Mecha x Maids = Gravion

Posted by Demian @ 1:46 pm, July 31st, 2008

I like Masami Obari’s anime. I like their haphazard storytelling, lanky men, even more voluptuous women, and extremely cool mecha. They’re the epitome of the style over substance anime. Gravion, being a later Obari work, fortunately has a much more straight forward story without lacking any of the other vital components of an Obari work; namely fanservice and mecha.

The plot begins with Eiji Shigure breaking into the castle of the mysterious Sandman to find out the fate of his sister Ayaka, who disappeared earlier under Sandman’s services. This being a mecha anime, soon the big bad attack, dubbed Zeravire, and Eiji finds himself enlisted into the Fellows of the Gran Divas to fight the new threat. Ironically Eiji is not actually the main pilot of Gravion, that going to the mysterious Toga, and, really, in an Obari anime who isn’t mysterious? Instead Eiji pilots the jet that becomes the foot of Gravion. I thought that was a neat little subversion right there.

Aside from Eiji and Toga there’s the four main ladies who also serve as Gravion’s pilots: the feisty Luna Gusuku who screams main love interest, the fanservice magnet Mizuki Tachibana, the incompetent head maid Ena, and the always mysterious blue haired loli Leele. A lot of people have described another Obari work, Dancouga Nova, as the third season of Gravion, and I know why now. The two are stylistically the same with Gravion having a better budget. The best description of Gravion however is Dancouga Nova meets Hanaukyo Maid Tai. Sandman has a literal army of maids at his disposal, from the usual clean up staff to the maintenance crew that wears overalls and frilly hats. Per Obari tradition they all have weird colored hair and huge breasts too.

The whole thing is a lot of fun though in the best Obari way. Everyone shouts out attack names, the girls always know when to show some skin, and Gravion features a new attack every episode. Pure guilty fun. The main flaw would have to be that the show ends abruptly at episode thirteen. Of course, there’s Gravion Zwei to immediately pick up the story, but I would be really pissed with that kind of ending if I was watching the show as it aired. Considering the year time difference between the end of Gravion and the beginning of Zwei, it’s probably good I didn’t watch it as it aired.

Light Novel Review: Zaregoto Book 1 The Kubikiri Cycle

Posted by Demian @ 9:30 pm, July 30th, 2008

Story:

The computer genius Kunagisa Tomo and her very normal best friend/sidekick Ii-chan are invited to the island salon of Akagami Iria, a fabulously wealthy ex-heiress who invites the world’s greatest minds to share in her exile. That is, until one is found murdered. On an island of geniuses the normal Ii-chan is the only hope to solve the case, but can he solve a crime when he can’t even understand himself?

Impressions:

Zaregoto is the long awaited first novel of Nisioisin, the greatest up-and-coming author in Japan, now finally available in English. I’ve already read one of Nisiosin’s other works, Death Note Another Note, and thought that while the msytery was smart the characters just weren’t all that vibrant. Zaregoto fixes this completely as Nisioisin’s allows free reign for his quirky creations and the intricate crime they’re involved in. Quirkiest of all is the apathetic to the extreme Ii-chan. He’s Holden Caulfield turned up to eleven. While half the book is about solving the murders going on, the other half is just trying to figure out what makes this guy tick, with several characters offering their views and not even Ii-chan is sure if any of them are right. Fortunately Nisioisin does all this in a way that doesn’t stop Ii-chan from being a likeable, if baffling, protagonist. Doubly good for me since I hated Catcher in the Rye and everything about Holden in particular.

As for the mystery part of the book I found the constant twists exciting and unexpected. Ii-chan’s constant muttering of “nonsense” really does describe the implausible yet plausible crime of the novel. However, I’m not a big fan of mysteries and Nisioisin’s work has been my only encounter with the classic locked room scenario, so more expierenced readers of mysteries than me may not enjoy it as much if they can figure it out, which certainly there are enough clues to figure it out if you think in a really specific way.

My only problem with the writing is that there’s no “he said, she said” to mark who is talking. In Japanese the writing probably spoke for itself but English just doesn’t work that way. This is especially a problem when there’s a paragraph break even though the same character is still talking. I was still able to keep up with the conversations, though, even the really fast paced ones towards the end. Despite this flaw and some clunky wording in places I found Zaregoto to be an extremely enjoyable read. It’s an exciting mystery that never forgets it’s the characters that really drive the plot, and it shows how to be anime-influenced without feeling derivative. Really one of the best light novels out right now. I look forward to the second volume in December.

Thoughts on Code Geass 16

Posted by Demian @ 1:45 pm, July 28th, 2008

Code Geass may be weak in execution but it still knows how to send a shiver down my spine. Juxtaposing two opposing armies screaming national slogans with a military march in the background excites me any day. I can already imagine the epic battle that will ensue with thousands of knightmares on land, sea, and air, explosions and death galore, all capped perfectly by a few Freya destroying Tokyo. Of course, this probably won’t happen. We’ll probably get a few minutes of fighting until Lelouch screws up everything trying to save Nunnally, again, leading to the Black Knights terrible defeat, again. Rinse and repeat.

At least Kallen kicking Suzaku’s ass was executed perfectly. I could watch this all day (and maybe I have).

Series Review: Getsumen to Heiki Mina

Posted by Demian @ 7:01 pm, July 27th, 2008

In reality I’ve watched Getsumen to Heiki Mina in two parts: the first eight episodes that took forever to get subbed, and the last three episodes recently. Mina certainly has one of the most outlandish concepts for any magical girl series ever. The main character Tsukuda Mina has to juggle her responsibilities of being a high school student and being an announcer for a popular TV show, SpoLuna. However, she’s also Tsukishiro Miina, a member of the rabbit force that protects Earth’s sports culture from evil alien rabbits. Yes, the main enemies of this show are sport loving rabbits.

The rabbits aren’t really the main point of the show, though, as it’s more about Tsukuda growing up and accepting the dual aspects of her life. She’s aided by a few rabbit force members in her struggle, most importantly the berserk fighter Ohtsuki Miina. An interesting theme in the later episodes is contrasting the young heroes like Tsukishiro with the clearly older Ohtsuki, and it all works out in a way you don’t often see in these kind of shows. Sadly the show ends early at episode eleven. While it wraps up the story of Tsukuda nicely there’s clearly still a lot more story they could of told. Of all the rabbit force members in the show, almost half show up solely in the final episode!

Production wise this is a gonzo show, but it’s one of their better efforts. There is CG galore, but I didn’t really have a problem with it. It builds a vision of the future that, much like Macross Frontier, isn’t that hard to imagine. Sadly, those expecting the Miina show from Densha Otoko will be sorely disappointed. Admittedly seeing this animated would of been better than what we got. But for what it’s worth Getsumen to Heiki Mina is a good, modern take on the old cliche’s of henshin heroines, and while the story does end prematurely, at least the viewer can be satisfied that the characters have grown.

Final Thoughts on Zeta Gundam

Posted by Demian @ 5:14 pm, July 26th, 2008

Pros:

Comparing Zeta Gundam to Ideon I can definitely say Tomino’s directing has improved. There’s still some weird plot progression and odd characterization, but the story flows much smoother. Thankfully the show manages to stay interesting with just a few weak episodes here and there.

The animation for the show stays mostly consistent, with the final few episodes looking awesome. The final four-way fight between Kamille, Char, Scirocco, and Haman is one of the best animated and epic final fights in mecha. The mecha designs themselves are pretty cool (the Palace Athene is so badass), but there are the usual wtf models (Baund Doc anyone?). The music is pretty good with some real stand out tracks that sadly don’t play that much.

Zeta definitely has a diverse set of characters. Kamille quickly differentiates himself from being an Amuro clone and develops into a very unique character. His suicidal and cynical attitude towards the end is particularly noticeable. Bright of course is awesome no matter what. Char is mostly the same but you can see his evolution to his CCA self by the end. There’s so many great female characters - Emma, Reccoa, Four, Mour, Sarah- with only Fa and Rosammia really being annoying. Fa takes the cake for being both the worst pilot in the show and the loudest. Not a good combination. Scirocco is a suitable enough villain, but he’s really more the Gihren of the show. He’s one hell of a player though.

Cons:

Sorry, but in no way can the Gryps War compare to the One Year War. While the emotion in the show is very intense it’s hard to tell that there’s really a war going on. The Argama is chased by the same two ships for the whole show, and very rarely does the AEUG fleet come together for any major battle. The show doesn’t even make clear how large the AEUG or Titans are. The Titans can’t be that much of a threat if they’re all killed by a single laser blast in the last episode. I also didn’t like how the final battle was set up, with the Argama suddenly being summoned to defend the Colony Laser without any build up to the battle.

Throughout the show various characters disappear and reappear way too randomly to really be developed evenly. Rosammia disappears at the middle of the show only to suddenly show up at the end to be another cyber-newtype foe for Kamille. Scirocco disappears so much you wonder how exactly the guy becomes head of the Titans and there’s no real dramatic tension between him and Kamille, as they literally meet face to face only in the last episode! Jerid is built up much better as a rival and enemy for Kamille, but his death is way too anti-climatic. He’s killed as soon as he appears.

The ending to Zeta Gundam is sadly kind of a non-ending. The Titans are defeated, somehow, but Axis is still out there. The final scene is Fa carrying a critically injured Kamille to the Argama with no denouement at all. With the immediate sequel of ZZ Gundam, however, these aren’t really too big issues, but it would of been nice if Zeta could of ended on its own terms.

Everything considered I can understand why so many people find Zeta Gundam great, but it just doesn’t strike that high for me. Tomino thankfully did a much better job here but there’s still that weirdness that stops me from taking the show completely seriously and really get absorbed into its narrative. Still, I have to admire his vision as he once again uses gundam to show the true brutality of war in such an intriguing way as not other gundam I’ve seen has tried. Now it’s on to ZZ Gundam and just hope it doesn’t piss all over that vision.

Now That’s an Early Release

Posted by Demian @ 1:29 pm, July 26th, 2008

Rightstuf lists the release date for Nisioisin’s novel Zaregoto at August 19th, but I just picked it up at Barnes and Noble today. Not that I’m really complaining. I can already tell there’s nothing light about this “light novel”; it’s over 300 pages. The story is already gripping, though, and since I enjoyed Another Note I think I’ll like this one even more.

A History of Antonin Dvorak in Anime

Posted by Demian @ 7:36 pm, July 23rd, 2008

So you’re an anime director and it’s the climax of the show. The big bad has revealed himself, every thing’s blowing up, the hero got his final power upgrade, punches are flying, everyone’s yelling, but some thing’s missing. It all needs just one more element to kick it up to eleven. Clearly, it needs Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony, specifically the climax of the fourth movent, cause nothing says epic action quite like a string section. Yes, Dvorak does show up rather commonly in anime, or at least I’ve found him in three different shows so I’m going to say he’s common.

I first heard it in One Piece during Luffy’s final fight with Crocodile. The Alabasta arc had already been going on for like a hundred episodes. All of the Baroque Works had been defeated, Pell had just sacrificed himself, and all of the Straw Hat Pirates were trying fruitlessly to stop the mindless bloodshed. And during it all Luffy’s stuck in an underground tomb fighting Crocodile for the third time, with the tomb collapsing around them of course. As soon as the New World started playing I knew it was all over. The scene also sinked well, as the happier, lighter movement started after Crocodile had been launched into the air. Just to note, One Piece isn’t that shy to other classical music. Chopper’s flashback arc makes brilliant use of Mozart’s Requiem, making the scene truly heartbreaking when it didn’t need to try that hard to make you cry even without music.

The New World Symphony is also used as the theme for Proist, the psychotic bitch main villain of Gaiking. Ironically enough she’s trying to destroy Earth and thinks that the New World Symphony is the only good thing humanity as ever produced, so much so that she even names her main mech, a giant self-replicating dragon made of nanomachines, Chou Maryu Dborak. Of course, Dborak eventually falls to the musical might of Gaiking the Great. It’s hard to beat Akira Kushida’s Sono Mei ha Gaiking the Great when it comes to hotblooded music.

And you can’t leave Legend of the Galactic Heroes out when it comes to classical music, since that’s what it’s whole soundtrack consists of. The New World symphony is used here as background for the Battle of Amlitzer, where the Alliance forces are completely crushed by Lohengramm. Rather ironic, since Dvorak composed the New World Symphony after traveling in America, and here it’s being used for a battle where the “democratic” forces are beaten. Then again, it’s better than being the main theme for a psychotic bitch.

Are there any other anime out there that use Dvorak that I haven’t seen? I’d love to know and get a real collection started.