July 16, 2010

Mystery Meat -- Needless

So another archeological expedition into my torrent download directory finds "Needless", which I only vaguely remember.

Word was that it wasn't any good, I do remember that. But what was it?

Well, it wasn't any good. Now I know that from first person experience. I got half way through the first episode and gave up.

It's the 22nd Century. At the beginning of the 21st Century there was a full-scale nuclear war, and it seems that the countries which were lobbing nukes around made sure that all the countries that didn't have nukes got hit, too. That means Tokyo, in particular.

A hundred years later and  things have recovered a bit. Sort of. Possibly as a result of radiation, there are now certain people who have unusual powers. They're known as Needless. Our hero is a boy named Cruz who lives in the "Black Spot", the large crater which was formed by the bombing in Tokyo.

The art style and general wackiness of this series are clearly copied from (or stolen from) Gurren Lagann. And like Gurren Lagann there's a hyperactive character who is stupid and annoying. Her name is Eve Neuschwanstein and the only thing to recommend about her is that she's curvy. But it only took me about 3 minutes of exposure to the character to decide I didn't want any more. She needs a muzzle.

The mood is schizoid. Cruz is describing how he was involved in an attack by 400 members of the resistance, attempting to assassinate the head of Simeon, a pharmaceutical company. He's the only survivor. And then Eve beats him up, in the worst sort of stylized tsundere violence. Ick.

His introduction to her was when she ran him over with her motorcycle. I don't suppose there's any hope that she dies early, is there? I don't intend to keep watching to find out.

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June 18, 2010

Mystery Meat -- Asu no Yoichi

Asu no Yoichi is nominally a harem show, but it's actually a fish out of water story, combined perhaps with a bit of man from mars. I haven't seen the movie, but it strikes me that it has a lot in common with Crocodile Dundee.

Yoichi has lived his whole life in the mountains, training in martial arts under his father, a master of a certain style. His friends have been wolves and bears, and his skill level is off the charts, to the point where he has long since passed his father.

Dad sends Yoichi to the city, a place he's never been before, to live with the family of Dad's old friend and fellow martial arts master. Problem is, the old friend and his wife are away on some sort of extended trip. It's been several years now, in fact. Left behind are their four daughters.

The eldest, Ibuki, is the same age as Yoichi, apparently 17. She's got long purple hair and really big boobs. She's also prone to violent spells. The second sister is Ayame, blonde and a bit depressed. She nurses a really huge inferiority complex relative to Ibuki, who has surpassed her in every way -- including boob size. Ayame isn't DFC but she's a lot smaller.

In fact, she's also smaller than the third sister, Chihaya, 15. Chihaya has green hair and is a bit strange. She wears glasses. She's a bit of a deadpan snarker and tends to tease Ayame. She loves books. She works on manga and is actually getting published in a main stream magazine. She uses "boku"...

Chihaya has the same speech affectation as "Stealth" Momo in Saki, interjecting excess "su" sounds into her sentences. I wonder what that's about?

The fourth sister is Kagome, 10 years old. She's a really good cook. (Yet another area in which Ayame doesn't measure up.) She's also just a bit of a cry-baby. She's kind of quiet.

This all sounds like the setup for an H-game, doesn't it? But it isn't like that, and part of the reason is that Yoichi is a very noble person. He hasn't just been taught to fight. He's also been taught to be very honorable. He's just deep-down nice, and ultimately that's what makes the show.

Given that most obvious defining characteristic of Yoichi is his martial arts training, he inevitably fights a lot, and that means there must be people for him to fight. So far there have been two. The first is a punk named Washizu. He's a gang type, and is widely feared at the school. He's also got the hots for Ibuki, but is too shy to tell her so. So once he finds out that Yoichi is living at Ibuki's home, he's consumed with jealousy.

There appears to be another enemy which we only see in shadows. Likely he's another secret admirer of Ibuki; that's my guess, but as of ep 4 they haven't revealed his identity or motivation. He also seems to be rich, and isn't himself a fighter. In the third episode he hires a girl named Tsubasa to fight and defeat Yoichi.

There's a degree of pandering but much less of it than I had expected. It's actually a tsundere show, because Ibuki (quite a lot) and Ayame (somewhat less) tend to beat up Yoichi when they misunderstand things he's done and assume the worst about him. That particular joke is getting really old, and it seems to be the foundation of the show's humor.

Fortunately, that isn't all there is to the show. Episodes in the show primarily are about someone really getting to know Yoichi and having their lives changed by his example of noble motives.

I'm not sure that there's anything here to keep me coming back, though, except for curiousity about the rich guy who hired Tsubasa. Ultimately it's a one-trick pony, and I've seen the trick several times now.

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June 11, 2010

Mystery Meat -- Tears to Tiara

So I've watched two episodes of this so far. It has the kind of over-the-top feel of the two Conan movies. But the story feels like it was ripped off from the Highlander anime movie, with a healthy dose of Arthurian legend mixed in.

Indeed, one of the main characters is a young man named Arthur, "First Knight" and de facto leader of a tribe known as the Gael. His younger sister Rhiannon is another main character.

In the first episode an evil priest named Drwc (may I buy a vowel, please?) comes to their village along with a considerable force of men wearing full plate armor. (Um, do you know how difficult it is to march long distances wearing that stuff? There's a good reason why medieval armored knights rode horses.)

It's all so earnest in presentation. There's no hint at all that they think there's anything silly about it. But false notes keep ringing out.

Easily the most false note was the casting of Rhiannon's voice. She is strong, wilful, brave, self-sacrificing (though that didn't turn out to be necessary), and they gave her the voice of Mikuru from Haruhi. That voice just doesn't have the gravitas. It was perfect for Mikuru. It's dreadfully miscast in this case, and it makes it hard to take the character seriously -- which is a hell of a problem, because she's the center of the story.

On the other hand, the voice of Arthur is perfect.

About 25 years ago there was a TV series here in the US which was intended to be a satire on the swords-and-sorcery craze of the time. Parts of it were played straight, mainly the villains. And some of the characters were completely silly. I remember a princess (I think she was) who talked like a Val-girl. (Another dated reference.) It only lasted one season because ultimately it was a one-joke pony, and not even a very good joke.

Tears to Tiara feels a bit like that. Mostly they're playing it straight, but they don't quite know how to play it straight, so there are jarring notes all through it that make it hard to take seriously.

Of course, as of the end of the second episode it hasn't fallen into the real story which occupies the majority of the series. Eventually Rhiannon, Arthur, and Arawn (the demon who was summoned at the end of the first episode) will embark on a road trip, accompanied by half a dozen gorgeous women, all of whom are powerful and dangerous in various ways.

They're telegraphing the ending: the story is really about Arthur, not Rhiannon. He's gonna find and draw a sword embedded in a stone (they show that happening in the OP) and eventually overthrow the Holy Empire and become new king of whatever replaces it, with one of those women from the party as his queen.

I may watch a bit more of this, but probably won't.

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June 05, 2010

Mystery Meat -- Ryofuko-chan

Today's mystery meat is "Ryofuko-chan". I originally tried writing about it while I was watching it but it just wasn't possible.

It's ecchi. It's lolicon. It's really very clever and quite funny. And surreal doesn't even begin to describe it. It's kind of like a cross between Dai Mahou Touge and Excel Saga, but with a lot of fan service and no real attempt to make any sense.

Ryofu Housen was the greatest general of the 3-Kingdoms era (they say) and when he was an old man he and two of his aides were yanked out of their time and place and dropped onto an island next to modern Japan. Ryofu and Chin Kyuu were reincarnated as lolis. Kou Jun came back as a plushy. Ryofu's war horse Sekito came through, too.

Sousou is also around; he's a young man, looking not at all like he was. Kakou Ton is with him. They're both working as fishermen for a couple of hard gays. Later on, Kan'u Unchou shows up, and unlike the others he's in his original body.

Ryofu and Chin Kyuu are living with an old woman who runs a fish store. They also attend grade school. They aren't making any secret of who they are, but everyone thinks they're nuts and humors them.

It really does have the Excel Saga esthetic going, with lots of send-ups and references to tropes and cliches. For instance, Ryofu has a henshin deck that runs once per episode, complete with loli nudity. It's like something out of Nanoha. Except that it's totally unserious and I didn't find it offensive at all.

There's a segment which, for the life of me, seems like a shout-out to Chu Bra. There's a shout out to Star Trek.

One of the running jokes is that all the reincarnates from the 3-Kingdoms era remember their previous lives, and still think of themselves as being men -- especially old men. Chin Kyuu, for instance, seems to have been something of a lech with a taste for large breasts on young women. So he/she is quite taken with their grade school teacher, Eri, who Ryofuko sarcastically refers to as "F-cup". (And she isn't lying, either.)

At one point, near the end of the second episode, I began to think that they were sneaking a story in -- but it turned out to be a head fake. (They got me; I admit it.)

It's wild and crazy and I really enjoyed it.

One reason is that it has a hell of a good cast. Matsuoka Yuki is the lead character, and she's using the same voice she uses for Evangeline A.K. McDowell. She is superb, and really is the one to make this show work.

Kou Jun was voiced by Wakamoto Norio. Chin Kyuu is voiced by Nishimura Chinami, sounding nothing at all like any other role I've heard her in. (She is very versatile, you know that?)

The ending? I liked it a lot. It was another head fake, and they fooled me again with it.

I've got a swarm of frame grabs, some NSFW, below the fold. I suppose that some of them might be considered spoilers, but they aren't really.

more...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 10:36 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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May 30, 2010

11Eyes -- it's been done before

So I'm watching a show called "11eyes" (and yes, the lack of a space is part of the name). After two episodes, my reaction is: Realbout High School did it better. But it's close to being the same story, though there are differences. One is that this one's not a comedy. They're playing it completely seriously.

Our hero is Kakeru. His best friend is Yuka. They're both orphans. Seven years previously, at the orphanage, Kakeru's sister killed herself before him. Yuka came into the room just after it happened.

Kakeru has been emotionally stunted ever since. Yuka has been his closest and best friend, and she's really the only one he feels comfortable with. She eventually got adopted by a childless couple, with whom she lives to the present day and with whom she seems very happy. He never was adopted, but now that he's second-year in high school he's old enough to live alone in a cheap apartment.

The two of them have been getting pulled into an alternate universe, where the fixed scenery is exactly the same, including all the bridges and buildings of their city, but nothing else is. The sky there is dark red. There are hardly any people. There are monsters of various kinds, and strange beings known as "black knights".

The second time they go through, they meet a girl from their school. She's third year. Her name is Kusukabe.

Kakeru wears an eye patch over his right eye. He's blind on that side, and the eye is bright golden colored. Kusukabe says that there are three other students besides them who have been in and out of the other world, which Yuka calls "Red Night". Kusukabe says that's a good name for it.

Kusukabe says that all the others have unusual abilities, and presumes that it's the same for Yuka and Kakeru. In his case, it seems that his right eye is the key to his power. For Yuka, no clue at all.

Kakeru and Yuka also start seeing what looks like Kakeru's older sister appearing in various places. And there are other mysterious characters, including a blonde dojikko who isn't what she seems. She was introduced at the end of the second episode.

The general feeling I'm getting from the first two episodes is that the director really is trying to do a good job here, but the result is still kind of second rate. It all feels entirely derivative.

And at least so far, Realbout High School really did do it better, with more interesting and engaging characters, better action sequences, and more and better fan service.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 10:16 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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May 29, 2010

Mystery Meat -- Ranma reprise

This came by on the torrents in April and I only just now got around to watching it. It's titled "Ranma - Akumu Shunminko" which I think translates as "Nightmare of the deep-sleeping girl". It seems to be a special on the 50th anniversary of some magazine.

At the beginning there's a vignette featuring a guy and a girl from each of Urusei Yatsura, Inuyasha, and Ranma 1/2. Five characters (ahem), counting Ranma twice.

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It starts with Ataru trying to pick up Ranma-chan. He eventually also tries to pick up Kagome. It ends with him being blasted by Inuyasha, by Lum, and by Ranma-chan (who uses something that looks an awfully lot like a kamehameha, though s/he calls it something else). Then we get the above scene, and they roll the OP.

The main show is Ranma 1/2. (Which makes me wonder if there were other episodes of this based on the other shows.)

It's a confection. That's the best way to put it. It doesn't develop any important plot, and doesn't make any continuity changes. They manage to work in nearly every important character from the series (including a couple I didn't recognize, like one guy in the school who looks like a zombie) without it seeming like an extended curtain call. (And that was quite a feat.) When they show up, and when they do the things they do, it makes sense.

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Ahem, I do believe they've gotten bigger. Seems like that girl who drowned in the Jusenkyou pool wasn't fully developed yet. (cough choke)

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No doubt about it.

Now there is a legitimate reason why Ranma-chan is standing in the middle of the sports field at school with her shirt pulled up. Nothing gratuitous about it, nosirree...

They even included Happousai, which is unfortunate. But he isn't in it much, and he gets the shit kicked out of him about four times, so that's a win. (It was Happousai that Ranma was luring in with her boobs. Worked, too, which is why the laughter.)

Everyone who is cursed transforms at least once, another thing that fans probably  would insist on. And a lot of this happened at the school, which confirms something from the OVAs: the Jusenkyou curse isn't a secret any longer. Everyone knows about Ranma and Genma, not to mention Shampoo and Mousse. (Shampoo is still the sexiest cat I've ever seen.)

Except... that Akane still apparently doesn't know about Ryuuga, and that jerk Tatewaki may still not know about Ranma.

They did blow continuity once:

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Shouldn't this be causing Ranma to go insane? Or has s/he gotten better control over the Neko-Ken? (Or maybe I'm thinking too much. Again.)

So, well, there's lots of frenetic activity. Lots of people get beat up but no one is hurt. Ranma shows us her tits. Happousai gets beaten up several times. Everyone gets to play. It's fun!

Recommended.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 04:37 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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January 03, 2010

Mystery Meat -- Highlander, The Search for Vengeance

Today's mystery meat is "Highlander -- The Search for Vengeance".

Highlander? You mean they did a Highlander movie without Christopher Lambert? Yup, and it's animated. An American production, at least in the sense of who fronted the money, animated in Japan, and voiced in English by American voice actors. (There was a version of it released in Japan, with Japanese seiyuu, and it wasn't edited quite the same way. I watched the American release.)

The "Highlander" mythos, as originally presented in the live-action films, has an element of the Flying Dutchman legend. In this film they've accentuated that aspect of it.

The fundamental story is of a man named Colin, who was born in England about 100 AD. His tribe, about 400 men, end up fighting against a Roman legion of about 4000 men.

Since I don't want to reveal any spoilers, all I can really say is that Colin's tribe is eradicated. His wife is brutally killed. He is the only survivor. The Romans were led by Marcus Octavius, another immortal. Colin then spends about 2000 years pursuing Octavius seeking vengeance, finding him again and again, fighting him again and again -- and losing every time, only to be saved by chance or the presence of holy ground.

There are a lot of flashbacks in the film which fill in that aspect of it. The "present" is about 2150 AD in post-holocaust New York, mainly Manhattan.

The animation is very high budget. The character designs look to be inspired by Afro Samurai, probably in hopes of appealing to the same audience.

They have taken some serious liberties with the original canon. The most important change is that Colin is not born a Scot. He becomes MacLeod about a thousand years after his birth, more or less by adoption. That's an interesting aspect to his story, because thereafter he always identifies himself as being a member of clan MacLeod. But he originated in southern England.

As with the Flying Dutchman, MacLeod is a man condemned to living hell by his own stubbornness. And that is ultimately the story in this movie; not his vengeance, but how he is ultimately redeemed from a curse of his own making. He will continue to sail down through the centuries, but he is no longer damned.

It turned out to be a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I started writing this in parallel with watching it, and included the usual snark, but about half way through the film I stopped, and once it was over, I deleted everything I'd written and started over.

It is an excellent film, and I recommend it highly.

I've tossed some frame grabs below the fold.

more...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 07:20 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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January 02, 2010

Mystery Meat -- Debutante Detective Corps

Today's Mystery Meat is "Debutante Detective Corps". And it opens with someone using a fancy gold-plated pistol to shoot a TV.

More below the fold. (Borderline NSFW)

more...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 01:59 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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December 30, 2009

Mystery Meat -- Legend of Lemnear

Today's Mystery Meat is Legend of Lemnear. It's a "movie" (i.e. 45 minute) OVA from 1979 1989 based on a manga by the legendary Urushihara, who is also credited for "Production Supervision".

It's not earth shattering but it isn't bad. It's pretty much a by-the-numbers sword and sorcery epic. It feels like something that could have been in the "Heavy Metal" movie. Lemnear is the "Silver Champion", one of three (along with Bronze and Gold).

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And it has all the usual things we expect: a monumental and terrifying fortress for the bad guy, who is powerful but ugly. A gorgeous heroine wearing a battle bikini, who spends at least some of the show without her bra, including fighting that way.

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We also get one rape that gets interrupted before it really gets started, lots of magical destruction, strange and wonderful creatures, prophecies, magic items, lots of violence, more blood than I felt comfortable with, and eventually Lemnear becoming a super-saiyajin. And, of course, the good guys winning in the end.

What we don't get is Urushihara's legendary nipples. I guess he wasn't that close to the production, and they didn't feel like spending the time and money to get it right. But it's still pretty good.

It's out of print in R1 but Bob still has a few, so I'll order a guilt copy in my next buy. Besides which, anything from Urushihara is worth having.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 12:56 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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December 29, 2009

Mystery Meat -- Mahoraba - Heartful Days

Today's mystery meat is Mahoraba -- Heartful Days. It sure ain't a mystery to some people. Pete is a big fan. But I don't know much about it. My vague impression is that it's a high school romcom focusing mainly on day-in-the-life stories -- but I could be wrong.

Let's find out. (spoilers below the fold.)

UPDATE: comments on the second episode added

more...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 08:04 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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