Anime

And the award for worst anime goes to...


Eiken, for its horrible voice acting and attack-of-the-killer-blob “breasts”. I have finally found fan-service that is not only unappealing, but actively repulsive.

I wasn’t expecting it to be good. I wasn’t even expecting it to be okay, given the screenshots and DVD cover art, but I was curious to see where the current trend toward breast-inflation in anime is going, and I figured I could put up with the ridiculously oversized boobs.

Unfortunately, not only is the voice acting awful, the… things attached to the girls’ chests don’t even qualify as breasts, of any size or provenance. Thank goodness there was no actual nudity in the few minutes I was able to force myself to watch. Amazing Nurse Nanako and Ikkitousen put together couldn’t suck as hard as this disc, because no matter how terrible they were, they at least had something going for them besides the character designs. This show has nothing; if a masked psycho had started murdering the cast on-screen, I’d have cheered her on.

Burn-Up Scramble, disc 2


Not as amusing as the first one, but lots more Maya, which is good. It feels like they were trying too hard to make it silly, with three of the four episodes stepping outside the basic premise. The result is that we learn that Lilica is a cheap date, Maya enjoys spinning yarns, and Rio should never sleep with the television on. These episodes aren’t bad, just a bit flat, and are redeemed by the costumes (Naked Apron Lilica, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Rio, and pretty much everything they dress Maya in).

In other news, the people responsible for the credits have started to figure out the miracle that is anti-aliasing. They’re not using it consistently yet, but one can hope they’ll continue to improve. Of course, they’ve only got one more disc to practice with…

Burn-Up Scramble, disc 1


I ordered this disc based largely on the screenshots and comments at Momotato Daioh. I didn’t have high expectations, especially after my last adventure into “combat fan-service” (the utterly wretched Ikkitousen), but it looked like it might be, well, funny.

It is. In fact, the humor and the character interaction remind me a lot of The Dirty Pair (as presented in the OAV series and the Project Eden movie). The character designs are nice (especially Maya), the voice acting is surprisingly good, and the storytelling neatly captures the old-school charm of “screw continuity and character development, let’s just have some fun”. And, yes, it’s a universe where every woman under the age of 40 is quite implausibly stacked, and the female police uniforms were designed by the folks at Trashy Lingerie.

It’s not for everyone. The animation is at best fair, the only decent music is in the end credits, main character Rio is just a little too bubble-headed (bubble-everything, really), there are a number of shots frequently reused to further shave the animation budget, and there is basically nothing original about any aspect of the series. I haven’t seen any of the three previous incarnations of the Burn-Up franchise, and I’ve skipped a lot of the other recent “girls with guns” series, so I’m not burned out on the basic concept. Your mileage may vary. Me, I watched it twice in one night.

It’s definitely not the sort of series that can be used to draw someone into anime. After two of my friends watched the first episode Saturday, they begged me to put in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a film that ranks just above Highlander 2 on our list of “movies we like to pretend were never made”.

I’m going to buy the second disc. Hopefully Maya will get more screen time.

Side note: while looking for reviews of the different incarnations of this franchise, I discovered that the previous one, Burn-Up Excess, was directed by the same person as Hand Maid May, one of my favorites. I guess I’ll have to check it out.

Anime update: R.O.D The TV disc 4


At some point in every series, there’s a need for a chunk of exposition. Handled well, it fleshes out the story without interrupting it. Handled poorly, it’s episode 14 of R.O.D The TV.

I like the series. The characters are developing nicely, and disc 4 has some terrific action scenes, but when it came time to reveal what was really going on and how it connected to the original OAV series, they resorted to one of the clunkiest infodumps I’ve seen in years: the bad guy’s secretary spends the entire episode writing a report that summarizes everything that’s happened to date, talking over clips from previous episodes and the OAVs.

It’s a classic “As you know, Bob…”, telling characters things they already know but the audience doesn’t. The worst part is, it doesn’t work. If you haven’t seen the OAV series, it doesn’t give you enough information about the characters you’re starting to meet, and if you have, it’s mostly redundant, with the added negative of handwaving away significant changes in some OAV characters.

After this mid-series train wreck, they get things back on track by fleshing out Wendy and Junior, and finally bringing Yomiko and Nancy into the story. If they can avoid another jarring interruption, the rest of the series should work out nicely.

On a side note, fan-service in this series is primarily limited to the enthusiastic bouncing of large breasts that have never known the confinement of a bra (only one pair of which are ever seen bare), but they’re a bit less restrained in the mini pencil boards that ship with the DVDs. The Maggie pin-up is well-done, if a bit out of character, but the “candid” pin-ups of Nenene and Michelle are just awkward. Anita gets a pleasant, non-sexualized portrait, but the big surprise is the utterly gratuitous “please molest me” panty shot of Hisa-chan included with disc 4.

Yep, Anita’s shy, bookish, young schoolgirl pal is lying on her back, knees up, skirt up, school uniform rumpled, looking like she’s just auditioned for the little-sister role in a hentai game. Definitely not the way I expected that character to appear.

Anime Endings: Kiddy Grade


After I finished watching this series, I started imagining how they came up with it…

(warning: some spoilers included)

more...

Anime Endings: Kaleido Star, Season One (discs 1-6)


You know, I originally started buying this series on a whim, thinking that it might be amusing, well-drawn, cheery fluff. I figured that it would be entertaining, but not good enough to justify the pre-release hype.

I was wrong.

In any sort of fiction, the people who get the most out of it are the ones who come to feel for the characters and their situations, and this requires placing a lot of trust in the creators, a faith that the story will continue to be told well. All too often, this faith is misplaced, and the ending hits them like a slap in the face. In anime, it’s usually called “the Gainax ending,” named after the company who seems to hit fans the hardest. Evangelion and Mahoromatic seem to set the standard for this sort of ending, although they came painfully close to finishing Mahoro’s story well before pulling a Zeist at the last minute (apologies to anyone who was trying to forget that Highlander 2 ever existed).

The creators of Kaleido Star never abuse the fan’s faith in the story. They make a lot of promises early on about the people, the place, and the plot, and they keep those promises, episode after episode. The result is a show that keeps getting better, building up to a climax that is both surprising and pleasing. Even if you failed to avoid the remarkable number of shameless spoilers put out by ADV, Newtype, and everyone else in the business, you’re still in for a treat. It’s so good, even a publicist can’t ruin it.

Season two? I’ll buy the entire thing, sight unseen.

Anime Endings: Noir


Worth every penny I paid for the seven DVDs (but I am not, repeat not, buying the Noir otaku soap). There are a lot of things I could say about it, but I think it’s sufficient to say that the ending is driven entirely by the way the characters were developed during the course of the series. Nothing has to be explained in terms of “the director added it to make the plot work out” or “they needed a cool fight scene here, so X did Y”.

The plot does work out, and you definitely get the cool fight scenes, but it’s because the heroines and villains are doing what they should do, given the sort of people they are and the situations they’re in.

Anime update: schoolgirls, assassins, schoolgirl assassins, nuns, witches, and more


I finally started watching Noir, and just finished disc 5. Great stuff that carves out a new niche in the “pretty girls with guns” genre, so much so that it’s not really part of it. Sadly, in the weeks between now and the release of Kaleido Star disc 6, the last two volumes of Noir won’t be enough, so here’s what I’m ordering today from Robert’s Anime Corner Store:

  • Seven of Seven, disc 3 --- I just can't escape this sweet, silly little series. The less-clean-cut manga version has now ended its English run, with an ending that I hope is different from the anime. Not that it's a bad ending, just not the one I was looking for. The person who wrote both created two very different stories, so there's room for this one to end differently. But not yet; it looks like they've split it across six DVDs. I can think of no reason not to buy them all.
  • Chrono Crusade, disc 2 --- 1920s New York City, sexy teenage nun who fights demons. What's not to like?
  • R.O.D The TV, disc 3 --- The first two discs have confirmed my impression that this is a worthy spinoff from the OVA. More, please.
  • Gokusen, disc 1 --- Blackboard Jungle with a female yakuza boss as the teacher. Sort of.
  • Burn-Up Scramble, disc 1 --- Hey, I liked the screenshots...
  • Please Twins, disc 1 --- I liked Please Teacher, but I've read enough about this series to be a bit wary, particularly of how it handles characters from the first series. Still, it's worth a shot.
  • Kiki's Delivery Service --- I have a Region 2 DVD of this wonderful film, but I gave my Region 1 copy to my mother, and decided to pick up another. Naturally I'll have to watch it when it arrives. :-)

Going into December, it’ll be Galaxy Angel Z, Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea, and of course more Kaleido Star and R.O.D The TV.

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