Ongoing Investigations: Case #134

I started watching Ashita no Nadja on and off in between other shows, I’ve seen four so far. It is a shojo series with a small following. I’ve always been curious about it because it has a It also boasts a fabulous opening. Nadja is a young orphan girl who receives a mysterious package on her 13th birthday which contains a letter revealing her mother is still alive. This sets her off an adventure where she joins a traveling troupe and becomes a dancer, as she searches for her mother she meets various people along the way including many suitors, and she is pursued by villains trying to stop her progress. Nadja is a hard-working dear girl, the troupe is a colorful bunch, and there is a blond prince plus a phantom thief so far! This is such a children’s wish fulfillment show and it is utterly charming in its execution. It also has a bit of a Masterpiece Theater feel. I’m looking forward to watching more.

With a morbid curiosity I decide to brave the first 4 episodes of the 2011 reboot of Thundercats. The original Thundercats is distinctly one of those show that you might have liked as a kid but does not age well at all. The new series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation but the animation is done by Studio 4°C so I also watched for the tenuous anime connection. But make no mistake while some of the visual fair has an anime feel this is very much an American cartoon. It is closer to Avatar: The Last Airbender than Bleach. And that is not a bad thing. The story telling for children of all ages make entertainment that has the ability to stand up over time. Some of it dips into the just for kids cache at times but overall it is a fairly smart remake. The reboot wisely keeps many of the things that people remember fondly about the original and jettisons some of the more frankly stupid parts at the same time. I mean Snarf is now a clever pet as opposed to his old annoying nursemaid persona which I am sure earns the show a metric ton of goodwill. The first episode setup the main cast, had them soundly beaten, and gets them on the run. I will say that Mumm-Ra plan that involved assault mecha, a turncoat, AND a Trojan horse seemed a bit overkill but it does show you that he is a credible threat. The next two episode have been fairly entertaining with a Moby Dick story and the tale living for the day. I think I will keep watching to see where it goes. Be warned no matter how this series turns out it will  be a furry generation engine like the original. This is just an unavoidable fact.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #111

Since the 7th game of Umineko is so game changing I am going to try to just discuss the essence of the episode without giving away major spoilers especially for people who read the blog but are a few games behind. The two new characters seen in the portrait above are Willard H Wright and Lion Ushiromiya. Lion is a fascinating character that is essentially several huge reveals just by existing. Will is the Battler stand in for this chapter and I thought his big entrance was fairly entertaining and cool. Lion and Will’s interaction is playful although all the butt pinching going on has solidified that they will be shipped forever. When we get into the meat of the story we learn Kinzo’s back story, the identity of Beatrice, Battler’s sin, get some hits as to the solutions to some of the locked room mysteries, and the probable confirmation of one of the mostly hotly debated theories in the series. We also get some powerful scenes that I thought were quite moving. Also unless we are being misled there is some seriously twisted relationships in Umineko and the people involved do not realize are as twisted as they are.  It probably makes me a weenie but I found parts of the end of Requiem of the Golden Witch really hard to read. If you have come to love these characters the last chapter is brutal. Although how authentic how authentic that ending is has yet to be seen.  When the last game comes out I will probably do a total spoiler filled review of the series a whole but until then I just have to wait to see what answers 2011 finally gives us with Twilight of the Golden Witch.

I picked up How to Train Your Dragon in a Black Friday sale but didn’t get around to watching it till the Christmas holidays. The animation of the film really stands out, especially from some of the other Dreamworks properties, it was lush and gorgeous; the dragons were very animated and their designs were quirky; plus the flying scenes were breath-taking. The story is a simple one of trying to fit in to your dragon-killing village of vikings (we’ve all been there, right?) but Hiccup is much happier inventing things which often gets him into trouble. After one of his inventions actually works and takes down a rare dragon, their fates become intertwined when he realizes he can’t bring himself to hurt the creature. This story has a classic feel of acceptance, growing up, and having the bravery to do what is right. While I did find the relationships between Hiccup and the other kids a little too easier resolved, it was enough. I found it a very enjoyable ride! After seeing it, I do imagine it will be an Oscar contender this year. Continue reading

Ongoing Investigations: Case #110

Bihada Ichizoku is, sadly, a show that most people never watched. I remedied my ignorance over the Christmas holiday. These 12 8-minute episodes follow the two Bihada sisters, a family that “battles for beauty,” as they become rivals for the most beautiful skin in the world. Yes, I swear that is the premise, and I also swear it is perfectly executed and hysterical. The show was created to promote skin care products. The show is a near-perfect riff on all things shojo from the 70s; from the character designs to the expressions to the desperate seriousness of it all. Sara acquires a mysterious benefactor, who leaves her a random assortment of objects such as purple sweet potatoes, and teaches her the ways of skin care in order to defeat her sister in the final battle! There is hardship, death, doomed love, and so much more; Bihada Ichizoku plays it straight and entertains amazingly well. And at this length you can shoot through the whole show in less than 2 hours!

hisuiconI decided to delve back into the work of Kill em’ all Tomino with the first 15 episodes of Aura Battler Dunbine. This story does not start with much foreplay in the regular world before throwing the protagonists, Shou Zama, in the magical world of Byston Well. Byston Well is a medieval fantasy land with insect like mecha called Aura Battlers. Shou finds himself pressed into the army of Duke Drake who plans to rule the world with an elite fighting force of pilots from Earth. Apparently people from Earth have massive amounts of spiritual power in Byston Well and can power up any device they control exponentially. After a few battles Shou find himself fighting on the side of the rebels. The fact that he is keen of the red-headed Marvel Frozen who is also part of the resistance is no small part of his decision. This feels very much like a Tomino work despite its fantasy setting.  You will notice a very standard Tomino style of pacing and characterization for better and for worse. So far Shou is a solid lead with a good mixture of knowing when to be aggressive and when to be passive in his personality as opposed to other Tomino leads. Neal Given has really only gotten on my nerves so far and I am still undecided on Marvel. All the villains so far are pretty despicable and we don’t really have a gray Char like character so far. So far Garalia is the most over manipulative and the top insanely evil character but Shot Weapon looks like he is saving his full crazy for a later date. I am curious to see how the Tomino does his version of Escaflowne over a decade before Escaflowne. Continue reading