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.