Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Anime Review: Humanity Has Declined

The final summer (for now anyway) show and one of the weirder entries in the season, although thinking back on it the summer season was a filled with strange shows. Not much else I can say about the show without getting into the actual review so let's get going!

Humanity Has Declined (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita)

Summary: Based on a series of novels, humanity is in it's twilight years and the new, widely spread form of intelligent beings are tiny faeries. Mediator is well, a mediator between the humans and the faeries and tries to facilitate communication and cooperation between them, even though the world she lives in is quite weird.

The Good: Often when watching anime (or reading a book, seeing a movie, etc) I'll see something strange on screen and make a sarcastic comment to myself or my friends. Here there was no need to do it, Mediator was making all of those comments for me which was rather fun. I often feel like stories aren't self-aware enough (as in "why don't these characters realize what they're doing is dumb? Haven't they seen enough other media to go 'wait a minute...'?") and this story had enough of that self-awareness for at least one other show.

The Bad: While I'll admit that ending the story with the earliest (chronologically) part of it was probably a better ending than whatever arc was actually last, I just can't see the point in telling these stories out of order. You can work it out if you're paying enough attention, and each arc is so separate that it doesn't matter in the end, but I'm of the opinion that non-linear storytelling should only be used when it serves a purpose. Other than that nitpick, this show just dragged for me by the end. I mentioned to friends that I couldn't tell if the writing was supposed to be brilliant or if a really cynical 13 year old was trying to write a "deep" story for homework (my friends proposed it was both) and while the cynical humor worked sometimes there were other times when it just got too strange or it took itself too seriously for it to work and in the end I was glad that the series was over. 

The Audio: I looked up the opening and closing lyrics and they were both, strange, and didn't add anything to the show (I've known enough shows where the lyrics actually relate to the show to make an effort to look them up, although sometimes they can be quite spoilerly). The voice acting worked, Mediator sounded young and a bit cute (not the overly, moe-moe cute but just cute) and did sarcasm quite well and everyone else sounded just fine as well.

The Visuals: The art in the series is very soft and pastel (rather watercolor like but without the texture that comes with it) which was of course the perfect choice for a show that's slyly cynical about how corrupted the world really is. I have no idea if there were any illustrations in the original novels or if all of the anime designs are completely original but I think they fit rather well. However, I am of the opinion that the faeries are creepy looking and not cute-creepy, Japan once again your definition of cute has confused me.

So another anime where I would give it 2.5 or 3 stars out of 5 since it had some good parts but I lost my interest before the end. It has been licensed by Section 23 in the US and can be viewed either on their website or on Crunchyroll.

Movie Review: Hotarubi no Mori E

So Yuki Midorikawa's better known work (in the West) Natsume Yuujinchou just got released in the US but, since I mentioned to my mom that I was sad I couldn't afford to get it right now so instead I'm getting it for a Christmas present. To cheer myself up (I got a bit jealous seeing everyone else posting photos of their cool boxsets) I decided to watch Brain's Base apatations of one of her other works. Then again, considering the kinds of romance that Midorikawa writes are at the best bittersweet, cheering myself up might have been the wrong reason to watch this.

Hotarubi no Mori E (To the forest of Firefly Lights)

Summary: Six year old Hotaru has gotten lost in the forest near her uncle's house and the mysterious spirit Gin leads her home again. He has a rather fragile existence, he will disappear if he ever touches a human, but seems happy enough to play with her. As the years go by though their relationship begins to change and Hotaru wishes that she could see him more than just every summer. 

The Good: For a story that eventually ends up being a love story with a large age difference (Hotaru grows from 6 to 15 and Gin ages very slowly so he's easily decades old) it never once felt creepy which amazes me. Of course, the relationship started out as friendship and didn't become romantic for a very long time which probably helps, but I can't remember the last time I saw a relationship like that where there wasn't a little voice in the back of my head going "but she's ____ and he's _____! Ack!" It's also quite well paced, I almost hesitate to call it a film since it's only 45 minutes long, but regardless it's designation it flowed well and the parts that were added/expanded upon were worked in seamlessly.

The Bad: It would have been nice if some of the other manga from the same volume (there were four one-shots all published in the same volume with this title, Hotarubi is also the title of this specific work) had also been animated and made the movie longer but I'm not crushed that they weren't.

The Audio: I didn't notice much about the background music in this short film, except for one section early on which was much more upbeat and cheerful than I expected. Other than that, slightly dissonant, moment everything else sounded the way I expected and it worked. Don't have any real comments on the voice acting either, more because this film was only 40 minutes long and that's not long enough for me to really get a feel for the acting, it certainly wasn't bad or anything like that!

The Visuals: Yet again there are a lot of similarities to Natsume here, the characters have the same, cleaned-up-sketch look to them but the backgrounds are much more detailed than Natsume's were, probably due to a bigger budget. Just look at that poster, true it's promo art so they'll put even more work into it but I was surprised at the level of detail in the props and backgrounds.

With something so short it's hard to say much but this was sweet in the way Midorikawa's works often are, something that makes you sad and happy at the same time. I can easily recommend this to fans of Natsume and non-fans who like romance or supernatural elements quite easily, with such a short length it won't take time to watch yet you still feel satisfied by the end.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review: Vixen

Sorry that once again this is late, although considering this book has been out for a few years now I don't think that a day is going to make much of a difference. The whole reason I hadn't read this book earlier, even though it was set in the 1920s and I really like reading about that era, was due to the simple fact that my library didn't have a copy of it. They do have a copy of the e-book for the next book in the series, but the not the first book in any way shape or form so I hadn't bothered tracking it down. That is until I won a copy of the third book in the series and then found that a library in a nearby town (which was in the same county so I could get a library card to it) so I grabbed it from there. So was it worth that extra effort after all?

Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Summary: There's a strange dichotomy to Gloria's life in 1920s Chicago. By day she goes to her prestigious private school and by night she sneaks out to speakeasies to drink and listen to jazz, although that's nothing compared to the double life her cousin Clara has. Her friend Lorraine is jealous of both parts of Gloria's life however and as Gloria gets pulled deeper and deeper into the seductive, seedy side of life Clara tries to help her out but Lorraine is only interested in helping herself.

The Good: I really liked Clara's chapters and wish that she had been the "main" character of the story instead of Gloria (all three of the girls are lead characters but it's clear that Gloria's actions are the ones that shape the other two girls lives, hence why she's the main character). I really hope she turns up in the next book since not only did she feel more realistic than the other two but she was more interesting, how many stories do we see that happened entirely after the character has made their life-altering, dumb, choice? It was both unusual and gave her some extra depth that the other two girls didn't have.

The Bad: Lorraine is an unreliable narrator and you know what? I just don't like unreliable narrators as much, it's just not a style I like as much so of course I'm not going to enjoy her part of the story as much. Even taking into account that an unreliable narrator will see themselves much differently from the way the other characters do, she was so different by the end of the book for no reason except for festering jealousy that I tried to read though her chapters as fast as possible. I hope she doesn't appear as much in the next book (although I doubt it since she's such a good tool to move the plot around) but what bothered me more was how this book ended. It felt as if the author was planning on writing a stand alone novel and then got a book deal for a series so they had to hastily rework the ending. Of course that's probably not what happened at all and I suppose they were going for "realism" by not having a happy ending (or at least, not giving the characters a happy ending yet) but I did feel like I got cheated out of a nice ending when I was done with the book.

So, was the wait worth it? Ehhhhh, it wasn't a terrible read but I do wish it had been, different. I'll still read the other two books (I'm determined to get them both read and reviewed before January 1st) but now I don't feel so bad about taking so long to get there.
Oh, and by popular request (you know who you are~) I give this book 2.5 or 3 stars out of 5, depending on your tolerance for unreliable narrators and how dull you find Gloria's story to be. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Comic Review: Manga Man

Guys, next time I'm sick please keep me away from the library, I obviously have no restraint and will even check out books I've passed by before/heard meh reviews about. Which was this book, I swear I've heard this premise elsewhere before and I really hope that they at least pulled it off in a more humorous fashion.

Manga Man written by Barry Lyga, illustrated by Colleen Doran

Summary: Ryoko Kiyama was living a normal life (for him anyway) when he falls through a rift into another world quite unlike his own. He looks different, special effects follow him around, and he just generally doesn't fit in. Marissa Montaigne

The Good: There were a few funny gags that had to do with Ryoko reading the story from right to left instead of left to right and therefore he would do something before he was supposed to, too bad I'm so used to reading both ways that I automatically switched and it took me forever to figure out that that was the gag.

The Bad: Looking at the author's bio it seems like he's worked on purely American comics before which, while not a bad thing, seems to show since the entire work can be boiled down to "ha-ha, manga is so silly!" without any mention of how weird, well, every other kind of comic can be. Also, the way I had heard the book pitched was that a manga character falls into a western comic book world yet, while that is the case, that reveal doesn't come until really late on and a reveal that comes that much later after the readers have figured it out is frustrating. As for the actual plot, it was dull. It was a love story (and I just noticed that Marissa's last name looks an awful lot like "Montague," wonder if that was on purpose) where neither character really got fleshed out and the conflict magically resolved itself at the end. In short, it felt like a half-baked idea that got cranked out over a few days and probably would have been less terrible if more time had been spent on it. 

The Art: Yeah yeah yeah we know, manga always has really weird chibis and special effects compared to the oh-so-normal looking American comics, wait, really? The last title I can remember with tons and tons of chibis in them was Magic Knight Rayearth (and I feel like some other works by Clamp employ more chibis than usual) but these days it's rare for me to see super-deformed characters outside of a beat panel (where someone is delievering a punchline). It's true that my tastes go more towards older shonen/shojo or outright seinen/josei but regardless, that didn't make me get any less annoyed at the "manga" art. It was fun when the characters started playing with the panel edges and such but the art also was the kind of western style which is trying to be more realistic but does so by making it look like the artist traced real faces for each shot and then added too much shading. It's a style I've never really been fond of so that certainly didn't help it out in my eyes.

So, nope, don't recommend this to anyone unless you really want to read something bad while having a drinking game or something. Man I hope that last book I checked out (which I won't even be talking about until December) turns out better than this one.....

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Schedule Change!

It's that time of year, NaNoWriMo is right (write?) around the corner so it's time to mix things up. And no, I'm not trying to write a full novel this year (with all my homework that would end, poorly) but I am going to try and write some short stories I have in mind and to do that I have to cut back on blogging. But I am going to keep posting a bit in these two categories:

Manga Mondays: I really liked last year writing up those quick posts about whatever I'm reading and, since a decent chunk of what I read isn't licensed/I read ahead of what's licensed I don't often get a chance to talk about it and this is a nice way to do it. 

Book Reviews: About a month ago I worked out how many reviews I had left to post and I figured that, taking into account how much I'll probably read between now and the end of the year, if I post twice a week for the next two months I'll have everything reviewed by the new year so I can start fresh. So look for book reviews Wednesday and Saturdays, those are also faster for me to write since their shorter (and I've already jotted down a lot of my thoughts on them, I realized if I didn't this summer I was going to forget a lot of what I read), so I think if I only need to make three quick posts a week I can balance this, NaNo, and my school work fairly well.

Also! Next semester is my last one of college (wohoo!) and, while I haven't registered for classes or work hours yet, I've looked at what my schedule will probably be and I've decided to keep my regular blogging schedule next semester as well (so I'll have had it for a year at that point, maybe more? Longest I've been able to do that). I'm going to try and keep blogging as long as I can (and hopefully I'll be able to get a buffer going during November as well to help me with exams in December) so I might slip in late April/early May but that's quite a ways off at this point and not worth worrying about. The November schedule will start November first and as usual I'll post links on twitter to my reviews (which makes me wonder, does this blog even have an RSS feed? I feel like it does but I've never tangled with it....)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Anime Review: Choyaku Hyakunin Isshu Uta Koi

If it wasn't for Chihayafuru last year/earlier this year I would have never tried out a show where all the stories were based on a-few-hundred-years-old Japanese poems and heck, I do have to wonder if it wasn't for Chihayafuru getting a small number of people more interested in karuta and these poems if this show would have even gotten made. Who knows on that point but the show did have an interesting effect on me, it actually made me check out The Pillow Book by Sei Shonangan, one of the poets featured in the show, from the school library and I expected that I'd read a little bit of the book and then decide it wasn't for me and return it. But, after seeing the show and learning a few basic things about Sei (namely that she was a bit snarky) I've ended up really liking the book so far. I won't be reviewing it here (partially because I have so little time to read it that I'll be lucky to finish before Thanksgiving) but I never would have tried the book if not for this show which I think means the show did at least one thing right.

Uta Koi

Summary: The Hyakunin Isshu are a collection of 100 poems chosen by Fujiwara Teika to decorate the walls of a relative's mansion and are taken from across Japanese history and from a range of subjects, although as Teika will admit many of them are love poems. So what are the stories behind all of these poems and what do their often highly symbolic words mean?

The Good: I was wondering how well the show would wrap up especially since it's first "arc" wrapped up well and was pleasantly surprised to see how well it went. I actually hadn't know that Teika was also a poet (reading The Pillow Book however I think I've come across several of his relatives/ancestors, all of whom have had some skill in poetry) and that seemed like a good way to end the show, I doubt it was popular enough to get a second season. I also liked how in the first "arc" a lot of the characters knew each other and interacted with each other over multiple episodes, it's hard to do character development in just one episode so this felt like a smart choice. And all of the episodes did a good job explaining where the various poems came from, normally this kind of literary interpretation isn't my strong point but by the end of each episode I could see what the writers (the anime or original poets, I suspect most of the stuff in this show was made up) were getting at. 

The Bad: While Teika's appearance at the beginning of some of the episodes was useful (like when he talked about why he chose some poets over others, I'm curious how much of this, if anything, was taken from writings he may have done or if the writers here were just throwing ideas out there) but some times it really didn't, see the episode where he and another character started off the episode by doing ballet while singing in deep voices, in my opinion that was the weirdest moment of the show but there were a lot of other contenders for that dubious award. Actually, there is a lot of random strangeness (and not all from Teika!) in this show and a lot of times it felt rather out of place and it would keep me from recommending this show to fans of Japanese culture but not so much anime. If it hadn't had  those bits sure, I would feel fine recommending this to someone who doesn't like anime as much but loves the culture, with it however I don't think I will and considering how small the potential audience for this show is to start with that's not a good thing.

The Audio: This show had a weird opening and closing theme. The opening theme is really nasally (it grew on me after a bit but I think I'm in the minority there) and the closing theme didn't seem to have much to do with the show and I really couldn't stand it. The voice acting seemed alright, no characters really stood out to me but most of the time everything sounded at least passable.

The Visuals: This show was cheap, while some aspects of it you could argue were more stylistic choices than money saving measures (such as the "unmoving plaid" textures) it had a lot of talking heads, slow pans over still images, and just generally didn't look as fluid as say a show with a huge budget. It's okay, I never expected really great art for this show, although nearly any show could be improved with a great budget, but it might be a turn off to some.

So, if you really can't wait until January for Chihayafuru and need something to tide you over, go burn a few hours watching this, the first episode even revolves around the "chihayafuru" poem. If not, well, there are simply so many other shows out there that are better that it's hard to recommend this one, but if you do have an interest in Japanese poetry check it out, don't worry about skipping through the Teika stuff at the beginning of each episode. I give the show a 2.5 or 3 out of 5 stars and, while unlicensed in the US, the show can be viewed over on Crunchyroll.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Movie Review: Brave

So, once again months behind everyone else, I finally had a chance to see the other movie from this summer that I was interested in, Pixar's latest offering. I had heard that a lot of reviews for it were just average/mediocre, and the fact that they switched directors in the middle didn't fill me with confidence, but I was going to try and go in with a positive attitude and see how much I enjoyed it for myself.


Summary: Merdia is the only daughter and oldest child and since her father is a king this means that she has to marry the son of one of the other chieftains in order to help keep the piece. Merdia feels overwhelmed and unhappy that she has to get married at such a young age and is frustrated by how her mother is going along with all of this and just wants to get her on her side to help. So when offered a chance to change her fate she takes it, although of course changing fate is never that easy and she soon has even more problems to worry about.

The Good: It's nice to see Pixar branch out more and have another movie about an actual human (I know that Up and The Incredibles were about people as well but I can't think of any other movies off the top of my head) and it was nice to see them do a period piece as well. Honestly I keep thinking of this movie and Tangled as if they were sisters, Pixar takes a bit of a Disney-esque plot and Disney takes Pixar's art style, at this point it's really hard to tell where one part of that big company ends and the other begins. 

The Bad: I shall be blunt, I didn't like this film. I felt like it was trying too hard to force humor in (when usually a Pixar film has funny events happen in a more natural way, I've seen this kind of parent-child conflict in stories before and have seen it better, Merida and her mother's relationship was just so cliched that I stopped taking it seriously partway through. As others have pointed out, Disney has actually done practically the exact same plot years ago in another film (which I only saw parts of and didn't think was that great either) and, in a more minor nitpick, I really didn't like the witch at all. Sometimes you can pull off having a character in a historical(ish) setting making more modern references and it can be funny but it didn't work at all here, again it felt like Pixar was trying too hard to force the humor and I really wonder if that humor was in the script from the beginning or if it happened after the director change. 

The Audio: While it's not uncommon to have insert songs in a Disney film (or really any film) I thought this movie was spamming them with three or four in 90 minutes (the first one came really early as well and made me think of something weird and amusing but I can't remember what, I just remember thinking that it was reminding me of something totally unlike Brave which was a bad thing). Voice acting was fine, I think just about every actor was from inside the UK, quite a few from Scotland itself. The movie certainly had nice production values, just not the story to match it.

The Visuals: One thing I did whole-heartedly like was how this movie looked, the characters look realistic enough that they don't seem strange (like saw the people in the first Toy Story movie, man they were kinda creepy) but are still cartoony, it's a hard balance to strike but it works well here. There was obviously a ton of effort that went into each scene and yeah, it looked really great and as always I wonder how much better Pixar can get since it always seems like they've reached their peak and then they astound us again.

So yeah, did not like this film at all and I'm rather disappointed, they had an idea which (while not groundbreaking) they could've done something nice with and instead it felt like they made a movie because they had to make a movie. Fingers crossed that Wreck-It Ralph turns out much better, or that some of the new Dreamworks films turn out well also.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review: Ultraviolet

Thanks to my school work this update and the next two are all going to be a day late, oops, and on Wednesday as a heads up I'm going to make a post explaining how posting is going to go for the rest of the year. 
Back to the matters at hand, this was the third book which I had to read in a week (I think I finished this book the day I had to return it, another book I had to read in almost one sitting) and I was a bit hesitant about this book because I haven't read any other books by the author and I just couldn't tell from the blurb if I was going to like it or not. It didn't seem like something I was going to like but I told myself to get over it and try it anyway for the heck of it, rather glad that I did that.

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Summary: Alison wakes up one day to find herself in a mental institution and accused of murdering a classmate she didn't like who has vanished without a trace. Alison would like to say that's impossible but when she starts to piece her memory back together she remembers her classmate vanishing in a flash and that's not the only weird part of her life. For her entire life she's seen colors with sounds and all kinds of other strange, cross-sensory things so could she be crazy after all?

The Good: For a character which has a very good reason to think that she murdered a classmate and is crazy, Alison is a remarkably mature main character which was quite nice. There comes a point in the book where she figures out what has been going on and does change and apologize for her past actions yet she never writes them off the way most of us do when we've done something immature. There was one line which summed this up rather well (paraphrasing here) "You want to know the reason why I didn't like you? It was because your name tasted like cough syrup" which both shows how absurd some things have gotten yet how Alison always did have a reason behind her sometimes crazy reactions. Her mother also got a bit more fleshed out than I expected which was a nice touch, it would have been so easy (and normal) if her mother had been yet another parent in fiction who just doesn't get their child but here there actually was a deeper reason and, well, I like when parents are just plot devices but actual characters in a story. 

The Bad: One thing that is a bit hard to buy is how Alison has so many different forms of synesthesia (I don't think it's a spoiler to give her condition a name, most people should be able to figure it out from the description alone) since from the little reading I've done it seems like most people only have one or two types of it and she has more than that (at least the character acknowledge that this is pretty unusual). I did think that some of the characters were too understanding of Alison's explanation for why she had been so crazy in the end (or possibly I'm just used to unreasonable characters, could be both)  

Sorry this one is a bit short but that's because there was more stuff that I liked (I really enjoyed this book overall) but it involves some plot elements which I think are too spoilerly to say in a review 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Comic Review: Ichiro

Another pick-up from my "I have a headcold and therefore this seems like a good idea" library visit so there's no real reason I read this particular book. No reviews, no word of mouth, just going in blind and hoping it was a good choice. And apologies that this is up a day late, school continues to eat up a lot of my time, especially on weekends these days.

Ichiro by Ryan Izana

Summary: Ichiro is a half-Japanese American who was born and raised in Brooklyn by his mom after his dad died when he was young. A rather average kid he's taking the news that he and his mom are moving to Japan for her teaching job pretty well although he doesn't know much about his heritage. He's skeptical of some of the myths and stories his grandfather has to tell but learns first hand that some stories have more truth in them than others.

The Good: Based on the book blurb I thought there would be a lot of conflict between Ichiro and his grandfather or Ichiro and Japanese ways in general, neither of which happened and I was happy to see that that author didn't take the easy way out when it came to setting up conflict. Ichiro has a fairly good relationship with both of his grandparents (one of whom seems like a bigot and one who was fine with his daughter marrying an American, I can't remember the last time I didn't see a character like that used as conflict in a story) as well as his mother so it was nice to see that the overall conflict was more internal (well, minus the part where he's thrown into another world). And it was nice to see the characters talk about war and how it's often a complex thing, especially given all the stuff that happened/was done by Japan in World War II which is brought up.  

The Bad: I didn't like Ichiro for most of the story because, for a bit of a dumb reason, he reminded me a lot of my brother when he was younger and how he would blindly believe these (obviously crazy to everyone else) ideas and that was frustrating enough to live with, I certainly don't want to be reminded of that in a book. On the flip side I this does makes Ichiro a rather realistic young teen, just the kind where you wait a few years and hope that they eventually grow up. Other than that, I was rather frustrated that in the end the tanuki, which had a lot of time devoted to it, was nothing more than a plot device and one that was tossed aside once it was used. It was also frustrating to see how a lot of things went unresolved by the end. Ichiro has grown as a character and his character growth is resolved, that I had no trouble with, but it seemed like the story set up another conflict and then only used it as a background, not even a metaphor, and that frustrated me. I'm fairly sure that this story is completed at just one volume, it feels completed in every other way, but I would have loved to that background to have gotten it's own story.

The Art: The book is in color and rather cleverly used different color schemes to differentiate between different places (and to indicate if the characters were speaking Japanese or English instead of having the readers try to guess which language). It's fairly monochromatic as a result but different colors for different places, although I have no idea why the prologue, which has very little to do with the rest of the story, is in full color.

So, not a great choice but the story had some nice parts to it. But man, I would have loved a story about how the gods had changed and grown since the myths were made, I wonder if I could find a story like that actually.....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Anime Round-up!

Once again it’s time for a whole slew of new anime to premire and time for me to be a bit later than everyone else with the reviews since I’m trying to cram them all into one batch again. But before I get to the fall anime I do need to talk about the summer anime a bit first since that was a bit of an odd season. Since I’m only continuing with two shows (Space Bros and Sword Art Online) I’m not going to make a full post about them, it should suffice to say that I still like Space Bros (probably because I identify more with adult characters in anime today than teenaged characters so I welcome a show with adult characters and enough episodes to really develop all of them) and as for Sword Art Online, well, obviously I’ll talk a lot about this when the show finishes up in December, and already did a bit in Accel World, but the author seems to write okay main storylines that are based on some cool ideas but doesn’t really get how to write short stories so they all turn out rather similar and not as good. There are two other shows that are kinda continuing as well, apparently when Eureka 7 AO was given it’s 24 episode timeslot everyone forgot to account for the Olympics taking over that time for two weeks and, since the main network (TBS?) doesn’t want anyone else to show the last two episodes before them and doesn’t have any free time until November they simply aren’t getting shown until then (and since I’m blogging differently in November, same as last year, that review probably won’t be up until December). Kokoro Connect is also a weird case, it’s going to have another arc that is made up of DVD-only episodes and that normally wouldn’t cause me to delay a review but since this is four, cohesive episodes I’m going to delay that one as well. The only problem is that the first DVD comes out in late October so, even if they release one a month, that review probably won’t be until late January/early February. I already have the majority of the review written up and ready to go, I’ll just add to it/edit it based on whatever happens here.
As for fall shows I will mention that my most anticipated show of the season, the Kyousogiga series, isn’t on here because apparently that is going to be an OVA series and the first episode came out back in August. Looking at the air dates for that, I would like to have the review for that one up around Christmas but don’t know how likely that’s going to be and that’s also going to be tricky since I just recently learned that the manga adaptation actually fills in some of the gaps in the series so I’m going to have to figure out how to address all of that. So, with allllllllll of that in mind, here’s what I actually tried out and what I thought of it.

Blast of Tempest
Mahrio’s friend Yoshino vanished a month ago and, while Mahiro is a little worried about him, he’s not overly concerned especially since he’s still coping with the murder of his sister a year earlier. So Mahiro is completely caught off guard when he’s confronted by a young lady with a gun demanding where Yoshino is and claiming that he’s become wrapped up in a world altering plan involving disasters and magic. But Mahiro doesn’t have a chance to doubt her when strange things start happening around them as well.

I’ve read a bit of the manga and I have to say that the first few chapters of the manga were a lot easier to follow than the first few episode of the anime which does worry me. The pacing was smoother and exposition felt more natural and I have seen people say the first episode was confusing and it shouldn’t have been that confusing. On the positive side, the series looks great and the OP is quite catchy (with decent Engrish! Then again, considering this season has also given us K’s Engrish practically everything is going to sound better by comparison).
Blast of Tempest is an Aniplex show so it’s streaming on Crunchyroll and will have a (probably overpriced) physical release down the line by them.

Chunibyo Demo Koi Ga Shita (which has been given the truely strange title of  Regardless of My Adolescent Delusions of Grandeur I Want A Date!)
Chunibyo translates to “second year diseases” in English and it’s a belief possessed by many 8th graders that they possess magical powers and do crazy things as a result. Yuuta is a recovering Chuni and would quite like to forget about that part of his life. However, when he comes across another sufferer at his new high school it looks like that might just be a pipe dream of his.

My cynical side wonders just how much anime is responsible for this disease and also thinks that it certainly explains more than a few things. In any case, this was an okay first episode. Everything was set up and it wasn’t boring but didn’t catch me either (probably because, as weird as my friends and I were at that age, we were never this weird, or if we were we went through that period yeeeeeears earlier, like elementary school) and the show was trying too hard to be “cutesy”. Normally I’d give the show another episode and see how it does but the problem is that The Anime Network is making this a subscriber only stream beyond the first episode and I'd rather save up my money to buy one of their physical releases instead of for streaming a show I'm not sure I'll like
Chuunii is one of Sentai’s pick-ups this season, however since it's going to be subscriber only I'm going to have to skip this one.

Sakura is a high school girl who isn't the girlest of girls and is completely capable of kicking anyone's ass and has a sense of justice as well. So of course she's going to investigate when she sees what looks like people being burned alive in a local park although she may have gotten involved in something truly dangerous indeed. 

I read a little bit of the manga when the anime was announced to see if it was my thing and, while okay, I decided that I wasn’t really interested in the story since it didn’t seem to have a real goal in mind. But I got bored, checked out the first episode of the anime and that was a really solid first episode (even if for some reason it looks like it came out of the 90s, I think it’s Sakura’s hair). Since Funimation is streaming the show and it’s only supposed to be 13 episodes long I’ll stick with it, really I’m staying with it not because we have random people with super powers running around, that idea has been done way too many times since the dawn of time, but because I like Sakura, having a competent main character dealing with magic who isn’t magical is something that happens much less often. Sadly after poking around it seems that she’s going to be less and less useful as the story goes on (and it seems the story gets worse after a bit as well, honestly if a series goes for more than 100 chapters it’s bound to “get worse” for everyone at some point) but with such a short run I hope that it stays interesting and ends on a good note.
One of Funimation’s pick-ups, can be watched on their site. 

From the New World (Shin Sekai Yori)
Based on a sci-fi novel (not a light novel but a “real” novel) and set in Japan 1000 years into the future it’s hard to tell that the story is set in the future at all. Technology seems to have regressed and instead everyone possesses physic powers that manifest when they’re rather young. Poor Saki was the last one in her class to get her powers and but when she goes to her new school she’s told she was the last, everyone seems to have forgotten about her other classmates. Combined with things overheard from her parents it seems like this brave new world is a rather scary place indeed.
I haven’t totally warmed up to the show yet, thank goodness it has two seasons to get through all the material since it’s a bit slow to get going, but I like it so far. I especially like how the show looks, the outfits in particular are really nicely designed (not the school uniforms but all the casual outfits Saki and her family wear, they have a level of detail put into them that I don’t normally see, and as a cosplayer I am always staring at the outfits). So far the direction the plot seems to be taking isn’t something completely new and unexplored, actually I recall reading a lot of “looks like a utopia, really a dystopia” stories for school, but hopefully this story will be able to pull it off well and I’ll be able to point to it as one of the better examples in that odd sub-genre.
Airing on Crunchyroll, licensed by Sentai  

In a city where "kings" run around with their entourages and fight each other, Shiro is rather confused at the accusations and video that shows that he killed one of the kings and gets involved in all kinds of shenanigans. 

My god, this is the most “animu” anime of the season and it alternates between playing all it’s tropes straight/unironically and being completely aware of it. The first episode amused me and I thought I might follow it for a few until I got bored/it crashed and burned. The second episode wasn’t tons better but you know what, I think the show is at least a little aware of how silly it is and has decided to roll with it. And for me that can make all the difference, a serious show not realizing it’s silly is painful and calls for watching with friends and possibly involving a drinking game, a show that knows it’s silly is just fun and much easier to recommend as well.
K is Viz Media’s lone pick-up of the season and can be watched on hulu.

Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita)
After her father gambles away all his money and runs away, Nanami is turned out of her apartment and has no where to go when she meets a man stuck in a tree in a local park, terrified by the dog beneath him. She shoos off the dog and tells him her story and he says that while he is off traveling she is welcome to stay at his place and then leaves. Fully expecting to be conned she goes to the address he left behind, only discover that it’s a shrine and that she has become the new land god of the shrine and has inherited not only the shrine, magical powers, and two will-o-wisp spirits but also one very cranky familiar.

I’m a bit familiar with the original manga (it’s published in the US under the same name by Viz) and so far I think it’s been a pretty nice adaptation. Nanami has spunk which makes her quite fun to watch, the pacing is quick but not too fast, and I think that a lot of the gags have translated well from the manga to the anime. The show does look pretty cheap (there was even one brief, less than two seconds, clips in the second episode where it looked like they literally didn’t finish animating part of the background) but hopefully I can enjoy this one based on what it does, not what it looks like.
Kamisama Kiss is streaming on Funimation’s website, although as a warning the player has been a bit stranger lately so hopefully they’ll put it up on hulu as well, same warning applies to their other shows but everyone seems to have had the most trouble with this show.

Little Busters!
Riki became close to his friends when they comforted and befriended him as a kid after his parents died. They're growing up however and this is their last year of school together so they're going to try and make it as special as possible and hopefully make some more friends in the process.

I have not played the original game, really I don't know much at all (although I did find out who the “main” heroine is), and I think this is a show that was made more to appeal to it’s fans than new people. Yes yes yes I know it’s not about baseball, that part was pretty obvious, it’s just that none of the characters really grabbed my attention in this first episode and everything feels quiet clich├ęd as well. If this was being simulcast by someone then sure, I’d give it a few more episodes, but since I do have to use fansubs here (and my rule with fansubs is one per season and only of something I’m almost guaranteed to buy) I think I’ll hold off and give myself time to watch something I really enjoy instead.

Inspired by 1001 Nights, Aladdin is a young boy with a djinn in a pipe, a promise, wants to make friends, and wants adventures, all of which sounds like the makings of a shonen show to me!

Well that was more enjoyable than I expected, like Code;Breaker I read the first chapter of the manga and wrote it off as not for me but Magi actually starts with a different chapter (which I think was a good idea), again is streaming legally, and just did something right. I didn’t like all the boob jokes (there was just too many of them), and forgive me twitter, I was teasing all of you in my head for getting confused over Aladdin’s gender and I totally understand why now (if it helps I was confused by the lead in Little Busters, both are way more feminine than most boys ever sound). But the action was solid and if it’s streaming for free then sure, I can give it at least a few more episodes and see where it goes.
Another Aniplex show so it can be viewed, a few days after the original broadcast but without the one week delay for free users  on Crunchyroll.

My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)
Shizuku isn’t interested in anything accept getting good grades at school and the only way she can be convinced to bring handouts to an absent classmate is being bribed with a study guide. The guy in question, Haru, was suspended at the beginning of the year for fighting with bullies and has no intention of going back to school, except that it turns out that he’s quite friendly and seems to like Shizuku so maybe he’ll start going back because of her….

Another shojo series that has quite a bit of comedy in it (KK seems to be more comedy than romance, MLM it’s closer to 50-50 and Sukitte has no comedy in it at all yet) and while not everything is perfect (yes I know that Haru is supposed to be socially awkward and just not get some stuff but his actions/words feel more like, well, how a not-well-adjusted character in an anime would do/say, not a real person, and I dislike that kind of fakeness of character) it’s amusing and I’m going to stick with it. Also, I may or may not be shipping the chicken with the duck from tsuritama.
Streaming on Crunchyroll

In a future where everyone's mental state is constantly monitored and some people are criminals without ever having committed a crime, there is a section of the police dedicated to chasing down those whose mental patterns have become erratic and erasing them if necessary. Akane is the newest member of the force but who knows if she'll last or if she'll succumb to all the stress and become a latent criminal herself.

One half of the noitaminA timeslot, eh. It's cyberpunk, it's "dark and edgy" and it's way too early to tell if it'll do anything new, crash and burn, or just be a cop shows that plays around with deeper idea but never makes use of them. I think, and hope, that it will look at it's system, acknowledge the flaws, and then play with it (a bit like what Un-Go did last year), if not it's going to be a boring and frustrating two quarters.

Funimation picked this one up and it's streaming on their site  

The year is 2019 and in the true, "Steins;Gate" timeline Katio and Akiho are the only two members left in their school's robotics club and Akiho is determined to complete the giant robot the club has been building for years. But the club is in trouble of getting disbanded so they have that to worry about as well so building a working mecha might end up being the least of their troubles.

The other noitaminA show (and yes, it's the same universe as both Steins;Gate and Chaos;Head, I checked the worldline numbers and spoil me on anything and it won't end well for either of us) which had a rather quiet first episode. I'm not entirely sure why but it clicked with me more than P-P did, possibly because I remember how slow S;G was to start and how I nearly dropped it later on. I've been warned that the series is a bit slower paced (since it's set over an entire school year) but I'm okay with that as long as the plot works.

Another Fuimation pick-up, it can be viewed on their site for free but does have a one day delay.

Say “I Love You” (Sukitte Ii na yo)
Mei has been ostracized by her classmates for most of her life so when one of the most popular guys in her grade starts taking an interest in her she of course thinks it's a prank. But for whatever reason Yamamoto does seem to have fallen for her whether she's happy with this idea or not.

Ah, if KK and MLM were lighter, more comedic shojo series this is the more "serious, realistic" (angsty) shojo show, which might explain why those other two are being streamed and this one wasn't. If it was being streamed I'd watch more but as it stands it's just too "angsty" for me, Yamamoto strikes me as creepier than Haru from MLM (at least there the characters are aware that he's kinda crazy, here Yamamoto's behavior of following Mei around and bugging her are presented as if they're normal) and I just don't want to watch an illegal fansub of a show like that. 

So there you have it, I'm watching nine shows total (plus stuff from older series that is complete and live action shows, I'm so behind in those though) and it's certainly an interesting mixture this time around, hope everything either stays strong or gets even stronger!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Anime Review: Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne Season Two

The sequel to the winter anime title of the same name, there's not much else I can say to introduce. If you haven't seen the first half, watch that first, this is a direct sequel, and it's all streaming on hulu for free anyway.

Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne

Summary:Over nine months have past since Lan and Muginami went back to their respective sides in the growing galactic feud and ever since Madoka hasn't been able to awaken her Vox and has felt a bit depressed. She hides it well but even the people around her have started to notice how lonely she's feeling. Thankfully for her Kamogawa is about to get a lot more exciting again as the "the planets orbits collide and cause them to nearly crash into each other once every 1000 years" event draws closer and the town is chosen as a meeting place for the various officials to come and figure out how all of them can live in peace. 

The Good: There was some very funny writing in the show at some points, especially early on, and at some point I will go through all the cast lists to see if I can pin down who exactly did the writing I liked since I want to see what else they can do. I also liked, and wished they had expanded more on, how it was shown that yes, Madoka is depressed when her friends have left since rarely do stories give a main character enough time by themselves away from the action to have that happen, although I also would have liked if Madoka was toned down a bit as well. 

The Bad: The show tried to strike a balance between being a more action-y, with a little bit of politics, mech show with a slice of life show and in the end it felt lopsided with the slice of life aspect taking up much more (and, since I was in it for the other stuff, I was a bit frustrated by this). All in all I think the first half was the stronger one both pacing and ending wise and, while the show did have good writing at times, it felt like it was stretching what central plot it had too thin, threw in too much fluff, and was perfectly fine with letting the characters grow and regress as much as the plot needed them to.

The Audio: While the new opening and ending themes weren't bad they just didn't grow on me as much as the ones from the first half did and I even fast-forwarded through them a few times (which is pretty rare for me to do unless I'm marathoning a show). Even though there was kinda a new character they had spoken in the previous season so there weren't any new major characters at all and nobody got suddenly better or worse at their role over the break, really there's less to say about these split cour shows in general.

The Visuals: The show is pretty much unchanged in this aspect, there is only one new character and there aren't any new costume designs otherwise, no new mech designs either, and while there were some new locations none of them felt like something I hadn't ever seen in anime before. I still like the mech designs in this show, they seem a bit more impractical than usual (why do they need legs if they just fly?!?) but I do love the sleekness of them.

So, I liked the first season better and this one just never got as great as I hoped. Due to popular request, I shall start giving number ratings on anime (since I do already do that on anime-planet, the site I use to keep track of what I'm watching) and I rate this season a 3/5 and the first one as a 3.5/5. So, would I buy it? Ehhhhh, probably not, although if I'll have a chance to buy it is almost moot. The show will be dubbed and streamed on Neon Alley and apparently if it does well there then it'll get a physical release. Of course, it's a live channel, on a PS3 (which I don't have), and subscription only (which involves money) so I have no chance of seeing it that way and I'm slightly miffed that the best way to get a physical release of shows I'm interested in is to support them in a way that is completely unfeasible for me. That's a rant for another day though, if you're in the US you can however watch the sub-titled release over on hulu. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Movie Review: House of Flying Daggers

Due to a combination of thinking "Hmm, I haven't seen any wuxia films, except for Jade Warrior, in a while" and a headcold which told me it was totally a good idea to check out Chinese action movies/graphic novels that cross western and eastern comics (I'm too scared to even look at them yet), well, you have the reason for this week's review. The movie Hero was produced by the same people who made this film and I've seen that film but didn't like it that much. It was too slow for me and I just didn't care about any of the characters, obviously other people have liked it and I hoped that this movie was a bit faster paced and that that might help me enjoy it more.

House of Flying Daggers

Summary: The Tang dynasty is falling and the law has started to succumb as corrupt politicians and police everywhere run free. The House of Flying Daggers is a group of people who oppose them and steal from the rich to give to the poor which leads to a number of clashes between the groups. 

The Good: Funny enough this film did the same thing to me that Hero did, for about three-fourths of the movie everything seems rather straight-forward and the plot seems more like an excuse to string together fight scenes than anything else, and then they reveal that everyone's personal politics are actually much more complicated and it certainly makes looking back on this movie at least a lot more interesting. 

The Bad: I still maintain that a lot of the plot was there just so there would be fight scenes which, given the number of fight scenes and how some of them could have been cut out, that is a bit of a problem. I'm not sure which film I liked more (to be honest I keep thinking "I should really watch that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon blu-ray we have now") but I think that Hero was the stronger film since it's plot was a bit more complicated and certainly more intriguing by the end. 

The Audio: I watched the film in it's native Chinese and didn't notice anything particularly noteworthy about the audio. There was a good use of silence when called for and there was plenty of what I refer to as "generic marital arts drumming" in the background. It all worked but just didn't stand out to me when everything was said and done. 

The Visuals: While many of the fights looked fairly nice, even though they had to be using wire work for over half of them it was very subtlety done, it was other parts of the movie that really caught my eye. There were some scenes in the second half that were almost all green (green scenery, green outfits, everything!) which made me realize that you really don't see mostly green scenes in American films or such and I was impressed that they managed to have such monochromatic scenes yet still look interesting (and not remind me of The Wizard of Oz at all). Another bit that really caught my eye was a conversation between two characters and the camera was very carefully positioned so you could see everything of one character accept their eyes and, while this normally annoys me in anime (since usually the artists just don't draw the eyes in/put shadows in where there shouldn't be shadows), it turns out that this is a fairly cool framing technique in live action material.

In the end, it was an alright film. I was doing some other stuff while watching it and if I hadn't I'm afraid I probably would have gotten bored. Oh well, considering what I could've checked out to watch while I was sick I think I got off lightly. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review: The Shattering

It's probably a good thing that the two books I had to read right after Death Watch (or get more library fines) were two that I had been interested in for a while and this one was the one I was more interested in. I've read Karen Healey's other work, Guardian of the Dead, and absolutely adored it since it's a modern day urban/low fantasy that completely understands how important setting is to a story and I've really wanted to read her next work and just didn't have a chance until now. It's also set in New Zealand (although instead of being centered around a college in a big city it's in a small town) and I have no idea if the two stories are connected or not but I wouldn't be surprised either way.

The Shattering by Karen Healey

Summary: When Keri's brother suddenly and mysteriously commits suicide she's naturally shaken and suspicious about everything and her suspiciousness leads her to fellow classmate Janna and out of towner Sione who both also had older brother's die under mysterious circumstances. Armed with nothing more than hunches and records of the town they begin to realize that there is something truly sinister going on in their west coast town. 

The Good: I really like the plot here, a "main character(s) against a greater power" conflict is fairly common in fantasy (and this is urban fantasy/magical realism) but the greater power is slightly different than usual and I thought it an interesting and quite sinister take. Just as great are the characters, Keri, Janna, and Sione are all viewpoint characters and they're all honest enough that it wasn't jarring to see one scene from one characters point of view and then see it again from another's (and thanks to the fact that Keri was first person and the other two were third person it was easy enough to tell them all apart). There was romance which, even though it ended up being crucial in the end, there were plenty of other relationships as well and in addition, they characters had other problems completely unrelated to the main plot! They cussed, people never let their teenaged characters cuss!* I really loved this whole book and while I don't think we'll have another book related to it, it wrapped up quite well, I wouldn't be unhappy to see some short stories of the characters or see them show up in other stories.   

The Bad: Of the three leads I found Sione the least relatable since a lot of his internal problems had to do with self-esteem (which I never sympathize with as much), and considering relatively small reason is why I didn't sympathize with him as much I think that says how realistic I found Keri and Janna. It was a bit convenient with how easy it was to work magic in this book, would have been nice to have known a little bit more about how it worked, but it never turned into a deus ex machina and it was understandable why the characters didn't know any more. 

In short, I was completely satisfied with this book and plan on buying my own copy (along with a copy of GotD, I have a lot of buy these days it seems) sometime. I'm also sure that if I had read it back in 2011 it would have gone on my favorite books of the year list and would have no trouble recommending it to fans of YA fantasy or even realistic fiction.    

*which, let me tell you publishers, you might not like the idea but teenagers cuss, a lot, having recently been one I can attest to this. And I am noting this specifically since I've seen several authors, I think including this one, say they have to fight to keep it in so let me say, Yay I'm happy it was in since yes, it helped flesh out the characters. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Comic Review: Serenity: Those Left Behind

I saw Firefly a few years ago, enjoyed it, and then watched Serenity and didn't enjoy it. I knew either shortly before or after I saw the movie that, if things had gone according to plan, that plot would have formed the climax of the second season and, given that I'm not sure the show technically finished it's first season, that explained why there was a bit of a disconnect between the two. I also knew that there was a short comic series connecting the two a little better and had read summaries for it before I saw the movie, still didn't help me  but it wasn't until I picked up a flatmate's the Firefly comic book that was laying around my apartment until I actually got a chance to read to read it. As far as I can tell, volume one   is one complete story and there is at least one, possibly, two more volumes in the same vein, although the summaries I read only covered volume one.

Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon, Brett Mathews, and Will Conrad

Summary: Things are the same as usual on Serenity, the crew is down on their luck and has a job to pull off but things don't quite go as planned. But multiple old foes are after them this time so things are about to get a bit tricky.

The Good: One thing that bugged me about the movie was how not only was Inara no longer flying on the Serenity (which came up in the last episode of the show) but Book wasn't either, something that happens here instead so I'm glad to see that addressed. All of the characters got at least a tiny bit of screen time (although it didn't feel like any of them got enough) and even from those little bits of character interaction I could see how and why the characters had changed from the end of the first season to Serenity.

The Bad: Wow was that short, I'm glad to hear that there's at least one more volume in this series since otherwise this doesn't really help bridge Firefly and Serenity at all, there's barely enough story for a full episode in here. Normally I'd be more annoyed at how you have to not only watch the show and movie but also have to read supplementary material to know the full story but, since I know that the story was never meant to be told like that, I'll give them some slack. 

The Art: The art looks basically the way it does on the cover, more realistic than cartoony and it's easy enough to tell which character is which, something I was a bit worried about. It's in full color and it looks just fine. It's not my favorite style of art but, since Firefly was originally a story told in a visual medium, I think that it works much better as a comic than as a novel and the art does work perfectly fine and flows well too.

Sorry for the short review, I have a head cold which is making it a bit hard to think straight right now (the typos I've had to edit out were quite amusing) but honestly with a story this short (Amazon lists this book at 96 pages long and at least 15 of those pages were conceptual sketches/musing for the original series) there's not much else to say. If you liked Firefly read this, if you're new to the franchise, go back to the tv show and see that first, and if I can find the other book(s?) I'll read those as well. I'd also really like to read the comic book about Shepherd Book someday, especially since this story alluded to a bit of his past, but unless I find it at a library or suddenly gain quite a bit of money it's not that high on my list of things to search out.