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July 5th, 2009

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08:57 pm - Yet More Anime Reviews!
Yes, I know I did one of these only like a week ago. See what happens when I have a cold! That thing I said the other day about doing nothing about sitting around and watching anime: meant entirely literally.

...Incidentally, that means my pile of unwatched anime DVDs is almost run out, as MyAnimeList points out. Since I'm fairly certain everything on there will be watched before Uni starts back up again, feel free to drop me recommendations of what to try out next. Anime or Manga is fine, though I prefer stuff that's either available as a box-set (in Australia or from the anime store of *cough* debatable legality), or easily accessible in good quality online.

As always, everything I discuss has spoilers all the way through.

20th Century Boys

This is by the guy who wrote Monster, and in many ways my review of 20th Century Boys is pretty much reiterating what I said in my Monster review: It's very, very good and I totally recommend it to anyone who wants to read some serious, intelligent manga, but it's very much the heavy reading sort of good. I enjoyed it - in many ways more than Monster, though I don't feel this had quite a good a climax as that - I liked the characters, I was compelled to keep reading, I am pleased to have read it, but I don't think it's the sort of thing I'll reread often. Or get all fannish about, really.

That aside, I actually found this easier to get into than Monster - it certainly took a lot less time to hook me, and I have no idea why. Maybe because it spent less time on the set up stages. Maybe because I am just a sucker for stories about The Power of Friendship (no pun intended), and that's one of the big themes of 20th Century Boys: What people working together as friends can achieve, just as much as it is about nostalgia for childhood. Which is why Friend (both of him), is such a compelling villain, because he's using these exact strengths against other people. (It's also why the first Friend achieved while the second ultimately failed - he understood how these worked, rather than just the shape of them).

I still remain terribly impressed at the way the manga managed to use completely ridiculous concepts, and enormous cliches, and still managed to be dramatic and scary and emotionally compelling. I mean, early on, there's the cop who's a week from retirement. He's talking about his family, whom he wants to spend more time with. He's cracked a major lead on a big case. And him dying still shocked me so badly I fell out of my chair. For real. I don't know how he did it.

Of course, it's not perfect - I very quickly got annoyed at the way that the reader was pointedly not let in on the dramatic secrets the characters were, and the amount of characters that were introduced as having ~been there all along~ at very late stages was... confusing. Also: Ending was kinda anticlimatic, though the emotional impact of Kenji playing in front of the huge crowd, just like he dreamed of was great. (By the end, I can't help but call Kenji "Guitar Jesus". Because he totally was, 'kay?)

By the way: the 21st Century Boys manga chapters are totally necessary for the story, and I have no idea why they were released under a different title. Maybe because they make for a much more low-key/less epic ending?

...All that said, I'm rather curious as to how the Live Action movies turned out. Only two of them are out so far, IIRC, but I'm interested in how well they work as an adaptation of something so long and complex.

Chrono Crusade (anime)

You know, for fully three quarters of this serious, I was wandering what all the grumbling about the anime adaptation was about. Yeah, I know it was the ending that was changed, but given the amount of grumbling - and exactly what I heard about the changes - I'd thought that more episodes would be required. But no, for fully three quarters this is pretty manga correct, if with some excessive fanservice and filler. (Also, Azmaria annoyed me in the anime in a way she never did in the manga). Oh, and the demons being actual supernatural demons, instead of alien whatsits - though I admit I was rather intrigued by this idea.

So, my overall opinion of the series after the ending wasn't nearly as negative as I had expected it to be. (Disclaimer: It's entirely possible my dissatisfaction will be like the first FMA anime, and grow over time as my fondness for manga-canon asserts itself. Or I was just biased by watching this immediately after the original Hellsing anime, which is the king of all epic WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK anime endings)

THAT SAID, yeah way to make all the female characters ultimately pointless and in Rosette's case OOC for no reason and not even make up for it with a decent epic showdown. Because that was one anticlimatic final battle. And the final episode just existed to pile on the angst - quite well done angst, when it came to Rosette and Chrono - but just as utterly pointless as piling on the angst in the old FMA anime. These characters have quite enough angst already, they do not need even more angst piled upon them.

Which, as a result, means me final reaction to the anime is more disappointment than anything else. They were going so well for so much of it, beautiful animation, touching moments, pretty good at sticking close to canon, and then for the final few episodes it just inexplicably wasn't. (Yes, I know the manga wasn't finished yet, but they didn't even attempt to tie the changes in that well). It's not my epic WTFery at old!Hellsing, or my gradually building dissatisfaction and dislike of old!FMA - though the second may come in time - it's just feeling let down by the ending, really.


You know, for the first few episodes I was barely paying attention to the actual plot at all (yes I know, stupid move), because egads, the pretty. Seriously, this anime is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I get that it's kind of an acquired taste, the style, but it's a taste that I have certainly acquired. ZOMG SO PRETTY! Yes, I totally as using this wallpaper on my computer right now. Sorry Utena wallpaper!

Also: The ending theme is very possibly one of the greatest things ever. I could love it for that alone.

However, once you actually get into the swing of things - especially later on, when the Grand Revenge Plot is in swing and the skeletons start to come crawling out of the closets - the story is terribly compelling. So yay Dumas, I suppose, since it's really his story (which is why I can forgive the weird anachronisms that pop up here and there). The characters are terribly compelling - I mean the Count, obviously, who manages to be utterly compelling and sympathetic whilst still obviously you aren't on his side. And Franz, poor darling Franz ;_;. Even Albert is quite likable, even if I wanted to eye-roll at times at his incredibly naivete (and this is from someone who actually likes characters who do the no killing, love will save the day). But I was totally with him by the end, as he actually matured a bit. (And for the womens, I have an inexplicable love for Eugenie and Haydee by the end)

On a vaguely related note: Holy Gay Subtext, Batman! Seriously, the amount of homoeroticism going on in the anime was insane. I remain curious as to how much was actually intentional, and how much was just me reading things in. Franz's unrequited thing for Albert was canon, basically, but I'm torn between thinking Albert's idolisation of the Count was totally platonic and another of those weird anachronisms made by changing the setting (and yaoi aware writers giving fanservice), and thinking it was a case of puppy-love/Albert's first childhood infatuation. I have difficulty seeing it as sexual, I admit, but I think that's just because how very much a child Albert really is (Given the Count and his scheming, if Albert had been less naive it very probably could have ended up with the Count seducing him just to hurt him more. But I can't see that in canon). On a het note, I am weirdly fond of Albert/Eugenie, but only post the five year skip, once they've both had a chance to have lives apart and mature and basically be who they want to be rather than who they are expected to. Those poor kids deserve a happy ending.

Incidentally, given how ridiculously awesome the visuals in this series are, it is surprisingly hard to find good icons of. I went through like the entire history of gankutsuou looking for ones I like. So feel free to point me in the direction of good Gankutsuou icons, especially of the Count, since I need a better one of him.

Hellsing (Original Anime)

As with Chrono Crusade, I spent most of the first parts of this anime wondering why people were so down on it - I mean, yeah, I preferred the OVAs to it, though that was less to go with the telling the manga story deal and more to do with the sheer style and quality of the animation. It's not like there was a huge amount of differences in plot at this point. I will, however, freely admit that the music is great.

And then they went and introduced Incognito, and I was like LOL WOT - and vaguely wondering if it was just me or were there some weird and not all that pleasant racial subtexts going on there - but I was still interested to see where they were going, since there were only a few episodes left. I was kind of expecting them to a pull an FMA with this - for all my issues with the ending of the first anime, I will admit they did a decent job of setting it up and tying most of the plot points up which is why the FMA movie is so bothersome, but I digress. Instead, we got a final episode which just left me gaping at the epic What The Actual Fuck-ness of it all. Not only did it screw over the female characters and their badassery and point in the plot (which seems to happen a lot in anime-only endings), but it didn't resolve anything. Not even shit introduced for the anime-only ending.

Seriously, big battle, end? WTF was with that shit. It tied nothing into anything, failed to give a point to the early manga adaptation episodes, didn't even explain it's own existance and basically had no internal logic. FMA, Chrono Crusade anime-only stuff? At least had some internal logic.

...Yes, I'm aware this is mostly just a rant about how much the ending of this anime sucked. That's how much it sucked. It was just stupid.

Yeah, totally sticking with the manga and OVAs for Hellsing, I like them, for all their crazy ridiculousness.

...Yeah, I'm totally just killing time until the new FMA has subs out. Or next week's episode because EEEEE XING CHARACTERS A-COMING! AND NEW OP AND ED! And aren't we due for a new manga chapter soonish...

I'll watch the new Haruhi Suzumiya episodes once we are past the Endless Eight arc. Because seriously, guys...

(16 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
I don't know whether they'll be your thing or not, but I've been really enjoying both Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom and Cross Game (both available somewhere online...)

They're sort of on opposite sides of the spectrum; Phantom is bloody murder, intrigue and lost memories, dark dark dark, while Cross Game is almost slice-of-life slow kiddie romance and sports, very sweet and cute without being cutesy. But I love them both.

As for Haruhi, I actually quite liked the Endless Eight eps up to now, but I'm about ready to have the plot resolve itself, too.

[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
Phantom sounds kinda interesting - Cross Game doesn't really have as much appeal. Which is kinda odd, because I do want to watch something a bit more cheery and fun than, well, a lot of my recent stuff. But slice-of-life doesn't appeal to me as much, just like I tend towards sci-fi/fantasy in books. Also sports shows are so not my thing (Haruhi got away with it because it was just one episode. And, you know, it was Haruhi)

I have all the new Haruhi episodes so far sitting on my computer. But I think I'll wait until that arc is done with before I watch them all.
[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
Phantom seems to have been a bit of a dark horse, I think because the production company has a bit of a shitty reputation. But I haven't found *anything* to complain about in terms of story, animation, acting or music quality.

The sport in Cross Game really serves as a frame to hang the romance on, which I kinda like. The shoujo approach to sports anime, if you like. :-) But I get why it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea.

Hmm, cheery and fun... I'm also enjoying Shugo Chara. A magical girl's show with more of an emphasis on the comedy over the drama, but enough of both to keep things interesting.

Have you seen Ouran Host Club? It's a loving and extremely funny parody of male harem anime/manga, while being an excellent example of the genre along the way. I really love the music for this show, and the heroine (Fujioka Haruhi, AKA The Other Haruhi), is awesome in her own quiet and snarky way.

And have I ever pimped Hayate no Gotoku at you? If not, it's probably because the series works best once you've seen an anime or twenty, because it's injoke city. Not just to specific other anime, mind you, but also toward general storytelling tropes. And it doesn't have any fourth wall whatsoever. The first series is a bit shounen-ish, but funnier for all the randomness. It has a sequel with another production company that's focussing more on the romance.

Um... maybe I should shut up now...

Okay, one more comment about Haruhi: I like how the repetition is being handled, but it's still repetition. We should be getting some work at least toward the solution! And I can quite understand wanting to wait until you can watch them all at once. Unfortunately I don't have the patience for that. :-)

[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
To be honest I'm not a huge fan of Shoujo either - the big exceptions, of course, being Princess Tutu and Utena which are deconstructions of the genre (or at least fairytales in generally). ...Which probably says something very significant about my taste.

I dunno about Shugo Chara - not sure about how it'd work for me. I think I've seen one or two episodes of Ouran, not really enough to decide either way. Is it complete, since I heard the manga for it hasn't finished yet?

...Everything I know about Hayate no Gotoku comes from TVTropes. Judge that as you will. It sounds fun, though I suspect I'll miss a lot of the jokes, since the amount of anime I've seen is on the limited side still. A lot of the big well known animes don't sound like they would appeal to me, so I don't bother to watch them.

I have enough other stuff to watch to distract me from things. I'm sort of on a marathoning kick right now, anyway.
[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
Well, like I said, Ouran *is* playing with a lot of the shoujo tropes, even if they're not actually deconstructing anything. And the anime is complete. They've thought up a fairly fitting ending for it, that doesn't even clash all that much with the manga.

All the anime you've seen is the really famous stuff. Guess what gets referenced most in Hayate? Give it a shot, one episode is never going to hurt, and that should at least tell you whether the humour is your thing or not.

Hmm, what else do I have on my list?
In the lighter, fun category, there's Zettai Karen Children, from the same company that made the first series of Hayate no Gotoku, and with a similar sense of humour (though not as many references). It has a little more of an SF bent. Oh, and Hirano Aya voices the lead girl.

A little darker and with more of a politics oriented SF plot, I also liked Tytania. It's a bit Star Wars-y, if Han Solo had been the main hero of that. Or maybe Firefly-like. Politics and intrigue on the side of the bad guys, and sworn revenge and roaming across the stars on the good guy side, topped off with some intense battles. The opening tune is terrible, though.

And toward the really darker stuff, there's Chaos Head. Yes, it's pretty harem-like, and maybe the ending isn't quite as good as the rest, but I really like the way 'unreliable narrator' is taken quite far. The main character is delusional and knows it, but that way you never quite know what's real and what isn't, especially in the first several episodes.

Look I started thinking about this, okay? So I can probably keep throwing names of series at you. :-)

Actually, I also feel the need to remind you about Full Metal Panic and sequels (I'm pretty sure I've mentioned them before). For region 1 at least boxsets are out for all the series. And much as I love Haruhi, K-On and whatever else KyoAni is doing, they need to get off their asses and make another series of this, too...

[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I may look into Ouran - we shall see. I know one of my RL friends recced it to me a while back, but she also tried to get me into shouta, so I was dubious as to her judgement for a while.

How plot-heavy is Hayate? About the only other thing I know about it is Eclipse is also doing subs for the new episodes shush, I get my FMA subs from them.

...You know far too many anime I've never ever heard of. Far, far too many anime. It's sort of scary.

Well, I'm Region 4, so R1 isn't exactly doing me much good. That said, I know for a fact Anime Store of Dubious Legality has at least some Full Metal Panic box sets. I have no idea if they are actual official releases, though.

There's an anime convention nearby next month, I believe. Maybe I'll see what's on sale there - or what people are talking up.
[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
Hayate isn't all that plot-heavy at all. There's a few running themes, but not much of an overall plot. It's pretty episodic for most of the first series. The second one has a little more overall (romance) plot, though.

Heh. BF got me into anime a couple of years back, and we've been watching/following multiple current shows every season. Besides that, I've been known to check out a few on my own, too. I'll pick something where the name sounds interesting and watch the first episode, more if I really like it. That's how I found Phantom, Cross Game and Chaos Head. I'm more up on current stuff than on anything before I started watching, though. :-)

Well, if there are official DVD's out, a workaround may be found even if you're in the wrong region, yesno?

I'm in R2 myself, but not in the UK. The annoying thing here is not that there is no anime available (in fact, there may possibly be *more* than in the US, I haven't checked), but that most of it is subtitled in *French*, and maybe Dutch. Triple-language releases with English are rare, but because I am, after all, in the Netherlands, we get the ones with Dutch subs if any. Finding R2 English subs is hell.

Anime convention sounds... well, fun. It's just that I've never dared to go to one before. :-)

[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
I'm mostly the other way round - I pretty much pick things up based on reputation, which means unless things are specifically recommended to me I'm basically working off popular opinion. Things everyone knows about, anyway, which is why it's mostly classics or memetically famous stuff. I very rarely get into things by trying them out - I don't bother unless I think it's something I'll like (and so far this scheme has rarely failed me).

Well, I'm fortunate in the whole living in Australia makes English subs easy. But said Anime Store of Dubious Legality is helpful in that as soon as the complete boxsets are out anywhere, they'll soon have one that'll work locally. Huzzah for illegal region-free copies!

I've only been to one anime convention (the same one I am thinking of, just last year's one), but I've also been to a couple of general sci-fi/fantasy/whatever conventions that also had a reasonable amount of anime stuff. I only started going last year, though.
[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think that pretty much sums up my reaction towards the anime. The first half of the anime was fine--some weird small choices, but overall it was really strong. And then it just fell apart in the end. The thing I liked the most about the manga, though, was the characters and how well they were developed...so since Gonzo's anime was weaker on that with pretty much every character, I have a really hard time feeling happy with it. When I first watched it I thought it wasn't that bad, but every time I go back to watch it I catch something else that really bothers me. XD;;
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2009 12:05 am (UTC)
The depressing part is that it's only really the last few episodes that are so far off. The early stuff is well done, if not perfect, but then it just suddenly switches tracks, and then all of a sudden the plot hits uber-depression mode and the characters are OOC. I was so frustrated at Rosette not even fighting back against Aion.

I dislike pointless angst. And yeah, if I do anything with it after re-reading the manga, I suspect my opinion will fall further. That's what happened with FMA, anyway...
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2009 12:28 am (UTC)
Well, Aion was pretty far off from the beginning (as were the other sinners). Aion in the manga has real motivations behind what he's doing, as insane as he is, and he believes he's doing what's "best". Anime!Aion's motivations seem to be some sort of...hedonism thing, which makes it seem really bizarre that Chrono would want to follow him in the first place. And with the backstory with Mary being cut so short, there's nothing to really show how he could go from a trouble but pleasure-seeking demon that (apparently) raped a woman to a quiet, gentle, rules-following demon that allows a tiny human girl to beat up on him all the time. Besides maybe "well, he loved Mary and she died" but it doesn't explain why he was attracted to her in the first place. Besides her being...pretty? I guess? Because the plot demanded it? I don't know. And without the temper he has in the manga, he comes across as spineless. Which makes it even MORE aggravating when he has to save Rosette because she's been brainwashed into being a damsel in distress.

And just...buh. I feel like in the manga, the angst was a natural part of the storyline, and the point was the characters fighting through it. In the anime, the angst is the point of the darn story, and it exists to crush the characters to make us "feel" something. Which is just a messy way of doing it. (Even if I thought Chrono and Rosette's final scene was handled really well.)

XD; I guess can't talk much though--I adore the first FMA anime, I didn't really think the angst was all that unimportant, and I've been struggling with reading the manga because it's such a disappointment compared to how I felt about the anime.

Edited at 2009-07-06 12:28 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
Well, I have to agree on Aion being off, but it's an entertaining sort of OOC. Though I admit I spent far too much time watching being reminded of the terribly amusing theory from TVTropes about the anime being Aion's fanfic. Which, you know, lulz. Cutting the backstory back so much was a big problem, though, yes.

See, this is strange, because while I can see why people would like the first anime, I can't imagine why the manga would be a disappointment. Especially since it fairly specifically has several characters do what you say about Chrono Crusade: Have them fight through angst.

Eh, I'll a lot of my bitterness-in-retrospect comes from the way the first anime screwed over the female characters. The manga is so good about the women, so to see them non-existant or all their character stuff cut back and then replaced with gang-raped mute religious idol Rose really stings.
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
XD Oh, LOL, I wrote that theory.

I'm not really sure what it is, other than personal taste. I don't really like "typical" shounen, I prefer more of a focus on character development. I think that might be it, the manga just isn't making me care about the characters as much. It feels more like a bunch of battles connected with some plot to me. It could be that I just haven't gotten far enough in it, but I'd like to think that after ten volumes I'd "get" why people feel so strongly about it. It's still good, it's just missing something I liked in the anime--I can't really place my finger on what.
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
LOL, Oh it's a small Intarweb. Thanks for the lulz, anyhow.

Shocking revelation: When I first read the manga, I think I felt the same as you (this would be almost two years ago). And at some point in the next year - no idea why or how - my opinion shifted to being Manga > Anime. I can't even track it through old posts, since the opinion change happens in the six months I do not talk about FMA here at all. (It was around about the time the new FMA adaptation was announced, anyway)

...That said, at ten volumes, you're only a little past where the old anime and manga split - you've basically got the stuff the old anime did and did well, and a lot of chapters setting up new characters and arcs. You still haven't hit the all real meaty new character stuff - Winry confronting her parents killer, Ran Fan's sacrifice, Ling becoming (spoiler), all the Riza/Roy/Ishbal backstory, Hohenheim's backstory, the ongoing Elric family shenanigans, plus all the epic that is the big climax we are working to.

But I'm the person that thinks none of the series, manga or anime, really kicks into high gear until Hughes dies. I don't think it's a typical shounen in any form, it's just that the characterisation aspects the manga focuses on I like a lot more than the old anime (aside from my epic issues: Re female characters).

Edited at 2009-07-06 01:30 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
No problem!

Hmmm, I know about Ran Fan and Ling. I might be farther than I think, I don't know.
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2009 03:01 am (UTC)
In retrospect, I don't think I even realised I preferred the manga until the new series was announced. I think all the fannish fall-out (and ongoing debates for and against the manga and anime) that basically crystallized my opinion.

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