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.

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You Are The Music In Me: Ef, A Tale Of Melodies

Are we alone? Do actions matter?

All will meet in music and love.

Oh Ef, where to begin? If you aren’t familiar with the first season of this visually stunning series, I suggest you take a gander at my review of season one, Ef: A Tale Of Memories. Season two, Ef: A Tale Of Melodies, is every bit as much of an emotional roller coaster/feast for the eyes as its predecessor.

Shadows of Yuko and Yu: their destinies paint each other’s lives, as well as the lives of those around them.

Once again we follow the paths of two sets of couples, only this time we have a frame of reference since all of the main characters in season two were side characters in season one. (For details please see my First Impressions post.) The first pair consists of Yu Himura, a budding artist, and Yuko Amamiya, the strange new girl at school, and their story takes place many years ago when both were in high school. As it turns out, Yu and Yuko knew each other when they were children in the same orphanage, and when they meet again they fall in love. However, all things are not as they seem: Yuko carries a dark secret with her, one that threatens to poison her blossoming relationship with Yu. The second story takes place in the present and concerns Mizuki Hayama, schoolmate to season one’s Kei and recent high school graduate, as well as Kuze Shuichi, an adult violinist who attended school alongside Yu and Yuko. As soon as Mizuki hears Kuze play she falls in love with him, yet Kuze rejects her out of fear (you find out more details very soon into the series). Will Mizuki be able to heal Kuze’s heart enough for him to love her in return? Will Yu and Yuko manage to escape the demons that haunt them? Will love conquer all?

Kuze wears many masks, both literally and figuratively.

I don’t want to divulge more details that what I’ve stated above, as this series takes quite a few drastic twists and turns, and I’d hate to spoil it for any new fans. Sufficed to say you get a lot of the dramatic events unfolding early on, which I was quite pleased with. This show definitely kept me on the edge of my seat because I never knew what fresh hell would be thrown at these characters. As in season one, I didn’t feel particularly connected to any one player in the story, which would usually bug me but oddly doesn’t matter so much in the Ef series. It retained its sense of viewing a dramatic painting rather than being immersed in a novel, but that didn’t make it any less enthralling to watch. I was also happy with how well the second season compliments the first. Both are companion pieces of the same story rather than separate entities. To understand the entire saga you really need to watch both seasons, preferably one right after the other.

Mizuki provides one of the few rainbows in this dark tale.

Like the first season, the artwork is gorgeous and makes interesting use of silhouettes, shadows, and colours. It stands on its own as viscerally enticing, but the epic storyline takes the series even further. Once again I found myself distracted with the incredibly high volume of melodrama, but toward the end of the series I became just as caught up in the setting and characters as I did in season one. There’s a bit more fan service this time, as seems to be par for the course in anime, but it never became distracting as it was mostly relegated to the credits. The music was similar to season one as well: pleasant enough to hear at first, then slowly taking root in your brain so that you find yourself getting swept up by the familiar notes at the close of the final episode.

“Finally, Yuko, after 24 episodes, I realized that you’re…” “Shhh, don’t spoil the surprise!”

A Tale of Melodies might be the most perfect second season of an anime that I’ve seen to date. It neither surpasses nor fails the original, but instead retains an equal level of excellent artwork and storytelling. The feel of the second season is the same as the first, but the development of the story is fresh and new, not just a humdrum continuation. There are definitely adult themes in this series, making it one for more mature anime fans, but as with season one, Ef: A Tale of Melodies is not to be missed. Ef as a whole is both grand and simplistic, dark and light, sad and uplifting. I can see myself rewatching the entire series again when I need a story to take me away from myself for a while, then leave me filled with hope when I return, which is a pretty impressive feat for an anime.

Rating: ★★★★✰ Just as with season one, I knocked off half a star for the melodrama, but this definitely ranks with some of the best emotional anime that I’ve seen.

Can You Keep My Secret: Maid Sama

At school she takes orders from no one.

At work she serves all with a smile.

At long last I finished watching Maid Sama, or Maid Sama! if you’re being particular, or Kaichō wa Maid-sama! if you want to be precise (translation: The President is a Maid!). While I wrote a rather glowing First Impressions review of episode one, my adoration for this particular shoujo waned a bit throughout the many weeks it took to finish this anime. But before we get into that, I’ll provide a brief overview of the series:

Misaki: she works hard for the money, so you better treat her right.

Misaki Ayuzawa is the class president of unruly Seika High, which was, until recently, an all-boys school. She has taken it upon herself to rule with an iron fist and whip the slovenly boys who dominate the school into shape in order to make the female students feel more welcome. This is all well and good, and she does manage to command respect from students of all genders. However, due to money troubles at home, Misaki has secretly taken up an after school job at a maid café called Maid Latte. If you’re unfamiliar with a maid café, it’s where cute girls wait on patrons while wearing costumes, call them “Master,” and generally provide subservient fantasies to anyone with enough money to purchase a dish of ice cream or a cup of coffee. Misaki knows that her reputation and respect would be ruined if anyone at her high school found out where she works. So, naturally, the most popular boy at Seika High discovers her secret part-time job. All other girls bore Takumi Usui, but something about Misaki’s deceptive double-nature intrigues him, so he begins hanging out at her place of employment, teasingly flirting with her in a dominating manner whenever he’s around. The rest of the series is pretty much Misaki dealing with her double life while trying to sort out her confused feelings about Usui.

Misaki and domineering Usui: sexy or chauvinistic? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

What was a cute concept for the first half of the season became stale and slightly boring around the middle of the anime. The formula goes something like this: Misaki gets into trouble of some kind, usually via some jerk threatening her friends, her work, or her school, Usui swoops in to save her, but Misaki ends up saving herself. Even so, Usui leans in and says something flirty and domineering, then Misaki blushes and calls him a pervert before the credits roll. While some have criticized this series as suggesting that all strong women secretly want to be dominated, I don’t feel that’s a fair judgement. Misaki makes a good female lead; she’s smart, ambitious, and overall a pretty decent role model for a shoujo story. If it was all an act and she was just a damsel in distress waiting for Usui to save her, then it would be super lame. Her saving grace is, of course, the fact that she does usually pull herself out of the jams that she gets in, be it through her physical strength or her forceful words. I don’t have a problem with her carrying on a flirtation with a dominant male, especially as Usui is never violent or seriously threatening to Misaki in any way. He was playful and teased her, but if she ever actually got freaked out he backed off. She’s a strong character, so it makes sense that she would be drawn to a strong love interest.

Hey there, new love interest! Too bad you didn’t show up a little sooner. Oh Hinata, we hardly knew ye.

My main problem was with the formulaic episodes that began to blur together around episode twelve or so. My interest was piqued again when a former childhood friend of Misaki’s appears as a love interest as well as foil to Usui, but I felt that he was introduced far too late into the show to add any lasting spice to the story. Also, like so many anime series before, Maid Sama just kind of…ends. There is some resolution, but not enough to be very satisfying. Speaking of which, the only character we get a full backstory on is Misaki, which is disappointing because Usui was interesting but a little too mysterious. I wanted to know more about him but never got much more info than what is shared in episode one.

“Don’t call me Nyan Cat, I hate that freakin’ video! Besides, do I look like I fart rainbows?!? Huh? Yeah, didn’t think so!”

Overall, it was fun to watch, especially if you enjoy shoujo, but I don’t see a lot of rewatch value for me personally. The art was typical with nothing really new there, and the music was the same. The subtitles go by rather fast in this one, which wouldn’t be a problem except for the constant added words in the background as well as explanations of Japanese culture at the top of the screen. There was a lot of rewinding and pausing in order to read everything, and that got to be a bit of a headache at times. I was a little shocked at a couple of episodes in the beginning that seemed to casually suggest that Misaki was in danger of being sexually assaulted (though luckily nothing of the sort occurred) and those instances remained jarring even when the rest of the show devolved into fluff storylines. But all in all, I’m glad that I watched this series. It was a pleasant shoujo with some unexpectedly sexy moments, and I bet that the manga is even better than the anime. It’s not my favourite series by any stretch of the imagination, but you could do far worse than spending some time in the world of Maid Sama.

Rating: ★★★ Definitely check this out if you enjoy shoujo, but don’t expect to be blown away.

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: Ef, A Tale Of Melodies

Another tale, this one told not in memories,

but in melodies.

I told you that I’d check out season two in the Ef series, and by gum, I did just that. (Thanks for showing season two right after the first one, Anime Network On Demand! Now if you could go ahead and show the second season of The World God Only Knows, that would be super.) I figured that A Tale Of Melodies would be an entirely new drama of heart-wrenching proportions, but as it turns out, we get to interact more with the side characters from season one. Hooray for familiar faces!

So, here we are, Yu. Alone at last. I’m so glad I decided to stalk you today!

Episode one opens with Yu Himura, the guy who dresses like a priest and took care of Chihiro in season one. He says some deep things about two towns, then we get to see a flashback of him during his school days. He meets up with the magical nun from season one, who is now also a teen, on the roof of his school, and we finally find out that her name is Yuko. They talk about not seeing each other for ten years and how Yu doesn’t remember her, then she leaves saying that she doesn’t want to see him again. After that we see more of Yu wandering around the school, first running into a creepy teacher who encourages him to join the art department, then finding a girl painting a self-portrait in the nude. Turns out that this gal is his friend (though I didn’t catch her name) and after she gets dressed they walk around town to do some shopping. Artsy gal notices that Yuko has been following them, gets in a huff because Yuko and Yu allude to having some sort of relationship/friendship, and leaves the two of them standing in the middle of town.

Hey Kuze, it’s totally not creepy if I try on your “cosplay” for “lady friends,” right? We’re almost all adults here, after all.

Finally, at twelve minutes in we get the opening credits (which are similar to season one’s) then we switch over to Mizuki Hayama, the blond side character who was obsessed with Kei in the first season. Turns out she’s Renji’s cousin, and she’s staying with him and his mom until she goes off to the school she’s been accepted to. Also noteworthy: turns out the whole thing takes place in Australia?!? I guess due to the names and outfits I assumed the setting was either Japan or some fictional “every place.” Anyway, Mizuki mentions hearing lovely violin music the previous night, and Renji’s mom tells her it must have been their neighbor, Kuze Shuichi, the professional violinist. (All the side characters from season one are coming out of the woodwork now!) Mizuki wants to meet him, but Renji warns that he’s also a pro at being a ladies’ man. Mizuki doesn’t care, so she gets her introduction via Renji’s mom. As a further treat Kuze agrees to let Mizuki spend the day with him. They faff about his near empty apartment, sometimes saying deep things, sometimes just chewing the fat. Mizuki finds his infamous collection of school girl uniforms but isn’t fazed, then asks to hear him play. He begs for a rain check and she obliges. At one point Kuze mentions needing to take medicine, but we don’t know what for. After that they spend time just lying on the floor and staring up at the ceiling, appreciating the simplistic joy of it. Mizuki leaves, and Kuze falls back on the couch in pain. O no! What will happen next?

Deep dramatic scenes are deep. And dramatic.

I really liked this first episode, thanks mostly to my enjoyment of season one. The art and music quality are still quite good, and I knew what sort of story to expect thanks to the first season. I was fully prepared to learn about a new set of characters embroiled in deep drama, but to my delight the story seems to be following up on side characters from season one. I like this not only because it already gives me a starting point brimming with comforting familiarity, but also I was truly curious about some of the characters that we saw so little of the first time around. Thanks to that, I’m probably more excited about watching season two than I was watching the initial season. I just hope that it lives up to its predecessor’s outstanding quality.

There Will Be Tears: Ef, A Tale Of Memories

Memories and dreams are fleeting things.

We must make our own destiny.

Today we have a series that ended up being the complete opposite of last week’s anime, The World God Only Knows. I’m not talking so much in terms of plot, but more about the overall feeling of the show. The World God Only Knows started out strong then faded off into a muddled mess. However, Ef: A Tale of Memories began confusingly (see my First Impressions post for details) and ended very powerfully, making me kind of love it.

Cheerful Chihiro. Who needs memories when you have fluffy duckies?

There are two main storylines happening at the same time, but all of the characters are connected to one another in some way. The first, and most central, concerns a boy named Renji who meets a girl with no memory named Chihiro. She’s not an amnesiac, but rather she has a condition in which her memories only remain with her for thirteen hours. When hour thirteen rolls by, she loses any short-term memories of the day before and reverts back to her twelve-year-old self on the day of her accident. The only way that she can retain anything is by both writing and reading a diary. Chihiro’s dream is to write a novel, but with her condition that’s all but impossible. However, Renji, a teen who’s a bit lost about which path to take in his own life, encourages Chihiro to pursue her passion and write her novel. As they work together, their bond grows, but in the back of each of their minds is Chihiro’s condition, making all of her memories fragile and precious.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray your friend Kei gets mauled by a wild puma…” “What was that last part, Miyako?” “Hmmm? Oh, nothing, Hiro! Tee-hee!”

The second story involves a young shoujo manga artist named Hiro who struggles to deal with both school and being a successful artist. His childhood friend Kei (Chihiro’s sister) does her best to keep him in line at school while concealing her massive crush on him. Yet after Hiro helps a girl named Miyako when her purse gets stolen, the two of them hang out together more and more. This fuels Kei’s jealousy, and she tries everything in her power to keep them apart. However, Miyako won’t disappear so easily, and Hiro cares for both girls. Which girl, if either, will he choose? Will Hiro finally find a balance between school and work? What will happen to the rejected girl(s)? And how can Chihiro and Renji’s bond continue to grow if her memories are so easily wiped away? Will Chihiro finish her novel? Will Renji find his true path in life? So many questions to be answered!

Some of that interesting and unique artwork. Preeeeeeetty.

And this series does indeed address all of them in just twelve episodes. The stories are more about emotion than action, and that, coupled with a handful of brief nude scenes, makes this a series for more mature anime fans. At times it could be a bit melodramatic, but once you get into the heart of the show, you get caught up in the drama. The art was really interesting and beautiful. At the outset it kind of looks like a lot of other big-eyed anime shows, but the techniques with the various silhouettes and colours really made the artwork stand out. The opening and closing themes were both pretty and hopeful, and I really enjoyed the background music that sounded like 80s-style synthesizers (80s new wave is my bread and butter). Chihiro and Renji’s story sort of reminded me of a non-funny version of 50 First Dates at times, but that didn’t stop me from getting completely drawn in (despite Chihiro’s ridiculously soft voice).

We never find out who that mysterious nun-type gal is. Maybe in season two?

Speaking of voices, the English dub was excellent, calling on industry pros like Luci Christian and Greg Ayres. Only Clint Bickham as Renji didn’t seem to be a good fit, but that’s just my personal opinion. Hiro, Miyako, and Kei’s tale was just as involving as Chihiro and Renji’s, even though I thought that Miyako was bats**t crazy. While I didn’t feel particularly close to any one character, I really did enjoy watching their stories unfold, and thanks to the artistic flourishes such as overly long periods of silence and the aforementioned artwork, watching this series felt more like getting lost in a great painting rather than a good book. Since the anime is based on a series of adult visual novels, that kind of makes sense. There’s a second season entitled Ef: A Tale of Melodies that I will definitely be checking out next. As for the first season, Ef: A Tale of Memories is a very heartfelt anime, executed impeccably, that older fans should certainly not miss.

Rating: ★★★★✰ I knocked off half a star for the copious melodrama, but overall, this series impressed me greatly, and I look forward to adding it to my collection one day.

Gamer’s Paradise: The World God Only Knows

His skills are an online legend.

Now he has to face reality.

Initially I was quite taken with today’s anime selection, as evidenced by my glowing First Impressions post. And I still enjoyed it several episodes in. However, now that I’ve reached the end of The World God Only Knows, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.

Keima's worldview consists of whatever is on the screen in front of him. Elsie isn't a gamer, so she just doesn't understand.

The premise: antisocial gamer geek Keima Katsuragi is an unbeatable “god” when it comes to dating sim games. Because of this, he’s tapped by dark forces (re: forced) to help a cute demon named Elsie collect loose souls which have escaped from hell. They hide in the hearts of girls, for some strange reason, so Keima has to put aside his disgust with reality and use all of his dating sim tricks of the trade in order to woo the girls who are the unknowing hosts. Once their hearts fill with love for Keima, there’s no more room to hide, and when the loose souls escape Elsie is there to capture them in a giant glass jar. Keima hates real life and pretty much anything other than his games, so watching him try to utilize his gaming skills in real life situations is the basis for much of the show’s humor.

Keima's harem covers all the bases: a nadeshiko, a tsundere, a meganekko (without glasses), a yandere, and a sporty girl.

I really enjoyed this series at the beginning. I loved the character of Keima and identified with him instantly, being something of an antisocial gamer-type myself (though I hold nowhere near the level of disgust with reality that Keima does [except for when I’m having a super horrible day]). I thought that Elsie was cute, though nothing special when it comes to daffy sidekicks. Most of all I really liked the premise and was eager to watch it all unfold. But then somewhere along the way things fell a bit flat. There are four girls that Keima must pursue in season one. The first story arc was hilarious, and quite quickly resolved. The second took a bit longer but remained funny throughout. There were a couple of filler episodes, and one involving Keima trying to beat a bugged dating sim made me tear up with laughter. Then came the third girl’s story, which was mostly enjoyable but seemed to drag on just a bit too long. Finally, the fourth girl’s arc emerged, and I hated everything about it. I hated the character of the girl because she was boring and almost painful to watch; I hated the setting, which was repetitive and repressive, and I hated the total lack of anything funny. It was a longer arc, which made it worse, and I found myself getting depressed just by watching it. Whereas earlier in the season this show was always the first one I’d watch after downloading all of my Anime On Demand shows every week, by the end it became the last. I had high hopes that the final episode would make up for lost laughter, but it did nothing to redeem itself.

In godlike mode Keima is nearly invincible. In his own mind, that is.

The series seemed to try to become too serious, which in turn made the show depressing because the girl who the final story arc revolved around was herself depressing. Keima was also kind of joyless by the end, in my opinion, and that only left Elsie as a character to cling to, but she was never that exciting and could hardly be considered a reason to watch all on her own. The art was solidly good anime art, but nothing extraordinary or new. The music was just okay, though I did always enjoy the opening theme as well as the song that crops up in the final two episodes. Basically, the whole series was a bit of a letdown. It seemed too rambling and scattered, and it didn’t remain funny enough to abandon its storyline as much as it did. There’s a second season, and I would certainly check it out if given the chance in order to see if it can pick the series back up and make it shine like it once did. I still believe that the premise is great, and there’s a lot of comedy fruit just ripe for the picking to be found there. But a complete season should be able to stand on its own two feet, especially a first season, and The World God Only Knows fumbles disappointingly short of my initial expectations.

Rating: ★★★ Glad I watched it, and I might be tempted to add this series to my collection if the second season can make me laugh like the first half of season one did.

Bishōnen In Space: Tytania

One clan thinks they own the universe.

One rebel is proving them wrong.

At long last, Tytania, the epically epic space opera anime that I’ve been watching for several months, came to a close. I’ve been watching it for so long that I’m just not sure what to think without my weekly dose of intergalactic drama. There are lots of little details scattered throughout this expansive galaxy of political intrigue and space battles, but the main story can be reduced down to a basic good(ish) versus evil(ish) struggle for power.

No one even has the courage to tell the clan lord of Tytania that those pants give him saddlebag thighs.

As I mentioned in greater detail in my First Impressions post about this series, Tytania is the all-powerful ruling clan of the universe. They know it, and everyone else knows it, too. Some of them try to rule fairly, while a few others believe that maintaining power is at all costs is more important. It’s not so much that Tytania is well-loved, but it’s more like people are afraid to mess with them, so most of the galaxy just deals with it as best as they can. Enter one Fan Hyulick, a young cocky solider who gets a promotion to Admiral of Euria strictly for the purpose of losing a big battle against Tytania. The problem is that no one told Fan that he was supposed to lose, and so he wins using an out-of-the-box strategy. This pretty much blows everyone’s socks off.

Fan Hyulick partying. Or possibly a Hardee's commercial.

Tytania wants their hands on this guy pretty badly, and since Fan gets kicked off of Euria for winning that battle, it should be easy to capture him. However, an anti-Tytania faction finds him first and keeps him safely hidden away. When they get compromised, Fan gets handed off to the pirate ship The Honest Old Man where he makes his home for the rest of the series. Tytania keeps having close run-ins with Fan, and even though they discuss inviting him to join Tytania at first, the longer that they can’t find him, the more his legend grows, and the more dangerous of a figure he becomes. Despite the fact that Fan is very easygoing and jovial in person, he has become a hero to the anti-Tytania factions around the galaxy, and that gives the rebels more courage to fight back. You can see how Tytania wouldn’t be pleased with this. The rest of the series is basically a game of cat and mouse between Tytania and Fan Hyulick, with lots of political intrigue going on within the walls of Tytania itself.

Cute but useless, that's meeeee!

There are several pros and cons that I found in this anime. Getting the negative out of the way first, this series is basically a sausage fest. There are only a couple of female characters of note, one being a loli princess (Lydia) who is supposed to play some big role in the future of Tytania. Don’t get your hopes up, though, because you never find out what that is. She just runs around the garden in puffy shorts and thigh-highs and says innocently deep things about the events happening. Basically, she was annoying. Kind of cute at times, but mostly annoying. Another minus would be the episodes in which little to nothing happens, drawing out storylines and battles which definitely did not need to be so drawn out. The three episodes before the finale were especially guilty of this, because only one thing of note would happen in twenty-six minutes of animation. This was a shame, because when it was good, it was brilliant, but when it was boring, well, it was boring. On top of that, I noticed that a lot of the story arcs were becoming the same thing in the second half of the series: Fan gets caught by someone then almost captured by Zarlish, the battle-hungry duke of Tytania, then he gets away. Again and again and again this same scenario played out. It seemed rather unimaginative, given that there is an entire universe of planets and characters to play with here.

Miranda, slingin' back a few beers before battle.

Having said all of that, there was a lot of good stuff in this series, too. The first half was quite engaging, more so than the second half, which was kind of new since most of the anime series I’ve seen start off weak and grow stronger. It’s the Kobato effect: the first half is filler, while the second half is actual plot. But this time, even though the formula was the same, I actually enjoyed the filler episodes more than the repetitive stretched-out plot of the second half, especially the political battles happening within the walls of Tytania. I liked the detailed animation, and the end theme song, “Lost In Space,” by Psychic Lover, is killer. Some of the characters were clichéd, but I still enjoyed watching them. Fan is like a more easygoing Han Solo, which is great. It’s like Star Wars without that pansy Luke getting in the way. (I tease, of course. And to be fair, I’m more of a Trekkie anyway.) Though the XX chromosome set was few and far between, I really loved Miranda, the commander of The Honest Old Man. She began the series as bold and outspoken, then showed more layers as the series progressed. And she wasn’t the typical waif-like anime girl, either. Miranda was built like a brick house and knew how to kick ass!

Rebel, rebel, you tore your dress. Rebel, rebel, your face is a mess.

This anime introduced many more questions than it could answer, which is understandable because the manga is still ongoing and, well, it is anime. As far as anime endings go, this one is more frustrating than some other series that provide definitive answers to their stories such as Angel Beats or Black Butler. Yet it’s not anywhere near as frustrating as those series that don’t answer major plot points at all such as Guin Saga or Black Blood Brothers. Basically, if you like space operas, you’ll probably like this, unless you think it’s an aristocratic ripoff of Star Wars. (But then, what space opera isn’t compared to Star Wars? George Lucas really branded that genre.) Personally, I enjoyed the political intrigue, the non-cutesy detailed artwork, and I really liked the ragtag group of rebels as well as several members of Tytania. Not knowing exactly whose side I’m on is what makes me enjoy an anime even more, and Tytania had all that and more.

Rating: ★★★✰ I could see owning this one day, but the rewatch value is still questionable.

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.

Who’s That Girl?: Kobato

Her past is mysterious, her journey unknown.

All she has is love.

I just finished Kobato a matter of minutes ago (it really takes a long time to complete a twenty-four episode anime when you only get one episode per week via On Demand!) and, wow. I have so much to say about this intriguing anime.

Kobato, magically falling from the sky like rain. Or bird poo. Magical bird poo.

As you might recall, dear reader, I wrote a rather positive First Impressions review of episode one. To briefly summarize the overall story, Kobato appears to be a chipper young girl, but she’s actually from “somewhere else.” She arrives on Earth (in Japan, presumably, though if a specific location was provided I can’t seem to recall it) in the company of a grumpy talking stuffed dog named Ioryogi. His sole purpose is to help Kobato carry out her mission of collecting kompeito, which in reality is a type of Japanese candy, but in this story the kompeito are actually people’s broken hearts. Whenever she heals a broken heart, the glass jar that she carries with her gains a kompeito. Only when the jar is completely full will Kobato gain her wish, which is “to go to the place I want to be.” (Yeah, nothing vague about that, is there?) To pass the time Kobato works at Yomogi Kindergarden alongside a grumpy tsundere named Fujimoto. She also encounters a whole host of other people who are, for the most part, completely charmed by her optimistic cluelessness. A bit later on, just to make things more interesting, a stuffed bunny holding a flower appears out of the sky (I swear I’m not making this up) to inform Kobato that she only has four seasons to complete her mission, otherwise it will be bad.

This pic pretty much sums up Fujimoto's and Kobato's relationship throughout most of the series.

What I enjoyed about the first episode became less enjoyable by the third and flat-out boring by the eighth. Episode after episode seemed to have the exact same premise: Kobato wanders around in a daft haze of cheerfulness and naivety until she meets someone who is sad, Ioryogi tries to get her to stay on task, Fujimoto says something vaguely mean to her, Kobato keeps plodding forward with her good intentions, and finally she manages to bumblef**k her way into healing a heart and gaining kompeito. While I found Kobato to be charming, sweet, and silly at first, after just a few episodes she became nearly intolerable. Bless her heart, she’s dumb as a brick, and I find it difficult to stay with a character who has zero common sense. I understood that she was not of this world, but come on, show some growth after a few episodes! I actually thought that the series was only twelve episodes long, so I stayed with it, otherwise I would have probably stopped watching.

Ioryogi seriously needed to explain a few things a bit sooner. I'm all for anticipation, but c'mon, ya gotta give me *something*!

Finally episode twelve rolled around and we got some answers about just who the hell these characters are and where they came from. Not a great deal, but enough to make it interesting again. Then I discovered that there are actually twenty-four episodes in the anime, and my heart sunk. However, after episode twelve, the series got exponentially better. I actually found myself looking forward to watching each new episode week after week, which was a complete 180 from the first half (when I was literally forcing myself to keep watching). An actual plot began to unfold in which there were several stories going on at once, and we finally got to see these characters more in-depth than before. To my amazement, little by little I found myself completely sucked in, so much so that by the final episode I had to pause the TV several times in order to wipe the tears away from my eyes. It was that engrossing!

Wait, you think I'm deep?

Kobato really was an emotional roller coaster to watch. First it was just cute and pleasant, then it was boring and predictable, then it was interesting and involving, and finally it was intense and heart-wrenching. Once you finally receive all of the backstory in the final two episodes, it doesn’t seem that complicated. However, after reading up on the manga, it seems that the story is even more involved than what’s explained in the anime. Since there are only six volumes, I’m seriously considering checking the manga out in order to find out the entire story. However, even if you only watch the anime version of Kobato, I think that there’s something quite enjoyable to be found if you have the patience to navigate through the fluff at the beginning of the series. The animation is cute, and the music is sweet and strangely touching, rather like this anime as a whole. I really was shocked by how invested I became in these characters, who seem a bit flat and one-dimensional at first but then blossom into figures you truly care about, especially wide-eyed Kobato herself. I would definitely recommend this series to shoujo lovers and CLAMP aficionados, but even general non-jaded anime fans should find something substantial hidden within the sugary-sweet outer shell of Kobato.

Rating: ★★★✰ The initial eleven episodes keep this one from a full four stars. However, the end was emotional and satisfying, and even if I don’t add the anime to my collection, I’ll certainly be looking for the manga.

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