Ongoing Investigations: Case #118

I finally finished up Part 1 of Saint Seiya: Lost Canvas thanks to Crunchyroll. The destined for tragedy friendship between Tenma, Alone, and Sasha and the fate of not just the world of Gods but also man maintains its level of melodrama very well. And the violence and battles that the series is so well known for is here at an enjoyable rate. It doesn’t come off like Saint Seiya for the modern viewer, it is just another line in the Saint Seiya world which is fine by me. However, this doesn’t make it very new viewer friendly as the series is filled with the familiar faces of the Gold Saints with little explanation. New additions though get a good amount of screen time like the amusing Yato, totally cool Yuzuriha, and of course head strong Tenma. These three are a lot of fun as a team, though nearing the later half of the series we don’t see them as much. However, the final episode promises excellent moments to come. Part 1 ends at a turning point, but by no means has any closure. I’m looking forward to Part 2 which has recently started up.

One of the main purposes of Ongoing Investigations is to talk about things that might not warrant a whole article but show what Narutaki and I read and watch outside the articles we write. It is also where we talk about things we utterly hate. And so I talk about Vampire Cheerleaders which has to be one of the worst thing I have read in recent memory. It is actually two stories in one with the first part being the titular Vampire Cheerleaders who are a squad of catty blood sucking mean girls who take a shy goody two-shoes girl and turn her into an undead ho to fill a hole in their squad. For an OEL manga it is remarkably like its Japanese counterparts in the sad fact that it is one of those racy comedies that it is smutty enough that it feels it does not need a good plot but never quite racy enough to be good as pornography. So you are inundated with cheap fan service strung together with lame jokes that never goes all the way. One of the characters actually uses the phrase “riding the meal missile to Mars” as a euphemism for losing your virginity. Theoretically none of this has to be this bad. I always thought that Exploitation Now did this formula right but I found every one of the jokes in Vampire Cheerleaders fell flat due to annoying characters and tepid delivery. After the main feature and the threat of a sequel there is the bonus story called the Paranormal Mystery Squad. While this was not as bad as Vampire Cheerleaders it is still light years away from good. The Paranormal Mystery Squad starts of as all girl squad mostly so they can be the PMS girls which is a joke I thankfully missed at first but the comic helpfully beat me over the head with. The PMS is a monster slaying service that is hounded by a PETA analog (cleverly named PETM) with a nerdy overseer who wants them to capture monsters alive. One of the girls fails to heed the words of Friedrich Nietzsche and winds up becoming a werewolf. This causes conflict in the group and leads to the stories’ oh so charming title that I will not torture you with besides saying it is quite awful. In fact the whole thing is quite awful. The art in Paranormal Mystery Squad was slightly more detailed but the character designs were less attractive. It is very obviously try to sell itself as manga as it reads right to left despite its American origin. But in the end it does not really matter if it is a bad manga or a bad comic; all you have to know is that it is just bad.

Wandering Son continues to impress as its slowing unfolding character story goes along. Each episode is this moment when you see characters take a step forward. I’m pleased with everyone’s portrayal, and as selfish as Chiba becomes her growth out of it is amazingly thoughtful in recent episodes. I almost don’t want to watch episodes because I don’t want it to end!

A good game can be great game with a good gimmick and Radiant Historia has a great gimmick. You could call it Vagrant Story meets Chrono Trigger if you want a simple pitch. The game is set in the world of Vainqueur that is slowly dying as the world increasingly becomes covered with desert which is leaving the remaining countries fighting for arable land. Stocke is a spy for the country of Alistel who receives a blank book from his superior but when his mission turns sour and he is about to die he learns that the book lets him jump back and forth though any time he has had the book and even jump between parallel worlds. Stocke is tasked by the guardians of the book to prevent the death of the human race. Stocke soon discovers that things done on one timeline sometimes have effect on other timelines. So he travels back and forth in-between key scenes in his life in hopes of defeating a mysterious stranger who has a similar book. The basic plot of the world is not completely original but it is well done and the time travel twist make it feel really fresh. It has some good if somewhat simple politics and a very engaging pace. The combat system is turn based but rewards the player for creating combos when you push enemies around a 3X3 gird. The makers of the game thankfully make it very simple to skip dialog and enemies which if not added would make jumping back through time to old scenes insanely tedious. The ending much like Chrono Trigger can be very different depending on which side quest you finish and which you don’t. I am curious how many people will prefer the normal endings as opposed to the complete ending. I see groups being in both camps but I found either ending very satisfying. When it is all said and done this is a wonderful RPG for the DS that should not be ignored.

I recently rewatched Road to El Dorado from Dreamworks before they went exclusively CG. The story of two gold-loving con artists, goofy Miguel and more serious Tulio, who end up with a map to the lost city of gold and a shipwrecked in the New World is a delight. The adventure is filled with fun and tension plus it has an appeal to both kids and adults. With a wonderful cast, spot on comedy, great music, and vibrant style it is a very bright spot in the Dreamworks catalog. Road to El Dorado is one film I often hold up as the potential of the studio, rewatching only confirmed that it is indeed one of their best works.

The first half of Princess Tutu confirms to me two very important facts. The first is that this show deserves all the praise it gets. Princess Tutu is innovative and wildly entertaining while having a rich and complex plot underneath a seemingly fluffy exterior. The second is that the comparison to Utena are not made lightly. While both shows are very different there are some common elements that make them comparable. They are both a deconstructive look at stories by way of the magical girl genre. Princess Tutu has a bit more comedy in every episode where as Utena mostly saved the comedy for a few key wacky episodes. You have Professor Cat being very much a comedy character and Duck’s friends are far more helpful to making the audience laugh than giving her any help.  On the other hand Princess Tutu does not have all the super creepy sexuality that can easily turn off some viewers to Utena. What Princess Tutu does have is a world of ballet which means wonderful music and a bit of education as well. Like Utena the oddity of the world can turn some people away. Anthropomorphic animals are just naturally part of the cast and the is always a certain oddity inherent with all stories within stories. This is a wonderful anime that breaks the mold and shows its audience the power that animation can have to tell a story in a way that only this medium could ever do.

Not too many women in Saint Seiya, but at least they are mostly awesome!

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