Death Note, Darker Than Black, and My Santa!
Happy Holidays everyone! Hope winter finds you warm and that you've had plenty of time to relax with friends, family, and your pile of anime!
We've been busy as usual chipping away at our stacks of reviews and watching the bulk of anime on the market. With the consolidation of the industry titles have come in spurts. With less companies the release windows have changed and I'm sure you've noticed by reading our columns that one month is ginormous, and other months not so much. Well the past month or so has landed plenty of anime on our doorstep and we've pull everything together just in case you missed a certain title during the holiday rush.
Just in time for Christmas FUNimation has put out a pair of fun and lively OVAs from Ken Akamatsu, the creator of both Love, Hina and Negima. Itsudatte, My Santa! contains only two half hour shows but they both have so much Christmas-themed humor and wacky action that it's well worth picking up. The prefect Christmas gift for the anime lover on your list!
There are certain anime creators and groups that you can be certain will put out a solid product. Clamp is one, I'll sit through anything that collective puts out, and another is Gonzo. I've been a fan of theirs since I first saw Blue Submarine #6 when it first arrived on DVD years ago. (Has it really been that long?) Funimation has recently released another Gonzo series (original put out by ADV) in a two part season set and I had to take a look. As I expected, Pumpkin Scissors Set 1 is another good show that is a lot of fun watch.
Things take a surprising turn as new characters are introduced and some important people take their bow in the seventh volume of Death Note. This is one series that keeps viewers on their toes and this installment is no exception. The first big story arc concludes in an unexpected fashion (and much sooner than anyone was expecting) and the second story starts to unfold. A don't-miss volume of a great series.
The latest season set to be released by Nozomi and Right Stuf Internatiaonal is a bit unique. Maria Watches Over Us is a shoujo-ai show, a girl-love programs that's the feminine counterpart to shonen-ai anime (like Gakuen Heaven.) Revolving around the events at an all-girls school where tradition is very important, the show is slow-paced and tends to veer towards the melodramatic yet it's very good for what it is: a clam, slice-of-life show that takes place in a girl's school. While viewers will find themselves occasionally rolling their eyes at some contrived plot devices, this gentle character driven story is worth checking out
When John screened the first season of Sasami - Magical Girls Club, he was pretty underwhelmed. It wasn't a bad show, but it wasn't much different from all the other Magical Girl anime out there and aside from the names, it didn't tie into the various Tenchi series like he was hoping it would. The second season still suffers from those flaws, but it's a bit better over all. There's more continuity and the stories have a bit more drama to them, which is nice. If you enjoyed the first season, you'll definitely want to check out this one.
While I love the long, sprawling epic anime series like Dragonball Z and Naruto, there's something to be said for the short and sweet shows too. The 12-episode programs that have a simple story to tell, tell it, and then end. There aren't a lot of filler episodes in those shows and the action is pretty constant. That's why I enjoyed Coyote Ragtime so much. There's not a lot of wasted action. While it borrows from a lot of other shows, the program has a style all its own and some fun characters that make it worth watching.
Funimation has released the entire series of Black Blood Brothers in a nice, compact slipcased set. This vampires vs. humans story set in the future has some nice twists, a great protagonist, and features electrifying fight sequences that offer plenty of entertainment. It is a fun show that's over all too quickly. Moving at a fairly fast clip, the show feels rushed in parts, but that's a minor complaint at best. If you missed the series when it was originally released now's a great time to pick it up.
In the penultimate volume of Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time (volume eight for those keeping track) the story should be rushing to a climax. Unfortunately it really doesn't feel that way. With only six episodes left as the volume opens, the show is still taking its time to let the story unfold and the lack of urgency that Akane and her guardians feel to defeat the demon Akram and free the four gods is a little irritating. It makes me wonder if the show will actually be wrapped up in the last volume.
Within the past month we've had a little bit of catching up to do and some new installments have come out for ongoing series. Because of that we have seen two volumes of Tsubasa (volumes 9 and 10) as the second season continues its march. The series has remained entertaining and if you enjoyed any of the earlier volumes you'll appreciate what happens here. Unfortunately I personally have found that the series has grown repetitious on some levels. The formulaic and episodic nature simply doesn't allow for much in the way of innovative storytelling, but fortunately both of these volumes contain some interesting arcs and singular episodes. It's not quite enough to stave off the feeling of monotony, but it's good enough to keep CLAMP fans happy.
Two volumes of Naruto have also come our way and if you missed the tenth and eleventh installments you'll definitely want to get caught up. In the tenth collection the Sasuke arc comes to a head as his new powers brew in a barrel and he comes to the conclusion that the only way to kill his brother Itachi is to off Naruto for good. Naturally there's a lot of fighting with this volume and it arguably contains the best moments of the show. Unfortunately after the strong finish, the eleventh volume is disappointing and contains less appealing episodes as the show kind finds its footing again. It's still Naruto and there's still plenty to like, but overall the tenth uncut collection drastically outclasses the eleventh.
During the last month some new titles have hit the market and Darker Than Black is one of the more intriguing ones. It features a mysterious protagonist and a unique set up, but it's a show that keeps you in the dark. I appreciated the concept with its futuristic setting, people who have special powers, and connection to some big conspiracy. Sadly the fact that the show is so tightlipped about giving us details is a big turn-off. You're left to figure things out as you go and there is precious little explanation for another. Even so the action is slick, the animation is solid, the voice acting is spot-on, and each episode is easy enough to get into. Hopefully future volumes will clue us in more on what's going on, but until then you can consider the first installment a rental.
Over the past month or so there have been several complete collections released. Most of these are from FUNimation and are series that were saved from ADV's licensing nightmare. In case you missed these shows their first time around Guyver, Le Chevalier d'Eon, and Air Gear fell into this category. Guyver was cool, Le Chevalier d'Eon was great, and Air Gear was "eh". Other ADV titles are on the way so it will be interesting to see what the next month has in store for us.
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of anime then you undoubtedly already know that Death Note is one of the best damn shows to come along in a while. This heartwarming series about a boy who discovers a Death God's notebook and begins committing mass murder is memorable and haunting. It's a gripping tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat right up until, well the end isn't here yet but VIZ has released a boxed set with the first 20 episodes. Just read the review and check the show out. You'll be glad you did.
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