Agent Aika, Buso Renkin, Death Note, and Oban Star Racers
a semi-weekly column by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Konichiwa! Welcome to another installment of Anime Talk! This week we're looking at a few new shows as well as a few older ones that you may have missed somewhere along the way. Things are still slow in the anime world but we're holding out hope that they'll pick up once again very soon with some high profile releases just around the corner. Go ahead and work your way through our mini reviews and WTK's bargains. Also be sure to check out the bottom of the page for something different you may be interested in (or maybe not but it's worth a shot)!
I'm not going to lie; I have a soft spot for a girl in a mini skirt who carries a gun. Apparently I'm not the only one because so many shows feature this kind of fan service but Agent Aika takes it to a whole new level. This show original came out over ten years ago but if you're just finding your way to the series you're in for quite a show. The world is now mostly under the ocean and scavengers now pick up the remains of drowned cities. One such scavenger, Aika, finds herself in the midst of a job that seems tough to handle. With an army of mini skirt wearing thugs who flash panties at the drop of a hat, a golden bustier with a mind of its own, and genetically engineered villains it's safe to say that things are going to get crazy. This seven episode program is a glorified guilty pleasure and it's as simple as you can get but man was it fun!
I was every series was released the way Buso Renkin was. Imagine being able to get half of a series in one swoop rather than having to get three or four episodes at a time. This first collection of Renkin introduces us to the messed up world full of alchemists and homunculi. No, this isn't Fullmetal Alchemist but there is a war brewing between both groups and a teenage boy finds himself wedged in between them after inadvertently getting in the middle. With eclectic characters and an interesting concept this show certainly entertains even if it doesn't feel like the most original program.
Going back to that guilty pleasure thing is another blast from the past named Sorcerer Hunters. This show has been a cult favorite for the better part of a decade now and there's a good reason for that. Imagine if you will a fantasy world where humans live under the boots of powerful sorcerers. These downtrodden people need help to survive and that's where the Sorcerer Hunters come in. These five heroes are essentially reborn gods but it's their personalities that make them special. A womanizer, a flamboyant muscle head, two girls that turn dominatrix, and a regular bloke stuck in the middle hardly make for ideal saviors. They are what we've got though and this show is a lot of fun because of their mannerisms.
The seventh volume of Naruto has come along and it wraps up the storyline featuring the assault on the Hidden Leaf Village. Without giving too much away I will say that the fights between Garaa and Naruto as well as Orochimaru and the Hokage come to a close at the beginning of this installment. The rest of this volume kind of muddles through some mechanics as Sasuke's brother comes to town to search for Naruto and the Pervy Sage takes our plucky hero out on an excursion. Compared to the last volume this one feels much slower in terms of pace though I suppose it's all necessary plot exposition for the coming volume.
Things really start to heat up in the third and fourth volumes of Death Note. Not only is Light still suspected of being Kira by the master detective know only as "L", but a second Kira has popped up and made contact with Light. With L hot on his tail, Light has to come up with a fool-proof plan to clear himself without losing his powers. The cat-and-mouse game just gets more and more engrossing as it goes on.
Bandai has previous released Dandoh in three double disc sets, and now they've collected the whole series in one six-disc 'brick' case under their Anime Legends banner. The only thing that is legendary about this series however is how inane it can be. The plot twists and golf shots are so implausible as to be laugh-out-loud funny. Aimed at young boys, this show has wants to teach fair play and the value of friendship but the plot is so idiotic that the message doesn't get through. Unfortunately the program doesn't have the charm of shows like Princess Nine and Fighting Spirit either. There isn't much drama and the plots are a little too simple for even young viewers.
Volume four of My-Otome is another excellent disc. These four episodes keeps the larger plot moving while also taking time to look closely at the Otome's themselves to see the sacrifices that they make in order to become powerful and highly regarded royal servants. The Otome are both powerful and tragic, and the show doesn't ignore the latter aspect, which makes the story very interesting.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya received a lot of buzz before its R1 release and if the number of posts on web sites about the show is any indication, sold very well after it came out. There were originally two versions each volume, a plain episodes-only DVD, and the same disc in a limited edition version that included some cool, and unusual bonus items such as CDs, pillow cases, and one of the best series cases to come along in a while (included with the LE for volume one.) Now Bandai has gone back and released the first volume again, this time as a "bundle" with two new CDs. I'm not sure why they did this, but I'm happy that they did because this is a funny show. I had read Todd Douglas' reviews of the volumes (one, two, three, and four) and knew he liked it but the irreverent nature of the show along with the unexpected plot twists that come flying out from left field make this a must-see. With the nice image, great bonus material and two CD's picking up a copy of this is a no-brainer. Highly recommended.
The excrement really hits the fan in the fifth volume of My-Zhime - My-Otome. Things look pretty bad for the Otome as their school is taken over by invaders and many of them are lured over to the dark side with the promise of power and full Otome status. Arika and the Queen are both missing, and even if they were around the populace is sick of the Queen's incompetent rule and ready for revolt. It doesn't look like things can get much worse. This series has been getting better as it goes along, and this volume was the best yet. The unexpected plot twists and the way peoples actions are painted in shades or grey make this an engrossing and entertaining series. Well worth checking out.
by Todd Douglass
Set in Earth's future, this 26 episode series follows the events of a great galactic war. A hostile race came to Earth many years ago and annihilation seemed imminent until a being known as the Avatar stepped in and forced a cease fire. His proclamation was that all war would end for preparation for the great Oban Race which happens every ten thousand years. That day has come and a young girl named Molly finds herself in the thick of everything.
Molly is the daughter of a famous star racing manager who is taking a team to compete in the Oban Race for something known as the Ultimate Prize. Joining Molly and her dad is a pit crew, veteran pilot, and hotshot gunner with a penchant for overdoing it on occasion. Without giving much of the plot away the Earth team gets more than they bargained for once they arrive at the race track and some surprises are in store for them.
It's truly a shame that this series hasn't gotten much play within the anime community. The Jetix/Disney brand really kind of categorizes this in a different field but that's really not where it belongs. Sure there's no included Japanese language track (which is really a bummer because one was made when the show played in Japan) but the English cast is fantastic and the presentation values of the DVDs are quite decent. This is a solid science fiction series with well-developed characters, an interesting plot, and jaw-dropping visuals; if you can get past the fact that people have no noses that is.
Both volumes are available from Shout Factory right now and you should be able to pick them up for a decent price. Don't stereotype the Jetix label with this series. Just because it's not being released from an anime publisher doesn't mean it's not worthy of a place on your shelf.
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