...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!
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.
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
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...