Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kurenai - Completed Review

What is it?

Kurenai Shinkuro is a high school student who works as a part-time mediator. In most cases, this involves him resolving issues by physical means. One day, his boss puts a 7 year old girl in his care. The girl, Kuhouin Murasaki, has led a sheltered life and must adjust to living a more modest lifestyle, an opportunity she soon relishes. While she discovers the joys of everyday life, their life together is threatened by the Kuhouin family, for Murasaki is the key to a dark secret of her family, going back generations.

What's good about it?

Great setting and story. Awesome animation with good action scenes. Character designs are voice acting are appropriate and likeable. The dialogue and episode themes are, for the most part, creative and entertaining, especially when it concerns Murasaki, Shinkuro and his roommates. The better character development also involves these characters.

What's bad about it?

Shinkuro falls into the most-used mold of the indecisive and naive hero. Until the last few episodes, he suffers from self-esteem issues and must often get a confidence boost from those around him, like his boss, Benika. The producers may have been a little too eager to demonstrate the depth of their versatility. You get an musical episode, some slice of life drama, some modern social observational discourse, some science-fiction abilities and some martial arts fighting. While most of it is very well done, I can't help but feel the series would have profited from more plot focus, especially since there are only 12 episodes and the initial theme and setting promised a more compelling series. I also wasn't satisfied with the ending. The outcome and dialogue at the end seems irrational and unauthentic.

Final Verdict

Despite its irksome shortcoming, Kurenai remains a hit that was one of the most entertaining and worthy series of the spring anime season. Plot development was thin until the end, with the first three quarters of the series focusing on character development. Since it was equally interesting however, the effect of the lack of pacing is diminished. Kurenai makes a lot of its shortcomings seem lesser by producing worthy alternatives. You can't make a bad series if your mistakes are still above-average.


FYI- The summer season is starting in the next few weeks with some new series debuting, most exciting of which is the third installement of School Rumble!, one of my all-time favorites. If you haven't watched the previous two seasons of School Rumble, nows a perfect time to make yourself familiar with the series before the third season starts. You won't regret it!

I've also got the review for Library Wars and the July anime ranking coming in the next few weeks.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Monthly Anime Ranking - June '08

1. Code Geass R2
2. Macross Frontier*
3. Soul Eater
4. xxxHOLIC kei
5. Allison to Lillia
6. Kurenai
7. Real Drive
8. Wagaya no Oinari-sama
9. Kanokon
10. Nabari no Ou
11. Library Wars
12. Vampire Knight
13. Golgo 13*
14. Kyoran Kazoku Nikki
15. To Love-Ru
16. Itazura na Kiss

A couple of new additions this month:
Macross Frontier: Awesome. To be honest, I only loosely watched previous macross series but this one is the revelation of the season for me. Good mix of mecha fights and love triangle coupled with great character development and story setting. Yoko Kanno returns to supply us with another must-have anime soundtrack, much of which figures prominently in the actual plot. This is the model Gundam series should be trying to follow.

Golgo 13: Golgo 13 is an assassin who always gets his man. I would swear he was a robot if not for his apparent need to create needlessly complicated plots at times to drive the investigators mad. Character development is non-existent since Golgo 13 never says anything unnecessary or emotional (he doesn't have emotions). So much so that we usually see the story from the point of view of the client or target, since they at least can usually considered human. This show is one of those "man who is impressed by how manly another man is" and should be avoided if you can't see the humor in how over-the-top it is.

Since I can't say any series has noticeably improved since last month, I'm withholding the biggest winner award. Most shows at the top of the list have held steady this week while those in the bottom half have mostly worsened, which is to be expected after the novelty of the first few episodes wears off.

Kurenai and Kyouran Kazoku Nikki are my biggest losers for this month. Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, which started off decent enough, has become plain irritating. It's trying to be crazy and creative and wacky but the episodes are very similar and it's not funny. At all.

Kurenai is still a very good show but it just can't seem to meet it's potential. What started off as a dark fighting/slice-of-life series became a light hearted slice-of-life series until recently. Though it still gets high marks for creativity, especially for an ambitious musical episode, I can't help but feel the series is underachieving. Some of that is probably because I don't like how pathetic Shintarou can be at time. He suffers from bouts of depression and self-doubt fairly regularly. There are signs in the last few episodes that that trend may be changing. I hope so because I still really enjoy this series and still think it can develop into something great. All the pieces are there.

Here are other observations for the month:
-After a grandiose and successful opening arc, I was fairly certain Allison to Lillia would suffer a letdown in the following arc. However, Allison held steady with a decent effort in the second arc and I expect a similarly good arc to follow it.

-Library Wars appears to be missing some direction. The initial setting was intriguing enough but library wars seems undecided on where it wants to take it plot-wise. It needs to make a move because character interactions are stagnating and repeating themselves.

That's all for now. I don't really have any reviews on deck so I might not post anything till next month. Maybe I'll write a retro review for something next week. Enjoy your summer ~Mina!~ Bye-bee!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Baccano! - Completed Review

What is it?

A hodgepodge of inter-connecting events and characters weave a tale that mostly spans the years 1930 to 1932 in depression era Chicago. The story mixes fantastic elements like immortality and folk legends with the historical setting of mafia families during the prohibition.

What's good about it?

Baccano! gets an "A" for effort. The first episode delivers some of the ending elements from the start and the story begins to be told mostly in order from there. Still, during the whole series the story shift between events spanning the three years during which the story takes place. I love this kind of creative mapping. The ensemble cast of characters is quite diverse and interesting. The story and setting are great. Great soundtrack.

What's bad about it?

Short at thirteen episodes, a lot of the characters are vastly underdevelopped. The story begins without much explanation which leads to confusion at the start.

Final Verdict

During the opening credits we are reminded of the names of the cast which goes a decent way towards adjusting to the starting pace. After the first few episodes, the pace does slow down to a more conventional pace though this isn't as obvious due to the continuous event shifting. All that being said, Baccano! still gets high marks for creativity and entertainment value. I'm certainly glad I ended up seeing this because there was so little buzz about this series which is quite odd for such a unique product.


FYI- Expect the June anime ranking in the coming week. I've picked up a couple of more shows so look forward to my first impressions on those. They are:

-Macross Frontier

-Golgo 13