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

I Know What You Watched Last Summer: Summer 2010 Anime Guide

hisuiconI have to say that once again moe continues to remain at the manageable levels. There are still pure moe shows and moe has crept into most shows but the levels are heading towards acceptable again. And considering the market I can accept that. I can’t say that I was super excited to watch anything this season. There are some good shows this season but nothing grabbed me in a way that I had to watch it. But I found several series to watch and hopefully enjoy. As always with any of our seasonal anime guides there are a few exceptions to the shows we write up. We don’t talk about sequels and we avoid anything that looks utterly dire unless we decide to bet on a dark horse despite a somewhat questionable premise.

From zombies to spirits to the all encompassing occult, the theme for this anime season, if a pattern can be found, seems to be supernatural. This is not exactly my favorite genre and even beyond those shows I can’t say I was extremely excited for anything. But this may also have to do with coming off a very strong spring season. Anywho, remember that these impressions are based on first episodes only!

Seikimatsu Occult Academy

hisuiconThis was probably the best show I watched this season. It is a consistent blend of  comedy and supernatural action. At first the series seems like it is going to be a serious business supernatural horror show but as soon a Maya Kumashiro meets the assistant principle you realize that there is a distinctly humorous element to the show.  So while we have a decapitation with ax we also have a janitor cold-cocking a glasses girl. Maya seems to be a mixture of Mulder and Scully. She is knowledgeable about a wide array of supernatural lore but seems mostly interested in destroying it or disproving it’s existence. The first episode was solid so I hope that keeps up the momentum with both the action and the comedy and makes sure neither of them trips over the other. I did notice that we have not been formally introduced to the other main character of this series so I have to wonder if he will add or detract from my interest in this series.

The right amount of attitude and humor collide in Occult Academy as Maya is summoned to what I can only assume is to take over the position of principal of the school in her father’s absence. Things go a bit awry upon Maya’s arrival pushing her into action showing us she has both physical skill and a huge capacity for knowledge about the occult. This first episode sets a nice pace which gives us enough tidbits to whet our appetites for the mysteries surrounding the school, murder, and all things supernatural ending on a curious note as well. I also found the characterization of Maya succinctly laid out making her a well-realized character in under 30-minutes. This especially comes through when she is remembering some bits of her childhood. We are mildly introduced to the rest of the cast including an old friend of Maya’s and a bad-ass janitor named Smiley. The scary and the comedy are balanced nicely even jumping into one another at points which can be a real challenge. This show easily stood out and makes it a no-brainer to check out more.

High School of the Dead

hisuiconWell that was exactly what I expected it to be. This means two very important things. The first is that if this does poorly I truly fear for the anime industry. This has a combination of fan service and zombies that should guarantee it sales and downloads. The second thing I have no urge to ever watch another episode. Why? Because I really don’t like zombie movies but I am apparently in the minority as every convention you go to has a “How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” that is always jam packed. For everyone who eats those panels up this show delivers in spades. We start with zombie killing and fan service right out of the gate. Then there is a quick attempt to show us some insight into the main characters in a flash back then story  jumps right to zombie attack. It is an orgy of girls being eaten in a rather sexual fashion, people freaking out, and zombies get their heads whacked off.  I thought it seemed really predictable  but I think most zombie films that are not Shaun of the Dead are like that. I don’t care for the show one bit but I’m thankful it will surely pull some cash into the industry.

This is a tough show to go into without some opinion of what it is going to be and whether or not you will like it. I went in thinking I don’t care about this and that I won’t like it, I was right. The story is fairly simple as the school is attacked and most of the people who survive are the hottest girls, though I wonder what, if any, explanation for the zombies arriving there will be. Sex and violence, a common package, but the combining of the two into one moment was nothing less than disgusting at parts in this show. Overly detailed panty shots as zombies ate their flesh, no thanks. There was a lot of implied violence too, almost trying to trick you, for example you must bust heads in order to kill zombies but every time it happens there is a cut away to just a blood spatter. As someone who enjoys a good violent anime, I wasn’t that impressed with High School of the Dead where the actual fighting came second to the fan-service. But even if that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t watch this show because zombies are about the least interesting villains ever. All that being said, I think Section 23 is brilliant for getting this right away.

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