Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Anime Reviews: July 2011

Anime season continues with the burning intensity of a Charizard’s Flamethrower.~

*** Obligatory Possible Spoiler Warning ***

Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple


Here you can find everything you could ever hope to wish for – street fighting, martial arts techniques, cats, flip phones, friendship speeches, comedy, philosophy, rivalry, sob stories, gangland politics, fiery explosions, fan service, perversion, hot chicks, pretty boys, Spock and even a giant muscle-bound grandpa running across water to get into a fist fight with a killer shark. Wowee.

These different elements manage to flow very well together throughout this series, all while maintaining superb comedic potential. Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple is also absolutely brimming with likeable but often extremely weird characters, adding further to the already awesome setting. I would say the common attribute that these characters share overall is integrity. It seems that even the most scummy goon has a clear sense of respect for a worthy opponent, thus all fighters will forever be comrades on the battlefield no matter who is fighting against whom. The less popular characters do have their quirks to add to the experience as well, if not wielding Sebastian the shotgun.

There are many aspects of this series that remind me of Eyeshield 21. Kenichi is also a cowardly pipsqueak with his heart in a noble place, while possessing a strong will but weak flesh. He even physically resembles Sena right down to eye colour and hair style. But unlike most other main characters, Kenichi has no natural talent for martial arts at all and makes up for it with ridiculously difficult training. He is scrawny, goofy and a complete wuss. This would be irritating, except Kenichi has very good reasons to shriek like a little girl and run away – his daily life consists of avoiding all the crazies who are out to kill him. Because of his ambition to protect the innocent from harm, Kenichi requests to be trained in 5 different fighting styles by 5 martial arts masters. Basically this means that he is constantly at risk of dropping dead, either via his hellish training schedule or by gang violence. This desperate struggle for life is unfortunately hilarious, and yet at the same time strangely inspirational.

Niijima is a demonic, pointy eared manipulator much like Hiruma. But unlike Hiruma, Niijima closely resembles an alien and… is totally lame. Along with gathering intelligence and information, Niijima is skilled at spreading rumours, brainwashing, escaping and setting traps. While Hiruma is intimidating and commands respect, Niijima is despicable and will stoop to extreme lows to get what he wants. Such lows include licking the boots of enemies, stripping naked in public, photo blackmail, stealing locker keys and diving into sewers. Although Nejiima is clearly evil as his dream is world domination, he occasionally does nice things for Kenichi as a sign of their bizarre friendship. He is a good character for the sole reason that he is responsible for a lot of the comic relief.

The main attraction of the series is that the essence is all about fighting. There is something enthralling about people pummelling each other’s faces into the ground, in a similar deal as with Dragonball Z. The difference is that the characters of Kenichi’s Mightiest Disciple enjoy fighting for their own reasons, they’re not just beating the crap out of each other for the sake of saving the world from evilness. This makes everything about the series indisputably badass, particularly the wimpy main character. Kenichi’s transformation from a weedy weakling into a legendary disciple of martial arts is astounding. This was the poor kid with no muscle definition whatsoever who was even getting stepped on by a creepy alien guy. But after a few months of intensive training, he’s suddenly gained enough badassery to beat down the leaders of the most skilled fighting gang in the city.

By the end, you’ll be punching a wall in frustration since only a mere 50 episodes were made. I could probably go so far as to crown Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple to be the best comedy anime title out there, if not the most awesome martial arts title ever developed. It really has a lot to offer in the way of wisdom, good entertainment and collective badassery.

What will I gain from this?
1. Don’t pick on the weak, they might come back as martial arts assassins to kick your ass someday.
2. There’s no shame in making a strategic withdrawal.
3. If a celestial white light beams forth from your eye sockets, it’s a sign that you have achieved enlightenment.
4. At the end of the day, nothing can defeat multiple personality disorder.


I have always found XxxHolic to be a very memorable title. It not only focuses supernatural issues, but explores the unique reasoning behind them. There are also many other aspects which make XxxHolic distinct, such as the art style, characters and the deeply psychological but creepy heart of it all.

To summarise, XxxHolic is a series that revolves around solving supernatural dilemmas. Issues are often brought up by ‘customers’ who enter a magical shop that is run by a mysterious witch (Yuko). The shop exists only to grant wishes in exchange for an appropriate payment, which is usually something precious to the customer. The protagonist is a boy (Watanuki) who wishes away his ability to see spirits in exchange for working as a servant at Yuko’s shop. Because of this, Watanuki’s existence becomes integrated with that of the supernatural world.

The most recent release I have watched is XxxHolic (Kei), which has a more heavy focus on the main character. It doesn’t leave quite a deep an impact as the first release, but is still a solid addition. This series begins with Watanuki choosing to take the brunt of a spider’s curse in the place of his close friend (Doumeki). For this sacrifice, he loses the sight in his right eye. Luckily, Doumeki donates half of his own right eye to Watanuki in order to replace it. Although, I’m not entirely sure how that works. Does that mean they are both half blind in one eye? In any case, I do know that Doumeki can now occasionally see out of Watanuki’s right eye and Watanuki now has one yellow eye and one blue eye as a result of this exchange.

But the misfortune doesn’t stop there. It turns out that Watanuki’s friend and love interest (Kunogi) has an aura which causes tragedy to befall anyone who is close to her. This causes Watanuki to lose all movement in one pinky finger and then later fall from a second floor window. The accident proves to be almost fatal to Watanuki, but Yuko manages to save his life at the shop by having his two friends pay a price. Doumeki gives an enormous quantity of blood in exchange, while Kunogi takes all of Watanuki’s scars.

In the following movies and specials, it can be seen that Watanuki takes over the shop indefinitely after Yuko’s death. His appearance remains the same over many years while his manner begins to resemble Yuko’s. Kunogi and Doumeki visit the shop once a year to celebrate Watanuki’s birthday. It seems to be a rather tragic life for Watanuki, actually.

XxxHolic is another series by Clamp, along with Cardcaptors and Tsubasa Chronicle. Due to this, there are crossover events between these series involving Li, Sakura and Clow Reed.

What will I gain from this?
Everything has a price.

Maid Sama!

If someone asked me to show them a typical shojo series, this is the one I would be pointing at. You can just tell by the title that Maid Sama! is going to be all about the eye candy. It has everything girly you were secretly hoping to see, and it knows it, to the point of exaggerated comedy. Expect to witness abundant scenes of shirtless men with flowers blooming spontaneously in the backdrop. This is precisely the kind of girly anime that drops when you wave your fist at the heavens and shout out ‘Show me something pretty!’ From this series, we can derive the very elements that lure girls in to the genre:

Recipe List of Shojo 

1. Pretty boys: It doesn’t matter how much character development they get, as long as they are really damn pretty and not 100% pure evil. Many also carry the lost ‘lonely puppy’ trait, which induces squealing in most girls.

Bonus = They are talented at everything. Categories include top grades, athletic ability, dress sense, cooking, and running a multi-billion dollar international corporation. All while blindfolded.

2. Imperfect girl: The protagonist must have some flaws. These may include tomboy-ism, bad grades, poverty or a difficult attitude. It is also a given that her looks are not quite as magnificent as her male counterpart. This brings some realism to the series and allows the audience to sympathise with or relate to the character.

Bonus = She has an oblivious or tsundere personality type, and takes a long time to realise both her own feelings and those of her male counterpart.

3. Love bubbles, sparkles and the appearance of roses: They speak for themselves.

Bonus = Sappy music being played at every romantic development.

4. Making a meal: The girl makes the guy a bento lunch, or similar. Usually she will be horrible cook, but the guy will eat every single grain of rice left anyway. This shows serious dedication though the acceptance of major faults. Can also be seen with awful Valentine’s Day chocolate.

Bonus = If the food was dropped onto the floor first, or if someone else sampled it earlier and died.

5. Getting sick: Typically this will be a cold or an illness which results in a fever. In many cases the illness is indirectly the girl’s fault, such as the guy running about in the rain to save her, etc. This allows everyone to see the invincible guy in his weak state, and also forces the girl to admit that she cares about him. Take note of this anime route: Dislike -> Sympathy -> Caring -> Denial -> Love. Being sick is also a strong trigger for making a meal, resulting in double the affection points.

Bonus = The girl has to partake in changing the guy’s clothes, specifically the unbuttoning of his shirt.

6. Defense against thugs/Meat shield injury: Sometimes used as a replacement for getting sick, the guy will throw himself in front of the girl to protect her, thus taking the beating himself. Afterwards, the girl will feel guilty and sleep by the guy’s bedside or something until he recovers. This is thrown in to demonstrate selflessness and the will to protect on the guy’s part. In addition, it may also reveal the girl’s compassion for the said guy.

Bonus = If the guy takes a thrashing even though he is clearly strong enough to avoid it. Or if the guy becomes injured thanks to a trivial problem the girl is having.

7. Jealousy/Love rival: When another guy shows romantic interest in the girl, and it pisses off the first guy. The scenario is almost always two guys and a girl, just in case the female audience feels more man candy is needed. There can also be instances where there are other girls interested in the main guy, but the guy will ignore their existence because this only happens to make the main girl temporarily jealous.

Bonus = An erratic fist fight randomly breaks out between rivals.

8. Tragic back-story: Usually the main guy will have a more traumatising sob story than the girl. This often involves orphanages, rich neglectful parents, the deaths of relatives, abandonment, or other abuse. He usually will live alone, or be distant from any family. The history is there to evoke pity, which can be slowly transformed into love, as observed in the aforementioned anime route.

Bonus = The guy shows kindness towards an abandoned puppy or kitten in a box on the street.

9. Haunted houses/ghosts: At some point the girl is going to be afraid, and that’s when the guy is conveniently there for her to cling all over. Here the guy is acting as an unshakeable pillar of emotional support.

Bonus = The girl falls onto the guy due to tripping, a pit trap, broken ride, etc. while in the dark.

10. Beach day/swimsuits/hot springs: Somewhere there is going to be fan service, and often it’s where both the guys and girls are dressed in swimsuits. For some reason, it’s okay for straight girls to witness fan service intended for both genders while straight guys watching other guys is creepy and weird.

Bonus = The guy and girl meet due to accidentally walking into the wrong/opposite gender area.

11. Fireworks: A festival is usually an excuse for the girl to dress up in a yukata or kimono. This is put in to illustrate that when the girl puts some effort into her appearance, she can look beautiful. Of course, the guy was in love with her before that anyway. It’s also a good setting for some romantic development.

Bonus = If the guy tries to get a photo of the girl to stare at wistfully later.

I digress, now back to Maid Sama! The series is based around the female school council president (Ayuzawa) who is very strong both mentally and physically. She believes her role is to protect the girls from the guys and promote the school’s image so that more girls will enrol. Ayuzawa hates men because her father left, leaving her family to suffer under the poverty line. The girls in the school all love her, but the majority of the guys are scared to death of her. Except one guy (Usui), who grows to enjoy teasing the president after finding out that she works part time in a maid café.

Now, Usui is an interesting character. He’s everything you would expect to find in a shojo series, being ridiculously good looking, talented, wealthy and all. But he’s also extremely… eccentric. Imagine a thin line separating kind-hearted, obnoxious and criminally dangerous. Usui always has one foot firmly planted in the kind-hearted region, while the rest of his limbs fail wildly in and out of the other borderlines. While his intentions are usually good, his actions are often perceived as perverted, unnatural, masochistic or unlawfully insane. Even after Ayuzawa realises that he is indeed a genuine guy, you just can’t shake the feeling that something has gone awry in his head.

Anyway, Usui goes to superhuman lengths to save Ayuzawa from everything. He defies the laws of physics and always uses his own body to break her falls. He illegally enters institutions and beats up security while following her. He even jumps off the school roof to stop anyone from seeing a photo of Ayuzawa dressed as a maid, which I took as an attempted suicide. Hence, Usui is definitely some kind of masochist.

As the series progresses, Ayuzawa comes to appreciate Usui, even though she refers to him as her stalker. This label eventually becomes my-sort-of-stalker, much to Usui’s enjoyment. The ending is conclusive enough, although we never find out exactly what kind of upbringing Usui had to turn out the way he did. Oh well, I give him due credit for adopting a kitty which resembles mine.

What will I gain from this?
Flowers of moe. Ruff!

True Tears

This series was strange. Clearly someone put thought into it, but any sense behind it doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as me. Maybe it’s just a drama made up in an hour by some oddball, or maybe it’s really deep. So deep that it’s a ditch. I can write a summary of True Tears in the way I saw it, but you might not personally have the same experience. The basic plot is about your typical Mr. Average anime protagonist, who has three girls all competing for his affection. I would classify True Tears as purely a drama series, because it was absolutely not funny.

Girl #1 is his cousin, who shares precious childhood memories with him. Mr. Average is in love with Girl #1 from the start, and she is also in love with him. The problem with their relationship is that Girl #1 is told Mr. Average is actually her illegitimate brother, which is not that far off from being first cousins anyway. Oh well, believing this is enough to make Girl #1 avoid Mr. Average like stale bread. Also, Girl #1 is living under the same roof as Mr. Average and his mother hates her guts. Due to these circumstances, Girl #1 pretends that she has no interest in Mr. Average and tells people that she likes a guy on the basketball team (No.4).

Girl #2 is a mentally unstable voodoo chicken witch. Throughout the story, she constantly speaks of filling a glass vial around her neck with ‘precious’ tears. And if she’s not doing that, she’s obsessing over whether or not her chickens can fly. After laying a curse on Mr. Average, karma sends a raccoon to kill off most of her chickens. Following the death of one of her roosters, she decides that Mr. Average will be her replacement chicken, and begins to stalk him with talk of whether or not he can fly. She also does various disturbing things such as jumping out of trees, communicating with her deceased grandma, raising her last surviving chicken over the open ocean like Simba over Pride Rock, singing about cockroaches up people’s butts, and leaving chicken feed everywhere Mr. Average goes. The problem with their relationship is that Mr. Average is in love with Girl #1, and Girl #2’s voodoo powers start to wear off him with time. Mr. Average tells Girl #2 that he is love with her due to an agreement he makes with Girl #2’s older brother (No. 4). In exchange for No. 4 to start dating Girl #1, Girl #2 is asked out by Mr. Average. This does not end well, even if Girl #2 is a black magic woman.

Girl #3 is actually Mr. Average’s childhood friend, except they don’t share any precious memories. She is the girlfriend of Mr. Average’s best friend (Mr. Bland), even though she is actually in love with Mr. Average. She eventually tries the randomly-kiss-him technique on Mr. Average, but she fails to attract him. Mr. Bland realises that Girl #3 is really still in love with Mr. Average and tries to make peace with it. Girl #3 feels horribly guilty about what she has done to the nice Mr. Bland, and makes up with him later. As friends.

No. 4 is Girl #2’s older brother, but he is attracted to her in an unspeakably forbidden way. So he tries to get the guy she likes (Mr. Average) to date her, I suppose in order to both make his sister happy and to throw off his incestuous cravings. No. 4 tries to date Girl #1, but finds that he is not at all attracted to her. So he decides to take up a job far away from his younger sister to try and get over his deep-seated psychological disorder.

And in the end, Mr. Average finally gets together with Girl #1 just like he always wanted. Girl #3 decides Mr. Average isn’t worth it and opts for a fresh start with Mr. Bland, and Girl #2 is left standing alone at the finally completed gravesite of her dead chicken. Hunh. Well, I’ll give a quick salute to True Tears for putting a cat in the final episode. :3

What will I gain from this?
If your chicken dies, build a proper grave immediately.

B Gata H Kei

Here’s one of those animation titles that crosses a few forbidden guidelines. But is it fun to watch? Yes. The reason why is because it’s hilarious. The point of view switches between the main female protagonist and the main male counterpart, which makes this series a lot more interesting and well rounded. The humour is dirty though, much like the experience you get when you can’t stop laughing at some poor soul who has their rear end glued to a toilet seat. Your facial expressions will falter between delight, confusion, disgust, horror, bewilderment and uncomfortable grinning. By the end, you’ll feel awkwardly entertained and perhaps somewhat unclean.

B Gata H Kei is all about one girl’s dream to gain 100 friends with benefits. No, that was not a joke. Yamada sets out to lose her virginity at the very start of the first episode, but despite being beautiful and therefore desired by every guy she walks past, she just can’t do it. This is because she has no idea what she is doing, and her overactive hormones have completely scrambled her brain of any rational thought.

That factor aside, Yamada sets her perverted sights firmly on a totally random guy (Kosuda) who she falls onto in the library. Now when I say this guy is random, I mean he is the most average anime character I have ever seen. In fact, he looks like one of those throwaway, generic, background people who are only drawn in to take up space.

Yamada decides to target the timid Kosuda because he runs off weeping when questioned about being a virgin. Fair enough. He would probably be easy to seduce, right? Except, unlike the shamelessly horny Yamada, Kosuda is one of those ‘nice guys’ who tries to think about Yamada’s feelings before touching her inappropriately. In addition to this, all of Yamada’s communication with Kosuda is like being repeatedly hit by a natural disaster.

So even though Yamada tries to jump him at every opportunity, she always fails, leaving Kosuda increasingly confused and frustrated. Several bad touch moments and indecent exposure attempts later, they both finally seem to understand what the other is trying to accomplish. But only after a lot of sneaky euphemisms, illicit fantasies, bleeped out words and censorship bar stickers.

And yet, Yamada and Kosuda still only ever get halfway to the finish line before something stupid interrupts. Yup, I’m spoiling it all for you now – it never actually happens for them by the final episode. Nevertheless, it was still worth getting on the ride and seeing them fail.

What will I gain from this?
Comfort cola of compensation.

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