Reviews of Yesteryear: Galaxy Angel

Galaxy Angel has an unusual history. From the research I did, it seems that the anime was created to advertise a virtually simultaneous game release. Both from Broccoli entertainment. There was just one issue, the game got delayed, the anime didn’t and the anime staff didn’t have any information about the game except for the character designs and a few basic character traits. So they decided to just forget about the dating sim continuity and just do whatever they wanted with it. The end result was that the anime and game became set in alternate universes. How did that work out for the anime? Let’s take a look at the first series and find out.

Galaxy Angel quickly abandons even the pretense of a story. After the first three episodes you can watch the rest in any order and not have any problems. The setting is that a group of five girls go on bizarre military missions, hilarity ensues. Is the anime funny? Very much so. It has a very fast-paced, zany type of humour. Which is used to great effect in virtually all of the episodes. The only exception is episode 14 which is inexplicably serious. I don’t know what they were thinking with that one. It doesn’t make sense to have a serious episode in an absurdest comedy series. It would be like having a random comedic episode in the middle of Berserk. That aside, the situations are creative and they’re fully taken advantage of.

The characters are a quirky group with a lot of energy and they interact well with each other. The cast isn’t complex but they are charming and a great deal of fun. You could say that they’re a microcosm of what to expect from the entire series.

The art is good. There are a lot of impressive details in the various objects that the characters encounter, the backgrounds and backdrops are lively. The art is also the only indication that you get that the characters come from a dating sim. The characters have interesting looks but there’s also some fan-service, albeit not much.

The voice acting is well done. Yamaguchi Megumi, Sawashiro Miyuki, Tamura Yukari and Shintani Ryoko all do really well in their roles. The entire cast exaggerates at times, but they also use subtlety quite a bit, certainly more than I expected from a zany comedy, and it works to accentuate certain scenes and downplay others which actually strengthens those moments where things go from mildly to insanely zany. Like the series, the music is high energy, nonsensical and fun.

The yuri factor is a 3/10. There are some slightly homo-erotic moments, most of them involving the boy crazy Ranpha oddly enough, but, like everything else in the series, they don’t go anywhere. There also aren’t enough to establish a pattern.

My final rating for Galaxy Angel is an 8/10. It’s a great series. It may not be complex or have a story, but it does have a lot of high energy, creative comedy. It’s a series that knows what it wants to do and runs with it. If you want a good laugh you really can’t go wrong with Galaxy Angel. Just skip the fourteenth episode.

Reviews of yesteryear: Quiz Magic Academy

Quiz Magic Academy is a one episode comedic OVA about magic and student life. Frankly, I couldn’t find much information so I don’t know what to expect. I’ll just have to take a look and see.

The story is pretty simple, it would pretty much have to be to fit into a half hour. There’s an academy for the study of magic. The story follows one class that’s found itself at the bottom based on average grades and needs to perform well at a school event to pass the semester. Is it funny? I would have to say “kind of.” Some of the humour does work pretty well, some of it is simply too obvious or flat out stupid. I would have to say that it works a little more often than it doesn’t.

The characters are left pretty flat, but in all fairness they are working under severe time constraints and they don’t really have much chance to do more. That being said, they could have benefited from having fewer characters and, therefore, more time to develop those they did have. Especially since some of the characters do virtually nothing.

The art is good overall. They do have some unnecessary fan-service, but it’s used pretty sparingly. The character designs, magic effects, and backgrounds are all well done.

The voice acting is good. They have some great actors such as Hiyama Nobuyuki, Kuwashima Houko, and Mizuhashi Kaori to name just a few and they all do a good job with their roles. The music is well suited for the OVA and does a good job of helping maintain the tone.

The yuri factor is a 2/10. There’s one scene that reads as a bit homoerotic.

My final rating for Quiz Magic Academy is a 6/10. It does some things pretty well but it doesn’t have anything that it does a great job with. It’s humour is similar to that of 2×2= Shinobuden, but not nearly as well executed. If you’re looking for a quick laugh then you’ll probably get a few from it but if you’re looking for any substance from the story or characters you won’t find it.

Fire Emblem: The Hero King’s Beginning

Fire Emblem was a game franchise virtually unknown outside of Japan until Super Smash Brothers Melee came out. That game featured two Fire Emblem characters, Marth and Roy, as playable fighters. Creating an interest in the franchise that was great enough to get the seventh title, Blazing Sword, and most subsequent titles released internationally.

So, why was the franchise only released outside of Japan at that point? My theory is that the games were simply considered too difficult. Yes, Nintendo had a lot of really hard games, some unfairly so. But Fire Emblem is the most difficult franchise developed by Nintendo itself. The games feature permanent death for party members. That’s right, no phoenix downs, revives, Yggdrasil leaves or anything like that. Except for one single use item that you get later in the game. No or few opportunities to grind and battles that are difficult enough that a single tactical error can easily get one of your team members killed. Maybe I’m wrong about that and there’s another reason. If someone knows for certain I’m sure that person will politely correct me.

Oddly enough, the first Fire Emblem related thing to be released outside of Japan was an OVA. It’s a simple, two episode work developed by KSS Inc and Studio Fantasia in 1996. The OVA is based on the first/third title in the series. (the third was a remake of the first.) So, how does the anime hold up?

Story:

Our tale covers the first couple missions of the game. Marth, is forced to escape from his homeland, Altea. It moves to Marth and his men at Talys with princess Sheeda. They’re planning a counter-attack against the army that forced them into exile when they’re forced into battle with pirates for Talys’ sake. Knowing that the encounter will make their presence known to their enemy, they make their way back to their continent, planning to join the princess of Aurelis in her opposition to the hostile Doluna kingdom. Upon arrival at the mainland they encounter and defeat yet another group of pirates. The group hears about a nun named Rena who was abducted by thieves and they go out to save her.

I will give the OVA credit on several counts. For one thing, it does do a good job of covering those early missions. It also expands a bit on Marth’s back story, providing information about his childhood that you really don’t get in the game. I also like that the second episode spends a lot of time giving you Nabarl, Rena and Julian’s perspectives which helps build them up as characters who you have some investment in and also sets up what happens with them later.

That being said, there are some issues with the two episodes. While it is nice to see the character interactions, they do move into padding at times. For example, the first episode has a montage of Marth and Sheeda just playing around in Talys. The second opens with Nabarl killing a group of people who are attacking him for no apparent reason. There weren’t more important things to cover? They glance over the prologue scene pretty fast. Wouldn’t the time have been better spent expanding on that? Even if they were set on adding in some extra details, they could have put something more substantial in.

Characters:

The game has a lot of characters, even in the early missions covered by this. As such, some of them get better developed than others. Marth and Sheeda are well developed and fleshed out. Nabarl, Rena and Julian are as well. Then you’ve got characters like Cord, Bord and Barst who have one line of dialogue among them and characters like Cain, Abel, Oguma, Gordin, Doga and Jeigan who appear and speak on occasion but don’t get fleshed out by any means. Although Oguma comes pretty close. In all fairness, developing five characters pretty well is about the best you can expect from an OVA that, taken in total, is less than an hour long. There are some very strong interactions too. The way Sheeda recruits Nabarl in particular is just great. Slightly different from the game, but in a way that actually works a bit better.

Art:

The art is probably the biggest weak point. It’s pretty standard art for anime in the mid-90s. There are some nice little details like the pegasus animation and the way they differentiate the killing edge from other swords but it’s largely pretty generic.

Sound:

They did get some great voice actors for this. Marth is voiced by Midorikawa Hikaru, who also voiced Zelgadis and Heero Yuy. He also reprised his Marth role in the Smash Brothers games. Sheeda is voiced by Tange Sakura who was also Cardcaptor Sakura. Koyasu Takehito, who has appeared in a hugwe amount of anime, voices Nabarl. Oddly enough, both he and Midorikawa Hikaru played Dio Brando in different Jojo adaptations. With Koyasu being the actor in the main series and Midorikawa voicing him in one of the films. All of the actors do their work very well. The music is less well done. A lot of it is pretty generic and lacks impact, leaving little impression.

Ho-yay:

While there is arguably some ho-yay in the games this was based on, there isn’t any in this. Of course, a lot of that comes from Rickard’s character who doesn’t appear in the OVA. So, the ho-yay factor is a 1/10.

Final Thoughts:

This is one that’s firmly for fans of the series. It expands on some details, fleshes out some characters really well and gives you a nice look at the first three chapters of the game. That being said, there’s really no reason to watch it unless you’re a fan of the game. It simply doesn’t stand alone very well. So, if you’re a fan of Fire Emblem check it out. If you don’t care about the franchise, it’s not going to be worth your time. For myself, I give it a 7/10. Next week, let’s take a look at one more Nintendo based OVA. To be specific, Super Mario Brothers.

Reviews of yesteryear: Hikaru no Go

Hikaru no Go was a long running manga written by Hotta Yumi in the late 90s, early 2000s. Of course, it got an anime adaptation. I’ll be honest, it’s an anime based off of a board game. I don’t see much possibility of it being good or interesting. Will it surprise me? It’s possible. The Hollywood film, Clue is based on a board game too and it’s hilarious. Let’s take a look at the anime and find out.

Our story begins with a boy with ridiculous, multi-coloured hair, Shindou Hikaru, going through his grandfather’s garage. He comes across an old Go board with a stain that only he can see. The ghost of a Go player named Sai from ancient times emerges and inhabits a corner of his mind. All Sai desires is to play Go and, being unable to do anything on his own, he quickly drags Hikaru into the game. Hikaru quickly gains an interest in playing and decides to become a professional Go player. The story is pretty boring. There are no real stakes and it lacks any real tension since all they’re doing is playing a board game. They try to make up for it with absurd levels of melodrama, but that only makes the story stupid in addition to being boring. Everything also moves far too slowly. I nearly fell asleep on several occasions while watching episodes just because nothing remotely interesting was happening. They could have finished the series in half the time without all the bloody padding.

The series could have been interesting if the characters were capable of carrying the premise. Unfortunately, the characters are really flat. You don’t know anything about most of them aside from one or two minor pieces of information. Most of them rely on cliche personalities and just come across as stale. To make matters worse, Hikaru is an insufferable brat and Sai spends a great deal of his time whining. Neither one is well fleshed out or even sympathetic.

The art ranges from fine to sub-par. Most of the time it does its job but characters tend to have borked faces and random motion lines get added to the Go games in a failed attempt at creating excitement. Frankly, the art looks more like it was done in the late 80s than the early 2000s.

The voice acting is pretty standard. No one does an outstanding job but there’s no one who does horribly either. The music is the best part of the series and even it isn’t great. It’s just decent.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There are some female characters in minor roles but you barely see them interact and they certainly don’t have developed enough relationships to be able to identify what kind of relationships they share aside from a very general “friendly.”

My final rating for Hikaru no Go is a 4/10. You might enjoy it if you’re really interested in seeing an anime based on professional Go, but even that’s unlikely given the boring story, bland characters, dull art and uninspired voice acting. You’d think that watching the games might be enough for Go fans, but you don’t even see enough of the Go games to get invested in them or to be able to tell how they went aside from knowing who’s winning. The end result is a sub-par series.

Reviews of yesteryear: Maverick Hunter X: Day of Sigma

Megaman X was first released in 1993. The series was the first of many spin-offs of Capcom’s Megaman franchise and has been highly successful, receiving eight sequels (one being the Command Mission RPG), and a prequel OVA. That’s right, back in 2005 Capcom and Xebec combined efforts and came up with an OVA prequel for the Megaman X franchise. Let’s take a look at Maverick Hunter X: The Day of Sigma.

The story is pretty simple. It’s about how Sigma went from being a maverick hunter, to the head maverick. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the games, reploids are robots with the power of self determination. Occasionally some of them go “maverick” and try to harm others or just go berserk. If you’re a fan of the X franchise it’s an interesting look at the way things were before Sigma’s treachery, even if you already know how things are going to end.

The Day of Sigma does do a decent job of fleshing out some of the characters a bit more than what you see of them in the games, especially Sigma and Vile. It avoids throwing in a bunch of characters from the games in order to keep things fairly clean and focused. Which does work to its benefit.

The art is deliberately reminiscent of the games. The characters look good and the battle scenes, though short, are nice and intense. Unfortunately, the backgrounds are kind of dull.

The voice acting is pretty well done. Sakurai Takahiro, Okiayu Ryotaro and Mugihito especially give strong performances. X is Cloud Strife, I just had to point that out. The fighting robot has the same actor as the former SOLDIER with a giant sword. The music is pretty weak and forgettable. It could have benefited from doing more with the background music.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s only one female character and she has a small role.

My final rating for Maverick Hunter X: The Day of Sigma is an 8/10. If you’re a fan of the Megaman X franchise you should definitely see it. If you aren’t you should probably skip it since there’s really nothing to appeal to non-fans.

Pokemon: The Origin: Catching them all edition

Pokemon, or Pocket Monsters was a part of my generation’s childhood and every subsequent generation given that the series has continued with a new version being released every couple of years and that isn’t even including the spinoff games like Snap, Conquest, or Ranger. The original pair of games, Red and Green, was released in Japan during February of 96. (Blue didn’t come until later. We didn’t get them until 99 and we didn’t get Green at all. The games quickly grew into a major franchise with an anime that started broadcasting in 97 and has never stopped, getting new series added with every new game release. In addition to that it has a trading card game, a manga and a whole lot of merchandise. October of 2013 was pretty big for the series. Not only were the newest titles, X & Y released but so was a special hearkening back to the games that started it all. That being Pokemon: The Origin, a four episode piece. Brought to us by OLM, the same studio behind the rest of the anime, Production IG and Xebec. So, is this worth looking into?

Story:

The narrative opens at the same place as the original games, Professor Oak introduces himself and the world of Pokemon, although he doesn’t ask if you’re a boy or girl. It also shows the brief snippet of Gengar and Nidorino fighting that played before the title screen. Enter our hero, Red. He’s summoned to Oak’s lab along with his rival, Green. The two are given pokedexes and their first pokemon. Red chooses Charmander because of the connection to his name. Green calls that a girly reason and picks Squirtle, because being a dick is the manly thing to do. Red decides to focus on completing his pokedex while Green makes an effort to become the world’s greatest trainer. After losing horribly against Green, Red realises that he’s going to have to become a stronger trainer if he’s going to have a chance to complete his pokedex and he decides to take the gym challenge. From there, it follows the same narrative as the games with the gym battles and encounters with Team Rocket.

Now, there are quite a few things in the story that I do like. One of the big things is the way they show the gym leaders pick which pokemon to use. They only show two gym fights, the first being against Takeshi and the other against Sakaki. Takeshi asks Red how many badges he has and decides which Pokemon to use based on it, which implies that Gym leaders base their pokemon on their challenger’s progress. Which is an interesting addition to the universe and I’d really like to see it used in an actual game. It wouldn’t be difficult, they’d just have to give you a more open world where you could challenge the gyms in any order and have the pokemon used by the gym leaders be dependent on when you fight them. They skip over a lot out of necessity, but the moments they do hit on are handled pretty well and get some good dramatic tension. I also like the usage of game imagery throughout the special and I do appreciate that Pikachu barely appears. I don’t hate Pikachu, but it’s so over-used in most Pokemon media.

Now, there are flaws too. They use montages to explain everything they’ve skipped and these are entirely pointless. They show you the loading screen at the beginning of each episode, which tells you how many badges Red has and how many pokemon he’s caught. They rarely show the scenes of him catching pokemon so why do they need to explicate on how he beat gyms and got badges? It just takes time away from the moments they’re actually focusing on. They could have spent more time on Sakaki’s story arc so it didn’t feel so rushed. That’s another problem, Sakaki’s story arc is taken care of over the course of a single battle. It lasts for maybe five minutes and the result feels forced as a consequence.

Characters:

Red is a great lead character, unlike certain other Pokemon protagonists who are incompetent and have trouble with the basic idea of actually catching pokemon. Red grows as a character in a way that makes sense and seems realistic for what he’s going through. Green is overconfident and arrogant, but he’s not a bad character either. He seems like a brash and abrasive teenager. I also like the bond between Red and his starter. Unlike some incompetent twits who can’t even keep their pokemon from attacking them, (okay that’s the last swing I take at Satoshi), Red develops a strong camaraderie with his Charizard over the course of the series which culminates in a very strong scene when they face their greatest challenge. The biggest weakness in terms of major characters is Sakaki, who undergoes a radical change for flimsy reasons.

Art:

This special looks great. The character designs are nicely detailed while staying fairly faithful to the source material. The pokemon battles can get surprisingly brutal and they just look awesome. At least what they show of them. The battles are another area where a lot of stuff gets skipped over.

Sound:

The voice acting is pretty good. Red is voiced by Takeuchi Junko, who played Dieter in Monster. She gives a strong performance. Green is voiced bu Eguchi Takuya, who gave a decent performance in Chokotan as Arima and gives an even better one here. The music and sound are frequently reminiscent of the soundtrack from Red and Green which is really cool.

Ho-yay:

There’s no romance at all, homo-erotic or otherwise. 1/10.

Final Thoughts:

This special is actually really good. They do skip a lot of material, but it’s understandable and necessary given the length of the special. Red is a great protagonist and they manage some really good send ups to the original game. There’s a lot to like about it, especially if you were or still are a fan of the Pokemon games. It’s not a perfect series, but it is a great one. My final rating is going to be an 8/10. Next week, another anime based on a Nintendo property. This one involving blades and sorcery. That’s right, Fire Emblem had an OVA.

Reviews of Yesteryear: Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou is a harem series written by Mizuki Shotaro. It was originally a light novel series, which is still going, and got an anime adaptation more recently. I have to say that I have a bad feeling about this one just from the harem and ecchi tags so let’s get it over with. While there are good anime out there that use those tags, they are rare. 

Sai Akuto is a transfer student into a prestigious magic academy. He plans to work hard and make the world a better place. When he reports for his physical exam he’s told that his future occupation is a demon lord and everyone wants him dead or to get into his pants because free will doesn’t exist and he can’t just choose a different career or some such nonsense. The plot moves at an absurdly slow pace for most of the series where they introduce minor sub-plots that go absolutely nowhere only to rush through the main story in the last episodes. The plot is cheesy, full of ridiculous cliches and, as if it wasn’t bad enough, it gets a deus ex ending. The humour is another factor that utterly fails. How badly? They make a joke about tentacle rape. That’s all you really need to know, but if you’re curious about the rest of the humour it’s mostly tasteless sex jokes.

The characters are flat, one-dimensional cliches. They’re about as developed as the cast of Kingdom Hearts. That’s how exceedingly bland they are. You can pretty easily predict what each character is going to do shortly after being introduced to them just by being passingly familiar with the tropes they embody. Making their interactions completely uninteresting.

The art could be well done, if not for one major issue. The fan-service. I know, I complain about fan-service frequently in my reviews, but this has such an excessive level of fan-service that it makes everything else I’ve reviewed look tame by comparison. It’s so bad that it borders on soft-core porn. The fight scenes are dull. They’re over far too quickly and, frequently, they’re used as a thin excuse to strip the female characters. This anime wouldn’t be able to understand how to keep things classy with four years of study under Gail Simone.

The voice acting and music are both pretty forgettable. They aren’t bad but they aren’t anything special either. They just get the job done.

The yuri factor is a 2/10. There’s one scene involving Fujiko, unfortunately it’s a rape joke. Most of the time the female characters can’t even pass the Bechdel test, much less develop relationships with each other.

My final rating for Ichiban Ishiro no Daimaou is a 1/10. The series substitutes any kind of depth for ludicrous amounts of fan-service. Add the fact that the humour is repulsive and the characters flat and all you have left is the fan-service and, frankly, if that’s what you’re looking for you’d be better off just watching hentai.