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FLCL (2000–2001)
Just watch it... one of the all-time best
7 January 2008
I'm on my third or fourth time through this series, and it just keeps getting better. Firstly, because the complete insanity of what's happening in front of you will keep your mind from fully grasping things the first time through. And secondly, because the story works on a couple different levels.

Plot-wise, FLCL/Fooley Cooley/Furi-Kuri ostensibly concerns Naoto, a kid who lives in a "boring" town with a giant iron-shaped factory, who's constantly (half-heartedly) dodging the advances of his traveling older brother's messed-up girlfriend, and who suddenly is hit by a Vespa ridden by a girl carrying a Rickenbacker bass (with some sort of chainsaw motor) who claims to be from outer space. Got it? But really, the giant robots, alien battles, and weird eyebrows that ensue are a thin veil for a story that's really about puberty and what it means to grow up. That facet of the story never lays itself out completely, it's more implied — like the meaning of a song. But it is the overall most important factor here, and it makes the re-watch value high. To top it off, Gainax has put yet another layer of story on top that spoofs their own brilliant previous work such as Evangelion. For otakus and trivia buffs, there is even a gratuitous reference to Gainax's original "Daikon" shorts.

And that's only half of it: Gainax took their reputation as a studio with an eye for quality and ran with it. Great, unique character design and smooth animation aside, there's so much going on here visually that they've done just because they CAN, it's unbelievable. The bar has yet to be raised any higher than this show, and it's over seven years old now. As a bonus that can rarely be asked for in anime, the dub is a joy to hear. Wordplay is huge in the dialog, and the translation and voice acting do the script justice and then some.

I hate to rate anything by numbers, but I'm giving a 9 because I can make a claim here without being hyperbolic: Every last second of FLCL will blow your mind. It's a feast for the eyes and the brain — or rather, it's more like dessert for the eyes and brain. Enjoy it, it's just incredible.
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Air (2005)
Bring a Hanky
2 January 2008
At times, Air felt dangerously close to "emotional pornography," but I think I'm OK with that because it rarely was cloying or saccharine. Even the basic concept of the story itself seems designed to choke you up. While some series ply you with ultra-violence, giant robots, unrequited love, or fan service, Air's stock in trade is a weepy assault of inevitable sadness on its unsuspecting victim-viewers.

That said, when inevitability strikes, it's about as sad as they come. The series is too short to cause you to be completely invested in the characters the "natural" way (although it's thankfully lacking in the kind of filler episodes you normally see in a run of 24), but the characters are well-written, likable, and three-dimensional enough to make up for it.

What I liked the most about the story was how open it was to interpretation. Depending on who you are, what your view on the supernatural elements might be (don't want to give too much away here), that will determine what the story actually means to you. But the central themes, largely about the nature of families, will resonate no matter what your opinion of the plot.

Technically, the show is top notch, no complaints. The art style is endearing, though you may find it overly "cute" at first, and the animation is smooth. The colors and style make Air dreamlike at times, which is appropriate. I've watched it dubbed and subtitled, and this may be heresy to say but I find ADV's dub to be very well done. Air is very nice to look at, and having to keep reading subtitles was distracting to me. Plus, this is all about character and there's something far easier about relating to characters speaking your language.

If you're ready to get a little choked up, this might be a good choice for you. There is no action, no real romantic love story, and little in the way of comic relief after the first few episodes. But there's plenty of good character-driven, emotionally striking story.
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Mezzo DSA (2003– )
Not the greatest, but definitely entertaining
28 December 2007
This was based on the movie Mezzo Forte, and a couple episodes contain flashback scenes in the form of clips from that. The story centers around an "A-Team" style group of misfit mercenaries led by an ex-cop who goes by "Pops" and drives a pink VW, rounded out by the obligatory cute-girl-bad-ass and funny-haired engineer-nerd.

In the first couple episodes, the animation is great and the action is top-notch, but that goes way downhill after. The story stays good, but the action becomes nothing more than potential-- I can't help think how much cooler the show would have been with the quality of animation from the first episode.

Characters aren't bad, dialog is generally one of the better parts and is pretty well dubbed. The tone is humorous and irreverent, nothing dark about this. Pops especially gets great lines in the form of goofy metaphors ("A bodyguard should be close and intent like tighty whities... she relaxed and now there's nothing covering my ass!"). The story progresses and deepens toward the end, and while it's not incredibly deep, it's not insulting to your intelligence either.

If you like action with a heavy dose of humor, and you dig the "motley bunch of misfit outlaws" style of anime characters, this should be entertaining enough for you.
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Very funny, could have been funnier
23 August 2005
I think the buildup to my seeing this movie would have made any judgment unfair. I actually went in expecting to pee myself and came out with a few larger-than-normal laughs and a little embarrassment for some of the comics who just came off poorly. The premise is simple, but not quite simple enough: simply having a bunch of comedians telling the joke would have made a shorter movie and probably a more entertaining one as well. It's hard to get anything as shallow as the aristocrats joke to hold up after all the analysis put to it by Provenza and Jilette and their cavalcade of writers, comedians, and journalists.

That said, when some of the comedians do tell the joke, it kills. George Carlin is the one of the most-heard in the movie and the first to tell the joke, and it's a good setup. His style is inimitable. Everyone has their own flourish or angle: Drew Carey uses a goofy hand gesture, a couple people tell it backwards, Sarah Silverman gets disturbing, Gilbert Gottfried (supposedly the film's inspiration for his telling at the Friar's Club roast of Hugh Hefner) blasts you assaultively, and of course Bob Saget plays off of his famous dichotomy of dirty comedian with a family-oriented TV past, in what might be the most riotous part. I mean, really funny.

Those aren't the only good parts, some should be left as surprises you don't see coming: Kevin Pollack's twist, for instance. Some of these comedians really just aren't funny, and many obviously don't belong telling this joke because they can't seem to cut loose enough to do it. Not everyone can be as comfortable with people's "danger zones" as Carlin or Trey Parker, so veterans like Howie Mandel and even Emo Phillips come off as little kids playing a bigger boys' game. I felt embarrassed for some of the lack of reaction from both the guys behind the camera and the people in front of the screen at the theater.

Overall, the parts that are great are worth the ticket. I suppose it balances out, and in the nature of the film, a hit-and-miss effect should probably be expected. But why go see a movie with consistently decent laughs when you can see one that'll bomb on a few and absolutely slay you with many more, like the Aristocrats.
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