Sunday, May 31, 2009
New series - April 09
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Trinity Blood - and Artbooks
Just to give a very brief story summary, the setting is post-apocalyptic. The population has destroyed itself in some manner and concomitant with that, or shortly afterward, the "vampires" appeared. They are probably originally extraterrestrial because our sun harms them, but the series doesn't spend any excess time going into this background. They don't refer to themselves as "vampires" of course, but are called that by the humans whom they prey upon and whom they mainly consider a distinctly lower life form. The two main Powers in existence at the time of the story are the human-based Church (with a capital Ch), and the vampire's Empire. Certain factions within each group want reconciliation between the two, or want annihilation of the other group, depending on the faction. Also a third underground faction, the Rosenkreutz Order, wants the two groups to destroy each other so that the Order can create a new world.
The story follows the efforts of Abel Nightroad and Ester, a priest and a sister, to make contact with the Empire and try to create a more lasting peace than the current simmering stalemate. Abel and Ester's comrades and their vampire counterparts in the Empire make up the cast, along with various members of the Order.
There are several interesting plot twists beyond this basic story, but this gets the gist of it. This is one of those series that has all the elements that make me put it on my great anime list. The characters, done by Nakajima Atsuko, are gorgeous. The music is outstanding, one of my favorite soundtracks. The series has a relatively unique plot, and to top it off, all my favorite characters survive the series.I have been thinking about Trinity Blood recently because I just picked up an artbook by Nakajima Atsuko, the character designer not only for Trinity Blood, but also for Princess, Princess and You're Under Arrest. I love artbooks. Not only are they really gorgeous, but you get some pictures of your favorite anime characters that it would be difficult to get any other way. Examples from the Nakajima artbook are the picture on the left above of Ester and the Count, and also the picture on the right above of Abel, which is part of a much larger picture.
I have more than a few artbooks from my favorite series. The difficulty with artbooks is that the pictures are in books. You have to get them out and look at them occasionally. Or I have a tendency to scan my favorite pictures and then use them for backgrounds on my computer, switching out relatively frequently. I've included some pictures from a few of my other artbooks in this post: pics from Shonen Onmyouji, Cowboy Bebop, Witchhunter Robin and Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto. I'm always amused by the length of the title on that last series. Given my predilection for shortening names of series, I refer to it as "Baku". It's a historical anime, which is another type that I'm attracted to. I'm always curious about just how much or how little historical anime reflect Japan's actual history. There are persons from their history that appear over and over again in anime series. Of course, they have a lot of history. The Tokugawa Shoganate lasted longer than the US has been a country. Omoshiroi ne?
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Anyway, I got off track here. The point is, there are some incredibly strong woman characters out there. Three names that spring to mind are: Balsa (Seirei no Moribito), Kou Shuurei (Saiunkoku Monogatari) and Nakajima Youko (Juuni Kokki). It's actually amazing to me that I would include Youko in that group because I hated her character in the beginning. I detest poor-me-the-world-is-out-to-get-me-I'm-so-miserably-unloved characters, and when they're crybaby whiny it's even worse. Youko had that role DOWN. That I consider her one of the all time great female leads is a testament to how well they developed her character in the series.
Okay, I'm not sure when this post became an awards show, but it just goes to show that there are a lot of pretty awesome female characters in anime series. Still, the really popular anime series tend to have male leads, not female leads. Ichigo in Bleach, Ed and Al in Fullmetal Alchemist, etc. Series with a true female lead are often about that character, and are named for her, i.e. Nodame, Shana, CCS, Karin, Kaitou Jeanne, Nana, Shion no Oh. See what I mean?
Saturday, May 16, 2009
The Bad Guys
The classes of bad guys I use, from your basic worst-scum-imaginable down to guys who are just mostly wicked, include: 1)BADDEST - these are the love-to-hate guys, the characters without anything even vaguely resembling a conscience. They also usually have no acceptable excuses for their actions other than they're just evil to the core. Usually I reserve this category for those characters who fit into the BADDER category, but have committed the ultimate sin from my perspective: they've killed off one of my favorite characters. It's not always true that characters in this group have killed one of my favorites, but if they've killed a favorite, they will be in this group. In this category I put Yagami Light (Death Note), Sennen Hakushaku (D.Gray-man), Muraki (Yami no Matsuei), Vicious (Cowboy Bebop), Cain (Trinity Blood) and Delphine (Last Exile).
2) BADDER - In this class are those evil characters without a single redeeming trait; totally unlovable; unrepentantly evil; generally plotters who roll over everyone and everything in their path without so much as a qualm. *laughing* Okay this sounds a lot like the BADDEST category, but these guys generally have reasons for their actions and, more importantly, they haven't killed anyone I care about. I have a lot of admiration for these guys. *laughing* Well, I do. They're usually so self-centered that they really believe the world revolves around them and should move to their whim and everything and everyone in the world should worship them. I sometimes have a certain amount of that feeling myself, so I admire their single-mindedness of purpose, at the same time I'm rooting for someone to take them out. In this category I put characters like Aizen Sousuke (Bleach), Naraku (Inuyasha), Keith Anyan (Terra e), Tyki Mik (D.Gray-man), Nakago (Fushigi Yuugi), Knives (Trigun), Suitengu (Speed Grapher) and Johan (Monster).
3) BAD - these guys are usually smaller fry than the BADDERs. Often they're henchmen of the BADDERS, like Ulquiorra (Bleach) or GrimmJoe (Bleach). This category also includes the bad guys that are not quite evil enough to fall into the BADDER group, like the Emperor (Code Geass), Dornkirk (Escaflowne), Furher (Fullmetal Alchemist), Director (Witchhunter Robin) and Dewey (Eureka Seven). A lot of bad guys are this level of evil. I usually also include in this category those people that fell from the good side and became bad, or were bad all along but played as if they were good guys. Characters like Third (Jyu Oh Sei), Jin (Innocent Venus), Sasame (Pretear) and Fuuma (X).
4) NOT GOOD - these are the antiheroes. They're usually not totally evil and it's more that they just serve as a counter to the main characters. Darcia (Wolf's Rain), Hiwatari Satoshi (D.N.Angel) and Akito (Fruits Basket) are this type of bad guy.
Although I'm putting these guys into categories, there are a lot of these characters that it's difficult to fit into a specific category. Maybe they span more than one category, or just don't fit any class very well. I hate to admit that (because of my love of sorting things), but it's true. Diva in Blood+ could fall into the BADDER class, but compared to say, Aizen, she doesn't really fit it that well. Of course, very few bad guys can hold a candle to Aizen.
I also have two special categories: one is the bad guys who are converted and become good, ex-bad guys so to speak. These guys get a special category because they're generally not very long-lived after they leave the dark side. Yoite (Nabari no Oh), Folken (Escaflowne), Solomon (Blood+) and Brera Stern (Macross Frontier) fall into this category. Actually Brera survived, but bad guys turned good usually don't.
My final special category is the obnoxiously, irritatingly arrogant characters whose total disregard of others makes you want to do something to shake them out of their defined worlds. Their actions can be either bad or good depending on their whim and the circumstances. Kuchiki Byakuya (Bleach) and Sesshoumaru (Inuyasha) are the most notable examples of this class of "bad" guys. Both have played bad guy roles, but they have also done good things. Both sets of actions were essentially done without regard for anyone but themselves and their own concerns.So my all time favorite bad guys? Weirdly, it's easier for me to pick favorite bad guys then it is to pick favorite good guys. Leaving out the two obnoxious guys I love to get irritated by, my current favorite bad guy is Aizen. His henchman Ulquiorra is another favorite, as are Vicious and Tyki.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Character styles - manga vs anime series
I'm always intrigued that the characters in a series developed from a manga can look so totally different than the manga characters. I suppose it depends on whether the person who wrote the manga does the characters, or is involved in the character design for the series or not.
Close: Series/manga that fall into this category include Bleach, Inuyasha, Fruits Basket, Vampire Knight and Loveless. With each of these series, it's pretty easy to move between the series and the manga. There's not much feeling of disconnect and the characters are clearly recognizable.
Different-disturbing: Among these series would be Nabari no Oh, Fullmetal Alchemist, Get Backers, Natsume Yuujinchou and Ouran High School Host Club. These series not only make you re-adjust to the look of the characters, but sometimes you can't make the adjustment. You keep looking for the characters you've come to expect.
The final group is the worst. These are the 'try-to-guess-which-characters-are-which ones. Good examples of this type of series are Mahoutsukai na Koto Taisetsu Ni and Yami no Matsuei. The two bottom pictures are depicting the same two characters from Mahoutsukai. In a case like this you really want to ask the characters to wear name tags so you don't get confused. Yami no Matsuei is like this too.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
This series starts out with one of the stereotypical themes: high school girl gets transported to alternate universe where she must grow up and accomplish a quest. So the basic premise is common, but the details are pretty cool. The main character is Nakajima Youko, the red-haired girl in both pics. The alternate world she's transported to is one where there are 12 kingdoms (thus the title) situated around a central island. This small picture shows the world map. There are 4 island kingdoms out in the corners and 8 kingdoms ringing the central island with ocean in between. Each kingdom is ruled by either a King or Queen. One of the unique ideas in the series comes from the way those rulers are chosen. Each kingdom has a "Kirin". Kirin are holy creatures that can take human form but their normal form is an incredibly beautiful unicorn. In the two pictures at the top, the main kirin in the story, Keiki, is being ridden by Youko on the right and is at the top back on the left picture. The kirin choose the King or Queen for a country. Keiki is unable to find his country's ruler in his world so he comes to Japan and get her. Youko and Keiki get separated and she must make her own way and become Queen of Kei. That's the main story line, but the series is complex and follows multiple stories.
Another unique element in the series is the way babies are born. When a couple wants a child they weave a ribbon and tie it to a special tree. If their wish is granted, a child grows like a fruit on the tree at the point where their ribbon is tied. All creatures in the world are born from trees, and the kirin are born from a single special tree on the central island. That tree only bears fruit if a kirin dies so that there are never more than 12 kirin, one for each kingdom.
I believe that in the novels there is at least one story for each kingdom, but although the series may originally have had that intent, they stopped early. The kingdoms covered by stories include Kei, with Youko and Keiki and the kingdom of En, with En-Ou and Enki. The series starts the story of Tai and then ends before the story is finished. This is what I was talking about as incredibly frustrating. You never know what happens with Tai-Ou and Taiki.
Beyond that though, the series is very good. They manage to follow multiple story lines and connect people from various different parts of the world and keep a coherent plot. The tales that they finish are satisfying, not overly tragic or sickeningly sweet. I almost didn't watch it because in the first several episodes Youko is such a whiny crybaby it makes me crazy. Not one of my favorite character types. Obviously she grows up with the help of one of the characters I like best in the series, Rakushun. Rakushun is a half-beast. He's the mouse in the left picture. Half-beasts can take the form of their beast or of a human. They're born from the same trees as full humans but are discriminated against in some of the kingdoms. I like his character a lot. He's like a perfect friend, good-natured, kind, really smart but with a lot of common sense. And he expects people to be people. He doesn't expect people to be perfect.
Anyway, it's a good series and I recommend it.