What I’ve Watched – First Draft

Hmm, there is quite a bit here, well it has been almost three months, but it still seems like far too much. Perhaps even worse is the fact that I have at least twice this much on my computer never mind the (literal) stack of DVD’s sitting beside my bed that I have yet to open never mind watch. I think I’ll re-arrange these into alphabetical rather than chronological order (as it turned out they ended up arranged in relatively random fashion). I also think I shall unleash some rating fury on the tried and tested one to five scale (1=crap 2=average 3=good 4=excellent 5=”perfect”). I suppose I should come up with some kind of unit for these as well, but I’ll hold of on that for the moment and go with stars. I would also like to point out in advance that the reason so many of these ratings are so high is that I usually research what Im downloading/buying and try to weed out the shite in advance.

Ah! My Goddess (TV) – *****

After the Tenchi Muyo OVA the Ah! My Goddess OVA was probably the next anime rom-com I watched and its remained one of my favourites. I think its mainly due to how likeable the main character is as well as the extremely episodic nature of the delivery. The main problem with the OVA was that it was extremely short. A problem which the TV version at 26 episodes (and a sequel series) more than resolves. As it’s a relatively new series the animation for this is lovely and the story is always entertaining, often funny but perhaps lacks the emotional impact of the OVA, though as the series progresses the emotional content certainly increases. If you’re a fan of anime rom-coms I would heartily recommend getting a hold of this.

Chrno Crusade – ****

Ah Chrno Crusade, the enemy of all people who can spell properly ;). Why not just spell it Chrono, like its fucking pronounced throughout the series? But that aside. I really liked this series, the setting (an alternate 1920’s america with demons and church sponsored exorcists – they have crucifix handled energy swords for fuck sake ;) ) is great and the characters are very engaging. I also liked the story format which starts in the first episode and continues in every single episode of the series, which is a pleasant change from the usual small arc story format that anime tv series take. The animation is lovely and the demon design is pretty cool (though fairly typical I suppose). Im not sure if this counts as a spoiler or not, it reveals no plot details at all, but still if your anal about such things stop reading. The series takes a fairly radical turn towards the depressing half way through the penultimate episode and this downward spiral continues all the way to the end. This bleak ending soured me a little on the series.

Shadow Skill – *****

Many of you (ha I once more assume I have readers) will probably have seen the lovely looking but tragically plotted (after all it was three differing OVA’s chopped together) Shadow Skill OVA from Manga Entertainment. This is much more enjoyable. This is one of my favourites out of all the anime Ive looked at over the last few months, I mean theres not a huge amount to it, its just cool improbable martial arts action, but it looks nice, the world is engaging and the characters are cool. How can you not like a series where a guy beats (and you see them beating) 1000 guys? The power level is more Street Fighter than Dragonball Z though, not many people firing out laser blasts and teleporting into orbit. From a critical viewpoint a lot of this stuff has been done before, but it works great, 26 episodes isnt enough, I need more ;)

Fate/Stay Night – *****

Im sure Ive mentioned this before and Im also more or less sure that it should be five stars and probably would have got it if I hadnt had to wait for it to come out each week before I watched it, if I could watch it in one big sitting like I tend to Im sure it would have gotten five. In fact fuck it, up to five it goes. This is one of the nicest anime Ive seen, the animation in it is really beautiful. The story is also quite enjoyable, its got anime Cuchulain and the Holy Grail, how can you not like it? Its also based on a hentai PC game but that element has been (thankfully I think) removed from the anime series. Definitely worth a watch.

Scrapped Princess – ***

This series started out more or less how I expected but then went through a series of radical (but good) plot twists to end up being something completely different than I expected, which was enjoyable. The animation, while certainly good, wasn’t entirely to my liking, or perhaps more correctly I wasn’t entirely happy with some of the character design work as looking back the animation was pretty good. There really wasn’t a whole lot to this series, it was enjoyable while watching it but that was about it. Some nice monster designs though.

School Rumble – *****

School Rumble – Its just mental. It reminds me a lot of Colourful, but not as brain meltingly odd and without the panties obsession. Its one of the funniest anime Ive seen, the evolution of the love story between the characters is also nice to watch. My favourite thing about it is the fact that characters who the audience (and luckily myself or my opnion of this would be radically different) found most interesting gained more story prominence and characters who were less popular, even if they were integral to the initial setup of the show, faded into the background a bit. It’s a very nice and well done integration of audience feedback.

Noir – **

Yeah I just didn’t like this, got a few episodes into it and then just got bored with it. Forced myself to sit through the rest of it and while it had some good bits (and had loads of elements that I usually like) it just didn’t work for me at all. Quite liked the vaguely retro animation though.

Ai Yori Aoshi – *****

This is usually referenced as a comedy, but to be honest the comedic elements are fairly low-key for the most part. Its much more a slice of life romantic drama and it succeeds extremely well at that. The emotional development of the main couple and the increasingly complex inter-relationship between them and the supporting cast are extremely engaging and often touching. I also really liked the fact that most of the protagonists are college aged which makes a nice change form the usual teenage protagonists.

Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi – *****

This is a short (12 episode) sequel to Ai Yori Aoshi which concentrates on the love triangle developed in the first series. It maintains the high quality of the first series and I have to say I was genuinely disappointed when the series ended. I even went and downloaded the Manga of it ;) (As I did with School Rumble, Bleach and a few other series, though usually that was because the story in the anime and the manga were different e.g. Full Metal Alchemist).

Last Exile – *****

Its fucking deadly. If you only get around to watching one of the various series I’ve reccomended here then it should be this one. An alternate 19th century which uses gigantic airships but Napoleonic rules of engagement? Fucking sweet. The fact that it was produced by Gonzo and looks fucking gorgeous just adds to the greatness ;). I also really liked the fact that as its written entirely as an anime that the story works very well over the twenty six episode arc, which can be a problem at times with stuff adapated (or often more correctly “inspired”) by manga.

Midori No Hibi – *****

I know I just said that Last Exile is the only one you HAVE to watch, but to be honest I would have recommended Midori No Hibi instead only it doesn’t have as wide an appeal. While I havent seen Grave of the Fireflies (famed as one of the most emotionally powerful anime productions) I cant imagine it being any more touching than this and from what Ive heard this is certainly less depressing. This is quite simply just a beuatiful little love story and should definitely be watched. Hmm perhaps I should now mention titties or beer to re-affirm my manhood ? ;) It’s also the source of my Bebo profile picture for those who have been wondering what the fuck it was.

Maburaho – ****

This show is very reminiscent of the various classic Tenchi shows. Its essentially a harem/magical girl based romantic comedy. What I found of particular interest was the world it was set in, its worth watching just for the way the magic system/world works. Possibly less mature than some of the other rom-coms listed, its much more Tenchi Universe than Tenchi Muyo.

My Hime – *****

The depth of story and the plot development puts this a step above similar series. While it starts out relatively light heartedly there is a certain darkness present which grows as the series progresses. I also really liked the characters magical avatars and the battles were very enjoyable. (At this point Im running out of ways to say the same thing again and again ;) ).

Full Metal Panic – Fumoffu? – *****

This is something of a “side-story” which links the first and second series of Full Metal Panic (henceforth FMP). I have to say I fucking loved the first series of Full Metal Panic (so much for my “FMP” resolution), it was gorgeous, the story was great and struck an excellent balance between comedy,action and drama. It also had cool big robots, so whats not to like? Fumoffu more or less completely ignores the big mech aspect to conecntrate on the school life of Sagara and Chidori. It also plays up the comedy aspect of the series much more, all of which works very well. The Rugby episode is one of the funniest things I’ve seen full-stop.

Full Metal Panic – The Second Raid – *****

This series builds on the events of the first series and whereas Fumoffu largely ignored the big mech stuff The Second Raid largely ignores most elements of comedy and has a much more serious tone (similar to the latter half of the first series). I found the story to be the most engaging of the various arcs featured in the FMP franchise, it also featured the best mech designs (though I think I preferred the mech to mech battles of the original).

Full Metal Panic – The Second Raid OVA – *****

A brief sequel to The Second Raid concentrating almost exclusively on Tessa, it was nice to see a more complete look at the crew of the TDD as they had a tendency to operate as background in the series.

Gantz – *****

My biggest problem with Gantz is that there isnt more of it. That aside. Gantz looks lovely, its done by Gonzo and is probably the nicest looking of all the anime I have listed here. It is also almost certainly the weirdest. Its like the Cube mixed with Colourful and some Dead or Alive (the film not the game) thrown in for good measure. Im not sure if it was the weird mood I was in while watching it or the series itself but its one of the most engaging things Ive seen, the empathy it creates between the viewer and the protagonists is somewhat astounding considering the format of the show. Its also impressive in that it encourages the viewer to empathise with a main protagonist who is less than heroic (something which also worked quite well in Berserk)

Ultimate Avengers – The Animated Movie – ****

An adaption of the first volume of the Ultimate Avengers comic. It looks quite nice, I’d say its animated by the same studio who does Justic League Unlimited. As an adaption its quite accurate but has the more adult elements of the comics removed (No hulk screaming “Hulk horny or Hulk eat freddy prince juniors head”). That brings me onto my main comment about the film, as anyone who has read Ultimate Avengers knows the most important things are Iron man, The Hulk and Thor, its ok theyre all still cool ;)

Najica Blitz Tactics – ***

If you live with me or bought any newish anime from the states then you will probably know this as “that panty show”. The special edition comes with a free pair of white panties and it features more fan service than I have ever seen. Despite that (and to be honest you end up not noticing after a while simply because the fan service is so prevalent) what you get here is a short (12 episode) but enjoyable super spy/evil replicant story.

Ichigo 100% & OVA 1 – ****

Another slice of life/harem rom-com (I was going through a “phase”). This one is pretty high on comedy low on depressing drama. Its just a fun little series that is certainly too short. It also has some of the best episode titles ever e.g. “The Illusionary Strawberry Underwear”.

Gilgamesh – ***

This is one of the most depressing series Ive seen, with some of the most fucked up plot twists/developments. It also has a, well, shit animation style, which looks good unless there’s action/movement on screen, which happens frequently. On the plus side it has one of the best constructed story lines Ive seen in any anime or tv series, it also has excellent character/monster design and realisation as well as an ending which really has to be seen.

Jubei-Chan 2: The Counter Attack of Siberia Yagyu – ***
I really liked the first Jubei-Chan series, it was funny, the action looked great and it wrapped everything up quite well. This series was confused, suffered from seemingly random changes in animation method and style and had a plot line which was just tedious. If you’ve seen and liked the first series it’s probably worth watching and the action is still very nice (the sword battles are great) – otherwise its probably best avoided.

Ikki Tousen – ***

This could really be summed up completey as “Tenjo Tenghe but not as good”. Its just lacking something, and while in theory I like the idea of modern day incarnations of the heroes from Romance of the Three Kingdoms it just doesnt seem to work the way its presented in this. It also suffers from having a co-star who is much more interesting (to me certainly) than the main protagonist. To be honest I think one of the biggest problems with it is the overtly sexual content and the near constant fan-service, it just feels, well, “dirty” – I really dont think Cao Pi and Liu Bei went around fingering one another all the time.

X-Men 3 – The Last Stand – ***

I saw this on one of my very rare trips to the cinema, in fact I saw it at 2 in the afternoon on the day of release and afterwards I had a pint and a club sandwich in Byrnes beergarden, which while nice probably arent too germaine to my appreciation of the film. While watching the film I was somewhat on the rum and uncanny side of sleep deprivation but I dont think that affected my usual impartiality (snigger) too much. This was my favourite of the three X-Men films, the first was too “dramatic” and the second much too camp. This one was essentially continuous action strung together with the barest hints of a plot, which is really all I want from a “four-colour” superhero film. The action was enjoyable and the special effects were lovely, I was pleased with the film incarnations of the new characters and due to the final fate of Jean and the Phoenix it got the thumbs up for story. Not that the story was anything other than a thinly veiled re-telling of the Dark Phoenix Saga with Wolverine (inexplicably – or perhaps not given character popularity) taking the place of Cyclops. Upon leaving the cinema I was disappointed that my prophesied twist hadnt been included, I was thus pleased to learn that had I sat till the credits end my messianc powers would have been vindicated.

Sky High – ***

The kitamura one, not the disney one. I quite enjoyed this, the story was quite engaging though (and Im sorry for this Kirsten) I found the female leads gigantic nose rather distracting (which reminds me of that girl in the pub last night who was sitting behind us, she was quite attractive and Im sure I knew her from somewhere but she did have a rather commanding nose, not unattractive just a bit Roman). To be honest after seeing quite a few of them at this stage I think Kitamura is a bit over-rated, or perhaps my expectations of his films are skewed by Versus. What action there is in this is good and the horror aspect is entertaining (if not particularly frighetning), mainly due to the “bad guys” excellent bastardry and performance. I would reccomend this above Azumi.

Tsubasa Chronicle – ****

Another animation series from CLAMP, so the character design is a little on the Yaoi side (though without the loving). In essence Tsubasa Chronicle is anime sliders with main and support chracters drawn from and based on other anime/manga created by CLAMP, with the main inspiration seeming to come from Cardcaptor Sakura. I found this quite enoyable, theres a nice mix between action and drama and once you get used to the character design the animation is quite nice.

GaoGaiGar – The King of Braves – ****

Forty nine episodes of sweet giant robot anime. Some of the robot designs in this were very reminiscent of early transformers stuff, which isnt too much of a shock as I believe that the mecha deisgner was somewhat inspired by the aforementioned show. I quite liked the story behind this show and it was plotted very well, it also dealt with some quite adult themes and had a few emotionally impacting moments. Which was somewhat unexpected in an anime aimed primarily at kids. If you’ve seen other big robot anime than the basic structure wont be shock, its essentially big monster/robot turns up, good guys turn up and kick its ass, then the monster/robot gets harder, kicks good guys ass, good guy busts out new technique/combination/ally and kicks the monsters ass. Still its got giant fucking robots so how can you complain.

Gravion – ****

Another giant robot show. This one is a lot more in the classic mold in terms of robot operation in that the robot is assembled from five or six independently piloted vehicles. Its also more “adult” in story and execution than GaoGaiGar, but possibly lacks the kind of emotional resonance GaoGaiGar generated. It also has plenty of fan service, which was (perhaps thankfully) absent in GaoGaiGar. Its newer than GaoGaiGar and the animation is certainly nicer (though in fairness I was watching this on DVD and GaoGaiGar on average quality fansub divx’s), though GaoGaiGair is coming out on DVD over here soon so perhaps I’ll be able to compare them better at that point. Just to insure I’ve mentioned GaoGaiGar enough the mecha designer for both shows is the same guy and the similaritys between Gravion (or as I should perhaps more correctly say “Super Heavyweight God Gravion) and GaoGaiGar (or “The King of Braves GaoGaiGar”) are not small.

Listening to: Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats

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