Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spring season

The Spring season of new anime started in April and there are a few that  I've been watching.  I think I've watched enough episodes of the new series now that I've formed an opinion of them, so I decided to give a brief look at my four favorites so far. So here goes:

The leader in keeping my interest this season is Jormungand.  Seriously.  This series follows the exploits of a totally whacked, or very smart, young woman arms dealer and her band of merry killers.  The arms dealer's name is Koko Heckmatyar ("her name is Koko; she is loco, I say "oh. no."")  At the start of the series she has recently added a psychologically warped, small boy soldier named Jonah to her band.  Koko and Jonah are shown in this picture.  Because of his past, Jonah hates arms dealers so the story of how he became a member of Koko's band is not fully revealed yet.  So far the basic story line is following Koko and her group around the world and into and out of her arms deals with some of the scum of the world.  I have no idea where this series will go, but I suspect it's going to be deeper than the surface story.  And it's definitely keeping me interested.
My second favorite series so far is a crazy-fun series named Tsuritama.  Tsuritama is about fishing.  Yes, I said fishing.  That's on the surface anyway.  It's really about friendship and relationships, but it's going to be a hoot getting there.  The main character, Yuki (red hair in picture), is a high shchool kid with zero ability to socialize.  He is accosted one day by a self-proclaimed alien (uchujin desu!) named Haru (blond kid), and his life is turned upside down.  Haru invites himself to live with Yuki, and convinces Yuki to learning to fish.  Yuki and Haru are taught to fish by an unsocial boy in their class named Natsuki who has family problems.  The three boys are followed around by an Indian guy named Akira who wears a turban and carries around a large white duck named Tapioca.  Akira knows Haru is an alien and he is tailing him for an unknown secret organization, but he ends up being more part of their group.  I don't know where this one will go, but it's going to be fun getting there.  Many things here are just silly and make you laugh.  Yet there's enough story line and emotion to keep you from getting bored.

The next series is Eureka Seven Ao.  I had to try this one because I watched and liked the original Eureka Seven.  This series is a sequel to the original, with the main character, Ao, being the original Eureka's son.  Ao is an orphan who was raised by an old doctor named Toshio.  The series takes place on earth, rather than whatever planet the original was on, but the infamous scub coral is here on earth wrecking havoc.  It's a different manner of havoc than the scub coral in the original series, but havoc none the less.  The scub coral uprisings are handled by a group called Generation Blue, and Ao joins a part of Generation Blue called Pied Piper.  Watching this series feels a little like coming home because the animation style and characters feel so nostalgic.  Ao and his childhood friend Naru are like a reverse Renton and Eureka.   So this is a mecha series, but the original Eureka Seven didn't sacrifice plot and character development to show off the mecha, so I have some hope this one won't either. 

The last one I'll talk about today is a series called Sankarea.  This series is about zombies - a boy with a zombie fetish and a girl who is a zombie.  Chihiro lives in a temple and has a zombie fetish.  When his cat is hit by a car and killed he develops a potion that brings the cat back to life - or anyway into a zombie type existence.  While developing the potion he meets Sanka Rea.  Rea is a girl Chihiro's age who has been abused by her father all her life.  She wants to die, as the only means of escape she can see.  When Chihiro develops his potion she drinks it without him knowing.  She thinks it didn't work, but later when trying to escape her father, she falls to her death, and comes back as a zombie.  This series is a little fan-servicey, but still interesting enough to keep me watching.  We'll see if that stays true.  They're doing episodes right now of difficulties associated with living with a zombie and of living as a zombie.  I'm hopeful the series will stay interesting.

So those are the four series I like best so far of the new season.   I hope they pan out.        

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fam - the Silver Wing

This post is about the series Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam.  I decided I liked this series enough to blog about it, although I will say I probably overall liked the first Last Exile (LE1 in this post) better.  This series is a sequel to the original.  It takes place on the homeworld where the peoples from the LE1 world actually originated.   Apparently many centuries before the current story, people from this world emigrated to the LE1 world because this original world was too small to support the population, and the Guild led that emigration. 

Like LE1, this series centers around airships and battles and the exploits of a young pilot.  In this series that young pilot is Fam Fan Fan and she is accompanied by her friend and navigator, Giselle or Gisey for short.  Fam was an orphan raised by Gisey's family who are members of a group referred to as the Sky Pirates.  These folks live mainly by scavenging other air ships, until Fam involves them in worldwide politics.  Fam and Gisey fly a small vanship called a Vespa.  If you've seen LE1, a Vespa compares to a vanship from that series as a motorcycle would compare to an SUV.  Vespas are small!  One day going about their pirating business, Fam and Gisey rescue a princess named Millia when a treaty effort is betrayed and her older sister is kidnapped.  They begin to help her and become involved in affairs of the wider world.

The back story here, which you don't get until late in the series, is that the previous Empress of one of the major nations tried to unite the whole world in friendship, and held a vanship race to commemorate the unification.  Things went wrong and she was killed by assassins, despite the presence of her Guild guards who were unable to protect her.  The role of Empress devolves to her baby daughter, and at the time of the series, young Empress Sara is guided in her rule by a number of generals of different nationalities.  She intends to follow her mother's wish of a united world.  Sara's main general is Luscinia who also happens to be one of the two Guild guards who couldn't protect her mother.  Luscinia also wishes to unite the world for his former Empress, however he plans to do it by slaughtering all the nations that don't agree with him. 

As it turns out, the Guild on this world is almost gone, many of them having immigrated to the LE1 world, however as a remaining Guild member, Luscinia believes the world is too small to support its current population plus the returning peoples from the emigration.  His way to deal with that is to slaughter whole races, and he's pretty good at it, using Millia's older sister to control pieces of this world's Exile, and drop them from space onto resisting populations. 

Like LE1, this series has a small battle ship which holds itself separate from the affairs of the other nations.  This battleship is called the Sylvius (instead of Silvana) and it is captained by Tatiana Wisla, a vanship pilot in the first series.  The Sylvius and her crew aid Princess Millia and try to stop some of Luscinia's excesses. 

Dio Eraclea from LE1 is also a main character in this series.  It feels great to see him, not only sane but really useful in this series, especially since at the end of LE1 he was insane, lost in the Grand Stream and assumed dead (at least by me).  In this series he first appears as a friend of Fam among the Sky Pirates, but later proves to be involved with and perhaps of member of the Sylvius crew.  He brings a pre-teen Alvis Hamilton with him to help deal with the Exile on this world and acts as her guardian, demonstrating that the fighting training he received previously stands him in good stead against this world's Guild.

Little Empress Sara has only good intentions, but her generals begin fighting each other and siding with the various nations when Luscinia wipes out 4 different races, including one that is the nation of one of the generals.  Sara tries to bring peace and stop people from fighting, but nothing works.  Eventually, after much destruction and killing, Sara is taken by Luscinia and the rest of the world unites against him and his plots.  The 'rest of the world' includes the Sky Pirates, the Sylvius and crew, all Sara's remaining generals, Empress Sophia and Vincent from LE1, representing the nations of the new world, Millia's remaining people, and others.  In the end Fam and Gisey rescue Sara, Luscinia dies, and the world has peace.

I liked this series for a number of reasons.  Foremost was probably Dio being alive and well, and surviving this series too!  It also has wonderful music and although I waited a long time to figure out the back story, I did figure out that they hadn't just taken characters from LE1 and dropped them into this series.  They mostly explained or gave you a sense of how they could be there.   Plus most of the characters survived the series.  Along with Luscinia, two other generals die, as does Millia's sister.  And of course the four races Luscinia effectively   wipes out.  Overall, it was worth watching, even if I do still like LE1 better.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Level up

If you watch much anime, you know what it means to 'level up'.  I imagine the term comes from the gaming world originally, where it means you clear a level and get to the next one.  But "level up" is used far outside the gaming world now.  Anyone who in any way clears an obstacle and moves forward can be said to have leveled up.

A LOT of anime series contain plot lines which require their characters to achieve new levels of battle abilities.  Some of these plot lines involve continuous leveling up and continuous growth of the character's abilities thoughout the series, and some of them only have the main characters level up one major time, or perhaps a couple of times

Bleach is a series that has its main character, Kurosaki Ichigo, undergo the most continuous level ups of any series I've watched.  Ichigo achieves his first level up when he takes Rukia's powers in the first episode and begins to use shinigami powers.  From there the process is continuous.  His major level ups include: regaining his powers after his soul chain is cut, attaining bankai, mastering his hollow side and fighting masked, achieving the state necessary to bring Aizen down, and then regaining his powers using Fullbring.  He also has a multitude of lesser level ups along the way, including each one he achieves as he fights Renji, Kenpachi, Byakuya, GrimJoe and Ulquiorra.  The entire series follows Ichigo as he struggles to attain new levels of fighting skills in order to protect the people he  cares about.

Inuyasha is another series that follows the relatively continuous growth of a single character's battle abilities.  Inuyasha, the series main character, is a half human, half youkai who inherits a sword early in the series.   Throughout the series the sword's abilities and his ability to use the sword continuously level up.  He learns to use the sword's true ability along the way, gains the ultimate technique with it, gains an ability of the sword to break barriers when in a red-bladed form and eventually gains two more higher level abilities with the sword.  Like Ichigo in Bleach, at each level he is faced with characters or circumstances beyond his current abilities and must level up to 'clear' the difficulty and move forward.  

Some series have essentially a single major level up event, and examples of this type would include Rurouni Kenshin, D.Gray-Man and Nurarihyon no Mago.  In Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin must work to attain the ultimate technique of his Hiten Mitsurugi sword style before being able to face his main enemy, Shishio Makoto.  Achieving the technique is the major level up he does in the series. 

 Allen Walker in D.Gray-Man is left for dead by his enemies after losing his Innocence, and he must strive to regain his ability to use Innocence before he can resume his battles against the forces of evil.  And no, that's not what it sounds like.  If you haven't watched D.Gray-man, Innocence is a mystical power which occurs in a different form in different people and can be used by them to battle the evil Millennium Earl and his minions.  Allen spends multiple episodes in this struggle before coming to terms with his Innocence and regaining its use.  This is his major level up of the series.  

In Nurarihyon no Mago, Nura Rikuo is a half human, half youkai middle school student who find himself as heir to his grandfather's and father's Night Parade of 100 Demons.  Although initially he only wants to live as a human with his human friends, when his clan is attacked by other demon clans he eventually must do a major level up that allows him to learn his clan's secret technique and use it to win the battles against the other clans.  Although Rikuo has a few smaller level ups along the way, the ability to use the clans secret technique is the one that saves him and his clan and his friends.  

Level ups are also used in sport-based or game-based anime.  A good example is Hikaru no Go.  As Hikaru learns to play the game of Go and plays ever stronger opponents, he has to increase his own skills to move forward.  Obviously this type of leveling up isn't quite as intense as the gaining of new skills just ahead of being destroyed that is seen in series like Bleach or D.Gray-man, but pretty much in all anime where this plot device is used, I still find myself thinking, come on, come on, level up!