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Short Reviews: Part 6

July 22, 2009

blog review1

Yeap more reviews to post today – Planetes, Now & Then, Here & There, RahXephon, Paprika and Black Blood Brothers.…..Enjoy!!

Planetes: A well thought-out and original slice of life anime – 5/5

PLOT: Highly original premise centred on a small group of Space Debris Collectors (essentially space bin men) in the near future. Everything is kept extremely grounded and realistic so while it is sci-fi, its entirely believable sci-fi and this makes it all the more interesting, even to someone like me who loves high fantasy. As a show it starts out quite slice of life as it establishes the characters and the world setting. Gradually the plot builds until it becomes a gripping drama with a centralised plot line with Hachimaki as the focus. If Planetes is anything its character driven, there is a huge amount of consideration and development given to all characters introduced into this series. Even if the character is only in the show for a short amount of airtime, they are never superfluvious – practically everyone introduced has an essential role to play in furthering the plot and are given closure by the end of the series. It really is remarkable storytelling – I was completely sucked in for the duration and found the characters engaging, believable and likeable (for the most part). Planetes also tackles a number of interesting questions, its not a show you can watch with your brain switched off – subtle politics, economics, ethics, terrorism and philosophical questions are raised; although not all are answered and much is left to the viewer to draw their own conclusions. In short I felt the plot was well worked out, paced and had a very satisfying conclusion (I would have even liked a wee bit more ).

ANIMATION: The animation is solid and there is very little deviation in quality for the duration of the show. Everything has a very realistic feel – from the set & background designs to the character designs. There is some use of CGI, but its well integrated with the 2D animation. Character designs are plain but with a lot of variety – there is no two characters who look alike, even among the background cast – lots of different nationalities are depicted too.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: I quite liked the OP & ED even if they are a touch forgettable. The score was excellent though – great orchestral and choral pieces and excellent use of background silence when appropriate. Voice acting was also superb, all the seiyuu really brought their characters to life and all of them displayed quite a bit of depth and range over the course of the series.

Overall Planetes was a very well thought out and presented series – an excellent show and I really would urge anyone to watch it.

Now & Then, Here & There: A bleak, depressing but wonderfully crafted anime that leaves you with a jumble of emotions – 4.5/5.

PLOT: The plot is very a straightforward and simple boy meets girl and is transported to another world type scenario – but that’s fine, this is another anime that is all about the characters more than the plot. Its a slow starter as it introduces the world, major plot points and central characters, but the later half of the series is a roller coaster ride; both in terms of action and emotions. Mature topics are covered by this anime as it deals with war in a very realistic manner – light-hearted this is not, some scenes are quite shocking although nothing is overly explicit, but the stuff that’s implied is quite disturbing. The plot is quite tragic and we aren’t given an uplifting happy end either – it’s more a subdued ray of hope than anything else. The surviving characters will be forever changed by their experiences.

The characters themselves are excellent, and amazingly well developed for a 13-episode anime. I found Shuu and Lala Ru to be uninteresting though – I was much more interested in King Hamdo, Sara and Nabuca. Shuu is extremely generic (he actually reminded me massively of Naruto), and his tendency to rush in head first got very irritating. His reaction to being transported to this decimated world I found weird – he never actually expresses any shock or mentions missing home at all! Sara was much more believable in this respect and her story brought a lot of realism to the plot. Lala Ru was dull from beginning to end – but I’ve never really liked the emotionless girl archetype, and she remains mysterious to the end. King Hamdo on the other hand, was immensely fun to watch – he dominates every scene he’s in with his constantly fluctuating mood and fits of insanity. Nabuca’s story I also found extremely interesting and missed him when he wasn’t about for much of the later half of the series.
Overall I really enjoyed the plot, but found that everything was resolved at the end a bit too quickly and with not enough explanation.

ANIMATION: Great animation – gritty and with great use of colour. Even though this is an older series I found the animation to be fluid and the character designs were simple but nice. Interesting camera angles and good use of orange, yellow and red really made this show visually striking. Very nice indeed.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The music isn’t really much to speak of – the OP is a plain instrumental and the ED is a forgettable ballad. BGM is minimal, instead there is a lot of silence to heighten dramatic tension – where there is music its well placed and melodic. Voice acting is truly excellent though – especially King Hamdo and Nabuca who express quite a large range over the course of the series.

All in all an excellent if depressing series. I’ve subtracted 0.5 due to the slightly rushed end and the fact I disliked the main characters. I also recommend watching something light and comedic after you finish this show!

RahXephon: A very impressive anime; wonderful animation and brilliant plot – 5/5

PLOT: On the surface you do immediately get Neon Genesis Evangelion vibes, but RahXephon quickly establishes itself as unique with fantastic character development and a highly original convoluted plot. The show is also much more balanced than EVA – carefully crafted plot progression and with a satisfying ending, it makes for wonderful viewing as each episode adds something to the rich tapestry of plot threads. The characters are extremely well developed and likable – there is a notable lack of the angst that permeates EVA as RahXephon instead focuses on romance. Indeed the main thread of the plot is a touching love story more than anything else – I found this extremely refreshing in a mecha show. Of course the show has numerous points that had me highly confused and I can not claim to understand exactly what happened at the end, but I got most of it in this 1st viewing – I’ll definitely be watching this show again at some stage though as I’m positive I’ve missed some subtle plot points. Do not watch this show unless you are willing to commit some of your brain cells to it, as the complexity of the plot requires you to be awake when watching this anime!

ANIMATION: Wonderful. Simply wonderful – it’s rare to get such consistently high quality animation in a 26-episode TV show, but BONES have delivered a stunning show. The backgrounds are detailed and vivid, the mecha designs highly original and organic, and the character designs are well thought out and pleasing to the eye. Lots and lots of symbolism is used throughout the series, a lot of it centred on the contrast between the red blood of the humans and the blue blood of the murians – the two opposing colours are the most dominant in the colour palate used. Overall a very well animated show – BONES have once again outdone themselves.

MUSIC: As much of the plot revolves around music and sound, the soundscape of RahXephon is nothing short of brilliant. Highly atmospheric and rich in tone, the score is like another character and supports the plot perfectly. Lots of operatic vocal work for the D1 Aria’s elevates the action scenes to another level as a cacophony of sound assails you. The background music is well composed and has a timeless classical air to it. I also loved the OP & ED and never skipped over them – shall be downloading both ballads shortly.

VOICE ACTING: A extremely talented group of seiyuu provide the voice work for this series, so many that’s its hard to pick out the best of them! However Hiro Shimono (Hiro Hirono – ef: A Tale of Memories, Tatsuma Hiyuu – Tokyo Majin Gakuen Kenpucho) as Ayato deserves praise as it would have been so easy to let Ayato become bogged down in Shinji-type angst, but he manages to hold back and keep Ayato’s character strong but sympathetic. It’s all the more remarkable, as this was Shimono’s debut role! The rest of the cast is equally strong.

So yeah, I really liked RahXephon and really highly recommend it to everyone – especially anyone who enjoyed Evangelion.

Paprika: A solid film, but I was expecting something more from Satoshi Kon – 4/5

PLOT: Extremely interesting plot – the concept of dreams has always fascinated me, so the plot of this film really did appeal to me. It’s a jumble of events as half the film takes place in the dream world where there are no rules. I found that I followed the plot quite well, but I think this is because of my love of CLAMPs dreamseerer plotlines in X/1999, TRC & xxxHOLiC! When dealing with peoples dreams its always going to be weird and convoluted, so its best just to go with the flow. I certainly did enjoy the ride, but now that I’m reflecting on the film I cant help but feel slightly unfulfilled. There is not nearly enough character development and no closure on what triggered the whole sequence of events. The characters are quirky and memorable, as you would expect, but they feel shallow and stereotyped – I find myself wishing I knew more about them and the reasons behind their avatars appearances in the dream world.  This is always a problem with movies since they are short on time, but with Paprika its particularly annoying as I felt too much time was wasted on looped scenes.

ANIMATION: As you would expect from a film animated by MADHOUSE, Paprika is visually fantastic. An absolute riot of colour, detail and action – every frame is jam-packed and the action sequences have a brilliant sense of movement and fluidity. A small criticism is the fact that there seems to be a lot of recycled animation – most notably of the parade, it seems to appear way too often in the same sort of way. Character designs are nice, if typical of a Satoshi Kon production.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: Music is good – very reminiscent of Paranoia Agent, especially the title theme and the credit theme. Similarly voice acting is also good, but nothing overly spectacular.

Overall Paprika is a very enjoyable anime film, but I have been spoiled by Satoshi Kon’s earlier work and Paprika just isn’t as good as Tokyo Godfathers, Perfect Blue or Paranoia Agent unfortunately.

Black Blood Brothers: Solidly entertaining but ultimately quite average – 3.5/5

PLOT: There’s a decent enough storyline but sometimes I was left feeling that I wasn’t getting the full picture. There is an awful lot going on – a myriad of side stories and back stories that are just not given enough time, it seems there would have easily been enough material to cover 25-6 episodes rather than the 12 on offer. As such we’re left with a short show with a lot of characters and not enough time is allowed for character development. The end result is a lot of generic-ness. Its a pity because there some really interesting characters here, notably the Old Blood vampires, and I would have loved to know a bit more about them – especially their roles during the Holy War. The primary antagonist Casa is never given a clear motive or back story either! So many hints and so little plot resolution = disappointment, but on the upside each episode is very entertaining in its own right. There’s plenty of action and I was never bored, its only on reflection when writing a review that I realised how unfinished the show was. Still a good vampire show to pass the time with.  There is an ending but you get the feeling there should be more – it’s more like the end of an arc rather than the end of a series.

ANIMATION: Its fine, does the job. Nice enough character designs (although I hated Jirou’s hat with a passion – its a crime against fashion!) all rather simple and clean. Vampire powers and fight scenes were well done too – overall its a fairly average looking show, not bad not brilliant.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: Music was passable – didn’t like the OP, quite liked the ED. Voice acting was good though. Takahiro Sakurai (Suzaku – Code Geass, Kanda – D.Gray-Man) in the main role was great – Jirou’s personality is quite hot and cold and Sakurai displayed a good range in his voice work.  Jun Fukuyama is in there too providing his ‘Lelouch’ voice as Zelman (woo!)

So all in all a good entertaining series, even if it feels a bit incomplete.

More tomorrow if I have time! :p

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2009 11:31 pm

    This blog has definitely helped to make your reviews more accessible. An organised library, if you will. I’m slowly going through each one and generally agreeing with your viewpoint. It’s also worth noting how many reviews you have written. 🙂

    • Caraniel permalink*
      July 22, 2009 11:35 pm

      I know, even if I only use it as an archive I’m finding keeping a blog useful. When I copied all the reviews into word I have 57 pages at size 10 font! Still have quite a few left to post up……although the writing quality is really crap for a few so I may redraft them.

  2. Aiko permalink
    July 23, 2009 1:39 am

    I’m intending to use my new blog for the same thing. I’ve only written fourteen reviews, thus far, and currently have twelve up on the blog. In the future, when I write a review for the thread, I’ll also place it on the blog and link to it at the bottom. 🙂

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