Sunday, March 31, 2013

Anime Review No. 54-Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

"Animated Debauchery"

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt (2010 TV Series)

Well, here starts my three review look at Studio Gainax's works. First, I shall take a look at Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, which came out in late 2010. I saw it in anime club around early 2011, in subbed format. Last year, when I heard that it was not only getting licensed (by Funimation no less!) but also dubbed, I was all for that in a heartbeat. So, after chatting, my brother got me the complete collection for my birthday last year, and I enjoyed this show quite a lot.
Now, for those not in the know, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt concerns the adventures of Panty and Stocking, two angels sent from Heaven to defeat evil Ghosts and collect Heaven coins to get back up to the lovely pie in the sky. But, they are too concerned with other affairs: Panty likes to screw every man in sight and Stocking likes sugar to the point where I think she's on the verge of a diabetic coma. In addition, the ghosts are all based on well, toilet humor (ranging from a ghost made of shit to a ghost that makes people fatter than cows). Essentially it is a 'monster of the week' show but made more raunchy and mature than really any shows from that genre. It is definitely not for kids at all.
Well, ok, there is something more beneath the surface. Starting halfway through the show, they try to crowbar in some big baddie who wants to enact 'the end of the world' or something like that. All well and good, but I find it to be rather forced in, no matter how entertaining. This is one of the problems that Gainax has run into since 1995, and that they try to pull this trick in most of their shows. It has rarely worked (Gurren Lagann being one of the exceptions, because it was awesome). Unfortunately, here it just doesn't work as that type of situation requires gravitas and appropriate dramatics, which Panty and Stocking can't support.

Why that is, it is due to the look and feel of the show. While many have noted the aesthetic design being similar to the Powderpuff Girls, its a lot more than that. Gainax has decided to use almost every production trick of the trades when it comes to animation: chibi SD, standard Sadamoto-eque animation, South Park-style animation, models for the ghost explosions, etc. It makes for at least an interesting viewing experience, to say nothing else.
My favorite episode of the entire series is Episode 6, "Les Diabloques". This introduces us to the Demon Sisters, Scanty and Kneesock who become the main antagonists for the second half of the show. Panty and Stocking are fighting ghosts at the local school when they stumble upon a scheme by these two to produce an army of ghosts to conquer Daten City. What ensues is quite possibly the best catfight ever put in an anime. Hiroyuki Imaishi, who directed this and Dead Leaves, seems to put a lot of effort into making this fast-paced and energetic as possible.
But what is really the selling point for this show: the dub. This is probably the only case (that I've come across) where the English dub is not only as good as the original Japanese, it actually surpasses it in almost every respect. Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial are a riot as the titular angels; it had me laughing out loud. It doesn't hurt that Ms. Marchi wrote much of the dub script, as it is full of innuendos and funny one-lines. Chris Sabat as Garterbelt is also good, even if it amounts to a white guy doing a Samuel L. Jackson impersonation. The rest of the dub cast is also very good, nearly a given since this is a Funimation dub. This is also one of the anime I've seen with both language tracks and I would recommend both for your viewing experience.
In the end, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, while not particularly deep, it is still a fun and entertaining series. It takes an unique spin on 'monster of the week' shows, has an interestingly diverse production, and is very enjoyable in both Japanese and English. Well worth a look, and then another, etc.
Now, without further ado, my first ever accompanying video:

(Will add in later today or tomorrow at some point)

Next review is on Gunbuster 2, to be released April 13th

Monday, March 25, 2013

Schedule for Next 3 Reviews

For the next 3 anime reviews, I am going with a studio-oriented theme. The Studio in question, is in fact, Gainax. For those not in the know, and if you are into anime you should, Gainax is an anime studio formed back in 1984 by a group of college fanboys, which included Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. They have made several anime classics, like Evangelion, FLCL, Gurren Laggan, etc. And for this blog, I have covered some of their other work, like Otaku no Video, Hanamaru Kindergarten, and Kare Kano.
Now, for the next month or so, I will cover some more shows from Studio Gainax. Here it is:

Sunday March 31st
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt (2010 TV series)
Saturday April 13th
Diebuster (2004 OVA)
Saturday April 27th
Evangelion Rebuild films (2007, 2009 movies)
Also, as an added bonus, I will include a short video of myself talking about the DVDs since I do own these. I figured this would be a good step to try.

See you guys on Sunday

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Anime Review No. 53-Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko

"Let's Get This Party Started!"
Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko

1996-97 OVA, 6 episodes

Studios: JC Staff, Kadowa Shoten and Starchild

Based on novels by Shoji Takashi

Ok, now we are talking. Unlike last time's review of Debutante Detective Corps, this will be more substantive. Made within the next year and a half of that, comes Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko. Along with Tenamonya Voyagers (1999), this OVA also display some aspects of Akiyuki Shinbo''s style, which will be discussed further. Also, spoilers.

OVA I (March-June 1996)

Episode 1: Get Ready!

Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko tells the story of Yamamoto Yohko and her friends who get transported to the future via power of time-travel technology developed by chief engineer Lawson, to work for the Terra fleet. In this future, wars are not so much battles but more like video games (no one dies due to ejector warps and one afflicts damage much in the same way in paintball).

Team Terra consists of:
Yamamoto Yohko: reckless, very capable, headstrong, determined, confident but not cocky
Ayano: quiet, demure girl
Momoji: country bumpkin tomboy
Madoka: Lil Miss Priss with huge forehead

They engaged in competition against Team NESS Red Snappers, led by Miss Rouge and her 3 sisters, all whom are named after words based on the word 'red': Erutron (quiet dark haired girl), Lubrum (punk girl) and Lote (blond ditz). Yamamoto Yohko gets her own specialized ship TA 29, top of line spacecraft for the combat matches. She also gets egged on by tough words of Miss Rouge of the Red Snappers team, as well as her own built-in confidence in herself.

Their Opening game is taking place at the Star Prominence, which has uranium deposits. It is sort of like a drag race in space, where they run a course around the star, ending on a fuel station. However, Red Snappers are bunch of dirty players, willing to do anything to win. All this complemented by a 90s J-rock soundtrack. Team Terra seems to be in trouble, bu then Yohko flies in just in time to save her teammates from danger.

But once they get to the star, a problem occurs in that the team must orbit around the star but not too close or get caught in the star's gravity. I do have to say that there are some really stunning background visuals like solar flares and star field. Just as Yohko is planning to get to the finish, Lote (the blond ditz of the Red Snappers) destroys the goal post, which leads to some instability in the star. With little hesitance, Yohko handles the risk and finish the race on time, thereby winning the competition. End on an upbeat J-pop song, moving onto the next episode!

Episode 2: Nine Ball at Steam Rising Hot Springs

It starts off very 'meta' with a commercial of the Red Snappers promoting a holiday planet, getting a vacation deal in exchange. Yohko and Team Terra also gets a reward for all their current wins, going to the same holiday planet. When they get there, the whole planet is a hot spring called Funky Bubble for some reason that escapes me now. Now while that might seem cool, it is very impractical. The science fiction here seems plausible even if it is ridiculous beyond belief. The actual holiday planet looks like Japanese hotspring town from well any anime, pick one. With some notable exceptions, such as strip shows, arcades and a Banana and Crocodile Garden, where one can watch bananas moving and eat crocodiles like bananas. Meanwhile, the Red Snappers are enjoying arcade games and karaoke bar.
In midst of this, Lawson is trying and failing at the crane game, getting ownership rights to a planetary system. Predictably, this leads to conflict with the Red Snappers, who also want the planetary system. Rouge and Yohko engage in a crane game and a ping pong match. When word gets to the hotel executive gets word of this, he gets a brilliantly bizarre idea.

The two teams get worked into doing "Space Nine Ball", which is basically billiards in space; ships as sticks and planets as balls. Once again, this is an example of ridiculous but plausible science fiction, that's awesome. Yohko and Miss Rouge engage on an one-on-one match, which Yohko would have won had it not been for the Red Snappers' interference. Sweet Victory once again, though Lawson however didn't get the golden ball for RP 71, oh bummer for you. Next!
Episode 3: Memories of Roses

While the first two episodes have fun and exciting space adventure, the third episode takes on a more serious/dramatic tone. This episode also centers around Miss Rouge and the Red Snappers

They arrive at a space graveyard, where there is a science vessel where their mother was doing genetic experiments on roses. The ship has a micro-black hole radiator within its engine, as it was from a past era. Despite the serious tone, there are comedy moments come from Lote, the blonde ditz of the group, whose humor is very silly and relies sometimes on poorly translated wordplay (oh old 90s dubs).
However the ship is re-activated; uh-oh. Fortunately, Yohko and Team Terra are called to intercept it as the ship is direct course for Earth (an accidental Earthshock?). Meanwhile, a mystery occurs on the ship: disappearance of the roses, accidental merging with another ship, odd energy signals. Of course, the Red Snappers aren't aware of what's doing on outside, so dramatic irony will be stretched beyond belief.

Once there, Yohko and her team are stopped by the ship's defense system. The battles, like most of the OVA, are very well done, not cutting too many corners on animation. However, there is a big shock: The ship will blow up or as Lawson puts it: "There will be a very big boom." This could lead to the possible extinction of the Earth, oh noes. Luckily, the two groups finally get in touch with each other. After some initial misunderstanding and Rouge's reluctance to leave, Yohko once again saves the day with her special weapon ya-woo! A visually poignant ending as Yohko rescues the Red Snappers and the ship explode, leaving space with a nice tasteful stain of red.

OVA II (August-December 1997)

The Opening Song seems very like the ending song for Tenamonya Voyagers, leaving one with the impression that this is a Space Western, which this certainly isn't. Anyway, onto the second OVA, which does pick up after the events of OVA I. Suffice to say, anyone who watches this should both OVAs. Now, onto the episodes!
Episode 4: Summer Challenger

So, Yohko and her friends are back in the present, about to enjoy their summer vacation. Then engage in typical summer activities: Water Park, Eating Ice Cream, Basketball Match, Photo Booth, Toy Store, etc. But someone is watching Yohko from afar, causing some near accidents which Yohko avoids through sheer power of insight.

In the future, NESS and Terra fleets are dealing with an issue. Mr Fuligar, commander of the NESS fleet is introduced and Miss Rouge has a crush on him. It turns out someone has gone rogue and stolen a LS ship and teleported to the past using Lawson's teleport system. One would think that these organizations would have more security than just a singular guard, if that was the case.

Next day, Yohko is woken up by the mysterious stalker. Except there's an issue: a spaceship has appeared in the sky over the Earth. The mysterious stalker reveals herself to be Sylvie Dread. She challenges Yohko to a duel in orbit. If not, Sylvie plans to smash Tokyo to a pancake, as expected of villains like this.
As Yohko prepares for he duel, Lawson gives Yohko some exposition information. Sylvie Dread is a former pilot of Terra who is kind of a bitch, with some personality problems. Yohko replaced her as pilot for the TA 29, naturally that left Sylvie very jealous and angry. Good thing he delivered Yohko and her friends' ships into the present time period, though at different locations.

Yohko goes alone to fight Sylvie in the duel, as that's the honorable though probably based on her gaming experience. Fight is very gripping and exciting, all things considered. It comes down to the wire at one moment, it's so tense. However, the fight ends as Mr. Fuligar intervenes and captures Sylvie. It's at this point that Mr. Fuligar gets some character, as a strong, noble commander who admires Yohko's abilities as a enemy pilot. Cue end credits.
Episode 5: Nightmare of Legends

Yohko, Momoji, Ayano and Madoka along with Lote (dumb Red Snapper) get stuck on a planet
where the inhabitants (monk trio) treated as goddesses until they are taken as sacrifices to revive their ancient sleeping god, Pushuke. It is more or less like a Haunted House/Mystery Adventure, with the end of it being proper sci-fi again. This episode I like as it is the closest to anything in terms of modern Shinbo. Features like odd color/lighting schemes, unsettling and surreal atmosphere and weird camera angles/perspective pervade this episode. There is also a sub-plot involving the two fleets searching for them, while the NESS fleet recruiting Sylvie Dread to their side. This leads into the final episode.
Episode 6: Cinderella of the Cherry Blossom Moonlight

Sylvie Dread prepares for a rematch against Yohko once more. But there is a party with Cherry Blossoms cohosted by Terra and NESS to be had and only one team member can go to the party. For team NESS, Miss Rouge is glaming it up for the party as she plans to capture Mr Fuligar's heart. For team Terra, Yohko herself ends up going to the party, with the other girls acting as security They arrive at the Cherry Blossom Ring which I have to say is a very nice visual treat.

The party begins in earnest. Lawson dances with Admiral Rion (hot tanned beauty commander) while Rouge is seeking out Mr Fuligar. Yohko shows up in a blonde wig and nice dress, captivating Mr Fuligar on the spot. This party part is an echo of Cinderella of sorts. Yohko and Mr Fuligar dance together, much to Rouge's frustration.
However, Sylvie Dread breaks through security in order to crash the party it seems. At this point she is just one psychotic bitch. So, Yohko and Sylvie engage in a rematch. One thing I've noticed while watching this is how trope-aware (games and scifi tropes) this show is, and this final fight is no exception. It is an awesome fight, well done in action and intensity. However, it ends in a stalemate as Yohko views it no longer as a game, therefore not fun. Sylvie leaves promising to return again at some point. The OVA ends on an open note to say the least.

This OVA, along with Tenamonya Voyagers, I can wholeheartedly recommend. Akiyuki Shinbo makes these fun and enjoyable, and at the end of the day having some entertainment value is enough for me when it comes to anime. Yamamoto Yohko is a very good piece of comical scifi 90s OVA in its own right. Granted, a TV series for this was made but it has not made it state-side, doubt it ever will. But the OVA is sufficient for those interested.
Next review will be out on March 30th See y'all then!

The Eclectic Dude

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Anime Review No. 52-Debutante Detective Corps

"Bombshells and Fluff"

Debutante Detective Corps
1996 OVA, 30 minutes
Production: Toho/Head Room/Marcus
Genres: Comedy, Mystery
Well, my next two reviews are covering some other OVAs directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. For those of you not in the know, Akiyuki Shinbo is my personal favorite director for anime TV series. Since joining Studio Shaft in 2004, he has helmed quite a lot of shows that I like, such as Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. Negima!? (remake not a second season), Pani Poni Dash, Arakawa Under the Bridge, and Madoka Magica. Whether or not you like their shows, one thing you can't fault them is not being entertaining. Shinbo, through use of visual and textual references and slapstick comedy, along with the ability to deconstruct/reinvent common genres (like Madoka as reinvented Mahou Shoujo), makes most of their stuff very fun to watch.
Though, before 2004, Shinbo had a rather patchy career directing OVAs from various other studios. I have covered some of them here: The Galaxy Fraulien Yuna OVAs and Detatako Princess OVA back in 2011, and Tenamonya Voyagers last year. Those have their moments of inspired genius, but they suffer a bit from not being like Shinbou's later works. Not surprising as he hadn't yet to develop his own style yet, thus making the OVAs he did work on rather generic and not unlike other shows of the time. This fact is apparent with today's show of review, "Debutante Detective Corps", a DVD I picked at last November's Atlanta Anime Day for about 5$.

"Debuntate Detective Corps" is a 30 minute OVA from 1996, the same year that the second Galaxy Fraulein Yuna OVA came out. It tells the the adventures of five rich and well-endowed high school girls as they contend with an escaped convict who plans to kidnap them. I won't go into too much details on the characters, as they are woefully one-note: Each girl has a special talent, be it computer hacking or master of disguise powers. That's all on the plot and characters. Wow, this review will be fairly short. Yeah, this is a pilot for a TV series that never came to be.

Well, I can still elaborate on the animation and direction a bit. Animation is well standard for the mid-90s; it probably looked good then, today it is merely passable. The direction by Shinbou is a bit wacky, like how over the top the entrances of each girl is or how ridiculous the story goes. Though, I think that stuff was added in by Shinbo himself, as without them its just a stock standard action piece with hot girls and explosions.

Lastly, the dub by ADV Films (who seriously released this 30 min. OVA with the tagline "You Can't Fight Fashion") is not very good. If I scrunched my ears up I'd swear the cast of "Totally Spies" was voicing the characters. Heh, wow am I old. Nevertheless, it is funny but too short to be  enjoyable through extensive re-watching.

So, I can't really recommend this, if only barely to fans of Akiyuki Shinbo. There just not a whole lot to talk about with this one. However, my next review will be more extensive.

Laters, The Eclectic Dude