House of Five Leaves was a quietly compelling series that came full-circle in its story. Something about beginning and ending with the same gesture really gets to me in a good way. As Masa starts to connect to each member of The Five Leaves he is changed but through his gentle and honest (minus, you know, being part of a kidnapping ring) nature he genuinely surprises and moves the people around him. Yaichi remains a bit of an enigma throughout to the people around him, even Masa is still making the connection with him in the end but learning about his past allows him to be more of an open book atleast to the audience. It wasn’t immediately obvious from the first couple of episodes that this story would be more of a personal journey rather than about the crimes playing out. As the you begin to puzzle out the story it becomes gripping despite the languid pacing. House of Five Leaves has atmosphere and characters who tell you who they are with the slightest of actions. Beautiful and recommended, I am looking forward to picking up the manga as well.
I must say that the House of Five Leaves anime picked the perfect place to end. When adapting an ongoing manga it can be hard to decide where to end especially when the source material is very character and plot driven. But Tomomi Mochizuki ended at the point where you had insight into all the main characters and everyone had a good arc of character development. You got the impression that everyone had changed greatly since you had first met them and you had a decent idea of who they were. Masanosuke still has growing to do, Yaichi still has unfinished business, and we could have learned a bit more about Otake but overall if the manga had ended here I don’t think anyone would have felt cheated. I was sad to hear that this was got fairly low ratings for a noitaminA show in Japan. When something that is extremely experimental like Trapeze gets ratings like that I am not too surprised. But I would have assumed the mature quality would hook a noitaminA audience. That is a shame because this is a well done historical character piece that while not extremely fast in it’s execution is great at building up an atmosphere that draws you into a group of very unusual kidnappers and their stories. I hope to finish the story through the VIZ manga.
I finally got the chance to pick up Bunny Drop 1 which I had been eying in Japanese for a long while before the English version came out. We begin with the death of 30-something Daikichi’s grandfather and then a somewhat familiar scenario plays out. During the funeral ceremonies little Rin, the recently discovered illegitimate daughter of Daikichi’s grandfather, attaches herself to Daikichi who not only resembles his grandfather but seems to be the only adult not staring daggers at her. As Daikichi’s family coldly discusses what to do with Rin, Daikichi hotly proclaims he will become her guardian and raise her himself. Thus begins the winding road of discovery and adventure for young bachelor Dai and 6-year-old Rin. Dai’s inexperience but genuine affection for Rin gives us plenty of laughs and aww’s. What I liked best was that Dai internally and to a co-worker expresses the inconvenience of it all, he is forthright, but he also wants to bring solid ground to Rin’s life while believing that one day he won’t see it as a burden. As he comes to understand Rin better, he begins to appreciate the effort. It has a very tender quality to it. So despite the fun and sweet but not fully grounded premise, there are beautiful moments of wisdom interspersed among the comedy and drama. I am glad I pre-ordered the next volume!
When in preparation for AnimeNEXT 2010 I decided to watch the Minipato OVA to see Kenji Kamiyama’s debut as a full director. The first two shorts explain the design and theory that goes into the creation of the police mecha of the series including why they use the weapons they use and the various models of Patlabors. The third OAV is a secret report by Shinobu about the illicit actives of Division 2. While it is all played very straight all the OAVs have a distinctly comedic tone to them. The first two OAV are distinctly reminiscent of the science lessons from Gunbuster. We start off with the generally dry lessons with sly jokes on the side in the first OAV building to the extremely seriously toned third OAV that is purposely patently ridiculous. I was impressed how the OAV captured the range of humor that the TV had with the third episode being very similar to several of the mini documentary episodes in the series. Most of the scenes use cardboard cuts out much like episode 19 of Kare Kano which emphases the comedic vibe. It’s an odd little collection of collection of shorts but distinctly entertaining assuming you have watched the TV series. Also you can tell how much of a mecha nerd you are by how many of the Patlabor “variations” you recognize in the second episode.
Was anyone not looking forward to Toy Story 3? In fact, it’s hard not to look forward to Pixar productions, luckily they rarely disappoint. With this third, and presume final, installment in the Toy Story narrative we have Andy getting ready to go away to college. As he begins packing his things he has to make a decision about what to do with his once precious toys that have sat dormant for many years now. Through a series of mix-ups our gang end up at a daycare center and must eventually make their way home before Andy leaves for good. As with the other two movies, this is all about the journey and the dangers it presents. Of the new toys they meet Ken (of Barbie fame), Crunk (a rock monster), and Twitch (a mantis-man) all gave me great laughs. There is a little predictability in this film but the way each thread of the story leads into the other is quite astounding. You can really see the care taken with each decision in the tale and nothing just happens, it all comes back around. As many will tell you there are some sad moments in the this film but of course it ends on a positive, if melancholic, note. Toy Story 3 is a perfect cap off to the series where we see the closing of a door and the opening of another.
Being a huge fan of the Yankee-kun to Megane-chan manga I was extremely eager to see the live action adaptation. When I saw the first episode I had distinctly mixed feelings. My main problem with the production is that I love the comedic styling of the manga so when they make the series have such a standard live action drama style of humor it sort of breaks my heart. I understand that there ratings will probably be much better because of this so I wish them only the best but I wanted a straighter adaption. For instance they Daichi comes from a family of doctors and has all this family drama. They have not brought up Seiun only dating extremely ugly girls which is always priceless. Also Hana comes off as more annoying when she is in class president mode than really strange space-case like she does in the manga. Don’t get me wrong. Yankee-kun to Megane-chan live action is hardly a bad show. The fight scene at the end is hysterical. It is the fact that I was severed a well done meal but it was utterly not what I was in the mood for. It tasted good but it did not stop the craving I had. I’m hoping it’s popular enough to get them to produce an anime. That would tie up everything with a neat little bow.
There isn’t much Toy Story fan-art out there so this is the pic of the week!