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Short Reviews: Part 15

August 31, 2009

blog review 5

So another five reviews today – I am slowing getting them rewritten! Today I have; Noein, Kurozuka, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, Kure-nai and Jing The Bandit King.

Noein: Exciting, if sometimes mind-bending, Sci-fi series with a ton of action – 4/5

PLOT: Noein is a series that while it contains many clichéd elements, still manages to be highly original and memorable. It tackles complex ideas like the multiple-world theory and the fluidity of the future and wraps them up in a very accessible and human story. There is always the danger when dealing with sci-fi that its all going to get very talky and incomprehensible and the characters will get caught up techno-babble and end up feeling aloof and unapproachable – such is thankfully not the case in Noein. Even the scientist characters remain human and mostly likeable. The character development is superbly done – Noein has a large cast, but all are given adequate time and are fairly well rounded at the end. Haruka is a great heroine – very grounded and believable, and her friends in all their incarnations are also well developed. The only character I have issue with is Yuu – he’s such a whiney brat for most the time that by the time he actually stops his emo-ness and does something I just no longer cared about the character. His alternate future self, Karasu, on the other hand; is a wonderful and complex character and the central figure of most the action scenes in the series.
There is so much I’d like to ramble about as Noein provides great food for thought, but if I go on much longer this will turn into an essay rather than a review! So I’ll just say that Noein’s plot was great with lots of interesting ideas and a well developed world and likeable characters – it looses some marks for slightly odd pacing and an end that’s a touch too neat with a couple of plot-holes, but those are minor quibbles and don’t really much affect my overall enjoyment.

ANIMATION: Unorthodox and experimental, Noein makes for a unique visual experience. The character designs are definitely not the norm and the animation is almost messy in its execution. However this style works very well for the subject matter – the action scenes are jaw-dropping as the messy, sketchy style allows for a lot of freedom of movement. Its not pretty, but it is eye-catching. I have issues with the CGI though – a lot of it is poorly done and doesn’t mesh with the other animation at all, the only place this actually works well is with the Shangri-La things as it enhances the feeling that these objects really are from a different time-space. Plenty of recycled animation too, notably shots of Haruka’s house and her activation of the Dragon Torque. The animation quality is also very inconsistent; at times it’s striking, detailed and has lots of movement and at others its completely bland, static and the characters look deformed! Still I appreciate that Noein offers something different and quite visually striking.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The score is excellent – all the BGM is wonderful and has lots of variety. It’s a really rich soundscape. The OP was pretty and I didn’t skip it all that much, the ED was quite forgettable though. Voice acting was excellent – Karasu, Haruka and Atori stand out in my mind as particularly well acted as these are the characters that have the biggest range of expression over the run of the series. However as a whole the cast is wonderful.

So all in all Noein is one of the better and more original sci-fi anime I’ve seen, I’d definitely recommend it.

Kurozuka: Exciting, stylish, with an excellent soundtrack but lacks depth – 4/5
PLOT: Kurozuka is a show where the from the 1st episode I was completely drawn into the intrigue of the plot. The whole look and sound of the show gave me Death Note vibes. I think the same team from Madhouse who produced Death Note worked on Kurozuka as the animation employs a similar style. Kurozuka was the standout action series of its season, but it has much more to offer than that, it also offers an engaging, mysterious (although sometimes confusing) plotline. Of course I would have liked some proper answers regarding Kuro & Kuromitsu, but since the show is told from Kuro’s POV we never get more answers than he does and I’ve drawn my own conclusions about what exactly was going on. The time skipping and repeating cycles that occur throughout (and without warning) I found very interesting, as each repetition shed new light on the mystery of Kuro & Kuromitsu. The series is short at 12 episodes, but thanks to this there is rarely a dull moment as every last minute is put to good use.

ANIMATION: Dialogue is at a minimum in this series so the rich visuals, heavy with deep reds and a brilliant soundtrack are what set the atmosphere for the viewer. Over all the animation is stunning as one would expect from MADHOUSE – lots of strong colouring (especially during the fight sequences where Kuro really flips out!), heaps of blood, really slick choreography, interesting (if overly thin) character designs and fantastic attention to detail in the backgrounds – very visually striking anime.

VOICE ACTING & MUSIC: The soundtrack is fantastic – best OP I’ve heard in a while and a nice ED too – BGM is also very impressive and atmospheric. The seiyuu are pretty impressive too (woo Mamoru Miyano!), although there really isn’t a whole lot of dialogue in this show.

In spite of its flaws Kurozuka remains an extremely attractive show, I mean its got blood, gore, action, romance, immortality, swords and Mamoru Miyano! Whats not to like!? Recommended if you like your action series mature, blood-soaked and stylish.

Gankutsuou – The Count of Monte Cristo: Excellent and visually striking novel adaptation – 5/5

PLOT: Basically its The Count of Monte Cristo in space/the future ^_^ Its been many years since I read the original Count of Monte Cristo novel so my memory of the finer details of the plot is a bit fuzzy, but Gonzo have managed quite a good adaptation of the plot IMO. The characters are rich, there is plenty of character development and the story has a multitude of layers – all is good here. The Count is a fascinating character, you can’t help but be drawn into his world and story. Gankutsuou demonstrated brilliant pacing and wonderful scripting – never a dull moment! Definitely one of GONZO’s best series.

ANIMATION: Such a striking style is used in this anime, an abundance of static patterns is used to detail character clothing, hair and important background details. It’s a visually memorable style that makes this anime stand out extremely well. The only other anime I can think of with a remotely similar visual motif is Mononoke. The character designs may be drawn from Gonzo’s generic stock, but the detailing makes them fit their setting well and makes them quite eyecatching.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The score is wonderful – beautiful piano pieces and a nice ballad OP. I particularly liked the ED, the way its presented with the visuals makes it feel like a particularly well edited AMV! The voice acting is of a high standard too – it has Jun Fukuyama (which pleased my Inner Fangirl quite a lot). The Count’s voice was melty too!

Overall a very well put together anime adaptation of a classic novel and highly recommended to anyone looking for a series with a well constructed and engaging plot.

Kure-nai: Quirky, quite slow but very character driven, with some excellent action scenes – 4/5

PLOT: This show really surprised me when I watched it – judging from promo material and summaries, I thought it would either be more comedic & harem-y or dark and action orientated. What I got was quirky slice of life with the odd dark undertone! The pacing is slowish and it takes its time with getting to the meat of the plot – rather we are given a very character driven anime, and the characters are what make it worth watching for me, Shinkuro and Murasaki are a joy to watch and are given a lot of depth over the run of the show. In addition Kure-nai has a stunning action packed finale (you’ve got to see the car chase through the traditional mansion!), which really topped the series off for me. Oh and there is a hilarious musical episode – you have to see (and hear) that!

ANIMATION: 1st off – what a demented opening! It’s really cute and colourful, which is quite jarring as the tone of series isn’t really all that light! Brains Base were behind the animation, and they employ a similar style to that used in Red Garden. The backgrounds are very detailed and the animation is fluid – the character designs needed a bit getting used to but were well thought out. However overall the animation quality is high throughout and especially shines during the handful of well-choreographed and exciting action scenes.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The music is great and really fitting throughout (well except for that slightly out of place OP and that hilarious musical episode). The one thing that bugged me about this series is the main character, Shinkuro Kurenai’s VA – he sounds much too girly & young (Miyuki Sawashiro also voiced Claire in Red Garden, Shinku in Rozen Maiden & Jun in Persona: Trinity Soul). It was something I struggled with throughout, but it isn’t all that annoying as everyone else in the cast is excellent and well cast.

Overall I really liked Kure-nai and felt it was one of the best new offerings in its season and the show really didn’t get enough love when it was airing.

Jing The Bandit King: Quite average series, but does have a nice sense of style – 3/5

PLOT: Well basically you have Jing and his bird friend/ super powered gun thing, Kir and the two of them travel all over their world looking for stuff that interests Jing to steal, oh and Jing always picks up a girl in each arc (Wiki calls them the ‘Jing Girls‘!). Not the most original plotline in the world, and the series is pretty standard shounen fare – but its still pretty well executed. The structure of the series is unrelated stand-alone episodes or short mini arcs and in that sense it reminds me of Kino no Tabi or Mushishi (although not in the same league as either of those series!). Jing himself is quite laid back and likeable, Kir on the other hand is a lech and fairly annoying.

ANIMATION: The series is pretty well animated, although the 1st thought that went through my head when I saw Jing was “wow the spikes in his hair could put someone’s eye out!) There is plenty of striking colour, the backgrounds are interesting and the action is well done – no real complaints about production quality here.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: For some reason the downloads I got lack the opening and endings, but I did watch the opening on YouTube and thought that it was OK – not overly memorable. The music during the episodes reminded me of Tokyo Underground, but it seemed to fit well enough. The voice acting is excellent – it bugged me at first that Jing has the same seiyuu as Kohsaka (Genshiken), Wolfram (Kyo Kara Maoh) & Kei (Moyashimon) as I watched all three of those series not long before watching Jing, but got over that quickly. The always great Shinichiro Miki plays the motorbike courier Postino & Kir ‘s VA is also very good.

Over all I’m pleasantly surprised with this series as I didnt have high expectations for it, but its still quite average and I have no desire to watch the OVA series.

Yes I still have more in my backlog – god knows when I’ll be through!

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 4, 2010 6:42 am

    Kudos from one braniac to another. 🙂

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