Posts Tagged ‘gothic’

My conceptions of anime` are being shorn.

You could always count on J.C. Staff to make boring, predictable shonen-fests, and the instant you saw their logo pop up, you knew it was time to jump ship. Selector Infected Wixoss (S1) blew that all out of the water, because it has been good — more than that, it has been excellent. I was looking forward every week to a new episode, and each episode satisfied and yet left me hungry for more.

The animation house wasn’t the only strike against Wixoss coming out of the gate: it also revolved around cards. Yuck, cards! Almost every card series has minimal plot, no depth, and no originality. Those series exist just to move product as far as I can tell. The only series in recent memory that cut against that grain was Fantasista Doll. Yu-gi-o fans — stop. I don’t care.

The series starts by introducing Wixoss, a card battle game that has recently become popular. The main character, Ru, plays it with her grandmother. However a certain few people receive a living card, and owning it makes them a selector. Once a selector contracts with the living card, and the selector wins three battles against other selectors, then his or her wish is granted.

I won’t go into any more detail, but Wixoss is also a magical girl series — a dark one. Think Madoka Magica Puelli. Wixoss takes that kind of setup, adds flawless characterization, a taut plot, always appropriate and unsettling music, all in finely-detailed gothic Romantic fashion. It’s heavy; it’s deep; it’s emotional; and it never falls apart or turns into excess.

The animation style is where some may complain. I’d say it’s on the same level as K-on (season 1); darker tones dominate. It’s not super-detailed, and it’s not minimalistic. The money and the time went into crafting an overall effect (colors, cinematography) rather than realism. The same goes for the voice acting. It’s not about virtuoso performances, but acting done so well that the actors disappear into their roles. Tama has the kind of voice she needs to have, for instance, and each character is perfectly identifiable by his or her voice. What really strikes me is not the quality of particular aspects of the show, but rather that everything works together to create a gothic monolith. Nothing grates. Everything compliments.

And the ending? A lot of series seem to have no idea where they are going. Here, it feels like there is a master plan, and the plot just couldn’t fit into just one season. A lot of things are up in the air, but it doesn’t feel contrived. I can only hope that season 2 continues with the same quality and doesn’t turn into a parody of itself like Chuunibuyo did. Please, let it not be!

No trash; rare profanities. With the Romantic setup, the characters are facing things larger than themselves, and so there is this grappling with the supernatural, an awe present. Also, Ru’s character develops from someone who doesn’t participate much in life to someone who is willing to sacrifice, even herself, for her friends. So that great truth is on display.

I’ve been watching the Horrible Subs version and they do a good job. Download from the torrent hole of your choice.

Highly recommended by OO.

Read Full Post »

Pale Cocoon displays, in twenty-two minutes, everything that is beautifully crushing about space and the past. The music is perfectly matched to the immense, gothic scenery, and the discovered record of a J-pop song is wistfully optimistic, like a doomed butterfly. The characterization here is simple without being simplistic, leaving much unsaid, yet communicating in subtleties. Pale Cocoon is deep, emotional, noble, pure, and at the end, ruefully ironic.

This short animated film is set in the not-so-distant future, where the earth has suffered a population explosion, necessitating escape. Honestly, that old Malthusian saw is the only weak point of the entire movie, but if you can suspend your disbelief over it (and it’s not really that important; it’s just the disaster that set things in motion), you’ll be home free. To say much of the plot would be to reveal too much, but the main characters work in the middle levels of an artificial world, recovering and restoring archives of the past.

Zero profanities, no gore, no sex, and positive mention of prayer.

Thanks to Brightslap Encoding.

Download from them, or at the torrent hole of your choice.

Read Full Post »

Oh wow. This is very good. It is a gothic, doomed, tale told in the depths of space. The music is fairly good for a mid 80’s piece; the animation is sufficient; but the story is where it all comes together.

A cross-generational ship is bringing cargo from another world to Earth; an asteroid strikes the ship and renders repair and course correction impossible. One man is found dead, and the rest have no choice but to use the escape pods. Their chance of making it to Earth is very small, but en route they relate the stories that the dead man told them, and reveal their own pasts.

I won’t go into too much detail, but the sense of isolation brought on by space, and the fate of each character (except the captain), just drip with pathos. It’s well-conceived and it uses flashbacks well. The symbology is deep and bizarre.

The language is for the most part fine, but the number of profanities increases towards the end. No sex. Some gore, so be warned.

The only truly disappointing thing is the ending theme, which rips off the music for 2001: A Space Oddessy and throws in cheesy 70’s funk.

After doing some research, I discovered that the manga which this was adapted from was one of twelve stories or so that told of the phoenix’s interaction with humanity in different ages of the world. Only two OVAs were made from the manga (Phoenix – Space and Phoenix – Karma), and they reveal a fatal flaw about the execution of the whole series: the same character types show up in every age, with the same punishments handed out to them. It’s basically the same story retold twelve different times, which is both pointless and dull.

So, how does this apply to Phoenix – Space? If you view it as a standalone anime`, with no sequel and no prequel, then it’s quite enjoyable, because it is self-contained and it doesn’t grow wearying with repetition. If you view it in the context of the manga, then its luster disappears and it sinks into the background of a mass of mediocre content. My advice is to just enjoy this OVA for what it is by itself.

Available for you downloading pleasure from Banana subs or the torrent hole of your choice.

Read Full Post »

Aside from the unfortunate name, Gass is probably the best character in the whole Munto franchise. Outsider, loner, suffering, and in the end, hero; how completely dark Romantic, even goth! He doesn’t get much time in either the series or the movie, but here are a few screen caps to celebrate his mad coolness!

Read Full Post »

Anime` fail is a syndrome common to most anime`s — they start out with a bang and then quickly devolve into stupidity, perviness, lameness, or all three. Somewhere along the way (usually episode 6 or 7) the writers will come back from their sake-inspired hiatus and create another good episode, and then leave the rest of the series to rot. Ookamikakushi is a case study in anime` fail.

That they took such a potent mix of theme, atmosphere, and characters and just peed it all away is even more frustrating. Basically, Hiro and his family move to a new town for his father’s employment. Hiro is immediately liked by everyone (especially Suzukara), but people quickly start disappearing. The camera angles and the special effects cooperate, early on, to create a tense, pulse-pounding conspiracy of fear. Later, why Hiro is so irresistible is explained as the mysteries around the town start to reveal themselves. There is occasional blood, but not gore; there are a few profanities every other episode, and there are some suggestive scenes that were not handled with much class or taste. Towards the end, the theology wanders off into typical Shintoistic crazy-land, too.

Here’s the short guide if you’re interested.

* 1– When I saw the preview, I thought that it was another perv series. It’s not. It’s a horror series that creeps up on you and unsettles you pace by pace, at least until the very end where it gets a bit obvious. It gives a different spin on some familiar anime` settings and there’s no profanity.
2 — Not as good as the first. The preview looks even stupider. Geez, what happened? The atmosphere is still unsettling, just not as intense as the first. I get the feeling that while the point may be good, they will just trash it up en route. This episode has a hint of perviness and it looks like it’s downhill from here.
3 – Pervy. Why do series always have to take a trip into the toilet?
4 – Good. Eerie but herky-jerky. The MC gets a big clue as to what’s going on.
5 – Middling, but the ending is a revelation.
6 – Not all that. The focus going in and out is annoying, and there’s perviness. The whole atmosphere isn’t consistent from show to show. I want to quit.
7 – Good. Things get complex.
* 8 – Very very good. One profanity. The whole episode is tense.
9 – This is a really weird and disturbing combination of barely-repressed erotica and horror. It’s a little bit more than I can handle. I don’t think this is a good thing to watch, really.
10 – Just kinda there.
11 – LAME. The ending is stupid on about twenty different levels; the whole feel is totally different than the series, and it’s just not convincing. There is a preview at the end for something that looks even more unrealistic and crazy.
12 – LAME. I get the feeling that this is a bonus episode, but it’s basically a self-parody. Why bother?

Welcome to the graveyard and screw you for wasting my time, Ookamikakushi!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »