Short summer column: Gilgamesh, Area 88 and Fafner
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass
Well, summer is certainly here and some of the Anime Talk staff have been bitten by the "go outside and do something" bug. Luckily, while John has been camping in the Rockies and Chris has been busy traveling, Don and Todd have been slaving in front of their TV's and computer screens bringing you the latest anime reviews. This will be a bit of a shorter column that usual, but we should be back up to our normal speed next time.
This column does have some things worth checking out though. In our latest reviews section we have capsule reviews of the first volumes of the very cool Area 88 and the highly recommended Gilgamesh. Gundam fans will want to check out Fafner volume 1, a series that some have called an alternate universe version of Gundam Seed. Todd also takes a look at Steamboy, and movie that has been getting a lot of press, but doesn't quite live up to the hype.
Holly has some more anime bargains this time around. If you want to find out where to score the complete four disc series of Now and Then, Here and There for an insane $7.57 before postage, just check out her section. There is also a list of new anime titles that are scheduled to be released in the next two weeks, which include a pair of Studio Ghibli titles and the much anticipated (by John if no one else) Cromartie High School Vol. 4 and Planetes Vol. 2. Check out all the new titles here.
The best release of the month for Don was easily Area 88: Target 01: Treacherous Skies as it followed the exploits of Shin Kazama and his fellow mercenaries as they attempt to survive against all odds protecting a small Middle Eastern kingdom for military annihilation. While it deviated slightly from the original Manga in terms of a new character added to the mix (in the form of reporter Makoto Shinjo), the spirit of this award winning story was treated with great respect and care, making it the crown jewel of ADV Films recent releases. In a day and age where armed conflict is on the minds of all civilized people, the story shows a human side to the death and destruction of war, all with the twist of focusing on the one man who doesn't belong there. It may not be as flashy or intricate as some of this month's other releases but the old adage of "elegance through simplicity" certainly applies to this superior effort.
Anime companies seemed to be releasing an increasingly plentiful stream of solid hits this month with Fafner 1: Arcadian Project being one of my favorites. Set in the future on an uncharted island, the series follows the exploits of a number of a lost city defending Earth from alien invaders in what has been called an alternate universe of Gundam SEED by some. This initial volume introduces the main characters, their backgrounds, and provides plenty of bone crushing action as the forces of good try to out-fight (and out-think) not only their opponents but the rest of Earth's population too. I have high hopes for this one given the solid combination of creative design, interesting writing, and great production values.
This month's column also revisits a couple of hits from the past with the reviews of Witch Hunter Robin: Determination and Witch Hunter Robin: Vengeance as the series wraps up the final two chapters in what has been called "the best combination of horror, science fiction, and witchcraft" released to date. Following the exploits of witch hunter Robin Sena and her associates had been a pleasure so seeing them finish up in grand fashion as they seek answers to questions that ultimately force them to pay a stiff price was a mixed blessing but a whole lot of fun to boot. Don't listen to the naysayers; this series was one of the best I've seen in a long time for more reasons than I can go into here.
The last of the highly recommended titles this month was Gilgamesh: Tablet 01: Orphans of the Apocalypse; a story that combines a futuristic terrorist attack with the age old myth of a demigod in what amounts to a tale of gothic horror and a fight between two groups bent on controlling the destiny of the human race. In the middle of these two factions are two small children who seek to escape the clutches of both groups, not knowing which to trust, if either. With five full episodes and a unique look to it, the series will be one of those where you either love it or hate it, providing little middle ground (much like the warring factions of the movie).
On the recommended list this time is Daphne in the Brilliant Blue 2: Reunion, the story is about a group of futuristic female bounty hunters hell bent on destruction and mayhem as they attempt to complete various contracts for lots of money. The lead character, Daphne, seems to be a fish out of water compared to her skilled, and quite eccentric, coworkers who generally end up causing more trouble then the criminals they are hunting but its all in good fun as they prance around in skimpy outfits trying to outwit their prey (and each other).
Another recommended title with some strange twists and turns would be the horror show, Mermaid Forest 1: Quest For Death where a man condemned to live forever searches for a cure for his youthful folly. Those of you thinking this is some kind of updated version of the Disney classic, The Little Mermaid will soon change your mind as the lead character Yuta fights off demons and those wanting in on his longevity alike in Medieval Japan. If the rest of the series maintains this kind of quality, a lot of you will be quite happy.
In the second volume of the series, Full Metal Panic?: Fumoffu: Full Metal Fracas managed to become yet another guilty pleasure of mine as the cast of the original series took some time out to goof around and have some fun in a manner that only they could do. With ever serious Sgt Sousuke trying his best to thwart anyone attempting to harm him and his pal Kaname from generally nonexistent threats at a high school in Japan, the lighter material managed to humanize the two of them as they began to realize what they truly meant to one another.
In the rental column of this months picks was The Place Promised in Our Early Days, an admittedly beautiful looking and sounding movie that lacked the kind of substance that would've propelled creator Makoto Shinkai back into the limelight as he moves from his previous one man show release of Voices of a Distant Star into the more common group effort. Another story of conflict in terms of the fallout heaped upon the lives of those involved, the movie shows a bond between three life long friends as they attempt to achieve a goal that might just save one of them from oblivion. If only the content could've invoked the mind as well as the senses, this would've been a great title but it was still worth checking out.
Also in this month were Overman King Gainer: Exodus 1 and Overman King Gainer: Exodus 2, the first two volumes in a giant robot series that tried to be too many things to too many people with mixed results as a group of people from a sheltered city in the future try to flee and start off life where their ancestors lived. With so much potential, it was difficult seeing the show falter so readily but a lack of background, forced confrontations, and a formula designed for young children all weakened it in the eyes of this reviewer. It may get better but I'm not too hopeful considering the multitude of clichés employed here that gave the series a "been there, done that, don't want to return" feel.
With the series nearly at an end, I've found Cybuster: Tokyo 2040 #5 to begin the arduous process of tying up loose ends rather quickly, sometimes giving me hope that it would break through the weaknesses it fell prey to previously. The story about a future ecological disaster that results in the near destruction of Tokyo, has a group of freedom fighters taking on some corporate bad guys intent on some unknown evil plan. As the series winds down, the intentions of the villains become ever clearer but that still didn't make it worth more than a one time rental in my book.
In the doghouse this month was Tokyo Underground 3: The Promise, a fighting anime that managed to throw in just about every cliché in the book in a tired and boring fashion. If the previous two volumes were as weak as this one, it'll be amazing to see how quickly the boxed set comes out and how discounted it will be in order to dump inventory. You've seen it all before and seen it done much better than this so unless you're a glutton for punishment, skip this one like a bad date.
Some of you may remember a one shot OAV in the 90's called Grappler Baki, well Baki is back but this time he's got his own series. The show takes place before the events of the prior release and features Baki training and growing in strength to become as strong as his father. It's an interesting world that Street Fighter fans will appreciate, but the first volume doesn't have anything going for it other than the training. As he gets closer to the tournament the show should get more interesting, but for now it doesn't go anywhere.
If slower paced anime with more realistic tones are your thing, you'll love Yugo the Negotiator; otherwise you may just want to rent it until something actually happens in the show. The first volume features the first three episodes from the Pakistan negotiation and takes a long time to get going, despite the fact that the episodes are only 25 minutes a pop. This looks like one of those series that would flourish with a lot of time to invest in the story telling, unfortunately from the amount of episodes the series is going to have it doesn't seem that's going to happen.
Edward and Alphonse are back in the third volume of Fullmetal Alchemist and still looking for the Philosopher's Stone. This time around Ed gets his first assignment as a State Alchemist and the two brothers make a few pit stops on their way back to HQ. Fullmetal Alchemist is showing no signs of slowing down and is still living up to the hype surrounding it of being one of the best anime in a while. In between volumes you can catch the show on Cartoon Network if you need to get your alchemist fix.
In the last Anime Talk column, Chris had a few words regarding Katsuhiro Otomo's ten year project, Steamboy. Todd took a more in depth look into the film and fully agrees with the Rent It suggestion that Chris gave it, although the Collector's Gift Set is recommended thanks to the A+ bonus material. As hard as the movie tries to be something creative and fun it comes off as a very drawn out story that doesn't go anywhere in the end. The beginning and the ending of the film are great, it's just everything in between isn't; at least it looks pretty though!
In terms of classic anime, it doesn't get much better than Gatchaman. This golden oldie came out back in the 70's and was only shown in the States in some severely edited forms like Battle of the Planets and G-Force. A.D.V. has started releasing the original material with all 105 episodes, Japanese language and new English dubbing. Sure the quality may not be up to par with some of today's current shows, but when you consider this series is over 30 years old it looks marvelous. So far we've taken a look at volumes one and two which feature six episodes on each and a variety of special features. The show may be a little cheesy at times but it's filled to the rim with nostalgia value.
The third volume of Samurai Champloo continues the journey of our misfit adventurers, Fuu, Mugen and Jin. Continuing the theme from the first two volumes, Champloo is all about attitude, not just among the characters, but in the way the show is directed and edited. The soundtrack is thumping hip-hop, the animation is really, really cool, and the settings are beautiful. If a problem exists with this series, it's that the plot is very loose, and that may not be a problem to many viewers. Our trio of main characters are on a journey to find a samurai that smells of sunflowers, though we're never told why, and if we weren't reminded of their mission with a recap episode in this third volume, we wouldn't even know what they were up to. Champloo is about a journey, not a destination.
Scheduled for release on Tuesday Aug. 9, 2005
Scheduled for release on Tuesday Aug. 16, 2005
Captain Herlock: $6.99 each! Volume
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of Darkness: Complete Collection: $21.58, retail
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Well, that's all for this short installment of Anime Talk. In two weeks we'll have a more through column, with more reviews and a look at some upcoming discs you won't want to miss!
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