Ongoing Investigations: Case #087

hisuiconI decided to check out Real Drive mostly because I was intrigued that I knew almost nothing about the show despite its pedigree. A cyber future anime from Production I.G and Masamune Shirow seems like the type of show everyone should be talking about. I think the main problem people have with this show is two fold. First is chubby girls. All the female characters are full figured to the point that most of them look sort of chunky. I did not have a problem with it but I know that it is like 80% of the reputation of this show. The second is my nickname for the show: Slice-of-Life in the Shell. While there are cases of killer cyborg assassins, man’s relationship with technology, and political intrigue the fact that Minamo Aoi the 15-year-old girl is the main character is a turn off if people wanted the standard Shirow protagonist. One of the stories is even about a ghost at Aoi’s school but what people are mostly going to remember is Aoi and her friends being goofy ghost hunters. Overall the slice-of-life aspects are really high at times so if you can’t stand them there is no reason to even try to plow through to get to the good fight scenes and deeper plot. I had a good time but it’s hardly a show that you must see especially considering how light the story can be at times. I do have to give the show props for making the other protagonist a 81-year-old hacker in a wheel chair. Now that isn’t an overused archetypal anime character.

I got Kekkaishi 21 in the mail earlier this week, I’m glad I had this on pre-order. The last few books have been setting up the many facets of sacred sites being destroyed and then hanging the blame on the Yoshimori’s clan which is causing turmoil in many different sects. Everything is still very shrouded in mystery, few ties of trusts, which is only multiplied by Okuni’s group getting involved. Things really heat up in this volume when Karasamori itself is targeted and as Tokine makes a difficult decision in the battle. We finally get more hints about who and what is destroying the sites and Yoshi among others starts doing some detective work. Yoshi continues to grow in this volume, but there is a little too much of people spelling everything out. And given my dislike for Sen, it doesn’t help that he is digging further and further into his know-it-all attitude even though I can read betrayal all over him. However, Yoshi is able to recognize himself as a person who has to listen to others with the realization that using their knowledge to further his learning is okay. I also can’t help but feel Yoshi is such a misunderstood guy, but he is moving forward. Kekkaishi is also starting to feel a bit more like shonen adventure and even less like shonen fighting than it already does. The battles are good and hard won but they aren’t dominating the plot. I really wish this came out quicker!  Continue reading

Ongoing Investigations: Case #083

hisuiconKimi ni Todoke reminds me that although I may associate Production I.G with smart action shows like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Le Chevalier D’Eon they can do all type of shows really well. The series just gives you a warm feeling throughout. It is a fabulous series to pick you up and reassure you of the good things in life. We learn more about everyone as they learn more about each other as well. And we want to learn these things because these are delightfully positive characters.  Everything we said about the first episode remains true throughout. If you liked the first episode you will be just as happy with the last episode. I never felt any of the story dipped in quality which is great. If you need an utterly conclusive ending that says, “This is where we stop” you have to hope the manga gives you that. The anime picks a good place to end where you can imagine where everything is going and be happy but if you got a second season you would not feel it was tacked on. The best series of the fall season and a wonder anime to hook a certain type of new anime fan as well as satisfy an old hand as well.

Kimi ni Todoke was always an especially bright spot in my weekly anime watching, it really has an uplifting feeling that is followed by a satisfied sigh. As the story takes a close look at friendships and love it creates an incomplete, but no less fulfilling, picture about growth. Few people could hope to be as endearing as Sawako, however, no one would ever know that had she not decided to come out of her shell. This is one of the many reasons I listed her as anime woman of the year for 2009, she is afraid but she moves forward and succeeds. I love Kimi’s ability to make you believe (or in my case remind me of what I have always known) that people change everyday, for many different reasons. I found the development of Chizu a surprising extra to the series, as well as how much I enjoyed Kurumi, Yano’s reveal of being somewhat of a mastermind, and how deeply I felt Ryu’s love. Each character added something to the mix never coming off as extraneous side characters in a love story about Sawako and Kazehaya. But that love story is wonderful, subtle, and fits in along side all of the other slow and sweet relationships that develop in Kimi ni Todoke. The shy quality that comes over the otherwise outgoing Kazehaya and the utter freaking out of Sawako are touching and hilarious as is the knowledge that they will end up in the right place someday, one small step at a time. Kimi ni Todoke deserves a spot as of one of the best of 2009/2010.

hisuiconThe next stop on the trip through the iterations of Cutey Honey was Re: Cutey Honey or as I like to call it Re: Super-Obvious-Lesbian-Sub-Text Honey. Re: Cutey Honey was made by Gainax as a companion to the Hideaki Anno movie. Once again Honey Kisaragi must battle Panther Claw after they killed her father. The biggest difference is now instead of Seiji Hayami being her love interest with a good deal of lesbian subtext to her adventures they outright have Natsuko Aki as her love interest. Also Honey is now an office lady instead of a student. Overall the formula is still the same one I mentioned on The Speakeasy and it does it well. The fan service is sort of off the hook in these OAVs. There are naked breasts all over the place and the racy material you expect from a Go Nagai work with a modern Gurren Lagann feel. The action is also rather well done and the fights are exciting and amusing. I’m actually quite surprised this has not been picked up. It’s only three episodes, the animation is quite good, and it delivers on all fronts that U.S. fans usually like.

I went to see the play Enjoy by Toshiki Okada translated from Japanese over the weekend but it struck me as almost more of a conversation rather than a production. The narrative revolves around a bunch of part-time workers at a manga cafe in Shinjuku. There is virtually no set or props to speak of so the crux of everything hinges on the stories they are telling to each other and the audience, often speaking directly to you the viewer. The speech used is worth noting because it really is street level, repeating yourself, stopping and starting, skipping things, filler words, very “real.” There is a bit of a divide in the cast, some are 30 (or just turned so) and the others are between the ages of 22-27, everyone makes frequent mentions of this. Much of the conversations revolve around societal pressures about jobs and relationships, but more to the point is this close look at a phenomenon of college grads who only work part-time and still live at home without being able to move on to the next stage. I found this concept an easy one to see in American culture as well. There is a presence of humor certainly in the quirkiness of many of the characters in the first half, but also a melancholy that gets more pronounced in the second part. In fact, while even some characters recognize their flaws throughout the play, it never really feels like they will move forward because of it. But in this way and others the characters are very tangible, you know these people or are/have been these people, you want to hear their story, sympathize, listen, encourage, advise, and talk to them. Enjoy doesn’t really come off as positive or negative, and is certainly never preachy, it is a play about what goes on, what is, and it succeeds in making you mull over all that you saw.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #082

hisuiconMitsuru Adachi once again proves he wants to be writing shonen romance manga but keeps being forced to throw in a sports angle due to his perceived image as a sport manga guy. Cross Game has an ending that while different than Touch left me with that same feeling that the baseball and the trip to Koshien Stadium to just window dressing to the relationship. I enjoyed the series overall especially since I was braced for this sort of ending after Touch. I could tell you how I would have ended Cross Game but I am saving that for next month’s Final Denouement. Overall I think the series was well done and you should not let any criticism I give discourage you from watching the show. It ends well and is a very satisfying if you realize that the romance is the real heart of the series no matter how much the baseball might seem to be the key.

Cross Game started off incredibly strong then dipped in the middle as baseball appeared less and less even going for a stretch of 10+ episodes without the sport mentioned more than in passing. But throughout it all the characters were engaging and admittedly though I complained a lot, I did not give up on the show. Kou and Aoba are an interesting pair because they don’t change so much as realize what has been there all along, and that in itself is a change, but who they are is solid and established right from the beginning. I was equally happy to learn who each of the side characters were like Azuma (who quickly became my favorite) and Akaishi who both show how strong the bonds of friendship are. And within all of this the baseball really delivers, when it is in the story, with real tension and energy. The real problem for Adachi as I see it is that he can write really gripping baseball moments even if he doesn’t want to and therefore I wanted to see more of it. And believe me the ending hits all the right spots between a great last game and the wrap up of the romances I truly felt chills and emotion. The only hiccup with the ending is one piece of unfinished business that’s outcome is never disclosed. Much to my surprise I ended up being happier with Cross Game than I thought I was going to be.

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