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"Kanokan" only had one hook for me:it was from the studio that brought us "Toradora", perhaps the best anime ever made. So I decided to give this once a chance and hey, it's a romance. Long story short Chizuru is a girl who is obsessed with a boy named Kouta, and spends the series vying for his love and affection, fighting off any rivals and going through mostly zany plots usually revolving around her trying to get Kouta to love her, with the occasional serious battle. The only thing that kept me watching was the vain hope things would get better. Come on, the studio brought us "Toradora", it had to get good eventually right? No.
This isn't a romance in any sense of the word. It's an obsessive freak relentlessly pursuing a boy and wanting to push him into a relationship he's clearly not ready for, only caring for his feelings in so far as what will get him to fall for her. The eventual after credits ending pushes this fact even further. Her "rival" is only slightly better, if only because she's not the main character, and thus we don't have to endure her as much. So the basic premise of the show falls apart because the "love story" is the anti theisis of a proper romance, and it's the entire basis of the series. Now granted most series don't have THAT good of romance but this isn't as much of a problem because usually their focus is elsewhere. However even they at least have the basics.
Now people will argue this is funny, it's really not. I guarantee you if the genders were switched around, it Kouta was the super powered boy relentlessly stalkiing and pursuing a young girl simply cause he found her sexy, he'd be pegged as a creep. Of course as bad as this is, this is not the only fault of Kanokan.
The fan service. Now you may say "this is an ecchi, you can't fault the series for that." Well yes, I can, for three major reasons, and the first one is a problem with many ecchi in general:it's played for laughs. Titlation and humor don't really mix well. If it's a turn on, then you're not very likely to laugh cause you're too busy, well being titilated. Also since the fan service is purely TO titillate, the jokes are an excuse to present the fan service, and as such it's unlikely to be found funny. Secondly, since the purpose is to titillate, whose going to care about the story anyway?(especially one as pathetic as Kanokon's). Thirdly, it tries to cover far too much range. In Kanokan alone we have the typical panty shots and nudity, but also bondage, face sitting, latex, bunny suits, etc. As a result it's only going to appease a certain number of people very few times, and thus even on the base level it was meant to appeal it fails.
Now need I even give further mention to the characters? The two main girls are paper thin horn dogs bordering on stalker/rapist, the main boy is nothing more then an object of sex appeal to both the characters and the audience(whether it be for his shotacon looks or being a guy that two girls are lusting after), and everyone else is simply an obstacle to present to provide more fan service and thin excuses for plot. For example we get some antagonist who is meant to be a mega threat, ultimately is dispensed of whether easily and was an excuse for a 10 second scene of Chizuru bound and gagged while we look up her panties(in this reviewer's personal opinion, Chizuru should remain bound, gagged and locked in a closet off screen forever) The anime fails on every level, and why this studio needs to resort to this nonsense when it's shown capable of great storytelling with "Toradora", and what little I've seen of 'Shakuguan No Shana" also looks stellar.
When I first heard of this anime, I was given a link to the site with episodes and a series summary. I didn't watch it then because even though my friend told me it was the best anime he had seen, I didn't see a potential for greatness. It looked decent. He had mentioned it other times since then but didn't push me into it. I think it was mostly a "why not, I'm curious" attitude that got me to see this show. I watched the first four episodes, not long after I was tempted to see more, and then only stopped because I required sleep. Then I got up early, started again, stopped only because a friend wanted to see me, then finished the show. In short, I was hooked and by the end as close to crying as any anime got me.
The story is about an odd boy named Ryuji and a delinquent girl named Taiga, the palm top tiger. Their first meeting doesn't go well. Then Taiga accidentally leaves a confession letter meant for someone else in Ryuji's bag, then goes to his house to make sure he can't use it against her. Instead he calms her down and agrees to help this unruly girl get together with Ryuji's eccentric best friend Kentemura. Their first attempt fails and Ryuji is free to not help Taiga but he decides to continue helping her, and soon enough Taiga becomes an honorary member of Ryuji's family.
First off, we must mention the ungodly pacing. The amount of content packed into a single 25 minute episode without having to rush it is mind boggling. A typical Toradora episode has the content of two to three episodes of another anime yet flows naturally. This also ensures there aren't any pointless filler with every episode contributing. This is the only series I can think of where there isn't a single bad or lack luster episode. Every episode is high quality, and you'd be surprised how hard that is even for a twenty five episode show. This pacing also gives immense room for characterization and development, where the show shines most. The five main characters all get a good chunk of development, with the main two getting the most of course, and they all get it every episode in some form or other. This results in the anime becoming a home away from home, with a sense of familiarity and adventure in even their most common activities. The humor, while involving some slapstick, is mostly from the character's personalities, be it Taiga's spiteful snarkyness, or Kentmura's zannyness or Ryuji's habits.
This series also boasts amazing drama, and it does so without gimmicks that other highschool romance shows use. We don't see Taiga or Minori getting kidnapped by some biker gang with Ryuji needing to come to the rescue. We don't see attempted rapes or psychotic people trying to murder one of the love interests so they can move in like many highschool romances(and I honestly expected at least one of those to pop up in this show at some point) Now there's not necessarely anything wrong with those plot events, but it says a lot that Toradora can create much more powerful drama with events on a much smaller scale, and don't think this show can't produce some intense moments despite it's light hearted tone.
There are still some highschool romance conventions here but they're all played well. Toradora is up there as an all time favorite of mine, with only two anime I can think of that can compete with it. If you've never seen a romance anime before, I'd start with this one.
Turû tiâzu (2008)
An Emotional Roller-coaster but.....
"True Tears" is a romance anime about a boy named Shinchiro who lives with his childhood friend and crush Hiromi who was taken into his family after her parents, friends of the family died. However he can never truly approach her. At school he meets a strange girl named Noe and the two develop a strong bond. Also in the mix is Shinchiro's other childhood friend Aiko and his best friend Mickyoshi.
If not for "Toradora" I would call this the best, most powerful example of romance in anime, but hey nothing wrong with number two. There's lighter and comedic moments but this is not a comedy like many anime highschool romances, this is a psychological drama. The first episode is decent but it only builds and builds from there on with many intertwining relationships and genuine suspense as to who will end up with who. The characters develop nicely and the emotional power develops along with them, with many an episodes jerking at my eyes for tears, ironic given the show's theme of tears. The show is wrought with symbolism and alleogry beautifully interwoven with the unfolding drama. The animation is stellar and gives us some beautiful shots, voice acting is solid and the music, especially the main musical number repeating throughout the series, fantastic.
The ending is exceptionally powerful, and I can't deny it left me in a very emotional state. At the same time I feel part of the emotional impact was esoteric, in the sense that much of it came from how wrong the final choice felt. It felt like the writer was forcing a certain aspect all along, and it felt like a rotten apple being shoved down my throat, and that the ending, while powerful, was a choice that after the emotional stupor wears off will leave a sour taste in my mouth, especially upon rewatch. The blue ray only epilouge also felt forced and the final image implied an even greater tragedy that didn't do the show any favors.
So unfortunately I have to take off points for the ending but other then that it's a fantastic anime I recommend to fans of drama, romance, symbolism, storytelling. Hell you might prefer the ending they went with even, so just give it a shot.
Serial Experiments: Lain (1998)
An Anime That is Unparalleled
When people think of dark, psychologically complex, philosophical anime, they often mention "Neon Genesis Evangelion". They mention "Cowboy Beebop", maybe "Death Note", and a bit more obscure choice is "Paranoia Agent" as well as the more recent "Monster" and "Code Geass". While a few of these might have their own merits, to me they pale in comparison to "Serial Experiments Lain".
It starts off with a teenage girl committing suicide. Emails are sent by her after her death. This intrigues our main character, the introverted, socially awkward Lain, to check her email. This is the catalyst for an interest in "The Wired", the advanced version of the internet, and get's a higher grade computer. Soon enough, Lain becomes obsessed with it, changing her personality entirely.
Lain's plot is nowhere near as straight forward as I explained it. It's a surrealistic anime, and it's unlikely you'll understand everything on first viewing. The animation lends itself to the strange, disconnected atmosphere. It touches upon themes of communication, obsession, and the dangers of advancing technology without beating you over the head with it. The greatest aspect of this show however is it's main character.
Lain Iwakura spends all thirteen episodes going through a startling transformation of character. Now the change doesn't seem too bad at first. She becomes more popular, more outgoing, but soon enough Lain spirals into obsession, and from their everything goes downhill. I won't reveal what occurs to her, but it's quite a tragic turn of events throughout the remaining episode. As her personality expands, as we see more of her, the situation worsens. Lain has some of the most compelling characterization and development I've seen anywhere, remarkable when you consider the distant, non dramatic mood of the series. Ultimately over all it's themes, all it's surreal imagery, in the heart of the anime is Lain and her journey through a very personal hell.
I won't give away the ending, I will say though there is no clear feeling meant to be left. Hope or gloom? Tragedy or triumph? It's a perfect ending for what I feel is the greatest anime written to date.
Perusona: Toriniti sôru (2008)
Subpar at best, Garbage at worst
Shin Megam Tensei persona 3 was a sleeper hit RPG. It combined a compelling story with a unique blend of dating sim and dungeon crawling, it surpassed all expectations. So naturally when something becomes a success, there comes less talented people to milk it. Here comes Trinity Soul.
Taking place 10 yearsv after Persona 3, the main characters are three siblings looking to reunite for the first time in years, heading towards Ayangi city. There, police are investigating cases of Apathy Syndrome that is spreading again. Predictably enough the main characters get involved, awakening beings called Personas for their own use.
It's bewildering why they didn't just make an anime OF Persona 3, the material certainly warrants it, and I think they would've had an easier time making an adaptation rather then a sequel.
Trinity Soul has some good elements, but not enough to sustain itself. The references and use of P3 characters are more interesting then the actual show. I kind of like where they were trying to go with the story, the whole Outsider thing had potential but mostly to waste.
The main characters are annoying. Nothing endearing about them and it dosen't help when they constantly bicker. Unlikeable characters and constant bickering is a turn off. Conflict is one thing, but it get's a bit ridiculous with them. They have all the personality of a log.
When it comes down to it, the story can't hold itself up. It seems like they took a small line of thought and stretched it out, like they just barely had the concept of what they're doing. It sounds odd reading this I'm sure but there's no better way to explain it.
It also dosen't feel much like persona 3 or 4, it feels closer to the older Persona games, which would be all right but seeing as it's a sequel to persona 3, it should have more in common with that then the earlier ones. This is mostly a minor complaint but with a bad show, even minor things start to mean more.
The atmosphere is incredibly dark and sppoky, I can give it points there. If the story matched the atmosphere, we would have a classic anime.
The battles themselves are nothing to write home about, and I'm not a fan of this Persona class system. It makes the Personas more like Pokemon which I think kind of demeans them and the Persona mythos in general.
If you're a fan of the earlier Persona games, you might appreciate the similarities this show holds to them. If you're a fan of Persona 3 and 4, you'll probably be disappointed with how they followed up P3. If you're not a Persona fan, this probably won't interest you much. A good anime adaptation would transcend the boundaries between fan and non fan, but this dosen't particularly please either side.
Perusona 4 (2008)
Decent Game, Overrated Though
Persona 3 was my favorite game of all time, and surpassing it was going to be difficult, so I allowed myself no expectations and went into this one with an open mind.
It started out well enough. A nameless protaognist moves into a rural town where grisly murders occur. You and your new friends discover that the murders are linked to a world behind the TV screen, and that a channel called the Midnight channel, which on rainy nights is supposed to show you your true lover, actually shows the next victim. Can the case be solved? Fortunately, your friends have beings called Personas awakened in the TV world to fight it's shadow residents.
The game system follows Persona 3 pretty closely, dungeon crawling mixed with dating sim(called social links which with advancement can increase the power of your and your character's Persona) Social linkinbg involves going through a scenario with a character and choosing the right response when given the option, choosing the right one allowing the relationship to advance. It's mostly common sense so there's no real difficulty. However the way the gameplay is set up makes the entire game suffer.
Levelling up is a ridiculously painstakingly long process, and you need to level up more then ever with these extremely difficult boss fights. It becomes more of a chore then it needs to be. Not to mention the fact you have to choose to either social link/up your stats(stats that can affect what social links you can have and how you can interact with them) or level grind, making the game horribly inbalanced. If you want to stand a chance, you need to spend most of the time level grinding. In general it's just far less fun having to choose between the two on a daily basis rather then being able to do both in a single day. I mean, in real life if I wanted to go see a friend, study, and go home dungeon crawling on Warcraft, I could easily schedule all in. Why this game limits you is beyond me.
The voice acting and soundtrack are quite good, up to par with Persona 3 while remaining distinct enough. Not a weak performance to be found here. The graphics are nice to look at, not as highly detailed as more powerful consoles but they have their own appeal.
Now for the storyline. The story started out incredibly.The first half was pretty damn good even. However after awhile the story falls apart. I'll list some flaws, some fatal, some minor.
1.Some events just mirror Persona 3 way too closely, practically ripping it off at points. The story certainly didn't need to do that, and it comes off a bit worse for it. Minor complaint.
2.Far too many unrelated events. The occasional happy go lucky cut scene of them just having fun is fine, but they often rarely relate to the plot, and it becomes tiring as so much of the game's story ends up going nowhere for it. Big flaw.
3.In the second half the actual story really begins taking a nose dive, with the final few twists being entirely disappointing and pretty much killing the momentum of the story. They're not dramatic, they're not compelling, they're ridiculous. Fatal flaw.
4.It get's very repetitive at times, like they have to follow an exact formula for certain sequences of events. Minor Flaw.
5.The initial character development of each character was great. Problem is, that's all the character development they get in the main storyline. After that, they just stop developing and remain static. Seeing as P3 easily managed at least a few if not several arcs of development for each of their characters, there is no excuse for P4 not being able to pull off more. Fatal flaw.
Overall, it's not a terrible game, but it's nowhere near as good as it's made out to be. It could've been so much better but it appears to have been rushed. It had all the means to be fantastic but some weak writing and lack of gameplay balance hurt it. I'm sure rabid fans will rate this review not helpful to get back at me but I just do not think this should be rated higher then Persona 3.
Munemoshune no musume tachi (2008)
Minor spoilers though honestly I can't really spoil much because there's not much of a plot or storyline to speak of.
Mnemosyne is the tale of an immortal green haired woman who is an assassin and.... then some guy who tortures women and.... yeah, it really makes no sense. It dosen't mater anyway, if you're watching this show for a good story, look elsewhere. The storyline is a convolted mess, it's like they made it up as they went along. Honestly, I think that's what happened.
The characters are bland, cookie cutter trash. None of them have anything remotely resembling a personality, the main character has no interesting qualities, never develops(not like anyone does anyway) However that's all fine for the makers, because their intention was clearly not to make a great story. Their intention was to make what can best be described as gory bondage porn. Sounds like something straight out of "Hellraiser"(of course the main difference being Hellraiser is a great horror film that actually explores it's themes, while this garbage just exploits itself) Just about every episode features woman tied up and tortured, usually the main character is among them. In the first episode alone she is tied to a chair naked while another woman stabs her repeatedly with blood flowing out like crazy. Episode two features some random girl tied, gagged and blindfolded to a chair while swords are stuck into her. I normally give a show, any show, five episodes. This was only six so hey, why not stick it out until the ending, but man, sitting through this is worse torture then anything shown on screen in this. The worst part is they try to pass off what they're doing as some kind of dark storytelling rather then exploitation. A great example would be the fourth episode where a bunch of girls are tortured while moaning "kill me more". You see, because they want to be killed more, it's different, so, it's good writing. Never mind it's never referenced or brought back to again.
When you get halfway through a series and not only the characters but even the plot has had no signifigant development, this is a very, very bad sign. Don't expect an ending that will make everything worth it either, the ending is just, whatever.
If this were advertised as a hentai or something I would've avoided it. It was advertised as a straight up anime however which I think is misleading. Sure, there's no actual sex, but are you going to try and tell me this is any different then a hentai otherwise? Actually scratch that, even hentai fans wouldn't like this. This series is so asinine and convoluted that it can not be enjoyed on any level. It takes itself WAY too seriously to be enjoyed as a "so bad it's good" campfest, and too crap to be taken seriously by anyone else. Seriously, just watch a hentai, any other hentai, and I can guarantee it will be better then this, and you will feel better for watching it then after watching this crap.
Bakugan Battle Brawlers (2007)
Five Plus Reasons Bakuguan Needs to Die
I could write an entire novel on how utterly atrocious Bakuguan is, but instead I'll confine it down to the big ones.
5.The animation. The reused frames are much more noticeable then other anime. Even without it the animation is sloppy and cheap. The character designs are putrid.
4.The voice acting. Either version, they both suck. Trite, phone in performances in an epic battle of who can make the most clichéd voice imaginable.
3.The plot. Top player and friends join together to stop some evil, something about a dimension, thinly layered crap is what it boils down to. No attempt to distinguish itself, no creativity employed at all.
2.Humor. It makes "Epic Movie" look like "Monty Python" in comparison. Stop trying to be funny, you just make me cringe. Puns and cowardly monsters don't make funny without somekind of effort. At least try.
1.Characters. Can you get any more trite then this? There is no development, at all. The characters are more thin then the paper they draw on. They're all one note characters, defined by a single trait and never expanding upon it.
Now for the grand daddy of all reasons: The game makes no sense at all. The rules are non existent. The outcomes and such are almost entirely random. Since the series is based entirely around this game, that will kill it dead. I mean BeyBlade was bad, but you could at least be able to tell when someone was on the winning or losing side rather easily.
Better left to rot.
Yûgiô: 5D's (2008)
Yugioh Spin Off Done Right
They tried many times after the original Yugioh. Yugioh R was like a bad fanfiction filled with jaw droppingly asinine duels, flat villains and a plot more shallow then a kiddie pool. Yugioh GX had an interesting premise with the Duel Academy but became an absurd exercise in tedium, introducing somewhat interesting characters that are fed to it's main character and eventually either pushed into the background or disappearing entirely. So I approached 5D with some skepticism and....
The story starts in a place called Satellite, a run down area for the impoverished, runaways, etc. Among them is Yusei Fudo, who's D-Wheel(a motorbike used for Speed Duels) and Star Dust Dragon card have been stolen by former friend Jack Atlus, who is now in Neo Domino as the "king" of duelists. Yusei plans to escape Satellite to confront Jack for his Dragon back. Yusei confronts Jack for a duel. It's a strong back and forth encounter, that ends when special dragon birthmarks on their body activates. Yusei and Jack are what are known as "Signers", signified by those birthmarks. What makes things more complicated is Rex Godwin, head of Security Maintenence Bureau in Domminno and the man who supports Jack, is the one after the Signers and the five dragon cards they posses.
What separates this from GX from the get go is the fact that 5D is not one hundred percent reliant on the cards. Sure, the card duels are as pivotal as ever, however unlike GX, the plot of 5D could easily be done with the cards removed and not have too many significance changes. It's clear a lot more thought went into the plot as not only does it begin from the get go, but there has yet to be a single filler episode.
The animation is what you would expect of a Yugioh series, perhaps a little smoother even. The voice acting is good, with some voices like Aki's being downright chilling at times. The soundtrack isn't outstanding, not even a touch on the soundtrack of the original Yugioh series(Japanese version) which is among the best anime soundtracks I've heard(and I don't even consider the original yugioh a top ten anime by any stretch) Now let's get to the characters. Drifting away from the hyper and at times clueless Judai, they've gone back to a more serious protagonist in Yusei.Almost always solemn(even more so then Yami) Yusei continues the Yugioh tradition of the main character being less interesting then the supporting cast. While he's easy to get behind, there's not a whole lot to him. The supporting cast is strong with characters that stand out. The characters have their own, distinct personalities and except for the old man, I find none of them annoying. There's also been a lot more thought put into the backstories of some of these characters i.e they have one(yep, another shot at GX-I can't help it, it's too easy) Pot shots aside, I actually enjoyed the backstories of some of these characters, as they were pretty poignant for a Yugioh series(especially Aki) Now duel wise, the system's been tweaked. There are two types of duels, the regular duels we're used to, and Riding Duels, the duels on motorbikes. The difference is, besides that they're riding on speed bikes, is that there are a new set of rules. The field spell Speed World is activated automaticaly at the beginning of each duel. This makes it so only cards with SP in front of them can be used. There are also speed counters, which each player get's an extra of every turn. For every 1000 lifepoints a player loses(remainders are not counted) a speed counter is lost. Spell cards require a certain number of speed counters, and the speed counters also detirmine the speed of the bike. It's actually pretty interesting. A new feature that's been added to both duels is synchro summon. Basically, if you get what's called a tuner monster out with another monster and their combined levels equal that of the monster you want to synchro summon, you can sacrifice them to summon the monster. Since synchro summon is a special summon, that means you can summon the required sacrifice and the syncro summon in one turn.
At merely twenty two episodes currently, things could go bad but I'm optimistic right now. I can't wait to see more as the plot is intriguing and not so easy to predict. I will even go as far to say this is the best of the Yugioh series, even more then the original.
I would also like to note, avoid the dub like the plague. 4kids has not learned their lesson, stick with the subs.
Persona 3 FES (2007)
A Triumph and a Disappointment
In order to save room, I won't go over the gameplay elements or storyline of the original Persona. You can go to the Persona IMDb page and see my review for that if you need to know.
Persona 3 FES is divided into two parts:The Journey, and the Answer.
The Journey is a sort of director's cut of the original. The entire original game is in there, with bonuses. These include new activities, new social links, more events, more personas, more requests, and a new fusion system that allows you to use your personas to create new weapons. The main storyline and such is exactly the same as the original, however this ne versio is worth giving a play not only for the new features, but c' mon, it's Persona 3, if any game is worth a replay it's that one.
As you may have guessed from that tidbit, The Journey was the Triumph. Now we get to the disappointment.
Warning:IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THE ORIGINAL, THE ENDING WILL BE SPOILED IN THE FOLLOWING SECTION. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
THe second half is called "The Answer". This is an all new 30+ hour game that wraps everything up. The story takes place some time after the original. SEES is disbanding, Mitsuru and Akihiko preparing to leave while the others are moving to a new dorm. Eveyrone is still bummed about the death of the main character from the original game, especially Aegis. However they get litl time to mourn as they find themselves in a ne dilemma. They have been trapped in the dorm, and time is stuck on March 31st. This happens just after they meet Aegis's sister Metis, who initially attacks them. She leads them to a dungeon called the Abyss of time, which they must go through to find a way out.
The storyline is awesome. We get more glimpses into the past of the characters, and especially towards the end becomes extremely emotional and intense, with some killer twists. The ending is touching and leaves you sad knowing the Persona 3 story is comeplete.
However, I can not give the same praise to the gameplay. Losing the social links, school days and all the other tidbits that made the original so much fun really hurt the game. The only thing to do is fuse Personas, buy stuff, and dungeon crawl. Oh boy is the dungeon crawling hard! There is no eays mode, so once your character dies in a battle, it's game over and you have to start from where you last saved. The enemies are also wicked strong right from the beginning. Just like the original, there are floor bosses however while the original had a check point on the floor where you could go back to ground level if you were weary and be able to instantly go back to that floor whenever you wanted, "The Answer" dosen't have that. Which means if you want to face the bosses at full strength, you're going to have to dodge shadows for at least 6 floors. There are 7 doors, each with about two more doors before you get to the end, where a cut scene occurs.
The gameplay is ABSOLUTELY PUTRID! It is simply awful, the most tedious kind of game I've played in a long time. The ONLY thing keeping me in the game was the story line. The soundtrack was changed, with mixed results. The final boss theme was no touch on the theme for the Nyx fight. However none of this can make up for such frustrating gameplay. You'll want to chuck your controller at the wall, you may just want to read a strategy guide to find the order of the cut scenes and watch them on YouTube because The Answer is just not worth playing at all.
****NO MORE SPOILERS**** You can pick it up for the expanded version of the original, but you do no want to play "The Answer", just watch it on YouTube. You will save yourself a lot of grief by doing so.