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Short Reviews: Part 4

July 19, 2009

blog review2

So yeah, today has been really slow for releases (FMA: B ep 16 subs fecking where Eclipse!?) so for the sake of having something to do here’s another five short reviews from my stock pile :p

I have Zero no Tsukaima, Gundam Wing, 5cm Per Second, Fantastic Children and Basilisk.……interesting mix eh?

Zero no Tsukaima: Light, brainless, tsundere ecchi fun – 3/5

PLOT: Ah Zero no Tsukaima, one of the few ecchi shows I’ve watched and I don’t actually know why I ever picked it up in the first place! The show is utterly cliché and has a bunch of stereotypes as characters (including the patented Rie Kugimiya loli tsundere Louise) and is set in the anime version of Hogwarts, but strangely its very entertaining. In terms of plot you basically know what’s going to happen at the end about 2 episodes in – its extremely predictable, but is executed quite well. I think the main reason for my liking Zero no Tsukaima is Saito, the male harem lead who is actually likeable! So in terms of plot its not going to win awards, but it is a very good example of the genre and plays its clichés well.

ANIMATION: The animation is great, I liked the character designs and the action was well done too. Again nothing award winning, but good for this genre.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: I didn’t like the OP much and hated the ED (really not fond of Rie Kugimiya’s singing voice >.<). Background music is just there and it does its job well. Voice acting is excellent though, all the characters are very well acted even though they are complete stereotypes!

Overall a superior example of the genre. I’ve seen all three series of Zero no Tsukaima (unfortunately the show does take a nosedive after the 1st season) and will no doubt watch another one if it comes out since the characters are likeable and fun. :p

Gundam Wing: One of my most beloved and rewatched shows (although it does have a boat load of flaws :p) – 5/5.

PLOT: Well its a Gundam show so its got Mecha, bishie pilots with tragic pasts, Sunrise Politics, plenty of beam spamming and a pretty pink princess, but its lacking in Fabulous (unless you count Trieze, which I don’t), Wing is also the first Gundam series to attempt to appeal to a female fanbase in addition to the Gundam fanboys. Wing takes place in the After Colony timeline so its completely distinct from earlier Gundam shows and all those to date that have come after it. As such Wing is a good starting point for those who are new to the Gundam franchise as it only has one movie spin-off. I’ve seen quite a lot of Gundam shows including the original Universal Century stuff, but I can say that Wing is my absolute favourite Gundam series as well as being the first one I ever watched.
I love the characters – sure they’re all stereotypes and aren’t really given a lot of development but I still adore watching them. For much of the time the 5 pilots are acting independently and are fairly unaware of each other. As the plot gets more convoluted (thank you Sunrise Politics, you are never dull!) various pilots wind up meeting and are forced to co-operate occasionally. As most of them are socially inept and prefer to work solo, this usually winds up with someone threatening to kill someone else (in fact Heero’s catchphrase is ‘I’ll kill you’ ^_^).
My favourite character is Duo Maxwell, mainly because he’s the most normal (and I use that term loosely) of the characters and is the least prone to fits of emo. Heero is emotionally repressed, Quatre can be irritating with his whole ‘Lets be friends’ mantra, Wufei is a sexist prick and Trowa gives new meaning to the word stoic (I swear he must only speak about 10 times in the entire show), but Duo is enjoyable to watch and has all the fun lines (plus I love his Deathscythe Hell Gundam the most of all Gundams ever!).
So yeah not the most groundbreaking of plots, but Wing is solidly entertaining and I’m still entertained every time I watch it (I’ve seen the whole series at least 6 times now) – and I even watch it dubbed! Yes you heard me, I watch a show dubbed – I’ve seen it subbed too, but prefer the dub due to the nostalgia I have for it. After all Gundam Wing is one of the 1st anime I ever watched, it (along with Sailor Moon and DBZ) is responsible for my interest in anime! Right I’m going off on a tangent lets just say Wing is very entertaining but isn’t going to win awards for its characterisation and plot development but that doesn’t detract from its entertainment value in the slightest. :p

ANIMATION: The series is from the 1990s and its got great animation as you would expect from Sunrise. The action is well depicted, the mecha designs are my favourite of any Gundam series and the character designs are immediately identifiable. Its a great viewing experience and there are lots of different settings – deserts, jungle, snowfields, cities, space, the moon – you name the landscape Wing probably has it and has had a massive mecha battle on it!

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The soundtrack to Wing is excellent and I loved both OPs to bits – the EDs I’m not so fond of, I usually skip over them. The sound effects are completely old school and great fun – tons of explosions and beam sabre sounds throughout (even in the OP) As I said earlier I watch the dub of Wing – its one of the only shows I will watch dubbed, but I have seen the subbed version too. The dub version is quite good (which is a rarity) and the Japanese soundtrack is also very good. I generally prefer the dub as the sometimes cheesy dialogue just sounds better in an american accent (Duo’s ‘NOOOOOOOOO!!!’ and Quatre’s ‘We shouldn’t be fighting at all!!’ come to mind), also so many of the names are in English it makes more sense to listen to them in English.

So yeah think I’ve gone on a bit too much. It’s been extremely difficult for me to review this series objectively because it does hold a special place in my heart, but it is an entertaining watch and a good introduction to the Gundam franchise.

5cm Per Second: A breathtakingly beautiful and emotionally stirring film – 5/5

I found that its quite difficult to review this movie as its more of an experience than anything else, I feel that anything I say about it won’t do the film justice, but I’ll try!

PLOT: The film is divided into three distinct sections each with their own theme and title. Oukashou is the 1st arc and it introduces the two central characters Akari and Touno who are both 13 at this stage, the main theme here is distance and is set in Spring and Winter. Dialogue is minimum as the director prefers to let visuals, thoughts and letters do most of the story-telling – but this arc is seeped in emotion as we watch Akari & Touno deal with their separation, reunion and then their 2nd separation. Its really very touching – the only minor complaint I had was that I felt that perhaps the two were a bit young to be having such complex feelings – but that’s just me nit-picking.
The next arc is entitled Cosmonaut and aptly this segment deals with space and is set mostly in summer. Akari doesn’t feature much in this part and instead a new character called Sumida is introduced. At this stage the characters are in their final year of high school and there is much more dialogue, mainly from Sumida as she relates her perspective on the central relationship of the movie. This part is quite sad but also very uplifting with lots of symbolic imagery and serves as a good bridge between the 1st and 3rd arcs.
The final arc is named for the movie 5cm per second, and is both the shortest arc and the most poignant. Here the characters are adults, but saying much about the content will spoil everything. This arc is almost entirely void of dialogue, instead there its almost like a music video. The setting comes back to winter and ends in Spring and I found this arc very moving and an excellent end to a wonderful film.

ANIMATION: Not a single fault can be found in the animation for this film. Mikoto Shinkai is renouned for his stunning animation and 5cm per Second is a perfect example of this workmanship. Every single frame is a joy to behold, be it the falling snow in Oukashou, the starry skies of Cosmonaut or the cherry blossoms of the final arc – every thing is a visual feast. Character designs are simple and realistic ( no green hair or OTT costumes here ). Nothing I can really say will do the visuals justice, you just have to see for yourself

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The score is beautiful. Full of sweeping piano it enhances the mood of each scene perfectly – its especially noticeable in the final arc where dialogue is trimmed right back in favour of a very pretty and fitting insert song. In terms of voice acting, I’m not familiar with any of the seiyuu but the cast do a great job with their minimal dialogue. Most of the emotion for this movie is derived from the visuals and the music – the actual voice acting is secondary.

Can you tell that I liked this movie yet? I am quite aware that this is not to everyone’s liking as it is extremely slow going if you’re not completely drawn into the characters. The long dramatic silences, the complete absence of action, subtle visual cues and the fact that this is essentially a character study could be off-putting for some. I’m sure that everyone would agree that visually this is a stunning film though, however I would urge anyone to give 5cm per Second a go just for the experience.

Fantastic Children: epic storytelling and extremely paced –  5/5

PLOT: Its a complete joy to find such a well told story.  Fantastic Children has so many different plot threads that at the beginning its hard to imagine that they’re all related – but they are and its so satisfying to watch all the threads come together. This anime goes through so many changes over its 26 episode run as every plot development adds new threads to the rich tapestry that makes up the plot. So many different elements are on display – mystery, sci-fi, historical, action, drama, adventure, but above all Fantastic Children at its heart is a romance story spanning space and time. It checked all the boxes for me and its conclusion almost reduced me to tears! A minor criticism is that not all the characters were fully developed, including some of the Befort Children themselves – not all of them were adequately fleshed out and their motives and lives are still a mystery by the end. But its natural that some character development would be sacrificed for the greater good of the epic plotline and the central characters where quite well developed. I really liked Tohma’s character as he probably goes through the most changes and just when I thought I had him figured out a well placed plot twist pulled the carpet out from under me, Helga on the other hand was a bit dull for the majority of the show as she was the picture child for ’emotionless girl’ most the time

ANIMATION: One of the things that was putting me off starting this series for so long was the character designs as they are extremely plain and quite childishly drawn. However once you get into the series I found that these simplistic designs were the best choice for this show as they do not distract the viewer from the plot and display all the emotion you really need from the characters realistically. The backgrounds were beautiful and the attention to detail in the period scenes of old Europe was quite impressive. All the action scenes were well choreographed and exciting to watch and I was also impressed by the large number of locations covered over the course of the series.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The music was absolutely wonderful. I adored the ED theme in particular and have it downloaded – the style of the song puts me in mind of Clannad (the irish group not the anime ) and its really lovely on the ear. Midway through the series its also sung in Russian which is also lovely. The OP was nice too and very fitting for the series. The score is excellent in its own right – grand orchestral pieces and melancholic piano really enhance the viewing experience. The voice acting is of a very high standard. Again Tohma stands out for me due to the sheer range of emotions displayed – Junko Minagawa (Cornelia – Code Geass, Joshua – Chrno Crusade) really did a fantastic job voicing him.

All in all Fantastic Children is a wonderfully crafted anime, I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good solid plot driven series.

Basilisk: Violent but with an engaging plot – 4/5

PLOT: Extremely straightforward Romeo & Juliet type storyline set in feudal Japan – with added ninjas.  This concept may be a bit overdone, but Basilisk manages to get the balance just right, tempering the bouts of extreme and bloody violence with touching moments of humour and romance. I found the storytelling to be excellent and very well balanced – I got completely sucked into the word of the Iga & Kouga ninja’s and really cared about their fates.  Basilisk does an excellent job of its character development with lots of well-placed flashbacks. Unfortunately for most characters these flashbacks are their death flags, but often they reappear in other characters flashbacks and so they continue to be developed even after they have been sliced into tiny pieces! That’s another striking aspect of Basilisk – the action scenes. As the setting is a ninja war obviously the fight scenes form the main core of the series, and they are spectacular! A broad range of unique ninja techniques makes for interesting and varied action scenes, but present throughout all of them is a huge amount of blood – the death toll is massive. There is also quite a bit of historical fact woven into the plot – the setting is quite realistic. However Basilisk is definitely for older anime viewers due to the gritty violence and mature themes that run throughout the series (there is boobs in the show :p). The only gripe I have with the show is that my favourite characters were short-lived and I didn’t like Oboro at all – for a main character she is utterly useless for the duration and ate up too much screen time with her constant crying. >.<

ANIMATION: I loved the animation and the character designs. The animation is fluid with gorgeous and varied backgrounds – fight choreography is never dull or repetitive and makes for gripping viewing, but the slower reflective scenes are also presented well. The character designs are very striking and varied with lots of emphasis on the eyes and hair of the characters. Plenty of heavy shading is used and the characters facial expressions are extremely varied and add plenty of emotion to any given scene. Lots of attention to detail is on display with the historically accurate costumes and backgrounds too which all makes the viewing experience pleasurable.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: I wasn’t much fussed on the OP but felt that it probably fitted well with the tone of the series – liked the ED though, even if it is quite typical of anime EDs. The score was also quite fitting as it has lots of traditional Japanese instruments and blends into the tone of the show extremely well. Voice acting was also superb. All the characters show a huge range of emotion over the course of series and the seiyuu all pulled off these extremes well. Very much an ensemble piece so it’s hard to pick out standout characters.

Overall Basilisk is a prime example of ‘Good GONZO’, it excellent visuals and storytelling and a very satisfying conclusion. The reason I haven’t given it 5/5 is that I personally felt that the two main characters could have been better developed and weren’t as interesting as the short-lived side characters. I also felt that the show occasionally got a bit too wrapped up in its own melodrama and spent too much time on long lingering close ups of Oboro’s eyes! But these are minor gripes and more about my personal preferences than anything else.

Ok!  It may be a wee while until I get the next batch up since I’m back at work tomorrow morning, but if I have time in the evening I may get the next five posted.

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