Anime

Anime Endings: Kiddy Grade


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

(warning: some spoilers included)

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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.

Anime update: Kaleido Star, disc 5


After watching discs 1-3, I described this as one of the best anime series currently running. Disc 4 cemented that opinion, and was so good that I didn’t want to say anything for fear of spoiling it.

On disc 5 it gets better.

Much of what happens is expected, and some of it is even predictable, but in the final scene of the fourth episode on the disc, they casually drop a bombshell that has the potential to change everything. And it makes perfect sense.

The only thing that kept me from spraying my drink across the room in surprise was the fact that I’d just finished it.

Quick take: Seven of Seven (Shichinin no Nana), disc 1


This is a fluffy, squeaky clean little series about a teenage girl named Nana and her six personality-differentiated clones, who appeared after an accident that involved her mad-scientist grandfather, his latest experiment in high-tech prisms, a microwave oven, and a cherry tree. Our Heroine has one goal in life: to pass the high-school entrance exams so she can get into the same school as the boy she has a crush on. Unfortunately, her new sisters share that crush, and that’s not all…

It’s almost painfully cute, with an opening theme to match. Disc 2 just came out, and I’m going to have to buy it.

Update: apparently the associated manga is a bit more fan-service oriented. Obviously I’m going to have to confirm that…

Update: Oh my, yes. The manga version is definitely aimed at a male audience.

Update: Just finished watching disc 2. It’s still cute. I’ll buy the next one.

Recent anime


Quick takes on stuff I’ve watched in the past week.

Kaleido Star, disc 4 — Damn, this show is so good that I’m afraid to say anything that might spoil it. Just don’t read the back-cover blurbs or liner notes, don’t watch the next-episode previews or the special features, and stay away from the episode list on ADV’s web site, because they love to spoil things for you. Worse, many of their spoilers are misleading or just plain wrong. I’ll be buying the rest of the series (eight more discs!). [update: ADV puts spoilers into their press releases, too! I was just looking at a list of release dates, and wham!]

R.O.D The TV, disc 2 — Things are building up nicely, and the paper is flying. Good work on developing the relationships between the characters. I’ll definitely buy the next disc.

Chrono Crusade, disc 1 — Good stuff. A sexy, heavily-armed teenage nun who fights demons in New York City during the Roaring Twenties, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake like a one-woman Dirty Pair. The most glaring flaw is some poorly-integrated 3D CGI, but they either got better at it quickly or I got used to it by the time I reached episode 4. I’ll definitely buy the next disc.

Galaxy Angel, disc 4 — Fluff. Fluffy McFluff, with a side order of Fluff. This show goes nowhere, and is proud to admit it. If you’re in the mood for old-school anime wackiness with modern production values and no pretense at continuity between episodes, Galaxy Angel is the show for you. There’s really not much difference between the four volumes, and no matter how much you learn about the characters, they don’t actually grow and change, so you can pretty much watch them in any order. I’ll buy the first disc of season two when it comes out, because I like fluff. And Mint is evil, in a good way.

Kiddy Grade, disc 6 — Eh. Not impressed.

Ikkitousen, disc 1 — I can’t describe just how much this show sucks. I’ve read the available manga volumes, as well as reviews of the fansubs, so I wasn’t expecting it to be good, but I thought it might at least be amusing, in a “she kicks high” combat-fan-service way. It’s not. It does manage to be about 70% less raunchy and 50% less poorly-plotted than the manga, but also at least 20% more sucky.

What really stood out for me is that it’s just sloppy, both in execution and translation. I expect Geneon to do a good job on their releases, but this back-cover blurb is actually representative of their care and attention to detail on this product:

Once again blood flows in the streets of Kanto. The eternal fate that has been handed down for over 1800 years is now being fought by ancient warriors who have been reincarnated into the students of the seven top schools. One such student, Hakufu Sonsaku, arrives on the scene and is rumored to be the legendary Shou Haou (The one who is said to be the one to defeat many in battle). But can this blonde airhead with the overly-endowed assets actually be the legendary Shou-Haou?

I originally figured it was just a case of putting the junior translator on box work (like the charming example in Hyper Police where the box-cover claimed a character “begins acting like a little child”, but in the actual episode he becomes a child), but no, the subtitles are just like it. And I have to say that the show doesn’t really deserve better. Anyone who thought that Agent Aika’s panty-flashing was obtrusive or that Mahoromatic was in some way misogynistic should stay far, far away from this turkey.

Actually, everyone should just stay away. This show makes Amazing Nurse Nanako look wholesome and well-written. I won’t be buying disc 2.

Next up: 7 of 7 disc 1 (fluff), 50 Years of Playmates (the Playboy box set), and something called Star Wars. I think it’s a comedy. Or maybe a tragedy, the way Lucas keeps pissing in his whiskey.

Next potential purchase: Gokusen disc 1.

Anime shopping list


Random list of recent anime DVDs I plan to pick up when I see them in stores:

  • Kaleido Star, disc 4+ --- Easily one of the best series running now, I haven't found anything to dislike about it. Well-drawn, well-written, well-acted, funny, and sweet, with a broad appeal. No fanservice, per se, but I have to say that all the women are implausibly well-stacked for professional acrobats. That's not a complaint, you understand. Actually, I do have one small complaint: the liner notes are spoiler-happy, to the point that they give away on disc 1 things that still haven't come up by disc 3.
  • R.O.D The TV, disc 2+ --- This one's off to a good start, and while fans of the Read Or Die OVA series will wonder what happened to Yomiko Readman (the fact that her voice actress is about to release a nude photobook and DVD is pure coincidence), the new characters are quite engaging, and the animation retains the flavor of the original while fitting into a TV budget. Spoilers based on the fansubs reveal that the old cast does eventually turn up, but I have no complaints about the Paper Sisters and Nenene, especially since I recently found the original manga featuring the first meeting of Yomiko and a teenage Nenene.
  • Galaxy Angel, disc 4+ --- Unlike the translated manga, which has a plot, this episodes of this series are basically independent, and very fluffy. Continuity from episode to episode is almost nonexistent, and everything is played for broad humor. It's well-done fluff, however, and they've devoted a few episodes to fleshing out the characters, to the point that I've grown quite fond of Mint and Forte. I don't know how they've managed to crank out four seaons of this without running out of ideas, but reviews suggest they've done it. Maybe the manga and games fill in enough of the blanks to keep the characters interesting, because it doesn't sound like they ever get serious with the show.
  • Chrono Crusade, disc 1+ --- The heroine is a sexy teenage demon-hunter whose middle name is "collateral damage", her partner is a mostly-reformed demon, and together they take on some rather nasty critters in 1920s New York City. Oh, and she's a nun. I've been checking out screenshots and reviews of this one for some time, and the first volume of the translated manga came out recently as well. From everything I've seen so far, Sister Rosette is the true heir to the Dirty Pair legacy, unlike a certain other series I'm about to name...
  • Kiddy Grade, 6+ (maybe) --- I originally gave up on this series after the first disc, because it looked like they'd decided to remake the Dirty Pair with two rather annoying changes: the originals didn't have any loli appeal, and they just weren't powerful enough. People swore that it picked up around episode nine, but at only three episodes per disc, I didn't feel like spending months and money waiting for the good stuff. Well, I've now seen the rest of what's been released so far, and while it has gotten better, there's still a good chance that it will end up sucking. The fact that they completely change the character designs in the next disc doesn't help, since the redhead's looks were my primary hook (although I'd like it more if they'd have given her friend Ricki more screen time...).

Further out, I’m looking forward to Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Yumeria, Maburaho, Tenjou Tenge, Full Metal Alchemist, and the next season of Happy Lesson. Maybe Onegai Twins and Mezzo DSA, but the episode reviews of the former and the screenshots of the latter reduce my interest. I’ve heard mixed reports on Scrapped Princess, but it looks like it might be worth buying the first disc.

Update: Way, way out there in the land of things that haven’t been licensed for US distribution yet, and that I’ve mostly just seen screenshots and reviews of (here, here, and occasionally here), there’s Re: Cutie Honey, Ninin ga Shinobuden, DearS, and Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea. Gainax’s big effort, This Ugly and Beautiful World, looks nice, but sounds rather dull.

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