Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Anime Review No. 44/Halloween Special: Vampire Princess Miyu OVA

Happy and Spooky Halloween, I'm the Eclectic Dude!

Before Hellsing and Vampire Knight, Before Master of Mosquiton, there was this: Vampire Princess Miyu. Based off horror manga series Narumi Kakinouchi and Toshiki Hirano, I got it this summer as part of a gift from my younger brother. This four episode OVA done by studio AIC back in 1988 and released by AnimEigo in the States, making this the only anime I have reviewed that's about as old as I am. Goodness, I feel old. 

So, what is it about? Well, it is a series of four tales involving a vampire girl Miyu and her companion Larva as they seek to deal with stray Shinma, or demons from the dark world who have come into our world. They are trailed by Himiko Se, a female spiritualist who wants to uncover the truth about Miyu and the Shinma she hunts. In the OVA, they deal with creepy dolls, possessed armor, and finally confronting the darkness within. 
Miyu-ain't she the cutest vampire princess?
ANN (Anime News Network) once quoted this show as being a “Dark, surreal tour of the [Japanese] occult”. I added in Japanese in that the horror presented here is much in the vein of Silent Hill, The Ring, etc. By that I mean, there's a slow creeping dread prevalent throughout the four episodes. Some of the themes explored here are: Fear of the Unknown, Mystery of the Darkness, and The Search for Eternal Life. Fear is one thing I felt while watching this, as there are several moments that just jump at you. I was genuinely scared at certain parts. The darkness is presented as a mystery, full of fear and dread yes, but also of wonder and awe. Miyu at times seem to revel in the fact that's she part of the darkness, and it is both terrifying and awe-inspiring. That's the mark of true horror anime, in my opinion. Lastly, the search for eternal life is something common in vampire stories, and Vampire Princess Miyu is no exception. This show postulates that while eternal life might be desirable, it is totally not worth it. This makes Miyu an inherently tragic heroine, as she can live forever, but her sorrow at not being able to live normally is tremendous. 

Unfortunately, Miyu is placed at the forefront, at the expense of the other characters. Larva, Miyu's Shinma lackey, is nothing more than a silent brooding partner who only gets a brief glance of his past which is not enough. Himiko Se seems interesting at first, but she turns out to be nothing more than an observer.   

Now onto other stuff. First, the animation is dated to say the least. Thankfully, there is lots of shadow and dark colors in this production to hide this fact rather well. It still looks OK, but this old school anime much like Birth: A War of Two Worlds is. Music contains dark moody music combined with natural sounds (cicadas chirping, wood knocks, etc) to make Vampire Princess Miyu a very atmospheric piece. However, the dub leaves much to be desired. It is a bit dull and wooden, with Pamela Weidner as Miyu being the only notable VA  Keep in mind, AnimEigo did dubs for Oh My Goddess OVA and You’re Under Arrest OVA, both were decent and serviceable. This isn't, sadly. Dialogue a tad stilted and plodding and writing is nearly note for note translated straight from Japanese. 

Final note: Despite its flaws, Vampire Princess Miyu is still very good. It's worth a look if you are into horror and supernatural anime, especially for Halloween. If you want to check out similar titles, check out Master of Mosquiton, Hellsing, Elfen Lied, etc. 

See you on Sunday! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Update-Halloween Special/November/December Reviews

Hello again, this is the Eclectic Dude.

Once again, another update: We Shadows review is put off indefinitely, if ever. I will still be doing a Halloween special review posted on Wednesday, over Vampire Princess Miyu.

November Reviews
4th: 10 Favorite Anime Theme Songs

18th: Anime Review 45-Gunsmith Cats

December Reviews (so far, details TBC)
2nd: Anime Review 46-Dragon Half

The Eclectic Dude

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Anime Review No. 43-The Sacred Blacksmith

The Sacred Blacksmith
12 episode TV series, October-December 2009
Studio: Manglobe, Director: Masamitsu Hidaka, Writers: Masashi Suzuki and Rie Koshika
Licensed by Funimation

Well, Fantasy has gone to the Now portion, where I cover two titles I own that are more recent. This is only to prove that I do own anime titles from not just the 90s but also from more current years.

Now, onto The Sacred Blacksmith: a title I’ve owned for a few years. I got it at a Best Buy while I was living at out-of-state college. It was something I had never heard, but was intrigued by the cover art and the fact that it was the complete collection for about $25. This was back in the day when anime distribution companies (like Funimation who released this) began to sell anime in complete collection sets, as opposed to single DVDs with only 3-4 episodes per disc for a good chunk of money.

Anyway, The Sacred Blacksmith concerns the tale of Cecily Cambell, a female knight and head of a noble house within the city of Housman. She wants to be well-known like her father and grandfather, but never gets the chance. One day, during a battle when it seems things are going wrong for her, she is saved by Luke Ainsworth, a mysterious and brooding blacksmith with a strange sword (a katana as it turns out). She wants a katana for herself so as to prove she can help to protect the city, so she asks Luke to make one for her. In the process, Cecily gets dragged into an unexpected adventure, one involving mystical swords and the mystery regarding Luke and his cute elfin assistant.

First off, onto the difficult part: I want to like this show, and on the face of it, the premise (a coming of age story with a strong female lead) of this series is pretty interesting. For the first few episodes, it seems that way. But then, it veers off into another story dealing with a princess in exile. They spend 3 episodes on a separate story that really feels out of place. It feels out of place in part due to a different writer for those episodes. Even when it tries to tie itself it with the main story, it feels a bit forced. And after it’s finished up and the main story continues in episode 8 with only 4 more episodes, it smells of filler quite fairly.

Ok apart from that, the rest of this series in quite good. The setting is very much High Medieval/Early Renaissance European, in terms of architecture and clothing. This looks and feels like a period piece. There is a glimmer of a larger world, but for the most part, the story takes place within the area surrounding the city of Housman, part of democratic federation of trade cities, independent from any kingdom.
Luke, Cecily, Lucy and Aria: the main cast
 The cast of characters are very interesting. Cecily is a nice, strong, likable female lead, which is surprising given the setting. She throughout the series is the one I root for as she grows and develops. Luke, a t first, seems like a brooding angst-ridden guy who doesn’t give much of a crap about others. But, he too develops though in a different way than Cecily. Lisa, the cute elfin assistant to Luke, is a mystery left unchecked until the final episodes, which threw me for a quite a surprise.

Now, the prime concept behind this show is the demon swords, mystical weapons from a past conflict. One of them is unique in that it can take human form, and that is Aria, demon sword of the wind.  Her interactions with Cecily, akin to most sisterly relationship, elevate her to main cast status in my eyes at least. There are other demon swords, but none of them have much impact on the plot as Aria does.
Example of the good quality animation here
 The animation is also very top-notch. Manglobe, the studio responsible for Samurai Champloo prior to this, do a fantastic job here as well. It looks quite impressive, given the show is 3 years old by this point. It is consistent throughout, with little to no moments of off-model shots or anything. The opening song is also very nice, being full of energy and gets you pumped up for this show (oh yeah!).

The English dub is quite fine and serviceable. Once again, you might be better off to watch in English given the medieval setting and characters. This came out during the period when Funimation started to dominate the anime scene here in the States. As such, the dub is really good, with consistent performances from most of the cast.  Of note is Monica Rial as Lucy, she has always been a favorite of mine in dubs, both ADV and Funimation titles.  

Overall, The Sacred Blacksmith is a decent and entertaining fantasy series. It has a few issues with the tacked-on story in the middle, but other than that, it works well. It is very well done in most aspects, from animation, setting, dub, etc. I would definitely recommend this.

See y’all in 2 weeks!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Update-October 2012 Schedule

Due to me being a tad busy this week, I've decided to push my reviews forward a week.

New Schedule for October 2012
October 14 or 15th-The Sacred Blacksmith

October 28 or 29th-We Shadows (manga)

October 31st-Vampire Princess Miyu

Until next weekend, laterz

The Eclectic Dude