Author Archives: nachtmerrieschultz

Review: Inuyasha

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When people think of filler in anime, I assume they’re thinking of things like Bleach or Naruto, two series that thrived off stupid side plots that weren’t in the manga but people still watched. You see, filler is what happens when a series is popular but has an unfinished story manga-wise so the anime creators decide to screw it and make up plots. Now, I don’t know exactly where the filler arc originated, but the first time ever really noticed it was in the series Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi. The manga ran from 1996 to 2008 and the anime… Well the first series ran from 2000 to 2004 before the rightly named Final Act aired in 2009 to 2010. Rumiko Takahashi is also known for her work on Ranma ½ and most recently Rin-ne. However, I think, Inuyasha next to Ranma ½ is her most influential and long lasting work as it has continued to be prevalent in anime culture to this day.

The story follows Kagome Higurashi, your normal high-school girl who lives at a shrine in Tokyo who is magically transported to “Feudal Era” Japan. It’s there that she meets Inuyasha and wacky shenanigans ensue. They meet a multitude of other characters and have crazy love triangles all while trying to save the… “Feudal Era.” Also, there’s some stuff about a magic jewel that, completely by accident, is shattered into like… 99 shards if I remember correctly. I could make the joke about the main characters yelling each other’s name dramatically, but honestly, everyone’s sort of made that joke at this point. Besides, there’s a lot of other things I can make fun of! Like the fact that random characters seriously use “Ye” and that this is a series that continues the early 2000s tradition of reading out loud the horribly translated title cards. I’m also probably exaggerating the whole “filler arc” thing as well, but somewhere along the way it felt like the story stagnated and keep repeating the same three story lines when the anime ran out of manga to transcribe.

This is a series I watched every Saturday on Adult Swim’s anime block and it was actually one of my first anime series! It holds a special place in my heart, but like many things I have grown out of it and recognize that there are some things that could be better about the series. This is basically a repeat case of Chrono Crusade but with infinitely better end results.

For characters, we start with Kagome of course. She’s the traditional student who’s just trying to get the boy and graduate. Everything changes naturally when she falls in an ancient well on her family’s property. Then she’s transported to “Feudal” Japan with only a little emotional trauma. It’s there that she finds out who she is, or who she used to be, and what she has to do. It’s also there that she meets Inuyasha.

Inuyasha is a half-demon boy who only wants to become a full demon, mostly due to tragic backstory and yadda yadda. He’s rough around the edges, but he means well. He’s your typical early 90s/2000s male protag that’s honestly just trying his best. He and Kagome work well as characters together, often fighting and creating a lot of humor with each other. He does have a lot of issues though, especially in concern to that big ol’ who Kagome used to be thing.

We also have Sango a demon hunter with anger problems and a tragic backstory. She’s there to act as… Well, a love interest for another character. She is awesome, using a huge boomerang to kill demons alongside her companion who’s… A giant cat or something? I was never really sure what Kirara was, but I knew she was cool.  Sango’s on both a path for revenge and character growth. She spends a lot of time being one of the actually more helpful characters in the series, but is held back by your typical early 2000s character type that almost echoes the tsundere but not completely.

Then finally, last but not least, Miroku a perverted monk who also surprisingly has a tragic backstory. He has a magic deus ex machina hand hole, it’s actually called the Wind Tunnel, and it sucks up everything from demons to land. One day though, it’ll probably consume Miroku too, which would be more worrisome if the cast didn’t seem to either forget about it or somehow have it incapacitated. Like, it’s literally an OP skill that gets sort of pushed to the side so Miroku can be a pervert and the comedic relief too often.

There’s also a multitude of side characters that don’t really add much to the story. That’s one of my major issues with this series, we’re introduced to a really big cast that just don’t really do anything, like they’re there but in the grand scheme of things Kagome and Inuyasha are the important ones. That and a lot of these characters are just… Not the greatest? It feels like everyone has a tragic backstory but it doesn’t really excuse their awful personalities. I mean, a lot of the characters grow eventually, but I felt the story suffered from the abundance of characters.

The art is… Frankly a bit dated in the style itself. You can see it in the way the face and eyes are shaped compared to more recent series, the eyes are squarer while the faces are sharp, short, and round. That being said it’s not entirely bad though, some parts of it still hold up to this day, especially fight scenes. Inuyasha in any fight still looks clean and each frame, well not each, is a good screenshot. I would say that while dated this series animated art holds up a lot better than late 2000s series. It doesn’t fall into horrible anatomy or cringe worthy moe-bait. Both animations were done by Sunrise Studio who is most recently known for the Love Live! series, but more popularly known for the Gundam series or Cowboy Bebop to name a few series. It was licensed by the all too familiar companies Madman Entertainment and Viz Media. These are all studios that are great and have accomplished a lot and it shows with Inuyasha how far they had come then and how far they have since then. Now, I didn’t read the manga, but from the art I’ve seen it comes off farm more simplistic in design, at least character-wise, but also charming at the same time. Also, you can see how Rumiko Takahashi has grown in terms of her art as Inuyasha comes of a bit sharper compared to later series she has done.

Sound wise, I’ve only watched the dub and I always, and still do this day, thought it was a pretty good dub in terms of voice and execution. Now, translation wise…. I won’t be praising that. There is a character that says “Ye” to make us believe we’re in the far long past but literally no other characters from the past speak that way. That aside though, the main characters were well voiced and acted, I never had an issue with that. For instance, Inuyasha was voiced by Richard Ian Cox, who also voiced Ranma in Ranma ½  and Kai Shiden in like five different versions of Mobile Suit Gundam. Honestly though, none of the actors have done a lot in terms of anime beyond Inuyasha, at least not big roles unless you’re counting Kelly Sheridan as… Starlight Glimmer in MLP: Friendship is Magic… However, I don’t think that takes away from the show at all, rather it sort of gives a different feel of how unique the show was. This is still one of Viz Media’s strongest dubs, I would say, personally at least, and it still holds up compared to other works they’ve done. The acting is on point and never feels contrived like some newer series might. Music wise, I remember most of the themes being amazing, even if there felt like there was a new one every twenty episodes. The ones I remember most clearly are probably the first seasons ending themes which were done by Dream and Do As Infinity. Both were sweet and slow ending songs really showed the softer side of the series that would get bogged down by all the drama and growing violence in the story line. Ultimately, I think much like the art this sound holds up just as equally as the art.

I know that these days Inuyasha can sort of come off as a joke in most anime circles, but I like to think that’s because for many people it was a starting point for an interest in the anime format. It was for me at least. While there are things that could be better, translations and reused plots, but beyond that it holds up nicely. If you ever want something that you could binge watch or just enjoy in the background, I’d say this series is perfect for that!

Inuyasha: 8.5/10

Review: Seraph of the End

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Listen, there is a level of bait that is great in small doses, but this is taking it to a whole different plane of existence on top of the whole vampire apocalypse business. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you obviously haven’t heard of Serpah of the End or Owari no Seraph or Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign. Originally published by Shueisha and Viz Media, it is a series written by Takaya Kagami, drawn by Yamato Yamamoto, and storyboarded by Daisuke Furuya, the first two having previously worked mostly with light novels. It started 2012 and is currently still on going, mostly drawn out of the last few years with the last update being around the 11th of October at a total of 50 chapters. The anime series by Wit Studio aired 2 seasons throughout 2015, and like many series is just on hiatus while more chapters are added. The series also has 6 light novels under the title Owari no Seraph- Ichinose Guren, 16-sai no Hametsu or Serpah of the End: Guren Ichinose: Catastrophe at Sixteen. They have also recently released the Serpah of the End: The Story of Vampire Mikaela in 2015. Wow, that’s a lot of really long titles…

Like many recent stories, Seraph of the End is centered around the end of the world, but after a virus ravages the world and allows for… Vampires to appear and decide to take over the planet since the virus won’t affect them? Listen, I know it sounds dumb, but this is the actual plot. It’s like Attack on Titan in a way only… Maybe a lot less convoluted. Anyway, the story specifically follows Yuichiro Hyakuya and his journey for vengeance against the vampires, who killed his family and rule over them. He does this by joining the Japanese Imperial Demon Army alongside a few other kids who slowly become his new-found family, all while mourning his best friend Mikaela who sacrificed himself for Yuu (as he is affectionately called by other characters). The way to join the army, I know you’re all wondering, is to make a pact with a demon. So, these kids are literary risking being possessed to fight vampires. Again, I know how this plot sounds, but it’s a lot of fun. This also isn’t including all the twists and turns that the story takes with hidden agendas and who the real villains are.

There’s a lot of things happening in this series that are hard to cover and explain without spoilers.

As stated, Yuichiro Hyakuya is the main character of the story, and boy does he play the part. He is literally all the things a main character is, hot headed a to name one. He has feels strongly about family and friends, wanting to protect anyone he considers family. Since he was 12 he has wanted to destroy all vampires for the violent murder of his family, the Hyakuya Orphanage, whether this blinds him sometimes or not, well that’s open for interpretation. To do this he joins the Demon Army and makes a pact with Asuramaru, a katana that is possessed by a demon, but he has another source of power. All I will say is he is The King of Salt.

Next is Mikaela Hyakuya and if you’re upset about spoilers… The dude is literally in the opening as teenager next to Yuu. When he sacrificed himself for his friend he was instead taken by a vampire and turned. However, he has yet to become a full vampire, as he has never drunken the blood of a human. Something has happened to him that has caused him to detest both vampires and humans, allowing to focus on one goal only: Find Yuu. That is his motivation. He also is extremely worried about meeting Yuu again, since you know… Vampire.

Literally, I cannot stress this enough. The two main characters are so incredibly devoted to each other that I can’t handle it. They go from staring at each other in the first opening credits to literally cradling each other’s faces in the second. It’s so bait filled that it’s glorious, but it also hurts me. It hurts so much.

Anyway, the next character is Shinoa Hiiragi, Yuu’s commanding officer in their specific squad. She acts much older than she is and is related to the most powerful human family in the series. She has a scythe called Shikama Doji, which apparently means Four-Scythe Child. She, like Yuu, considers her squad her family as she begins forming relationships with them. She also is the character that gets to develop feelings for Yuu, as most main female characters do.

Finally, the last character I want to cover is Guren Ichinose, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Demon Army. He also leads his own squad while being the leader of the company Yuu is a part of. He seems strict and uptight, finding weakness in many places, especially in how Yuu carries himself alongside his squad. His sort of the stand in father figure for Yuu. His demon weapon is Mahiru-no-Yo or Midday’s Night, a katana.  He was around before the fall of humanity and watched it destroy so many, including people very important to him.

There’s a lot of other characters I could cover, but there is a lot. A lot on both sides, humans and vampires and we’d all like to avoid as many spoilers as we could if possible.

This is a beautiful series; it also has a great attention to color and detail in facial expressions. I would say that the anime is a bit prettier than the manga and that’s only because you can watch the action happen fluidly. Much like a series like Haikyuu you get a feel of everything that’s happening. The series was licensed by Studio Witt, also known for Attack on Titan… which explains a lot. My AoT complaints aside the color on this series is gorgeous, certain color combinations to not be acknowledged. Blood comes off as actually thick and sort of gooey, all in good ways that show the sort of brutality in the show’s world. Hair seems thick and fluidly move in wind and action. Trust me, I’m all about that hair action and how it moves during actions, and this show delivers. It also has scenes that are genuinely painful because of how well it’s animated, like a character is dying and it legit looks awful to go through. The series was directed by Daisuke Tokudo and had episodes personally drafted by the manga’s writer for story that now goes past the manga’s current chapter. This is a good-looking show and easy to enjoy visually. It was licensed for America by Funimation and that leads us straight into how good the dub is.

This is a great dub, but it does have some interesting moments in how it was directed. I’ve only seen the full dub and a few select scenes in Japanese, but overall I think you could go for either and be happy with what you heard. As stated earlier, the dub was done by Funimation, so you know it’s a good one for the most part. It has Micah Solusod as Yuichiro, a voice actor also known for his role as Soul Eater Evans in Soul Eater or more recently as Yuri Plisetsky in Yuri!!! On Ice (which you should all go watch). Solusod has a very Johnny Young Bosch feel sometimes and I found myself wondering which one it was sometimes. It also has Jerry Jewell, as Shinya Hiiragi, who is known for many roles but perhaps best as Kyo in Fruits Basket or Russia in Axis Powers Hetalia, he’s also currently in Yuri!!! On Ice as Victor Nikiforov. I don’t think I need to go on about how good the dub is, but what about the original? It does have Miyu Irino, as Yuichiro, who is probably known best for his role as Sora in the Kingdom Hearts video games or as Todomatsu recently in Osomatsu-san. But, and I know someone’s asking, what about the music? Well, it has a pretty sweet soundtrack. The soundtrack was produced and composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, also known for his work on the Blue Exorcist series and the Attack on Titan series. Overall, I think it has a great sound that works for everything that’s happening, though it does remind me of AoT a lot at times. Sawano also helped compose the opening and ending themes to the first series, though X.U., sung by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Gemie, is probably a stand out personally. It says everything that Mika and Yuu are feeling toward each other, though you could probably read into it differently than I did. I think you could check out either and be pretty pleased with what you heard.

This series is a lot like Attack on Titan, but I, and don’t get angry, think it’s better than its predecessor. There something about it that pulls more emotions from me; I feel like I actually get to know characters before their untimely demise. I also think that this show definitely plays up the relationships characters are building a lot more fluidly.  However, I can’t ignore that it is a lot like AoT at times and many other post-apocalypse stories. It is a bit distracting when I think of certain things and how convoluted it can be at times. I’m also worried that it’s going to fall into the same political arc that AoT did, something that stagnated the series tremendously for me. Ultimately though, I enjoyed this series and all of its faults. If anything, you could check it out and see if you end up enjoying yourself.

Seraph of the End: 8/10

Review: Cardcaptor Sakura

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A magical girl that fights using magical cards to fight even more magical cards while also dealing with her 6th grade nonexistent love life? Well, if that isn’t a CLAMP storyline then I don’t know what is. Yes, everyone, today we’re covering CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura, one of the groups most famous and influential series. It definitely shows in the group’s later work considering Tsubasa and xxxHolic, as well as the new series that follows Cardcaptor’s lead in middle school. The original manga ran from 1996 to 2000 under the Japanese publisher Kodansha and the English Publishers Madman Entertainment and Dark Horse Comics. The anime under the same name ran from 1998 to 2000 and was made by Studio Madhouse. Recently, this month actually, the sequel series Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Edition began serialization in the magazine Nakayoshi.

Now the story follows Sakura Kinomoto who accidentally releases the magic cards, called Clow Cards, across the city when she’s messing around in her basement. After this, she is chosen by the mascot character and guardian of the cards to find them. And all she wanted to do was work up the courage to confess her feelings to a boy and get by in school alongside her best friend. Along the way she goes through some over the top adventures and grows up, I guess? It’s a show that started with the monster of the week vibe before going into long arcs in the span of like 70 episodes. It’s also a genre that CLAMP had never tried out before and it shows.

The main character Sakura, as stated above, who is a ten-year-old school girl who is just too sweet to be real. She tries super hard despite struggling to understand all the magic and adventure going on around her. In the beginning of the series she pretty openly has a crush on her older brother’s best friend Yukito, this is important I swear. Altogether, Sakura isn’t really anything beyond a strong willed girl doing her best? And that’s not bad, not at all, but it feels like they never let her really be more. She’s there to smile and be sweet because the plot demands for it. She’s always trying her best and stays positive in almost every situation, which is endearing but somewhat unrealistic.

Kero or his formal name Cerberus is the mascot character who is the guardian of the Clow Cards and ends up making Sakura find them again. You’d think he’d be this cool and mature figure cause of the whole guardian thing, but he’s just… Not? Mascot character syndrome I swear. He likes eating and playing video games and is sort of annoying as most mascot characters are. He does genuinely care about Sakura though and wants to help her get the job done. In his true form he looks like a lion with wings while his fake form looks like a stuffed animal with wings.

Then there’s Tomoyo Daidouji, Sakura’s best friend. She’s a kind rich girl who grew up around maids and bodyguards. She is someone who just wants to be with Sakura forever as a friend or something more, anything really. She also ends up filming most of Sakura’s adventures while supplying cute magical girl outfits for the other to wear. She mostly does that for her own enjoyment, but she genuinely cares for Sakura and wants the other to be happy.

Finally, there’s Syaoran Li who is a lot different from the character he is in Tsubasa. In this series, Syaoran is a descendant of the creator of the Clow Cards, which makes him believe he’s the only one who should be hunting for them. This makes him initially volatile towards Sakura as he forces his way into her business and life. Along the way though, he does begin to respect her as a cardcaptor and friend. He is originally from China, but moves to Japan in response to the cards being released to gather them. Basically, he’s a mean little kid who starts to get nice because friendship fixes everything.

There’s a whole lot of other character’s but for spoiler’s sake I’ll leave them be. The one thing I will say is that CLAMP does a lot with characters here, things you’d expect and things you wouldn’t. For instance, the group really likes writing forbidden or “taboo” relationships, something that shows up in many of their series. They do this in multiple ways in Cardcaptor, some that are really interesting and beautifully done, such as the openly LGBTQ+ relationships that we can see in the background and characters who are deeply connected to Sakura. And all of this is being viewed through Sakura who loves everyone no matter how they identify. This was something that I really enjoyed about the series, that CLAMP was giving representation and showing it to a young audience and presenting the LGBTQ+ in such a positive way to said audience. Plus, they continue to do that with much of their later work, they keep giving representation in their own way and helping many young people see themselves in popular media.

But then it gets to the relationships that are actually… Really questionable? Like, very young underage girl with a 20+ teacher questionable, which they end up romanticizing. I’m not gonna get into it though, because most of these relationships or subjects don’t really appear in the anime, instead they’re mildly hinted at compared to being out and open in the manga.

Animation wise this is an older series, but it’s actually not that bad. It holds up pretty well in comparison to a lot of other series that were produced at the time. It was produced by Madhouse, known also for Chobits and One Punch Man, a company that only got better with time. I would say that it really is similar a lot of series that were produced at the same time. It has a similar line style to that of many other magical girl series being produced at the time or even series like Battle Athletes that had heavy outlines on characters. It has extremely thick lines and for the anime was very subject to the “moe blob” face. You know the one, where the mouth is a little too close to the eyes, but honestly proportion wise, compared to other CLAMP series, it’s well done. This is a visually appealing series. It’s bright and full of color. I would say that the manga seems a lot softer in art style comparatively, everything seems softer or more gentle in how it appears. Which really works with a lot of the underlying themes in the series, because the characters stay soft despite everything that is thrown at them. The manga itself was serialized in Nakayoshi then collected in 12 books by Kodansha which would then be licensed by Tokyopop here in America. I will say that the manga has gorgeous art. CLAMP does beautifully in this genre, especially when you inspect each separate Clow Card and see the detail. Which, is something compared to how lackluster the sound of the anime is.

Sound wise, the anime is a bit forgettable. I wouldn’t say any of the opening or ending music is iconic or that the voice acting is outstanding, I’ve also only seen the Japanese version. Still, the shows score was composed by Takayuki Negishi alongside Masafumi Mima. The score itself works really well for the shojo genre and is pretty to listen to. It just isn’t… That notworthy? It doesn’t have the same feel that other CLAMP scores have, at least not for me personally, but that could be because it is such a specific genre. For voice acting, like I said it’s a good, but it’s not outstanding like many people like to claim it is. Every actor does a good job, especially Sakura Tange as Sakura, who hasn’t done much other work and Motoko Kumai who plays Syaoran, know also for her work in Chobits as Sumomo and MAR as Ginta.  I haven’t seen the English dub and from what I’ve heard I don’t want to.

You see, this series was also dubbed during the day and age of localizing the character’s name and taking huge liberties with their characters. Tomoyo became Madison for instance. They got rid of a lot of things that they felt would be inappropriate or not reach the English audience. Ocean Studios did the English dub in works with the series American licensor Nelvana and actually got rid of the original musical score and replaced it with their own. There was another dub done by Omni Productions that was a lot more faithful to the Japanese version. This series was also aired out of order to appeal to male viewers more than the intended female audience. So basically, this series was butchered when it aired here in America originally and everything I’ve heard and looked up implies that the dub and editing of said dub was panned universally with how bad it was.

I would say Carcaptor is maybe worth a watch, despite anything I said above, or maybe even worth a read? I personally have only read a few chapters of the manga, after watching the entirety of the anime in like the span of two weeks, because magical girl as a genre is not my personal favorite. It is a series that tries to do a lot of fun things with the genre itself! If you like this type of storytelling or even are just looking to try something out, I would completely suggest looking into this show. I may not have enjoyed the series to its fullest, but someone else out there might adore it. What matters is that the series is fun and tries new things but remains true to CLAMP as a group of creators.

Cardcaptor Sakura: 7/10

Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun

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It’s hard to confess your feelings for someone, especially when that someone gives you an autograph because you said you were their fan instead of actually saying how you felt. Even more so when that boy turns out to be a shojo manga creator that you idolize. And if you think that’s bad, you don’t even know the end of it for the series Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun or Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun. This series is a romantic comedy and published Square Enix in Japan and Yen Press in America. It’s currently ongoing, having started in 2011 and recently had an anime adaptation in 2014 produced by Dogakobo.

The series is pretty episodic, but the overarching “plot” is that Sakura is trying to confess her feelings to Nozaki, maybe muddles her words a bit and is instead enlisted into helping with Nozaki’s secret manga career. Though, she doesn’t exactly protest to it, because it lets her get closer to her crush and really learn who he is as a person. Along the way, Sakura ends up meeting other people coerced into helping Nozaki and more, all while having fun adventures. And misinterpreting Nozaki’s intentions to the pain of the reader, but hey, she’ll learn one day right? Well, we can only hope.

Character wise, I would say that this is a fun series for characters and changing up some archetypes, especially with the full cast.

So, first off we have Chiyo Sakura, she’s ultimately a romantic at heart and often lets that blind her from the reality of her situation. She constantly thinking of the romance she could be having with Nozaki, but is also happy with their current situation. Sakura is also slowly coming into her own as the story goes along, learning about others and herself in certain plotlines while still maintaining what makes her character.

Then we have Umetaro Nozaki, who is… For lack of a better word oblivious. He can’t seem to figure out that Sakura is in love with him, even though everyone else can. He secretly works as a manga artist for a romance series, while having no experience himself in love. So, when Sakura arrives he not only enlists her for line work but also to help him understand certain aspects of romance. He doesn’t think much beyond story plots and characters for his work, which often makes him seem sort of curt and rude.

Mikoto Mikoshiba is also one of Nozaki’s assistants and comes off as a popular handsome guy. In reality, he is actually shy and deals with a lot of embarrassment at some of the things he says. He also deals with anxiety around other people, easily uncomfortable around large groups of people he doesn’t know. He’s also low-key an otaku, who collects anime figurines and practices dating through dating sims. While he is sort of the comic relief he also is genuinely a fun character that just is trying his best.

Mikoto’s best friend Yu Kashima is the prince of the school despite being a girl. She’s also the star of the drama club, thanks to not only her acting talent but also her height. She’s constantly vying for Hori’s attention despite not having open romantic intentions for him. While being an airhead most of the time, she is a genuinely good character who wants to help out Hori as much as she can.

Masayuki Hori is the president of the drama club and another assistant for Nozaki. He’s amazingly good at acting, but is highly conscious of his height. Kashima is a pain in the neck for him, despite the very romantic undertones between the two and he often reacts violently towards her whenever she acts inappropriately or disrupts important situations. Despite this, he’s probably the more mature characters or rather the “straight-man.”

And these are only a few of the characters! There are others, but I honestly want to avoid spoilers as much as I can here, even with this series being so short and episodic. Also, many of the characters, at least the main two, are very cookie cutter and don’t really do much thanks to the rambunctious supporting cast. Still, these characters were refreshing, especially in a genre that really favors tsunderes. They really stretched some of the archetypes, but ultimately stayed true to the formula. It’s also a show that’s never mean to other characters, like intentionally. They poke fun at each other, but nothing is really malicious.

The art for this series is very… Cute and pretty. Which fits with the genre it’s in. The anime was produced by Dogakobo, who haven’t really done a whole lot of big name series beyond visual novel adaptations. But it was directed by Mitsue Yamazaki who is known for Durarara. The art is very shojo but, much like the characters, changes a lot of the usual genre archetype. It also isn’t too soft animation wise, instead having sharp lines. It’s also a very bright anime color wise. Sakura is soft and cute whereas Nozaki is sharp and muscular. It’s an anime that really seems, at least to me, to be very good for different characters and how they appear. Now, for the manga, I have no real idea. I haven’t read it, but from what I’ve seen it’s very similar and still has a lot of the same characteristics. It is a little softer line wise for me, but still has the fun that the anime has. I think both have their merits and worth taking a look into.

Sound wise, this was a good series. Now, I’ve only heard the Japanese dub and the very short English dubbed OVAs, but it was well done. All the voices match the characters, especially Yuichi Nakamura as Nozaki, who is also known for his work as Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Tetsuro Kuroo in Haikyuu, and Yuuki Ono as Masayuki Hori, also known for his work as Josuke Higashitaka in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. It definitely seemed like the cast was having fun with the stories and characters they were playing. The music itself is a bit underwhelming comparatively, but this usually how it goes for a Rom-Com anime. It’s light and fluffy, but also dark in other places for when the mood is right. The opening is Kimi Janakya Dame Mitai, which was performed by Masayoshi Oishi, and it’s a fun song that matches the fun opening animation. It’s just a light song to match the sort of up and down lightness of the show. Then there’s Uraomote Fortune, the ending theme, which honestly I didn’t feel was that great. Like it matched the show and Sakura’s feelings. Yet, when compared with the opening theme it comes off a bit… Dull. It’s pretty, don’t get me wrong, but when compared to the overall anime it seems to match only a very small portion of the series.

I watched this 12-episode series in the span of like three days with a friend, suffice to say, it’s a quick watch. But if you’re looking for a show that gives you a complete and fulfilling ending, well sorry but it’s not gonna be this show. I still feel denied, but also felt compelled to read the manga which is ongoing. However, sometimes an unsatisfying end is good? Though, I don’t think it really works with this series, especially with how it was executed.

Ultimately, I think that this series was a quick watch that had some really good times. It’s legitimately fun in very specific spots. So, if you think it’s up your alley… Look into it?

Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun: 7/10

Review: Chrono Crusade

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I’m about to get nostalgic here. This was one of the first series I ever watched, I rented the DVDs from Blockbuster, and have a lot of love for it. Except, recently, I re-watched it. Chrono Crusade is that anime. It was written and illustrated by Daisuke Moriyama also known for his work on World Embryo. Published in Comic Dragon and Monthly Dragon Age from November 1998- June 2004. It was then adapted into a 24-episode series by Gonzo, where it ran on Fuji TV, it’s run was from November 2003-June 2004. The anime, as most go, did not follow the original manga, which hurts its story immensely.

The story follows Sister Rosette Christopher and her assistant Chrono in the 1920s as they search for her long lost sibling. As well as deal with Chrono’s shadowy past as a demon/devil, which becomes more crucial as the plot advances. It also shows the Order of Magdalene which Rosette works for, a holy group made in order to fight the growing demon problem in the world, especially with the elusive group of demons called Sinners. Who may have something to do with Chrono? Along the way they gain new allies and enemies, while dealing with the issues at hand, such as finding the Apostles of God and stopping the end of the world.

Rosette Christopher is the protagonist of the series and is an elite exorcist of the order. Though she is impulsive and selfish, she genuinely tries her best. She has a mysterious past with Chrono, which is pretty much cleared up in the second volume. Rosette is also a contractor. Which means her life is slowly being drained by a demon. But that’s beside the point, she’s trying to make the most out of her short lifespan, often saying that despite her short life she’ll live longer than anyone ever believed she would. She often gets in trouble and is actually, in hindsight, sort of an annoying character that can grow on you the longer you read or watch. She’s to be the bright light of hope at the end of the tunnel who knows how short and precious life is in actuality.

Chrono is Rosette’s assistant and contractor. Surprise! It’s sort of revealed right away, so no worries. Yes, Chrono is a demon, but he’s trying to be a good person. This is because he owes Rosette his life and more, but also because he’s tired of hurting people. When compared to Rosette, he’s a much quieter, almost stoic. He plays the part of the mild young boy perfectly, though he is constantly plagued by everything he’s done and the continuing guilt in what has happened to Rosette because of him. His past continues to become more and more important as the plot grows, especially as it intertwines with Rosette’s. He’s the more endearing character of the series and this is because he’s the character that probably goes through the most character growth next to Rosette.

Azmaria Hendirch is the Songtress of Vegas, a twelve-year-old with the gift of healing through song. She’s soft spoken and easily shaken due to low self-worth. Rosette and Chrono save her and she begins tagging along on their adventures as a junior member of the Order. She looks up to Rosette, even if everyone questions it. Unfortunately, Azmaria doesn’t get a lot of actual growth till the last three volumes of the manga. Which, doesn’t make up for her being a tool to further Rosette’s storyline. She merely there for Rosette to see herself in and for sad comical relief.

There’s a lot more characters, but really to keep this as spoiler free as I can, I’ll cut it short here. It will also make the story seem complicated and contrived, which it really, really can be.

So, upfront, the manga is far prettier than the anime. Though, even that is dated. I can’t be too harsh though, because it was good at the time. Still, the anime was too bright at times and had uneven eye to face ratio. Just poor anatomy in general at times. It also really like fanservice, which was basically non-existent in the manga, at least overt fanservice wasn’t. It had a direction it was going for that was very much a part of its time, it wanted to appeal to a certain audience. In doing so, it made it have no appeal in the current times. The animation was done by Gonzo studio, better known for their work on Samurai 7 or Full Metal Panic! It also was just unkind to hair and the details that became so beautiful in the manga. On the subject of the manga, as I said, it is dated now, but holds up far better than the anime. It had far more attention to detail on the characters and really shined in the way hair moved on the pages or mouths were shaped. Like many series it became beautiful the longer it went on as a manga.

The sound of the series is a lot different, considering that the opening and ending themes are pretty beautiful and the stand out sounds of the series. Tsubasa wa Pleasure Line by Minami Kuribayashi was the theme and had an uplifting sound that showed the hopeful side of the series. Saeko Chiba’s Sayonara Solitaire was the ending them and acted as a literal building goodbye for the series and characters, the artist also was the voice of Azmaria in the Japanese release. The rest of the sound is nothing to really make a note, but was composed by Masumi Ito, known for her work on Azumanga Daioh and Scrapped Princess. The series, both English and Japanese, is not the prettiest to listen to and I would much rather recommend reading the manga. It’s actually pretty cringe worthy, considering that a majority of Rosette’s lines are fast and… Screechy. Hilary Haag voiced Rosette and is better known for her work as Satsuki Miyanoshita from Ghost Stories or Hermia from Princess Tutu. Greg Ayres played Chrono, but is better known for his voice as Kaoru Hitachiin from Ouran High School Host Club or Nagisa Hazuki from Free! Both of them worked hard and it’s clear, but the series is just very dated by the changes made to dialogue and how the characters just sound in general. Which isn’t to say the Japanese is much better, because it’s not. This is definitely a series that works best as a manga, where you can read things rather than listen.

This is a good series, I swear, just in a specific form. I fully endorse the manga where you’re going to get the original story, which frankly was much better when compared to the anime, and see it’s progression. It’s also a short read, only 8 volumes! While it’s a definitely a dated series it’s worth a look into. I’m not sure if it was popular or not, but it’s one of those series that I frequently tell people about and not many people know about it. At least not from what I’ve seen.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Review: Elfen Lied

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Some people just really like dark stories. Like really dark stories. Like we’re going to kill your pet puppy because you’re a horned freak dark. Anyway, Elfen Lied is a manga written and illustrated by Lynn Okamoto, who has really done anything else big as of yet. It was serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Young Jump from June 2002 to August 2005. The television show was produced by the studio Arms and was licensed by ADV Films here. The anime ran in 2004 from July to October, before the manga’s end, which means it had a different ending than the source material. For once though, that seems to be a good thing.

The story focuses on a new mutation of the human species, called Diclonius, who have horn like protrusions on the forehead and the ability to summon invisible telekinetic arms. It specifically follows one Diclonius, Lucy, who for a long time has been held captive in an experimental facility. She escapes and ends up with amnesia, due to an all too convenient head injury, under the new name Nyu. From there she meets Kohta and his cousin Yuka who proceed to care for her. And the story only ramps up from there. Lucy has to remember who she is and continue her fight for the Diclonius as their “queen.”

Now, this series is famous. Well, maybe not as famous as it used to be, but back in my day Elfen Lied was how you knew if someone liked grimdark anime or not, if they were hardcore. I remember watching this in a hush hush situation when I was too young to understand why a lot of the themes were a bit too extreme for a fourteen-year-old. Now the reason the series was famous was because it just went all out on nudity, gore, sexual themes, all around dark themes, and otherwise. Lucy escapes nude and spends a lot of time nude killing people in really gruesome ways, often to the point of excess. That isn’t to say that the series is good, because it really isn’t that good, but it was stretching what mainstream anime could be in 2004. Which is saying a lot. In hindsight though, at points, it seemed like it was just trying to be hardcore for the sake of it.

With the main characters I am about to introduce, I’ll focus on the anime as it is the part of the series I have actually seen.

Our lead character is Lucy or Nyu, who is probably the most advanced of the Diclonious. From a young age she was alienated by others and it caused to her to have a very bad outlook on the human race, to the point of having little to know feelings for them at all. She has a sadistic personality, often leaving others to bleed to death because she can, if not murdering them brutally. Lucy may have a past with Kohta, though it takes a while for that to be revealed. However, has Nyu she is very childlike, unable to say many words beyond ‘nyu’ and ‘Kohta.’ She is essentially all that is good in Lucy. However that doesn’t mean she isn’t cringe worthy at times, like nearly all the time.

Kohta is the story’s male protagonist who has decided to stay with his cousin Yuka while he is attending college. He has a bit of memory loss concerning his father and sister, but knows that they died horribly, but not how. He and his cousin find ‘Nyu’ on the beach and take her in. He’s your average bland male character who doesn’t have a lot of depth to him. He’s there for Lucy to have angst over and to be the token male character in what could have easily been a harem anime.

Yuka is Kohta’s cousin, who may or may not be attracted to said cousin. For a lot of the story she appears upset that Kohta doesn’t remember the time they spent together as children, despite the fact his memory loss is caused by horrible trauma. She is the mother character in the series, who essentially takes care of or cares for all the others. She also is there to be jealous of the tension between Kohta and Nyu. She much like Kohta doesn’t have much of a personality beyond these few traits.

Mayu is a young runaway who ends up living with our protagonists, Kohta and Yuka becoming her guardians. Before though, she was living on the beach with a stray puppy named Wanta, having run away from an abusive household. Over time, after moving in with the cousins, she begins going to school and ultimately has cheered up as a person. She acts as the core of the makeshift family, often breaking up fights.

Nana is a diclonious like Lucy, but treated much better, known as number 7. She is used as a test subject at the very same facility that Lucy escapes. However, she is treated as a daughter by the very man attempting to find Lucy, Kurama. This makes her almost the exact opposite of Lucy, as she is warm and has never harmed a human before. Originally, she is sent to capture Lucy, which she fails to do and ends up severely hurt, but alive. After the failure she ends up living with the other protagonists, but not without initial distrust towards Nyu.

There’s other characters, all who have their own arcs and what not, but the story ultimately falls around Lucy. The characters affect her and how she reacts. So, in hopes of keeping spoilers down and interest possibly up, some characters will be shelved for now. The characters, besides the ones stated above, are also not exactly the most interesting.

The art is one that is very dated by its 2004 airdate and it shows, especially in the face of the characters. The facial proportions are extremely off, but comparatively the rest of the body is on point, everything else is fine. The eyes are just too big at times and don’t match with the rest of the face and it hurts to look at sometimes. The faces are awkward and it shows greatly at times, but at other points, especially with Lucy, the faces are beautiful. Especially in the later episodes as the story begins building up.  It also has a problem with the colors, at times seeming to rich and while yes it is animated, that doesn’t mean the color should be so forced and dull. One of the greater aspects of the animation was the opening, which made reference to Gustav Klimt’s painting The Kiss, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and others with similar styles. The anime is definitely stronger art wise, as the manga seemed to have no aspect of actual anatomy and was at times almost too cutesy to match with its much darker themes. It’s one of those series that tricks you into thinking it’s going to be cutesy by the art, but then really is just a complete bend, like Higurashi. It also doesn’t have the beautiful opening, which accentuates the story perhaps the best within just a short amount of time. The anime was directed by Mamoru Kanbe, known for his work with Cardcaptor Sakura.

The sound for the anime was not the best, at least not the dub. However, it has perhaps, one of the most iconic opening themes in anime. Lillium, composed by Yukio Kondo, arranged by Kayo Konishi, and performed by Kumiko Noma. It echoes a sort of Gregorian chant and really echoes the feel of the story. The ending theme is not that much of note, especially in comparison to the beauty that is Lillium. So far as voice acting goes, the dub was subpar, the only person of note is Kira Vincent-Davis who played Lucy/Nyu, though she’s not much better than the others. The acting in the English dub is just so bad, it’s dry and emotionless, the delivery is just… Sad with what could have been a brilliant dub. Ultimately though, the Japanese is the better choice, especially in a series like this where some liberties were taken with the dub. Still, the series with sound seems to be just meh in general.

The series isn’t good, but it has aspects about it that seems to capture people. It really seems like a fever dream at points. People know about it, something that’s like sharing some secret with your best friend. Honestly, the show isn’t awful to get through, it might be hard at times, but honestly it’s one of the shows that seems to be a guilty pleasure for some. I can’t say much about the manga other than general appearance issues, but maybe it’s worth a try. However, you should only be watching the series if you are of age. This is a series with adult themes, gratuitous violence, and nudity.

Overall Rating: 6.5

Review: D. Gray-Man

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People really like the supernatural, well that and mildly convoluted story lines, and man, I guess D. Gray-Man has both? Written and illustrated by Katsura Hoshino, it is her first manga and has been running since 2004 and is currently still ongoing. It began serialization by Shonen Jump, then to Jump Square, and finally to Jump SQ. Crown as of 2015. It doesn’t update very often though, having gone on hiatus twice due to illness, but the story is slowly being told. It also has been given a series of light novels that ran from 2005 to 2010. It is published in America by Viz Media and the anime, which ran from 2006-2008 was licensed by Funimation Entertainment for the States.

The series follows 15-year-old orphan Allen Walker who becomes a member of an organization of exorcists, the Black Order, who use this thing called Innocence to fight Akuma, demons, and the Millennium Earl who makes them. Innocence is a substance that gives Exorcist powers like a sword arm or dark boots that give superhuman abilities. As he joins the order, the Earl starts killing important figures within it starting off a battle that’s been building for generations. With the help of other exorcists Allen has to try and stop the Earl and his family from destroying humanity completely. And in the beginning it’s a monster of the week story line, giving exposition into characters through short arcs, up until the Noah family is introduced, adding a darker layer to the story. One that has the whole world at risk as well as what Allen’s role in all of it means. As well as who Allen really is.

The lead character is Allen Walker, a 15-year-old Innocence user, who was raised by Mana Walker, his adoptive father, who saved him from working in the circus. After Mana died, Allen attempted something awful and was given a Pentacle (An Akuma mark) over his left eye. Because of this he is able to see souls that are trapped within Akuma, often rendering him a bit more sympathetic towards saving people. Because of a traumatic experience Allen’s hair became white, making him our traditional tragic white haired anime boy. He was then trained by a man to become an exorcist before heading off to join the Black Order officially. Allen has a parasitic type of innocence that caused his entire left arm to look sorta… Like a bad burn, red and veiny. But his arm can become a sword and more, called a Cross and later Crown Clowd.

Yu Kanda is Allen’s “rival?” And that’s a question because really Kanda was just super hostile towards the other. He is also just cold and quick to anger. There’s a whole arc covering his backstory, which I won’t spoil. Kanda has a sword for his anti-Akuma weapon, named Mugen, and has several techniques. Overtime he and Allen become friends in their own way. There’s not a lot I can say that won’t ruin the story arc surrounding him.

Lenalee Lee is an exorcist from China who becomes one of Allen’s first friends. She is kind but to a fault, where it seems to cloud her views on certain subjects and people. Often making her unable to see past things at times. Which is important to have in mind when you’re reading, especially the more we learn about her. Her anti-Akuma weapon is her Dark Boots, which gives her super powered legs that help her kill akuma. Her brother is also part of the Black Order, but not as an exorcist. She is sort of the stereotypical girl character at first, but slowly becomes more involved with the world and story unfolding. She still is very… The damsel in distress but not as much as she was before. Lenalee does get stronger, but not without having to do so in a stereotypical female story line.

Lavi is Exorcist but also a Bookman (a person who records hidden histories and has to be trained from a young age to achieve that goal.) Lavi isn’t even his real name, rather an alias that he has to maintain to become a Bookman. He has to throw away who he was to fully dedicate himself to his job. His anti-akuma weapon is a hammer, titled Tettsui, which can grow and extend. He is also one of Allen’s first friends at the Order. He’s pretty chill, though even that could be a facade alongside his name. Not much is known about Lavi and his Bookman senior, but they do help the story with information.

As usual, there’s a whole lot of other characters, who both add new dimensions to Allen’s journey. Though, at this point it seems a bit long winded.

The art for this series is another example of if you draw it long enough soon it will be gorgeous and boy did it get beautiful. It was already pretty good art to begin with, not overtly awkward, but as time went on Hoshino’s ability as an artist grew. The lines got thicker, to accentuate certain aspects, such as the lips being darker in their shading. The eyes she drew also became increasingly beautiful, irises having more detail the closer into the shot we’re given. However, in the anime, which ran during a very specific time in animation, had sort of pretty animation. It wasn’t overly impressive though, instead it was sort of expected for the most part, there were better series but this one did have a style all its own. The anime was directed by Osamu Nabeshima and produced by such groups as Aniplex and TV Tokyo. The second season was not licensed by Funimation, but it is available for streaming. Though art wise, I think the manga is far stronger as it has become increasingly beautiful to look at.

The sound for the anime was composed by Kaoru Wada, known for his work with Inuyasha and Samurai 7. Abingdon Boys School did the first opening theme Innocent Sorrow, which was then replaced by Nami Tamaki’s Brightdown. Honestly the opening and ending themes were not overly impressive, instead they just were a good look into what the series was setting up to be. There’s nothing from the series that really stands out in terms of music. I have not heard the Japanese version of the series, at least not all of it, but Sanae Kobayashi played the lead character, and she is better known for her role as Lucy from Elfen Lied. The dub, which I watched, was at least a step in the right direction in terms of sound. Todd Haberkorn played Allen and he’s known for his work in xxxHolic as Watanuki or Hetalia’s Italy. He gave a great performance and really grew as a voice actor. There’s also Travis Willingham as Kanda, known most for his role in Fullmetal Alchemist as Roy Mustang, who always shines in many of the roles he is given. The dub overall was just generally impressive, but it’s also not the best. There are points where it could be better, but this anime was a step in increasingly amazing dubs done by Funimation. This anime definitely is an example of where the company was beginning to go.

The series is ultimately enjoyable and still has an appeal to see where it may be headed. As it is ongoing, we’re left watch the climbing action wondering a lot. Still, there are things about the series that needs a lot. The manga is definitely the way to go, as you’ll get the full story that way, but the anime is also a good way to go. Ultimately, there’s just a lot that needs explaining that can still be told as the story goes along. And as far as those things go, Hoshino is very good at explaining why certain things are as important as they are, as well as developing unique characters. As far as the series go, it’s definitely worth a try.

Overall Rating: 7

Review: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles

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In relation to xxxHolic, we have the sister series Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles with equally convoluted plot lines like its fellow running series. Unlike the noodle branded series xxxHolic, Tsubasa ran from 2003 to 2009, at least the original series did. It does have a current running sequel called Tsubasa World Chronicle: Nirai Kanai-hen. This manga did something that changed how CLAMP did their storytelling, it allowed them to reuse old characters from previous stories and manga. The manga was released in America by Del Rey Manga and the anime was licensed by Funimation Entertainment. The series seemed to be popular for the most part, though there was much complaint over the complicated plotline.

The series follows Syaoran Li, previously from Cardcaptor Sakura, Princess Sakura, Kurogane, and Fai D. Flowright. Also annoying mascot character Mokona Modoki. The four are able to travel to other dimensions due to wishes they make with Yuko from xxxHolic. This is all because Sakura’s spirit has taken form and spread out like feathers across many dimensions and Syaoran has to make it right and return all the feathers to her, or she will die. Our other two Kurogane and Fai have similar wishes to one another. Kurogane just wishes to return home, while Fai wishes never to return to his own world. Thus begins the multi-dimensional adventure that could make or break these characters. It also allowed for CLAMP to show new and different sides of past characters because of the different world and dimension aspect.  Such as two of the main characters.

Syaoran Li is the adopted son of a late archeologist in the Kingdom of Clow. He is also Princess Sakura’s childhood best friend. He continued his father’s work up until the incident with Sakura’s soul/memories scattering. He fights predominantly with his legs, which is important, trust me. He is also in love with Sakura, oh so shocking, but can’t admit it because she is a princess. He makes a big sacrifice when agreeing to the terms of Yuko’s wish, but he does it for Sakura. Ah, young love. This causes him to go on a search across dimensions to save Sakura’s life, despite the heartbreak it will bring him.

Sakura is the princess of Clow and is sort of… Dull? Like, she’s interesting, but in comparison to her Cardcaptor counterpart I don’t find her as intriguing. She’s also in love with Syaoran, her childhood friend, and planned on telling him, but was unable to as her memories scattered before she could. This leaves her in a near death state for a few chapters. She doesn’t do a whole lot really from what I remember, like she starts to do things, but at times it felt like she was just there for Syaoran’s angst fest.

Kurogane is a ninja from the world of feudal Japan where he served under Princess Tomoyo, who sent him away. This was done mostly because he really liked fighting and was often jumping the gun in favor of violence. He gives up he most precious item, a sword, to try and find his way home. Though after bonding with the group, his wish may change a bit. He is often too serious for his own good and that gets him teased by Fai.

Fai D. Flowright is a magician from the country of Celes. Without any direct help from anyone else, Fai travels to Yuko with the wish to not return to his country. He has to give up his magic for this wish to occur, well technically the seal that helps him keep his magi under control. His the lighthearted good natured character, who is hiding more than he lets on. He cares deeply about all the others in the group, so much so that he starts caring about himself less and less.

There’s a whole bunch of other characters, some original some not, but really a majority of the time they’re either rehashed characters from past mangas or from xxxHolic. This isn’t bad, but at points it feels mostly like its applauding longtime CLAMP fans.  Then the original characters all start to feel like cop-outs at times as well, like an easy way out for a corner they may have written themselves into. It always feels like they could have done something more.

The art style is much like its sister in that everything is long and people aren’t supposed to bend like that. However, it actually works for this manga, because it doesn’t have the same jarring affect that xxxHolic did, rather it’s more subtle and allows the reader to adjust. The manga was originally serialized in Shonen Magazine. The only time the art doesn’t work is probably in the anime and that’s because in comparison to other works by CLAMP it felt stiff in the animation and dull. The colors were really dull and not at all near as whimsical as it could have been for the story they had. Bee Train who produced that anime are best known for .hack//Sign, which also had an unfortunate lackluster style to it for such an amazing plot. The anime was released in 2006, which was a bit of a less than impressive time for animation, like with Pandora Hearts to name one. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t feel like the animation flowed nearly as much as the manga did. It felt like it was trying to do something, but it just doesn’t hold up today.

Sound wise, I’ve only heard the dub, and it isn’t bad? Though it is set in this weird area of time for Funimation where they were trying out new lead voice actors and it could have worked. Still, it always could have been worse. Still, this series does suffer because the studio wasn’t sure where to go, at least at times that’s what it appeared to be. Syaoran was voiced by Jason Liebrecht who in the past as played Lavi from D.Gray-man, this was one of his more prominent roles. There’s also Christopher Sabat who played Kurogane, who you might know for his role in Dragon Ball Z as Vegeta and Piccolo. Sabat here really shines, as he often does within his roles. The music in the series was done by Yuki Kajiura who is known for her work in many of the .hack series, Pandora Hearts, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. She’s great here with her near ethereal music full of perfectly placed bell chimes and we see it in her current works today. There’s also a dubbed movie called The Princess of the Country of Birdcages. Ultimately though, the anime is an easier time for those who wouldn’t like the constant screaming with Watanuki.

This series isn’t bad, it just feels like it was all over the place at times. The anime is tough to get through because it doesn’t get you to care, at least it didn’t for me, but the manga… Oh man, although the manga can be a mountain to get through it is very good. It does get convoluted at times, but other than that, it is good. It could be better. Like I said with xxxHolic, while this may not be the series to do it with, CLAMP is definitely worth looking into, they have a whole slew of series that may tickle one’s fancy. Still though, it doesn’t have near the amount of pull that its sister does. Tsubasa suffers because it almost feels like it’s trying too hard at times to be edgy and full of twists.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles: 6/10

Review: xxxHolic

xxHolic-1Brought to you by the women who wrote the adorable series Cardcaptor Sakura and Tokyo Revelations, CLAMP now presents an interesting story line with… Very noodle inspired people. I’ve referenced this series before, in terms of art execution, often in a negative light, but you all should know that actually the series itself is quite good, if not a bit complicated and possibly convoluted. It’s a series that actually goes hand in hand with another series by CLAMP that was being published at the same time Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. I’m not really sure that if this series ever quite got the popularity other works by Clamp did, but I do think it was quite deserving of it, to a point. It is still currently ongoing, though its companion piece has come to an end. Now CLAMP has been doing work for a very long time and are quite well known for not only heart wrenching stories, but also for their love of usually forbidden romances.

So our main protagonist is Kimihiro Watanuki, a high school student who can see spirits, much to his discomfort. As typical stories like this go, he just wants to be normal. This goes about as well as expected. He, by magic force, is taken to a wish granting shop owned by the mysterious Yuuko, who promises to grant his wish if he works for her. Of course, begrudgingly, he says yes, and the adventures begin. With his friends and new employer he begins to see the world of humans and ghosts around him in a new light. It’s mostly a series of one-shot adventures that all later add up to the bigger picture which coincides with its sister manga, though later chapters are sort of an offshoot from that storyline.

As stated above, our main character is Watanuki, who is excitable to the point of screaming and screaming and… Listen, he screams a lot, he’s very excitable, and its fits with his personality and how he deals with what happens to him. Like that’s a majority of his dialogue, screaming things because he’s upset or happy. It’s… I guess endearing. He’s an orphan who is very… ‘Mature’ for his age. He’s good at cooking and not so good at making friends, despite have two very good friends. He’s able to see ghosts and it’s plagued him for most of his life, as he often is unable to stop himself from looking strange in front of people. He realizes this and wants it to stop, even if it means doing things that he doesn’t really feel comfortable doing. He grows a lot over the course of the story.

Next is the time witch Yuuko, who is able to grant wishes. That is for a price. It’s sort of like an equivalent exchange type of situation, but often for the betterment of others rather than stealing a limb from them for a faulty thing that has never worked. She solves many a problems under the fact that one must want their wish to come true for them to become better, she is unable to act directly, and she tries to teach that lesson. She is a voice of reason for people who normally are unable to really change who they are. She sort of is like a big sister and mother to Watanuki, but doesn’t coddle him, rather prepares him for what she knows is coming but the reader and Watanuki don’t.

Shizuka Doumeki is a fellow high school student alongside Watanuki, sort of becoming a best friend/confidant. He appears as our straight man who is there to contrast against the loudness of his friend. He is popular whereas Watanuki struggles to connect, which is hilarious as Doumeki is practically emotionless when it comes to connecting with people. Archery star and raised in a shrine, Doumeki is there, unable to see spirits, but able to help Watanuki despite the latter’s grumbling. He also is able to do something very specific that makes him quite useful to his friend.

There is a whole slew of other characters who play an important role in the story of Watanuki, but there’s a lot of story with each that can lead to confusion for later chapters and the ultimate storyline. So for now we will go onto the art style.

If you couldn’t tell, I have a certain history and set of feelings for the art style in this series, and it’s both admiration and pure rage. CLAMP has its very developed style over the years and are often celebrated, this however doesn’t disregarded the fact that the anatomy is a whole level of its own hell. Part of me wants to say it’s for the style of the story, but another part of me doesn’t believe that. I’m willing to forgive though, as in the long run it’s more amusing than anything else, well… Depending on who you ask. However, it works in the long run for the manga. The anime was produced by Production I.G, better known for Psycho-Pass and Ghost in the Shell. There’s also a live action TV series that ran for 8 episodes, I don’t know too much about it, but if you want to check it out no one’s going to fault you.

Sound wise, this series is actually quiet pleasing despite the constant screaming of Watanuki’s character. In the dub, done by Funimation, we have Todd Haberkorn as the lead and Colleen Clinkenbeard as Yuuko. Both are well known voice actors, both working in multiple big series, such as Ouran Highschool Host Club for Todd and Ghost in the Shell for Colleen. The opening theme of the first series is 19Sai by Skikao Suga, who is known for his work in Boogiepop Phantom. The second series was never dubbed, though the movie A Midsummer’s Night Dream did reach American audiences. It’s a series that you can watch in English or Japanese, though if you dislike a lot of screaming… Maybe stay away from the anime and stick to the manga? Which may be best considering the anime only covered maybe 40% of the actual story. The manga also is still going with a few offshoots.

The series, despite my back talking, is enjoyable. It’s a supernatural ride that takes you as a viewer all over and CLAMP clearly loves the series. It shows in the way they continue it and keep presenting new things with the characters and storyline to keep it relatively fresh. The unfortunate downside is that with this story is that you’re going to probably have to read Tsubasa, its sister manga, to get the full effect and feel for it. It may also not be for people who don’t like episodic adventures, because that’s what makes up a majority of the anime. Still, I think this is a series many should like or at least a group of creators’ people should look into.

xxxHolic: 7/10

Review: Princess Ai

2010-12-21-355013It seems musicians really enjoy making manga.  I mean, did you know that Courtney Love has a manga? Well, she does. It’s called Princess Ai and it’s a pretty good read. It was co-created by Courtney Love the lead singer of the band Hole, Ai Yazawa best known for probably Paradise Kiss or Nana, Misaho Kujiradou, and DJ Milky. The first manga was originally published in 2004 by Shinshokan and the English publishing company Tokyopop. It also had a sequel that only ran for two volumes in 2008 before going on hiatus to this day. It even spawned an entire album available on iTunes called Princess Ai loves Skye. Basically it got a bunch of merchandise to go along with it, because it was a pretty popular manga in the early 2000s.

The basic plot of the story is one of a girl named Ai who can’t remember anything but her name and that she loves music. She wakes up in Tokyo with only her heart-shaped box as a clue to who she is or where she is from. The she begins working at a club as well as slowly becoming a hit sensation on music charts. However, she has the feeling of needing to know who she is but also the feeling of being trapped by the very power and industry she starts being a part of. She also falls in love with a human musician named Kent, but people are after her from a place called Ai Land. She also begins growing wings from her back, which only adds to the stresses of her mystery life. It’s a bit convoluted in that there’s a lot of these mini subplots that never really get explained, which cause a lot of strife in really caring for some of the characters we meet.

Ai is the main character of the series and she is, with little spoilers, out of this world. She wears clothes highly inspired by Japanese Lolita and she rocks it. She is in control of herself and sees her body as a temple, refusing to strip for quick cash. Instead she promises a real show through the power of music! Which, in reality wouldn’t probably work, but manga logic so it works out fine for Ai just fine. Her power is within her music as she later finds out. However first she has to figure out who she is in the first place!

Kent is Ai’s love interest, half American/half Japanese, and one of the first people to encounter Ai after she is almost attacked by a random pickpocket. He is a musician who doesn’t really see himself going anywhere and is sort of downtrodden. He feels a connection to Ai, but can’t quite place it, perhaps its love? It’s implied that he himself is based off of Courtney Love’s late husband Kurt Cobain. It’s actually pretty obvious he’s based off Cobain, but we’ll keep a little mystery in our lives.

There’s also Takeshi, a talent agent who signs Ai to his agency. He’s a bit of a jerk but he means well. He may or may not have ties to the Yakuza through his boss. We don’t get a lot of backstory on him, rather we just see him interact with Ai and he’s mostly a sassy jerk.

There’s a whole lot of other characters, but let’s not worry about them too much, they either are spoilers or don’t really add a whole lot in terms of the actual story’s development.

Now the art style, as this is only a manga, is a bit limited in the fact that it’s a bit dated. Misaho Kujiradou has a very distinct long legged shoujo style of art. The anatomy of characters suffer because of this, but not completely. There is never a moment where it looks really strange, rather it’s accepted because there’s never horribly misshapen things. It’s actually a rather pretty art style in my personal opinion. It also has really interesting fashion and just general style of characters drawn out. I would say, if for the art, it’s a good place to look into. I mean, it’s nowhere near the mess that is xxxHolic in terms of anatomy.

Now in terms of music, because this manga got popular enough to have a full release album of all the music written from the story. But there is the letdown that it isn’t that great, I would know, I own the album. There was a lot of disappointment especially with people wanting Courtney Love to sing all the songs instead of who they got. While it isn’t great, it isn’t bad either, it’s just sort of subpar. I mean, definitely if you want to look it up there’s nothing stopping you. The singer Skye Madison worked well with what she was given in my opinion and it can actually be pretty enjoyable music. It also has pretty standard Hole-esque lyrics, which is a plus for manga considering. Still, it’s wort a listen if you’re really interested.

Ultimately though, I do have to take into account the sort of overly complicated story line that is a bit convoluted and the fact that it hasn’t been resolved. I think the issue is, comparatively to something like Daft Punk’s Interstellar 5555, it’s a bit rushed and doesn’t have the finely tuned type of storytelling that made the French film so captivating. It doesn’t share the same love of the art itself and doesn’t make you really care about the characters that Love tries to share, Daft Punk does that, but Princess Ai struggles. Princess Ai has the problem of trying to do so much in so little content and attempts to break down boundaries while maintaining within the confined realm of its art form.

Still, I have fond memories of reading Princess Ai and finding it genuinely enjoying it as a child. I also remember that a lot of other kids practiced art based off the manga. And it still holds up just as it did back then, as something enjoyable. It’s not the best, but it’s far better than what it could have been.

Princess Ai: 6/10

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