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.

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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.

July Bonus Review: Spider-man Unlimited

The late 90s were a bad time for Marvel cartoons. There were animated versions of the Avengers, Spider-man & Silver Surfer and none of them lasted for longer than a single series. So, where exactly did Marvel and Saban go wrong with these properties? I might look at the other two later and give a really detailed answer, but I’ll start with a look at Spider-man Unlimited and let’s see where it went wrong.

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Story:

We open with John Jameson preparing to launch to the newly discovered, mysterious, Counter-Earth. Peter Parker is taking pictures when he notices Venom and Carnage sneaking aboard the shuttle. He goes to stop them but fails. The shuttle launches with them aboard and crashes on Counter-Earth, seemingly killing John. Naturally, the public blames Spider-man because no one noticed the symbiotes going aboard or happened to take video of the historic launch. Because why would you? Eventually, a video comes from John Jameson explaining that he’s on Counter-Earth and warning of some kind of danger that could threaten Earth if it’s not stopped. Spidey responds by hijacking a shuttle and going to Counter-Earth. Not to deal with the situation he just wants to bring John back. Does he seem like the type of heroic person who would face that kind of threat? He finds out that this new Earth is a lot like ours, but it’s got beast people and normal people and the beast people are in charge under the High Evolutionary.

There are two massive issues with this cartoon and I’ll list them both before explaining how they come into play since they’re frequently connected. The first is that it never really commits to its Counter-Earth gimmick. The second is that the writers can’t be bothered to think anything through. Let’s look at Spidey’s journey to Counter-Earth. He announces to everyone that he’s going to rescue John and clear his name. Then, in the exact same voice, he tries to explain why he’s going as Peter Parker in a truly pitiful attempt to salvage his secret identity. To make this even more inexplicable, he tries to hide the fact that Peter Parker is there from John because if John knew he’d figure out the truth. Now, think about that for a moment. Literally everyone on regular Earth knows. If them knowing is a give away, your secret identity is over. Period. There’s no need to try and hide it any more. John’ll just find out when he returns and learns that Parker left with Spidey. But the writers want to keep the secret identity because it’s in the comics and everyone knows that element of Spider-man stories.

The symbiotes are another great example. In this cartoon, the symbiotes are part of a great hive mind called “the Synoptic” but they still talk to one another like two separate beings because they wanted them to retain something of their unique identities. They also display new powers, becoming liquefied or opening holes in their chests to let projectile weapons pass through them. However, in spite of that, we’re still expected to believe that they have human hosts. Because Cletus Kasadt really has no torso and Eddie Brock can become mush. It makes perfect sense until you spend a millisecond thinking about it.

Spidey’s motivations  are also impacted by this combination of not wanting to commit and generally not thinking. He keeps whining that it’s not his planet or his fight because the writers don’t want to have a story about Spidey as a resistance fighter. They want him to swing around New Yory city, yes Counter-Earth has its own, and fight bad guys, including Counter-Earth versions of Kraven & Electro, because it’s more similar to what he actually does. Seriously, if you just wanted to have Spidey swinging around and fighting crime you should’ve just skipped the whole Counter-Earth bollocks.

There are some smaller issues too. The final episode ends on a cliffhanger, because they wanted to punish the five invested viewers they had. Spidey’s signature wit is basically absent. I mean, they try, but they’re really bad at it. For example, when he meets the knights of Wundagor Lady Vermin says they shouldn’t fight because he looks fair to her eyes and he responds with “And you look most rat-like to my own.” Somehow, she considers this flattery even though it’s just a description. Does she also think it’s flattery when someone says that she’s pale? There’s a point where Venom says he’s history and his response, in Unlimited fashion, is to say that History was never his best subject. He prefers Phys Ed, before knocking some support pillars over. That’s the best he could come up with in that situation? What about “History’s written by the winners. You’ll never decide what goes in the books.” or maybe “I just hope they remember my ability to bring the house down.” Either of those would have been much better and fit the character better. And there are moments that don’t make sense, like the guy who can become moving bandages being unable to use his powers to escape a cage with openings that he should be able to fit through.

Characters:

Here’s another major failing of the cartoon. These characters are boring. There’s no reason to care about anyone in the resistance because they’re such non-characters. the High Evolutionary was more interesting in the one episode of the 90s X-men cartoon he appeared in than he manages to be in the entirety of this where he’s the big bad. Then again, that show had competent writing. This version of Spider-man comes across as whiny and completely lacking in endearing qualities.

Art:

I can give the artwork some praise. There are some nice visuals and the action sequences look fine. There are some issues. Spidey’s new costume is trying way too hard to be “extreme.” Most of the symbiotes look identical and leave identical growths on their hosts which is boring and causes you to question what makes the ones we’re familiar with different besides the writing being terrible. This series also has the most unimaginative tattoos. John has one that just looks like the pencil outline of a crescent moon. And there’s another dude in the Resistance who has one that’s just the word “Mum.”

Sound:

The acting is mostly passable enough. It’s not good, but it’s functional. Then there’s Rhys Huber. He is truly awful. Michael Donovan is a bit rubbish too, but nowhere near that bad. The music is, likewise, pretty passable but not good.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, I think this series failed because of unlimited poor decisions. It can’t decide whether it wants to do the same old types of stories or have its Counter-Earth gimmick and the result is a mess. There are constant dumb writing choices that are, frankly, insulting to the audience. Because kids aren’t stupid. They can tell that there’s something off when it’s that blatant about it. In general, it’s just bad. My final rating on this one is going to stand at a 3/10. If you guys are interested, maybe I’ll look at the other two at another time and explore why they failed to grab audiences.

Tsuritama: Melding the Mechanics of Fishing with Comedy

Tsuritama is a science fiction comedy from 2012. It was written by Ono Toshiya and produced by A-1 Pictures. Yes, the studio that brought us Kuroshitsuji, Sword Art Online & Boku dake ga Inai Machi among others. In other words, their quality varies quite a bit. I haven’t really heard anything about this anime, so I’m going into it pretty blind. Let’s see how well it compares to the other A-1 anime I’ve reviewed.

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Story:

Yuki is a highly introverted lad who moves a lot. After moving to Enoshima, his life turns around. Another transfer student, Haru, comes into class and introduces himself as an alien. He then insists that Yuki go fishing with him to save the world. Shenanigans incoming.

The first noticeable issue with this series is that there’s a lot of technical talk on the mechanics of fishing and it’s all really tedious and completely uninteresting. Look, I know that your comedy here is using fishing as its method to save the world but that doesn’t mean there’s anything comedic about long explanations of how to catch mahi mahi or the proper way to cast. I would go so far as to say that that time could have been better spent on amusing hijinks. Another issue is that the series doesn’t really take full advantage of the comedic possibilities of its premise. This is a series about aliens who can control humans with water and an alien teaming up with some humans to save the world by fishing. That’s a premise that’s so patently ridiculous that it shouldn’t be that hard to make laughs happen. But they downplay the comedic elements in favour of teaching us the mechanics of fishing.

That being said, those moments where they do embrace the absurdity tend to work pretty well. The funniest scenes all centre around Haru too. I will also say that some of the quieter, emotional moments are, surprisingly, really good. The scene where Yuki tells his grandmother how much she means to him in particular.

Characters:

Tsuritama is a bit unusual in the regard that the major characters really vary. Haru is good for comedic scenes but not so much for anything more serious. Yuki can work in both, but has his strongest scenes in the more serious moments. Natsuki largely plays the straight man in the comedic bits and works better for the more emotional moments. Akira is just a flat, predictable character. The side characters largely exist to play off of the main cast and provide them with strong moments. The only ones who really stand out are Yuki’s grandmother and Natsuki’s father & sister.

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Art:

The artwork is pretty well done. There’s a lot of effort put into making the water, fish and fishing equipment look polished. The character designs are a bit lacklustre, but functional. The animation is solidly done.

Sound:

The acting is pretty solid. We’ve got the talents of Irino Miyu, Osaka Ryota, Sugita Tomokazu, Uchiyama Kouki & various others. The performances are generally good for what they’re doing. They can carry the comedic parts and sound like they’re reading from the world’s dullest instruction manual when explaining the mechanics of fishing or repeating them to show us that their character understands them. Osaka Ryota does a great job with the emotional stuff. The music is okay. Probably not anything I’d listen to again, but it’s functional.

Ho-yay:

There are some moments betwixt Yuki and Haru where I question whether they’re really just friends but there aren’t many.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Tsuritama is a series that has its charming and funny moments but it’s also a bit of a slog with stretches of tedium to get through before reaching those moments. In the end, its good moments elevate it above mediocrity, but it’s not a superb series. It’s just okay. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. If you really love the mechanics of fishing, you’ll probably like it better than I did. Next week I’ll look at Palme no Ki.