Friday, June 28, 2013

Full Moon wo Sagashite

This is really an older series, coming out about the time I started watching anime.  Not sure why I decided to talk about this one today, but here goes.  

Full Moon wo Sagashite is a story about a young girl dreaming of becoming a singer.   12 year old Mitsuki loves to sing, however she has throat cancer and singing is painful for her.  Two shinigami named Takuto and Meroko who are supposed to collect her soul when she dies, are caught by Mitsuki, arguing about her, and are surprised that she can see them.  When she discovers that she will die in one year from the cancer, Mitsuki convinces them to help her fulfill her dream of becoming a singer in the year she has left.  Takuto uses his power in order to change Mitsuki into a 16 year old who can sing without pain.  As the 16 year old, Mitsuki attends an audition, which she wins and then begins her life as a singer named Full Moon.

This series is 52 episodes long.  It has so many story lines and side stories besides this basic plot line.  Mitsuki is orphaned very young and is being raised by her very strict grandmother, who hates music and hated Mitsuki’s father who was a member of a band.  12 year old Mitsuki’s health is fragile and her grandmother is overly protective of her.  Her grandmother refuses to allow her to follow her dream of singing.  Mitsuki convinces her doctor, Wakaoji, to allow it, even though he initially thinks it's the 12 year old Mitsuki pursuing her dream, not realizing she becomes 16 year old Mitsuki.  He is afraid that her singing will cause the cancer to become worse and spread faster, and at the same time, as a former band member himself, he understands her dream.

For much of the story, only Mitsuki’s agent, Masami, and her doctor, Wakaoji, know she’s actually 12 instead of 16 because 12 year old Mitsuki looks nothing like 16 year old Mitsuki.  Takuto and Meroko appear as a cat plushie and a rabbit plushie respectively to everyone except Mitsuki.

Another side story, and the source of part of the series title is that Mitsuki was separated from her best friend Eichi when they were both small and she has been in love with him since then.  She wants to search for him and feels that if she becomes a singer her chances of finding him or him finding her are much better.  They promised on the full moon to wait for each other and to each follow their dreams, him as an astronomer and her as a singer.  Thus her other dream before dying is to be reunited with Eichi.

The series is a lot about Mitsuki, Takuto and Meroko’s efforts to keep Mitsuki’s transformation a secret, to fend off another shinigami who doesn’t think Mitsuki should wait the year, and to follow the course of Mitsuki’s burgeoning singing career and the trials she goes through as she advances.  It’s also about love and sacrifice and friendship.

Late in the series, Masami finds information on Eichi’s whereabouts and they go to America to find him. Takuto is dealing with his increasing feelings for Mitsuki at this time.  In America, they find out that Eichi is dead and at that point Mitsuki gives up hope and her singing career.  Takuto admits that he loves Mitsuki and begins to remember his own human past – and his connections with Mitsuki’s family.   This is bad news for a shinigami – to remember his past will cause him to lose being a shinigami and fade away as a ghost.  After Mitsuki decides to live and move on from Eichi, some episodes are spent on Mitsuki and Meroko trying to save Takuto.

In the end in order to save her life, Mitsuki has to have the throat operation she’s been avoiding.  She still would have died during the operation, but Takuto gives up his shinigami life for hers, and Meroko fights for Takuto’s existence.  In exchange for their actions, Meroko becomes an angel, and Takuto is returned to being human.  Mitsuki lives and keeps her voice and is reunited with Takuto.  So it’s very much a happily ever after ending, although it’s incredibly tragic along the way.

The music in this series is good, as you would expect from a series about a singing idol.  The characters are good and the plot is unique enough to stay interesting and keep me watching.  Overall, I enjoyed the series.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Vampire Knight

Vampire Knight is a series that was adapted from a manga, and both the manga and the anime series are absolutely gorgeous.   That's one of the reasons the series is a pleasure to watch.

The story follows three main teen-age characters, a young woman named Cross Yuuki, and two young men, Kuran (Clan) Kaname and Kiryuu Zero.    All three attend Cross Academy, at which the student population is divided into two classes, the Day Class, which includes Yuuki and Zero, and the Night Class, which includes Kaname.   What quickly becomes apparent is that the Night Class is comprised of vampires, all of whom worship Kaname and are led by him.

Yuuki and Zero are Day Class regulators.  They know about the vampires and make sure that there are no adverse interactions between the two groups.  Vampires and humans lead mostly separate lives, and the reason for them both to be attending a single academy doesn’t come out until much later.  Pureblood vampires are becoming increasingly rare, although Kaname is one, and vampires can turn humans into low level (Level E) vampires, by biting but not draining them.  Level E vampires must have vampire blood to maintain their sanity.  Without it, they become insane killers of humans for their human blood.  Level E vampires are hunted by human vampire hunters, who also hunt pureblood vampires who overstep their bounds, like creating too many Level E vampires.

That’s the background, and this is where the story starts out, with Yuuki ostensibly the daughter of the Director of Cross Academy and Zero his adopted son.  Yuuki doesn’t remember her childhood before being rescued from an evil vampire by Kaname as a small child, but it’s also apparent that there’s more of a connection between Yuuki and Kaname than just that rescue.  Zero’s back story is relatively straight forward.  He had a twin brother and they were part of a vampire hunter family that was destroyed by the vampires.

This is a love triangle story, so of course Zero and Kaname dislike each other, while needing each other.  Kaname needs Zero to help protect Yuuki during the day, and Zero needs Kaname, because Zero is turning into a Level E vampire from being bitten as a child when his family was destroyed.  Kaname’s blood can keep him alive and sane.

The story underneath everything that comes out in the course of the series is this:  Yuuki is actually a pureblood vampire princess who is being hidden as a human at the Academy to protect her.   Kaname is one of the original founders of the vampire race who was brought back into existence by a pureblood vampire named Lido, using the blood and death of Yuuki’s actual brother.  Lido did this hoping to control Kaname and reign over the vampires.  Kaname defeated him at that time, but Lido still wants to rule by destroying Kaname and Yuuki.   Kaname is actually both Yuuki’s ancestor and her betrothed and he protects her.  Zero hates the vampires since they destroyed his family, but he loves Yuuki and needs Kaname, so there you are. 

As usual there are a lot of interactions with the other characters and much more story line going on than this basic plot review.  In the interest of time and space I’ve left it all out, however the series is worth watching for more than just the basic plot line.  The side stories are also interesting.  Add to that how gorgeous the series is, and a really great soundtrack, and it’s a series that you shouldn’t miss.  Actually it’s two seasons, the first 13 episode season, called Vampire Knight and the second 13 episode season called Vampire Knight Guilty.  Watch them both.        

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ao no Exorcist

Today I decided to talk about Ao no Exorcist, or Blue Exorcist.

Ao no Exorcist is about twin brothers, one of whom happens to be the son of Satan.   Okumura Rin and Okumura Yukio are twins who are orphaned very young and raised by a guardian exorcist, Fujimoto Shiro.   Rin is a misfit who is clumsy, gets into trouble nearly constantly and can’t even manage to keep a tidy appearance.  Yukio is the perfect son, who is following in his father’s footsteps and has trained to become an exorcist.  Both boys love their “father” and care about each other.  During the first episode, Shiro is killed by Satan.  It comes out that Rin is actually Satan’s son, and he comes into possession of a powerful magic sword, as well as some serious powers of his own.  Rin vows to become an exorcist and fight Satan, who killed his “father”.

Needless to say, for the son of Satan to become an Exorcist is not well received in many quarters.  Rin and Yukio move into the Exorcist school, where Yukio already teaches as a full exorcist.   They attempt to keep Rin’s parentage and demon capabilities secret from the other students although the instructors know about it.  This attempt to hide Rin’s true nature is hampered by the fact that he has a tail.   Rin meets and begins to form friendships with the other exorcist-wannabe students, including a girl named Shiemi who has healing powers and who stands by Rin even after she finds out he’s the Devil’s son.   Rin’s interactions with the other students are not smooth from the beginning, as he continues to be something of a screw up, and they get significantly worse as his true nature becomes known. 

All members of the church are also not happy with Rin’s presence as an exorcist in training.  Shura is a church exorcist who tries to help and support Rin along the way.   Arthur, the Paladin or top exorcist, is decidedly against Rin’s presence at the school and against him becoming an exorcist.  In addition, the machinations of the school’s headmaster, Mephisto, who is himself a demon, are not clear along the way.   At one point Rin loses control and is captured by Arthur and held in stasis by the church while his brother and his fellow students work to find a way to free him.

Toward the end of the series it becomes apparent that Yukio has the same parentage as Rin, and Yukio and his demon powers are manipulated by Satan to create a gateway into the world to destroy the church and rule the world.   In the end everyone works together and Rin and Yukio combine their massive powers in order to destroy Satan’s gate and save their friends and their world.

This is pretty much an awesome series.  The characters are fun and easy to like and follow.   The plot is fairly unique, with Satan’s son studying to become an exorcist.  The music is exceptional.  I especially liked the Ending theme song, “Wired Life”, but it’s all great.  Basically, I recommend you watch this series.  It’s worth it.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Kare Kano

I’m writing this post from Shinigawa, Japan.  I’ve been over here for 8 days playing around, and I need to get a post in.  Today I’m going to talk about Kare Kano.  Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou, often abbreviated Kare Kano or called by its English translation, His and Her Circumstances, is one of the first slice of life anime series I watched.  Up until that point I didn’t realize that they made anime series about everyday life.  It was also the first high-school boy and girl love story I watched, although I soon realized that the mismatched high school boy and girl that get together is a VERY common theme in slice of life anime.  Other than being my first series of this type, it’s not much different from others like it.

Kare Kano is a romantic comedy about Miyazawa Yukino and Arima Souichirou, two bright, driven, high schools students.  Miyazawa maintains a fa├žade at school as a cool, brilliant girl who is adored by the teachers and her fellow students.  She’s nice to everyone, helpful, and at the top of her class, but what isn’t known is that at home she’s an entirely different person, slovenly and a non-stop studier.  Enter Arima.  Arima is also at the top of the class, but his is natural ability rather than continuous struggle.  Miyazawa sets him up as her rival, and always strives to beat him.  Arima for his part also has hidden personality traits, including a fear of becoming like his real parents and disappointing his adoptive parents. 

Arima is secretly attracted to Miyazawa, but she’s too busy trying to best him to notice.  One Saturday Arima visits Miyazawa at home and discovers her persona away from school.  He uses the discovery to blackmail her into helping him, basically to get to be near her.  When Miyazawa finally snaps and objects they discover that both of them have a school persona that is not their real self.  They begin dating and decide to learn to be their real selves all the time.

That’s the basic story line.  The series goes into depth with the background and feelings of both of the main characters.  It also shows their growth along the way and their struggle to maintain their grades, their teachers’ respect and their friends while doing it.  There are enough interactions and side stories with the lesser characters to keep the series interesting.  Miyazawa and Arima end up with a bunch of quirky friends, and various aspects of the side characters’ lives are also played out in this series.   It’s a story about growing up, and so it also includes the growing pains of many of the characters.

It’s been awhile since I watched this series, but if I recall, although I liked the series in general I wasn’t all that impressed with the ending.  They left the main characters and began focusing on lesser characters, and then ended it without really ending anything.  Overall though, the music was decent, the characters were fun to follow and the story line was okay.   It’s a good series.