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 (, the BBC, and the New York Times. One of the best donation efforts I’ve seen has been Crunchyroll ( 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
- References not everyone may understand
- Potentially annoying protagonist

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.
+Character Design
- 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 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
-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.
+Creative Villain
+Character design
-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.



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.


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.


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.

Princess Tutu is now airing on Hulu.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Upcoming Reviews

Been really busy lately, but luckily a break is coming up so I should have time to do a proper review. Look forward to the following shows to be coming in the following months. It's a little difficult to do these reviews as it requires watching the entire series, taking notes, and then doing a write up. Sometimes I have to watch it twice if I have not seen it before (once for enjoyment, once for academia):

Princess Tutu
Wolf's Rain
Full Metal Alchemist (The original run, not Brotherhood)
Summer Wars

Claymore [Vol 1-4]