Review: Chu-Bra!!

Yes, the show is a comedy about Bras, as in undergarments.  Specifically, the main character, Nayu, is obsessed with the fashion and practical benefits of women’s undergarments.  Her brother and grandmother are also underwear designers, so it’s in the family and she has good reasons to demo her brother’s products for him.

This has led to her having a less-than-flattering reputation, mostly started by a jerk-girl squad in her class.  And throughout the show haters gotta hate. Though the evolving bad reputation, from a prostitute to a lesbian etc., is pretty entertaining.

She meets two friends, they are weirded out, but eventually accept her love of underwear. They try to start a club, and they add some more characters throughout the show.  Each character has a different perspective on underwear, since they have different personalities and interests, and they all get together to have fun times together. Underwear tends to show up, though they do have interesting interactions outside of that.  The show makes a lot of good points, for example the fit of a bra is really important to it looking and feeling right, and certain cuts of bras are much better for different sizes and kinds of busts.  And there is something lovely about fashion and looking and feeling good about yourself.  So I like that about this show. But it’s seinen, so it’s for men and utilizes the male gaze rather regularly when actually showing shots of undergarments.

But!  Even though it’s an ecchi comedy made for men and there are panty shots galore, the way that it’s done isn’t really offensive or problematic to me.  Firstly, the premise and subject matter are underwear a lot.  Having them shown is not just thrust in there for perving, its mixed in with the story and characters.  Rarely if ever are panties shown to the viewers that are not shown to the characters. It doesn’t have a predatory POV or even a character that is like that. Second, they talk about and show how this objectification and sexualization of clothing affects the characters, both male an female.  For example, the episode where they go to the beach and the male character, Komachi, has a really revealing swimsuit that he’s too embarrassed to wear, but gets seen in anyway, as well as the characters shopping for a swimsuit for the teacher, many of which were similarly embarrassing.

Third, they actually make a point of showing that even though he gets all hot and bothered by things, that this too isn’t always pleasant for guys.  There is a real sense that although some of the exact details of the girls versus boys experiences with underwear and also sexuality are different, in general its very similar, human experience that they’re growing into, and I find that lovely and fascinating.  And watching women’s fantasies about men is always fun and nice for a change, so go Mizuno-sensei! And the episode with male bras?  AMAZING!  Perfect ecchi entertainment!  And non-squicky ecchi comedy, BANZAI!

The end is an ending that just shows that the good times will keep on rolling, pretty common in anime, but this one’s happily realistic, where the whole thing isn’t neatly wrapped up so that life can go on exactly like it is.  I really liked that.  There is something really good about the timing and set up of the last two episodes that really helps create and relieve/resolve some good tensions without just making the whole plot points of angst that started it all magically disappear. The characters grow and change, and that’s good stuff right there.

The character designs and art overall are nothing to shout about, and the animation has some bleh moments and otherwise is really a non-entity.  The directing, likewise, is par for the course, standard.  Nothing to scream about in rage but also nothing to scream about in amazement.  Occasionally it does some interesting things with borders and patterns.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful anime, chock full of easily enjoyable lighthearted comedic fun that anyone can enjoy.  Granted, if you’re not into things about school-aged characters or you’re not a fan of any ecchi comedy or something, this won’t be for you.  But I think that it will even appeal to people who aren’t big ecchi comedy fans, nearly anyone.  There are a lot of issues that hold it back from being a three-star masterpiece, but good entertainment is good!

P.S.  The Shoujo Kakumei Utena references in the latter half of the show?  WONDERFUL!  So exciting! BRAVO! The thrown in Evangelion one?  Made my nerd heart so happy!

Review: Ouran Koukou Host Club

Ouran Koukou Host Club is a great example of a really popular show that’s all about the moe, but isn’t by Akamatsu Ken and isn’t even made for males. All the main cast are bishi, all of the male bishi have many slashable moments (most prominently the twincest done purposefully by the manipulative twins), and they even acquire a character meant to create or highlight any stray moe moments that might happen. It’s also one of the best examples of a “beautiful people’s club” in anime, and I can’t in good faith start reviewing that tag of anime without pointing this one out as the big contender.

The premise is that the protagonist, Haruhi, stumbles into a Host Club at her extravagant illustrious school for the rich (which she has gotten in via hard work and talent, because she is actually poor).  She ends up forced to work there thanks to an accident, and due to her appearance is mistaken for a boy at first, and spends most of the show dressed as one anyway.  They really rush the premise establishing, but I enjoyed the first episode anyway.

Tamaki chooses you!

The show is in great part driven by the antics of Tamaki, the “King” of the host club.  He’s got a huge personality, and a foolish streak a mile wide, but he really manages to drive the fun of the show well.  He really is the thread holding the characters together, which becomes more and more apparent as the show goes on.  Kaoru even starts making overtures about how he must be brilliant to manage to come up with a setting to get them to live happily ever after (and then later bemoans his foolishness for thinking it was anything other that idiocy and luck). The show, by the way, is entirely character-driven.  If you don’t like the cast or watching them fool around then you’re not going to like the show. All of the episodes plots are about the antics of the club, backstory about the characters, or developing relationships between Haruhi and one of the other bishi, including the ending.  Which was a nice ending, overall. It had a really good build up, climax and message.  There is a element of sadness and of happiness and of maintaining the status quo.  Also, I adored Kyoya’s role in it, and how he really whipped out his badassery, and learning gradually about it as the show progressed.  AWESOME! … As you can tell, he ended up being my favorite character, though honestly, I liked them all quite a lot.

The character designs are stylized and simple, and unfortunately I think they occasionally they stick out against the often extravagant and detailed backgrounds. But the movement and overall animation is smooth and well done, though I don’t really understand the decision making process of their opening and ending’s animation. They don’t really exemplify the show at all, and seem almost the cheapest made thing for the first several episodes. Later on when the quality drops a bit they stick out less, but I was never a fan of more than the opening song. From time to time there is some unusual directing, such as the blinking arrows, which I like and find lighthearted and interesting, but again, nothing mind-blowing or amazing.  It occasionally sinks to being cartoon-ish, even adding excessive sound effects and having monkeys and banana peels show up out of nowhere to trip up the cast. Some of it is in good silliness fun and some of it is just low-brow and bleh to me.

Overall, the show is really good at what it does, which admittedly isn’t much.  If you’re looking for complexity, or A’s across the board, this isn’t the show.  But it is an incredibly entertaining watch if you want some light-hearted fluffy shoujo fun, a little eye-rolling, blatant moe , and some well-done characters. From beginning to end the show has a great feel, delivers fun and foolish antics, silly costumes, unlikely situations, and of course, sparkling bishi. It’s a must-see for the genre, but not really for everyone overall.

Amagami SS: Wait a minute… Is this offensive?

So, I was watching Amagami SS.

It’s cute, low-key entertainment that is obviously based on a dating sim.  It follows a 100% nondescript, inoffensive and typical protagonist (I think they come in ten-packs at Costco), and his adventures with six (I know, he’s got a lot of options for a nothing-man) lovely ladies.  You know, standard dating sim fare.

Though I do like this show.  I am enjoying getting to know each of the girls and the burgeoning feelings.  It’s kinda the feeling of cloud watching on a warm summer day.  I think the presentation of their characters in interesting and that they feel well rounded and pleasantly more like real people than most dating sim characters (which are so often SO HEAVILY trope-based).

So, it exactly the kind of show the one Michelin star statement “Very good in it’s category” is meant to describe. So I’d recommend it.

But then I got to thinking.  It’s nice to get to know the girls, it’s nice that they have decently developed characters and aren’t just flat wank-fodder.  It’s nice to see female characters portrayed like people, with worries and hardships.  But the protagonist barely has any characterization.  His flat, uninterestingness might work well for a game, but it makes me totally uninterested in him. He has a single, count it, ONE sentence of characterization, and that’s his “I got stood up once” backstory.

Compare this to Yosuga na Sora, where I was very interested in the inner world, the life and times of Mr. Protagonist. Why bother even being from the male POV if he’s going to be the lukewarm addition. Wouldn’t the story be much better if it was just about the female characters? From their POV?  With it centered in his POV, it kinda gets so much of the offensiveness of dating sims, where it’s just men manipulating women for sex. When there is good characterization, does that somehow negate the IMMENSE objectification that sexualizing them, fanservice, and the whole genre in general regularly engage in?

I don’t know, and this show got me to thinking about that.  Because as a rule, objectification pisses me off and is a big check minus against a series.  I can only tolerate so much before it is only contributing to societal problems with sexual hostility towards women and other issues I take a firm stance against.  But this show, being a good one, does a better job at not doing those things.  But by the sheer “belonging to this genre” is it irredeemable? I’m not sure, but I’m glad it got me to thinking.

Review: Kuroshitsuji II

The show starts off with some impressive animation.  The opening sequence is lovely, though the first time I saw this show I was disappointed in the lack of Sebastian in the opening and so put off watching it.  But never fear! There are two openings that interchange, and the most common one is Sebastian filled.

The lovely animation continues in the first episode, which seems geared up to blow their budget to impress.  First, it introduces us to a new boy-master, Alois and his new butler, Claude. Right off the bat it is obvious that they are not copy-pasted versions of Sebastian and Ciel, since their personalities are radically different, as is their dynamic.  They are still interesting, since clearly Alois is not a good person, but rather twisted and a bit insane.  Whereas Ciel is arguable a perfectly fine person, if a bit cynical and ruthless.

One of the things I loved about Ciel and Sebastian’s dynamic was the utter trust Ciel had in Sebastian. Remember the last few episodes of the first series (if you haven’t watched it, DAMMIT WATCH THE FIRST SERIES BEFORE THINKING ABOUT WATCHING THE SECOND), his trust and faith in Sebastian, never opening his eyes?  Fantastic entertainment.  Delicious delicious character interaction.  That had the fan girl in mean drooling and squealing.  I really feel like without their wonderful interactions, Sebastien is nothing but an run-of-the-mill Mary Sue.  His pride, his pomp, his flashes of jealousy and possessiveness, all of these wonderful little details here and there that make him imperfect only come out in the context of Ciel. His limits are Ciel’s orders (a delicious plot point in this show, FYI). So I really feel like the entire allure of the show rides on the character interactions, specifically the master-butler/demon-prey one they’ve got going on.

And with much sparkly-eyed enthusiasm, I got to the point in the first episode where Sebastian shows up.  Interesting things ensued! (with a much smaller seeming animation budget, but not so bad it’s bothersome).  The second episode almost reverts to the earlier episodes of the first show, giving fans more Ciel and Sebastian.  I rejoiced. It’s pleasantly fluffy (though the applause is distracting to me).  The show continues exploring what’s up with Ciel, why he ain’t dead yet, and the new characters (who are a good deal of the plot).

So, if you loved the first, REJOICE!  There is more where that came from, everyone you loved in the first as well as introducing a new butler-master pair that provide the conflict.  Which! Is different but it has its good and bad points, and really, I think it will vary from person to person as to whether that is okay or not with them. Personally, I LOVED it, and prefer the ending of the second series that leaving it at where the first leaves off, though I am still left hankering for more. I don’t want to spoil it so I won’t, but really, there is a much more satisfying ending than, Mmmm, dinner! Now everything is over. And the second show has it. IF you watched the first, watch the second! If you haven’t watched the first, don’t if you’re easily squicked out by pedophile-tastic slashy boys, or if you aren’t in BL. If you are, this is a shining example of the genre that is insanely popular and making a fuckton of money for a reason — it’s entertaining!

Blood+ Forgets How Poverty Works

So, I’m watching Blood+ and consuming it’s vampy goodness like a madwoman this week… Yes, I know, I’m a little behind the times.  But a show about vampires?    All I knew about it was that a lot of people liked it and that it was about vampires.  Bleh… I thought.  Most vampire things are filled with teenage angst, OH-NO-SMEXY-VAMPIRE-DON’T-SULTRY-SUCK-ON-MY-NECK, and “Who want’s to live forever?“  and I knew it wouldn’t even be hilariterrible like Vampire Knight. I also knew it had something to do with Blood: The Last Vampire (and wasn’t that a crap shoot?). So it wasn’t high on my priorities of things to watch.  I was like, ehn.  I’ll get around to it.

But I was at a party and someone recognized “Fuuma” as an anime name and then identified themselves as someone who watches anime (the shocking and pleasant event that is), and I couldn’t talk to them about their favorite because it was Blood+.  I had to rectify that!

Okay, anyway, I’m voraciously ripping through the much much better than I expected show and have gotten to the final climactic battle between Saya and Diva.  And all the supporting protagonists have an OH SHIT meeting (in ep. 46) where they explain the horrible ramifications of Diva’s plan (Speaking of which, it was never really Diva and it was always Amshel, so why were they always like DIVA YOU BITCH? Anyway…)

So the find out that AMSHEL (why is it Diva’s fault? That flake couldn’t set up a bioengineering lab to save her life) has created a drug of some sort that causes people to turn into the monster-esque vampires if they also hear Diva’s song. And that OH SHIT, the pharmaceutical corporation that is a front for AMSHEL’S (not Diva’s, dammit) evil villainy has been distributing food supplies all around the globe to the poor and war torn countries of the world.  And then THOSE BASTARDS are going to have a big-deal performance by Diva of her song that will be satellite broadcast worldwide. Setting off DOOM AND DESTRUCTION OF EPIC PROPORTIONS.

But they say about 3% of the world’s population has ingested the drug-laden products, and that now, thanks to this live broadcast, 100% of them, i.e. one-in-30 people will then turn into the vampires

And I was like, Really? Because the places that need food and the places that have TVs are not the same places, even if you’re Oh-so-very-impressively satellite broadcasting worldwide. Even then, wouldn’t they need either a satellite receiver on their TV, cable tv access, or a local station that antenna broadcast to pick up and redistribute the feed?

Look. Below is a lovely graphic from Wikipeia showing the amount of TVs there are per person in each of the countries around the world.  You will notice the more industrialized nations of Japan and America have some of the darkest (therefore highest amount of access).

And then below here is another map showing the density of people who are in need of food by country.

It’s pretty obvious that worldwide, there is a negative correlations between the amount of hungry people and the amount of TVs. Because places that have trouble with food sure as shit don’t have the time and money to build television stations, fancy satellite broadcast receiving equipment, and other expensive electronic leisure activities that industrialized nations have ingrained in their everyday lives.

Which is strange to me because I distinctly remember that when Riku and Kai were in the poor areas of Vietnam looking for Saya in episode 9 and this exact topic came up IN THE SHOW.  Riku is talking to Mui about how he likes to play video games more than baseball, and Mui is like, OMG, you must be rich to have your own video game!

Because yeah.  In her world, you would have to be pretty loaded to have everything that you would need to play video games, whereas in Riku’s background, they’re common everyday things.

So I’m extra weirded out that 35 episodes later the writer(s) seem to have forgotten that fact. So I was like, oh, yeah this plan is probably still a threat an all, but not nearly as problematic as ya’ll are making this out to be.  Thank god they didn’t stick to the free candy bars and ice cream samples in industrialized nations where there are a lot of TVs, or this really would be the disaster you’re touting it as.