December 26, 2009
Man, there have been some utterly shitty anime produced based on low "high concepts", you know that? Today's mystery meat is "Ultimate Girls", and the pitch went this way:
"It's a show about three gorgeous high school girls who become super heroes and can grow to giant size to fight monsters like Godzilla, only we can't use Godzilla because it's trademarked, so we'll create our own. After twenty or thirty seconds of becoming giants, the girls' costumes start dissolving, right in front of the entire city of Tokyo."
OK, that's good for 12 15-minute episodes, right? WRONG!
I tell you, the first episode of that was painful to watch. The hook is that Tokyo is constantly being invaded by giant creatures, and it has been defended by a giant called UFO Man. In response to the latest attacker, which looks like Godzilla's retarded younger brother, he flies in. And accidentally lands on the three girls, killing them.
Well, can't have that. He manages to retrieve their souls, somehow or other, and transfers most of his own power into them, restoring them to life. Sounds like Birdy the Mighty, doesn't it? Or UFO Princess Valkyrie, for that matter.
When he did that, he himself lost the ability to become a giant. So the girls have to take over defending the city.
I say "girls"; in the first episode it was only Silk who did it. And indeed eventually her entire costume melted away, leaving her stark naked. At which point she started screaming, and a bright glow covered her, struck the Godzilla-alike, and broke it into pieces. Then she shrunk. Her original clothes didn't reappear, either, having been ripped to shreds when she grew. Fortunately, one of her friends happened to have just bought a cosplay costume and had it with her, so Silk was able to wear that.
The show is loaded with Freudian symbols. After the three girls come back to life, the way that Silk grows to a giant is to grab a phallic looking appendage coming out of the bottom of UFO-man's itty bitty ship. And when she does, he flies above her and drips a whole bunch of glowing white energy on her, and I do mean "drips". Once she's entirely covered, it soaks into her and the henshin sequence begins. Eeew!
I'm not even slightly curious about the rest of it. One episode was enough!
December 24, 2009
Weiss Survive was an extended advertisement for a collectable card game, and there were 16 three-minute-long episodes of it. It may not have been very successful in doing what the producers wanted, that being to increase sales of the card game.
For the sequel, they seem to have played the ecchi card:
So the obvious question is, did they really? Did they follow through? Three episodes of it are out as I write this, fansubbed by Ayako, and let's find out. (NSFW below the fold)more...
December 10, 2009
I wasn't really much of a fan of the original Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network. For one thing, I resented the fact that the utterly brilliant Dexter's Laboratory was cancelled so that the animation team could work on PPG instead. I resented even more than it ran 6 seasons, when they only did 3 of Dexter's Lab.
Even though PPG was inferior to DL in nearly every way, it still has to be admitted that it had an element of charm and wit. Professor Utonium created a mixture of sugar and spice and everything nice, but he also inadvertantly added the mysterious element X and the result was three bitty girls with super powers. He decided to call them Buttercup, Blossum, and Bubbles, and they lived at his home. The bad guys in the series tended to be satires of classic super-hero series bad guys.
Every superhero has to have his prime enemy. For Superman it's Lex Luthor. For Batman it's the Joker. For the Powerpuff Girls, it was Mojo Jojo, a chimpanzee who was exposed to the same mysterious element X and developed human level intelligence. What was unique (and satirical) about Mojo Jojo was that he took monologuing to an extreme. The guy wouldn't shut up. (I think they may have let the voice actor ad lib a lot of that stuff.)
I was frankly incredulous when I read that someone in Japan had the bright idea of making an anime version of the series. I remember seeing the concept art and getting even more incredulous. But they did it, one full season. I always wondered what it was like.
That whole season eventually showed up on BakaBT, and a couple of days ago I downloaded it.
I got halfway through the first episode and gave up. There is nothing right about it.
The back story has changed. Professor Utonium and his son were doing an experiment with Element Z (not X) and had an accident that resulted in lots of strange beams of light hitting Tokyo (not Townsville) and converting all sorts of animals and lowlives and sundry other stuff into monsters. Fortunately for Tokyo three of the beams hit grade school girls, who had previously been perfectly normal, and gave them super powers. Somehow or other they connected up with Professor Utonium and became super powered crime fighters, using special weapons he created for them. (I assume that the back story came out in later episodes, but it wasn't there in the first half of the first episode, which is all I could force myself to watch.)
As to the super powered devices? You know those plastic things with the big hole at one end that come in bottles of bubble soap to allow you to blow bubbles? Well, Bubbles has a huge one of those, and she fights by making bubbles with it to drift slowly to her enemy and, seemingly, hit it with great force.
Blossom has a yo-yo which she can shoot out and recover really rapidly. It has a range of maybe 2 feet beyond her hand. Hitting someone with the yo-yo is how she fights.
Buttercup carries a big toy plastic hammer. It reminded me of one that shows up briefly in Angelic Layer. It's the only one of the weapons that makes any sense at all, and it doesn't make much sense.
At the beginning of the first episode, Mojo (no "Jojo" any longer) showed up in Tokyo. He attacks a kindergarten and captures all the kids so he can take and eat all their candy, and grow larger and stronger. The mayor of Tokyo calls Professor Utonium and asks for help, and Utonium's son hits the alert button. The girls are all in the same grade school class, and simultaneously tell the teacher they need to go to the school nurse. After which they run up to the roof of the building, go through a henshin sequence that was too long and really dull, and fly away to confront Mojo.
Who doesn't monologue any more. And who has the ability to fire energy blasts. And in general looked the same but was completely different.
The PPG Mojo Jojo was very much like Lex Luthor, extremely brilliant but having no super powers as such. But the DP Mojo seemed to have super powers, and wasn't really very smart, from my limited encounter with him.
By that point I'd had enough, and stopped watching. NOT RECOMMENDED!!!
November 29, 2009
Today's mystery meat is "Summer Wars". It's a movie that was in Japanese theaters in August. A fansub hit the torrents a few days ago.
ANN ran a review of it (SPOILERS, unfortunately), thereby cementing the fact that they no longer have any commercial ethics at all. (I should talk.) Their reviewer was wildly enthusiastic, and the description of it sounded pretty good, so I decided to hunt around and downloaded it.
And I'm wildly enthusiastic about it, too. It's an amazing ride. The beginning is a bit contrived, but once it starts moving the action never stops.
There's a virtual world called Oz. It's kind of what Second Life wants to be when it grows up. A billion people participate, and a lot of the world's commerce has moved into it. There are online stores, sites for government services, chat rooms, and many kinds of games, and a lot of people spend a lot of time there. It can be played using a computer, or with a phone, or via cable TV.
Player avatars tend to be cute animals, though there's considerable flexibility and some people's avatars are more realistic.
Our hero is Kenji, a math nerd. It's summer vacation and he and his friend have part time jobs doing system maintenance on Oz. They're in the school's computer lab when Natsuki, the prettiest girl in the school, on whom Kenji has a secret crush, sticks her head in and asks if anyone wants a summer job.
Seems she's part of an influential, but not particularly rich, clan and the current matriarch is about to have her 90th birthday. Natsuki has to go back for the celebration and for some reason she seems to need to bring a guy along.
Kenji wins janken against his friend so he gets the pleasure. Later, when Natsuki introduces him to Grandmother, the family matriarch, Natsuki says that he's her fiance. Which tosses Kenji for a loop, but he tries to cope. It's a hectic day, and later when he's in bed he has a hard time trying to sleep. Then his phone rings. It's a text message.
The subject is "Try to solve this". The return address is unfamiliar. The text body is just a long string of digits. Kenji is a math nerd who nearly was chosen to represent Japan in the world math Olympiad, so he can't resist a challenge like this. A few hours later he's cracked it, and responds to the email message. Then he falls asleep.
Next morning he's waked by two of the kids living there jumping on him. They drag him into the living room where he sees a picture of himself on the TV. Seems that someone cracked the Oz system passwords and has taken control of the system, and is using his avatar, so he's been fingered as the culprit.
But from there it doesn't go the way you might think. Actually, I was constantly surprised by what happened. It was an amazing journey and I'm really glad I watched it.
This fansub is strange. It's a widescreen video and the fansub is 640*352. It was originally hardsubbed in Korean, and the fansubbers laid an English hardsub on top of that. It would be interesting to know the provenance of the raw; my bet is that someone used a TV camera in a Korean theater. The Korean subs were on screen.
If there was any title that begged for BD release, this is it. A lot of the activity in the story takes place in Oz, which is all CG, and it's fabulous looking stuff. The conventional animation also gets pretty lush in some parts and it's all really good.
And as to the love story? It's handled beautifully. I won't say anything more.
This is altogether an awesome movie. ANN's reviewer gave it a rating of "A" and I fully agree with that.
November 21, 2009
Nanatsuiro Drops was a new torrent appearing on BakaBT, and it looked good for grins so I downloaded it. After watching the first episode, about a week ago, I really didn't think I could handle any more and didn't feel like writing it up. The beginning of it was virtually identical to any of a dozen other magical girl shows. Only not quite.
There's a guy in a boarding school. The school is coed. He's handsome. But he's also not very social. He's nice, but he keeps to himself. Some of his classmates finally chew him out for it, but for some reason he just isn't comfortable doing it. It's his fault; the others aren't shunning him, and in fact they like him.
His name is a mouthful: Tsuwabuki Masaharu. Others either call him Tsuwabuki-kun or, eventually, Haru-kun.
There's a teacher, kind of swishy, who manipulates Haru into working with the Gardening club. One of the girls in his class, who secretly has a crush on him (did I mention that he's really good looking?) is in it. Haru feels a little annoyance but doesn't take it out on her; he isn't an asshole. She gives him a can of soda to drink. A weird looking guy with animal ears comes through carrying a whole load of soda cans, and they collide, and cans go everywhere. Haru helps collect them, and the kemonomimi hands him one and says it's Haru's. Only it isn't.
Haru drinks it, and is magically transformed into a plushy that looks like a ram, complete with horns. Haru wears glasses and so does the plushy. He can still move and talk. The teacher finds him.
Turns out the teacher is a sorceror. Turns out there's another world, magical. Turns out that the kemonomimi is from there. Turns out that if a normal human drinks one of their potions, he turns into an animal.
And... it turns out that there's only one way to fix it. Haru the plushy ram gets to be the cute animal sidekick for a mahou shoujo on a magical quest to collect seven star drops, magical whatsis's which occasionally fall from the sky. In the mean time, Haru will convert to his normal human form during the day, and to the plushy ram at night. And if anyone ever finds out that he's the ram, bad things will happen. Of course, there's another mahou shoujo competing for the star drops.
It's kind of half-way between Card Captor Sakura and Moetan. And it turns out that Haru's mahou shoujo is Akihime Sumomo, the girl from his class who has a crush on him.
Part of what turned me off from the first episode was Sumomo's voice. It's annoying as hell. Evidently I'm not the only one who thinks so; that seiyuu hasn't gotten many roles.
Tonight I got curious and decided to watch the last episode to see how it came out. That Haru and Sumomo would end up in love was a foregone conclusion, but how would it all be handled at the end?
I ended up watching the last three episodes, and you know what? It wasn't the ending I expected. Parts of it reminded me of the ending of Maburaho except that they didn't cheat. Spoilers below the fold.more...
November 07, 2009
I'm kind of stretching the category concept with this one because I knew what I was getting, or had a pretty good idea.
I watched part of Mai Otome and gave up about the time that Arika's uniform was stolen and Arika got saddled with an unpayable mountain of debt. Too much "Genki girl screws up" and not enough super-saiyajins.
The sequel OVA is placed in time after Arika becomes a full Otome and forms a contract with Mashiro. And it had what I really wanted from the series: lots of super saiyajins. In fact, it was almost the case that there were too many of them; it got hard to keep track of them all. Apparently the writers thought so too, because they turned several of them into stone in order to get them out of the way.
Arika seems to be the only one who can do Super Saiyajin 2, though, so Arika and Mashiro are the primary characters in the series.
So if I were to summarize this, it'd be: DBZ, except more techno, less ki, and far more pretty girls, with better animation. And that's not a bad thing to be.
I recognized several voices in it, and they were pleasant surprises. Nagi has the voice of Setsuna in the Sakura Wars TV series. He makes a really good villain. (The same seiyuu also did Xellos in Slayers Next, but it isn't really the same voice.)
Natsuki has the voice of Sakamoto in Strike Witches. That seiyuu also did Akina in UFO Princess Valkyrie, but that's her higher more humorous voice. The Sakamoto/Natsuki voice is lower, deeper, and far more serious, and it fits the Natsuki character beautifully.
All the voice acting was really good. And the combat animation was nice. I think I could have done without the fan service insert at the beginning of ep 3, however; it was stupid and gratuitous and I skipped through it. (Imagine that: me skipping bikini shots.)
The first episode sure as hell started well. The first five minutes or so are really gripping, enough so that it took a while for the main story to match it. But the later fights in the main series were just as good.
It's a good time, and you don't really need to have watched the original TV series in order to enjoy it. Definitely recommended.
UPDATE: By the way, the version I watched was 1080p. And it looks gorgeous.
UPDATE: Who would have believed there were Jawas in this place?
(Oh, and they spelled schwartz wrong.)
October 25, 2009
Today's Mystery Meat is "Keisatsu Sensha Tai TANK S.W.A.T. 01". I downloaded it for bonus points. (By the way, I'm over 19,000 bonus points as of this morning.)
It's rendered, not drawn, and the figures don't look good and don't move smoothly. And the tanks don't quite make sense to me. It's a bit like Kemeko, in the "How in hell do they fit in there?" kind of way.
Some of the characters are androids.Two of the cops are named Yuni Puma and Ana Puma, and they are androids. They have cat ears.
It's 29 minutes long, and a stand-alone story. It seems to be a case of them really trying to do something their technology didn't really permit. The rendering just doesn't look very good. The character designs are unconvincing. It's also a no-name cast.
It could have been reasonable with about twice the budget, but then what show can't you say that about? For a show that came out in 2006, the 3D is really surprisingly crude. It isn't that the tools didn't exist by then, it's that they were too expensive. This whole show reeks of corner cutting.
Definitely not recommended.
October 24, 2009
Today's Mystery Meat is "Ninja Gaiden". I know that I downloaded this for bonus points, so it could be anything. Presumably it has ninjas in it, though.more...
October 20, 2009
Today's Mystery Meat is "Angel's Tail". It isn't really quite a mystery; I downloaded it because it's something I've thought of watching, and I remember the general idea behind it. Still, today I decided to give it a try.
A guy who is maybe in his 20's seems to have hard luck. His pet fish dies. (No, really!) And then he misses his train, and it's raining even though it wasn't predicted, and he trips and falls and and gets his suit soaked. Sitting under the awning at the closed pet shop, he muses about how things go for him.
Suddenly there's a fortune teller next to him. She says, you're always late to catch the train. When you don't have an umbrella, it rains.
Actually, it turns out his troubles run a lot deeper than that. He's out of work, and behind on his rent, and can't find a job. He's never had a girl friend. She tells him these things, and he admits to them. She says, "Soon, luck will find you."
She does something to his phone, which he doesn't notice. Later, at home, he leaves his phone on the table and goes to take a bath. And it starts to ring, then spontaneously opens, and starts to glow magically. The same magical symbol she created appears.
As he comes out of his bath, wearing only a towel and not wearing his glasses, he sees three cute girls, though not very well. Putting on his glasses, he sees these three:
His reaction is, "Who the heck are you?" The three of them turn around and consult. "I knew he'd be surprised." They turn back around and introduce themselves. The soft-spoken redhead is Lan. The one with blue hair is Tsubasa, and uses boku. The little one is Kurumi. They say they are angels of protection. "We've come because the Goddess told us to protect you."
Well, they do magic. And his towel falls off. And everyone screams. And he passes out. He wakes later. The others are sleeping with him.
Cut to a bit later. He's locked himself in the toilet. They're knocking on the door, trying to convince him to come out. They tell him they were originally animals -- that being the setup for the show.
The concept is of a warped harem. Eventually there are going to be 12 of them, all animals who knew him, that he was kind to, when they were alive. He's freaked. But his phone rings. Tsubasa gets it, and he rushes out. Turns out he's got another intervew at 2:00 -- and presumably it's a job he'll get this time.
Later we learn that Lan, the redhead, was the goldfish we saw at the beginning. And she's now afraid of water. Looks like the one with blue hair is afraid of heights. She originally was a parakeet. The little one was a hamster.
It looks like they themselves don't know that he is the one they all knew when alive. They have been assigned to help him, and if they succeed they've been told they'll be reunited with their respective masters.
He got a job offer, but Tsubasa caused a problem and he lost it again. They follow him home, and he tells them to leave him alone.
They walk away, sadly. But then they hear him playing his harmonica. And all of them recognize it as being something their masters played. They run back. He's sitting on the stairs outside his place. Tsubasa (the ex-hamster) runs to him and hugs him, and recognizes his scent. They all tell him who, or what, they had been.
He's shocked, needless to say. He doesn't believe it. "Don't say such foolish things about them. They'll never come back." That last quite sadly; it seems he does remember, and still misses them.
They all start humming the same piece of music. And he starts seeing memories -- of the gold fish, the parakeet, and the hamster.
He finally agrees to let them stay. And they get a heart-warming reunion. Pan back, and it's an image in the fortune teller's crystal ball. She would seem to be the goddess the girls referred to.
As to why the goddess has decided to bless him in this way? I think the presumption is that it's because he's been kind to animals, even though each of them broke his heart by dying or disappearing unexpectedly. As described, he was a on a trip and the air pump in the goldfish's tank stopped, so she was dead when he returned. (And that's why she's now afraid of water.) He found the parakeet with a broken wing, and cared for her, but her wing never really healed. One time she tried to fly in order to show him the beauty of her flight, but she lost control and crashed and died. (And now she's afraid of heights.) The hamster broke out of her cage, and got lost and couldn't find her way back, and starved. (And now she becomes frightened if she's hungry.) In each case he seems to have mourned them, and maybe the Goddess is thinking that someone as goodhearted as him really deserves better karma than he's been getting.
But that's just a wild ass guess. I'm not really curious enough to look later in the series to find out. (Feel free to fill me in if you want.)
The teaser makes clear that most of the eps will be "new angel of the week". The next one has glasses and twintails.
So, the decision? Not for me. Entirely too sentimental, for one thing. It's a harem show, in a sense, but it isn't a comedy. And waaaaay too sentimental. Just not my kind of show, especially since the cast is going to be far too crowded given that there are going to be nine more of them before it's all over.
It feels a bit like Sister Princess did, which started with four sisters and went up from there. If they'd stuck with just the initial four, it might have been a better series. Same thing here: if they stuck with just those initial three angels, it might be OK depending on the kind of story telling they chose to do. But 12 is just too many, especially for a series which is only 12 eps long (not counting the two OVAs).
How many pet animals did this guy have when he was a kid? Looking at the credits, it seems that the entire pantheon will eventually be: a tanuki, a monkey, a turtle, a cat, a snake, a hamster, a frog, a goldfish, a fox, a parakeet, a dog, and a rabbit.
This was done in 2000, and Hirano Aya is in it (as the monkey). It must have been one of her very earliest parts; she would only have been 12 or 13 when it was made. It has an A-list cast: Chiba Saeko (fox), Tanaka Rie (goldfish), Nogawa Sakura (parakeet), Kawasumi Ayako (turtle). (Though they may not have been considered A-list when it was made.)
But it just doesn't feel like my kind of show. I'm not a big one for shows that ladle on the sentiment, and this one looks to be heavy on the heart-warming tear jerking.
UPDATE: The original Japanese name is Tenshi no Shippo which means "tails of angels" (assuming an implied plural). It isn't a pun in Japanese. It makes me wonder if they started with the English pun.
October 19, 2009
Today's Mystery Meat is "Quiz Magical Academy". I was attracted to it because it's about magic, and it's humor -- and because of fan service.
It's a one-shot from last year, based on a video game which ran on a number of consoles. So the show is pretty much a teaser for the game, at least indirectly. And it looks like it had a pretty good budget, because the animation looks fantastic.
One place they didn't skimp was the seiyuu. Koyasu is in it, and Wakamoto Norio is in full-bore ham mode with his character. And Kuwashima Houko isn't cast as an emotionless girl, for a change. Plus Asano Masumi and Mizuhashi Kaori. All welcome, and all doing a good job.
The fundamental story is that it's a class of weirdos, who are mostly doing pretty good in their studies but have been accumulating a lot of demerits from their eccentric antics and mistakes. As a result, the class's overall score is the worst in the school, and their teacher (who is new) is in trouble for it. The only way to redeem things is for the class to win the Interclass Group Magic Battle at the next school festival.
And as part of their training they get hit with trivia questions about magic. Which makes sense because the console games are trivia games.
This isn't really any kind of story; it's just a setup for a lot of sight gags, and some pretty awesome magic in the end. But it's clear that whoever made it wouldn't mind at all if it were picked up to become a series.
Quite frankly, I wouldn't mind, either. The potential is definitely there for it to be a lot of fun. I hope it happens. In the mean time, this one-of is worth watching.
I've got a bunch of frame grabs below the fold.more...
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