Sunday, January 29, 2012

Anime Review No. 20 "Read or Die" (2001 OVA)

Hello, this is the Eclectic Dude and I review it for the lolz. (yes, that's my catchphrase).

Well, to conclude this month, I am looking at another title with a standard genre, but with some interesting aspects to it. The genre of the week is spy film. Most of us know of some of these, from the Bond movies to even Johnny English (which is funny btw), those films with stories with spies, international incidents, baddies trying to conquer the world, etc. Well, Anime has a few entries in this genre. And one of the best, in my opinion, is the subject for this week's review-"Read or Die"
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Read or Die is a 2001 OVA done by Studio Deen and directed by Koji Masanuri. It was then released by Manga Entertainment in 2003 to the States. It was done in 3 episodes, spanning about 90 minutes. Of course, it is better to just watch it as a full-length film feature. The story flows better for it. It is basically a spy action film, much in the style of James Bond, but with interesting characteristics added in. I'll explain.

So, the OVA does a cold open to start things off, as a mysterious guy blows up the White House (a la Independence Day). Of course, he was actually looking for the Library of Congress. He refers to himself 'Ijinn' to the US president, who proceeds to piss himself (a real LOL moment for me).
The opening comes up. In my words, it is AWESOME-sauce. Seriously, it got a even blend of techno and orchestral that is superb.
After the opening, we are introduced to Yomiko Readman, the main character of this OVA. She is 20ish young woman who's a meganekko bibliophile (who lives in an apartment full of books in Tokyo) who seems rather likeable despite being somewhat antsy and naive. She's also voiced by Kim Yates in the english dub, sporting a good British accent. After doing some book shopping, which is a good montage, she picks up 'Immortal Beloved', a book she been looking for some time. But, then a swarm of insects led by an insect dude riding a giant grasshopper. This guy wants her book, for some reason. Yomiko, however, reveals that she can manipulate paper to use as weapons and the like. I'm dead serious. How and why she can do it is not really explained, but then again best to bask in the spectacle of it all. She uses her 'superpower' to get the book back and defeat the insect dude.
After this, we are introduced to Mr. Joker, Yomiko's boss, and played by Crispin Freeman sporting also a British accent. Yomiko's codename is "The Paper" based on her ability. Both of  the part of a secret organization, The Library, led by the elder and mysterious Mr. Gentleman. A evil scheme is revealed to the two involving past historical figures with superpowers. Of course, these are more on the obscure side in terms of historical figures. So, I'll just use nicknames for them. They aim to get Yomiko's book, once for no reason (so far).
So, Yomiko Readman gets teamed up with Drake Anderson and 'Miss Deep'. Drake is your typical 'muscle' guy, the one one character who uses weapons as he has no abilities. He is also quite funny, spouting out memorable one-liners delivered by Jaxon Lee in the dub. 'Miss Deep' is the femme fatale, serving as a foil to Yomiko. She has a special ability in that she can phase through solid objects. Together, they seek to uncover  the truth behind this conspiracy.
That's all I am saying about the plot, no more spoilers. Seriously it is something worth watching.Pretty much, the OVA functions as a three part story, with the first episode being exposition and rising action, second episode continuing the rising action, then reaching the critical point about halfway through the third episode, with a short falling action and conclusion in the last 10 minutes or so. But seriously, check this out.
So, what are the pros and cons of this title? Well there are several pros. For one, the story is interesting story, with unique twists thrown in here and there. It is also well-structured as well. It tells its story and does that very well. Another thing is that voice acting (in the dub) is more consistent, to say the least. Everyone involved are doing the best they can, and it shows. In fact, the 4 VAs I mentioned, this title is probably the best thing any of them have been involved. Lastly, the music is awesome-sauce, much like the opening song.
It works well with the OVA, which is what it has to do.
However, there are some cons to this. There are few weird elements that pop in only to be not mentioned or explained. Yomiko's and Miss Deep's powers, Mr. Gentleman, the baddies, etc are some of these elements of this variety. Other problem I got with this is the animation. Well solid and well done most of the time, being a sort of blend between cel and digital, there are backgrounds in scenes that are very obvious CGI. This being from 2001, no surprise there. Then again, its best to just bask in the spectacle.
Despite that, I definitely recommend it. If you are interested, check out also the TV Series follow up to this OVA, also called Read or Die. Another similar series involving spies include FullMetal Panic, Madlax, etc. are others that I would also recommend.

I will post around Feb. 1st my list of reviews for the month of February.
Laterz ^_^

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Anime Review No. 19-"Maze the Megaburst Space" (1996 OVA)

Hello, I'm the Eclectic Dude and I review it for the lolz.

This week, I am back in my comfort zone of anime OVAs from the 90s. Yeah, an area most people dread or don't know about is my comfort zone for anime. They are either interesting gems, so bad its good, or long forgotten titles.

Now, I'll explain this month's theme, which is an "Odd Notion of Genre". By this, I mean, certain series take a particular genre and adding in some quirky/weird elements to it. Last week's review was on Moretsu Pirates, essentially a space opera story with a space pirate story inserted into it. It can lend to interesting stories, for the most part.
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However, this week's entry is Maze the Megaburst Space (best misnomer title ever btw) has quite honestly one of the weirdest quirks and elements in a fantasy journey story. It is an OVA from 1996, done by JC Staff and directed by Iku Suzuki. It is based off of a manga that has never gotten to the States, much less online, and that is surprising considering some of the stuff one can find online.

Now, here's how I came across this title. One of the few local video stores I go to on occasion is MovieStop. Back in like 2006 or so, I went over there to see what bargains they had. I see this on the shelf, and noticing the interesting cover and title (and the cheap price), I decided to purchase it. Now, since this OVA has only 2 episodes, which covers about 50 minutes, I consider this title to be a short film.

So, how is this an odd fantasy story? Well, it is a standard journey story with mature humor and mecha thrown in for good measure. I view it as a combo of Escaflowne and Sorcerer Hunters (with a dash of Sorcerer on the Rocks), but done on a cheaper budget. I'll explain further.

So, the plot of this OVA follows such: Maze and her crew, in their journey, come across the kingdom of Babylon, where a mad ruler is constructing a tower at the expense of his people. They seek to rectify the situation, all while dealing with other problems. Maze is the main character, a human from the present who somehow ended up in a fantasy world. Normally, she's a nice and likable character, except when at night she turns into a angry and horny man (shades of Ranma 1/2 much?). Of course, she/he can pilot a Demi-Armor (an organic mecha)
Her crew consists of people she has met off-screen prior to the OVA. They are:
Solude, a lesbian rogue
Princess Mill, annoying sidekick No.1
Aster, strong and stock standard fighter
Rapier, sheltered butch swordswoman
Woll, the wise old man
Randy, annoying sidekick No.2
All this is of course explained in an exposition dump at the start of the OVA. Now, their aim is to travel to the stronghold of the Holy Jaina Group (the baddies) for some reason. I'm guessing to find a way to get Maze home. Anyway, after fighting a group of ninja monks, they end up in the kingdom of Babylon. Randy, a fairy they meet on the way, tells them about how the ruler, Duke Den Den (ha xD), is a selfish prick who is constructing a tower at the expenses of his people, who are poorer than dirt as a result of his policies. Apparently Duke Den Den was prompted to do this by Gorgeous, a scarfaced minion to the Creator, the mysterious evil being behind the Holy Jaina Group.
So, the crew, through some perils and trials, end up foiling Duke Den Den's plan and saving the kingdom from certain doom. Sorry, no spoilers, watch it if you are really curious.
Now, some other things about this OVA. The animation is well done, even if its a little on the dated side. The character designs are very solid, though the backgrounds at times look faded. Granted, this was made in the pre-digital age of animation, so that is to be expected.
The oddities are another story. The mecha battles are far and few between (there's like 2 battles in the OVA) but done very well, all things considered. The mature humor, however, is more than really necessary but slightly tolerable if you're older. Don't show this to a youngster, that's for sure. There's mention of attempted rape, casual lesbianism, sexual harassment, nudity, and weird sex habits (Randy's brief talk on how fairies reproduce is one of the most baffling things I've heard). There is also 'referential' humor inserted in as well (the quiz show with dragon segment).
Then, there's the voice acting (in the english dub). This was released by Software Sculptors, a company associated with Central Park Media. I would say that this dub is rather 'inconsistent', in that there are some good performances brought down by clunkers. On the good side, there's Angora Deb who does a good job. I liked her in Wild Cardz and Alien 9, and also in this OVA. On the bad side, there's Princess Mill and Randy. They have the some of the worst VAs I have ever heard. It seems like the voices got processed through a synthesiser or the VA was required to ingest helium before recording. Yeah, and the extras also are rather bad. Then again, it makes my job of riffing it easier, to be sure.

Final Word:  This is my guilty pleasure for me. It stands as a standard 90s OVA: cheap-looking, too short, bad voice acting, etc. Of course, its quirky/weird elements makes it stand out for me. Of course, I can understand why some people might not like this.  But I like it, nonetheless. If you like fantasy anime, take a look at this one. Of course, if your are looking for some funny fantasy series, I'd recommend Sorcerer Hunters or Slayers for similar shows to this.

 Next week is on Read or Die OVA. Oh joy lol ^_^ 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anime Review No. 18, "Moretsu Pirates" Episode 1/First Impressions

Hi, I'm the Eclectic Dude and I review it for the lolz.

Anyway, this week's review is over a recent anime title that has come out in Japan. It is a tale of adventure, action, etc. in space with dangers and perils unseen by many. It is called Bodacious Space Pirates!!!!
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Mariko, the cute pirate lolz
Bodacious Space Pirates, or Moretsu Pirates, is a recent entry into the space opera genre, populated mostly by Macross, Gundam and a few others. The director is Tatsuo Sato, well known for being the director of Nadesico back in the 1990s. Satelight is the studio behind this, and more or less a company that has been under the radar of sorts for the past few years. The anime is based off of a novel series called Miniskirt Pirates. Now, is it as awesome as its name suggests? Let's found out.

The first episode opens with exposition with lots of rather well done visual backgrounds. The setting for this story is in the far off future, where space travel is the norm and humans live on various planets throughout the galaxy. I like this, as it allows for quick info-dump without bogging down the introductory episode too much.

Then the opening song comes up, and it is AWESOME. It is full of energy, with nice guitar rock and orchestral blend. The 'god-chorus' part is also well done. Everything looks clean and crisp. So far, so good.

We then introduced to our main heroine, Mariko Kato, as she is being monitored by two mysterious people. These are a woman with blue lips and a nice looking guy. A couple thing we learn about Mariko in this first part of the episode are:
-High School Girl
-Works at a maid cafe called the "Lamp House"
-Member of the Space Yacht club (showing she got some skill at piloting)
-Generally nice and likeable
-Lives just with her mother, Ririka

After a long day of school and work, she comes and finds out two rather suspicious people (same ones following her earlier) have come to her house and are chatting with her mom, like old friends. Well, it turns out, the two are old friends of Mariko's father, Gonzaemon Kato. For a twist, he was actually a captain of space pirate ship the Bentenmaru. Unfortunately, her father died two day prior due to food poisonings (dang -what a bummer!).

Now, there's a law in this show's world where only the descendant of a captain can inherit a space pirate ship. At first, Mariko is a bit shocked at this and a bit troubled at potentially being a pirate (criminal record notwithstanding). But, the woman with blue lips assures her that the Bentenmaru has a letter of marque which  basically means they are more space mercenaries then actual pirates. Effectively, most piracy in space is legal. She mulls over it during the night.

The next day in homeroom, Mariko meets with her classmate Mami, who also works at the maid cafe. They chit-chatted, until its announced that a replacement teacher is coming. Turns out, it is the nice guy Mariko met the other night (his name is Kane McDougal) and he comes across as a really nice genteel man. The woman with blue lips is also at the school, as a nurse. Also, her class gets a transfer student, Kurihara Chiaki ( a mysterious dark-haired meganekko) who gives Mariko a serious glance as she goes to her seat.

Later, after school, Mariko heads off to the "Lamp House" for work. However, as shoe is getting started on work, groups of guys in suits (vaguely looking like mobsters) come into the maid cafe. Chiaki-san shows up as well, and it reveals she has a thing for chocolate parfaits (lolz). Then, an assassin comes in and tries to kill Mariko. But, Chiaki-san pulls out a gun (OMG that was unexpected) and saves Mariko.
That's pretty much the first episode. The ending song is a bit more subdued then the opening song, which works well. The preview is well done, pulling the audience into checking out the new episode.

Final Words: All in all, this is a great start for this series. Granted, there is lots of potential here to be explored. The concept/story is interesting, sort of like a 'Pirates in the Caribbean' but in space. The voice acting, animation, and opening/ending songs are rather well done. Heck, even Sentai Filmworks has come out and said that they got the license for this show already. I might buy it if it comes over to the States.
So, this gets a RECOMMEND TO WATCH from me. Sometimes in July, once its finished airing, I'll give a whole series overview.

Next week is Maze the Megaburst Space OVA. Laterz ^_^

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Eclectic Dude’s Anime Reviews, Phase II and my Philosophy on Anime

Well, Happy New Year ^_^

Phase II of my series of Anime reviews begins. Phase I, while good, needs some improvement. I started out this with one aim-to highlight the anime series/OVA/Movie I own or have seen and tell people what I like about them, even also pointing out what the  flaws are (big and small) . Granted, most of my reviews are on the short side, but only due to the length of the stuff I reviewed. 
Now, with the New Year at hand, I am deciding on several changes to my anime reviews. First off, there will be no more numerical ratings, since my reviews are more informal in nature then most. I will just put either a recommendation towards watching it or not watching it (pass it up). Secondly, I will try and shake thing up a bit. By that I mean, I will review just not anime OVAs (which was the primary focus of Phase I). I will also look at movies and other long series (13-26 episodes long). Of course, in the case of longer series, I may spend a few weeks of review posts talking about them. One review of a long series wouldn’t suffice for me personally. I will do reviews of some of the manga (Japanese comics) I own. Third, I will look at some current series (ones that are online via Crunchyroll or similar site).  This way I am not just looking at shows from the past, but also from the here and now. Finally, I will do themes for each month of reviews (unless it’s a month of reviewing one long series).
So, being January, I am doing 3 reviews this month. Here they are:

January 14-15: Moretsu Pirates Episode 1 Review/First Impressions (2012)

January 21-22: Maze the Megaburst Space OVA (1996 OVA)

January 28-29: Read or Die (2001 OVA)

                The theme centered upon these 3 reviews is “Odd Notion of Genre”. I’ll explain in further detail next weekend in my “Moretsu Pirates” Episode 1 review. Also, I’ll be watching Moretsu Pirates during its run on Crunchyroll. A review on the whole series will be out sometime in July. Another series I will watch will be the 8 episode series “Black Rock Shooter”, with a review on that sometimes in April.  More details later.

Lastly, I want to give out my thoughts on what I look for in an anime. It has to do with what I call “exploration of the odd and strange”. What I have found during my years of watching anime is that I like the anime that are well oddballs or strange in terms of concept, premise, characters, setting, etc. In Phase I of my anime reviews, one can conjecture that a lot of anime I own are odd/strange in at least one aspect or another. With Phase II, I will point the oddities and strange aspects of the titles if applicable.

Well, see you next weekend with my review of Moretsu Pirates Episode 1/First Impressions.
Until then, enjoy this:
(from Crunchyroll)