Anime Talk's Top Three
a semi-weekly column by Todd Douglass, Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
With the holiday rush everything got so hectic that we're a tad on the late side with the Anime Talk column. Gomennasai!
Hopefully your holidays went well and you were able to ring in the New Year appropriately (IE: drunk with a lampshade on your head). Maybe you attended First Night in Boston? Whatever the case I hope there was plenty of anime in your stockings and you got everything you wished for!
As far as what we've been up to, well, we've been reviewing! There's not much new there I suppose. We took a look at shows like Bleach, Death Note, Lost Universe, Tokyo Majin, and Magikano. If you were paying attention then you probably got in on some great deals thanks to Wen-Tsai (WTK). I tell you, December was an expensive month and January looks to be even worse! Well, check out our reviews and see whether or not something strikes your fancy. There are a lot of great shows on the market right now and that anime dollar is being stretched thinner and thinner each month!
The continuing saga of Ichigo Kurosaki continues from the first to the second season in Bleach 7 and Bleach 8 as the band of misfit warriors tackle legions of highly trained and seriously motivated soul reapers on their home turf. From breaching the walls of the mighty city to finding themselves separated in small groups, each of the members has to call upon everything they’ve learned to stay alive or they know the fate of their friend Rukia. Ichigo even marshals his strengths to battle one of her closest friends to the death as he closes in on her tower prison, the execution date rapidly approaching and the heavy guns of the Soul Society yet to fully deploy.
Lost Universe: Thinpak Collection is a retro series that borrows heavily from pop culture as it details the exploits of a trio of would be saviors trying to prevent the end of the universe from occurring on their watch. All 26 episodes from the series are included in this series set, showing the exploits of Captain Kain Blueriver, Canal, and Millie Nocturne as they pit lost technology against an evil so ancient and well equipped that the standing offer of joining forces with it proves tempting. This was another title with an ample sample of comedy though so don’t expect the majority of episodes to slip by without loads of silly antics tossed into the mix, largely courtesy of Millie’s quest to be the best at everything she tries.
Mobile Suit Gundam MS Igloo proved to be a rarity in how well it utilized modern CGI graphics and solid storylines about the mech universe so expansive in anime circles over the last thirty years. Each episode is a stand alone story of military advancement, this time seen from the point of view of the “other” side of events that usually gets painted as the bad guys in the rest of the related titles. If you like war done without the teenage melodrama, you might appreciate this more than most, the second volume coming out later this year.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Season 1, Set 2 finishes off season one of the legendary exploits of the Elric Brothers, trapped in metallic armor of their own making after trying to employ dark magic to regain their lost mother. As they seek a way out of their predicament, they encounter a variety of self serving beings that all want a similar goal; the famed Philosopher’s Stone that is supposed to enable the owner to do anything at all. The shades of gray the two find when uncovering the secret laboratories of the military Edward has sworn an allegiance toward is balanced by the criminals that would unleash an age of horrors upon mankind if given the chance; forcing them to walk a very narrow path lest they succumb to the temptations before them too.
Japanese animation director Satoshi Kon has created some of the best animated movies to ever be released on either side of the Pacific. While his films are just as creative and visually interesting as Hayao Miyazaki's (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds, Spirited Away), Kon's films are more kinetic and have plots that are more complex and convoluted. Kon's latest feature film, which saw limited theatrical distribution in the US, is Paprika. Based on Yasutaka Tsutsui's 1993 novel, this film is a wonderful visual feast for the eyes that has an intriguing puzzle-like story that may not be totally clear at first. The Blu-ray version boasts a wonderful image that really does this animated wonder justice.
What if you could kill someone simply by picturing their face and writing down their name? Would you ever do it? Could you use that power to create a perfect world, a place without crime or violence? That's what high school student Light Yagami attempts to do when he comes across a notebook that gives him the power to kill undetected in the latest anime series to be released by Viz, Death Note. Based on the manga by writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata (who also draws Hikaru no Go), the anime is faithful to the comic (so far) and has a story that is instantly engaging and is much more layered than one would imagine. We reviewed the volumes one and two, and they've left us yearning for more.
The Blade of the Phantom Master is a one-shot theatrical movie based on a 17-volume manga series. This story of a man wandering a lawless country is more nuanced that I thought it would be and while the action was good the plot was engaging too. This is one of those unexpected surprises that are always so fun to stumble across. The most disappointing aspect of this movie is that there isn't more. This plays like the first chapter in a much larger work, but since this film was made in 2004 and no sequels have been released, it appears that this is all that's going to be made. Munsu's world is rich and interesting, and it's too bad that there won't be more chapters in his story. Here's hoping that someone releases the manga in the US.
One of the more popular anime series among young viewers is Naruto, the story of a young outcast who is trying to become the best ninja ever. Viz has been releasing the series in both stand alone volumes and collected uncut sets. A couple of months ago they released the first Naruto theatrical film on DVD and now they've revisited the title and given it the deluxe treatment. Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow Deluxe Edition is a three disc set that has a lot of extras, but it's a case of quantity over quality. Only the most avid fans will want to double dip.
The tale of traveling Mushi Master Ginko continues in volume four of Mushi-Shi. This quiet and gentle show is oddly engaging thought there isn't any giant robots or extraterrestrial monsters trying to invade. It's the story of a man who tries to live in a union with his surroundings, while studying the invisible creatures that permeate his world. While these stand alone stories don't always end happily, they are well told and enjoyable to experience.
Bandai Visual is one of the only anime publishers really seeking out that next generation format dollar. So far they have a few releases on the market and with Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade they have really flexed their catalog. The Blu-ray release for this classic looks fantastic and sound wonderful, though some inconsistencies cropped up during our viewing. If you have missed out on Jin Roh then you've passed on a compelling revision of the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. The price for this Blu-ray edition is a little beyond reasonable though which makes this one not really worth the upgrade. It's a nice release but the special edition DVD is better.
If you like the supernatural and watching teenagers combat them then you'll probably dig Tokyo Majin. Some of the elements at work in the first volume feel kind of cliché but the characters and concept are interesting enough to make for a fun show to start with. Along the supernatural line of thought is the second volume of Hell Girl from FUNimation which really pushes the vengeance storyline forward. Seriously folks this show is one to pay attention to and I can't wait for the next installment to come out!
Spiral is one of the best detective shows that you haven't seen. This sleeper of a title from FUNimation came out quite a while ago and approached things differently. With a mysterious story involving a group known as the Blade Children, Spiral pits an unlikely teenager into the thick of a dangerous plot. Ever since his brother disappeared under strange circumstances Ayumu has been searching for his whereabouts. His discovery unearths some interesting truths and in the process he's framed for some crimes. This was an enjoyable show to watch one time through but I have to admit that I didn't see much in the way of re-playability when the credits rolled.
If you have been following our columns for a while you've probably realized that Don and John here at Anime Talk have a certain place in their hearts for Bleach. After checking out the first season I can honestly say that I agree whole heartedly with my colleagues. This show stands apart from the rest of the market the moment the first episode starts and you know it's going to be something special. The rest of the first arc of the series never skips a beat. Check out our reviews if you want to but trust us all on this; JUST GO BUY IT!
Ever hear of Princess Tutu? No? Well, you're missing out on a charming little show about a duck, a prince, and a raven. This fairytale turned wrong begins as the writer dies prior to finishing the story. A prince has given up his heart to bind an evil raven and when a duck falls in love with him the dead writer turns her into a girl. From that point the duck/girl gains the ability to restore the prince's heart by becoming Princess Tutu. Trust me on this. It's a silly concept for a show on paper (er, internet) but it's such a fantastically executed series that it's something you won't soon forget.
King of Bandits, Jing was another show that probably slipped beneath the radar of most otaku. The tales of thievery about a young famous bandit named Jing and his bird companion Kir were memorable and fun. The show left things open but that was the way the structure worked; it was episodic and the stories followed a pattern. It's a good thing that the OVA turned out to be much of the same with a story that featured Jing and Kir going to prison. Sandwiched in between the two bookend episodes is the story of the pair's origin which was something that I wished was a part of the series.
Witches and harem comedy go together like peanut butter and bananas so it's no surprise that Magikano feels cliché from the moment it begins. This story about a family of magic users and one powerless dimwitted boy stuck in the middle follows all of the harem standards. He finds himself surrounded by women and even though three of them are his sisters at least one of them seems to have the hots for him. There's a lot of traditional slapstick humor and lines but in between are one-dimensional characters and a concept that just feels tired. Newcomers to the genre will get more mileage out of Magikano than folks who have seen a harem or two.
by Don, John, and Todd
There were some tough choices to be made to come up with my pick of the year series but when all was evaluated, based on the volumes that came in for review, I had to go with a superior pick in Bleach. All three of the Anime Talk reviewers have had a chance to check this one out and we all agree that the trials and tribulations of Ichigo Kurosaki as a substitute soul reaper were full of the kind of fun, creativity, and appealing antics that anime lovers of all sorts can appreciate. Starting off with an accident that bestows him with strange powers, Ichigo learns the responsibility that goes with them as he seeks to protect his family and friends from ghostly hollows; the spirits of deceased people that are trapped on Earth. As the series continues, he finds that his heroic exploits have garnered the attention of a group that considers his arcane abilities to fly in the face of their traditions so they dispatch a band of warriors to remove the threat he poses towards their order. This also results in his friend Rukia Kuchiki being hauled off for summary execution, forcing Ichigo to undergo strenuous training to harness the might that is his to command. Bleach manages to balance the comedic aspects of anime with the very real themes it poses as Ichigo is joined by a small band of friends that want to see his quest through to the end, knowing full well the risks involved. While there are a lot more episodes to come out, you’ll want to see what fans are saying is one of the best series available; courtesy of Viz Media.
I watched a lot of anime this year, and much of it was good. There's one series that I keep thinking back on however. It was a series that, when I got to the end, I was really down. Not because the conclusion was depressing, but because there wasn't anymore for me to watch. The show was The Twelve Kingdoms.
Originally released as separate volumes in 2003, The Twelve Kingdoms is a fantasy anime that takes conventional plot devices of the genre (someone from our world transported to another reality, transforming magical beasts etc) and uses them in new and exciting ways. Instead of telling a story of grand battles and powerful magicians this show examines the way a new world, one where the god of the land makes his will known to the rulers, would work, how the people would live, and the problems the kings would face.. A surprisingly addictive series, after watching the first few episodes you'll want to churn through the rest of the installments as fast as you can. A very memorable and engaging show, it was the show I enjoyed the most in 2007. Read my reviews of Collection One and Collection Two.
Like my partners in anime crime I found myself really having a tough time picking one single anime as my favorite title for the whole of 2007. I had the opportunity to watch so many great shows this year such as Bleach, Noein, Hell Girl, Beck, Fate/Stay Night, and Black Cat. The series that made the biggest impression on me that keeps me going back to it is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Call it a guilty pleasure if you will, but this infectiously charming series hit me like a 2x4 the moment I sat down to watch the first volume. Bandai did a bang up job releasing Haruhi across four volumes and they provided the goods that fans wanted with Limited Edition releases and great bonus content.
In case you missed it The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is about a bizarre girl named Haruhi who takes over Kyon's otherwise peaceful school. Before too long we discover that Haruhi is a god of some kind and aliens, espers, and time travelers have all come to her side. This show features little more than Kyon's narrative, loveable characters, and random occurrences thanks to Haruhi's imaginative mind. The result is pure anime magic and that is why this is my pick as my favorite release from 2007.
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