Ongoing Investigations: Case #046

I picked up one of the blind box Gundam 00 Calendar Characters and got lucky! My pick turned out to be Allelujah for May/Children’s Day. There are 12 figures total, one for each month, so each meister has 3 figures. As you can see Allelujah is in his flight suit here, but each of the others has a different outfit. Some look more fun than others. They also come with two accessories related to their month/holiday. Though since the pose and heads are basically the same across the board I don’t have the desire to collect them all. But it is certainly worth having my favorite of. He is quite cute and tiny, and easily worth my $6.

Suikoden Tierkreis is a fine return to form for the Suikoden series even if this is a side story. After some lackluster entries, I am glad to see a very solid renewal of the franchise. Suikoden Tierkreis involves parallel worlds and destiny vs. free will. I won’t claim that it is high literature but it competently handles pretty weighty topics in a competent and entertaining manner which can often be hard for video games. The story starts after some friends who are part of a small village defense force find a book that revels the memories they have are lies. A new organization that believes everything is predestined seek to make a single world where everyone believes as they do. So this rag tag team must rally together to defeat this fanatical organization. I really like that your main allies, the Magedom, are almost as nasty as your enemies in the Order of the One True Way. One of the biggest strengths with 108 recruitable characters is you will always like at least one or two characters. However, many charters don’t get detailed character development. The main charters is sort of the generic plucky never give up shonen hero but at least he has a personality beyond silent protagonist everyone likes for no given reason. The main cast is all enjoyable so you don’t have to cling to side characters in the game. The game play is the standard turn-based RPG battles. Without a doubt the two biggest flaws are the encounter rate and the voice acting. The random encounter rate is really high which makes exploration a pain. Also, there are only one or two decent voice actors making it overall quite bad. Unfortunately, there is a lot of voice acting. I tend to play it on my commute on the subway so it often does not matter but when I do hear it I tend to skip.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #016

Narutaki and I both lost our Internet connections so oddly enough it has led me to watch MORE anime than usual. Without the World Wide Web there to distract me it has left me some time to catch up with my unwatched anime.

I picked up the first Girl Who Runs Through Time manga released by CMX. I’ll just take a moment and mention how much I like CMX’s manga line as they consistently pick up over looked but good series many of which are short. After seeing The Girl Who Leapt Through Time I have been anxious for this manga to come out. While the movie clearly pays homage to its predecessor, they are still different entities. It was quite good with a fun and spunky heroine. Our two romantic rivals and the all knowing friend to round it all out. Though I am not sure how it can be resolved in just one more volume. This also reaffirms my hope that someone will pick up the original novel.

I can now understand why AWO says that GaoGaiGar gets better and better as the series goes on. The next to the last battle in the series is so epic and satisfying. The last battle is a little more of an emotional climax than any world shattering climax but it is still fun. I am still pretty sure that no one is going to like this show that is not in it to win it from the beginning. The final episodes are definitely better but I don’t think they would ever win over anyone. Still it is manly robot anime with fiery courage and bravery saving the day. I am going to take a little break before I throw myself into GaoGaiGar Final and/or Grand Glorious Gathering.  I might also go out and pick up Betterman before that for the minor connection. Because I am a nerd like that.

THANK GOODNESS GUNDAM 00 IS BACK! I am truly enjoying every minute. It is great to see all the storylines converging. It was great seeing Sumergai back in action! And with the return of my beloved Allelujah, well I’m happy! The next episode looks to be just what I wish for, too. I have been itching to watch the first season over again. I’m really looking forward to the DVD release. P.S. Black Haro is clearly the big villain, not sure why no one else sees it.

Shakugan no Shana ends pretty well. I was a little surprised that the final fights are mostly inconclusive and short. I suppose it was better that they worked on an emotional climax rather than a physical one but I wanted some more melee. I was also a little disappointed that we never see this supposed sword vs. spear fight between Shana and Sydonay as promised in the second opening. I suspect they don’t want to kill off the Bal Masque either because they realized it was popular enough to get a second season and/or they wanted to stick closer to the original light novels. It’s another series that while I could watch more of I am in no rush to download it when I am trying to catch up on watching what I have legitimacy purchased. Plus the second Shakugan no Shana has a decent chance of getting licensed especially if the box set sells well enough for Funimation.

Watched some more Code Geass and am happy to report the last couple of episodes on the first disc were not a fluke. The show is indeed good. I also found it great to be enjoying a fluff episode like 6 where the cat steals Zero’s helmet. It gave the series a nice uplifting episode but also reestablished the friendship between Lelouch and Suzaku. This disc made me really liked Shirley as she wanted to befriend Suzaku despite everyone else. I am also really loving Shirley and Kallen’s friendship. Still waiting for C.C. to really show some of her powers although she does prove usefull in this disc. Oh and apparently me and Kohaku are the only people on the internet that really like Suzaku.

I saw Genius Party with Kohaku and Scott from Anime Almanac. It is seven short animated shorts by different artists. Like most anthologies you are going to like certain stories more than other. The first eponymous titled Genius Party is a quirky little short about the creation and spreading of ideas. It has very striking visuals which is a necessity since there is no dialog. It has little stone coconut heads who create and transmit little heart shaped ideas and the scarecrow bird that preys on them. The second short is Shanghai Dragon which is a fun little story about a snot nosed kid who has to save the earth from alien invaders with a magical pen. The best part for me about this short was the two cyborgs that defend the boy and his female friend until he can come into his role as savior of the earth. Their seinen manly heroics against impossible odds were stylish and cool. Deathtic 4 was a odd little piece that was all 3D CG reminiscent of Gregory Horror Show or Reboot. I was entertained with the story of a team of self-proclaimed super hero zombies that try to get a frog back to the world of the living. It had a amusing little nod to the Fantastic 4 and filled with kids humor (aka fart jokes) in a macabre world. Doorbell is the story of a student who finds that another version of him has started taking over his life. Whenever he gets somewhere and his duplicate has arrived before him the people there seem to take the duplicate as him and can no longer see him. So a race starts between the two to see who can claim this existence. An odd little story with a seinen feel to the character designs. If I ever watch Genius party again on DVD I am sure to skip Limitcycle each and every time. Limitcycle is a rambling soliloquy about mans’ relationship to God. It basically has no plot and often times bewildering cyberpunk visuals that incorporate alchemical diagrams and seemingly random numbers. It was the most self indulgent piece I have seen in a long time. I don’t mind a little navel gazing but this meanders in such a unabashedly personal manner that it is incomprehensible to anyone but the author. Happy Machine is clearly by the man who directed Kaiba. Everything from the character designs to the relentlessly disturbing feeling under the pastel coloring. It is the second short in the anthology to be almost completely without dialog. It is the story of a baby who lives in a child rearing machine until is starts to break down and he is forced to survive in a hostile alien world. I say without hesitation that Baby Blue would have been Narutaki’s favorite story had he gone to see Genius Party. A warm little story of an almost love. A boy invites a childhood friend of his to skip school and go on a little adventure with him to the beach. They have a fun little bittersweet adventure as they spend the day together.

I have been reading a lot of one-shot and one book shojo manga of late. It’s actually quite a challenge to make the reader engage with the characters and at the same time tell a complete story. So I’ll just mention a few that did the job. A manga-ka who is quickly becoming a favorite is Tsukuba Sakura and luckily just about everything she has done has either been licensed or scanlated. I read two shorts by her but the one that stuck out was Shiro no Keiyaku. It is about a pure white crow who is ostracized by his flock. One day after being injured he falls to earth and is fixed up by a girl; he immediately falls in love with her. The story takes him to a devil to make him human and spend his time with her. It has the fairytale aspect down pat complete with happy ending. Sakura does a great job of combining a dash of fantasy with a sweet love story. Another fairytale one was Otogibanashi no Fude in which our lead male is the keeper of a sacred tree. He stumbles upon the secret of the tree which is a beautiful water goddess kept inside of it for hundreds of years. He is the only one able to summon her and as he continues to spend time with her he inevitably falls in love. This story has more of a bittersweet under score to it but still makes you smile in the end and be hopeful. This story also made me immensely interested in reading more by this author, Akizuki Sorata. I also re-read 7th Period is a Secret which deals with that ever popular taboo, teacher x student. Shun has transformed herself but she doesn’t truly feel at easy with her friends. Her young teacher Jun sees right through her and she finds him understanding her better than anyone. So beings a romance! Even though our guy is supposed to be older, it exudes the first love sweetness for both of them. It also doesn’t have any real tragic ending, in fact we are lead to believe they will stay together. I just picked up another series by Chiba Kozue and I am reading more short stories as I write this so I’ll be talking about them a lot in the coming weeks.

“The most useless are those who never change through the years.”

Spoilers for Claymore manga and Gundam 00 season 1

Poor Raki from Claymore has fallen into this chasm of despisement along with Saji and Lousie from Gundam 00. There are surely more to be told of but these three have been on my radar of late. Oh, how short-sighted of you people!

Let us first examine the youth known as Raki. He is maybe 14-years-old when he and Clare first meet and start their wandering together. Clare sees a part of herself and who she once was in Raki and their bond becomes extremely important. What makes Raki so significant is that there isn’t a story without him. Clare would have awakened in just a few chapters and there would be nothing left. Even putting that aside, Clare’s character growth hinges on this boy. Really, Clare is not so interesting in the beginning. She starts to become an interesting, multi-dimensional character thanks to her continued interactions with Raki. Raki brings some of her humanity back to her. That humanity is what moves her to question what the Claymores purpose is and to find out the secrets of the Awakened. Raki is a young boy, who starts with zero experience with a sword, not to mention they are fighting demons that even Clare has trouble with. I cut the guy some slack! The writing was on the wall that Raki was going to grow up and be a warrior. He wants to be Clare’s equal at the very least and at most he wants to protect her like she protected him. Lo and behold he comes strutting into town in recent chapters tall and handsome with Claymore-like armor, a broadsword on his back, and some unaccounted for years. He dispatches a Yoma with surprising skill and ease. Rather a far cry from the defenseless boy we once knew. Take that haters!

Saji and Louise’s story was actually a highlight for me while watching the first season of Gundam 00. They were shown in almost every episode for varying periods of time, sometimes even for just a moment. I laughed and smiled watching these two young people dealing with such normal things like school, parents, and dating. It was desperately sad to see Louise lose her parents and be in the hospital with her own injuries; to see the anguish in Saji when he didn’t know what to do for her; and to see him give her that ring only to have her reach out with only one hand left. It was touching and moving, even thinking about it now. Theirs’ is the only story that is about civilians, how this war affects the common person. It was great to see such a different perspective because these two kids get pulled into something so much bigger than themselves. They are the innocent people that are tragically affect by all of the political war mongering and finally thrust into it themselves. This was a wonderful lead up to what promises to be an interesting tale. If Saji and Louise showed up for the first time at the beginning of the second season and we saw their background in quick flashback people would be calling BS all over the place. A lot of their history is tangentially related to the rest of the cast but it all just coming together now.

You have to give characters a background, a story, a life to grow from. If all of these people just appeared when they were finally “useful” they would have no significance to the audience. People would be calling foul left and right on them. I am certainly not saying that no character is useless, oh there are plenty, but I feel like people throw it around so much it splatters on everyone who isn’t a seinen hero! I enjoy those types of characters, don’t get me wrong, but I have a wide range of people I like to watch. So I think it is important to step back and look at the bigger picture. Their lives are connected and there are reasons they are appearing on our screens. I’m not saying you should like these characters (thought I do) but they are far from being useless in these stories.

Top 5 Minor characters who are awesome and useful
5. Mei Ling (Card Captor Sakura)
4. Ozma Lee (Macross Frontier)
3. Wataru Tachibana (Hayate the Combat Butler)
2. Ensei Ro (Story of Saiunkoku)
1. Urahara Kisuke (Bleach)

*title quoted from J.M. Barrie