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Short Reviews: Part 5

July 20, 2009

blog review 5

Right more reviews tonight.  We have – Kaze to Ki no Uta, Blue Sonnet,  Noir, Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge and Bokurano.

Kaze to Ki no Uta (Song of Wind and Trees):
An uninspiring early shounen-ai OVA that takes the idea of bishounen to scary extremes – 2.5/5

PLOT: This is a very early shounen-ai OVA based on a long running 1970s manga series of the same name. As such the OVA is really only geared towards those who have read the manga and have an understanding of the characters motivations and relationships. The copy I watched had a preface that gave a basic overview of the setting and main characters, but even this didn’t really help me much when actually watching the OVA. The pace is extremely slow going too, everything is understated and slow to unravel – it’s hard to stay interested. There also seems to be large gaps in the storyline which I assume are covered in the manga – as a result the developing relationship between Serge and Gilbert didn’t really feel realistic to me; I just didn’t get why Serge suddenly cared so much about Gilbert.
Now this is a yaoi OVA and there is nudity and sexual overtones, but its not blatant and is done tastefully as its a major part of the plot – but do not watch this if you are squicky about yaoi.

ANIMATION: The animation is very dated as this OVA dates to 1987 and is based on a 1970s manga. I found the character designs extremely unappealing as lots of the boys look like girls (especially Gilbert) and there really isn’t a lot of detail to them or a lot of facial expression. The colours are muted and predominately on the yellow/brown side of the spectrum which just makes everything all the more dull. The backgrounds are nicely done though – they look like watercolour paintings and the set designs are very true to the time period depicted (1800s).

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The score is excellent. Lots of classical piano and harpsichord pieces, which are very in keeping with the time period. I can’t really remember much of the voice acting though, don’t think it was anything spectacular.

Overall Song of Wind and Trees makes for slow paced, melancholic viewing – I’m sure that fans of the manga must have enjoyed it, but without that background this OVA came across as dull with muddled storytelling and much of the subtle nuances and symbolic motifs in the animation where completely lost on me I’m afraid.

Blue Sonnet: Utterly average and despite all the gory violence and action; boring – 3/5

PLOT: Well to be honest I wasn’t really expecting much from this series when I read the synopsis, so I was actually surprised that I quickly became interested in the two main characters Lan and Sonnet – they are both quite well developed despite this only having 5 episodes (well despite this being called ‘Blue Sonnet’ Lan is the true main character). However the plot is a terrible mishmash of scenes and suffers from completely random plot progression. Its like watching a load of disjointed scenes stuck together – there is no real flow to the story. I suppose this is what happens when you attempt to condense 17 vols of manga into 5 OVAs! As such all the characters apart from Lan and Sonnet are terribly shallow, there’s no clear motivation for the villains and no real closure on anything at the end. The random romance thread that was kind of rammed into the last 15mins of the last ep was felt out of place too.  And then there’s the sheer amount of gratuitous and gory violence on display (although if I’m honest those where the bits I enjoyed most :p).  I couldn’t really see what point there was to the long action scenes in the long run other than to show off how powerful the 2 girls were. All in all I just got the impression what stuff was happening way too fast with little to no explanation for anything – a bit of back story and an epilogue would have been nice! But what really surprised me is that Blue Sonnet is based on a shoujo manga published in Hana to Yume! This is definitely not your typical shoujo – there’s no fluffy romance, bubbles or flowers, its actually quite dark, gritty and violent with very few light moments.

ANIMATION: Ah the animation has not dated well – extremely 90s, but not of a high quality. Backgrounds lack detail (the scene in the tanker really highlights this) and the character animation is extremely blocky, although I did quite like the character designs themselves. The action scenes were fun to watch though – seeing someone get their head kicked off or cut to ribbons never gets old! Absolutely no shortage of blood and guts in this OVA, it seems like the animators just had a touch too much fun creating a heap of different ways to kill people off!

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: I didn’t like the music – the OP & ED don’t appeal to me and the BGM was occasionally too overblown and grandiose. Voice acting was pretty good though.

All in all Blue Sonnet was a bit of a mess – I can see that the would have been potential in the characters but its buried under poor writing, messy storytelling and bad editing and as such this series remains distinctly average.

Noir: An excellent, stylish anime but lacking in blood considering the subject matter – 4.5/5

PLOT: Noir has a very well worked out plotline. The 1st half of the series is quite slow, episodic and ‘assassination of the week’ orientated, but this is necessary in order to properly flesh out the personalities of Mireille & Kirika and develop their relationship to a point were the viewer actually cares about these two assassins. The second half of the series is much quicker paced as Mireille & Kirika delve further into their connected pasts and become entangled with the shadowy organisation Les Soldats. Light viewing Noir is not, as the truth that the two girls seek to find is determined to remain hidden – the viewer is required to think as much as Mireille & Kirika, as we are not given much more information than they are at any one time. The character development is superb and all the named characters introduced are all needed to progress the plot. Noir is an impressive piece of storytelling – not what I was expecting from BEE TRAIN at all.

ANIMATION: Really nice very stylish animation, gorgeous realistic backgrounds accurately depict the various locales that the characters travel to to carry out their missions. The gunfight action is extremely well choreographed and exciting to watch and there is excellent use of lighting effects, unusual camera angles and cuts. Character designs are quite nice, but sometimes there is a lack of proper emotion in the faces in close up shots. The major criticism I have is the completely bloodless violence. You will be hard pressed to find more than a single drop of blood in this entire series! Mireille & Kirika do not hold back on their missions and the death toll is massive, but no one really seems to bleed – all wounds are very clean. It’s irritating as everything else is quite realistically done – a bit more blood would have heightened the drama. Also there’s a bit of James Bond style shooting going on – the girls can stroll through a crowd of machine-gun wielding SPs and never get hit and dispatch their enemies with a single shot from a handgun! But hey they’re the main characters its to be expected, and they look really cool when doing so!

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The score deserved especial praise – an absolutely beautiful and very memorable soundtrack that I have downloaded.  I really like Kajiura Yuki’s work and Noir is no exception – grand sweeping melodies, great use of haunting choral pieces, classical scores and thrumming electro perfectly matches the action and intensifies the emotional drama, and all without drowning out the dialogue. The OP is by Ali Project and is quite similar to most of their other songs, but I quite liked it after listening to it a few times (despite the fact I utterly despise Ali Project!), the ED is a nice calm ballad. Voice acting is excellent throughout – a small cast but all are great in their roles.

Overall an extremely good series – highly recommended. Looses 1/2 a point because of the slow start and the bloodless violence.

Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (The Wallflower/ Perfect Girl Evolution): An excellent reverse-harem comedy series with a nice gothic twist – 4/5

PLOT: Rarely does a show make such a strong impression with its 1st few episodes than Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge does. I laughed till I cried during the 1st episode – think I watched it a few times and then made my sister watch it too.  The show has very strong beginning and end, but the middle is a bit flabby – these are mostly anime original episodes (I follow the manga of this series too), but even the middle episodes are still entertaining. The humour is OTT with lots of slapstick and visual gags, which get recycled quite a bit but still remain funny. There is also a fair bit of character development for the main characters, particularly Sunako & Kyohei throughout the series, but mainly it’s about the lulz.

ANIMATION: The art style takes a while to get used to – the character designs are not standard bishie fare, they look slightly odd and effeminate with their massive pouty lips, but once you get past that its fine – after all its really the reactions of the other characters to the bishies ‘dazzling good looks’ that makes the comedy work.  Sunako herself is very pretty when she’s in lady/kickass mode, but for the majority of the time she’s drawn as a chibi. All the characters are prone to revert to chibi form at the drop of a hat – it can be a bit overused, but normally only heightens the impact of the humour.  Spontaneous showers of rose petals, sparkles & nosebleeds are also normal in Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge to the extent that it’s like a parody of overused shoujo conventions.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: I remember that the soundtrack was very rock orientated with great OP & EDs and I also loved the voice cast to bits.  Sunako stands out for me as well due to her dramatic mood swings.

Overall a great comedy series – recommended if you just want to have a good laugh.

Bokurano: An excellent original concept and very thought provoking if quite depressing – 5/5

PLOT: I can’t really say much about the plot without spoiling things completely. Much of the shock value of the early episodes would be lost if I broke down the formula here – but what I can say is that this series displayed excellent, very well balanced storytelling. So many issues are dealt with over the course of this show as each and every one of the 15 children that the plot revolves around are completely different to each other, but somehow they manage not to be stereotypes. All of them are perfectly normal kids with their own problems, family circumstances and ways of thinking – the fact that they are so normal really adds to the emotional impact that Bokurano has. As the story comes from the same manga-ka as Narutaru there are a lot of quite dark themes and issues highlighted over the course of the show, but unlike Narutaru it isn’t all depressing doom and gloom – there are also genuine heart-warming moments and touches of comedy. But the one thing that shines through is the realism – we see the political and military response to the fact a giant robot is destroying massive portions of the city and we also see the destruction this causes in terms of houses, businesses and of course, lives. The anime also has a very satisfying conclusion and for a change I’m not looking for more, nothing more needed to be said really, even though we never discover the complete truth about everything that happened. I was really impressed with this show as just when you felt it was getting a bit formulaic it throws a load of well-timed plot twists at you and reached a natural feeling conclusion.

ANIMATION: This is an example of ‘Good GONZO’ and even the CG for the giant robots isn’t terrible – the fact that it doesn’t really mesh completely with the 2-D backgrounds adds to the otherworldly feel of the mecha. The mecha designs aren’t wonderful, but the fact that they’re so ungainly and oddly proportioned made for interesting fights. Character designs are very simple but this adds to the realistic quality of the children’s characters and they are animated consistently well over the course of the show. In fact the quality was quite consistent over the course of the 24 episodes, I particularly liked the backgrounds as there are a lot different locations covered and each manages to look unique even though its usually the middle of a city.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: I loved the OP & EDs, but particularly the OP (which I have downloaded) but the BGM was fairly unremarkable for the most part. Excellent voice cast for this show, it’s hard to pick out particular characters as the show was quite an ensemble piece, but I can say that not a single character was poorly cast.

Overall Bokurano was an excellent anime, I was surprised by how much I liked it. It is a bit on the heavy side though – I really would not recommend watching it as quickly as I did as its really doesn’t pull any punches with the drama. But if you can get past all that Bokurano is a very satisfying watch.

Another mixed lot of reviews – I’m getting through them rightly!  Still have plenty left to post though :p


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