Blame!, Gantz, and Elemental Gelade
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Todd Douglass
This week Anime Talk takes a look at several new series and some boxed sets of previously released shows. In the former category there's Elemental Gelade, a show that doesn't mind borrowing from other series, and a the guilty pleasure Strawberry Marshmallow. We also cover the second season of the ultra-violent and intense series Gantz and the latest Gatchaman collection. There's also our table of upcoming DVDs and Holly's Anime Bargains. In addition to all that John Sinnott has a look at the science fiction manga Blame! in which a guy with a really big gun heads out across a post apocalyptic city in search of something that might not exist.
The adventures of the Science Ninja Team continue with the sixth collection of Gatchaman comprising episodes 61 to 72. If you have been following the series then you know in the last batch of discs Red Impulse went to the big airfield in the sky. Things kick off here with Ken still mourning his loss and when Galactor exploits his emotions it sends him over the edge. Some more one-off adventures happen in this set and there is a lot more character development than in previous volumes. Most of the episodes are cheesy but there are a few that fans will absolutely love. This is another great set from ADV and another reason you should check this show out if you love classic anime.
Saiyuki Reload Gunlock V2 showed the Sanzo party facing ever stronger demons, particularly Goku getting to fight the nearly invincible (and now mindless) Kougaiji in order to save a small group of villagers. The remaining episodes show the team divided by a board game and a pretty lady but what else is new with a group that is just as likely to beat on each other as the enemy? Season four shows a lot of promise and we’ve upgraded the rating for the show but fans will already understand the nature of the road trip buddy series that has moved to Geneon after a stint at ADV.
With a title like Strawberry Marshmallow and a volume named “Cute is as Cute Does”, chances are good that you know going in what kind of show this one is. On paper the best way to describe the series to the anime initiate is a hybrid of Bottle Faeries and Azumanga Daioh. Strawberry Marshmallow focuses on five young girls and the adventures they have in their daily lives. The older 16 year old has a knack for drinking and smoking and in order to support her habits she raids her younger sister’s (Chika) piggy bank. Along the way Chika’s friends are introduced and the adorable insanity begins. It’s irreverent, nonsensical and hilarious at just about every turn. Sure this is a show that you’ll be embarrassed to admit that you watch, but it’s a guilty pleasure in its truest form.
This week we have two reveiws of the new series Elemental Gelade. With the feel that it had videogame inspiration and includes many elements from other anime, opening volume for a series that treads familiar ground. The series follows the adventures of Cou who is a young space pirate out to prove himself to the world (yawn). Along the way he meets and “reacts” with an Edel Raid (kind of a symbiotic weapon) known as Ren and teams up with a group of strangers who want to protect the girl. Each character fits into a stereotype such as girl that’s always hungry, girl that is shy and quiet, plus the brazen adventurer out to conquer the world. Despite its lack of originality the series seems to be well written enough to survive its shortcomings. The series proved to offer enough laughs and plot intrigue that it was definitely worth watching, but at this point it’s up for debate if it’s worth owning. Decide for your self after reading Todd's review as well as Don's on the limited edition..
With the fourth volume of Mythical Detective Loki, the series starts its second half, but the show is still having trouble raising above the level of mediocre. In this volume some new characters are introduced and plans to kill Loki are revealed but the story really doesn't advance at all. A lot of the plots are a bit on the dumb side and though some of the humor works, a lot of it doesn't. While this isn't a bad show, it's not great either.
The fifth volume of Mythical Detective Loki is a good example of why this is a terribly mediocre series: For every good episode, there's a couple that are not so hot. While the volume starts off on a high note with a funny parody of The Iron Chef, some of the other episodes are a bit silly, and the overall plot isn't advanced at all. With this show well into its second half, it is going to be interesting to see how it all wraps up.
One of the shows to look for was Gantz: Season 2. The concluding 13 episodes of the story that created significant buzz on the internet showed protagonist Kei Kurono fighting against a whole new group of powerful foes, this time including a new team of recently deceased humans all geared up like himself. If you enjoy blood and gore, nudity and sex, and all sorts of new twists that you won’t find in most anime, this was one of the most offbeat you’ll find.
While not technically anime, fans of animation will likely appreciate The Legend of Prince Valiant: Complete Series V1 as the five disc set shows American animation attempting to emulate our friends from the Far East. The comic strip characters created by Hal Foster 70 years ago have never looked better as they fought evil knights in their attempt to bring justice to the world via Arthur and his knight of the round table as seen through the eyes of a young prince and his companions.
One of the most anticipated anime series that's currently being released is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig. This program has everything that makes anime so enjoyable: entertaining episodes, creative backgrounds, detailed animation, and a mysterious overriding plot. Volumes four and five are just as good as the preceding instalments, each presenting four excellent episodes. Teh fourth volume features an episode that reveals details about some of the characters past including how the sniper, Saito, lost his left eye. Volume five has (believe it or not) a nice homage to Wim Wenders filim Wings of Desire.
The latest offering from ADV to get the collected series treatment is Cyberteam in Akihabara, a combination of Bubblegum Crisis and Sailor Moon with a bit of Angelic Layer thrown in for good measure. The series tries a bit too hard to be all things to all viewers and ends up not being strong in any one area. While this show has some good aspects, it's nothing that hasn't been done before, and usually done better.
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by John Sinnott
Tsutomu Nihei is little known in the US, the only work he's done in this country has been on the Marvel mini-series Wolverine: Snikt!. In Japan though, he has a cult following largely due to his stylistic and influential manga Blame! Tokyopop has now brought this ten volume series to the US, and the first four of which have been published.
In a giant metallic city that stretches up as far as the eye can see, a man named Killy hunts for something so rare that it may not exist: humans with Net Terminal Genes. A person with these genes would be able to communicate with the massive computer that runs the city, but no one with this valuable property has been seen for generations. Unfortunately something is wrong with the computer and the city has gone out of control. Only by finding Net Terminal Genes will the city be put to right.
Traveling through the levels of the city, now a post apocalyptic wasteland, Killy has only his gun for protection. A rare and powerful weapon, a Gaviton Beam Emitter, it is one of the very few things that will stop the Authority, cyborgs that roam the towers killing all that they meet.
Nihei's work is just amazing. Told with only sparse dialog, the story unfolds mainly in pantomime, with the intricate architecture of the city constantly present, it's almost as if the city itself is a character in the book. Nihei was trained as an architect, and that training is very evident in his art.
A vocal fan of French comics, Nihei was obviously inspired by Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters wonderful comic The Tower (reprinted in English in the late, lamented Dark Horse anthology Cheval Noir issues 9-14). He takes their story of a caretaker in a giant tower who wants to find his missing superiors a step or two further, filling this futuristic cyber-punk world with massive robots, horrific science experiments, and Giger-like creatures that are part human, part machine.
In addition to the lovely intricate and detailed art, the story is very well constructed too. Nihei's minimalist style is well suited to this tale, the story of a lone wolf searching for an elusive item doesn't call for a lot of exposition and the lack of dialog actually draws the reader into the tale. More time is spent looking at the art in order to pick up the story, and that immerses the reader in Nihei's wonderful, horrible world. A highly recommended series.
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