Campione – thoughts on the first few episodes

So I’ve checked out Campione, a new anime running in 2012. And several things.

Firstly, The premise is about Gods and so that immediately sounds yay! And there are a bunch of old gods running around being havoc-wreckers.  Cool! And action and fighting and henshins! Fun! But then the sexism strikes like a club to the face, and repeatedly bangs into you as the show goes on. I am pretty borderline that even though there are a lot of things in the story I’m having fun with and want to enjoy, the fact that it’s a male power fantasy – and therefore MUST include women who are SO devoted to you for some inexplicable reason and sexy sexy sexy sex sex is what all women who matter are for, etc. Bleh. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the smexy. I FUCKING ADORED B Gata H Kei, and if this was Yay smexy and fighting gods I’d be like Whoah yeah! But no. This is the uncomfortable and offensive kind of “Oh look. More sexism.” Not even the “oh snap, that’s a little sexist, yeah?” or “Dude, there’s an asshole whose sexist but everyone hates him so it’s not so bad.” Nope. This is the kind of show that I can’t recommend without a disclaimer.

Second, what’s up with the trending MAGIC SPIT? I mean, I enjoyed Nazo no Kanojo X a good bit, though the squick out factor of spit took a long time for me to push to the side, but this show is like, no no! This spit can also give information and other things that traditionally would be transferred via a mind-meld, but no. LIP MELD SPIT TO SPIT KNOWLEDGE! I’m not happy about this zeitgeist.

Final criticism, it’s inexplicable IF you don’t make a lot of genre-based assumptions. Maybe it will start explaining things better, but… I’m not really expecting much from this show. It’s like High School DxD with a slightly more interesting premise and a better budget but not as well put together and written as High School of the Dead. Which lacked any kind of meaning or plot, so I’m in no way praising when I say that.

Review: Tamayura

This show is a warm-hearted, slice-of-life anime that focuses on the daily life of the main character, Sawatari Fu.  She moved back to a lovely town that her dad grew up in five years after his death.  She took a shine to photography, something she used to share with him, and uses his 35 year old camera a lot.  She is and is surrounded by other quirky characters, and together, they live quiet, peaceful lives filled with glowing warmth and pokapoka pikuniku (pokapoka is like the feeling of basking in sunlight, pikuniku =picnic).

The title is referenced several times in the show, at least once per episode.  The first episode explains Tamayura as little white balls of light that appear in photos and are supposedly good things, the children of light.  The mother’s shop is also named Tamayura, etc. There is some sort of weird fluffy pink thing wandering around that the main character really wants a good picture of, and its the only unusual thing there but it isn’t remarked upon or explained by the characters and it’s bugging me.  What is up with that thing! Want to know…

The show’s art style has the characters drawn using a simplistic style, with naturalistic coloring, whereas the backgrounds are realistic and fairly detailed.  The animation is also fairly high quality, with only a few mouth-flap issues here and there.  They switch into SD and other drawing techniques, like using flashing manga marks for startles and realization and things like that.  The direction is also nicely done, though nothing earth shatteringly brilliant. There are occasionally really interesting shots though. It works along side the story to keep a quiet, peaceful feeling.  I sorta want a little less SD, but only because sometimes I feel like it’s trying too hard to be cute/funny.

Overall, this is a great show.  It’s a lovely, low-key type of entertainment. Like a warm smile of a show. The quirkiness of the characters is interesting and fun, they have a great dynamic, and the development of their friendships and adventures together unfold in a slow, but sunny lazy picnic loveliness that is enjoyable.  It doesn’t really end, because there isn’t any sort of over-arching story to tie together, but that’s kinda okay because there is a TV show as a sequel airing now.  It’s short, only four episodes, so it’s not even like it’d take a lot of your time.  So I’d recommend most everyone watch it.  The only issue is that if you’re not in the mood for low-key entertainment, or you want some sort of intrigue and thoughtfulness, this is not the show for you.  Wait till you’re in a different mood and then try it out.

If you liked this show, it reminds me kinda of K-On! so you might also like that, though that one is based on a comic and is straight up a comedy show.

Also, Kamichu! is sorta similar in the lovely warm-picnic-feeling show, but Kamichu also has some supernatural interest going on that I really enjoyed. It would be worth while to check it out if you liked this, and alternately, if you liked Kamichu to try out this.

Beginning Review: Chibi Devi

So the premise of this anime is that a sad, lonely, picked-on 14 year old girl is sad and lonely.  Then she wakes up with a baby in her bed. She is flustered and OMG-ing, but then she puts the baby in a Godzilla-esque ADORABLE costume, goes out and then he lays some vengeful smack down on the pair of bitches that were picking on her.

End ep. 1. I know, right? So it’s a comedy, kinda gag filled and silly.  You know, lighthearted and foolish.  I think it’s pretty funny.  The episodes are really short, 5 minutes each, including the short and hilariously non-verbose opening theme song.  You meet more characters and wacky fire-breathing baby adventures ensue. Personally, I think it’s pretty funny.  The pace is fast fast, which is good for a comedy, and it has to be with such a short episode.

Fair warning – There is a lot of this kind of shot in this show.

The art is SO VERY reminiscent of Daa! Daa! Daa! that I don’t know what to do with myself (other than watch that old ass fun alien baby show again). Overall, the art and animation are not good, but they’re not pull-your-hair-out bad either.  There are definitely moments of *twitching* for me though. Just don’t expect much.  It’s a silly comedy.

Overall, I am enjoying this show as a fun fluffy comedy.  It’s a quick laugh or two and it’s worth the five minutes each episode.  Is it brilliant?  No.  Is it amazing? No.  Will it go down in history? I dunno yet.  But it’s fun and that’s what entertainment is for, yes? Being entertained.

That said, there is something really creeping me out about shy lonely girl’s problems being solved by having a baby.  In real life, having a baby to solve sadness and loneliness is a very bad thing to do, and it is not healthy for babies, but people do it a lot.  Granted, I doubt they’re 14-year-olds, but I have met people who have done this and I have seen a lot of media depictions of this idea and it bothers me.  No good at all, please erase it from the collective culture. Or at least show that it’s actually really bad, and that postpartum depression kills. Being depressed pre-partum is bad too.  But we’ll see how this show plays out, and hope for the best.

Also, If you’re desirous of more baby-antic entertainment, you should watch Beelzebub.  This is also about a demonic baby that shows up and causes antics, but is so very, very shounen (whereas chibi devi is shoujo).  It’s fun to compare and contrast, and Beelzebub is hilarious! I love it.

And check out the classic and wonderful Daa! Daa! Daa! This is a shoujo comedy from forever ago about an alien baby.  So premises similar, so far the antics are kinda similar, and Daa! Daa! Daa! is nostalgic good times for me. Plus, there is a truck load of both shows (30+ Beelzebub and nearly 80 Daa!).

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: Deadman Wonderland

I first found this show as it was airing in the spring, and it immediately intrigued me.  But also, made me flinch. The show starts off with our protagonist, Ganta, at school tossing around happy memories with his two friends.  Then a drippy person in a red cape floats down and slaughters everyone but Mr. Protagonist.  While Ganta takes a moment to freak the fuck out and the director gives us a squicky dismembered head moment, the red cape man makes some sort of glowing crystal coalesce in his hand and then shoots it into Ganta.

He wakes up in a hospital, is charged with killing his classmates, and within three cuts he is convicted and sentenced to death. They kinda make it look like he has split personalities, but no, that show isn’t interesting like that.  Later on we find out that he was set up (Uh duh duh). Then he goes to the theme-park/prison Deadman Wonderand, and some surprisingly gruesome things happen.  Thus our fucked up dystopian premise is finally established! Even the title makes sense! Later on it adds some sort of blood magic to spice up the interest and eventually turn it mostly into a bloody fighting show, where they also rail against The Man.

A chick who needs to put some clothes on then shows up and appears to be an exploited young lady with some kind of autism or something.  I think we’re supposed to think she’s cute or innocent or something, but to me it just seems like she has a developmental disorder. She’s also a main character. She establishes a pattern of female characters you can’t relate to, though the majority of which are extremely busty and sadistic and force you to question whether or not the writer is too obsessed with his kinks, and needs to control the libido a bit more. Then a Bitch guard shows up, and I am saddened by her for the aforementioned reasons.  The badassery the character whips out over the course of the show is kinda awesome, but the fact that she’s set up as some sort of fap-fantasy dominatrix is pandering and disgusting to me, so that is pretty intrusive on my enjoyment of her.  She even get’s a good proportion of her shots as low-to-the-ground-looking-up-shots. Nothing like typecast, flat female characters to ruin a good time.  Annoying things aside, I did actually enjoy her impressive “grip” on the events in the show and her strong will and determination to figure out things I want to know.  And after episode 7 many of the female characters get more fleshed and believable and interesting, so that’s a plus.

The second episode is where the show gets ludicrous.  Ganta finds out from Trowa- I mean, sis-complex, I mean Yoh-kun, that he needs candy to live and he has to buy it. Ganta goes out to this ninja warrior of death obstacle course and the stands are filled with people.  And frankly, its just unbelievable to me that people would find people scampering around and mistakes ending in gruesome deaths to be that entertaining or interesting.  I make a real break with the show here, which was sad since I was enjoying it for the first episode.  And then the whole black market, betting, magic, watcher’s club thingie?  I’m not buying it or really enjoying it.

Why the hell did I keep watching the show then?  Well it does do a good job at maintaining tension, and Yoh’s double-faced antics are pretty great.  Ganta’s OMG moments aside the fleshed out characters have good reactions and interactions.  I especially want to know what’s going on, and tantalizing hints are dropped enough to keep me coming back.  I also enjoy a good fight, and since Ganta’s not really that amazering, his fights are usually interesting.  And let’s not forget, the directing, art and animation are really alluring.

It’s a handsome show.  The character design, apart from the RIDICULOUS LOOKING and TERRIBLE female character(s) (sigh… target boob!), has unique looking and interesting characters. I love Owl, from the awesome voice to the fluffy hair to the geta and backstory angst.  The all move beautifully throughout the show.  Hell, half of what makes the blood magic so cool is the way that it’s animated, the way it shines and moves and curves. The do some wonderful and tasteful things with colors, and they’re pretty subtle and skillfully added to the overall grey-world dystopia.  There are a lot of unusual angles and hard to draw foreshortening shots, and it really gives the show a good feel to it.  the use camera movement, zooms, rotations, all sorts of difficult to do things and do them really well.  The backgrounds are detailed and well done. The only criticism is that the show is too dark sometimes, but even then I agree with the decision to make it that way, and that the quality goes down over the course of the show, but then again, so few don’t.  The high production values are a strong draw to the show for me.  There is a lot of “cool” in this show, things, moves, shots, characters, actions, voices.  It’s the main appeal other than violence and blood, and the directing helps that immensely.

Also, frankly, I love the opening.  Not only is it so lacking subtlety that they LITERALLY show the bad guy behind it all puppet-mastering them, it’s all about the color red, flashing patterns, and pictures and obviousness as well as shiny, sexy, squirmy bodies. But I like it because I like the song (don’t know why, but I do) and I like that the male fanservice shiny sexy squirming is just as hot as the lady fanservice, and since the mains are mostly men, it proportionately is mostly the thrusting gyrations of men.  Very sexy, equality.  I also like the end theme, though the visuals are dull, dull, dull and I never watched them.

So, overall this show has great production, is interesting to look at and art animation and directing is good.  The show is cool and filled with action, most gorey, as well as intrigue, but there are persistent plot problems, mostly centering on the way over-the-top-ness of the show and around stereotypical characters, that interrupt the interest and really hold the show back from being a great show.  It’s almost got as much bleeping as Blood-C, but it still can’t hold a candle to the greatness of Gantz.  Nothing wraps up at all and it’s very anti-climactic, the OVA just goes into a side-character’s backstory.  Perhaps they’ll be another season but it’s not enough to earn this show more than a “good in it’s category” for being a fun ride, but for having story problems, even though the production was so nice.

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!

The Two Transformations of Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge

So forever ago I watched Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge.  Back then, I wasn’t quite as aware of and annoyed by the way that women are often treated when they’re not perfect, beautiful, and docile.  But even then, I was often irritated and bothered by this show. I did still enjoy it for it’s fun comedy antics.

Having come back to it years later and re-watching it, I have a much stronger opinion, and it’s not as forgiving.  However, the reason I picked it back up again was because I found the live action version.  And that version, I honestly enjoyed.  It felt like a re-vamped version that minimized a lot of the problems I have with the original.

So for those who haven’t seen any of this show, the premise is that there are four REALLY hot bishi who live together in a mansion.  Why, I have no idea. They just have a beautiful people’s club in the mansion of a really really rich lady who is looking all over the rich world for love.  She promises to let them live rent free if they help her niece to become a “Yamato Nadeshiko,” which is basically the historically ideal japanese woman. However, if they fail the rent triples.  As it turns out, her niece the protagonist Sunako, is obsessed with horror things like blood and skulls and slasher movies, has rejected all things feminine, and even beauty/health care.  Antics ensue.  Many very stupid and crazy and hilarious.

So… yes. The premise and driving plot point is ACTUALLY four men trying to force and pressure a woman act less like herself and what she likes and more like they, and society, thinks she should act and be and look. Yes, everything you’ve ever heard about advertising and the unrealistic ideals of beauty, how women have to spend time so that they’re pleasant for others to view or else they’re value-less as people, how they’re discouraged from studying non-feminine subjects and interests and are encouraged to pursue household and other kinds of interests and works.

Obviously, it exemplifies exactly the sorts of things that third-wave feminism has been fighting against.  But it also does a decent job of highlighting that these things still happen in everyday life, which a lot of people are really against (and usually think feminists are hormone raging man-hating machines of overreacting).  Things like that women are bullied and treated badly if they’re not pretty by their peers.  They also try to use Kyouhei to talk about the effects of sexual harassment, and how people will often objectify and not give a damn about more than your looks when you have them, how people will treat you differently and how that can be hard to live with.  The fact that he’s a man kinda doesn’t really let them explore it too much, especially since his character is prone to violence when that happens, which isn’t really a reasonable solution for when it happens to women in reality.

When Kyouhei gets hungry basically says “Bitch get in the kitchen where you belong!” to Sunako, who cooks or them for no apparent reason other than that’s what women are supposed to do, yes, a part of me dies inside.  When they’re filthy and she cleans up after them (even though she is a border at the house just like them and there is no apparent reason for her to act like their private maid) or worse, when she doesn’t and they end up living in filth and that’s okay that they can’t/won’t do their own housework, doesn’t it seem weird and wrong and like they’re taking advantage of her?  BECAUSE THEY ARE!  Bleh.

But in the live action, they do a much better job of everything, with much less of the troublesome overtones.  The characters and premise are basically the same, but the message is way better.  Yes, the bitch=kitchen is there. But the Aunt and related people who are the driving force of making Sunako a lady says several times that it’s not about being what everyone wants you to be, but finding yourself and your confidence, being able to walk proudly around other people, and also there is an element of maintaining appearances, but that it’s something everyone has to do, make and female alike.  Even though she still loves horror and isn’t doing hours of hair and make-up a day, they agree that she’s made progress because she’s getting better at being with people, not hiding, and finding herself. That it’s about being able to find people who you like you for who you are, and how that’s just a bit easier if you make a few concessions.  It’s not perfect, but I liked it without many reservations, as opposed to the anime. Also, I like Kyouhei’s insistence on being uninterested in anyone who likes him for his looks, and instead wanting to be valued as a person.  It’s a conversation I’ve had before with women, but it’s nice to hear.  I also ADORED the ending when he was on stage and crying.  That was the cutest love-story thing I’ve seen in a long time and I loved it.

So! Don’t watch Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge anime.  It’s funny sometimes, but it promotes something that I can’t in good faith recommend to anyone. Also, it’s probably one of the worst art and animations of any anime I’ve ever seen.  Shit, the opening for the first 13 episodes is just a mash-up of random footage from the first episode. Unless you want to write a more thorough feminist analysis that I have.  Then I’m cool with you watching it.  Also, doode link me! However, DO watch the live action, as it has everything going for it the anime does (though no constant SD, I will admit), much better done and with much better overtones, and it’s good stuff.  Not anime, but close!

 

Review: Yoiko

So I wanted to do an anime I can’t recommend to pretty much anyone, since I haven’t done enough yet and I’m starting to feel like Fuuma just likes everything anime. which is only kinda true…  So from the bowels of 1998 I bring you Yoiko!

The premise of the show is extremely simple and follows the same thought process of the underwear gnomes: Step 1) Fuuka-chan, the protagonist, is an extremely developed 5th grader; Step 2 ) ???; Step 3) Hilarity. Most of the entertainment value is in it’s sex jokes and immense fan-service.  I didn’t really appreciate either most of the time.  I mean sure, from time to time the HILARITERRIBLENESS of Fuuka showering at the beginning of the episodes, or doing something relatively licentious seeming would make me crack up, but it didn’t really have enough going on to be so bad it’s amazing, and the stuff it was “shooting” for *wink wink* fell flat with me.  Perhaps I am just not into 2-D enough as an Otaku…  I did really enjoy the Oniichan’s constant praying to the god of masturbation and getting cock-blocked.  I thought that was hilarious in it’s own right, the poor bastard.

Fuuka is an innocent bystander in most of the antics, and just kinda wants to live out her childhood.  She makes friends in class who she enjoys time with, and they are also relatively innocent and want to live their lives as kids.  They are constantly accompanied by their desperate and single OL teacher, who serves as a chaperone for their antics, and also occasionally tries to use Fuuka’s adult charm to her own advantage. The show ridicules her for being unattractive and single, which I don’t enjoy, though her drunken antics were occasionally funny.

In general, there are times this show is offensive (the oogling and general sukebe-ness of people’s reactions to Fuuka got bothersome to me from time to time), times it’s just ecchi and silly fun, usually it’s plot points are all about misunderstandings and the main appeal is sex jokes.  At the very least, it doesn’t condone pedophilia, and that is a strong plus with a premise like its.  If that means BANZAI! to you, sure, why the hell not watch it.  Otherwise, don’t touch this show with a ten foot pole.  Go watch B Gata H Kei instead (unless you’re THAT kind of person and the female POV distress you and you need more objectification with your ecchi fun.  In that case, go watch Ladies Versus Butlers or something.).

Review: Blood-C

The Blood franchise started off with a terrible movie, which spawned a very enjoyable, long anime series (Blood+), which has spawned a second series, this time in collaboration with CLAMP and so was named Blood-C.  Since I really enjoyed Blood+ and have a long-standing love of CLAMP, I had really high expectations from this show.  I will say right up front that overall, I was disappointed, but not so terribly that I hated it.  I still enjoyed watching the show, though I found it problematic and had a lot of bleh moments.

First, the premise is similar to all the other Blood titles.  The main character, always named Saya, is a dark-haired school girl whose eyes turn red when she goes all vampire-esque powerful, who spends the show violently and often grotesquely killing with a sword the monsters who attack her and other humans. In this particular version, she is a cute and Pollyanna shrine maiden (CLAMP sure does like them) who spends most of her time enjoying the company of friends at her school, the two love interests vying for her affections, breakfast at a cafe across the street from the shrine, and after school violently hunting and killing “the old ones” who eat people.

The animation was interesting and well done, backgrounds and movement clearly have good production values, with typical contemporary CLAMP character designs (so the proportions are a little odd and lanky, and the coloring dark and flat, similar to xxxHolic), and the sheer number of bleep-bars over grotesque visuals were noteworthy in this show.  Nothing as awesome as Gantz, mind you, but gory nonetheless. I adore the opening song and visuals, though they’re a bit sexier and more powerful than the main character’s personality and actions can really account for in the show itself.  The episode ending is dull, but the song alright.

The plot reminds me A LOT of M. Night Shyamalan movies, where the writer clearly has a twist in mind that they’re trying to build up to, trying to create a foil between what things seem and what things are,  but exactly like Shyamalan sometimes it’s great (like in The Sixth Sense) but sometimes, it’s really bad, and gets old and bad fast (like The Happening and the Village). Blood-C isn’t quite as bad as The Happening, but it’s pretty down there. The directing is terrible.  Not in a shot-for-shot way (which is rather well done, actually). Someone needed to look at the storyboards for the big picture and say “hey, this is not a good progression. The tension is weak and predictable– the characterization is lacking and the episodes need more originality.”  So blame rests with the writers as well, sadly. They also use a cryptic voice-over and cuts to a dark room filled with Galileo thermometers to try and establish the intrigue and to foil Saya’s seemingly bright shiny everyday life, and to try and foreshadow the dramatic end, but they waaaaaay overused it and relied too heavily on it.  Also, cryptic, vague, musing voice-overs are not good storytelling, and get old fast.  They happen all the time, give us absolutely no information, are extremely repetitive, and frankly, I thought they made the show drag and felt heavy-handed.  Personally, I feel like it would have build up much more suspense if the viewer was in on the twist far sooner than the protagonist, because it seemed confusing and unbelievable the way it was all jam crammed in the end. There were vague hints that something was up, and that was interesting, but I think they could have done a much better job with a lot of things, overall.

Nifty thermometers + abstract voice overs /= good anime

Speaking of the end, it doesn’t.  The show leaves off on right after a CLAMP-tastic moment (it’s all fun and games until CLAMP…) that seemed like a bad knock-off of the tokyo arc of Tsubasa to me, and then the end is suppose to come in a movie to be released later.  Overall, the show seems like CLAMP recycled a lot of characters and plot points from their previous work and barfed them out, then some foolish executives/editors okayed them (though I will say I clapped and squeed when I realized the crossover, I was SO VERY excited).  I smelled Kobato remix straight off and did not like that. Alternately, CLAMP was  creatively stifled by the constraints of working within an existing genre, and it didn’t make for the lovely synthesis that I hoped for.

Anyway, speaking of Kobato, it’s similar in quality and plot progression were Kobato more gory than X. If you like CLAMP, you’ll enjoy Blood-C.  If you don’t have very strict plot demands, you’ll be able to enjoy blood-C.  If you’re interested in blood and gore and fighting chicks with swords, you’ll enjoy Blood-C.  If you just really like the Blood franchise, watch this.  If these things don’t apply to you, as I think will be the case with the majority of people, it probably isn’t worth your time to watch Blood-C. It’s one big lost opportunity, though I am looking forward to seeing the movie and the ending, though this time I have no hopes and so can’t be disappointed.

Review: Gakuen Heaven

Clearly, I am still going through what I call “wall of guys” kinda of anime.  You know, when a show literally has a shot of bishi lined up for the camera like in “The Last Supper.”  Well, Gakuen Heaven certainly falls into that category, with 14 main characters, all bishi and all male. And this isn’t the cute and fluffy BL.  It’s the tall, dark, and handsome sweep you off your adorable feet BL.

The premise of the show is that the main character, Keita, is suddenly accepted into the insanely famous and elite Bell Liberty harem School (otherwise known as BL gakuen, *cough cough, hint hint*).  The school sends out acceptance letters only to famous and elite people who are very good at whatever it is they are good at, so middle-of-the-road, not-so-special-but-adorable-and-lucky Mr. Protagonist is rather confused as to why he gets accepted, and even though he questions his qualifications, transfers in.  In actuality, he got in because the chairman has the hots for himis his childhood boyfriend … gave him a special recommendation and overrode the board of directors. Whether or not he is qualified to attend becomes the driving plot point, eventually culminating between and out-and-out, no holds barred challenge between the corrupt Vice Chairman and the Chairman (he does actually have some amazering lucky luck, and this is sorta given as his special skill that got him in and keeps him in. And I suppose it does count as great luck to have run into the chairman as a young boy and won his heart…).

The cast consists entirely of males, and they’re pretty much all bishi, all slashable with one of the other supporting cast, and all slashable with the main character. At one point the main character even comments on the all-male cast, to which the bishi he’s talking to is like “Oh no, females totally exist! I can introduce some to you” and the protagonist is like, “Oh, there’s no need, k thx.”  To which I snorted loudy in amusement.

There are some of the typical BL tropes in the cast but they actual stood apart for me as moderately unique, especially due to the size of the cast and their unique talents.  It’s no Angelique, but the selection of pairables is pretty extensive.  And the show makes a great many overtures to turn your mind down a dirty dirty BL path.  The first few episodes (before some angsty plot kicks in) start of with salacious sounding dialogue between two mostly off-screen supporting characters, only to pan out and show them doing mundane activities (such as paperwork and patching a leak). Which, honestly, I adored!  It was exactly the note I wanted to start a fluffy show like this on, though I am glad it phased out when the tone of the show changed.  Most of the eye-catches were also meant to titillate.

So taken out of the BL context and appeal,  the show isn’t really anything impressive.  The huge cast of characters doesn’t really allow much characterization and relies heavily on tropes, though some of the individual character’s personalities do manage to shine through rather well.  The plot is mainly exploring the fit of Keita to the school, in order to inevitably hook him up with his main love interest, but never really explains to my satisfaction why he belongs there, whether or not he is actually qualified to be there.  It just sorta was like, well you’re a lucky dude, and look at how happy you make all of these extraordinarily talented bishis! Of course you belong here! The Chairman wants to bang you so bad! The directing wasn’t bad, and did what it could on a the typically low BL budget, but I never really saw anything noteworthy to it either.  The art and animation was similarly restrained by lack of money, so talking stills abound and most of the backgrounds are fairly blase at best. The movement was occasionally awkward and bad, and there are a few shots that are bad enough to deserve a facepalm scattered throughout the show.

It confines all of it’s SD silliness to a very, very poorly animated segment at the end of each episode called Hamu Hamu Heaven (which clearly is because it features chibi hamster versions of the main characters).  I enjoyed them, but I wish they had added a little more to the show, instead of being a silly aside that gave a smidgen of characterization.

Overall, the characters are underdeveloped and the cast massive, the plot totally falls flat when you stop and think about it and the tension of the show is mostly sexual and slashy. however, for the most part the show is interesting to watch and feels unique and distinct from other, similar titles.  I especially love the treasury vs student council dynamic (plus I heart the treasury pairing, so…).  I enjoyed this show, though I didn’t love love it, but I like BL.  If you are into BL, enjoy a moderately silly premise, don’t really want to think to much but aren’t in the mood for one of the fluffy, foolish titles (like Princess Princess), this is a great show to just sit back and enjoy the titillating yet serious BL bishi fun. If not, run, don’t walk, away from this show. It will hurt your thinking parts, and if you have them, your homophobic ones, and it won’t even be cracked out or insane enough for it to be so bad it’s good.