Anne Freaks, Ninja Nonsense and Basilisk
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Todd Douglass and Holly Beeman
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This week Anime Talk returns with a full column. We have reviews of the latest anime titles including the final volumes of Full Metal Alchemist, the last unreleased Dragon Ball Z movie, the violent Basilisk, and the hilarious Ninja Nonsense. The latest anime bargains and our table of upcoming anime discs are here too. This week we wrap up the column with a look at some manga reviews. Todd Douglas reviews the rest of the Chrono Crusade manga series, and Holly Beeman takes a look at the violent and suspenseful Anne Freaks.
Sigh... Fullmetal Alchemist, how I love thee. This anime was easily one of the best, and most memorable, that I have ever seen. In the past month we saw the twelfth and thirteenth volumes release and sadly they brought an end to the series. Granted the "true" ending is in the upcoming Conqueror of Shamballa but the stuff that's in the final installments fittingly puts the cap on some things. Scar completes his philosopher's stone, the fuhrer is revealed to be a Homunculi and Edward sees the other side of the Gate. Each of these events lead to the tumultuous finale and appropriate ending for Fullmetal Alchemist. I laughed, I cried and I can't wait for the film.
While not technically anime, there were some animated bits in Vermilion Pleasure Night: V1: Optic Erotica; one of the most bizarre offerings from late night television in Japan. A skit show not completely unlike Saturday Night Live, the ensemble vignettes are often fusions of music, adult sexuality, and the kind of perverse humor you'd expect from Japan that we described as "The general idea is like combining two parts of sketch comedy (like Saturday Night Live), one part eight-ball, and a whole heaping mound of artistic vision that few will understand (inside or out of Japan)."
It's a complete-your-collection disc as Funimation releases the very last unreleased Dragon Ball Z show: the 13th movie, Wrath of the Dragon. Now all of the animated adventures of Akira Toriyama's classic manga are available in region one (albeit in edited form for a few volumes.) In this last DBZ movie is one of the best, featuring all of the main characters, most of them in their most powerful form, and having an interesting story. The franchise really went out with a bang with this film.
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V3 picked up the pacing as the characters followed through on their own special interests leading to war. The technological advances on some of the Mobile Suits cause alliances to shift and their ability to overturn the balance of power provides the extremists the opportunity to advance their desire for war in hopes of preventing a loss of face, and a loss of status as the series continues to show the futility of war.
The fourth and fifth volumes of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, or just Macross for short, contains some of the most powerful and intense, not to mention good, episodes in the series. Back on earth, the SDF-1 has just as many problems as it did in space. Not only are they being constantly attacked by Zentraedi forces, but they can't relocate the refugees that they are carrying. Things go from bad to worse as major characters are killed, and the ship's systems start to fail. This show, which the first chapter of the seminal series Robotech was based on, is a classic work of anime and still retains a lot of its charm even decades after it was created.
Fantastic Children V3 is the third volume in the Bandai series dealing with the Children of Befort; in a futuristic setting where their search culminates in success though not in time to save a wandering spirit from losing his path to the afterlife. While previous episodes made the group look sinister, their motivations are now made clear and it becomes a race against the clock to stop some evil experiments that originated with one of their own.
If violent ninja themed anime is your thing then Basilisk may just be what you're looking for. There is a definite Ninja Scroll tone to the series and the action feels very inspired by that film. Taking place in the Tokugawa era of Japan, Basilisk tells the tale of warring ninja clans, the Iga and Kouga. A tentative peace agreement between the two is thrown out the window and the bloodbath begins. Stuck in the middle are two lovers who are not entirely dissimilar from Romeo and Juliet. Mystical powers take the center stage in place of a meaningful plot and traditional ninja techniques. It'll be interesting to see where the show goes in the second volume, but for now it remains a solid romp packed with one battle after another.
Captain Ahab and his scurvy crew of space whalers are back in Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick: V3: The Moad Trail, Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick: V4: Hearts of Steel, Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick: V5: Death and Rebirth, and Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick: V6: The Final Countdown as they travel to Lucky's planet to fight the powerful vessel Moby Dick in a personal grudge match. The more immediate threat of the governmental forces looms on the horizon as the situation develops with Dew, Ahab, and the colorful cast providing their historical backgrounds in relation to one another as well as their obsession with Moby. The reasons may be quite personal but serve as no less strong a series of motivators as the deadline to stop the destruction of Moad rapidly approaches. Not all of the endings were happy ones but the series ended with a bang and picked up the pace towards the end, making it worth checking out.
Things really start to heat up in the penultimate volume of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig. While this sixth volume only has three episodes they sure pack a wallop as Japan gets pushed to the brink of war, despite the best efforts of Section 9. With the Prime Minister painted into a corner it seems that Mr. Gohda is holding all the cards. A not-to-be-missed volume of one of the best series that's currently being released.
Jinki Extend V1 is the latest giant robot story although this one looks to the past as much to the future in terms of the adversaries the team faces. We only saw a limited screener version but the show combined a lot of archetypes from the multitude of anime classics and used them in some pretty interesting ways before the first three episodes were over. Aoba finds that the members of the paramilitary organization are a decidedly twisted bunch but they will need her genetically enhanced skills to overcome and protect the Earth from the looks of it.
Speed Grapher V2: Limited Edition continued the futuristic story about a burnt out photographer named Tatsumi Saiga who, when granted super powers by a gifted girl, ends up running from the corrupt government as well as the powerful Tennozu Group that will stop at nothing to get her back. More is learned about the situation they are in as an increasingly powerful series of equally gifted beings attempts to stop the flight, resulting in more carnage and depravity than you'll find in most anime.
Space Sentinels/Freedom Force: Complete Series is a title that many retro anime fans will appreciate because even though it was made here in the USA, it was a precursor to the giant robot, samurai, Eastern philosophy titles that followed the path it provided. Two separate groups of heroes fight the forces of evil using magic, might and science to arrive at politically correct solutions to problems, establishing a formula used to this day on Saturday morning cartoons. For all the flaws though, it was a trip down memory lane that some of you will find quite appealing.
Goofy ninjas and fanservice apparently go together like peanut butter and chocolate. The hilarious Ninja Nonsense is just as nonsensical as its name implies. The series is about a young girl named Shinobu from a ninja village who befriends another girl known as Kaede from the normal world. Together they go on one insane adventure after another but the real insanity begins once the ninja are brought into the picture. This time around the heat of summer drives them crazy, they go into the mountains to pick some mushrooms and Onsokumaru dies and goes to hell. In just about every frame Ninja Nonsense tickled my funny bone and proved itself to be as irreverent as it was enjoyable.
Things are still wild and wacky in the seventh and eighth volumes of Kodocha. The laugh-out-loud escapades of the Sana Kurata, 11-year-old TV star and her friends continues unabated. These discs each have another four humorous shows that are a good break from the typical mecha/SF anime that is so prevelent in the genre. While they haven't started another big story arc yet, these stand along shows are still quite enjoyable. Even after 25+ episodes the show still manages to come up with some amusing situations for Sana and her friends. A Japanese situational comedy that works well even for American audiences.
We wrapped up the first season mayhem with UFO Ultra Maiden Valkyrie V2: Crash Course in Craziness!, UFO Ultra Maiden Valkyrie V3: The Pirates, The Princess, & the Proposal, and UFO Ultra Maiden Valkyrie OVA Special: Bridal Training recently as the love story continues to take the usual twists and turns while Valkyrie and her true love, Kazuto Tokino, try to stay one step ahead of the wacky ensemble of characters that intervene as the pair travel the stars, fight off space pirates, buy asteroids, and meet the royal in-laws in the remaining volumes of the series. Those who enjoy fan service will be super happy knowing that nudity takes place in each episode and the creators weren't shy about exploring adult themes in this harem series. Look for season two in the near future but don't pass this one up if that's what you're into.
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Anne Freaks Manga Volumes 1 &
One the more recent series to be published under ADV Manga, beginning in March of 2006, is the highly violent and suspenseful Anne Freaks presented by Yua Kotegawa, the winner of a secondary prize in Young Jump's Monthly New Artist Contest for her series Ottori Sousa. For those who are new to the manga-scene, or for those who are tired of some of the tamer, run-of-the-mill manga series, Kotegawa provides a fresh breath of air in her 16 & up-rated Anne Freaks, complete with plenty of bloodshed and a beautiful young assassin named Anna.
At the beginning of the first volume, high-schooler Yuri Kitagawa is found dealing with the body of his very recently killed mother, of which he is presumably responsible for, when a mysterious and bewitching girl shows up and says, "That's not a very good spot, you know." It soon becomes apparent that Anna, the main character of Kotegawa's series, is not your ordinary girl as she takes matters into her own hands by disposing of the body herself. As if this isn't strange enough, Yuri almost immediately finds himself falling in love with her and makes an abrupt decision to drop out of school, but seeing as how he is a supposed killer himself, I guess it's not that bizarre after all.
Anna initially refuses to reveal her name to Yuri, even as persistent as he is. She tells him that he first needs to be in her world, all the way. As time passes, she informs Yuri that she's looking for a partner to help her kill her father, whose location is presently unknown. Well, as a dropout and a killer, what else has he got going for him?
As the volume progresses, Yuri encounters 15-year old Mitsuba Maezono who believes he had something to do with the murder of a fellow classmate. This confrontation provides useful as far as Anna is concerned; she commands Yuri to hit Mitsuba, or else she's leaving him behind. Reluctantly, he does. In a twist of fate, the two end up taking him along to Tokyo where he discovers in a local paper that his father and sister have been murdered by a masked group of violent terrorists, known as the Kakusei Group. This act seals the deal. Mitsuba wants in.
The second volume starts out with a view into the new living arrangement between Anna, Yuri, and Mitsuba in Tokyo. Anna keeps Yuri busy with little tasks such as making him cook various dishes like shrimp in chili sauce, not allowing him to become too preoccupied with his thoughts. And as for Mitsuba, she's not too worried. He can take care of himself, at least for the most part.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Shono from the Juvenile Division, Section 1 has been called in to work with Inspector Nishikama from the National Public Safety Commission, Section 3. Why? To try and bring in our three increasingly known teenagers to cooperate in destroying the Kakusei Group, rather than having them (read: Anna) kill anyone who happens to get in the way. While they both share this common goal, Sergeant Shono definitely has a softer side than Inspector Nishikama, creating a conflict on interests with regards to dealing with the kids (i.e., whether to use force or take a more diplomatic approach).
Deciding to take a step back, Mitsuba suggests that Anna and Yuri go out for a while. It is almost Christmas, after all. Anna seems a bit miffed about something, so Yuri thinks it might be a good idea to have a Christmas party to try and cheer her up, which just annoys her even more. Nevertheless, he has his heart set on buying a cake for said occasion, so Anna goes for a walk. As Sergeant Shono closes in on Yuri, Anna creates a diversion, and they take an "old man" up on his offer to go for a ride in his car. This "old man" turns out to be Reverend Kunita, a former member of the Kakusei Group. Anna isn't very interested in what he has to say, and soon, they end up back with Mitsuba... a beaten up Mitsuba, that is.
It's obvious that Mitsuba needs medical treatment, so Anna, along with Yuri, takes him to her friend and doctor Moe. It isn't long before Reverend Kunita coincidentally shows up, offering a way to take down the Kakusei Group without killing, an idea both Yuri and Mitsuba find somewhat appealing when compared to Anna's more bloodthirsty tactics. I don't want to reveal much more, so I'll leave it at that.
Anne Freaks is a compelling read paired with fascinating visuals that keep you on the edge of your seat. It can be a bit too suspenseful at times in that it can confuse the reader (or maybe just me), but that stands to be pretty much its only flaw. Yuri and Mitsuba are seemingly more reflective and conscious of their acts, providing a nice contrast to Anna, who can be rather ruthless in her pursuit of the Kakusei Group as well as her father. This manga series comes easily recommended to fans of manga and graphic novels in general, in addition to those who might want to give the genre a try, especially if violence is your thing, thought if it's not, not to worry--there's a deeper layer beneath the surface.
The Chrono Crusade manga has been out for some time and the same can be said for the anime for that matter. Both concepts are published by different facets of ADV and by now there is no doubt you have heard of the series. After all, it's a franchise based upon nuns with guns who fight demons. What more could an otaku want?
Chrono Crusade takes place in 1928 and focuses on a young member of the Magdalene Order named Rosette Christopher. She's a teenage sister with a nose for trouble and a knack for getting in over her head. Wherever she goes she leaves behind a wake of destruction and needless to say her boss doesn't particularly enjoy having to pay for the damages. Then again, Rosette wouldn't have that bad of a time if those pesky demons would stop attacking people. Luckily for her she's not alone in her adventure and the Order has her partnered up with a kid called Chrono.
If you read my recap of the first two volumes then you know that I use the term "kid" loosely. Chrono is actually a powerful demon who has taken the form of a child. So you may be asking yourself "What is a nun doing teaming up with a demon?" Well, when Rosette was a little younger she came upon Chrono and the two formed a pact of sorts. Rosette's soul and life force now resides in a watch that hangs around her neck, and each time Chrono uses his powers she takes one step closer to death. Sadly there are many instances where the seal must be broken and the power unleashed, so it's a great foreshadowing of things to come and really adds to the drama of the series.
In the first two volumes of the manga we were introduced to both of these characters and the world that they live in. There were a couple of demons to slay and in the meantime they came across a shadow from Chrono's past. This particular demon had conspired to kidnap a young girl named Azmaria who possessed an angelic voice capable of great power. There was a big battle, the good guys won, and Azmaria became a fledgling initiate in the Magdalene Order. Naturally for the sake of the story she becomes a third wheel for Rosette and Chrono.
As things started heading towards the third volume Rosette's missing brother stepped into the picture. He appears to be on the bad side and not entirely human anymore, as he stands amidst a sea of dead demons. What is up with him and some guy named Aion? The mystery unfolds a little at a time though on the interim Rosette and company pick up yet another straggler.
The dynamic trio goes to New York City and bumps into Satella Harvenheit, who is nicknamed Hexen Dur Juwel. Basically that means that she is a Jewel Witch (a gem user with the ability to summon creatures to her aide in battle). She isn't affiliated with the Magdalene Order in any way and basically does what she does for the sake of collecting a bounty. Due to their conflicting personalities she and Rosette clash when they first meet, though it may have something to do with the way she behaves towards Chrono. Satella tries to get closer to Chrono to see if he is the hornless demon that killed her family.
Eventually Satella joins up with our heroes and accompanies them to San Francisco. On the train Rosette gets a disturbing message from her brother Joshua and the team has to fight that weird puppet master demon again. The creature takes every passenger on the train as a hostage and separates Rosette from her friends. Luckily for her Chrono has been with her long enough to know when something is up and quickly comes to her side. Let's just say that they really do a number on the demon and we probably won't be seeing it again after this fight.
They eventually continue on their trek and make a pit stop in Chicago. While resting Chrono has a nightmare involving his demon form and Aion, though when he wakes up Rosette is there to comfort him. Their tender moment doesn't last for long because shortly thereafter a pair of pursuer demons from the netherworld come looking for him. Post haste they make their escape but are doggedly tracked down. In the meantime Chrono enlightens us about the demon world and how every demon is essentially related to one another. It's interesting to think of it as a hive-like society where every monster comes from a single queen bee.
One of the most intense battles that Rosette and Chrono have ever faced (in the series anyway) takes place in the warehouse they were hiding in. A score of pursuers arrives and tries to take out Chrono, though leave it to Rosette to literally bring the whole place down around them in the process. When the dust settles the troupe is paid a visit from the Chicago branch of the Order. Speaking of visits, later in the fourth volume Joshua gets a visit from Aion himself. Things are set in motion and towards the end of the volume there is a shocking event that leaves one dying to read the fifth installment.
I loved Chrono Crusade when I saw the anime and now that I have
had the chance to go back and check out the manga I'm even more enthralled.
The first and second volumes were a lot of fun and were packed with action,
but the third and fourth really focus on the characters and plot. The humor
is there in spades, the battles are intense and the mystery surrounding
Aion is both intriguing and fantastically portrayed. Daisuke Moriyama did
a great job with this manga and the ADV translation does the series justice.
If you're looking for a good read definitely check out this manga, since
it's one of the best that I have experienced.
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