Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jyu Oh Sei

This is one of those series that you seriously wish was longer. Jyu Oh Sei is only 11 episodes, and even though they manage to do it well in 11 episodes, there is sooooooo much potential here for them to have done a longer series, that it almost makes you cry to have them pack it into so short a series. Other series that I feel this way about include Canaan and Mahoutsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto. In all three cases they made short series and successfully ended them in the time they had, but the series were so good,and had so much potential for longer series, that I hated to see them end when they did. Jyu Oh Sei especially they rushed things they could have spent more time on in order to end in 11 episodes

Jyu Oh Sei falls into my favorite series group, which is a little strange because it doesn't really meet all my criteria for a good series. They kill major characters (including my favorite character!), and not all those character deaths were really necessary to the plot. Still. The music was outstanding, the plot line was original and interesting, the character style and settings were pretty, and the ending tied things up while leaving room to continue. So even though I wish fewer people had died, it was a good series. The story line is as follows:

Jyu Oh Sei follows the life of Thor Klein, the silver-haired kid in the first picture. Thor and his twin brother Rai are raised on a colony space station called Juno in a solar system known as the Balkan system until they're 11 years old. Then their parents are killed and they are dumped on the planet Chimera, a prison planet known only to the Juno government types. Thor vows to leave Chimera and discover who did this to them and why.

Unfortunately Chimera is known as the planet of the beast king (Jyu Oh Sei) for a reason. Humans must become 'beasts' to survive there. The plant life on the planet is sentient and carnivorous and loves to munch down on humans. The 'day' is 180 days long with a hot, wet tropical climate, and the 'night' is 180 days long with a frigid, snow-filled arctic climate. Humans on the planet are living in enclaves known as "Rings", with the ring divisions based essentially on skin color. Each Ring is ruled by a "Top", who's deputies are known as "Second" and "Third". Women live separately in their own Ring, also run by a "Top". Women choose mates at a specific time of year, and their selection and their lives are sacred. A person becomes a "Top" by defeating, and usually killing, the current Top. The strongest and usually most ruthless person in a Ring is it's Top.

Thor and Rai struggle to survive on Chimera. They get some help from a guy named Zagi who is running a group of loose "wild kids" separate from the Rings. For various reasons they run from Zagi-tachi and Thor kills the 'second' of Ochre Ring while trying to escape them also. In the process he loses Rai to the plants and is rescued by Tiz, a girl who is "second" of the woman's Ring. Thor joins the Ochre Ring on sufferance from their Top because Tiz chooses him as her next mate. Along the way he meets Ochre Ring's Third. Tiz and Thor are in the picture to the left and Tiz, Third and Zagi are shown with Thor in the first picture at the top of the blog.

Thor soon discovers that the only way off Chimera is via the "Dragon Pagoda" and that you must be the "Beast King" in order to access it. You must stand at the Top of all the Tops, essentially become the Top of a Ring and beat the Tops of all the other Rings. At 11 years old he is manipulated by Third into fighting and beating Ochre Ring's Top, although he nearly looses his life in the process.

These actions cover the first half of the series. In the second half, four+ years have passed and Thor is almost 16. He has been Ochre Ring's Top during this time and has been improving Ochre Ring's living conditions. He's so adored by the people he rules that they refer to him as Thor-sama-sama. As the story resumes, it's 'night' and an unknown person has become the Top of Blanku Ring and  is killing off the other Tops, starting with the Top of Night Ring. Thor agrees to meet with the Top of Sun Ring to discuss this unknown Top. At the meeting the Unknown shows up and kills Sun Ring's Top. The unknown turns out to be Zagi. Zagi and Thor meet, and Thor falls in love with Zagi's 'second', a woman named Karimu. Zagi tells Thor that if Thor becomes Beast King, he will be killed by the Colony people. Zagi was sent to Chimera because he saw what he wasn't supposed to . . . all the previous beast kings frozen in storage. Thor agrees to work with Zagi, but then is once again manipulated by Third. This time, Third kills Karimu and makes it look like Zagi has done it to get Thor to beat Zagi and stand as Beast King.

It works. Thor leaves Zagi mortally wounded and as Beast King accesses the Dragon Pagoda with Tiz and Third, as shown in the picture to the right. What he finds out is this:

He (Thor) is the end product of a long line of experiments. Humans cannot survive in the Balkan system, can no longer reproduce naturally and need help to stay alive even 50 years. He was created with a drive to survive and all the natural advantages they could gene-engineer into him, and placed into his "mother's" womb with her regular child, Rai. He was meant to be sent to Chimera as a final test to see if he could survive there. When his "parents" wouldn't allow it, they were killed and he and Rai were dumped on Chimera . . . which happens to be the only planet in the system where children are being born naturally. The Juno government has done all this because they are frantic for humans to survive. The big secret they've hidden from everyone is that Earth no longer exists. Humans cannot go back there, but must figure out how to survive in the Balkan system. Thor also discovers that Third has been working for the Juno Colony the whole time, making sure Thor survived and then making him Top and then Beast King.

At this point, the Colony government types start their plan to make Chimera the next "Earth", which involves changing it's rotation so that it has normal day/night cycles rather than 180-day days and nights. They are not concerned that this change will likely kill all the people currently on the planet. Thor sends Tiz to warn/help on the planet and he and Third set out to stop the Colony people. Unknown to them, the sentient plants have accessed the station and also take this opportunity to destroy the Colony systems.

Thor and Third are successful in stopping the plot to change Chimera however a lot is destroyed by the plants in the process. Thor survives to return to Chimera, Third does not. Tiz is killed on the surface of Chimera while defending the wounded Zagi, who also ends up dying trying to save her. So in the end, humans survive on Chimera, at constant war with the plants, but coping. Thor is the only main character to survive, although a couple on minor characters also survive with him.

The main theme, human drive to survive no matter what the conditions, is played out nicely in Jyu Oh Sei. This picture to the left shows Third in his two forms on the left with Thor on the right. This is Third as he looks on Chimera and as he looks at his final betrayal of Thor. The series is fairly tragic, and one of the reasons is Third. Third betrays Thor over and over because he's been told if he does all this he will get to go to Earth, which has been his lifelong dream. When he finds out Earth no longer exists and all his betrayals have been for nothing, he no longer cares to live and he doesn't. Another tragedy is Tiz. Tiz spends the whole series wanting to bear Thor's child. He finally realizes he loves her and agrees to the child right before he sends her back to the planet, where she dies. But Thor and his super genes, and the human race, will survive on Chimera in the Balkan system.

Given the number of character deaths, it's surprising I like this series. It's really well done though. The character deaths and the short length-rushing make it fall short of a great series, but it's a really good one.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I just finished this anime series, so I thought I'd post about it. It's been a while since a series left me feeling so ambivalent about it. Usually I can classify them when they're done. Either I love it, I like it okay, it's so-so, I don't like it, or I despise it. Pretty straight-forward classifications. Shiki: I just can't decide how it left me feeling. So here goes, and as usual: massive spoilers ahead!

I began watching this anime for a number of reasons. For one, it's about vampires. For another, the story is done by Ono Fuyumi, who wrote Juuni Kokki. And I admit to being a little intrigued by the animation style which is a little different, with just bizarre hair styles. Natsuno's in the picture to the left is one of the more 'normal' looking hair styles.

Okay, beginning at the beginning. Shiki is a vampire anime, although they don't call them 'vampires'. They call them "Risen" - okiagare. The story takes place in a small village which is mostly separated from the rest of the world. The main characters include: two high schoolers Yuuki Natsuno (guy in the main blog picture above) and Shimizu Megumi, the village doctor Ozaki Toshio, the village junior monk, Muroi Seishin and the main vampire Kirishiki Sunako.

Natsuno's family has moved to the village from the big city and as he's adjusting to a small town he makes friends with a guy named Tooru. Megumi would do anything to get out of the village and has a crush on Natsuno. The three of them are shown below and to the right here. This is where the series starts, and then the Kirishiki 'family' moves into the deserted mansion on the hill. Apparently in small villages people don't know that when strangers move in at night and you only see them after dark, you should be worried.

Soon after the arrival of the Kirishiki's, people start to die. The series starts slowly with a character dying in every episode for the first 12-13 episodes. Megumi is the first main character to die (first episode!). She then Rises and begins killing others, including Natsuno's friend, Tooru. The first part of this anime follows the slow decline of each individual death du jour, as they experience blood loss, eventually enough to kill them. Intertwined with each demise, the series follows the slow realization of what's happening by Natsuno and a couple of kids. During this time, Toshio is battling the 'epidemic' and Seishin is becoming friends with the main vampire, Sunako, who is a little girl in appearance. More than halfway through the series, Toshio finally figures out what's happening, Natsuno is killed by Tooru, and Seishin turns down Toshio's plea for help against the vampires and sides with Sunako-tachi. The picture below shows Toshio on the left and Seishin on the right with Sunako between them.
Also about this time, the series finally explains the "Risen". (I told you it started slow) Sunako was afflicted with a disease/curse a long time ago and has to kill in order to live, so she is the core of the plot and the series. When a person is drained/killed by a "Risen" they either truly die or Rise themselves, to become a Risen who needs blood to survive. And you can rise as the typical vampire Risen, or as a 'werewolf'. The advantage to werewolves is that they can move about during the day, unlike the regular Risen. Sunako's original group includes some Risen, a human who has sided with them, and Tatsumi, a werewolf. Tatsumi's task is to dig up the buried 'dead' people and figure out who will Rise. It takes 3 days for a corpse to Rise, so he has time. He places those who will rise in a room with a person who is a living sacrifice. The Rising person drains the sacrifice, insuring that the new Risen will adhere to the Risen life style and probably creating another Risen in the process.
The first 3/4 of the series, everything goes for the vampires. I found myself really irritable with the series at times, first because everyone kept dying, and secondly because it took Toshio so long to figure out what was going on. The way he goes about that is beyond gross, so I won't go into it here. Let's just say, be glad you're not his ex-wife. And then the series makes you briefly think that Toshio is claimed by the vamps, and the whole town will succumb and the story is about the vampires after all.

Along the way Natsuno has been killed by Tooru, however his parents ship him to the big city, he Rises there as a werewolf, and decides to destroy the Kirishikis for what they've done. The tide begins to turn against the vampires. Toshio manages, with Natsuno's help, to get clear of the vamps and convince the remaining townspeople of the vampire's existence. The ensuing bloodbath makes the vampires look tame by comparison. The townspeople go on a multi-day rampage destroying all the Risen they can locate during the day, and also killing any living people who might be helping or have helped a Risen. They make no distinctions and take no prisoners, slaying everyone even vaguely questionable. As the townspeople close in on Sunako and Seishin, a fire gets out of control and eventually destroys everything, including the town that Toshio-tachi were trying so hard to protect.

Although this series starts so slowly, it ends a little fast - has the feel that they're rushing the ending. Survivors after the massive body count: Toshio, Seishin and Sunako probably, maybe Natsuno and Tatsumi. Megumi (to the right) is the first villager to Rise and she's quite happy to be a Risen. She's also the last one to be killed by the villagers, *winces* and very horribly killed at that.

I guess the series is basically an investigation into the nature of good and evil. Is Sunako evil for wanting to survive? Are the villagers any less evil than the vampires? They certainly don't hold back once they start killing everyone in sight. Granted, they never would have started killing without the vampires actions in the first place. The point is, pretty much EVERYONE will kill in order to survive. Only one character in the entire series Rises and then refuses to drain the living sacrifice. She's eventually killed by the villagers during the rampage, so there's no way to know if she could have held out - if she would have eventually really died, gone insane, or started killing others.

So the series left me feeling ambivalent. I don't know if I'm happy that Sunako probably survived or wish she had been killed. Natsuno and Toshio were my favorite characters, but Natsuno died. Now that he's Risen, even as a werewolf, he'll have to have blood to survive. Of course, his survival isn't certain. He didn't intend to survive and may not have. Toshio survived, but considering some of the things he did along the way, he's probably no longer my favorite. Still, he definitely was the one person who was the most single-minded of purpose, with the strength and skills to keep the whole village from being Risen. It's just that by that point, I found myself thinking: would it be so bad to have a whole village of Risen? See, totally divided feelings about the series.

All that being said, I think I consider this a pretty decent series. The body count is much higher than I like, but it certainly makes you think. The plot had definite twists so that you weren't sure where it was going to go, after they got past the death-an-episode thing. And I do like anime series that keep me guessing. And I like the music - hopefully they'll put out a soundtrack. I seriously doubt I'll watch it again, but you never know. Sometimes my subconscious changes my mind when I'm not looking.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


It's been quite some time since I talked about the series I'm currently watching or those I've recently watched, so I thought I'd better do an update. There doesn't seem to be any really outstanding series out right now, but there are a few that keep me relatively entertained. They include:

Tegami Bachi Reverse: This is the second series, followup of Tegami Bachi, which you may recall me mentioning, ended in a cliffhanger. In Reverse, the series picks up right at that cliffhanger and moves on. Gauche Suede, the character that Lag Seeing spent the entire first season searching for, has become a character named Noir. Essentially, Gauche lost his 'heart', and all his memories, and is now working for/with the bad guys. After a less than ideal meeting, Lag follows all hints of Gauche's whereabouts and is convinced that he can return Gauche's heart and bring him back to his sister. The series hints along the way that the 'bad guys' are not really the bad guys, and I'll be interested to see whether Lag will redeem gauche/Noir, or we'll discover that the 'reverse' is true . . . that the Letter Bees are really working for a basically rotten government. This season is moving much faster than the first season, keeping the plot pace moving along nicely, and there significantly less constant Lag crying than there was in the first season. There's still Lag crying of course. Lag is Lag. It's just less. I'll be interested to see how they end this season.

Star Driver - Kagayaki no Takuto: This series is a surprise, in that I didn't expect to still be following it after 13 episodes now. It definitely started out on the right foot with me, despite being a mecha series, because the main character, Takuto, is also known as the Ginga Bishonen (Galactic Pretty Boy). This just tickled my funny bone. Anyone who's nickname is Galactic Pretty Boy can't be all bad. I've stayed around because I like the character style, I like the music, I like the interactions between the characters and the plot is different enough to keep me interested (I'm actually still figuring out what's going on). The only major downside to it is the transformations. Every episode has Takuto transforming into his mecha, Tauburn, and into Galactic Pretty Boy, and I get tired of watching the transformation over and over and over. Despite that, I'll keep watching it and see where this series goes. It's fun to watch.

Nurarihyon no Mago: This is another one of those surprise series. I didn't expect to like this one and certainly didn't expect it to keep me interested, but both happened. Nura Rikuo is a half demon/half human kid who lives with the demons but tries to be a normal human. At night he becomes a demon who looks like his grandfather, Nurarihyon, who was the leader of 100 demons. Or perhaps at times it's almost as if he channels his grandfather. Rikuo's two main tasks in life are: 1) to prove to the demons that he's worthy to take over his grandfather's position and, 2) to keep his human friends from getting caught in demon politics and mayhem. Again I like this one for the animation and character style (although I still wish the demon form's white hair didn't stick straight out of his head), I like the music, especially the two ED theme songs and the way they're animated, and the plot is keeping me entertained. I'm almost done with this one. I've downloaded the end but not watched it yet. Hopefully the ending won't ruin what's been a pretty decent series.

Shiki: This is a really different series. I felt compelled to watch it because it's a vampire series. I at least try out almost all of the vampire series. This one is about what happens to a small rural town when a vampire family moves into the big house on the hill. As expected, a lot of villager death ensues. This is another series that I have the whole thing and haven't finished watching it yet. Hey, I've been busy. With this one, I spent the first 15-ish episodes fretting that one of the main characters, Yuuki, was going to get killed by the vampires, which he did, and that another main character, Toshio the village doctor, couldn't figure out that this wasn't an epidemic happening, which he finally did realize. About 3/4 of the village has been killed by the vampires and many of them (including Yuuki) have now 'risen' as vamps. Despite that, both Yuuki and Toshio separately are working to destroy the vampire family who has done all this. The series is bloody and depressing in that so far all the actions against the vampire family have been totally futile, and it has a strange character design style with jagged hair. The music is good though, and I'm far enough into it to watch it through to see how they end it.

World God Only Knows: This series is funny! It's about a totally nerdy geek in glasses who spends every waking moment (including during school) playing dating sim games. He's known in the gaming world as the 'capturing god' because he ALWAYS gets the girl in the game. By an accident, he signs a contract with the devil which requires him to 'capture' real girls. Basically he must make them fall in love with him in order to free them from wandering evil spirits that have possessed them. It's funny because this socially inept guy who hates the real world is forced to win over real world girls. If he doesn't he'll break the contract and lose his head, along with the head of the demon girl who's sent to help him. This is a short series (12 eps) and is entertaining enough to be worth watching, although they could have stopped at ep 11. 12 wasn't really necessary and was a waste of time. The OP is a great song though, and the series music is really nice.
Togainu no Chi: Bloody. Violent. Depressing. And part of the 'depressing' on this one is that it looked like it was going to be really interesting with some nice plot twists and they just rushed the ending and made it a 12 ep series with no resolution, death of a main character, ... just incredibly frustrating because it could have been a decent series. The premise is a guy who is set up to take the fall for a murder and then he's given an out if he goes to a ruined city, takes part in a fight-to-the-death game, and helps destroy a drug syndicate working out of there. The plot had interesting twists, there were interesting characters (I'm always attracted to enigmatic guys in black with sharp katanas), music was decent. It was disappointing that they screwed up the non-ending so badly. Maybe they'll do another season and redeem it.

Anyhow, that's the latest update. Of course Bleach goes on, although I'm about 6 eps behind on that series right now. Hard to believe that series is on its 301 episode. I should really catch up and see what's going on, although I expect they're going to have to do another filler arc any time now.