Reviews of yesteryear: Blade

Welcome, my lovely fans, to the final review of horror anime month. You know, I love Marvel comics, okay, I loved Marvel comics until the mid-90s and now I don’t care for their new stuff except for Neil Gaiman’s 1602. But there’s one aspect where the company still produces decent stuff sometimes and that’s the movies. One of the early movies was Blade and, though it had some issues, it was awesome. Even though Blade was kind of a strange choice since he was a relatively obscure character best known for his guest appearance in the 90s Spider-man cartoon. Naturally, with the success of the films Marvel made the decision to work with Madhouse on various anime projects. There was Iron-man, Wolverine, X-men and Blade. Honestly, I’ve been hesitant to watch these since they seem like a cheap attempt to cash in on the movies and the trailers haven’t been promising, but to close horror anime month I’m going to look at Blade. To start off with I’ll briefly talk about what I thought of the movies, skipping the first one since I already mentioned it. The second one was good, not as good as the first but good. The third was, in keeping with Marvel film trilogy tradition, terrible. Let’s just hope that the Blade anime is more in keeping with the first two. Knowing Madhouse, it could go either way.

The story opens with Blade in Japan hunting vampires. He runs into a few and asks one of them where he can find a four-fanged vampire. His search leads him to a nightclub where a father and daughter pair of vampire hunters is fighting the owner, a vampire named Radu. I’m not sure if they’re referencing a really stupid horror movie series there or not. Anyway, Blade defeats Radu and then the group is attacked by Deacon Frost a vampire with four fangs. It ends with the father sacrificing himself, I don’t recall them ever giving the guy a name, and Frost running off with a sample of Blade’s blood. The story from there follows Blade as he hunts Frost and his vampiric organisation known as Existence. Makoto, the surviving hunter from earlier, chases after him. I will warn you that her initial reason for doing so is really stupid. It’s a simple story but it’s told pretty well. There’s one really good emotional moment towards the end. There’s also quite a bit of back story, which is worked in pretty well. The biggest issue with the story is that a lot of it involves Blade going somewhere in Asia, finding Frost, Frost getting away while Blade is fighting something, and then it repeats. So it does get repetitive.

The characters are mostly well done. Blade, Razor, Whistler… I mean Noah Van Hellsing (He’s basically Whistler they just gave him a different name) and Makoto, once she stops being stupid, (to be fair, she only acts like a moron for the first few episodes and it’s understandable in the first) are all interesting characters with depth. Even a lot of the one-shot characters feel like real people. That being said, there are some issues. I’ll start with the more minor one, Kikyo Mikage. Now, this is a Marvel anime original character and he’s terrible. He’s very one-dimensional and his power, retractable full length swords with hilts included that come out of his hands, is one of the dumbest I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen characters with the power to communicate with squirrels and the power to detach their arms. Full length retractable swords makes them seem almost mediocre by comparison. This guy shouldn’t even be able to bend his arms. My bigger issue is with Frost’s motivations. Towards the end they have him give a pretty predictable villain speech where he expounds about all his plans. If that wasn’t bad enough, he has two different and contradictory goals. That’s right, when he starts his speech he says that his goal is one thing. Roughly five minutes later when he’s ending it, he says his goal is something completely different. That’s great continuity right there.

The art is really good. The characters look good (mostly), although don’t expect Blade to look like Wesley Snipes. Which is fine since this isn’t connected to the movie trilogy. He looks more like the comic version which is somewhat similar to another actor. There’s a variety of vampire types, most of which are interesting and have a good aesthetic sense. The settings are varied and nicely detailed. I did have a few issues though. The first one is going to be really nerdy, fair warning. My first issue is that Madhouse fails at drawing Wolverine. Here’s the thing, Wolverine is supposed to be all of 5’3 and stocky. In this he’s as tall as Captain Blade of the space station DS 9, who should tower over him at 6’2, and he’s kind of scrawny. Yeah, Blade in this did remind me of Avery Brooks. As I said, it’s a nerdy complaint but it’s still valid. My second issue is with the final variety of vampires. They appear right at the end, there’s a lot of build up and I was wondering what they would do with them. Then they appeared and I burst out laughing. They look really stupid and it just kills the dramatic tension. My biggest issue is with the fight scenes. They almost all follow the same basic pattern. Peons get destroyed with ease, a big baddie shows up, it looks like Blade is getting his butt kicked, Blade does a slow-motion special attack, the fight ends. This is not how you make intense action scenes. The final battle between Frost and Blade… That works. It doesn’t follow that same pattern. Why didn’t they do them more like that throughout?

The voice acting is pretty good in this. Ootsuka Akio and Sakamoto Maaya especially do well. The first two movies had pretty awesome soundtracks, this does not follow suit. The music is pretty dull.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s all of one major female character and she doesn’t get any les-yay with any side characters or anything.

So, how does the Blade anime hold up when compared to the films? It does okay. There’s quite a bit in here that’s done well, but there are also quite a few problems. The characters are mostly really well done, there is a good story hidden beneath the repetition and the artwork, aside from a few things, is pretty good. Really, every aspect of the anime had a lot of good things going for it but there are also negatives to everything. A lot of which just come from laziness. Whether it was repeating plot points, repetitive fights or continuity flubs. Almost all of which could’ve been avoided if they’d put in more effort. As such my final rating is a 6.5/10. If you like Blade as a character, either from the films or the comics, you’ll probably enjoy this but if you don’t care about Blade, it’s probably not going to have anything for you.

Reviews of yesteryear: Vampire Princess Miyu OVA

Welcome back, my friends, to horror anime month. This week we’ll be looking at an OVA about a vampire. After last week I needed something with a strong and well developed female character who isn’t sexualised, so we’re looking at Vampire Princess Miyu. Vampire Princess Miyu originated as a manga by a married couple: Hirano Toshiki and Kakinouchi Narumi. You may recognise him as the director of Magic Knight Rayearth, Devilman Lady and many others. Her works are quite a bit more obscure so if you’ve heard of her it’s probably going to be because of this or Yakushiji Ryoko no Kaiki Jikenbo, which she did the illustrations for. Vampire Princess Miyu has two adaptations, an OVA from the late 80s and a TV series from nearly a decade later. I might get to the TV series at some point, but right now let’s look at the OVA.

There’s not a major over-arching story for this. Basically, each of the episodes tells a different story. The first begins with a spiritualist named Himiko. She’s called in to investigate a young girl who’s been asleep for months. A condition that her parents believe is caused by possession. When she investigates she discovers that women have been being found with all the blood drained from their bodies. She’s attacked in the dead of night by a swift moving robed figure and finds herself rescued by a girl in a kimono, a girl who feeds on blood and knows more than she’ll reveal. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do that for all four episodes. One thing I can say to the OVA’s credit is that it has some really good suspense, a lot of which is created through mysteries. In the first episode you’re left wondering what exactly is attacking people and what its connection to Miyu is or even if there is any. Every episode has a mystery like that, except for the last which answers a mystery that’s been building for the entire OVA. The only real downside is the second episode which isn’t nearly as suspenseful or interesting as the rest. A lot of the issue is that its mystery has an obvious solution virtually from the beginning. It’s not really scary, but it does have some legitimately creepy moments so it’s doing better with the horror aspect than everything I’ve reviewed so far this month.

There are really only three characters worth mentioning in this. Miyu, Larva and Himiko. The other characters show up for one episode or part of an episode. A few of them do get developed, but most just serve a very specific purpose and never get actual development. As for our three major characters, Miyu is fascinating. A lot of the details about her are left unsaid, but very effectively illustrated. She’s a multi-faceted character who’s neither a paragon of virtue nor a blood sucking monster. She has a great deal of verisimilitude in spite of being a supernatural figure. Larva is less developed. He’s a very mysterious character with motivations that are touched on a bit, but not much. He’s mostly defined by his protectiveness of Miyu. Himiko is another interesting character. She wants to find and stop Miyu, but frequently ends up on the same side as her. She’s the most relatable character since she’s an ordinary human who’s trying to make the most of extraordinary circumstances. So there’s a lot of character depth for these three. Especially when you factor in the number of episodes.

The art is reminiscent of 3×3 Eyes. The character designs use the same basic style and both feature very stylized and interesting supernatural elements. Vampire Princess Miyu has very atmospheric art. The backgrounds, the character movements, the entire aesthetic really, helps with the sense of suspense. That isn’t to say that it’s perfect. There are some scenes where the characters mouths aren’t in sync with their dialogue but that’s a minor complaint. The biggest art issue is that the action scenes aren’t particularly intense. They tend to end pretty quickly. Although I’m not going to hold it against the series too much because it does use that time effectively to build suspense and develop the characters.

The voice acting is pretty well done. I really like Watanabe Naoko’s performance as Miyu. The laugh especially is just perfect. Which is good since you hear it quite a bit. Koyama Mami doesn’t do as well in her role as Himiko, but she still does a good job. Shiozawa Kaneto only gets a few lines, but he gives a good performance. The music in this is amazing. It works with the art to establish and maintain a really strong atmosphere. Kudos there.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s really nothing homoerotic here.

My final rating for the Vampire Princess Miyu OVA is a 7.6/10. The stories have good suspense. The characters are well developed and interesting. The atmosphere, from a combination of the art and sound, is amazing. If there’s one thing that holds it back it’s the second episode and even it’s okay. If you like 3×3 eyes or suspense in general you’ll probably enjoy this too.

Mawaru Penguindrum: Just pretend that serious thing never happened

Mawaru Penguindrum is one of those rare anime that doesn’t have some form of source material. It was created by Brain’s Base, the same studio behind Durarara & Baccano. The co-writer and director was Ikuhara Kunihiko. You may not know his name but you probably recognise his other works. He created and directed Revolutionary Girl Utena and served as the director for large segments of the Sailor Moon anime. I have to say, this sounds promising. So far, the two anime I’ve seen from Brain’s Base have been at least decent and Ikuhara does amazing work. If they screw this up I’m going to be sorely disappointed. So, let’s proceed with cautious optimism.

Story:

Our tale opens with three siblings, Shouma, Kanba and Himari. The three are living on their own since their parents went missing and things aren’t going very well. Himari is dying of an incurable disease and her brothers have been told that she doesn’t have long. They decide to do everything they can to make her final days happy and take her to an Aquarium that they all used to love going to. It’s there that Himari collapses. She’s rushed to the hospital where she dies only to quickly come back to life and start adopting odd mannerisms whenever she wears a penguin hat. She brings her brothers to a strange psychedelic space that even Lewis Carroll would find excessive, calls them worthless low lives and tells them that they’ll have to find something called the “Penguindrum” to save their sister’s life and things only become crazier and crazier from that point on.

As usual, let’s begin by looking at the series’ faults. The biggest one is that it’s fond of bringing up really serious issues for dramatic moments that don’t tie into the plot in any substantial way and are never brought up again after they happen. The primary examples being scenes where someone will very nearly be raped and the next episode they’ll interact with the person who made the attempt as though nothing happened and it will just go completely unaddressed for the rest of the series. Which just begs the question of why something as serious as rape is being brought up at all if they aren’t going to bother doing anything with it. Really, any source of drama should have some plot relevance instead of just being there for a cheap shock moment but there’s something particularly terrible about using such a grotesque crime, and the number one cause of PTSD, in such a tawdry fashion. There are also quite a few humorous moments that fall short, mainly because they’ll try to pull off humour at parts of their cheap shock scenes or really close to them which results in a tonal clash. The romance elements in this are absolutely atrocious. Most of it involves incestuous undertones, stalking and/or some other factor that makes it really skeevy. The problem being that a lot of it is played as uplifting or otherwise positive instead of having some self awareness of how messed up the situation is. Although, in all fairness, they do always show rape as being a terrible thing, even if they never bring the attempts up again after they’re done with.

Let’s move on to the positive aspects. I will give the series credit on three points. The first is that the premise is very creative and had a lot of potential, even if that potential was largely squandered by meanderings into the realms of pointless irrelevance and general stupidity. I’ll also give credit for having some legitimately good dramatic scenes, when it’s actually doing plot relevant stuff and can refrain from trying to inject humour into it. The series also does have some funny scenes, when it’s putting them in at light-hearted bits instead of trying to cram them into really serious moments. So, the series does manage some good bits during the rare stretches when the writers were on their Ritalin.

Characters:

The characters are, largely, not bad. Every single one does suffer from the writing’s general lack of focus, but in terms of characterisation and development they aren’t bad characters. They are, however, pretty standard with little, if anything, unique to define them. There are some really good familial scenes with Shouma, Kanba and Himari. They still aren’t very complex characters, though and there are times when the series takes those bonds into creepy territory which does weaken that aspect.

Then we have the penguins. Those of you who have seen Utena might remember the little purple monkey that existed solely for comic relief but was bearable because he largely stayed in the background and did, in all fairness, have some funny moments. Now, imagine that same basic character with a more prominent role and with four slight variations running around. So, now you have four largely pointless comic sidekicks taking up screen time and being highly obtrusive. I would like to tell you that at least none of them makes any attempt at sexually assaulting anyone, but one of them does, albeit in a much more mild form than most of the similar scenes in the series. Because tying someone up and forcing kisses on them without consent is still a type of sexual assault.

Art:

The art is really good. Ikuhara’s fondness for symbolism that’s extravagant and kind of bizarre is fully on display. The visuals are highly engrossing and appealing to look at. The character designs are very reminiscent of Utena. For example, Natsume Masako looks similar to Arisugawa Juri in terms of hairstyle, facial structure and even expressions.

Sound:

The actors in this really put a great deal of effort into their performances. They do deliver their lines as over the top or seriously as the current scene demands. I appreciate the effort they’re clearly putting into it and I won’t say that any of them were bad, but I really can’t call them good performances either. Due to the tonal issues, A lot of scenes require them to fluctuate from serious to exaggeration in the space of a few sentences and it just sounds awkward. There aren’t many scenes that let them show any subtle emotional range. Most just have them fluctuating between extremes. Honestly, the music is the one thing I didn’t notice tonal problems with. Maybe it does fluctuate during those horribly executed scenes and I was too overwhelmed by everything else to notice but, as far as I can recall, the music was really good.

Ho-yay:

There’s certainly some. One of the attempted rape scenes is between two characters of the same sex. There’s also a case of two female characters being portrayed as having had sex, consensual too as rare as that is for this anime and there are some scenes that definitely come across as homo-erotic, usually between girls. That being said, it isn’t a huge part of the anime since a lot of the focus is on Shouma and Kanba. As such, the ho-yay factor is going to be a 5/10.

Final Thoughts:

This anime is a classic example of style being valued over substance. It has some amazing visuals and it has some good scenes both dramatic and comedic and it does portray familial bonds pretty well. But taken as a whole, it doesn’t hold up. The narrative is an unfocused mess with tonal problems and lots of dramatic moments that serve no purpose to the plot and come across as pretty offensive and demeaning towards serious issues. Because it’s one thing to address serious issues and quite another to bring them up and then do bugger all with them. This series chose poorly and took the latter route. In the end, every good scene is over-shadowed by two or three bad ones and my final rating is going to be a 3/10. Next week, we’ll ignore the requests for a moment because it’s time to take another look at that franchise, in the name of the moon.

Reviews of yesteryear: Highschool of the Dead

Welcome back to horror anime month. This week we’re going to look at a zombie apocalypse anime, Highschool of the Dead. An anime from Madhouse based on the manga by Sato Daisuke. It’s also one that I’ve been avoiding because every clip and image I’ve seen makes it look ridiculously exploitative and overly fan-servicey. So, of course, I’ve gotten a request to review it. I can only hope that it’s better than it looks because if it’s exactly what it looks like this is going to be painful. Let’s dig into Highschool of the Dead and find out. Okay, now that I’ve watched it I can say that it’s not as bad as it looks. It’s much worse.

Let’s start with the story. Normal life gets interrupted by an outbreak of the undead. A small group of survivors runs around seeking refuge/their families. You know, the same story that gets used in virtually every zombie apocalypse story ever. Highschool of the Dead offers nothing unique or new, just the same tired cliches that most of us have gotten bored with already. If you’ve seen or read any zombie apocalypse narrative then you can predict absolutely everything that happens, unless you fail at basic pattern recognition. As a consequence of the cliches, or possibly the characters but I’ll get to them in a moment, the whole thing is really boring, when it’s not infuriatingly misogynistic, because we’ve seen this done to death and done with far superior execution. There’s not a single original thought or scene in the whole anime. Actually, I don’t think there was thought put into this, cliche-driven or otherwise. Those stretches that aren’t mindless action are mostly used for highly problematic fan-service instead of anything story or character developing since Highschool of the Dead is against that sort of thing. Why have depth when you can have mindless T&A?

Now, I said I’d get to the characters. This is another aspect that fails utterly. Like the story, there’s nothing original here. The characters are all one-dimensional stereotypes with roughly the same depth as a puddle that’s been evaporating under a hot sun for several hours. The best thing about them is that they occasionally move to two dimensional stereotypes for a scene or two but it’s barely an improvement. There’s no likable or sympathetic character to be found. The most interesting character is the dog and the dog does virtually nothing. This isn’t Cowboy Bebop or Sailor Moon, there will be no animals that are also intriguing characters here, or any intriguing characters for that matter. The dog is only the most interesting because the rest of the characters are so one-dimensionally detestable while the dog is just a dog.

The art and action scenes could’ve been good. There’s just one humongous problem, the entire anime is over-run with tasteless, exploitative and highly misogynistic fan-service. The action sequences are frequently broken up by random shots of bouncing breasts and panties. Class, there’s as much here as there is depth. Which is to say none whatsoever. I can just see the process behind this, Artist: “I’ve gotten the scene done! I think it’s nice and intense with plenty of violence. The mindless action crowd’ll love it.” Sleazy douchebag: “There’s too much action. Throw in five or six panty shots and pan to bouncing breasts here, here, here, here and here.” Artist: “But that’ll make the whole thing disjointed and it’ll look terrible.” Sleazy douchebag: “I said do it.” Yeah, the action scenes are disjointed with the flow being constantly interrupted for fan-service. The only major female character without breasts that had to have gone through several surgeries to get that large is the small child. The zombies look pretty bland. They look like just about every horde of zombies in media that’s not even trying. I know, they did nothing new and it’s shocking.

The voice acting and music are the best part of the anime. It’s not that they’re good, but they aren’t bad either. They’re just kind of mediocre. There’s nothing that really stands out about them.

The yuri factor is a 5/10. There are some very detailed les-yay scenes involving some of the minor characters. They’re used for… you guessed it, mindless and exploitative fan-service. Like everything else, they contribute nothing to the plot and do nothing for the characters. Because having scenes that are important in some way would just be stupid.

Highschool of the Dead is atrocious. The story and characters are completely cliche. The art is full of absurd and exploitative fan-service, which also interrupts the flow of the action sequences. It gets, do I even have to say it at this point, a 1/10. I will give it some credit. It is scary, not because of the plot or generic zombies, but because it has a fanbase. I don’t know if people just love cliches or if there are that many people who are just entranced by the fan-service, but either way this meritless pile of excrement having fans is pretty scary and makes me question whether the human race really needs to keep existing. All in all, there’s not a facepalm hard enough. To this day, Highschool of the Dead is one of the worst abominations I’ve ever reviewed. 

Reviews of yesteryear: Muramasa

Welcome Lovely fans to the second review of horror anime month. For a while, I referred to the people who read my reviews like that consistently. But I stopped because I didn’t want it to seem like I was just trying to disingenuously flatter you all. It was meant as a sincere expression of fondness, but that’s not how a lot of people took it. Today we’re looking at a short offering from the legendary Tekuza Osamu. You may know him as the creator of Astro Boy, Black Jack and many others. Today’s selection is a rather odd choice for him. A lot of his works are lighter-hearted action series. A horror film is pretty atypical. Let’s take a look at Muramasa and find out what he did with it.

The plot is really basic, it would have to be given that Muramasa is all of nine minutes long. A wandering warrior finds a sword stuck inside a straw dummy. He takes it along with its scabbard. He uses it in practice and finds that it’s incredibly sharp but then things start to go wrong and he begins losing his mind. That’s as far as I’m going to take the description. Now, the plot is simple but it’s actually really well done. Especially when you factor in the time constraints. The inner struggle that the warrior goes through is portrayed poignantly and, although events move quickly, they never feel rushed. I will say, however, that it’s not scary. The struggle is poignant, yes, but that doesn’t make it frightening in any way. Psychological, yes. Horror, no.

The characters aren’t as interesting. The one character you get is the warrior and you know virtually nothing about him. Since the story is all about the struggle there’s very little nuance to him. Not that I can really blame them since, again, it’s all of nine minutes long and studying all of the nuances of a character in that time frame is not going to happen.

The art… Well, the images themselves look almost like Watercolour paintings. Which does look really good, mostly. There are some cases where the expressions just look really bizarre. The animation, however, is really slow and choppy. There are also several scenes that get repeated. I remind you, this anime is nine minutes long. Is there really any legitimate excuse for being lazy with the artwork?

There is no voice acting. Which actually works really well in this. The story is told without any dialogue and that helps heighten the mood, I think. As for the music, it’s a little boring. Even with the short length there’s very little variation and it doesn’t change to suit the mood so the anime might just be better if it’s watched in total silence.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s no yuri in this, although you probably figured that out already.

My final rating for Muramasa is a 7/10. It’s a good little piece with some power behind it. The biggest issues are the choppy animation and lackluster music, but I’d still suggest checking it out. It is well worth the nine minutes

Welcome to the NHK: There may be life outside your apartment

Welcome to the N.H.K is a comedy-drama anime based on a novel written by Takimoto Tatsuhiko. The anime adaptation came out in 2006, four years after the manga, and was developed by Gonzo. You may remember them from Basilisk, Gantz & Bakuretsu Tenshi. This will be the first time I’ve reviewed a comedic work from Gonzo. So, how do they handle a dramatic comedy?

Story:

Satou Tatsuhiro is a NEET, or a person not employed, not in education and not training. He lives as a, Hikikomori, shut up in his room without interacting with anyone else unless he absolutely has to. That all changes one day when he carelessly opens his door for a religious solicitor and her niece. The two are handing out pamphlets about Hikikomori. Rather than shut the door in their faces or openly mock them, which is what a sensible person does when strangers come to their door with religious pamphlets, Satou panics and, in his overmuch protestations to the contrary, outs himself as a Hikikomori. In the hopes of undoing the damage, Satou decides to look at life outside of his apartment and goes job hunting. When he encounters the woman’s niece by chance he once again panics and retreats. Later, he finds a letter from the young lady, Misaki, shoved through his mail slot, claiming that she can save him from his Hikikomori ways and asking him to meet her. That’s when everything starts to change for Satou.

When it comes right down to it, this anime puts the focus on outcasts of various kinds. Hikikomori, Otaku, the Depressed, Conspiracy Theorists and several other sub-cultures that are generally viewed as strange or worse by polite society. There isn’t a single major character that isn’t othered in some way. So, let’s look at what they do wrong with the concept and then look at what they do well.

There’s only one big problem with the series in terms of the story, but it is a really substantial one. The tone is all over the place. There will be episodes that are largely light-hearted and contain a lot of zany moments and then it’ll shift to incredibly serious episodes dealing with suicide. There’s even one episode that has really serious moments about suicide with bizarre comedic moments inappropriately mixed into it. The series tries to be dramatic and funny simultaneously, or shortly after each other, which ultimately undermines both aspects.

Let’s move onto the positives. While the series definitely has issues with tonal shifts, when it can successfully settle on a tone it does do some interesting things. It is also good about showing its outcasts in a light that’s comedic, but also encourages understanding. You laugh at the characters for making idiotic blunders, but you can also sympathise with them and understand why they messed up. The series also does well when it comes to keeping things realistic. About the most outlandish it gets are scenes where Satou is daydreaming or imagining things and inanimate objects talk to him. And, to be fair, that is the kind of daydream someone without much actual social interaction might have.

Characters:

The cast is made up of social misfits. They’re largely portrayed as either pitiable or subjects of schadenfreude, depending on whether the tone is more serious or light-hearted at the moment. I will give the series credit for making them largely realistic in their behaviours and their reasons for those behaviours. That being said, there are times when you’ll get a group of characters all being ridiculously gullible at the same exact time and it strains believability. This is most readily apparent in the Multi-level marketing episodes. It can also get annoying when Satou repeats the same mistakes over and over and over again without actually learning anything because learning from experiences is for other people.

Art:

The art is pretty good. The characters are very expressive and there is a lot of work put into the various background details. The daydreaming scenes are appropriately surreal and fan-service, when it does come up, is appropriate for the situation. For example, it comes up in Satou’s fantasies and with Galges. Both of which are contexts where it makes sense to have that kind of imagery and it’s not particularly sexualised when it comes up. It’s largely used to show how pathetic Satou and Yamazaki are and how absurd their concept of women is. I do respect the series for taking that route as opposed to devolving into straight up sexualisation. There are a few issues with the art though. The first is that the character movements can be really awkward and stilted at times. Almost like they cut down on frames for time and ended up skipping a few hoping that no one would notice. The character designs themselves are also pretty bland.

Sound:

The acting in this is mostly good. Sakaguchi Daisuke, Koizumi Yutaka & Makino Yui all give good performances. The one issue with the acting is that the series likes to exaggerate for comedic effect and they can go overboard with it at times. The music is really well thought out. They put a lot of effort into making, say, the “purin” theme sound like something that would come from an anime like that. They also do a good job of making the ambient music suit the mood. Except in those cases where the mood itself has a tonal clash.

Ho-yay:

The closest the series comes to ho-yay is Satou thinking about having Yamazaki cross dress because he told his mom that he had a girlfriend but it’s abundantly clear that that scene is a joke and that both Satou and Yamazaki like girls. So, 1.5/10.

Final Thoughts:

Welcome to the NHK has some good dramatic scenes and some good comedic scenes. It also features good acting, art and it has a good level of realism. Where it runs into trouble is when the comedic and dramatic moments meet or there’s a major shift from one to the other. It also has some hiccups with both the art and acting. Furthermore, the characters can be somewhat grating. Still, it is a good series particularly if you have been an outcast in one or more of the ways experienced by the characters. As such, my final rating is a 7/10. Next week I’ll continue down the review request list with Mawaru Penguindrum.

Reviews of yesteryear: Blood-C

Hello and welcome to horror anime review month. This was the kick off for October of 2012. To start things off I’m going to look at Blood-C. I’ve heard of this for two reasons. The first is that it’s related to Blood+, which I may review at some point but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I ended up reviewing Blood+ four months later in February. The second is that a lot of the Blood+ fans hate it. Now, I’ve seen Blood+ and to give my thoughts about it in brief, it’s okay. I thought that it did some things pretty well and others kind of poorly. Am I going to be ticked off if Blood C doesn’t follow it? No, no I’m not. It’s really not a franchise that I’m really attached to so, frankly, I don’t care what they do with the franchise as long as it tells a good story. The one thing I’m really hoping for is a less whiny Saya because the Blood+ version got on my nerves a bit. So let’s take a look at Blood C and see if we get an interesting story and, possibly, a better Saya.

Now that I’ve seen it, I just have to start by saying that I’m not going to be bringing up Blood+ for comparison purposes except for maybe when I talk about the character of Saya. The two anime are completely different so there’s really not much to be gained by the comparison. Now, a lot of the big plot details are spoilers so I won’t explicate on it too much. The basic setup is that Kisaragi Saya is a shrine maiden who lives in a small town with her father and fights monsters at night. But there’s a secret that she only has vague inklings of. That’s as far as I can go without giving spoilers. I will say that the horror label in this is code for “it has monsters” since the anime isn’t scary in the least. There are things that the anime does well. The mystery surrounding everything is interesting and, once you learn the truth, the concept behind it is interesting. However, the execution is flawed in that the hints are pretty minimal and the reveal comes at the end when it’s too late to do much with it. Another basic problem is that Blood-C lacks impact. A lot of the events that occur should be tragic but they aren’t because there’s not much reflection on them and a lot of them are rushed through.

The characters are a bit lackluster. The only really interesting characters are Saya and, arguably, the antagonist. The rest of the characters do and say very little aside from some exposition. I will say that I did like Blood-C’s Saya better than the Blood+ version since she’s more determined and a lot less angsty.

You can tell that Clamp was involved with this from the art. The characters have limbs that are too long for their bodies and tiny waists that shouldn’t be able to hold all of their organs. I will say that it still looks far better than the art in Xxxholic. It’s actually pretty decent if you can get past the proportions. The action sequences are really well done, even if the amount of blood that ignores the laws of physics to gush out of wounds is ridiculous. The monsters are pretty hit and miss. Some of them do look pretty interesting, but others just look silly.

The voice acting is actually really well done. They had a great cast including Mizuki Nana (who is always excellent), Asano Masumi and Fujiwara Kenji. The music is good sometimes but others it’s pretty underwhelming.

The yuri factor is a 4/10. There are some scenes involving Saya and her teacher or some of her female classmates that are pretty homo-erotic. They don’t ultimately go anywhere though.

My final rating for Blood-C is a 6/10. Like Blood+, it’s okay. There are some things it does well and others where it falls short. Saya is a good character and there are some interesting ideas but the execution falls short and it really ends up being more of a mindless action anime than anything else. If you’re expecting it to be like Blood+, don’t. But give it a try if you enjoy bloody battle sequences or if you’re curious about the mystery.