Tag Archives: horror

Danganronpa

Danganronpa is a series based on a PSP game from Spike, a company best known for their work on various DBZ games. They also worked with Capcom on a very under-rated game called Crimson Tears. This game, I never heard of until the anime came out. So I’m going to be judging the series entirely on its own merits and I’m not going to notice if they screw up something from the game. The adaptation was handled by Lerche, a company that, according to ANN, has only been involved with seven anime productions. None of which I’ve seen. So let’s take a look at the recently finished Danganronpa anime and see what it’s about. 

Our story begins with our protagonist, Naegi, walking to his new High School. No sooner does he cross the threshold when he finds himself waking up in a classroom that’s been bolted shut. An announcement plays requesting all students assemble in the gymnasium. He finds himself with fourteen other students and a stuffed bear apparently belonging to Harvey Dent appears claiming to be the Principal. They’re told that they won’t be allowed to leave until they graduate. And the only way to graduate is to kill someone and get away with it. Now, Naegi has to solve the mystery of just what is going on at Hope’s Peak Academy, figure out how to escape, avoid getting killed and solve any death that happens or he, and all of the other innocent students, will be killed. This anime is very silly, but in a good way. It’s like a very macabre parody combining murder mystery with the whole “students being forced/ strongly encouraged to kill each other” genre that was popularised by Battle Royale (which happens to be on one of my book shelves between the Handmaid’s Tale and Suzuki Koji’s Dark Watch.) Now, I don’t just refer to it as a parody because the antagonist you spend most of your time with is a teddy bear. The character designs are also goofy, the tone stays rather macabre but avoids getting too dark by showing execution scenes in very muted colours and leaving the gorey bits to your imagination. There are also some rather silly scenes. To give one example, Kirigiri finds a clue in the underwear of one of the corpses. When asked why she would check there she shrugs it off as no big deal. It’s not like she checked their socks or something. Let’s move on to the mystery elements. This is an area where the series excels. The investigations go by very quickly, but they manage to give you all the information you need to either solve the case or figure out where the discussion should begin in the classroom trial. The only exception is the trial before the last one, in which they disclose very little but I’ll let that one go since there is a good story reason for it. One thing that I really liked is that they managed to make the discussions interesting, even when the solution was obvious. So you never feel like you’re watching a bunch of idiots flounder around to figure out something that should be obvious. This isn’t Hyouka. My biggest criticisms of the series are that they leave a lot of unanswered questions , which I unfortunately can’t ask since most of them involve spoilers, and the ending is pretty cheesy. Now, a lot of the series is cheesy, in a good way. The ending, however, gravitates more towards the facepalm inducing end of the cheesiness spectrum.

Most of the characters in this are pretty typical. Naegi is a lot like many other shounen protagonists, he’s young and naïve but he’s got a lot of heart and great potential. Many of the other students are also representative of rather flat archetypes. Maizono, Ishimaru, Hagakure, Yamada and Oowada to name few. Now, in all fairness, most of these characters are passable even if they aren’t particularly deep. There are some very problematic elements to the way a few of the characters are handled. Particularly Fujisaki and Sakura. There are some characters with really interesting concepts behind them, but they never get fully developed.

The art is interesting. I already mentioned the goofy character designs and the execution scenes, but there are other facets worth discussing. A second way they tone down the gore is by having blood be some bizarre colour like bright neon purple or green. The evidence is also presented in such a way that it feels like a game. It gets brought up in boxes or contradictions will be illustrated by the image of a bullet shattering into a person when Naegi raises an objection. Which does give it a unique aesthetic.

They got some really stellar voice actors for this. Including Ogata Megumi, Ishida Akira, Hikasa Yoko and Sawashiro Miyuki. All of whom give great performances. The biggest issues are with Kujira and Yamada Kappei. Kujira plays a female character but gives a heavily masculine performance, which is one of those problematic elements with Sakura’s character. Yamada just gives a very flat and kind of annoying performance. The music is good. It’s used to accentuate the action pretty nicely.

The Ho-yay factor is a 1/10. This has no Ho-yay. I kept expecting there to be some, just because it is starring Ogata Megumi and I’m used to seeing her play characters with either a same sex love interest or at least a one-sided crush on someone of the same sex like Haruka, Yukito, Kurama, and Ayato. But no, she doesn’t this time. 

So, how is Danganronpa? As a horror piece, it doesn’t really work. But if you have a dark sense of humour and you enjoy a good mystery you will likely enjoy it quite a bit in spite of its problems. If macabre elements creep you out or mysteries make your head hurt, it’s not going to be for you. For myself, I give it a 7/10. It’s a good anime and I did enjoy watching it. Next week, horror anime month ends with a look at some cute little animals… from the Petshop of Horrors.

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Blue Gender

Welcome back, to horror anime month. This week we look at another anime that wasn’t based on anything but was an original work. From AIC studios, the same people who brought us such fails as Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari and OreImo, such decencies as Viper’s Creed and Quiz Magic Academy and such goodies as Sasameki Koto and Vampire Princess Miyu. Since their work quality has such a wide range I can’t even give a good estimate about how this we’ll turn out. Let’s take a look at Blue Gender and find out.

Our story begins in 2009 with Kaido Yuji being put in Cryogenic Suspension for a strange condition that the doctor’s hope to find a solution for before reawakening him. Remember when we developed that technology, froze all those people and completely forgot about all of it? That was a crazy year. He wakes up in 2031 to find that giant insect creatures called the Blue have over-run the Earth and a team of soldiers is under orders to bring him into space, for very stupid reasons. The first half focuses on their efforts to reach the space stations referred to as Second Earth and may Red Shirts lose their lives. The second half focuses on the battle against the Blue and many more Red Shirts lose their lives. You can probably guess some of the story flaws, but I’ll extrapolate on most of them. The first problem is that the series is set too close chronologically. The earliest events take place a decade after the series started airing. Using technology we still aren’t close to having. What was the point of setting it so soon? It just makes the series dated really quickly. You’d think they could have set it in the “not too distant future” without giving an actual date and it would have worked much better. By the way, the Blue are scheduled to appear in four years for those of you who like predicting the end of the world. I can’t really go into the reason that they have to bring Yuji to second Earth without giving spoilers, so I’ll just say it fails basic Biology and leave it at that. Another issue is the Blue’s motivation. Once you learn it you will get a migraine from the sheer idiocy of it. I’m tempted to spoil it just to rant about it, but I will restrain myself. Then there’s the ending. It follows one of the dumbest, oldest cliches in existence. The cliched nature of the series is a problem in general, but at no point is it worse than the ending. The series itself seems to be afraid of trying anything new. Every plot element seems to have been decided based on what a very generic sci-fi work would do which just serves to make the whole thing trite and predictable. The horror doesn’t really work. There are scenes where they’re obviously trying, but the attempts are just ineffective.

Then we have the characters. The only two important characters are Yuji and Marlene. Virtually everyone else is just a Red Shirt or they’ll serve one basic purpose before being relegated to Red Shirt. That brings me to the biggest problem with the characters. There are a lot of deaths in this and they never give you any reason to care. “That character who was in all of two scenes and did nothing is dead.” Yet the series treats them as important and emotional, spending an absurd amount of time on some of them. Blue Gender, if you want your audience invested in your characters, you have to actually develop them a little. Otherwise it just seems like you’re padding the series out by dwelling on the deaths of completely pointless characters. Even Yuji and Marlene are pretty dull. Yuji is your standard action hero. He starts out completely out of his element, but he adapts and becomes the big hero that everyone needs all without ever finding a developed personality to call his own. Marlene is more of your action girl who starts out tough but will get relegated to a background role when the plot calls for Yuji to take over. It doesn’t help that Yuji is completely ungrateful. There are two cases in which his life is saved and he gets mad at the people or person responsible. It doesn’t make him more developed or interesting, it just makes him annoying.

The art is pretty good. The Blue look interesting and the backgrounds are pretty vibrant, except when they’re in space and they become kind of monotonous, but that does make some sense. The action sequences could have been good, except that they interrupt the action a lot to show random reaction shots. Because when someone sees one of their comrades killed we couldn’t guess that they’d be angry. We have to see it. Another issue is with the facial expressions. They frequently just look borked and convey no real emotion.

The voice acting is good, considering that the actors have very little emotional depth to work with. The performances are still competent and they did get some good actors such as Nojima Kenji Kuwashima Houko and Nishimura Chinami. The music is really good. Whether they’re trying to be scary, doing an action scene or whatever, the music could have been used in something that was doing it right.

The Ho-yay factor is a 4/10. There are two sex scenes between a couple of the generic female characters. They serve absolutely no purpose and I have no idea why they were included, but they’re there.

So, that was Blue Gender. How does it hold up when taken as a whole? It isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not good. It’s too cliché and generic. Every sci-fi element can be found in much better works, but they can also be found in much worse. In the end it’s just a mediocre work that’s relatively inoffensive. You might like it if you’re a huge sci-fi fan and don’t care about originality or if you’re new to sci-fi and don’t know the cliches yet. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother with it. Final rating, 5/10. Next week, horror anime month continues with a look at Danganronpa.

Midori: Shoujo Tsubaki

Welcome back, my friends, to horror anime month. This week I’ll be looking at Midori: Shoujo Tsubaki. Yes, I know that it was supposed to be Blue Gender. My apologies, but I lost Internet service for several days and wasn’t able to quite finish it. So it’ll have to wait for next week. In the meantime, let’s take a look at this film that was banned in Japan when it came out on account of its imagery. The film was crafted by a single man, Harada Hiroshi. Supposedly he found it impossible to gain sponsors for it and spent his life savings on the project. Is it a Magnum Opus or were there very good reasons that Harada couldn’t find anyone to take up the project? Let’s delve into this obscure piece and find out.

The story follows young Midori. She loses both of her parents and has no one to take care of her. She finds her way to a traveling circus where she is physically and sexually abused. I wonder why Harada couldn’t find sponsors? To be fair, it’s not shown in great detail. You see just enough to know what’s going on. Then a magician with dwarfism enters the scene and things start to change. The story is very simple to the point of being one-dimensional. It follows the simplest structure it can. Where it tries to draw you in is with shocking and grotesque imagery. The problem with that s that there’s nothing even remotely substantive behind that imagery. This is another anime that lacks horror. It’s conceptually disturbing and some of the images do have shock value but the execution lacks impact. You’ll get a scene in which things start out normally enough, there’s a twist and some shock images and then it’ll hurriedly wrap up and shift to the next scene. There’s no good build up or payoff. They don’t extend things or build on them enough to give it actual horror.

The characters in this are fully one-dimensional. Most of them get one or two scenes where they’re allowed to do something. Even, Midori, the major character that you’re supposed to gain some measure of investment in, is more of a passive object than any kind of proactive character. They never really delve into the actual impact the events shes going through are having on her. Except in one brief nightmare scene that comes, goes and leaves no impact. I literally just finished watching the film and I couldn’t recount what happened in that scene in any kind of detail.

The art is kind of impressive when you consider that the bulk of it was done by one guy. It’s still not really decent, though. It’s very sloppy and the animation is jerky. But you have to give Harada credit for getting it done and making it passable.

The voice acting is very amateurish and the sound quality isn’t very good. I’m sure that Harada did the best he could without studio support or sponsors. It still sounds terrible

The ho-yay factor is a 3/10. There is a very brief scene between a grown man and a younger teenage boy. Why you would want to see that, I have no idea. Dude should find a boyfriend his own age.

This film reminds me of an independent exploitation film. It’s lacking in budget, the technical aspects are amateurish, the execution is pants and the story is beyond weak. The major focus is on being shocking but without anything substantial to back it up it ends up being largely forgettable and stupid. While it is pretty impressive that the bulk of the work was done by a single man, that doesn’t excuse the terrible story, complete lack of even semi-developed characters or rubbish execution when attempting horror. Final rating: 2/10. I would only check it out if you’re very curious about it as an independent piece or as a previously banned piece. Otherwise I’d leave it in obscurity where it belongs. Next week will actually be Blue Gender.  

Le Portrait de Petit Cosette

Welcome, My Friends, to horror anime month. For the next five weeks we’ll be looking at things that go bump in the night. Experience suggests that most of them will not actually be scary in the slightest in spite of the genre label. In fact, I think the only truly frightening anime I’ve ever reviewed in October was Perfect Blue and everything else just used horror to mean “there are monsters.” In any case, let’s start the month off with Le Portrait de Petit Cosette which is a bit unique for an anime in that it’s not based on anything. The three episode OVA was produced by Daume, the studio responsible for Onegai Teacher and Shiki. There is a manga, but it’s based on the OVA instead of the other way around. Let’s turn out all the lights and take a look.

Our story begins with our protagonist, Eiri, hanging out with some friends. But don’t get attached to them because they’ll only appear in one other, brief scene. They talk briefly about love and Eiri runs off for his part time job at his uncle’s antique shop. He spends some time just holding and looking at a glass. A glass that seems to contain a girl that only he can see. The biggest problem with this OVA is that it meanders. What I mean by that is that there are a lot of scenes that go nowhere and don’t tie into the main plot. Not only that, but the animation will frequently shift to random things (a street, a mailbox, tableware, bamboo, butterflies, etc…) during conversations. I still can’t figure out whether this is supposed to be disconcerting or it’s just a way to pad the OVA. If it’s the former it doesn’t work. The latter would seem more probable since this OVA drags. You wouldn’t think I’d be able to say that about something that lasts all of three episodes, but it does. There are long stretches of scenes that just show random objects or filled with scene after scene where nothing of value happens. You could probably cut this down to a single episode if you only kept the relevant parts. Don’t expect actual horror from this either. A lot of what happens is strange and/or kind of nonsensical but not frightening. There are some scenes that have promise, but the effect they could have had ends up getting spoiled by random object cuts and pointless scenes.

The characters are pretty dull. Eiri and Cosette are really the only ones who matter, possibly Mataki if you stretch the meaning of “matter.” They could have developed the characters if they had spent less time on pointless moments, but they don’t. They start out as stock characters and experience very little growth as things progress.

The art is pretty good. The random shifts and transitions may not do anything from a story perspective, but the things they cut to are drawn well. There are a lot of really good details in the backgrounds as well. Which I paid close attention to as nothing of merit was happening in the foreground most of the time. The character art looks pretty good as well. The biggest issue with the art comes when they try to do a “scary” scene and random objects of wildly shifting art styles start coming at you. Which just looks odd. Their attempt at drawing a monster, which oddly enough has a negligible effect on the plot, just looks silly. I honestly laughed out loud when I first saw it. They also like to do randomly tilted shots throughout the series. Which just look stupid and out of place.

The voice acting ranges quite a bit in quality. Inoue Marina gives an excellent performance, and it’s the only aspect of the OVA that actually comes across as creepy. But then you have Saiga Mitsuki and Toyoguchi Megumi who are just okay. You also have Ebara Masashi who, thankfully, only appears in one scene in which he over-acts like hell. I know he can act, I’ve heard him do it in Xenosaga and Fullmetal Alchemist, to name a couple examples. The effects, are not at the level of the acting. They try to create this disconcerting cacophony, but it just ends up spoiling the effect in a lot of cases. Inoue Marina will be delivering her lines in a genuinely creepy way, but then the effects will make her voice sound tinny, for lack of a better term, and the creepiness will be gone or the effects will be louder than the character voices and it’ll be hard to hear what they’re doing. The music is just pretty typical of “horror” fare.

The ho-yay factor is a 1/10. This has no ho-yay. The cast is overwhelmingly female, but they can’t be bothered to develop their relationships in any way, romantic or otherwise. Most of the male characters only appear in a scene or two.

This is the best anime I’ve seen in the past four weeks. Which admittedly isn’t saying much since the other anime were the two first series of Sekirei and Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari. The bottom line is that there are some moments that could have been effective but they’re diluted by a whole lot of pointless scenes and random transitions. Still, I do recommend watching it, with two or three friends. Why? Because Le Portrait de Petit Cosette lies in that realm of dullness and semi-stupidity that makes for excellent snark material. Watch it to poke fun at it and it will lead to entertaining moments for you and friends. But as a serious horror piece I have to give it a 4/10. It’s mostly just pretty dull but inoffensive. Horror anime month will continue next week with a look at the only horror anime on my request queue, Blue Gender.