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Pokemon XY: Remember when Megas weren’t a source of shame?

Yes, we’re back to talking about Pokemon, a franchise so long running that there are adults who weren’t born yet when it started. I was, but I’m old and crabby. Any way, I was asked to review this particular part of the anime. So, all of you get to read me ranting about all the aspects of this anime franchise that get on my nerves. Besides, with Sword and Shield coming out soon and eliminating the Megas, it seems a good time to talk about when Game Freak was super proud of that element.

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Story:

We open with Satoshi travelling over to the Kalos region leaving Unova and all the Pokemon he “befriended” there behind. He meets the siblings, Citron & Eureka, and begins his journey to beat all the Kalos gyms while catching new Pokemon he’ll inevitably leave behind when he moves on to Alola. Unfortunately for him, Musashi, Kojirou & Meowth are still following him to steal his Pikachu.

I should note, the anime does not follow the game’s mechanics as much as it makes nods to them. Which I can’t really complain about. It would be even more boring if Pikachu had to dodge every attack because any hit would smash its frail defences and knock it the fuck out.

The biggest problem with the series is just that it’s all very repetitive and formulaic. You can pretty much tell exactly what’s going to happen in an episode the moment the scenario is introduced. Satoshi will even say he hasn’t decided which gym to go to next after every gym match, even against the 7th gym when there’s literally one option left.

In all fairness, the series can have a real sense of fun to it. And Team Rocket’s goofy schemes can be entertaining even if we know every one is going to end with them getting blasted into the air and saying “this feels bad.”

Characters:

This is where the big problem in the series lies. The main characters are dull. Really, excruciatingly dull. Satoshi has no personality whatsoever. He’s just vaguely amicable. Which is part of the problem with the franchise keeping the same protagonist from region to region. The dude can’t learn any lessons without repeating old territory. He also can’t develop as a character because every writer who works on the anime has a cemented image of him and what he’s supposed to be. And it is hard to see him as having a real connection with his pokemon when he has a long history of saying goodbye to them at the slightest provocation.

Then there are his companions. Citron is a boring sciencey boy who makes machines that blow up and is vaguely nice. Eureka is an excitable child who thinks every Pokemon ever is cute. Even the shite ice cream cone no one likes. And tries to get her brother a bride whenever she thinks a woman is pretty. Serena is a girly girl with a crush on Satoshi because they met once in camp when they were all of eight.

The best characters are Musashi, Kojirou & Meowth. Just because they’re allowed to be bad and revel in that but there’s also a real attempt at making them sympathetic. Every member of the group gets some episode or other that showcases the better part of their nature. This also serves to make them more enjoyable than the main cast as well as more complex.

Art: 

The artwork is fine. There are some pretty cool battles. The characters look fine. And the Pokemon look like their game counterparts. I don’t really care for most of the 6th generation Pokemon personally, but that may be because I’m old and grumpy. You damn kids and your cotton candy pokemon and your slime dragons and your key rings and your pogs and your street sharks.

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Sound: 

The acting is fine. Everyone is perfectly competent but most of the characters are so boring they don’t have much in terms of complexity to convey. Which is why our best performances come from Hayashibara Megumi, Miki Shinichiro & Inuyama Inuko. The music is decent enough too. Not great but functional enough.

Ho-yay:

There are some moments with Serena and Sana. Eureka’s obsession with pretty women also seems to be a strong indication that she won’t be dating men when she gets older.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Ditch Satoshi as the main protagonist. Honestly, I think the Pokemon anime franchise would be a lot better if each region featured a new protagonist. You could get more complexity for the character without having to undermine their bond with their pokemon to show off the new region’s creatures.
  2. Have some surprises. I get it, this is a children’s anime and they can’t get too complex with it. But at least have some events that are mildly against the grain or that subvert expectations. Maybe even let the villains win in some minor way that isn’t too bad for the heroes.
  3. More personality for the protagonists. A big part of the issue with them is that the writers try to make them too squeaky clean good. Give them some real flaws to overcome that can lead to some interesting interactions. It would make the series a lot more interesting.

Final Thoughts:

Pokemon XY isn’t a bad series. However, it’s not a good one either. It’s like that last Pokemon film I reviewed. It’s a mediocre series that’s probably enjoyable enough for the target audience, but doesn’t provide much for anyone older. Even slightly older like teenagers. I’ll give it a 5/10.

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Phantom Yuusha Densetsu: Obscure for a good reason

Phantom Yuusha Densetsu is a short film OVA from the early 90s. It was produced by Magic Bus. That’s right, the same producer as Dragoon & one of the studios that worked on Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu. I have to say, that’s immediately not promising but maybe this one has the quality those two lacked. Probably not, but it’s possible.

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Story:

We open with our protagonist, I don’t give a shit what his name is, being contacted by his also boring friend about a Phantom jet sighting in El Salvador. Since Don’t Care, is an ex JASDF pilot, he seems like the ideal choice to examine it for a report. Because you definitely need first hand jet flying experience to report on a jet sighting. It’s not like Journalism experience is useful for that. In any case, Don’t Care agrees to go with his friend’s camera man and things quickly turn bad as he finds himself entwined in a conspiracy where multiple government agents want him dead.

The biggest issue with this film is that, like the stratagems of Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu, it suffers from a lot of blatant idiocy. Having an ex pilot with no Journalism experience go to do investigative journalism is pretty stupid. A government agency surreptitiously selling one of their jets without erasing their markings is really stupid. The antagonists capturing the hero they’re trying to kill, having him drugged and at their mercy and then not killing him is just egregiously stupid. It might be acceptable in a piece of media for children, but this is pretty blatantly for adults. Keep in mind, this film lasts for just under an hour and manages to have all these substantial plot holes.

There’s also an underlying plot about the CIA trying to stop everyone from finding out they’re interfering with El Salvador. Which I don’t get. Granted, I’m not an expert in American politics, but I know that the US has a long, long history of mucking about with Central American countries. Would there really be that much of an outrage from the citizens because they were caught doing it yet again?

Characters: 

The characters barely have personalities worth mentioning. Don’t care is one of those intense macho heroes with no real personality. The villains are just sleazy and evil for no adequately explored reason. The girlfriend is there to show her tits, be assaulted and die to give Don’t Care some motivation. She’s the only female character too, unless you count the naked woman who shows up for five seconds. So, the character writing is just shit.

Art: 

This isn’t one of those anime that hasn’t aged that well. That would imply that it was passable or even good for its time. It wasn’t. Even for the early 90s, this animation is bad. They use a lot of tricks to try to make it seem like there’s more movement than there actually is, but even with the strobe effect and such, it’s really painfully obvious that there was very little effort put into the animation. The movements are very minimum and janky when they do happen. The characters just look very boring in terms of design and the sex scenes are really bad. Not because of the crass nature thereof, the poor animation work and generally rubbish art just make for really bad sex scenes.

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Sound: 

The acting isn’t very good. It doesn’t even rise to mediocrity. The actors may be fine under other circumstances but this is one of those works where the lack of character depth combined with poor direction really makes for poor performances. The music is just dull but still the best aspect of the work.

Ho-yay:

There is none. Truthfully, I prefer not to see ho-yay in a work this bad any way. Because they never do it well.

Areas of Improvement: 

  1. Develop your plot. A lot of these problems could be handled with some actual effort. For example, have our main character be an actual journalist, maybe one who used to be a pilot. Then it would make sense for him to be sent. You could also have him find documentation about where they got their Phantoms from, thereby eliminating the tell-tale markings. And have him captured, being taken to a remote spot for clandestine elimination and just wake up and escape.
  2. Character complexity. You don’t need as many characters as this has as long as you actual give yours some compelling traits.
  3. Have an animation budget higher than half the budget of an old Scooby Doo episode. Because this just looks terrible.

Final Thoughts:

This one deserves to languish in obscurity. It’s pretty damn horrendous. Every major plot point is riddled with stupidity induced holes. It looks bad, sounds bad and the characters are trash. I’m giving this one a 1/10. It’s awful.

The Cockpit: Nothing to get cocky over

The Cockpit is an early 90s Madhouse OVA and it’s based off of a Matsumoto Leiji manga. I’ll be honest, I have never read or watched one of his works before. And I’m sure a bunch of people will say this is the wrong one to start with, but fuck it, we’re going live.

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Story:

The OVA is basically made up of three different stories, each one about soldiers during World War II. I’ll probably go into the problems and high points for each episode individually before discussing the generals.

The first is about a Deutsche pilot who gets disgraced and then is offered a chance at redemption, by being the only escort for a very important delivery mission. The first question this brings to mind is why you would assign a post that important to a disgraced pilot. The second is why you would only have one escort. I get that they want to be incognito, but you’d think they’d still want more than one plane protecting their important cargo. Especially one plane with a pilot who’s already proven to be less than reliable.

The second is about a Japanese cherry blossom pilot who fails to properly crash his jet into the enemy thanks to the enemy’s pilots pushing their own air forces back. Therefore earning him one last day on Earth. Everyone is very sorry for their failure to deliver him. To the point where I wonder if he’s just a complete dick and they’re looking forward to being rid of him. (That was a joke, I know that’s not why they’re all sorry.)

The third is about some soldiers who find themselves as the last few in their unit after a massive bombardment and farcically try to return to a base that’s unlikely to have anyone left to keep a promise. This one just makes very little sense in any aspect when you think about it. If you know the base is overrun by hostile forces, why would you even attempt to get back there to meet up with people who are dead or have run away? Wouldn’t it make more sense to check an area they could have escaped to try and get word about them?

In terms of general issues, the big one is that the messaging is very heavy-handed. The first episode is very anti-nuclear weapon. The second really wants us all to know just how wasteful suicide bombings were. Is that really a hotly debated topic? I thought it was just objectively measured that they didn’t have much impact. For the third it seems to be a really weird way of conveying that you should pursue your goals wholeheartedly even if it kills you. And it all culminates in a really dumb, stilted piece of dialogue about racing.

I will give the series some credit for giving us shorts that are relatively watchable and do a decent job of keeping your attention.

Characters:

Frankly, none of the characters have much in terms of complexity or development. They’re all pretty much equally a bit shit. At least they aren’t actively terrible or annoying. That may not be much, but it’s something.

Art:

The big problem with the art is that the characters range from looking perfectly normal to looking like the cast of Osomatsu-san and, to point out the very obvious, that art style doesn’t really work in anything that’s trying to be remotely serious. You can’t give me a “tragic” death scene with a character who looks to be out of an old gag anime and expect it to have any real impact. I will say that the planes and boats we see look good and the air battles are really well done.

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Sound: 

Are the performances good? Well, no. While they got some good actors like Midorikawa Hikaru or Horiuchi Kenyu but they don’t really have complex enough characters to really give stellar performances. So, what we end up with is pretty mediocre. The music is fine. Not good, but decent.

Ho-yay: 

There aren’t any characters with compelling interactions, homo-erotic or otherwise.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Actually develop the characters. I know you aren’t going to get super complex characters in a half hour, but you can still do better than this. I’ve seen it enough times.
  2. Have some polish to the writing. As is, there are a lot of just nonsensical moments and decisions. What makes it worse is that they’re easy to address. Have the main protagonist of the first episode given another chance because he has a very distinguished record and give the plane another escort or two and just have them shot down. That would be a huge improvement.
  3. Lose the stilted moralising. I’m not inherently opposed to the messages they have, the execution is just clumsy and over done.

Final Thoughts:

The Cockpit has some serious flaws. It’s not a bad little OVA, but it’s also definitely not a good one. I can’t even call it average. Ultimately, it’s a bit below even that. So, I’m giving it a 4/10. If the premise sounds really interesting to you, go for it. If it sounds only like it could be interesting if well executed, I wouldn’t bother.

June Bonus Review: Princess Princess Ever After

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Princess Princess  is a family friendly graphic novel written and illustrated by Katie O’Neill. It was published in 2016 by Oni Press. It started as a web comic before that.

Story:

Princess Amira is riding her unicorn through the forest when she hears a maiden crying in a tower. Princess Sadie’s response to this is less than enthusiastic since many princes have tried. She asks what’s different this time. To which Amira responds “I am no prince and I have a grappling hook.” Thus their adventures begin.

The biggest issue with the book is probably just that everything is too easy. These ladies will encounter something that will seem like a possible threat for three panels and then resolve it with ease. Like the question of how to get down from the tower or the giant ogre. I get that this is a child friendly romp, but at the same time, children can handle some tension.

I will say, I appreciate the overall theme of moving beyond the role society’s chosen for you and finding your own place. We see all of  our major characters rejecting the boxes they’ve been put into in favour of their own paths. I also like the humour throughout. There are some delightfully funny bits of dialogue.

Characters:

The characters are a bit simplistic but they’re also more than passable considering the target audience. The short arcs of rejecting the roles that were chosen for them adds some depth to their characters. Amira and Sadie have a cute dynamic. Maybe a little under-developed but it’s about the best you can expect given how short the story is.

Art: 

The art is very cutesy. I’m not saying that as a bad thing. Truthfully, the aesthetic is quite nice. The character designs are pretty strong. The panel layouts are well thought out. The action flows quite well. About the worst I can say is that the backgrounds are a bit plain.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Have the characters take a bit more effort to resolve issues. The book could benefit from having them put more effort into resolving their problems.
  2. Flesh out some background details. I get that the foreground is more important but having more detailed backgrounds would be nice.
  3. A little more time to flesh out the main dynamic. As nice and cute as it is, it could benefit from another page or two to help flesh it out.

Final Thoughts:

In terms of works for a younger audience, this one is pretty great. Clever dialogue, a positive theme, and endearing characters combine to make for an entertaining and very quick read. Which is why I’m going to give it a very solid 8/10. If you have a youngster in your life who could use a good story or you just enjoy reading simplistic stories, I can recommend it.

Free: Muscular Boys get wet

Free is an anime from mid 2013. It was produced By Kyoto Animation. That’s right, the studio behind K-on, Hyouka, Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon, Nichijou & Air among others. It’s one I’ve heard about but never seen. So, let’s dive in and have a look.

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Story:

We open with some footage of children at a swim club. They seem to be enjoying themselves and everything is all nice and wholesome. We cut to several years later and our main protagonist, Haruka, soaking in the bath. His old friend, Makoto, comes to pick him up for school and seems completely unfazed by him sitting in the tub with his swim trunks on. How often does Makoto see Haruka in the tub? In any case, they go to school and things change for them when they’re reunited with Nagisa who wants to start a swimming club. Things get more interesting when they’re reunited with the final boy from the flashback, Rin, who’s back from studying in Australia and seems to have grown distant.

The biggest issue with the story is that it has a lot of moments that they make way more dramatic than they need to be. A big one is that Rin wants to swim with his old friends but instead of just asking he decides that he needs to swim against them in tournaments. Seriously, why? He could literally go visit them, since he knows where they live, and just ask to swim. He could even offer to suck their dicks if they’ll allow it but I don’t think he’d need to since they very clearly want to be friends with him still. Besides, he has shark teeth and that would probably go badly. There’s also a scene where Rei makes way too big of a fuss over his three new friends having history with Rin.

Look, I get that it’s more on the comedic side and you can’t really put in anything too serious as a source of tension, but at the very least don’t get all semi-melodramatic over very minor things.

I will credit the series for having a good sense of humour. Nagisa deciding that Rei should be in the club solely because he also has a feminine name is funny. The whole segment with the group at an abandoned house is funny. So is the bit at the festival. The strong humour makes for an entertaining watch, at the very least. I will also say that the series does a good job at subverting expectations in quite a few instances. Although its final “surprise” is really obvious and they still treat it as a surprise for some inexplicable reason.

Characters:

Like a lot of school comedies, the characters aren’t that complex. Makoto is the mature, responsible one. Haruka is the quiet one who doesn’t express himself well. Nagisa is the cheerful and affectionate one. Rei is the smart one. Rin is the driven, tsundere one. I will reiterate that a more comedically driven series like this doesn’t really need strong characters. It just needs characters that mesh well with comedy. However, the more melodramatic elements do need a bit better characterisation to work. The characters also spend way too much time talking about Rin’s drama. It’s like Nagisa, Makoto & Haruka all decided that Rin is theirs and his drama should really impact their lives.

Art:

Largely, the artwork is pretty nice. Kyoto Ani can clearly draw the human form pretty nicely. The characters look pretty good. Makoto actually reminds me a lot of Stahl from Fire Emblem Awakening. Which is fine because the Fire Emblem games have some great character designs. The water effects are really nice. The animation is smooth. I’m sure someone will point out that the forms the characters use for swimming are off but if that is the case I didn’t notice. Probably because I have never watched competitive swimming.

There are two things that are odd about the art. The first is Rin’s shark teeth. Every other character looks perfectly normal and here’s this dude with super pointed, jagged teeth. What, did he use a Ferengi tooth sharpener just to get that effect?

The other is the imagery in the ending theme. First off, why are all the guys wearing harem girl outfits? Secondly, no seriously, why are they all wearing harem girl outfits?

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Sound:

The acting is pretty well done. Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Miyano Mamoru, Shimazaki Nobunaga, Yonaga Tsubasa, & Hirakawa Daisuke all have strong performances. The supporting characters are well acted as well.

The music is largely well done. The in episode tracks do their job pretty well. The ending theme tune is quite catchy and well composed. I don’t particularly like the opening theme tune. It’s not bad but it’s also not something I would want to listen to.

Ho-yay:

There is a lot. All five major guys in this series come across as really gay. Whether it’s Rin’s obsession with Haruka, Rei describing Haruka as beautiful, Haruka becoming super despondent any time Rin is upset, Nagisa chasing after Rei or the incredibly homo-erotic splash fight in the ending theme. The only characters who come across as straight are Gou, who drools over all the muscular boys, & Coach Sasabe, who has a large stack of swimsuit magazines.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Stow the melodrama. I get that you need some kind of tension for the sports element, but this series does go overboard.
  2. Just reveal the last “surprise.” Honestly, there would be nothing wrong with this scene if they didn’t keep this element in the shadows or otherwise obscured as though they were surprising the audience when the characters have basically said exactly what they’re going to do already.
  3. Some more diverse dialogue topics. Like I said, these characters discuss their childhood connection and Rin’s drama way too much. Maybe let them have some more zany, comedic conversations and less of that.

Final Thoughts:

Free has its issues. It has elements that don’t work all that well. That being said, it s a very entertaining, watchable series. Both because of the more absurd comedic moments and because of the fun, ho-yay fueled dynamics. It definitely has an endearing quality to it. So, I’ll give the series a 7/10.

Pokemon: Maboroshi no Pokemon Lugia Bakutan- The Time Team Rocket Saved The World From Devastation

For those of you who weren’t around in ’00, or were too young to remember, Pokemon was still at an early point. Before there were a billion games including spin-offs and enough merchandise to bankrupt an entire nation. And we were all eagerly anticipating Silver & Gold in 2001. What’s that? You got those games considerably earlier? Well, in the EU we got them in early 2001. In any case, we were all gathering every scrap of information we could and this film promised us a first look at Lugia, even though the games were already out elsewhere and we’d seen her image on the Internet. Regardless, a lot of people were excited to see this film in theatres. I wasn’t allowed to because we were poor and theatre tickets for me and all three of my siblings were pricey. But I do remember what a big deal this was for a lot of people my age. I’m still not going easy on it.

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Story:

We open with a collector, we’ll call him Kivas Fajo, in his advanced aircraft base. He’s after the legendary birds, Moltres, Articuno and Zapdos. He hopes to acquire them and draw out Lugia so he can capture it as well. Then he’ll make them all wear their outfits, sit in their chairs and entertain his guests. Little does Kivas realise that capturing the birds will throw the planet out of balance causing upheavals and, possibly, the end of the world. It’s naturally up to Satoshi and his companions to deal with the situation.

Now, I’m not going to worry about spoilers too much since the Pokemon anime is kind of predictable and formulaic. Plus this film is around twenty years old if we’re going by the original Japanese release. So, moving on to the first problem with the narrative. Kivas suffers from a serious case of “dumb villain.” This dude accidentally brings Satoshi and his group aboard his airship, then he leaves them alone so they can easily interfere with his operation and foil his plans. Another problem is that the film has a lot of pointless moments. All the Pokemon converging on the islands for the confrontation and then doing fuck all, the scenes with Professor Ookido & Satoshi’s mum, they just don’t seem to contribute anything.

You might argue that the Pokemon converging is to illustrate the importance of taking action even when things look bleak, but they actually do nothing so it doesn’t really work.

The best thing I can say for the narrative is that it has some pretty neat action moments. The whole fight sequence with the birds is pretty amazing. The Lugia reveal is also nicely done. The film shows a lot of bubbling underwater and uses a bunch of other tricks to obfuscate Lugia’s appearance before finally bringing it out at the climax in a massive jet of water. It’s a strong, well-paced reveal.

Characters:

The characters are kind of under-written and not very interesting. Satoshi does whine too much for my taste. One thing worth mentioning, however, is that Satoshi’s companions are basically useless while Team Rocket acts heroically. Which is a weird decision. You wouldn’t expect a children’s work to give the spotlight to the petty villains.

But it does. Kasumi & Kenji help pull Satoshi out of the water once and that’s basically it. Aside from that they stand around picking particles out of their anuses. And Pikachu was already working on getting Satoshi to shore. So, if Pikachu had thought to grab Lapras’ pokeball from Satoshi’s bag, they would have been completely pointless. They don’t even bring out their Pokemon to try to free Zapdos & Moltres from their cages. Musashi and Kojirou bring out Arbok and Weezing. They also go to Satoshi’s rescue when he comes to an impasse and things look hopeless. Then they dodge attacks from legendary birds to get him to the artefact he needs to save the world. And they very nearly sacrifice themselves so the world can be saved.

Art:

The artwork looks fine. Kivas’ airship looks a bit out of place when compared to the rest of the art. There’s also a fail with Doctor Uchikido’s completely ambivalent facial expression while she talks about the potential end of the world. The action sequence with the birds is the highlight in terms of art. And seeing Lugia use Aeroblast is really cool. The whole sequence with Musashi and Kojirou taking an inflatable raft up through a bunch of caverns looks cool even if it does not follow proper laws of physics. The sequence with a speed boat going up stairs is the same way, except not nearly as cool looking.

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Sound: 

The acting is pretty good, actually. Hayashibara Megumi is always great. Miki Shinichiro does a good job. Hiramatsu Akiko & Matsumoto Rica are both good. If there’s a weakness it’s Kaga Takeshi as Kivas. And that’s not so much his fault as it is a natural result of him getting a boring character who isn’t very expressive. The music works decently enough.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any. It’s not like the Pokemon franchise is going to toss in an Utena reference or something.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Make the villain basically competent. If our heroes had to actually sneak aboard and make their way to his collection, it would make for a more interesting sequence than him just letting them loose without watching them. You could even have Kasumi & Kenji create a distraction so they can actually do something of value.
  2. Either have all those Pokemon try to interfere with the battle or leave them out. Like I said, the sequences with all of them converging just end up being pointless since they just watch and lick their own genitals.
  3. Have Doctor Uchikido show some emotion. If the world is ending, you aren’t going to look vaguely bored like it’s a situation you get every Thursday. There’s a difference between composure and just not giving a shit and her reaction is very much not giving a shit.

Final Thoughts:

If I were watching this as a youngster back when it first came out, I’d probably enjoy it in the moment and quickly forget all the details. Watching it now, however, it does not hold up very well. While it has some good moments and the basic artwork and acting generally work well, the antagonist is forgettable and overly stupid. There are too many “plot points” that do nothing and too many characters who sit around scratching their asses. Ultimately, I’ll give it a 5/10. It’s one of those mundane children’s films that has quite a few obvious issues because the writing staff didn’t really care or think kids would really notice.

FLAG: For the Photography Buffs

FLAG is an ONA from mid ’06 to early ’07. It was handled by The Answer studio. That’s right, the studio behind Golgo 13. It’s also an original work. So, that’ll be interesting.

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Story:

Our narrative takes place in a fictional war torn country named for a yoga pose. A young photographer named Shirasu Saeko manages to capture a strong moment of hope in a brilliant photograph. This results in the flag in the photo becoming a symbol of peace. There’s just one problem, it gets stolen. Shirasu is chosen to work with UN’s special forces in their efforts to scour Uddiyana and regain the flag.

The biggest problem with the series is that it has two protagonists, for good reason, but it can repeat information from each of their perspectives with very little difference. Which just feels like a pointless way to pad the series.

To its credit, the dual perspective does work well for showing the situation from the military-oriented perspective of Shirasu and from the more civilian point of view of Keiichi. Which serves to provide a broader, more nuanced viewpoint. The series also makes good use of its photography theme. Both with its aesthetic and by using short snippets for its scenes. The ending also has a strong narrative purpose that ties things together and is really well done.

Characters:

The series does a great job of using snippets with characters to illustrate different parts of their personalities and flesh them out more than you would expect for a cast of this size in a thirteen episode series. It helps that the conflict has a strong sense of realism to it which gives them a grounding in reality.

It also helps considerably that the side characters interact with the photographers, which provides some strong interactions for the photographers even though we don’t see that much footage of them directly.

Art: 

The only real downside of the art is that the CG shots of the mecha have pretty stilted movements and they just look awkward. Yeah, I have seen much worse CG but this still isn’t good.

Overall, however, the visual aesthetic is really good. Seeing everything through lenses, as either stills or video, gives the series a unique look and it really delivers the photography theme strongly. I also appreciate that the series shows warfare while using various tools to avoid making it graphic. It’s almost like you can get the point across without going the sensationalist route and showing a bunch of blood and corpses.

And even though the mecha look a bit awkward, seeing their blueprints and how the parts connect is interesting. Even if the engineering isn’t realistic. If it was we’d all use these blueprints for our own killer robots. And almost as many people would die as anti-vaxxers have killed.

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Sound: 

The worst thing I can say about the acting is that Tanaka Rena delivers some of her lines a bit awkwardly. They aren’t badly done but they don’t seem to quite match the mood the series is conveying. In contrast, we get an excellent performance from Ishizuka Unshou and most of the actors do really well. Ike Yoshihiro’s soundtrack is nicely done.

Ho-yay:

About the closest we get is Shirasu commenting favourably on some of the women she’s working with. But she does the same thing with the men and it’s pretty obvious that it’s not meant romantically. Romance, as a whole, is not a significant thing in this series.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Cut down on the repetition. We don’t need to see both Shirasu & Keiichi look at the HAVWC blueprints. We can see that kind of thing once. And it would make for a cleaner narrative.
  2. Animate the mecha more naturally. It would legitimately be better if these things looked more natural instead of sticking out awkwardly.
  3. Better direction for Tanaka Rena. Like I said, she’s not bad. But the emotional core of the series would be stronger if not for those out of place lines of dialogue.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, FLAG is a series that has a lot to offer. Including an aesthetic that’s all its own. Do I recommend it? If you’re intrigued by the idea of a narrative where photography is a central theme and an operation to suppress insurgents is handled from a human rather than a sensationalist perspective, I absolutely would. I’ll give it a solid 8/10.