Bishoujo Yuugekitai Battle Skipper: A Cynical OVA

Bishoujo Yuugekitai Battle Skipper is a mecha comedy from the mid 90s. It was brought to us by Artmic. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s not a surprise. They’ve worked with AIC on a couple anime I’ve reviewed, Bubblegum Crisis & AD Police. They’ve also worked with Tatsunoko on some anime I’ve never seen. This will be the first time I’ve seen something that they were the sole driving force for and I don’t know if that’s a good thing. But, let’s give it a chance and take a look.

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Story:

We open with a secondary school girl in the shower because… class killed the writer’s goldfish. She gets dressed and talks with her minion about a group of “Extars” who are piloting their BS’s and causing problems. The showering scene totally adds a lot to this plot point and wasn’t gratuitous at all. We then join two different girls as they run to their first day at school. They see some upper classmen arrive and move to orientation where we find out that the débutante club is the most powerful force in the school and everyone wants to join for the connections. Our heroines, Shihoko & Saori, decide to join the etiquette club instead because Shihoko is immediately attracted to the vice-president, Rie. They’re joined by another girl, Kanami, who admires the president, Reika. They decide to break into the club at night because… they think there might be Friendship is Magic DVDs that they can watch or, maybe, the reasons are just really flimsy. It’s one of those. They accidentally stumble onto a hidden basement and find themselves inside their own BSs. The three of them join Reika and Rie as Extars in order to combat ne’er do wells.

The major problem with this OVA is the humour. Most of the time it comes across as an excuse for lazy writing. Why is the Extars’ super advanced hidden base easily accessed by anyone? It’s a comedy, don’t worry about it. How do the antagonists break in? Comedy. If our heroines are trying to fight in secret why do they throw that out the window in order to fight hand to hand, especially when they could handle the ruffians with their armoured tank suits? It’s a comedy, they don’t have to explain it. The more ordinary jokes barely register as jokes. To use an example, when Shihoko and Saori arrive Shihoko refers to her initial meetings with both Reika & Rie as fateful. It’s supposed to be funny because she falls in love easily. And no, the comedy never elevates above that.

The writing is, in general, just very lazy. The plot points are heavily telegraphed and clichéd. At one point we see our antagonist’s minion rescue Saori from familiar looking thugs. I wonder where that’s going to go? It couldn’t possibly be a set up to get close to her for nefarious purposes. That would just be crazy. At another point we see our heroines come under heavy fire by a mobile fortress. I wonder if the one that got left behind is going to come to their rescue with their own mobile fortress that was introduced near the end of the previous episode? It’s almost like our script writer, Kamata Hidemi, had no passion for the project whatsoever and just rushed through the script over a couple hours.

Characters:

The characters are pretty dull. Saori is the kind of clumsy protagonist who stands up for her friends. Shihoko falls in love easily and needs to be protected. Kanami is good at everything but gets a more supporting role because otherwise she’d be even more noticeably a Mary Sue. Rie is the kind of abrasive one who likes to fight. Reika is the motherly one who looks out for the others. And our antagonist wants to rule the world because… she’s rich? It’s rather like the script writing. Very low effort and reliant on the generic.

Art:

Frankly, I’ve seen stronger artwork and animation from several other 90s anime. This is another arena where Battle Skipper just seems to lack any real effort. The action sequences are pretty weak, with an over-reliance on motion blur and with machines that shoot each other kind of slowly. The character designs are kind of dull as well. Shihoko has random circles in her hair that don’t seem to be attached and that she leaves in when she sleeps because… she doesn’t want to actually get dressed in the morning. She’d rather just let her hair get tangled in the ruddy things. But don’t worry, not looking even close to good doesn’t stop them from throwing in random fan-service of the school girls. Because Kamata has a grudge against class and refuses to have anything to do with it.

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Sound:

The acting is passable. It’s not good nor is it bad. They did get some talented actresses like Orikasa Ai, Niiyama Shiho, Inoue Kikuko & Shiratori Yuri but the characters are, unfortunately, too under-written for them to show their abilities. The music is similarly mediocre.

Ho-yay:

The les-yay of this series is largely limited to Shihoko’s one-sided crushes. Although Kanami may also have a thing for Reika.

Final Thoughts:

That’s Bishoujo Yuugekitai Battle Skipper. I don’t think anyone involved was actually invested in the project. It feels like cheaply produced shlock that no one really wanted to be involved with but, hey, it’s a pay cheque. I wouldn’t call it a terrible or even a bad OVA. It’s mostly just kind of stupid and innocuous. My final rating is going to be a 4/10. Next week I’ll look at Shuumatsu no Izetta.

Vivid Strike: Reconciliation is Key

The Nanoha franchise is one I’ve talked about a lot. I’ve reviewed the first series, As, StrikerS, Vivid and even the loosely connected Triangle Heart, which has been the only ungood one thus far. This week I’m going to look at Vivid Strike, which is a side story for Vivid. It was produced by Seven Arcs, the same studio behind everything else I’ve looked at except, oddly enough, Vivid itself. Let’s see if it upholds the franchise’s proud traditions of quality and les-yay. That excludes Triangle Heart, obviously.

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Story:

Fuuka Reventon is an orphan with a propensity for trouble. We open with her getting into a fight with a bunch of ne’er do wells. When law enforcement arrives on the scene, she’s forced to flee. She runs right into Einhald Stratos and manages to throw one punch before collapsing from injuries she sustained in her earlier altercation. Einhald sees potential in her and brings her into the Nakajima Gym, offering to coach her in martial arts. Fuuka eventually accepts, hoping to reconnect with her childhood friend, Rinne Berlinetta.

The only real narrative issue I have with this series is that it may abridge things too much. A lot of the stuff they skip over is totally justifiable. We don’t need to see all the tournament fights. Especially when one of our main characters is going against some Rando and they’re obviously going to win because it’s a main character against someone who we’re just now meeting. However, the unfortunate side effect of skipping over all but a few of those is that we don’t get a proper arc for Fuuka and her development as a martial artist. We see her train with the other girls a bit and win a single match before we cut to the climactic fight betwixt her and Rinne. Which really isn’t enough to give her a plausible chance. Instead, we get to be told how far she’s come by other characters. Because that’s just as good as seeing it.

That aspect aside, I do have a lot of praise for the story. The conflict between Fuuka and Rinne is really well handled. It acknowledges the mistakes that are made while also showing us the reasons behind them. The scenes showing Rinne’s back story are actually highly poignant. The narrative being about these old friends and their trying to reconnect also provides a compelling tension to the narrative that was absent from the regular Vivid anime and using martial arts as a vehicle that could potentially make that happen really works to tie it in with the framework we’ve already got. I also do appreciate that the tournament doesn’t go the way you would normally expect from this kind of series. The pacing is fairly well done, in spite of the aforementioned abridging issue. It has rising action, an intense climax and then adequate time to wrap things up from there.

Characters:

The character element has always been a strong suit for this franchise. This instalment is no exception. Fuuka has a strong student-master relationship with Einhald. There are a lot of nive little touches that give us insight into her character. The way she talks to the other girls, frequently using nicknames is one. The way she responds to Rinne when Rinne is talking about the lack of understanding other people have towards her is a big one. The dynamic of her and Rinne is the core of the series and it is actually superb. The flashbacks of them together show us very clearly why they mean a lot to each other and add weight to the reconnection plot. Their early interactions also illustrate both the difficulties of rekindling their connection and the yearning to rekindle it from both of them. Which makes things really interesting. I also do like the way it further develops the Vivid cast.

Art:

the only real art issue I have with this one is that the transformation sequences remain rather sleazy in their usage of fan-service. It does, however, improve on a lot of my issues with Vivid. There’s a lot less general fan-service. There aren’t any overly fan-servicey outfits on display. We don’t see Sister Chantez’s stripper nun outfit, for instance. They manage to fight in their matches and keep their clothing intact because, I guess, Seven Arcs is better about that than A-1. I do generally like the character designs. Although, Fuuka looks a lot like IF from Neptunia. Did IF and Compa have a science baby? Come to think of it, Rinne looks a bit like Lady Blackheart but with Neptune’s eyes. Did Noire and Neptune also have a science baby? Did the infants get left alone with Neptune and accidentally sent to another dimension? She probably responded to the justifiable anger by breaking the fourth wall and joking too. Joking tangents aside, the designs are striking and I do like that Fuuka bases her transformation off of her mentor. It’s another of those little touches that tells us about her. The action sequences are really good. You can really see the force of the impacts and the animation is just highly polished. And all without having anyone’s clothes torn apart. Almost like that was completely unnecessary, A-1.

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Sound:

The performances in this are all great. The strongest come from our main duo voiced by Ogura Yui & Minase Inori. Sakura Ayane, Noto Mamiko & Mizuhashi Kaori also do particularly well. This series probably has the best soundtrack I’ve heard from Yoshikawa Youichirou. You may remember him as the composer for Iria & Green Legend Ran. Iria had good music as well, this just has really good music.

Ho-yay:

As this is the Nanoha franchise, there’s a lot of les-yay. The vast bulk of it in this series is between Fuuka and Rinne. We don’t see much of Vivio and Einhald’s sapphic tension in this one and a lot of our previous couples (Nanoha & Fate, Subaru & Teana, etc.) don’t show up. It’s also heavily implied that Victoria has a thing for Rinne. Harry and Els allude to it during a conversation and Victoria just responds like it’s completely natural. As she should. There’s no shame in her having a crush on Rinne. I don’t think she’s going to win out over Fuuka in that regard, but I’m sure she’ll get over it and find a nice girlfriend of her own eventually. After all, the population in this franchise seems to be ninety percent lesbians. No lack of selection there.

Final Thoughts:

Vivid Strike isn’t just a marked improvement over Vivid. It’s a really great series in its own right. The narrative of old friends trying to connect again after falling out really resonates. The action sequences are awesome. The acting is skilful. The relationship dynamic between our leads is amazing. It is, however, not a perfect series by any means. The transformation sequences are overly focused on titillation and Fuuka’s coming into her own as a martial artist could have been much better handled. Still, I do recommend it for any fans of the franchise. Even those of you who were a bit disappointed with Vivid. Especially since I was as well. My final rating is still going to stand at a very solid 9/10. Next week I’ll take a look at Bishoujo Yuugekitai Battle Skipper.

Girls und Panzer der Film: This time is to save the school for reals

Girls und Panzer was a series that I personally enjoyed quite a bit. The series was a big enough hit that, in 2015, it got a sequel film. It’s by Actas, the same studio behind the series proper and the Tales of Phantasia adaptation. The big question I have going into the film is where they go from the series. After all, it was complete. The girls won the day with friendship, les-yay & tanks. They saved their school from closing. Are there actually going to be stakes in the film or is it just going to be about a friendly competition? I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out. Let’s jump right into it and see.

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Story:

In the aftermath of their victory, we find our heroines from Ooarai engaged in a friendly team exhibition match. They’re partnered with Chi-Ha-Tan against Pravda & St. Gloriana. If you don’t recognise Chi-Ha-Tan, it’s because they were briefly mentioned as Maho’s first round opponents and we saw maybe a scene or two of them in the anime proper. Our heroines fight valiantly, but the less than well thought out tactics of Chi-Ha-Tan (charging forward without regard for the circumstances) quickly put them at a disadvantage against the combined team of two competent opponents. The girls are all relaxing after their match when Anzu is called out. Turns out, Ooarai is still going to be closing. Anzu manages to politic her way into a new deal, this time signed. If they can beat a university team, they won’t be closed. This time for true.

Therein lies the biggest flaw with the film. The plot is basically a faster retread of the plot from the series proper. They try to increase the stakes by making the opposing team a University and by making the match an elimination one, thereby eliminating their chance to win by taking out their lead tank, but it doesn’t really work and I question whether or not they really needed to increase the stakes. Couldn’t they have had them fighting to get some funding for a museum that needed it or something? There’s a museum that needs funding in the film any way and at least they would have been doing something different.

There are plenty of positives as well. The film has a lot of high moments. The scene where Ooarai is sent tanks from a bunch of the schools they’ve interacted with to make the battle even is superb. I also appreciate that the University could make an objection to it but their captain, Alice, elects not to since she sees no harm in her opponents having the same number of tanks as she does. The initial friendly exhibition match also comes back into play in a significant way during the important match. To be specific, something that one of the participating teams learned really impacts the battle. The way Anzu manages to coerce the signed agreement is pretty clever. I do like that the major battle gives every school involved a chance to shine and have their own crowning moments. As dumb as it may be to have the film also be about the school’s potential closing, I do like a lot of the scenes of the girls trying to cope with the situation. It allows us some insight into their characters and how they handle adversity and they also showcase what their time together has meant for them. The scene where the Ooarai girls “appropriate” the school’s tanks is a bit mixed. On one hand, it’s kind of awesome in the way it illustrates their feelings towards tankery and the tanks that have served as their partners. It also helps establish their cooperation with the other schools early on. On the other hand, it’s kind of stupid and the logistics don’t really add up.

Characters:

The film suffers from the same issue as the series. There are far too many characters to develop all of them. As such, you get a small amount of development for some of them and the rest are as they were in the series proper, largely under-developed.

There are positives, though. The way the film handles Miho & Maho’s sisterly relationship is pretty strong. It also does a bit to strengthen Katyusha’s character. I’ve already mentioned the way the adversity over seemingly losing their school serves to demonstrate a bit of how they handle adversity, which is especially true for Sodoko & Momo. In general, the cast is kind of endearing and entertaining in spite of most of them being under-developed. Which does serve to imbue the film with a sense of fun that serves it well.

Art:

There’s a lot to appreciate about the art. The tank battles are spectacular. There’s a lot of detail in the backgrounds and in the tanks themselves. I actually appreciate the character designs. As mentioned before, there are a lot of characters in this franchise. None of them have really outlandish hair colours or styles. The one who comes closest is Anchovy. Yet, they manage to look distinct. The only ones you might confuse are the “triplets” of the Goose team but that’s clearly a very deliberate thing. I also love the shots that show you the details on their school’s carrier. They are superb and there was clearly a lot of effort put into making the world seem populated and lively.

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Sound:

The acting is really well done. This is actually a case where there’s just enough to the characters that the cast is able to make them sound more complex than the writing makes them. There are too many characters to go through all of them individually, so I’ll just mention the stand out performances. Fukuen Misato, Ueda Kana, Kanemoto Hisako, Fuchigami Mai, Iguchi Yuka, Taketatsu Ayana & Tanaka Rie all stand out for giving particularly strong performances. The music was composed by Hamaguchi Shiro, who also did the track for the series proper, and it’s just as good. It should be since a lot of it is the same. On one hand, there wasn’t any reason to change it since it is really good but it’s also kind of lazy.

Ho-yay:

Girls und Panzer is a franchise that loves its yuri subtext almost as much as Voyages of the Cerberus loves its yuri text. Shameless self promotion aside, we have some betwixt Sodoko & Mako. There’s also the implied relationship between Carpaccio & Takako. Which I get the feeling started in one of the OVAs since it also comes up in the manga but clearly didn’t start with it. The fact that all the characters with meaningful relationships are ladies does lead to a lot of them reading as crushes or something more.

Final Thoughts:

As a whole, I rather enjoyed the film. It isn’t deep or complex but it’s really entertaining and an amusing watch. If you enjoyed watching the series, you will also enjoy this. Maybe not as much, but you’ll enjoy it. For myself, I give it a 7/10. Next week I’ll take a look at Vivid Strike.

Hunter x Hunter 2011: Chimera Ants & Nen

Hunter x Hunter is a long running shounen series written by Togashi Yoshihiro. You may know him as the author of Yu Yu Hakusho and the husband of Takeuchi Naoko, the writer of Sailor Moon. The still ongoing manga has gotten several anime adaptations. One from ’99- ’01, a thirty episode OVA from ’02-’04 and a Madhouse series that started airing in 2011 and ran until 2014. The Madhouse series is the one we’ll be looking at today. I did like Yu Yu Hakusho well enough, so let’s see how this one compares.

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Story:

Our narrative is set in a world where an elite group of hunters has a lot of fame, prestige and performs dangerous tasks. Each year there’s an exam to determine what young blood will be allowed to join the Hunter’s organisation. We follow twelve year old Gon Freecss, son of a famous hunter, who’s preparing to take the exam and follow in his father’s footsteps. And, since this is a long shounen action series, after that arc ends we have a good half dozen more.

Let’s begin, as I usually do, with the negatives about the story. The biggest flaw is the “romance” element. No, it’s not actual romance but that’s the quickest way to succinctly describe it before going into the details. Gon and his equally young friend, Killua, attract a lot of attention from older characters. There are multiple guys who seem to get sexually aroused from battle who develop something of a fixation on the two of them and there’s a woman in her twenties who forces Gon to go on a date with her. Now, to the series’ credit these blatant paedophiles are shown as, at best, having dark personalities even if they’re technically allied with the heroic group. So, at least there’s some acknowledgement that what they’re doing is not all right. But it’s still pretty bloody creepy to have that level of sexual fixation directed at twelve year olds. Especially since no one in the series seems to ever acknowledge the issue with it. The series also does, like every other long shounen action anime I’ve seen, have its share of filler. Although it’s probably the least egregious offender I’ve seen in that regard. At least in terms of 100+ episode action anime.

Let’s move on to the praise. There are a lot of good things about this series. First off, it does subvert a lot of the traditional shounen tropes. Gon isn’t the ultimate, most powerful person of all who comes in after his friends get their anuses torn open and just cleans up. We see a lot of stronger characters and some who are easily on the same level with him. He frequently isn’t even the one who will finish a battle. He’ll make definite contributions, but he won’t be the key to everything working. Which gives the other characters a reason to be there beyond acting as fodder. The series is also good about setting up scenarios that, in any other action series, would end in a very particular way and then ending them in a different way that works better with the narrative. There’s a clear Dragonball inspiration which the series uses well by taking certain concepts and putting its own unique spin on them. Remember Goku’s Janken attack? Well, Gon has his own Janken inspired attack but his is different and stays relevant. Killua also gets a technique that’s visually similar to a super saiyajin and the main antagonist of the chimera ant arc absorbs people to grow stronger, rather like Cell but, aside from that, the two villains aren’t very alike. Our heroes find a teacher who looks at dirty magazines, like Roshi, but never harasses anyone and is just a far stronger character. I actually like her a lot. I’ve seen enough series that are blatant rip-offs (The Law of Ueki) and series that just verbatim follow cliches, that it’s impressive when you find one like this that wears its inspiration clearly but also is its own unique entity.

In terms of the strength of the arcs, they range from decent to excellent. The chimera ant arc is definitely the strongest, with a lot of development for the antagonists, a story that really builds on the prior events of the series, it has the most tragic, heart-wrenching scene I’ve seen in a while & it opens up quite a few possibilities for future events. The Greed Island arc, in contrast, is the weakest. It’s the only arc that’s just decent. It has its strong suits like Biscuit Kreuger, some very inventive action sequences, allowing us to see certain characters in a new light and Biscuit Kreuger. It also drags more than anything else in the series, features the least interesting antagonists and it’s the arc that plays a lot of shounen tropes the safe and predictable way. Which gets a bit dull.

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Characters:

In general, I really like the cast in this series. I don’t know why we need paedophile characters. They seem completely unnecessary. I also find Leorio a bit insufferable. The dude basically only succeeds at anything because the people around him prop him up and he’s just a total swine. Although, I can’t really fault the series for his writing since he does have verisimilitude. I’ve known people who were very much like that and I couldn’t stand them either. The antagonist writing is largely well done. All of the antagonists in this have some redeeming qualities. Even the Greed Island antagonists have this sense of camaraderie among them. Which might not be much but it’s something. There isn’t a single character in this series who’s devoid of verisimilitude.

I can’t go over every single character in great detail, so I’ll just mention some of the major ones. Gon and Killua are our main boys, playing a major role in everything. In some ways, Gon seems like the dumb but good-natured shounen protagonist but it becomes clear, very quickly, that he’s not stupid. He’s naïve because he’s twelve and has spent most of his life on a small island. He’s also highly observant and can be very cunning when he has a strong grasp of a situation. Killua initially seems like the character who has a dark past and that’s going to be the excuse for everything they do. However, he quickly distinguishes himself from that character type by being quite cheerful instead of dark and brooding. He also distinguishes himself through his strong friendship and loyalty towards Gon. Usually that character is established as a rival for the main hero who really wants to be stronger than them and will never admit to liking them. As the series progresses, he also starts to get a lot more of a conscience. He’s still pragmatic about killing when the situation calls for it, but he focuses a lot more on protecting others. Especially Gon and his little sister who shows up towards the end.

Another character I want to talk about is Komugi. She is the character who really solidifies the chimera ant arc as the best. Before she shows up, the antagonists are under-developed and they’ve shown basically nothing redeemable besides hints of the same type of camaraderie that were displayed in the Greed Island arc. That changes with the introduction of Komugi, a blind little lass who gets brought in to entertain the king. By playing a game, get your minds out of the gutter. She quickly starts to form a genuine bond with him that he doesn’t really understand and that his loyal guards don’t know how to react to. This bond becomes central to the character development of the antagonists in the arc and involves some of the best written scenes in the entire series. And she’s an interesting character too. She doesn’t want to bother anyone due to her physical limitations but she’s not weak. She has a lot of mental fortitude and once she’s resolved she doesn’t change her mind. It’s fascinating to watch her even when a lot of what happens in her scenes revolves around playing a game with ill-defined rules.

Art:

For starters, I have to address the character designs. Some of them are kind of typical; bright-eyed lad with crazy hair and such. But a lot of them are quite unique. The chimera ants have fascinating designs. Even the ones largely based off of one animal have an insect-like influence that makes them more than your typical furry fodder. I also appreciate that the female characters have a lot of diversity. In a lot of these shounen series you’ll get the attractive ladies in major roles and, maybe, some unattractive ones who get thrown in for a scene or two as a jape. In this one, one of the major female characters looks like she’d fit in with the muscular machismo of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. There’s another, Senritsu, who looks kind of like a Friar Tuck cosplayer. There are also ones like Komugi, who looks rather plain aside from her gigantic eyebrows. The action sequences in this are really stellar. The Nen element allows for a wide variety of different techniques and styles without going overboard to the extent where anything could happen and it would make sense. The animation is very fluid and the world just looks really good.

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Sound:

The acting is really damn good. Like with the characters, I can’t talk about every single actor but I’ll bring up a few who stand out. Our main heroes are voiced by Han Megumi & Ise Mariya, both of whom deliver superb performances. Tominaga Miina, the voice of Senritsu, also stands out. She sounds very melodic and she’s just a joy to listen to. Endou Aya, Yokoyama Chisa & Uchiyama Kouki also stand out for their superb work as Komugi, Biscuit Kreuger & Meruem. Paku Romi is also in this and her character is named Paku. We have Hirano Yoshihisa to thank for the awesome soundtrack. You may also know him from his work on Death Note & Strawberry Panic.

Ho-yay:

There’s a bit. I already mentioned the men who seem to be aroused off of the idea of fighting twelve year old boys. There are also times where Killua’s devotion to Gon and his response come across as being more than friendship. Honestly, they’re the same age so I have no problem with that.

Final Thoughts:

That’s Hunter x Hunter. When all is said and done, I do like it more than Yu Yu Hakusho. It has stronger arcs, character writing and is just generally superior. It’s still not perfect and there are definitely things that could have been better handled but I can still heartily recommend it for action fans. My final rating is going to be an enthusiastic 8.5/10. Next week I’ll look at Girls und Panzer der film.

Kill Me Baby: That’s the title, put down the knife

Kill me Baby is a slice of life comedy from 2012. It’s based on an ongoing manga by Kaduho that started in 2008 and the anime was adapted by J.C. Staff. They’re not exactly strangers to either slice of life or comedic works, having also done such anime as Azumanga Daioh, Hachimitsu to Clover, Potemayo, Love Stage & Nodame Cantabile. So, given that history, the worst we can expect is sub-par and the best is excellent. Then again, they could always hit a new low or high. Let’s examine the series and see how it compares.

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Story:

Yasuna is an ordinary student. Her best friend, Sonya, is an assassin. The two of them go to school and spend a lot of time together. This results in all kinds shenanigans. So, this is essentially a school comedy where the twist is that one of the characters is an assassin.

The humour is based around a blend of quirky character comedy and physical humour. The biggest flaw with the comedy is definitely that some of the pay offs are really obvious. For example, there’s a joke where Yasuna is telling Sonya to treat her like a dog and asks to be given a command. The first command you’d guess is probably the exact one that gets given. There are other jokes like that but, in all fairness to the series, most of them only partly rely on the pay off while partly relying on the character reactions for the humour and the reactions are usually pretty funny. The humour, in general, works quite well. The physical comedy is kind of reminiscent of the physical comedy in Azumanga Daioh. The school comedy is a bit more similar to A-Channel with every episode containing short comedic moments, usually only thinly connected to each other, broken up by transitions. In general, it is entertaining and funny stuff.

Where the assassin gimmick pays off is that it allows for some different scenarios than you would normally get in this type of anime and some responses that are unique. It gives the series its own sense of identity as opposed to the usual “group of high school girls doing every day things in a quirky fashion.” Of course, different isn’t necessarily good and there are certainly times when the humour here doesn’t work. In addition to the aforementioned obvious jokes there are times when the physical humour goes a bit too far and crosses the line into being a bit uncomfortable. At least it doesn’t take the physical humour anywhere close to the degree that Bokusatsu Tenshi did.

In terms of non-comedic elements, the transitions are awful. Every episode has multiple transition screens where the lines “kill me baby” & “baby please kill me” will be spoken before moving on. It’s not even the length of them that’s the issue so much as it is that they’re annoying. I do have to give the series some credit as well. The ending does have a fairly sweet moment that really works.

Characters:

This series is also different from the usual school comedy in that the cast of characters is pretty small. We have our two major characters, Yasuna and Sonya. We also have Agiri, a ninja and Unusued character, a girl who shows up on rare occasions and never interacts with the other three. The interactions between Yasuna and Sonya are a bit reminiscent of those betwixt Yomi & Tomo from Azumanga. Yasuna is the high energy, crazy one who gets into all kinds of trouble while Sonya is the more subdued one who gets dragged into the mess. Agiri is more a really laid back character who actively trolls the other two while Unused character just really wants to get involved in things but can never manage it. For comedic purposes, it works pretty well but it can be a bit much at times. Here’s the thing, when you’ve got a really high energy character in a comedic work they can be great, but you start to grow a bit weary of their hijinks when you don’t get a break from them. With Azumanga, they gave you that break by having segments that focused on other characters. You don’t get that here since Yasuna and Sonya are there constantly.

Art:

Kill Me Baby uses even more basic art than a lot of slice of life anime. The background characters are largely indistinct white blobs. The backgrounds themselves frequently look very basic and bland. The character designs of those few characters we actually get are based around having very plain bodies with simple heads that are too large for the bodies. The animation is basically functional but nothing great. The best it gets is the dance in the ending theme tune and that’s not exactly at the level of the dances from the PreCure franchise.

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Sound:

The big weakness of the acting comes during the transitions. Every time they say the line “Baby, please kill me” they try to do it in a different, quirky way and a good ninety percent of the time it turns out to be really annoying. It’s like they were trying to judge how bad they could make them before audiences started turning the program off whenever it reached one. Little did they realise that a mute button exists. That being said, our main cast does a good job. Takabe Ai, Akasaki Chinatsu, Tamura Mutsumi & Kugimiya Rie all deliver their lines very well and it really serves to make the comedy work, when the comedic moments are strong. In terms of music, the background music works nicely. I liked the ending theme tune, didn’t like the opening. The problem with the opening is that, like with the transitions, it’s overly fond of repeating itself and it uses a lot of spoken words. It’s less a song and more people talking while loud music plays. The effect is outright obnoxious.

Ho-yay:

There’s quite a bit. Yasuna is very enthusiastic about getting closer to Sonya. She wants them to run along the beach like a couple and there’s more than one part where she very blatantly wants Sonya to touch her. I think she might be a masochist looking for Sonya to “punish” her. I also think Sonya’s totally okay with that. 

Final Thoughts:

Kill Me Baby is a pretty entertaining series. There are parts that are too obvious or otherwise don’t work but, as a whole, it’s bloody funny and the twist of having an assassin character does work in its favour. In the end, I give it a solid 7/10. It’s a good series. Next week I’ll move on to a request I’ve been working at for a while, Hunter x Hunter 2011.

Idol Project: Lol, Random

Today we’ll be looking at an OVA from the mid-90s. Idol Project was a work by Studio Ox. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s not surprising. They’ve mostly done production assistance and design work on anime spear-headed by other studios. I can’t say I’ve ever seen an anime where they were the driving force before. So, this’ll be a first. It was written by Amano Hiromitsu & Arakawa Naruhisa. Arakwa may sound familiar since he wrote the anime adaptations for Spice and Wolf, Upotte & Terra Formars Revenge. Which isn’t exactly a record to boast about since the best of those was Spice and Wolf and the other two were quite bad and sub-par respectively. Then again, those were adaptations and this is an original work. So, we’ll see how he does with that.

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Story:

We open with our protagonist, fourteen year old Mimu, going to the Starland festival for her idol audition. On her way there, she gets caught up in all kinds of random events involving the six excellent idols. She barely makes her audition and is about to sing when she and the excellent idols are kidnapped by aliens. From there, more randomness ensues.

Therein lies the big issue with the OVA. The “humour” is based on random events happening. In the first episode, it’s the random things while she’s trying to audition. In the second, it’s random events that happen during a highly haphazard competition. In the third episodes she’s caught up in a bunch of inane nonsense while trying to make a delivery and randomness does not, in and of itself, equate to humour. Randomness can be funny when you have some kind of deliberate set up that ends in an unexpected non sequitur, and if you’re going to have a lot of it you need a good pay off or a clever logic to it that works when you think about it. It doesn’t work when everything that happens is just random nonsense. Consequently, the comedy largely just leaves you scratching your head or rolling your eyes rather than laughing.

The best thing I can say for the OVA is that the comedy is largely inoffensive. It’s stupid and it barely registers as comedy but it isn’t actively annoying, for the most part.

Characters:

There’s really nothing to the characters in this. They’re only one step above your average harem characters. They’re all very basic archetypes. You’ve got the dumb martial artist, the child, the obvious lesbian, the bad girl, the elegant young lady, the tranquil Buddhist & the ordinary protagonist who manages to have big dreams in lieu of a real personality. At least they didn’t do the Baka to Test thing and make fun of the obvious lesbian because… someone being gay is inherently funny?

Here’s the thing about under-written characters in a comedy. They can work if you can give them dynamics that offer a lot of comedic possibilities and you take advantage of those. In this series, we don’t get that. The comedy is based less on the character interactions and almost entirely on the random events. So, having under-written archetypes for characters doesn’t work in this context.

Art:

The artwork and animation in this are frequently lazy. The parts where they seem to put the most effort are the ones designed to be fan-servicey. Because when you have a fourteen year old protagonist it’s vital to see her panties because… class is something for other works.

I’ve seen so many trashy, fan-service heavy portrayals of way too young characters in anime at this point that I’m probably on some government watch list. And people wonder why anime fans have a bad reputation. It’s this sort of thing. 

Sound:

The performances in this are kind of weak. They got some good actresses. Hisakawa Aya, Kanai Mika & Inoue Kikuko are all in this. Their performances in this are just lacklustre. The music is decent but really could have used more effort considering that this is an OVA about idols.

Ho-yay:

There’s a little bit with Corvette and her clear interest in our heroine but there’s never any sign that it’s reciprocated.

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Final Thoughts:

That’s Idol Project, a stupid, unfunny OVA from the mid 90s. Ultimately, the series is one that just falls short in every regard. The characters are weak, the comedy is weak, the acting is weak, the art is generally weak, at times delving into outright trashy territory. It’s a dumb little OVA that I can’t really recommend digging up. My final rating is a “solid” 3/10. Next week I’ll look at something a bit longer with Kill Me Baby (That’s the name of the anime, put the blunt objects down.)

Palme no Ki: The Little Tree Robot Pinocchio

Palme no Ki is a film that first aired in 2002. It was the début work of Palm Studio. Which I only know as the studio behind Genshiken. The film was written and directed by Nakamura Takashi. Who also did animation work on Nausicaa. How does this film hold up? Let’s take a look and see.

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Story:

We open with a woman battling through a group of dudes. We then quickly cut to a large tree where a humanoid robot, Palme, is hanging. He activates and begins moving. A little dragon sees this and fetches an elderly man, Palme’s creator. The old man worries about what kind of tree Palme might become, since he’s apparently constructed in such a way that he’ll become a tree at some point. A tree shaped by its memories. It turns out that he was built to look after the woman who used to live in that area but he stopped moving after she died. Things shift when the woman from the opening scene shows up. Palme mistakes her for his former mistress and agrees to look after the mechanical looking egg she’s carrying. Thus begins Palme’s journey.

The biggest story issue is that the character conflicts can be pretty contrived. There’s a point where Palme and his young friend Popo are yelling about how the other one seems different but we’ve only seen them interact for, maybe, ten minutes and the whole impetus behind their fight is kind of weak. So, it comes across as a fight based on them barely knowing each other rather than on anything substantial. Palme also freaks out at a different friend because he asks to see the egg Palme’s carrying even though Palme hasn’t shown that much protectiveness towards it before and he has no special reason to be paranoid. It’s not like Frodo lashing out at Samwise when there’s a clear story reason behind it it’s just Palme randomly deciding he can’t trust this guy based on… the dude saving his life multiple times. And you know you’ve gotta be wary of that type.

That aspect aside, there are a lot of elements to admire in the story. I like that it builds suspense on the basis of this tree transformation. A lot of the tension does come from this ominous idea of just what kind of tree he might become and we see him do quite a few things that make that a cause for concern. Honestly, it also makes for kind of a refreshing change since his personal journey is, ultimately, of greater import than the physical journey. The film is also really good at taking a lot of seemingly disparate elements and tying them together by the end and at providing foreshadowing for how they’re going to do it. Which makes for a tale that’s very well woven. The pacing is well done. The climax is compelling and well executed.

Characters:

The main cast is pretty nicely done. One issue is that the film might go a bit too far in setting up the possibility of Palme going badly. To the point where it’s pretty hard to have sympathy for him after a while. Instead, you find yourself concerned for Popo, Shatta and the other major characters and what Palme going bad would do to them. I do like that none of the antagonistic characters are portrayed as being all bad. The one that comes the closest is Popo’s mum, but even with her her faults are very human and she’s not entirely unsympathetic.

Art:

The biggest flaw with the art is that the facial expressions can be off at times. Characters will go cross-eyed or they’ll be having an intense moment and have an expression of slight annoyance. However, the world design is really well done. With amazing backgrounds, creature designs and various technologies. The action moves very well and the designs are interesting. So, in general it is a nice looking film. It just has the occasional awkward moment.

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Sound:

There are some really good actors cast in this. The best performances come, no question, from Toyoguchi Megumi & Sakaguchi Daisuke. There are no weak links in the cast, though. They all do nice work. The music is also well done. It works well for the atmosphere and action.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any to be found.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Palme no Ki is a really good film. It has some issues that hold it back, but it has a good level of complexity, interesting characters, a strong narrative, a great cast and lovely artwork. My final rating is going to stand at a solid 8/10. Next week I’ll look at Idol Project.