Sunday, November 23, 2014


Barakamon is a fun, slice of life series taken from a manga.  It follows a few months in the life of a professional calligrapher named Handa Seishu.  Handa is 23 years old and is a renowned calligrapher.  However his calligraphy is exact, precise and emotionless.  In the opening episode he punches out an older man who is an expert in calligraphy and curator of an exhibit, who tells him his calligraphy is stiff and empty.  Handa’s father and his agent/friend send him into exile to an island, to get his act together.  While there he’s meant to repent his sins (the punching) as well as learn to express emotion in his calligraphy and make it less like precise school forms, and more full of life.  Essentially he’s looking to re-invent himself.

Handa is initially lost on the island, without the amenities he’s used to, and not knowing how to go about achieving his purpose for being there.  Initially he is pestered unmercifully by a 7 year old girl named Naru, and two teenage girls, Miwa and Tamako, who used to use the room he’s staying in as a secret base when it was unoccupied.  He’s also resented by a high school boy named Hiroshi, because Hiroshi’s Mom makes meals for Handa.  These four are the principle islanders that interact with Handa, however most of the islanders interact with him along the way.

Everyone on the island refers to Handa as “Sensei”.  The plot line of this series follows the day to day interactions of Handa with all the various islanders, as well as following Handa’s struggles as he tries to re-invent his own calligraphy style, in time for a new calligraphy competition.  Along the way, Handa’s agent, Kawafuji, comes to visit to see how he’s doing, and brings along a high school calligrapher named Kousuke, who idolizes Handa.  Kousuke actually beat Handa in the last competition, even though he’s 5 years younger, and although he idolizes Handa, he doesn’t really want him to change his calligraphy style.
Handa eventually becomes friends with the islanders and forms a special bond with Naru.  When he leaves the island to apologize to the elder he punched and gain his forgiveness, as well as to submit his work for the next exhibit, Naru is devastated.   Handa almost decides not to return to the island, thanks to pressure from his mother and agent, but in the end, with his father’s support, he goes back to the island.

This is a nice slice of life series, with many funny spots, especially in the interactions between Handa and Naru.  It’s interesting enough to keep me watching and entertained.  Although it’s not what I consider one of the great series, I’m glad I watched it.  It’s definitely worth the time.   

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Aldnoah Zero

Aldnoah Zero is a mecha anime series.  The premise is this: during the exploration and colonization of Mars a hypergate and other advanced alien technology was discovered.  The discoverers kept the technology for themselves and their friends, and with this over-whelming advantage, created a new empire, the Vers Empire on Mars.  To keep the average Martian colonist happy and working, they ruling class created a need for a war with Earth, to take over earth and its resources.  In the ensuing battles, the Moon is partially destroyed in a hypergate explosion known as Heaven’s Fall.  A truce is called in the Earth/Martian War.   The Moon remnants create an asteroid belt/field, where the Martians and their alien technology (aldnoah) power build orbital stations/castles.  The truce holds for 15 years.

That’s the back story.  At the time the series takes place, the Martian Princess, Asseylum, comes to Earth to cement the truce and start building bridges of friendship between the Earth and the Vers Empire on Mars.   Unfortunately, the Orbital Knights (Martian royalty in earth orbit) want to resume war with Earth and take all its resources for themselves.  They plot to assassinate Asseylum and make it look like it was done by the Terrans  – thus starting the war over.

Their plan essentially works.  Asseylum survives the assassination attempt though and is rescued by another main character, Inaho.  Inaho is a high school boy who is a genius battle strategist.  He comes up with plans that save them all even in the heat of battle.  He is seemingly emotionless, but ends up liking Asseylum.  The third main character is a Terran who is essentially a slave of the Martians.  His name is Slaine, and he is fiercely loyal to princess Asseylum, as she saved his life several years before the series starts.    He and Inaho work against each other for most of the series, even though they’re both trying to keep Asseylum alive.  Inaho is also trying to save Earth and his friends, while Slaine is waffling back and forth between helping and hindering the Martian Lords.  Slaine discovers early in the series that it was Martians who tried to assassinate Asseylum, and he tries to stop the war by taking that information to the Emperor.  Unfortunately, Slaine is unaware the Emperor has already thrown the Terrans to the wolves once, and won’t hesitate to do it again, even at the price of his granddaughter’s life apparently.

Other characters include Inaho’s friends and sister, who is in the military, and various members of the military, as well as the various Orbital Knights.     With the Aldnoah power, the Martians have a massive advantage, and only Inhao’s adeptness at battle strategy and his acute ability to notice details and pick up on minute weaknesses, keeps the good guys with the Princess in tow ahead of the Martians.  The Princess can alter her appearance, so early on only Inaho knows who she is.   Then the gang comes across a Martian battleship stranded after the first Earth/Martian war.  The Terrans have been unable to use it because it requires Aldnoah power.  Asseylum however has this power, so she admits who she is and uses her aldnoah to power the Martian battle cruiser.  They escape to the headquarters of the combined earth forces, which is on the shattered remains of the Moon. 

Asseylum tries to stop the war, from the allied headquarters, but it quickly becomes clear that the Martians want the war.  The head of the Orbital Knights conspiracy comes after them with all his power, and they make a last stand against him while trying to get Asseylum into his Orbital Castle.  As Princess, she can shut down his power if she can get to its source.  They actually manage to achieve this, and essentially win this crucial battle, but at a pretty high cost.  Asseylum is shot multiple times (missing, presumed dead).  Inaho, crawling to her body, is shot multiple times by Slaine, who then walks away from both of them.  End of series.

As series ends go, it’s one of the worst I’ve seen.  I just sat there thinking, what the hell?  Kill off two of the three main characters in the last episode?  Why did I watch this?  Only, there’s another season coming, supposedly in January.  And they end this last episode with the statement that Asseylum is missing.   So I suppose I’ll have to wait until January to see who’s really dead and who isn’t.  Irritating though.  If everyone ends up dead, or they don’t have another season, then this series will go down as one that I wish I hadn’t watched.  I HATE it when they kill off the main characters.