Samurai Gun, Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass
This week we have an early look at a new series, the ultra-violent Samurai Gun, and an OVA that promises to make you sleep with the lights on, Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek. There is also Holly's Anime Bargains and our table of anime DVDs that are scheduled to be released in the next couple of weeks. Be sure to check out the capsule reviews of the latest anime releases too: Gunslinger Girl Volume 2 manages to avoid the "sophomore slump" that so many titles suffer from, Petite Princess Yucie ends on a bittersweet note, and Infinite Ryvius Volume 5 retells The Lord of the Flies. Not everything was good though. Peacemaker continues its fast decline with volume 6, and Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: Movie 1: The Empty Battlefield turns an excellent series filled with political maneuvering into a series of flashy battle scenes. Read all the reviews to find out what's worth owning and what you should skip.
One of the best series of the year proved that there'd be no sophomore slump with Gunslinger Girl 2: Life, Happiness, and the Gun, which was equally as intense and satisfying as the first volume. Combine 3 parts of The Six Million Dollar Man, 2 parts of La Femme Nikita, with a dash of Gungrave and you'll have the volatile mixture that makes up this series of enhanced girl assassins fighting terrorists worldwide. This batch of four more episodes managed to draw us in as much, yet expand on the dangerous limitations that gals had, with their handlers finding out caring can cause death as easily as the foes they fight in the shadows of the night. FUNimation has a winner on its hands and we're all looking forward to seeing the continuing saga of the girls from the Social Welfare Agency as they meet their fates head on.
For such a backward planet, Earth seems to be the focal point of a lot of invasions in the year 2070. Driven by the need to figure out the mysterious power yielded by a small group of teenagers defending their home from the powers that be, Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 3 unveils yet more secrets of the cast as they prove up to the task again and again. With more than a little exposition on the part of a few key players, the series provides a solid look at a place and time as yet fully revealed but as they say, getting there is half the fun. Muryou Subaru's full strength is still hidden but his friends at Misumaru Middle School are finding he has more secrets than they do at this midway point of the excellent series by The Right Stuf.
A series that ended its run some time ago came to the office recently, with three long lost volumes to finish off the DVD Talk review of the show. The series was S-Cry-Ed and S-Cry-Ed: Aftershocks, S-Cry-Ed: Evacuation, and S-Cry-Ed: Final Fight all managed to show that a midseason slump doesn't always translate into a failed series as Kazume and Ryuho learn to put aside their differences just long enough to battle the ultimate villain, a man who can steal the super powers right out from under their noses, and turn those powers against any who oppose him. Throw in the military might of a massive armada, a powerful beam weapon attached to a satellite and a handful of other baddies and you'll see why the last half of the series was jumping as never before.
The classic tale Lord of the Flies gets an update in the fifth volume of Infinite Ryvius: Retribution. A spaceship teaming with space cadets finds that a determined enemy is not their only foe as they learn to prey upon one another over the slightest of pretenses. Set 220 years in the future, the crew battles those that would see them dead as we finally learn why the governmental forces are so focused on ending the short lived rebellion of students. While not the strongest release in the series, the infighting and petty bickering by the cast was worth a rental for those of you who patiently waded through the first part of the series.
Ending on a bittersweet note, Petite Princess Yucie: Final Test 6, showed Yucie making a decision between her friends and her could be lover as each find themselves in peril. Winning the tiara was supposed to fix all the ills of the world but when faced with this kind of choice, could she do anything but turn it down in hopes of saving them all? Caught up in a thousand year struggle to spread the magic across the various kingdoms, none of the girls seem all too anxious to "win" when the rules are explained to them in detail. Like the saying goes, the devil is in the details and there seemed to be a lot of minute points their mentor never bothered to share with them on this prize.
It's amazing that a show that relies on every concept before it feels like it has nothing to it. Star Ocean EX Vol. 3 is like everything in volumes one and two: stupid, brightly dressed characters introduced every other episode fumble about on their way to save the world. This show is torture on anime fans who like good stories, great animation, and interesting characters, because this show has none of that. It has a poor premise (a boy is stranded on a very boring world, and spends 14 episodes collecting stupid sidekicks), the characters are unoriginal brats who don't have a pulse, and the animation and action isn't good enough to save a story that has no direction. Avoid this series like the plague.
After finishing up a terrific series, there was never any doubt that Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: Movie 1: The Empty Battlefield would be a fitting way to showcase the series in all its glory but we didn't expect the highly edited version of the series to skim over the best parts in favor of the lowest common denominator so readily. Relying more on the flashy fights than the intellectually based political maneuvering of the characters, the movie managed to take one of the best series of the last few years and turn it into a most generic summary unfit for the strength of the material. With two more movies to go, we wince at the possibilities of what else could be done to such a fine series that proved our beliefs wrong (it happens).
Another DVD that had some of the professional critics raving but turned into a glossy bit of fluff with little excitement to earn the praise was My Beautiful Girl Mari. Made in Korea, the story of a little boy repeatedly disappointed by the loss of those around him turning to a fantasy world was about as pretty as anime could be yet had such a limited plot that even the most forgiving of us was left scratching our head over why it was so well received. There were some nice ideas touched upon but in the end, it was definitely one I'd suggest as a rental since it sure won't appeal to those of you wanting some depth or excitement.
For those of you who are familiar with Neon Genesis Evangelion, chances are good that you have already seen the movies that came out following the series' release. If you haven't then you may be interested in the newly released box set featuring Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion. Death & Rebirth condenses the entire show into clips essential for the new ending that is seen in The End of Evangelion. Since the original series' ending was a little "too" complicated this film is considered to be new episodes 25 and 26.
One show that started out pretty well but didn't live up to its early promise is Peacemaker. This penultimate volume has really started accelerating the downhill slide the series has been on. The three episodes in this volume contain a lot of death and torture, something that has been absent in the previous volumes. This program has really been having problems finding its voice and this volume changes the direction of the show once again. Why they have changed this series so radically this late in the game is anyone's guess, but the changes didn't improve the show.
Scheduled for release on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2005
Scheduled for release on Tuesday, August 30, 2005
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Samurai Gun Vol. 1
Anime series that begin with the senseless butchering of gorgeous, nubile women aren't for everyone. Stick to Please Twins, wimps.
If you were sucked in by the way Elfen Lied started off, then you'll give Samurai Gun a chance. Long before the first bullet is fired, Samurai Gun is ultraviolent goodness, as mysterious whackos hunt women dressed in blue. Meanwhile, a talented samurai named Ichimatsu laments the fact that he's fallen in love with a prostitute. Anime that starts like this has a lot of promise in my book.
Basically, this Samurai X with guns and without the honor, as a team of samurai band together to take on the ruling Shogun. And with this taking place during the start of the industrial revolution, everyone's armed to the teeth.
OK, so watching a guy grab arrows out of the air while shooting a semi-automatic handgun is hard to swallow for those used to the classic samurai figure, but just roll with it. Samurai Gun is action-packed and just a lot of fun to watch, as the Samurai Gun team goes after the vicious ruling class, with a different mission in every episode.
The opening and closing animation of Samurai Gun has a very comic book look to it, in terms of character design and shadowing, and some action sequences in the show bring back memories of Dead Leaves and Ninja Scroll TV at the same time. Just a little CGI is used, and it's used well.
Most of the people who are tortured or killed so far in these first few episodes are big-breasted women, and nine out of ten women in this show is a street worker or a sultry seductress. If you're a card-carrying member of NOW, stay far, far away.
This show opens well, and is an easy pick for the action fans out there.
Volume one is Recommended.
Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek
The opening of Kakurenbo sees a brazen young boy lead a group of youngsters in a night-time game of hide and seek among the darkened alleyways of a creepy city. He carries a pole over his shoulder, sticks out his chest, and laughs at rumors that demons inhabit the area.
Three minutes later he's running for his life, and looks like he's wet his pants.
Let the fun begin.
Kakurenbo is about the scariest game of hide and seek imagined, where children play, children scream, and children disappear, all with tremendous, shocking speed. One boy has joined this game to find his sister, who went missing during an earlier game. Will he survive long enough to find her?
In a 3DCGI world, the animation of Kakurenbo is fantastic, albeit a bit dark, and the story is based on demons of Japanese lore. Except these fanged monstrosities have a mecha feel in their design, and this is no simple bedtime story. Don't show this one to your 10-year-old.
The running length of Kakurenbo is where my only complaint lies. Just a hair over 23 minutes is really, really short, even for an OVA, though a nice package of special features (a slew of interviews, character and background galleries, trailers, previews and a solid subbed making of feature, running with the storyboards, 3DCG screen and the finished product), and a low anime DVD price point ($19.98, and you know you'll find it for $15 somewhere) allows me to borderline Recommend it with a clear conscience. If the running time scares you (the show will), Rent It first. I promise you?ll want to have it on the same shelf as Blood: The Last Vampire and Boogiepop Phantom.
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