Category Archives: Ratings Index

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] [93/100]

vlcsnap-2016-10-05-12h59m59s052 vlcsnap-2016-10-05-13h00m25s318 vlcsnap-2016-10-05-13h10m10s468 vlcsnap-2016-10-05-13h00m32s937 vlcsnap-2016-10-05-13h05m33s627 vlcsnap-2016-10-05-13h06m17s667vlcsnap-2016-10-05-13h08m34s426 vlcsnap-2016-10-05-13h07m09s386

A show that masterfully created suspenseful drama. Productions were top notch–visuals by A-1 Pictures put this towards the top of my list as some of the best animation including its wonderful cinematography!  Yuki Kajiura scored a dramatic soundtrack and it pays off!  Especially with Kayo’s scenes between her mother and the incredible detail on object framing throughout the kids conversations at school!

We get a realistic perspective on how Satoru grows up through the eyes of a child.  If it weren’t for Satoru’s mother, Sachiko, being such a strong parental figure (supporting Satoru’s decision on not abandoning Kayo) in this series I would not have rated this in the 90’s.  It’s because of her we understand Akemi’s treatment of her own child, Kayo, and that Boku Machi is more than just a chilling murder mystery series.  It is clearly seen by the first half of this anime that the director chose to highlight the friendships (Kayo x Satoru) rather than focusing on Satoru finding out who killed his mom [until towards the end of the anime].  We get a concurring theme of murder mystery that helps him get closer to Kayo–the animation and cinematography were important in getting this across.  We see realistic scenes between the two of them from hand holding to birthday parties and while being in his 10-year old self it’s Satoru’s job to protect Kayo it also rewarding that he is learning new things about himself and why he couldn’t connect with his mom and friends before.  His revival ability gives him the chance at a “do-over” and it’s amazing to watch it pan out.  Offering us well-written inner dialogue scenes from heartfelt moments to comedic scenes.

Director Tomohiko Ito [Sword Art Online] cut out a lot from the manga and still managed to give us an ending that is satisfying.  The manga explains that Satoru can rerun moments of time backwards sometimes of his choosing.  In the anime, his ability is known as revival where it occurs through a situation that leads to tragedy.   In the manga, chapter 3 explores this in detail when Katagiri Airi and he discover a building getting torn down and Satoru has a rerun.  He knows something is off and discovers a child stuck in an elevator shaft.  After saving the child’s life he discovers that Katagiri’s first name is Airi and they call each other on a first name basis after the incident.  In the anime this entire scene is completely removed resulting in a lack of characterization for Airi. And still the anime captured even Airi’s moments nicely.  Using her as Satoru’s push forward in the middle of this story worked–Satoru can lean on his friends for help.  IF it wasn’t for her punch scene with the manager and the entire fire sequence I don’t think Satoru would have leaned on his friends, especially Kenya, as much as he did in the second half of Boku Machi.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 93/100


 

On a side note I thought I’d share some upcoming events my anime club is having. If anyone is interested in helping out with my events please contact me.

Anime Nights’ Facebook Events

Advertisements

Subete ga F ni Naru [The Perfect Insider] [85/100]

vlcsnap-2016-04-07-12h55m50s970 vlcsnap-2016-04-07-12h57m05s710 vlcsnap-2016-04-07-12h58m03s056 vlcsnap-2016-04-07-12h58m35s378 vlcsnap-2016-04-07-12h59m16s448 vlcsnap-2016-04-07-13h05m03s870vlcsnap-2016-04-07-13h00m47s128 vlcsnap-2016-04-07-13h02m55s756

The [not quite] Perfect Insider

The Perfect Insider takes the classic locked room mystery and gives it an interesting twist, inserting digital technology and gendered elements… elements that don’t quite hold up under scrutiny, which may be a deal breaker for some.

Isaac Asimov in an introduction to his collected mystery short stories wrote that there were essentially two schools of whodunits. The first was of a logical puzzle sort that had to be deduced by the protagonist (and also, natch, the reader), with the locked room mystery being the ultimate example. The main pleasure to be derived in these sorts of stories was the logical coherence of the mystery and the way in which it could be solved as an exercise of the intellect. Asimov, as we might guess, wrote mysteries in this form.

The other sort of mystery, Asimov said, was the sort where the actual mystery was really second to the process of deduction – what might now be termed a police procedural. The main dividend  for the reader of these tales were the myriad amusing insights into human behavior, a sort of cynical morality play. Asimov gave Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories as the ultimate example of this school of mystery, adding, perhaps a bit ruefully, that they were really more shaggy dog stories than actual mysteries.

Having read every Philip Marlowe novel more than once, I can say that even now I don’t really remember what the mystery in any one story was exactly, or how it was even resolved. But the mystery was ancillary; an excuse for Marlowe to get involved with a colorful cast of characters, make clever remarks, and have adventures (a contemporary homage to this type of mystery is the Big Lebowski).

We can say. then, that The Perfect Insider represents a classic bait-and-switch: we are promised a cerebral locked-room mystery, and instead end up with an enjoyable character study and a somewhat disjointed adventure yarn. How annoyed the viewer is by the work’s admittedly unscrupulous deception depends on how amused they are in spite of it all.

Personally, I liked it so much that I now want to watch the live action adaptation.

The Perfect Insider opens with a simple confrontation between two young women, one of whom murdered her parents, and the other who had her parents taken from her in a tragic accident. From there begins an insightful, but also at times uneven, exploration of what it exactly means to be in control, and whether that is synonymous with freedom, a central theme that quietly flows beneath the surface of the work.

The next scene is takes up the rest of the first episode, and consists entirely of Moe Nishinosono, the young woman who lost her parents, talking with her professor.

If watching a cartoon about a professor’s office hours is something that intrigues you, then you will probably enjoy The Perfect Insider. For me, the episode was amazing. The professor,  Sohei Saikawa, is the series’ gumshoe stand-in, a haggard, unconventional chain smoker who can move effortlessly from  Zhuang Zhou to bootstrapping operating systems.  Moe Nishinosono falls into the Girl Friday role, but both characters color outside the lines enough that the conventional roles they play are more homage than hack work.

By episode 2 the duo find their way to a remote island, of course, where a storm cuts them off from the mainland, of course, and then a murder happens, of course. Thus, we finally arrive at the mystery, which involves the other young woman introduced in the first episode, the brilliant but deadly Shiki Magata. Again, the series’ charm lies in its spin on traditional elements of the mystery: the femme fatale, who in this instance never even meets the male protagonist; her seductive power for him lies totally in the realm of abstract thought.

A major plot point hinges on a real-life problem in programming, the overflow or wrap-around error, which I thought was a very clever and daring touch, given how unfamiliar and technical an issue it is, from the perspective of a general audience.

Of course, as I later had pointed out to me, while such an error is theoretically possible, it is highly improbable, even given the time period the source material was written in (the anime is based on a novel written in the early-mid 1990s). Essentially, the error involves an overflow on a 16-bit unsigned integer, which is a digitally stored whole number that has to be equal to or greater than zero, with no negative sign. However, by that period in time in Japan even video game systems had at least 32-bit CPUs, implying that the standard integer size on computers used in a state-of-the-art research laboratory would have to be at the very least twice the size of the one given in the story.

A detractor here would say that this is representative of the series’ general shortcomings; it’s only kissing to be clever, don’t think for a second that it’s going to go all the way, or that it even cares. I think this somewhat unfair, at least in this instance. It’s not something a casual viewer would ever catch, and even those people who sense it’s fibbing on a technicality would still be wiling to grant the artistic license and maintain the suspension of disbelief. Biologists and paleontologists are still able to enjoy Jurassic Park, right? Still…

In fact, what we can say is that the work as a mystery really, truly is sloppy. The mystery isn’t solved so much as it unravels in big heap in front of the viewer. By the final episode I was completely lost; not, I suspect, from a failure of intellect on my part, but because the story had so many loose ends you could make a mop out of it. At least, I hope that’s the case – FilmSnark has a much more detailed analysis of everything that didn’t add up (most of it).

And yet, after finishing it, I immediately wanted to watch it again. The main characters are a lot of fun, salient points are made regarding intelligence being used to excuse sociopathic behavior, and the soundtrack is awesome, like imagine if Phil Collins scored the original Lupin III series.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 85/100

GANGSTA [77/100]

*First two images are from the Blu-ray release.

If it wasn’t for that ending I would have rated this higher.  Throughout the course of this series animation production was mediocre at best with a tremendous amount of scenes being half-finished or poorly animated.  The voice acting is top notch as we’ve got Junichi Sawabe once again voicing a womanizing character just as he did with Space Dandy last year. Plus the performance by Kenjiro Tsuda was petrifying.  I loved how director Shuko Murase handled his dialogue scenes as well as his inner monologue.

There’s a lot to enjoy from this anime a gritty story about crooked cops, prostitutes, mature character designs and a killer soundtrack by Tsutchie.  I really want to see the band compose a score for a horror series someday.  That’d be unique.

As for the story one of the issues I have is character development.  I wish they could have fleshed out the rest of the cast as our attention is more focused on the Handymen rather than the four mafia groups as a whole.  This brought about a huge problem for the so-called ending.  Side-characters.  They were the primary focus for about three episodes between introducing the Esminets and Paula’s group.  Perhaps that year off for MANGLOBE hurt them in the end after all.  This series’ animation was all over the place, it’s thick and mature, which I typically enjoy but due to the series sudden finale and second rate key animation it isn’t a series that’s lasting in my book.  As far as the Blu-ray releases go however, it’s raising the bar much higher for me, I’m curious how they will look if the company ever gets around to releasing them in single sets or one boxset.

As far as MANGLOBE goes, GANGSTA was their last mark on Japanese animation and it’s a a bit unsettiling.  They were a fantastic studio that made strives in delivering original works.  One of my favorite studios for that matter.  If anything is learned by this show it’s that studios need to give more heart to their work.  Being risky and ambitious can only go so far, sometimes to make cash for your employees you’ve got to put the talent where you are guaranteed it’ll work.  Also make an anime that is going to be a money-maker.  Light novels are always a good place to make anime works from.  As much as I hate to say that but these studios do have to cater to the mass otaku every once in a while.  Look at BONES and One Punch Man for example.  They run on a very tight very low budget with high performance by their animators each episode resulting in high reward.  Someone’s doing something right with that series.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [77/100]

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso [91/100]

vlcsnap-2015-07-08-13h57m18s106 vlcsnap-2015-07-08-13h57m34s10 vlcsnap-2015-07-08-13h58m52s28 vlcsnap-2015-07-08-13h59m28s127 vlcsnap-2015-07-08-14h00m08s20 vlcsnap-2015-07-08-14h00m27s181 vlcsnap-2015-07-08-14h18m52s230 vlcsnap-2015-07-08-14h21m10s84

This show is bittersweet–depicting the lives of middle school students enjoying their youth and experiencing hardships.  Noitamina picked a wonderfully written manga to adapt and the music sells this show a ton!

A-1 Pictures adapted Naoshi Arakawa’s manga faithfully.  It’s beautifully drawn with very detailed character designs by Yukio Aikei!  This is a wonderful series that ties the bonds between friends together through music and love.  Arima Kousei’s growth is one of the big highlights of Shigatsu as we see him placing fear onto himself due to his mother’s death.  The contrast that gets him out of his shell is Kaori Miyazono.  She’s free-spirited and much like his childhood friend, Tsubaki Sawabe, she’s got this drive to fix Kousei out of his slump.  The connection is that they are both musicians and this is how the romance develops between the two of them.  They’re both learning their own sounds by practicing together and discovering they’ve got strong chemistry!

Masaru Yokoyama’s soundtrack fits extremely well into this–  picking from a range of popular classical insert songs to a collection of original pieces that are just as emotionally moving as the animation and its engaging characters!  When it comes to a series about music it’s pivotal that you need sound to get this story moving and it doesn’t let go of this idea ever.  This is one series I would highly recommend to anyone that’s a fan of music or romance.  It touches on parental loss and the huge respects are paid to this theme throughout as Kousei goes on his journey discovery that in order to get over his mother’s death and realize his feelings for Kaori he must find his own way of voicing it out even if its through playing piano.

If you like Nodame Cantabile‘s focus into music than I’d say you would enjoy this series.  A lot of criticism from Shigatsu stems from its overdramatic scenes and moments where the show at times leans more on a characters’ emotions rather than the musical performances themselves.  In my opinion I find this to be a pretty big success to the series’ way of reminding us that these are middle school students and they need all the room to grow up in their own ways.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [91/100]

PUNCHLINE [71/100]

vlcsnap-2015-07-05-11h56m07s88 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-11h54m58s178 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-11h56m26s12 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-11h57m08s16 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-11h57m25s103 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-11h57m43s33 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-11h58m35s31 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-11h59m09s126

Having finished my classes for summer I’ve actually had more time to sit down and watch anime series I’ve neglected.  For Punchline I had seen the first few episodes and it fell off the map for me simply because series like Kekkai SensenDurararax2 Shou among a few others were grabbing my attention more.

An original anime series on the Noitamina programming block I was very eager to see this show:  MAPPA handling animation production and the script by Kyokugen Dasshutsu ONA writer Koutarou Uchikoshi gives this series extreme promise.  Plus, the story is very strange–  the world blows up if Yuuta Iridatsu gets a nosebleed from seeing panties.  I’m all for series that takes creativity to a whole other level.  If there is a series I’d recommend that had thrown in a “left-field” hook than look no further than Punchline.  It’s got a ton of FLCL spirit to it–  which makes sense considering director Yutaka Yemura first began his career as a CG artist for GAINAX.  I can clearly see some crossover influences in his works between these shows.  The characters in both are really exaggerated in the physical actions and personalities.

The amount of puns in this show are quite hilarious too!  That is if you can catch them.  The title of this show in Japanese “パンチライン” contains the word “Panchira” which literally translates to “panty-shot”.  Which is very in-line to the anime’s intentions.  Mikatan Narugino plays the love interest to Yuuta in this show and it’s funny how even her name translates to “ally for justice”.  Referring to her mahou shojo identity “Strange Juice” and the group the girls represent “Justice Punch”.  The genius inventor Meika Daihatsu is even a pun:  “dai hatsumeika” where “dai” means “great” and “hatsumeika” meaning “inventor”.   Otaku and NEET is derived from Ito Hikiotani’s name and Rabura Chichibu reflects her character.  Pun on “Chichi burabura”.  In Japanese the term “Chichi” or it’s written style “ちち” is a homophone for “father”, “milk” and “boobs” depending on the context.  As for “bura bura” it acts as an onomatopoeia for “just wandering”.  Depicts a lot of what she does in this series from all the running around and when Yuuta takes over her body to tell the others about the destruction of the world or Ito’s danger with the QMAY group.  All the girls names illustrate their own ideals and actions throughout this show that gets them closers as friends.

The first 4 episodes teaches the audience about Yuuta’s situation as a spirit and spirit cat Chiranosuke as a mentor figure in guiding him on his time-traveling journey.  The terminology in this series rocks because a lot of it is well-timed jokes that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  Chiranosuke is a pervert so the creators decide to nonchalantly put in cats having sex with each other on a computer he’s looking at.  The transitions there are fantastic!  The slapstick comedy between Rabura’s psychic powers and Mikatan’s Strange Juice transformation sequences are highly energized and are quite refreshing compared to some of the calmer series of the season.

When Punchline does get serious though is where it actually shines.  Remove all the supernatural spirit stuff, sex jokes, time-traveling and you’ve got a couple of high-school students living together in the Korai House dealing with separation issues from childhood, neglect from parents and experimentations that separate them.

The main problem of Punchline is attributed to too much in too little time.  With 1-cour only to deal with the narrative switches throughout episodes as Yuuta is time traveling to different days with the Christmas Party being the constant unknown mystery factor as the key to Yuuta saving Ito from death as well as Mikatan.  This series is a definite re-watch in order to catch a lot of what’s going on between the QMay group’s infiltration of Korai and exactly what days these situations happen on.  Switching bodies at childhood is certainly a new approach but I feel it would have worked if this was 2-cour and the twist isn’t a rushed and cheap attempt at establishing Yuuta as the sacrificial (turns out to be a girl) in saving the people she loves.

Have to admit Marina Inoue did a fantastic job of masking Yuuta as a boy.

After a long absence from the anime soundtrack world, Vampire Hunter D composer Tetsuya Komuro returns to compose and produce Punchline‘s score!  His last work was on 2005’s Zoids:Fuzors by Tokyo Kids Animation Studio.  He’s well-known for bringing the dance genre to Japanese music and I can see some of that style in this show.  His strength however, lies as a producer signing on popular artists Namie Amuro, Ayumi Hamasaki, Ami Suzuki and many others even internationally like the Backstreet Boys within the pop scene around the 90’s.  Towards the beginning and in a few of the action sequences we get a lot of dubstep and it’s actually pretty decent.  You can tell the production of it is really high and it has a very deep bass sound.  The show has a strong bond with music and Mikatan’s pop-idol songs are key to this.  There are a few really funny drunk karaoke party scenes with some horrible singing!

Animation Studio MAPPA has quite a bit under its belt now.  Sakamichi no Apollon. Zankyou no Terror. Garo Honoo no Kokuin and now Punchline.  Their upcoming work on Ushio to Tora looks like it’ll be animated nicely but those character designs suck.  As for Punchline, it’s one of the most detailed in animation of the season.  This is where FLCL‘s influence comes in–  Yuuta flying through rooms trying to avoid panties, Rabura busting into a room and her wild psychic situations and the fight scenes are tightly animated!  The fluid style is pretty to look at the episodes aren’t as detailed as shows like Kekkai Sensen in terms of conceptual design on its backgrounds and characters.


OP:  “PUNCH LINE!” by Shokotan ♥ Denpagumi (Shoko Nakagawa x Dengapumi.INC)

vlcsnap-2015-07-05-12h12m22s116 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-12h13m42s124

Such a strange opening. It reminds me of how quirky Hozuki no Reitetsu had been in integrating its cast to the song.  The character movements are edited well into the song but the transitions from scene to scene are a bit off.  I like how this basically tells Yuuta’s journey from each room discovering each girls’ panties and what happens to him if he does.  The band Dengapumi is a female Japanese idol group that are all former otaku and cosplayers that perform the instrumentals and backup to Nakagawa’s lead vocals.  It’s a fun and crazy song about panties that reflects this series a ton.  Generic in the style but its delivery is nice.

ED: “Mitsu Mitsu Mitsu” (蜜蜜蜜) by Ayumikurikamaki

vlcsnap-2015-07-05-12h27m56s250 vlcsnap-2015-07-05-12h29m23s58

Great ending.  Another JPOP idol group that formed in 2012.  The name is derived from the original members’ names.  Known for their bear costumes on stage (they probably should have done a Yuri Kuma Arashi insert song haha) that change according to the season.  The song itself just like the opening is typical with a steady drum beat and strong rock guitar riffs but the vocals are great because they do a wonderful job of illustrating the fun these girls have in the Korai House.  As for the animation it’s awesome–  the characters are drawn in a kawaii style  mixed with this pastel matted background design.  The director and animator on this is Wataru Uekusa.

This is the first time he’s animated and worked on a full-fledge series before as most of his work are from music videos.  Including Yasashii March: The Tender March for Soutasei Riron’s song “Miss Parallel World”, fake!fake! for the song “fake!fake!” by A Crow is White and Mukougaoka Chisato wa Tada Mitsumeteita no Datta.  Curious by this style:  I could see him working with Masaaki Yuasa sometime in the future.  Uekusa gives off a visually smooth and bright tone that contains a wild trip spiraling out of control.

Here’s the music video of Mikougaoka Chisato:

—-

This one is fake!fake!—  its visually stunning and has some of smoothest animation I’ve ever seen in a music video!  Reminds me of Kaiba.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 71/100

Duarara!x2 Shou [88/100]

vlcsnap-2015-07-04-14h12m26s201 vlcsnap-2015-07-04-14h12m48s193 vlcsnap-2015-07-04-14h13m32s95 vlcsnap-2015-07-04-14h20m39s2vlcsnap-2015-07-04-14h14m22s77 vlcsnap-2015-07-04-14h14m49s110 vlcsnap-2015-07-04-14h15m26s30 vlcsnap-2015-07-04-14h16m55s89

After a five year gap between this season and the original a lot of the charm that made Durarara!! such a success remains the same.  It follows Ryogo Narita’s light novels pretty closely–  there’s the kidnappings, the exaggerated Shizuo’s strength putting fear in Ikebukuro’s criminals and centers on the intertwining lives of its citizens.  It’s a series that neatly rolls so many genres seamlessly together from action to comedy to horror and even the subdued romance between Celty and Shinra plus Anri and Ryuugamine.

I believe where X2Shou outshines the first season is how closely connected the new cast is with the old.  The Russians are back and have the addition of Egor, Varona and Sloan providing a much needed backstory to their part in Ikebukuro; something that the first season needed a lot more of.  The singer Ruri was a brief mention in the beginning of the first season that it was great to see that even she has her strange secrets:  the identity of Hollywood.

My one large complaint is Studio Shuka’s animation.  Rather than sticking with Brains Base the creators went with a company that may have done a decent job in background designs the character’s facial expressions are a bit distorted at times.  There were a few times where the animation hadn’t been as fluid as the original.  For the show it doesn’t help in keeping up with the same dark artistic integrity it once had but from an anime industry perspective its brilliant.  They’ve established a new studio using a former producer of the classic Durarara!! [which is why we see tons of familiar staff working on these new seasons]  to helm the overall animation production for x2Shoux2Ten and x2Ketsu.  Smart move.  I’d really like to see this done on shonen series like BLEACH or Kyoukai no Rinne.  Rumiko Takahashi is known for doing long series so it’d be a good move to do what Studio Shuka did and follow their influence.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [88/100]

Yuri Kuma Arashi [94/100]

vlcsnap-2015-06-21-18h00m35s156 vlcsnap-2015-06-21-18h01m00s141 vlcsnap-2015-06-21-18h01m41s57 vlcsnap-2015-06-21-18h02m03s2 vlcsnap-2015-06-21-18h02m19s173 vlcsnap-2015-06-21-18h02m32s41 vlcsnap-2015-06-21-18h03m47s30 vlcsnap-2015-06-17-14h03m02s225

Kunihiko Ikuhara.  From Revolutionary Girl Utena to Mawaru Penguindrum comes a story about young girls falling in love.  His stories as I’ve mentioned previously contain a narrative pattern–  repetition, sexual symbolism and of course the addition of fanciful elements.  In this case its bears and what these creatures represent both for women and the important of the absence of males in Yuri Kuma.  I believe the reason for this is to enhance the dynamic between true love and lust.

Kureha Tsubaki lost her mother to a bear, fell in love with a bear and is coming to grips with Sumika being eaten by a bear.  She’s trying to find her own place in a world [the school] caught up in the Invisible Storm.  These Kumalia bears are depicted as the aggressors both out of survival instinct and sexual desires.  An incredible look at same-sex relationships by using a court system [which interestingly enough is led by males] to judge human compassion, the validity of friendships and how far people will go in order uphold these ideals. As strange as the beginning may have been for a lot of viewers its typical Ikuhara fashion.  A style I find engrossing.  The final three episodes were probably the best this show has to offer as it ties any sort of confusion together quite nicely.  The weird elements of bears ‘eating’ girls’, the imagery of lilies being deflowered/clipped and Lulu’s seductive behavior towards Ginko act as symbolic pieces to a fairly straightforward narrative about maintaining friendships and understanding yourself from a girls perspective.  Perhaps this is why Ikuhara decided on shifting the focus away from manly tropes–  Yurika’s father is represented as a male with female features in masculine clothing.  The judges aren’t even human which is why they are oddly designed to be a patriarchy with moe designs.  Really stick out with Yuri Kuma because underneath all of Ikuahra’s intentional softcore visuals, naughty dialogue and whimsically-driven storytelling lies a simple story about friendships and love overcoming societal structure!

One of the most incredible character study series I’ve ever seen apart from Simoun.  The focus isn’t just on Kureha but for most of episode 4 towards the beginning there is a look at Lulu’s life at the kingdom, eventually we get to see Yurika’s backstory and the motif behind bride-in-the-box.  What’s even more prevalent throughout is how dead characters are just as important as the main cast!  Sumika represents Kureha’s courage, Reira is the reminder to her that you should never give up on your dreams and accept things with your heart fully.  The picture book [and it’s incredible watercolor drawn art] amplifies innocence from Kureha’s perspective wonderfully.  Mirun, Lulu’s brother is the same as well!

The animation in this show is done amazingly solid.  This and Rolling Girls have some of the best background art of the Winter 2015 season!  Especially the storybook sequences!

The soundtrack is top notch.  Paint animator on Patema Inverted and composer/arranger Yukari Hashimoto wrote songs for this that are filled entirely with chromatic piano melodies, chorus and techno sections!  It fits Yuri Kuma perfectly with its transitions from downright weird to passionately engaging and heartfelt.

I highly recommend this series if you are a fan of Ikuhara’s other works.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [94/100]

Death Parade [95/100]

vlcsnap-2015-06-03-16h20m18s121 vlcsnap-2015-06-03-16h20m34s44 vlcsnap-2015-06-03-16h20m57s25 vlcsnap-2015-06-03-16h21m49s35 vlcsnap-2015-06-03-16h22m39s23 vlcsnap-2015-06-03-16h23m01s236 vlcsnap-2015-06-03-16h25m03s171 vlcsnap-2015-06-03-16h25m44s59

Perhaps I’m being too picky when it comes to Death Parade‘s finale.  I enjoyed it quite a bit and the conclusion to Onna’s journey was satisfying yet I wanted so much more. [sad that we won’t be hearing that groovy opening sequence again]  I really wanted this series to be episodic and channel its progress through the people that mysteriously end up at Queen Decim.  However, I do want to say that this series worked out extremely well as a week-to-week build-up narrative.  It’s incredibly awesome!  Realistically grim with its characters that adds in the supernatural elements with the various death games where we get to see how precious life is.

Rather than focusing just on its side-cast, Death Parade presents the dead as this sort of knot of human relationships that breaks just about every episode in order to build up the true intentions of this show:  what is that makes people human?  A question that Decim never would have thought of from an emotional standpoint if it were not for Onna.  Her past greatly enhances this question wonderfully and I believe where Oculus acts as the pendulum in establishing a power struggle within the staff is where we see this theme is explored from an Arbiter’s point of view more clearly.  Her desire to make Decim more human through Onna’s heartfelt experience as a side-kick arbiter gives us an emotional roller coaster ride with the help of some amazing animation by MADHOUSE!  The nod to Death Note‘s Light Yagami also represents how far this show gathers its dead people from.  Now lets see a second season of this with a Red Garden crossover!

Just a few days ago I re-watched this entire series.  There is a ton of foreshadow about the puppets being the humans that are brought to the bar and Nona’s plans.  I really like the part of this series in episode 11 where the puppets are clapping at the end of Onna’s skating performance–  a fitting send-off from QueenDecim and into another part of life after death!  Given that we see Episode 1’s Machiko in a later episode as a puppet I would venture to guess they were clapping as foreshadow that she would become a puppet herself.  Glad the ending left that portion of the story open.  It’s these final glimpses of a person’s life that Death Parade achieves near perfect in terms of character development–  Chisato’s real appearance as the elevator doors are closing, Yousuke crying over the fact he killed himself, Shimada’s obsession with avenging his sister by killing Tatsumi again, the desperation Maya has in being with Harada in her final moments and most importantly Onna crying over seeing Decim genuinely smile.  All these situations portray regret, compassion, anger, hatred, and so many other emotions wonderfully well throughout this series which is why these final moments in these characters leave such a huge impact each week!

I sure hope creator Yuzuru Tachikawa can make another one of these just as good as this one if not better!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [95/100]

The Rolling Girls [78/100]

vlcsnap-2015-01-11-12h24m18s14 vlcsnap-2015-05-31-10h42m36s26vlcsnap-2015-05-31-10h43m54s42 vlcsnap-2015-05-31-10h45m31s206 vlcsnap-2015-05-31-10h46m04s59 vlcsnap-2015-05-31-10h46m49s239 vlcsnap-2015-05-31-10h47m20s25 vlcsnap-2015-05-31-10h48m36s35

The watercolor art style  by Eriko Shibayama and Ryou Kouno created some of the best background art I’ve seen out of any other series from the Winter 2015 season!  Eriko Shibayama is a very talented artist that I feel is one of those artist that if you see  their work you know it’s them.  Shibayama worked on Masaaki Yuasa’s Space Dandy episode 16!  I really can’t wait to see what these two animators will be working on in the future!

Along with the amazing art another big reason why I like this series so much is because of how diverse the episodes are. Rolling Girls uses the idol singers concept a bit further by adding a fantasy spin to it.  Nozomi, Chiaya, Yukina and Ai progress through their journey of finding heart stones that build upon a couple of larger themes:  coming-of-age friendships and establishing peace not just in Tokorozawa but the other Districts.

This anime really shines in its characterization of it’s minor cast–  about every two episodes or so we are introduced to a new district with different Bests handling their own problems in their own ways and for most of the time it doesn’t work out until the girls show up as a kind of peace treaty in closing up each arc.  I really wish that this series didn’t even have a main story–  I’m a huge fan of episodic shows and Rolling Girls had some really amazing episodes that capitalized on this style of storytelling.  Mie Motors arc and the Kamogawa Rockers arc were both incredibly different from each other yet still held up with some similar themes–  traditions of Japan tarnished by selfish ideas from a mob.  It isn’t about the main cast receiving development but how they would help grow the people around them–  these individual arcs were a perfect example that fitted how to blend long standing traditions of the old with generations of the new.  The stones which is revealed in the finale layers up the concept of people’s potential in doing something great for themselves, for others.  Just as the tagline for the series states.

These girls in a sense, even though Nozomi wanted to follow in Maccha Green’s footsteps, were their own mob holding onto the power of friendship as the key to success. This is why Rolling Girls can be such a delight for kids as well as adults!

However, the final few episodes were rushed because I feel that the creators really wanted to do something for the main cast which is why this show has such a haphazard ending.  They should have compiled that arc right from the get-go but instead used it as a climax that was less than satisfying.  About the only part which I may have mentioned before that I enjoyed was the very end with Kuranosuke’s inspirational monologue about how people can have the ability to draw out the stones.  Opening up for a possible sequel is one way to do it.  Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso composer Masaru Yokoyama’s score there was very good.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 78/100

Aldnoah Zero [52/100]

vlcsnap-2015-05-28-19h11m20s122 vlcsnap-2015-05-28-19h11m38s28 vlcsnap-2015-05-28-19h11m54s202 vlcsnap-2015-05-28-19h12m34s82 vlcsnap-2015-05-28-19h13m06s162 vlcsnap-2015-05-28-19h13m25s87 vlcsnap-2015-05-28-19h13m41s52 vlcsnap-2015-05-28-19h14m04s224

If only this show had been 1-cour it would have been spectacular that cliffhanger midway through was amazing but creator Gen Urobuchi went off the seat of his pants with the second half:  reviving characters and forcing the narrative to evolve into Slaine’s perspective rather than the overall turmoil both Empires are facing.

Inaho receives the robot trope that is often used in order to estalish a Dues-ex machina to the show in order to wrap character’s motives up quickly!  This is NOT how to develop your cast especially when there is little resolve with Rayet’s struggle dealing with her father’s death!  There really should have been more background on the chain of command behind United Forces of Earth.

What the first few episodes did so well with was building up the invasion, the conspiracy that the Vers Empire wanted to assassinate the Princess and the tension between Slaine and his comrades were just a small detail that unfortunately was the focus of the last twelve episodes of Aldnoah.  Urobuchi opened this up for another season–  is this for cash reasons?  The merchandising sales have been very high so I’m sure this might be the case as to why the ending turned out so lightly unresolved.

On a more positive note:  A-1 Pictures pulled off some really good designs on the characters and matched it to some very fluid animations quite consistently.  Fate/Zero director Ei Aoki established animation studio TROYCA in 2013 with a few friends of his–  Aldnoah is their first work that ends up in the final product having very good CG on the Kataphrakts!  Can’t wait to see their first full-fledged project later this year with Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [52/100]