Tag Archives: anime review

Twilight Q: Not the anthology we deserve or need

Twilight Q is an old OVA from the late 80s. It has two parts, each one from a different studio. The first being from Ajia-do, the same studio we have to thank for Shuumatsu no Izetta. The second part was brought to us by Studio Deen, the studio behind Gravitation, The law of Ueki & Kore wa Zombie desu ka. I’m sure they’re ashamed over that last one so let’s not hold it against them. Let’s look at this 1987 work and see how each studio did.

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Story:

Twilight Q follows the format of a sci-fi anthology show like the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. Which is probably where it gets the name from. Each episode focuses on a different strange scenario. In the Ajia-do episode, we follow a young girl, Mayumi, who happens across a camera that’s probably been underwater and corroded for a long time. When she has her friend’s brother investigate he comes across something strange. The camera model hasn’t been released yet. The Deen episode opens with a plane turning into a fish. We cut to a grotesque fat man and his young daughter eating noodles. The two scenes are tied together when she looks at a plane flying overhead and shouts the word “fish” at it. But what does it mean?

There are two major issues with this OVA in the context of one of those anthology shows. The first is that the characters we follow don’t have much reaction to the strange circumstances they find themselves in. In our first part, Mayumi fatalistically accepts that time travel is a thing and she’s getting a glimpse of the future without it seeming to bother her in the slightest. In the second we follow a nameless private investigator who learns the truth and, with it, the fate in store for him and he pretty much just grins and goes “well, that’s my life now.” You can’t really have stakes or tension when the characters themselves don’t give a shit. You get those things in an anthology when the focus character(s) fight(s) against his/her/their situation. That’s also how you get a compelling conflict, incidentally. Which is another thing this is lacking.

The second big issue is just that the situations themselves aren’t explored very deeply. In the first, we have the time travelling camera. Then we have Mayumi leap to two different time periods for a couple minutes each and then it all gets resolved neatly. That’s not a spoiler, by the way, we’re told pretty much the instant she leaps that it’s all going to turn out fine. Because her non-reaction wasn’t enough of a tension-drainer. We needed to be outright told how things were going to go too. In the second, most of the story revolves around our PI reading an expository note. I wish I was kidding but that is actually what’s in store for us.

About the most positive I can be is to say that the scenarios are strange enough to somewhat keep your attention and there’s nothing in them that’s really bad. It’s more that you never get any kind of strong pay off and the coverage for them remains pretty shallow and lacking in any real tension, conflict or stakes. Which isn’t cricket for this type of series.

Characters:

You can probably guess what I’m basically going to say already since I kind of covered this when talking about the story issues. The problem with the characters in this comes down to one simple thing, they aren’t believable. Their reactions are just too stoic given the circumstances and it makes them tremendously boring. Kit’s interesting to see characters rage, rage against the winds of fate. It’s interesting to see characters who freak out a little bit when they find themselves in a situation that would challenge anyone’s perception of reality. Even if the character is able to compose themselves pretty quickly we still need something of a reaction. Because doing it this way is just dull.

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Art:

The artwork is a bit dated. It’s pretty obvious what era it comes from. But it still holds up pretty well. The movements flow nicely and there’s a clear effort put into making the backgrounds and characters look good. The only real issue I have with it is that there’s a decided lack of strange imagery. Our first tale deals with time travel and the transition we get is a little girl on a swing. The only otherworldly sight we get is the plane turning into a carp. That’s the only interesting sight we get. Which is kind of a load of stale wank.

Sound:

The problem with the acting ties into the big issue with the characters. No one involved ever sounds invested. The closest we get is some lines from Hyoudou Mako. I’m guessing she had to redo them a few times because she was being too expressive and they finally decided that they were bland enough since her character looks unconcerned during them. The music isn’t bad but it is pretty dull and forgettable. Which, I suppose, does suit the series well.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any. Which, I’m sure, is completely unrelated to the series not having interesting character dynamics in the slightest.

Final Thoughts:

Twilight Q is an OVA that really wants to be a compelling sci-fi anthology and probably tried to model itself after the Twilight Zone. The trouble it has is that the team behind it doesn’t seem to understand what made that series interesting. They seem to think that all you need is a bizarre situation. You don’t need interesting characters, a strong conflict, tension, stakes or even odd visuals. They thought that they could just throw any bland character into a strange situation and the situation itself would carry the entire thing. And that doesn’t work. I can’t call it a bad OVA since it’s more boring than anything, but I will say it’s weak. It is a sub-par work and I can’t recommend it for your anthology needs when there are much better series out there. The Final rating is going to stand at a 4/10. Next week I’m looking at Dennou Sentai Voogie’s Angel. I’ve heard things, none of them positive. So, we’ll see how that turns out.

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gdgd Faeries: An anime that uses improv

gdgd Faeries is a bizarre comedy. In the sense that I couldn’t find a Studio listed for it. It was directed by Sugahara Souta, who’s done some stuff I’ve never heard of & written by Ishidate Koutarou, who has also done some work on things I’ve never heard of. I have no idea what to expect, so let’s dive right in.

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Story:

We follow three faeries, Pikupiku, Shirushiru & Korokoro as they boldly hang around a forest and chat. There are four basic types of gags in this anime. In the first, the three faeries sit around a stump with tea and just have strange comedic conversations on random topics. In the second, they go to the hyperbolic time chamber… I mean “room of mental and time” which resembles but is legally distinct from the similar area of empty space from Dragonball. In this room they basically play around with magic in absurd ways. The third type of comedy we get is the faeries gathering around a magic pool that let’s them see into other worlds. And then the actresses ad lib responses to the random CG videos they’re shown. The final type of gag comes with the next episode previews. Basically, instead of doing an actual preview they parody some other anime.

The comedy in this tends to be of the really rapid fire variety. Whatever’s happening on screen, the japes come out at a pretty continuous pace. The comedy is also very hit and miss. When it’s working, it’s amusing enough but when it doesn’t work it drags. During the conversation segments, for example, they might just ramble about something that isn’t funny but you can tell they’re trying to have some punchlines in there. The saving grace, when that happens, tends to be Koro coming in and just derailing the whole thing with a comedic non sequitur. You might get four minutes of a kind of boring conversation before that happens but it’s something. The magic practice suffers a slightly different hang up. In those segments, they like to have more elaborate set ups leading to bizarre outcomes. The problem is that sometimes they just go on with one beyond the point where there was any good material for it. There are other times that the jokes end up being pretty obvious which isn’t something you want in comedy that heavily relies on absurdity. The ad-libbed segments are actually my favourites. The actresses are quite clever at coming up with things to dub over the videos with. They’re also clearly having a good time doing it and their cheer is more than a little infectious.

Characters:

This is one of those comedies where the characters are very simple but they complement one another pretty well and there are plenty of comedic opportunities to explore with their interactions. Which is good since this anime is mostly spent on the interactions.

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Art:

There’s no denying that this anime is pretty damn ugly. The CG looks like something you’d find from a particularly lazy Newgrounds animator. I thought Kemono Friends looked kind of bad, but compared to this it looks pretty decent. At least that series had more movement and more varied backgrounds. Then again, it probably wouldn’t be practical to have the ad-libbed scenes in a work that put things like time & effort into the animation. So, maybe it’s worth looking like they could have bought a single pack of gum if they used the entire animation budget.

Sound:

The main actresses of this give some good performances and not just with their improvisation skills. We’ve got Akesaka Satomi, Mizuhara Kaoru & Mimori Suzuko. The music is… it’s okay. It’s not a soundtrack you’re likely to listen to outside of watching the anime but it serves its purpose.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any. None of the conversations the trio have ever indicate anything that might be beyond friendship.

Final Thoughts:

So, that’s gdgd Faeries. Overall, it’s a series that looks pretty shit but it’s not bad at all. It has its funny moments and both the characters and actresses work off of each other well. Is it one of the funniest anime you’ll ever see? No. It’s not an uproariously funny anime in general, to be honest. It’s more one where the comedy is enjoyable and you can chuckle at it, when it works. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. If it sounds like it could be your type of humour, I’d encourage you to try an episode or two. It may well work for you better than it did for me. Next Week I’ll look at Twilight Q, no relation to a certain notorious book series.

Koe no Katachi: Be Nice to the cute, deaf girl

Koe no Katachi is a film from 2016. It was produced by Kyoto Animation. Yes, the same studio behind Air, Nichijou, K-on, Hyouka & others. It’s based off of a manga by Ooima Yoshitoki. I don’t know much about her and my response to most of what I’ve seen from Kyoto Animation has been pretty middling. Let’s hope this is a positive exception like K-on & not a negative one like Nichijou.

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Story:

We open with a new student, Shouko, entering a primary school. Where she’s immediately bullied for being deaf. I hear that they’re pushing the kid in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs for an encore. Any way, this results in her changing schools and the boy who led the bullying against her being ostracised. Who would’ve ever thought that bullying a deaf girl might make people think that you’re a total jerk? We cut ahead a good deal of time. Our protagonist, Shouya, is miserable. He regrets everything he did in the pas and he’s contemplating suicide. But, before he makes his attempt, he stops by Shouko’s new High school so that he can use the sign language he’s learned to apologise to her for being a prick. Impulsively, he also asks her to be friends. And thus begins his tale of personal redemption.

Let’s start with the narrative issues with the film. The big one happens about three quarters into the film and I can’t go into too many details without major spoilers. So, let’s just say there’s a bridge scene that involves some major contrivances that don’t make a lot of sense. We’re talking contrivances on the level of Steerforth randomly showing up everywhere. And I’m pretty sure Steerforth was stalking David because he didn’t know the socially appropriate way to request bum stuff. At that time I think it would’ve been to ask him if he wanted to be confirmed bachelors together. But I digress. Going back to the film, it’s one of those cases where a writer really wants a big melodramatic scene but there’s no way to get there without massive leaps. There’s a lesser leap taken to bring a bunch of the characters from their childhood friend group back together.

With that being said, I did enjoy the redemption narrative. It’s pretty well handled with some stuff that explores why Shouya bullied Shouko as well as the consequences he saw from it, and not just socially. The whole arc of them reconnecting and putting the past ugliness behind them is pretty nice and I like that the past continues to loom over them and have an impact instead of being lazily written off with an “and everything is forgiven forever.” The pacing is really well done and manages to keep things compelling with several sources of tension to explore at any given time. It also manages to keep things fairly subdued, mostly, and down to earth instead of relying on cheap melodrama. Unlike some school dramas I could mention.

Characters:

The characters ultimately make the film work. You see signs early on that Shouya feels badly about what he’s done, as he should, which makes his transformation believable instead of the time skip being used as a lazy plot device to just not develop the characters. Which is something I’ve seen far too often with time skips in media. The film also does give you a strong sense of what he’s gone through as a result of his actions and how it’s shaped him. I also like that the children use more subtle, realistic bullying methods instead of the over the top, extreme shite you see with your more one-dimensional bully characters. As a whole, the characters are just really nicely fleshed out & develop in very natural ways.

The area where it kind of suffers is from some characters who just don’t seem to have much purpose. Shouya has a niece, sister & brother in law and none of them are really relevant to the story. About the most any of them come into play is that he has to leave his flat at one point to pick up his niece which leads to an encounter with Yuzuru but there are plenty of other things that could have potentially been used to make the meeting happen. I guess at least the niece gets some dialogue. His sister and her husband might have one or two throw away lines each. Satoshi is another one who doesn’t seem to do anything. I’m not sure why he’s here. Maybe so that he has a couple new friends instead of just reconnecting with all of his old ones. Or maybe it’s a case where the manga had something for them to do and the film had to cut it but they got to stay provided they promised to stay in the background and not affect anything. So, like Derpy in most episodes but significantly less cute.

Art:

this is one element that the film deserves full credit on. It looks phenomenal. The character designs are intricate. The backgrounds are detailed. The animation just looks damn nice. It is very pretty to watch.

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Sound:

The acting is really good as well. Irino Miyo does a great job as our protagonist. Hayami Saori is, by far, the best. You could actually believe that she’s deaf when she delivers her lines. She has that characteristic enunciation. They got some good music as well. We open up with The Who’s My Generation before moving into Ushio Kensuke’s sound track, which really complements the atmosphere well.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any.

Final Thoughts:

Koe no Katachi is a really good film. At its heart, it’s a story about a young man coming to terms with his past mistakes and becoming a better person. It’s definitively drama done well. My final rating is going to be a solid 8/10. Next week is going to be a look at gdgd faeries.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: Dark, but not needlessly so.

I’ve talked about the Gundam franchise once before with the sub-par 00. Honestly, it’s a franchise I’m not super familiar with even though it’s incredibly famous. I’ve seen bits and pieces of some others but the only other one I’ve watched all the way through was Wing, which I have a lot of praise for. None of the others have really grabbed my attention, though. Enter Iron-Blooded Orphans, which just finished its second series in April. I haven’t seen anything of this one. I’ve heard some positive things but I can’t say whether or not I agree with them. One thing that interests me is that it was written by Okada Mari. She’s written some anime adaptations we’ve looked at before like Toradora & Kuroshitsuji. We also have her to thank for writing Canaan, Black Rock Shooter TV & AnoHana, the original novel, anime & manga. She doesn’t have the world’s best track record with me (The late Sir Terry Pratchett holds that distinction) but she does have a pretty solid one. Especially when it comes to non-adaptation works. And, with Gundam, the anime and manga were basically released simultaneously. This may be another Gundam series I can be really positive about, but let’s watch through it before making that judgement. After all, we all remember that time Ikuhara Kunihiko disappointed me even though I usually like his work. Keep in mind, this review is going to cover both series of Iron-Blooded Orphans.

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Story:

We open on Mars with a company called CGS. They’re hired by a young activist, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, to escort her to Earth so that she can try to push for some changes to benefit Mars. Things go south quickly. The powerful military organisation, Gjallarhorn, sends troops to demand that CGS turn over the young lady. This results in the older member scarpering and the child soldiers taking advantage of the situation to take control of the company, after using a Gundam Frame to repel the initial attack. Under the leadership of Itsuka Orga, they change the name to Tekkadan. Their first mission, finish the escort job that CGS started. Thus begins their legend.

The biggest flaw with IBO is that there are some plot points that rely on some pretty contrived stretches. In the first series, our heroes arrive at a colony where there’s a group that’s been heavily inspired by Kudelia & she’s still being chased by Gjallarhorn. Both groups mistake Tekkadan’s chef, Atra, for her. Now, let me get this straight, Kudelia is a public figure who’s appeared on television stations and the like, but these groups don’t know what she looks like? Gjallarhorn couldn’t pull up a stock photo for their goon squad to look at? The group inspired by her speeches and ideas never bothered to actually watch them? What makes this even dumber is that we know they have access to them. There’s a point where she’s recognised by a member of the group who saw her on the news. But we’re expected to believe that this major public figure who’s inspired all these people is only recognised by this one person? Is literally everyone else in the group named Matt Murdock?

The second series gives us another with a character who was shown pretty definitively dying in the first series turning up alive and well. You’ll know them when you see them, they try to hide the identity but it’s really obvious. Then again, this is Gundam, maybe he was just replaced by his identical younger brother. No, I’m not sick of mocking that bit from 00 yet. A more minor issue is with the romances. There are some characters who end up together even though they’ve just exchanged a few lines and never shown any chemistry. Fortunately, the romance is just a side thing and has very little impact.

The death scenes are a bit of a mix. On one hand, the series generally does do a good job of illustrating why a character matters before we see them die. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of making the major character deaths incredibly predictable. Most of the time you’ll get five minutes into an episode where a major character dies and you’ll know it’s coming. Now, there are ways to write a strong character death when it’s obviously coming. Beast Wars managed it as did A Prayer for Owen Meany. The difference between those and this is that one started delivering hints for a good dozen episodes in advance and the other was a fairly long novel where most of it was dedicated to showing why the character mattered. It doesn’t work as well when you try to cram all of that into fifteen minutes or so. Especially when it comes to less prominent characters who haven’t had all that much of a role.

There are plenty of positives to the narrative. I appreciate that the series takes risks. There are quite a few major characters who don’t make it. There are times the antagonists win major victories. The ending is very bittersweet. The series also has a good amount of subtlety in its portrayal of the conflicts. There’s rarely a side that’s just abhorrent, rather, you’ll get two sides coming into conflict and you’ll have an understanding of why each one is fighting. And chances are they’ll both fight dirty. You’ll probably favour one side over the other but you can understand both. The series is also good at handling its darker content like slavery, arranged marriage involving characters who are far too young or child soldiers in a way that doesn’t shy away from showing or discussing the darker aspects. The content isn’t just there in an attempt to be edgy or dark, it’s actually relevant. Sadly, that’s not common.

Characters:

One thing that’s kind of inevitable when you’ve got a cast this big is that some characters are better developed than others. You’ll have some characters who are largely relegated to the background, others who are big supporting characters & the core group. I will say, the characters you spend any amount of time with do have decent levels of verisimilitude. They’re fleshed out enough to make them compelling. The major characters get even more development, mostly. Then we have Mikazuki. In some ways, he’s kind of like your typical, emotionally stunted protagonist. He has a perpetual thousand yard stare, speaks pretty monotonously and follows his orders. He is shown to have some emotions, mostly violent, but he’s still kind of dull. I do appreciate that our antagonists are given proper motivations and fleshed out too.

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Art:

One thing that Sunrise is pretty consistently good at is artwork & this series is no exception. The backgrounds, mechs, space ships, & character designs are all really strong. A lot of the characters even have noticeable non-verbal tics. Which adds some realism to them since we all have things like that that we do without even thinking about it. The action flows well and a lot of the battles are absolutely brutal. The artwork is also really effective at setting tone. The worst I can say about it is that a lot of the major characters have shounen hair. You know what I’m talking about. Ridiculous looking hair styles that probably involve entire tubes of gel every day but the characters have them because they stand out.

Sound:

There are plenty of strong performances. To name a few of the more prominent ones, we’ve got Terasaki Yuka, Kanemoto Hisako, Takumi Yasuaki, Sakurai Takahiro (stop following me, Cloud), & Hosoya Yoshimasa. There aren’t any poor performances in this. About the worst you get are the minor characters who never get to demonstrate any kind of range. Even then the few lines they get are capably delivered. The music is really good too. The theme tunes are nicely done & the music within the episodes is used, effectively, to enhance the atmosphere.

Ho-yay:

IBO has a lot of characters who read as bisexual and a few who take things a step further. Mikazuki likes to talk about how Orga gave him his life and he’ll do anything for him. Although he also has female love interests. Speaking of, Atra & Kudelia both seem to be as interested in one another as they are in Mikazuki. Especially Atra who likes to fantasise about a world where the three of them are all together. In the second series, Takaki seems to have a thing for Aston. We also have Yamagi who wants to Trowa Shino’s Quatre.

Final Thoughts:

Iron-Blooded Orphans has some flaws. It has some really noticeable contrivances, romances that are mediocre at best & the main protagonist is just okay. Still, it’s a really good series with positive aspects that far outweigh those issues. My final rating is going to be an 8/10. Next week I’ll look at Koe no Katachi.

Elfen Lied: Mature Content Handled Without the Maturity

Elfen Lied is an anime I’ve heard talked about by multiple people and the vast majority of it has been exceedingly negative. Terms like “worst anime ever made,” “trash” & “containing nothing of value” have all been thrown around. The series is based off of a manga written by Okamoto Lynn and was handled by Arms. A studio I’m not super familiar with. Most of their works are listed as either Ecchi or Hentai and I don’t tend to watch either. So, is this anime as bad as virtually everyone has told me it is? Let’s go down the rabbit hole and decide for ourselves.

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Story:

We open with a severed arm on the ground. We then get to watch as a naked girl with pink hair & horns, Lucy, tears her way through a bunch of people while escaping a secure facility. We cut to a young man and woman, Kouta & Yuka, finding the same girl, still naked, on a beach. They take her in because she seems harmless enough, not even being capable of speaking normally (She can just say “nyu”). From there the series explains what she is, how her powers works and shows the agency she escaped trying to retrieve her. All while she’s just trying to live with the cousins who picked her up.

Let’s delve right into the narrative problems with the series. You might want to get some tea and biscuits, this may take a while. First off, let’s talk about the “horror” aspect of the series. I use quotations there because this series is about as scary as Twilight. The series substitutes copious amounts of gore for actual horror elements. Not only that, but the whole element is under-mined. Not just by the gore effects coming across as silly more often than not but because it’s full of stupid little moments. We get a character later on who fires her arms like a mecha doing a rocket punch. We also have a scene that’s very reminiscent of the black knight scene from The Quest for the Holy Grail, but here it’s being taken seriously. And therein lies the fundamental flaw with gore-based horror. It’s not scary. It’s either just gross, if it’s realistic, or, in this case, overblown to the point of absurdity. Obvious comparisons to Corpse Party are obvious.

Now, let’s go into the subject of dramatic contrivances. This series has a lot of moments where the reasonable, realistic narrative course is disrupted for something stupid that doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s supposed to be dramatic. Now, I’ll warn you that there are going to be some minor spoilers ahead. So, if you think that you might want to watch this anime and you want to go into it without knowing too much, just skip this paragraph. Our first example has to do with Nana. She’s got the same type of power as Lucy but she won’t hurt humans. So, naturally, she’s sent to try and subdue Lucy. This results in her losing all her limbs. As such, she’s seen as useless and the director is ordered to kill her. However, we see that this organisation has functional prosthetic technology. They use it for some nobody mercenary because he could be useful but the obedient girl with actual super powers isn’t? How does that work, exactly? Not only that, but she’s given artificial limbs when orders are broken that she can move around on just fine. It’s almost like the orders to put her down are super flimsy to the point of being nonsensical. Another prime example comes when a scientist is cut in half and tossed through heavy glass but she somehow lives long enough to press a specific button and maintains the presence of mind to do so. And I’m sure someone is going to say “Wait, you can believe the whole premise of these girls with superhuman abilities but that breaks verisimilitude for you?” Well, yes. I can buy that in this world there are girls with these abilities but this is supposed to be a regular human and I don’t believe for one second that a regular human could manage that. Rather I think that the scientist in question only manages that because the writer wrote his way into a corner and needed some utter bollocks to get out.

Let’s move on to the “psychological” elements. This series is as bad at handling psychology as it is with horror. The attempts at doing so can be put into two categories. The first are exposition scenes where a character talks to a bunch of faceless mannequins in a shadowy place. Get it? It’s like they’re talking to themselves to confront their issues. It’s super shallow and not remotely clever. The second method is having flashbacks that show some traumatic past. The trouble here is that, for the most part, these flashbacks contribute nothing to the narrative and largely serve as a vehicle to give characters informed characteristics rather than actually granting them any kind of depth. Some of the flashbacks are even repeated in a short span of time because they really want to hammer them in. And don’t expect the serious topics like sexual abuse, severe bullying or murder to be handled with any kind of maturity. Clearly, Okamoto isn’t the best at handling serious themes like an adult.

Let’s move on to the “romance” elements. Elfen Lied went to the harem school of romance writing. Kouta is being romantically pursued by his cousin and by Lucy. Both of whom are childhood friends. He also ends up living with a young homeless girl, Mayu, & Nana. And there are stupid scenes that seem like they’d come right out of a harem. Nyu, Lucy’s other personality, randomly gropes Yuka. Yuka walks in on Kouta and Nyu in multiple compromising situations and always gets mad at him for it. I’ll draw more comparisons between this and harem shite in a moment when I discuss the characters.

Characters:

Speaking of ways that this series “psychological” element is royally buggered, let’s talk about the characters. Like a terrible harem series, Elfen Lied has characters who are really shallow including a generically nice guy protagonist who the ladies seem to flock to by virtue of his blandness, Lucy suffers from the pop culture version of a dissociated identity. She’s a wholly shallow yandere character and her other self, Nyu, is your naive innocent. Yuka might as well be Love Hina’s Naru and the antagonists are just cartoonishly evil.

Now, I want to return to what I said about the tragic back stories and how little they matter to the characters. This is going to be a spoiler, so you may want to skip this paragraph if you’re still interested in watching this series. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Kouta’s tragic back story. It’s heavily implied from very early on that Kouta’s father & sister were killed by Lucy. In a very obvious turn, he regains his memories and finds out. As for why he lost them, there’s no adequately explained reason for it. Maybe the manga says. Upon remembering what she did, Kouta embraces her and urges her to come back and live at the Inn with everyone. Wow, did that revelation contribute nothing. It’s almost like this entire series is just a poorly written mess.

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Art:

I’ve already talked about one of the big art problems, the absurdly overdone gore effects. So, I shan’t linger on it much. I’ll just say that this is one of those series where blood spurts like it’s coming out of a high-powered hose instead of a human body. The nudity is also an issue. We’re supposed to be taking this series seriously, for the most part, but it feels the need to come across as highly puerile with its handling of both nudity and violence. Both aspects come across as a twelve year old trying to write something “mature” and having nudity & blood all over the place totally makes it mature, right? Well, that’s where you’re wrong. You see, a truly mature writer knows how to use elements like that sparingly, to create a specific effect. A lousy writer just tosses them all over the place to the point where any impact is going to be irrevocably lost through over-saturation. Which is what we get here. So much gore and nudity that it loses all impact. Aside from that, we have some goofy action sequences and artwork that manages to be, at best, mediocre in some scenes.

Sound:

I’ve heard some of these actors deliver decent performances before, good even. Kobayashi Sanae, Matsuoka Yuki, Noto Mamiko & a lot of the other actors are good actors. Unfortunately, this is one of those series where the direction demands performances that are either very flat or exaggerated to all hell. Which leads to them sounding like they belong in old Hollywood B-films. They’re just bad performances. The music is probably the best element of the series. It’s just average, but it’s not bad. Which is more than I can say for most of this schlock.

Ho-yay:

There’s the scene where Nyu gropes Yuka for no apparent reason. That’s the most ho-yay you’re getting.

Final Thoughts:

I now fully understand why the vast majority of people I know hate this series. Elfen Lied is an attempt at sensationalism without any regard for restraint, character motivation, characterisation, class, narrative or anything else. It’s entire draw is being crass & over the top. I’ve seen worse anime but, ultimately, I can’t recommend it. My final rating is going to stand at a 1/10. It’s utter rubbish. Plain and simple. That’s it for this year’s horror anime month. Next week I’ll go back to looking at requests with a review of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.

Kowabon: Graphical Glitch Spectres

Kowabon is a short horror ILCA anime from the end of 2015. They aren’t a studio I’m really familiar with. They’re best known for Yami Shibai, another anime made up of horror shorts that they’ve kept going for five series at this point. Maybe next year I’ll look at that one but, for now, let’s allow this to serve as our introduction to their work.

Kowabon

Story:

There isn’t any single over-arcing plot. Rather, each episode gives us some scenario involving some character using technology to communicate with someone else, record themselves or being monitored by a security camera. Whatever the case, we see them through the perspective of the technology and they aren’t allowed to be touching themselves or disrobing for tips from thirteen year olds who stole their parents credit cards because that would be a completely different kind of series.

The trouble with this series is that the episodes are essentially all the same. We’re introduced to an innocuous scene that we’re seeing through some variety of camera. Graphical glitches start happening. They get worse as the scenario progresses and then we see some kind of apparition that’s more silly than scary. At that point the character we’ve been watching usually gets snatched away, presumably to reside in a nightmare dimension where all media is written by Stephanie Meyer & Frank Miller and the only work available is a fast food clerk but the customers are allowed to strike you if they feel like it. Where law enforcement is American, the chefs are English, the mechanics are French & the comedians are Deutsche. If they don’t get spirited away, and not the fun kind, it’s something else that’s supposed to be scary. After the first episode it just gets repetitive and predictable.

In all fairness, these are very short episodes with each one lasting a couple minutes and you can’t expect anything elaborate but, at the very least, you’d think they could do something different at some point. It’s like if Gakuen Heaven released its jokes where it sounds like a couple blokes are doing something naughty but they aren’t, as their own anime. Except that would still be better because those can make you laugh and I don’t think anyone is getting scared by this series. Maybe Wade the duck would, but no one else. Not only are the apparitions goofy looking, but there’s no surprise factor past the first episode and even the way they’re set up is basically the same. It’s not like there’s only one possible horror scenario with its slight permutations that are executable in a short work. They just couldn’t be bothered to come up with something else.

Characters:

It kind of goes without saying, the characters in this don’t have any depth. If you expected more from a series with episodes that last a couple minutes and all feature different characters, you may be a bit too optimistic. The issue with that in a horror work is that, in a good piece of horror, a lot of the tension comes from concern over the characters. In a piece like this, you know what’s going to happen and you have no reason to care. You have more reason to care about the villains of the week you get in children’s anime. That fitness instructor monster was, at least, hilarious when he was tormenting Kirby and Dedede and he had more character traits than anyone in this series. Same with the stop light goat monster. And that’s a problem when you’re trying to do horror.

Art:

The artwork in this is rotoscoped. Fortunately, it doesn’t go the Cheesesteak Suppository route where the rotoscoping looks like complete bollocks. In this, it’s actually competent. It helps that the animation does move pretty smoothly and the set up of viewing things through an actual camera lens while graphical glitches start happening does serve to make those jankier moments work. It’s a case of the artwork just matching what they’re doing very well.

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Sound:

The performances in this are pretty much the epitome of mediocrity. There’s never a performance that really sells the situation but there also aren’t any that are so bad that they completely take you out of it. The music is rather dull and forgettable, but it’ not bad.

Ho-yay:

There’s no romance in this series in general. Which is the right call. There’s no bloody way they could take these characters and show any kind of chemistry with any of them.

Final Thoughts:

To be blunt, Kowabon would have probably been better served taking the Chocolate Underground route and having one story with consistent characters so that they could have some pacing and atmosphere build up even with short episodes. Instead, we’ve got short episodes that are basically all permutations of the same thing. It is pretty lacking. It’s not scary in the slightest. The characters may not be the worst I’ve seen, but they’ve got nothing to them. If the basic concept seems like it could be interesting, go ahead and give it a go. The entire series is over in under forty minutes and I can’t say that it’s a bad little series. More sub-par. My final rating is going to stand at a 4/10. Next week I’ll finish out this year’s horror anime month with Elfen Lied.

Gyo: Attack of the Mecha Fish

Gyo was a horror manga written by Ito Junji. He’s known for his horror works like Umazaki & Tomie. Gyo was written in the very early 2000s. The anime adaptation was released in 2012, roughly a decade after the manga ended. It was brought to us by Ufotable. We’ve seen them before with such works as Fate/Zero, Kara no Kyoukai, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight & Tales of Zestiria. How do they handle Ito Junji’s breed of horror, usually involving fucked up body stuff? Let’s have a look and judge.

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Story:

We open with a trio of young ladies, Kaori, Erika & Aki enjoying a nice graduation trip to Okinawa where nothing bad could possibly happen, right? Unsurprisingly, things don’t stay peaceful. The three arrive at the house they’re staying in and smell something rancid. Someone opened a McDonalds across the street. Actually, it’s the smell of rotting flesh and, surprisingly, it’s completely unrelated to fast food. Something darts around their feet. Kaori manages to push a dresser into it, splattering blood everywhere. To their surprise, they find a fish that seems to have borrowed technology from Mojo. Better call Longshot. They’re freaked out but not too worried. Then things get worse. The streets are flooded with walking fish and people are dying and it’s not just Okinawa. They seem to be spreading all over Japan. Kaori runs back to Tokyo to try and find her boyfriend while her friends stay behind because the house can surely protect them… The one that’s been breached twice at that point. Safest option ever.

The biggest narrative issue here is just that a lot of the story is very formulaic. The peaceful setting that gets overrun by something sinister. The emergency back home that forces the protagonist to risk greater danger and the fairly predictable obstacles that she encounters on her way. The beats are familiar which does detract from the impact of the events.

Then we have the premise. On one hand, fish with mechanical legs attacking Japan is, on the surface, pretty damn goofy. It’s not nearly as absurd as the idea of a shark tornado but it’s still ridiculous. However, Ito manages to take that silly premise and make it kind of intense. The narrative doesn’t afford you any real opportunities to laugh at the absurdity of the premise because there’s constantly something grotesque, creepy or otherworldly happening. All while managing to be paced pretty well. Ultimately, that’s the biggest strength of Gyo. The strength of its execution and pacing because pulling off a premise this silly even somewhat competently in a horror work isn’t easy. I also do appreciate that there is effort put into explaining the basics of how this situation happened while leaving some supernatural elements intact. Because there’s no way you’re explaining this with no supernatural elements.

Characters:

The characters are something of a problem in this. Let’s start with Kaori and her friends. The first issue here is that they really don’t come across as much of friends. We’re supposed to believe that they’re the bosomiest of bosom buddies but pretty much the first thing we see is Erika trying to ditch the other two so that she can fool around with random blokes and they just generally act more like people who can basically tolerate one another with some effort than the types of friends you’d actually expect to see take a trip together. We also have the motivations. Let’s look at Aki specifically for this one. When Kaori is going back to Tokyo she stays behind with Erika even though evidence suggests that she can’t stand Erika at that point. Why doesn’t she just go back with Kaori then? And then she gets mad because Kaori left her alone with Erika even though there’s no reason given for why she couldn’t have just gone back. Kaori herself is just a bland character. And her boyfriend is basically a non-character but her search for him also, unfortunately, drives a lot of the narrative and serves as her primary motivation.

Art:

Ito has a talent for taking something ordinary and innocuous & twisting it into something disturbingly grotesque. Which is something that Gyo manages to portray pretty well. It’s not his absolute best, that still goes to superimposing pregnant women and mosquitoes. The deformations in this little OVA are gruesome & disturbing, though. The animation itself flows very well. The action is quickly moving while possessing impact and it manages to convey the chaotic atmosphere while still being easy to follow.

Gyo.png

Sound:

Most of the cast in this is perfectly passable. Not exactly good, but decent enough. The problem is that our main actress, Kataoka Mirai, gives a performance that seems completely devoid of actual effort. Her delivery reminds me of a student reading off of the script while trying to get a role in a school play. When the student in question was dragged in by their friend and doesn’t really want to be there. Could they not be bothered to give this poor woman some direction? Shiina Go’s soundtrack is actually quite good. He does a good job of matching his tracks to the atmosphere. Which does help things come across as creepier than they might have otherwise.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any to be found.

Final Thoughts:

Gyo could have been a solid OVA. It has some narrative issues but the execution is quite good. The atmosphere works nicely. The artwork really matches Ito Junji’s style. Unfortunately, the bland characters result in the piece lacking any real tension and Kataoka’s poor performance also holds the work back. It ends up being a decent enough spectacle and even worth watching just for those elements that do work but it’s not great or even particularly good. My final rating is going to stand at a 6/10. Next week I’ll continue horror month with a look at Kowabon and then we’ll finish this year’s horror month with a look at Elfen Lied.