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[In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000

Solarn

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Saiyuki is a weird one. It's definitely a shounen manga, but the artstyle is very, very shoujo and it has some shoujo elements (a lot of really unhealthy romance subplots mostly).
 

Jhiday

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[#17] Kaitō Kiramekiman
(26 episodes)

What's it about ?

Okay, this is a weird one. In the 70s & 80s, Tatsunoko Productions produced a bunch of anime shows collectively known as "the Time Bokkan series" (named after the first of them) ; the most well-known is probably Yatterman, the second one, which is getting a modern remake this year for the 40th anniversary of the franchise, starting... today. (Serendipity !)

None of those shows seem to have much in common plot-wise, aside from having a trio of villains with similar character designs, and being a variation of sentai. This one, 8th in the series (and produced more than a decade after the 7th), goes for a sentai/gentleman thief mash-up.

Characters

Kaitō Kiramekiman are actually a team of two people :
- #1 is actually Lip, daughter of an unaware police chief, and looks like the one in charge
- #2 is Paf, the... manservant at her house ? It's not clear, but he does stuff like driving her around and repairing the car. He's the one handling the technical preparation of their heists, including their giant (and sentient) cat mecha.
From the best I can gather, they're not really bad guys, they're just looking for some magic stones, and the heists are a cover to appropriate them. If they got it wrong, they'll just give the precious stones back to the police down the line (and offscreen).

But much of the screentime is devoted to a trio of inept cops, trying to catch the thieves to better their own reputation. Given that nobody takes them seriously and they're bumbling fools, you can easily see why. They're :
- a superficial blonde woman who bosses the other two around ;
- A dumb brute who provides the muscle ;
- A smart guy with a big nose who just won't shut up... and seems to actually have some competence in store, given how he's built their own giant dog mecha that does manage to capture Kiramekiman for a while until his efforts are thwarted by the ineptitude of his colleagues.

Now, it's hard to see those three as villains ; at best, they're antagonists, and they often feel like the true stars of the show. On the other hand, they're in contact with a Mysterious Boss that doesn't seem to be part of the police, so I have a strong suspicion they've infiltrated the police station to pursue their own agenda (getting their hands on the magic stones, maybe ?), in accordance with the overall throughline of the Time Bokkan shows. But there's barely any evidence for that, and you often find yourself taking the side of those poor shlobs against the semi-sadistic and unstoppable thieves.

Production Values

Time capsule ! Which makes sense once you learn the show's history. And hey, those very retro designs have their charm, mitigating the sparse animation where people don't even walk down stairs properly.

The blond woman is a frequent source of (very mild because kids' show) fanservice, because of course.

Overall Impression

This is a fascinating show, especially once I did my research. Which helps make sense of why the titular protagonists barely get any character development or backstory, and the trio steal the show ; we're at the stage where the latter are the most recognizable element of the franchise. Since they've got fun chemistry, it's a sensible choice.

On the other hand, this is clearly a series that relies a lot on Japanese references and puns that the fansubbers who translated the token episode didn't bother with ; plenty of it flies right above my head. And I suspect the novelty value would wear off quickly, as this looks like a very repetitive show. So while I've enjoyed a decent chunk of this, and I'm grateful this project has exposed me to such an oddity, I'm not too broken up over the non-availability of the rest of it.

It does get me more interested in this year's Yatterman revival, though.
 

Jhiday

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[#18] Transformers: Robots in Disguise (Transformers: Car Robots)
(39 episodes)

What's it about ?

Do I really need to give an overview of the Transformers franchise ?

As far as this series goes, it's a complete re-imagining of the concept, divorced from any of the previous animated series ; it got retooled a bit for the US broadcast in 2001. And that is what I'm watching, as I couldn't find the version that went on Japanese airwaves.

Characters

Megatron, leader of the Predacons (no, not the Decepticons) is an EVIL tyrant from space who wants to conquer Earth and drain its energy. Oh, and he's a transforming machine, of course.

Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, is here to show that not all transforming machines are evil ! They'll fight Megatron and his henchmachines ! (The fact that not only have they infiltrated Earth, disguised as common vehicles, but also set up a secret network of tunnels that allow them to go anywhere in the world, is not creepy at all.)

Dr Onishi is the leading human authority on energy (and archaeology, because one needs hobby) ; he attends some world conference in the US and gets targeted by Megatron. Being a good man, he refuses to cooperate.

Koji, his son, is obviously distressed seeing his dad being captured on live TV. (Er, why are you calling his cell ? And how the heck is he answering ? Is Megatron patiently waiting while the professor takes the call ?) I have no clue why Megatron goes to the trouble of retrieving the kid in Japan and bringing him to the attack's location, as he's worse than useless.

Production Values

Decent enough ; I presume the weird background music and the clunky CG transitions were added for the US version, as they don't fit well.

Overall Impression

... Why does the English dub sounds like it's voiced by LittleKuriboh ?

Seriously, this is full of terrible acting, always on the verge of underlining on the plot holes, but not enough for it to feel deliberate. And dear gods, are there many plot holes indeed ; it's hard to take what's happening seriously.

I have better things to do than spend hours mock-watching this crap, however unintentionally hilarious it might be.
 

Bag of Magic Food

Still captured by Lothor
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Okay, I heard of this one, but I never really watched it; I think Armada was the show I managed to catch a few episodes of, which brought back the Beast Wars cast for dubbing so that Optimus Primal's voice was Optimus Prime and Megatron was Megatron too. :) But lately I've been tempted to find copies of Robots in Disguise after hearing that it's one of the few Transformers series not to have any home video release along with the Japanese Beast Wars. I've also heard the next Transformers series is also going to be called "Robots in Disguise", so that could really supplant the memory of the 2000 one.
 

Dawgstar

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... Why does the English dub sounds like it's voiced by LittleKuriboh ?

Seriously, this is full of terrible acting, always on the verge of underlining on the plot holes, but not enough for it to feel deliberate. And dear gods, are there many plot holes indeed ; it's hard to take what's happening seriously.

I have better things to do than spend hours mock-watching this crap, however unintentionally hilarious it might be.
Robots in Disguise did not have a particularly involved localization process. They wanted that stuff out the door as soon as possible. The scripts were (more or less) accurate, which does give it a leg up on the dubbed Transformers series that followed. Sort of.
 

Jhiday

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[#19] Sakura Wars (Sakura Taisen)
(25 episodes + tons of OAV spin-offs)

What's it about ?

Adaptation of (a series of) videogames, part tactical-RPG, part dating sim. It's set in an alternate version of 1920s Japan that has gone in a decidedly steampunk route.

Characters

Sakura, our protagonist, is a country bumpkin and a new recruit to the Imperial Floral Division, part of the forces defending the capital against... some offscreen "evil" forces we have no real exposure to yet. Sure, she's clumsy and has trouble following instructions, but she compensates it with overenthusiasm (which often gets her into more trouble). But she's completely nonplussed when she arrives at the rendezvous point : why do headquarters look like a theatre ? Why are her new teammates performing a play ? (That she proceeds to make a mess out of, of course.)

Said teammates :
- Maria, the taciturn one who thinks the newbie won't cut it and thus won't bother talking to her
- Iris, the creepy kid who talks to her teddybear
- Sumire, the "star" who takes personal offense at Sakura's bumbling (which gets worse as she tries to apologize)
aren't very welcoming, to be polite. While they may be overreacting, you can see their points.

The brass, on the other hand, are delighted by Sakura's arrival. Sure, there might be some initial problems, but she's from a famous and powerful lineage, we need her... Oh dear gods her aura's so powerful it made the mecha in the basement randomly activate, traumatizing her. (And of course it's Sumire's mecha that gets trashed.)

I think there are more members due to join the team soon, given the OP & ED sequences.

Production Values

This looks quite good indeed : nice animation, and lots of attention to detail to sketch out this past Tokyo with some good verisimilitude.

Overall Impression

Well, I didn't expect this : a non-standard setting, with a very weird setup that leaves me more intrigued than frustrated by the lack of explanation for it. The characters are sketched enough not to be annoying, and it does have the budget to support its ambition.

I want to know what's going on here, and to watch more of this. Mission accomplished, then : I'll pretty sure I'll come back to this series later this year.
 

Dawgstar

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Overall Impression

Well, I didn't expect this : a non-standard setting, with a very weird setup that leaves me more intrigued than frustrated by the lack of explanation for it. The characters are sketched enough not to be annoying, and it does have the budget to support its ambition.

I want to know what's going on here, and to watch more of this. Mission accomplished, then : I'll pretty sure I'll come back to this series later this year.
Sakura Wars - you can get yelled at if you don't call it Sakura Taisen in parts of the internet - is really interesting. It was a really big deal in Japan at the time, which explains its budget. I'm pretty sure the voice actors did one of those live-action musical things. There was also a themed resteraunt. Sadly the only attempt at localizing a game, which is the franchise's focus, sold really poorly here. I mean, I got one, but really poorly. They're an interesting blend of a dating sim and turn-based strategy.
 

Aikireikinu

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Sakura Wars - you can get yelled at if you don't call it Sakura Taisen in parts of the internet - is really interesting. It was a really big deal in Japan at the time, which explains its budget. I'm pretty sure the voice actors did one of those live-action musical things. There was also a themed resteraunt. Sadly the only attempt at localizing a game, which is the franchise's focus, sold really poorly here. I mean, I got one, but really poorly. They're an interesting blend of a dating sim and turn-based strategy.
I really liked this show, and it certainly motivated me to get the one Sakura Wars game for the PS2 that made it to the US (I sprung for the pre-order edition that came with a very nice hardcover art book), which I also really enjoyed.
 

Dawgstar

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I really liked this show, and it certainly motivated me to get the one Sakura Wars game for the PS2 that made it to the US (I sprung for the pre-order edition that came with a very nice hardcover art book), which I also really enjoyed.
Yeah. It was fun, but a hard sell to the average gamer, I expect. I wonder how it would do today with Steam and everything.
 
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