Category Archives: Anime

I’m back!

I apologize for being so late with posting. As I reported a while back, my computer broke. Ironically it was in the middle of me rendering a video that would announce my return to Youtube in a small capacity and all my hard work on that video (it wasn’t much) is now gone in the wind.

The computer breaking basically means I lost everything. I was working on a review of Nevertales: The Beauty Within but all screenshots and such are now gone and it’s been far too long since I played it to give it a fair shake unless I were to replay it which… I’m not about to do. Sorry. Great game, check it out, Mad Head Games deserve all the cred and love they can get.

Hopefully I’ll be able to review another of their games soon.

I’ve also decided to scrap the anime reviews I was working on as they too are simply too faded to remember accurately anymore and thus I don’t feel comfortable reviewing something a month old in my head. My recollection of Wolverine (the anime) was already pretty old when I started the review as I had watched it in chunks over a one year period so that decision was a pretty simple one to make.
The second review I was working on was for Gantz and while fresher in my mind, having watched the entire series in a day or two very recently, I’ve since started reading the manga and seen the two live action movies which at this point would have started to meld into one.

Simply put, I want to give the best review possible, both for my readers’ sake and the product in question. Had I been further along in the review process, I would’ve tried to finish it either way, I’ve done so in the past, but I hadn’t finished putting my thoughts in black on white yet so it would’ve required extensive backtracking to get back on the right path and I’m the kind of person who would much rather go forward.

But my thoughts in a nutshell were:

Wolverine: Fun little romp with a somewhat odd take on a well known character. Much better than its predecessor, Iron Man, but at times the animation was very lackluster and it suffered from poor pacing and uninteresting side characters. It was also a bit too Japanese even for Wolverine’s best. Not entirely unpleasant but nothing I’m gonna rewatch.

Gantz: Very good anime based on a very good manga. Follows the plot pretty much down to the letter for most of it. Has some very good action scenes and characterization but completely stumbles at the finish line and never finishes the race. As I’m now reading the manga, the last and finishing arc is an entirely original creation meant to tie everything up before the series ended prematurely. Which is a shame, there was a lot of potential here, it took a lot of risks and it would’ve been fun to see it come to fruition but oh well. Worth a watch but maybe not watch the last part.

So what’s to come instead? Well, now that I have my computer back it’s time to get back to playing a bunch of HOPA. Doubt I’ll have another Casual Friday out in a week but hopefully I’ll be ready with another one around Christmas. I also have a big review project currently underway that I started while computerless. It involves Asia and drama and spies. Yes, it’s a big one. I’m also gonna try to get back on Youtube as I mentioned before but I have some rebuilding to do on my computer before I can get back to that. I’m lacking a lot of programs so first I need to install all of that again and make sure it’s working like it should. Then we’ll see when I have it up.

But I guess that covers it for now. I hope you look forward to more stuff from me very soon!

Slayers

So, kiddies. Personal history time… again. In the past I mentioned how much I didn’t watch anime. Like many growing up, my exposure was limited to the few cartoons that were Westernized but the term “anime” wasn’t really in my vocabulary until I was a teenager at which point I pretty much had it all wrong. That’s how little we knew back then, I didn’t know the difference between anime and manga and when I did some research, I got it all wrong, thinking “manga” was pretty much anime produced in Japan while “anime” was just a generic term for stuff that tried to look like manga, aka the real stuff.

Pictured: Source of Confusion?

I don’t know how I came to this conclusion although I suspect that Manga Entertainment had something to do with it.

So I was a fairly dumb kid but I implore you to remember that I was just a kid and that I got better… well, to some degree I suppose.

Anyhow, as I grew older I was exposed to new and wondrous things like more anime. Although I was a fan of shows like “Robotech” or “Sailor Moon” as a kid and saw one or two anime, like “My Neighbor Totoro” on TV I can’t really claim that I was super into it.

Something eventually changed, of course, or I wouldn’t be here. I think it all came back to me with “Akira”. After that I did my best to get back into it though the pickings were scarce to put it mildly. Stores barely had anything to offer let alone a whole section for it like some do today. Most of my options could be found in an obscure little corner shop that carried a variety of nerdy stuff. And my friend who was a great deal more invested in the stuff than I was.

He showed me La Blue Girl, Love Hina, Sakura Wars and many, many other shows. One of them being Slayers Try.

And that’s not what I’m reviewing today. I just felt I should mention that because I went into Slayers, the first series based on the manga, with certain expectations. One being that it would be absolutely hilarious and another that it would be friggin’ awesome. Because Slayers Try caught me immediately and absolutely floored me with its humor. It may not always tell a good story but it has a comedy timing that places it in the top ten of comedy productions, easily up there with comedy legends such as Eddie Izzard or Monty Python.

At least in my book, mileage may vary.

And right off the bat I can say that Slayers only mildly disappointed and I was ready for that. For one, I didn’t expect them to perfect the formula on their first outing, these things can take time. A secondly, I haven’t seen Slayers Try in a good ten years by now and it came after three series (technically two and one OVA but dammit, I’m a reviewer, not a linguist!) and two movies so Slayers was a good bit removed from what I remember.

Slayers tells the story of how the dimwitted yet expert swordsman Gourry Gabriev and the hot headed but incredibly talented mage Lina Inverse, two of the franchise’s leading protagonists, initially met and their first adventures together. Having come together rather by accident the two set out on a journey that eventually leads to them having to shoulder the responsibility for the entire world. Along the way they make some enemies but all the more friends in the form Zelgadis, a warrior cursed with a stone body, Amelia, a clumsy warrior of justice and magician in training, and Sylphiel, a rather oblivious cleric quite taken by the handsome Gourry.

Slayers is the brain child of Hajime Kanzaka and was first seen in light novel form in the eighties but was quickly made into anime and manga after only a few years. Often cited as one of the most popular animes of the nineties, it was probably many people’s introduction to anime comedy in some form or another. Line Inverse and Gourry Gabriev have become synonymous with kooky and quirky humor and parody.

Honestly, it’s a mystery as to why they have yet to be made into live action.

At the core of Slayers then lie the comedy and it’s a safe bet to say that if you never took to Slayers comedy in any of its other incarnations then you’re not going to like it here either. It’s difficult to describe the humor in anything but broad strokes because it covers a lot of ground, everything from parody to one-line gags to referential humor are used and abused at some points in the series. For the most part the show makes fun of high fantasy tropes and clichés, playfully poking fun at other shows in the process with varying degrees of success, but the show doesn’t pull its punches with any medium in any form.

However, glass houses and stones and all that, Slayers at times walk a fine line between poking fun at something and relying on something but saying they’re doing it intentionally. You can’t have your cake and eat it too and there are times where I feel the writing lets down the joke, having openings for something very clever only to take the easy route. It has a wicked tendency to cause mood whiplash when it flits between serious story telling and parody comedy, often missing a beat and leaving the viewer scratching their head.

This is particularly painful during the final episodes when the series can’t seem to decide whether it wants to put epic climax first or the comedy. It’s also rears its ugly head during the first encounter with the big bad only to then go back to a rather run of the mill episodic nature with lots of hijinks.

It’s this writing that often leaves viewers arguing whether the show is actually poking fun of the tropes or whether it simply relies on them knowingly, the two simply not being the same.

And the show is absolutely terrible at characterization. At the end of the series you don’t really know much else about Lina, Gourry or any of the other characters outside of general backstory and motivation than you did at the start. The one who gets the most characterization also happens to be the last one introduced. There’s always hints of more interesting characters hiding underneath the biting satire and slapstick but the show, perhaps rightly so, never digs very deep.

Because at the end of the day, whether you like Slayers or not comes down entirely to whether you like the humor or not, story be damned. If you watch Slayers for the plot then you’re going about it all wrong. Slayers doesn’t really care about the plot and mostly just use it to set up gags. The entire middle of the series is exactly this, one poor excuse after another to set up jokes that could never have been were they to follow something linear and sane.
And really, the same can be said for the characters: make them too deep and it takes the focus away from what’s important here, the comedy. The skits, the jokes, the gags, the laughs. If you start analyzing Gourry and Lina’s actual relationship and try to discuss romance and the entire tapestry threatens to unravel, leaving you with a bunch of threads and incoherent mess. Perhaps the truly brilliant can still surmise the beauty of the complete tapestry from the strings alone but the rest of us can’t, robbing us of a work of art.

Deepu kissu!

So again, whether you like Slayers or not depends entirely on whether you like the humor and the only way to know that is to give it a try. Sure, I could discuss whether the art or sound are up to scratch but if you like this type of humor that won’t matter and if you don’t, well, then the art and sound won’t matter ’cause you won’t like Slayers. And the comedy isn’t always enough. Some episodes are side hurtingly funny while other episodes are utter bores.

I liked it, though. Enough so that I spent an entire weekend blasting through it. And I want more. I did try to watch it with the dub because I’m eternally fascinated by the debate between subs and dubs, personally being a “live and let live” kind of guy with the whole thing. But perhaps because I saw Slayers Try undubbed first, I couldn’t reconcile with the different voices. I won’t outright say the dub is bad but to me it just sounded all kinds of wrong. Some have said I probably listened to the wrong half of the season or whatever but honestly, I just don’t like it here.

Ultimately, I recommend this series if only to try and see if you like the humor. If you do then you have a whole franchise waiting for you and if not, well, then you don’t.

Inazuma Eleven

Stand up! Stand up! Tachiagari yo! Inazuma challengaaaaaaaa!

Hey! *dances*

*cough*

*clear throat*

Hello, and welcome to- oh, who am I kidding, I friggin’ LOVE Inazuma Eleven!

Here’s a viewing project that was years in the making to say the least. I came across this series years ago, I think right after I finished watching Eyeshield 21, ANOTHER viewing project that was years in the making so about… three years ago now. I started watching Eyeshield 21 because someone recommended it to me and ever since I’ve been hooked on sports anime. What can I say, if sports were as exciting in real life as they are in anime, I’d totally play some soccer with you if you could teach me how to manifest a dragon out of thin air to envelop the ball in flames as it shot towards the goal.

Not saying that all sports anime depict powers in the same way. Eyeshield 21, while having special powers, used it to visualize for the viewer what already existed in the game and to make it more fun. In reality you don’t have people running at the speed of light or players creating brick walls but the concept is there with your runners and… linebackers and whatever they’re called. Kuroko’s Basketball on the other hand tend to downplay the powers aspect and ascribe it to people simply being natural basketball players and therefor so much better but it’s always rooted in some kind of realism. There’s no dragons or people running at the speed of light, there’s simply players who are better.

But then there’s Inazuma Eleven. Inazuma Eleven takes a far more liberal approach to soccer than the previously mentioned sports anime. Dragons and fire tornados and shots from space and manifesting giant, glowing hands are commonplace events. Hell, you might even say they’re necessary. And if this is the soccer kids are playing, imagine what FIFA would look like…
I’m sure you could say some of it is made to help us understand soccer but then the further the show progresses, the less rooted in reality it becomes and these sure fire shots, or hissatsu shoot, become more central.

But perhaps I should start with the explaining the show itself.

Endou Mamoru (Mark Evans in EU) is a soccer freak. He has been ever since he found his grandfather’s, who sadly passed away before Endou was born, old stuff in storage. He discovers that his grandfather was sort of a soccer genius and uses his old notebook to train himself to be the ultimate goalkeeper. But despite his enthusiasm, he has trouble convincing the rest of his school of soccer’s greatness and when in second year of middle school, suddenly faces the very real risk of having the club shut down. This is when Gouenji Shuuya joins the school and the club receives a challenge from Teikoku, the currently reigning regional soccer champions. Desperate to face the challenge, Endou scrounges together the smallest number of players allowed and faces off against Teikoku. It doesn’t go well. But then Gouenji, tired of seeing Teikoku bullying the weaker team and inspired by Endou’s courage, steps onto the field. And history is made.

The show, with its whopping 127 episodes around twenty minutes a pop, chronicles the team’s journey from a no-team to pro-team, culminating in their participation in the Football Frontier International tournament, basically the world championship but for kids. And it covers everything from defeating angels and demons, aliens and time traveling military forces with soccer to conspiracies about world domination… through soccer.

And note I say soccer reluctantly, it’s football and that’s that but I’m afraid any American viewers would be highly confused and scared if I didn’t say soccer. And we don’t want that.

So here’s Endou using his prolific God Hand technique. What? Never seen that in soccer?

Another note, I use Endou and Gouenji as names when it’s really their surnames but after 127 episodes of having that repeatedly drilled into my head, calling them Mamoru or Shuuya just doesn’t sit right with me. That’s Japan for you, I guess, it… it influences your mind.

So what’s an anime about soccer really about? It can’t be 127 episodes of just soccer, can it? Well, yes, in some way or another, it is. Every character in this series has their life revolve around soccer and it influences every facet of their life. Suddenly it seems like they never have to study or do tests and the further along the series gets, the less the school seem to influence anything at all. If you joined in at the later stages of the second season or anywhere in the third season, you’d be surprised to learn they’re even in school as they travel the world. And fight aliens and angels with soccer.

There’s also a delicious naiveté and love for the subject matter at hand here, one that seems somewhat ridiculous if compared against the real world. But they’re not entirely wrong either. Wanting soccer to ultimately be fun and not just a job or a duty is something that shouldn’t just be idealistic nonsense. And that is Endou’s ultimate special power, his ability to inspire his fellow players to believe what he believes. That once a match is over, things like team and affiliations stop being important and we’re all united in a common love: soccer. It’s not just about winning or losing but a battle well fought but lost can be just as good as one won if not more so. Coming up against someone stronger and better than you shouldn’t mean you roll over and give up, it should inspire you to become even better.

This is primarily seen through the special powers they each possess. While in the beginning it’s often about discovering a new power, later it’s more about improving on what you’ve already got (it’s also a cheap and effective way to save on animation costs). But the sentiment is still there, if you come up against a new obstacle then you adapt to overcome it, you don’t give up.

Not saying it’s all about soccer or the powers they use, even if that is a big thing, but many of the characters also have some crisis or another they need to overcome, often through the power of friendship and soccer. It’s about learning to trust your friends and let them shoulder some of the weight while at the same time pulling your own weight. There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ but that door swings both ways. If you’re there for the team then the team will be there for you.

So Inazuma Eleven is idealistic crap about overcoming adversity with friendship, right? Absolutely. But here’s another thing one must keep in mind when watching the anime: it’s for kids. So stop being such a major sourpuss adult and just accept that maybe such idealistic nonsense could be worth listening to every now and then. There’s nothing wrong about what Inazuma Eleven is trying to convey and bears repeating.

There are many flaws in Inazuma Eleven like being padded to a fault and some episodes and storylines stand on the verge of absolute pointlessness, as do some characters. And the characterization isn’t what it could be and perhaps it is a bit too idealistic in its portrayal of soccer and what can be solved through it. And some special powers are repeated a bit too often.

But once I turn off my adult brain and the criticism that comes with it, I found myself having a really good time, feeling the highs and lows together with the team. And I am a bit ashamed that I, from time to time, got perhaps a little too invested in the matches. It’s funny and charming, the characters are lovable and I did find myself shedding a tear or two as the series came to an end and they all moved on with their lives, knowing that the next time they played soccer together, it could very well be on opposite sides. But even knowing that, they knew they’d be friends forever, united in their love for soccer.

Writing that, I know it’s cheesy as hell but as it drudges up my memories of those final episodes, I can’t help but to get all misty eyed again. There’s no denying that Inazuma Eleven left its mark on me. I even bought the first game just because I loved the anime so much and even though I preferred the anime, I’ll still be buying the second game down the line and eventually the third game and… anything else they release here in Europe. Yes, I’m that much of a fan.

So is Inazuma Eleven worth a watch? In all honesty, with 127 episodes to watch, I can’t really recommend it as a leisurely watch. Skipping intros and outros and sneakpeaks at the next episode, the episodes tend to round out at roughly 20 minutes which means you’ve got more than 42 hours waiting for you. And if you’re too lazy to skip all the intros and so forth then you’ve got a few more hours waiting for you.

However, if you’re willing to turn off your adult self and perhaps share the viewing with your child then the chances of greatly enjoying yourself just went up significantly. Just don’t try to plow through it, take it in seasons if you can or just set an arbitrary limit to how much you can watch in succession. Make sure to end on cliffhangers as well for the ultimate effect.

If you get in the zone, much like I did, then I can promise you that Endou, Gouenji, Kidou, Aki and so forth will become your friends and you’ll love soccer just as much as they do.

As for whether I’ll be jumping into Inazuma Eleven GO right away or not… no. I will be taking a short break to clean up some additional shows that I never got around to finishing when I first watched them. So keep an eye on this space for future reviews of Space Adventure Cobra, Appleseed XIII and Danball Senki to mention a few.

And in case you’re curious about what I’m currently watching and what anime I’ve seen, feel free to visit my profile at Anime Planet here. And don’t forget to sign yourself up, always more fun with more people!