Friday, May 21, 2010

Review | Anime | Kino's Journey

KINO'S JOURNEY : The simple but beautiful story of a young traveler named
Kino, journeying to different countries with her talking motorrad friend,

A simple plot, a simple story, and no particular climax...just the story of a traveler. But yet, a fine example of the fact that a fantastic storyline and a dramatic climax are not always what make a beautiful anime. Kino's Journey may, in fact, be one of the finest animes I've ever seen.

The ratings for this anime were through the roof, and for such an ordinary and seemingly uncreative story. Nothing on the surface is as it seems for this anime, however. Kino stays in each country for three days, no more, no less. Hermes, Kino's talking motorrad companion, notes that Kino has never stayed more than 3 days in a country. Kino's travels take her not just to countries, but to countries with amazing traditions and histories.

The country that opens the series is a country run entirely by robots, with no apparent human life. On top of that, inexpensive prices on everything! Kino enjoys a luxury hotel suite and a grand meal just within her budget, and money to spare. When Kino finally happens upon human life on the outskirts of the country, she learns that the humans of the country volunteered for an experiment that would enable them to read each other's minds. Their initial plan was to eliminate cruelty amongst them; "People harm others because they do not understand the others' pain." By hearing each other's thoughts, there would be no secrets, and no misunderstanding. However, the negatives vastly outweighed the positives. Their ability to read minds enabled them to read judgment and negative thoughts towards others, which enduced havoc in the country. This ultimately drove them to the outskirts, where they live in great distance from each other, so to keep from further reading minds.

This is only one of the many countries Kino will travel to, each sporting an amazing plot twist that simply makes you go, "Wow." The award for the most incredible twist goes ultimately to the country that closes the series; Kino travels to a country rumored to be very inhospitable towards travelers. So why is Kino being treated so kindly? This is for you to uncover once you get to it. I was left breathless by the time the credits began to roll.

I'd say to investigate for yourself before showing this to a child. There is violence throughout. Kino finds three starving men in the snow, and she shoots three rabbits to cook for them (we see her shoot the first two, which is startling and somewhat bloody.) As a person who values life, she clearly shows remorse for having to kill these rabbits. There is a war scene where men, women, and children are fleeing from soldiers and are seen being killed (it is not graphic as their actual deaths are not shown, but can be disturbing to some.) Kino kills several characters in self-defense throughout the series.

Kino's Journey is for everyone. This is from the mouth of a fantasy fan, who wants anime as far from reality as you can possibly swing it. Its closing song, "Beautiful World", sung by Kino's seiyuu herself, blends wordly sounds to create a perfect song to match its anime. This anime is simply beautiful, and I deeply encourage any who pass through to humbly obey the ratings and tune in.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Review | Manga | Uzumaki

UZUMAKI : High school student Kirie lives in the small town of Kurozu-cho, which has become strange lately. Kirie's boyfriend, Shuichi, notices that the strange occurrences throughout town have all centered around spirals. At first, the spirals appear in little ways, such as manifesting in the form of seashells, plants and small whirlpools in the water. But when they begin to show themselves in much more disturbing ways, from the unhealthy spiral obsession of Shuichi's father to growing spiral marks on the bodies of the citizens, Shuichi and Kirie begin to suspect there is much more at work in the town - and it may be too late to escape it.

You can list me in the book of avid horror fanatics any day of the week, so further investigating of the story of Uzumaki and its all-around high ratings made me jump right on it. I have to say, it's been a while since I've had the privilege to read such a perfectly disturbing and haunting story.

Several months later, I discovered that a good friend of mine had picked up the story as well, and unless you plop down your collection of yaoi manga in front of him, he's not an easy man to disturb. Now that Uzumaki has entered his life, however, all you need is a spiral if you want him curled upon the ground in terror.

A horrible mystery, a small's how most horror tales begin. Kirie Goshima's childhood friend Shuichi has been acting strangely, and insists to Kirie that spirals are overtaking the town. Of course, Shuichi is met with the usual, "How can that be possible?" response of disbelief, but Kirie's eye slowly begin to open to Shuichi's suspicions, as she herself begins to notice strange happenings all revolving - quite literally - around spirals. Our first prime example is Mr. Saito, Shuichi's father, who has developed an unhealthy obsession with spirals. He will do anything, even steal, in order to collect every spiral possible to add to his ever-growing collection; he will even use his chopsticks to create whirlpools in his soup.

So, imagine his reaction when the missus throws his precious collection in the trash! At first, you can't think of anything else that you could possibly turn the page to other than a violent crime scene. However, he eventually calms himself for the most parts, and expresses to his terrified wife and son that material spirals are not needed to enjoy the uzumaki to its fullest, because after all, you can make your own.

And he certainly does, when his eyeballs begin to rotate in entirely different directions. Sounds like you've got a spiral problem in your town, Mr. Shuichi.

Creator Junji Ito has got a great plot going for him here - he's about to send a menacing army of spirals to swallow an entire town. He does just that, and his readers watch helplessly as the inhabitants of Kurozu-cho are slowly devoured by the unexplainable events that happen around town: The beam of an abandoned lighthouse suddenly activates, the straightest of hair suddenly becomes extremely curly...and why ever does Kirie's classmate have a large spiral growing on his back?

Unless your child is Chucky, this is probably not the book for story time. Your friendly neighborhood spirals are not above spilling some guts to get themselves in the spotlight, and they do enough of it. I know college students that could read nothing past chapter 3.

If you're a horror fan looking to find a run for your brain's money, look no further than Uzumaki. You'll swear that ceiling fan is watching you, you won't want to touch that curling iron for some time...and as if you didn't hate mosquitoes enough before, that summer camping trip may be as good as canceled.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Preview | Movie | Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Chikai

Sequel to the Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni live action film, "Chikai" continues the story of the mysterious murder cases in a brand new cycle of time as new mysteries begin to unfold about the small town of Hinamizawa, the terrifying god Oyashiro-sama, and the horrors that befall Keiichi and his friends.

We are in the process of watching this film for the first time; the subbers are half-way through subbing the film and we have only been able to watch the first half, and will hopefully be able to complete the final chapters shortly. Our expectations are high; we like what we see so far!

Preview :

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Preview | Anime | Ookami Kakushi

16-year-old Hiroshi Kuzumi moves to the peaceful village of Jogamachi, separated by from the "old" Jogamachi by a river. He adapts comfortably and soon befriends many of his classmates, who take a quick liking to him, with the exception of class president Nemuru Kushinada, who warns Hiroshi to stay away from old Jogamachi.

This anime is nearing its completion, set for March 25th 2010, and has been compared by many to the popular slasher horror Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni. Already boasting theme songs by the talented and renowned FictionJunction, this anime has fired up our curiosity, and we look forward to reviewing it as soon as possible!

Preview :

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review | Anime | Toradora!

TORADORA! : As a new school year rolls around, Ryuuji Takasu is faced once
again with the unfitting title of the school "delinquent" because of his
fearsome facial appearance. In class with him is his best friend Yasaku
Kitamura, and Ryuuji's secret crush, Minori Kushieda. Also in their class is
Minori's best friend Taiga Aisaka, who holds the school label of "The Palm-Top
Tiger" because of her terrifyingly fierce and stern demeanor despite her small
physicality. It just so happens that Taiga has a secret crush on Yasaku. Ryuuji
and Taiga begin seeing each other as a valuable ticket to their own respective
crushes, and agree to support one another in their pursuit of their love.

I had previously done quite a bit of research into this anime (and watched quite a few AMVs) and was expecting no more from Toradora! than just another shojo anime stuffed tightly with fanservice, ecchi, and just a hint of fanservice. I'm pleased to say I actually stand quite corrected. I'm happy to acknowledge that there is actually not as much of such content in this anime as there are in many shojo animes I've seen.

Toradora! is ranked #61 on's highest rated animes of all their thousands of listings, superceded by the Miyazaki classic My Neighbor Totoro, which stands at #60. Fan fiction and fanart suggest that this anime is borderline hentai (though, nowadays, you can't really hold any credibility to those), but this anime is not even ecchi. The only ecchi you're likely to encounter is from busty supermodel Ami Kawashima; you can thank her for any such reputation you take away from Toradora!

Toradora opens with the life of Ryuuji Takasu; living in a small apartment with his single mother and playing Mr. Mom by completing all chores and doing all cooking (eventually, we discover that he could even be bordering on OCD, as he'll lose the battle with his urge to clean any mess he encounters...especially unsorted socks). Ryuuji's a very determined and well-behaved student; however, he is feared by his school because of his "murderous eyes", and is therefore labeled a "delinquint" despite being a diligent student. For some time, Ryuuji has had a crush on his eccentric schoolmate Minori, after Ryuuji's best friend Yasaku introduced them. He has never had the nerve to tell her, and thus keeps his feelings to himself.

At the start of the new school year, he accidently runs into (literally) a girl in the hallway, and realizes it's Taiga Aisaka, the fearsome "Palm-Top Tiger". Though she is nearly half his size, she has no problem pounding Ryuuji for running into her, followed by a "watch where you're going."

Ryuuji returns home, and while rummaging through his school bag, encounters a letter addressed to his friend Yasaku, signed by Taiga Aisaka. Tempted and curious, he opens it. No sooner does he tear the envelope open is his apartment infiltrated by Taiga, armed with a kendo sword, determined to get her letter back after placing it in the wrong bag. His apartment, his belongings - and nearly his body - are thrashed by Taiga, before he finally calms her by telling her that her envelope was empty. Taiga tells him that she has a major crush on Yasaku and is embarrassed by this fact. Ryuuji steps in and assures her nothing is embarrassing, and does so by showing her a box full of mementos of Minori, and reveals his crush to Taiga, not knowing that Minori and Taiga are best friends. Taiga eventually goes home by walking onto Ryuuji's balcony, climbing over his railing...and climbing into her apartment window?!

The next day, Taiga and Ryuuji walk to school together (being next door neighbors and all), and along the way they meet up with Minori. It is at this moment that Ryuuji discovers how close Taiga and Minori are, and Taiga looks back at him with an almost evil smile curled up on her face. Ryuuji translates this smile as: "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Help me with Yasaku, and I'll help you with Minori." The adventure begins.

Though this may not hold a child's attention, I'd thoroughly watch Toradora before you make your decision. Ami Kawashima is certainly no help to the rating factor; she's seen several times in revealing clothing or bikinis, and boys make suggestive comments about her and/or what they'd like to do with her. One male character hears a scream and jumps out of the shower to investigate; other male and female characters look over and see he is naked, covered only by a towel he holds limply in his hands, and a girl jokingly takes pictures on her cellphones (calling them "scandalous nudies") right before he accidentally drops his towel (a male character grabs it and holds it back up before it fully falls; the girl mentions that "she thought she saw something black", the second male character quickly covers by saying she may have saw a seaweed ghost, as she saw a prank earlier involving a pile of seaweed hanging from a string.). A girl is embarrassed about being "flat" in a bathing suit, and so a boy creates fakes to go under the suit.

Armed with a bubbly and bouncy theme, Toradora! delivers a cross-pollination between Azumanga Daioh and Love Hina as Ryuuji and Taiga pursue their dreams of happiness - with disasterous results. It's up to Ryuuji to keep the peace before Taiga's ticking time bomb goes off and she inevitably destroys the setting around her in relief of her rage. Despite the satire and blunt comedy within, this anime also manages to show a sentimental side, perhaps even more than a comedic one.

While it may be too shojo for the gentlemen out there, fans of such animes as Love Hina, Negima?! and Azumanga Daioh may enjoy Toradora! just as much.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Friday, October 16, 2009

Review | Anime | Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni

HIGURASHI NO NAKU KORO NI : Keiichi Maebara transfers to the small, peaceful town of Hinamizawa, where he befriends four girls in his class; Rena, Rika, Mion and Satoko. His new friends tell him all about the town, including the town's fearsome guardian god Oyashiro-sama, and its fury over any who dare enter its shrine. Keiichi is doubtful of the god's supposed wrath at first, but when he enters Oyashiro-sama's forbidden shrine, he becomes wrapped up in the town's horrible secret, and falls victim to the god's deadly curse.

I watched the live action movie adaption of the series, and several of the OST songs have been bouncing around in my iPod for years...I finally decided that perhaps it was time I clamped onto the series that started - or at least fueled - the yandere craze.

Through the grapevine I'd heard warnings about its graphically violent content, and was a little hesitant at first. Repetitive, pointless blood, as I mentioned in my review of Le Portrait De Petit Cossette, is not only ridiculous, but diluting as well. While you think you're making a great show by adding a maimed head here and a missing arm there, you're actually turning a potentially good anime in a terrible one. Finally, however, I lost my fear of ultimately hating Higurashi's motiveless violence; I decided, after picking up the Kara no Kyoukai series, I could pretty much handle anything. I was actually surprised to find, upon completing Higurashi, that Kara no Kyoukai was actually quite a times more graphic.

The hit show that put a psycho killer into the image of every seemingly innocent anime character tells the story of Keiichi Maebara, who transfers to the tiny village of Hinamizawa, where everyone knows your name - literally. Keiichi befriends four girls named Rika, Rena, Mion and Satoko (and later meets a fifth, Shion), and though he has great fun with his new friends at first, he learns about a very delicate subject the girls haven't discussed: A halted dam project that supposedly resulted in the deaths of several people. Prior to the story, the people of Hinamizawa protested against the creation of a dam, which would cause the entire village to be flooded with water. The project was eventually canceled following the deaths and disappearances of the project's team members. Despite the project being canceled, the villagers of Hinamizawa carry a blind hatred of any who supported the dam...or had such connections. Inconveniently caught in the middle of it is Satoko, whose parents supported the construction, and in turn, Satoko is treated poorly by the villagers. The villagers warn that any who assisted the construction in any way are cursed by Hinamizawa's ruthless god, Oyashiro-sama. Rika's father died of a mysterious illness, and it just so happens that he gave shelter to Satoko's terrorized parents, who themselves later fell of a cliff and died. Eventually, Satoko's older brother, Satoshi (whose name alone sends our ladies into a brutal trance) disappeared mysteriously.

Naturally, Keiichi has lots of questions, but his new friends aren't willing to give him too big of an explanation...not without a fight. Finally, when new disappearances begin to occur, and more strange murders take place on the ill-fated night of the annual Watanagashi festival, Keiichi begins to suspect that his friends may play a bigger part than they let on.

Killer middle school and high school girls? Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni's overall plot is enough to make you curious. Just hearing the show's eerie theme song of the same name was enough to draw me in immediately. Much like Hinamizawa and its certifiably lunatic school girls, the songs of Higurashi take different tones throughout, providing an innocent and cheerful mood at one moment, and moving alone to a fearful and ominous tune right afterwards.

Though it is not as graphic as I was made to understand (as I stated before, Kara no Kyoukai has raised the bar rather high for me now), it is certainly not going straight to Nickelodeon anytime soon. The series opens with a boy beating two of his dead female classmates with a baseball bats (we hear crunching and see blood), several characters have their faces beaten in (it is either shown from behind or not shown onscreen at all). A girl slices a man's head with a cleaver (we see the deep wound), we see the same girl cutting up the man's body and one other body). A boy buries the body of a man he killed. A girl uses a device to rip out her fingernails (we see her severed nails again several times later), a girl threatens to torture a boy by driving nails into his finger joints. A girl beats her dead grandmother. Throughout the series characters are killed or severely injured.

Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni is every bit the credit fans give it; haunting, gruesome, and dishes out the unexpected. Demented moe school girls? Check. Blood and gore? Check. Twilight Zone little city in the middle of nowhere? Check and check. If you want to stay up-to-date in anime, Higurashi should certainly be on your list. Stuck indoors? Spend Halloween with this one.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Preview | Movie | Kara no Kyoukai 7: Satsujin Kousatsu (Part 2)

The seventh and final chapter of the Kara no Kyoukai movie series. The movie features additions to the story played out in Kara no Kyoukai 2: Satsujin Kousatsu Part 1.

Set for a DVD release in Japan on December 9th, 2009, subs should be available very soon around that time. We look forward to completing the chilling Kara no Kyoukai series with the 7th movie. A review will be available shortly after. Stay tuned!

Preview (raw):