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RDG: Red Data Girl (2013– )
8/10
A Shinto tale that might need researching
31 August 2015
It seems most people seem to have a problem comprehending this anime... admittedly this may be due to there being a discrepancy between the novels/manga and the anime (manga ended in 2014, anime in 2013, although the novel came out in 2012)... and, I suspect, it contains more than the anime reveals. Still, every individual episode on its own seemed to make sense, especially if one makes sense of the abstruse language characters often use.

It is a Shinto tale, so some researching could be useful at times (there are quite a lot of references, although not knowing the legends behind them doesn't necessarily preclude enjoyment of the anime) - it's really multi-faceted, though... even if it mythologically makes little sense, one can simply view it as a coming-of-age tale, as ultimately that is how it turns out... it is by no means conventional, and while some viewers might focus too much on the relationships of the characters to the exclusion of the surrounding narrative, in this instance their interactions are a crucial part of the storyline, as there was, throughout the series, a certain political struggle within the school... that was rushed, but the twelve episodes did in the end surely develop the main character.

The ideas presented, though, I think are the interesting aspect of the story here... one might be confused by them, but from an imaginative point-of-view, and with what limited explanations there are in the twelve episodes (and there are, even if viewers drop the anime after becoming very confused indeed) - concepts from having different ('spiritual') 'phases', to dancing to specifically access the subconscious, as only once suggested by a character, to summoning a spirit (unconsciously) due to loneliness - all understandable ideas (but, as this isn't a documentary they don't go on very long about them, which is why a curt or oblique explanation may be frustratingly confusing).

Ultimately, I don't think it was at all not done well... only twelve episodes, another season certainly useful, but the twelve existent episodes felt to me like they could be self-contained, although more of it would be nice...
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Horizon (I) (1964– )
8/10
Varies by subject
19 July 2015
Horizon is a prism... it is mostly scientific, retaining much of its earliest episodes in its latter ones (although not quite the details, especially when it concerns physics).

Its episodes concerning astronomy, in particular, are usually awe-inspiring, and although Horizon attempts to add in musical details that add to the whole picture (thus sensationalizing it, effectively) it does mostly succeed in conveying both the artistic aspect of what science could achieve and the actual details themselves, although when tackling topics that are more philosophical, like infinity, sensationalism may take over with not as many details.

Horizon also tries to explain sociological issues that verge on the scientific, like the placebo effect and autism; with the former it does succeed (in my opinion) in conveying both the hard science and psychology behind it, despite involving some random people... whereas, with autism, it fails scientifically, and seems to involve random people for no apparent reason.

Generally, as long as Horizon concentrates on the science it succeeds, but when it ends up speculating on anecdotes it doesn't so well (even with the earlier episodes, individual scientists were interviewed but they didn't necessarily talk about themselves).

Science should be at the centre of any documentaries that attempt to tackle such questions (autism clearly involves neurotransmitters e.g. and yet none were mentioned). Anecdotes should be used only in rare, specific cases like Henry Molaison's.

Overall, though, Horizon does seem to present science well...
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Wolf's Rain (2003–2004)
10/10
Mythology blended with mysticism
22 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It does do everything it intended (*spoilers* throughout - this is more of an analysis of the aftermath)... it uses grey colours, but it's about a dystopia... it's about bleakness... there's ice caps all over, it's the end of the world. It's a kill-or-be-killed world... if there were any cheerful characters it would seem odd (this makes it more poignant, I think). I'd say that makes it an appropriate vehicle for both the visuals and characterizations.

For anyone who thinks Kiba's expressions are bland, or binary... what would one expect, if he was the sole survivor of his clan? The only white wolf... should he be cheery? All he could do is obsess about the flower, as that was his idea of peace. Tsume also knew the realities of Freeze City... he spouted some angry lines, but it was the most heartfelt apology to Toboe in the end. He was genuine and poetical when he felt like it... Hige was a traitor, so he had to deflect attention from that through some humour... and Toboe was practically the heart of the group... not very useful practically, but when he nursed the hunter back to life, that was touching, I thought... Quent, besides his coming to terms with wolves and that wonderful moment when he realized who Blue the human was, also served as the 'dirty human', in Darcia's mind (and sure, Darcia was mad, but he was bent on accessing this pinnacle of evolution, so much that he receded to being a wolf... he had just lost his beloved that he hoped to revive, his sole reason for going to Paradise... such irony). Also, the anime's ending is depressing, but that is a moot point, because the story necessitated it, otherwise the 'seed' of the new world couldn't have been planted... creation through destruction.

For those who think Cheza had barely any role, or was solely submissive... she was the mythical maiden of flowery beauty, or some such... she was advanced technology, but she still served a pivotal role in the series. She was dragged around only because each Noble thought they could open Paradise to themselves... it might be surreal, but I felt like I could follow the mythical undercurrent well... it wasn't even as oblique as Evangelion, I thought.

The characters' motivation were based on instincts... that's supposedly what most canines use... and sure enough, it doesn't make much logical sense to chase a technological flower, but that's how they were 'programmed' (perhaps not in the same sense as Cheza).

Then there are the scientist and her detective ex who still dearly loves her... it was such an ascent of hope, that led to such a sharp decline... the ending seemed merely preordained (a reference to its mystical side, which allows the watcher to understand that it's a classical end-of-the-world scenario... which the Indians understood as well... and, though that intermission may have seemed random, it may be based on real-life mythology which centres around nature).

Every episode had a mixture of myth, mysticism, conflicts, political intrigue, artistic expression, along with other themes... I've noticed how much effort the creators put into it... not to mention Yoko Kanno's beautifully matching music.
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Mushishi: Zoku-Sho (2014– )
10/10
Ethereal beyond imagination, a simple metaphor of change, or simply being...
14 June 2015
The meaning of life may be within the medley of artistic expressions in a mushi... it is both about that which isn't and that which lives... art and nothingness... Zoku Shou has some themes that are possibly even more transcendental than the previous season... love, loneliness, existence... the music, the colour, all complement to create a canvas of beauty...

Someone recently thought it might be too slow... but, the deliberate pace is wholly intended... if it was any faster it would not create the same atmosphere, a similar mental state, the wholeness that it results in... do note that the pace is set within the music too.

Essentially, it is narrative... it is the art of storytelling... the wonder of a legend, but combined with all else - and darkness - it creates this state which it intended to convey.

Then there is pathos too... contained within a constant mystery of these creatures, mushi, some would think hallucinations... their interaction with what could be, what is possible within a certain logic.

It is mostly tragic, but within it what could be glimpsed as an alluring beauty... it is nature as it changes, as it moves.

The only narrative left now, Mushishi Zoku Shou: Suzu no Shizuku, I yearn for...
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Natsume yûjinchô (2008– )
10/10
Yin & yang
25 May 2015
I've started Mushishi right after finishing Natsume yûjinchô due to all the similarities and I notice that the latter is shoujo, the former seinen... they're distinct, yet parallel... while Natsume seeks out to grow and develop himself its 'masculine' counterpart seems to just serve as a caretaker, already wise...

Natsume is about feelings, essentially... he explores what might be, what was, what couldn't be... every episode can end in tragedy, but thanks to a Deus ex machina in the form of a chubby cat... who is really this most ferocious wolf, things are reconciled. Not realistic, but at least Natsume himself is indeed vulnerable, especially when alone... and loneliness seems to be a predominant subject in the series.

At times it can be sweet, others almost transcendental... visceral essentially, but also attempts to think things through; Natsume doesn't often act irrationally, although he seems to be perpetually optimistic.

This series, along with the aforementioned, may truly be the yin and yang of yōkai anime... and while the depths of the psyche can be perceived in both, Mushishi is generally darker... Natsume, being calmer, is not necessarily naïvely optimistic like, say, Aria can be... and generally has an episodic direction, and while there isn't much that is over-arching, there is ample time where all the ayakashi just decide to hang out...
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Human Universe (2014– )
7/10
Just one problem...
19 November 2014
So, overall it's artistically done and contains a modicum of information about the subjects, but combined with the imagery and music it does convey what it intended, except... well, with regards to the title... how is it a human universe? First we attribute the universe to 'god' and now to 'humans'? I mean, this isn't just reserved for the title, of course...

It's appropriately named that as the focus is on humanity, and particularly its achievements in science, but how could a species be so purely aspirational? The ironic thing is that if an alien species did end up watching Human Universe... well, they'd think every human must have surely been a scientist... Brian does actually mention some political problems in the world, but only very fleetingly. That, of course, is irrelevant in documentaries about science (except when it comes to lack of NASA funding etc... which is one disheartening thing he seemed to conveniently not discuss), but the thing is that his focus was very much about the potential of humanity... and with half of the world currently in conflict, thousands of daily murders, most governments essentially corrupt... I don't suppose if those were discussed for five hours humanity would seem so inspiring anymore.

This, of course, is ultimately due to his optimism... and while science in isolation is a source of almost infinite inspiration, I really don't think most people are scientists, or the world would focus on at least funding it (one would assume)...

Also, one thing I personally didn't like is a scene with a rodeo in it... while it was to illustrate precision and differences in variables etc. I really don't think that what is plainly animal abuse is at all inspirational in people. Then again, there could have been many other examples that could have been used that might have been slightly more relevant too... not that I don't think that most of his other scientific examples were great... the depressurized chamber was spectacular as it allowed the feathers and ball go at the same speed, without even slightly moving...

Ultimately, though, why focus so much on how absolutely unique humans are? Science itself is inspirational, and focusing on it (not on pride) could actually reduce nationalism, which is arguably (along with religion), the cause of all conflicts.

The only conflict should be of protons in a collider... if only.
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7/10
A quite artistic, if mundane account of several lives.
6 November 2012
This is a relatively short film (Ken Russell's first), but it is just the right length for the audience to get to know the inhabitants of the house that is seen being destroyed both at the beginning and end.

The housekeeper introduces everyone in her own idiosyncratic way, and soon after (at least as soon as they wake up) the tenants recount their livelihoods - as brief as it may be we are still able to relate to their eclectic individualities, and thereafter we are bound to end up with a feeling of sad resignation as the house is pulled down, and along with it the characters soon disappearing.

It is about lives that may, and have existed - the little intricacies, and introspection that so often is lost to history. How people, both at the beginning and end of their lives, see the world through a little corner somewhere in London.
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