May 31, 2011


Today I finished the first of three new series I've downloaded: SHAFT's highly acclaimed series Bakemonogatari, centred around ex-vampire Koyomi Araragi and his encounters with several different girls and the 'apparitions' which are affecting their lives, the first of which is Hitagi Senjougahara, a self-styled tsundere with a problem concerning her weight, or rather the lack of it.

The animation is typical SHAFT. The backgrounds are well drawn and tend to be clean, bright cityscapes with a futuristic style. The characters are also well drawn, especially in close-ups (of which there are MANY, especially with eyes), but with some questionable wide-shots, although these were few and far between as I was watching the cleaned up blu-ray release. Each character is also unique in look and personality, and seem to be similarly as attractive as those in SHAFT's other show Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko. The animation was also quite varied in some cases, mainly in sequences if character reactions and in some conversations, which provided a nice variety to the visuals as the settings rarely changed for long periods of time in some episodes as well as a comedic touch in some of them. It also seemed slightly as if SHAFT were experimenting with different styles.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, each character is completely unique to one another, in look, style and personality. They're all also pretty likeable, or at least were for me, especially Senjougahara (above) with her tsundere attitude, stylish dress sense and good looks, whilst also remaining fun, loving and also quite vulnerable despite her hard outer shell. SHAFT do a good job developing each character and providing their back story, which is made rather easy by the fact each new girl has usually three episodes dedicated to her arc and then carries on to play a big role in subsequent episodes.

One main thing I noticed whilst watching is that there is a LOT, and I mean a lot, of talking. I also noticed that this was usually just meaningless chatter between the two characters with little relevance to the story, however, I quite liked it, as it created a connection between the two and was usually quite comedic in nature, and when it wasn't comedic is was serious emotional talk. All this talk makes Bakemonogatari a very character-driven show, with the real action only really taking up 10 or so minutes of the whole arc. As is probably clear from my numerous other anime posts, I tend to love shows that rely on the strength of their characters, as it also helps the viewer to make a connection with them, making the story much stronger emotionally and enhancing the experience greatly. Quite a lot of jokes and some explanations rely on wordplay, which means that some of the comedy and details are lost in translation if you don't have much knowledge of the Japanese language. Of course, because this was obviously intended for Japanese audiences and not foreign ones, this can't really be put as a negative point towards the show.

Another thing I noticed, and very much liked, was the music throughout the series, be it the soundtrack itself or the various OPs and EDs. The background music worked well to enhance almost every situation, be it emotional, action or comedy and by the end of the series I found myself recognising and really liking some of the songs used. Each arc is also accompanied with a new OP sequence and song that compliments the theme of that particular arc, and I personally liked them all except for maybe one. The ED song remains the same throughout, but each arc brings a slightly different ED sequence (above) and I also really liked the song.

As I said earlier, the story was largely character-driven, relying greatly on these characters' pasts and their emotions to provide a basis for the situation they've each found themselves in. The story's main themes concerned the supernatural, with spirits/'apparitions' and gods causing the most trouble, and because of this almost anything was possible, as realism was largely irrelevant. This of course allowed for more elaborate and interesting stories and action sequences.

In summary, I enjoyed this show very much, with the animation, soundtrack and characters being particular highlights. However, the sheer amount of talking and some of the series particular quirks (you'll have to watch to understand) can sometimes get tedious, but not so much to get annoying. I can certainly see why this sold so well (with the sixth blu-ray volume holding the record for highest first-week sells before SHAFT's Puella Magi☆Madoka Magica broke it last month) and was very popular among anime fans, although I'm not sure if I liked it enough to class it as one of my all-time favourites as I'm not sure the characters and story in particular were as strong as other series' I've seen.With this being the third SHAFT show I've watched and greatly enjoyed, I may have to take a look at some of their older shows and will definitely look forward to future shows from them, especially the prequel film Kizumonogatari set to be released next year.

Along with the other two series I've downloaded (Lucky Star and Death Note) I'm also planning to re-watch  a number of series over the summer along with most likely a couple more new ones, as well the Summer 2011 shows, and so there'll likely be quite a lot of anime-related posts over the next few months.

May 29, 2011

Spring 2011 Mid-Season Impressions

Now that I'm no longer as busy as I was previously and laziness is my only obstacle, I have decided to get around to this post, so here we go! It's going to be a lengthy one.

Hanasaku Iroha
Straight away, this show easily has the best animation of the season, then again that's to be expected as it's P.A Works 10th Anniversary piece. From the first episode, this show has been great at mixing both comedy and drama, and even at it's lowest points it's still more than satisfactory. Every Monday I check to see if this has been subbed before doing anything else. The plot centres around Ohana (above) and her life at the Kissui inn after being forced to move their after her mother in Tokyo runs away from tax collectors with her boyfriend, leaving Ohana alone . Ohana is instantly likeable, as is most of the supporting cast and the plot is usually progressed through their interactions and the rivalry with a nearby rival inn. I couldn't be happier with the fact this is going to have a 26 episode run and I'm confident the quality won't drop.

Tiger & Bunny
This season's superhero offering comes in the form of Tiger & Bunny, set in a world where 45 years previously individuals with superpowers called NEXT started appearing. Not one to miss out on a party, Capitalism jumps in, resulting in each superhero working for a specific sponsor, with uniforms containing sponsors from real-life companies who paid for them to be featured in the anime. Their work to bring down criminals is then broadcast on Hero TV, which often affects their way of working thanks to advert breaks and the need to show off sponsors. Whilst catching criminals, each Hero accumulate points based on their contributions. The story focuses on one particular ageing hero Kotetsu (above green), otherwise known as Wild Tiger, and his new partner, the young Barnaby (above red) whom Kotetsu has nicknamed Bunny. This new boy Barnaby seems to care more for points than catching criminals, resulting in a number of clashes in opinion with Kotetsu. The animation for this show isn't anything special but it's certainly good enough, and the CG used to animate their costumes works well enough despite some awkward moments. The story too isn't anything special but it's fun and interesting enough to keep you hooked, with characters which are equally interesting. I don't know how long this show will be lasting, but I certainly wouldn't complain if it carried on into the next season.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
Whilst certainly winning the award for longest name (translating to "We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day." for anyone who cares), this show also looks pretty promising, at least as a tear-jerker. A group of six childhood friends have drifted apart since the death of one of them, Menma, dies in an accident. Ten years on, leader of the group Jinta "Jintan" Yadomi has become a social recluse who sits in his room playing games rather than go to school. That is until one day when a slightly older looking Menma appears in front of him, asking that he grant a wish for her that she asked him when they were young, but which they've both forgotten. This blast from the past motivates Jinta to become more sociable and get closer to his old friends, including Naruko "Anaru" Anjou (above). The old group then starts to gradually get back together and work to grant Menma's wish, although they're not all too sure if Jinta actually can see Menma but they seem to be happy enough to be back together nonetheless. As I said earlier, this show sets out to be a tearjerker from the start, playing mainly on the nostalgia of old childhood days. This emotional angle compliments what is quite an interesting plot (although I feel it's been lacking lately) as the friends reunite and old feelings are brought back up along with new ones. Each character is unique and interesting in their own way and the animation is pretty good quality too. Although (if Wikipedia is to be believed) this is set for a slightly shorter run than other of 11 episodes it seems to be moving along at a good enough pace and good easily be one of the gems of the season.

Carrying on with what is a season of rare quality is the animated adaptation of the visual novel Steins;Gate. To keep it relatively short, this show is centred around the concept of time travel and it's affects on the world and the lives of the main characters, as well as an evil company in the form of SERN (so, basically CERN). The sci-fi angle is interesting, with constant twists and turns to hold your attention, and the eccentric main character Okabe "Okarin" Rintarou is endless fun. The other characters each have their own unique personality and are as equally fun and interesting as Okabe. Much like Tiger & Bunny, the animation isn't exactly ground-breaking but it does the job very well. This is easily one of my favourites of the season and with it's 24-episode run it'll likely be one of my favourites of the next. I may even get around to playing the visual novel some time.

A Channel
Breaking with the rather serious trend of the rest of the show's I'm watching is my "cute girls doing cute things" show for the season. There isn't really much of a plot to explain here, it's just essentially the everyday lives of four schoolgirls, focusing slightly on the younger of the group and perhaps the sole reason I'm watching this show, Tooru. From what I've heard, this show has a rather low budget, yet I think it's done pretty well with it as it's rarely noticeable. The characters are nothing new, but each is likeable in their own way and are different enough to keep it interesting, especially Tooru. This definitely isn't one of the greatest slice of life shows to be made, but it's good enough to be some simple fun to wind down with after a long week and the other more serious shows I'm watching. I'm basically seeing it as a mediocre version of K-ON!!, and the (not-so-subtle) yuri undertones are enough to please my guilty pleasure.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
This is SHAFT's offering for the Spring season, and although it definitely doesn't live up to their previous offering (and I doubt anyone expected it too) it is far from a disappointment. The main character Makoto Niwa has moved to a seaside town to live with his rather strange aunt Meme Touwa (above) and her daugher Erio Touwa, who after an incident some time ago thinks she is an alien and walks around wrapped up in a futon. The story is mainly based on Makoto's interactions with his aunt and cousin, as well as a couple other girls he meets, with him constantly monitoring what he calls his 'adolescence points' (a point system he's created based on living the perfect adolescence). The animation is what's to be expected of SHAFT. It's pretty good in close-ups and in background, but the character animations can really suffer at times, especially in wide shots. However, it isn't too distracting and will likely be improved greatly with the blu-ray releases, as is SHAFT's usual method. Although not as great as the first three shows on this list, Denpa Onna is a fun, interesting and good quality series, and would probably shine brighter if not for the numerous great shows this season. The main female characters are also quite possibly some of the most attractive seen in a long time.

Ao no Exorcist
Okumura Rin is a normal 15-year-old boy living at his father's church with his twin brother Okumura Yukio. Little does he know that the world is full of demons, and that his father is an exorcist. Although this is not strictly true either, as Rin discovers he is in fact the son of Satan, born of a human mother, and as such is part demon himself (his twin brother isn't because Satan deemed him too weak in the womb or something). After Satan then kills who he thought was his father Rin vows to become an exorcist too, and starts to go to what is basically exorcist school. I'm really unsure about this show. It started off looking like a fun enough series about fighting demons with plenty of action, but it seems to have just deteriorated into a mediocre school life show with a few demons thrown in. The characters aren't anything too special and the plot is rather predictable, with the rather good quality animation being it's only redeeming feature. Because of this I'm not sure if I'm even going to bother downloading the new episode as it's become a bit of a chore to watch and I could really do with one less show to watch (I've already dropped Dog Days earlier in the season).

This is KyoAni's Spring offering, and seeing as they're yet to produce a show I haven't loved I had high expectations. Nichijou can more or less be summarised as a sketch show centred around a group of school students and their school, in particular the three friends Yuuko, Mio (above) and Mai. I have to say, this show is rather hit and miss. Some of the sketches are brilliantly funny, whilst others are good enough to bring up a chuckle but often suffer from lasting far too long. The common overreactions from Yuuko in particular are also hit and miss, with some being funny and some just being plain annoying. However, almost all characters are very likeable even outside the main group, with a certain eight year old professor, her robot Nano and their cat Sakamoto being certain highlights. The animation is also what's to be expected of KyoAni, being fluid and of very high quality, often raising some scenes from mediocre to excellent all by itself. Despite some rather frequent misses which are the fault more of the source material than KyoAni themselves, Nichijou remains to be more than enough fun to keep me watching, with the characters and animation being particular reasons. Whilst I'm not sure how it can keep this charm going into next season (as I'm sure I've heard in several places it's going for a 26-episode run) I'll certainly carry on watching to see.

All in all, this Spring season has certainly been one of, if not the, best I've seen so far (then again, I've only been watching anime for about 18 months and never saw the highly-acclaimed 2007 year of anime as it aired) and seeing as at least three of them are carrying into next season I may not even pick up anything new other than the second season of BakaTest, as from what I've seen the Summer 2011 season seems pretty weak. Although the fact I'm watching eight shows (nine if I hadn't dropped Dog Days) resulted in me spending incredibly long on this post, I'm glad that there are so many high quality shows airing, and it certainly gives me something to do.

Now that I'm not so busy any more I've also downloaded Bakemonogatari, Lucky Star and Death Note (as it appears I'm one of very few anime fans that have never actually seen it), so expect posts on each of them as I complete them over the next few weeks as well as possibly a couple more as I've cleared up a fair pit of hard drive space.

May 25, 2011

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Reveal Trailer

2 weeks after the release of the teaser trailers, here comes the first proper trailer of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 with in-game footage. Although I'm not too much of a fan of Call of Duty I may get this, because it's my dislike of Treyarch that stopped me getting Black Ops and World at War, and Infinity Ward seem to make good enough games. There's also the fact that my friends have much different opinions of this franchise, and if I actually want to play games online with them the next two or three months after release I'll probably have to get this.

May 21, 2011

After The Rapture

I was going to do a post mocking the fact The Rapture obviously didn't happen, then I thought "Hey, I'm not creative enough to do that!". Luckily, TheThinkingAtheist posted a video to do just that for me, allowing me to go back to mindlessly browsing the internet (Read: /a/) and watching South Park. This is basically a follow-up to an earlier video from when this so called 'Rapture' was first announced, seen below.

Change in Focus

As has already probably become clear to anyone who reads this blog regularly (let me dream!), I have been moving further and further away from the original purpose of this blog: to report world news. This is mainly because I've found myself far too busy to make long news posts like those on the Arab Protests/Revolutions and also because there is rarely a news story I deem interesting enough to report about. As such, the posts in this blog will be moving more towards anime, video games, movies and YouTube videos, with the occasional news posts and maybe some stuff on music.

On the topic of anime, I have the 'Spring 2011 Mid-Season Impressions' to do, which will either be some time in the next few days if I can find time, or next weekend when I'll definitely be free. I'm watching so much this season that I really need quite a bit of time to make a proper post, especially if I'm to include pictures like my last one. Although by the time it's finally posted it'll be much past the middle of the season...

May 17, 2011

Dead Island Teaser Trailer - Tragedy Hits Paradise

The latest Dead Island trailer has arrived, and unlike the announcement trailer, this teaser shows some in-game footage and environments, however, it doesn't show any actual gameplay. They appear to have gone with a similar method as the announcement trailer, in that they've tried to make it emotional. Whilst it can't equal the emotion of the first trailer, my heart certainly did twinge when the music from the first started playing at the end.

May 16, 2011

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - Teaser Trailers

I saw a link to this by absolute chance, but on May 13th four new teaser trailers were released concerning Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (which has apparently been in production since two weeks after the release of Modern Warfare 2), each centred around a different country (England, Germany, France and America), providing possible settings for the game. I personally don't particularly care for the Call of Duty franchise after the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but for many people this is a big announcement, so I suppose I better post about it.

May 15, 2011

The Rapture & Nerimon's Last Video

With The Rapture (21st May 2011) fast approaching, Alex Day - better known as Nerimon - has taken his time to say goodbye to us, his loyal fans, in one last, final video. However, he promises to see all those who won't be going up to heaven "on the battlefield" during the next 5 months of hell on Earth, so it's not all bad.
Good luck to everyone for next Saturday!

Further information on the impending apocalypse can be found here and here.

May 1, 2011

Puella Magi☆Madoka Magica - Final Impressions

The final two episodes aired over a week ago, but as the theme seems to be for the last couple months I've been too busy to make this post, so I shall attempt to now.

This show has to be one of the best I've seen in a while and I'm sure if I'd seen any other Mahou Shoujo shows this would be one of my favourite ones. After the long delay caused by the tsunami and earthquake Madoka  managed to slip to the back of my mind, especially with the start of what looks to be an exceptional Spring season distracting me further from it. In order to make up for this I re-watched the first ten episodes the day before the two finale episodes aired, and I'm glad I did otherwise the ending probably wouldn't have had the same impact if my connection to the characters hadn't been rebuilt. Having already seen the ten episodes once, re-watching them enabled me to appreciate certain aspects more, such as the mirroring between episode 10 and 1 where Homura and Madoka walk through the halls of the school.

The animation of the series is also pretty good. The character designs are smooth and each character is easily distinguishable from others, with everyone having their own distinct look. The only problem with the animation was that the character animation was occasionally off, but there are few anime where this s not the case, so I'm not going to pick on it too much. The backgrounds are also very clean and also very detailed in some cases. The backgrounds for the witches domains are pretty trippy and strange, but they suit the crazy world of magic and the creatures within them, and the actions scenes that take place in them are usually pretty well animated too. Complimenting the animation, there is also a pretty good soundtrack with a number of memorable tracks, with the OP and ED carrying on the Winter seasons theme of quality OPs and EDs.

The characters were each very different people to one another, with back stories provided for Kyouko and Homura which explain how they came to be the person they are today and helping you to connect to them even more, especially with Homura's back story, which encapsulates the whole of episode 10. Kyubey (pictured above) is also an extremely unique character, the sort of which I haven't really seen in other anime. His adorable appearance with its permanent :3 face is contrasted against the blunt, arguably evil genius the hides within, taking advantage of others for his own (and his species') desires.

The ending itself was brilliant, and definitely the best of the 5 shows I was watching that ended last season. Most of the developments within the last two endings were completely unpredictable (at least to me) and episode 12 in particular was very emotional for those who had formed a connection with the characters through the 12 episodes. As expected for a finale of a show with magic and monsters there was an excellent action sequence in episode 11 as Walpurgis Night arrives, with a ridiculous amount of military-grade fire-power. The twists in the final two episodes were also very characteristic of the rest of the series, with its revelations, deaths and character developments of the first ten episodes.

In summary, Puella Magi☆Madoka Magica is almost definitely going to be one of the best anime to air on 2011 and judging by the sales of the first Blu-Ray/DVD release it can easily become a classic. Madoka showed itself to be unique, at least in terms of the Mahou Shoujo genre, from episode 3, and manage to keep up the break-neck pace, unpredictable twists and turns and character development all the way until the end, making for an emotional and action-packed final two episodes, which failed to disappoint even with all the expectation and hype that had built up among fans during the weeks it was delayed. Even halfway through the series' 12 episode run this show managed to jump right into my top 10 or even 5 anime of all time and I'll almost certainly be watching the series again when all of the episodes are released in Blu-Ray, with improved visuals which will undoubtedly enhance the series further.

EDIT: The first Blu-Ray volume sells 53,000 in first week to break previous record of 51,000 set by Volume 6 of Bakemonogatari