Street Fighter Alpha: Ryu fights his emo side

It’s been almost four years since I talked about Street Fighter II, the anime film by Group TAC. It was a film I was pretty positive towards and with good reason. It had some solid action sequences, a compelling plot and was pretty close to everything that the game’s fans wanted. This film comes from the same studio six years later in 2000. It’s not connected to the first, but they surely must have had time to iron out those elements that didn’t work and make something improved, right?

Like last time, I’ll be using the Japanese character names.

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Story:

We open with Ryu contemplating on his old master while also struggling with some strange energy. This is the dark hadou, a power force that corrupted Gouki and may very well do the same to Ryu if he lets it overtake him. Meanwhile, Chun-Li is trying to track down a Doctor Sadler who’s reportedly working for Shadaloo, Sakura is trying to find the mysterious martial artist (Ryu) she saw beat up a bunch of thugs alongside Chun-Li & a boy, Shun, claims to be Ryu’s brother and starts living alongside Ryu & Ken at the dojo.

There are a lot of issues with this film. The first is the whole struggle Ryu has with the dark hadou. The film portrays this as an inner struggle that could lead Ryu down a path where he cares about nothing but fighting but we see no real evidence that that’s the outcome. We never see Ryu get into a fight for no real reason, he always fights to protect someone else or because he thinks he’s in danger and has no trouble turning down fights. The same is rue with Gouki, the man who was “consumed” by the dark hadou. Ryu and Chun-Li go to his island to talk with him and he just lets them go after a short, vague chat. And the whole big thing about it kind of ends in an anti-climax. Then we have the stuff with Sadler. It’s largely boring. Sakura spends the film trying to meet with Ryu but she never speaks with him. Instead, the pay off to her whole arc is a short lecture from Ken. And the whole thing is completely irrelevant to the main narrative. Then there’s the stuff with Shun. Which is probably the worst part of the film. Not only is this kid an annoyance but the latter part of the film has a lot of tension that relies on us caring about this kid and what befalls him. All while not giving us any compelling reason to care.

I guess you can give the film some credit for tying most of its narrative threads together but it kind of doesn’t work when you have no reason to care about any of them.

Characters:

While the other film gave us a good sense of character for the major characters, at least, this one gives us kind of dull, generic focus characters. And if you thought this being based off of Street Fighter Alpha specifically was going to affect which characters get major roles, you’d be mistaken. The two Alpha characters we see the most of are Rose & Sakura. Neither of whom really gets to fight. Sakura spends her time in the pointless side story of trying to find Ryu. Rose spends her time appearing to Ryu as a sort of mystical guide. We see some other Alpha characters like Birdie, Dan, Guy, Adon, & Sodom, for very brief parts that give them virtually no sense of personality. Our main antagonist isn’t even an actual Street Fighter character. He’s a completely original non-character. Shun is the worst, though. He’s obnoxious and the attempts to make him sympathetic are completely cliché.

Art:

If there’s one thing you’d expect from a film based off of Street Fighter, it’s probably strong action. Which is not something this film possesses. You know how those long running mindless action anime frequently involve lazy action sequences that feature characters stopping to charge their special attacks while their opponent sits back and lets them, side characters getting taken out easily and then the protagonist jumping in and ending the whole skirmish disgustingly easily? That’s the major action sequences in this film in a nutshell. The more minor ones just show our major characters fighting nameless henchmen or they’re ten second snippets of the Street Fighter cast fighting on an island. I guess you can give the film some credit in that its character designs do mimic the Alpha art style pretty faithfully but this is the type of franchise that’s known for its action and those sequences are pretty lousy.

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Sound:

They did get some capable actors for this. Including Orikasa Ai, Touma Yumi & Nishimura Tomomichi. Their performances in this, however, aren’t very good. They’re okay, especially considering what they had to work with. The music by Matsuo Hayato is really forgettable.

Ho-yay:

This film doesn’t develop its characters or their relationships enough for any of them to seem romantic.

Final Thoughts:

Alpha is a lousy film. The disparate narrative threads are pretty bad and they don’t form a stronger whole. The characters range from obnoxious brat Shun to bland major character. The action sequences are weak. All in all, it’s barely better than what Hollywood did with the franchise. My final rating is going to be a 3/10. Next week I’ll take a look at Phantasy Star Online 2: The Animation. You can also expect the bonus review this Sunday. 

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Devil May Cry: Sephiroth cut his hair

A lot of gamers are, at least, familiar with Capcom’s Devil May Cry. The franchise is pretty beloved, except for that reboot one where Dante had dark hair and was, objectively, a piece of shit. In 2007, after the third instalment but before the fourth, our old friends at Madhouse started releasing an anime based off of the games. That’s right, the studio that brought us such adaptations as X-men, Metropolis, and FF Legend of the Crystals was behind this. Well, maybe this one isn’t a pile of garbage like those were. Well, except Metropolis. It was just sub-par.

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Story:

We open with Morrison bringing Dante a job. Now, you might find yourself asking “who the hell is Morrison?” He’s an original character who basically exists to bring Dante work and, occasionally, drive him around. The job is simple, Dante just has to safely escort a young orphan girl to the estate of the deceased father she never met to claim her inheritance. Naturally, she’s being hunted by demons.

This is one of those anime where the underlying plot is pretty light and most episodes are just doing their own thing. Dante gets a job that somehow involves demons and then he goes out to slay them. In fact, the weakest part of the series is the big underlying plot. You get little snippets of it in quite a few episodes, but it ultimately involves a lot of contrivance and it’s just not very good in general. Even the ongoing stuff that’s meant to draw your attention to the fact that something is afoot is largely just dull and really obvious. To the point where it’s just “this again” after a few times. The episodes also have a general problem of trying way too hard to give happy endings. To the point where they can just go completely off the rails and not make much sense. There are quite a few episodes that set things up for sad or, at the very least, bitter-sweet endings and then pull happy ones out of their anuses. I guess I missed the memo about DMC being for small children who can’t process tragedy on account of the PEGI 16 ratings.

With that being said, a lot of the episodic scenarios are pretty interesting. Varied too. Yeah, you know that Dante is going to fight some demon, but there’s a lot of variation in what kinds of demons he’ll fight and how they’ll approach. Some of them use stealthy approaches or try to use guile, others prefer the direct approach. Some are after him specifically, others just happen to stumble upon him while going about their terrible business. And some of the scenarios are really intricate. The death poker game being a prime example.

Characters:

The characters from the games, Dante, Trish & Lady are all portrayed pretty true to character. Which is more than a certain reboot managed. In terms of original characters, some of the ones Dante encounters on his missions are kind of interesting. Others are pretty mediocre. Then we have our reoccurring Ocs, Morrison & Patty. Morrison is a boring character. We don’t know why he’s bringing Dante jobs, how they met or anything beyond “he brings Dante jobs.” He’s pretty much on par with the plot coupon guy from your average PreCure series. And those can get by with it because they are actually for children. Then we have Patty. Have you ever wondered what Devil May Cry would be like if Dante had a slightly annoying child sidekick? No? Well, it’s not the best decision that Madhouse could have made. She spends a lot of time pestering Dante, having to be rescued and contributing virtually nothing.

Art:

The artwork is pretty decent. The characters look like themselves and Madhouse clearly made an effort to make the aesthetic look like DMC. The demon designs are generally pretty good as well. The trouble is that the action sequences themselves aren’t all that good. In a series that relies heavily on action sequences. A lot of the “big” Dante fights end very quickly without having much content. And a lot of the sequences focus heavily on scenes of Dante attacking while not showing, or barely showing, his opponent. It would’ve benefited from showing them striking at one another in the same frames a bit more, is what I’m saying. Oh, and expect a lot of deaths to go the blood fountain route. I guess demon blood streams are highly pressurised.

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Sound:

The series did get some good voice actors. We’ve got Morikawa Toshiyuki as Dante. Yes, Dante and Sephiroth are the same guy. We all suspected it given the resemblance. We’ve got Orikasa Fumiko and Tanaka Atsuko, both of whom are damn good actresses, as Lady and Trish respectively. Even the less interesting characters got some decent voices. The musical score by Hama Takeshi & Tsutsumi Hiroaki is pretty close to fantastic.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any, really. The closest you’re going to get is Lady and Trish forming a friendship.

Final Thoughts:

Devil May Cry is an anime that had some potential. After all, there’s a lot to work with from the games. Unfortunately, it’s held back by a dull underlying plot, trying too hard to provide happy endings, the slightly annoying child sidekick and mundane action sequences. Ultimately, I’d still say it’s all right but it certainly could have been better. My final rating is a 6/10. Next week we’ll continue video game month with a look at Street Fighter Alpha.

Tales of Eternia: Largely Filler

Tales of Eternia was originally a Playstation RPG which I didn’t get to play until it got a PSP remake that actually got released in my location in 2006. I’ve talked about Tales anime adaptations before with Phantasia, Zestiria and the first Symphonia OVA. The anime adaptation is a bit of a different animal. It was released back in ’01, shortly after the game’s original launch. And it doesn’t actually show any of the events from the game itself. Rather, it’s a side story occurring shortly before our heroes travel to Celestia. Honestly, that’s not a bad idea. It gives audiences something new that can, if done right, supplement their playing experience. So, how did Production IG & Xebec do?

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Story:

While on their way to Mount Farlos so that they can take the bridge of light up to Celestia, our heroes find themselves waylaid. You see, a bounty hunter named Marone Bluecarno captures Reid and takes him to a small group of islands in order to help her bring down a sea monster. The rest of the party gives pursuit and the entire group ends up side-tracked for various adventures. But there’s something not quite cricket going on that threatens our heroic quartet.

The biggest issue with the series is just that a lot of their futzing about on the islands isn’t really doing anything. Marone and Farah have a swimming race. The Black Wings show up and do their usual comedic nonsense. Meredy partners up with a girl from the islands to try and earn money through part time jobs, shenanigans ensue. And the vast majority of it is just filler until the last few episodes where the proper plot actually kicks into gear. The “romance” aspect is also an issue. A lot of the series revolves around the various attractive women on the island getting wet over Reid while he doesn’t notice at all. Just in case you’re one of a dozen people who really wanted to see what Eternia would look like if it had shit harem elements. There are also some contrivances where things are set up so that they look bad for our heroes, but then they catch a lucky break or get rescued at the last moment. These guys seriously have Milfeulle Sakuraba’s own luck.

With those criticisms out of the way, the story does have some decent moments. The Black Wings’ appearance is pretty funny. The big narrative, once it gets going, has some good ideas behind it. And I do like the concept of having a side story with some new characters instead of a straight up adaptation. If it had been really well executed then you would actually have had a lot of tension around the new characters and their fates. As is, there’s a bit but not much.

Characters:

I will give the series some credit here. The game characters are recognisable as themselves and there are some original characters who are kind of compelling. Corina has some moments. Although her connection to her “mother” doesn’t make a lot of sense when you get into her back story. Marone has some strong points as well. If she wasn’t interested in Reid, she would’ve been pretty damn awesome. I mean, she’s a bounty hunter with martial arts and sword skills, she has a dragon and her back story is pretty definitively the best part of the series. Because she can do what she wants, she was voiced by Hayashibara Megumi. That being said, most of the side characters are kind of mediocre and the antagonist’s redemptive qualities don’t work particularly well.

Art:

The artwork in this is pretty middling. It has some nice visuals at times but it’s also bogged down by excessive fan-servicey nonsense and quite a few cost-cutting measures. Like focusing on a character who’s attacking during an action sequence and not actually showing their attacks land or repeating frames.

Sound:

The acting is one area where I have to give the series nothing but praise. It has an exemplary cast. I already mentioned Hayashibara Megumi. We also have Ishida Akira, Horie Yui, Minaguchi Yuko, Minami Omi & Hoshi Soichiro. All of whom can act very well. Horie Yui even manages to convincingly act like she can’t sing. Even though we all know she can. We’ve heard her do enough good theme tunes. The music is good too. Especially the song Marone sings in that one bit.

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Ho-yay:

There are points, particularly later on, where Marone seems to like Farah as much as she does Reid, and vice versa. It’s almost like they’re trying to give us a Skies of Arcadia dynamic. There are also a few moments where Meredy & Corina come across as more than friends.

Final Thoughts:

Tales of Eternia is a series where the premise was a surprisingly good idea. Give your audience a side story so they don’t know what to expect based on having played the game and introduce some new characters so that they have somebody to feel tension for. Unfortunately, the series is bogged down by filler, trite harem shite, lazy artwork and excess fan-service. I won’t say it’s bad, since it does have some strengths as well, but it’s pretty below average. My final rating is going to be a 4/10. If you’re a major fan of the game, you might appreciate it just for some extra content with the characters. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother watching the whole thing. Watch Marone’s musical bit because it’s amazing and, maybe, the Black Wings episode since it’s the funniest part. Next week I’ll continue looking at game adaptations with Devil May Cry.

December Bonus Review #5 Dragon Quest VII

I’ve reviewed exactly one game before this, Nintendo’s  Miitopia. I was less than impressed with it. To end December’s bonus reviews, I thought I’d go with a game franchise that’s near and dear to my heart, Dragon Quest. We’ll be basing our review on the 3DS remake and not just because it’s the version I was able to buy legally since the Playstation version wasn’t released here. We’re also doing that one because it’ll probably be the easiest for you all to find at a reasonable price.

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Story: 

We open on the small island of Estard. Our protagonist, I named him Lulu, is the son of a fisherman. One day, his father brings home a mysterious map fragment. This leads him and his childhood friend, Prince Kiefer, on a quest to open up the door to a strange shrine. They’re quickly joined by their friend Maribel. The three activate an ancient pedestal that leads them through time and space to an island they’ve never seen. They quickly discover that the world was once populated by a great many islands that were, through various machinations of the demon lord, lost. They also discover that through travelling back to pivotal moments they can restore the islands and reshape the world itself. Which may eventually earn them the strength necessary to defeat the demon king himself.

I have two issues with the story, neither of which is a major deal. They’re more of small annoyances. The first is the lack of player agency on the ending. Throughout the game, they ask Lulu questions about things like his plans for the future and how he feels about Maribel (if you’re me you always answer positively because Maribel is amazing) but, ultimately, your answers don’t matter in the slightest. Honestly, this game would have benefited from multiple endings based on your answers. You see the same basic issue with Sir Lysalot, a fraud who you have no real choice but to cover for because the game won’t let you expose him and believe me, I tried. The second issue is also with the ending. So, you get to the end and your party goes through a long victory tour where you stop at various places and find the people you need to talk to to move on to the next place. It gets pretty tedious and, honestly, this part really doesn’t need to be interactive. It actually gains nothing from having you play through it. They could’ve made it quicker and cleaner by just showing the important conversations and then automatically moving you to the next spot.

In a strange way, this narrative reminds me of Doctor Who back when Doctor Who was good. I suppose it’s the journeying through time and space aspect. Plus there’s always some new problem to face our heroes. I actually really like that story set up. I also appreciate that the various islands you go to provide different kinds of obstacles. It’s not always going through dungeons and fighting the big bad. Sometimes it’s more about information gathering or puzzle solving. Which leads to some nice variety. I also like the way the reborn islands differ. In some, you’ll find that your party has become heroes of lore. In others, you’ll be forgotten. In one case, you’re even vilified. And in all the cases the response tells you something about the culture of the island’s people. It’s actually a really effective way to do some world building.

Characters:

Lulu is pretty much like every silent Dragon Quest protagonist. He’s there as the character you project onto. The antagonist is the same kind of thing. He’s the bad guy who wants to exterminate the Almighty and rule. It’s the other playable characters who keep things compelling. Maribel, Aira, Gabo, Melvin & Kiefer all have a strong sense of personality and some interesting arcs. Even some of the more minor characters like Estard’s king or Sefana have a nicely built sense of character.

Honestly, it’s like a lot of other games in the franchise. Provide the kind of blank slate protagonist you get to make decisions for and the big bad who’s just evil while putting effort into making the rest of the party and a bunch of side characters interesting to compensate.

Gameplay:

if you’ve ever played a Dragon Quest title, you know the basics of how the controls work. You’ve got the usual turn-based combat with the usual interface and menus. It also uses the mechanic that the newer games are fond of where monsters appear on the world map and you get into battle by running into them. There are two things that separate VII from a lot of the other games in the franchise. The first is the mechanic of travelling to the past. Which is used to great effect and there are several instances where you need to go back to a specific place in order to find something or get help from a particular person. The second is the job system.

VII isn’t the only game to give you vocations, but it does execute them in an interesting way. Each vocation has levels of mastery where you earn new abilities, some of which carry over. And you gain that in addition to ordinary levels. So, you don’t have to significantly weaken yourself to start a new path. It also features prestige classes, which require certain conditions to change to. Mastering certain classes or gaining specific skills. Perhaps most interesting are the monster vocations. Throughout the game you find monster heart items that enable your characters to take on the aspects of that monster and these come with their own levels of mastery.

In terms of difficulty, VII is pretty challenging. There are times when you may want to pause in your quest to grind up some levels or just go out exploring and gain some more experience in the process. This game does have a massive map with a lot to do in it.

Art:

The designs are what you expect from Toriyama. They look pretty damn good. The 3DS version also updates the sprites when moving across the world map so that they look considerably better than the old school PS versions. One unfortunate side effect of that, however, is that the map itself and the boats you encounter look a bit blocky. The special attacks are also a bit lacklustre. Overall, though, the game does use the 3DS hardware pretty effectively.

Sound:

You’ve gotta give Sugiyama Koichi credit. He’s pretty much done the musical score for every Dragon Quest game and they’ve always been excellent at complementing the atmosphere and just being really good. The sound effects are pretty standard fare.

Final Thoughts:

Dragon Quest VII isn’t the best game in the franchise. It has some things that could definitely be done better. That being said, it’s still an excellent game. If you’re a fan of turn-based RPGs, like I am, then you’ll probably enjoy it quite a bit. The mechanic of going through time and space is really good. The characters have strong senses of personality. The soundtrack and designs are oh so good. My final rating is an enthusiastic 9/10.

Arion: The Horse Boy is a Twit

In mythology, Arion was the name of an immortal, divinely-bred horse. In the late 70s, early 80s there was a manga of the same name by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu. In 1986, Sunrise worked on an anime film based of of that manga. If this is actually starring an immortal horse, that could be amazing but I doubt it actually is. So, let’s see what this actually takes from the Greek myths.

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Story:

We open with our young and disappointingly human Arion running around when he spots a sketchy looking fellow. This is Hades. Hades has a conversation with Demeter and then promptly whisks Arion away to the Underworld under the pretence of helping him cure his mother’s blindness. Because when you think of Hades, people being whisked away and Demeter all together, you think of a horse. Persephone who? Hades tells Arion that Demeter’s blindness is caused by a curse from Zeus and the only way to cure her is to murder Zeus. Thus begins Arion’s training.

The first big issue of this film is that the narrative arc is a complete mess. We jump from Arion being trained by Hades to fight Zeus to him trying to aid father Poseidon to him striking back at Hades and then a bunch of other major turns that barely make sense and have no good story backing behind them. It’s like the focus changes every ten minutes. Another big issue is Arion’s big motivational speech. Be forewarned, I’m going to have to give some spoilers here. It’s the only way I can properly convey how bad this is.

So, we’ve seen this basic set up in a lot of media. The hero’s getting ready for the battle of his life and has to rally his people. So, he gives them a powerful, eloquent speech to stir them up. Or, that’s how it’s meant to go. In this film, he stammers about how Zeus is hunting him and all he did was kill his own father. Don’t you hate it when the authorities come after you for your murders? Also, he really wants to fuck his sister and she’s in Olympus. So, he’s gotta fight his way over there. Who would be persuaded by that? Besides Brian Michael Bendis and other creepy little weirdos with massive incest fetishes. Having some incest content in a work based off of Greek mythology is pretty much to be expected. Those myths are full of that. But you’re expecting us to believe this is a speech that resonates with people and gets them fired up and that is absolutely imbecilic.

Another issue is with the antagonists in general. In a good story, you want an antagonist or multiple antagonists who are threatening in some way. Even if the work in question is aimed at children and you know the villains aren’t going to succeed in any major way, you want them to be enough of a threat that it makes you curious about how the hero is going to overcome them. That’s a very basic part of writing. In this, the antagonists never seem all that threatening. The one time one of them seems like they could win rapidly results in a major deus ex moment that immediately reduces them to a joke. And that’s a big chunk of our climax.

Characters:

Let’s be generous and pretend that it doesn’t matter that this adaptation’s representations of its characters don’t remotely resemble their portrayals in any myth. Let’s judge them solely based on their appearances within Arion. Even giving them that much leeway, they’re still absolute rubbish. Our antagonists are a bunch of one-note evil characters. Our protagonist is an easily led twit with no real personality aside from being a twit. Resphoina is the most generic of bland love interests. The reactions characters have to things, as touched on earlier, are completely unbelievable and stilted.

Art:

The only thing that kind of works in this film is the image of Cerberus firing mouth lasers. Aside from that, the artwork is about as bad as everything else. It’s not just the janky animation, poorly constructed action sequences or boring backgrounds either. The entire aesthetic is off. And what I mean by that is that the film combines Greek visual elements with Roman ones. You’ll have Greek tunics with Roman armour. Greek triremes with Roman hand held crossbows and stuff like that. They don’t look like they belong in the same culture and it results in everything being a bit off.

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Sound:

If you want to hear some truly awful performances from talented actors like Nakahara Shigeru & Tanaka Mayumi then this is for you. Honestly, I put the blame on the horrendous characterisation and stilted dialogue but the ultimate result is undeniably that no one sounds good in this film. The music has a general issue of the sound balancing being pretty bad so it’ll either be way too loud or have sound effects that are too loud thundering over it. If there was anything happening at any point that was worth watching, it would be annoyingly distracting.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any. Even the Gods who chased lovers of the same sex in mythology, like Apollo, don’t show any interest in them here.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve seen a lot of media based off of Greek mythology in my time. This is easily among the worst. The writing is terrible. The characters have nothing to them. The art is bad. Even the acting ad music are atrocious. This film has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Which is a shame because laser breath Cerberus should be a part of something amazing. My final rating is going to be a 1/10. Next week we’ll start a new year off. We’ve had a lot of themes for January: Hayashibara Megumi, yuri, Studio Ghibli, magical girl, that year we watched one anime connected to each of those prior themes, girls with guns. Well, this year it’s anime based off of video games. We’re starting next week with Tales of Eternia.

December Bonus Review #4: Frosty the Snowman

Frosty is a short Rankin/Bass production from the tail end of the 60s. It was written by Romeo Muller, a man who was best known for churning out holiday specials like origami cranes. So, does it hold up decently enough? Let’s have a look.

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Story:

A bunch of kids get out of school after being treated to the world’s worst magician. That might be unfair. He may be a better magician than those blokes who try to convince you that vaccines are dangerous. Their routine doesn’t even make sense. They just spew bollocks and act like they’re trying to be serious. In any case, the magician, Professor Hinkle, discards his hat because he can’t do tricks with it properly. The children decide to put it on their snowman, which they’ve named Frosty, and it brings him to life. We then follow Frosty’s quest to get to the North Pole before he melts & Hinkle’s quest to get his hat back because now he knows it has some real magic.

The first issue with this little special is that the characters might be too dumb. So, these kids decide they need to get Frosty a train ticket to the North Pole and then when they’re told how expensive it’ll be they just say “we don’t have any money.” I’m sorry, but kids know what money is. They might not know the value of it but they know what it is and they know you have to pay for things. It would be one thing if they didn’t have enough because they under-estimated the price. That would be fine. But they went to a counter to buy a ticket without having any money. One of the children even decides to join Frosty on his trip to the North Pole because it’ll be fine as long as she’s home for supper. Okay, these kids obviously have some understanding that this is a long trip or they’d just walk. Why would she think it was a good idea to ride with him in a freezer car if she needs to be back in a couple hours or so?

Speaking of odd things, she’s the only one he asks to go with him. With an entire group of children following him around town and such, he picks out one to include on his adventure. It’s a good thing the children are such non-characters or that might hurt their feelings.

I will give the little piece some credit. For the short time it has, it manages to  show the stuff it really needs to. We see Frosty and the kids play. We get a sense of danger, but not too much because that might scare the wee ones. And then we get our obvious happy ending.

Characters:

So, the children are one-note non-characters. Our villain is a generic “evil for the evils” type. That leaves us with our titular Snowman. The issue with Frosty is that his writing is kind of uneven. There are some things that he hears and just understands while there are others he needs an explanation for. Because “traffic light” is just so complex while the idea of “trains” is just self-explanatory. Either have the magic snowman be imbued with knowledge by virtue of being magical or have him as a naive innocent who doesn’t understand the world. Don’t try and do both.

Art:

I’m probably going to make some people upset with this one but Rankin/Bass productions don’t have good art. They’re very lazily drawn and have very slow movements. I don’t want to be too critical since this is rather old but there were a lot of better animated works out at the time. Various Looney Tunes programs, any of Disney’s longer films from the time like The Jungle Book or The Sword in the Stone. For that matter, Wacky Races was from the same period and looks much better.

Sound:

The acting in this is kind of stilted. I’m sure Jackie Vernon was a fine comedian, but his delivery is very artificial. June Foray doesn’t have that problem as much, probably because she’d been voice acting for over two decades at that point. But she still doesn’t sound good. Jimmy Durante’s narration is definitely the best part in terms of audio. Then we have the music. A lot of the special has various characters singing the song that this short was based off of. Singing it once would be fine in a half hour, but it gets done so bloody many times that you will want to bludgeon a toddler to death.

Final Thoughts:

I don’t want to be too critical of this little special since it was obviously made for small children and it’s also really old and, therefore, suffers from a lot of the clichés of the time. Besides, it’s pretty harmless and I can’t fairly call it bad. That being said, I certainly can’t call it good. It’s a really vapid, uninspired, and rather cynical attempt to cash in on the holiday season. Ultimately, Frosty is a snowman with some yellow snow at his core. It’s a special that hasn’t aged well. I have to give it a 4/10. So, have some happy holidays, Everyone. Be good to each other and to your dogs. Especially to your dogs.

Youjo Senki:

Youjo Senki is a twelve episode anime from earlier this year. It was brought to us by NUT. So far, this series and its recap episode are NUT’s only aired productions. It’s based off of an ongoing light novel by Zen Carlo. So, we have an anime from a new studio based on a light novel I’ve never heard of with an author I know nothing about. How exciting for us.

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Story:

The series opens with Tanya, our protagonist, leading a squadron of mages in the Rhine in some bloody skirmishes. We then go back and see that our narrative opens properly with a salary man firing someone for incompetence. It’s clear from the narration that he has no sense of empathy and he’s just coldly doing his work. Just when you’re wondering how this remotely connects to the stuff from earlier, he’s pushed in front of a train. Time stops and he starts talking with Being X, a powerful creature who claims to be god and in charge of the cycle of reincarnation. X sends our protagonist to another world, saying that he will make him acknowledge him as god by making his situation desperate. Our protagonist becomes Tanya, with his personality and memories intact. Tanya’s magical potential is quickly discovered and she joins the military. At least this series gives her an early childhood to get used to a drastic change in gender and uses reincarnation as the tool for it instead of having her be changed by aliens and instantly okay with it for no adequately explored reason, looking at you, Kashimashi.

Of course, this series does have some issues. Being X’s interest in this one person doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yeah, they won’t acknowledge you as being god. Why not find some people who will instead of wasting a bunch of time on this one person? Is it because you consider it a challenge? Also, if you wanted to make things desperate for her then why did you give her a massive amount of magical power? Is Being X a part of the Q continuum playing a game with a different member of the continuum where they each take turns using their powers to do different things to this poor girl to see how she’ll respond? One reincarnates her as a little girl in another world, the next comes in and gives her a lot of magic to undermine the first and so on. Maybe it’s explained in the light novels that go beyond the anime, but it seems kind of flimsy here. The narrative itself also follows a rather predictable path. Once they introduce a situation, it’s pretty obvious where they’re going to go with it. There’s never a point where they subvert your expectations and do the unexpected. Except in terms of the military allowing a little girl to join. That’s pretty bizarre.

That being said, it is still kind of compelling to watch. This series borrows a lot from all of those JRPGs where your party has to fight against the arrogant god-figure who sadistically toys with ordinary mortals. Which I’m okay with because I like a lot of those games; FF Tactics, Breath of Fire, Xenogears, FF Legend, Shin Megami Tensei. Etc… So, it’s kind of interesting to see a lot of their basic tropes converted to a different medium. The series is good at setting up parallels between this world of magic and our world and of having Tanya use our strategic history to her advantage. And the strategies she suggests are kind of clever. They aren’t basic nonsense that any grade schooler knows like disguising yourselves as the other guys nor do they only work because the enemies act like morons. Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu should take notes.

Characters:

This is one of those series that tries to make its characters both pretty unsympathetic & complex. Like Dune or Watchmen before it. Does it succeed? Kind of. Tanya is a character who’s motivated entirely by self interest. If she does something for one of the troops under her command, it’s probably so that she looks good. It’s established right from the beginning that she doesn’t much care for them or their lives and she will send them to their deaths without any real concern.

The main thing that makes her kind of interesting is her feud with Being X. You would think she’d be willing to acknowledge him as “god” just to make things easier for herself, given her general outlook. But she steadfastly refuses and defies him at every turn. We see her stubbornness come into play a few other times too but never to the same extent. Being X is pretty much the standard god-figure from those aforementioned games. An arrogant prick who toys with mortals and demands praises. The various supporting characters vary. A lot of them don’t have much in terms of personality. Some of them are about as developed as you could reasonably manage for a side character in a twelve episode series.

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Art:

The art style in this is kind of interesting. The facial designs are really expressive. I particularly like the way they do Tanya’s smirk. The series is also good about creating an otherworldly atmosphere when Being X shows up. The only real issue I have is that there are times when the characters look like they’re superimposed over the backgrounds instead of blending in. It’s an effect rather like looking at a part of a film where it’s really bloody obvious the actors are in front of a green screen.

Sound:

They got some pretty good actors. Yuuki Aoi takes on the role of our heroine. Hayami Saori voices our most important secondary character and the Being X vocal effect is pretty grandiose. I have more mixed feelings towards the music. The incidental music tends to be decent enough but I kind of really dislike the theme tunes. Most of them have that heavily synthesised quality you tend to get when someone can’t sing and is relying on auto-tune to make it sound like they can.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t really any romance in this series, ho-yay or otherwise.

Final Thoughts:

Youjo Senki is one of those series that’s interesting enough for me to want to see a follow up but not strong enough for me to call it good. It’s all right and if NUT does a follow up I’ll definitely review that when it’s finished but, for the moment, there are too many unaddressed questions. Especially Being X’s motivations behind this level of interest in one person. It’s also a tad too predictable. It’s a decent start, but it needs to do some more work on developing its ideas. My final rating is going to sit at a respectable 6/10. Next week we’ll look at Arion. I don’t think the film is actually about the immortal horse, but we’ll see.