Sunday, December 30, 2012


I just finished watching K and all I can say is:  “How could they ruin a great series that way!!??!!”  Needless to say I was less than happy with the ending.  And once again had it confirmed that you can’t decide whether a series is any good until you see the ending.  Damn!

K has everything going for it – awesome, way cool characters, great music, a really unique plot.  It’s too short of course.  Only 13 episodes.  But besides that, it’s a wonderful series, right up until they kill main characters in the last episode.  Damn, I really hate when they do that.

So what’s it about?  It’s about color Kings.  A genius researcher named Adolf Weissmann discovers how to essentially give people super powers.  Each King has a different super power associated with a different color.  Weissmann himself is the first and original King, the Silver King, and he can manipulate gravity and is immortal. Central to the story are the Red King, Souh Mikoto, and the Blue King, Munakata Reishi.  The Kings, because of their powers, cause people around them who have the capacity to gain lesser powers like theirs.  So each King has a group of followers.  Mikoto’s follows are a yakuza-like gang called HOMRA.  Reishi’s followers are a paramilitary group called SCEPTOR 4.   

The story line revolves around three characters, 1) an apparently clueless, white-haired kid named Isana Yashiro, or Shirou for short, 2) a cat/girl named Neko who appears in girl form in the first two pictures in this blog and in cat form in  the last picture, and 3) a cool, powerful fighter named Yatogami Kurou, nicknamed the Black Dog.  At the beginning of the story a much beloved member of the HOMRA is murdered by the new Colorless King – a wildcard King with the ability to effect, and in this case take over, the other Kings.   Shirou is pegged as the murderer and spends much of the series fleeing various groups while occasionally showing seriously powerful abilities himself.  

A lot of confusion and twists ensue, but bottom line is that Shirou is actually Weissmann.  Weissmann has been switched into Shirou’s body by the colorless King, and eventually he remembers this and realizes the colorless King is inhabiting a friend of theirs, Kukuri.   The colorless King is also inciting the Red and Blue Kings to fight until they’re both weak enough for the colorless King to take them over.  Kurou and Neko swear allegiance to Shirou/Weissmann. In order to save Kukuri, Weismann reabsorbs the colorless King and traps him inside, then allows the Red King to kill them both, since only a King can kill a King.  The Blue King then kills the Red King to keep him from self destructing and destroying everything for miles around him.  End of story.

See?  Horrible ending.  Dead Kings!  Souh Mikoto, the red King, is definitely dead, as is the wacko colorless King.  Shirou may be but Kurou and Neko remember that Shirou/Weissmann/the Silver King has said he’s immortal, so they go looking for him.  It’s likely that he survived, although they do not show him alive in the series.  Still, I really liked Souh Mikoto and hate that they killed him off.

I also wish the series had been longer.  It’s a really cool series and there’s a lot that could have been done with it.  It's definitely worth watching.  Just brace yourself for the ending.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Another series that I’ve never blogged about which was one of the first I ever watched is Inuyasha.  The series is based on a manga by Takahashi Rumiko that went for 56 volumes.  The title character, Inuyasha, is a hanyou, a half-youkai (demon), half-human boy struggling to grow up in a feudal land which is over-run by youkai who prey on the humans attempting to live ordinary lives and who are less than sympathetic toward hanyou.  In the opening episode he is pinned to a tree and sealed there by the priestess he loves, and there he stays for 50 odd years.  Enter Kagome.  Kagome is your average middle school girl, except her family lives on and runs a local temple.  Kagome herself turns out to be a reincarnation of Inuyasha’s priestess lover, but that fact only becomes apparent later.  In the first episode Kagome is pulled into an old well on the temple grounds by a youkai who wants the object of power embedded in Kagome’s body, the Shikon no Tama.  The old well turns out to be a gateway between Kagome’s modern world and Inuyasha’s feudal one. 

Once dragged into the feudal world, Kagome is attacked by demons wanting the Shikon no Tama and to protect it she releases Inuyasha from his seal, only to discover that he wants the Shikon himself.  Inuyasha’s behavior is controlled by a rosary and he is mostly forced to work with Kagome.  In Inuyasha’s and Kagome’s struggles to keep the Shikon, Kagome accidentally hits it with an arrow and shatters it into millions of fragments which are scattered to the four winds.  From that point Inuyasha and Kagome begin to work together to collect the fragments to make the Shikon whole again, Kagome to prevent youkai from obtaining it and using it for evil and Inuyahsa to use its power to convert himself to a full demon.  The entire series is basically their continuous struggle to find and keep the Shikon no kakera (fragments of the Shikon no tama). 

Along the way, Inuyahsa and Kagome gain friends to help them with their quest, including a perverted monk named Miroku, a girl named Sango who is almost the last of a demon-slaying clan, and a small fox-demon named Shippou.  This group travels around obtaining the Kakera and fighting evil, mostly in the form of Naraku, an ultra-evil bad guy who not only wants the Shikon’s power, he wants to taint it to make it even more powerful.  He also wants badly to destroy Inuyasha-tachi.  Naraku has a penchant for creating evil minions using pieces of himself, and he also controls Sango’s brother, who works for him.

Two other people integral to the plot line include, Kikyou, the priestess who once loved Inuyasha and sealed him to the tree when she thought he had betrayed her, and Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha’s full-demon half-brother.  Kikyou is revived from the dead by a witch-woman using a piece of Kagome’s soul, and Kikyou then keeps herself alive using soul collectors to retrieve the souls of the newly dead as an energy source.  Kikyou is a continuous thorn in Kagome’s side, since Inuyasha still loves her and frequently chooses Kikyou over Kagome, despite the facts that she’s dead, she mostly hates him and she has her own agenda.  Sesshoumaru cannot stand the fact that he has a half-human half-brother and he periodically shows up to try to kill or torment Inuyasha, or steal the powerful sword that their father left to Inuyasha rather than Sesshoumaru.

This is the basic premise, and the original series went for 167 episodes of Inuyasha-tachi going around trying to gather the shards, fight Naraku and fend off Sesshoumaru.  There were also four Inuyasha movies made and a second series called The Final Act, which I blogged about back in April of 2010.  The series is entertaining, with good music, a good character style and a good plot line which has enough minor arcs running through it not to become too tedious.  I recommend this series if you haven’t seen it.    

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Eureka Seven Ao

I have to say, I didn’t like Eureka Seven Ao anywhere near as much as I liked the original Eureka Seven.  The original series may have been a little long (50 episodes), but the series was good.  It had a pretty nice plot, not too straight-forward, but not ridiculously complex either.  It had great characters who grew and developed through the course of the series.   And it didn’t overplay the mecha aspect of the series.  The mecha was definitely there, but not the focus.

On the other hand Eureka Seven Ao didn’t really achieve any of that, other than not over-playing the mecha aspect.  The plot was COMPLEX.  And though I do like a plot that takes me a while to figure out, this one tended to irritate me more than intrigue me.  For example, the big question from the opening episode is why the main character, Ao, who is clearly the son of Eureka and Renton from the first series, why is he on earth (which was not the planet in the original series), why is he there alone, and why are the scub coral there?  Okay, that’s three questions, but you get the point.  The answers don’t come until the end of the series, and a lot of complexity happens in between.  For example, the earth scub coral has a weird ‘core’ that when used as a weapon changes the world to an alternate world, and things that have happened now have happened differently.  Plus the plot wavers back and forth between the scub coral being good and needing protection and being bad and needing destruction.

That’s probably the other thing that I didn’t like – there was a lot of back and forth guessing about who the good guys really were, always assuming that Ao is by default a “good guy”.  I think I like to be able to tell who I’m rooting for – maybe because I sometimes do root for the “bad guy” side. 

Bottom line plot, and there’s some big spoilers coming here so if you haven’t watched the series and plan to, you may want to stop reading here.

Renton and Eureka have child who dies because apparently a half human-half corellian child cannot live in a place where there are high trapar levels (their whole planet).  When Eureka gets pregnant again, they come to earth, where Ao is born.  Unfortunately they either bring scub coral with them or it follows them to earth.   So Renton uses the earth scub coral weird properties to go to earth’s past to try to eradicate the scub when it arrives, and Eureka is trapped in the alternate world timelines, leaving Ao to be raised by strangers and make his way alone.  In the end Eureka and Renton are reunited with each other and united with Ao, but Ao convinces them not to eradicate the scub coral because so many of his friends are infected by it and will die if it’s gone.  So they leave him there on earth, knowing that as the scub increases, and the trapar levels increase, Ao will eventually die.  End of story.

That’s the simple version of the plot and leaves out a LOT of detail, but I think you see why I liked it less than the original.  My feeling is that I should have just quit with watching the original Eureka Seven only.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spirited Away

Another Miyazaki Hayao film that’s one of my favorites is Spirited Away, or Sen to Chihiro Kamikakushi.  This story is about a young girl named Chihiro who is very unhappy because her family is moving and she has been uprooted from her friends and school.  The story begins with Chihiro and her parents driving to her new home. They take a wrong turn along the way, and end up on a dead end road.  At the road’s end is a tunnel which seems to lead to an abandoned theme park.  Against Chihiro’s will her parents explore and Chihiro ends up taking an amazing adventure. 

It seems that the “theme park” is actually a small town and hot spring/bathhouse that caters to the gods.  Because Chihiro’s parents gluttonously help themselves to the gods’ food, they are turned into pigs, and Chihiro must find a way to rescue them all.  In order to do that Chihiro is befriended and helped by a boy named Haku who works for the witch named Baba-sama who owns and runs the bathhouse.  Chihiro manages to get a job working at the bathhouse, makes new friends and begins to grow up, learning to fend for herself and working to find a way to rescue her parents.  When she signs the contract to work for Baba-sama, Baba-sama steals part of her name changing her from Chihiro to Sen.  Haku helps her remember that she’s Chihiro.  He also helps her stay in the realm of the gods in the first place and helps her achieve her purpose of rescuing her parents.  Along the way Haku runs into trouble with Baba-sama’s twin sister, also a witch, and Chihiro discovers Haku is a river god himself.  She ends up rescuing him also, eventually returning his rightful name to him which was stolen from him by Baba-sama when he began working for her.

At the start of the movie, Chihiro is very near the top of the list of all time worst whiny, crybaby characters.  Through the course of the movie though she grows and changes and becomes a strong young girl.  In the end Chihiro rescues herself, her parents and Haku, and is instrumental in rescuing a strange god named No Face and an old river god.  She also changes the lives of several other characters for the better, most notably Baba-sama’s large son.

This film is about a young girl growing up, but it’s also has a lot of life lessons along the way, about accepting what life hands you and dealing with it, about supporting your friends and accepting them, even about not being a glutton.  It’s wonderful to watch and of course with Joe Hisaishi’s music, it’s wonderful to listen to.   I would honestly be hard pressed to decide which Miyazaki film is my favorite, but this one is definitely near the top.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fushigi Yuugi

I suppose I should talk about a series that was one of the first anime series I ever watched, Fushigi Yuugi.

Fushigi Yuugi follows the exploits of a middle school girl named Miaka who, along with her best friend Yui, is dragged into a feudal Chinese-type world in a magic book called “The Universe of the Four Gods”.  Miaka begins reading the book, is pulled into that universe and then must live/create the story through to the end.   The world she finds herself in is ruled by four gods who occupy the four corners of the sky, Suzaku in the south, Genbu in the north, Byakou in the west and Seiyuu in the east.  Each god is served by the seven constellations around them in the sky.   Upon entering this world, Miaka becomes the Priestess of Suzaku, and she must find her seven protectors who bear the mark of the constellations and get them to fight with her to save the world.  The first one she finds is the Ogre, Tamahome, and he helps her locate the rest.
Fushigi Yuugi is a love story between Miaka and Tamahome, but to call it just a love story is doing it an injustice.   Along with her need to locate the seven stars of Suzaku, Miaka has another major problem.  When Yui is dragged into the book world she ends up in much more dire circumstances than Miaka does.  Yui eventually ends up as Priestess of Seiyuu.  She originally tries to help Miaka, but because of jealousy and anger over their differences in circumstances, she and the seven stars of Seiyuu end up as the mortal enemies of Miaka-tachi.  The two groups end up in a head-to-head battle to gain magic objects and control the destiny of the world.

Although the plot line is relatively straight-forward in this series, the size of the cast allows for several side-stories as well as clashes between the two groups along the way.  At one point Tamahome is held captive and then enspelled to forget his love of Miaka.  Miaka’s group is infiltrated by one of Yui’s along the way.  Miaka’s brother, Keisuke, and his best friend begin trying to help Miaka by reading along in the book as they go and trying to manipulate things from the real world.  So basically the story line is rich and fun to watch – right up until they begin killing the characters off.

The biggest negative about this series is the decimation of the cast.  Yui’s group ends up with a few more left than Miaka’s does, but it’s a near thing.  And the deaths of Miaka’s group are heart-wrenching and played for all the emotion that can be derived from them.  I suppose a real middle school girl would long ago give up throughout all the tragedy they visit on her.  And Yui’s group wins the battle for the magic objects, takes over the world and continues killing off Miaka’s friends while forcing Miaka back into the real world and following her there with the battle.  In the very end, Miaka wins everything, and her life goes back to normal, entering high school, without the love of her life, Tamahome, who was a character in a book after all.

Fushigi Yuugi has a lot of the typical stereotypes that I’ve come to know in an anime series, but considering it was one of my first anime series, at the time I didn’t know how common the themes were.  Like, Japanese middle-school girl that gets dragged into another reality and must then save herself and the world around her.  Or the best-friend/best-enemy dichotomy.   Or the harem anime type.  Plus it was my first experience with the Japanese penchant for killing off characters, which I have to say was very much a shock to my system.  For all that, it’s a good series and is worth watching.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nodame Cantabile

If you like classical music, you should watch Nodame Cantabile.    Actually if you like music at all, you should watch this series, but if you’re a classical music buff, you REALLY should watch it. 

Nodame Cantabile is about a mismatched love affair, but it’s anything but your typical mismatched love affair.  The story follows two music students, Chiaki Shinichi and Noda Megumi (Nodame).  Chiaki is a supremely talented musician whose talent is only surpassed by his arrogance.  He plays the violin and the piano like a virtuoso, but what he dreams of becoming is an orchestra conductor.  Nodame is an extraordinarily talented musician on the piano, who doesn’t care that she’s exceptional.  Due to scars early in her life (which you don’t discover until late in the series) she plays because she enjoys it, but doesn’t take it seriously.  She improvises additions to classical pieces and otherwise goes her own way, although her talent is undeniable.  She also is almost terminally unable to take care of herself, especially when she gets obsessed with a piece of music. 

Early in the story Chiaki and Nodame meet (live next door to each other) and Chiaki takes it upon himself to keep Nodame fed and clean and basically treats her like a pet.  Nodame adores Chiaki.  The story follows their interactions as Chiaki takes on a group of misfit musicians and turns them into a decent orchestra which he directs.  He dreams of going to Paris to study.   At the same time, for Chiaki’s sake Nodame begins to take music seriously, begins studying under a strict master and enters a music competition.  Their interactions are quite fun and help make this a great series.  Nodame often drives Chiaki to distraction.

Nodame melts down at her competition, but is seen at her best by a French music instructor.  She confronts Chiaki with not understanding why it’s so important to play classical music as written, why it’s wrong to play it the way she wants for her own enjoyment.  The two of them part and Nodame leaves school to return home.  While at home Nodame comes to terms with her past and her passion for music and comes to understand  classical music as she didn’t before.  She calls Chiaki to tell him that he’s right and she’s ready to pursue a future in classical music in Paris with him.  In the meantime Chiaki has realized he doesn’t want a future without Nodame and comes to get her as she’s calling him.

This series is awesome from a lot of standpoints.  The classical music in it is wonderful and interwoven with the plot wonderfully.  The story and characters are unique so that it’s not your average love story.  The series ended up adding two more seasons following Nodame and Chiaki’s future.  While the next two seasons are good, the first season is by far my favorite.  I recommend it HIGHLY.    

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Samurai Champloo

I should have posted about Samurai Champloo before this because it’s an awesome series.   I don’t even know why I started watching it in the first place because in general I like pretty character styles, and Samurai Champloo is anything but.  But from the first episode I was hooked.   The story is good, but what hooked me was two things:  the sword fights and the perfectly ridiculous elements they interject every so often.  I do love unique anime.

The story follows three individuals, a young woman named Fuu, an upper class wandering samurai with years of sword training named Jin, and a totally unscrupulous, former pirate with no formal sword training named Mugen.  The story starts with Jin wandering into a food shop where Fuu works and Mugen is tormenting a customer, and Jin and Mugen begin fighting.  Despite all Jin’s skill, he cannot beat Mugen's random, totally wild fighting “style”.  During their battle they burn down the shop and kill the customer, who turns out to be the son of an important official.  They are tortured and sentenced to die.  Fuu helps them escape and the three end up going on Fuu’s quest.

Fuu is without family and now without a job thanks to Jin and Mugen.  Her quest is to find her father, with the catch being that she doesn’t remember anything about him other than that he smells like sunflowers.  So Mugen, Jin and Fuu wander across Japan in search of the samurai who smells like sunflowers.   That should tell you something about the series.

The quest takes the three travelers into and out of a variety of escapades, including a baseball  game, working a mine with dead zombies, dealing with religious zealots who grow marijuana, and as they begin to close in on the sunflower samurai,  nearly getting killed by a blind assassin.  Along the way, they become entangled with a bunch of different people and their causes and they face some of their own pasts.  This is one of the things that makes the series so unique and fun to watch – the randomness of a lot of it.  Plus despite the ridiculous aspects there’s often a lesson involved.  The series doesn’t take itself seriously and yet is serious in places.  Mugen and Jin, as expected of two opposites with sword skills, occasionally try to kill each other along the way.

In the end they manage to find Fuu’s father.   Multiple people are out to kill them because Fuu’s father is a Christian and the Shogunate wants them all destroyed.  Despite the odds, the three manage to survive the quest and end up going their separate ways.  Still, none of them died and they part as friends.  You end up feeling like they’ll see each other again.  I really recommend this series.  Everything about it is unique.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mononoke Hime

I have been blogging about anime series, but haven’t really blogged about anime movies, other than to comment on how wonderful Miyazaki Hayao’s movies are, especially coupled with Joe Hisaishi’s music.  I think it may be time to post about one of my favorite Miyazaki films, Mononoke Hime or Princess Mononoke if you prefer.

This film follows the actions of a young man named Ashitaka, who is a prince of his own small clan.  He is injured and cursed by a dying Boar-god when he prevents it from ravaging his village.  Because of the curse he must leave his clan, and he must also attempt to find a cure for the curse before it kills him.

Ashitaka follows the back trail of the Boar-god to a town on the edge of a lake, where the townspeople mine iron ore and smelt it into usable metal.  The town forge is “manned” by women that have been rescued from less savory occupations by the town leader, Lady Eboshi.  The town leader is beloved by the townspeople, for keeping them employed, housed and fed and protected from other warriors who wish to take them over.  She also keeps a colony of lepers employed in developing new weapons.  She is a mixture of good and bad, keeping her people safe, but at the same time working to destroy the forest and the old gods in the name of progress and her town.  
Fighting against the townspeople are a wolf-god, Moro, her two wolf-children and her adopted human child, San.   These four are trying to stop the townspeople from destroying the forest and the old gods by making random strikes against them and against their supply chains.

Ashitaka enters this set-up and discovers that the iron ball which killed the Boar-god and indirectly cursed him was made by the townspeople and fired by their rifles.  Ashitaka is caught in the middle of the battle between the townspeople and the forest.  He prevents the townspeople from killing San and is injured himself while rescuing her.  She in turn takes him to be healed by the Forest Spirit.  The two of them then try to prevent the destruction of the Forest Spirit by the humans and the rampage of the  boar-clan against the humans in retribution for the death of the Boar-god.    

In the end Ashitaka manages to save the townspeople and he and San return the Forest Spirit’s head to him after it is stolen by the people trying to kill him.   Although a lot of forest destruction is accomplished by the bad guys, the forest is coming back in the end, and Ashitaka and San and most of the townspeople are alive and well. 

This movie is a clear struggle between old ways and forests and progress and towns.  Although some coexistence can occur between these two sides, parts of both are lost in the process and compromise is essential.  

Besides the clear moral to the story, the story itself is wonderful.  The character and design style is awesome, the music is awesome.  If you haven’t seen this one yet, you should.   It’s arguably one of the best anime movies ever done.   

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall Season 2012

I am happy to say that the new anime season has some pretty fun new series that look like they will be worth watching.    This post will be a sampling of a few I’ve tried so far, and my impressions after just the first two or three episodes.

My favorite of the season so far is probably Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun.  This series is a slice of high school life series which follows a mismatched couple, the studious, impervious, girl honor student Mizutani Shizuku and the misunderstood, difficult boy who never comes to school, Yoshida Haru.   They meet when the teacher asks Shizuku to take printouts to Haru.  The rest, as they say, is history.  But this is a fun history.  All the characters so far are unique and interesting and their interactions keep you smiling and asking for more.  There are also hints of a darker back story to come.  Even though I rarely enjoy high school slice a life a lot, this one shows considerable promise.

Zetsuan no Tempest is another one I’m continuing to watch after two episodes.   This series appears to be a battle between two magicians.  The bad guy magician, Kusaribe Samon, starts the battle (and the series) by marooning the good girl magician, Kusaribe Hakaze, alone on a shielded island, and proceeding with his plans to bring major badness to the world.  Even though she’s a powerful magician, Hakaze’s capabilities are limited by the shielded island, but via a message bottle she hooks up with a teenager looking for revenge and reasons for his sister Aika’s death.    The teenager, Fuwa Mahiro, and his best friend, Takigawa Yoshino, are swept up into the magical battles.  I’m watching this one because it’s pretty and interesting so far.  I hope it fulfills its promise.

Kamisama Hajimemashita is also one I’m watching.  This one looks like it will end up being a reverse harem anime, but the first couple of episodes had me either smiling or laughing pretty much all the way through, so I’ll continue to watch it as long as I’m enjoying it.  This series is about a poor girl, Momozono Nanami, whose father skips out on his gambling debts and house is repossessed.  She has nowhere to go so when she helps a stranger he offers her his house to stay at.  His “house” is an old temple, and he has just turned her into the new god of that temple.  She has no powers, even as a god, so she traps a strong fox-youkai named Tomoe to be her servant and help her.  The interactions between them are simply priceless, so I have great hopes for this series too.  

Another one I almost dropped after the first episode is K.  Lots of violence in the first episode, but I decided to watch episode 2 and now I think I’ll keep watching.  Episode 2 was funny!  I have no clear idea what is going on in K.  Right now all I know is that several different groups are all looking for a particular kid named Isana Yashiro, with the intention of killing him.  The kid seems innocent and pure but they’re after him for killing one of their own people.   The series is full of people who can wield magic to some extent, and one of the main characters is a cat who becomes a naked woman.   So basically I don’t know what’s going on or what the basic plot line will be, but if you read this blog much at all, you know I like a mystery.  I’ll watch this one a bit farther.

The last one for today’s post is Shinsekai Yori.  The premise for this one seems to be a future world where humans have evolved to have extrasensory powers.  It’s not completely clear yet, but it seems that people with those powers have run rampant in the past and caused much evil, so in the current world, kids with powers are raised carefully and strictly.  Any signs of deviation cause those kids to disappear.   The series is following the current class of kids through their training and lives, with occasional flashbacks to the bloody history that led to the current state of affairs.   It’s interesting enough to keep me watching for now.

So those are the series from the new season that I’m currently watching.  And of course I’ve picked up the second season of Jormungand.  I’m enjoying them all quite a bit so far.  It’s great to have new series to watch and I hope at least some of them turn out to be outstanding series.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Speed Grapher

I’m starting to watch some new series which are beginning this month so hopefully soon I’ll have some newer series to blog about.  In the mean time I thought I’d post about Speed Grapher.

Speed Grapher is another one of those series with a unique plot that I just couldn’t resist following, mainly I think because I have a hard time quitting a series that I don’t know what’s going on.  The story follows two main characters, an ex-war-photographer named Saiga Tatsumi and a poor little rich girl named Tennouzu Kagura.  Kagura is abused both mentally and physically by her mother, who is the head of the very rich and powerful Tennozu Group.  Kagura's Mom cannot stand that her daughter is more beautiful than she is, so Mom starves Kagura and basically makes her life as miserable as possible.  On top of that Kagura is plagued by weird nightmares.
Saiga enters the story following a trail of money and corruption to a secret pleasure club where the rich and famous play both erotic and brutal games and where lives and careers are made and broken.   In this club, Kagura is a demi-god-like figure, and the night Saiga infiltrates it, she is there.  Saiga is caught and they try to kill him, but not before Kagura has kissed him which not only allows him to heal almost instantaneously but also gives him a power that makes things explode when he takes a picture of them.  He grabs Kagura and runs.

Kagura has no conscious memory of the time she spends at the secret club (thus the nightmares) and when she regains consciousness she asks Saiga to take her away from everything so she can be free.  Saiga agrees, and the two spend most of the rest of the series avoiding the Tennouzu minions and searching for the answer to their weird physical capabilities.  Leading the Tennouzu minions is a bad man named Suitengu Choji, who has been manipulating Kagura’s life and who has one ultimate goal, to own the world and then use money to destroy it.  He runs near the top of my ‘evil guys’ list, but when you find out his back story, you’re more sympathetic towards him.

Plot bottom line:  Kagura is the product of advanced genetic manipulation and her body produces a substance that reacts with a genetically created virus in other people and causes their DNA to mutate in any way they want it to.  A person has to be infected with the virus to begin with, but then if they come into contact with the substance from Kagura, they heal almost instantly, and they can mutate their bodies into essentially whatever form they wish.  Suitengu has been hypnotizing Kagura and using her kiss in the secret club as a way of bestowing favors on people who then owe him allegiance and use their powers for him.   Unfortunately, Kagura is dying from her genetic manipulation, and that will accelerate if she goes through puberty.  Suitengu-tachi have been suppressing her hormones, a fact which is unknown to Kagura and Saiga.  Also, once activated the mutational ability of the virus is finite.  Saiga will eventually go blind if he keeps using his ability.  

The story line is interesting enough that it kept me watching.  It’s not until late in the series that you find out Suitengu’s background, and also figure out why and how Saiga was infected with the virus to begin with.  There turn out to be a number of twists to the story line, which is one of the resons I enjoyed it.  I also enjoyed it because Kagura and Saiga end up surviving, with a happily ever after ending – or as happily ever after as can be expected.   I also liked the OP very well which was Duran Duran’s Girls on Film.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason the American release of the series does not use that OP.  They make up some instrumental version of some of the background music.  I’m assuming they couldn’t get permission to use Girls on Film or weren’t willing to pay the royalties.  Too bad really.   Other than that it’s a good series and I recommend it, especially if you like plot twists.   

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Another series I watched early on in my anime viewing is Noir.    Noir is a story about two women, Mireille Bouquet and Yuumura Kirika, who are raised separately but both raised as assassins.  At the story beginning Mireille is contacted cryptically by Kirika, who has lost her memory.  They meet and realize that they seem to be tied together in some manner by a mysterious pocket watch and a melody.  They decide to work together as an assassin duo until they unravel the mystery of their ties and discover Kirika’s past, at which point Mireille promises to kill Kirika. 

Thus the two operate as an assassin duo which goes by the name of Noir.  The bad news is that “Noir” turns out to be the name of an assassin duo that’s been in existence since the dawn of time and is controlled by a shadowy group called the Soldats.  Kirika and Mireille spend the series alternately running from the Soldats attempts to kill them and meeting with Soldat members to try to figure out the mystery of the Soldats and how it effects them personally.  Spoiler coming.

In the end it turns out that three girl children were born with the genetics and capabilities to become Noir assassins, Mireille, Kirika and a third girl named Chloe.  Kirika and Chloe were raised and trained to be assassins by Altena, a Soldat bigwig, at a secret vineyard Abbey hideaway.  Mireille on the other hand was born to parents who were high up in the Soldat hierarchy, but they loved Mireille and refused to give her up to the Soldats.  In return, the Soldats had them executed, leaving Mirielle to be raised by her uncle.  Mireille grows up to be a good assassin in her own right. 

What is also revealed as the story progresses is that the pocket watch belonged to Mirielle’s father.  Kirika has it because Kirika is the assassin the Soldat’s sent to kill Mireille’s parents.  It was probably her first assassination.  When Mirielle and Kirika realize this, Kirika begs Mirielle to be true to her word and kill Kirika.  Mirielle walks away, and Kirika returns to the Abbey with Chloe.  Kirika and Chloe begin preparations to become the “true” Noir.

Mireille decides she can’t leave it at that and goes to the Abbey to finish things.  In the end, she and Kirika save each other’s lives, and end up killing Altena, Chloe and a variety of minor players.  They both survive the series!

This series will always be one of my favorites, and part of that is because Mireille and Kirika end up alive and teamed up again.  Beyond that though, the music is beyond outstanding, the plot is fast-paced and twisty and the style is wonderful.  Overall, this is one you shouldn‘t skip if you haven’t seen it. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fullmetal Alchemist

For some time I’ve been thinking that I need to write a blog about Fullmetal Alchemist, but I never could decide which series to write about, or whether to cover them both together.  Then I decided that both series are so outstanding that they deserve to each have a blog post.  So here I go.  Today it’s the first, original Fullmetal Alchemist.

This series takes place in a universe where magic is commonplace.   There are people who can manipulate matter and convert it from one form to another.  These people are called alchemists, and although their abilities are pretty special, they are still governed by certain rules.  One of those rules is “equivalent exchange” which says that you cannot create something from nothing, or to gain something you must give up something else.

Two of the alchemists are the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric.  The boys father disappeared when they were small and their mother died from a disorder before they were teenagers.  They found a teacher and studied alchemy and then tried to use it to bring their mother back to life.  It turns out that human transmutation is the biggest taboo in alchemy.  The spell went wrong and Al lost his whole body.  Ed saved Al by fixing Al’s soul into a suit of armor that happened to be nearby, but the cost of that action was that Ed lost an arm and a leg.  So Ed has an “automail” arm and leg, and Al has a suit of armor for a body.

The brothers swear to study and travel and find a way to regain what they have lost.  In order to do that, Ed takes the military exam to become a “State Alchemist”.  Even though this makes him a “dog of the military” it opens doors to the brothers that would not otherwise be opened.     State alchemists receive a name from the Fuhrer upon becoming state alchemists, so Ed becomes the “Fullmetal Alchemist”.  Ed and All begin searching for an elusive “philosopher’s stone” with which they believe they can regain their bodies.

Along the way on their quest Ed and Al are helped by several people, including Colonel Roy Mustang who is a State Alchemist also known as the Flame Alchemist, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, and Maes Hughes.  They are hampered in their quest by a group of individuals who are after the same thing they are after, the philosopher’s stone.    These people are near-immortal Homunculi, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath and Pride, each of which has special abilities.  The homunculi in the original series are created by people attempting human transmutation.  Their strength and abilities comes from eating philosopher’s stones.  Many of them take orders from a person called Dante, although at least one, Greed, works only for himself.

Ed and Al discover in their research that the major component of the philosopher’s stone is human lives, so at that point they essentially give up their personal quest and work to stop the homunculi, one of whom, Pride, is their country’s Fuhrer.   The series is 51 episodes long, so a lot happens along the way that I haven’t gone into here.   This original series starts out following the manga, but probably decided not to wait when they caught up to the manga.  The series diverges radically, creates characters who never appear in the manga and does not include many characters who are in the manga.  Even so, the series is pretty awesome.  The music from the series is excellent, the plot line keeps you involved all the way along, and is very unique, and the characters are awesome.   The only negative in the series is the death of Maes Hughes which borders on a token death.   Well, there’s another thing I consider a negative:  Although Al regains his body, he and Ed end up in different universes and All has no memories of their quest together.  I could have wanted the end to be a little more satisfying than that, but at least neither of them died.

As usual with a series of this complexity, this blog doesn’t do it justice.  I highly recommend you watch this one – both of the Hagane no Renkinjutsushi series, actually.  I’ll post a blog about the other one at another time.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Wow, I am sooooo behind on blogging.  I should be able to turn that around, now that I’m moved into my new house and back from vacation.  The trick of course is that I haven’t been watching much anime during this time. 

Today I thought I’d talk about one series I did watch, AKB0048.

I liked this series.  I almost didn’t watch it because it’s very cutesy.  As you can see from the picture below of two of the main characters, Nagisa and Chieri, the shine in their hair and the sparkle in their eyes is heart shaped!  I almost couldn’t get past that when I started watching, but the series sucked me in.

Partly that’s because of the music.  I’m partial to anime music and series about music and idols tend to attract me.  This series has good music.  The premise is pretty unique also, and of course, I like a unique premise.

It goes like this:  In the far future, entertainment in any form has been banned from many planets in the galactic human civilization.  A group of idols called AKB0048 exists to combat the entertainment ban by singing and dancing in shows that they hold by arranging them with rebel groups from the planets.  Occasionally the idols also have to fight to protect themselves and their fans from the DES, anti-entertainment forces.  AKB0048 has existed for centuries and at the time of the series is recruiting for the 77th generation of singers.  The plot follows the new group of singer-wanna-be’s as they struggle to become new members of AKB0048, first as understudies, and eventually as “successors”.

Becoming a member of AKB0048 is referred to as becoming a successor because it entails taking the name of one of the original members of the group.  For instance the captain of the current successor group is Takamina the 5th, the fifth person to hold the name of the original AKB0048 member, Takahashi Minami (Takamina).

The plot is interesting in itself and they also go into back story on many of the characters, so despite is cutesy appearance, the story line has enough depth not to be boring.   They deal with the current members’ struggles to maintain their places as successors and not ‘graduate’, as well as the focusing on the understudies’ struggles to come to terms with themselves and their co-recruits as they strive to become AKB0048 successors.  The cast is quite large, including the new group of singers, shown in the first picture, and the entire current group of successors, shown in the second group picture.  There is also a really cool dancing coach named Ushiyama, shown wearing the hat in the picture above, and a manager/producer/priestess who watches over all the girls and struggles with her own demons.

I enjoyed the series a LOT more than I expected to and I recommend it.  

Monday, August 6, 2012


Off the top of my head I decided to talk about Loveless today.  I wanted to get at least one post in before I go on vacation and I’ve recently re-watched this series.   Loveless is a shonen ai (boy’s love) series, but they don't stress it.  It's part of the plot but the series isn't shonen ai for the sake of being shonen ai.  So basically the story isn't about two guys in love.  The plot line is complex and that's just one aspect of it.  

The title character of Loveless is a 12 year old grade school student named Aoyagi Ritska.  Ritska is struggling in his life for two major reasons.  One, his beloved older brother, Seimei, has recently been murdered and two, he has no memory of his life prior to two years before the series starts.  Along with that, his mother is not completely sane and randomly attacks him with sharp, broken objects.  The story begins with Ritska transferring to a new school and meeting his fellow students.  After school that same day he meets an adult who has been waiting for him, named Agatsuma Soubi.  Soubi introduces himself as Seimei’s friend, and attaches himself to Ritska.

From that point Ritska’s life changes.  It seems Soubi and Seimei were students and partners in a secret school which trains youngsters to fight with magic and occasionally actually creates those young fighters.  The fighters fight in pairs and each pair carries a single code name.  One member of the pair is the fighter and the other member is the “sacrifice”, the member who takes the damage as the fight progresses.   The sacrifice member normally controls the actions of the fighter.   The school, called Nanatsu no Tsuki, trains the fighting pairs to activate a fighting system that isolates them in an environment separate from the real world, where they can carry out their battles.  Soubi was Seimei’s fighter and their code name was “Beloved”.   After Seimei’s death, Soubi approaches Ritska to take Seimei’s place, even though Ritska’s code name is “Loveless” and he doesn’t appear to have a matched fighter, and even though, unlike most of the pairs, there is a considerable difference in their ages.    

Ritska and Soubi, even though not technically a matched pair, take on a progression of increasingly strong fighters, and defeat them.  Along the way Ritska tries to discover why and how Seimei died, rightly assuming that Seimei’s death is related in some way to Nanatsu no Tsuki.    Soubi is less than helpful in this endeavor, refusing to answer any questions about the school. 

There are a lot of unanswered questions at the end of this short (13 episode) series, and since it was developed from a manga, most of them are probably answered in the manga.   The questions include:  Why doesn’t Ritska have a matched fighter if he has a code name?  Why did Seimei send Soubi to Ritska, and more to the point, is Seimei really dead?   What happened that caused Ritska to lose all his memories and how is Nanatsu no Tsuki involved with him, or he with them?   Why does his mother claim that he’s not Ritska?  Basically, why does Ritska come out on the short end of everyone’s stick?   Besides the basic plot line of magic battles and trying to find out more about Seimei, Ritska does a pretty good job of dealing with a world that makes very little sense.  The people who created this series capture that sense of dislocation and bewilderment quite well.   Along the way, Ritska begins to learn to accept himself, whoever he may be, and accept that people can be friends.

This series is beautiful to watch and has some awesome music.  Plus the plot it really unique, so I have to put it up there on my list of must see series.  Even if you’re not a fan of shonen ai, you might want to make an exception for this one.  It’s worth watching.