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Short Reviews: Part 17

February 15, 2010

I’ve had these four sitting in a folder for months – completely forgot about them 😳   Anyway here’s Crest/Banner of the Stars, Bamboo Blade, 2×2=Shinobuden, Kimera and Honey and Clover.

Crest/Banner of the Stars (I, II & III): Fantastic example of a space opera with tons of character development – 4.5/5 for the meta-series as a whole.

PLOT: The world setting for the Stars series is fantastically well developed.  The Abh race’s culture, politics and language are all wonderfully realised and give a sense of real depth to the backdrop of this show, however I would have liked a bit more on United Mankind – they’re largely sidelined except for being ‘the enemy’ as the series is very Abh-centric.  Essentially at its core the Stars series is about two individuals, Jinto and Lafiel, and how their relationship develops over time.  The rich, well-developed world and epic space battles provide the action and drama, but Stars always makes sure that it keeps its focus on Jinto and Lafiel.  As characters they are wonderfully developed over the course of the 4 series – watching them grow was a joy.  All the characters receive quite a bit of development, making them all feel like proper people rather than just plot devices.  Admiral Spoor was a favourite – her wit and merciless teasing of her Chief of Staff was a source of great amusement to me!

As individual series I found that I liked Crest and Banner II most of the four series because I preferred the real focus being on a more personal level (Banner II was probably my favourite of the lot).  Crest introduced Jinto & Lafiel and established the fundamental differences between the Landers and Abh way of thinking.

Banner I had the most world development – it set up the entire war backdrop and made the viewer familiar with the way battle is fought in the Stars universe (although I felt that perhaps a bit too long was spent on long drawn out battles rather than personal drama).  Banner II once again went back to a more personal view point as the focus switched to Jinto & Lafiel’s trials as Ambassadors to a penal colony, and had the most character development and really cemented the relationship between the characters, plus I found the action to be the best since CrestBanner III rounded off the series nicely – although the mostly written epilogue was a bit disappointing, I wanted a proper Happy End!

The Stars series is very dialogue intensive – most of the exposition is through long dialogues, and some may find that dull.  However for me the scripting made sure that these long speeches never got dull – it really does have a wonderful and really witty script.  The fact that there are quite a few scenes completely in the Abh language was also impressive; its rare to see a series with its own fully developed in-universe language (although you can also tell that some of the Japanese VAs struggled with the pronunciation slightly).

In terms of action, most of it is on a grand scale.  Huge (and I mean huge) fleets of star ships waging war is an impressive sight (although it got a bit dull after the 1st few repetitions).  There isn’t a lot of hand to hand or ground conflict – most of it is battle ship and lots of chessboard like tactics; which can get a bit glazed eye inducing (I found this to be the case in Banner I especially)……..I think that’s enough rambling about the plot!

ANIMATION: Impressive with a steady increase in quality over the course of the 4 series.  The character designs were excellent – lots of variety even though the colour scheme was fairly limited to blue or brown hair!  The attention to detail in the Star Forces uniforms, family crests, ship interiors, landscapes and battle scenes was really something to be applauded.  Again the richness of the world setting really was a triumph.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: I love the score for the Stars series.  Unusually they kept the same OP theme for all 4 incarnations – an entirely instrumental piece with just simple star field images in the background; very simple yet at the same time very epic feeling.  The grandness of the orchestral pieces made for a rich soundscape – a really impressive musical score.  The Japanese voice acting was excellent throughout……some of the files I downloaded also had the English dub, so I attempted to listen to that out of curiosity – take my advice and do not inflict that on yourselves – its godawful!!!

So yeah, this has turned into one of my longer reviews as there is so much to appreciate about the Stars series – highly recommended sci-fi series!

Bamboo Blade:  A watchable, light-hearted if generic series – 3.5/5

PLOT: The series revolves around a high school kendo club with mainly female members. Fairly standard sports anime plotlines follow – the usual training & matches format. Nothing stands out as too different, the characters are all fairly generic but entertaining to watch. My favourites are the bi-polar Miya-Miya & the impoverished hot-blooded Toraji-sensei

ANIMATION: The animation quality good and the character designs are attractive – no complaints in this department. The kendo fights are drawn well and with enough going on to be interesting. There is also good use of chibi’s to enhance the comedy value.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The OP & ED are sung by the seiyu’s and are fairly standard fair – nothing remarkable but not terrible. Background music is bland but does the job. The voice acting is great though – Toraji-sensei is Kamina! 😛 All I hear is Kamina when on epic speech mode. The rest of the cast is pretty high quality too.

Overall Bamboo Blade is a very watchable show – even if the individual components are all quite generic, everything comes together to form something quite entertaining.

2×2=Shinobuden (Ninja Nonsense):  Completely lacks coherent plot, but is a great laugh – 3.5/5

PLOT: Another show with a wafer-thin plot, but its still amusing. The structure is similar to Muteki Kanban Musume with 2 short stories per episode. In fact 2×2=Shinobuden reminds me of Muteki Kanban Musume quite a bit as both are filled with amusing, entertaining yet completely shallow characters! Onsokumaru is inspired!

ANIMATION: Well it’s not the selling point of the show, but its reasonably well animated and nice and colourful.  Character designs are decent enough too, but quite generic.

This voice cast is absolutely brilliant! Each and every character has a fantastic seiyuu, but the standout really is Norio Wakamoto, the yellow ball with a face.  I loved the OP & ED too – very fun and catchy!

All in all 2×2 Shinobuden isn’t going to tax your brain, but is good for light viewing if you want a quick laugh.

Kimera: Nice animation……and, um……nice animation? 1.5/5

PLOT: This is going to be short as I can’t remember much of this movie other than being completely underwhelmed and very confused. It started out decently enough I think – lots of mystery and sci-fi elements are introduced, but somewhere around the middle it’s like the creators forgot what the point was and fired in every snippet of information that popped into their heads! There is no character development at all really – Osamu is Mr Average Joe and Kimera him(her?)self is void of any type of personality at all! It just tries to do too much in too short a time and ends up as a muddled mess.

ANIMATION: The animation is good! Nice detailing and interesting designs – although the androgynous design of Kimera is a bit confusing…..what was the point to that anyway??  If its going to be yaoi make it yaoi FFS!

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: I don’t remember the music at all – the voice acting was also forgettable.

Overall a pretty disappointing show – may have had promise if it was a short series rather than a movie as the creators may have been able to organise their thoughts a bit better. As it is Kimera is a bit of a shambles – avoid.

Honey and Clover: A completely charming slice of life romance series, with completely believable characters – 5/5

PLOT: I had been putting Honey and Clover off for ages, as I was never in the mood for slice of life romance (I love watching stuff explode a bit too much) but once I sat down and started this series, I found it extremely difficult not to get swept up in it!  I was completely drawn into these characters, I wanted to know what motivated them – laughed with them when they were happy, sympathised with them when they were lost and cried when they suffered heartbreak.  It’s a very rare series indeed that succeeds in making me cry with laughter as well as in sympathy.

Honey and Clover success lies in the way the series is balanced – it never dives into full blown melodrama (episodes late in S2 dance dangerously close to that line through) and the romance is never forced – everything feels natural.  The characters are the main reason why this show works so well – they are wonderfully well rounded.  There are no forced archetypes, each one has flaws and insecurities and things don’t always work out the way they planned.  It was a joy to watch them grow from insecure students into slightly less insecure adults – a journey I can majorly empathise with.  Graduating from studentdom into the Real World is not an easy process – Honey and Clover really struck a chord with me in that respect.

The ending is quite open-ended and you are definitely left wanting more – but this is probably the best way to end this series.  It feels like you’ve just had an extended visit with a group of friends and then parted ways.  I’ll miss this group and wonder how they got on after the end of the series – a sequel would be most welcome, but its not necessary really.

ANIMATION: This is a gorgeously put together series.  The colours are soft and muted with lots of pastels.  The character designs are well put together, although they are quite muted, but this actually helps prevent the series spilling over into melodrama.  The costume design and ever changing seasons and locations also kept the show grounded in reality.

MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The music is wonderful – all of the OPs, EDs and insert songs were well chosen – easy on the ear melodies and fitting lyrics.  The score is filled with melodic piano pieces, creating an almost dreamy atmosphere to the show at times.

The voice acting is what really makes this show though.  The characters are what carry the show since there is a lack of a linear plot line, and each and every one of the seiyuu do a wonderful job – it would be impossible to pick a single one out.  The characters in Honey and Clover go through the entire spectrum of emotion over the course of the two series, and their seiyuu manage to portray them with warmth and believability throughout their ups and downs.  Really, this was a wonderfully acted series.

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed Honey and Clover, but really you should watch it for yourselves.  If I have one criticism it’s that I didn’t see the point to making Hagu look like such a child.  I found it hard to relate to her for the longest time because of her stilted growth, but towards the end I warmed to her (yes Cara ended up liking the loli) as she came into her own, but that would have been easier if she was portrayed as a normal (if short) girl rather than a baby-faced midget.

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