Moved to

February 12, 2007

I discovered that if i use wordpress’s hosting I’ll only get 50MB of space. And given I cant ftp in or anything to move images at a later date, I figured now is the best time to move. Several people have expressed enough interest in my reviewing anime that I set up a wordpress installation on my own server. This means this blog probably wont be updated anymore (at least not with anime). Please now visit:


Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s

February 9, 2007

Ah, Nanoha, how happy you make me. Seriously, the Nanoha saga just got better with the second season “A’s”. With this new season, Nanoha breaks down the stereotype of what a magical girl show should be like and what a magical girl can be.

A’s is completely about a single story arc: the Book of Darkness. A lost logia, like the items Nanoha was searching for in the first season, the Book of Darkness is an artifact of technology long since wiped from history. It’s purpose is to fill its pages with the power of mages and by doing so, gain nearly unlimited power to be used by its master. Its master in this case is Hayate, a paralyzed girl whom the book chooses and to whom is presented 4 guardians who are supposed to steal magical power to fil the pages. Hayate wants nothing to do with it and instead turns the guardians into her only family. They in turn, seeing how the book is sucking her life out of her, decided to disobey her and fill the pages of the book so as to save her life. Thus the story is about their struggle to complete the book and Nanoha’s (and the Bureau’s) struggle to stop them.

If the first Nanoha redefined what a magical girl anime could be, A’s shattered it. From start to finish, A’s delivers nearly nonstop action and fun. At the beginning, Nanoha is faced with a new adversary who is using a different magical technology, one that boosts her power to incredible levels for short periods of time using condensed magic cartridges. Nanoha is easily defeated and he stick needs rebuilt, this time with the same shotgun-loading style power as her enemy. This new power up is a very good explanation of gaining new power and passes the suspension of belief test as well as being a fairly original idea. Because of this, the fights in A’s are intense and very powerful.

Consider this: remember Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura? Remember their gay attacks and silly “weapons”. Check this out:
The OMG Stick

That is not a toy. That right there delivers serious firepower (while still retaining the girly pink that shoujous have to have). The whole series in fact has basically the same set of attacks as the first season only with the added boost of the cartridge system. The enemies too are not your normal shoujou style enemy. With Sailor Moon you had retarded monsters of the week that were ridiculous looking. With Card Captor Sakura you had.. cards. But with Nanoha, you get this:
Shoujou Enemy

Even though fighting is the main focus of this season, character development is still there. Fate struggles with having real friends and whether or not to allow Lindy to adopt her. She also goes through some pretty cruel stuff at the hands of the Tome as well. Nanoha finally decides what to do with her life. But the most development is with Hayate and her family of once evil warriors who soften due to her kindness. Hayate herself breaks the mold of “that cute girl in pain who always smiles” near the end of the show when she gains the power of the book thus giving her a realistic side.

Something else that I didn’t notice until A’s was that Nanoha breaks the episodic nature of shoujou. Most magical girl anime will be one episode per “quest” or enemy. With the first season, Nanoha was only episodic in that it skipped around a 6-10 week period. A’s on the other hand is a seamless story thats only broken into 13 parts. There is no monster of the week, there is only the story.

Finally, lets put this to bed. Nanoha is NOT loli. I figured that with the little loli I saw in the first season that A’s would have a lot more since it is loved by 4chan. But really, aside from the opener, there is very little loli; just transformation sequences. So unless featureless forms of shiny transforming 8 year olds get you going, there isnt any loli in Nanoha.

So, Nanoha A’s is a really good anime. Plain and simple. It has fighting, story, characters you like and can believe, and it has the power of friendship.. or something. I’m thereby giving Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s a 4 out of 5 stars. Here is looking forward to even more kick ass magical girls in StrikerS.

P.S. A’s also has the one thing no other anime has: the happiest magical tome in the whole wide world.
Happiest tome

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

February 8, 2007

With such a shady and mixed reputation this show has how could I possibly turn down my brother’s demand that I watch it? Going into this anime I knew only two things: magical girls and pedobear approves. Fortunately, I discovered that only one of these is really accurate.

Just like as happens in most magical girl anime, Nanoha is a 3rd grader in school who comes across an injured ferret on the way to cram school one day with her friends. The ferret turns out to be some dude from another world and needs her help in finding jewel seeds. Of course, he also provides a magical jewel that transforms her into the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and gives her a giant ass-whoopin’ stick. Now at this point we have the same story for nearly every other magical girl show ever made (well, except for the ferret). Thankfully, Nanoha delivers more than just the same old thing.

The loli issue aside, Nanoha is actually a really good show. I hate school/shoujou anime and would have bypassed this one too had my brother not harped on how awesome the fight scenes were. True enough, the animation quality of Nanoha makes it stand alone in the shoujou world. In the first two episodes some of the most grandiose animation takes place, not in a fight, but at the dinner table. Intricate movements of just a dinner discussion are captured and show how much care the animators were going to put into the rest of the show.

The one thing Nanoha has that most shoujous don’t is a plot. Yes, Nanoha was getting jewel seeds. It turns out though that she wasnt collecting them for some fantastical reason of mythical ancient legends foretelling of her coming.. or whatever. She originally was just helping the ferret but then decided that she actually wanted to collect them because of the danger their presence on earth caused. Then it turns out that the jewels aren’t even the ferret’s. He just happened to find them and lose them and felt he was responsible for getting them back. Instead a universal organization comes into the picture and claims they are the ones who are supposed to be keeping them. So right there you have more plot than 90% of the shoujous out there *cough*Sakura*cough*

Nanoha also has depth. The presence of Fate-chan alone is a ton of depth. Shes the normal “quiet” character. But once you find out why shes quiet and reserved you suddenly realize why Nanoha is so different. Name the last shoujou you saw where a main character of 8-10 years old is tortured by her mother. The main jist of the story isnt even about jewel seeds, its about how Nanoha’s constant concern for a stranger ends up saving both their lives and redeeming the lost Fate-chan.

The fights, like I said before, are pretty spectacular. The powers each mage possess are within believable limits and the fact that the “magic sticks” they have are really computer aided magical focus mediums make the attacks more believable. The fights are pretty violent for a kids show but this makes them more believable. Characters actually get hurt and at times there is actually blood. For a shoujou that’s pretty special.

As for the whole loli thing, yes it contains a lot of loli elements. Specifically, Nanoha’s transformation sequence is pretty high on the loli spectrum with her being completely nude. Thankfully, this sequence only happens like 4 times in the whole series. The other transformation sequences are all done in “real time” meaning she transforms in like 2 seconds. As for the fan-service that was supposed to be in the show. It was there, but I doubt I would have seen it had I not been aware it existed before hand. The most I saw was in the first 2 episodes when I was consciously wondering where the loli was. So pedobear may approve, but hes not getting much out of it.

Over all, I think this was a pretty good show. A few loose ends need tying up, like Fate-chan’s future and how Nanoha’s normal friendships are going to turn out now that shes dashing all over the dimensional plane and skipping school (which makes me wonder why her family actually let her go off to who knows where without much debate on the subject (though I’ll give them props for actually being the first magical girl anime to address that issue) ). But at least there is the sequel, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s to look forward to. All in all, 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Black Cat

February 8, 2007

If you’re expecting another gushing review of anime from be after Juuni Kokuki then I suppose you are going to be disappointed with this one. But on the other hand you cant really expect anything I watch immediately after such a masterpiece to stack up all that well. Regardless, Black Cat delivers some classic entertainment and keeps you on your toes until the very end.

The story of Black Cat focuses mainly on the life of the assassin Train Heartnet and his transformation from coldhearted killer to lovable comedic warrior. Through his meetings with the other main characters and his self reflection after he gains his first real friend he changes his character completely. In doing so, Train breaks the heart of his long time partner Creed who views him as a kind of god on earth. Not wanting to let Train become a soft human, Creed vows to kill him to show how much he really means to him.

Of course you can also argue that the main character throughout the whole series was not really Train at all but instead the bio-weapon he was sent to destroy: Eve. Eve is a 14-ish year old girl who was engineered to be a nano-tech bio-weapon. Train is sent to kill her but through the efforts of Sven decides to spare her life and end up protecting her instead. Eve and Sven are really the two driving forces for the series and without giving too much away I would say that Eve is probably the most influential character of them all.

Really, the interaction between Eve and everyone else is the part of the show that kept me intrigued. Having no family or friends and being introverted (and totally moe), Eve becomes the center of attention. Her humor is always off base and unexpected. Her calm demeanor softens the friendship between the three main characters while her rare shows of emotion seem to be some of the more powerful parts of the series.

After watching this show I still had the urge to see more, which is always a good sign of a great anime. However several things kept me from declaring this series a complete success. First off, the Chronos numbers seem far too invincible even for suspension of disbelief. Obviously some must be defeated by Train and Creed for them to be “the best” but the enormous difference in power is kind of hard to stomach. Second, Creed is insane, we get it. Probably the most annoying part of the show is Creed’s insane infatuation with Train. Its not that its a gay relationship from Creed’s perspective because its more of hero worship than anything. Its more that we are reminded every episode that Creed wants to kill Train because he loves him. Over and over. The third thing was the last episode. Without giving anything away, the last arc of the show wraps up in the last episode. Actually, to be more accurate, it wraps up in the last 10 minutes. So the arc wraps up and then the story itself wraps up and the character’s futures are hinted at all in the last 10 minutes. After watching for 24 episodes and getting to know them all it was kind of a disappointment for me to have it end so abruptly.

Anyway, with the very very last scene in the show you can see how strong the character development was for Train and how he has matured throughout the experience. Black Cat was a very enjoyable anime for me and while I don’t see a sequel coming ever, I wouldn’t object to seeing more of these cool characters. So, for Black Cat, I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

The Twelve Kingdoms

January 29, 2007

Words escape me on how captivating, engaging, and wonderful this story actually is. I decided one weekend to sit down and watch this anime which I had been meaning to watch for well over 3 years. In no time at all I was completely blown away by its breathtaking characters and charm. If nothing else, this show was the best 48 hours of the past few months.

Twelve Kingdoms is an anime based of a series of books in Japan. Unlike most anime that rely off of manga or video games for their story lines, this one takes its root in actual print. It follows the life of a Japanese girl named Youko who tried very hard to be acceptable in everyone’s eyes. This is hard to do in her society which puts pressure on her to be successful, to represent her class, to be nice to everyone, to blend in. Into her world of feeling like an empty puppet a man named Keiki comes and kneels before her asking her to accept his pledge of undying devotion and protection. Confused and frightened she accepts and is taken to another world.

In this new world, which is never really named, she it attacked and separated from Keiki. Alone and with a magic sword that constantly torments her with visions of what other people think of her she tries to discover why she is in this new world and why people hate and fear her. It is ultimately revealed that she was chosen by Keiki to become the new empress of a nation called Kei and that she must choose this fate or leave the people of the land desolate and abandoned.

Thinking about the mythology and the world it was in, since it was based on feudal Japan and China’s government and politics, it makes me want to be a part of a culture where respect, honor, and shame dictate actions and morality. While it is easy to see in some countries like Hou that an emperor can be dangerous, it also shows that if a good emperor is on the throne like in En that the it is healthy and prosperous with few discontents. It makes me question the society we live in and the idea that everyone is their own king and can do anything they wish.

I have to say that in all the years I have read books and watched movies, I have never watched a show that I felt this attached to. Youko develops, within 13 episodes, from a social puppet to a fully mature adult. The stages she goes through are identical to ones I have experienced: betrayal, loss, confusion, self-pity, responsibility, acceptance, perseverance, and ultimately triumph. Maybe it is because I am older now, but as I watched Youko struggle with being alone in a world and being able to trust no one and ultimately becoming an empress and respected I felt myself believe and feel as though I were the one going through the same things. I have been through the same obstacles as Youko in the last 8 months and I have to ask myself, Have I also arrived? Have I become what I need to be?

There are of course other characters in the show as well. Each of them has their own story of struggle. No character has super powers. No character is infallible. Every character is flawed in some way and has regrets and wishes of their own. Not all characters are redeemed by the end of the show. All of them have doubts and insecurities. They all are human. And in each character I found something else that I could relate to.

Suzu, a sage who wanted to meet the Empress of Kei and have her rescue her from her torment at the hands of her overseer, felt that she was the only person in the world suffering and that no one had it worse than she. She looses friends on her way to Kei and learns that she is the only person who can control her suffering. She learns that all people suffer and are happy and that just because she had a hard life didnt mean she deserved to be rescued or to be happy.

Shoukei was a spoiled princess who never fended for herself and was cast from her life of luxury when her country rebelled against her harsh father. She felt that she deserved Youko’s position more and set out to take it from her. She meets Youko’s friend Rakushun who accepts her as a person but also teaches her what it means to truly have respect for others and herself, something he also did for Youko.

By the end of the series (which was far too short despite being 45 episodes), I was emotionally drained and asking myself serious questions. What if I was presented with the same choices as Youko? Could I be a good ruler like En-ou? Am I also a puppet being controlled by everyone’s acceptance of me? What makes a good person and a good leader? Will the self-pity I have for myself affect me like it did Suzu? I wanted to see more. I wanted to be in that world. I wanted to be there, not for the same reason Sugimoto did, for power and self-vindication, but to have a new chance at becoming like Youko and everyone else. I wanted to go there and become friends with the characters because I felt as if I had connected with each and everyone of them in some way.

After coming away from it it feels like now that there are no episodes to be watched that I have lost several close friends. It is as if I had been there, experienced everything, and then came home again probably never to see my friends again. I cant help but think that I have finally found role models for myself and models for who I want my friends and wife to be like. I want strong, true friends and a wife who is like Youko: beautiful, flawed, strong, and wise.

Even so, every time I catch myself think about the show and its effect its had on me, I feel myself wishing I was back there and it almost makes me choke up with joy and sadness. I am thrilled I was able to experience this show in such a profound and touching way but I am almost heartbroken that it had to end and that I had to return to this life.

There are countless lessons to be learned from the Twelve Kingdoms. I will never forget the paths and wisdom that were shown through the characters. I hope that someday I too will be able to live up to the same measure. I hope I can be redeemed someday as well. I hope that, if needed, I could be found humble and worthy of becoming a leader. I hope that, I can accept a lowly status in life as much as I would also be able to accept a powerful one. I also hope that someday new novels come out so there is more anime so I can return to that place once more.

Because of my personal experience with this show, the fact that the plot is intricate and deliberate, the characters and development are as real as they come in fiction, the mythology is exquisite and the world amazing, because I have never found myself wanting so badly to return to a story once its over and experience it again and again and for it never to end, because of all that, Juuni Kokuki is the best anime, the best show, the best story I have ever had the privilege of being a part of.