Thursday, November 24, 2011

What is an American Otaku?

It helps that we don't have this guy either...
I feel like this is something that needs to be explained. You see, there is a very big difference from what otaku are in America and what sort of connotations it holds in Japan. Originally it was a polite term meaning "your home," but the term has since picked up negative connotations. There is a stigma that accompanies that does not quite carry over into America, but then, we also have never had the "Otaku Killer" either.
Because no one wants to be this person.
Regardless of why, there also needs to be a distinction between otaku and weeaboo. For those unfamiliar with 4chan shenanigans, just know that weeaboo is not a good thing. It's a terrible thing. What you want to be is an otaku, someone who appreciates the culture and shows of Japan, and doesn't just think everything is ultra-super-kawaii-desu! Instead the otaku who appreciates makes an effort to learn the language, if they are so inclined, or otherwise leaves it alone. They may write an article on their favorite show, or blog about it (like this particular one does), they may even get into heated debates about whether or not something is possible. I once had a ten minute argument with someone, for instance, over the aerodynamics of a Berserk Fuhrer from Zoids and whether or not it was truly possible. It should be noted, that not all otaku like anime either, sometimes the word otaku can be applied, just like in Japan where it acts as "obsessive fan (often to the point of it being detrimental)," they all have their separate interests. So lets take a look at the different type of otaku, but not all at once. For now we'll just take a look at the anime type otaku.

Anime Otaku: A Brief Introduction
Anime found its way to America in a very interesting way. When most people think about early anime in the U.S. they think about Astroboy and Kimba, but what really set it off is a little ditty known as Robotech. You see, as the fans of these early shows matured so, too, did their tastes.  They were no longer satisfied with the terrible dubbing of Speed Racer and so the mech anime found its own little niche to fill. The first season of the show, based off Superdimensional Macross tears apart and redubs the entire work. A whole new script was adapted for the show, and it was a great success. One of the earliest science fiction anime to hit U.S. shores it completely remade what fans thought of anime, and brought in many new fans. Shows like Gundam, Voltron, and Star Blazers made their way into U.S. timeslots and were devoured by the enthralled geek, a mere five years after the first Star Wars film hit theatres. People were hungry for action and for sci-fi and anime provided exactly that.
Robotech: They just don't make classics like it anymore.
After the advent of these, which had already started to grow the otaku fanbase, a little known hit called Akira made its circle through bootlegs and art screenings to secure what became a future for the anime industry. Small company Pioneer set up its store front, licensing Tenchi Muoyo! for VHS and LD (that's Laser Disc for you younguns) and, though expensive, the company soon started to grow until it finally changed its name to Geneon Entertainment. Yes, that same Geneon that imploded several years ago as internet piracy slowly made its rounds. They produced a series that is now most famous world wide, and even bigger than Mickey Mouse in Japan: Neon Genesis Evangelion. But let's back up just a moment. There's another very important note in anime history that helped launch not just otaku, but the cyber-punk movement. That's right, if it weren't for the Japanese animation many people hate, there would be no cyber-punk. That means no Matrix, no dreams of virtual reality, and no dreams of cybernetic reality. Thanks to Ghost in the Shell, such ideas were secured, and nerds everywhere rejoiced, and not just because of the scantily clad Major Kusonagi. No, it was because it showed there was real thought going into anime in Japan, and Evangelion would later secure this fact. Albeit in a very different manner.
For every cross, a pouch of human Tang has just been opened.
So with all this history behind us, where does that leave the Peter Pan generation like myself (I wear my nostalgia goggles with pride)? Well, we came onto the anime scene at a very young age, and grew up with it along the way. Two that almost everyone in my generation remembers, whether otaku or not, is Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z. Boy or girl, whether you watched one, the other, or both, you knew what the deal was with these shows. Of course, the show that is most known and what I am truly an otaku (in the Japanese sense, its sad really) about is Pokemon. Yes, that loveable creature show where all Ash Ketchum wanted to do was catch them all. To this day I can tell you everything about the games, and almost everything about the show and manga too (again, I live a sad life). This show, the games, everything was huge in the nineties and as 4Kids realized the cash cow that it was they started to license more and more anime. Sadly, they all received the 4Kids treatment, and just for shiggles heres everything I can remember that wormed its way into my childhood. "Your childhood," you ask as I talk about the nineties, "Why, you were just talking about the eighties as if they were yesterday!" Yes, I was. I do my research and watch what these shows too. It's important to know your roots when you're living in an over saturated culture. Now then, here's the nostaligic list of import love:
Mew Mew Power
Digimon

One Piece
Sonic the Hedgehog (
and Sonic X)
Kirby
Beyblade
Yu-Gi-Oh
Shaman King
Magical Do-Re-Mi
Cardcaptors
Fighting Foodons
Ultimate Muscle



And every one of them I enjoyed...at the time. Looking back there are those that still have their nostalgia value, and there are those that just make me shake my head in shame. There are also some that manage to be just as epic, despite that treatment. Of course, 4Kids was not the only company out there licensing anime for the ninties-naughts mind. Toonami enjoyed a long run, and even had a midnight run before Adult Swim hit the airwaves. This was when you stayed up late, because you knew after the week of G Gundam and Tenchi Muoyo you were gong to get something good, and you were rewarded with anime untouched by 4Kids and taken seriously. Shows like YuYu Hakusho, Knights of the Zodiac and .hack//sign were welcome, along with Gundam Seed after G Gundam had finished. They did meet their fair share of censorship too, but it was mostly the usual DBZ edits: blood was black, etc. etc.. Yet this started a desire for the seriousness anime could provide, and so kids who had never seen Robotech or Akira slowly started to join the otaku generation. The advent of Adult Swim is where, I think, a lot of people started their love of anime, and with early shows like Inuyasha tempting fans to watch the late night blocks, otaku obliged and with good reason. If you ask anyone from this era what anime they would start a new comer on most will answer with one of two things: Cowboy Bebop or Trigun. It's because these shows are good, and have remained good despite the test of time. It was during this time that Evangelion and FLCL made its way to domestic shores as well, and nearly six years later FLCL was finally released as a box set while Evangelion is being remade in theatrical installments. This brings an entirely new set of fans who missed these shows a chance to view them, and yet there is still one largely over looked series among these hits.
It's not about furries, I swear!
Very rarely do I come across the fellow Wolf's Rain fan, despite it being on during the same years as these shows, which is a bit odd really. Stranger still is the person who's never heard of Paranoia Agent, one of Satoshi Kon's later works. What has stuck around the otaku fan circles for years now is Full Metal Alchemist and my oh my has it acquired quite the number of otaku over the years. It showed that even without the touching of 4Kids and by keeping a show pure, it can still remain a hit. It's one of Funimations earliest licensed works, and they still continue to pull in the checks off of its movies and release of the show again through Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. You can find a good number or people discussing it for its philosophical merits but it also started one of the biggest weeaboo booms ever. It was not a hard series to find subtitled, and once fans discovered they could watch other series, even ones they had never heard about online, the metaphorical pile of crap hit the metaphorical fan. There was more of an appreciation for art quality and story, and less for what it was about. Less gab, more stab, was the general logic. Of course, this meant many shows were released that might not have found their way to shore were it not for the demand of more anime. Some found their way spiraling out of popularity, while others climbed the charts. And others, for all their merits, never found their way over.
Bakemonogatari hasn't been licensed, but oh, the brillaince!
So then, if the otaku is now living in a market saturated with stuff they like, but don't necessarily want, what makes them different from the weeaboo? As I said before, these are the people who want more gab and less stab. With companies like Crunchyroll and Viz offereing the raw product, it is the otaku who is answering the call of fandom. They're the ones out there watching Steins;Gate and Deadman Wonderland. Their devouring the existential crises of Madoka Magika and their revisiting the philosophies of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The weeaboo continues to sit back and cry for more Hetalia and Naruto, thinking they know everything about Japanese culture, ever, from shows like this. Because "Ninjas are sooo kakoii! Dattebayo!" And so I leave you to think about that as you walk around and proudly say you are an otaku. Are you certain you are one and not just one of those weeaboos devouring everything thrown your way from Japan? Be careful of the line all geek culture must walk.

Until Next Time!
AAO

Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Been A While, Let's Revolutionize the World!

After a long haul through the summer and the beginning of the semester, I hope you’re all glad to find me back and blogging again. Unfortunately  this is going to be just as sporadic as ever, especially with  my class load (the professors have conspired to give me three research papers at the same time).  I know it must be fall, as people are getting around to discussing the Ao no Exorcist finale, and from what I can tell the only worthwhile part of summer were the continuation of spring series such as Tiger and Bunny and Hanasaku Iroha (even Gosick finale’d over the summer).

As for my anime fix, I’ve caught up with Tiger and Bunny and am catching up with Hanasaku again. Nichijou is my “wake-up” show, though I haven’t watched it in a while to help wake up. Apart from these I’ve been going through Naoki Urasawa’s Monster and Revolutionary Girl Utena with my roommate. As a result there are a large number of quotes taped up around our room, though more from Utena then anything else.
Speaking of Utena, Rightstuf has a promotion going on that if you order all three limited box sets, you’ll get a reproduction of the rose ring famous in the series. I couldn’t resist, but it was well worth it. I can’t say much on the third box set as that was a preorder, but the digital remastering of the Student Council and Black Rose saga are fantastic. Reading through the booklets that come with each of the sets describes what the process entailed. For those working on the film itself they had free reign on formats: they could move from the 4:3 ratio of old televisions to the high def ration. Every part of a scene is present again, and it definitely frames certain times a lot better. When Anthy is in the garden, for example, you can see the entire garden around her. The recoloring and touchups (removing character skeletons that might have still been visible or overall brightening of a scene) also serve to enhance the original show, bringing it up to par with today’s standards of animation, yet also leaving a nostalgic feeling.

Due to higher resolution, you can see things you couldn't before, like Utena's ahoge!

They remastered the sound as well, though this is not something I can really experience in a dorm room (You’d need a Surround Sound system). They’ve added more bells to create a fuller sound, but also moved around some of the dialogue in comparison to insert sounds. One sound that is clearly added in the remastering is a sort of shimmering when Utena draws the sword from Anthy. As I watch the dub, I can’t say much for the lines that were rerecorded in the Japanese version (the dub is the same old dub as before), but apparently Utena’s seiyuu was still spot on after fifteen years.

The power of Dios that rests within me...

To some, the show itself may be a bit dated, as it did come out in the nineties shortly after Sailor Moon. But like Sailor Moon it is dear to its fans hearts. There’s so much that happens in it, and it is one of the few fencing animes I know of (if not the only fencing anime I know of). What makes it really unique is the meaning behind each of the episodes: during the School Council saga we see Utena overcome several virtuous obstacles, and in the Black Rose saga…well that’s for another time.

Look, look at how red my hair is now!


There aren’t too many things coming out in the fall I’m particularly excited for, as most are continuations of shows from last year (Squid Girl, Bakuman, Working!!). To be honest, though, there are still quite a bit of shows in summer I want to finish up that never had the chance to watch. I might take up a couple of shows, and I might just finish up my Tutu review, so stay tuned!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Otakon 2011

Yes, I know, it's a week later, but I had work pretty much everyday last week.

News, news, news! I asked a great deal of questions when I was at panels for Japanese directors in particular I tried my best to ask good questions. You can actually see one on Anime News Network's coverage of Otakon 2011 in the Madoka panel (http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/convention/2011/otakon/8). Iwakami and those asking questions were great about the fact that we had to go through a translator to get all our questions answered. I was pretty glad to have made Iwakami smile just by mentioning Bakemonogatari, as the show didn't take off quite as much in the States as Madoka has. Essentially I asked him if he used his experience from working on Bakemono to work on Madoka, and he said that they did. He also confessed that the witches' labyrinth was not how it was originally planned, but there was originally a tentacle monster. And we've all seen enough hentai to know what that means.

I also attended the Who Wants to Be a Voice Actor panel, and it was pretty gosh darn fantastic, I was glad to have gotten in! For auditions they essentially picked three people at random, had them read a part (females read the female role, males the male) and they would deliberate. Then one winner was picked for each part and the scene was read. As luck would have it I did get picked and it was for the scene that was filmed. You can watch me make voices you wouldn't expect right here:


For those of you who ever wondered how to cute, cute, that's it. There were a lot of announcements that were made at industry panels, but for those I would take a look at ANN's coverage, since they did a great job.

Panel wise I would say this year was a little disappointing. Out of all those I attended (OC Remix and Voice Actors After Dark included), I would say Akira after dark was the most entertaining. From what I can gather Anime: Myths and Legends was not the same panelist as last year and was very disappointing, which is a shame. It's a little strange that Otakon cut so many Acafan panels, considering last year offered a lot of entertainment. The lines were also a bit frustrating as for the panels I did attend I waited in line for a maximum of an hour. Yes, otaku are professional queuers, but even we have our limits. That's all I have to say about that.

AAO Signing off!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What a lazy blogger I am. I haven’t been keeping up, but I have a good reason. It’s because I’m an even lazier author. I’ve been trying to edit my next book, and after writing for so long I get a little disinterested. I have plenty of ideas to add, including a competition for who’s the better “Japanese Batman,” I just haven’t written them yet. So sorry about that.
As a result of the Great Earthquake Disaster, the spring season started late and ended even later (I believe it just ended last week as I’m writing this). If you remember I dropped several shows and kept track of a few others. The list managed to narrow itself down even more, as Sekai Ichi almost entirely lost my interest. The spring seasons also proved to be surprisingly long as those that I’ve picked have continued on, so no one gets a biseason (more than twelve) episode pass this time as they all ran longer [Deadman Wonderland has not yet been confirmed as having a second season].

DROPPED: Sekai Ichi
But not  fun enough.
The World’s Greatest First Love is what almost every yaoi fangirl wants in the first few episodes and shear fanservice for the rest. Four episodes in, the main coupling is dropped and a second pair is introduced. By the time I reached the eighth episode and we had returned to the original I found myself no longer enamored by the relationships in the show. So as pretty as everything was it just had no rewatch value for me and by the ninth episode I felt no desire to follow it whatsoever. So sadly The World’s Greatest First Love fell into the oven vents this season.

IN THE FREEZER: Nichijou (My Ordinary Life)
Probably one of my favorite skits..."What girl doesn't love butlers?!"

Technically I wouldn’t rank something like Nichijou so low but again it was one of those shows that I ended up watching if I needed something cheerful for before work. Like Azumanga and Lucky Star it has it’s camp factor, but also its supernatural factor. There’s charm in robot matron Nano that is matched only by the professor. Yandere is taken to the extreme in a humorous way via military grade weapons. This is all done to humorous effect and the jokes are very rarely lost albeit they can take a long time to deliver (see the supernatural episode). When the humor finally hits, its on the spot. The animation style also helps to add to the effect, giving a smooth, gentle look. Enjoyable, yes. Rewatchable, certainly. But Nichijou still finds itself at the bottom of a raging hot list.
+Music by hyadain2525 (really, check out his YouTube channel sometime)
+Smooth Animation
+Slice of life humor
-Length to delivery
-Sectioned Episodes
-Jokes don’t always translate well

IN THE OVEN: Hanasaku Iroha
All of them moe!

Iroha was and still is probably the best romance series I’ve seen this season and, quite possibly, all year. Initially I was afraid it might take the yuuri route it had every possibility of doing. Instead it has turned into a sort of unrequited love triangle. All of it is a maturing experience for Ohana and by the time twelve episodes are up she’s become an entirely new person. For what it has aimed to achieve, not an episode has been wasted. Masahiro Ando, as usual, knows what he’s doing.
+Animation Quality
+Voice acting
+Development of characters and relationships
-Ohana angst
-No clear resolution in the future
-Large amount of characters

HEATING UP: Deadman Wonderland
Shiro: Still adorable
Originally, right before I watched the season finale, I gave Deadman Wonderland quite a high score.  Unfortunately, it doen’t quite seem to complete itself or resolve any issues in it’s one season run. The reason it’s still so high is because it was, overall, a pretty good show. The animation quality was great, and though I haven’t read the manga, the plot is certainly one to be desired. It looks more at how people react than at how Ganta does.  If anything there’s a cast of enjoyable characters who all have their own background and their own twists.

+Animation
+Voice Cast
+Mystery
-Unresolved plot
-Music isn’t great
-Breast enhancements

COMING TO A BOIL: Tiger and Bunny
Exactly!
It would not be an understatement if I said I absolutely love Tiger and Bunny, which is a little odd considering I’m the direct opposite of the demographics. Part of this reason is because I enjoy super hero shows so much. They’re just so fantastic in their telling. It was a little mean to call it out on combining mech anime, because in the end it pulled out all the same things you’d expect there to be. The first two episodes did little to explain how NEXT (those with superpowers) work, so I could only presume the heroes had their powers when in their power suits. Au contraire, NEXT are working all the time.  The main focus is not just on Batman like Bunny, but almost every hero gets his or her own back story to the point that you can understand where the whole team is coming from. There are some moral issues that are brought up later in the season [ep 1-12], but they are handled with the same reasoning any good American comic book would. But there’s the difference: it’s not an American comic book, it’s a Japanese anime and it disguises itself all too well.
+Storytelling
+Characters
+In show demographics
-Goofy animation at times
-Batman
-Overall soundtrack

GOURMET MEAL: [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
Actually the Engrish is pretty good...
The winner this season is [C], for its ability to combine shonen with economics.  There are battles, yes, but they are always well composed and rather fast. There are few episodes in which you might consider them to be the focus. Rather, the idea of consequence lies heavily on the protagonist the whole time. There is the idea that he can change the world for the better, and often times does by breaking the unwritten set of rules. He remains clueless about the actual rules up until the end of the series. Money, as we know, is an important part of every society and this series plays up all the what-ifs that could come with it.
+Plot
+Alice in Wonderland
+ Economics made shonen
- Engrish
-Soundtrack
-Loss of ‘future’

I won't be doing on of these for the summer simply because...they burn me out! There also aren't too many things I'm looking forward to in the summer season. My suggestions (what I might dabble in when I need something to watch):
*No. 6
*Usagi Drop
*Mawaru-Penguindrum
*Ikoku Meiro no Croise
*Kami-sama no Memo-cho

For those who want something completely weird (Panty and Stocking plot weird) check out Many Hiken-cho. It's an alternate Edo period. Where breast size equates power. No kidding.

Things to look forward to (I mean it this time!):
Wrap-up of Princess Tutu
Japanese Batman: Who deserves the title more?
More transposed lyrics

Sunday, June 5, 2011

God Song Transliteration

There's actually a lot of word play in this song, which you can't really translate. Even the title is a little funny as 神曲 can be read as both "God Song" and "Divine Comedy." One of the big things the OnyuuP did was to play on the word "kami" which can mean god, divine, paper, or even hair. Using the rather rough translation of YouTuber ikuy398, I came up with what follows. Also 夢 (yume) shows up a couple times in talking about the universe, but it can also mean dream.



They say it’s a song for god, or a divine video game
Flooding the streets right now, it’s a god bargain sale just for you!

The contents aren't that great, actually thin like pieces of paper,
However I’m saved by these things and so it doesn’t really matter

It was music, it was a song,
a great picture, or a big dream
It's just all a part of the frothy universe
I’m saved by these things I believe in

They say it’s a divine show, a TV program just for god
Flooding the world and the airwaves are gods at giveaway prices

They might be rather thin, fluttering down like windblown hair
However I’m saved by these sort of things, so it isn’t something that matters!

They were gardens, they were deserts
It was the cool air, or a water surface
It's all a ordinary part of the universe
I’m saved by these normal things I notice

I could never possibly become a hero like those in the myths
I could never possibly truly be someone that is omnipotent

I don’t want to be God, it’s good that I wish to be
So that I would be able to save someone someday

And that’s why….and that’s why

You were there for me, I was there for you
You call them buddy’s, I call them my friends
All we futile people wish to do is
To be saved and to save one another

We compose music, we all sing songs
Draw a picture, and carry big dreams
They’re all part of the tiny universe
Today as usual somebody came and saved us 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hello (How Are You) Transliteration



Hello/How Are You?



Hello
Opening my window, I quietly whispered it
How are you?
All alone, I sit here in my room
Morning
The sun’s risen, but it’s hidden by pouring rain
Tick-tock
Like a clockwork doll come and wind up my spring
Hello
It happened just like this in an old anime
How are you?
Jealousy  at seeing everyone so loved
Sleeping
I really have to stop stupidity and start preparing
Crying
In order to hide the marks from my tears
Now…

What I like to say is “fine, whatever”
Calling suddenly to my mind those  words from yesterday
“No hope is left for you in my mind anymore…”
To be perfectly honest with myself
I don’t have any hope left for me either
Even so why would you say something like that?
All of the words that are moving to my throat
Come out my mouth as blatant lies
So today I must have wasted some valuable words
But I will still keep on living my life

Why is it that you keep on hiding it?
Being laughed at isn’t scary right?
Do you really not want to see anyone at all?
Is all that the truth?
Ambiguity is a sea I’m drowning in,
It hurts too much to even take a breath
Small urges to hear someone speak appear
I really am so weak…

Amid all these preparation to go nowhere
My head starts running many ideas
“Should we find a reason to take a break and rest now?”
No,no, I can understand it
Now I’m just saying whatever I could to you
Resting isn’t something I can do, so don’t get mad at me
Being happy or being sad are two things uncertain
Unbiased and cruelly the sun still rises
With all my might I continue to live on in this life
What else could I possibly wish for?

Why is there any need to worry over it?
I’m asking if you really want to listen to me?
I want to know who was it that took their hand away,
Did you notice?
If existence came with a time card,
When could I finally time out?
And all the pay that comes for my hours alive,
I wonder who would pay them.

Thank you
I just want to say thank you
Thank you
I really just want to say thank you
Thank you
Even one time would be fine
And so from the bottom of my weeping heart
I just want to say thank you!

Why is that you keep on hiding it?
I’m asking if you really want to listen to me?
Not once have you smiled or wept,
Can we talk about that?
If you never say the words that you really feel,
I’ll never know what you’re thinking about.
It can’t be helped that we’re so troublesome
I’m just being human!

Hello How are you?
Hello How are you?
Hello How are you?
I just want to ask, hello, how are you?


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

There’s  a great deal of material to cover with Princess Tutu, especially since it spans two seasons. Two, very well developed seasons. This means that the plot for both Chapter of the Egg and Chapter of the Fledgling will need to be covered separately plot wise. I won't be delving too much into the characters, but looking at it more from a broad perspective. Every character makes their own contributions and growth, so I feel it's important to cover them seperately.
PLOT

Chapter of the Egg
As the first installment of the Tutu plotline, Chapter of the Egg starts off like almost every transforming girl story: girl granted power, girl transforms for some great cause, girl saves boy she’s in love with. Even with these basic plot pieces intact, though, it still manages to bring a great bit more to the table. There are several key points in this arc that are dropped later on, or at least become largely ignored.
In the first chapter we see a girl fall in love with a boy, or rather, a duck fall in love with a prince. This is a new take on an old favorite, but definitely brings to mind the story of swan Lake almost immediately. In that story the prince goes hunting in the woods and almost shoots the princess who has been turned into a swan. In Tutu we instead of a lonely duck watching an even lonelier prince and immediately asks the question why. It is thanks to this curiosity that she is rewarded with humanity, something that comes only because a plot device is needed. In this case I am not using plot device in a mean way. Duck is for all intents and purposes a plot device written in by Drosselmyer.

Chapter of the Fledgling


This chapter is where the metaphorical s41t hits the fan. This is also where Princess Tutu proves itself as being much more than the standard mahout shoujo anime. While Duck certainly continues to fulfill her heroes quest, it is the emergence of the true villain, or rather what appears to be the true villain through Princess Kraehe. The incorporation of a singular evil focus means that the grounds are laid for an at times convoluted plot. I will discuss how this affects specific characters in the section on characters.
This chapter suffers some of the same problems the first did in the way several things are arranged for plot convenience. While Drosselmyer does act as a convenient tool to sneak in plot occurrences, which becomes especially apparent when the move to stop his control over the town begins, they are still occurrence I would call necessary. Of course to counter this Fakir also undergoes some changes through personality and is given the same sort of abilities to control the world around him as Drosselmyer. As can be expected there is quite a bit of a tension leading to the finale, which concludes the story for both Mytho and Fakir. However, Duck’s side of the story is only resolved in the sense that she achieves her goal of restoring Mytho’s heart and comes into herself.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope everyone is having a happy Mother's Day here in the States! My mom and I have a sort of big sister-little sister relationship, so we get along alright. Something funny to note is that she doesn't like anime at all unless it's a film, so I figured I'd try and find something she might like, which is difficult to do. Either way, she is usually willing to check it out if it isn't super ridiculous or silly. I might just set the family down and watch some Cowboy Bebop one day. In the meantime, see you space cowboys!

Kiki and her mother from Kiki's Delivery Service, my favorite Miyazaki movie!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring Season I Part II

How is your spring going so far? Are you trapped in a never ending downpour like I am? I hope not, I really hope not…Moving along, out of the five other series I had to review, only one has managed to survive. I did add in one more show, simply because I completely forgot about it and how much I was looking forward to it. So we’ll save that as a surprise at the end. There was a certain amount of fanservice in each of them, which was a little annoying all in all. Perhaps the most frequent theme is the harem this season, or maybe even just how many perverted things they can get away with. So let’s see the mess that is the second half of the Spring Season Part I. With so many being dropped I may pick up some of the later premiering shows. This time in reverse order of worst to best!

A Bridge to the Starry Sky
Here is the obvious harem anime of the season. I was originally looking forward to it, just from the animation, but other than that there is nothing I particularly enjoyed about the show. It was the standard boy enters a town where his only classmates are apparently female…and fervently in love with his adowable little brother. This seems like Takenori Mihara’s first big job as he only appears to have been episode directors, but it’s a shame it had to be a harem anime. Animation director Koichi Monma seems a bit more prepared, having just gotten off of Madoka’s background animation. So while harem anime can be good, I’m not willing to sit around and see where this goes. A Bridge to the Starry Sky is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
+ Animation
+ Opening
+ Cute little brother
- Obvious plot
- Obvious ending
- HUGE Harem

Hen Zemi
I DON'T KNOW!

Also known as Abnormal Physiology Seminar, this is about as close as you can get to hentai without actually entering it. And yet it’s still comedic simply for the unexpected perversion that seems to happen everywhere, especially coming from director Takao Kato. While he did previously direct To Love-Ru this is an entirely different can of worms. I can’t complain about animation, however, as it is overall good, despite having three animation directors. To give it an accurate chance without jumping in with nothing to go on I did watch the OAV’s as well. As the show has no overarching plot and works mainly on the episode by episode basis there is no real reason for me to have done so, which is of course something I did not know at the time. Simply because I do not think I could take this kind of humor when other outlets are available (especially in the United States), Hen Zemi is being dropped as well.
+ Humor
+ Pop culture references
+ Animation
- Nipple conversations
- Awkward teacher
- Obvious Metaphors

Astarotte’s Toy
A succubus who is afraid of men, has to live by sucking the “life seed” out of men: That’s our basic plot for this show. And it ends up being really cute in a weird, fanservice kind of way. The show is not quite a reverse harem, but there is only one or two males, the main one being employed to go along with Astarotte. He seems to be only interested in her, which is why I don’t entirely consider it a harem anime. The animation itself is fairly crisp and adds to the playfulness of the show. It is reminiscent of Okamisan, and as the Chief Animation Director, Mai Otsuka, worked on that show it is to be expected. It is a little odd that Fumitoshi Oizaki should be the director for the show, but it also makes sense in the playful nature of the show which is almost similar to the sort of naiveté of Disgaea. Despite its enjoyable nature, I do not think I will find anything here I can find elsewhere, which is much the same problem A Bridge to the Starry Sky had, and so it is being dropped. Astarotte’s Toy is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
+ Cute
+ Clean animation
+ Disgaea-esque plot
- Harem?
- Overly silly
- Only one guy

Moe sensors activate!
Nichijou
As soon as I started watching this show I immediately thought of Azumanga Dai-Oh and with good reason. It is very much your slice of life high school comedy. Of course it does have it’s twists, but that’s what makes it so humorous. The animation style is light again, much like what we saw in Wandering Son but not quite as exaggerated. Director Tatsuya Ishihara previously worked on both The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star and manages to pull off the same sort of humor seen in Lucky Star. There are multiple animation directors on this show as well, all of them doing a great job for each episode. Music wise the same sort of comedic effect from Lucky Star seems to be present, while still keeping the same sort of background sound one might expect in real life. As Yuuji Nomi formerly worked on Ghibli films and Bokurano this is no big surprise. Nichijou is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
+ Clockwork Robot
+ Highschool slice of life
+ Animation
- No plot
- Boogers
- Characters do not converge

I love anpan too, Shiro!
Deadman Wonderland
Almost as soon as I read the premise for this show I was hooked, and more than eager to get started in on it. I was looking forward to a Battle Royale style show set in a prison, and what I got was something far better. Director Koichi Hatsumi is doing a brilliant job of directing this series, just as he did with Lupin III and The Big O. There is the same sort of action mystery that chases the protagonist around and around, and art director Michie Watanabe is doing a great job at keeping everything smooth and crisp, just as she did with the backgrounds of Wolf’s Rain. If you’re looking for a decent shonen series that is not all guns and swords, then I highly recommend Deadman Wonderland. Deadman Wonderland is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
+ Shiro
+ Battle Royale
+ Animation
- Random plot device
- Evil villain

- Improbably cup size

C: The Money of Soul and Possibility of Control
Best. Mad Hatter. Ever.

The same people who worked on Fractale shine through brilliantly yet again with this thriller of a show. Thing Alice in Wonderland meets Wallstreet and there you have it. The show cleverly disguises economic lessons through the use of battles with “assets” and establishes a main goal fairly early on. And as of approximately five seconds ago (as of writing this), Funimation has picked it up for streaming on Hulu. How exciting is that (pretty exciting considering I’m on a caffeine kick now). The first two episodes essentially establish the plot and introduce to us the main characters in an exciting way most series do not. Thus far, C is the best anime of the season. C- Control is now streaming on Hulu.
+ Animation
+ Plot
+ Alice in Wonderland
- Soundtrack
- Batmobile
- Loss of future

So let’s take a look at the rankings so far [x=dropped]:
-C – Control
-Deadman Wonderland
-Hanasaku Iroha
-Tiger and Bunny
-Nichijou
-Sekai Ichi
x Astarotte’s Toy
x Hen Zemi
x Bridge to the Starry Skies
x We, Without Wings

I’m not planning on having a midseason review, as I still have to finish up the Princess Tutu input and review. However, know that those that are left are going to have to fight to the end to see who comes out on top (except maybe Sekai Ichi, which is really just a guilty pleasure). Also, exciting news! Pikko is holding a give away for a Zojirushi Umami Micom Rice Cooker which makes super tasty rice. You can find details on it here ---à http://www.aibento.net/2011/04/28/review-zojirushi-umami-rice-cooker-review-part-3-giveaway/#comment-29968
That’s all for now!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Season 1 Part 1

Well, the spring season is in full swing and I am fully behind! I realized I have picked too many shows to review. Starting in on the season I have also realized that there is a certain amount of shows that will have to be dropped as time goes on, some not quite making it past their two episode limit (every show has two episodes to make a good impression and get itself started). So, let’s get started on the Spring Season!  As per usual, we’ll move from best to worst. I’ve had to split the season up again, simply because I’m starting to fall behind trying to watch everything and this post would be ridiculously long if I included another five shows. While the second episode of Deadman Wonderland is not available to me right now, I will say that thus far it is my favorite of the season.

Hanasaku Iroha
The animation quality alone made me look forward to Iroha and it certainly delivered with its plot as well. Masahiro Ando, an excellent director who has worked on several of the most popular anime (Gundam Seed, Wolf’s Rain, Evangelion), is doing yet another bang up job, especially since he is in charge of almost every aspect. The show itself is a slice of life, no giant robots or evil nobles are stopping main character Ohana from achieving her goal, which is really just to survive. When fanservice makes an appearance it is done in a subtle way, or serves some purpose (that’s right, fanservice can be relevant to plot). The characters all relate together well , and the music is subtle enough to carry scenes on their own. I can’t say this is surprising as Shiroh Hamaguchi is in charge of the music and he did the same great job in Final Fantasy VII. While not Wandering Son quality animation it is still rather nice to look at and not nearly as harsh as other shows this season. Hanasaku Iroha is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
+Character Design
+Music
+Episode direction
-Perverted author
-Cranky grandmother syndrome
-No clear plot

Tiger and Bunny
Imagine a superhero show. Now imagine a mech anime. Combine them and we get Tiger and Bunny, where perhaps the most hilarious premise is the product placement (boy, do I want a Pepsi Next now). Despite the product placement it is a fairly entertaining show and the characters are all quite amusing. The standard hero regime does not seem to be ever present just yet, and there is more of a focus on the pseudo-mech plot. The only female hero is, in fact, also an idol, something highly reminiscent of Macross. There is a reason for this, as director Keiichi Satou is fairly at home in the Mech world having worked on Big O, MazinKaiser, and several Gundam arcs. He manages to combine it with the superhero genre fairly well. Music is your standard superhero fanfares and helps carry the action quite a bit, something Yoshihiro Ike is quite experience having worked on mostly shonen shows. As a fan of both superhero shows and mech shows, I am quite excited to continue watching this show, almost as much as Heroman.  Tiger and Bunny is currently streaming on Anime News Network and Hulu.
+Plot
+Superheroes in pseudo-mechs
+Fun characters
-Product Placement
-Reality TV show producers
-Random CG sometimes

Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi (World’s Greatest First Love)
Here it is. The yaoi of the season. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, seeing as the plot for it is a fairly typical love story. The only exception being, of course, the fact that the couple is two males. Chiaki Kon is well experienced in the world of romantic anime (and even non-romantic if you don’t consider Higurashi to be), and it certainly shows. Nothing is too rushed, and when the little instances of fanservice designed to make fangirls giggle with glee occur, they are done superbly (if you oversaturate anything with fanservice it loses all value). The music is fairly upbeat, as it should be seeing as it is also a comedy, and Hijiri Anze does a good job of bringing it subtly in. Of course, this show is not for everyone, because I said it is yaoi, and unless you enjoy that you will not enjoy it here. What makes the plot good outside of it is the sheer ridiculousness of some scenes: a literature editor who ends up working for shoujo manga is something that could only happen in Japan. Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi is not streaming on Crunchyroll.
+Plot
+Character Design
+Comedic Effect
-Yaoi [if you aren’t a fan]
-Strange character shifts
-LOOK OUT IT’S THE EMERALD TEAM!

She'd be adorable if it weren't for this.
We, Without Wings
There are so many things wrong with this show I’m not even certain where to start. Let’s start with the summary Anime News Network has: It's winter in the big city of Yanagihara, and young people will meet and fall in love. Takashi is a boy who plans to escape to another world, but is held back by thoughts of his younger sister Kobato and girlfriend Asuka. Shusuke is a poor part-timer who has to work with student-author Hiyoko in spite of their initial dislike for each other. The antisocial Hayato makes his living as a handyman until he is visited by a girl name Naru. Within the first two episodes there is , at no point, a mention of this plot. If it’s in there, I missed it amongst all the fanservice. The characters should not be all that suprising considering Kumi Ishi, the same character designer for Rozen Maiden is also the chief animation director. The amount of jiggles and panty shots are ridiculous, and is even more so when its compared to the amount of fan service in Highschool of the Dead. Yet it’s not the animators fault, as Kumi Ishi also worked on several excellent animated works (Cardcaptor Sakura, Perfect Blue),  its largely Shinji Ushiro’s direction that is leading this show astray. I have not seen any of his other works, but given the fact that I saw seven characters named in seven seconds, I’m not sure I want to. Not even music acts as a redeeming quality, as there is just a lot of random genres thrown together, and there isn’t even a musical director listed. Almost everything I can say is basically summed up in the screen shot. Unfortunately, this series is being dropped, though perhaps I will visit it again later to see how it turns out. We, Without Wings is streaming on Crunchyroll.
-Excessive Fanservice
-Poor Music
  -Confusing exposition

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Final Winter Review


Well, the seasons have officially come to an end. I know I run about a week late, but I would rather run late and watch free legal streams than free illegal ones. Any screen shots that are used belong to their respective owners and companies, and I do not own the rights. There are two shows that have to be done a little differently than the others: Madoka and Gosick. Madoka will be broadcasting the last two episodes back to back in about a week, so I cannot comment on it just yet. Gosick is continuing into the spring season, so I will only be reviewing the first twelve (a full season). As a result they will not be counted towards the top and bottom scores of the season in this review. So who made it to the top this season and who fell flat? Let’s find out.

BISEASON (FREE PASS): Gosick
Unlike Victorique...
Gosick started off good, but slow. As it moved farther into the show it began to reveal itself as a show that solves mystery with the characters trying to solve their own. As of episode twelve none of this has been fully solved, and like Detective Conan it can be a little repetitive. Find a mystery, solve it. Here’s some overarching plot, moving on. Even with this flaw (if you want to consider it one, I personally do not), the characters are charged and blend rather well together. There is no one character that acts as a plot hog, which is impressive as a large portion of the show is spent figuring on the mystery of Victorique’s character. If this were to be placed in the season ranking again, it would certainly rank quite high.
+Art
+Overarching Plot
+Mystery
-Long development
-Disappearance of the overarching plot
-Blatant villain (how haven’t the characters found him yet)

FREEZER BURNED (LOWEST RANK): Koreha Zombie des ka?

This was totally worth it though.

Oh Zombie, you started off so well and so humorous. You even picked up a fairly interesting villain. Unfortunately he was an interesting villain guilty of godmodding. Yes, that’s right, godmodding. He was that kid in elementary school who calls shield before you tag him. They do of course defeat him, but the battle is somewhat anticlimactic and the viewer is left unsatisfied. In fact, the series completes itself before the twelfth episode because it was just complete fanservice. So unfortunately, Zombie,  you have a bad case of freezer burn. Koreha Zombie des ka is streaming on Crunchyroll.
+Humor
+Moe Necromancer
+Catchy Ending Theme
-Plot
-Godmodding Villain
-Strange exposition

IN THE FREEZER: Yumekui Merry
Unlike the power of friendship!

Much like it’s first few episodes, Yumekui sort of loses its pace. Or rather, it gained too much of a pace. Within two episodes the main villain is revealed, introduced, and defeated in the finale. Perhaps most frustrating about the final battle is the fact that Merry’s innate power shown in an earlier episode is never brought up. Ever. And perhaps the biggest annoyance is the power Yumeji seems to gain: his will. Yes, that’s right. The one thing that can possibly protect a human from a dream demon is your will. He still was unable to win without help from others, but I feel as though “the power of will” was both a cop out and a little inspiring. The only reason Yumekui is scoring higher than Zombie is because it pulls off the final battle so well. All the character stories are resolved (with the exception of Merry, who is unable to return “just because”) in a timely manner and by the last episode, no fan service required. While it is based off a manga, there has been no second season revealed as of yet. And that’s why Yumekui never quite made it from the freezer. Like Merry’s quest to go home, it will stay frozen for a long time.
  +Plot
  +Animation
  +Fight Sequences
  -Plot Resolution
  -Goals (don't encourage the NEET's!)
  -Plot device never touched upon again (Merry's power)

IN THE OVEN: Wandering Son

He is most certainly not a zombie.

While one of the nicest shows of the season, Wandering Son didn’t quite make it to the top of the top. It is certainly a great show to satiate your anime appetite, especially with its artwork, the finale is a little confusing. Shuichi seems to have finally grown into himself, but whether that means him giving up on his personal feelings to become a female and undergo a sex change or that others have finally accepting him is a little unclear. Now, the finale is actually the twelfth episode, the tenth and eleventh having been combined and so some things may be explained in the expanded version of the series. For now, however, the fact that there is no definite answer is a little confusing. And yet, the open endedness is appreciatable. Wandering Son ends with a warm feeling, like the feeling one gets when standing in front of an open oven door. And so, it certainly garnishes a high review. Wandering Son is streaming on CrunchyRoll.
  +Art
  +Plot
  +Ending Theme
  -Finale
  -Ambiguous Antagonists
  -Quickened Exposition (final episode)

GOURMET MEAL: Fractale

No it's not, that's not Haruhi!

Yutaka Yamamoto never ceases to amaze me with his story ideas. In an interview in The Otaku Encyclopedia he said he was aiming to move away from moé anime, as well as the fact that he was working on a great project for 2010 (it made it out in 2011 so that counts). Fractale ends in an amazing conclusion to the series, pulling everything together and nicely concluding the show, something that all anime should do. I only had a few issues here, one of which was the fact that there is always the “god” character in his shows. It all started with Haruhi…and I will say no more without revealing the ending. The other is the endless cycle that seems to be invoked, though I suppose with lack of access to a certain place, history will not be doomed to repeat itself. In the end any issues it had seemed to have worked themselves out, especially since you are able to see the whole series in a new light. Fractale is available on Funimation’s YouTube channel.
  +Animation
  +Soundtrack
  +Plot
  -Existentialism (God again?)
  -Future Implications
  -COMPLETE PERSONALITY CHANGE

Madoka Magica  will be reviewed separately. Look forward to the Spring Review in the next blog post. Unfortunately there are a lot of things I want to watch this spring, but don’t have the time to review them all in one go (the spring season is MASSIVE)! So, consider it Spring Review I and when I finally get the time to watch the next half we’ll consider it Spring Review II! Look forward to these shows in part I:
Iroha
Ore-tachi
Sekai Ichi
Hoshizora
Tiger and Bunny
Astarotte's Toy
Hen Zemi
Nichijou
Abnormal Physiology Seminar
Deadman Wonderland

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pray for... (Transliteration)

I drew upon t1211 and Moetron's translations to come up with this transliteration. This is the most I can do, because my voice is not suited to Miku or Gumi's ranges in this song. Let me know if you use it and spread it around! : ) Let's all pray for Japan!



Is my prayer really reaching to you?
Does it reach where you are at?
If this voice of mine cannot reach you,
I will still continue to pray for you.

In this deep mystery of unknown darkness
You stopped a bit to adjust your eyes
Is the anxiety keeping you from sleeping?
Were you crying silently because of your fear?

All of the students that always act so stoic
It seems like all of that's come to an end
140 words of the prayer I'm praying
I will softly devote them to you

My voice cannot reach where you are at
My hand cannot reach to you either
Therefore I will offer up this brief prayer
To the skies
To the stars
To God
And to you

I'll pray up to the skies
Up to the stars, way up above
I'll offer a prayer to God too
Just so long, as it reaches you

You are never really alone
Everyone is actually connected
We just cannot see it
Therefore let's all face forward right now!

I'll pray up to the skies
Up to the stars, way up above
I'll offer a prayer to God too
Just so long, as it reaches you

I'll pray up to the skies
Up to the stars, way up above
I'll offer a prayer to God too...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mid-Season Review

Before I start off, it would be callous of me not to address the current situation in Japan. Every night I pray for those I know, and I pray for those I don’t. It goes beyond the stereotypical American Otaku, wanting a singular industry to survive. I want the people to survive, and I want the country to survive. I have been following what has been happening through someone’s first-hand account, news from ANN (animenewsnetwork.com), the BBC, and the New York Times. One of the best donation efforts I’ve seen has been Crunchyroll (crunchyroll.com) as they match every donation dollar for dollar. Something else to note is the need for food and other supplies, especially blood for the injured. There’s a cultural stigma against donating blood in Japan, so for the American Red Cross to be continuing to supply it is fantastic. If there was a donation in my area, you can bet I would be all over it (being the universal type that I am).
With all that said, let’s take a look at the same shows I reviewed earlier on this season. Some shows started later, so they are four episodes away. Other’s are two away. Either way, I admire the hard working members of the industry for continuing onwards with all the devastation going on around them.  Some shows I have changed some of my opinion on, but I am not going to reiterate upon what was said before.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Wow. Just wow. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica has taken quite a turn and it is in the best direction possible. One of the things I pointed out at the beginning of the season is that there was a wandering plotline, and that has certainly been solved by the eighth and ninth episodes. However, the references have gotten more and more complicated. Madoka has easily become my favorite show this season, especially with its twists and ideology. There is a definite tribute to the mech work Bokurano later on.  
+ Soundtrack
+ Animation
+ Overall Plot
- WARNING! EXISTENTIAL CONTENT!
- References not everyone may understand
- Potentially annoying protagonist

Fractale
Fractale has kept very much the same lighthearted feeling as before, which is good as it starts to handle heavier material later on. While the material is not as heavy as that covered in Madoka, it still brings up a good deal of questions. They aren’t new questions, as it is something asked in almost every work at some point in time, but they are good questions. If anything, Fractale has kept me coming back to learn more about the vivid world that is depicted and to look more closely at some of the character interactions as they grow more and more intertwined. Fractale is streaming on Funimation.
+Soundtrack
+Character Design
+Plot
- Common Theme
-Menagerie of Characters
- Occasionally overuse jokes

Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko)
The art style continues to blow me away every time I watch this show. It’s soft and matches the slow plot. Of course, by now I’m still not sure what the plot is. There is still the attempt to grasp one’s identity, and it is pulled off incredibly well. Almost too well. Wandering Son has become, essentially, an afterschool special. Anyone who is used to the push for shonen style action understands why this is so baffling, and enjoyable, about this. Even with all the faults it starts to pick up in later episodes (it started much later than the others, so it’s only on its seventh or eighth episode and is only picking up its stride. There’s actually quite a lot fit into the half hour episodes, which is what makes it so difficult to pinpoint just how it is going to end. Wandering Son is now streaming on CrunchyRoll.
+Art Style
+Voice Acting
+Slice of Life
- Plot not to everyone’s liking
-Forgettable score
-Confusing character relationships

Gosick
Gosick has certainly developed out of its standard detective plot. By now there is quite a bit happening and a nice overarching story line. AT times they have even brought for the question of whether or not one of the main characters even exists. There are certainly a good deal of delightful lplot twists that  have occurred since the beginning and seem to be heading towards the same stunning conclusion Otome Youkai Zakuro had. Gosick is currently streaming on CrunchyRoll.
+Art Style
+Ghost Story/Fairy Tale References
+Sherlock Holme's homages
-Almost uncanny plot twists
-How did they do it?! moments
-The same references start to be used over and over again

Yumekui Merry (Dream Eater Merry)
Yumekui has gained it’s plot and my what  a plot it is. Sometimes I wonder how they are going to fit it all into twelve episodes and they throw out an amazing twist halfway through the episode to ensure it happens. Of  course, it does have an entire episode dedicated to exposition where the kittens go fan service, but what anime doesn’t (probably Evangelion). Here’s to an exciting conclusion!
+Story Line
+Plot raises decent questions
+Character Design
-Soundtrack
-Long Plot Development
-Shinji syndrome

Koreha Zombie Des Ka?
Same silliness, same problems as before. While Zombie has picked up the big bad of the series, it does not seem to be doing much with it. It continues to take itself lightly without apology, and even when a major event happens it’s not quite as heart wrenching as it could be. Koreha Zombie Des Ka? is now being streamed on CrunchyRoll.
+Silliness
+Creative Villain
+Character design
-Silliness
-Long Plot Development
-No clear conclusion

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Princess Tutu Review Part I

There are a lot of good series that get overlooked in the anime world, often resurging at random times into massive fandoms. Last summer I made my way through one such anime, entitled Princess Tutu. The series director is Shougo Kawamoto, by now probably best remembered for his work on Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Escaflowne. However, leading up the full series is Junichi Sato, which makes all too much sense.

 Sato also worked on Cowboy Bebop at one point. He must really enjoy throwing these protagonists out windows.
While I have not watched Kaleido Star yet, I do eventually plan on doing so, even more now that Sato, the lead director of Tutu and Sailor Moon is on board. If you are not sold on the series yet, fret not, there is still a world that awaits you. I am not going to hold back on spoilers, and will presume the reader has some knowledge about the show. However, if you are trying to avoid them and still reading this I would avoid the section on characters and the last paragraphs of plot. That said, let’s take a dive into Princess Tutu starting with something I always feel is important to any anime: music.


MUSIC

Overall

Originally I was going to dedicate this section to the way the episode titles interact with the show. I still am, there is just one thing to get out of the way that honestly stunned me. The musical director of he series is one well respected among the RPG video game community: Kaoru Wada. Yes, this is the same Kaoru Wada who has been in charge of Kingdom Heart’s music direction (more notably the opening orchestrations) and Inuyasha’s musical direction as well. With that out of the way I want to look at something unique to this anime (I can’t say I’ve watched any other’s that utilize this). Each episode has a particular subtitle, so while the first season is known as Chapter of the Egg the episode title may be something like The Wedding Waltz or Swan Lake.  Even watching episode 12 the suite Scheherazade appears early on in the episode, something that appears early on as a title. Even after it is played though, there is another suite that joins in. I’m not nearly familiar enough with ballets to identify some of these songs or when it is just Kaoru Wada’s touch to the series. This is perhaps a sign of a great composer. It might seem a little strange to have so much ballet music within it, but keep in mind that this is an entire show about ballet. What’s more, the show is designed with the idea that the whole world is a book, or a stage. It is almost necessary for the show to have such a strong classical influence, and what’s more the show does a brilliant job of picking the right suite for the right episode. Episode 13, Swan Lake carries most of this classical ballet and manages to make even the most elegant of music into a battle scene. So while not an entirely original score, the music of Tutu is one to be greatly desired: incorporated wonderfully and without shame.

Opening/Ending

Another interesting fact about Tutu is that it not only keeps it’s same opening and ending sequence without change, but also the same songs. I don’t know much about Ritsuko Okazaki aside from her work on Tutu, but from what I’ve pulled up across the internet is that it was one of her final works and she released one single afterwards. What’s more disheartening is that she died young. The opening is one of the better ones, and very fitting for a show like Tutu. It is almost impossible not to relax when listening to Morning Grace, and even harder to avoid conjuring up images of ballet. One of the cooler parts occurs right before the show starts when Okazaki brilliantly incorporates part of Swan Lake. When I first sat down to watch the series this wowed me and made me a little hesitant to continue on: was this just going to be a retelling of Swan Lake? Had Wikipedia (as it often does) lied to me? To this day I’m still not entirely certain if it did, but I am glad I continued on afterwards. With such a wonderful opening though, the ending, Watashi No Ai Wa Chiisaikeredo, becomes a little disappointing. It invokes the same soft feeling of a gentle lullaby and after an especially action filled episode takes out some of the drama, winding it all the way down. If I had to pick one to change I would choose the ending, even though it has its own calming merits.

ART STYLE AND ANIMATION

If I were to compile a list of difficult actions to animate, ballet would certainly be up there. For those who have ever fenced, you know that the entire sport was designed to make the body do things it was not meant to (this may be discussed later in a review of Revolutionary Girl Utena). Ballet is fencing taken one step farther: the French grew bored with making the body fight and decided to have it do even more difficult things. Thus, we have ballet. So for an anime to pull off animating something as difficult as ballet there has to be a lot of work put into it, and it certainly shows that there was. It is not hard to imagine an actual ballet dancer pulling off some of the brilliantly illustrated scenes. Unfortunately, this means some battle scenes are a little lacking, especially when Fakir or Muto (Mythos) is involved. There is a definite shift in the style of animation, and sometimes even the coloring. It’s not often notable, but when it does happen and is picked up on it can be a little annoying. This is probably more on the key animators, but let’s take a look at our animation director.

I don’t usually pay too much attention to the character design and animation director. Well, I do, but I don’t often notice if they match up. In this case Ito Ikuko is not only the original creator, but also the chief animation director and in charge of character design.  He also worked on Sailor Moon, which shows in some of the character’s facial expressions.  For the most part their quite smooth, but they can get silly. This is especially true with Drosselmeyer, who always seems a bit out of place with the other characters. This is probably done on purpose, as he stands outside of the plot itself.

Overall Tutu does not have the smoothest animation by today’s standards. Compared to other releases of its time (2002), it’s still not that sharp. If you keep in mind the fact the release time is well before the advent of full digital media, then the idea of quality improves somewhat. Even so, the slight grain in the animation and coloring is reminiscent of the eighties and nineties. In the end, what it gains for animating difficult scenes (and even mild use of CG for gears), the quality is still not quite there.

SEE PART II FOR PLOT AND CHARACTERS
Princess Tutu is now airing on Hulu.