Bakuman 14

No sooner does the second half of the Bakuman saga begin do Moritaka and Akito come face-to-face with their rival, Eiji Niizuma. It’s a disquieting scene, watching him suddenly belt out twenty pages of manga in a half-hour before their eyes…but it doesn’t discourage them as a naysaying Hattori hopes. He’s their rival, after all. If he was easy to defeat, it wouldn’t be interesting, would it?

Eiji is definitely an oddball, and possibly a high-functioning autistic, but he seems to take to his mangakas instantly. I don’t believe he’s being facetious when he says he liked their NEXT story and wants to be their friend. He may well realize that his weakness is their strength and vice-versa. He certainly has the edge in mainstream battle manga right off the bat, but Moritaka is certain that if he and Akito get their ducks in a row and face Niizuma apples-to-apples, They can win. They have six months to convince Hattori.

I’ll be pullin’ for ’em. One nice scene has Kaya mentioning to Moritaka that Miho, like him, has also been hitting some hurdles in the process of achieving her dreams. I’ll wager that neither of them knew how tough it would actually be, but nor do I think either will ever give up. One more aside: the ending sequence is much better than the first half’s…it seems like a lot more thought went into it and it introduces a few new characters. Rating: 3.5

Macross Frontier – Itsuwari no Utahime

Finally, I got around to watching the first Macross Frontier film! I put it off believing it would be little more than a condensed, two-hour re-telling of the anime with upgraded eye candy. I had no idea the abridged edition could stand on its own as not just a pretty movie, but a pretty darn good one, too.

It goes without saying this was a tour-de-force of visuals, and not just space battles, epic though they were. Be they cityscapes, forests, or pop concerts, a whole new depth and intimacy is given both to the diverse environments of the fleet and the characters inhabiting them.

Particularly surprising is just how much the story and characters changed. The limited time forced a situation where Alto would be put on the spot regarding, to quote the anime theme song, “who he’s gonna kiss” – Ranka, or “that other girl”, Sheryl. The romance is arguably handled more elegantly here, with Alto more emotionally engaged, and the girls more competitive than chummy. Sheryl isn’t even the one who helps Ranka become a star, for instance, while Ranka is less dense and calls Alto out on his pussy-footing.

Nobody’s character changed more than Brera Stern. He was an opaque asshole practically throughout the anime, but here he’s a lot more human. And rather than crash Alto, he actually helps him out. Hell, the guy even cracks a smile! This is progress.

Of course, if you can’t deal with songs being song throughout the space battles, you’re not going to enjoy Macross, period. I never had a problem with any of Yoko Kanno’s music or the vocals. Most of the anime soundtrack carries over, along with a couple new numbers and rearrangements. Notably missing is “Ai Oboete Imasu ka” (Do You Remember Love?), but that’s bound to turn up in the second film. The music-video-battles were really spectacular in their speed and scope.

So as I said, this wasn’t just a good film adaptation of an anime or just a good-looking film: it was just good, period. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the anime itself, being my first experience with Macross period, but this does the source material justice and turned it up to 11 with its obviously substantial budget. Can’t wait for the continuation in Sayonara no Tsubasa. Rating: 4

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 13

With this belated last episode of the first half of Index II, the Croce di Pietro arc comes to a strong, satisfyingly action-packed conclusion. It starts with the umpteenth fight between Touma/Stiyl and Oriana, but after healing his serious internal injuries with pure determination (apparently) Touma smashes half her face in with his fist. Of course, knocking out the knockout accomplishes nothing: all along, she was a decoy for Lidvia Lorenzatti, the one who spearheaded the Catholic invasion of Academy City.

Pride always comes before the fall, however, and even 107 seconds from total victory, Lidvia loses…because she never bothered to check the festival schedule. 6:30 PM, the time when the Cruce would activate, the same time the night parade starts. A barrage of fireworks occludes the night sky, incidentally nullifying the Cruce’s power. Down but not out, Lidvia flees on a private jet.

Unfortunately for her, the Anglican archbishop, Laura Stewart, has friends at Haneda, who plant a bomb card on the fuselage, which blows, sending Lidvia, the Cruce, and her pilot careening towards earth. The somewhat deranged Lidvia chooses saving herself and the Cruce over the pilot (natch) and will live for another day. Meanwhile, Aisa, Fukiyose, and Touma all recover in hospital, while in some purple skyscraper, upside-down woman and unseem mastermind discuss the Imagine Breaker “key”‘s progress.

Dunno what they’ll have in store for Touma & Co. Anyway, while this arc ended well, with lots of exposition, slick combat, and catharsis, one or two fewer episodes would have made for a much tighter, more urgent narrative. Next week: an Italian Holiday! Rating: 3.5

With this belated last episode of the first half of Index II, the Croce di Pietro arc comes to a strong, satisfyingly

action-packed conclusion. It starts with the umpteenth fight between Touma/Stiyl and Oriana, but after healing his

serious internal injuries with pure determination (apparently) Touma smashes half her face in with his fist. Of course,

knocking out the knockout accomplishes nothing: all along, she was a decoy for Lidvia Lorenzatti, the one who

spearheaded the Catholic invasion of Academy City.

Pride always comes before the fall, however, and even 107 seconds from total victory, Lidvia loses…because she

never bothered to check the festival schedule. 6:30, the time when the would Cruce activate, was the same time the

night parade started. A barrage of fireworks occludes the night sky, incidentally nullifying the Cruce’s power. Down

but not out, Lidvia flees on a private jet.

Unfortunately for her, the Anglican archbishop, Laura Stewart, has friends at Haneda, who plant a bomb card on the

fuselage, which blows, sending Lidvia, the Cruce, and her pilot careening towards earth. The somewhat deranged

Lidvia chooses saving herself and the Cruce over the pilot (natch) and will live for another day. Meanwhile, Aisa,

Fukiyose, and Touma all recover in hospital, while in some purple skyscraper, upside-down woman and unseem

mastermind discuss the Imagine Breaker “key”‘s progress.

Dunno what they’ll have in store for Touma & Co. Anyway, while this arc ended well, with lots of exposition,

slick combat, and catharsis, one or two fewer episodes would have made for a much tighter, more urgent

narrative. Next week: an Italian Holiday! Rating: 3.5

Freezing – First Impressions

After a few minutes of Freezing I was immediately reminded at first of Chrome Shelled Regios – what with all the shapely warrioresses and the sudden downpour of terminology (Nova clashes, carnivals, pandoras, limiters, Eringbar Sets, etc.) But while it’s tarted up with lots of terms, Freezing is fairly easy to get: there’s an Angel-like implacable alien foe (the Nova) that’s invading earth, and it’s up to pandoras (genetically and bionically-enhanced high school girls) and limiters (their male underclassman partners) to defeat them.

Freezing does a good job stuffing lots of bloody, exciting battles with an introduction to this world and its systems. It shows that pandoras endure a lot of physical and mental suffering to gain their superhuman advantages. Sometimes this means lost limbs and slit throats, sometimes its lost tops (this show is right on the edge with the service, with more boob shots inserted for no practical purpose). But there’s no negotiating with the enemy, so if humans are to survive, they must soup themselves up and steel their psyches.

Of course, like us, the male protagonist Aoi is being exposed to all this for the first time, as he has just enrolled in “Genetics”, the training facility where pandoras and limiters are made and fight one another for rank. Aoi’s older sister defeated a Nova (at the cost of her life), but when he spots the school’s top-ranked fighter (Bridgette Satellizer…porn name much?), he thinks she’s resurrected and immediately gropes her. Well, the kid’s new, anyway. None of the characters stand out much, but one thing’s certain, Freezing will provide epic action with a healthy dollop of ecchi mixed in. Animation, lighting, and soundtrack were all above par. I could watch this stuff all day. Rating: 3.5