Monday, May 28, 2007

The origin of the greatest fantasy anime ever...

At long last I have been able to read the first volume of Juuni Kokki, and I was rather surprised with what I found. I was already aware that the anime had made some additions, but I did not realise how much: while the main story was the same, it was quite dramatic how much had been added for the anime! It has made me appreciate the anime far more too, as the additions truly enhanced this story. That said, there were some aspects that I felt were much clearer in the novel, which made it worth while reading. I am a little disappointed with the English release though. There are some parts of the translation that seem awfully questionable, and their one volume per year schedule is absolutely horrific. I shall definitely continue to collect the series, but I hope TOKYOPOP picks their game up.

Episode six of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS was reasonable, but, sadly, there was little achieved in it. It lacked any flashy action scenes, and the plot and character development only inched on slightly. While not quite boring, it definitely could have been better. I do like the general direction the series is going, but I feel that their pacing could use a significant improvement to prevent this series dropping into obscurity.

Episode seven of Lucky Star was again reasonably funny, but more than anything I was impressed by Hirano Aya's performance: she is better, and more versatile, than I had given her credit for. Hiranoism aside, this episode saw the series step the humour up slightly and become a little more enjoyable, but I cannot feel that they are pushing the limits of the source material. It feels like Lucky Star is merely a reasnable series that has the odd good moment, but I doubt it will ever become anything particularly noteworthy.

On the other hand, Hayate no Gotoku! continued to be quite funny in episode eight. The dense, mixed-up characters, combined with the frequent references to other titles, is working together quite well. It is still nowhere near the level of Heppoko Jikken Animation Excel Saga, but probably approaching Abenobashi Mahou Shotengai. The early part of the episode, with the girls dressing Hayate up, was funny enough, but the latter parts built up quite nicely. It should be interesting to see how things develop here.

With episodes 11 and 12, I completed Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight!. The conclusion, while appropriate, was a little anticlimactic. The whole series lead to these episodes, but nothing really happened. Overall, the series was quite a good effort for ufotable, but it was only an adequete title. Adding nothing new to the High School Drama genre, the series merely played on the same old cliches used in most other titles. On the other hand, the characters were quite loveable and developed in nice, albeit unoriginal, ways.

DEATH NOTE 31 was a little disappointing too, as the series had looked like it was building in an interesting way again, but it all fell apart so quickly. N handled Light's plan all too easily, as if he had expected it all along, while N's plan to turn Light's Police allies against him has, once again, fallen flat on its face in no time. As this series is not far from its completion now, I sure hope it builds up to something big soon, or I would have to call it one of the most overrated titles I have ever seen.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yup, it was as obvious as it looked after all!

With episode five, El Cazador de la Bruja finally sounds like a real Kajiura Yuki series: positively gorgeous! The music has not been at the fore quite in the way I expect of a Bee Train series, but it finally seems to be doing it. I have to admit that I am beginning to like many of the main cast now too; they are quirky enough to be interesting. The plot remains very, very basic at the moment, but it is obvious that they will hit us with some big twists later on. I just hope they are good twists and well timed, for it does look like Bee Train have something with real potential here after all.

Episode 19 of Ginga Tetsudou 999 was good for a bit of a chuckle: it was about time the Conductor got to show off a little! The world of `saints' was very typical Leijiverse, albeit not in the manner I had originally suspected. Entertaining viewing, but I have to admit that it was not the most engaging episode from the series.

With episodes 35-40 I have finally completed Watashi no Ashinaga Ojisan. The end of the series was mostly quite predictable, but quite nice. Judy's final speach was very nice, and her finally meeting Daddy Long-Legs was very well done --- though I still find her relatioship with Jervis more than a little disturbing. I also appreciated the recap snippets, as I was finally able to see just how much the characters have changed over the course of the series, showing that the animators skimped not on the details. Overall it was quite a good series, but nowhere near the same level as its sister series, Akage no Anne.

Episode two of Wellber no Monogatari has firmly fixed the series in the `must watch' category for me, with amusing characters, lovely visuals and an interesting plot. The action sequences are well choreographed too, though at times the `flashy' CG sequences look a bit dodgy, but that is almost an industry standard anyway! How the Princess failed to be noticed earlier when she was standing out so much is beyond me, but with her having quickly learned her position I suspect we could be in for some interesting character dynamic in the coming episodes.

Chapter 173 of Mahou Sensei Negima! was a nice wind-up for this sub-arc, with all the characters quickly reaching new levels of power in their respective skills. Some of these, such as Haruna using her ability to clone herself so as to make her doujinshi faster, were quite hillarious too. Still, with the way that Eva was acting at the end, I suspect we might yet be in for something even better before they head off in search of Nagi.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The dead, reborn...

Finally, with episode 30, I once again saw what made DEATH NOTE so good in the first arc: a battle of wits between Light and N! With Mello also in the mix, seeking revenge, perhaps this arc might have an impressive conclusion. With Near narrowing in on Light even faster than L, things were looking pretty rough on him, but Light appears to be taking the inititive by springing his own trap. I doubt it will work how Light wants it to, but it should be interesting to see the resolution.

Episode ten of Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! was a little lame. While the final result set things up for their school festival, it seemed like a whole lot of nothing just to lead up to it. What would the student council want with a whole building as their room anyway? There were some nice moments, but overall I found this pretty dull viewing.

Episode seven managed to restore my interest in CLAYMORE, featuring some excellent action sequences. The relationship between Teressa and Claire seems even closer in the anime than the manga and the strength of the top-5 Claymores was quite a bit more apparent when animated. It is still a little disappointing that there is nothing new from the manga, but things were quite a lot more engaging here than they were before.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The decline of the modern comedy...

Episode six of Lucky Star saw a general improvement in the series, but it it still nothing special. While the jokes and references were slightly funnier, they were still not laugh-out-loud funny, though we did get to see some impressive visuals. It continues to be a series that has a certain appeal to me, but it is far from anything special.

Episode seven of Hayate no Gotoku! continued this serial's trend of general improvement and managed to be fairly amusing while also undertaking a little character development. As with Lucky Star, this is far from the most hillarious series I have ever watched, but the references are quite thick and the jokes generally quite a lot funnier than Kyoto Animation's contribution.

Seirei no Moribito continued to pick up the pace in episode six, and was extremely enjoyable. The battle of wits between Balsa and the Hunters was quite interesting, and the final action scene when they finally found her was as amazing as it was unexpected. The plot and characters did not develop much here, but the events that did pass were thoroughly entertaining.

Terra e... entered the start of Keith's story in episode six, and while being filled with anime-original scenes it seemed to enhance the characterisation and set the scene far better. Sam was also a far more interesting character in this version, with a stronger presence that seen in the manga. I do not like the way Keith looks in the anime, but this minor gripe asside it looks like they have something pretty special in store for us here.

Episode 24 of ARIA The NATURAL was, as usual, absolutely gorgeous! Between Akari, Aika and Alice's dreams for the future, and the beautiful relationship between Aika and Akira, there was an awful lot to warm the heart in this episode, and the visuals were wonderful. The jokes, though fewer than normal, were quite good, but the contrast between naivity and harsh reality was what made this episode so enjoyable. As the series draws to a close, and continues to be so good, I cannot wait to see how it closes!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Quick manga run-down...

Terra e... grows quite exciting in volume two. Some considerable time has passed since the previous volume and the Mu and Humans have both been following their individual agendas. There were some very interesting revelations, especially on the past --- and future --- of the Mu, while the main plot was action-packed. While the series feels a little pulpy at times, it does easily grab the attention and seems to be moving in a good direction.

The first volume of Kiseijuu made for rather interesting reading too. Featuring some nice art work and a very interesting topic, this title grabbed my attention quite quickly. As the story has developed, we are getting a rather interesting look at instinct and morals, while also presenting a rather gripping horror series. While much of the style seems familiar from more recent serials, it is none the less quite compelling and a thoroughly unique work.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gathering: quality more variable than expected!

Episode four of Lucky Star was more of the same, which is turning this series into a bit of a disappointment. While moderately entertaining, it lacks anything to really hold the viewer's attention, such as wit or interesting character development. It does have some potental in the characters and the constant references to anime and games, but it really needs to work this line better to save the series from mediocraty.

Episode three of Shin Taketori Monogatari 1000 Nen Joou was a little slow. The first half of the series was a touch boring, but the second half advanced the main plot and is beginning to look a lot more interesting. There is still little of use revealed, so the plot is very much in the dark, but it looks like this could be the most elaborate Leijiversre title I have seen.

Volume two of Vagabond was quite good reading, with Takezou being forced to receive some very important life lessons. We gained a rather interesting perspective into his life over this, but it also looks like the beginning of his change from a ruthless beast into a skilled swordsman. The art is absolutely fantastic, and this is clearly one manga that deserves its good reputation.

Continuing Fruits Basket with volume 21, the series is moving along quite nicely. Kyou and Touru are finally coming together, Akito has found friendship in Touru and Yuki has also finally found love. The developments and revelations in this volume made for wonderful reading as the series is clearly drawing close to its conclusion.

After putting it off for so long, I finally got around to checking out the first four episodes of Terra e..., and I was not disappointed. The visuals are an odd mix of retro and modern, which was a little wierd and first, but they are quite nice in the end. It seems to embelish quite significantly on the original story, but in doing so they have added some very interesting developments which thoroughly enhance the existing series. The important aspects of the original are still coming through strong, however, so this looks like it will be an excellent series.

In figures, Gathering's remake of BUBBA's Suzumiya Haruhi has finally arrived, and is an excellent addition to my collection. Everything I had hoped it to be, it has actually exceeded my expectations through the amazing fine details. Faultless every way I look at it, this is easily one of the most amazing figures I have ever seen. On the other hand, Gathering's attempt at BUBBA's Nagato Yuki was rather disappointing. While the figure looks as nice as I had hoped, and features a lovely paint job, closer inspection reveals some less than satisfactory detail. The major joints are not correctly put together, leaving obvious gaps, and one arm does not even sit on correctly. The `value adding' changable top it horrid too, with the two halves not matching up properly.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mahou Go-gou Go!

I was a little concerned about the second series of Saiunkoku Monogatari, but the first episode brought relief. They have not dropped the ball at all! The visual quality is maintained, and the characters are already continuing to grow. Just a funny little filler episode, it introduced another eccentric character and provided some fine entertainment.

Episode five of CLAYMORE began the backstory, and continues to be faithful to the original. However, it does seem to be rolling along at an amazing pace; it feels like it could catch up to the manga before 13 episodes even! As before, the lack of anything new is grinding on me, but I shall likely persist a little longer.

Episode 28 of DEATH NOTE was reasonable, with Light being pulled through the wringer by a plan he could not counter, but despite this it did not have the same feel as when L was pressing the advantage on him. Frankly, this new arc only maintains the superficial elements of the first arc, but lacks the soul that made it work. My impression of this series continues to drop.

Episodes 11 and 12 of Yes! PreCure 5 were fun viewing. While the battles are a little samey, they do not take too much time each episode, and the rest of the time is used quite well. The relationships within the PreCure group are growing quite interesting, but even the villans look like they may be about to have some significant developments in the near future. Still far from the pinacle of its genre, this is nevertheless and entertaining series.

Coninuing Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS with episodes two to four, the progression is going a little slow, but given the longer run than normal this is to be expected. Rather than rushing into the action, they are taking their time to properly introduce the new characters and, at long last, give the world the series is set in some meaningful development. Nothing particularly exciting has happened yet, and the drones they will be facing at first look like they could be horridly boring enemies (hopefully they get real opponents before long), but it looks like this series has an awful lot of potential.