Category Archives: Review
As the first season of Revolutionary Girl Utena ended, Utena had finally finished successfully dueling the members of the student council. She may well have been able to enjoy some peace, if it wasn’t for the sudden appearance of a new set of duelists, each wearing a black rose, pushed forward and aided by Mikage, the leader of a strange seminar. Utena must once more fight duels to protect Anthy, the rose bride. But these new duelists are different. They are not strangers, but people Utena knows. Driven by bitterness and hatred, they fight not to take Anthy away from Utena, but to kill her. The black signet rings they wear were each worn by one of one hundred boys who were rumored to have died in a fire. Why is Mikage doing this, and how is he connected to Akio Ohtori, Anthy’s older brother?
In this season, Utena, Anthy, and the student council members tend to take a back seat. The center stage is instead handed to the minor characters, giving us a chance to see them in a completely different light. Hidden motivations and feelings that we never guessed are revealed, adding a brilliant new dimension to the story. I really enjoyed discovering more about them and their relationships with the main characters. The episodes featuring Wakaba were especially good, and really gave more depth to both Wakaba and Utena.
We’re also introduced to Anthy’s older brother, Akio. While we’re never given full insight into his character, we are given glimpses of just how important he’s going to be for the rest of the series, as well as to his relationship with Anthy.
This also ties in with another huge part of this season: foreshadowing. Much of it is very subtle, only hinting that what little things it was showing us would later become very important. In a way, it became the underlying tone of the entire season. Episodes tended to end on a slightly unresolved note, leaved an inconclusive feeling. The end of the season, in fact, seemed to me to be slightly inconclusive in and of itself. While I did find this a little irritating at times, it worked very well when it came to leading up to the next season.
I do have some complaints, though. The duels were more predictable than the last season, making the episodes far more repetitive, almost to the point of giving the season a “monster of the week” feel. As well as the foreshadowing worked, very little of the plot was actually revealed, which was frustrating, and what plot the season did have was rather confusing. These faults are not unforgivable, but they were still there nonetheless.
I watched this in the remastered Japanese audio with English subtitles. The sounds were very clean and clear, and the voice acting was great. The animation had also been cleaned up, making the colors and lines seemed much sharper. The extras on the DVDs included some fun stuff like interviews with Kunihiko Ikuhara, an old Utena promo, and trailers: not too much, but I enjoyed them anyway. The box-set also came with a booklet filled with interesting extras, such as episode commentary by the director, interviews with some of the staff, and art galleries.
This was a great season, despite its faults, and the remastering made it all the more enjoyable.
Review copy provided by Nozomi Entertainment
If there’s a consistent criticism of volume one of Steins;gate, it’s that the opening episodes are cold and inaccessible, with characters that are difficult to initially connect with. These issues are long forgotten by the start of volume two of the series, which follows self-proclaimed mad scientist, Rintaro Okabe, as he deals with the consequences of the time machine he and his colorful team have built. In fact, the story and characters have become so compelling that viewers will be glued to the action of part two, not because of the premise and unique feel of the series, but because we desperately hope to see Okabe fix the future and rescue the other characters from sometimes horrible fates.
The focus of the second half of FUNimation’s captivating series is on Okabe as he does everything humanly possible (and impossible) to reverse the effects caused by his tinkering with time. Most of these episodes are particularly intense, as character origins are revealed, a sinister and violent society closes in, and mysteries of the past and future are unraveled. But the show doesn’t leave us cold – it’s particularly intimate, as viewers see and feel what Okabe does on his very personal missions.
Extraordinary. I think that might be the best catch-all to describe Steins;gate, the unique and riveting series recently released by FUNimation.
The premise is pure science fiction. Between attending lectures on time travel and dodging away from an imagined organization that has it’s sights set on him, self-declared mad scientist, Rintaro Okabe, runs a motley lab out of his apartment in which he creates “future gadgets.” He and his brilliant team find themselves inventing a machine that is capable of sending messages back in time. Though excited about the discovery, they soon discover that manipulating time has dire consequences, not least of all because the covert society tracking Okabe may not be so imagined after all.
An outline of the story gives the gist of the plot, but it doesn’t convey the uniqueness or excellent execution of Steins;gate. The tone of the series is almost claustrophobic, exemplified by the small apartment in which much of the action occurs, the bland tones used to animate the series, and the choices in animation, including the extreme close-ups and other angles at which the “camera” often focuses. But further, the series is as much mystery as science fiction, and also contains plenty of comedy, angst, romance, and yes, moe (which plays a purposeful role in the show and it’s setting of Akihabara).
The characters of Steins;gate are particularly memorable. Okabe reminds me of a favorite character, Vash the Stampede (Trigun), in terms of being portrayed as a humorous caricature, whom we get to know better and better as his humanity is revealed through unimaginable circumstances. Other characters include Kurisu, the young genius who will long be remembered as a prime example of tsundere; Daru, the overweight and perverted hacker; and Mayushi, Okabe’s childhood friend who becomes a most essential part of the plot, particular as this DVD set reaches it’s cliffhanger climax.
The voice cast excels in these meaty roles. Mamoru Miyano is particularly memorable as he digs deep to express voicing ranging from maniacal laughter to deathly distress (sometimes in the same breath!). The English voice actors have much to live up to, but do a good job in bringing their own quality to the characters. Again, the actor playing Okabe is a bright spot, as J. Michael Tatum delivers a strong performance doing the English version of the mad scientist.
The FUNimation release is relatively bare on extras, though voice acting aficionados will enjoy the fun insights provided by the company’s VA’s on commentary tracks. The set also features an interactive map of Akibahara, showing important locations in the show. The Blu-Ray DVDs are of the expected quality, though perhaps they’re not a necessary upgrade over DVDs.
Volume one ends on a cliffhanger (though the time travel focus of the series perhaps makes it a bit less shocking than it would otherwise be), but it’s not necessary to keep the viewers entranced. The story, characters, style, and depth of Steins;gate make it so that most viewers (and certainly this one) find it impossible to resist watching the rest. It’s among the best releases of FUNimation’s recent slate, and one of the best anime of recent years.
Review copy provided by FUNImation.
OVA Collection (BD/DVD Combo)
Tenchi Misaki, a typical high school boy, has the responsibility of attending to a shrine his family cares for. Fulfilling a lifelong curiosity, he enters a cave which legend states has been sealed in order to confine the horrible demon, Ryoko. Little does Tenchi know that his accidental release of the sexy demon will lead to the arrivals of two alien princesses, a Galaxy Police officer, and the world’s greatest scientific genius; a battle among genius criminals and goddesses; a fight for Tenchi’s affections; and the fulfillment of his destiny.
Out of print for many years, FUNimation has surely brought joy to many fans by releasing the classic OVAs, available for the first time on Blu-Ray. Tenchi Muyo has a dear place in my own heart, since it was the first anime that hooked me, back in the early days of Cartoon Network’s Toonami block. I was eager to see how the series held up (and how it looked on Blu-Ray).
Approaching the series with a critical eye, rather than with the nostalgic glee with which I normally watch it, helped revealed the show’s faults. The script is sometimes terrible, as the early part of the series contains a lot of nonsensical actions and dialogue by the characters. The English language screenplay actually improves upon the direct translation, though it can’t correct poorly constructed plot points, like Tenchi sleeping on the roof of the school the entire day before awakening to a revenge-minded Ryoko.
The writing gets stronger and the inconsistencies start to fade as the series progresses, though. We get to know each of the girls intimately (more so than we get to know Tenchi, who is famously declared unnecessary by the series title) by the end of the series, and they are classic characters: the wild and needy pirate/demon, Ryoko; temperamental and prim princess, Ayeka; her responsible and slightly mischievous younger sister, Sasami; serendipitous and empty-headed police officer, Mihoshi; quirky scientific genius, Washu; and even the cabbit/spaceship Ryo-Ohki, who is also of the female persuasion.
I came into the fall season with high expectations. I prepared myself for keeping watch on a lot of new shows (for me at least), since I was sure I’d be watching several classics-in-the-making in these autumn months.
It didn’t take long for that illusion to fall apart. I dropped Robotics;Notes, which I’d really been looking forward to (and which I’ve heard has gotten much better). Other series slowly fell away from my viewing list, including Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Suki-tte Ii na Yo., and Psycho Pass. With the exception of Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, which has surpassed my expectations, even those series I continue to watch (Sword Art Online and Little Busters) have been underwhelming.
What a disappointing season. And what a blessing.
Sometimes I have a struggle between giving time to my hobby and to the important things in my life. There’s almost never a moment where I actually have to choose between Toradora and taking my kids to the park, for example, but I do have to choose between sleep and watching anime. And when I choose the latter, I’m sometimes not-so-nice to my family and not-so-productive at work the next day.
This season, luckily, I’m well-rested.
More than that, I have time to focus on things that specifically came up around the holidays, like busyness with family (including a couple of birthdays), a renewed enthusiasm to be healthy, and freelancing jobs I’ve taken.
So, I’m thankful for the disappointing season. And here’s hoping for more terrible anime during the winter!!
How about you? What have been your favorite series this season? And what blessings have you experienced lately?
Nick Calibey examines the sometimes biblical meanings of names, including Shuu’s from Guilty Crown. [A Rather Silly Blog]
Ty-chama analyzes episode 10 of Shinsekai Yori and touches on her personal faith, as well how the episode emphasizes the idea of a sinful nature. [Watashi wa Bucho!!]
Annoying Dragon reviews Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Yokai Attack! [Living. Loving. Learning]
Doug is excited for the Saint Young Men movie. [Japan and Korea: Life, Language and Religion]
As part of the Something More series of posts (formerly Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere), each week, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality. If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included.
I have been remiss by failing to mention in this space that I finished Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. In fact, it was probably about a month ago that I finished it. Several of you had warned me that I would probably feel trolled by the ending, and that this was largely because I was experiencing the anime rather than the visual novel. You were very clear that I would be missing a great deal of explanatory information from the visual novel that the anime left out.
While I was hoping for a clear victory of either Battler over Beatrice, or Beatrice over Battler, to me the ending came across like endings in many anime series: left open to the interpretation of the observer. And maybe in some ways this is the best kind of ending for this show.
I will probably disappoint those who recommended I watch this series, because I don’t have a lot more to add to what I’ve already written about my opinion of the show. It is sharply made and of high quality, with attractive characters and high tension. And not so much my cup of tea. Fans of action will find something to their liking, fans of horror even more so, and those who like to ask what happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object perhaps most of all.
I am not into the horror/gore element, but I am still somewhat persuadable on watching/reading (?) the visual novel, since I have never experienced one before. So I think it’s best if I end by asking those familiar with the series why they’d recommend I watch/read (?) the visual novel — and I mean this question sincerely, and not as some kind of taunt or challenge. And let me be clear that spoilers are welcome! Especially, that is, if you feel they would make your case stronger.
I doubt that I will watch this anime again. And the male/female ratio that is very much smaller than 1 in Higurashi inclines me against watching that show, as I prefer a more balanced cast. But if I am missing as much background to Battler’s story as many of you indicated, maybe I will watch/read (???) the visual novel.
Who knows? Maybe I owe Battler at least that much.
Final verdict: 6/10 at MAL, for reasons already stated. I’d give it a 6.5 if I could, but I can’t.
Periodically, I like point back to some of the more than 500 posts we’ve written here on Beneath the Tangles. Besides the “A Year Ago” series I began several months ago, I plan to occasionally post about blogging milestones – those little breakthroughs when posts hit certain numbers of significance in terms of hits. Three articles recently hit such mileposts.
Katawa Shoujo and a How to Guide for Referring to Individuals with Disabilities
Milepost: 5,000 Hits
The informational article discusses how to use person first language to refer to individuals (or VN characters!) with disabilities:
Rin is a character who was born without arms. Don’t refer to this as a “birth defect.” “Congenital disability” or “developmental disability” is preferred. Further, remember to again emphasize that individuals have disabilities instead of saying that they are disabled, which emphasizes the disability, and avoid use of the word handicap.
This was a fun post to craft, because unlike many others, I had to do quite a bit of research. I’m glad that this was my contribution to the blogosphere’s posts on Katawa Shoujo, a game that I actually never played.
Following on the heals of other publishers offering Christian material in manga and anime format, One Peace Books has released The Bible: A Japanese Manga Rendition. This version is unique among similar products, as it was created and published in Japan first, before being acquired for stateside distribution.
An entertaining read, the piece covers material from Genesis to Revelation, with the breakdown, lengthwise, reflecting that of scripture. A large portion of the manga is spent illustrating the stories of the patriarchs, Moses, King David, and of course, Jesus.
Highlights of the manga include the Exodus narrative, which is quite lengthy and reads well as a story. The Kings section is also well done, making a complex narrative easy to follow, while painting a cast of characters who stand out as individuals, even to those unfamiliar with the history. It’s interesting, especially, to see Saul’s action, words, and facial expressions as he grows further and further away from God.
The book is genuinely manga in that it was created in Japan. However, perhaps you can get an idea of the art’s middling quality by understanding its original publisher, Variety Art Works, whose other publications include manga versions of classic writings by Robert Louis Stevenson and Karl Marx. The Old Testament portion lacks a lot of detail, particularly in backgrounds, though the unnamed artist does an admirable job of setting apart each of the many characters by distinctive and attractive designs. The New Testament does not fare as well, unfortunately. The art isn’t as sharp and resembles western drawings more than manga. And on a strange note, the mangaka depicts a cut Jesus, complete with six-pack. It’s a little disturbing to see the musclebound Christ hanging on the cross.
Unfortunately, also, the work done by the staff in typesetting and editing is unsatisfactory. The work is larger in length and width than a typical manga release, perhaps to emulate western Bibles, and maybe because of the odd dimensions suiting the size, frames on pages are frequently cut off at the edges. There are also a considerable amount of misspelled words throughout the manga and even one empty voice bubble.
There appear to have been some minor mistakes in the Japanese version, too, that were left uncorrected in the English one (One Peace Books explicitly states such inaccuracies might exist), such as the amount of time Noah is given to build the ark and the incorrect naming of the Apostle James as Jacob.
However, it’s not these errors which are most concerning; rather, it’s the way that Jesus is painted in the New Testament portion of the manga that disturbed me. For instance, the authors frequently point out that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is the Son of God. However, Jesus’ claims of equality with God – that He is indeed the great “I Am,” are never illustrated. Considering just how much of Jesus’ teachings and life were included in the manga, it seems to be a conscious decision to leave this pronouncement out. This may perhaps seem a moot point, but it isn’t – the trinity is an absolutely essential tenet in Christianity. The New Testament presented in the manga, thus, could just as well be a Jehovah’s Witness retelling as a Christian one.
Another point of concern is the interpretation done by the author of the New Testament portion, missing from the largely faithful Old Testament section. Besides some explanations for Revelation and for Judas Iscariot’s actions (which seem out of place in the context of the rest of the manga), rewording of Jesus’ words is commonplace. The worst offense is in the case of Jesus and the adulterous woman. In the Bible, Jesus chooses not to condemn her; in this manga Bible, He tells her that she is not a “sinner,” a very major mistake that compromises understanding of Jesus’ teachings.
These mistakes are strange, considering the devotion that the original publishers seem to have for the work. The Old Testament portion is handled with particular loving care; it is generally more literally translated and more carefully crafted in presentation than the New. Mistakes are also rarer, leading me to the conclusion that each was handled by different authors (neither author nor illustrator names are given).
Because of this juxtaposition, not only in quality but in the varying amounts of context the authors provide from one chapter to the next, it’s hard to determine who this Bible was written for. It’s a fun read for Christian readers, but one they may not want to own because of inaccuracies. It provides a message of hope for non-believers, but contains ideas that are confusing without necessary background.
In short, The Bible: A Japanese Manga Rendition works fully neither as an evangelistic tool nor as a companion to scripture. It instead fits best as an unusual item for collectors, an easy read for Christians who do not consider themselves devout, and perhaps as a source for multimedia presentations.
And that’s a shame, because this work, which hooked me throughout its telling of the Old Testament, lost me in its most important part as it misconstrued the message of Christ.
That said, the manga is worth the price simply for the first 2/3. As for the rest, I think I’ll just follow Jesus’ plea to the Father and forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Review copy provided by One Peace Books