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Posts Tagged ‘drama’

This is probably the best Studio Ghibli film, all things considered. It’s not the most emotional, but it is emotional; it’s one of the best drawn; the music is effective and it hits the late 1960’s vibe dead-on — and the ending song is awesome. The characters are sharply-defined; the pacing and the plotting are appropriate to the length of the film; it ends convincingly, and it celebrates in that characteristic Japanese way, the beauty of the past. Thematically, it is a poignant love story that leverages the past, a period romance if you will. No profanities, and no immorality. The only weakness is that it provides no eternal resonance, aside from a few nods to the great ideas of the past, late in the film. From Up on Poppy Hill isn’t iconic, but it is consistently good on (nearly) all fronts. It’s worth watching a few times.


Umi


Shun’s tugboat

The fansubbing is decent, but not excellent. For example, I noticed a few strange moments where the English translation is ruder than the Japanese. In one scene the literal Japanese is “Ok, see you!” and the translation is “Suit yourself.” But the FSG did capture the essential spirit of the dialog. I’d be interested to see if anyone else translates this and what their take is.

Fansubbed by NODLABS. Download from the torrent hole of your choice.

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Casshern: SINS is a tale set in a robotic dystopia. Humans are few; robots are everywhere, and the slow and sure hand of ruin breaks them down a little each day until they finally die. The world is a wasteland, filled with decayed structures, cliffs, and deserts. It is a beautifully gothic landscape, drawn and animated with care and skill. The plot, however, wanders, lurches, and doesn’t build on what happened in previous episodes. (The animation/artwork is top-notch because it’s from MadHouse studios, the same folks that brought us Gunslinger Girl v1).

* 1-2 Awesome
3 A low point. Profanity and possibly moral relativism, but it’s still gothic-esque.
4 Dumb, but not as dumb as 3. Some arguably risque` material. I’m getting sick of each episode not being connected with the others. What happened to Friender, anyways?
* 5 Epic and beautifully dark. Here we find out more about Casshern. We see Apple (Ringo) again from episode 1, and also the mysterious chick in ep 1 and 2. Friender returns and the relationship between him and Casshern gets more depth. Several things are tied together, and why Casshern enters battle lust is hinted at. One profanity.
6 Very good, but the questioning about Casshern’s nature is getting kinda old by this point. The relationships of various people to Casshern is explored a bit more.
7 Pretty much the same as 6.
8 Boring. Geez. Where is the continuity between episodes? Every episode is the same recently, where Casshern comes to a new place, finds a new person, and then leaves at the end. It’s become a formula.
9 Starts off boring, but gets better when Ringo, Boulden, and Lezko show up, tying together some plot threads. Now Casshern has a purpose. Amazing artwork, as usual.
10 Odd. Casshern doesn’t show up until the end and then he just walks — no speaking part at all. Beautiful gothic scenery, but the plot is glacial. One or two profanities. I still don’t get why everyone trusts in the rumor that Luna is alive — isn’t that just as unreliable as the rumor that killing Casshern will give you eternal life?
11 It’s ok, but the formula is wearing thin. Casshern meets people, they discuss eating him, and they decide not to. One or two profanities.
12 Same as 11. Forgettable.
* 13 Excellent. More is revealed.
14 Ok. It seems to be a rehashing of previous themes, but something very important is revealed.
15-17 Nothing special.
* 18 What the heck? This is the strangest episode — deep, and bizarre. There’s also some sexual references that are wildly out-of-place for this series, though it’s not crude, but earthy, and about as tasteful as you can get. I’m still shocked and more than a little surprised by that, but the rest of it is completely weird, on a level like TZ or Twin Peaks.
19 Ok, semi-strange. The ending conclusion tanks, though. If that’s all you have to live for, that’s really no reason at all.
* 20 Bizarre, disturbing, and has an epic feel. There’s got to be more to the story; I can’t buy that that’s really Luna. Excellent music.
21 Typical Japanese mental head-games. Totally unnecessary episode and what Casshern does at the end doesn’t even make sense.
22 Forgettable
23 Decent. Some deep stuff here. Apparently when Casshern went to kill Luna, that action changed them both. That’s the only thing that makes sense when I look at Luna, especially given her actions. It feels a little bit odd, somehow. I guess the next episode will be the last.
24 Eeh. I can’t deny that the artwork and animation are fantastic and gripping, emotionally. But the plot founders and the resolution is weak. The whole problem is that Casshern’s decision isn’t really backed up by everything he’s experienced and the important stuff isn’t even hinted at until this episode. Plus, Lyuze dies without ever saying how she feels about Casshern, and he never tells her. Even Ringo’s parentage is left up in the air. The last minute or so tries desperately to save the ending, but it’s just not enough.

So is it worth watching? About six episodes are, yeah, but when a series sets its sights high and doesn’t deliver, it’s much worse than a lame series that doesn’t try. Casshern is a tragedy by that measurement. It promised great things and delivered them only occasionally.

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Saiunkoku Monogatari (Season II) (official site) is the story of Shurrei, adolescent head of one the land’s powerful ruling families. She is the governor of one particular section of the country. The series revolves around feudal Japanese-esque court intrigue, Shurrei’s life goals, and whether she loves Ryuuki or not. She is a workaholic and oblivious to the men around her. Towards the end, the series shifts its attention to Ryuuki and how he grows into the role of Emperor. If I had to class this, I’d say it falls in the shoujo camp, but the historical accuracy, humor, and subplots that crop up keep it fresh and interesting. Bonus: the opening theme is better than average, and the ending theme (“Asu he” by Teruya Miho) is breathtakingly beautiful.

There aren’t any positive references to God or intimations of Christianity here, although there are some areas of common grace touched upon. Most of the characters are generally moral. Praise of a central government crops up from time to time which proves annoying, but it stops just short of a liberal position. Rare profanities, even rarer risque` bits. The music ranges all over the map, from just short of heartbreaking to poor and is often either orchestral or traditional Japanese pastoral music. There’s usually a fair amount of humor, however, the pace tends to be drawn out.

The characterization and music quality are higher in the first half of this series than in the second half. It suffers from the usual anime` sag (where the middle episodes are less polished than the early and ending episodes), though not to the extreme as Toradora did. It’s more like the sheen disappears.

Episode 1 — Good +. Strong music; a small recap of the emperor’s relationship with Shurrei, and a whirlwind tour of Shurrei’s many relationships. Pretty funny.

* Episode 2 — Very good. Eigetsu, the co-governor of Sasshu with Shurrei, relates his history and we learn about Doushu-sama. Shurrei’s work with getting a research facility comes to the fore. Good music and towards the end, doomy and tragic.

* Episode 3 — Very good. Intro Ryuuren. A good blend of humor, sturm-und-drang, and doom. Just the right amount of plot complexity.

Episode 4 — Almost very good. The relationships between the characters are well-done –intriguing and humorous. Not too emotional; good music; ends with a cliff-hanger.

* Episode 5 — Very good. Tense. A crushing scene between Eigetsu and Kourrin, which is one of the reasons why the series is good — Eigetsu’s doomed state, yet his desire to live life to the highest good that he knows, Kourin’s fatal love for him, and Dousha’s nearly Christian outlook. An effective ending.

* Episode 6 — Very good, and even more tense than last time. The emotional landscape is not sorrowful, but just that of being placed between a vise and being squeezed. Some humor, but not enough to dispel the atmosphere.

* Episode 7 — Very good. No great sorrows or romance, but a tight plot, just the right amount of complexity, people working together to achieve great things. A fantastic episode, just shy of being excellent.

* Episode 8 — Excellent. You feel a deep twining with Shurrei and want to see her succeed against the odds. The plot is never slow and never too hard to follow; emotions suffuse every scene, from raw courage to longing to sorrow at parting. Quality music as well. This is a high point of the series and the episode by which all others should be judged.

Episode 9 — Very good. Another tense one, with more info about Eigetsu’s past. Kinda freaky in places. Not terribly emotional, but worth watching all the same.

Episode 10 — Just shy of very good. The plot threads are being brought together tightly, and you can feel the magnitude of what they’re trying to achieve, with the distinct possibility that it will come at great cost. One profanity. One of the strengths of the early episodes is that Shurrei’s dad does the narration that stitches together the plot. This device helps explain what’s going on and when it’s abandoned, it’s harder to follow. The emphasis on solidarity of mankind is a cool theme here. We get to see more of Korin, but not enough for my tastes. The ending is just cheezy though.

Episode 11 — Good. Some great parts; some lame parts. A touching scene with Shurran and her mother with some beautiful atmospheric piano music. A stupid recap of the ending of the previous episode, which goes on for nearly three minutes. The scene where Shurran stops the crowd of murderous men is shot-through with emotion. Some stupid preachment about how giving birth means that you’re unwilling to kill if necessary — never mind that some of the coldest murderers in history have been women (remember Andrea Yates?).

* Episode 12 — Excellent. Very serious; heavy, reflected by the somber Classical string music. The scene with the villager woman and her suffering child might bring tears to your eyes. Courage in the face of a difficult situation is on display, and it is heartwarming. Two profanities. This episode radiates courage; it’s inspiring. A positive reference to prayer as well.

Episode 13 — Good. It’s interesting, but lower-key. It’s like the pieces are being moved into place, though there is an emotional scene with Yougetsu. It’s a cool scene when Shurran finds Kourin, too. The ending is piercing.

Episode 14 — OK. Some touching scenes with Kourin, but too slow and overdramatic in places. A handful of profanities. Two minutes or so spent on recaps.

Episode 15 — OK. Takes too long to unwind, although there are some cute and/or emotional parts. It’s just not as consistent throughout, like say episode 12. Some parts are boring. Some profanities.

Episode 16 — Good. It’s interesting, but lower key than usual. High point is Eigetsu’s return. A few moments of humor, but it’s another “moving the pieces into position” episode. Two profanities.

* Episode 17 — Very good. The pace is slice-of-life, but it’s not boring. More than a few touching scenes, but they’re real and not sappy. A rare look at Shurrei’s emotions. I think this is the ending of the first half of the season.

Episode 18 — Unnecessary. Recaps season II thus far. Skip it.

Episode 19 — Poor. Dumb risque` junk.

Episode 20 — Poor. Dumb risque` junk.

Episode 21 — Decent. Some humor; plays out like a detective story, so most of the time you’re scratching your head. A few profanities.

* Episode 22 — Very good. Humor, plot threads coming together, drama, emotions, and even a hint of romance between Shurrei and the emperor. As is typical for this series, the number of characters and their interrelationships is complicated and perhaps something that the male mind just isn’t cut out for. So us guys may have to watch it a few times to get it all. One cuss word.

Episode 23 — Average. Some dumb risque` stuff, Tan-tan as a moral relativist, and really not much else of note.

Episode 24 — Average. Pretty much a clone of the last episode, though we learn more about Tan-tan. The music sucks.

Episode 25 — Good; a return to form. Emotions are present, and the plot thickens.

Episode 26 — OK. Nice plot twists. Not too emotional.

Episode 27 — Average. Another recap episode, with about two minutes of new character development.

Episode 28 — OK. A few profanities. Just kinda there, although Jysuumie seems to be an interesting character.

Episode 29 — Fair. Some emotions, but the complexity makes it hard to relate to.

Episode 30 — Poor. Some cool freaky harp music; one profanity. Some tension, but Seiga is obnoxious. In fact, Seiga nearly rapes Shurrei. This is treated not with the seriousness that it deserves.

Episode 31 — Decent. Two profanities. Even after seeing it multiple times, it still doesn’t make sense, though. Some freaky music featuring echoing bells.

Episode 32 — A pretty good episode. Two profanities. Some of the plot threads are tied together and emotions are present.

Episode 33 — Decent. Low-key, but it takes a turn towards the Romantic towards the end. Emotions have been missing lately from this series.

Episode 34 — Confusing. We catch some of Shurrei’s emotions, but these are still not really explained. Sure, she’s sad that the Emperor has someone to talk to besides her, but why doesn’t she admit how she feels about him? She’s been pushing him away for 34 episodes and all of season one!

Episode 35 — Confusing, but a few interesting parts. One part where the Emperor and Jyusamie catch each other dreaming, both mistaking one another for someone that they love. Jyusamie makes a good point that loving someone doesn’t make you happy. That’s an interesting observation, and one that actually undergirds the entire series. The Emperor isn’t happy; Ran Shogun isn’t happy; Shurrei’s father isn’t happy; Jyusamie’s not happy. Suushi isn’t happy. Jin sure isn’t happy. It seems that the only people who are happy are those who don’t let themselves fall in love.

Episode 36 — Good. Finally an episode that makes sense the first time through. This provides a thorough summarization of the Emperor and Shuurei’s relationship up until now. It covers a lot of scenes from the first series, which I haven’t seen and aren’t available in torrents anymore.

Episode 37 — Good +. Quite a bit of emotion. Two profanities. Plot threads are tied together.

* Episode 38 — Somewhere between good and very good. Another one that makes sense; this ties up some plot threads convincingly and has an overall feel of charming sweetness. No profanities.

* Episode 39 — End of season two. Very good, but not perfect. Everything wraps up, but it does so so quickly that you’re left wondering, “Why did they make us wait all this time?” Finally the Emperor tells Shuurei how he feels. I feel a bit jerked around, here, because after all this time, he’s still pursuing her with just about no encouragement from her part. His words ring true — he’s the only one who could love her (Shurrei) and she doesn’t even recognize it.

For your downloading pleasure (English subs):
Animanda or C1

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Today, Toradora! (official site in Japanese) jumped the shark. Episode 16 captures why the show has a heart of tin — not gold, not silver, not even brass, but tin. It combines together the most dramatic (and often ridiculous) moments of high school with overly-sentimental emotions, long plots where important things are hidden from the audience for the sake of making the plot longer, stupid amounts of profanities, poor animation quality, pervy and prurient moments, all of which results in a warm, mottled, mess not unlike vomit.

When the series succeeds, it does so by tamping down or eliminating some of its excesses, but these keep cropping up like a bad case of jock itch. Yes, jock itch, because once you scratch it, it feels good, but you’re still infected. So I can’t recommend this series except as an exercise in self-torture. The promises bestowed by the initial two episodes and referenced occasionally further in are never realized, and the innocence gives way to distracted horndogia. It’s just not worth the effort anymore, and I can’t keep ignoring the fact that the show gets it wrong far more often than it gets it right. Here’s a short summary guide for the first 16 episodes (season 1 + partial of season 2).

* Episode 1 and 2 — Classic, innocent, great. (Ep 2 starts with the dark/prurient intro which has jack to do with the show. Skip it. The ending song/sequence is much more faithful to the heart of the show).
Episode 3 — Fleshy, lame language, retarded risque` stuff, about 1 minute of good stuff.
Episode 4 — Eeh, ok. It’s not dumb like episode 3, and there’s more background on Tiaga, but not a lot happens here. There’s one emotional scene at the end, but that’s it.
Episode 5 — Another middling episode. No profanity or risque` stuff this time, but neither is there anything really emotional. Ami shows up and there’s some plot complications because of it. One cute scene where Taiga and Ryuji get mistaken for bf/gf.
Episode 6 — Pretty much the same as last time. Too much time spent on Ami, when she’s an unlikeable character. Ends with a cliffhanger. Next episode looks really lame.
Episode 7 — I’m afraid that the series has tanked for good. Profanities, retarded and typical school risque` scenes aimed at dumb horny teenage males. I’ll give the show one more chance and then that’s it. I hate Ami as a character and I have no idea why so much time is spent on her.
Episode 8 — Half-good. Some of the innocent teenage romance that appeared in ep 1-2 returns, effectively saving the series. Still, there are stupid parts that make me wonder if I’m just being jerked around. Tiaga reveals how she feels about Ryuji, here, although not exactly. He’s way too subservient, though. I’d have told her to get lost a long time ago.
Episode 9 — Worthless. Two profanities and lots of risque` scenes.
* Episode 10 — Two profanities, one scene involving risque` material, but Ryuji turns her down. There’s a lot of character development here and the series gets emotionally complex. It’s a worthy episode with the exception of the risque scene which could have been handled a lot more maturely, despite Ryuji’s correct actions.
Episode 11 — Worthless. Tons of profanities. The quality of this series is ridiculously variable.
* Episode 12 — Very very good. Four profanities. Tons of character development. Why can’t every episode be like this one? Why is the quality so variable from episode to episode? I mean, they started out in ep 11 by rehashing a familiar theme — the hs cultural festival, and treated it lamely. Here, they imbue with all of the togetherness and romantic conflicts that lift it above the de riguer treatment they just gave it. Once again, the characters are real, honest, and 3-D, even Ami.
Episode 13 — Fair. One profanity, and one stupid risque` thing. What Minori says is questionable, but you can see it as just her trying to put a name to the way she feels when someone else has her friends’ attention. It is a great thing to see Taiga happy and to see her dance with Kitomara.
Episode 14 — Below average. There’s some character development, but not much given the length of the episode. Way too many profanities. Here it’s pretty much confirmed that Ami wants what she can’t have — Ryuji.
* Episode 15 — A complex and emotional episode that reminds me distantly of the original To Heart series. One profanity. One risque thing at the very beginning. It’s worth watching a few times to have it all soak in. There’s many things going that we aren’t given the motives for, which feels a bit like bait-and-switch, though. Everyone seems to have a hidden motive but Ryuji.

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This is an interesting series; it’s based on the series of books by L.M Montgomery, and if you’ve read Anne of Green Gables, then you know what’s coming your way — tales of provincial Canada around the turn of the 19th century, filled with innocence and Romanticism. With that in mind, there’s little objectionable material here, except for some profanities that show up once in a blue moon.

The animation quality here isn’t the greatest, but it does reflect the spirit (I’m guessing) of the books. Emily could be drawn a little bit more attractively at times, but you get used to it. The voice acting leaves you with no complaints. The intro and outro songs are disposable, but the music used within each episode is high-quality, and the recurring musical themes are unforgettable. The funny thing is that this feels like an 1800’s shoujo series with the bright colors, and you do see some Japanese facial expressions and modern cultural slang that are totally out of place, but the heart remains. It’s not spiked with shoujo dazzle like say Skip Beat, but you can still tell that is aimed at pre-teen girls. However, it is a lot deeper than those series because of the source material.

The animation isn’t the most detailed, but the use of color and light is outstanding. The episodes get better upon repeated viewings, and work even better when you watch them one after another (unlike most anime` which is filled with excessively long recaps for the first minute of the show). Here, the recaps are short and sweet. The music and fx are orchestral and well-done, with only occasional excesses or off moments. Recommended for all fans of 1800’s/turn of the century literature.

1 Kicks things off with a bang, and we get to see a lot of Emily’s spirit. High emotions. Very good.
2 Emotional, but not as gripping as ep 1. It’s still quite good.
3 Very good, but just shy of 1 and 4. The conflicts with Elsie and the relationships among girls are timeless — some things never do change. The music when they meet Teddy is off.
4 Interesting throughout. Here a lot of the plot threads come together. One of the best so far.
5 Ok. Kinda ordinary, but there are some moments of foreshadowing that are interesting and make you wonder how they will play out.
6 Fantastic episode. Drama, innocence, and lots of emotions. This episode captures the heartbreakingly innocent spirit of L.M Montgomery’s works.
7 Ok. Not bad, but not a stand-out episode. A few moments that capture your attention, though.
8 Some great emotions, but gets a little maudlin towards the end. The use of color is fantastic, and I think we see some CGI stuff show up for the first time. I’m bummed how the episodes now seem to be stand-alone and don’t connect to each other anymore.
9 Eeh. Some profanities, no real character development except for the very end.
10 Ok, a little curious. Does Emily realize what she’s saying when she talks about building a future with Teddy? Does he?
11 Eeh.
12 Good, but an overly-sentimental scene towards the end between Emily and Jimmy. It’s another self-contained episode without any character development, really.
13 A little bit of character development, some emotions, but overall too schmaltzy. We do see where the romance is headed though, and I’m already starting to feel badly for the boys — one of them is sure to fail.
14 Ok, some character development.
15 A little bit better than 14. This one is a little bit spooky/eerie.
16 Finally, another excellent episode. I was beginning to despair. Character development, in unexpected ways, and full of emotions, and even some mystery. A positive portrayal of faith. One profanity (perhaps a mistranslation?).
17 Good. A stand-alone episode, but very emotional.
18 Excellent. High emotions, humor, and justice. One profanity.
19 Excellent.
20 Excellent. Heart-rending. Did you think that Aunt Elizabeth could cry?
21 Good. Warm. Kind of low key.
22 Excellent. One profanity, which I believe is a mistranslation (“nondayo” at least in what I’ve seen elsewhere is an emphatic “why” but does not imply cursing). Tons of emotions accentuated by orchestral music and character development. In short, this episode is the reason why the series is good.
23 Another excellent episode, building from bittersweet longing to a heartbreaking dramatic ending.
24 Crushing. Devastating. This might well make you cry.
25. Possibly the most emotional episode in the whole series. This will make you cry. The only thing that keeps it shy of perfection is a lack of divine themes.
26. The series ends, as it must, but it does end convincingly happily. It’s not fake or rushed. It’s not completely predictable either. You’re left with longing and a sense of timeless, piercing beauty. Also, make sure you watch all the way to the end for the closing scene, which is a nice touch.

This is one of the best anime` series I have ever seen, and it earns a spot in my hall of fame.

For your downloading pleasure:

Digital Panic

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One thing I’ve discovered is generally anime` based on games are nothing but disappointment squared. Sure, there are exceptions, but Gunparade Orchestra, sadly, is not one of them. The structure of the series is to blame, because it starts over with a new set of characters every nine episodes, so by the time you’ve gotten to know Sara and the rest, it’s time to begin again. Not only that, but the characterization and plots get markedly worse after episode eight, so even if you stick around, there’s nothing to see. I understand now why Conclave stopped after ep. 8.

This leaves me in a strange position. I truly enjoyed the first chapter (ep 1-9) , but I couldn’t get into the rest of the series for the aforementioned reasons. So I’ll just give my short review of ep 1-9 and tell you where you can get them. Fair?

Gunparade Orchestra is, in the words of some anime` site I’ve forgotten, a mecha/comedy/drama/romance/slice-of-life series, and it’s one of the rare ones that works. The first nine episodes are more than competent. The animation is well-done, the music is used appropriately (and itself is better than average); the dialog is tight, and the characters, sharply defined and interesting. The Hard-boiled Penguin rocks! Additionally, the balance between serious emotions and humor is carried off effectively. It’s never artificial or unreal.

There’s usually a few profanities per episode if that, and only rarely something risque`. While there are no theological themes as such, God is referenced positively on a few occasions, and common themes are the importance of heroism, respect, life being about more than your job — putting first things first.

Ep 1 — Very good. You get to know Sara Ishida and are introduced to the dysfunctional company. A few unnecessary profanities. You have to do research or have watched Gunparade March to understand the world and the Phantom Beasts, though because the series assumes you’re already familiar with it. Alternately, you can watch the episode a few times. 🙂 The intro song is great.

Ep 2 — Very good. More background on Sara and mutiny simmers just beneath the surface. Tense ending. One profanity.

Ep 3 — Very good. Tense.

Ep 4 — Excellent. Emotional.

Ep 5 — Good. Origin of the phrase “muscles mean justice”. Several profanities but a dramatic (in the good sense) plot and emotional tension.

Ep 6 — Good. Interesting plot. The origin of the phrase “Total victory over public baths.” Humorous and victorious. One risque` scene, and more profanities than usual.

Ep 7 — Excellent.

Ep 8 — Very good. Several profanities, though. Tight plot, and the company finally comes to respect Sara’s leadership.

Ep 9 — Just OK. Long fight scenes can be boring and this one is. The very end is moderately good in that it provides some closure, but you still care about the characters and this is the last you’ll ever see of them — so in that sense, it’s the worst possible ending. Their story ends here.

Episodes 1-8: Conclave
Episodes 1-24: Gunparade Orchestra on isohunt

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