Hunter X Hunter, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
January 2009 column by Todd
Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
column by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Now that winter is in full swings and the holidays are behind us, there's not much to do, right? Cabin fever has never been better if you ask me! Over the past month there have been several shows that have come out and if you missed some of them, here's your chance to catch up with the latest. FUNimation continues to dominate the competition, but Bandai and VIZ are closing that gap. It's also worth noting that older shows from ADV and Geneon are hitting stores as well. Not only has there been a slew of anime released recently, but with the economy going down the drains there are plenty of bargains to be had as well. Our review crew rounds up the latest titles they've been watching for January and WTK lends a hand to ease your wallet in this financial crisis.
Finally otaku can see the end of Pumpkin Scissors, a great series from Gonzo. Originally licensed to the ADV, FUNimation acquired the rights last summer. ADV, a company that is out of business for all practical purposes, was releasing this series in the standard format, spreading the 24 episodes over six individual DVD volumes. Unfortunately, they never got around to putting out the last disc, leaving fans that supported the series from the beginning high and dry. Now FUNimation has released the whole series in two sets of three discs each. This is a great series and I'm glad to see it was finished off. Though the otaku who collected the ADV releases will have to buy the last half of the series just to see the last few episodes, the show is so good that it's worth it.
Viz, in association with Shonen Jump has released another popular anime series here in the US: Hunter X Hunter. Based on a manga series created by Yoshiro Togashi, the man behind Yu Yu Hakusho, I was ready to dislike this series from the start. Don't get me wrong, I like Yu Yu Hakusho and enjoy the Shonen Jump style fighting shows, but the description of this program made it sound like a low-grade knock-off of Pokemon: a 10-year old kid sets out in the world to meet his destiny by becoming a Hunter. I figured that this would be another fighting series where battles last three or four episodes and the plot consists of little more than getting to the next baddie. I was pleasantly surprised though. While the plot is rather simple, the focus isn't on fighting. Hunter X Hunter turns out to be a very enjoyable show filled with interesting characters and fun situations.
Screaming, angst-filled discussions, and more screaming; that seems to be the focus of Red Garden, one of the series that ADV dropped and FUNimation was kind enough to pick up and complete. While this show from Gonzo has some unique aspects, it is set in New York City rather than Japan and has very stylized character designs; it comes across as a poor-man's Gantz, filled with a quartet of emo teens that are more irritating than the villains.
With the anime market being so tight, publishers are trying new things to cut costs and raise revenue. FUNimation is releasing various series in half season sets the way American TV shows have been distributed for a while, and Bandai Visual has played with releasing anime in the US the same time they come out in Japan with the same price point. Bandai Entertainment is trying something a little unusual with their release of the cult hit show Gurren Lagann too; they're releasing the show in a sub-only version spanning three volumes first, then as releasing it again with an English dub track (as well as the original Japanese) and extras that will eat up six discs. Todd Douglass reviewed the sub-only releases here and enjoyed it just as much as I liked the dubbed discs. Gurren Lagann is a fun, funny, hyper-kinetic blast that will have anime fans rolling on the floor.
FUNimation originally released the first season of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle over six volumes, but now they've collected the 26 episodes into a nicely priced season set. Created by Clamp, a studio that has produced several well-received series including X, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Chobits, the show features a few inside jokes that fans of their work will enjoy as well as a sprawling dimension travel story that's both interesting and, at times, exciting. Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is solid show that has a lot of entertainment value.
The cat and mouse games continue in volume 8 of Death Note, but this time Light Yagami realizes that his new opponents are no trivial rivals that he will easily best. With two geniuses tracking him down and revelations made to the Japanese task force Light is having a harder time staying ahead of his pursuers, even while the rest of the world starts to accept the rule of Kira.
Violent murder, torture, and insanity fill the second half of When They Cry, a unique series that is grim, eerie, and very dark. One of the few horror anime shows that is actually horrific, this series is not for the faint at heart or squeamish. For those who enjoy chilling, well told stories punctuated by some bloody violence, however, this is a not-to-be-missed show.
Peaceful anime is something of a misnomer really. How many shows have you seen where you can literally kick back, relax, and potentially fall asleep to (and not in a bad way). Aria is one such show, which bends genres and stands out thanks to its atmosphere and fact that it's different from just about every damn show out there. The series takes place in the future and tells a story about some female gondoliers on a watery version of Mars. The slow, deliberate pace and interesting characters help make this series as fascinating as it is. It's definitely not for everyone, but if you're looking for something off the beaten path you'll definitely want to give Aria a shot.
When it comes to animated features you're going to find that quality is definitely hit or miss. Most of the time these one-off tales tend to get caught up in themselves, are poorly balanced, or just never connect with the audience. However, once in a while a film comes out that makes a strong impression. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a perfect example of such a movie and it features a heartwarming tale about a girl who literally falls into the ability to jump through time. It's not the most perfect story ever told and there are a few parts that are stronger than others, but ultimately this is a touching film that sticks with you for a while.
The second part of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion has hit the stores recently as well. The adventures of Lelouch continue and this time around all-out war begins to erupt. As Lelouch, under the guise of Zero, begins to move his forces he's met with resistance by the Empire. So much happens in the two volumes included here and ultimately this continues to be a powerful series. Everything from the script and acting right down to the production of the animation remains top notch.
Did you enjoy the original Negima series? If you did you may be interested in the re-imagination Negima!?. FUNimation has released the first part of this reboot and for all intents and purposes it hits marks closer to the manga than the original series. Basically it's all about a young wizard who has the misfortune of becoming a teacher for a classroom full of...well...different girls. All kinds of ill-fates befall Negi as he befriends each of his students and several profess their adoration of him. It's full of fan service and some naughty bits, but somehow they don't feel quite-so omnipresent as in the original. The remake is definitely a good time though and is worth checking out.
Welcome to the NHK is one of those little gems that I feared was lost when ADV went down. Thankfully FUNimation resurrected the license and brought this tragically unique title back to the market. It all centers around the life of a recluse who deals with his fear of society in fascinating ways. Known as a Hikikomori, Tatsuhiro is a college dropout who lives in his apartment and scrapes by off an allowance form his parents. When a younger girl takes interest in him and makes him be a part of her anti-Hikikomori project, his life is turned upside down. This show is touching, hilarious, and disconcerting all at the same time. In other words it's brilliant the entire way through!
While we're on the subject of FUNimation saving licenses there are a few other shows that have been released you may have missed. From ADV, Xenosaga and the first part of Tokyo Majin have been released. Xenosaga was a very flawed interpretation of the original PlayStation 2 game's plot while Tokyo Majin turned out to be campy fun. FUNimation also resurrected the fantastic Paradise Kiss by Geneon. This one features a girl who is drawn into the fashion underground and winds up on an emotional rollercoaster along the way. Oh, and while we're on the subject of Geneon titles, don't even bother with Lyrical Nanoha.
It may seem charming on paper, but Suzuka is really anything but. It starts out innocently enough with a young boy moving in with his aunt and changing schools. While there he meets a girl named Suzuka, who he falls head over heels for. The story continues as the two are forced together and she strings him along, only to reject him. That happens very early in the show and the remainder of the series is him trying to force himself upon her. It just falls apart from there with regards to the story, the characters are also not very likable and the laughs are few and far between. Ultimately this one has too many bruises to be worth buying, but it may be worth renting if you're looking for a painful to watch comedy romance.
Speaking of things that are painful to watch, let's look at Dragon Ball GT. Actually, let's not. The bastard child of the Dragon Ball franchise gets its own season release by FUNimation to match the current DBZ boxed sets. Why? I don't know. This tepid sequel to Z is an abomination from the beginning. Sure a few highlights reside within its 34 episode frame, but those by no means constitute picking this show up.
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January 2015 Edition
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