Sunday, November 30, 2014

Anime Review No. 91 (Wolf Children)

‘Give life my best smile’
Wolf Children (2012 movie)

Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Writers: Mamoru Hosoda and Satoko Okudera
Studio: Chizu and Madhouse

So, I close out the year on the blog with another movie from Mamoru Hosoda. I covered Summer Wars this past spring and found it to be a fun, entertaining yet very heartfelt movie. I like it quite a lot, even after watching it both on TV and owning it on DVD. Around the time that I got Summer Wars last time, I heard word that Hosoda had done another film, and that Funimation was releasing it to the States late last year. Then one day, around late September/early October, I saw the following trailer:

I knew, almost that instant, I got to have this. So I ordered it along with Girls und Panzer and got it in early November. The movie in question, is of course, Wolf Children or Wolf Children Ame and Yuki as the original Japanese title for the film.

Wolf Children tells the story of Hana, a young college student living in Tokyo who one day meets a mysterious young drifter who turns out to be a ‘Wolfman’. Over time they develop a relationship and later they get to live together and have two children Yuki (snow) and Ame (spring). It’s a bit unclear whether or not they actually married or just agree to a mutual living space, who knows. However a set of varying circumstances force her to move out to the countryside with her two children and she does the best she can to raise them in human society and helping them sort out what their path in life will be.

It is a sort of ‘A fairy tale’ as Yuki points out in the narration, given the dream-like and tranquil atmosphere, punctuated by a few tense and sad moments, one which did give me a few tears. All things aside, Wolf Children is a rather casual and soothing slice of life story and it is charmingly simple and straightforward but it does this so well that doesn’t veer into being dull and rote. The ending is a tad bittersweet but overall a very satisfactory conclusion I must say.

In terms of visual presentation, the movie looks fantastic-being a collaborative effort between Madhouse and Hosoda’s own studio Chizu. There are a few obvious CG shots here and there but that aside its look very good, a high level production to be sure. Lots of visual storytelling with stretches of time with no dialogue abound in this film, which is a breath of fresh air not done often in animated features today. The scene with the mother and children frolicking in the snow is a marvel to behold and a highlight of the film. Narration provided by an adult Yuki as if she is recalling it from the past despite the fact that in the film present the story is being told is a nice touch, lending to the fairy tale aspect of the movie’s story. What is nice is that the story is equally about the mother Hana as well as the titular Wolf Children-about Hana’s struggles and triumphs as single mother (somewhat romanticized) as well as the coming-of-age tale for Ame and Yuki and the paths they choose in life. Music by first time composer Takagi Masakatsu is phenomenal and I hope he gets brought into do more music work for other productions; I just adore full scale orchestral score music.

Now the English dub is very strong effort by Funimation as expected from them nowadays. Sentai Filmworks may be my favorite when it comes to dubbing, but Funimation is the best one in the game presently. Mike McFarland directed, Patrick Seitz written, same team that helmed the dub for Summer Wars and is just as fantastic as that movie’s dub. Colleen Clinkenbeard deserves huge kudos for her performance as Hana and honestly deserves all the kudos for her acting. Houston veteran David Matranga puts in a nice effort as unnamed ‘Wolf-Man’ during that character’s part in the story. In addition, there is some really nice and convincing voice acting for the children, a rare feat these days in dubbing, so kudos to the voice actresses/actors that play the children. In fact there is some brilliant acting from the bit parts as well, especially with the cranky Grandpa Nirasaki, voiced by veteran Funi character actor Jerry Russell-granted he is only in a few scenes but he does a great job with such a small but integral role Sadly he died before the film got its commercial release, and the film is dedicated to his memory though really fitting for a film that explores the many wonders and struggles of life.

Overall, I really like this movie and proves that Hosoda has more the same tricks he showed in Summer Wars and can tackle a film with quite a lot of emotional drama, or ‘the feels’. I hope that Hosoda continue making films of caliber of Summer Wars and this, especially considering Miyazaki and Ghibli are pretty much not doing films as much nowadays. Of course, Hosoda doesn’t have to be the next Miyazaki-he can just be himself, and at least with Summer Wars and Wolf Children proves that he can.

Ok, so that's it for the blog this year. Next year's set of reviews begin weekend after the New Year. Of course, I am doing a review for Animation Revelation for the month of December, to be posted on there around the middle of that month. Here's a preview of that:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Anime Review No. 90 (Mardock Scramble The Third Exhaust)

Mardock Scramble III

Ok, so now time to finish off this film series. It continues from where Part II left off, with Rune Balot and Dr Easter are still at the casino. They are still losing, but its all part of the plan-they have a long game in mind for sure. Meanwhile, Shell is able to track down them at the casino and Boiled still is trying to get back Oefculque. It is clear right from the get-go that this feels like the last third of a larger movie, where everything is coming to a head.

They end up in a card game against Ashley Harvest (some official at the casino who was in one scene near the end of Part II) but the game turns to a draw every time. Of course he tries to get under her skin but she is strong-willed and determined and also gets some advice from Bell Wing, the casino worker Balot met in Part II. Then Shell brings in some heavies to settle the score, however Balot and the doctor get away from the casino. But uh-oh a car chase ensues with Boiled but they get away from that as well. Car chase is quite good, granted that there is some obvious CG in places.

Rune Balot and Dr. Easter then sort out the memories acquired from the casino chips, because Shell’s obsessed with implanting memories into those…..because, there’s a lack of explanation, but whatever. So, Balot dives into Shell’s memories and its quite interesting. Shell’s brutality towards his ‘girlfriends’ is quite harrowing and shocking, and mostly puts his actions up to this point in context. His reasoning… both predictable yet still unsettling. I won’t spoil but suffice to say yeah I kind of figured that but it's still shocking.

The trial date is set (yeah remember that from Part I? Yeah it slipped my mind, and the production crew it seems) and Shell gets the conviction. But Rune Balot ends up having to protect Shell for some reason, in part due to the October Corporation (which Shell was part of) has now to decide to detach Shell from them and thus go after him as they are practically mobsters. Balot and Dr. Easter go to his place, only to find Shell’s fiancee murdered in the bath.  

Last bit of it is quite bloody as Shell struggles to get away from Rune Balot who wants to kill him for what he did, but Oeufcoque is her conscience in trying to get her to stop. There is the very tense final fight between Balot and Boiled but had a very satisfying end after all.

Now, the third installation, which I got back last spring, contains both the Theatrical and Director’s Cut versions. I watched the Director’s cut mainly on a whim. Pretty much the same things I noted in my reviews for Parts I and II can be applied here. Mardock Scramble is impressive looking, with a vibrant and diverse color palette and tense atmosphere throughout this installment. If nothing else, it is visually striking and quite wondrous. Granted the story is a bit rote and hues to cyberpunk tropes and formula but its good enough in everything else that I can give it some slack.  

Now, the English Dub, directed by Janice Williams and written by Josh Grelle, is a very solid effort by Sentai Filmworks. Hilary Haag, David Matranga and Andy McAvin put in some of the best work here in this film series and should be commended for that. The rest of the cast (includes Andrew Love, Leraldo Anzaldua, Susan Koozin and David Wald) is very good as well.

In the end, Mardock Scramble is really good, but not quite great. It is however a remarkable tale of redemption and revenge and the delicate line between the two.The trilogy is worth at least a look if you like cyberpunk and sci-fi action. Of course, I would recommend anyone who wants to check this out, watch all 3 parts in one sitting-its something you can dole out on easy-going afternoon.

So, next review is my last one for the year on the blog, and its a very special movie for me….

Til next time, dear readers…...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November 2014 Schedule

Well, I have to make an update for my November reviews

Mardock Scramble The Third Exhaust, originally planned for November 9th, will now be posted on November 16th.

My final review for the year on the blog, likewise will be posted on November 30th.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Anime Review No. 89 (Another)

“Send the Dead back to Death”
2012 TV Series
Studio: PA Works
Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Script: Ryou Higaki

Ok, time for another Halloween review! This time, I am looking at something a bit similar to last year’s review, which was over Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, except a bit more darker and disturbing. The show in question, which will no doubt make you shat your own pants, its Another!

A new transfer student Koichi Sasakibara who moved from Tokyo to a small rural town named Yomiyama to live with his grandparents and his aunt. His father is off on travel constantly and dead mother. Everyone at school is quite nice and open towards him, but not so much to a particular student. Mei Misaki is a soft-spoken girl with raven hair and a eyepatch concealing a hidden power. All of a sudden, students in Class 3, same one Koichi and Mei are in, start to be killed off one by one in rather bizarre set of circumstances and situations. Now, Koichi and Mei have to work out the mystery behind Class 3 and why the deaths take place.

To boil Another down to its essentials, its a very effective horror mystery thriller. As such it is very dark atmospheric and moody. It takes quite a number of cues from other horror art pieces, from Munch’s The Scream to Psycho to heck Final Destination. To contrast to my last year’s Halloween review, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia had its moments of levity and hope to balance out the dark elements. Another, however doesn’t have any sort of refuge. It is a dreary show through and through or when its not dreary its rather dry and mundane. The visual presentation is decent if a little mundane at times.  

Death is a rather essential element to this show, and being a horror show it revels in the gruesome and disturbing. They are all varied in terms of setup, cause and execution, all of them unnerving and quite unsettling in one respect or other. Yet at the same time they are somewhat predictable and also laughably implausible instead of being shockingly disturbing which is what they were trying to do, somewhat akin to Final Destination. Granted some of the deaths are met with OMFG Jeezus reaction from me. There exists some brilliant misdirection and second guessing in part because most of the cast are unreliable and those that might, end up dying anyway. But hints are dropped here and there, at a natural pace, peeling back the layers of the mystery.
I like how Misaki and Koichi don’t end up as a couple, just friends then again somewhat understandable. The final reveal is something truly amazing once you stop and think about it. Granted this is accomplished by intentionally withholding some information from the audience right before the end. It is a great twist in that once revealed all the other pieces of the mystery fall into place.  

As a warning, Do not marathon this show, best to watch it in small bursts of 3-4 episodes at a time like I did twice upon getting this series. It allows one to sink in all that happens. Music is equally dark and moody, having been done by Ko Otani, of Shana, Gundam Wing and You’re Under Arrest fame. It is full of ambient and scary but subtle sounds. The OP and ED are quite fitting and good.

Another OP Another ED

Now this being a Sentai Filmworks, of course my favorite dub director Christopher Ayres helmed the dub for Another, and like many of his other dub efforts, its really good as usual. It is packed to the brim with Houston dub regulars: Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Brittney Karbowski, Jessica Boone, Emily Neves, Chris Patton, Josh Grelle, Clint Bickham, Tiffany Grant, etc. At times it seems to be a ‘Ef series’ dub reunion of sorts, though really it is a testament to the steady stable of actors/actresses Sentai Filmworks has at their disposal. Of course, Greg Ayres and Monica Rial are indeed the standout performances for the dub. Though kudos are in order for the rest of the cast, a really great job by all involved. Christopher Ayres also wrote the dub script as well. His approach seems very transliteral (nearly dubtitles and including honorifics) with a few moments where the script deviate but only really in word choice and structure. Still, worth a listen as its one of the better dubs for Sentai Filmworks.

Overall, Another is a rather effective horror/mystery thriller with a lot of punch and drive that will creep into your subconscious forever. Another the anime is released by Sentai Filmworks, the original light novel and the manga adaptation written by Yukito Akatsuji is out by Yen Press.

Next review: Mardock Scramble III, to be posted November 9
Til Next time dear readers

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Anime Review No. 88 (Silent Mobius)

Silent Mobius
1998 TV Series
Studio: Radix/Sotsu Eizo/TV Tokyo
Director: Hideki Tonokatsu
Script: Hiroyuki Kawasaki, Katsuhiko Takayama, Kenichi Kanemichi, Mayori Sekijima, Michitaka Kikuchi, Miyuki Yanari and Yoshima Narita

This review made possible by a Christmas gift last year from fellow AR writer and internet content creator Juude (Juude's twitter, His YT Channel)! Thank you dude!

So, yeah ever watched a show or movie from when you were young, only to revisit it years later? Oh I’m sure most of the Internet had done that from one time or another. I have done it before here on this blog as well. Well this time, I am looking at another anime show I watched back on the Anime Unleashed block on the now long defunct TechTV. This block I have mentioned in my reviews of ROD TV and Crest of the Stars before. The show in question this time is about Silent Mobius.

Silent Mobius is based on a manga by Kia Asamiya, well known for Nadesico and Steam Detectives. In 1998, it was picked up for an anime series that ran for 26 episodes, later getting onto American TV some time around 2005-06. Now I am aware there are some movies that were made prior to this but I have yet to see them and as such this review will cover the TV series only. So what’s the series about?

What a blood moon
Well, it is essentially the story of Katsumi Liqeur, a seemingly ordinary young woman living in Tokyo in the far future…..of 2024. It’s a future where some past catastrophe was nearly averted but someone else might be up to reenacting it with the aid of some otherworldly creatures named Lucifer Hawks. Katsumi is dragged into the battle as she is drafted to join the AMP, a special police division consisting of only females trained to deal with the monster menace and prevent the apocalypse. The AMP, led by one Rally Cheyenne, consists of computer expert Lebia, Dark skinned Amazon tomboy Kiddy. kind psychic Yuki and meek miko Nami.

What works in Silent Mobius’s favor in its story and characters. Granted, much of the show is similar to another show from the same era, Bubblegum Crisis 2040: Group of hot babes kicking ass in a futuristic cyberpunk setting against monsters set to destroy humanity. In addition, Silent Mobius examines the human condition and how despite all adversity we shall endure. Katsumi in particular goes through a most interesting arc as she is prompted into the AMP due to inquiry into her heritage and where that leads to is very fascinating. In the course, she does develop a relationship with Roy, a cop who goes from being her trainer to eventually her romantic partner. I have to say that the relationship dynamics in this show between characters are rather mature, ie the sort I would expect between adults for the most part.

Oh don't be so hard on yourself Nami, your focus episode was pretty weird and surreal
But as this is an ensemble piece, the other members of the AMP squad get their own focus episodes and minor storylines in the show. Some of it (like with Nami and Yuki) are rather surreal in nature, whereas the material around Kiddy and Lebia delves into the same thematic territory that Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion explained prior, but within a different context.The antagonists are mainly the Lucifer Hawks, which are basically these otherworldly beings of great power and strength. Of course, halfway through the show some big WHAM revelations pop up that very much shift the dynamic between the AMP and Lucifer Hawks.

These two screencaps were taken within a few seconds for each other-Spot the quality difference?
Such a pity that the visual presentation of the show is an uneven mess. Oh don’t get me wrong, the animation is consistent on a prime basis level. However, Silent Mobius suffers from something that many of its contemporaries suffered from: the digital/hand-drawn hybridization in the animation. What I mean by this is in the late 90s and early 00s anime studios would experiment with digital paint on cel animation and other digital techniques, CG included. Professor Otaku in his latest video on Queen Emeraldas (Prof Otaku's latest review) touches on this a bit more, but for Silent Mobius its a special issue. See, on a scene by scene basis, Silent Mobius will flip between hand-drawn cel animation on film and cel animation done digitally. Granted, at first it’s not too obvious but as the episodes progress it becomes rather apparent and ultimately very distracting. And you can tell because of how crisp and clearer the digital work is in comparison to the traditional animation. At times, the show seems like one that was made 5 years in the past and 5 years in the future. Also most of the CGI work especially in the later episodes is on the jarring side when placed in conjunction with the cel work.

In terms of sound, the music for the show was done by Jimmie Haskell, Kenichi Sudo, Suzie Katayama and Takashi Furukawa. Its really good, a nice combination of techno cyberpunk music and somber orchestral pieces. The OP is really great. All of it except for one piece-this really cheesy piece of 90s engrish pop ballad which they use as the Second ED and I can’t help laugh when that track plays, its so corny.

The English dub was done by the good folks of Vancouver, back when they did quite a lot of work in anime dubbing. The dub cast list reads like a who’s who of Canadian anime voice actors (Marcy Goldberg, Kelly Sheridan, Lisa Ann Beley, Paul Dobson, Trevor Devall, etc.) Nicole Oliver does double duty of voicing Katsumi and Lum Cheng, a character that shows up in the second half, though she does a really good job at distinguishing between the two, not an easy task in a dub certainly. Of course, nowadays, she is more well known for voicing Princess Celestia in MLP FiM which is quite funny in retrospective. If I could, I would like to splice her MLP audio onto Silent Mobius clips. The dub is overall decent, with the main cast putting in some good performances but the rest is rather stilted or wooden.

The only scene with mizugi but dw its a team of some Grade A babes
Silent Mobius falls under that category ‘not as great as I remember, but now I can see something else great about that I like about it’. I mean when I watched as a teen I was enthralled by the action and the fact that at the time it was unlike anything I had seen before. Looking at it now as an adult and a more aware/mature viewer and fan, I can see that the show has not aged well, but it has a very compelling cast and story that’s rather mature than I initially gave the show credit prior. It’s a show worth checking out at least, if only as a historical piece of Japanese animation production.

Next time, its the Halloween Special review and an occasion to 'Plunge into the heart of horror'.......

Til' next time, dear readers.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Anime Review No. 87 (Dead Leaves)

‘I kinda hate myself for liking this’
Dead Leaves
2004 OVA
Studio: Production IG, Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi, Script: Takeichi Honda and Imai Toonz

Well then, its time for a blast from the recent past. Yeah only a decade has past since this OVA has come out, but 'recent past' still counts. Also, its the debut as director for Hiroyuki Imaishi. So yes Dead Leaves it is.

Umm yeah it is about a duo of anti-heroes of sorts and their wild adventure in the far off future. They are Pandy, a buxom babe and Retro, a dude with a TV for a head. The movie starts up stranded on a wasteland both with memory loss, and very much in the nude. They team up for a bank robbery which leads to a rather disjointed manic car chase action sequence.They are however caught by the police and sent to a prison on the moon, which is a disfigured crescent in the sky. This in turn leads to the most glorious sex scene ever in anime outside of a hentai though our duo escape along with some other prisoners, leading to more shenanigans. I won’t spoil any further as this has to be seen to be believed.

Dead Leaves is a weird and surreal mess. me trying to recount the plot much less the story is hard to do even after watching it half a dozen times over the course of many years like I have. I was constantly screaming WTF and laughing my butt off often at the same time.

In many ways, Dead Leaves is a perfect display of Imaishi style even for a debut feature. Be it the fast kinetic direction and pacing or elaborate storyboarding. But this stuff is at the expense of sense or logic, its animated insanity. Of course this is looking at it as a standalone work, isolated from a historical perspective. Looking at it from a historical career sense, Dead Leaves becomes a step in the evolution of one animator’s style over time.

Imaishi started out as an animator on Evangelion back in 1995. He continued with work on other Gainax series in late 90s/early 00s (notably episode 19 of Kare Kano, FLCL episode 5, and Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi episodes 3 and 12). Then he did this as his first outing as a director and it certainly feels an effort from a first timer, a good effort if a little uneven in parts and places. After that, he directed Gurren Lagann and later Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. In fact, PSG feels like a more refined version of Dead Leaves, which both in turn are lovely tributes to the schlocky era of bloody violent and vulgar OVAs from the late 80s/early 90s. Heck Kill la Kill, his most current TV show and 2nd collaboration with Kazuki Nakashima, this OVA gets a nice mention (by that I mean ‘spot or you’ll miss it’) in the very first episode of that series.

Also the release history of this OVA is rather interesting. The original Japanese release dates to January 2004. It got a release here in the States on DVD and UMD (remember those? yeah me neither) within the next year by Manga Entertainment. It also got a TV broadcast on Sci-Fi Channel Ani-Monday block in Jan 2008 which is probably one of the early times that I watched it. The dub was done by Gaijin Productions, the ADR company Amanda Winn Lee and her husband formed after leaving ADV and moving from Texas to LA. They have done only 4 dubs: this, the Read or Die OVA (arguably the best out of the bunch in my humble opinion), and Evangelion Rebirth and End of Eva movies. Granted Amanda Winn Lee is still somewhat in the voice acting business, recently showing last year in the Persona 4 The Animation dub. The dub is OK and rather apt for such a cartoony and insane short movie, in a way harking back to the early ADV Films catalog of dubs that the Amanda Winn Lee was very much involved in. Although the only actors notable here are Amanda Winn Lee and her husband Jason C Lee playing the main duo but that’s about it.

I’ll end this review by saying yeah Dead Leaves is a wild crazy but fun movie. Lucky for you all, Manga Entertainment has the whole thing up on Youtube so you can see and watch it for yourself and decide on your own.

Next time, well its time for an actual blast from my past.....

Later, my dear readers.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Anime Review No. 86 (Mardock Scramble II)

Mardock Scramble The Second Combustion

2011 Movie

Studio: GoHands, Director: Susumu Kudo, Writer: Tow Ubukata

Well last spring I took a look at the first part of the Mardock Scramble. It was a mildly entertaining and a rather good prologue to a dark and bleak cyberpunk action story, a neat homage to the OVAs of the similar genre  from the late 80s and 90s. Anyway, onto the feature!

Part II picks up right where we left off with the first movie, based on my watching the director’s cut version which is available on the disc along with the theatrical cut. Apparently Rune Balot gets in a gunfight with Boiled which is quite thrilling-quick, fast paced and filled with tension and suspense. Luckily she gets rescued by Doctor Easter just in the nick of time and beat a hasty retreat.

Balot end up in a safe hideout briefly, called ‘Paradise’. She meet others like her as well as some other doctors. For instance there is Tweedledee and Tweedledum, a cyborg and dolphin who are homosexual partners. It is a time to recoup and rest, Oeufcoque is rebuilding himself back again after the gunfight with Boiled. This is also where the movie series moves away from the grim and dark atmosphere of the first part into a more tranquil and contemplative mood. Balot has a talk with GOD, though he’s a doctor with just a head.  

Meanwhile, Shell and his lackey Boiled are engaging in damage control. Medium survived with some new enhancements and still quite insane. Boiled is on their trail and gaining fast and then with the help of their allies at ‘Paradise’ Balot and Easter made another hasty retreat.

Once they get Ouefcoque back they plan out their next strategy: Infiltrate a casino owned by Shell in order to receive the records linked to their case. Also so they can win big at the casino as well. In the course of making slam dunk winnings Balot meets a particular casino dealer Bell Wing who gives her some advice and chit-chat, some really good stuff. The second installment ends with an interesting flashback to when Boiled first met Oeufcoque as well as some nice setup for the third and final installment. Nice harp music plays over the credits with another rendition of Amazing Grace plays and there we go.

Like the first installment, it still has some quite stunning production values, though the color palette has shifted away from grimdark and bleak to a more white and shiny brights. Granted it is a bloody affair in the first half, replaced with a nice polished and sophisticated direction and editing. The second half in the casino is just an impressive sight to behold visually. Anything else good about Part II can be copy/paste from my review of Part I. At least it would with the exception of the dub.

The English Dub, produced in late 2012 I imagine since it got its release on New Years 2013. It is just as good as the first installment. Granted the director and writer shifted between installments from Steven Foster to Janice Williams. As I mentioned in my Girls und Panzer review, Janice Williams is regularly Sentai Filmworks’s Media Coordinator for their releases. Though on occasion she’ll step into the directing chair for Sentai dubs, notably taking over the Clannad dub halfway through and doing a few others (Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, tsuritama, some yaoi OVAs, etc.). In terms of the directors Sentai employs, Janice Williams falls a bit in the middle in terms of consistency in comparison to the other main directors Sentai has had like Foster, C. Ayres and KC Jones. Or to put it in simpler terms, she’s an OK director, not bad/inconsistent (like Foster) but not good/consistent (like Ayres or Jones). She does alright here with Part II’s dub, mostly by getting Hilary Haag, David Matranga and Andy McAvin back and doing as good a job as they did for Part I. In addition, there’s some good performances by David Wald as Boiled along with a good turn here and there by seldom used voice talent like Carl Masterson and Susan Koozin.

I will reserve judgement on Mardock Scramble when I look at Part III in November. Part II is a nice middle act feature with an interesting shift in mood and tone, going from a grimdark bloody cyberpunk story into a somewhat typical revenge story. Hopefully Part III will do something big and fantastic for a climax, only time will tell.

Next time, I take a look into the debut feature for one of my favorite anime directors…..

Til next time dear readers

Sunday, August 31, 2014

September 2014 Review Schedule

Here is what I will be doing for the month of September

7th: Blip No. 9 for the Tip Jar page

14th: Mardock Scramble the Second Combustion

28th: Dead Leaves OVA

Anime Review No. 85 (Problem Children)

Problem Children are coming from Another World, Aren’t They?

Director: Yasutaka Yamamoto
Script: Noboru Kimura, Hideki Shirane and Yasutomo Yamada
Studio: Diomedea

Well, August closes out with a show that I picked up on a whim around my birthday when Rightstuf was doing a sale on Sentai Filmworks releases. I got this along with two other shows I will be covering in good time, but since the August schedule had an open slot, I decided to place it here. The show in question, is Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They?

Problem Children or Mondaiji Long Freaking Title, is based on a light novel series by Taro Tatsunoko and illustrated by Yu Amano. It tells the story of 3 young individuals: Izayoi, Asuka and Yuu who are pulled from different times of human history by a mysterious force to another realm, “Little Garden”. However, this turns out to be done by Black Rabbit, a rabbit eared hostess that wears a skimpy outfit, acting as an attendant for the ‘Problem Children’ as they engage in Gift Games and helping the No Names (a community consisting mostly of young children) regain their proper place in the Little Garden.

The story is a basically a ‘Alice in Wonderland’ but done in a fantasy RPG/video game-esque setting. You got 3 MCs that become rather OP as time progresses, and have an aide NPC (Black Rabbit). Little Garden is a world governed by games, The Gift Games, various competitions similar to what one does. Heck the first episode plays out exactly like the tutorial and first level of a video game, mostly set up and establishment. But once it starts moving past that, its a fun and fantastic ride. But that’s all it got going for it. Now why’s that? Let me explain.

For one thing, the characters are mostly broad stroke stereotypes that, outside of external appearance and aesthetic design, are similar to other characters that have been in anime for a long time. Izayoi is practically every brash and clever MMC, Asuka is a dignified rich girl and Yuu is a bandage patch away from being Rei. Black Rabbit is basically the fanservice factor taken to its logical extreme and outside of the villains, everyone else has little to no personality of their own. The villains, as in most video games, are either morally repugnant scumbags or genocidal maniacs that are evil because well they just are. This show operates on ‘Video Game Logic’ quite a lot, where stuff happens because it looks cool as opposed to making sense. Aside from that, the only different thing that Problem Children brings to the table is references to myth and legend, especially in the final episodes.

What doesn’t help this is that the show is only 10 episodes long, as opposed to the usual 12-13 episode run most anime shows get in a season. Though that’s not such a bad thing as it cuts out any excessive padding or filler that tend to pop in 12-13 episode anime shows It also means that this show, like a lot of LN adaptations, ends on a freaking cliffhanger/setup for a possible sequel. Granted this show does have an additional OVA episode, but it is akin to the mini games section of a video game, all fluff and no substance, as well as provide plenty of fanservice. Of course, there is a chance a continuation can occur since it has been about a year and a half.

The presentation, in terms of animation production provided by studio Diomedea, is a nice and solid effort, but a few shades away from unremarkable. So rather like Campione, the previous show I looked at from this studio. There are a few impressive shots and action sequences, particularly the Gift Games. The music is done by Shiroh Hamaguchi and its quite impressive and nice, sounding like an OST of a Fantasy VG/MMORPG. Considering the guy wrote music for Final Fantasy that’s no surprise there. The OP is nice often, though the ED is a funny lil cute chibi dance of the main quartet which is a bit chuckle worthy.

Finally, the English Dub….is some very good stuff from the great people working in Houston. First off no honorifics and no sight of Greg Ayres at all, like really. Its a Christopher Ayres-Josh Grelle team-up (director-writer respectively); Josh Grelle also plays Izayoi and is one of the best things about this. This isn’t the first time Ayres and Grelle collabed on a dub-previous efforts included Magikano back in the late ADV era and the dubs for Majikoi Samurai Girls and Bodacious Space Pirates in the current Sentai Filmworks era. The dub has essentially C. Ayres great casting and well-performed direction combined with Grelle’s much loose Funi-esque writing, Grelle having written for both Funi and Sentai dubbed titles. Emily Neves, an actress whose voice acting career spans back to Clannad, is credited as assistant director and she has gone onto be ADR director for some upcoming/recent dubs like Watamote, Rozen Maiden 2013 and Chuunibyo. I’m sure to talk about her as dub director at a later date. Another best thing of the dub is Jessica Calvello who has experienced a recent renaissance of sorts. Her role as Saori in the Girls und Panzer dub was the gateway of sorts to her getting more work recently, playing roles in Maria Holic, Attack on Titan, Gatchaman Crowds, and this. She does pretty great as Black Rabbit, though your enjoyment of the dub may entirely whether or not you like her particular performance style. It does for me so I find the dub quite good. The rest of the cast consists of nice blend of veteran and new talent that Ayres cast in his dubs (Brittney Karbowski, Nancy Novotny, David Wald, Cynthia Martinez, Carli Mosier, Hilary Haag, Andrew Love, etc) and everyone here does a great job here in the dub.

So, what’s the bottom line on this show? Well, Problem Children is an entertaining little diversion. As one reviewer on ANN stated, “Problem Children is probably the best saved for a lazy afternoon when you’ve got nothing else to do.” And you know what, I got to agree with ANN on that. Its a good entertaining show but probably only from time to time. Granted, when I first watched it, I was partly enthralled but after watching it a few more times, my critical mind started piping up and saying ‘Yeah, I dunno how that happened… eh just go with it” but I still enjoyed watching the show. And if that was their aim, well mission accomplished.

September Blog Schedule to be posted tomorrow.