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.