Ongoing Investigations: Case #120April 8, 2011
Ah, Toradora!, chronicling the eternal struggle between Tiger and Dragon in the form of a spitfire of a tiny girl and a clean-freak boy with the face of a delinquent. Two misunderstood people come together to help each other with their respective love interests, but wind up getting what they never knew they needed: each other. Despite that last sentence, Toradora! is a comedic romance but there truly are very poignant moments. Of course, this is my impression from the anime, the manga maintains a similar feel, and I assume will follow a similar course. Right now it feels better than average, but nothing is particularly moving in this first installment, though I did enjoy Ryuuji catching Taiga on the stairs. Taiga has a bit of a light switch feel at the moment, she is misunderstood but she isn’t wholly unlike her reputation either so I hope that evens out. The cover of the Toradora! vol. 1 manga is striking for its style and design; the interior art is a bit more generic but still well executed. There is also a bonus chapter for Ryuuji’s mom, and in general she has more fan-service in here than the anime. My biggest complaint for Toradora! is how verbose the manga is, this isn’t the most complex of stories so it is unnecessary. In line with this, there is a lot of repetition from Ryuji’s narration creating a showing and telling of many scenes; can probably chalk this up from it being a light novel first.
Manga adaptations of popular series tend to be some of the most mediocre things you can read. So I went cautiously into the Toradora! manga hoping for the best but braced for the worst. My general feeling was it is nowhere as bad as it could have been. I have never read the original light novels but I did watch the anime so I found myself comparing it to that. Ryuji and Taiga’s antagonistic friendship and budding romance is captured fairly well. There is a greater use of minor incidental classmates in the manga so it feels like people exist outside of the 4 main characters. On the down side we see much less of Minori and Yusaku so it is harder to see why our main characters should be crazy in love with them. Minori and Yusaku were not super prominent in the anime so when you cut their time they even become more plot elements and less characters. The character designs are very different from the manga. The girls are clearly done by a different style but you know who is who if you watched the anime. The guys on the other hand look like completely different characters that just happen to have the same name. The biggest complaint is that while there are clear differences so far if you have watched the anime you have read the manga. It is the classic dilemma of what happens when you do an extremely close adaption. If you are a mostly manga fan who is curious why anime fans keep talking about Toradora! this is a good place to see a very well executed shonen romance. Toradora! does not do much new with the genre but it does it in a well executed and lively fashion. For everyone else it is matter of how much you want to reread what you have already seen in a new art style.
The short film, actually a graduation project, Rain Town is a beautiful-looking, wordless, atmospheric piece. It features a town where, you guessed it, it is raining. On this day, a little girl befriends a robot-like creature outside, it is their story as they explore a bit of the town. It has a melancholy feeling, and we see flashbacks to when the town was bright and sunny, it remains unclear if it rains all the time (my guess was yes from the title) and if so why. But the real point, and beauty of the film, is seeing the town through this wonderful animation.
Since Madhouse Studios has been trying to produce a series of anime targeted at an American taste based on American properties I decided to check out their latest offering with the first 13 episodes of the Supernatural anime. It is thankfully a better adaption than the Marvel anime then have been putting out recently. The Supernatural TV series seems perfectly suited for an anime adaption. It has the classic supernatural anime formula about a pair of occult savvy brothers trying to find their father and the demon that has sinister plans for their family while solving smaller arcane cases on their travels. If you were not told it was based on an American TV show it would hardly seem out-of-place as an anime but the American setting. The episodes are a mixture of adapted episodes from the TV series and original episodes. Having never seen the original TV series I can’t say how accurate they are to the TV series but I enjoyed what I saw. The brother have good dynamic which is vital for a show like this. The stories are overall enjoyable if a bit tried and true for the genre. There is some variability in quality but that is the case with any supernatural anthology show. I don’t remember any stinkers expect the episode with the casino and the poverty god is clearly an anime original episode and really weird. It is this slapstick episode in what is an otherwise serious supernatural show which while not horrible is very incongruous with the rest of the show. Also the ending of the vampire story seemed a little rushed but such is the case with cramming an hour show into a half an hour of animation. I can’t say that it is my favorite supernatural mystery show but it is a serviceable adaption that shows that Madhouse is still capable of making something with a strong international flair.
Fireball Charming ep. 1 is how I decided to kick off the new season. Disney’s Fireball was a series of 2-minute comedy shorts about duchess Drossel and her servant Gedachtnis, both robots. Even if you’ve never watched the show, perhaps you didn’t even know there was a show, Drossel’s pig-tailed design and glowing eyes might be familiar to you. So a similar 2nd season has begun with some much crisper CG and some tweaks to Drossel’s design which has given her much more hip and butt (thanks?). The comedy remains off-kilter as misunderstandings pepper the jokes. Glad to see Fireball back!
In a similar vein of Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline is a French and Japanese co-production of a highly esteemed French science fiction comic by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières. The original comic is a high exclaimed series that has gone on to heavily influence Star Wars and Fifth Element as well as many other series. It has a distinctly sexual charge and a good deal of political commentary. The anime on the other hand is a kids cartoon. It is a good kids cartoon but clearly a kids cartoon. I can’t blame the Japanese as much as it has that American kids show vibe as opposed to Japanese kids show vibe. That means the politics are significantly less subtle and they go out of their way to make sure no one dies. That is until the last five episodes. It seems like they were 35 episodes into the series so they tried to get away with what they could in the last 5 episodes when it was too late to cancel them. Then major twists are introduced, people are murdered for political reasons, heroic sacrifices are made, millions die in planetary bombardments, and there is a temporal duel to the death. That said even before then it is clearly based on the original source material. The storyline is an adaption of one of the most famous story lines from the original and other stories and characters are either directly used or alluded to throughout the series. They also seem to have taken changing power balance Valerian and Laureline from the source material and averaged out so they are more equal partners. The first three episodes are worth watching just for the action sequences because they are amazingly fluid and have a Lupin the Third energy and direction to them. The rest of the episodes still have some good action from time to time but they clearly spent a good deal of budget making sure you were impressed in the beginning. I am curious if we have any one who is a fan of European comics who knows what the general reaction to the adaption was?
I think I prefer these old designs.