In the name of efficiency, I thought I might just do a roundup of anime that I’ve recently watched and my reactions thereof towards them. I know, I seem to be talking about anime a lot lately. I’ll have to write more about communism or something, otherwise this will turn into just another anime blog, though perhaps that ship has already sailed.
Stuff I liked:
- Guin Saga is basically Conan the Barbarian without the misogyny or the gratuitous sex, which isn’t exactly a criticism. The setting is essentially a fantasy version of the Silk Road. A leopard-headed warrior with amnesia becomes the protector of two royal children on the run from their kingdom’s conquerors. This series shows that the author has extensively studied the dynastic politics of medieval Europe and all the backstabbing feels like the Byzantine Empire with magic thrown in. It’s based on a series of novels, and the author clearly knows quite a bit about European-style dynastic politics (you know, marriage alliances and whatnot).
- Furthermore, politics in anime tends to be weirdly bloodless, by which I mean the causes and motives seem too insubstantial to deserve all the violence the characters are enacting. Not so for this series, the backstabbing and struggle for power feels more real. I think the opening gives you a good idea of what the series feels like. I like how you can’t tell who the bad guys are, although there aren’t really evil people in the series per se — it’s all just politics and who’s on what side. Don’t ask me why the titles are backwards in the video, though.
- Now, as for The Twelve Kingdoms, it’s basically The Chronicles of Narnia mixed with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: a Japanese schoolgirl ends up in some weird kung fu fantasy version of China. It’s based on a series of novels as well, I think half of which have been translated into English. The fan trailer below does a fairly good job of showing the epic scope of the series, though the music is from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Granted, the main character is kind of whiny and homesick for the first three episodes, which is probably realistic for a proper Japanese schoolgirl from the late 80s who’s been dropped into fairyland, but it can get annoying. What’s amusing is that one of her companions is a genre-savvy fantasy fan who insists that she’s the Chosen One when all signs clearly point to the protagonist. Never fear, it doesn’t get metafictional and no 4th wall breaking occurs, it’s there so that fantasy girl’s unwarranted eagerness can serve as a foil to the heroine’s reluctance.
- Shiki is basically Salem’s Lot set in a Japanese village, with a clear homage to Stephen King in one scene (the bedroom window scene if you were wondering). The series again is based on a novel and it’s also about vampires overrunning a small town. Unlike Salem’s Lot the series also shows things from the vampires’ perspective. King never showed his vampires hiding in terror from bloodthirsty lynch mobs or begging for their lives from their former neighbours as they’re dragged into the sunlight. There’s one particular scene where a vampiric little girl is being chased by a burly bearded vampire hunter shouting for her death which is just uncomfortable to watch. Although let me just say that the character designs are rather, err, unique in aesthetic. But the story is aces. And the book series was written by the same author of The Twelve Kingdoms.
- Black Lagoon is a series about a smuggling crew trying to keep their company afloat in the South China Sea. Which makes it sound like Firefly on a boat but there are a lot more violent sociopaths in this show. It’s violent and exciting and cool, but it makes no excuses for the sort of people who’d actually live in the world of its setting.
Stuff that fell flat for me:
- Legend of the Legendary Heroes. Jesus, why did I even try? Google it for yourself if you must, but don’t make me think about it again.
- Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto. It’s a show for history nerds, but the type of history nerds who obsess about names and dates. Watching it was like this: “On this day this historical figure did this thing in this place, but little did he know that so and so was actually in the same city just two days earlier doing the exact opposite thing. As for this other historical figure, he–” and at that point I stopped watching. I didn’t like having to do homework to watch a TV show. The music’s pretty good, though.
- Noein. The first episode is a collection of insipid clichés about an affectless male protagonist who listlessly enacts grotesque violence while cocooned inside a giant war machine and is inexplicably romantically intertwined with a girl too afraid to admit to her feelings for him. If you look at the edges closely, you’ll see the parts where the cookie cutter’s edge is starting to dull.