[LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond

NPC New World Order

Grand Moff
Validated User
Re: Michiko e Hatchin

You started with Monster, so I'm going to have to recommend Master Keaton. It doesn't have the overarching story that Monster does, but that means that there's less of the stuff that you didn't like about Monster. Another show by Naoki Urasawa, the story revolves around a man who's an insurance investigator for Lloyds of London who was a former member of the SAS, but studies and dreams of being an archeologist. It's a show that could easily be live action rather than animated, Urasawa's love of history shines through in almost every episode.
 

JELEINEN

Sizzler Black Squadron
Validated User
Re: Michiko e Hatchin

Aside from Flag (which burdens the shelf of my local retailer with a dozen copies), I've indeed never heard of any of those. Care to elaborate a bit on the genres involved ?
Fantastic Children is about a group of sort of lost souls who reincarnate in the bodies of children every hundred years or so searching for another soul. It was made by Nippon Animation and is very reminiscent of their 70s stuff. Really well done, but it is a tragedy, so be warned.

Kaze Makase Tsukikage Ran (released in the US as Wandering in the Wind Tsukikage Ran, not sure about the UK) is about a female ronin during the Sengoku Jidai. It's not high art, but I liked the characters, the fights were great and the music was good (I guess depending on your opinion of enka).

Kachou Ouji (Section Chief Ouji, or released here as The Legend of Black Heaven) is about a middle aged, middle management office worker who used to be in a rock band. Just as he's going through his mid-life crisis, he's contacted by aliens who need his music to power their weapons.

Omishi Magical Theater Risky Safety is about a depressed girl who's mental state summons a shinegami named Risky who's job is to try to convince her to just give up and end it all, and Safety, an angel who's there to convince her otherwise (the two beings share the same body for reasons explained in the show). It's cute and very funny. It was an Anime Complex show, so the episodes are only about 10 minutes long.

You started with Monster, so I'm going to have to recommend Master Keaton. It doesn't have the overarching story that Monster does, but that means that there's less of the stuff that you didn't like about Monster. Another show by Naoki Urasawa, the story revolves around a man who's an insurance investigator for Lloyds of London who was a former member of the SAS, but studies and dreams of being an archeologist. It's a show that could easily be live action rather than animated, Urasawa's love of history shines through in almost every episode.
Oh definitely yes. In fact, I need to finish this one myself. It's slightly outside your episode count range (39 episodes), but what I've seen is great. It's episodic and there's a lot of slice of life episodes in it.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Re: Michiko e Hatchin

Yeah. I really wanted to like it, but there's no salvaging the inanity of the plot.

Master Keaton sounds like my kind of thing. I didn't mention 39-episode-long series as "acceptable" because they're so rare, but they just skate in within my limit. I'll probably look into the other ones in due time.


And now, for something completely different...

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Crying Freeman
(6 52-minute OVA, 1988 to 1994)

My previous exposure :
I stumbled on the first three episodes while channel-surfing on late-night TV as a young'un (despite being somewhat under the advised age). It left quite an impression, to the point that I'm now revisiting it properly despite it being quite outside my advertised preferred time period. Oh, well.

What's it about ?

The assassin codenamed Crying Freeman used to be an ordinary Japanese potter until he stumbled onto proof of the Chinese Mafia's bad deeds, and was foolish enough to take them on. The organization (called "the 108 dragons") in retaliation brainwashes him into the ultimate assassin, leaving him the only freedom of crying in despair after he kills someone. (The "Freeman" part is obviously ironic.) Years later, history repeats itself as a young woman called Emu stumbles onto one of his assassinations, and as a crucial witness becomes a hostage between the ambitions of the police, the 108 Dragons and the Japanese mafia. When Freeman goes and tries to assassinate her, she just has one wish : she doesn't want to die a virgin...

At least, that's the initial plot of the first OVA. You'd normally expect some standard "having sex breaks Freeman's conditioning and he rebels against the 108 Dragons" plot... but that's not what happens next at all. The 108 dragons are a surprisingly accepting bunch, see no problem in sparing Emu, and even promote the two of them to being the new leaders of the group at the beginning of Episode #2. To say that it's a jarring change of gears is a grand understatement ; and it's not for the better, as much of the ambiguity and tragedy of the original premise goes right out of the window as Freeman basically becomes a generic 90s antihero.

... Who likes to fight in the buff. Not only is it a very bloody series with tons of graphic violence, but there's also a lot of nudity and it often veers into softcore porn. Not exactly the kind of stuff young!me was supposed to be watching at that age...

What did I think of it ?

There's no two ways about it : it's a trainwreck. But at least it's an (unintentionally) hilarious one, so I didn't mind spending a few hours revisiting it.

As stated above, it has the germs of an interesting (if somewhat well-troden) premise, but it then chooses to completely disregard it in favour of something much more bizarre. Shifting Freeman into a position of leadership is just a baffling move (especially since he's a Japanese outsider in a Chinese organization), and it's thus no surprise that one of the major leaders balks and betrays the 108 Dragons immediately. (Of course, the dude then allies with the Camora, who immediately backstabs him, but that's the kind of things that happen.) Even more surprising is the introduction of Bayasan, the obese adult womanchild and black sheep of the 108 Dragons who tries to wrestle the organization's control. She fails, obviously, but there's something endearing about her incompetent enthusiasm. And she sticks around as comic relief, which contributes to make some of the latter episodes less boring (if not actually funny - this series can't really do humour).

The most bizarre episode is probably the third, because of its weird pacing : at its heart, it tries to transition Emu into less of a damsel in distress, by giving her some training and having her pick up a magic evil sword... but then in the middle we get 35 minutes of Freeman fighting a random African crime syndicate (who tries to hijack a plane he just happened to be on), and in the process sleeping with two other women (one of whom permanently joins his harem). And it's not even the most sexist episode (it's a toss-up between rape-tastic #4 and evil!self-made-woman-who-spends-all-her-screentime-masturbating-at-Freeman #5).

Another weird thing about the series is that the 108 Dragons are suddenly whitewashed into being a somewhat honourable group, despite all the assassinating going around in the first episode (and the leader of the Japanese Mafia pointing out that they don't deal drugs, unlike that Chinese scum !). From then on, it's just a series of rival groups trying to take them over. Episode #6 is the only other one where the 108 are depicted like an actual criminal group (although that's mostly slander by the bad guys of the day). Mostly, they've become passive and reactive, with an incredibly high internal body count for an organisation that was supposed to be so frightening in the first episode. This isn't a ringing endorsement for Freeman's leadership... (Although, conveniently, most of the old guard dies quite early on, so who'll complain ?)

This series is a mess on so many levels it's laughable. The plot makes no sense (and is inconsistent from one instalment to the other) ; Freeman as a character is stripped of all drama very early on, leaving the "Crying" gimmick as an artefact of a forgotten plotline. The artwork is very much a product of its time, stiff and emotionless. The fight scenes are okay, but hardly worth watching (and they progressively lose in creativity as the series goes on). The sex scenes aren't as gratuitous as they could be, but they're not of much interest either (and the sexism of the whole thing makes them all the less palatable).

If you're ever planning to watch this for a laugh, stick with the first three episodes. The last three are distinctively more boring, as the writers were clearly struggling to find new plots.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Bokurano

Bokurano
(26 episodes, 2007)

My previous exposure
None, besides the notion that it's supposed to be a very depressing story. Well, they weren't kidding...

What's it about ?

15 children attending a summer camp get invited by a shady scientist dude to "play a game" that involves using a giant robot to fight similar-looking invaders. Except it's not really a game at all, and the dude disappears right after the demo fight.

There's a helpful little flying mascot called "Dung Beetle" who gives the kids some tips, if by "helpful" you mean "relentlessly abusing them verbally", and by "tips", "misdirection and outright lies". Progressively, the ground rules become clearer : one kid at random (or is it ?) is selected for the next battle. If they lose, the Earth is destroyed. If they win, the kid dies because their mech used up their life energy. There are 15 enemies to fight in total, which makes it clear that the whole thing is a complete screwjob. (Oh, and that's without counting several of the later plot twists that make it even more horrific.)

This being on the more deconstructive side of storytelling, the authorities do take notice of the events and move in to take matters in hand, with various degrees of helpfulness and usefulness.

What did I think of it ?

Finally this thread reaches a series I genuinely enjoyed watching throughout, with barely a few nitpicks here and there. (Although, technically, it's the first one I finished watching - I saw it during my pause in the middle of Michiko e Hatchin.)

I like a lot of the visuals here, too. Particularly, the recurrent chair motif is very inspired indeed : it's otherwordly, it offers quick insights into each kid's character, and mostly it's just darn creepy. The mecha fights are a lot of fun to watch too, as great care was put into showing the effect of the physics-defying mecha's battles on the cityscapes they took place in. The scale and the absurdity of the conflict are sold very well, even before the stakes keep being raised.

The overarching plot may actually be the weakest part of the series. It's well-paced and there are a lot of fun twists along the way, but the "political conspiracy" thread completely peters out after a point... to say nothing of the huge plot holes along the way. (To be blunt : despite the children being supervised by the military, they're under ridiculously little oversight, especially after their handlers start going rogue.) But it doesn't really matter, given than it's a structural framework for what the series really is about : a set of character pieces about how kids from completely different backgrounds react to this blatantly absurd set up where they have to sacrifice themselves to save the world.

And on that level, it works perfectly. Oh, sure, it soon becomes obvious that when the focus fall on a particular kid, they're doomed to die by the end of the episode : points to the writers for playing with it a bit, but mostly for making it the core of the show : it doesn't matter when a kid is set to die, but how they cope with the advance knowledge of it. Do they go mad with the revelation ? Get overcome by denial ? Become plagued with apathy ? Try to do the "right" thing ? Make as much of their remaining time as possible ? Try and take advantage of their position ? Try to find a way to avoid their fate ? The whole gamut of possible reactions gets examined. It might strain disbelief a bit that nearly all the kids are crippled by personal and/or psychological issues, but then there are a few that seem mostly normal... and their own episodes are mostly opportunities to get the main plot moving.

This isn't a happy series, and the ending is a pyrrhic victory as best (although cheers for what happens to Dung Beetle - that asshole deserved it), but I still got out of it with hope for mankind... And that's key to why the series works so well.
 
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dshaffer

Pervy Catgirl Fancier
Validated User
Re: Bokurano

Michiko e Hatchin
A fictional version of Latin America (it looks a lot like Mexico to me), in the 60s or thereabout. One of the most disorientating aspects of the settings is that most of the major characters have Japanese first names, for some reason. It's really jarring, and doesn't help immersion one bit.
It's supposed to be Brazil, actually. That's why everything's in Portugese. Brazil also has a lot of people of Japanese ethnicity, for various reasons.

Bokurano
None, besides the notion that it's supposed to be a very depressing story. Well, they weren't kidding.
Would you believe the manga was even MORE depressing? The director is known for rather hating the original manga and making things a bit happier in the series.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Re: Bokurano

That's why everything's in Portugese.
Curse my inability to distinguish between Spanish and Portugese !

I still find the "Japanese first names" thing weird, though. Even discounting that these characters don't look of Japanese ethnicity to me (but hey, YMMW), usually you'd get Portuguese first names and Japanese last names (or both of the same nature), not the weird mix like here.

Would you believe the manga was even MORE depressing?
I'm not surprised, given what I've heard of it. (Although I've also heard it gives Dung Beetle some degree of redemption, an idea I'm not sure I care for. Akira Ishida is so good at voicing smug assholes...)


In other news, we're now reaching the end of my "backlog", stuff I saw very recently and could write in-depth reviews of. For the next ones, you'll have to wait until I actually finish watching something else, which could take a week or two.

But rejoice ! This weekend I made my quarterly trip to the local friendly deep-discount anime retailer. Aside from that shiny Haibane Renmei box I've had my eyes on for a while, I snagged a copy of Now and Then, Here and There. I rarely buy new stuff like that, but hey, it was less than 7€, so what the heck. (I also got for the same price one of the most intriguing alumni of my 2001 review thread.) Anyway, expect reviews of those... some time later this month, probably.
 

Calliope

Super Moderator
Moderator
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Re: Bokurano

Would you believe the manga was even MORE depressing?
Oh my, yes. Of course, that goes for pretty much everything that guy has ever written.

Which reminds me, I still need to finish the "Narutaru" manga...

Aside from that shiny Haibane Renmei box I've had my eyes on for a while, I snagged a copy of Now and Then, Here and There.
Heh, Bokurano and NTHT have a fair bit in common, tone-wise. Haibane Renmei isn't exactly a bucket of laughs either, but it's not as...bleak.
 

dshaffer

Pervy Catgirl Fancier
Validated User
While we're talking about cheerful series.

Gai-Rei Zero
Technically a prequel to a manga series, but you dont need to have seen that to follow along.
Gai-Rei Zero is a look into the total breakdown of a heroic individual, her corruption, and how her friends and companions try to deal with her now that she's a villain.

And for ACTUAL Cheerful series...
GaoGaiGar
An ode to everything Super Robot. It's the other show, besides Gurren Lagann, that was crafted as a bit of a responce to Evangelion and its deconstruction of Super Robot trends. Shouting attack names, hot blood and courage winning over evil, and giant robots. It's well loved by Super Robot fans for a reason.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
The Vision of Escaflowne (+ movie)

Although it may seem so given what I've reviewed so far, I'm not going out of my way to watch depressing stuff. It just so happens that it's not a kind of show I've watched much of until recently, so of course there's plenty of them to be found for this "catch-up" exercise... But happy or middle-of-the-road shows are perfectly welcome.

Heck, the next review I've planned is a comedy... mostly.... in-between the soul-crushing bits...

I'm not helping my case, am I ?


But before that, on with the 90s mecha show I alluded to a while ago...

---------------------------

The Vision of Escaflowne
(26 episodes, 1996 + 1 movie, 2000)

My previous exposure

This seems to be the first anime series I ever watched in full, as it aired on French TV in the late 90s. I hadn't rewatched it ever since, so I thought it'd be interesting to revisit it.

I'd never watched the movie until now, which allows it to barely squid under this thread's mission statement.

What's it about ?

Hitomi, an ordinary high-school girl with a gift for fortune-telling, gets suddenly brought by accident to the parallel world of Gaia (a blend of med-fan and steampunk) by Van Fanel, who was busy fighting a dragon as a rite of passage for becoming king of his country. Before anyone can settle down, said country gets destroyed by the big bad empire of Zaibacher, whose stealth mecha are way too powerful for the defensors to handle. So Hitomi and Van are on the run aboard Van's super-duper-special mecha Escaflowne (whose very existence was the reason Zaibacher attacked for the first place). Along the way, they gather a ragtag group of allies, most notably the litteral knight in shining armor Allen Schezar (and the crew of his flying ship).

This being at least partly a shoujo show, we get lots of Hitomi hesitating whether to pursue a romance with either Allen or Van. Gripping stuff.

The REAL plot of the show involves Zaibacher actually being a tool for Isaac Newton to create a big machine that alters fate and will allow him to recreate Atlantis. No, seriously. The series never quite recovers from that reveal, sadly.

What did I think of it ?

I have mixed feelings about this one.

At the heart of it is a very well-constructed, 16-episode-long chase scene. Despite being a bit repetitive ("Van & Hitomi arrive somewhere, they aren't really taken seriously, Zaibacher suddenly attacks and our heroes narrowly escape, usually with some more allies in tow" happens, what, five times in a row ?), it manages to showcase some interesting worldbuilding, develop the characters properly, progressively increase the stakes and build towards the big reveal. The fight scenes are mostly well-staged (except Ep #13, which is a bit of a mess), and made all the more thrilling by the top-notch soundtrack (probably the second-best Yoko Kanno has ever composed). It's hard not to get enthralled when the choirs start going "Es! ca! flow! ne !"...

And then the story stops dead on its tracks with the big reveal. Never mind that it's very stupid indeed ; that's not the problem, and to be fair the show had spent a lot of effort before that point to foreshadow it and make it somewhat believable. No, the big issue is that the story loses all momentum. Zaibacher stops being the implacable assaillant it's been up to now. Our heroes finally find a safe base or operations, just because (which is made worse by it being a place they've already visited and found hostile). The show never quite recovers from this, and ends on a whimper. (The climax includes a Van/Allen fight that just feels gratuitous and contrived.)

One subplot I find emblematic is Dilandau's fate. He's a great villain in the first half, chewing scenery with gusto and providing the heroes with somebody to fight. Then comes the progressive reveal that he's actually Allen's sister manipulated by Zaibacher's fate-altering machine... and okay, that mostly works in context, despite depriving us of a fun villain. But the finale has him reverting to the original with no memory and no real consequences (aside from setting up that half-assed Van/Allen fight), which just feel like a cheat. This lack of followthrough is pervasive throughout the last few episodes of the series, which alas contribute to bring the whole thing down.

There's a lot I like here... but I have this nagging feeling that a lot of it comes from the first-class soundtrack elevating it above what it really is.

What about the movie ?

The good part : it does away with most of the series' most questionable aspects. They've managed to completely write Zaibacher out, which is quite an achievement. Dilandau stays who he is throughout. The Van/Hitomi/Allen love triangle is completely absent (Allen has a smaller role, overall).

The bad part : it replaces it all with a by-the-numbers plot with nowhere near the same ambition as the original. To accomodate the plot, Hitomi starts off a lot whinier. And the worldbuilding is much less interesting, with the only flashes of interest coming from leftovers from the series.

But then, there's only so much you can do with a 95-minute movie. Unlike, say, RahXephon or TTGL, this movie doesn't even try to cover the same story as the series, and I can't really fault it for that. It's a pity it doesn't manage to build anything really worth watching instead, but I can't bring myself to hate it. It ain't horrible : the production values are obviously higher (although the character design has taken a turn for the worse - poor Merle !), the music is still ace, and the plot actually makes more sense... but at the cost of being very generic indeed.
 
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