Posts Tagged ‘shoujo’

If you are wondering, is Whisper of the Heart worth an 18 Gb Blue-ray download, I’ll set your mind at ease: it’s not. However, it’s far from terrible. While this movie isn’t half-hearted, it’s more like three-quarters-hearted — good, but not excellent. All of its constituent pieces just don’t come together to leave an enduring impression; it begins small and it stays small, and sadly, of little account.

Whisper of the Heart is one of those Ghibli movies, so you know the animation style, and being as it was released in 1995, and a movie, you know that there won’t be photorealistic scenes, but what is here reflects a lot of care, skill, and probably love. The realism of passing clouds, shadows falling away when characters go from shaded areas to light, and the perspective of a train going forward are very nice. The eyes are not very detailed, but the faces are. If you’re a fan of Hime-Chan’s Ribbon, then you’ll be fine with what they do here. The animation doesn’t disappoint for the time period, but I’ve never been a stickler for watching only masterwork animation, anyways; in many places, it’s quite good. Animation is not why Whisper doesn’t succeed.

The music is rarely interesting, and it is, at the beginning, quite confusing. While you’re watching the main character, Shizaru move from place to place in Tokyo, the soundtrack is “Country Roads”, the 1970’s country song. For a good minute, I thought that I had accidentally played something off a web page. It was that jarring. In other places, the music is muddled (sonically) and emotionally, doesn’t add an extra impact to the storyline. It functions often as merely background music, as if the director said, “Hey, we need some music here,” and they just found whatever royalty-free stuff they could toss in. It remains low-key throughout, and that’s a shame. Music is part of why Whisper doesn’t succeed.

The vocal work is mediocre; some of the female characters sound too much alike. The voices are not sharply distinguished as in most anime from the late 90’s forward, and as a result, it’s hard to tell whom is talking from time to time. The men cut a much better form. The vocal work is a small part of why Whisper doesn’t succeed.

The storyline generally works. It skirts the line between fantasy and reality, and depicts Shizaru’s home life in a convincing, realistic way. The challenges she faces, the people she meets, and the situations that she works through all work together, but the emotional depth is missing. Only rarely do you feel the tears that Shizaru cries, or do you feel the heat rush to your cheeks the way it does when love arises. The end waffles off into cheeziness instead of pulling back to an expansive, “open-up” type ending. I don’t know if they compressed too much of the manga here, but it feels like they covered too much ground, and therefore couldn’t go as deep as the story deserved. The characterization is short-changed, as are the emotions, and the overall effect. Whisper ends up feeling like a story that doesn’t matter much, and it should have been the opposite, claiming such ground as To Heart and To Heart: Remember My Memories, at least. This is the big reason why Whisper doesn’t succeed.

As for details, the plot begins when the avid reader Shizaru, notices that someone else has read the books she is reading before she did. (This was back in the day when you used to sign your name on the book card and they would stamp the date after it.) Shizaru follows a cat that leads her to a very strange curio shop, and meets an obnoxious boy. The boy, of course, ends up being the boy who has checked out the books before her; the curio shop (and the boy) spur her to discover her talent, instead of wandering through middle school life without any direction or purpose. In the end, she writes a novella that demonstrates she has talent, and the title of this work is Whisper of the Heart.

I wouldn’t say that Whisper is cheezy, although depending on your tolerance for shojou works, you may find it so. Sometimes it gets perilously close to the edge, but it never wanders over until the very end; sadly, it just doesn’t go far enough the other way to make it recommendable.

Available as an 18-GB huge download from REVO subs, or from your local torrent hole. Note: there are other versions out there, but it looks like no-one is seeding them (aside from the perv-pushers over at Coalgirls).

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Bride of Deimos falls into one of my favorite anime` sub-genres that I never knew existed: shoujo horror. The only other example that I know of is Vampire Knight which was often compromised by Yuki’s senseless actions and spacing out in the midst of danger. Here, Minako cuts a much better form.

Bride of Deimos is a movie from 1987, and it holds up well for its age. The animation style is a bit static in several places, relying on the pan/zoom techniques, and while the music is of the late 80’s dark-synth goth variety, overall, it’s done well. Some movies lose their lustre as they age; others hold on to it; BOD falls into the latter category. The vibe here is timeless, wronged innocence, and squeamish horror. (Yes, it actually does work.)

You’ll suspect the ending probably within ten minutes, but the ride is still worthwhile. The setup is that Minako has a friend, Hisamatsu, who is an amateur botanist. He’s entered the Grand Prix for botany and wants to discover more about Ohba Tohko, who takes the prize every year. Even Minako is fascinated by the Snow Goddess, a stunningly beautiful, albeit cold, orchid of hers.

Hisamatsu looks up Ohba Tohko and then disappears. Minako is the last one to see him alive, so she goes to Tohko’s as well. Deimos appears and states that she will be his bride. She escapes him with a powerful purse-to-the-cheek maneuver and runs to the mansion despite his warnings. There she discovers Hisamatsu’s notebook. She returns with the chief of police, and through repeated visits, unfurls the horrific secrets of the prize-winning orchids. At the end, Deimos gives a fittingly morbid summary and then vows to return for Minako.

Bride of Deimos is effective because it’s consistent. No element is out of place; everything works together, layering one stone upon another, in a crypt of fear. You don’t have to give the plot a pass in too many places, and those that you do are pretty standard. It sticks with you, from the eerie synths to the tortured Deimos to the even-still-more-tortured Minako. Impressively, BOD achieves this without a single profanity or risque scene. As it’s horror, there is blood, and semi-gory scenes, but they are not particularly graphic. BOD doesn’t need gore to send chills up your spine.

However, the movie leaves a lot of questions if you don’t know the backstory. Bride of Deimos is a movie adaption of a particular manga episode from a long-running manga series by the same name. The manga ran from the ’70’s into the 80’s. For a good explanation, see Jason Thompson’s House of a 1000 anime` (warning: profanity).

It’s haunting.

Grab it at the torrent hole of your choice, and thank Bluefixer subs for this if you have the chance. (For some reason, BOD is not listed on their blog.)

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Yumeiro Patissiere is a foodie anime`. It traces the trials and travails of Amano Ichigo (yes, her last name is Japanese for strawberry) as she follows her goal of being a confectionary artist. She is given an invite to an esteemed school for patissieres, the St. Marie school, and immediately finds herself thrown in to the highest skilled group, all based on the invite. As the series unfolds, she improves her skills, makes friends, and learns a thing or two about the Sweet Spirits.

The series starts well, hits an early dip, and then takes off from episode 8 onwards. From there on, it’s usually good, but you can tell that some episodes were simply better planned and designed than others. Towards the very end, you can tell that the anime` is leaving out bits of the manga given how events happen without any buildup.

There’s not much moral resonance here, except that Amano’s humility is front-and-center. She has her place in the world, she never gives up, and it isn’t all about her. Other than that, it’s just a light-hearted “chase your dream” kind of deal. Profanities are uncommon (most are mistranslations, I’d bet); no gore or violence, and extremely rare risque` bits. In short, it’s quality entertainment, but nothing deeper than that. Still, you’ll probably grow to care for the characters as the series goes on. Because there are 50 episodes, here are the highlights:

50 (finale)

The rest aren’t bad; none are truly awful. The series leads straight into Yumeiro Patissiere Professional, which looks to be not as well done. We’ll see.

Anyhow, there are no batch files up, and many groups are doing this, from Wasurenai, to Horrible, to Serios. If you look at any decent torrent hole you’ll be able to find them.

It’s worth watching this and enjoying it, just don’t expect anything on the order of D-Gray Man or Tokyo Magnitude 8.0.

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It’s really hard to write a review about a series that you love. You run the risk of waxing romantic and droning on about the subtle differences that bore people who aren’t already into the show; on the other hand if you collapse your appreciation into terse sentences like “Watch this. It roolz.” then no-one else will understand why the series was good. So between the fanboy and the hip otaku, therein lies the chasm straddled by the honest reviewer, and yeah, it often feels like you’re stretched across a chasm.

Hime-chan’s Ribbon (1992-1993) is something of a legend in anime` circles. It was one of the most mature magical girl animes` before Sailor Moon came along and added fighting to the mix, and other series tried to appeal to (dumb and horny) guys by sexing up series, a la Lyrical Girl Nanohora. So it may be the purest example of the genre out there. At the same time, it was a mature example of the genre in that magic didn’t fix everything and the main character had to grow up and learn NOT to rely upon magic as a cureall. You toss in the above-average musical score, the well-characterized characters, and deft emotional plots, and it’s easy to see how I could write a book about HCR’s virtues.

However, the series was not perfect. Season two and three saw HCR lose the plot about the ribbon and the lessons Hime-chan learned by it. In fact, you could probably skip most of episodes 31-53 and not miss anything. HCR does experience the anime` sag, just later on in the series and for a more prolonged period than usual. It was in the middle that the series came to rely more upon stand-alone episodes instead of story arcs; and towards the end, the highly-annoying summary episodes showed up when they weren’t needed if you had been following the series all along. At times, it was schmaltzy, cheezy, and over-the-top; critics will find most of the series this way, but I found only a few episodes guilty as charged.

However, if you watch the majority of the episodes and savor them for the pure-hearted innocence that they are, you’re in for a heartwarming and humorous experience. About the only moral caution I would throw out is that far too often, Hime-chan relies upon deception, or purposeful lying in order to evade consequences. Nearly all of the profanities I’m convinced are mistranslations (for example, I’ve seen “itse” translated as “brat” elsewhere and not “b*stard” and at least in one case, “d*mn” is used in place of “idiot”).

One other thing that’s worth mentioning is that although HCR is emotional, it is not pointlessly so. I’m in awe of the way this series builds up sorrow to a climax and then at its height, washes it away in a deeper understanding that we are not meant to be defeated or laid low, but to learn and endure and to triumph.

HCR exists in two forms: the complete original fansubbed series (at small rez and with cruddy WMA audio), and the high-quality DVD AVIs being released by Honobono. Unfortunately, Honobono has only made it to episode 21, so you’re stuck with the original if you want to see the other episodes.

For your downloading pleasure:

The high points in this series are episodes 1-31, and then episodes 54-55, and 59-61. And now, one last word — how does it end? Gently. You’re not left feeling hopeless, but rather feeling like Hime-chan’s adventures were continuing and you could return to them at any time. I say this because sometimes the ending of a good series is like the ending of a good book. You hate to see it end and it can be painful. That’s not the case here.

Hime-chan’s ribbon is definitely worth watching.

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Onegai My Melody (official site in Japanese) is a humorous, warm, good-hearted shoujo anime` with a good bit of character development and parody riffs on anime` themes and Japanese culture in general. It’s cute, but never just cute, and often satirizes super-cuteness.

Plotwise, three visitors from Mari-Land (a counterpart to the human world populated by cute stuffed animals) enter the human world for reasons that the show slowly reveals. Upon discovering talking stuffed animals, the main human characters (Uta Yumeno and her friends) as well as Kenichi Hiragi, are perplexed and shocked. They get over that initial reaction, and soon find themselves drawn into the chain of events that prompted the three visitors to come to the human world.

Morally speaking, the number of profanities are low, sexual content is very rare, and a few positive mentions of God crop up from time to time, though these are cultural with no deep theological understanding. With that said, one of the main themes of the show is ridiculous nature of unjustified resentment, with the logical follow-up, the need for forgiveness, occasionally on display. Other themes include seeing things as they really are (instead of what you want them to be), and the usual Japanese (and American) emphasis on hard work. The series runs fifty-two episodes with another series following right on its heels. That’s a good thing because the last episode doesn’t conclude.

The series is very good for what it is — a funny, enjoyable, sometimes emotional series with general moral truths sprinkled throughout. It features strong characterization, usually tight plots, parody, and well-rounded, likable characters. There are more than a few excellent episodes. If looking forward to the next episode week after week is a sign of enjoying the series, then this series passes that test. Onegai My Melody is a quality show, worth watching for sure, and even worth buying if it ever is officially subtitled or even dubbed.

For now, enjoy the fantastic work done by Eggplant subs here. The short review follows, with excellent shows starred.

Episode 1 — Not bad. Sets up the light-hearted nature of the series, introduces most of the characters, and delivers a few laughs. Higher on the shoujo dazzle than I’d like, but does reveal the sensitive and understanding insight into the minds of teenage girls.

Episode 2 — Eeh.

* Episode 3 — Excellent. Mana picks up on Uta’s fireworks with Kogure. Quite a bit of humor. Sensitive and emotional. One profanity. A rarity in that it explores how a socially isolated teenage male feels.

Episode 4 — Between good and very good. Funny, more of Uta’s family dynamics. Intro Lamb.

Episode 5 — Between good and very good. We see what Mana likes in a guy. Pretty funny. A little bit of lame Shinto stuff though. Not capitalizing the g in God? Bleah. Intro Hedgehog-kun.

Episode 6 — Just OK.

* Episode 7 — Very good. Mana dogs on Miki’s poetry (and Miki is an Emily of New Moon that can’t write poetry), which is hilarious. Another sensitive episode with emotions, and character development. Great quote: “I’m on the winning team of life!” One profanity.

* Episode 8 — Great. Mana feature, lots of character development. Three profanities (mistranslations?).

* Episode 9 — Another great one. Koto feature. The Kuromi note scene is great. Quite a bit of character development. We get to see what Koto’s life is like. A very obvious truth is stated — Koto has it together more than Uta does.

* Episode 10 — Very good. Kanade feature, character development, and a few LOL moments.

* Episode 11 — Great. Uta’s dad feature. Lots of humor. Intro the idiot couple.

* Episode 12 — Excellent. Features Shirzoka, one of Uta’s classmates. Hilarious.

* Episode 13 — Excellent. Very funny and loads of character development. Uta-chan looks way cute.

Episode 14 — Just OK. One profanity.

* Episode 15 — Very good. Heartwarming, plus some insight on the idol world and references to enka.

Episode 16 — Lame.

Episode 17 — A little better than average. The main conflict is nothing special, but Baku has some great lines. He also shows up in a cheerleader outfit. Intro My Melo’s family.

Episode 18 — Lame.

Episode 19 — Pretty good. A nice change of pace with the Yumano family and My Melody going to the beach. Loads of character development. The fight scene is all the samey, but the rest of the episode is good.

* Episode 20 — Excellent. More than usual character development. Miki gives up on Hirogi-sama; others notice that Kogure has a crush on Uta. Some theology references that are humorous and faintly Christian in nature (a plus as always). The ending conversation between Baku and Hirogi is priceless. Fairly emotional too.

* Episode 21 — A must-see. Hilarious music, great character development, and Kuromi is charmed to act like My Melo. The number of inventive plot twists and humorous moments is off the charts.

Episode 22 — Pretty good. Some funny parts especially towards the end. One profanity. The featured character looks kinda loli, though.

* Episode 23 — A standout episode. Kuromi as a human girl is goth-foxy to the max! Lots of humor. Tight plot, and the relationship between Baku and Kuromi is given more depth. (For pics of Kuromi in her human form, see this post).

Episode 24 — Lame.

Episode 25 — Just OK. One profanity. A few funny bits, and a cool ending, but that’s it.

* Episode 26 — Very good. Feature Koto and her friends. Funny stuff with Uta making puns and the fighting spirit clocks. Plus, My Melo tries to work out. Running gag of “blubber mug”.

Episode 27 — Good. Some funny parts, but the most interesting thing is the plot.

* Episode 28 — Great. Lots of humor, more Japanese language puns than you can handle, and more character development. Plus a foxy weather babe.

Episode 29 — Good. Very funny, a bit too much shoujo dazzle, but the ending rocks. Character development. New ending theme.

Episode 30 — Good. One stupid nod to Darwinism, though (and what a huge humorous missed opportunity that was). Otherwise funny. Not too much character development.

Episode 31 — Good. Hirogi’s plans come close to being made obvious, even to Uta. Some fairly funny parts, but nothing really memorable. Minor character development. We learn that Kuromi is jealous of Uta, though.

Episode 32 — Ok. Too high on the shoujo dazzle for me. A handful of funny parts, and a close call with Kogure revealing his feelings for Uta.

* Episode 33 — Very good. One of the best ones in a while. Two profanities, but you can barely hear them. Lots of humor; more than average character development.

Episode 34 — Ok. A few funny parts. One risque` mention.

Episode 35 — Not bad. The main conflict is lame, but the background about Baku and how he spends his day is interesting.

Episode 36 — Good. Silly but hilarious. No character development, though.

Episode 37 — Ok. Second half has some funny moments. No character development here either. One profanity. Mana featured.

Episode 38 — Lame. What is up with goth-lolita thing? And that’s no mistranslation. The plot had potential but it was just too much. In this case, less could have been more. The ending was ironic, though.

Episode 39 — Good. Heartwarming and some a nod or two to absolute truth.

* Episode 40 — Very good. A return to form.

* Episode 41 — Very good.

Episode 42 — Good. A bit high on the cuteness factor, but there wasn’t any stupid stuff, either. A day in the life of My Melody.

* Episode 43 — Very very good. Some true LOL moments and a lot of dramatic tension. Uta confesses. Total cliffhanger ending, though.

Episode 44 — Good. Some funny parts; the plot is interesting, and I guess Hirogi’s decision was inevitable, wasn’t it? One cuss word.

Episode 45 — Eh. Just kinda there. They tried to put too much into one episode and as a result there’s not enough time given to the emotions.

* Episode 46 — This is a good one. Uta’s feelings are explored, honestly; a hilarious revelation from Kanade.

Episode 47 — Pretty good. No character development, and a few humorous bits. One profanity. It’s warm-hearted but nothing stand-out.

* Episode 48 — Good to very good. Baku’s family comes to stay with My Melo. Quite a few funny parts and a smidge of character development.

Episode 49 — It’s OK. Some funny parts and an unexpected ending. Another total cliffhanger ending.

Episode 50 — It’s a little bit better than OK. Another total cliffhanger ending. One or two great humorous moments. It’s really up in the air whom Uta will choose.

* Episode 51 — A bit overdramatic in places, but funny. Good character development.

Episode 52 — Very overdramatic and it doesn’t really end! It leads straightaway into a new series, so I guess that’s ok.

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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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Just a little something different, here. I occasionally watch Onegai My Melody. (Why, do you ask? I tend to like shoujo series because they can have well-developed characters, and this one does. It also doesn’t take itself seriously, and it is humorous. In short, it has better-than-average writing.) Anyhow, episode 23 features Kuromi, My Melody’s major nemesis in human form instead of in her usual Mari Land form. This episode rocked on several different levels, but I just wanted to put up some pics of Kuromi. Ah, my heart. Classy goth girls so rock.

Click on the images for larger versions.

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I’m tired of (male) anime` writers treating the relationships between girls/women as lesbianism. If this was ever shocking instead of simply bone-headedly juvenile, it’s not any longer. It’s not new and different because so many series have done it. It’s not even expected; it’s dreaded. Every time I see a new series that purports to be shoujo, I find myself cringing and wondering, “Are they going to do that again?”

What would you say when you noticed an art form that favored a similarly obscure topic, like say, spelunking? Not only that, but that art form focused on a particular kind of spelunking? In, anime`, lesbianism is often dealt with in a Catholic school setting, or a school for girls. Never mind that this is old, tired, and involves so little creativity that if you could measure it, you’d have to measure it in angstroms. There’s money to be made, right?

What would be far more interesting would be a slice-of-life portrayal of what it really means to grow up in a school for girls, treating the main characters as real people (instead of sex objects), and taking the themes of spirituality and sexual purity seriously. Now that would be novel. That would be rare. That actually would be shocking.

I’m still waiting for such a series — like what Maria Watches Over Us could have been — but I’m not holding my breath.

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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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Skip Beat has been hailed in various corners (well ok, at least over on the fansub.tv forums) as being the next best thing since sliced bread. Having watched the first four episodes and eaten quite a few slices of bread, I can’t agree less.

Skip Beat (official site, fan site) is a shoju series, and that’s enough to alienate most guys right there. Not me. I heart Saiunkoku Monogatari, for instance. But this shoju series obsesses over one main character, who herself obsesses over a guy that broke her heart. She vows revenge upon him by going into the music business. So if you guessed that the series features endless amounts of internal dialog, ridiculously overdramatized situations, jr. high humor, and more than a few profanities, then you’ve got Skip Beat in a nice little package, wrapped with a bow.

I wanted to like the main character, Kyoko. Really, I did. It sucks having your heart broken, but revenge? That’s totally unhealthy. And then the unfunny situations, dramatized beyond belief, the incessant self-pity and whining? Yuck! After four episodes, “I can’t stands no more!” Do yourself a favor and just give this one a pass. Here’s an abbreviated episode guide.

1 — Ok, semi-interesting
2 — Lame
3 — Better. The plot is thickening.
4 — Ok, but several profanities. The plot is too slow for me and because the MC is pretty much the only character, it gets old. I’m officially bored with this series as of this episode. There’s just not enough going on for me to continue watching it.

Welcome to the graveyard, Skip Beat.

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