Monday, October 10, 2011


I'm slowly managing to finish up the series that have ended and the one I've decided to talk about today is Steins;Gate.  

Steins;Gate is going to have to go down as one of my all time favorite anime series.  It's totally  amazing.  One of the reasons I'm so impressed with it is that it was developed from a game.  It's been my experience that anime series developed from games are unfailingly horrible.  By that light, Steins;Gate is more than amazing.  It's an awesome series.

Spoiler Alert!!

Steins;Gate is about a small group of misfits who learn to manipulate time-lines and world-lines. The story centers around a crazy guy name Okabe Rintarou (lab-coated guy in picture).  By the end of the first episode, what you have found out about him is that Okabe is a stereotypical 'mad scientist' with a very loose grasp on reality, who also seems to be able to change that reality.  I was totally hooked on the series after the first episode.  Okabe calls himself Hyouoin Kyoma, talks to himself on his cell phone, has delusions of persecution (which turn out to be real), uses secret passwords, and has a 'lab' where he creates odd, apparently non-useful devices (like a microwave that turns bananas into green gel).  His 'lab' is a place where misfits gather.  He's totally a type of person you would write off as "eccentric" if you were feeling mellow, outright "crazy" otherwise.  And in the first episode he sends a text message, and a girl he saw dead is now alive.                     

Okabe's efforts to create a time machine are helped by his lab group, comprised of seven individuals who are variously either part of Okabe's schemes or are dragged into them.  The individuals are shown in the picture and include Mayuri (blue dress), who Okabe treats as a little sister and takes care of, Hashida (yellow cap), a hacker/pervert, and Makise Kurisu (Chris) (red hair), a genius-level time researcher who's drawn into the group.

The plot goes like this:  Okabe-tachi figure out how to use their malfunctioning microwave and a cell phone to send text messages to the past.  Each message they send alters the past and moves Okabe to a new world-line.  Okabe is the only one of the group who remembers everything from all the world-lines and pasts.  For all the other members, the new world-line is their past and they have no conscious memory of what may have happened in the other world-lines.  So they play with sending text messages that they call "D-mail" and each one sends a text that changes their past.  The upshot of this time-line tampering is that they come to the attention of a serious group (SERN) who is also manipulating time, and SERN comes to kill them all.  Mayuri dies. 

At the time SERN attacks and Mayuri dies, Okabe and Chris are perfecting a way to send Okabe himself through time, so he uses it to jump back and save Mayuri.  He uses it again and again and again, and gets to see Mayuri die, again and again and again.  He finally enlists Chris's aid and they figure out that the only way to save Mayuri's life is for Okabe to get back to his ORIGINAL world-line.  Which means he has to undo all the D-mails that were sent, one by one, in the reverse order that they were sent.  Each D-mail reversal requires him to come face to face with that character's wishes and dreams and change them back.  Chris helps him each time although he has to explain it to her each time since her memory is gone whenever he switches world-lines.  Finally he reaches a time-line and realizes that reversing the last D-mail will take him back to the original time-line, the one in which Chris died before he sent that first D-mail!  He will save Mayuri, but Chris will die.

This anime is just awesome.  The music is good, the plot is outstanding, the characters are quirky, and the whole package is just incredibly well done.  The pacing is wonderful . . . not so fast you miss the details, nor so slow you get bored.  It's heart-wrenching through the episodes that Okabe spends jumping back again and again to try to save Mayuri.  I found it amazing that when Okabe reached the final decision point, I realized, right as he did, that his first D-mail had saved Chris' life.  It was in the first episode and at that time I didn't even know what was going on. 

How does it end?  Nobody dies!  They do an outstanding job of making you worry right up until the end, but it's a happily-ever-after ending.  

This is the bare bones of the series of course.  So much happens with the various characters that I haven't talked about here.  It all just adds in to making the series as great as it is.  If you haven't watched this series, I recommend you do.  I'm going to watch it again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

No. 6

It's been so long since I posted, but truthfully my summer has been so full that I'm way, way behind on my anime watching.  I find myself with many episodes of many series to finish, and a new season is coming in a week!  Muri!  I'm going to have to invest in some serious anime-watching time to catch up.

I did finish No.6, so I thought I'd talk about it today.  Spoiler warning!

No. 6 is ultimately the story of the relationship between two boys, Shion and Nezumi, who come from alternate worlds.  Shion is the white-haired boy and Nezumi is the silver-eyed kid with grey hair.   No. 6 is the name of the ideal city that brings them together and divides them.  Shion is a genius-level kid from inside the walled city of No.6.  He has all the perks and every possible advantage inside his perfect world.  Nezumi is a street rat from outside the city and he has a deep hatred for No. 6 and all it stands for.  Shion meets Nezumi when Nezumi escapes from a No. 6 prison and is injured while escaping.  Shion treats his injuries and helps him escape.  Those actions result in Shion's fall from grace, and several years pass.   

No.6 and the people who run it have many secrets, and this too short series makes a good attempt to uncover them.  One is that there is an epidemic of parasite wasps infecting the populace.  When the wasp hatches, the host instantly ages and dies.  Anyone who witnesses this death 'disappears" - enters No.6's research branch as an unwilling subject.  After Shion's demotion from favored elite status, he ends up in a janitorial job, and witnesses the parasite wasps.  On his way to the 'detention center' he is rescued by Nezumi, and leaves No. 6.

Outside No.6, Shion and Nezumi struggle to understand each other, and No. 6 itself.  Shion decides the only way to equalize things is to bring down the walls around the city.  In the meantime, Shion's best friend inside the city, Safu, runs afoul of the powers that be and is arrested and taken to be a research subject. Shion's mother inside the city gets word to Nezumi and eventually he and Shion go to rescue Safu with help from their friends.  In the end, Safu, in a new incarnation, ends up saving Shion and Nezumi instead.

No. 6 is a short, 11 episode series, but even so, I haven't done the plot justice.   I've basically skimmed the surface. Despite being short, the plot doesn't really feel rushed.  It does make you wish the series was longer and they could spend more time on the back   stories though.  

I liked this anime series for a lot of reasons.  The plot is fairly unique.  The music is very good (OST will soon be on it's way to me :D).  The animation and character style are excellent.  And my favorite character doesn't die!!  That would be Nezumi, although Shion is a close second.  He doesn't die either, and at times during the series you expect both of them to.  Especially the way the ED theme song is, I expected that Nezumi would not survive the series.  I was very pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, that's it today.  I'm going to go start watching series to clear the decks somewhat for the new season.   

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Linear plots: types of series

I did say that I would come back and post about the second basic type of plot, so here we go. These are the linear plots. These series have a fairly straight-forward story line and the plot proceeds relatively smoothly from point A to point B. Sometimes you're not aware of the linear plot until later in the series but it's there. Again, I'll be discussing various series along the way.
Probably one of the best examples of a series with a linear plot is Serei no Moribito. The plot in this series is to protect the prince, Chagum, to prevent him from dying, both from the people trying to kill hima dn from the entity growing inside him. The main character, a warrior named Balsa,takes on this task and it turns out to be significantly more difficult than she expected. She is helped along the way by her friends, including Tanda and Torogai, and opposed by the Palace, basically by the Emperor and all his minions, including the palace elite guards and Shuga, a tutor and star-seer. Balsa-tachi manage to not only keep Chagum alive, they help him grow up and end up helping to restore him to his proper place as the Crown Prince in the Palace.
Another series with a linear plot is Fullmetal Alchemist. The quest that the brothers, Ed and Al Elric, take on is to stop the bad guys from taking over the world and in the process killing much of the world's population. Not much of a task, I admit, (<-- this is sarcasm) but with help from their friends, including Roy Mustang, Risa Hawkeye, Rin and Mai, and a boatload of other cast members, they manage to succeed. Of course, the bad guys are firmly seated in the government of the country where the characters live, so stopping them means working against the government. This series is kind of an epic series. Lots of people are involved in a multitude of side stories along the way, but they all come together eventually to fight for the same goal, the destruction of the "Father" and his homunculi.
Last Exile is another series with a linear plot, and a group of people working against the ruling class. The protagonists in this series are planning to overthrow the Guild, a world government group, and by doing so to create a world where everyone can live in peace. The ruling class Guild controls much of their lives, including the worldwide weather, causing droughts and ice ages when it suits their whim. The main characters, Klaus and Lavi, get sucked into the battles when they help a small girl named Alvis. They end up siding with the Alex Rowe and his ship the Sylvana against the Guild, while becoming friends with a young Guild Member, Dio. Klaus-tachi fulfill their quest, but at the expense of lives, including main character lives.
Eureka Seven is another series in which the main characters plot to overthrow the government and protect the various peoples of the world, including an alien life form which is struggling to understand humans, while different human factions are trying to either protect it or destroy it. Renton and Eureka are two of the main characters caught up in this world-spanning battle. Renton joins Eureka aboard a ship stolen from the military and renamed the Gekko. The very eccentric crew of the Gekko makes up much of the series cast including the captain, Holland and first mate, Talho. Surprisingly, the gang aboard the Gekko manage to accomplish their goals, sometimes almost despite themselves.
Overthrowing existing governments appears to be a favorite theme here. Another linear plot series which manages this is Scrapped Princess. The warrior-brother and sorcerer-sister main characters, Shannon and Raquel, are intending only to protect the life of their adopted little sister, Pacifica. However, in order to do that they and their companions end up taking on the ancient computer which governs their world. In the end they defeat it, freeing the planet to evolve on its own. Quite an accomplishment when all they wanted to do was keep Pacifica alive.
Wolf's Rain is another linear plot anime series. The plot is very straight forward. Four wolves, Kiba, Tsume, Hide and Toboe, who can take the form of humans, are traveling to reach Paradise. First they must find the moon flower, also in the shape of a human, who will lead them there. Unfortunately other people want the moon flower girl also, and thus a plot line is born. Good guys against the existing government structure. This is one of the better series, and would have been one of the great ones if not for the ending. Sadly, no one reaches Paradise or gets what they want.
A last series I'll talk about today with a very linear plot is Jyu oh Sei. Jyu oh Sei's story follows Thor, a child born on a space colony, who is dumped on a brutal planet and expected to survive. Most of the plot revolves around Thor's climb back up, and eventual return to the colony to discover all the why's. Why his parents were murdered and he and his twin were dumped. Why the brutal planet exists, etc, etc. The series is also about the very human will to survive, and surprise, overthrowing the existing government structure.
Hmmmm. I'm just realizing how many linear plots are about ousting the powers that be. Interesting. Code Geass could also be considered one of those. As can Tegami Bachi. And E's Otherwise, and Fractale, and even Angel Beats! Omoshiroi.
Anyway, there are obviously series that don't fit well into either the mini-quest type or the linear plot type. A lot of those are your basic slice of life series. And they often seem to me to not have a lot of plot period. Just day to day living. Which may be why as a rule I'm not that fond of slice of life type series. Fruits Basket and Natsume Yuujinchou would be exceptions to that general rule though. Neither had excessive plot, but both were exceptionally good series.
That's all for today. And this damn system won't let me put spacing in where I want to, so this will just have to look like one long continuous paragraph.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mini-quests: types of series

When I was posting about Bleach the other day I got to thinking about the type of series it is, and that made me realize that series can be classified into two basic types. I love to classify and sort things, so of course I decided to sort my series and write a post about one of the two types.

The two main types of series are these: 1) the whole series has a single main plot line, or single quest to be accomplished and the story line moves from point A to point B over the course of series without any, or very many, side plots except occasional flashbacks to supply character background. 2) the series itself is a sequence of small arcs, episodes, or "mini-quests", with or without a larger over-arching story or plot line. It's the second type of series that Bleach falls into and the type I'm going to post about today. Along the way I'll give brief synopsis of a few series and their characters.

There are a lot of series besides Bleach that fall into the multiple mini-quest type of series. A good example is Rurouni Kenshin. Rurouni Kenshin does not really have a major over-arching plot. It follows it's main characters, Kenshin, Kaoru, Yahiko and Sano, through their everyday lives in early Meiji era Japan. Along the way they get embroiled in various events which become "mini-quests" and thus story arcs, in the series. For example, the Shishio Makoto arc is a mini-quest, as is the arc about the Christians and Amakusa Shougo, the other Hiten Mitsurugi user. Mini-quests may be an episode long, or they may end up being 310 episodes long, like the Aizen arc in Bleach.

Another everyday life series that contains many mini-quests is Kyou Kara Maou, although 'everyday life' in Kyou Kara Maou is a little different from your usual 'everyday life'. Kyou Kara Maou follows the life of a teenager named Yuri who is sucked into an alternate universe where he is apparently the demon-king (Maou). The main characters of the series include his companions and officers of the Demon kingdom of which he is now king, including Conrad, Gunther, Wolfram, Gwendal and Murata Ken. This series is long and filled with mini-quests that Yuri accomplishes as king of his country of demons. Examples of mini-quests from this series include the episodes spent retrieving the demon sword and the demon flute, and a long arc retrieving Conrad after he 'dies'.

Occasionally the series mini-quests are cases to be solved and the series main plot device is around a business of some sort. Ghost Hunt is this type of series. In Ghost Hunt the story is about a genius-level teenager, Naru, who runs a business which exorcises ghosts and spirits and solves cases involving the occult. The cast of characters beside Naru includes a trusted retainer type, Rin, and a teenage girl helper, Mai, who happens to be easily influenced by and able to sense spirits. Other cast members who help with the business include a monk, a priestess, a christian priest and an onmyouji. Mini-quests in this series are the cases they solve, including a case involving a haunted old school building, and a church where children periodically disappear.

Another case-based series is Get Backers. In this series two friends, Ginji and Ban, (G & B, Get Backers) set up a business to find lost items and to recover items and return them to their owners. Along the way Ginji and Ban draw in many friends and acquaintances to help them with their mini-quests. One of the big mini-quests in this series is the recovery of the component parts for a nuclear weapon from a lawless no-man's land known as Mugenjo. Another quest is to recover the arms of the statue of Venus de Milo. This series is not only full of mini-quests, it manages a very large cast of characters without killing off any of them, which is an amazing and almost unheard of feat in the world of anime.

Gintama is another series that fits into the mini-quest category. There is definitely no main plot or over-arching quests to Gintama. It follows the antics of Gintoki, Kagura and Shinpachi as they move through their daily lives. It can be considered case-based because Gintoki-tachi have a business as general handy-men. This business and the interactions between Gintoki-tachi and the Shinsengumi provide many of the mini-quests in the series. Examples of the more major mini-quests in this series would be the arc where Hijikata becomes an otaku, and the arc where Gintokai and Katsura face off against their former comrade, Takasugi. Gintama also has a lot of one and two-episode mini-quests, so the series is very full of them.

One of my favorite series, Cowboy Bebop, also falls into the case-based series type. The various bounty hunts the members of the Bebop, Jet, Spike, Faye and Ed, take on make up the mini-quests in this series. Cowboy Bebop does end up having sort of a deeper over-arching plot, but you don't realize it until later in the series. And it is made up of mini-quests because essentially every episode is a new bounty hunt. One of the things I like about the series though is that the bounty hunts aren't the important aspect of the series. The deeper plot is really the story line with the mini-quest hunts being the window dressing rather than the centerpiece of the series.

Some mini-quest-type series do have obvious over-arching major plots, and still encompass a lot of mini-quests on the way to getting there. Inuyasha falls into this type of series. The characters, Inuyasha, Kagome, Miroku, Sango and Shippo have major quests to fulfill, which are to reclaim and purify a powerful item called the Shikon no Tama, and to destroy the bad guy, Naraku. However along the way they deal with many smaller quests, because the Shikon has been shattered and even pieces of it cause men and demons to be powerful. They must confront all these entities and gather the shattered fragments.

D.Gray-man can also be fit into this category. The main over-arching quest of the Exorcists, Allen, Lenalee, Kanda and Lavi and their colleagues, is to stop the Millennium Earl and his minions, but along the way they deal with many, many mini-quests. In the course of the larger quest, Allen-tachi must deal with demon after demon after demon, as well as some of the Earls' more powerful minions known as the Noah. These dealings make up the mini-quests. One of the longer mini-quests in the series is the search for Allen's master/teacher. Another is the quest for Allen to regain his powers after he is 'killed'.

So those are some of the series that can be classified as episodic,or made up of multiple story arcs, which may be very short or very long. In most of these cases the story arcs or mini-quests are the reason for existence, or basis of the series, rather than embellishment of the main plot. And like most of my classifications, not all the series mentioned fall neatly into this type of series. Most of them fit it fairly well though.

Maybe next time I'll post about the series that fit into the other main class of anime series.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bleach 4 - end of the Aizen Arc

Yes, the end of the Aizen Arc.  Enough time has past since it ended for me to be able to look at it somewhat objectively. Strangely, to me the arc ending was seriously anticlimactic. But I'll come back to that thought.

If you haven't read this blog before or haven't watched Bleach, I'll start this post with a synopsis. It won't do justice to the really epic nature of this series, but at least it will provide background. Keep in mind that this series has probably 50+ characters are that are fairly major characters. And the Aizen arc started at the beginning of the series and ended at episode 310. Even with 100+ episodes of filler arcs, that's a lot of story to try to synopse.

Starting with a few basic concepts of the series: the everyday real world is watched over by shinigami (soul reapers, gods of death) who exist in their own world, Soul Society, and come to the real world for two reasons: to help the lost souls of people who have died move on to the Soul Society and to protect people of the real world from souls who have gone bad and become evil creatures called Hollows. A shinigami's strength is determined by his or her level of reiatsu (soul power or spirit power - if you will) and that reiatsu partially manifests as a weapon, most commonly a sword, called a zanpakto. Zanpakto can be "released" twice. The first level of release is called 'shikai', and it increases the sword and user's powers. The second and ultimate level of release is called 'bankai' and the amount of power released by bankai is phenomenal. Of the hierarchy in Soul Society, all of the Captain-level shinigami can release bankai, and some of the vice-captain and lower level shinigami can also. One of the things I like about this series is that Bleach has a huge cast of characters, including the Captains and Vice-captains and lower level shinigmai of the 13 Protection Squads of the shinigami. All of them are individuals with stories and backgrounds.

So that's the background. The basic story of Bleach is about Kurosaki Ichigo (shown in the first picture above) and his friends, Ishida, Inoue and Chad (Ishida with glasses, Inoue the girl with long orange hair and Chad being the tall guy at the back of the picture to the right above). Ichigo is an orange-haired teenager who can communicate with ghosts. Ichigo also happens to have a tremendous amount of reiatsu, and early in the series he begins interacting with the shinigami, primarily the protector for his home town, a girl named Kuchiki Rukia (dark-haired girl in the picture with Ichigo's friends). When Rukia is sentenced to death for the crime of giving Ichigo her reiatsu, which she did to allow him to protect his family, Ichigo and his friends go to Soul Society to rescue her, with the aid of a character in the real world named Urahara. In the course of the rescue Ichigo battles his way past Abarai Renji, a vice-captain, and two captains, Zaraki Kenpachi and Kuchiki Byakuya. In the process Ichigo achieves bankai with his zanpakto and also discovers that he has a Hollow side, with the ability to wear a Hollow mask and increase his fighting powers. Ichigo with half the mask is shown above and to the left. After many battles the friends manage to save Rukia, but in the process a vastly larger plot is uncovered. Enter Aizen.

Aizen (picture to the right) is one of the 13 Captains and he is masquerading as a mild-mannered Captain who helps everyone and who wouldn't harm a fly. In reality he is a megalomaniac with an unquenchable thirst for power, who ends up stabbing his vice-captain. It turns out that100 years before Ichigo-tachi arrive, Aizen had been working to perfect a device to increase his power. The device, called a Hougyoku, was also being worked on by Urahara, who at the time was Captain of one of the 13 Protection Squads and was turning it into a research and development squad. Among the things the hougyoku does, it converts shinigami into Hollow, a process called Hollowfication. Aizen experimented with it on a group of shinigami captains and vice-captains, converting them to Hollow. Urahara (picture to the left in his real world form) stops him before he destroys them completely, but Aizen manages to frame Urahara for it. During his sentencing, Urahara is rescued by another captain and friend, Yoruichi, and the two of them rescue the hollowfied shinigami and take them to the real world. There the hollowfied shinigami learn to control their hollow aspect, and they can call the hollow masks to increase their power in a fight. They become known as the Visored.

Back in Soul Society, the innocent-seeming Aizen continues his machinations for 100 years until Ichigo-tachi arrive and disturb everything. At that point, Aizen and his two other traitor captains take the hougyoku and leave for Hueco Mundo, the world where the Hollows live. In Hueco Mundo, Aizen begins creating Arrancar, extremely powerful Hollows, using the Huougyoku to create them and to increase their powers. The ten most powerful Arrancar are called Espada, and various Espada are shown in these two pictures. In pursuit of his schemes, Aizen sends one of the Espada, Ulquiorra, to the real world to abduct Inoue, ostensibly for the unusual power she has to reverse time. Ichigo, Ishida, Chad, Rukia and Renji go to Hueco Mundo to rescue her and the battles begin again.

During the battles in Hueco Mundo, Ichigo begins relying more and more in his Hollow side, and at one point becomes essentially totally a Hollow, shown in the picture below and to the right. In this form he kills one of my favorite characters, Ulquiorra, and even injures his companion Ishida, before coming back to himself. He's then fairly nervous about using his Hollow side and from that point until he levels up again, he's fairly useless. Four Captains end up following Ichigo-tachi into Hueco Mundo to help, but this turns out to be all part of Aizen's plot as he traps them all there and leaves for the real world. Aizen takes his two traitor captains and some of the Espada with him, leaving the rest of the Espada stay and battle the Captains and Ichigo-tachi trapped in Hueco Mundo. Ichigo and the captains eventually win their battles and because one of the captains is the head of the Soul Society research and development squad, he finds a way for them to return from Hueco Mundo.

Aizen's ultimate goal is to be supreme evil overlord of all creation. His plan is to destroy Ichigo's hometown and everyone in it in order to create a key to enter the place where the "king of Soul Society" reigns, so that Aizen can destroy him and become king in his place. Ichigo's hometown happens to be heavy with spirit power so it's ideal for use in creating this 'key'. Urahara and the remaining captains and vice-captains from Soul Society have not been idle though. When Aizen and the Espada arrive, the Soul Society group are waiting, and the battles in the real world begin. Along the way, the Visored come along to help in the battles and to settle their score with Aizen. Some of the Visored are shown here to the left when they were still shinigami.

However, Aizen, it seems, is indestructable. No matter what they throw at him, it rolls off. It turns out Aizen has taken the hougyoku, which is semi-sentient, inside himself and he is evolving into a creature so powerful that just the reiatsu flowing off him crushes everything in his path. Ichigo manages to return to the real world from Hueca Mundo, and faces Aizen, but initally cannot do anything. At the ninth hour, one of Aizen's traitor captains, Ichimaru Gin, turns on him. The whole time Gin has been plotting to betray Aizen because very early on Aizen hurt someone Gin cared about. Unfortunately, Gin has not had the opportunity until this point because Aizen doesn't trust him. Gin is shown to the right. It briefly looks as though Gin will succeed, however he has waited too long. Aizen is just too powerful and he kills Gin. When all hope is lost, Ichigo levels up again and appears in an advanced form with incredible power. He simply destroys Aizen's powers enough for him to be sealed away by a device created by Urahara for that purpose. Ichigo achieves this, but at the cost of his own powers. The price for this level of power is that he will lose all his reiatsu and become a normal person. End of the Aizen arc.

This is sooooooo not the whole story, just the bare bones of it. There are so many more interactions between characters, plus all the battles between Ichigo and his various opponents and between all Ichigo's friends and allies and their opponents. There's simply no way to put it all in a blog post. If you haven't watched the series, I recommend that you do, to get all the nuances. One of these days I'll post where the filler arcs are so you can skip those episodes if you want. You should watch the Muramasa arc though.

Anyway, the ending of the Aizen arc seemed anticlimactic to me. All this time waiting for someone to take out that smugly arrogant, untouchable Aizen, and yet when it's done there's this incredible feeling of . . . wait, what? It's over? That's it? I don't really know how I can be feeling that after all this time, but there it is. Plus I am not happy that Ichigo will lose his powers, although since the series is on-going I suppose that can be reversed in the future. I also wished they hadn't killed Ulquiorra. I really liked his character, which is probably why he died when they have killed off so few characters in this series. You know, the whole death of my favorite character thing. Although, I really didn't like Gin, and they killed him too. Gin was so slimy and treacherous, and so obviously a horrible person, that I guess it makes sense to find out he did it all to try to take Aizen down. I didn't expect it, but my friend was vindicated. She said all along he wasn't all bad. The thing I don't like the MOST about the end of this arc? They should never have left Aizen alive! Maybe that's the source of the anticlimactic feelings. Even though Ichigo took him down at the expense of Ichigo's own powers, Aizen starts healing up right away and is only sealed by Urahara's device because he's in a weakened state. From my perspective, he should have been finished off. Even sealed up, he's not safe. For heavens sake, everyone knows megalomaniacs, especially ones that can out-plot (plot circles around) every other character, need to be snuffed out of existence! Not left where they could possibly make a comeback. Geez!

I think the other reason for the anticlimactic feelings is that I've been waiting for this for 310 episodes. It's a little bit of a letdown that I don't have something to wait and hope for now.

Bleach is still going though, but it's once again in a filler arc. The end of the Aizen arc caught the series up to the manga, so fillers will be necessary for a while. I'll continue to watch the series. After this long, all the characters are like family. I wonder where the manga author, Kubo Tite, will take them next?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ouran High School Host Club

This is another series that's high on my list of all time favorite series. If you haven't watched this one you're probably wondering why that is. It's a reverse harem anime, right? And a flighty story about a bunch of rich guys catering to the whims of a bunch of rich girls in a fancy high school for the rich? Geez! Can you get more derivative and boring?

The answer is that this is definitely not a derivative and boring series. It's seriously funny, in places it's hysterically funny, and the plot is surprisingly deep along the way.

So yes, Ouran High School Host Club is a reverse harem anime which takes place in a high school for the extremely wealthy. The main characters are the sons of extremely wealthy families plus one displaced special student (seated in the first picture) who is railroaded into joining their Host Club. If you haven't seen this anime series and plan to do so, go watch the first episode before reading any more of this blog because I'm about to spoil a great first episode.

Fujioka Haruhi is a poor student who is attending Ouran on scholarships and who doesn't even have money for a uniform. In the first episode Haruhi is disheveled and nerdy looking. Quite by accident, Haruhi runs afoul of the Host Club. This first episode is absolutely priceless, as each member of the Host Club comes to the realization that Haruhi is a girl, not a boy. In this picture to the left she's wearing girl's clothes and is obviously a girl, a look entirely different from her original one. It's amazing how long it took me to come to that realization the first time I watched this series. After the Host Club members all realize it, they decide to keep the deception going and have Haruhi join the Host Club as a Host.

The plot line in this series is exceptional. The surface, obvious plot is just the activities of the Host Club, including the various cosplay the Hosts do and their interactions with other students and between themselves. However, the real plot lies much deeper than that and is why I enjoyed this series so much. Each of the Hosts is an interesting individual with unique gifts and unique problems. The Hosts include: Suou Tamaki, who's father is the school headmaster, and who created and leads the Host Club; Ootori Kyouya, who's family owns multiple hospitals, medical supply businesses and a small private army, Hitachiin Kaoru and Hitachiin Hikaru, who are twins that no one can tell apart, (seen in the picture to the right above); Haninozuka Mitsukuni (Honey), who is the heir of a martial arts school and a martial arts master; and Morinozuka Takashi (Mori), who's family has been allied with Honey's family throughout history. Honey is shown in serious fight mode in the picture to the left below. These individuals are brought together by Tamaki to form the Host Club, and along the way in the series, the background of each one, and Tamaki's interactions with them is revealed.

Tamaki and Haruhi are the most interesting characters in the series from my perspective. Haruhi's mother has died and Haruhi lives with her father who works as a cross-dresser in a bar. Haruhi is pretty intuitive about people, and is quite straight-forward and accepting of other people and their idiosyncrasies. Her only real interest in attending Ouran is studying and doing well and the Host Club to her is a massive waste of time when she gets sucked into it. Also despite her general intuition about other people, she can be oblivious to social mores. She is also the only person in the world who can tell Kaoru and Hikaru apart.

Tamaki is the most fun character (picture to the right). He vacillates back and forth between being apparently totally clueless and then making incredibly astute readings of the other characters' needs and desires. He comes across as such a soft-hearted airhead that his insights into the others characters and problems is really brought into sharp focus. He is the driving force behind the Host Club; he brought them all together originally and he keeps them together. Along the way it is revealed that he has problems of his own. It turns out he is the half-Japanese, illegitimate son of the school headmaster. He is not accepted by most of the Suou family, but he is the only son of his father so he is tolerated as the possible heir.

When Tamaki decides to form his Host Club he starts with Kyouya who is already his friend. Kyouya may be my favorite character in the series, shown here to the left. He's the 'shadow king', the power behind the throne, if you will. He handles all the finances, makes all the arrangements and just basically facilitates whatever Tamaki has decided to do. He's a financial wizard and his abilities become apparent at the end of the series. His back story about his early interactions with Tamaki is also my favorite subplot to a series that has several good ones.

Each of the Host Club members has a 'schtick' they play off of as Hosts. For Tamaki, it's his looks and his incredibly suave moves with women. For Kyouya it's his megane-looks and his cool reserve. Haruhi "plays off" her rookie status and her ingenuous behavior, which actually turns out to be basic Haruhi rather than a role. The Hitachiin brothers, play off 'brotherly love' for the Host Club, as well as other people's inability to tell them apart. They switch places with each other regularly, which works on everyone except Haruhi. These Host Club members are second year high school students, with Haruhi, Kaoru and Hikaru being in the same class and Tamaki and Kyouya being in a separate class. Honey and Mori are the third year student members of the Host Club. Both are martial arts experts and although in the Host Club they play off Honey's little kid looks and Mori's cool aloofness, they are surprisingly the muscle behind the Host Club when muscle is necessary. Mori is the tallest Host, shown here towering over Haruhi in her Host uniform, and Mori and Honey are usually a pair.

Overall, the story is about the various antics of the Host Club, but more than that, it's about the growth of the Host Club's individual members, and the ways in which clueless Tamaki affects and changes each of their lives. This is about a group a friends, basically, how they became friends and how they help each other along the way. The series manages to make this basic story fun and interesting. If I had to cite a negative, I would say the music is only so-so. However for entertainment value and a great story, the series is well worth watching.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ergo Proxy

Hmmmmmm. The new series are too new to blog about. I haven't formed a definite opinion of any of them yet. So once again I guess I'll go back and review an old series. The series I picked to review this time is Ergo Proxy.

I liked Ergo Proxy. I watched it three times, and still probably missed nuances. To say the plot was complex would be a massive understatement. I didn't figure out what was going on until the end of the series the first time I watched it. If you've read previous blogs, you know how I love a series that keeps me guessing. This one did that . . . in spades!

Ergo Proxy is set in a post-apocalyptic world. The world is frozen, bleak and inimical to life. The people who are left exist in sterile domes run mostly by computers and robots. The robot population is susceptible to a virus that attacks their logic functions and essentially causes them to go insane. The people mostly live their lives without considering anything outside the domes, and police and laborers deal with the robot population when necessary. The story follows three main characters: a spoiled rich girl named Real (pictured just below), a poor immigrant laborer named Vincent (to the left below in the orange) and a small robot girl child named Pino. Important side characters include the dome's head physician, Daedalus, the chief of police, Raul, and Real's robot companion and guard, Iggy. At the start of the series a monster is loose in the dome and is slaughtering people. Real and Iggy are investigating the murders. Vincent is implicated in them because of several clues and because the monster, known as a "Proxy" chases him specifically. Also wherever Vincent goes another Proxy appears. Vincent ends up chased by the police, and to escape them he leaps from the dome, along with Pino who helps him.

Vincent and Pino survive their leap and find that humans are living outside the dome. Real comes outside to find him, and becomes infected with a virus that kills most poeple who leave the dome. Raul wishes to get rid of both Vincent and Real, however Vincent finds a way to return Real to Daedalus in the dome and at the same time he makes his escape with several other people on a small ship (called the Usagi) that glides above the frozen world using wind power in it's sails. Real's life is saved by Daedalus, and he sends her on a mission to kill Vincent because Vincent is a "Proxy".

Vincent, Pino and a few of the outside colonists travel on the Usagi for weeks across frozen wastes. Along the way everyone succumbs to the cold, loneliness and lack of food until only Pino and Vincent are left. They finally come across another group of people in the remains of twin domes that have been fighting each other for as long as anyone can remember. While there they discover two more Proxies, and Vincent discovers that he himself is a Proxy, a Proxy known as the Ergo Proxy. He has no memory of being this Proxy, but realizes that he becomes Ergo Proxy whenever there is another Proxy present. As Ergo Proxy, he kills these others as though it's his reason for existence.

After Vincent and Pino leave the twin dome ruins, Real and Iggy catch up to them and when Real tries to send Iggy home, he succumbs to the viral insanity and tries to keep Real for himself. He is defeated, and Vincent, Real and Pino continue the travels together, discovering abandoned domes and abandoned and dying populations. They continue on, trying to get to the dome which Vincent came from when he immigrated, looking for answers to what he is and what is going on with the world.

At the same time at the home dome, Daedalus is under house arrest for sending Real on her mission. Daedalus and Raul meet and agree to work together, and it's not until much later that you realize that neither of these men is sane. Along the way, Raul fires a nuclear weapon which destroys Vincent's home dome before Vincent, Real and Pino get there. So at that point the three travelers turn around and head back to the original dome. Raul is pictured to the right and Daedalus is below on the left.

For most of the series there is no explanation of what a Proxy is, and what is going on. Add to that, several of the episodes or parts of episodes occur in the various characters' dreams or states of altered consciousness. Often it is hard to tell what is really happening and what is not. "Reality" is basically subjective. . . or more subjective than usual. It's difficult to accurately portray the ambiance of this series and the detail of the plot. If you've ever seen the movie Blade Runner, that civilization gave me a similar feel to this series. At the end, and believe me, it's much more complex than this, but at the end what it's all about is this: the world was abandoned by the majority of people after they destroyed it, leaving it a frozen waste. The people who abandoned the world left several domed cities of people, with a Proxy in charge of each of them. The Proxies were meant to try to keep a living population alive on the world, but so many centuries passed that Proxies died, went insane and just generally lost their way, and thus most of the domes also died. At the end of the series, Vincent as Ergo Proxy destroys the original dome also, just as the people who abandoned the world begin to return. Real, Vincent/Ergo Proxy and Pino survive and leave the area of the dome on the Usagi, ready to deal with the returning people who abandoned them so long ago.

This series is a psychological tour de force, investigating people's conscious and subconscious minds. Everyone in the series does what they think is the right thing, even Raul when he fires a nuclear weapon, and Daedalus when he keeps cloning Reals. My favorite character in the series is actually Pino, shown here on the right. She's so matter of fact and so accepting of everyone and everything. She knows well before Vincent does that he's Ergo Proxy, and she still stays with him and helps him. In many ways she's more "human" than the humans in the series. Along with the very complex plot, I liked the music in this series and the characters. I could have wished that Raul and Daedalus had lived, but given their lack of sanity at the end, it's probably for the best that they didn't.

Obviously it was a decent series if I watched it three times, but mostly I was trying to understand exactly what was going on. Also, some scenes are so dark that I can only really watch them after it's dark outside if I want to see them at all. This was probably my least favorite thing about the series. I really hate really dark scenes. Togainu no Chi does this also, as does Deadman Wonderland. If you don't want to make something visible, don't put it in the scene, don't just make the scene so dark the viewer can't see it! Mataku!

Anyway, that's Ergo Proxy. I recommend it, but you'll need to pay attention.


Monday, April 25, 2011

New Season! New season!

Ureshii!! I was all out of anime series to watch, so I'm delighted to be starting some new ones. Even Bleach tied up their 310-episode Aizen arc. Well, come to think of it, there were several filler arcs in there so not all 310 episodes were the Aizen arc. Still. That arc has been running since the series began, so that's a pretty significant arc to tie up. Bleach is still on-going also, so we'll see where it goes from here. They started a new arc this month.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about new series. I've began watching a bunch of the ones that are starting this month, and it looks like I'll be following several of them which have sparked my interest. I've only seen two episodes of all the series I'm going to mention, so my opinion of them may change, but the ones I like so far include:

C - The Money of Soul and Possibility Control: Believe it or not, this isn't the longest title of this season, but it's certainly the one with the most obscure meaning. Which is fitting because so far it also has the most obscure plot. Which is my way of saying I don't really know what's going on. Which is no doubt why I'm attracted to this series. I love a mystery, and of course, I love a unique plot. On top of that the character style and voice actors are good. What I've gotten of the plot so far is this: by some mysterious lottery means, poor people are selected and given a magic ATM card. When they use it, it takes them to an alternate/computer-based existence where they are required to play a life-or-death game with the help of an 'asset'. If they win, they get money which they can use any way they want to in the real world. If they lose everything, they lose their lives as well. I suspect the plot is considerably deeper than that, but I'm only two episodes in, so I only know what the main character has manged to figure out so far after being dumped into the game. The main character, Kimimaro Yoga, is dropped into the game, meets his asset Msyu and they fight for their lives in the first episodes. Well Msyu fights, Kimimaro is busy doing the 'this can't be real what's going on' thing. Yoga and Msyu are back to back in the picture to the left. The other interesting character in the series so far is Mikuni Souichirou, who is top of the heap in the alternate financial world. It should be an interesting series to follow.

Hanasaku Iroha: This is a slice of life series. Hana is a junior high kid who has a flaky, writer mother who Hana essentially takes care of. At the start of the series, Hana's mother and current boyfriend run off to escape bad debts, and send Hana to stay with her mother's mother. Grandmother owns a hot spring, bears a grudge against Hana's mother, and takes Hana in, but only as an employee. Hana has to earn her keep, as well as deal with Grandmother and all the other personalities at the Inn. This one could turn out to be fairly derivative, but so far I like the characters personalities and it's been interesting enough to keep me watching for a little while more. Plus it's pretty, with a character style I like. Hana is the character in the bottom center of the picture.

Ao no Exorcist: The Devil's Son wants to become an exorcist. That's the basic premise of this one, so you can see that things will be interesting. Rin is a 15 year old with a twin brother named Yukio. The two of them were raised by an exorcist priest Rin believed was their father. The series starts as his twin is leaving to go to high school and Rin is struggling to find a job. He has been a child who always has bad things happen around him, and school has not been his strong suit. Turns out that while his fraternal twin brother is completely human, Rin is half a demon, with Satan himself for a father. Events cause him to discover this, and his exorcist father dies trying to protect him from the Devil. Yes, they kill a character in the second episode. Rin decides he doesn't want to be a demon, and he's not really demon or human, so he'll become an exorcist like his human father. It may be interesting to see where this one goes, with Rin using his demon powers to fight demons. Rin is the blue-horned kid with the sword, and Yukio is the megane-kid behind him to the left.

Steins;Gate: Take a mad scientist-type inventor with a less-than-strong grip on reality, and place him under circumstances where the reality shifts, and you've got Steins;Gate. This series is going to be about both time travel and alternate universes, so it will definitely be interesting. Our mad scientist's name is Okabe Rintarou but he calls himself Hououin Kyouma (don't know why - he's really a whacked personality - wearing the lab coat in the picture). He starts his day being confronted by a girl (Makise Kurisu - red hair) he's never met who is demanding to know why he called her. An hour later he finds her murdered, sends a text message to a friend about it and when he presses "send", manages to transport himself into an alternate universe in which she's still alive and doesn't know him. And the series is off and running. *laughing* At least that's my interpretation of what's happened so far. It's a little confusing, even for me and I think I have a pretty decent grip on reality mostly. This is another one I'm looking forward to watching. I just hope I can keep up with, or track of, what's going on.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai: This series wins the award for longest title of the season. This is another slice of life series. It is about 6 kids who are friends in elementary school. One of them dies in an accident of some kind, and the rest try to go on. The story actually starts several years later when the five remaining kids are in high school. The child who died, Menma, returns as a ghost to try to repair the lives that were shattered by her death. She is only visible to the kid who was most affected by her death, Jinta, but she is real to him. He can touch her, as well as hear and see her. The other members of the gang cannot see or hear her. She asks him to grant her a wish, but what she really wants is to repair their lives and their friendship with each other which was all lost the day she died. I suspect the series will eventually tell how she died. Right now it's just introducing characters and giving basic background. And the beginning was clever. Since she can touch and interact with Jinta, you don't realize she's a ghost and wonder why he's ignoring her.

There are also a few other series I'm trying out, but they haven't interested me as much, so I may drop them after another couple episodes. They include: Season 2 of World God Only Knows, Hidan no Aria, which is about a high school which trains mercenaries; Deadman Wonderland, which is a bloody series about a 14 year old condemned to death row for the wholesale massacre of his entire class, only death row is an amusement park where people pay to come to see the convicts kill each other off in games; and Dog Days, which is about a kid pulled from the real world into a fantasy world to become their hero and save the kingdom.

So those are the series I'm currently trying out from the new season. Quite a variety, ne. Some of them seem like they'll be pretty good, so I'm looking forward to watching.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tegami Bachi and Reverse

This post is about two seasons of a series called Tegami Bachi. The first season is simply called Tegami Bachi and the second is Tegami Bachi - Reverse, and I just finished watching Reverse.

"Tegami Bachi" means "Letter Bee" and in simple terms the series is about postal carriers called Letter Bees. This series is set in a unique world called Amberground. The world is dark, with one artificial sun supplying direct light to a very small segment of the population living in the city of Akatuski and also providing some limited light to everyone else. However without the artificial sun, the world would be in total darkness. Besides people, the world is also populated by giachuu, enormous bug-like creatures who drain people's "heart", leaving them living husks who usually don't survive for very long. "Heart" is composed of the living feelings of a person, a form of energy that everyone has. Gaichuu are attracted to "heart" and the letters that are delivered by the Letter Bees carry people's "heart".

In this setting, the job of tegami bachi to deliver letters between distant places is dangerous. Gaichuu are everywhere. Each tegami bachi is accompanied by a "dingo", a personal protector/helper, and the dingos come in all forms and sizes. Add to that, each Letter Bee has the capability of firing "shindan", powerful energy beams composed of their own hearts and focused through "sprirt amber".

Spoiler alert! As usual, I'll be giving the details of the series here.

The series main character is a boy named Lag Seeing, shown in the first picture holding a letter out. Lag is posted as a letter and the series begins with Lag being delivered by a Letter Bee known as Gauche Suede, the guy in the background of the first picture. In the course of the delivery, Lag and Gauche become friends, and Lag forms a serious case of hero worship and vows to become a tegami bachi when he grows up some.

After a time lapse, Lag leaves for Yuusari Central to become a Letter Bee and on the way he gains his dingo, Nichi, and a sidekick, Steak. Nichi is the small blond girl in the picture above and Steak is riding on her head. Nichi's small, but she happens to be a "Child of Maka", a demon, so she's more than capable of performing the tasks of a dingo. Upon arriving in Central, Lag discovers that Gauche has gone to Akatsuki in keeping with his decision to become Head Bee, but has disappeared from there and has been missing for a long time. Lag becomes a Letter Bee and moves in with Gauche's sister, Sylvette, who is shown in the wheel chair in the next picture. Lag promises her that he will find Gauche and return him.

The entire first series moves very slowly. Lag meets many people, including his fellow Letter Bee's. Primary among this group are Zazie (the letter bee in this picture), Connor, and Jiggy Pepper. The main staff at the Yuusari Central Bee Hive include Largo Lloyd, the head of the Hive (far left character), Aria Link the second in command (standing behind Sylvette), and a weird Doctor named Thunderland (guy with eye patch). Lag spends most of the first series meeting and forming relationships with these people, meeting a lot of minor characters who all have roles to play in the grand scheme of things, and crying. Lag is a cry-baby, to put it mildly, and he doesn't miss an opportunity to cry at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, a LOT of 'hats' are dropped. At times it gets irritating. I don't think a single episode goes by where Lag isn't crying over something. Still, this is one of the few down-sides to this series.

All throughout the first series Lag is hunting for clues about Gauche, and finding mostly nothing. Much of the first series is composed of his deliveries and the people he encounters, to the point of causing one to think that that's all the series is: just Lag delivering letters and helping people and never finding Gauche. Then in true cliff-hanger fashion, Gauche shows up in the last episode of the first series, but he's no longer Gauche, doesn't recognize Lag and shoots him.

I will say that that ending of the first season was really cruel. The second season didn't begin for another 6 months!

Bottom line plot of second season: "Reverse" is the name of a subversive group that has set out to destroy the Amberground government and bring down the artificial sun. Gauche has lost his 'heart' while in Akatsuki and has become a person named Noir, who has no heart and works as a marauder for Reverse. His Noir persona is seen in the bottom picture, along with his new dingo, named Roda after the dingo he had as a Bee. Reverse is stealing and destroying letters as part of their plotting, as well as helping to create giant heart-sucking gaichuu. This puts then in direct opposition with Lag and the letter bees, who end up fighting for their letters, and to keep the government whole and to protect the artificial sun.

In the middle of all this, Lag is convinced that if he can shoot the proper shindan into Gauche/Noir, he can restore Gauche's 'heart' and bring him home to Sylvette.

The series is well-done here from the perspective of plot. Reverse is correct about some things, but is sacrificing people to achieve their goals. The Amberground government is also doing things to people for which they deserve to be brought down, and yet they are preserving the only source of light for the planet. It's very difficult for the series watcher to decide who the bad guys and good guys are, let alone for Lag-tachi.

There is significant story line here that is never resolved, or even well-explained. It turns out the artificial sun requires "heart" to keep burning, so people are continually sacrificed to that cause by the government. Things left hanging include: 1) What is the artificial sun? 2) Lag's mother seems to be part of the artificial sun. 3) Gauche gave his heart willingly to her and that sun before becoming Noir. 4) Nichi's Maka (demon) mother refers to Lag as "hikari" (light). Lag has one eye that is spirit amber, and is himself capable of burning as brightly as the artificial sun. Why? So they leave a lot of back story unresolved.

However, nobody dies! Reverse's plot to destroy the artificial sun is stopped. Gauche survives as Noir, and goes to live with and protect all the misfits created and discarded by the Ambergound government. Gauche's lost 'heart' cannot be restored so he has none of his previous memories, but he essentially gains a new 'heart' as Noir. Dr. Thunderland continues his research and work to help those people who have lost 'heart'. Lag and the Letter Bees go back to delivering letters. It's not a deeply satisfying ending, but it's not a disaster either. And nobody dies!

All in all I enjoyed this series quite a bit. The plot and setting was unique. Style was pretty, music was good. I could have wished for a little more resolution, but since 'resolution' is often equated with character death, I'll be satisfied with living characters. There's certainly enough left hanging to do another season if anyone was so inclined, and because of that I wouldn't call it a great series.

Still. All in all I'd call it a good series and recommend it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop is WAY up there on my all time favorite anime series list. That's interesting when you consider that it breaks one of my cardinal rules for a good anime series. My favorite character doesn't survive the series. Given that, it's fairly weird that I even like it, let alone consider it one of my all time favorites. Even so, it's an awesome series. This first picture has the cast dressed in retro clothes. This isn't even close to the style of the series, but I've always liked this picture. Most of the pictures in this post come from an artbook of mine.

One of the things that makes this series extraordinary: Cowboy Bebop has music to die for. Yoko Kanno is the composer, of course. I consider the music for this series as one of her more spectacular efforts. There are so many good songs, I pretty much love all the Bebop soundtracks, including the movie soundtrack. Among my favorite songs are "Real Folk Blues", "Rain", "Tank", "Space Lion", "Green Bird", "Gotta Knock a Little Harder" which comes from the movie, and of course "Blue". "Blue" is one of my all time favorite songs, not just from this series. So the music is one of the big pluses of the series.

Another plus is the plot. This series definitely falls into the unique plot category. "Bebop" is the name of a somewhat beat up space ship whose crew includes two guys named Jet and Spike. In the picture at the top Jet is the balding guy standing to the right and Spike is the fuzzy-headed guy in the middle. Spike and Jet are bounty hunters, and in the universe of this series, bounty hunters are collectively known as "cowboys". And there you have the series name. Jet and Spike make their living collecting and bringing in fugitives from justice for the money in order to keep the bebop stocked and fueled. It's a pretty bare subsistence-level existence, but the guys are mostly content with that. However, as the series progresses, they manage to collect some passengers on bebop as well.

The first addition to their group is Faye who is shown with Spike in the picture above. Faye is a con-woman and a bounty hunter, who also happens to have a really bad gambling habit. She bounty hunts to support her gambling habit, and staying on Bebop is an ideal situation for her since she can do it without paying any rent and the ship is continuously changing locations. Next they pick up an experimental (and extremely intelligent) Welsh Corgy in the course of a bounty hunt who they name Ein. Lastly they are joined, entirely against their wills, by a pre-teen, wacky computer genius named Ed. Ed and Ein are shown in the picture to the right. In each case, Spike is completely against adding to their crew, but the additions occur anyway. Part of the attraction of the series is the interactions between the characters. The character style itself in fun. This is not a series with gorgeous characters, but they seem real and their interactions are priceless. Besides the Bebop, Spike and Faye have their own small ships in which they come and go from the Bebop. At the bottom of the post, Spike is shown with his small ship, the Swordfish.

Most of the series is ostensibly about the various bounty hunts the group undertakes and their many antics, but along the way, background on the characters is slowly explained, and a deep plot becomes evident. Each of the characters has at least one episode devoted to their past and at least partial resolution of their issues. The deep plot revolves around Spike. Spike was originally a member of an organized crime syndicate called the Red Dragon and had a partner named Vicious, whose name turns out to be particularly apt. Spike and Vicious during their Red Dragon days together are shown in the picture to the right. Spike fell in love with a member of the gang named Julia, and tried to get himself and Julia out of the organization. Julia wouldn't go with him and he left. During the course of the series, Spike finds out Julia was ordered to kill him, and is on the run from the organization for refusing that order. Vicious finds out Spike is still alive about the time Vicious stages a bloody coup in the organization and takes over. Vicious sends people to kill Julia and Spike, just about the time they find each other again. Julia is killed by them, and Spike goes after Vicious in the last episode. As he tells Faye, he's not doing it because he wants to die. He's doing it in order to live. Spike kills Vicious, but them dies himself from the wounds he receives.

The series pluses even outweigh the death of the main character (who happens to be my favorite character!) in the last episode. It's tragic as hell, but it's got so many good points and interesting points, so many life lessons and great characters, and it's so funny and poignant and bittersweet . . . I simply have to suspend the rules for this one. And maybe that's what makes a series great anyway.