Review: Princess Princess

Back to going through all the anime with a “beautiful people’s club” brings me here to Princess Princess! Another BL title, though this one not yaoi or too *wakuwaku*. Back to the fluffy silly fun BL, similar too and even colored and animated similarly to Sukisho. The student council as well as the Princesses are the beautiful people clubs, FYI.

You can tell who are the main characters compared to the mooks and peons, because they all have interesting colored hair, standing out among the sea of browns and blacks. >_<  And the more main, the more brightly colored and monochromatic, even!

The three main Princesses are the protagonist, Kouno, Shihoudani and Mikoto. Mikoto is fun to watch flail around (and in show the characters think so too and rile him for fun all the time).  Also, you can’t help but like Sakamoto-sama.  From the ending it’s obvious we’re meant to pair Shohoudani and Kouno, and frankly, I like that pairing, but in good part because I like Shihoudani and want good things for him.  Though I could enjoy most any pairing in this show, and it’s set up to be that way.

 *sigh* I though I was going to be the seme

The premise is that the main character, due to circumstances at home, suddenly has to transfer to an all-boy’s school, which has a weird tradition of picking out the cutest boys and having them cross-dress for the peons idolizing and to “enrich their lives.” The main characters are these boys (plus the student council and Sakamoto-sama).

Also, like all terribly hashed character driven plots that miss the point of moving plots *forward* the basic plot and main movement of the story is introducing new characters, getting to know them and then the protagonists backstory barfs itself on stage and they sorta resolve it so they can keep things the way you episodically enjoyed them throughout.  In the end the resolution leaves everyone in a state of “yay! non disrupted!” which I’m okay with, because frankly, I enjoyed watching the characters develop and I am content to watch them keep on keeping on.  And frankly, they didn’t whip it out of their asses (like is done sometimes), it actually is foreshadowed in the first episode and then about halfway through, so it’s not like one of those blindsided train-wrecks of a last minute plot attack.  Also, those things are crimes you know?  Not sure why they all don’t just condemn the stalker-crazy and send her to the police.

Overall, the animation is alright, with a lot of close-ups and sketchy or SD reaction shots. The backgrounds are water-colored looking but also smudgy and sketchy and poor quality most times.  As per usual, the first episode has some of the most interesting backgrounds, and they tend to fade into the practical after that.  They also user a lot of SD and close-ups, though it isn’t really distracting from the story, since it most involved character interactions and reactions anyways.

The opening and ending that are so damn catchy and easy to sing along that the whole household has been doing it for years, though the rest of the sound work is pretty mundane, occasionally cartoon-ish since it’s a silly show.

Overall, Princess Princess is nothing to write home about, unless your home LOVES silly and fun BL.  Then, you’re probably going to trumpet to the world.  If you’ve got an itch this show will scratch it fabulously, and so it’s highly recommended.  But if that’s not you, this isn’t going to be your cup of tea.  If you’ve never tried one and you’re not sure if you’d like it, Princess Princess is certainly a good one to give it a shot.  It’s definitely one of those shows that does what it does REALLY well. I would recommend to anyone who likes or is even curious about this kind of show.  Good stuff!

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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!

Fractale: Only raging against a semi-virtual machine?

Today, I found a lovely 15 minute video of a lecture by Cynthia Breazeal on TED called “The rise of personal robots.” At about 5 minutes in she starts talking about her research with robots as tools to communicate and interact with people over long distances.  According to her research, she finds that this adds a human element and that interacting through robots was better than through more static media. Which makes sense to me and my experiences.

And of course, I immediately though of Fractale, an anime currently running during the usually awesome Noitamina programming block.

The setting of Fractale is in the distant future, where a satellite and implant based technology system –Fractale– allows humankind to live a semi-virtual existence.   The main character lives practically on his own in a quaint cottage in what looks like a futuristic-past version of Ireland. He interacts with his parents solely through “doppels”  – holographic avatars. Whole cities are even built out of what appears to only be crude slabs but through the fractale system, can be experienced as colorful, lively, vivacious places. Think of the Matrix if it were overlaid onto actual reality and that is the kind of world that the characters live in.

However, the value of this semi-virtual existence is a driving force of the plot.  The system itself is failing and rebellion groups calling themselves “Lost Millennium” have formed in places where the Fractale system’s influence is waning. The proponents of doppels arguing that it allows a huge amount of personal freedom to travel, live and work as well as be anything that you want.  Dissidents say that doppels are dehumanizing and tearing people apart. It is clear that the show is leaning towards the dissidents, but that places the show’s messages in direct conflict with the research presented on robot-human interactions as well as semi-virtual interactions in the real, modern world.

Why?

The key difference, I argue, is that of touch, or the lack thereof.  Clain cannot touch or be touched by his parent’s doppels, which he could if they were robotic instead of holographic.  And this point, the lack of warmth and comfort of human interactions, is one of Lost Millennium’s arguments against Fractale.  Look at the way the characters interact with Nessa, who is a doppel, but who can touch or be touched.  Quickly, even those who are against doppels treat her as if she is a person, someone who has meaningful interactions with the characters.  Not the same treatment as the doppel parents and general doppel systems.  Similarly, the great city of Xanadu was amazing to Clain… until he tried to touch a fountain and his hand went through it.  So I ask you, would the world offered by Fractale be so horrible if the doppels were robots instead of projections? I would say no, though I think future episodes are going to introduce reasons why the system is corrupt outside of the properties of the doppels.