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Short Reviews: Part 8

July 25, 2009

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Yeap more reviews! Macross Frontier, Kai Doh Maru, Karas: The Prophesy, Natsume Yuujinchou and Itazura na Kiss after the cut!!

Macross Frontier: Fun and very entertaining mecha series which a brilliant soundtrack – 5/5

PLOT: Same premise of most Macross series – J-Pop saves the universe! 😀 However its so much more than that, as Macross Frontier has lots of nicely written dialogue and well thought out plot progressions. Sure its got a heap of clichés, a rather standard love triangle and I could spot many of the plot twists coming a mile off thanks to my familiarity with this kind of anime; but despite its faults Macross Frontier never failed to be interesting and entertaining. I loved the characters – they did start off fairly generic, but there was lots of character development and they are all very memorable. It’s the kind of show that just wants to entertain you and I was definitely entertained.

ANIMATION: Its obvious that Macross F had a huge budget – there is not a single scene that isn’t animated beautifully. Tons of work went into this series; the animation is fluid, the character designs distinctive and well thought out, and the background detailing breathtaking. The action set pieces are something else – massive Valkyrie battles with ridiculous amounts of beam spamming just leapt out of the screen and demanded your attention. Yay for explosions! 😀 Use of CGI was extensive, but this is a rare example of how the use of CGI enhances the animation to perfection – its an extremely pretty anime.

MUSIC: Thankfully for a series based on J-Pop the soundtrack is nothing short of brilliant. I’ve both OSTs downloaded and they feature quite highly on my playlists – although I generally prefer Sheryl’s songs to Ranka’s. The songs are used to great effect in the show, enhancing fight scenes and adding a musical quality to some of the more day-to orientated scenes. The background score is also fantastic. The ever-changing OPs & EDs are great and I don’t think I ever skipped over the OP & ED for any of the 25 episodes!

VOICE ACTING: One of the 1st things I actually noticed was the stellar cast this show has! So many well-known seiyuu in one show was just the icing for the Inner Fangirl; I mean you’ve got Tomoya, Kamina, Watanuki, Tieria, Miyuki, Kagura and Belldandy all in one show!!

In case you haven’t noticed by now I loved this show – granted I’m quite biased as I really like this genre, but Macross Frontier really is a great example and I’d quite happily rewatch it!

Kai Doh Maru: Beautifully produced and interesting concept, but has a lot of faults – 3/5

PLOT: Allowing 45mins to explore the political intrigues of the Heian period is not nearly enough time and as a result the plot becomes extremely fragmented and disconnected – like a series of short snapshots of Kintoki’s life. The characters are not given enough time to develop so there is no real emotional connection to them and they remain shallow throughout. This is a pity as even in their basic form they do hold promise if only they were given some time to develop. It is confusing, but there is a defined plot here unlike in BLAME! and I did find it interesting. Don’t expect a Samurai action flick from Kai Doh Maru though as its much more about the political background than the action set pieces.

ANIMATION: Now this is where the majority of my rating came from. The animation is done in a style I haven’t seen before – almost like an animated scroll painting in its watercolour, pastel glory. Everything is pale coloured with simple lines, but things like trees, leaves and grass are extremely detailed. Character designs are also very simple and quite generic but fit well in this setting. Movement is very natural and fluid – the few action scenes are well choreographed with bright red blood making for a striking contrast to the otherwise pale colour palate. CG rendering is used to great effect as well on things like wagons and falling snow – it’s a very visually attractive piece of animation.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: Music is done in a period style with a hint of a modern twist – very fitting for this anime. Voice acting is mostly unremarkable, there is not a lot of emotion on display and the seiyuu’s didn’t seem to have much of an emotional tie to their characters.

Overall it’s a pretty piece of animation, but they tried to cover way too large of a story in too short a time. Given a bit of extra time Kai Doh Maru could have been excellent, as it is its merely average and confusing.

Karas: The Prophesy: Slightly confusing but absolutely stunning animation and brilliant action scenes – 4/5

PLOT: Well the plot is both complicated and simplistic. Complicated in that there is quite a lot of side stories going on and simplistic in that the main plot exists only to link together extended action pieces. That being said I enjoyed the show a great deal, although I sometimes found myself more interested in the actions of side characters rather than the 2 central conflicting forces. This is mainly due to the fact that Eiko & Otoha are usually too busy fighting to talk much! As an action series this series excels but has enough interesting characters to keep those who like a plot happy. I had downloaded the 6 ep OVA version rather than the movie compilation version so don’t know how much they differ.

ANIMATION: This is the 1st thing that strikes you about this show and is its main selling point IMO. This is a gorgeous piece visually – CGI is used perfectly in the action scenes, blending nicely with the 2D animation (take note GONZO!!!). The action scenes are beautifully choreographed and the backgrounds are rich and detailed. I loved the character designs too and there was so much blood!! Animation gets 5/5 easily.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: Voice acting was great, Karas has an excellent cast – although if I have one complaint its that some of the leads do not get nearly enough lines. The music is also top notch – a nicely put together score that highlights the action and drama set pieces perfectly.

Overall Karas was a good show – it loses a few points for being a bit confusing at times and lacking in development for the main characters as well as having a slightly generic villain.

Natsume Yuujinchou: An enjoyable atmospheric, episodic and character driven series – 4/5

PLOT: Completely standard boy sees ayakashi and gets shunned kind of fare, but Natsume Yuujinchou still manages to be interesting in a very subtle way. This anime is entirely about the characters, and it explores the viewpoint of the youkai as well as the humans, which is a refreshing change. The main character Natsume himself is a strong central character and its very easy to identify with him. Nyanko-sensei is a fantastic character too although he still remains a mystery at the end of this 1st season. As is the case with all shows that are episodic in nature, there are some episodes that leave a stronger impression than others but they are all heart-warming and interesting in their own ways.

ANIMATION: This isn’t the strongest in the world. The colour palate is very pastel the backgrounds are fairly plain at times. Character designs are OK, but there are too many ayakashi with very similar traditional designs – it gets a bit difficult to differentiate between them at times. Obviously this was quite a low budget production, but they made good use of it and the atmosphere of the show makes it a perfect anime for light veiwing.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The OP is hummable but not overly memorable, I wasn’t overly wowed by the ED and usually skipped over it. BGM kept the atmosphere of the show well though. Voice acting was excellent – in particular Nyanko-sensei/Madara was wonderfully voiced.

Overall I really enjoyed Natsume Yuujinchou, it was one of the more enjoyable series of the past year for me and the 2nd season (Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou) was also very good.

Itazura na Kiss: A pretty standard shoujo series, but has wonderful character development – 3.5/5

PLOT: Typical shoujo girl falls in love with boy, but he’s an aloof prick type show – but what makes Itazura different is that it follows this couple for 10 years! We get to see Kotoko & Naoki’s life from high school to parenthood and it’s a very enjoyable ride. The middle section dealing with University is a bit slow and seems to be trying to hard to be interesting, but the high school and post uni arc’s are excellent. Itazura has some brilliant characters and an excellent supporting cast – I think my favourite has to be Naoki’s fangirl mother, some of the best comedy is provided by her. Kotoko is an idiot who doesn’t know when to quit, but a likeable idiot nonetheless. I had difficulty liking Naoki though, he can be an utter bastard at times and his little brother is irritating as well. Overall the strong point of Itazura is its character development. By following the same people over 10 years it gives plenty of time to let the characters mature and its this point that made this shoujo romcom stand above the competition for me.

ANIMATION: Oh dear – the animation is in a word, ugly. Terrible character designs – Kotoko never ages, Naoki is meant to be gorgeous but isn’t bishie at all and everyone is shapeless. The budget on this show is obviously minimal as backgrounds are plain and everything lacks detail. Colours used are also dull and washed out looking, animation quality is not the best here.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: Did not like the OP much, and the EDs were OK for the genre. Didn’t notice the BGM much so it was neither good nor bad. Voice acting is great though. Since the characters are what made this show worthwhile for me all the seiyuu did wonderful jobs bringing their characters to life.

All in all a shoujo romcom that while it suffers from bad animation and a flabby middle section, is a very good watch with great fun characters and lots of development.

Thats it for now…….need to rework quite a few of the reviews after this point as they are either craptastic or only partial reviews where I wrote them before finishing the show!

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