Posts Tagged ‘slice of life’

Squid Girl

Shinryku Ika Musume (Conquer, Squid Girl!) is a humorous, kawaii anime that focuses on the plans of Ika Musume (Squid Girl) to take over the world, starting at an oceanfront cafe, the Lemon. Each episode has three vignettes that feature some degree of character development and plot (in other words, Lucky Star, this is not). The whole perspective is that of “innocent outsider learns about Japanese culture and the world”. It’s not novel, but it does work well.

The number of profanities is low; there is occasional sexual humor (one of the characters is a lesbian and this is always lampooned), and even rarer, sexual camera angles. There is no depth as far as theology or theme goes, except extolling friendship.

The intro theme song is addictingly upbeat and catchy. The ending theme song is slower, more emotive, but just as effective.

Here’s the short OO guide (* indicate standout episodes):

1- Ok, this is pretty kawaii, fairly humorous, and slice-of-life. It’s a little bit shallow, but it’s also open-ended (meaning, that there will be some development and not just a static existence). The humor isn’t surprising, but it’s mostly non-sequitur type stuff that does the job. It is, at the least, watchable.
2 – Not as good as the first, but the translation (WhyNot subs) is better. The last third is the funniest. It’s still kawii, just not as much character development.
* 3 – Funniest one so far, especially the last third.
* 4 – As good if not better than 3. Some character development, some plot development.
5 – OK. 2nd one is hilarious; last one is touching.
6 – Good. Some funny bits and some character development.
7 – Eh. One sexual bit that’s unnecessary.
8 – The first two are just ok. The last one is hilarious!
9 – The first two are cool; the third one is questionable.
10 – Ok. The first one is hilarious. The last one is heartwarming. The middle one is mostly stupid.
11 – Just ok. No trash but not really all that funny either. The last one is the funniest but it has the only stupid part in it. Gah, Sanae is just icky beyond words.
* 12 – Heartwarming. A very good end.

I’d say it’s worth watching as a break between your usual animes. Crunchysubs, Underwater, and WhyNot? are doing it, and of the three, the most reliable is WhyNot?. FFFpeeps actually has some translation errors that radically change the meaning of the dialog. Download at the torrent hole of your choice or from the FS sites!

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I’ve held off on posting because I hate to see a series crash and burn. Even more, I hate being taken for a ride (or admitting that I don’t know how to pick good series, whichever works). I think I’ll keep around the early episodes, though, because they were that good. In the end, the series went nowhere, not because of its pace, but because the writers didn’t have a map and so just made it up as they went along. It’s a real shame. Anyways, here’s the short OO guide.

* 1 — Ooh, this looks good. A post-apocalyptic fantasy world, with symbolism, excellently-detailed backgrounds, believable characters, and very little garbage. I’m in. The opening theme is half-good; the ending theme is mostly good. It starts off with heavy emotion, a black-and-white world with only a few spots of color.

2 — Again, the usual excellent artwork, good characterization, even if it’s a little bit stereotypical, a cool setting, and the past irrupts into the present. I wish they’d do more with the latter, but there’s no trash, no profanities, and it’s endearing. I’m not sure where the plot is going, but I’m afraid that it won’t add up to much. I’m not seeing any big conflicts on the horizon; a slice-of-life pace is nice, but I’m worried about the lack of dramatic tension.

3 — It’s only a bit much, but the dramatic tensions and the import of the episode are top-notch. I could have done without the profanities, though. You get a feel for the greater echoes of the series, here, and it’s soulful stuff.

* 4 — A little bit more subtle than last time. The grande past is again mysterious; charming innocence; character development, and a sense of the smallness of humanity and yet our importance in it all. This show has the real capacity to be wonderful; stekki, and this episode has it.

* 5 — This is wonderful. The past is an endless ocean subsuming the present; there is both glory and sadness in this; some character development (Kurehana has a crush), and we get to see the edgy side of Noel. No profanities; no trash. The pace is slow, here, and I don’t mind it — I just worry that nothing will have happened when we reach the end, you know those lame “return to the beginning” kind of plots.

6 — It’s still beautifully drawn, and the subplot of Yamina and the orphan girl is touching, but I’m not so sure about the whole thing that the army is making wine to sell to supplement their incomes. I guess it’s cool that they’re not constricted by the oppressive laws of the land, but on the other hand, it does seem dishonorable. Kanata is charmingly innocent as usual. The ending song grows on you.

7 – OK, the typical anime` fail begins. The show ends with moral relativism, embracing paganism along the way; well it’s worse than that, actually it states that there is no meaning in life, and therefore we can create our own meaning (self-deification). Whatever. The music is good; the characterization is a little off; the war scenes are cool, but if it’s all in support of selfishness, well, I just can’t hang with that. So you don’t want others to suffer? Wow, how noble; no-one wants to suffer!

8 – Not bad. A little risque material, but mostly it’s just slice-of-life and humorous.

9 – The series starts to swirl down the drain. Yes, this episode features arguably loli shots of girls in panties (not exploitative, but it never is at first), and the destruction of absolutes continues. This time it’s Kuraha-chan’s faith in the Desert Wolf. I’m pretty sure that the series will wrap up in some kind of typical Japanese metaphysical head-game. My interest in this show has dropped by 50%.

10 – Forgettable

11- Takes an anti-war turn with the typical facile argument “we’re all the same”. No, we’re not, and that logic has long since moldered into dust. I’m out.

Yes, there was a twelveth episode, but I couldn’t be bothered to watch it. Welcome to the graveyard, Sora No Woto.

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This is a series (the “new” OVAs released in 2002) that would be simply, impossible to make in America, unless you had a guy who was financially well off as a labor of love. Yes, I know a lot of anime` falls into that category, but this one exceptionally and especially so. Why?

The series is a very fragile, wistful, yearning, slow-paced slice-of-life story that requires you to be patient. It’s that last part that really strikes me; it’s like going tubing on a lazy river in slow motion. But it’s not plotless and you are rewarded for your effort. That’s the problem with many so-called slice-of-life series; there is no plot and there’s no payoff. Here, there is — if you are willing to wait and find the treasure in small things, that taken together, say much.

The story revolves around a robot maid who is keeping her owner’s cafe` going while he is away. The setting is after a world-wide war in the near future; humanity has endured but now lives quietly admist the ruins instead of rebuilding. Some artsy nudity in the second half is really about the only objectionable material here, and that’s not really objectionable.

The first episode is great; the second, not-so-much, mainly because there are things which are never resolved. It doesn’t help that two episodes are all they produced. Oh well. The first episode is good and about half of the second one is. It makes you wish that there were more. In all, it serves as a teaser for the manga, which I think was probably the point of it all.

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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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Spoiler Warning…Here there be spoilers….Spoiler Warning

You may not want to watch this series at all, because the way it ends makes the whole thing pointless. I have nothing against dealing with death or even having a story end when the main character dies. I even have some marginal sympathy for the theme of adulthood being a kind of death, but to have this surprise you like a stalker when the series is nearly completed? Excuse me, what? There’s almost no foreshadowing, no atmosphere of doom, nothing. It’s just like bam, the main character’s going to die. It’s emotion without reason, tears for the sake of tears, sadness without meaning. I HATE that. Anyways, if you don’t mind a series that pretty much wastes your time in this fashion, here’s the rest of the guide.

Sora has discovered that she is a mage (that is, she has mage’s blood) and so she is required to attend magic training school. The training involves practice and theory, which means training one-on-one with a more experienced mage, and attending class with others magicians her age. Contrary to what you might expect, the series has a slice-of-life feel with a sense of gravity about it. It’s real without being gritty, honest, and at times heart-felt. You feel like you’re growing up right along with Sora, which is why the ending is so frustrating. That said, it’s not particularly emotional and the characters aren’t original.

One of the more annoying things about this series is the animation. It’s decent by itself, but it takes place against photorealistic backgrounds. The contrast is always jarring and makes you think less of the animation itself. This effect is not compensated for by the above-average music used in both the opening and ending themes. Often episodes feature a street performer who is probably some rising star over in Japan. Not that she’s bad, but it’s in nearly every episode and it makes the series seem like a vehicle for her purposes.

The series contains no risque` elements, but it does have occasional profanities.

Low point: episode 5 (focus on a boring minor character).
High point: episode 9 (romance).

For your downloading pleasure (in descending order of quality):
Anime` Kraze

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