Friday, July 29, 2011

Mawaru Penguindrum 04: The girl in red heels.

mawaru penguindrum, penguindrum, penguin drum, episode 4, himari, himari takakura, ringo, ringo oginome
Looks like Ringo is here to stay!

Last week's episode made the whole Ringo situation seem monotonous, but that completely changed, episode four was brilliant! Penguindrum is back with lots of laughs, skunks, and a whole slew of amazing plot developments. I'm so glad this series is running for 24 episodes because it's already outstanding and I'm sure we can expect even more to come. If you haven't picked up Mawaru Penguindrum, you should definitely give it a shot!

Himari, and the entire "Survival Strategy!" sequence took a back seat this week to let Ringo shine as both a hilarious and very peculiar character. I can't help but break out into laughter every time she makes one of her distorted faces, and those opera scenes were even better. I seriously think she may have even been funnier then the penguins this week, who had me laughing just as much. Maybe it's because in life I find almost everything funny for some reason, but this week definitely delivered on the comedy side of things.

NO.6 04: Strangers

no.6, no. 6, episode 4, nezumi, rat
Well Nezumi, the general consensus over the interwebz seems to be a yes.

Yet another week of the usual action-packed, dramatic scenes I've come to expect (and enjoy) from NO.6 has gone by and I'm starting to wish these episodes were a half an hour longer. I feel like this month has passed so incredibly fast (maybe it's the stress-free feeling of Summer to blame), but we're almost half way done and I'm already wanting more. The dialogue is exaggerated and addicting, the setting is cynically wonderful, and the plot is more interesting then the majority of new anime I've seen this year.

This week revealed the chaos associated with the "real world" and it wasn't short on prostitution, criminals, and ... dog-blankets. It's funny how close NO.6 and this "real world" are in terms of distance, but how far apart they are when it comes to civilized living. But, which is better, living in a world where people do whatever they want or constantly being under the watch of the government?

The iDOLM@STER 04: Ribbit

the idolmaster, idolmaster, episode 4, chihaya, chihaya kisaragi, takane, takane shijou, hibiki, hibiki ganaha, haruka, haruka amami
Ribbit indeed.

The premise of this episode was ... well, pretty lame and annoying, but thankfully the odd mixture of Chihaya, Haruka, Takane, and Hibiki managed to save it from becoming bad. The first three are my favorite characters in the series and they work extremely well together, especially Haruka and Chihaya. Since this was a Chihaya-focused episode I was hoping they'd at least give her a good premise to develop her character, but instead we got frogs, cooking, and a bunch of perverted cameramen.

This was the first episode to focus solely on a small group of characters which was awesome at first, but the episode slowly turned irritating thanks to the game show-like atmosphere and the annoying hand puppet. Unlike the previous two episodes where the focus character got lots of screen-time, I felt Chihaya was sort of ignored. There were tons of annoying scenes that could have been switched with more time for her, but they weren't.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eden no Ori 95: Just Another Disaster

cage of eden, eden no ori, chapter 95, Hikime, Takahashi

One thing that can be said about Eden no Ori is that the pacing never slows down. Every chapter Sengoku and his group are hit with more and more hardships leading to some exciting (yet sometimes depressing) entertainment. This week another tragedy struck, and it was made all the more emotional by the impact on the group. Though it was sad, there's also now a bit of fear because clearly nobody is safe from the fangs and claws of the island. (spoilers after the jump)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée The Animation 04: Believing in promises.

ikoku meiro no croisee, ikoku meiro, yune, alice blanche
Oh dear, poor Yune.

I'm not sure which is cuter, Yune's dedicated friendship with the Claudel's or Rin and Daikichi from Usagi Drop. Both shows are so adorable and enjoyable in their own unique ways, but one thing they do share are extremely likable characters. Even Alice Blanche, who last week I was a little mean to, became a lot more likable this episode. Also this week I think we can get a slightly clearer picture of where this show is taking us.

I've noticed the differences between Japanese culture and French culture have become a major theme in every episode. In the beginning I thought it would move on from that after the first or second episode and focus on other things, but I'm glad it has remained an important part of developing Yune and Claude. What I'm most happy about though is that it never becomes boring. We're not listening to long speeches and lessons about trivial things, but instead we get to watch Yune and Claude interact with the differences and get better understandings of each other in the process.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Corpse Party Blood Covered 09: Alternate Dimension

corpse party blood covered, corpse party blood covered chapter 9, yui shishido

With my episodic anime reviews, "flash fun", and occasional editorials, which I really would like to do more of, I'm covering 2 of the 3 hobbies of my everyday life (anime and gaming) and I haven't been giving enough attention to the third, manga. I won't be covering manga very often, but the ones I truly enjoy I'll talk about when new chapters are released, and who knows, maybe I'll help you find a great new manga to read!

Corpse Party Blood Covered is a manga I stumbled across while searching for a story similar to Battle Royale, which is one of my favorite reads. Though the two are completely different in every way, CPBC has proved to be quite enjoyable. I'm a huge fan of horror/psychological-type anime and manga, so whenever I come across something like this I usually give it a try. It combines elements of both moe and horror to create a gruesome and often time extremely creepy experience, sort of like Higurashi, but a little more bizarre.

Mawaru Penguindrum 03: Curry and Creeps

mawaru penguindrum, mawaru penguin drum, penguindrum, kanba, shouma, ringo, himari, penguins
One big crazy happy family!

This episode was just as flashy and enjoyable as the first two, but it felt like a 23 minute extension of the previous, the Takakura boys are still far from retrieving the "penguindrum", but at least now they have more clues to work with. Though lots of questions are starting to pop up for me while watching, I still feel this is one of the best shows of the year and I can't wait to see more.

The focus was once again on Ringo, the obsessed stalker of Keiju who also has some connection with the "penguindrum", and while you might be thinking that it sounds like a repeat of last week, this episode managed to tie in some actual development for Ringo's character. That's great and all, but I still feel as if something is missing. Maybe it's because I'm beginning to feel like I have no connection to the main cast who, as I mentioned last week, aren't developed beyond their love for their sick sister. Maybe that's not such a bad thing though, because I can understand their wanting to do anything to help, which includes stalking a stalker.

Friday, July 22, 2011

NO.6 03: Collapse

no. 6, no.6, no 6, shion, nezumi

No.6 has worked it's way up to being the show I look forward to most each week, even more than Penguindrum. It might not have the flashy, vibrant animation of Penguindrum or the cuteness factor of Ikoku Meiro, but what makes it stand out to me is the stunning cast of characters and the intricate, character-driven plot. And every week I moan about the length, but I'm starting to feel that BONES might just be able to pull this off.

This week was very dialogue heavy, but it never became boring. Almost the entire episode was inside a single room and yet the tense, nail-biting moments involving Shion's bite (which I stupidly forgot to mention last week, but I'm sure you didn't miss it) and the great chemistry between the two leads left no moments of repose. In a way, it's like an affirmation of the first episode and the glaring differences between Shion and Nezumi.

The iDOLM@STER 03: Facing your fears.

idolmaster, idolmaster anime, idolmaster episode 3
Road trip!!!

While episode three didn't quite live up to the standard set by the first two episodes, I'd say it did an OK job at developing a character that in most cases is the worst of the cast. Two weeks ago I said Yukiho, who has a slight case of androphobia (or fear of men) would probably end up being my least favorite character in the show, and that hasn't really changed much even with this episode focusing on her. Luckily, she didn't ruin the episode.

In this episode 765 Production takes a road trip to perform a concert, but when they arrive they realize it's not as "fancy" as they would have liked. The most important thing I managed to scrape up from this episode was that the cast seems to be split into groups, the younger girls (Iori, Ami, Mami, and Yayoi), the teenage trio (Yukiho, Makoto, and Haruka), the mature girls (Takane, Azusa, Chihaya) and than there's Hibiki, who I rarely see, and Miki, who is always asleep. I love seeing the friendships within the groups grow, but I'd love even more to see more interaction outside of the groups, which there was only a little of this episode. I guess you could say the split groups does help with conserving time for each girl, since there's only 23 minutes and TONS of characters.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Flash Fun: Penguin Overlords (6.5 / 10)

penguin overlords

Finally! A game devoted to the long fought battle between ... wait, penguins and turtles? I'm just as confused as you probably are because penguins and turtles have never really had a werewolf and vampire-like rivalry. For me, playing became a little heartbreaking, watching my lovable penguins turn into man turtle eating beasts! But, I guess even they have to do whatever it takes to survive!

As you can see in the title, and as you'll see later in the post, I've changed up my review style for "flash fun". The old style didn't work well because it didn't take into account the important of certain aspects over others and became mostly about personal bias. And though a review is nothing without personal opinion, I think technical aspects are just as important.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée The Animation 03: The sound of Paris.

ikoku meiro
Claude's idea of Japan isn't exactly accurate ...

Ikoku Meiro is one of those shows where you can turn off the world around you for 23 minutes and enjoy a beautiful setting and captivating characters without the stress of the real world. The story is far from rushed and is so perfectly paced and simple that you can watch without missing important dialogue or having to stop the video to check information. It's the only show that I wait until after viewing once to take screencaps, just because I'm so interested in what's going on, and it uses every second of it's time to properly showcase all the materials it has, like it's outstanding soundtrack and gorgeous visuals, among other things.

Very few slice of life series can pull of slow pacing, either the show lacks interesting characters to stop itself from becoming boring or it falls into a predictable state, but Ikoku Meiro has managed to stay enjoyable since the first seconds of episode one. I have to applaud it for staying that way up until now and hopefully for the rest of the remaining episodes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My "On-Hold" List - A Real Nightmare (Part 2)

tengen toppa gurren lagann
Does this mean you'll finally finish TTGL!?

Last week I forced myself to rethink the series on my looooooong on-hold list and, to my surprise, it actually helped, well sort of. I came to the conclusion that I would probably never get back to watching Beelzebub or Suite Precure, and thanks to reader comments, that Kore wa Zombie Desuka was worth picking back up. So, once again I'll be going through a handful of series to figure out which shows are worth watching in the future, and which are doomed to be dropped. And, who knows, maybe you'll find a series you might want to watch! (Following photos thanks to MyAnimeList!)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mawaru Penguindrum 02: Fate

mawaru penguindrum
These two are terrible stalkers ...

Things have taken a turn for the ... creepy. After last weeks bizarreness I was expecting a more lighthearted second episode to develop the characters, but instead we got another episode dedicated to the plot surrounding the "Penguindrum". The show is two cour so I didn't think the story would move along at such a fast pace; the majority of the OP characters are now introduced, and the mission to retrieve the Penguindrum is already in motion. If Mawaru Peguindrum keeps hitting us with these great episodes, takes some time to develop the characters before it's too late, and doesn't bore us with fillers, it might become a classic like Utena.

Getting back to the creepy, episode two once again brought up the concept of fate and destiny, but handled it in a completely different way. Stalking, obsessions, and pervy penguins were abound, and while our flightless friends once again handled the humor, Ringo (who you might remember from episode one) took creeping to a new level.

Flash Fun: Dude and Zombies (6.8 / 10)

dude and zombies

I love zombies, just as much as I love penguins, so whenever a new zombie-themed flash game is released I give it a try. Though Dude and Zombies is a nice entry into the shooter genre, it fails to set itself apart from the enormous amount of similarly styled games. Even the gameplay is an almost exact replica of Balloon in a Wasteland, which set itself apart with it's amazing graphical style and concept.

You play as an unnamed character whose truck breaks down in the middle of a zombie infested forest, (sounds like a trashy horror movie, right?) but these zombies are not exactly what you would expect. Though there are the usual human-like zombies, there are also other variations like zombie rabbits and birds. It's a fun idea and adds some variety, even though they're hard as hell to hit with a pistol. (I love animals, btw. I'm a vegetarian, but who can pass up shooting some zombie rabbits?)

Friday, July 15, 2011

NO.6 02: The real world.

Things ... they just got serious.

One week, that's all the time No.6 needed to properly introduce it's characters and now we're already diving into an incredibly interesting plot. With No.6's sudden time-skip we're thrown into a whole new reality for Shion, who is now living in Lost Town after being banished from Chronos for helping a VC (Nezumi) to escape, however even that doesn't last too long.

No.6 is moving at a speedy pace, and with only 9 episode to go I'm excited to see the direction it will take us. It has all the makings for a great series: dynamic and likable characters, a steady plot, and an amazingly complex dystopian setting. I might be getting my hopes up too high, but I get the feeling No.6 will not end up being just another Fractale.

The iDOLM@STER 02: Individuality

Producer, don't you have a job to be doing!

This week on iDOLM@STER the focus was clearly on the younger members of 765 Production Ami, Mami, Yayoi, and more specifically, Iori. With the challenge of a photo-shoot up ahead, the four girls struggled to find what it is that makes one pop star different from the rest, and came to the conclusion that it is individuality. Though their grasp on the concept was ... well, amiss.

The episode improved on the previous by having a clearer focus and developing the characters a little more, but the presence of the Producer (who is no longer behind a camera) made things slightly awkward. He's far from an interesting character and gets in the way of the character interactions that make the show funny.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée The Animation 01 + 02: The girl behind the glass.

ikoku meiro no croisee
If these three don't make you smile, then I don't know what will.

Well, I caved. I was extremely reluctant to blog another series, but after watching the first two episodes of Ikoku Meiro no Croisée I couldn't help myself. Besides, I also realized all three series I'm blogging air on Thursday (and subs usually take until the next day), so covering a series on Sunday will keep things more lively during the week. At first Ikoku Meiro no Croisée may seem like just another moe, but what we have here is the most soothing and tranquil series of the season, and maybe of the year.

The setup is simple, a Japanese girl voluntarily thrown into the bustling world of a French gallery working as an assistant in a metal working shop. That may sound completely uninteresting to you, and at first I felt similarly, and the general reaction seems to be mixed (from what I've read online), but don't let that take you away from at least giving it a chance. What Ikoku Meiro lacks in exhilarating story, it makes up for with a stellar cast of down-to-earth characters, humor, and an unavoidable ability to make you smile. And if you're still not interested after that, then obviously this isn't the type of series for you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

NO.6 01: The flower and the rat.

This is the feeling I'm trying to avoid by only blogging 3
series during my first season.

Deciding on a third series to blog regularly this season was difficult for me. I'm a relatively new blogger and I don't want to scare myself away from the joy of blogging by putting too much on my plate at once. Blogging Mawaru Penguindrum was a choice I made long before it aired, and blogging Idolmaster was a choice I made because normally I don't have much to say about the genre (until now, that is). From the very large list of options this Summer I finally came to the conclusion that I would blog NO.6, because among all the shows airing this season I have the most to say about this Noitamina gem.

Initially I was turned off by the idea of another 11 episode fantasy-adventure series after the flop that was Fractale, but the first episode of NO.6 showed an important aspect of all great short series, and that's a setting that leaves the viewer questioning and a dynamic cast of characters. (and let's not forget the amazing VAs either) If NO.6 can manage to pull off what Fractale didn't, that being anything enjoyable, then it may prove to be the best series of the Summer.

Mawaru Penguindrum 01: Penguins do make everything better.

mawaru penguindrum
... and this is just the start of it.

Yesterday I said Idolmaster was one of the craziest first episodes I'd ever seen with it's unique point-of-view and large, all-over-the-place cast of characters, well, that was just completely topped by Mawaru Penguindrum. These first 23 minutes were packed with story and character developments, bolstered by the amazing animation and vibrant colors, which I'll talk about more later. Though I was expecting a light-hearted comedy, what I got was something far beyond that.

A major theme that carried the first episode, and kept me attentive, was family unity. Clearly the Takakura family has been through a lot, with two absent parents, a dying sibling, and pretty shabby (yet surprisingly colorful) home. But, if you were to only watch the interactions between Kanba, Shouma, and Himari and the way their optimistic personalities play off each other, you'd never guess that things are so bad. I'm a sucker for dynamic characters, so even with only one episode under my belt, it's safe to say we can expect a lot more from the Takakura siblings.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The iDOLM@STER 01: "Unity is Strength"

Meet the girls of 765 Production.

Coming into the Summer Season the last show I thought I'd ever watch, let alone blog about, was iDOLM@STER. Even now, I'm thinking that I must be a fool to even consider blogging a video game adaptation with more characters then I can count with my fingers. Not only was iDOLM@STER's first episode extremely fast paced and a little cliched, but it was also slightly annoying in some aspects, but something about the direction won't let me go, and by writing this post I'm hoping to figure out what that is.

"They are what girls aspire to be. However, only a handful are able to stand at the top ... Into that world, 13 girls set foot." There I was, seconds away from joining a Monster Hunter lobby when the quote flashed across the screen, soft piano notes playing in the background. My eyes were stuck to the screen from that moment, I set my controller aside, and focused on what might be the craziest ride a first episode has ever taken me on. The quote grabbed my attention so immediately because I could relate to it. Before I go any further, no, I don't want to be a pop idol, but I can understand the intimidation of difficult aspirations conveyed through the message. Writing is something I love to do, but can I ever be sure that I'll ever make it farther then a post on a blog the majority of the world will never see? But, as Ritsuko says below, as long as I continue my life not giving up does it really matter if I never make it big?

My "On-Hold" List - A Real Nightmare (Part 1)

kimi ni todoke
Almost two years have passed, why are you still on episode 4!?

An "on-hold" list is the equivalent of a backlog for a gamer, a nightmare. Sometime between catching up on seasonal shows, watching classics to pass time, or re-watching my favorite episodes for a good laugh (or a good cry), I've come to realize I've started a lot of series I had no hope for enjoying or lost interest in part-way through, and because of that my on-hold list has grown an enormous deal, even for my standards. 55 shows! (damn.) Some of you might be nodding your head indifferent, but I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem.

So why not drop the shows, Robb?

Easier said than done, my cyberspace friend, because at heart I'm a "completionist" and the on-hold list is my last defense against causing harm to my ego. Until now that is. A list is only a list, it can be changed with the click of a button and easily adjusted to please my growing obsession with this "completionist" attitude. A dropped show can always be picked back up in the future, a long, long, long time in the future. So now I will use this opportunity as a blogger to slowly go through my on-hold list, carefully deciding which shows are truly "on-hold" and which are only there for childish reasons (to be promptly dropped). Hopefully in the process I'll find a new willingness to finish some of these shows and also give you the opportunity to find a new interest.