Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Salaryman Kintaro
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass
This week we have capsle reviews of some really good shows, and some that aren't so great. On the good side, ADV has released the restored version of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and this time it has an English dub which is great for those who want to share this show with younger children. The boxed set of Neo Ranga should please kaiju fans, and Salaryman Kintaro is a surprisingly good look at a white collar worker with an attitude. On the other side of the coin the second season of Kaleido Star isn't nearly as good as the first one, and Doki Doki School Hours just isn't as funny as it should be. In addition to a slew of new reviews, there's our table of upcoming discs, and Holly's Anime Bargains.
Super Dimension Fortress Macross, or Macross for short, is justly famous for being the first chapter of the Robotech saga. As most of you know, to create Robotech, Harmony Gold edited Macross and changed some things around to suit American audiences before they dubbed it. Because of these edits the English doesn't match up to the original show. If you wanted to watch Macross you had to choose between a subtitled version or watching the edited Robotech version in English. Well, that's no longer the case. ADV has taken this seminal anime series and released it with an English dub which includes Mari Iijima reprising her role as Lynn Minmay in English. A great series with a great looking restored picture, this first volume of the series is fun to watch.
Reviewers John Sinnott and Don Houston both liked the first season of Kaleido Star, an amusing show about a young girl, Sora, who wants to become a circus performer. So when the first volume of the second season arrived, John snagged the review copy before Don could and popped it into his DVD player right away. Big mistake. Unfortunately this season, after spending the first two (!) episodes recapping the previous storyline, loses all of the charm that the first year had. The plot is contrived, the characters are acting like idiots, and everyone seems to have forgotten that Sora is one of the best acrobats in the world. Hopefully the series will improve, but John tends to doubt it. That'll teach him to be greedy.
Fans of Godzilla-like monsters tearing through Tokyo may appreciate Neo Ranga. This genre is nothing new to the world of anime but this show takes a slightly different approach to it. The big bad monster arrives with a butt-load of mystery surrounding it, but we eventually learn that it is a “god” of some variety and is basically a workhorse for the Shimabara sisters. The creature is turned into a marketing ploy and the series goes through a lot of changes as it progresses, but it loses its momentum shortly before the halfway point. The concept and direction of the show kind of fizzles out towards the end and the finale is extremely anticlimactic. Lovers of big monsters may appreciate it, but everyone else can pretty much get by with a rental.
As John predicted in his review of the first disc, volume two of Doki Doki School Hours is much like the first one with many of the same gags and jokes being reworked once again. The concept of a short teacher trying to control a bunch of students with odd personality quirks has worked well before, most notably in Azumanga Diaoh, but this series just isn't able to breath life into the characters of humor into the scripts.
The fifth volume of E's Otherwise is better than the previous volume, but it's still only a mediocre series. In this set of shows Kai, Yuuki and Oska search for the rebel underground base all while being tracked by Ashurum psychics. Unfortunately this plot, like the others before it, meanders around aimlessly and doesn't really kick start the show, something that it badly needs.
With the third volume of Mythical Detective Loki, the series starts to play up the humor aspects of the show and improves a bit. The characters still don't resemble anyone from Norse mythology, and the plots are a little bit dumb, but there's a certain charm to some of these shows. If you're looking for a poor man's version of Case Closed, you've found it.
In the past week we've caught up on a very good series that hasn't gotten a lot of buzz: Salaryman Kintaro. This series is unlike the other anime shows that are being released in the US, as its setting is the offices of a large corporation. Though there aren't any super-heroics or mecha vehicles, the show about the lives of everyday workers is very entertaining. Yajima Kintaro was the leader of a motorcycle gang 10,000 strong. A couple of years ago he gave that up and moved away to settle down with his new wife. Unfortunately she died in childbirth, and now Yajima and his infant son Ryu are moving back to the city. The ex-gang leader is hired by a large firm, Yamato Construction, to work as a white collar office employee, and though the job isn't a good one Yajima approaches it with the same gusto and philosophy that he used to run his gang: kick ass and take names. This is a fun series, check out our reviews of volumes two, three, and four.
Everybody who is familiar with Cowboy Bebop no doubt perked an ear when they heard about Shinichiro Watanabe's new series, Samurai Champloo. These shows combined music and anime in a way that hasn't really been done before. Well, at least to such a successful and hip degree. While Bebop took a look at a group of futuristic bounty hunters, Champloo goes back to the days of feudal Japan for a little samurai action and irreverent fun. The series weighs in with a lot of energy and pizzazz and the sixth volume here isn't very different. The only problem is that there is less continuity with this show and the episodes on this disc are all over the map. The fact that there are only three episodes here and two of them are stand alone goofy stories doesn't help much, but even so this is a great anime.
The second and last volume of Bottle Fairy has come out and the four tiny fairies continue their quest to learn about humanity and the Japanese culture. There's a lot of cute stuff that happens in these seven episodes but it's still not enough to bring the series to recommendation level. The ending is pretty cool and to be honest if the show had run off of that idea it could have been much better. Fans of loli and adorable anime will appreciate this show the most while everybody else could probably go on living without seeing it or at the very least renting it.
On a more positive note, the sixth volume of Madlax is a great disc. This volume starts filling in some of the holes in the story and revealing just what happened to the world 12 years ago as well as revealing just how and why Margaret and Madlax have a shared destiny. The story gets a little metaphysical too, but not in a bad way and there is still plenty of action for those fans who want to see Madlax do her stuff. These shows sets things up for the conclusion in volume seven, and that disc can't come soon enough.
Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick: V2 prepares the crew for their journey to encounter the Moby Dick as they fight off mobsters, government agents, and the logistics of long term space travel in order to save Lucky's planet from devastation. Captain Ahab's sorted past comes to light as he's hunted down by a detective with a grudge to bear and it's up to Lucky and Dew to come to his rescue. While there are those who think author Hermann Melville, the original writer of Moby Dick, will be spinning in his grave over this anime adaptation, we think it's getting better with time as it broadens the themes established in the classic book.
Yuri and Kei are back in Original Dirty Pair: Complete OVA Collection, the collected OVA boxed set from ADV Films. A classic of anime clichés, the agents of the World Welfare Work Agency are sent in to right wrongs, set things right and generally destroy anything in their path as they spend these ten episodes show. If you're looking for carnage and skimpy clothing, you've come to the right place in this value packed set from the 1980's. All sorts of tales concerning civil wars, rampaging cyborgs, prison breaks, murder mysteries, and marriage come into play with a whole lot more too.
Everybody loves Tenchi; or at least they should. The often revisited franchise has been long in tooth for some time now, but yet another Tenchi Muyo! series has come along: Tenchi Muyo GPX. This time around things have been changed from the ground up and the show features a completely different cast of characters. It takes place in the Tenchi universe and old friends drop in now and again, but the new focal point of attention is a friend of Tenchi's named Seina Yamada. It still adheres to the same harem formula that the franchise has become known for and includes all sorts of Jurai and space battles. Fans should definitely check it out because the change of pace and characters is exactly what the series needed.
A romance set in a timeless kingdom best describes Princess Tutu: Erwachen V3 as the show finishes its run with rivals trying to protect Mythos begrudgingly combining forces to save him from the Crow Princess, even if fulfilling the prophecy means dooming Princess Tutu forever. Fans of ballet, classical music, and romance anime will have a lot to appreciate this time as most of the threads are tied up in some decidedly unique ways.
The next installment in the long running Lupin series comes out with Lupin the 3rd: V13: All's Fair in Love & Thievery. One of the things people seem to appreciate about the world famous thief is that he's consistent; consistently getting into trouble that is. While the series drops down to a mere five episodes from the previously established six, the antics of Lupin and his team chug right along as if nothing happened. From being shrunken down for a dangerous game of chess to Zenigata pleading for assistance in solving a case, Lupin is in great demand once more (or is that five times more?) in this assortment of blasts from the past.
ADV Films provides yet another value oriented season boxed set with Gravion: Complete First Season, a show that heavily borrows from those that went before it. Initially centering on a young man named Eiji who's trying to find his missing sister, the show evolves into the standard alien invaders in need of routing type show rather quickly. There was some fan service on display but otherwise it was easily aimed at a younger, less discriminating, mindset so don't expect a lot and you'll probably get a kick or two out of it.
Bocca continues his fight against the demon invaders of Earth in Melody of Oblivion: Solo V4. Other than a few minor surprises about the entire Warriors of Mythos set up and a relationship of partner Sayoko, the series is increasingly difficult to follow as the clichés are purposely stood on end at regular intervals as though a series of insider jokes is being presented without the context in order to understand them. That made it almost painful to sit through and another reason to look towards better shows of all types in the future.
Scheduled for release on Feb. 21, 2006
Scheduled for release on Feb. 28, 2006
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