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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

In this series, the animation is pastel, non-photorealistic, and bright; the tone is sarcastic, cynical, and loaded with irony; the main character is a lowly UN mediator assigned as the interface point between humans and fairies. She works for her grandfather, and in many episodes, has an assistant to accompany her. (I don’t think she is ever named, oddly enough.)

Civilization is in ruins and people have returned to more of a medieval style of living — hunting and gathering. Electricity is rare, although cars are still around, and so is the dysfunctional UN. In short, “It’s the End of the World as I Know it, and I Feel Fine.” This is the world of Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita — Mankind is in Decline.


Assistant and Mediator

First, the music. The intro theme song is a fantastic slab of alt-J-rock — catchy, emotive, upbeat, and sadly, not translated by any of the fansub groups. Check it out here. The ending theme song is a slower, atmospheric, ambient pop kind of deal that actually better captures the whole spirit of the show. The music throughout the show is atmospheric, often quite good, but not outstanding.


Intro

Second, the consistency. This series has a nearly-perfect setup combined with palliating graphics that put you at ease just so the knife can slip in. As you might expect, the writers don’t make the most of it. In fact, the episode quality is all over the place. For instance, episodes 1 and 2 are awesome; 3 is very lame; 4 is good, but 5 and 6 are a bit tired; you get the idea. It’s almost like the anime` picked random episodes from a manga, and the mangkata was trying to find his/her feet for 12 issues. The episodes connect to one another rarely, and there’s no character development to speak of. However, the main character’s past is explored and more of the world is revealed. It almost works, given the whole stilled time feel of the show.

So why do I enjoy this series? Simply because the episodes that are good are fantastic, there’s plenty of weirdness, the kawaii animation, the sarcastic dialog, and the refreshing themes. Episode 1 features potshots at the incompetent UN. Episode 4 explores the insane nature of much manga. Episodes 7-8 feature a time loop. Even the off episodes still have moments of hilarity and sarcastic insight; episode 5 features Pion, the kawaii robot girl, for instance.


Pion

Your Majesty, the Queen (note the Pocky plants!)

Jinru wa Suitai Shimashita is unique. It’s a breath of fresh air in a time where anime` tends towards the ho-hum and predictable. While another season would have been welcomed, even one season could have sufficed if the quality was consistent. As it stands, I can give this a guarded recommendation, but not a rousing or unreserved one. The episodes to catch are 1, 2, 4, 7, and 9. The others are at your own risk.

The following fansub groups did the best job:
CR
HorribleSubs
Asenshi (Blue-ray specials)

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Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more annoyed or abandoned by anime` along comes another wolf-in-sheep’s clothing series, Pandora Hearts (official site in Japanese). I don’t have the effort to bother summarizing what it is because it’s not consistent in what it is. Is it gothic? Is it light? Is it pervy? Is it innocent? You can see how each episode compares below, but it’s not worth your time. The few standout episodes only leave you feeling like more of a sucker when the series takes a turn for the dumpster.

* Ep 1 — At first blush it seems to be another adventures of a young lord sort of thing, but once the MC discovers a gold watch, things get eerie and disturbing. Ok, it’s piqued my interest.
Ep 2 — It’s worth watching, but it has good points and bad points. Excellent music, and a growing sense of doom. The way it works out is unexpectedly tragic. The ceremony is semi-Christian which brings to mind shades of D-Gray Man. I like it because it does reference Christian symbolism, but of course, I am concerned that people will not look deeper. Anyhow, there’s a fighting-in-church scene which really annoys me, because that reflects a lack of reverence. The characters are odd and unusual. The ending is cool.
Ep 3 — Alright. The Abyss is cool. Oz’s moral weakness is revealed: he’s a sucker for a pretty girl, and as a result he gets used by them again and again. A handful of unnecessary profanities. Alice’s skirt is ridiculously high. The ending is unexpected.
Ep 4 – It’s Ok. One profanity, but the episode is almost unwatchable because Break is so obnoxious. Seriously, I want to throw things at my computer monitor because he’s such a turd. I’m really getting concerned that this will turn out like a typical anime`: begin with great promise and peter out into nothing. Alice is foxy, ok, but there’s one shot that’s virtually pornographic. Is the manga like this, too?
Ep 5 — Ok. Some of the gothic heaviness remains, but it’s filled with stereotypical interpersonal fighting that we’ve seen a thousand times before. Lots of profanities. The animation quality has taken a dive. Seems like the end is in sight already.
Ep 6 — Ok, I guess. Way too many flashbacks. Some of the gothic heaviness; a little more than last time. A cool revelation, but the animation quality just sucks now. A few cuss words. Some relativistic morality.
* Ep 7 — Good to very good. Starts off kinda slow but gets creepy and disturbing and emotionally satisfying as it goes on. This is almost as good as the first episode. We see a few more nods to absolute truth, though Oz still says he doesn’t believe in absolutes.
* Ep 8 — Quite good. Taut throughout with only a few moments to lighten the mood. Consistently odd, off-center. Some translation probs with the Mochi sub, and some profanities that they didn’t translate (not that I mind personally because even the great C1 misses them from time to time, but the purists will be unhappy).
Ep 9 — Forgettable
* Ep 10 — Nearly perfect. This is what the series should be throughout — this heavy, emotionally, and showing all the connections between the characters. A few profanities, but they are used when the characters are at their wit’s end, so it is at least realistic.
* Ep 11 — Doesn’t have the emotional ups and downs of the previous episode, and most of it is a flashback, but it is shot through with eeriness and unease. One profanity.
* Ep 12 — Another winner. Some humorous back-and-forth, but not too much. A cool reunion with Oscar. A lot of hinting about Alice’s past that whets your appetite for more. No profanities, but you’re left wondering what the relationship between Vincent and Echo is.
* Ep 13 — Taut, intriguingly complex, and leaves you hungry for more. One or two untranslated profanities (in the Saitei version). The atmosphere is thick and unsettling.
* Ep 14 — It’s still good, but it feels a little drawn out. The atmosphere is unbroken from before.
Ep 15 — Pretty good, but not great. The drama slides over into cheeziness a few places and it ends on a huge cliffhanger.
Ep 16 — It’s decent and emotionally consistent throughout, but it’s more focused on intrigue and less on gothic horror. By this point in the series I think they’ve figured out how to balance the lighter moments with the serious moments so that everything blends well.
Ep 17 — Below average. Ada is drawn like a ho. The ending dialog about heroism and self-sacrifice is cool, though. The rest is just too much silly drama and/or stuff that’s been done before. The poison? We just saw that when Sharon was kidnapped. The next ep looks good, though.
Ep 18 — Forgettable.
Ep 19 — Boring. The transformation of Oz from careless anti-hero into hero is a bit too preachy and sudden. I’d have written it differently or just not done it at all.
Ep 20 — This is all I can stand, really. Most of the episode focuses on the main characters getting drunk and Alice stripping. For bonus lameness, there’s porno sound effects. The last fourth tries to return to form but it’s really too late. The strong start of the series is wasted by a descent into typical anime` cliche`s and perversity. The whole mood of gothic doom is gone. The characters have lost their spark. The plot is predictable. It’s over.

Welcome to the graveyard, Pandora Hearts, and screw you for wasting my time and my emotions.

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Munto: Excellent < Trash

Munto is a story of how various Magical kingdoms are battling for survival by seeking to restore the flow of Akuto, the substance that is energy and life force. The king of one of these nations, Munto, must open a portal to the Lower world (Earth) in order to restore the cycle of Akuto. However, he can’t do it alone. That’s where Yumeme comes in.

This series covers the two OVAs and expands them, apparently. I haven’t seen the OVAs, so I can’t comment on this. However, what we have here is classic anime` fail. We have a semi-interesting milieu, a poignant main character, tight writing, and excellent animation and music. How is that a fail? Because like an endless number of anime`s, the quality and the tone all fall apart as the series progresses.

This series begins with a sense of poignant innocent timelessness and descends into fetishistic loli by the end. I kid you not — it’s like the writers and artists were replaced half-way through the project or they started doing drugs after episode 6. I don’t know what the heck happened.

Anyways, the early episodes are worth watching (yes, they are that good), but only watch them knowing that the series is doomed to failure. So if you’re feeling exceptionally masochistic, watch on. Here’s the short review as usual:

Ep 1 — Looks good. The setup in terms of Heavenly kingdom/Magical kingdom all that is barely interesting and I’m not sure how it will play out theologically, but the relationships between the main characters in the Lower world (i.e. earth) are cool. The animation style is decent-to-good, as though viewed through a soft focus lens. Light and color give things a kind of wistful, “life is going by too quickly” kind of feel. The main character sees things that others cannot; this is poignant. Two cuss words. No risque` garbage.

  • Ep 2 — Excellent. Deep, involving, emotional (without being sentimental). One profanity.
  • Ep 3 — Very good. A bit slow in places, but the internal dialog is excellent. Good music too.

Ep 4 — OK. The whole competing factions and warfare thing isn’t bad, but the fight scenes are completely unreal, and consist of Munto or Gass creating big explosions. Everyone else has no real impact upon the battle, which is just lame. No focus on the MC at all. It’s virtually all Magical kingdom this time.

  • Ep 5 — Very good. The relationship between Yumeme, Ichiko, and Suzeme is explored; the results are tender, honest, multi-textured, and believable. The way this series handles Yumeme’s vision and isolation is sympathetic compassion, as though the whole world keens with her loneliness and her struggle at being selected to do great things. This is a level of sensitivity that I haven’t seen since True Tears, and the Girl that Leapt Through time. Intro new characters, seamlessly. The thing that rocks about this series is that the flashbacks support and give depth to the present plot without substituting for it (as they often did in D-Gray Man). Some lame Shinto bs though. Ends on a cliffhanger.
  • Ep 6 — Very good. One cuss word. The tensions between Yumeme’s friends and between Munto and his vassals and allies are well handled. The fight scenes are more realistic this time. It’s a shame that the other magicians are not given more time previously; this is a rare case where the supporting cast is as interesting as the main characters. The bit about restoring the cycle wasn’t mentioned (or wasn’t mentioned enough) previously, so it feels a bit like this episode’s revelation, but every show should have a handful of passes and this is one. Another episode that ends in media res.

Ep 7 — Ok, but nothing special. Some sexual overtones. The history lesson is interesting, but it takes up too little time in the episode.

Ep 8 — Half-good. There’s a lot of nonsensical quasi-deep Japanese metaphysical junk in the first half and artistic semi-nudity. Good music though. The last half is very good.

Ep 9 — Eh, another ok episode. The ending on the lower world is heart-felt; the music is top-notch. The clothes Yumeme is wearing seems borderline loli to me. The declaration of love from Munto skews it even more in that direction. You can’t really chalk that up to simple romance, but there is a definite age difference. It’s just a less-than-good ending to a series that early on, was fantastic.

Welcome to the graveyard, Munto.

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