Friday, June 26, 2009

Review | Anime | Ichigo Mashimaro

ICHIGO MASHIMARO : Ichigo Mashimaro follows the lives of 20-year-old Nobue
Itoh, her sister Chika, and Chika's three school friends Ana, Matsuri and Miu
and we join them in the hilarious adventures of their everyday lives.
MAL is a truly magical thing; this recommendation was made for me based on my high rating of the Azumanga Daioh series, and Ichigo Mashimaro is almost exactly like it. Even the music sounds the same. Ichigo Mashimaro is one of the rare occasions I will laugh out loud while watching funny instances in an anime, and I must say I'm not only impressed, but satisfied as well.

Accompanied by 2 sets of OVAs and an "episode 0", Ichigo Mashimaro plays out the everyday life of Nobue Itoh, whose everyday life includes going to her college classes, drinking, smoking, more smoking, riding her moped, even more smoking, and acting as a chaperon, transporter, and general onlooker of her little sister Chika and her fellow grade-school friends. Chika is one of the more mature of the group, willingly doing her studies while her friends are terrorized by Chika's obnoxious, dirty-minded childhood friend Miu. The victims of the latter are calm-spirited (and irresistibly adorable) Matsuri, who still looks forward to Santa-san every Christmas, and England native Ana, who has lived in Japan for so long, she has almost forgotten how to speak English. All four are constantly at war with Miu's perks, whether it be playing a role in an unrealistic fantasy, blatantly pointing out embarrassing facts, or receiving cell phone texts with cryptic messages, such as the word "ribcage" bombarded by a sea of hearts.

Despite the simplicity of the anime and its plotless storyline, Ichigo Mashimaro was lots of fun to watch. There was never a dull moment, and from the very first episode, I was hooked. I took a liking almost immediately to soft-spoken Matsuri Sakuragi, whose every cute whim from chasing her pet ferret to wishing Santa-san good luck on his travels drew me in and kept me that much more attached to the show.

With a name like "Strawberry Marshmallow", this is without doubt a show that would come across as appealing to young girls, but do take precautions. Miu and Nobue have their quirks. Nobue is a chain smoker and drinker, and borrows money from her little sister several times in the show to buy cigarettes, and is also seen drinking beer and appears buzzed in one scene. Miu is, for lack of a more appropriate term, "knowledgeable" for her age. She talks about becoming a bikini model, and in one scene talks about how "sexy" she looks in her two-piece bathing suit. Nobue mocks Miu by calling her "flat-chested", and in a dream sequence she wishes for "breasts that hop up and down." In one scene Miu goes through Ana's closet and examines her clothing, and later feels Ana breasts to confirm their size. She later lifts up Ana's dress and asks if she's wearing underwear. I'll keep it short by mentioning Miu does appear to have some infatuation with breasts, due to the fact she apparently has none.

Other than Miu's array of oddities, I thoroughly enjoyed Ichigo Mashimaro. This show is a great joy to watch, and if you're looking to laugh, you've found the right anime.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review | Anime | Ghost Hunt

GHOST HUNT : Mai Taniyama is a 16-year-old high school student who enjoys
telling ghost stories with her friends as a pastime. Soon, she discovers
that a 17-year-old schoolmate, Shibuya Kazuya, is actually a professional
ghost hunter, and has enrolled at her school for the purpose of tracking
spirits. Along the way, Mai accidentally injures Shibuya's assistant, and in
consequence he demands Mai become his assistant at Shibuya Psychic

"How scary can an anime be?" was my first thought upon deciding to watch this anime. I had heard from various sources that this was a very disturbing series, and I was very skeptical. I mean, it's animated. You can only do so much with animation...right?

Finally, however, I refused to watch any episodes of the series at night.

Everyone loves a good ghost story. That's why Mai Taniyama and her friends sneak off to a dark room between classes to tell stories about ghosts in the school. Namely, that an old school building on campus is haunted. As a ghost story is being told, in walks their 17-year-old schoolmate, the handsome, mysterious Shibuya Kazuya. Mai's friends are instantly smitten by Shibuya's charm, and are thrilled when Shibuya offers to join their next ghost story session. Mai doesn't think much of him at first, and later thinks even less when she converses with him personally and discovers that he is a complete narcissist.

At the end of the day, Mai is caught in the way of a falling bookshelf and is pushed out of the way by a strange man, who in turn is injured instead. The man is not too proud of himself for saving Mai's life; instead he is furious with her and accuses her of being careless. How convenient that he happens to be the assistant of the self-absorbed Shibuya - whom Mai has nicknamed "Naru", short for narcissist - who is actually a professional ghost hunter, investigating the strange happenings in the school building that is supposedly haunted. Naturally, "Naru" is not too happy that Mai has injured his assistant. Naru therefore demands that Mai takes the place of his injured assistant, Lin, and aid him in his hunts until his assistant recovers. Now Mai is no longer just the storyteller: she's the story.

At first the show lags quite a bit towards the beginning. A lot of unnecessary talking is done, and, as I had predicted, nothing is scary. However, as the show proceeds, the stories get better and better, and though cheesy at times, interesting and factual in the fields of ghost hunting. Even as a child, I've been interested in studies of the paranormal, and I was very surprised at the logic used to solve the cases and how they use very true information rather than random facts that make the conclusions ridiculous. Combined with this, and the atmosphere cleverly given to the story, the show actually becomes rather disturbing, which ultimately stopped me from watching it at night.

If a child happens to express interest in watching this anime, there is no adult material at all throughout the series. Again, it is a very gruesome show and will probably disturb children, and one case near the completion of the series focuses on a man who bathes in the blood of young humans in order to live forever. This case is especially disturbing, and there are several scenes with large amounts of blood on floors and in a bathtub. Human bones, demons, and of course ghosts, are seen throughout the show. Characters get possessed several times.

I believe any fellow fan of the supernatural will want to pick up Ghost Hunt, and if the episodes don't succeed at first in getting you into the spirit of a good old fashion investigation, composer Toshio Masuda's eerie opening and closing themes of the show are bound to pull you closer to the action. If you're not careful, they may get stuck in your head as easily as they get stuck in mine (it's actually stuck right now). Ghost Hunt is a series I stumbled upon accidentally while doing a routine once-over of MyAnimeList's supernatural category, and I must say I'm not disappointed. This show was a pleasure to watch, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Review | Anime | Kuroshitsuji

KUROSHITSUJI : Ciel Phantomhive, the 12-year-old orphaned son of a wealthy monarch,
strikes a deal with the Devil to exact punishment on those who plotted the
downfall of his parents: His own soul in exchange for revenge. His plead is
heard and a contract is formed. His new partner, demon butler Sebastian
Michealis, assists Ciel with solving strange cases for the Queen of England, as
well as unraveling the mystery of the fall of the Phantomhive household.
Sebastian proves not only to be a fierce opponent in battle, but a seemingly
flawless assistant, explained only by his self-title as "one 'hell' of a
Kuroshitsuji is another one of those anime that draw you in by physical appearance alone. Even I personally became curious about the Kodona-garbed boy with an eye patch and nice hair. i am certainly glad I looked into it; I found plenty of charm, comedy and drama in such a simply assembled series.

Kuroshitsuji is perfect for anyone who is a fan of comedy and drama anime; there is plenty of both within it. You can definitely expect both kinds of tears by the time you finish. Up first ready to dish out the laughter are the members of Ciel's hapless mansion staff; Finnian the gardener with inhuman super strength, Meilin the clumsy maid with a blatant crush on Sebastian, Bardroy the imaginative cook who uses explosives for cooking, and Tanaka the steward, whose enigmatic personality just plain speaks for itself. They all suspect a hint of mystery surrounding the immaculate and unusually tolerant Sebastian, which only makes him that much more attractive to women, namely Meilin, but also Grelle Sutcliffe, the non-female butler of Ciel's aunt Madam Red, who conceals a secret of his own. Grelle is the first to bring the tears to the table with his hilarious mishaps all over the Phantomhive mansion, which includes trimming the bushes surrounding the mansion, only to be distracted and later discovering he has accidentally trimmed them all in the shapes of skulls. Grelle's nervous personality (on the surface...) makes Meilin's clumsiness inferior in comparison, and he becomes infatuated with Sebastian's ability to do positively anything without leaving so much as a blemish.

I would be surprised if children expressed interest in watching this anime, but I would definitely accompany them if you plan on letting one do so. there is bloody violent throughout the anime (particularly near the end of the series) and violent references. There is also innuendo involved, usually without warning; a death god is intoxicated with Sebastian and daydreams out loud about being physically involved with him. Ciel Phantomhive later persuades the same death god to temporarily act as his bodyguard, offering him Sebastian in return, to "do whatever he wants with him." The death god later dotes upon his intentions to "kiss Sebastian, with the tongue." Ciel and Sebastian sneak into the sect of a corrupt religious cult, and Sebastian stops a nun and requests information. She hesitates at first, Sebastian backs her into a wall and she blushes as he insists. The scene cuts to Ciel and Grelle Sutcliffe standing outside of a small barn with Sebastian and the nun inside; we hear her moaning loudly and telling Sebastian "she will become impure." Grelle stands outside and bites at his clothes in a fit of jealousy. Ciel is clearly uncomfortable. An acquaintance of Ciel's is frequently seen with a woman who sits on him suggestively; he is later seen with several women.

If you're willing to guide yourself around the perks of Grelle and, occasionally, Sebastian, I believe you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of this anime. Be ready to gawk at Sebastian in the manner Ciel's companions do, as his perfection shows not only in his housework, but apparently in his duty of Ciel's outfits as well, as Ciel emerges from his vast property to solve cases for the Queen in outfits so sublime, a common boy would not be caught dead in them.

With plenty of darkness, humor, and darkness and humor put together, Kuroshitsuji is bound to take you for a ride. I highly recommend this anime to any fans of the supernatural, unnaturally pretty boys, and of course, butlers.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review | Anime | Bokurano

BOKURANO : 15 children travel to the beach for a summer nature camp and come
across a cave filled with computers, and occupied by a man calling himself
Kokopelli. Kokopelli tels the children he is testing a new game he has created
about robots that defend the Earth from 15 alien attacks, and offers the roles
of beta tasters to the children. 14 of the children agree and enter the contract
as the game's new heroes, only to discover that the game is not a computer game,
but a game played in reality. Worst of all, the children are unsure how to break
their contracts and prevent the city - and possibly the world - from being

Anyone who knows me will tell you that mecha anime is no favorite of mine. It has never been interesting to me and never held my attention. That's why it's no great shock that people are surprised to learn that I have taken a great liking to Bokurano, finishing the 24-episode series in 2 days. It ultimately broke my record of anime finished the quickest, superseding Gunslinger Girl, completed in 5 days. So how could I bring about the nerve to watch a mecha anime? None other than the series' theme song, "Uninstall" by Chieko Ishikawa, as haunting as it is beautiful.

It isn't rare that I discover a theme song before the anime and ultimately watch the anime; KOKIA's mystifying "Tatta Hitotsu no Omoi", the Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino theme song introduced me to the Gunslinger Girl franchise, which I am now a great fan of. Other examples of theme songs introducing me to their respective anime include Clannad, Le Portrait de Petit Cossette (which sadly, disappointed me), Sola, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and Wolf's Rain. Seeing as very few of these animes have proved distasteful, I went with my usual instinct, and a fandom of Bokurano was formed.

The plot seems a simple yet complex one at the same time. 15 middle school children attend a sumer camp, and wander into a cave covered wall to wall with electrical equipment all owned by a strange man who will only give his name as Kokopelli. Kokopelli, as suspicious as he is, seems strangely friendly to the children, who many of the children notice and become wary of. He invites the children to become beta testers for a brand new game he has created about robots that must defend the Earth from 15 alien attacks. Being middle school children, they are immediately pulled in, and contract themselves as the new heroes of the game. All of them apply, except for 9-year-old Kana Ushiro, who is forbidden by her hateful brother to take part in the activity. After applying to the contract, they wake up on the beach, suspecting what they had seen was a dream did they all have the same dream?

No sooner do they begin to worry does a huge robot appear in the city, and the children are whisked away into a robot controlled by Kokopelli. Kokopelli defeats the robot, but later disappears, his final words to the children being, "I'm sorry."

The robots have now gained global attention after destroying much of the city and killing thousands. The children are now unsure of how to release themselves from the contract, and with their smart-mouthed tutor Dung Beetle offering no real help, the children have no choice but to fight the remainder of their battles, increasing the body count of the civilians caught in the crossfire, all to make sure their planet, families - and universe - are protected from a vicious cleansing.

Bokurano illustrates the importance of family and the people close to you, and follows the lives of the children individually as they are selected to pilot their robot, Zearth, to stop the alien attacks. Their lives and scarring pasts play out and reveal what the children are protecting as they pay the ultimate price to protect them. Though some scenes can be slow and unneeded at times, it is otherwise excellently paced and keeps up the story in a way that keeps you attentive, which is probably half the reason I watched 14 episodes in a day. Despite my extreme dislike for mecha anime, Bokurano kept me attached to the very end.

As appealing as the idea of young children piloting robots - every little boy's dream - and defending the earth may be to kids, Bokurano is definitely not an anime for children. What's more, the manga is far more graphic than the anime, which condensed a lot of the stories to a less explicit nature. Upon suffering a mental breakdown prior to his battle within Zearth, a boy chases a girl through an aquarium and attempts to force himself onto her; the girl kicks him down a flight of stairs and he is knocked unconscious. We hear that the same girl had a physical relationship with her teacher, and that he sold pornographic pictures of the two of them on the Internet (we also hear he had installed cameras in the school girls' dressing rooms; in one scene we see this being done). It is implied later that the girl is pregnant. We hear that several children must sacrifice their lives to pilot Zearth, and we see many of them die. We hear that thousands of people have died due to the robots' fights. A man's arm is cut off (we don't see blood) and a woman is shot several times, and other people are shot throughout the series. A small robot makes explicit comments to a boy about what to do with the girl he likes. A girl is told her mother used to sell her own body; the girl later becomes desperate for money and attempts to sell herself. Her potential customer later reveals he is a friend of her mother's and offers her the payment without her services.

Bokurano is a very edgy anime with plenty of grit, and even if you aren't the biggest of mecha fans yourself, if you're looking for an adventurous anime, with lots of tragedy thrown in, you'll certainly want to add Bokurano to your list.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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