Shiki – 01 thru 06 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 15 Aug 2010 – We’re not huge fans of the character designs (some are outright nutty and random), but that isn’t nearly enough to detract from what’s shaping up to be a decent vampire horror series.

The medical professionals in the show spew a lot of medical jargon, which adds credibility to the show (regardless of whether its 100% accurate or not; we wouldn’t know) and paint them in a corner where conventional medical consultation and care is having little or no effect on helping the patients. The village is already quite small and mostly elderly people (mirroring a coming crisis in real-world Japan), so the fact that so many people are dying so quickly creates a great urgency to solve the mystery. The building dread is infectious – no pun intended.

But it’s hardly spoiling to connect the dots (anemia and bite marks) and conclude that this village’s problem is vampires. A monk has already met and befriended one (as much as you can befriend a creepy tweener vampire), while the main character’s dreams are haunted by a vamped-out version of the village’s first victim, a formerly cheerful cosplay girl who had a crush on him. After six episodes, these three – the monk, the teenager, and the doctor – are starting to come together and realize what’s going on (and what we already know.)

What we don’t know is if this can be resolved before the entire village is killed, and how (We know the answer now, but at the time this was written, we were totally in the dark). At 22 episodes, Shiki is a good-length anime, and we’re confident it can make use of the remaining 16 to spin an entertaining resolution. But seriously, WTF is up with some of these characters’ hairstyles?

Rating: 6 (Good)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 02 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 15 Jan 2011 – By episode’s end, Madoka and Sayaka understand a lot more about how a Maho Shojo operates, and so do we. We also learn that Homura wanted to snuff out Kyubei (Kyuubey?) so he (she?) wouldn’t create more competition for her. A Maho Shojo’s job may be all about hunting witches, but the inherent rewards can make the competition fierce.

Mami expertly shows them both the tools of the trade (soul gems, grief seeds) and how to find and destroy a witch. The abstract, surreal, downright unsettling way in which witches are depicted is particularly well done here: the different animation doesn’t come off as a gimmick, but rather a strange and alien world a witch creates to discombobulate and weaken their opponent. Still, this particular witch, while powerful, isn’t a match for Mami’s awesome rifles. Everything about their duel oozes style, originality…and confidence.

So Sayaka and Madoka need to come up with an ultimate wish that will be fulfilled by Kyubei in exchange for risking their lives to the witch hunt. They live great lives, so it isn’t immediately apparent what to wish for. After witnessing Mami in action, however, Madoka essentially wishes to be like her: someone “useful” who is strong enough to protect the innocent.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)