Alice to Zouroku – 05

(In an attempt to balance our workloads, I’ve taken over Alice to Zouroku reviewing duties from Preston.)

In this episode apparently brought to you by SNICKERS® (You’re not you when you’re hungry. Eat a SNICKERS®.) Minnie C doesn’t easily give up her captives, so she and Ichijou Shizuku enter a long, sustained battle full of CGI effects that holds together reasonably well, considering the show itself has never striven for ufotable-level precision.

Minnie C puts on a good fight, but Shizuku eventually wears her down due to her superior power: the ability to summon any number of 666 weapons and 13 grimoires from a magical storeroom derived from an anime she used to watch.

That’s not as satisfying a powers-origin story as, say, Minnie C, but the major difference is that Shizuku is fighting for others, while Minnie is only fighting for herself, angry at the world for taking away her darling. When she runs out of energy and Shizuku stands triumphantly over her, I really feel for Minnie C when she apologizes to her husband for continuing to be alive, because she’s completely wrong: her husband wants her to live. That means finding another reason for living beyond being with him.

Meanwhile, the now-freed (and largely static during the battle) Alice celebrates and underscores her and Zouroku’s new freedom by floating with him high up into the sky, something he’s fine with after being cooped up on that container ship so long. He’s also fine that Alice is accepting of his and Sanae’s love and invitation to join their family, no matter what kind of being she truly is.

Minnie C is shipped back to the states, and the organization that employed her and the other ability-users and pursued is dismantled by the police. Alice takes to the granddaughter role with gusto, further charming her new big sister Sanae, who has no end of plans to use Alice’s newly-restored energy to have “fun”, a concept once foreign to Alice.

Shizuku and Ryuu rest easy, knowing all’s well that ends well. Ryuu almost seems to want to will the next crisis into being by wishing another “incident” would come along, but until then, it’s nice to see Alice, Zouroku, and Sanae simply having a normal dinner on a normal night, in the normal lives they hope to maintain even after all that’s come to light.

In fact, this could be the finale to a five-part miniseries, as it leaves me wondering what the show has lined up next.

Summer 2011 OPs and EDs

We’re not even going to bother posting videos of these anymore, since most of not all won’t be working links in a few days time due to YouTube policies. Stills will have to do. And suffice it to say, you’ve probably seen/heard these openings and endings before…otherwise, go check ’em out; we deem them the best of the Summer.

Best Opening: Mawaru Penguindrum. A no-brainer. Like the series itself, it’s slick, smooth, full of color and motion. The theme, “Nornir” by Etsuko Yakushimaru Metropolitan Orchestra, is catchy and serious with just a tinge of cuteness to compliment the presence of the cartoon penguins.

Runner-up: Dantalian no Shoka. “Cras numquam scire” by Yucca is soulful and melancholy with just a hint of hope mixed in. The visuals, like the backgrounds and settings of the series, are richly textured and lush.

Honorable Mentions: Blood-C and Kamisama Dolls. Blood-C benefits from its kinetic ballad-like theme, “Spiral” by DUSTZ, whose lyrics span three languages without sounding too silly. The visuals are unambiguous in laying out the content of the show: namely Saya kickin’ ass. Kamisama Dolls’ latinesque theme – “Fukanzen Nunshō” by Chiaki Ishikawa – is the openings pièce de résistance. The multilayered shapes moving over characters, changing their colors, is also a nice touch.

Best Ending: Mawaru Penguindrum. “DEAR FUTURE” by coaltar of the deepers is full of pent-up energy and longing being belted out with lots of fancy melodies. The Himari triplet imagery doesn’t make much sense, but its cool anyway. A good way to end each (so far) excellent episode.

Runner-up: Ao no Exorcist. A series of cubes jumping up and down to the pumping electropop beat of “Wired Life” by Meisa Kuroki prefaces a stylish, elegant ending sequence. It’s a simple but well-executed concept using pans and conceals of characters.

Honorable Mention: Kamisama Dolls. More Chiaki Ishikawa’s amazing voice, now in a more spacey, sci-fi style than the latin opening. I particularly like the very end, which pulls out of a shot of the core characters to an almost U2-like 12-string closing chord.

Fall 2011 Season Preview

The first season RABUJOI reviewed in full gear was Fall 2010. We perhaps chose too many series to watch; some would not pass muster this time. By the time our one-year anniversary rolls around, it looks like we’ll be in store for another sizable batch of series.

There are many promising series coming, none we’re looking more forward to than GONZO’s first anime since the pretty but ultimately ho-hum Shangri-La. This time, they appropriately went with a past strength in the Last Exile franchise. We urge anyone interested in awesome steampunk to take a gander at its 2004 predecessor, it’s one of our all-time favorites.

Other sequels of note: Bakuman, which we enjoyed thoroughly and couldn’t possibly pass up; and the restaurant slice-of-life Working!!. There’s also a new Gundam – and this one may mark some changes to the classic formula – we’ll see. We saw a six-minute preview of Mirai Nikki back in December – this fall we’ll see what it’s all about.

The only summer carryover will be the excellent Mawaru Penguindrum, which means other than that one series, our schedule will be wiped clean when October comes around. We still believe one or two series below will be sacrificed so that we may have time to sleep, eat, and socialize. To that end, titles marked with an *asterisk  constitute our “maybe” pile.

Bakuman 2 – J.C. Staff – Autumn – NHK-E
Ben-To* – David Production – Autumn – TBA
C³ – CubexCursedxCurious* – SILVER LINK – Autumn – TBA
Chihayafuru* – Madhouse – October 4, Nihon TV
Guilty Crown – Production I.G. – October – Fuji TV/noitaminA
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – GONZO – October – TBA
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE* – Sunrise – October 9, MBS/TBS
Mirai Nikki – asread – Autumn – TBA
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle* – Sunrise – Autumn – NHK-E
Tamayura ~hitotose~ – Hal Film Maker – October – TBA
UN-GO – Bones – October – Fuji TV/noitaminA
WORKING’!! – A-1 – October – Yomiuri TV

Summer 2011 Carryover:

Mawaru Penguindrum – Brains Base – AT/X

And now for some pretty charts!

We here at RABUJOI have watched a lot of anime. Not as many as some, but no trivial amount. So we were wondering, which animation studio has churned out the most works we’ve watched? The below charts are the result. We took all of the tv series, OVAs, and films we’ve seen in the anime genre and sorted them by cheif animation production company.

A few notes: These are only works we’ve watched and rated, not all the works the companies have produced.  A few works (e.g., Shikabane Hime) are co-produced by two companies (in its case, Studio feel. and GAINAX). So those shows count for both companies. So when sorting by total number of works (series + OVAs + films), here’s what was revealed:

That’s right, GAINAX and Ghibli are tied for the top spot with fourteen works each. Not too surprising. While GAINAX is a mix of formats, Ghibli is pretty much just films. We haven’t seen any Ghibli films since Tales from Earthsea, so Ponyo and Arriety aren’t included.

But what about pure episode count? Trickier, but doable. More caveats: we included the full count of episodes for currently airing Summer 2011 series (e.g. all 11 Usagi Drop eps, although we’ve only seen the first two). Concurrently, for past series we’ve either dropped or only watched part of (e.g. Bleach), we only count the episodes we’ve watched, not the sum total aired. Finally, we don’t count films as episodes, but we do count OVAs. With all that in mind, let’s have a look at the top ten studios, ranked by total episodes we’ve watched:

The “Other” column on the left is a mélange of 39 different studios. Pierrot’s lofty figure isn’t surprising, as we confess we have watched a lot of Naruto and Bleach in the past…their episodes aren’t typically that high-quality and are extremely drawn-out and filler-prone, so the high ep count should be taken with a grain of salt. Bones and J.C. Staff churn out loads of series, while Sunrise’s count is high due to big (50-episode) Gundam series.

There are some companies (including P.A. Works, Tatsunoko, David, Beetrain and Daume) we really like who are either not yet prolific enough for this list or we simply haven’t watched enough of their works yet.

One thing’s sure, perennial RABUJOI favorite GAINAX’s work count will continue gaining with their current series, Dantalian no Shoka, the continuation of Panty & Stocking, and the final two Eva films. Perhaps our second favorite studio is financially-crippled GONZO, who haven’t done much since Shangri-la, but plan to have a Last Exile reboot out late this year, which is very promising.

Okage de futatabi!

Everyone here at RABUJOI wish to express our sincere gratitude to you for taking the time to visit us. RABUJOI’s philosophy has been, and will always be to deliver timely(ish) anime reviews for your reading pleasure, and read you have: In the last five months we’ve more than doubled our monthly readership. 2011 has been very good to us and we hope for that success to continue as we near the Summer season.

We’re well aware that there are a seemingly infinite number of blogs out there reviewing anime. We pride ourselves on providing reviews containing wit, humor, information, and correct spelling, and we’re glad you’ve come, and keep coming, to read them. Regardless of how many people visit or read or come back for more, we cannot look at the future of RABUJOI remains…luminescent. So keep reading, and don’t be afraid to post a comment! Thanks again!

-RABUJOI STAFF

Super 8: The Anime?

Sometimes our minds wander here at RABUJOI, and we think about anime that might work – or decidedly not work – as American TV shows and films, or vice versa. We’re not talking about particularly financially successful shows and films…just interesting ones. And sometimes we just draw parallels from existing anime to existing Americana, or vice versa.

A few for instances: there are tinges of Harry Potter in Occult Academy and Blue Exorcist. True Blood, while a good show, would be far scarier and less goofy if it followed Shiki’s storyline rather than Charlene Harris’s books. I was so turned off by the Marvel-backed Heroman (Bones) and Iron Man (Madhouse) anime, I didn’t even bother with Wolverine (which some may say was a mistake, but I still don’t really regret skipping it).

And then there’s Super 8: a perfectly decent and well-executed sci-fi mystery thriller that amazingly stars a bunch of middle schoolers – including Dakota Fanning’s little sis Elle – that manage not to annoy the hell out of me. The film wasn’t perfect, and the whole time I was watching it I was cursing J.J. Abrams for taking the time to make this film instead of the new Star Trek sequel (Classically a Trek film came out once every two years…the next one better be good for the extra year-plus we have to wait).

Super 8 was a very charming, engaging, and entertaining film, and for some reason I think it would make a great anime. Not a long one, mind you; an 11-episode series in the Noitamina timeslot would suffice in building up and laying out the nicely self-contained story. There are a lot of subtle changes that would have to be made that wouldn’t affect that story in the least. To wit: JSDF instead of USAF; a rural Japanese town instead of a rural American one; a HDV camera instead of a Super 8.

Other things could be left alone. There’s a lot to love: A romance between a boy and girl that’s forbidden by no fault of their own, but by their fathers, due to bad blood? Check. Love triangle that doesn’t get in the way? Check. Train wreck? Check. Weird happenings in a small, quiet town? Check. Classmates making a movie? Check (it worked in Haruhi Suzumiya). Aliens? Check. The town policeman bumping up against the industrial military complex? Check A shonen having to work up the courage to not just defy his and her dads, but to save said girl from said angsty alien? Check and check!

I think Super 8 has great potential moving to the anime medium. Realistically, the chances of J.J. Abrams licensing his script to a Japanese production company are probably slim to nil, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Fortunately, and this is why I watch far more anime than American television, there is no shortage of great stories that already inhabit the anime world.

New Final Fantasy VII Anime to be produced by SHAFT, directed by Shinbo; Q4 release to coincide with FFVII PS3 reboot

Many anime fans will remember in 2005 Square Enix teamed up with Madhouse to create the prequel OVA Last Order: Final Fantasy VII. That was a decent effort; a solid 3 if not a bit higher in our rating system. We were left wishing that the FFVII story got a 13 or, even better, 26 episode run. I mean, the story is already there, all it needed was full expression in anime form, with maybe a few embellishments here or there, and obviously upgrades to the visual effects of the epic 1997 PSOne game.

Well, those who wished for an anime will be delighted to hear that Square Enix, SHAFT, and Akiyuki Shinbo will be teaming up to create an all-new, 26-episode run titled simply “Final Fantasy VII”. To be precise, only those who enjoy Shinbo and SHAFT anime will be delighted by this news.

Still, Shinbo insists he will be careful to meld the popular FFVII story with his own unique style, adding more humanity to the characters than the game offered, and carefully selecting the best voice talent for the crucial characters of Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Vincent, Aerith, Sephiroth, etc.

Shinbo has also indicated he will try to add more levity humor to the overall very dark story, drawing from Zetsubou-Sensei for inspiration. The series is due out for the Fall 2011 season, close to the Q4 release of the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII reboot for PS3. RABUJOI will stay on top of this story as further developments are revealed. Until then, get ready for a FFVII renaissance. We hope it’s everything we’ve hoped for! April Fools desu.

Spring 2011 Season Preview

The Winter 2011 season was a welcome respite from Fall 2010, with only four shows we felt we needed to watch, plus three Fall carryovers. All seven of these shows end when the Spring 2011 season begins, so it will be a clean slate (Bakuman 2 will come in a later season). If Fall 2010’s fourteen (or was it fifteen?) shows taught us anything, it’s to be more discriminate; giving a few decent-to-great shows our full attention is far better than spreading it out amongst more than a dozen or more of varying quality.

To that end, seven to eight shows will be our limit this spring, so a couple of the ten Spring series below may be dropped before their runs end. Which ones, we have no idea; we always go in as blind as possible, let the anime speak for itself, and decide after two or three episodes. And we will have no regrets. The eleven we’ve chosen here are based solely on their initial synopses, promo art, and in the case of some, the fact they’re sequels to stuff we’ve already watched (God Only Knows.)

Similarly, we won’t be watching any sequels to franchises we’ve never watched, and there are many this season that fit that bill (Kaiji, Gintana, Maria+Holic, Chaos;Head, etc.) There’s just too much new stuff coming up to get bogged down in shows that have already established themselves (though lately we’ve gotten into Haibane Renmei; retro wrap-up pending). So here’s the list. Looking forward to April: leaves, sunlight, baseball, and…the following:

Hyouge Mono – Beetrain – April 7 NHK BS2
Ao no Exorcist – A-1 – April – MBS
Tiger & Bunny – Sunrise – April – BS11 / MBS
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai. – A-1 – April – Fuji TV
C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – Tatsunoko Production – April – Fuji TV
Sket Dance – Tatsunoko Production – April – TV Tokyo Kei
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – SHAFT – April – TBS / TBS BS
The World God Only Knows II – manglobe – April
Hana-Saku Iroha – P.A.Works – Spring
Deadman Wonderland – manglobe – Spring

Final Fall 2010 Anime Rankings

A the end of the day, there were a handful of series I probably wouldn’t have missed had I not watched them…but for completion’s sake I soldiered on. MM! was repetitive and barely went anywhere; Hyakka Ryouran was pretty but vacuous and often boring; Zakuro was cute but inconsequential. Given the chance to rewind, I’d have skipped them.

Yosuga no Sora performed better than its rating suggests; taking a lot of risks and keeping the romance going, no matter whom it was with. World God Only Knows was also fun and contained a lot of novel ideas and mixed the worlds of anime, gaming, and real life with panache. Soredemo was the best slice-of-life of the season, due to the strength of its characters and richness of its setting.

Star Driver won the ratings game with consistently awesome – though brief – action sequences that added or subtracted a little more or less every week, along with maintaining an intriguing duality to all its characters. Panty & Stocking was no Gurren Lagann, but still marked a return to awesome Gainax madness after Shikabane Hime fell flat. Index, interestingly, was at its best when it crossed into Railgun territory, as the religious arcs simply went on too long.

There were a couple series that, while solid, weren’t as good as previous efforts from their respective studios. Case in point: Arakawa was never as interesting to me as SHAFT’s Bakemonogatari or Zetsubou Sensei; while Yakumo didn’t come close to the excellence that was Beetrain’s Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom.

In all, however, it was a great, dense season. I enjoyed everything I stuck with, but I’m glad its over and excited for the new Winter season, which begins any day now.

Note that this list counts series that ran exclusively in Fall 2010 as well as series that will be continued either this Winter season or some other time. (Click here or the tab above for an explanation of our Rating system.)

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

Star Driver 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.731
Panty & Stocking 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 3.5 3.692
Bakuman. 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.654
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.583
Kuragehime 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.545
Ore no Imouto 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.500
The World God Only Knows 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.5 4 4 4 3.417
To Aru Majutsu no Index II 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3 3.375
Shinryaku! Ika Musume 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3.5 3.375
Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 3.5 3 3.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.346
Psychic Detective Yakumo 3 3 3 3 3 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 3.5 3.269
Yosuga no Sora 2.5 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.208
Otome Youkai Zakuro 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3 3.5 3.192
MM! 2.5 3 3 3 2 2.5 3 3.5 3 3 3 3 2.875
Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls 2.5 2.5 3 3 3 2.5 3 3 3.5 3 2.5 2.5 2.833

Weekly Average 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.5 3.4 3.5 3.3 3.5 3.5 3.391

RABUJOI’s Top 15 Anime of 2010

15. B Gata H Kei – A surprisingly solid and funny series that really delved into the unclean mind of a teenaged high school girl approaching the threshold of adulthood. Her antics and attitudes toward her eventual boyfriend were the source of constant entertainment.

14. The World God Only Knows – Having a character with a ridiculously obsessive gaming habit really invigorated what would have otherwise been a placid but uninspired sequence of romances. That his vast gaming experience gave him such an edge in analyzing and conquering real-life girls’ hearts proved a winning theme.

13. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt – No shows matched the manic intensity and sheer irreverance for dignity as this latest Gainax installment, which had excellent, diverse animation and a kick-ass soundtrack.

12. So Ra No Wo To – The first anime-only “Anime no Chikara” series didn’t turn out to be the best, but it was still quite good, being perhaps the anime that most closely resembled a Miyasaki-like alternate fantasy world, richly depicted.

11. Katanagatari – Spreading out its twelve installments over tweleve months gave this series the most presence this year, and when each month ended it created great anticipation for the next. Some months were better than others, but the chemistry, music, and clever battles were more than enough to put this epic journey on the list.

10. Working!! – Sometimes you just need a simple, happy, straightforward slice-of-life without villains, monsters, or the world on the line. Working!! was just the ticket, with an eclectic cast of oddballs just working at a restaurant.

9. Star Driver – While only half over, this series was the best of the fall, and firmly established its penchant for gorgeous vistas, short-but-sweet battles, cinematic score, and intricate tangle of characters, most with dual personas.

8. Senko no Night Raid – The anime that went there: China in the 30s, to be exact. It told a story different from history, but it didn’t go all nationalistic about it; there was no black-and-white here. But there were spies with superpowers, which was awesome.

7. Durarara!! – This show did such a good job establishing the rich, energetic city of Ikebukuro, Tokyo, the real place was one of my first stops on a summer trip there. But it wasn’t just the soul of the city it captured, but the complexity of its people and their hopes and dreams. It could have ended better but few series started as good as this.

6. Angel Beats! – From episode one, this series pulled you straight into the afterlife and played by its own rules. An etherially beautiful yet confined setting, a sizable cast of lost souls, a soaring soundtrack, and the right dose of comedy earns Angel Beats! its high standing. More than anything, it was just fun.

5. House of Five Leaves – Though I was originally hung up on its creepy and altogether unattractive character designs, I wisely stuck with this ultimately gorgeous, atmospheric story of a time in Japan long past when life was tougher. It’s a well-told, well-acted, authentic story that really drew me in.

4. Occult Academy – In any series here deserved 26 episodes, it was this third and latest “Anime no Chikara” series. It did a great job developing Maya’s character, but too often went on side-tangents and had an incredibly-rushed ending. Still, the best episodes of this series can be counted among the best single episodes of the year for the sheer awesomeness they packed.

3. Shiki – Shiki started off slow and strange, but its meticulous build-up paid off in the best way. It too suffered from odd character design, but once one was acclimated to it it really complimentary to this dark and twisted horror story. Vamps and werewolfs are so overdone these days, but Shiki really contributed something unique and terrifying. Its soundtrack was also among the best of the season.

2. The Tatami Galaxy – Density. That’s what this series had in spades. Visual and verbal. For those who could keep up with the rapid-fire narration, it was an immensely satisfying and hilarious ride, with an ending that tied it all together.

1. Armed Librarians – The Book of Bantorra – This cool, confident, unrelenting anime wrapped in late January, making it just eligible for a 2010 list. January was a long time ago, but the awesomeness of Bantorra still shines clearly in my memory. No series throughout the remaining months packed so many interesting characters, stories, twists and turns into its run.

Thanks!

As the year of 2010 and the very long, dense Fall 2010 season winds to a crawl (only four episodes left to review), we here are RABUJOI would like to once again take the time to thank everyone who has visited the site and skimmed, read, and/or perused our reviews. We don’t believe in such a thing as a blog thanking one’s readers too often — without readers, RABUJOI would be no more than digitally talking to a wall. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case, especially this December, which has brought us more than double the readers as November, an increase unexpected by all.

It’s always nice to see people reading your stuff, whatever it may be, but ultimately, watching good anime is its own reward; watching great anime, more so. With 2011 comes a brace of fresh new series, some from studios and starring seiyus we know well, while others are unknown, or at least less well-versed. But like the beginning of a new sports season, everyone starts out undefeated; unblemished; perfect. In the next couple weeks we’ll be putting the new series through their paces and share with you our impressions. We’re looking forward to it. So, keep reading, if you wish, and from all of us, have a happy and a healthy New Year!

– RABUJOI STAFF

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!

Everyone here at RABUJOI wish to express our gratitude to you for taking the time to visit us. RABUJOI’s philosophy has been, and will always be to deliver timely anime reviews for your reading pleasure, and read you have: November’s traffic numbers absolutely obliterated both the blog’s previous two months of existence, as well as our most optimistic expectations.

We are cognizant that his fall has been rather unique in the sheer volume of reviewed series, and that numbers may settle down come winter, when the number of series worth reviewing will be halved. Regardless of how many people visit or read or come back for more, we cannot look at the future of RABUJOI as anything but bright. Thanks again!

-RABUJOI STAFF