La Luna Misteriosa: Polyphonica Crimson S

Students and spirits combine

to create music and save the known world.

To begin with, dear reader, let me just assure you that the cover of this DVD has nothing to do with today’s actual series. It is not loli porn or regular hentai in any way, shape, or form. It’s not even very ecchi. I have no idea why they went with a mostly naked Corti for the cover of the second season. Personally, I would be embarrassed to have this sitting on my anime shelf. And that’s a real shame, because Polyphonica Crimson S is actually quite an excellent anime (as I hoped it would be in my First Impressions post).

Hey kid, I know I’m glowing and stuff, but just don’t freak out, alright? All will be explained in this season, so hang tight…

This is the second season to the original Polyphonica, but it’s actually a prequel. Now we get to see the lives of the Dantists of the Tsuge Divine Music Player Office while they’re still in school and learning to master their One-Man Orchestras in order to play powerful Commandia. (If all of this sounds like gibberish to you, please see my review of the first season in order to get a grasp on the setting and characters involved in season two.) The plot is revealed little by little, and I obviously don’t want to give away any big surprises. What I will say is that you get an in-depth look at Corticarte and Phoron’s growing spirit/Dantist relationship, as well as the struggles that Phoron goes through in order to become a master Dantist. Also, we finally discover the full details of what spirits are, how they function, and exactly how spirits, humans, and indeed this entire world was created. It’s not all sunshine and roses, though, as the antagonists this time around are a group of highly skilled Dantists who are very unhappy with the current state of affairs. Secrets hiding at the Dantist Academy are revealed, and the students have to band together in order to combat the rebels and try to save everything they know and love.

Phoron does his best Phantom of the Opera impression. Gets the ladies every time.

What’s really great about this prequel is the fact that all of my questions and concerns about season one were answered in this season. Seriously, every single problem I had with the first season was addressed here. What the heck are “spirits” and where did they come from? Answered. What’s the full story of Phoron and Corticarte’s relationship? Addressed. The subtitles were normal-sized in this season instead of tiny as they were in the last. The artwork was similar to before but slightly more crisp and detailed this time around. And my biggest concern from last season, the one-off episodes that never developed a sustainable plot, was completely laid to rest in season two. Crimson S was much more successful in producing unique episodes but still feeding details about the big picture each time, so when the final few episodes appeared we, the viewers, were better prepared and much more invested in the outcome.

See what I mean? Ladies love Phantom. All except for Prinesca, who prefers Cats.

On top of fixing the problems from before, the creators of this series kept everything that was great about the first season. Once again the music was lovely, and while not new, it still resonated with beauty, especially in the finale. Corti was as cross and brash as ever, Phoron was still sweet and unassuming, and good ol’ Rembart remained the coolest kid in school. Once again there was an episode devoted to the twin sisters Prinesca and Perserte, and this time I even got a little choked up watching it. There were a few new characters introduced in this season, but not nearly as many as in the first, which made them much easier to keep track of than the folks in season one. While I don’t think that the main cast of Dantists and spirits were necessarily more emotionally developed in this season, because they are the ones that we’ve been following since the beginning it’s easy to feel a kinship with them, fleeting as it may be.

Corti gets a buzz from Phoron’s mighty fine playin’.

Overall, season two of Polyphonica is vastly superior to the first. Every problem I had with season one was answered in spades, and all the good stuff remained. As is par for the course with most anime there was slightly more fan service in this season, but nothing much more than a couple of blurry ecchi shots of Corti. At one point we even see Phoron naked, which was really weird! I mean, I’m all for equal nudity, but he’s such a pure and innocent character that it felt dirty to see his naked lil’ bottom. Even so, it’s nowhere near as ecchi as the cover might lead one to believe. In fact, absolutely everything was better in season two. However, you still need season one in order to appreciate it. I’m so glad that I watched Polyphonica Crimson S because it gave me everything that I was missing the first time. I love backstories and prequels, and this one lived up to all of the promise that was only hinted at in season one.

Rating: ★★★★ Sure, you have to get through season one in order to get to the good stuff here. However, this season alone elevates the entire series.


First Impressions: The Book Of Bantorra

With the books of the world at stake,

know that the librarians kick ass.

I saw a preview for this series on Anime Network and thought that the art looked good. Then the premise was described: books that need the protection of a band of highly skilled fighting librarians. How awesome! I love books, I love libraries, I almost decided to be a librarian myself. This show seemed right up my alley.

We fight for truth, justice, and the Dewey Decimal System!

We begin with a band of said librarians on a boat speeding to a huge ship in order to rescue something or some things. The head librarian, a gal who seems pretty badass but can never manage to button her shirt up over her huge breasts, sits on a cliffside telepathically calling the shots. The huge boat in question is carrying a bunch of guys from the Shindeki Church, who seem to be our given bunch of evildoers for the series. The guys sit around a table and talk cryptically about stuff, and one guy says that he will become the most glorious book ever. What the what? Okaaaay…

This evil guy really loves books. I mean, he really, REALLY loves books.

The librarians talk about looking for a certain item as well as rescuing the…meets? Meats? I’ll go with “meats” for now. “Meats” is a derogatory word for the masses of hollow-faced, dead-eyed people on the huge ship. As the librarians close in, the priests manning the ship start dropping meats that contain bombs into the ocean to deter their pursuers. The librarians are horrified but make it on board anyway. Unfortunately all of the main bad guys fizzle away in a very Star Trek-esque beam, and before the librarians can free the non-bomb meats, the ship explodes. The librarians try to save the meats, but they refuse to save themselves, preferring to simply fall into the murky depths below. I was a bit tired when I watched this initial episode, so I didn’t quite latch on to everything that was happening, but one of the meats began glowing and didn’t drown. How he made it out of the water was a detail I missed, but survive he did, because an unnamed bad dude sends that same meat off to kill someone back on land. Meanwhile we get introduced to the librarians’ headquarters, a few random characters milling around it, and a quest that the director with no buttons wants the librarians from the boat to undertake.

“Buttons? Ha, I need no puny buttons, just my razor-sharp alphabetizing skills!”

I’ll give this anime credit, there’s certainly a lot of detail that this world is simply teeming with. It was probably a bit too much for someone sleepily watching in the wee hours of the morning, but even so, I’m intrigued. I know from the preview that the souls of dead people turn into books that look like stone tablets, and that the librarians protect them, and this was mentioned in passing by an old lady who helps a fumbling young girl dropping stone books at headquarters. Apparently if you read one of these books you get the entire story of someone’s life, which is a cool concept, but I’m not quite sure how this comes into play with the Shindeki Church and the epic battles over books. Still, I’m looking forward to finding out, and hoping that the second episode clears up a few things, plot-wise. As I mentioned before the art is sharp and quite excellent, and the ending theme song was great. Overall I look forward to delving deeper into The Book Of Bantorra, though next time I’ll make sure I’m fully awake so as not to miss anything in this seemingly layered and nuanced story.

First Impressions: Polyphonica Crimson S

Familiar faces retell their tales

only with more detail this time.

Even though you might think that I wouldn’t be interested in a second season of Polyphonica based on my review of season one, I’m actually pretty stoked to get the chance to watch it. Besides the various good points from the first season that would reel me in again (namely the music, the main character Corti, and the hope of another moving final episode) it turns out that season two, Polyphonica Crimson S, is actually a prequel. And I love a good prequel.

Corticarte, before the evil magic forced her to wear a full shirt.

Episode one opens much like the first episode of season one, showing the spirit Corticarte meeting a young Phoron for the first time, only now we get a bit more detail. Corti is drawn to Phoron’s singing and appears before him, saying that she wants him and his song to be entirely hers. However, she soon disappears. (By the by, if you’re unfamiliar with this series, you should definitely take a gander at my review of Polyphonica before going further, otherwise it might get confusing.) From there we skip ahead to Phoron attending Dantist Academy, where students go to learn how to hone their musical abilities in order to utilize the help of spirits. Poor Phoron is having difficulty and is in danger of not advancing due to the fact that he can’t summon a single spirit. Renbart is attending school with Phoron (as are younger versions of all of the Dantists of the Tsuge Divine Music Player Office) and encourages him to keep trying, but even though Phoron has seemingly mastered his one-man orchestra, the spirits refuse to show.

Naked girl grabs Phoron: cue sexual innuendo.

One day Phoron is practicing alone in the auditorium when he recalls meeting Corticarte as a child. Instead of playing his musical instrument, he begins singing the same song that he sang on that night many years ago. The other Dantists are secretly listening to him sing, as is a shadowy figure who seems to be trapped in a dungeon. As Phoron finishes, Renbart, Prinesca, and Perserte all descend on him to praise his singing. However, they’ve just begun to give their glowing reviews when the shadowy figure, who has escaped during the song, appears in the Academy and begins trashing the place. The young Dantists follow the shadow outside, where Eufinley (the future boss of the Tsuge Divine Music Player Office) begins playing her violin in order to get her spirit to attack the shadow. Eufinley’s spirit is no match, however, and the shadowy figure advances on Phoron. Suddenly the shadows fade and we see that it’s Corticarte. She tells Phoron that she was captured that night may years ago before she could complete the spirit bond with him, but hearing his song again freed her (though she’s now in a slightly diminutive form). Now she can be Phoron’s spirit, and he, her Dantist. Plus, Phoron gets to advance in school, hurray! The episode ends some time later on with Corti and Perserte bickering jealously over Phoron (and Prinesca standing awkwardly nearby) as they all make their way to class.

Shenanigans! Hijinks! Hilarity ensues!

This episode was basically an expanded version of a flashback episode from season one. What I like about it is that we finally seem to be getting some juicy background details on these characters, which as I noted in my review, was sorely lacking from the first season. Everything thus far is exactly like season one art-wise, music-wise, and setting-wise. The big difference is that now we have more character-driven plot to sink our teeth into. I hope that the second season continues in this vein of expanding backstories instead of creating wacky Scooby Doo-esque capers for the teenage Dantists to engage in. I’m still expecting one-off storylines like we had in season one, but as long as the characters remain at the forefront of this series, I don’t see how it can go wrong. This episode set my expectations fairly high for Polyphonica Crimson S. I hope that it lives up to its initial promise.

Kdrama Fights Back: City Hunter

A twisted fate leads one man to fight crime,

but the truth will change his world.

Well, it took me a little while, but I finally finished watching the Kdrama version of City Hunter this week. (Truth be told, two months is nothing compared to the endless weeks it takes me to complete an On Demand anime series, but I digress.) It was quality viewing throughout, but I didn’t become super addicted until halfway through.

Crappy faux dads don't use bottles to raise stolen babies, they use guns.

The initial episode, which I wrote about in great detail in my First Impressions post, is the most important when it comes to plot, but I’ll summarize it again briefly. In 1983 twenty-one South Korean soldiers were sent on a secret mission to kill officials in North Korea as a revenge tactic after a bombing. However, during the mission the five men who organized the whole thing realized that what they did would ignite a political landmine, so they sent in a sniper to kill all of the soldiers as they were returning to the submarine that was supposed to take them home. Only one soldier survived, Lee Jin-pyo, and he had the brilliant idea to steal his now-dead best friend’s infant son and raise him on a drug compound in Thailand. The boy, Yoon-sung, learns how to fight and wield a gun, but it isn’t until his faux father gets injured that he finds out the reason for his unconventional upbringing. Jin-pyo explains that Yoon-sung’s real father was killed just after he was born, and now it is up to the boy to exact vengeance on the five men who sent those twenty-one soldiers to die.

Kim Young-joo tries to think of ways to win against Yoon-sung in the upcoming Blue House wet t-shirt contest.

Yoon-sung takes this news surprisingly well, and after spending a few years in the US earning a fancy MIT degree, he returns to Korea for the first time since he was a baby in order to take a job on the Blue House’s IT team. (The Blue House is the Korean version of the American White House.) From there he sets out to bring the five corrupt politicians to justice by exposing their lies to the public and delivering them to a young prosecutor named Kim Young-joo. The trouble starts when his blood-thirsty fake dad shows up in Korea as well. Jin-pyo doesn’t just want the five in jail and politically ruined, he wants them dead, but Yoon-sung doesn’t want to create anymore orphans. Throughout the rest of the series the two men come into conflict as they work to bring justice to the fallen soldiers using different methods, but it’s Yoon-sung’s Batman-like approach to bringing the truth to light that earns him the moniker of “City Hunter.” Kim Young-joo provides plenty of trouble of his own in his fervent quest to discover the real identity of the City Hunter. Then there’s Yoon-sung’s mother, Lee Kyung-hee, who has never given up hope of seeing her son again. However, Yoon-sung was told that he was abandoned by her as an infant, so even when he finds her his anger prevents him from revealing who he really is. And last but not least is Kim Nana, the Blue House guard who keeps having run-ins first with Yoon-sung, then the City Hunter. She has a full backstory filled with drama all her own, and when she and Yoon-sung meet sparks fly. But the City Hunter can’t fall in love, because love is a liability when you’re in the business of bringing justice to the world…

Surprise, there's romance hidden inside this action drama, too!

Whoo, boy, where to begin on this one? I must say, City Hunter really puts the drama in Kdrama. There are a billion twists and turns in this series, enough to make an American soap opera blush with envy. Just when you think you have one part figured out, three new riddles spring forth. Some of the answers I guessed in advance, and some completely took me by surprise. Overall, though, it was very enjoyable to watch this tale unfold. I must admit that it took me several episodes to really get into it. Up until now all of my Kdramas have been romantic comedies, which are easier for me to become immersed in than stories filled with fight scenes and warfare. (What can I say, I’m a lover and a dreamer, not a fighter.) Even with the über delicious Lee Min Ho at the helm I still wasn’t dying to watch an episode marathon until halfway through. By that point we have established likable characters and I was invested enough to crave knowing what comes next. The cliffhanger endings only helped fuel the fire. The end of the series wasn’t as tidy as previous series such as Boys Over Flowers and Lie To Me, but it answered the main questions, which is good enough. I would have liked a few more details about what happens after the finale, but considering how many storylines they had to tie up, it worked out pretty well.

The modern-day crime fighter: much more unobtrusive, though just as stylish as a Batsuit.

The acting in City Hunter is top-notch. I expect nothing less from Lee Min Ho, but I was happy to see that his excellent supporting cast kept pace with him every step of the way. The music was really good: the opening title song is badass and bombastic, the love theme is sweet without getting too saccharine, and the score is dramatic and fitting. Not to mention there’s a good smattering of fun and bouncy K-pop for the fans. Many songs were used over and over again throughout the series, as I’ve noticed is the norm in Kdramas, but this soundtrack had a large quantity of songs to draw on, which meant that I wasn’t sick of hearing them by episode twenty. The action scenes were very cool and choreographed well, the dramatic scenes became less cheesy the more involved you become with the characters, and there’s also plenty of funny parts as well as romance to keep this series well-rounded. I rooted for all of the “good” characters, despised all of the “bad” characters, and generally enjoyed getting lost in this winding and intricate drama. I read a bit about the manga that this series was based on, and I’m glad that the Kdrama version deviates from the source material. I’m completely bored with leading male characters who are misogynistic playboys, but I can definitely get behind a lead character who only pretends to be a playboy in order to keep his identity a secret. (Hence another reason why I’ve always been a Batman kind of girl.) The scenery of Seoul is stunning and definitely fuels my fire to visit Korea for myself. I would certainly recommend City Hunter to anyone new to Kdrama, or even long-time fans of the genre. With such a great cast and engaging story, there really is something for everyone here.

Rating: ★★★★✰ It took a few episodes to get into it, but once you’re in, you’re completely hooked.

Fried My Little Brains: Mardock Scramble, The First Compression

Even after death she looks for a purpose.

When in doubt, seek vengeance.

I feel like I keep hearing about Mardock Scramble, and I was intrigued enough by the preview to jump on the chance to watch it when it came around On Demand. Now…well, I’ve seen it.

Not even a magical mouse named Ufcock can make Balot smile.

Here’s the gist: Balot is a fifteen year-old prostitute who gets murdered by maniacal Shell, the man who springs her out of jail. Actually, he attempts to murder her in a fire, but a quirky guy named Dr. Easter manages to snag her body and revive her as a cyborg using a program known as the Mardock Scramble. Balot tries to learn about her new body and come to terms with her life via the help of Ufcock, a weapon who usually takes the form of a golden mouse. Dr. Easter wants Balot to testify against Shell, who is a notorious gambler and heinous criminal. Because of this Shell sends his henchmen to get rid of her. Will Balot master her new powers well enough to stay alive?

Finally she gets a gun! She might not have pants, but dammit, she has a gun.

Honestly, I don’t even know the answer to that. The movie ends very, and I mean very, abruptly. Since I didn’t realize that it was a trilogy at the time, I was quite taken aback. I’ve come to expect less than tidy endings from anime, but this was just ridiculous. However, it seems that the next two movies will pick up where this one left off. As for part one, I have to say that I’m quite torn as to what I think about it. This is one of those rare anime offerings that is clearly of the highest quality production-wise, and yet, I never want to watch it again. I consider myself pretty open-minded when it comes to violence and sex in film (some of my favourites have both) but this one was over the top for me. There was just so much horribly sad and disturbing sex/borderline rape. I thought that maybe the first part would be the worst, but then there was more in the middle, so finally when it came to the gang of criminals obsessed with body parts (most notably a fellow who liked to surgically add women’s privates onto his hand) I was past being affected. I understood from the previews alone that this would be a very disturbing tale, but I have to wonder if it was necessary to have all that was shown. And trust me, it was a lot. Then again, I did watch the director’s cut, so maybe that accounts for the excess of sex and violence. Though I imagine that the original cut of the film is still incredibly dark (and not in a good way).

Let's see that cute little mouse again! Gosh, he's adorable! Almost adorable enough to blot out the horrific violence in the rest of the film. Almost.

There were some aspects that did impress me, such as the astounding artwork, which was really top-notch. I liked some of the sci-fi details, such as being able to take memories out of a person’s head and save them onto a computer disc. And Ufcock was awesome, definitely my favourite character. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot for me here. The music was fine but unmemorable. The characters were pretty much all stereotypical: bad guys who are super evil just because, a kooky doctor who likes to experiment, self-righteous lawmakers, etc. Maybe they become more defined in further films. Most of the backstory was spent on Balot, who was an okay protagonist. I did feel sympathy for her, but little else, seeing as how most of her screen time involves her getting f**ked over, literally. I can see how her vengeance will be very satisfying, especially considering how crappy her life had been, but they barely scratched the surface of her mastering her power and becoming a true badass by the time the credits rolled. Overall, I found the whole thing to be very unsatisfying. Mardock Scramble: The First Compression seemed to be an endless parade of graphic images with an interesting story to thread them together, but personally, I’m not sure that the story was intriguing enough to put up with all of the details exploited on the screen. I might attempt to watch the other two films in the trilogy, or I might just google the story to see how it all ends and be done with it.

Rating: ★★✰ The animation quality is outstanding, and if you love sci-fi anime, this would probably be worth your time. For me, it wasn’t.

First Impressions: City Hunter

Nothing quite proves

a boy’s devotion to his dead father

like revenge.

My sisters have been trying for months, and at last they have finally succeeded in getting me addicted to Kdrama, though I’ve only watched romances thus far. For something different I decided to try an action series. Enter today’s first impression, City Hunter, which is the recent Kdrama version of Tsukasa Hojo’s manga. (It’s also an anime series and a live-action film starring Jackie Chan.)

I could add pictures of action scenes from the show, but since Lee Min Ho is the reason for the season, let's just stick with the good stuff.

All I knew from the outset was that it starred Lee Min Ho, the adorable lead from Boys Over Flowers, and really, that’s all I needed. Unfortunately, it took half the episode to get to him. Yes, yes, backstory is important, but so is eye candy! Anyway, on to the premise: Lee Min Ho plays Lee Yoon-Sung, a boy born just as his father heads out on a top-secret government mission for revenge on North Korea for a local bombing. Unfortunately for the twenty-one men on the team, the government officials change their minds about the whole thing because any retaliation would dissolve their US nuclear protection. (Yay, everyone loves us for our… guns.) What’s the best way to cover the whole political mess up? Why, kill everyone they sent in! And that’s just what they do, save for one man who escapes: Lee Jin-Pyo, Yoon-Sung’s dad’s best friend. And he is pissed. Lee Jin-Pyo tries to kill one of the government officials in charge of the whole affair but gets interrupted and leaves.

There's the Lee Min Ho I remember so fondly from Boys Over Flowers, stuffing his face. Goo Joon Pyo would be proud.

In one of the worst revenge plans in history, he steals his fallen comrade’s newborn baby from his fallen comrade’s widow and takes him to Southeast Asia. There he raises the boy on a militant compound, harshly teaching him how to shoot guns and engage in hand-to-hand combat. (So your revenge on your government is to totally f**k up the lives of your best friend’s entire family? Awesome plan.) Finally, Lee Min Ho shows up as the now-grown Yoon-Sung, has a zany adventure in the nearby village rescuing a guy who has “nutty sidekick” written all over him, swaggers around the compound (as only Lee Min Ho can do) with his new bestie, and eats voraciously. He also spies a picture of a pretty girl among the sidekick’s things. Yoon-Sung finds out her name, but that’s all. The thugs from town show up, there’s a giant melodramatic fight involving Yoon-Sung’s idiot nanny getting shot, he chases the thugs for revenge, steps on a land mine, and his fake dad ends up getting in an explosion trying to save him. Jin-Pyo is severely injured, but not so badly that he can’t explain how he stole baby Yoon-Sung to raise him as a weapon of vengeance. Surprisingly, after this revelation Yoon-Sung is still upset about his fake dad’s injury and vows to take care of business. The episode ends with Lee Min Ho in pink pants strutting through downtown Seoul with the pretty girl from the sidekick’s picture standing unknowingly just behind him.

Shooting a gun accurately: impressive. Shooting a gun with a face full of Bieber bangs: outstanding.

As for what I think of this episode… wow, where to begin. Y’know, I thought that Boys Over Flowers was the measuring stick for melodrama, but I now have a whole new standard. City Hunter really takes the melodrama cake. While I found those moments to be more laughable than anything, this episode remained very enjoyable throughout. The story was intriguing and had nary a dull moment, which is quite a feat for an episode that’s more than an hour long. The opening theme was great and very action-y, and the effects, even in the most melodramatic scenes, were quite good. The characters were very personable and made the story really come to life, so much so that I wasn’t just biding my time until the star showed up. Of course once he did, the episode just went up a level. It’s not that he’s handsome (which he is) but Lee Min Ho has, in my opinion, an effervescent quality to him. He lights up the screen and makes you want to keep watching. And I, for one, certainly will keep watching City Hunter.

More Than Meets The Eye: Glass Maiden

Fragile as glass, strong as a woman.

Shards of a darker tale to tell.

Just as when I was unable to find a shoujo anime that could be considered on par with Ouran High School Host Club several months after I first watched it, I have had similar difficulty in finding a detective noir series that could hold a candle to Darker Than Black. Even after I began finding shoujo that I could love just as much as Ouran (Special A, Glass Mask, and La Corda d’Oro all come to mind) I just couldn’t enjoy any action anime as much as Darker Than Black. That was the lay of the land until I found Glass Maiden.

Hangin’ out with the S&A crew.

This tale revolves around the exploits of the S&A Detective Agency. Shu is the disaffected leader of the group, but headquarters is usually run by his brother Akira, especially since Shu tends to disappear among the beds of his various female friends. Manami and Ayaka are two young detectives just beginning to learn the ropes, and Lil’ Q is the office dog. Porilyn is a male transvestite who unofficially runs the city via the use of an elaborate camera surveillance system, and he calls on the agency frequently to carry out various tasks. One day Manami and Ayaka stumble into a situation where they discover one of the fabled glass maidens (for more info on that, please see my First Impressions entry about Glass Maiden), and thanks to the help of Shu they rescue her and take her back to their place. Luckily a clinic shares the same building as the detective agency, so the doctor and nurse who work there manage to care for the glass maiden’s health. Since she can’t seem to recall her name, Manami dubs the maiden “Sara.”

Yeah, I dunno how we’re gonna explain this down at the station…

The rest of the series gradually explores the mystery of the glass maiden phenomenon and uncovers a plot that goes deep within the city (literally). Sara’s own background isn’t revealed in great detail, but she is the catalyst for most of the action as the bad guys she escaped from want her returned to them. There’s several sci-fi elements at work, and lots of car-chasing, gun-shooting action, but this series also goes into character detail and emotional drama. Yet everything is balanced so that no one element overwhelms the others.

Don’t call your boyfriend and tell him everything you had to eat today! This is supposed to be mildly feminist, dammit!

Overall, I really enjoyed this anime. The art and music were good, if nothing special. Still, both were very fitting to the story and genre. Since there are “glass maidens” involved, there is a goodly amount of fan service, but as I mentioned in my First Impressions post, there’s male and female nudity, and on top of that, nothing is ever shown in great detail. In fact, I saw many feminist elements in this series, from the all-women gang of mercenaries to the strength of Sara’s character. Also notable was a brief side story about Ayaka’s past mental health issues, which was treated with respect and dignity.

Shu and Akira, the brothers handsome. And we get to see both in compromising situations, bonus!

I found all of the main characters to be very likable, and I wanted to return to them week after week to see what would happen next. The storyline could get a little convoluted at times, but that could have been due to being limited to watching only one episode per week. If watched as a series on DVD, I think that it would be easier to follow the plot. Having said that, everything is still illuminated in the end. Basically, this was a very enjoyable adventure to go on. While Darker Than Black still remains my favourite anime in this genre, I was thrilled to find another series that I could enjoy on the same level. From the intricate plot to the kinky doctor and nurse, this is an anime for the older set, and as a non-teenage anime fan I appreciate quality series aimed at my demographic. And Glass Maiden is just that: exciting, dark, and well worth a watch.

Rating: ★★★★ The world of anime could use more sci-fi action series like this one.

One Deer Little OVA: Coicent

A girl in peril, a boy on a field trip.

Adventure awaits them.

Today’s short but sweet entry is about short but sweet OVA called Coicent. It’s a little romantic, a little adventurous, a little fantasy, a little sci-fi, a little of just about everything.

Oh deer! (I can’t pass up a pun.)

We open with a boy named Shinichi on a school field trip to Nara in the year 2710. While wandering around the city a white stag grabs his backpack with its antlers and takes off with it. In his pursuit, Shinichi ends up saving a girl named Toto from a couple of thuggish guys and a freaky old lady who are chasing after her. They’re in pursuit because she’s a… robot-hologram-android-thing made from DNA that’s thousands of years old… or something. Whatever the case, freaky old lady thinks this means that she owns Toto, but poor Toto just wants to catch some fresh air and sunshine. It’s understandable why she’d run.

Welcome to Nara of the future! Sorry, still no flying cars.

Toto and Shinichi have a fun romp through the city, and Toto occasionally whispers dreamy statements about how she’s never seen the ocean. This apparently really floats Shinichi’s boat, because he gets a crush on her but good. Everything is all fun and romantic until freaky old lady and the two thugs (who are her sons) catch up to them. You can probably guess what happens from here, as there’s nothing particularly new or groundbreaking about this anime.

I have nothing snarky to say here. I just really like this picture.

That said, I quite enjoyed watching it. The art was obviously heavy with computer animation, but it was so bright and colourful that it avoided the usual trenches of dark and gritty mecha sci-fi (which I tend to dislike greatly). Toto was typically sweet, and Shinichi was typically bumbling and comedic, but the vocal work of English power seiyuus Luci Christian and Vic Mignogna made the characters really come alive. The music was quite enjoyable, from the opening theme to the lovely tune that Toto sings. The plot was fairly predictable, but given its short running time of twenty-six minutes, the anime does a good job of conveying a full story in such a brief span of time. It didn’t feel as epic as other OVAs I’ve watched such as Coffee Samurai, but I enjoyed watching this one far more than that one, so it was a fair trade-off, in my opinion. Overall, I don’t know that I would watch this anime again and again and again, but I’d be tempted to watch it at least one more time through just for the beautiful artwork in the parade scenes alone. You could do far worse than spend half an hour with Coicent.

Rating: ★★★ A lovely little tale, one that I wouldn’t mind watching again.

First Impressions: Gintama

Aliens in feudal Japan, samurai everywhere,

then there’s Gin.

Gintama is another of those epically long shows that I’d heard of before watching, though I had nary a clue as to what it was about. I figured it would be wacky from the description of aliens in feudal Edo-era Japan, but I wasn’t prepared for how wacky it got. Not as trippy as Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, but still odd. Perhaps it’s just to be expected with a purely comedic anime series, which this one seems to be.

Welcome to the world of "Gintama." Let the crazy begin!

The scene opens with Gin running away from some scary guys. He’s witty and sarcastic and silver-haired, so I was diggin’ it. Then he meets up with a girl in the street who works with him. They make their escape thanks to a giant cat-thing, and we meet Gin’s ragtag team. Turns out that Gin runs a “do anything” agency, where he and his pals will, you guessed it, do anything for a fee. Earlier Gin was looking for a lost cat, which is why the guys were chasing him after he trespassed. Gin finds the cat and gets the guys off of his back, then has a new customer: a sad little man who needs… something. (I apologize; I watched this episode a while ago and have forgotten a few details). Gin and pals take him around town, meet a dominatrix who lusts after Gin, and finally the sad dude changes his mind and wants to learn how to fight. Gin’s cohorts try to teach him fighting skills while Gin himself has a run-in with a samurai. Oh, and there’s some sort of conspiracy going on with some aliens and the law.

What do you mean you won't be back for episode two?!?

Honestly, I know it’s difficult to judge such a huge series on the first episode alone, but I thought that this introduction was completely unmemorable. I liked the character of Gin, but no one else really intrigued me, save perhaps for his masochistic dominatrix would-be girlfriend. I liked the samurai, didn’t care for the aliens, and was disturbed by the blood trickling down the faces of those who ended up in the mouth of the giant cat-thing. The art was too bright and cartoony for my taste, and the music… I can’t recall the music in the slightest. Everyone talked fast, and almost everything moved fast. Too fast for my taste. Like Maria Holic: Alive, there were several little notes meant to help understand certain Japanese words, celebrity references, or phrases, but they literally flashed onscreen for a second. One second. So that meant a lot of rewinding and pausing in order to read everything. I HATE having to do that. It gives me a headache. The opening narrator mentioned “the story so far,” which confused me. Is this actually season one? It did seem to blaze past any story or character introductions, which gave it a second or third season feeling, but maybe that’s just how Gintama is.

Open mouth, insert head. Just add blood, and voilà!

Overall, I can see the appeal of this show, I honestly can. However, Gintama is just too wacky for me. I have stacks of anime piling up just waiting to be watched, and I would rather spend my time with a series that I’m excited about rather than one that I watch with detached, if fascinated, confusion. And a series with over two hundred episodes is intimidating enough for a newbie without being confusing to boot.

Old-School Comics In Hell: Lady Death TMP

The best way to fight the darkness

is to become the darkness yourself.

Believe it or not, I’ve always been a geeky collector. (Shocking, right?) In high school I collected comic books. I was a proper comic book geek, too, searching for first editions and keeping them in pristine plastic casings, reading them delicately by opening the pages as little as possible. Example of geekdom: While on a road trip I found a random comic book shop in the middle of nowhere. I had just enough money for either a huge stack of Tank Girl comics, or one (1) comic, a first edition of Death: The High Cost of Living Volume 2. I bought the latter.

The good ol' days, when all Hope had to worry about was not suffocating on her boyfriend's hair when they made out.

Somewhere amidst my collection of Vertigo, Slave Labor, and Dark Horse comics, I bought a few issues of Lady Death. I haven’t so much as looked at those comics in years, but when I discovered that there was a Lady Death movie, well, I had to check it out for nostalgia’s sake. As it began, I wasn’t sure if the film followed the same ivory-haired thong-wearin’ gal that I remembered from my comics, but sure enough, it’s the same Lady. The movie, called Lady Death: The Motion Picture (imaginative title there) is your classic comic book superhero origin story, only this one takes place mostly in Hell. The titular Lady in question begins life as Hope in medieval Sweden. From the get-go things look bad for her: Hope is ripped from the arms of her lover by her father, an evil warlord. Later that night, surprise, she discovers that her dad is actually Lucifer! (Maybe the story isn’t that classic after all.) Her dad/Lucifer disappears and causes his castle to explode in the process. Because Hope doesn’t die in the wreckage a local priest rallies the town to burn her at the stake as a witch. (But the priest was at the castle and didn’t die, either, how come he’s off the hook? Whatever.)

D'you think the animators were inspired much by Tim Curry as Darkness in "Legend?" Survey says yes!

Hope, engulfed in flames, breaks down and calls out a prayer to Lucifer. Instantly a couple of winged demony-things appear to pick up her charred carcass and ferry her to Hell. Lucifer had promised that she’d be reunited with her lover, but instead she gets a hellish beat-down upon arrival. Finally she’s dragged to Lucifer’s throne room and reunited with her devilish dad. He tells Hope that she possesses a power within her that is greater than any in Heaven or Hell, and if she’ll join his team, he’ll free the trapped souls of both her mother and her boyfriend. Hope spits in Lucifer’s face, which is the badass version of the ol’ “fool me once…” proverb, so Lucifer throws her out a window and into a deep watery chasm below, claiming it’s no biggie, she’ll be back. (What a great word, “chasm.” I should use it more often.)

Transformation sequence activated! All we need now is a garter belt.

After Hope drags herself out of the water she tames a couple of hell-wolves with some blue crackling lightning-esque power (probably brought on by her justifiable rage) and yells out to Lucifer that “Hope” is now dead. Thus Lady Death is born. A dude named Cremator, who forges the weapons of Hell, emerges from the shadows and tells Lady Death that he’s been waiting for someone like her, because she’s the one who can take Lucifer down. She just needs to learn how to harness her power, and of course develop some fighting skills. Cue training montage! The rest of the film is basically Lady Death building an army of demons, finding the ideal weapon to use with her lightning power, and then setting out to tear Lucifer a new a-hole.

Cremator: "Can I borrow that top?" Lady Death: "Sure. Can I burn off your junk with my eyes?" Cremator: "All you had to say was no. Sheesh."

There’s quite a bit of violence in this film, naturally, and Lady Death herself basically wears a thong bottom and string bikini top, but on the whole I found it to be surprisingly tame (compared with my expectations, that is; this still isn’t anime fare for young kids). As I mentioned before, I couldn’t recall that much about Lady Death’s story, but the movie did ring a few bells. I’ll have to go back and explore my comics to see how closely the movie matches up to the original story. The pacing was fairly brisk, especially at the beginning, which created a nice sense of action. I thought that it slowed down just a bit after the training montage, but the building of armies and huge battles never interests me, so that’s probably just a personal perception. The animation was good in that He-Man way, if a bit dated, but that’s to be expected as the film is from 2004 (which is like 1884 in animation years). Also, it was kind of strange to watch an anime movie where the English voices matched the animated lips, as I’m so used to Japanese-language anime!

And there's a pony! Girls like ponies, right? This is practically shojo!

The characters weren’t that personable or identifiable, but I still found them to be engaging. It was more like interacting with a painting rather than a novel. I kept hoping that Evil Ernie would show up somewhere, because I remember collecting his comics as well. He didn’t, though one character did have Ernie’s hair, so I thought that perhaps he somehow became Ernie later on. After checking into it, that’s certainly not going to be the case. This movie was a great origin story, and it seemed to set everything up nicely for an interesting, but sadly non-existent, series. The end was solid and satisfying enough, but it definitely left me wanting more. Lady Death: The Motion Picture was an enjoyable trip down memory lane. It’s not the greatest anime film ever made, and there’s little to no rewatch value, but it has inspired me to dig out my old comic book collection and have a read, and that’s worthwhile in my (comic) book.

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