Death Becomes Her: Princess Resurrection

She is the princess of all monsters.

He now lives to serve only her.

Today’s is my younger sister’s birthday. Happy birthday, sis! My younger sister enjoys anime, but she’s over the moon for Kdrama, so in her honor I was planning to write a First Impressions review of a Kdrama. Alas, time was not on my side, and since I have several completed anime series just begging for review, I’ll merrily go forth with today’s offering: Princess Resurrection. (At least it has “princess” in the title, so that can be the nod to my sister for now.)

“I’m a princess, and I drink tea. That’s our thing here: monsters and tea.”

Hime is a princess, but not just any princess. She’s a member of the royal family who rules over all monsters. Unfortunately, she and her siblings are constantly engaged in an epic battle to the death. Because of this, Hime must watch her back and keep those loyal to her nearby at all times. Enter our hapless hero, named, appropriately enough, Hiro. He’s your average teenage boy, and he’s on his way to live with his older sister, Sawawa, in the mansion where she works as a maid. Unfortunately, on the way to meet her he ends up saving Hime’s life at the cost of giving up his own. Hime, impressed by his chivalry, brings him back to life with her scared flame. (For more details please read my First Impressions post about this series.) However, the flame must be revived every so often by Hime or else he’ll die again, this time permanently. And so the only way that Hiro can stay alive is to remain at Hime’s side as her sworn servant. He’s not completely on his own, though. Hime also has a very capable android maid named Flandre, and as the series progresses she gains the aid of a hot-headed werewolf named Liza as well as a calculating vampire named Riere. Hime needs all the help that she can get, because in every episode she ends up battling one supernatural creature after another, most sent to destroy her by one of her royal siblings. But which one is most out to get Hime? And why must the royals continuously battle one another?

Hiro makes his patented “Oh boy, here we go again!” face. Which is pretty much his only facial expression.

Y’know, I really, really wanted to love this anime. And I really, really don’t. Where to begin? Well, let’s start with the most obvious part: the artwork. By this point I’ve seen several Madhouse offerings, and usually I enjoy the quality of their work. But this series just seemed underdeveloped with its basic lines, lack of detail, and primary coloring. Speaking of underdeveloped, I felt that the story had potential, but it was all wasted week after week on one formulaic episode after another. A member of Hime’s household gets attacked, everyone bands together to fight off the intruders, Hime more often than not saves the day, everyone gives Hiro comedic grief. Cut, print, next episode: same thing. No character was shown beyond a basic personality trait (Liza’s hot-headedness, Riere’s mocking bitchiness, Hime’s calm lack of concern, Sawawa’s cluelessness…) and even when we were given select details about a character’s background it failed to make said character any deeper or more interesting. I know that shounen heroes are often portrayed as flat in order for the viewers to insert themselves into the main role, and Hiro was as flat and boring as they come. However, no character in the entire series displayed anything other than the same trademarks by saying the same lines in the same stories time and time again.

I haz a Flandre, your argument is invalid.

Not that this series was a total loss. The English voice cast was pretty great, especially considering the drab material they had to work with. I was genuinely delighted to hear Hime’s seiyuu, Shelley Calene-Black, make a vocal appearance in The Book of Bantorra, and Luci Christian (voicing Liza) is always a treat. The OP and ED were great, especially the ED, which also had some fabulous artwork accompanying it that reminded me of 90s goth girl comics like Lenore and Emily the Strange. Despite saying only one word throughout the entire series (which sounded like, “Foogah!”) Flandre grew to become my favourite character, probably because she was diminutive yet kicked ass. I never expected her personality to grow very much because she was an android, and yet she actually did inch up just a bit in episode twenty-five. Speaking of which, the final three episodes were, in my opinion, the most interesting. Episode twenty-four provided a conclusion that wasn’t shocking so much as, “Oh, so that’s the deal. Huh, okay.” Then twenty-five was about Flandre, and twenty-six was an interesting nightmarish recap of previous capers. Each of the final three episodes provided a slight stirring of emotions, and while it wasn’t much, it was felt like falling into a lake in the middle of a desert.

Sorry gang, it just wasn’t working for me. Hiro, keep it in your pants!

I really wanted this series to be so much better than it actually was. Truth be told I was bored after just three episodes, but I kept watching anyway because I hoped it would get better. I’ve discovered that quite often anime series with at least twenty-four episodes tend to get repetitive and stale in the first twelve, then blossom into a cohesive plot in the latter twelve. However, that was not to be the case this time. I will admit that episode thirteen, “Princess Sacrifice,” did make quite an impression on me. Hime and Hiro become trapped in a village and pursued by a massive serial killer who wears a bag over his head and wields a scythe. I was actually freaked out while watching it, then I had a nightmare that evening because of that episode. However, I think that speaks more to my personal psyche rather than the anime itself. Overall, I was excited at the prospect of a gothy anime with lots of strong female characters, or at least a funny harem with monsters, but alas, it was not to be. Princess Resurrection is just that: the same ol’ plot resurrected over and over and over again throughout twenty-four episodes. And that’s far too long to be strung along, even by a princess.

Rating: ★★✰ I suppose I’m glad that I finished it, especially given that I usually enjoy the subject matter, but if I knew then what I know now, this series would be a definite pass.


Second Chorus, Same As The First: Mahoromatic Season Two

Something more like actual comedy

but it still falls slightly flat.

Well, I did what I said I wasn’t going to do. After enduring season one of Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden, I still marched forth and watched season two, entitled Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful.

Minawa: ur doing it wrong.

This time it’s pretty much the same story as before. Mahoro is a former combat android who chooses to live out the remainder of her days as a maid for Suguru Misato, the orphaned son of Mahoro’s late commander. Mahoro is prim and proper and constantly scolding Suguru for having “dirty thoughts” (even though he seems to have relatively few for a teenager in my opinion) and Suguru enjoys her cooking and cleaning as well as general cheerful company. Suguru has a bit of a harem going on with his three girl pals and his shota-obsessed school teacher, but it’s obvious that Mahoro is the apple of his eye and vice versa. This time the big difference comes in the form of another former combat android who shows up. Her name is Minawa, and she’s running away from an entity called Management (which is different from Mahoro’s former employer, VESPER, as well as VESPER’s sworn enemy, Saint). Management is the big bad this season instead of Saint, and Mahoro and Suguru take pity on Minawa and allow her to live with them under the guise of being Mahoro’s younger sister. Shy and clumsy, Minawa soon enrolls at Suguru’s school and gets to join in all the shenanigans, complete with one of Suguru’s besties getting a crush on her.

Mahoro's reindeer outfit gave the Xmas episode an automatic win.

I’ll admit that I kept watching this series despite my scathing review of the first season as pure anime filler. If I didn’t want to go to bed at night after watching intense horror anime like Hell Girl: Three Vessels or Highschool of the Dead, I would watch an episode of Mahoromatic as a fluffy palate cleanser. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed season two much more than season one. Perhaps I was simply more used to the format and the erratic storytelling by now, but I do think that season two made more of a commitment to genre than season one, and that helped a great deal. Whereas season one didn’t know exactly what kind of anime it was trying to be, season two was pure comedy. Many episodes, if not most, centered around various holidays and festivals which allowed the central characters to get into all sorts of comical mischief. It let go of straining so hard to show Mahoro and Suguru falling for each other, and even the sci-fi elements blended in better this time around, framing the comedy instead of obscuring it.

Lock up your children, or at least your underage boys!

There were still problems, of course. Ms. Shikijo was as creepy as ever (but still, strangely, considered one of the group). And newcomer Minawa was, in my opinion, so annoying with all of her mumbled apologies and complete lack of backbone that even hearing her voice grated on my nerves. The show was cheesy and the laughs were far and few between, and Suguru remains a mystifying choice for a harem protagonist since he was and is as bland as unbuttered toast. That is, all up until the last three episodes. I’ll give Mahoromatic credit, the final episode of the series was the strangest, most complete 180 from the rest of the series of any anime I have seen to date. Suddenly everything that you thought was resolved isn’t, and the ending episode is so far-removed from the rest of the show that it could be a different series altogether. In fact, I was more interested in that episode than the first twenty-five! And it did what I had believed was impossible: it made Suguru interesting! So I’ll give it points for shock value alone.

Here is the church, here is the steeple...

Overall, Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful was indeed better than Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden, not that that’s saying an awful lot. To be fair, it was one of the first anime series I didn’t like, so I was probably harsher in my first review than I would be now. However, neither series rates high on the rewatch value scale (I mean, I couldn’t even get worked up enough to shed a tear at any of the emotional parts, and I’m usually a crier!) so I stand by my earlier assessment. If you have some time to kill and just want some fluffy English-dubbed anime to fritter away an afternoon with, know that this series does actually get better. Not much, but it’s a start.

When Ecchi Turns Creepy: Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka

It’s all fun and games in high school

until incest comes to the table. 

I feel that anime often has the unfortunate reputation of being only for perverts and immature antisocial basement dwellers. As with pretty much any subject, if you actually venture further in you’ll discover that there are scads of shows that defy that stereotype with their beautiful artwork and genuinely thrilling storytelling. However, the stereotype exists for a reason. Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka is, in my opinion, one of those reasons. I’m actually a bit angry at this show because it had so many great shojo elements that made me want to really love it, but by the end it got… creepy. And not in a good Tim Burton kind of way, either. More like a “don’t leave Uncle Jimmy alone with the kids” kind of way.

Just some of Junichi's harem (yup, boy included, which was one of the awesome parts, even if he was only joking).

Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka, or “The Hill Dyed Rose Madder,” is based on an adult visual novel (which is something like a Choose Your Own Adventure book for the computer). The story is a harem romance that takes place in high school. The central figure is a boy named Junichi Nagase, who used to be known as the “Geno Killer” thanks to his rebellious ways. He developed this attitude while living alone because his parents are big time spies and rarely at home. However, after his sister Minato leaves their parents’ side to move in with Junichi, he mellows out considerably.

Two girls living with one boy, but this sure isn't "Three's Company."

One day he encounters a girl named Yuuhi Katagiri and saves her from being harassed by a couple of boys. Coincidentally, Yuuhi transfers to Junichi’s high school the next day as part of a deal that she made with her father: he set up Yuuhi’s engagement to a boy that she has never met, and rather than passively go along with her father’s wishes, she sets out to meet this boy and judge whether he is worthy herself. Junichi is happy to see the beautiful girl whom he rescued the other day, and believes that she is happy to see him, too. Misreading the signs, he kisses her in front of the entire class. Yuuhi immediately flies into a rage because Junichi stole her first kiss. Later on that evening Junichi and Minato receive a knock on their door: it’s Yuuhi with a suitcase in hand. It turns out that Junichi is the boy she is betrothed to! Still angry at the earlier events of the day, Yuuhi explains that she is here to move in with them for a short while so as to better judge Junichi’s character for herself. However, with the rocky start they began with, things don’t look good for a future marriage!

Hmm, you don't kiss like my sister. Oh wait, that sounds bad, doesn't it?

This series has all the makings of a cute high school harem comedy, except that there are moments of full-frontal fan service thrust into random scenes with no real rhyme or reason. On top of the distracting level of nipples prevalent in this show, there’s also the issue of Junichi’s harem, which includes his sister. I’ve already mentioned in my review of Fruits Basket that people with the same last name dating is just creepy. But at least with Fruits Basket it involved distant cousins. The fact that Junichi and Minato are brother and sister is beyond wrong. I kept hoping throughout the series that it would be revealed that Minato was adopted, and though there are hints that it might be the case, it’s never fully explained one way or the other. Because of that, I couldn’t really enjoy this anime, because no matter how cute the characters are, incest is just icky in my book.

We know what you're thinking. And we know it isn't good.

I had to wonder who the target audience is for this anime, because the high school drama and cutesy graphics (note the precious little bat on the corner of the cover) make it seem like perfect fodder for shojo. In fact, I began watching this show mistakenly believing that was the genre that it was. Then the fan service popped up (even in the opening credits) and I thought otherwise. (The bonus OVA had more ecchi fan service than I’ve ever seen in any anime to date!) Then the possible incest came into play and I really could not imagine who the target audience was for this series other than, well, perverts. True, it was funny and cute with an interesting enough storyline, and like in Fruits Basket perhaps it was just a cultural difference and not meant to be taken as seriously as I thought, but the creepy subtext completely hindered any real enjoyment for me. But that’s just my opinion: Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka is too cute for porn and too porny to be cute, hence relegating it to the realm of uncomfortable creepiness. And there you have it.

Rating: ★✰ Not the worst anime I’ve seen. But close.

Defining Obsession: Anime Lingo

Shojo or shonen?

What’s a harem?

Read on, Miss Pink is here to help.

Since this entire project was begun as a newbie’s guide/journey into the world of anime, I’ve been meaning for some time to write an entry focusing on some common anime/Japanese definitions. And since my On Demand is currently broken (barring me from watching the very last episode of the series that I had planned on reviewing) today seems like the perfect chance. I’ll keep updating this entry as more phrases occur (as they inevitably will, the further that you delve into any subject) so we’ll keep learning together. And learning, as we all know, is the spice of life.

The anime Princess Jellyfish gives a good overview of the way that otakus are generally perceived in Japanese culture.

Otaku: A Japanese term for someone with obsessive interests. In Japan there are different niches of otakus, i.e. anime oatkus, cosplay otakus, military otakus, etc. It can be seen as a negative term, implying someone with limited social skills. However, in English the term generally refers to someone who is a dedicated fan of anime, manga, and Japanese culture, and it is not strange to find an English speaker who self-identifies as an otaku.

Anime: Hopefully this one goes without saying, but for the record, anime is the term for Japanese animation, at least in the English-speaking world. In Japan it is simply the term for any animation worldwide. Fun fact: the oldest known anime dates back to 1917!

Manga: Pronounced “mahng-guh“: Japanese comics. People of all ages read manga in Japan, and many anime series are based on manga. Traditional manga is read right to left.

Light Novel: Short, illustrated Japanese novels, often aimed at young adults. The writing style is simplistic and dialogue-driven. Many anime series are based on light novels.

Vampire Knight is a quintessential shojo manga.

Shojo: Also known as shōjo or shoujo, this descriptor implies anything meant for young girls. For example, shojo manga are comics intended for an audience of young girls, and often center on romance and female heroines.

Shonen: Also known as shōnen or shounen, this descriptor implies anything meant for young boys. For example, shonen manga are comics intended for an audience of young boys, and often center on action and male heroes.

Moe: Pronounced “mo-eh,” this one is tricky to define. It refers to a deep adoration of specific fictional characters, such as a love of butlers or girls who wear glasses. However, it’s also a particular type of “cute” or “adorable,” most often concerning (but not limited to) young female anime characters. Moe can also be used as an interjection within an anime to refer to a character considered to be a moekko: attractive, young, and cute.

OHSHC is a shojo reverse harem with bishōnen characters and elements of moe and cosplay.

Harem: A subgenre of anime and manga involving a central protagonist surrounded by three or more members of the opposite sex who each harbor romantic feelings for the protagonist. Traditional harems feature a central male character surrounded by females, but reverse harems with a central female character surrounded by males have grown in popularity. There are also other forms of harems such as yuri and yaoi.

Yuri: A genre of Japanese culture focusing on lesbians, most commonly associated with anime and manga. Yuri audiences can be female or male.

Yaoi: A genre of Japanese culture focusing on gay males, most commonly associated with anime and manga and targeted towards a female audience. This differs from bara, which is created by and for gay men.

Bishōnen: Japanese term for a “pretty boy;” a young male with androgynous beauty and feminine characteristics who can exhibit fluid sexuality. Often bishōnen break down gender stereotypes by being lithe, graceful, and beautiful (i.e. “feminine”) but displaying strong skills in combat and athletics (i.e. “masculine” as well). On the other hand, the term bishōjo is not an exact opposite of bishōnen, but rather a young and beautiful female, often with characteristics of moe.

Kämpfer is an excellent example of yuri ecchi fan service.

Fan Service: Also known as fanservice, this is an anime/manga term for anything overtly sexual, violent, or otherwise gratuitous included solely for the benefit of the fans and not necessarily for the enhancement of the story. There are many types of fan service, but more often than not it refers to sexual titillation.

Ecchi: Specifically sexual innuendoes included in anime and manga. It is considered playfully perverse and naughty, though no actual sex takes place in ecchi anime, as opposed to outright pornography.

Hentai: In Japanese it refers to works of sexual perversion, but in English it is applied to any anime, manga, or computer game with pornography. (Sorry kids, you’ll have to Google that one yourselves.)

Origin: Spirits of the Past is an anime feature film with elements of mecha.

Mecha: A Japanese term referring to all types of mechanical objects. A mecha anime focuses primarily on robots.

OVA: Abbreviated term for “original video animation,” this is the Japanese equivalent of a direct-to-video or straight to DVD release.

Cosplay: Abbreviated term for “costume play,” cosplay involves dressing up to portray any fictional character or idea, though it is often a term used in conjunction with anime, manga, and video game characters.

I hope that this little primer helps as you read my reviews. Before you know it, you too will talk nerdy with the biggest otakus at the anime convention.

It’s Official, I Have A Guilty Pleasure: Kämpfer

Everyone wants him, mostly when he’s a girl.

What kind of war is this?!?

Okay, so my policy has always been that I have no guilty pleasures, because everything I love or ever loved was for a reason and I stood behind it. I loved NKOTB when I was young, I defended Twilight left and right (and still do, even though I no longer care for it), I loved High School Musical just a couple of years ago (well past my teens, mind you) and currently I love all kinds of untrendy pop music, over-the-top shojo manga, and I am now and will always be a total Disney geek. I have no regrets and no shame because I believe that not only do I like enough cool stuff to balance out the “uncool” stuff, I also decided long ago that I am cool enough to make loving something uncool, cool. Well, today marks a milestone in my realm of shamelessness: I have a guilty pleasure.* And that guilty pleasure is a little anime called Kämpfer.

Holy crap, boobs? What am I supposed to do with boobs?!?

Toshihiko Tsukiji’s light novel comes to life in a short anime series that’s only eleven episodes long (with one odd little bonus episode) and the story involves a boy named Natsuru Senō. One day Natsuru, a second year high school student, gets a nasty wake-up: somehow overnight he was fitted with a blue bracelet that turns him into a Kämpfer, which is a female fighter, whenever other Kämpfer are near. The Blue Kämpfer fight the Red Kämpfer and vice versa, and when in Kämpfer form the girls have special fighter powers. Since all Kämpfer are female, Natsuru transforms from a blue-haired boy into a blue-haired girl who can create and throw fireballs.

Gross but cute, no?

Oh yes, and he has a little stuffed tiger with entrails hanging out of its body that talks and tells him what to do as a Kämpfer. All of the Kämpfer warriors have these stuffed animals, known as “messengers,” who tell them bits of information about the “Moderators,” who are beings who make the Kämpfer fight. And all of the messengers are “Entrails Animals,” i.e. all have entrails hanging out of their bodies. (Thus far I have not been able to find out if this is a real set of stuffed toys in Japan or something purely created for this series.)

Every gal's crazy 'bout a blue-haired girl. Who is sometimes a boy.

Whew, that’s a lot of information, right? I find that tends to be the case with anime based on light novels: lots of info crammed into just a few episodes. However, unlike the other anime based on light novels that I have seen thus far, once you make it through all of the information thrown at you in the first couple of episodes, the rest proceeds much smoother. Natsuru discovers Kämpfer at his school, both Blue and Red, and enters into a truce with the others until they can figure out exactly who the Moderators are and what they’re up to. In the meantime he is transferred to the girls’ section of his school by the student council president, a Red Kämpfer named Shizuku Sangō.

Good luck with that, son.

All the girls go wild for the new beauty, as do the boys, and when she/he isn’t fighting other Kämpfer, Natsuru is dealing with the overzealous fans of girl Natsuru. Boy Natsuru has his admirers as well, namely the other Kämpfer at his school who know the truth about his gender bending. Oh yes, and Natsuru’s long-time crush, a girl named Kaede Sakura, wants nothing to do with male Natsuru, but develops an obsession with female Natsuru. Chaos ensues!

Say hello to my little friend.

I enjoyed this quirky little anime for its yuri gender bending and the ever-popular harem comedy aspects. The guilt in liking it comes from the fact that, in the anime at least, all of the action seems to be a loose framework for copious amounts of fan service. It’s not hentai, but it’s definitely ecchi. If you watch be prepared for lots of non-graphic sexual situations. (Also be prepared to read, as this one is subtitles only.) That aside, I liked many of the characters, my favourite being Natsuru’s Blue Kämpfer friend Akane Mishima: usually a quiet, shy girl with glasses, as a Kämpfer the glasses disappear, her hair becomes a fiery red, and she’s rough, foul-mouthed, and wields a gun like nobody’s business. (I think she speaks to my bi-polar tendencies.) The artwork is bright and colourful, and both the opening and closing theme songs are infectiously cute. In fact, I think that the opening would give someone a pretty good idea of what this anime is like: silly, strange, naughty, cute, and everything in-between:

My main complaint is the fact that the series ended rather abruptly and left loads of questions unanswered (which seems to be the norm in anime but something which I’m still getting used to). However, word on the interwebz is that season two is currently in the works. While I don’t know how much re-watch value the series has for me personally, I definitely enjoyed Kämpfer the first go-round and would certainly be interested in a second season.

*Editor’s Note: Eh, screw it, I don’t feel guilty about liking this, either.

A Cat Harem Is Better Than A Cathouse: Nyan Koi!

Understanding cats sounds like a blessing.

But only if you like cats.

This one’s perhaps my latest entry yet (at least for fellow east coast USA night owls like myself) thanks to my busy day. But I had to update, because today I finished a most delightful little anime called Nyan Koi!

Tama and Nyamsus see what you did there. And they do not approve. Well, Nyamsus doesn't.

The story revolves around Junpei Kōsaka, who seems to be a pretty typical high school guy. He has a major crush on Kaede Mizuno, a girl who owns dogs but adores cats, whereas Junpei is so allergic to cats that he sneezes if any come near him. One day while outside of a local temple he accidentally beheads a neko-jizō-sama statue, which is a guardian deity of cats. Because of this Junpei is cursed: he can now talk to cats and understand when they talk back to him, and if he doesn’t come to the aid of at least one hundred cats, Junpei will turn into a cat himself. He also can’t let anyone find out about the curse, or else it will progress even quicker. And so the series is off and running with Junpei trying frantically to keep as much distance as possible from all cats while also helping them in whatever ways they require. Junpei’s own family cat, the husky and irritable Nyamsus, helps Junpei by bringing cats in need to his doorstep.

Akari and Kotone see what you did there. And they do not approve. Well, Akari doesn't. Kotone just hopes you trip and fall.

This was a random find on the Anime Channel on Demand, but as a cat lover I knew that I had to check it out once I read the description, and I wasn’t disappointed. As the series is a traditional harem, Junpei is surrounded by several high school girls who torment him while secretly pining for him throughout the duration of the anime, but I found their antics rather amusing, especially those of the twin freshman sisters Kotone and Akari Kirishima. (Kotone proved to be one of my favourite characters thanks to her creepy obsession with misfortune and her stalker tendencies.) The fan service is minimal but still present, which may or may not be a selling point depending on what kind of anime you go for, and is kept mostly to jokes about one character’s larger-than-average breasts. It’s also sub only, but like Princess Jellyfish I had no trouble keeping up and only had to rewind to catch everything a few times.

Overall I enjoyed Nyan Koi! a great deal, and discovered week after week that it was one of the shows that I looked forward to watching the most. The animation is detailed and bright, and both the opening and closing theme songs are adorable. I might even be tempted to check out the manga by Sato Fujiwara, and I’m definitely interested in a second season (though if worse comes to worse, it did have a satisfying ending, in my humble opinion.) This is basically a story focused on daily high school life and the comedy of unrequited (or clueless) love with bits of fantasy thrown in amidst a cavalcade of cute kitties. If you like cats, this is definitely one to check out. Meow! - Online games
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© Miss Pink and Otaku Haiku 2011-2012
unless otherwise noted.
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