Monday, October 19, 2009

Review catch-up — Anime and Manga

Manga : Bokurano

There was a long pause in the scanlation of the manga, broken around the airing of the anime, leading to a somewhat fractured impression when following it as it became available.

It's Mohiro Kitoh, so of course, bad things happen to children. In Narutaru, he took on Pokémon; here, he subverts the super-robot genre in a way to make Neon Genesis Evangelion seem like a happy WAFFy tale. Every time you think he's done everything, he finds a way of twisting the knife again.

The real weakness is the ending -- the epilog chapter really didn't add anything that could not be inferred (and partly relies on your ability to remember the subtle distinctions between one and another of his character designs).

Anime : Sengoku BASARA

16th century Japan as it was in the movies, or at least ought to have been — on about the level of Henry VIII vs Oliver Cromwell with Maxim guns. Superpowered ninja, high-level fighters with awesome feats, forsoothly Japanese mixed with heavy-duty Engrish. Plus Norio Wakamoto as the arch-villain Oda Nobunaga.

Switch your brain off, put ya guns on, and enjoy!

Asura Cryin' first season

A series that bundles together so many standard elements — supernatural, high-school drama, miko, ghost-girl, yakuza, demons, childhood friend potential love interest, super-robots, school councils (three of them!), apocalyptic threats — that there is no room left for anything like a coherent plot.

Alas, the only other real mindless action series this year after Sengoku BASARA.


It's about school-girl mah-jongg tournaments, with the same character designer as last year's Strike Witches.

Akagi this is not : there is little of the psychological elements, the winning hands so casually made are even more improbable, and the metaphorical struggles get elevated to full-on mahou shoujo at times. But being about an all-girls competition, it redresses the gender balance.

Indeed, rather than taking many episodes over one hand, the actual games get rattled through rather briskly, with the focus being on the girls, and their individual back-stories and improbable playing styles, like "Stealth" Momo, who is so socially invisible, that nobody notices what tiles she discards or when she declares Riichi -- except for Nodoka, who has to pretend she's playing on-line (and thus ignore any of the people at the table in any case) or the real hax players who just have too many levels of talent to be slowed down by such things.

The real shame is, that, having developed so many interesting characters, most of them will fall by the wayside as and when a second season gets made, since they have been eliminated from the current tournament level. And there has at least to be the potential for a second series, as the driving motivation for the title character is to play against her estranged sister, and that can only happen in the next rounds of the tournament.

Chi's New Address

Continues last year's Chi's Sweet Home; as the family move from their old apartment to a new pet friendly one and settle in.

Old characters return, and new ones are met -- but, alas, it stops being quite the acute observation of what a kitten is about, and becomes rather more tales of anthropomorphised animals; still cute, but not quite the same.

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