Sunday, July 31, 2011

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part two)

No Doctor Who this week (don't worry about that though, I have pleeeeenty for the next few weeks) but I do have another British property to review, Harry Potter! No I didn't plan for the review to fall on Harry's birthday, although that is a nice coincidence, and unlike many other people, I didn't go back and reread all the Harry Potter books before this final movie came out or rewatch part one (I did just see that movie a few months ago and had too much to read). So I would say that this isn't going to be a review where I nitpick over the changed details but there were actually a few scenes that either didn't make sense in the movie (showing that something had been cut, even if I didn't recall what) and I do remember a few important scenes being different so I guess this will be a bit of a nitpicky review after all!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two

Summary: Continuing directly where the first part left off, Harry, Ron and Hermione finally have a lead on how to kill Voldermort and destroy him for good. This goal will need even more allies than they already have and will bring the story to a conclusion where everything really began, Hogwarts.

The Good: Just about every character who made an apperance in the last book showed up in this movie which is rather impressive (not all of them got speaking time but Harry Potter still has a huge cast). For the characters who did have a chance to speak it was really amazing to see just how far all of the younger characters (and many of their actors) have come and even the adult characters feel so much more fleshed out and different from their earlier appearances. The central plot in Harry Potter is a simple one, the classic good vs evil scenario, so it's the characters that have made this story so memorable. Rowling did write a very interesting plot withe plenty of twists and turns but in the end she'll be better remembered for creating such a fantastic setting and her characters more than anything else.

The Bad: As mentioned earlier, there are a few times in the story where some of the side characters end up in strange places with no explanation given (such as, how did Luna get back to Hogwarts?) and it's annoying to see that little, establishing explanations like that got cut for even more action scenes. That's another problem, there was a good bit of action in the later part of the book but the movie adds much more to it for no real reason. There already was enough in the book, the movie was certainly long enough and it would have saved them money if even a third of those scenes had been cut. In the end, this movie and part one really need to be watched back to back (or at least within a day or two) in order to balance the talking and the fighting since neither of them fully stands on their own.

The Audio: It's amazing that the scores for all eight movies that each movie has had some new music yet everything feels so cohesive. Nothing in particular stood out to me in the movie (except when they used the main Harry Potter them, I believe it's "Hedwig's Theme", from the first movie in the credit music) because it all felt like Harry Potter music, music I've now grown up hearing. That's a good sign, that the music is so recognizable that the audience doesn't even notice it in the movie anymore, and my hat is off to the composers for all their work.

The Visuals: The CGI in these movies have come so far since they started and, back when the Philosopher's Stone came out, the CGI has always looked good in these movies. The only part where the effects looked a little off was when the group was riding a dragon and you could see the characters and the CGI in the same shot, it didn't quite mesh. Other than that, the film was dark but still well lit enough to see everything and my only other complaint is that, while it looked like a few years had passed in the epilogue, the characters didn't look nearly 20 years older. The visuals were great and this probably would have been an interesting film to see in 3D.   

In one of the final scenes of the movie, there was a significant detail changed that I didn't like as much and I think that's when it hit me, I just didn't like this movie as much and for me it wasn't that satisfying an ending. So perhaps I will reread the book again soon, especially since I didn't have any trouble with the end of that story, guess it's a good thing I didn't stay up for the midnight showing after all.

Friday, July 29, 2011

And now for something different, common problems in a science fiction setting

I apologize for this being a day late but, since everything was a day late this week I suspect most expected this. Anyway, science fiction! I've been on a bit of a science fiction kick ever since school let out (so about three months) and all the things I've read/watched have reminded me that while I really do love some sci-fi it has an awful lot of problems, mainly in the setting. Now, I don't really care about how hard or soft the science is in these stories since, I mean, I watch Doctor Who which really isn't hard science fiction at all and I'm loving Steins;Gate (the premise of which is that two guys modify their microwave so much that it can now send text messages through time which has caused a bad future). But part of the reason these two series works is because their settings work (DW's changes every week but work goes into each setting and S;G is careful to show exactly when each episode is taking place) and so many creators don't seem to understand that settings make or break their stories. So here's a list of common problems in science-fiction stories, not really tropes or cliches, and just why this bug me so much (warning, it's going to get long).

Over-powered governments with no opposition

I'll admit it, I pay more attention to politics than many people and I also have faith in many democratic/republican governments in the world. I also have noticed that in general, during the course of the world, governments have shifted from monarchies, with a single person in absolute power, to officials elected by the common people for set terms. Clearly this isn't the case in every country right now but look at the recent uprisings in the Middle East and Africa, people like having a say in their government and protest/fight for it even if they don't have huge numbers or the military might intervene and possibly kill them. So, in a science fiction setting that is even farther in the future (ie, most of these governments probably became more progressive at some point) then why are there only oligarchies or no government at all? In Black Hole Sun (which, as I've said before, has absolutely nothing to do with the title) there is an oligarchy on Mars, one powerful enough to stop the terraforming on Mars, and it sounds like a good sized population of rough, tough people who don't seem to care that they have a crappy government. Heck, the police force there don't even do their jobs (yes I know it's actually a metaphor for samurais and rounin and such but still) so WHY haven't the people done something yet? To make matters more interesting, Mars is still in a colonial stage and colonists (if US history is anything to go by) really don't like governments telling them what they can and can't do (having a nice planet being one of the things you can't have) so why are they putting up with it? This is just the most recent example I can think of, I'm hard pressed to think of a science fiction story that has a good, active, competent and nice government that isn't actually evil, these authors just seem a bit obsessed with the idea of people abusing power and then using it a cheap way to establish setting.

Seriously screwed-up environment

To start this with, I agree with green ideology more than any other ideology and I've been part of a email list (for my state) since 2008 so I've fired off many emails to local representatives going "hey, stop that, stop that right now, STOP MAKING MORE STUFF FOR ME TO CLEAN UP DAMMIT!"^ It doesn't always work, think there is a bill right now that is going to pass that I don't like, but bugging the hell out of your local government officials does work for protecting the environment some of the time (and that's hardly the only way to do so), so why does it (apparently) not work in the future? Personally I think that green ideology is one that you can get a lot of people to agree with at least some of the time (I mean, we all do live on this planet) and you can spin it so many different ways* so why do so many stories take place when the Earth is nearly uninhabitable/destroyed/lost because everyone moved off planet/people don't want to live their anymore? It just makes no sense that, similar to the government, people have been more and more concerned with the environment in each generation yet so many sci-fi stories just ignore this. There are series that have a good reason for crappy environments** but by and large many creators seem to screw over the environment just to force setting even though it doesn't make sense.

General ignorance about Earth

First off, this complaint does not apply to series that have either completely destroyed the planet or have been away from it so long that they have actually lost it (yes, I can think of several stories for both of those categories, doesn't inspire faith in humanity I know), if you don't have Earth then it's a little more understandable why you don't know at least basic knowledge about the origin of humanity. Likewise, if the story takes place with a censorship-pro government then I'm not going to expect the character to know a lot about their surroundings, this is everything else. However, I was reading a book the other day (Spacer and Rat, it's gonna be a little bit before that review goes up) and one of the characters scoffs at the idea of their being a body of water larger than a hydroponic tank/big enough to put a ship in, which makes no sense. The character in question does live on a space station but Earth is still around (hell, the character he is talking to is from Earth) and he's been given a basic education, so you're telling me that not once in his education a teacher pulled out a map of Earth and explained just how huge an ocean is? Heck, they've colonized other planets at this point and you're telling me there are no lakes there? I believe I  remember a scene in Firefly where one of the characters (Jayne, the dumbest character in the crew) doubts that Earth-That-Was existed but the smarter characters (Simon and River who have had a formal education) never seem to doubt that it was real, now that feels more realistic (plus, they aren't anywhere near Earth at this point, although even Jayne probably knows what an ocean is). 

Think that's mostly it, I'm also not that fond of dystopias but that mainly falls under my complaints in the politics and environmental areas (it can literally be summed up as "you did WHAT now and nobody complained?!?") and there are some well done dystopian stories (just like there are stories that avoid all the problems listed above). I want to like science fiction, I really like seeing stories where, one way or another, humans got it right and are living in a decent future that's full of hope so why are there so few of them? You can have drama/intrigue/mystery in a happy setting just as easily as in a dark setting so someone make it happen!

^I mean that literally too.....
*by that I mean (I meant spin in a good way), say there's a factory that is polluting into a river which is legal under current laws. Tell people, hey, it's killing wildlife! and some people will complain. Point out that the water treatment plants might not be able to clean it up and it could get into the drinking water and more people will complain. Or, point out that this pollution is going to cost the area tons of money to clean up so why not make the factory responsible instead and some people will like that idea too. You can get a lot of people behind the idea of "keep this area livable." 
 **Cowboy Bebop comes to mind, there the Earth is not so nice because one of the gates (structures that allow for hyperspace travel) exploded and left it's mark. The plot of one episode revolves around one scientist who worked on the gates as they were being built, discovered some corruption/negligence (I forget exactly which) in the system and I think that was meant to imply that no, these gates were not being built to snuff and that the technology was new enough that there wasn't a lot of government oversight/civilians who were keeping an eye on what was going on and that's why it went boom. That is a good reason for environmental destruction in fiction, it just really couldn't have been prevented and happened because not everyone knew about the risks (or at least enough to protest it).   

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: City of Fallen Angels

Well it's a bit odd for me to review a book in the middle of a series without first covering the other books but stranger things have happened on this blog. Actually, this book's existence is odd, the author had already completed a triology (the first three books in this series) and was going to write a spin-off comic book about one of the side characters and when that didn't pan out she started writing it as a companion novel and realized that it was actually a three book story, not a one book one. So now she's writing two series at once which seem to still be fairly popular, if the waiting list for the books at my local library is any indication (think I requested this book in late April and got it mid-June, I was about 14th in line and the book had been out for a little while at that point). Because of all of that, I would not recommend starting with this book if you want to read the series (and honestly, who starts with the middle book in a series anyway?) but if you're already familiar with the first three and are wondering if this book is worth checking out then here's a review for you.

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

Continuing with the same style as the past three books there isn't much to say about this one, except that Clary's obviously photoshopped green eyes (they're much more noticeable in person) are really creeping me out.

Summary: The cast from The Mortal Instruments returns and, after the chaotic events at the end of The City of Glass, some things are returning to normal and a new normal is being created for others. Clary begins to train as a shadowhunter, Jace has horrible nightmares that slowly begin to control him and Simon deals with having two girlfriends at once. Guess whose the main character in this story?

The Good: Having Simon as the narrator (well, most central character to this book, it's a third person narration) is actually a good thing since he’s snarky, a pretty nice guy, usually easier to sympathize with than the other characters and he’s outsider so he’s more in the loop than anyone else (as odd as it sounds, he hangs out with a wider variety of people than almost any other character). The book serves to further widen their world, even if almost no new characters are introduced, and it brings in one character from The Infernal Devices but does so in such a way that people who haven’t read The Clockwork Angel won’t be confused. People who are already fans of the series will love this book, it hardly feels like it's been two years since the last book came out, and people who like YA urban fantasy with plenty of romance will like this series as well, this book in particular isn't stronger than any of the other books but it isn't weaker than them either. 

The Bad: While trying to stay as spoiler free as possible I shall say this about the ending, I think they killed the wrong villain. It seems as if they killed off the much more interesting (and probably more powerful) villain so it's disgruntling that the characters will now (presumably) have to spend the next two books killing off the other villain (which also probably could have been avoided). Simon’s love triangle was also resolved awfully fast, incredibly conveniently as well, and yet the two girls (Isabella, shadowhunter who likes going out with downworlders who her parents would never approve of and Maria, a bi-racial werewolf in Luke’s pack who initially hated Simon for being a vampire) acted rather out of character for the whole thing*. In the end, it feels like this book wraps up neatly and everything is going fine and then oh hey guys, you forgot something, let’s watch it cause problems for two more books! At this point I'm just not sure how this is the start of a multi-book story, if the characters were smart this would have been a nice, one-off side adventure.
While I'm happy that my favorite side characters reappared after all (Mangus, Maria, I'm not that fond of the main cast) and I do think I liked this book more than Clockwork Angel I found myself yelling at the ending which isn't a good sign. I don't yell at stories when I don't want them to end or when it's a cliffhanger (I read manga/webcomics, I deal with cliffhangers on a daily basis), I yell when the characters do something dumb and I thought they were clever enough to think ahead. I will probably try the next book, just to see if my guess about the villain is correct, but I just don't find myself liking these books as much as when I first read them back in high school.   

*it’s true that I wanted the other pairing to happen but I do really think that Isabella contradicted herself, by saying it was okay for her to be non-exclusive but Simon couldn't (bit of a weird gender-flip take on that one actually, yes she does explain herself but it seems like a bit of a stupid excuse). And Maria was surprisingly mellow when an old flame of hers came back to town (in order to make this all really complicated) and this is despite the fact that she hasn’t gotten much more mellow since she was introduced, there hasn’t even been enough time for serious character development.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Manhwa Review: Ill-fated Relationship

I was hoping to have this review up last week but my ipod has been a little strange lately* and it took me some time to realize I could only get this app to load when it wasn't connected to the wifi. And I feel bad about this delay since allaboutmanga had asked on twitter if anyone wanted a copy of this app to review (who did the adaption) and I volunteered so again I apologize for the delay.

Ill-Fated Relationship by Hwang Joon Ho

Summary: Two unnamed serial killers meet each other and through their encounters the audience explores their pasts and how they became the people they are.

The Good: When I heard about this story I was told that it was very different from the manhwa that normally gets published in the US which is quite true, I can think of very few manhwa titles that aren't romance first everything else second. Actually, stories about serial killers aren't that common either so it was certainly a different read and a nice change of pace. The pace itself works well (the story is 20 chapters long but they are all fairly short) and the story not only starts in a logical place but it also ends at one (even if it is a bit predictable) and covers all the events in-between that it needs to. It feels like a very complete work without any major flaws.

The Bad: Once the back stories of the characters become clear they become much less interesting characters (partially because, given how the story was going, once everything was explained I knew the end wasn't far off and I just wished it would get there already). Neither of their situations were new ideas or compelling reasons to go out and murder random people, I honestly couldn't help but think that this could have all been prevented and, when you begin to think that there was no reason why the story should have happened, that something else should have happened instead, then you start to like it less. It's a character driven story, there's no doubt about that, but at times the characters just aren't that interesting.

The Visuals/Presentation: The art style is very simple (in full color) but it feels like it was intentionally drawn that way (opposed to the artist not having the skills to draw more complicated artwork). The presentation of the comic itself is very nicely done, each panel fills the whole screen (so there's no need to constantly readjust the page to read the comic) and panels that are too large for this appear to have been planned this way and make nice use of the pan effect. Once the app loads up (there is a short load time for each chapter, only about a minute or less) it's easy to navigate between panels, it's all very smoothly done.

 I'm of two minds about the pricing for this app (again, I got it for free as a review copy but since you have to buy this title I thought it was worth mentioning). Currently the price is $4.99 but regularly it's $8.99 and I'm just not sure if it's worth that. I did a few quick calculations and discovered that this app has as many pages as one and a half or two volumes of a regular paperback which makes the price seem quite good (especially since it's in color) but the fact is that the digital copy of a book needs to be cheaper than the print copy in order to sell (even though cutting out printing costs doesn't cut a lot of the costs I belive, I know it doesn't for regular novels). So, if you're interesting in this app, get it now since I don't know how long that price will last. I think it's an interesting story (I'm actually planning on seeing if a few friends of mine want to borrow my ipod and read it for themselves) but not exactly to my tastes.

*such as not connecting to the internet even when it's logged into the local wi-fi and being convinced it's 1970. I think that second part means that something got reset in the coding so I'm thinking of taking it in soon. TL;DR: this is hardly the first time I've had trouble with my ipod lately so I doubt it's the app's fault that I had trouble loading it sometimes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anime Review: Deadman Wonderland

People who aren't fans of gore should probably avoid this series or not go looking for the BR/DVD rips of it (especially since it's on crunchyroll) because this is one of the bloodier and disturbing series I've seen in the past few seasons. That may be because I'm not a big fan of blood and gore shows but something about the plot drew me into this one, even if I had to close my eyes during some of the more disturbing scenes.

Deadman Wonderland

Summary: Igarashi Ganta was enjoying a normal life and excited for his upcoming class field trip to Japan's only private prison, Deadman Wonderland where the prisoners put on shows for the tourists, when his classmates are brutally killed before his eyes by "The Red Man", he's framed for the murder and he ends up going to Deadman Wonderland as a criminal instead. As brutal as the prison is there's an even darker side to it lurking underground, one that is connected to a little gift that The Red Man gave Ganta.

The Good: The pacing may be fast in this work, not surprising considering the staff had the daunting task of animating 21 chapters in 12 episodes (the first arc), but it's consistent and it appears that everything important was kept in. The story balances the action scenes with the downtime well, the downtime never felt like it went on too long or like it was happening when the characters need to go and do something important. The show has a good sized cast, although a few were cut for the anime, and many of the important characters get some backstory, quite a few characters actually considering the show is only 12 episodes long.      

The Bad: The ending of this series screams "hey there's more, you can't just see this part and not wonder about the rest of the story!" which means that if the viewer doesn't get a second season or tries out the manga they haven't seen a full story. It's impossible for every adaptation to tell the original story completely (at least in the first installment) but it should provide some sense of closure, the ending here simply felt like even more things were about to get going. Also, it appears that anime gave away a major spoiler much earlier than the manga (or at least made it more obvious) which isn't exactly a good thing. 

The Audio: The opening song is interesting since it's done by a Japanese band with an American singer so the English lyrics sound great (in fact, if you didn't know this was the theme song to an anime most people would just think it's from an American rock song) and the song is actually a cover of this song. The lyrics are completely different but there's no question that the instrumental parts are the same which is all rather interesting, I've never seen an anime use a cover that doesn't use the same lyrics as the original song. The ending song is much less interesting, a slow song (which accompanies images of the cast from before they ended up in Deadman Wonderland) which feels strangely out of place with the rest of the series.

The Visuals: This series is a rather gory one, gory enough to have some censorship and in some places the censorship just feels dumb, especially when it doesn't work. In the first episode, after The Red Man has gone on his killing spree in Ganta's classroom, the entire scene is darkened so the details can't be made out as well, there the censorship works but later in the series a character gets an arm partially chopped off and the area where it was chopped off is blurred. It's still completely obvious what happened and makes the blur feel just stupid, it's not hiding anything. All of that will be removed for the DVD/BR release eventually in any case and as for the rest of the show it looks fairly good. There are plenty of fighting and action scenes which all look good (and usually pretty cool due to the nature of the fights) and the designs for the many characters all seem to stay consistent.

This show recently got licensed by Funimation (when they went and licensed almost a dozen recent shows that had already been streaming) and I honestly don't think I want to see the uncensored version of this show. If there is a second season I'll watch that (and the show seems to hint strongly that there will be one) but I just don't know if I want to rewatch this. I am curious about checking out the manga however it was published by Tokyopop so it's now out of print (it is still running in Japan however) so that means it's less likely I'll follow up on that urge.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

TV Series Review: The Three Doctors

Wow sorry guys, I had a friend staying over yesterday and I thought I would have a chance to write this up but when I finally remembered it was one am, my computer was off and I was about to hit the sack, whoops. I know in the past when I've forgotten to review something (coughSacredBlacksmithcough) usually that means it was a rather mediocre show that just doesn't leave a lasting impression but that's honestly not the case here. Here is The Three Doctors, one of the multi-doctor Doctor Who specials featuring the second and third doctors and the first doctor in a smaller role hence the title. In a bit of a change from The War Games, this is during the time frame when the Doctor was stuck on Earth (aka, the BBC had even less budget than before), drove a yellow car named Bessie instead of the TARDIS and was working with UNIT, the UNified Intelligence Taskforce which reappeared in Nu Who (yes the UN part did originally mean United Nations) which means that one of Doctor Who's best known side characters, the Brigadier, is present and the Doctor's current companion is Jo (as well as another UNIT member, Sergeant Benton who also acts as a companion in this serial). Okay, enough set-up, onto the show!

The Three Doctors

Summary: The Doctor, working as a scientific adviser to UNIT, is having a fairly normal day when an independent researcher comes by with some strange readings and the Doctor finds that a blob monster has started chasing him around. The monsters are actually sent by Omega, a Time Lord gone renegade after he figured out how to create time travel, and when the Doctor calls on other Time Lords for help he discovers that they are too busy with their own problems to help. So instead they break a few laws and send the second and first Doctor (who gets stuck in a time eddy along the way) to the third Doctor where they can all team up and defeat Omega.

The Good: Even without knowing these Doctor(s) very well it makes perfect sense that they immediately start bickering with each other and those arguments are one of the highlights of the special (that and watching the companions deal with all of it which is also fairly amusing). The special assumes that the viewer is familiar with the above mentioned companions but even without knowing much about them they're pretty interesting, prove themselves to be capable* and Doctor Who is always much more fun when the companions can hold their own. Jo turned out to be a particularly fun character to watch (initially, before her name was mentioned, I wrote her off since she was wearing such ridiculous clothing but she seems to be just another companion who wears less than practical/fashionable clothing and manages to be awesome anyway) and, like Zoe and Jamie, I would love to see more of her in other episodes.

The Bad: The Brigadier wasn't as interesting a character as I had hoped him to be sadly (he's built up so much in the fandom to be one of the best side characters) and he actually seemed a bit stereotypical and flat, especially when compared to the other prominent UNIT character in the special, Sergeant Benton. Omega was also a flatter villain than I was expecting (then again, I usually find villains with a God-Complex dull) and the plot just wasn't as engaging as The War Games was. The plot did come through at the end of the episode but for some reason, even with the interesting characters and all the bickering, this just didn't draw me in as much as I was hoping.

The Audio: The special uses a slightly different variant on the main theme that The War Games does (not surprisingly, the theme usually changes just a tiny bit every few years) and other than that there's a ton to mention. There were a few problems with the sound in The War Games but none here, the sound effects are still pretty cheesy and for such a big and intimidating guy, Omega doesn't have a very deep voice at all, a bit of vocal dissonance there.

The Visuals: The War Games made a smart choice that the setting of the serial didn't require that many special effects, aside from one of the sets needing a more futuristic look, so that serial looked quite decent yet this one feels like a step down. Shot in color, which looks grainier than a lot of the black and white film used in The War Games, this just feels like a lower budget serial and, given that this was a special, that's probably not the case (makes you wonder how the regular episodes looked, as stated in the opening, this was when the BBC had even less budget for the show). The sets don't look as exciting (at one point it looks as if they have simply found an abandoned quarry somewhere in the UK which is probably exactly where they shot it) and Doctor Who's legendary bad rubber suit monsters make an appearance. Part of what makes the costumes so bad is that they move like, well, people wearing a ridiculous suit with limited mobility, it's almost a reverse Uncanny Valley (you just can't believe that they aren't human since they move in such a human fashion) and it's baffling why they would even bother using special effects like this and then halfway through simply stop caring about how they look. 

So the special is hardly bad or even mediocre, for some reason it just didn't click with me quite as much which could very well be because I'm not as familiar with these doctors. Not that that's going to stop me from watching even more Classic Who out of order, already have a few more waiting for me at my local library and hopefully I can get through all of them before the end of summer!

*I'm starting to think that the Classic Who companions were required to get into even more trouble than the Doctor does, at times they seem a lot more adventurous than some of the new ones. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

And now for something different, Furuba fan radio drama

I know that this is a bit different from what I normally cover but, since the tagline of the blog is "if it has a plot I have something to say about it!", this actually fits in with that better than some of the nonfiction I've reviewed in the past. Plus, I know I don't have that many readers but it's worth a shot to see if I can introduce anyone new to this rather interesting fan project.

So, most anime and manga fans have probably heard of Fruits Basket, a 23 volume manga series that did well in Japan and became one of the first shojo hits in America which also got a 26 episode anime series (recently re-released here by Funimation). Fans of the series will know that the anime wasn't very faithful to the manga at the end (plenty of important characters from later on never got introduced and it created it's own ending) and it's well-known on the animenewsnetwork forums that the manga-ka did not get along with some of the staff on the show (I believe it was the director) which is why a second season was never made. So what's a fan to do when they really love the show yet the anime just isn't cutting it? Clearly the answer is to do an adaptation of the manga as an online radio drama with the intent of producing the entire series and going much farther than the anime did. JesuOtaku of That Guy With The Glasses and the d2brigade is the director/scriptwriter/producer/crazy person who came up with this whole idea and new videos (audio only) of the show go up every Wednesday on TGWTG. 
Quick note, since the show is audio-only I won't include a separate audio section for this review, it would be a bit silly, and this review covers the first six episodes (ie the first manga volume which I also reread recently). 

Furuba Radio Drama (volume one)
Art by carrie-ko
Summary: Tohru Honda is an orphan living in a tent in the woods while her grandfather's house is being remodeled, as she would hate to impose on her friends for such a long time, and discovers one day that she is camping out on the property of the Sohma family where her classmate, the princely Yuki, lives. He and his relative Shigure convince Tohru to live at their house for the rest of the renovation (especially after her tent is destroyed in a mudslide) and when a third member of this dysfunctional family shows up, the fiery Kyo, Tohru discovers an ancient family secret that may or may not have to do with a curse, the Chinese Zodiac and close physical contact.

The Good: For a fan project that is being completely produced by amateurs, some of whom aren't even huge fans of Fruits Basket, this is really good. Some of the voice actors already sound a little similar to the English dub voices (although it sounds like they are trying to avoid that and not sound like they are simply imitating the dub) but within just a couple of episodes the four leads sound very natural and comfortable with their roles. The sound effects sound right and having animal noises when certain characters are talking is amusing yet works well. The script is based off of the original manga and therefore follows it pretty closely, adding in details when things aren't apparent from the dialogue alone or to pad out the episode an extra minute or two, so people who are new to the series won't be missing out on anything.

The Bad: While the main cast has already hit their stride, extras or side characters who haven't had much air time yet sound a bit flat and it's jarring to hear the difference between the two groups. Everyone's acting with certainly get smoother, that's what happens with experience after all, but this is one of the cases where the difference between a professional voice actor and an amateur are obvious.  There are also places in the story where it is a little hard to understand exactly what is going one but this is hardly surprising, going from a no audio, all visual medium to the exact opposite isn't easy but there are a few places where a quick line of description or establishing background noise would be nice. Finally, the narration at the beginning of each episode has begun to get a little dull and if manga readers haven't managed to figure out who's narrating this series, which was actually a rather clever idea, then they really need to reread the series pronto.

In short, this is a pretty amazing fanwork that can only get better as it goes along, people who haven't checked out the series before and those who have alike should really try this out. New episodes go up most Wednesdays on or on the radio drama's main website and most episodes are avaliable for download as well.  

Sorry this is up so late guys, I was messing around with tvtropes earlier today and that really does eat up all your time. But I would like to also say that I'm going to try and put up something different each Thursday until I go back to school just to add a little more variety to the blog. So next Thursday expect to see me ranting about common problems in science-fiction settings. I've been on a sci-fi kick lately so I've seen a lot of stuff I like and a ton that I haven't and, for a genre that is supposed to be about the new and cool there is an awful lot of similarities between the sub-genres.... 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: Anything But Typical

Like With the Light I was originally interested in this book because it had an autism spectrum character and, again like With the Light I just had a hard time pulling the trigger and reading this book (probably because I like to read for it's escapism qualities and therefore reading about real world issues defeats that purpose). I finally checked it out from the local library after I saw it staring at me as I browsed the YA section week after week and pointed out to myself that it was a short book so once I got going it wouldn't take that long to finish. And I was right, once I started the book it flowed well and I finished the book in just a couple of days, hopefully the shorter length will make some other people who were on the fence about this book try it as well.

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
  I really like this design both for it's symbolism and for a few details you can't see in this picture. The design actually spills onto the back cover (and even incorporates the bar-code into the design while framing the text, very nice) and there is a similar design at the beginning of each chapter. Those extra details make the book feel extra put together and it's always nice to see that extra amount of care for the presentation of a book.

Summary: Jason, a young boy with a variety of acronyms that describe his mental disabilities, has autism and lives and lives a fairly ordinary life dealing with it and trying to understand the people around him (neurotypical or NT people as he calls them). When life gets too much for Jason his favorite escape is a website where he posts his stories, although sometimes trying to figure out what happens next in his stories is just as hard as trying to predict what will happen in real life. 

The Good: Jason manages to come across as someone who isn't quite "neurotypical" (a phrase I liked and have started to use myself) yet all of his actions are still completely understandable and sympathetic which is an amazing feat especially considering how mystifying someone with Autism's actions can be at times. Normally it will be another character, such as his dad, who points out when Jason is pulling out his hair or generally behaving in a way that isn't considered normal yet with the way Jason narrates, which includes why he freaks out so easily over so many things, his obsessive behaviors make sense and the audience can start to predict later on what will set him off. To make this feat even more amazing, as far as I know Baskin is a neurotypical lady who wasn't writing based on her own experiences but through research and empathy, that certainly puts the rest of us who are scared to even think about people who aren't quite normal to shame.

The Bad: Jason is an incredibly articulate and deep 12 year old and at many times comes off as mature as a young adult which is rather off-putting. Sometimes someone on the Autism Spectrum will be wise beyond their years, and Jason needed to be mature for his narration to work, but he doesn't feel like a real 12 year old which is a bit of a problem. The ending of the book was also a little too ambiguous for my taste, most things are explained and perhaps I missed the explantion of the one thing that bothered me, but the story felt a little abrupt and didn't have a very climatic climax which, while expected since this book is more slice of life than anythign else, made the ending feel a bit odder still. It's not a bad ending but something just felt a little off about it to me. 

Jason is one of the most sympathetic and understandable characters I've ever come across in fiction, even if he is atypical and reacts to the world in ways that I don't, and I think that his straightforwardness would let a lot of people also sympathize with him. So, while I'm not sure I would buy this book, I heartily recommend pretty much everyone to read it, unless you have major issues with the written word (in which case, why are you even reading this review in the first place?).  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Manga Review: Maid-Sama! (volume one)

Got this one out of the local library but I have read a few volumes of Kaichou wa Maid-Sama! (The (student body) President is a Maid!) online before the anime aired last spring and I liked the series enough to try the anime. I watched about half-way through the series before Sentai licensed it and, since their simulcasts weren't free, I decided to stop watching the show (fansubs included) and that sounds like it was a good idea, I've seen a number of manga readers unhappy with how the stories were moved around/changed for the anime. Which is a shame if it's true since I do like this manga pretty well and I hate to see nice things get bad adaptations (but who doesn't feel that way?).

Maid-Sama! by Hiro Fujiwara

Summary: Until recently, the moderately priced Sekai High School was an all boys high school and still has a high male to female ratio and most of the boys, while not bad people, are less than considerate of the girls. Man-hater Misaki has stepped up to the challenge of being the student council president of this unruly high school and when she isn't working herself to the bone there she's working part time at a maid cafe to earn money for her family, two aspects of her life that she really doesn't want to mix. But as life would have it one of her classmates, the attractive Usui, finds out about her secret and is fond of teasing her about what everyone else would think about their president being a maid....

The Good: Misaki is a pretty cool and fun character who, even in just this volume alone, has some character development as she begins to get along with and respect the guys around her. Sometimes it takes Usui to appeal to her more moderate and fair side but, when it's pointed out to her that she's favoring the girls more than the boys (such as when she confiscates all the guy's magazines but none of the girl's) she's quick to act and see if she needs to revise her statements. And the maid cafe she works at doesn't come off feeling like a gimmick to make people read the series, it really does feel like a cafe that simply has a maid theme, nothing sleazy about it. Finally, it's nice to have a female character who can physically kick ass every now and then if she needs to, it's just fun to watch.

The Bad: Like many other shojo series that have been reviewed here, this one uses a roughly 30 page short story to fill out the volume which is a bit frustrating. There's nothing wrong with the story story* but it is frustrating to pick up a manga, expect it to have 150-180 pages about the main storyline and then find a good chunk of the book is devoted to something else, do the editors in Japan just want to stretch out the number of volumes in books that aren't epic length, shonen series? As for the story itself, Masaki has already had a good bit of character development in this volume alone but this is still an on-going series, 12 volumes currently, can the material really go that long without feeling forced and stretched? It's no fun to read a series that starts off great and then becomes mediocre as it goes on and this one starts out so fun that this might be the case. Judging from the page over on tvtropes, it sounds like the story is in fact winding down just can it really maintain this level of fun without getting repetitive?

The Art: While the art has a shojo feel to it it's not nearly as stylized as many other series are. There are plenty of big eyes on the guys and girls and Misaki has a round, cute looking face but the art doesn't scream shojo, it says it in a conversational tone instead. Actually, the art in this book is probably similar to what most people think of when they think of "manga style art" and it reminds me of why I was attracted to manga in the first place, cuter, simpler designs than found in American comic books where every thing looks attractive.

Drat, when I was reading this I suddenly remembered that this was published by TokyoPop so this is technically an out of print manga (they published 8 volumes before they collapsed) and, if I want to avoid high prices later, I need to buy this now. But the thing is I'm just not sure if I'll like the rest of the series as much as I enjoyed this installment, decisions decisions....

*in fact, I would love to have a hardcover, ominibus sized volume just of the various short stories you find in the back of shojo manga since I have come across a number of sweet yet interesting ones. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Anime Review: Gosick

The one anime that carried over from the winter season for me and one where I was really curious about the setting, 1920s Europe with mysteries? Mmmm, sounds like fun, although I was rather annoyed when there wasn't a single bit of 1920s fashion or architecture in the entire show, and this show reminded me that there aren't that many mystery anime actually. Quite a few horror anime have a mystery element to them (such as Ghost Hunt) but normally this genre only shows up once every two or three seasons and normally it's mystery plus another genre. Gosick isn't just a mystery show itself, if anything I would call it a drama with a lot of mystery cases in it and an odd genre shift in the end. Also, I do mention events relating to the final arc of the story but I try to refrain from actual spoilers so any huge spoilerphobes might not want to check out the footnotes this time.


Summary: Set in 1924, Saubure (a fictional country located next to France), Kujo is a student from Japan who is having a hard time making friends since the superstitious locals are convinced that he looks like "the reaper who comes in the spring" from legend. One day when browsing in the library he comes across Victorique, a doll-like girl who seems to live in the library and he slowly becomes friends with this young, genius detective who is seen as even more of an outsider than he is.

The Good: Towards the middle of the series the story finds it's feet, the mysteries become a little more complex, the characters begin to work really well with each other and the overall plot of the story is revealed. In short, once the series hit its stride it becomes a really interesting story that manages to balance a number of different subplots without becoming too confusing. Victorique, and to a lesser extent Kujo, goes through a huge amount of character development and their relationship, which is the real heart of the story, also goes through a tremendous amount of change which is a real joy to see.

The Bad: There appears to be just one reason why the story was set in the 1920s and that was to reference both of the World Wars and make WWII an important plot point. The viewers are well aware that WWII started in 1939 but the original author, well, might not have. If it's an alternate history it's dumb and if it's real history then it's doubly stupid and not just because of the historical inaccuracies* but because the characters never give any reason for why they're starting this war in the first place. There's nothing to be gained, no one to fight, it's hard to tell if the people even support the idea (some do but I honestly thought they were brain-washed at points) and considering that this war is sorta-kinda supposed to be the culmination of the entire show these are all really big problems. The beginning had problems too (such as mysteries that could be solved before the witness was even half-way done explaining the mystery and some pacing issues^) but that part of the story got better, the beginning of the final arc works very well but then logic, common sense and a basic knowledge of history fly out the window and leave a mess in a completely different genre than the story started in.

The Audio: The series has one opening song and two closing ones and the first closing song is the strongest out of the three of them. There is simply something about the beginning of the song (quiet vocals and instrumental and then the instruments rise up before falling back to the same level as the vocals again) that makes it such a dramatic song. An instrumental version of the song was used at one point during the show and, IMO, should have been used more often. The opening was alright but there was a rather amusing discovery that if you swap the opening with the opening of Gurren Laggan the images still match up with the pace of the song well. As for the voices, Cordelia had the same kind of slightly husky quality to her voice that Victorique has, a nice touch, and Victorique thankfully has a bit of a deep voice, not the ultra cute moe moe one you would expect from her size/appearance. In the books she is described as having the voice of an older woman and, while that isn't quite accurate here, her voice still seemed like a very good match.

The Visuals: As mentioned in the opening paragraph, there is very little in this series to visually suggest that it's even set in the 1920s instead of the Edwardian or Victorian eras (which makes me even more suspicious that this setting was chosen soley because it was situated between the two world wars). Someone at Bones however had the brilliant idea of doing all the visuals in the era-appropriate Art Deco style (which I adore) and it makes for one of the more distinctive openings of the year. Other than there, all of the visuals were consistently good but it simply doesn't have the kind of action and fluidity one normally expects out of a Bones work, which is odd since this was done by the same team that did Heroman a year earlier. It's true that the series doesn't have a lot of action but the show still feels like an odd choice for Bones.

Once the story really got going, and the mysteries got better, I really did like this series but the last two episodes just left a terrible taste in my mouth. It's strange, I like how that final arc started out but then it just went bonkers and, with the final light novel coming out soon, I hope someone posts spoilers to compare the two. At this point I honestly don't know if I want to buy it, this just feels like the kind of show that would get licensed over here, since I did like so much of it and I can pretend that the last two episodes don't exist but I just don't know. For the moment however it is streaming on crunchyroll if anyone wants to check it out, no harm in trying the series out at least!  

*now, if this is an alternate history, I've never been a big fan of the "oh a couple of things did go differently in history but when the story starts everything is the exact same as it is in our world. Once the main characters get involved however THEN stuff goes crazy" trope, it's just illogical (one of my bigger complaints about the Temaire series). But if Gosick IS set in our world, hooooo boy. In 1925, the start of World War II in this version, it was apparently one of the most stable interwar periods and a full 15 years before events culimated in the invasion of Poland. It's mentioned in the show that Saubure is allied with Germany, which certainly wouldn't have had the resources at the time (Hitler hadn't even written Mein Kampf yet, and they never explain who or what they're fighting, there's no explanation for how Japan apparently gets bombed or where the scenes involving Kujo were (I've seen people speculate Manchuria, which was my first thought, or somewhere in Russia which would match the weather better).
^the pacing issue seems to come from the anime combining the novels and the short stories and not doing them in the correct order. From what I've heard (so this could be wrong, anyone who knows more feel free to speak up), Kujo has already met Avril, Victorique and Grevil by the time the first volume starts and then the Queen Berry arc, the first anime arc, happens. Chronologically however the short story that introduces Avril came first and one major problem for Kujo hinges on whether or not he believes that Victorique is a real person (instead of being "the golden fairy in the library," another local supersition). In the anime this is the second arc and, after seeing Victorique run all around the ship with Kujo and the other characters (plus interacting with them) it's hard to believe even for a second that she's not real and the whole arc feels pointless. A shame since otherwise it would have been nice and, for people debating whether or not to continue the series, it doesn't make a good case for doing so.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

TV Series Review: Doctor Who (The War Games)

And now for something a little different, I've reviewed NuWho and seen all of it but this was my first time seeing any of the Classic Doctor Who. I've been curious about it for a while and found this video by Nash of TGWTG recommending which episodes would be interesting to someone whose familiar with NuWho but not Classic Who. So, after discovering that my library apparently has every Doctor Who DVD ever, I went with the earliest in the bunch which is actually a fairly significant one. It's the longest serial (back in the day, each story took multiple episodes and were called serials) consisting of 10 episodes and clocking in at nearly four hours, it was the 50th serial, the last one shot in black and white, the first time that the Doctor's race is named (the Time Lords, I believe they had already mentioned they were from the planet Gallifrey) and the final one starring the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. So, without knowing anything about this particular Doctor or the companions I charged right in and enjoyed this much more than I expected.

Doctor Who: The War Games

Summary: The Tardis has once again deposited the Doctor and his companions (Zoe from the 21st century and Jamie from the 18th) where they didn't expect to be and it seems that they are in 1917 in the trenches of World War I. However, even the people from this time period aren't entirely sure where they are or how long they've been fighting, the general has everyone under his absolute control and people from other times and places start showing up. If the Doctor and company want to get out of being executed as deserters/spies then they'll need to figure out just whats going on and who is pulling all the strings.

The Good: Now THAT is a plot heavy episode, one that is much bigger and more complex than it originally seems yet makes perfect sense in the end, there was some very strong writing here. The main characters are also interesting, the Tardis crew has great chemistry with each other, and not one sided (with the added bonus that Jamie and Zoe's backgrounds are alluded to, very nice for a new watcher), although the overall motivations of the villains is a little fuzzy, and they're great fun to watch. At times Zoe and Jamie (especially Zoe) seem more capable than many modern day companions, even if everyone gets kidnapped more times in one episode than most companions do in an entire season, and the Doctor seems to be having an awful lot of fun with all the trouble he gets into. It was really easy to get sucked into this serial and sympathize with the characters, despite knowing almost nothing about them, and that seems like the mark of really good writing and acting. 

The Bad: The episodes are well paced but there are some scene changes where it's a bit difficult to tell what just happened, usually when they change between a dimly lit set to another dimly lit set with different characters (if this was in color the scene change would have been more obvious and this probably wouldn't have been a problem). One character does vanish completely around the middle of the serial (the DVD commentary clears that up a bit) and the ending is a bit rushed since it has to send off so many different characters, some with better explanations than others.  

The Audio: The audio, as well as the visuals, have been very well preserved and there are very few instances when someone is miked too low to hear. It does feel a bit strange to hear another Doctor Who intro theme* but most fans have probably heard a compilation of the themes over the years anyway. Some of the sound effects (the special effects in general honestly) were cheesy and dated but that's to be expected from a 42 year old video. Could they have done better? Possibly, I'm not that familiar with video editing techniques from shows twice my age, but Doctor Who has never been a high budget show and the crew doing their best to work with what they have. 

The Visuals: The film quality does vary a bit but by and large the video looks fine (some of the darker scenes might even look a little better than the darker scenes in Buffy). The video seemed to look the worst when the Doctor and company kept running into the Romans (so that was probably all shot at the same time under similar conditions, maybe the lighting that day was strange?) and there is one point where Jamie describes an object as being large and green which seems a bit strange to hear from a character in a black and white show. The frame rate looks normal^ so if someone is holding off watching this serial because they aren't a big fan of black and white really has nothing to worry about, it looks just fine and probably better than you'd expect.

In short, I went into this expecting the episode to be hokey but okay and absolutely fell in love with it (which does make sense, I mean, this was recommended as one of the best Classic episodes). After this I'm really pumped to try more of the episodes on the list and will have to poke around the various Doctor Who communities to see what other Second Doctor stories are worth watching.

*although I was more weirded out by the Classic Doctor Who practice of having a floating head of the Doctor appear in the credits instead of the Tardis. The ending to the serial is even tripper however....
^there was a period in time when British television used a higher frame rate than American television does (I believe it was 60 frames per second instead of 30 frames per second) which made the movements look more realistic but also made the video look like it was being shot by a cheap camcorder/on the set of a Spanish soap-opera. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Anime 2011 Reviews: Part two!

And here is the second half of the reviews, sorry it's up later than I said but apparently the time that crunchyroll will air Dantalian ≠ the time NicoNico streams it (CR is streaming it a week delayed) so that threw me off. Lesson learned, simulcasts are weird, don't try to predict them. XD

Mawaru PenguinDrum:
When Ikuhara announced that he would be working on a new anime, his first one since Utena, part of the internet went nuts and, after the trailers came out, promptly showed them to the other half of the internet to convince them to try it. The first episode alone involves death and revival of a character, invisible to normal people penguins, a magical girl transformation sequence in reverse and possibly incest (actually, considering Utena, make that incest for sure but, again considering Utena, it probably won’t be portrayed as a good thing). Plus plenty of colorful artwork, lots of background detail that will probably make for a fun second viewing and it seems to introduce a central plot thread all in the first episode. Unfortunately this one doesn’t have a simulcast so you’ll have to hunt down fansubs for it but I think it’s worth a look by everyone who enjoys more surreal things/bored with mainstream/loved Utena or who is just plain curious about what the hubbub is about.  

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian (Dantalian no Shoka or Bibliobeca Mystica de Dantalian):
The final show of the season that looks an awful lot like Gosick but, like the other two shows that also bear some resemblance, the show itself seems rather different. Huey, a former fighter pilot (from what looks like World War I^), has inherited his late grandfather's estate and belongings which include a ridiculous amount of books and a young girl who looks like a girl, Danlian. She is quick to inform Huey that his grandfather's death was no accident, as he had already suspected, and then reveals that his library houses some very dark and very magical books and it seems like Huey is now in charge of guarding and binding those books. I checked out a few chapters of the manga and really like the anime designs better (the way Danlian's hair and face are drawn make her much cuter) but for some reason Ginax uses photographs with a cheap photoshop effect over them for backgrounds in places which is a bit odd. The placement of the music also seemed a bit strange at times but honestly the strangest thing about this show is the live action ending that seems to have absolutely no connection to it. The show is streaming both on crunchyroll (with a one week delay for everyone, even subscribers) and on NicoNico without commercials (but I think only for the US).   

Natsume Yuujincou San (Natsume and the Book of Friends III):
To all the people who are complaining that Brains Base hasn’t made Durarara 2 yet, shut up. Natsume was their biggest seller before DRRR and I love it more/been waiting longer for this.
Ahem, not much has changed between seasons of this show (except that it looks a little better here, a little cleaner, so it might have a slightly higher budget) which continues to follow Natsume’s episodic encounters with the local yokai and people which help him grow and mature. This first episode also revealed more of his grandmother Reiko’s background and the contrast between her ultimately tragic life and Natsume’s growing happiness/security with the normal world is heart-breaking, which is of course what you except from an episode of this show so clearly it’s doing it’s job right. You can’t stop me from watching this show (streaming on crunchyroll as everyone expected it would be), when is this thing going to be licensed! (I don’t care if it’s in the R3 or R4 markets, I need this thing on DVD with subtitles some day!)

No. 6:
The other noitaminA show this season, set in the far off year of 2013 after a nuclear war devastated half of the habitable area of the planet and the remaining areas where divided up into six sections, Sion is an elite among the elites. Recognized for his high IQ he’s lived the life of luxury with his mom since he was a toddler but even he can see that there is something not quite right with this city. This is confirmed when Nezumi (Mouse/Rat) come bursting into Sion’s room one night with a gunshot wound, a violence chip implanted in him by the government and no desire to burden Sion with the truth. So, it’s sci-fi, it’s a utopia that’s actually a dystopia, I’m game! And to everyone who is complaining about all the “BL”, shut up, grow some ovaries and if you can’t take two guys holding hands (yet find two girls hugging cute) then yeaaaaah, I have nothing polite to say (seriously, if I have to read one more  “ewww, BL ruins all the good series” BS I will start drop-kicking people through the internet). And for anyone who was unnerved that Sion and Nezumi sound waaay too old for 12 don’t worry, there is a timeskip (judging by the preview it’ll be right at the beginning of the next episode), it looks gorgeous (this is BONES after all) and should have the plot to back it all up. Crunchyroll is streaming the show but just for the US/Canada (on that note, Funimation isn't streaming either of the noitaminA shows this season which seems strange, especially since they just had a panel at Anime Expo promoting the brand of sorts).

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (Nurarihyon no Mago: Sennen Makyo):
I saw most of the first season last year since I really enjoyed the manga but I had to give up by the end, it was just doing things so differently from the manga and I just didn’t have any motivation to watch it (also, there was too much Kana in it, believe me this was actually a problem). So I had no intention of watching this until I saw a few other people who had dropped the show try the first episode and say that the new staff seem to be doing much better than the first group. And yes, this is better so far, heck, they FINALLY animated the very first chapter of the manga which is set four years earlier and completely explains why Rikuo feels the way he does about the yokai. It’s not the most ground-shattering revelation but, as the first season got more and more muddled (and had flashbacks to the silly thing) I always wondered why they didn’t just put this in. Beyond that, it looks like they’ll be skipping a minor arc or two (hopefully not the semi-major one) to get to the series really big arc, the Kyoto Arc, so fans of the manga who dropped the first season should go ahead and check out the first few episodes here (streaming on hulu by Viz again) to see if it’s worth picking back up.

So, right now here's what my watching schedule looks like (in addition to watching some live action tv and older anime from the library):
Sunday: Nura*
Monday: Natsume
Tuesday: Steins;Gate
Wednesday: Blue Exorcist*, Furuba Radio Drama
Thursday: Blood-C*, Bunny Drop, No. 6
Friday: PenguinDrum (yes I know it comes out Thursday but the subs take a little while), Dantalian*
Saturday: Tiger and Bunny

All the shows with a * on it means I'm watching it now but if it doesn't stay at least decent I'm dropping it. Technically No. 6 should have one as well since I didn't like the pacing in the second episode but I haven't dropped a noitaminA show yet, just ranted about it. On that note however, I've seen a lot of people who liked the pacing/didn't mind the pacing in the second episode so I suppose that means this story is working as an adaptation (that said, I like what one of the reviewers suggested on ANNCast, think it was Rebbecca, when she suggested that it just have longer episodes, that would really well in this case I feel).

^oh dear, maybe this isn't so different after all, pleasedon'tbringupWWIIIohpleasedon'tdothatagain. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Anime 2011 Reviews: Part one!

In half the world summer is well under way (I swear that where I live summer starts mid-May and then alternates between hot and unbearable through late September) and a new crop of anime is out as well! As with the spring anime, I'm trying out so many that I'm splitting this up into two parts and the second part will go up tomorrow. All of these reviews are based on the first episode (even though many of these shows already have a second episode out) and I was wondering, would you guys like to see me post reviews of the individual shows in the future (like how most anime blogs do the new seasons) or do these giant posts work just fine?

Baka to Test 2 (Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni or Idiots, Tests and Summoned Beasts! Fuimation doesn’t use that translation but that’s what it actually does mean):
Well, Funimation has SAID that they licensed the anime for simulcast (in addition to DVD/BR rights, which is strange since they still haven't released the first season yet) but they haven't said anything else yet so I haven't seen it. Although, it sounds like the first episode was a less-than-stellar beach episode which hasn't made me all that eager to start in on a new season....
To start with, it sounds like people who are already fans of the Blood franchise (especially Blood+) don’t like this show very much but people who aren’t/are big CLAMP fans (like me) are enjoying it more, very interesting. I’ll admit that I’m not as enamored with the show as many other people are, I really want this show to be at least a bit darker (and there are some hints that it’ll do just that) but the high school parts aren’t bad right now (the twins actually remind me of the twins from Otome Yokai Zakuro). So I’m not sold on the show but, since it is streaming on NicoNico, I have absolutely no problem with giving it a few more episodes to see what happens.  

Bunny Drop (Usagi Drop): 
First off, NO DISCUSSING THE ENDING OF THE MANGA. If you don’t know it, DON’T LOOK IT UP, I'M VERY SERIOUS ABOUT THIS. It’s not like the anime can cover 55 chapters in 11 episodes anyway, we’ll be lucky to get through the first four volumes if that much.
Ahem, sorry, the ANN forums have been freaking out enough over that, as for the show itself it’s sweet. The background visuals are gorgeous in a watercolor/crayon style (similar to Aoi Hana or Wandering Son) and it looks like the manga character designs translated well. Rin is an adorable child and it’s a nice choice to have a ten year old voice a child (again like Wandering Son, although there is a bigger age difference here since Rin is just 5). It’s streaming on crunchyroll and I’ll be continuing it for sure!

The Crossroads in a Foreign Labyrinth (Ikoku Meiro no Croisée or La croisée dans un labyrinthe étranger):

 Well that was cute, and hurray for a series set in a historical period that actually has period correct clothing and architecture! (Looking at you Gosick, and I have seen some people say that all the clothes are from the same decade, I’m not just assuming this). Set in Paris in the 1880s or so, blacksmith Claude is surprised to find that his grandfather has come back from Japan with not only souvenirs but with a little girl whose job is to act as the shop’s signboard. Yune is absolutely adorable (I really want to see someone cosplay her really fancy outfit now) and, after some misunderstandings, it looks like the show will turn into a charming and laid back slice-of-life show. I’ve seen some people worried that there isn’t a lot of manga material for it (two volumes when it was announced back in December so it’s probably got under 20 chapters now) but if it’s a one season show that shouldn’t be a problem (and, since I've seen a member of the French staff post and mention that all the work was done in the show now I imagine it is only one cour). I won’t be watching this since I try to only watch one fansub a season but if this does get picked up for streaming I’ll happily continue with it. 

God’s Notebook (Kamisama no Memo-Chou)
I’m trying out three different shows this season that remind me of Gosick: Ikoku (since they have the same manga artist+historical clothing), Dantalion (it’s the giant library+goth-loli with male sidekick) and this one (goth-loli detective+male sidekick). I had heard that the light novel series this one was based on is pretty well regarded among fans in Japan and the mystery here was better than some of the earlier mysteries in Gosick but the motivations for it basically amounted to person needs a therapist to deal with issues, doesn’t have one and then engages in self-destructive behavior which, well, had been done so many times before that it’s rather boring*. I found myself disliking all the characters (except the lady who ran the ramen shop but she had less than five minutes of screen time) although the episode was paced well (it was longer than a normal episode but I believe that’s only for the first episode). In the end, right now this just isn’t a show I’m interested in but, if the reviews for it are consistently good, I’ll give it another try someday (plus, no simulcast so I have to hunt down fansubs for it, not the show's fault but that is a minus in my book).

Five more reviews coming tomorrow, four of them are already written and I'm just waiting on Dantalion to finally show up. CR has it listed at 12:30 EST so hopefully that's the same time as on NicoNico and I'll be able to grab lunch, watch and get a review written and the next piece up mid-afternoon tomorrow. See ya'll then!

*in fiction anyway, in real life it’s just terrifying