extremely engaging and heavily political drama which showcases an extremely interesting semi-historical china.

Gravion/Gravion Zwei – ****

Ah giant combining super robot action, how I love it. A newish spin on classic super robot team shows which stays very true to its roots. The animation quality is also quite nice and I really enjoyed the character designs and of course the mecha designs are great featuring mecha design staff members such as Kunio Okawara and Yasuhiro Moriki.

Murder Princess – ****

In my mind I tend to classify this as “”the female Bastard!!””, which is certainly an extremely positive link. While it isn’t quite as clearly tongue in cheek in Bastard and features more three-dimensional characters at its heart its six episodes of uncomplicated ass kicking featuring an amazingly proficient protagonist and her equally amazing companions and enemies. Its good uncomplicated action.

< a href="http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=7633">Shining Tears X Wind – ****

I really liked the world presented in this; the mixture of traditional western fantasy tropes (transformed into their anime equivalent interpretation ala Lodoss) mixed with victoriana-esque magitech technology really intrigued me. The anime presented a really fun fantasy adventure which I felt perfectly captured the otherworldly allure of truly enjoyable fantasy stories.

Tonagura – ****

A pretty enjoyable and amusing romantic comedy. It has unfortunately been a while since I watched it so I can’t properly parse my memories of it.

You’re Under Arrest/You’re Under Arrest Season 2 – ****/**

Something of a departure from my regular viewing as in many ways this is just a standard police drama with some comedy elements taking place in a fairly “”realistic”” modern Japan. The two women who form the main protagonists but as the series progressed I found that one of them became less and less interesting, almost in direct proportion to how long her unacknowledged relationship and how much screen time it took up. This got worse as the series neared the end and to be honest some of the character conflict was somewhat incomprehensible to me, this was particularly of the second season which I felt was overall weaker than the first as it often felt more like a forced extension rather than an actual sequel.

Yakitate!! Japan – *****

I avoided this anime for a long time; after all it’s about some dude who bakes bread. What a mistake that was, its one of the more amusing anime comedies I’ve seen. In terms of structure Yakitate is extremely similar to traditional tournament anime such as Yu Yu Hakusho, only the combat has been replaced by baking – and an often painful amount of puns. While that sounds odd it actually works surprisingly well, particularly if you’re familiar with the aforementioned tournament style anime.

Tokko – ****

The ending of this anime is both amusing and frustrating at the same time. Though its primary amusement is generated from how blatant a cliff-hanger it is (if you watch it be sure to wait till the credits have rolled). So that aside, I thought this was cool. But after reading some negative reviews of it I should perhaps provide some viewing advice for those who value their time more than I do mine, this is a very pretty, action-slasher anime which focuses much more on looking cool and bloody than it does on plot and characterisation. That’s not to say that there aren’t any of either, just that it’s not the primary focus of the thing. It also has a pretty cool back-story which seems to be paying homage to Hellraiser, which I liked. (And which if I had a regular enough group I would rip off for a short rpg campaign).

Burn Notice – *****

I’ll admit I originally watched this because Bruce Campbell was in it and while Campbell does entertain the rest of the main cast are equally enjoyable to watch. But really what makes this show is the main character and his employment of super spy style hijinks using everyday items – all of it explained in a calm manner which may not be realistic but drips with an easily consumed verisimilitude.

History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi – *****

Well this is the first anime in a while that’s driven me to watch it one episode after another until I eventually collapse into bed from exhaustion only to awake to do the same again.

While it does make for wonderful viewing it can sometimes make a series hard to digest as your consuming the entire stream of the story rather than the “”bite-size”” pieces it’s usually served up in. It also works best with shows that have a continuous narrative as opposed to an episodic approach.

Needless to say Kenichi has such a format and as such made for extremely enjoyable viewing. Story wise it’s a fairly basic spin on the classic shonen martial arts series. What really makes it appeal though is the interesting and appealing characterisation of the protagonists (and antagonists).

Another huge appeal for me was the fact that in many ways the entire show could be seen as one long training session interspersed with bouts of action and character development side pieces. While this may not appeal to everyone (because some people are clearly deviant bastards) it really appeals to me. I really love those bits in martial art films, books, anime, etc. where after been beaten the hero goes of into the mountains or seeks out a reclusive master to learn new techniques and increase his power. In many ways such training scenes are as enjoyable for me as the fight scenes. And the more mental the training the better it is (e.g. Drunken Master).

As Kenichi contains training nearly every other episode I really liked that facet of it as it mixed all my favourite martial art genre tropes into a nice cohesive whole.

It’s also quite an amusing show, though sometimes the jokes do require (fairly basic) knowledge of other fighting anime/manga series.

I suppose the main downside to Kenichi is the fact that there are only fifty episodes in the first season and as the manga is still ongoing it’s clear that the story isn’t finished in these fifty episodes. Though it is a fully contained story arc and only one main plot thread is left open so while it leaves the viewer wanting more it certainly doesn’t leave them feeling cheated.

Now I face the terrible choice of waiting for the second season or continuing the story via the fan translated manga.

Hikaru no Go – ***

A lot like a typical shonen fighting anime but with Go as opposed to ass-kicking. Pretty enjoyable and very self-contained in its story telling it develops a nice level of depth and characterisation by the end. It’s also somewhat unique in that it has an extremely tight focus on the main character of the series, so much so that any plot threads he leaves are left largely unfinished because from the stories point of view their only value was in relation to the main protagonist. While it was jarring until I got used to it turned out to be quite a refreshing change.

I also barely resisted buying a Go board.

AirMaster – *****

Fucking sweet anime about an ex-gymnast turned street fighter and her daily life/daily fights. While it starts of in something closely resembling “”the real world”” it does get more bizarre as the series continues. Though never to a disconcerting or intrusive level. The fights in this are great looking, very flashy but still retaining a semblance of “”reality”” which makes them all the more spectacular.

It also has a somewhat odd presentation in terms of story; as with most fighting anime manga the delivery of plot tends to be, by the very nature of the thing, episodic, usually delivered in a fight-train-fight format. However with Airmaster the delivery is more like a “”slice of life drama”” and it just so happens the main protagonist is involved in a lot of fighting. I think this can be seen best in the conclusion of the series, which could be seen as disappointing if one hasn’t grasped the flow of the series plot.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to see more of this, as I’m unsure if the 27 episode anime fully covers the 28 volume manga.

Claymore – ****

When the protagonists of the show are female half-demon demon hunters who all wield swords as big as themselves how can it go wrong? Thankfully this show doesn’t try and find out. Obviously enough I find the basic premise of the show appealing and I also find frenetic, bloody, supernatural arse-kicking appealing so this show would have had to work hard to piss me off. That’s not to say that there isn’t some depth here, as the series progresses more and more of the back-story of the world and the characters is filled in and it unveils a deeply layered plotline which underscores and highlights the basic (but eminently serviceable) revenge plot that forms the main driving force of the show.

Most of the characters are appealing and their decisions and the fallout from them all add a nice layer of verisimilitude to the story being presented. The actions of the characters and the world itself is presented as a fairly “”gritty”” and often grimy place and this helps to frame the frequently gory swordplay that forms the main content of most of the shows action sequences.

The twenty-six episodes certainly finish off the main plotline, quite nicely in fact. But lots of plot lines are left open for further explanation and expansion. So I could certainly see room for a second season.

One quick google later – Nnnnoooo. Ah well, it appears that the anime follows the manga perfectly up to episode 20, is a little different from 21-24 and then veers completely away from the manga in 25 & 26. The manga is still going in Japan and has yet to be licensed in English. An annoyingly common situation, if my willpower were actually existent it wouldn’t be an issue because I would be fluent enough to follow the Japanese manga, unfortunately that is not the case – so it’s a hunting scanlations I will go.

Kaibutsu no Oujo/Princess Resurrection – ****

This was pretty cool, but like several other series that I’ve watched recently it just wasn’t long enough for my liking. The basic premise for the show is pretty cool, but little of the backstory gets resolved in the end. Rather the backstory, apart from the occasional highlight, seems largely to be an enjoyable premise on which to hang monster of the week shenanigans which involve quite amusing or clever battles with the classic hammer horror bestiary and the odd smattering of lovecraftian monstrosity.

I found this series to be extremely enjoyable and while the characters were engaging the pace and plot never got bogged down too heavily with interpersonal drama. At the end of the day this is a fun, nice-looking action-adventure anime with an interesting take on classic horror antagonists.

Night Wizard – ***

I originally started watching this anime because I had considered buying the role-playing game it was based on but opted for a different rpg from the same company instead. As far as I know it’s also one of the few, or possibly only, anime series based directly on a p&p RPG. I have to say I was rather disappointed with it at first, though the second half of the series really picks up and the last few episodes are cool. That’s not to say that the first few episodes were bad, they weren’t it’s just for some reason it didn’t click with me. Watching it was like being told a joke that you know is funny but that just doesn’t make you laugh. Have to say, the world settings pretty cool and I’m strongly thinking about importing the 2nd edition corebook.

BioShock (360) – ****

I picked this up the day it came out, but for some unknowable reason didn’t get around to playing it until the day before Halo 3 came out. Needless to say that Halo 3 interrupted my play somewhat and by the time I got back to it I had to start from the beginning. Which may not have been a bag thing as I sat down, started playing the game, and eight hours or so later finished said game. I think unlike traditional shooters BioShock really requires this kind of “”total immersion”” as taken piecemeal it doesn’t work quite as well.

As others have said, at far greater length, it is the cohesive vision for and off the world that BioShock presents that makes it such a treat to play. Because the gameplay mechanics, while slick, arent inherently better than any other fps on the market. It’s the world of Rapture and the creatures that inhabit it that’s the real appeal of BioShock.

Mass Effect – ****

Prior to this games release I avoided all information regarding it in the games press, as I try to do with any game Im looking forward to as I find the information overload of the modern game media to be offensive and detreimental to my enjoyment of upcoming titles. The new screenshots everyday, the lists of unlockables and secrets, the hidden characters and extra costumes, each little piece of information chips away at both my anticipation for and inevitable enjoyment of the game. So sans this external information I had only my past experience with BioWare’s games and my own personal conjecture to go upon.

And, unlike the great gaming masses it would appear, my experiences with BioWare were not all positive. While I loved Baldur’s Gate (and its off-spring) and thought Knights of the Old Republic was one of the few Star Wars games worth playing, BioWare’s most recent console rpg had left me deeply disappointed. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t like Jade Empire. In fact I found it profoundly disappointing, its vaunted combat system was tedious, repetitve, and perhaps most annoyingly of all – terribly unbalanced and abusable. The story itself while showing some brief flashes of original thinking was so tiredly hidebound and formulaic that it was only the games receipt glaring at me that drove me to finish the game.

Im glad to say that within a few short minutes of starting Mass Effect all of my fears were but to rest and my expectations exceeded. Mass Effect is probably the most interesting new western sci-fi IP that Ive encountered in recent years and is certainly one of the best console rpg’s on both the 360 and the market. The story, characters and scope are all well realised and engaging and the gameplay and grahpics are also all top notch.

That’s not to say that the game is entirely without fault, the action system – while enjoyable – does make it feel more like an action rpg at times. But that’s more a personal preference than an actual issue with the game. Though possibly some of the issues stem from this odd schizophrenia the game displays – is it a shooter with rpg elements or is it an rpg with shooter elements? The inventory menu is at times awkward to navigate and in many ways embarassingly basic compared to the rest of the game (limited sorting, no total count, no categories etc.). The remaining two issues are more annoying but due more to Microsoft’s idiotic requirement that all games run directly from disc with no install option, rather than a fault on BioWare’s part. Im talking about the clearly noticeable (often annoyingly so) texture pop-in that occurs when you travel from area to area – and even worse the interminable lift rides as you move around. It doesn’t help that the slowest of these is the most frequently used. Personally I would have just preferred a loading screen or an install option.

Dragon Wars – ***

Most of the reviews I saw for this film said it was terrible. I think that’s a little unfair, when you sit down to watch a movie called Dragon Wars you should really know what your letting yourself in for i.e. once there are dragons making war the film has delivered as promised. And I have to say that this film certainly does, and with some very nice looking special effects (though unfortunately the very first appearance of a dragon is probably the weakest fx shot in the film). But yeah, this is a pretty enjoyable big monster b-movie.

Devil May Cry (Anime) – *****

This is one of the most enjoyable action anime I’ve watched in a while. Much like the games upon which it is based the anime’s primary concern is Dante looking cool while kicking arse in a variety of stylish ways. Throw in some hot broads and an army or two of cool looking demons and there you have it (I can use the phrase broads because of the design aesthetic, I swear). Now I must go and complete all three DMC games again in preparation for four which is out the beginning of next month.

Zombie Loan – ****

I really enjoyed Zombie Loan; it presented an engaging setting, interesting characters with nice development, enjoyable action and quality animation. The only downside is that this feels much more like the introduction to a longer series than a complete story in and of itself. While it does admirably wrap up the story arc presented it feels much more like a single chapter than an entire book. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of this further down the line.

tactics – ***

An interesting enough series, but it was somewhat sullied for me by the overly melodramatic and ill-defined relationship between the main protagonist and his companion/servant. Apart from that it was generally enjoyable with some really stand out episodes. If the basic premise appeals then I would recommend giving it a watch.

Seto no Hanayome – ****

This was one of the better anime comedy’s I’ve watched in a while. The basic premise itself is funny enough, but each episode is amusing from beginning to end. I suppose in one way you could fault it for that, there were few times I actually laughed out loud but at the same time I was always amused. Of course I seldom laugh out loud when watching things by myself anyway so it probably isn’t a weakness after all. I also found some of the recurring comedic theme’s to be favourites of mine (Yakuza spoofs in particular) which was good. I think this may also be one of the more “”open”” anime comedy’s in that it’s probably going be equally funny to a western audience unlike some comedy anime which require a decent knowledge of Japanese culture or anime history for the jokes to click.

RahXephon – ****

I only just finished watching this so I’ll probably review this somewhat tomorrow. This show has been out for a while and I don’t really know why I haven’t gotten to it before, but when it originally came out and somewhat persistently since then its been compared (both favourably and unfavourably) to Neon Genesis Evangelion. To be honest I can only assume the people doing the comparison are the kind of people who scream “”ripoff”” every time they see even surface similarities between two things. Really the only links are extremely superficial, basically the fact that it has big robots and an intricate plot-line. Though that later link is unfair to RahXephon which actually does have an intricate storyline, unlike NGE which has an increasingly incoherent plotline. Also RahXephon is one of the very few things involving time-travel that doesn’t make me want to scrape out the top layer of my brain.

Really after watching it I would say at its heart RahXephon is a love story, and quite an enjoyable one as the verisimilitude of its fictional relationships certainly felt quite “”realistic”” to me.

iDOLM@STER: XENOGLOSSIA – ****

I’ve never played the two Xbox 360 games which share the Idolmaster moniker as they have tragically not being translated. Not that it matters I suppose as the games are about becoming an Idol singer whereas the anime is about becoming an Idol singer who is secretly the pilot of giant mecha’s which are…plot twisterific. A nice mix of character development and giant robot action work well together to keep the viewer engaged with the show.

Goshūshō-sama Ninomiya-kun – ***

A slight proviso, I like harem comedy’s. That out of the way, I wouldn’t really class this as a harem comedy, as there are actually only two girls vying for the affection of Ninomiya-kun, so its more just a straight romantic comedy. And as a romantic comedy it works very well, better than most really as it doesn’t over-indulge in angst or melodrama which these series have a tendency to do. Rather it plays up the comedy elements, but usually in a clever rather than directly slapstick manner. It’s also somewhat unique in that most episodes also feature a great deal more actions than “”traditional”” romantic comedy’s. And as most of the action is either nice looking or amusing or both I certainly appreciated that aspect of it. So yeah it was a short fun series that made me laugh a few times and kept me entertained and engaged for the duration.

Irresponsible Captain Tylor – ****

Yet another “”classic”” anime that I missed the first time around and decided to track down. Unlike some other disappointments this one certainly delivers. While some of the character designs and the animation may put some people off I would strongly suggest persevering because the series delivers some truly memorable characters as well as some interesting insights on valid motivations for living ones life and one or two nice moments of genuine emotion. It also has one of the more enigmatic main characters – usually with characters of this stripe (super lucky bumblers) it’s made obvious fairly quickly whether the character is just a lucky buffoon or a secret genius. But really with Tylor it’s impossible to clearly say one way or another due to the conflicting viewpoints presented by those who know him and often by the character himself. Plus it has a sweet looking spaceship in the style of Star Blazers/Captain Harlock/etc. Something I’d like to see a more recent series do really.

Mouse – **

The gratuitous amount of fan service in this just proved a distraction from a moderately engaging “”Caper”” style affair.

Mamoru-kun ni Megami no Shukufuku wo! – ****

I found this to be initially extremely reminiscent of Gakuen Alice. And in some ways it certainly is, but its intended audience is clearly older and the sophistication of the character relationships is certainly more complex. The world presented is interesting and the comedy and action elements are well used to keep the viewer engaged. But really it’s the characters that form the main appeal of the show and which kept me watching. I found it to be enjoyable and easily watched; the story flowed extremely well from episode to episode. The only fly in the ointment as it were was that the excellent toybox fansubs stop three episodes from the end so I had to watch the Sekai fansubs which were less than stellar and certainly didn’t help considering how exposition heavy the last episode or two were. I’d certainly like to see another season of this, perhaps the “”college years””, it wont happen but there you go.

Melody of Oblivion – ***

This anime is kind of hard to classify; I suppose “”surreal shonen”” would probably do it. As the odd location jumps and prominent use of “”in media res”” beginnings means that the plot has an oddly choppy structure to it, each act is more like a distinct story than part of a series, so really it feels more like eight small stories which feature the same characters rather than a collected narrative. I have to say though that once the original jarring nature of such things is processed it does add a nice surreal layer to the proceedings which certainly makes everything feel “”other”” – which I think works well for a world ruled by monsters. While the animation quality is nice it does look somewhat like the series ran out of money a bit towards the end, there’s a large increase in recycled animations and after episode nineteen the story sort of disappears up its own hole. When a good quarter of an episode is random cuts to groups of large breasted girls in cow print bikini’s getting “”milked”” you have to wonder what the fuck’s going on. There’s also the episode that is delivered mostly by fourth wall breaking karaoke and the introduction (and subsequent annihilation) of entire groups of people the characters seem to know but were never introduced in the series. There’s also the annoyingly trivialised death of some important characters as well. So yeah, episode’s 20-23 elicit large amounts of “”What the fuck?””. Episode 24 redeems it somewhat but largely fails to tie up any of the copious dangling plot-lines. Really the last few episodes sort of killed my enjoyment of this.

Kaze no Stigma – *****

Further evidence for my theory that anime based on light novels are always of excellent quality. While Kaze no Stigma has some elements which follow common shonen/seinen genre tropes it’s the characters and the world itself which distinguish it from less entertaining efforts. The characters are well realised and their growth and inter-relationships work well to draw the viewer in. The action is exciting and the entire show is well animated. But for me the key appeal was the world and the various smaller story arcs which made up the whole.

The Skull Man – *****

I originally got a hold of this series because I thought the eponymous Skull Man looked fucking sweet. But then for some inexplicable reason I put of watching this, usually because I got the urge to watch it late at night and wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind to deal with dark, dense plot material. But a while ago I got around to watching it and I’m certainly glad I did. While it does contain some clearly outré elements (and the eponymous Skull Man isn’t the main protagonist) at its heart it’s a detective thriller. And I sure do love me some detective work, then later in the series when all (or at least the majority) of the mysteries have been revealed the series switches into a very nicely animated action/horror. Though these elements are present all through the series they take to the foreground in the last third of the show. It also had a very satisfying ending…until I foolishly kept watching to the end of the credits. The post credit sequence is a nod towards another series/intellectual property Cyborg 009 which I have been unable to obtain and that sullied it a little for me.

Renkin San-kyuu Magical Pokaan – ***

Fairly enjoyable absurdist humour with odd dashes of pathos (particularly the bus episode) and fan service mixed in. In many ways an urban fantasy version of shows such as Galaxy Angel or Ninja Nonsense.

Devil May Cry 4 (Ps3) – *****

As a franchise Devil May Cry has certainly had its ups and downs – the excellent first game was succeeded by the abominable second game which was both a) embarassingly easy (which isnt really acceptable in this style of game) and b) featured an interpretation of Dante almost the polar opposite of that presented in the first game. The third game I didn’t play but it was by all accounts excellent. However, much like Metal Gear Solid, the poor quality of the second game had sickened me on the franchise and I never bothered with the third installment.

What brought me back into the DMC fold was the excellent anime series, as soon as I finished viewing it I went online and pre-ordered the limited edition version of DMC 4. A purchase which I am entirely satisfied with. DMC 4 oozes the kind of style and general sense of “”cool”” that made the first game so intriguing, to this it marries excellent gameplay and a wealth of replay incentive. It also manages to avoid the “”Raiden”” issue, by making Nero both fun to play and not an embarassment. If you were a fan of the first or third game, or just a fan of this style of action game I would heartily recommend a purchase.

Mushi-Shi – *****

I don’t think my irritation with over enthusiastic Studio Ghibli fans is any secret and I’m sure I have in the past got into arguments with various people in the pub because I didn’t like Spirited Away and they took offence (rightly enough) at my rather ad hominen deconstruction of Spirited Away’s appeal. That’s not to say I think Studio Ghibli’s output is bad, they have produced some phenomenal works such as Grave of the Fireflies, and some less amazing but still enjoyable stuff like Mononoke Hime (also as a random factoid a number of the people who went on to create Studio Ghibli were involved in the creation of Flight of Dragons). Really my dislike is of Studio Ghibli’s western fans rather than the studio itself. Particularly fans who’s exposure to anime primarily consists of Studio Ghibli’s movies or Manga Entertainments early nineties rubbish and Studio Ghibli. Because it is rather grating to hear “”Oh wow X is the greatest ever I’ve never seen anything like it before””, because I’m sure if I had spent my life wiping my arse with sandpaper that I would think corrugated cardboard is the greatest thing ever and the pinnacle of arse wiping technology when more informed people would realise Andrex was the lord of rear end cleaning comfort (no idea why I went with such a scatological analogy). Now if you have tragically read the paragraph above I would like to apologise for (but am probably incapable of rectifying) my dickishly elitist attitude.

Anyhow Mushi-Shi, if you liked Spirited Away because it was “”like a fairy tale”” or something similar then I would urge you in the strongest terms to watch Mushi-Shi, which from the very first note of the opening song on the very first episode draws you into a whimsical, fantastic world overflowing with the kind of other-worldly appeal that the best faerie-tales create. It also present a much more nuanced and adult view of the interaction between the fantastic and the mundane and the price it can cost each side. While it does whang of purple prose I would say that it’s a rather beautiful show, both in content and delivery (The anime series won grand prizes in the categories of television series and best art direction (for Takashi Waki) at the 5th Tokyo Anime Award competition held at the Tokyo International Anime Fair in 2006). Its always engaging and often moving, it’s probably one of the most memorable anime I’ve watched in some time

Welcome to the N.H.K. – *****

I avoided watching this for quite a while because while I found it intriguing I had the feeling that it may make for depressing viewing. A week or two ago I decided to go ahead and watch it and while I found it extremely enjoyable and engaging it was often rather depressing. Possibly because it cut a little close to home as the protagonist is a NEET and hikikomori. After watching the anime I’ve picked up the manga which I believe differs somewhat from the anime and also the novel upon which both are based. I suppose in summary it’s a story about damaged people trying to help one another deal with modern life.

Naruto 001 – 150 – *****

Patrick the degenerate decided to start watching Shippudden without bothering with the filler, so every time he watched a few episodes he would stroll down to my room and regale me with irritating tantalising and vague hints about the amazing qualities of the new show. Unfortunately I’m rather anal about consuming stories in large uninterrupted streams and had been planning to re-watch the original series for some time. Patrick’s evil temptations lead me to do so. Before starting to rewatch the eight or nine series of the original run I had some slight trepidation that it may prove somewhat boring and turn into a chore. So Friday fortnight ago I thought, “”I’ll just watch one or two episodes to get started, I have to be up for work in the morning””. So fifteen episodes later I dragged myself into bed and somehow managed to survive work, convinced I would go straight to bed when I got home. Another twenty or thirty episodes later and it’s the wee hours of sunday morning. This pattern continued, sleep was abandoned, nay denied, by the freakishly addictive quality of the viewing. I think I finished it sometime monday or tuesday, averaging about 30-40 episodes a day.

It was still as enjoyable as the first time I watched it, in fact the hazy pre-knowledge of oncoming events and entrenched character likes and dislikes added something to the viewing experience allowing me to focus on characters I liked while marginalising (attention wise) those I did not like. While the fights were still great (and in my superior more entertaining than those in Bleach, or at least more “”clever””/better thought out) some of the more shocking or entertaining “”Fuck Yeah”” moments were diminished, but still enjoyable. Oh actually speaking of a Bleach/Naruto comparison (as an aside I love both) one thing that consistently lets Bleach down is the shite cock rock ballads that play during the big fight sequences, this is starkly contrasted by Naruto’s really excellent fight music and its use of musical cues to clue the viewer in to the fights/moves/scenes importance.

Naruto the Movie: The Great Clash! The Phantom Ruins in the Depths of the Earth – **

This movie isn’t bad per se, it’s just that it never really feels like a movie (unlike the first one) rather it feels like a three or four episode story arc cut into movie form. It wasn’t bad, just a little disappointing/boring. It’s probably still worth watching though as some of the fights are pretty enjoyable – particularly those featuring Shikamaru and Gaara.

Naruto Shippudden 01 – 38 – *****

****MAY CONTAIN UNINTENTIONAL SPOILERS FOR NARUTO EPISODES 001-150****

Ah Naruto Shippudden, the cause of the two and half seasons of filler that capped the original series. Filler which I mean to but have yet to entirely watch. NS takes place two and half years after the battle which took place around episode 135 of the original series, two and a half years in which most of the cast members have been off training and have matured and increased in rank within their respective villages. And of course all of the younger characters get a new or updated look.

NS seems to have a generally more “”adult”” tone than the earlier series, there’s more bad language and the general pallette and action are all darker/more violent. The storyline itself seems to be a little darker than earlier material. In the episodes so far the Akatsuki have replaced Orochimaru as the primary antagonist. Which is a welcome change as Orochimaru was getting on my tits. One of the best things about the time skip is that characters who were getting outstripped by the rapid power escalation in the later arcs of the original have had time to “”beef up”” – this is particularly welcome in terms of Sakura who has moved back to being a competent addition as opposed to a crying annoyance.

Some of the new characters however are a less welcome addition. While he’s only been in one or two episodes of the stuff Ive seen Sai already pisses me off. Which tangentially brings up another of the noticeable changes, theres a lot more bag language in the show now then there was before. While most of it is fairly tame some of it is a little jarring – which possibly its supposed to be.

Darker than BLACK – *****

In retrospect, and because I seemingly have an incurable urge to compare things, Darker than BLACK is reminiscent of a grimmer, anime version of Wild Cards (the books). While there are no superheroics, and even contractors (the super powered characters) are relatively rare, the sheer range of the various powers as well as the odd remuneration that their use demands reminds me conceptually of the jokers from Wild Cards. While on the surface Darker than BLACK is a grim action series it also examines some fairly complex issues, such as what exactly it means to be human. But it does so without the heavy handedness or the awkward self consciousness that other similar shows have exhibited.

The main characters in Darker than BLACK are also extremely well realised and believable, while not all of them are likeable, nearly all of them are entertaining to watch. Also for those interested in such things the world that Darker than BLACK presents would be eminently playable as an rpg setting and should I chose to run non-traditional supers at some point in the future I would be sorely tempted to use the setting presented here (possibly seasoned with some material from Kaze no Stigma).

Chobits – ****

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