Thursday, 13 October 2011

Anime Clubs Alliance - A Ripple Can Become A Tsunami

The purpose of this group is for all otakus to unite as one whole group. Please read our mission statement under docs. All are welcome to join and by joining you are taking the pledge to put a stop to the myth about clubs and cons alike being divided.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Durarara!!...Almost lost my head over it


Some of you may know Durarara!! or Drrr!, either from the manga which has been around for a few years or the English dub anime by Aniplex which has been out since January 2011, so it is not a new series of the season. But since the show began its U.S. broadcast with Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block on June 26th 2011, and maybe like me, it’s first time you’re ever seeing it, I decided to do a review. So here we go, and as usual it contains SPOILERS

This show starts off simply enough. A young boy, Mikado RyĆ«gamine (right), bored with his life in his quiet town immediately accepts the invitation of his childhood friend to transfer to his high school in the big city, Ikebukuro, Tokyo. So far nothing strange about that. Mikado is a quiet sort of kid, so when he finally arrives in the city he is a little intimidated, but thanks to his slightly obnoxious old friend, Masaomi Kida (left), he begins to learn the ropes of Ikebukuro and he realizes that some of the city’s people are not as normal as they seem. A superhuman strong man with a short fuse, a mad scientist in love with his “monster”, mysterious gangs and that’s not even half of it. Yeah, it’s getting a little out there. And the bizarre cherry to top the weird ice cream is the city has a headless motorcycle riding urban legend called the “Black Rider”, who is seen on a regular basis driving around the city doing jobs for people who hire her.

Sooo…yeah…This show is obviously not so simple. And I think that’s the main charm of this series: Nothing is ever as it seems. This show is built around a cast of some of the strangest characters I have ever seen in an anime, but you never see it coming because they are placed in this ordinary, slice of life type of atmosphere that makes the most surreal thing almost natural. Even the characters are not as alarmed as they should be by a headless rider roaming the city who uses her shadows as a weapon, or the fact that they could be hit by flying soda dispensers at any time.

Another aspect I like about this anime is the shared narrative. Each character gets equal time to tell their story, and you slowly realize how all their lives intertwine and how they all contribute to the greater plot. It’s interesting to see different POVs of the same story going on around them, and it is ingenious how the writers of this show make them all fit together so well. It’s a brain twister sometimes, not as intricate as Deathnote, but still deliciously mysterious.

Celty with helmet
But don’t ever think that you’ve got a character figured out, because they all have more layers than an onion. That boy who comes on the first day of school just to say he was never coming back could be a psycho in love with a head, the happy go lucky Kida secretly may be the ex-leader of a gang, or even Mikado who appears to be a helpless spectator of all the madness around him, an outsider, can turn out to be more part of the city than you would believe. But because they are all so unusual, you never know what part they will play, making the plot delightfully unpredictable and exciting. Even the Black Rider Celty, who is an ancient Grim Reaper like creature from Irish legend, has an unexpected character which is hard to wrap your mind around. She is ready to cut off someone's head if she has to, but as the show progresses you see she can be friendly, sensitive, shy, and has an odd fear of aliens invading (??) 

Celty without helmet
Of course it being a supernatural anime there’s gotta be the creepy element. Underneath the simple round-headed no-nose drawings, light background piano playing and humorous dialogue, there is a layer of darkness, which in contrast can be very disturbing. There’s kidnapping, murders, obsession and human experimentation, and these dark undertones are always there, but sometimes you forget because of the normal atmosphere which hides it like a fog. Though this show does not let you ignore it for long. Every episode contains something to remind you that, like Celty, underneath the motorcycle helmet of Durarara there are shadows.

For those of you who want a lot of flash, this is not the anime for you. The action scenes are few and far apart, and if you aren’t willing to wait, you may lose interest.  Some may think it’s boring because there are many parts where you will have to really listen and observe the stories being told, and you will have to put them together like pieces in a puzzle. Because of this I found it a little confusing, slow paced and I sometimes became impatient when I did not see the point, but the good thing about this show is, even if you don’t get the big picture right away, you can still sit back and enjoy the mini stories weaved in there.

I give Durarara 3 out of 5. The art needed to be brighter and better detailed so it did not look so dull and cartoonish, and the plot sometimes lost momentum for too long. Despite that, I dug it, mainly because it never failed to leave me guessing. After watching so many animes and seeing the same tired plots being recycled over and over again, a show like Durarara is refreshing and definitely worthy as a satisfying main course.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Blood C...Thanks for the sleepless nights


Blood C

Saya - Blood: The Last Vampire
Saya Otonashi and Hagi - Blood+
Blood C is an anime/manga series produced by Studio Production I.G. and manga creators CLAMP. Like the anime series Blood+, which aired 2005-2006, Blood C is related to the Blood franchise which started with the 2000 anime film Blood: The Last Vampire.

Like the other Bloods, Blood C is about Saya. Born in the 18th century, Saya has been using her vampire-like powers to rid the world of whatever demon is threatening it, but she must eventually go into a 30-year hibernation and when she gets up she has no memory of her previous life.

Saya Kisaragi - Blood C
In this series she is now Saya Kisaragi, a young girl who lives in a temple with her father in a small town. Like in her previous lives she goes to school like a normal teenager by day and hunts demons by night. Her father diligently trains her as a miko and a sword fighter, but Saya also uses her supernatural power that enhances her skills and gives her eyes a demonic red glow. No one, not even her friends, know about her double life, so they have no idea that they are constantly under danger of being devoured by horrible demons, whose sole purpose seems to satisfy their appetites. Therefore Saya must use her powers to protect the town and all those she loves.

I have heard many people complain that this series is nowhere near as good as Blood+ and there is general dislike for Saya’s new personality. I think a lot of this hate can be explained because many of these people, like me, were sorely disappointed that the series did not continue where Blood+ left off and were expecting the story to be about Diva’s children or something. And to make matters worse there was no Kai or Hagi (I will never get over that *cries*). Despite the fact that I am obviously a fan of Blood+ and my opinion might be a tad biased, there were things about this show that were just not acceptable.

One being that this blood installment lives up to its name like its movie predecessor. It was terribly gruesome. Certain scenes still have me cringing and holding down my lunch, and I’ve seen some pretty awful animes, like Vampire Hunter D and Afro Samurai. So far every episode of Blood C made sure to include scenes of fountains of blood shooting into the air or bodies being ripped apart and eaten. And all of it is done in such a sadistic way that it makes you wonder how twisted were the minds of the people who wrote this show. Being the anime fan that I am, I enjoy watching seemingly normal teenagers defeat monsters twice their size, and since there are fewer heroines than heroes doing so, I love that Saya proves again and again that she can kick butt and take a beating as well as any of the anime big boys. But even though the fighting was very clear and exciting, it was over the top violent and grotesque, and that ruined it for me.

Secondly, I can understand the hate toward Saya. I did not dislike her, but she bordered on annoying for me. I loved her look (only in anime someone can sword fight wearing glasses and extremely long hair lol) and because the animation of the show was outstanding, the best of the three Bloods I believe, there wasn’t a scene of Saya swing her sword that I didn’t want to freeze and put up on my wall, but unfortunately this was not enough to make me like her.  

I know it was part of the plot to emphasize Saya’s kind sweet nature, especially to show the sharp contrast with her ruthless hunter side, but like I’ve seen in many animes before, the clueless goody two shoes act was way too much, making it unrealistic and tiresome.

All three men were eaten while Saya watched
Saya is beautiful, polite, athletic and everyone likes her, so basically she’s roll your eyes flawless, except for the fact that they threw in the ever popular “one imperfection” where the girl is a total ditz. This means she is made to look cute by being unbelievably innocent (naive), she’s oblivious of the guy who practically worships the ground she walks on (dimwitted), and she can’t walk two steps without falling (klutz) but somehow is able to perform leaps and flips that defy gravity when fighting monsters. Also I found it ridiculous how many people die under Saya’s watch. For someone who’s as skilled as her and so adamantly swore to protect everyone, you’d think there would be less deaths, but Saya on several occasions is slow to draw her sword, moves like she has lead in her shoes when the monster is running toward a victim, and even left one of her friends outside with the monster =S 

And thirdly was the monotony of this show. I know Blood+ took awhile to get anywhere too, but let’s take into account that it was 50 episodes long, while Blood C is only a measly 12. Instead of getting straight to the point, which is customary of animes of this short length, half of the episodes followed the same pattern. Saya goes happily skipping and singing to school (rolls eyes), she’s usually late cause she’s helping old ladies cross the street (rolls eyes some more), for most of the day she has boring inane conversations with her friends (who are not very interesting either), goes home and then has a sickening well-animated fight with a nightmarish monster. Even when you finally start learning that there is something more to the story, it is revealed slowly with one sentence of info per episode, or in some supposedly deep musing done by a talking dog and an anonymous voice, neither of them making any sense.

The snail pace along with the violence nearly made me abandon this anime several times, but my curiousity and love for anime art and over the top battles made me stick with it. I give it a 2 out of 5. For those of you who just want to see awesome fighting, this show has some of the best I’ve ever seen, almost as good as Rurouni Kenshin, but don’t get into it expecting well developed plot or characters because you will be disappointed. This Saya needs to go sleep again and wake up as someone less shallow.

Blue Exorcist...Your father is WHO?!!!

I have prepared you for what to expect in a supernatural anime, so let’s begin with my favourite series this year. Btw this is filled with  SPOILERS. You have been warned.

Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist

Rin and Yukio Okumura
Rin Okumura is a boy who realized he was different since he was a kid. Having a violent temper and a tendency to get into fights with the other children, he is feared, ostracized and called a “demon”. Living in a world where demons are very much present and hated, they have no idea how right they are. Rin, along with his perfect younger twin brother Yukio, are both the sons of Satan (pronounced Sah-tan, but we all know what they are referring to), the King of the demon realm Gehenna, but they have been raised like normal children by the unorthodox Father Shiro Fujimoto in a loving home. However their lives are seriously turned around years later, when their “real Daddy” appears to claim Rin as his own. When Shiro dies protecting him, Rin draws the demon-slaying blade (you know he couldn’t be an anime hero without his BAS), which his guardian asked him never to do because it restrained his demonic powers. Now Rin has permanent demon features; fangs, pointed ears, a tail (So cute ^_^) and has inherited the power to ignite himself into his Father’s tradmark blue flames that destroys anything it touches.

Like a true protagonist, Rin swears to get revenge against Satan for killing his beloved adopted father, so he enrolls in True Cross Academy which trains Exorcist to defend the human realm, Assiah, from Gehenna’s demons.

One of the main reasons this anime rates very high with me is because of the colourful well drawn animation, the exciting plot that leaves you screaming “Nooo!” when there’s a cliff hanger and you have to wait a week for a new episode, and the characters.

Some of the personalities were nothing I haven’t seen before; there’s the hot headed hero who never gives up, sweet shy girl who flinches every time someone even looks at her, tough girl who needs no friends, and creepy wacko who acts like a clown but is really wise, but I found myself liking them because they did not seem wearily cliche. Maybe it’s because not every character was like this and therefore made up for the others, or because they were placed in such an interesting setting that it was not as noticeable. I don’t know the reason, but I’m sure you will find yourself not minding them either.

Still the characters could have been improved in terms of contribution to the show. Rin’s character stood out the most though, and I think if it wasn’t for him and his brother, this show would have scored lower with me. The twins are a joy to watch, both interesting in how opposite they are; Rin enthusiastic and animated, while the younger Yukio is able to be just as captivating in his conservative and confident demeanor. Some of the best scenes are when the two interact and it was entertaining to see their brotherly love and rivalry. The problem was they may have been too loveable because sometimes their characters overshadowed the others, and I found it hard not to only want to see them alone. Their friends seemed useless sometimes, especially when it came to the fighting (which was very well done btw), and I found myself saying “Go away losers and let Rin and Yukio do their thang” (yeah I said ‘thang’). You may even say that the other characters were brought out mostly because they were very important to Rin and Yukio. Especially Rin who has never really had friends before. He is so adorable in the way he cherishes every moment he spends with them, usually with an endearing child like eagerness beaming out of his face.

Also as you watch each episode and see Rin learn and grow both mentally and in his fighting skills, you begin admiring him more. It is clear that his goal has gone beyond his initial, slightly immature, declaration of “kicking Satan’s ass” and getting revenge for the death of his adopted father, but that he now realizes he has the responsibility to protect the people he loves from everything that his demonic parentage has dragged them into, and that is what drives him to never give up, even when so many judge him by what he is instead of who he is.

This anime is a combination of both types of supernatural anime I talked about in my last post. Yes it can be a little bit scary, violent and bloody, but what can I say?...The demons of Gehenna don’t play…But none of it was over the top or terribly gruesome. It was what I consider “justified” meaning every swing of a sword, every blood splatter and curse, was understandable and in moderation, so it never even comes close to being offensive or activating your barf reflex. Also because of the episodes of fun and the characters’ humorous and youthful behavior, all the demon stuff does not get too heavy, except of course coming down to the ending were things are supposed to get serious.

I give Blue Exorcist 4 out of 5. Despite the fact a lot of the characters’ personalities needed to be developed and brought forward more, the show has great animation, plot, music and creativity, therefore you will find yourself like me hoping there are many seasons in the future.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Supernatural 101

I know I promised we’d talk about the new animes of the season, but I’m a noob at this blogging thing, and even though I was warned, I still stupidly thought it was going to be easy to update every week. So I noticed this year supernatural anime seems to be the trend - four of them made my list, Blue Exorcist, Natsume Yuujinchou San, Blood C and Durarara!!, and they are de-licious – I would write a little introduction to prepare you for what a supernatural anime is like. Once again I am sorry for the broken promise and I hope you enjoy this blog instead for now. I will have the reviews for those animes ready by my next blog entry.

(Clap hands together) Okay let’s begin class….

Like true anime with mystical themes, they gotta be a bit scary. Some of them, like Deathnote (below right) and Vampire Hunter D (last pic below left) are more than scary, they’re down right “oh-my-god swallow-your-tongue won’t-sleep-for-a-week” disturbing. But I say if you never watched an anime that made you hide your eyes like a child, then you haven’t watched many and you are so missing out. Because if it’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of watching anime is: creepy-weird is awesome.

Supernatural animes overflow with creepy and weirdness. You know the ones I mean, the animes that will have a scene where the hero is in a dark forest/field, and a lone little kid with a freaky smile steps out from behind a tree, and you know the brat is going to change into some kind of Wtf-monster, but you know it’s going to be an awesome-sauce moment, because that hero has some kind of unbelievable power that his demon mom/dad/grandmother passed/cursed him/her with and we’re about to see the monster get his ugly butt thoroughly kicked.

But if all that kind of thing is not your cup of tea, I reassure you that supernatural anime is not only blood, violence and horrifying monsters. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still creepy and weird, but a few are more realistic and normal…well, normal-ish…like maybe a teenager being able to talk to those who’ve gone over to the other side, and therefore using his/her gift to help their loved ones get in contact with them or solve the mystery of their murder, like in Psychic Detective Yakumo

The atmospheres also are not always so dark and heavy. They can sometimes do a complete one-eighty. Yes, demons and spirits are still there, but you’d be surprised that the same type of monster you saw trying to rip someone to shreds in one show, could be seen as a cute harmless idiot in the next, who with one goofy face has become the comedy relief, maybe even a good friend. Suddenly the darkness has lifted, and fun and laughter ensues. And even though most of the demons are still “mischievous” and the hero is always in danger of being eaten by one of them (his demon buddy included in this), you are never too worried that it all won’t end happily. You see this kinda thing a lot in animes like Saiyuki (right, Lirin), Soul Eater, and Rumiko Takahashi works, like Inuyasha (above left). It’s amazing how they can be really ominous and scary one episode, and then be side-achingly ridiculous in the next. Basically, these light-hearted moments give us some relief from too much drama and depressing stuff, so we can LMAO, relax and have fun.

Also another cool thing about supernatural animes is that these plots are usually placed in an ancient Japanese setting and with that comes a lesson of Japanese culture. Even if the characters aren’t actually in Feudal Japan (though sometimes they are), you can probably bet that the hero of the story either lives, works or trains in a “rice paper-walled, tatami mat, futon using” old shrine or dojo, and despite the fact that it’s the 21st Century is still very much involved with old Japanese customs, like tea ceremonies, religious rituals and may still dress in ancient Japanese clothing like kimonos, hakama and gi. Their families are very traditional and they are usually training them to be a priest/martial artist.

The monsters and spirits, like shinigami and oni (right) can also be part of well known stories that have been passed down from great great great great…well, you get the idea…grand-people to their children. So if you’re into Japanese history, learning about their creatures that “go bump in the night” is a fun way of doing it. For instance in animes like Grandchild of Nurarihyon and Otome Youkai Zakura I can guarantee you will get to find out about a range of different subjects; Japanese customs, food, songs, architecture, famous people, religion, anything you can think of, because as I said, supernatural themed animes are the ones that are especially rich in culture.
Another thing I want to mention is that many people find the issue of demons offensive and may think just watching shows about them may be immoral, and that’s fine because you are entitled to your own opinion, but personally I disagree. 

As we all must have realized by now, the Japanese are not as overly sensitive as some cultures. They are pretty okay with the certain subjects that bother most people; like gun toting nuns, priests and exorcists who kick butt with pray and sutras, keep company with demons, and may even have a little bit of questionable blood in them as well. We see this kind of thing in shows like Blood Trinity, Chrono  Crusade (left) and D Greyman (below right and left), and this maybe one of the reasons why religious oriented people hate on anime, but I think this comes from being narrow minded and overly sensitive.
It’s not like these shows are rooting for Evil to win, and there is a clear distinction of who the good people are and who the bad people are judging by their personalities and how they are drawn. It is  obvious that the makers of these animes create the good characters to be admired and liked because they are friendly, brave and loving, always smiling with large kind eyes, and they usually do everything in their power to wipe the floor with the baddies, who are mean, selfish scowling inhuman monsters with glowing murderous eyes, wreaking havoc on the innocent. So as long as this message is clear, how are these animes all evil? Good always triumphs over evil in the end of them.

And let’s not forget the most important point of all……It’s...not...REAL!!! It’s fiction!…Make believe!…so stop taking it so seriously. Lighten up!

I think people these days are too quick to see the evil in everything. What happened to the days when a show with a little scare was fun? Shows have become so watered down, shallow and almost unwatchable because everyone has become too sensitive, and therefore the people who make shows now are afraid of stepping a toe out of line because they may offend someone and get sued.

Parents complain that these types of anime are not for kids. Well you’re damn right…They’re not! Some of them are horrible and violent, too much so I will agree, like Ninja Scroll (really gross!), but parents still let your little children watch it because it’s animated and you automatically think it’s a cartoon like Tom and Jerry. But you see that little “R” hanging on the top corner of the screen? It still means the same thing as when it’s on those “Saw” movies. And even though I don’t think it’s something sinful, I won’t lie, some of these animes are very nightmarish, not for innocent eyes, and if you enjoy sleeping without your kids waking you up in the middle of the night, you won’t even let them have a peek. Even the fun-loving ones I consider them PG, because like I mentioned before they are still scary, and though they might use it for humor, they may contain mature themes. So make sure to watch it yourself, before your kids, and seriously consider what you want your children exposed to.  

Any way let me end it there for now. If I keep going I will never stop. Till next time GOs and I would love to hear from you. Speak up if you have something to say. Questions, suggestions, opinions, beefs…Bring it. I hope you go check out those animes I mentioned because they are yummy. So till next time and happy dinning.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Step Into My Parlour...

Anime is just like books, movies, video games, anything; there are good ones and bad ones. There are those that just the mention of one of the characters, you immediately get goosebumps, and suddenly no matter what Hell is going on in your life, you just forget it, because your mind is replaying some mind blowing, heartfelt, kick-ass scene that you’ll remember even when your gumming apple sauce in that Home you were sent to. But then, there’s the Boogie flavoured ones in your “Every Flavoured Beans”….You know the ones I’m talking about, you’re thinking of them right now, and just like me, you’re trembling and you’re wondering “Why hasn’t someone invented brain soap yet?” Either it was cutesie enough that you figure dentists had a hand in making it; unbelievably goofy enough that it was embarrassing and sent you hiding your head like an ostrich; or one of those 30 minute toy commercial types that threaten to send kids into an epileptic fit. But I am here to tell you “Don’t you worry, never fear” because I am at your service (elegant bow)

I am blessed with a lot of time and i don’t mind spending it watching anime. I will tell you what I think is worthy. And if you’re a true gourmet, you will appreciate that I’m picky and I don’t just watch anything because it’s anime. Just like you wouldn’t eat everything that is food. I judge by animation, characters, relationships, plots, creativity, music, endings etc, so I’m thorough, and won’t just say something is good or bad without a solid reasonable explanation. I know it is hard when you have your preferences and sometimes you take it personally when you see the animes you like not getting the attention you think it deserves, but I promise I will make an effort to be fair. Still, this is my blog, so I will give my opinion and express my tastes, despite how many disgruntled fan boys (or girls) scream obnoxiously and throw Sharingan/Kamehameha at me….Hm I know that statement will rile some of you up like a hornet’s nest in a Pinata party, but like I said, I want to be fair, so I will hear you out. Feel free to leave comments. Bring it on.

I am not old enough to take you back to when Anime was still in diapers, but I know a little about some of the history. Was a Voltron fan of course…Robotech the beginning of Gundam….G-force “They taught them to fly like birds”….And does anyone else remember staying up late to watch Robot Carnival on Sci-fi or am I older than I thought? And of course the anime that made me the otaku I am today, Sailor Moon, my first obsession (used to go to school late because I was hanging back to see it). I will depend on you veterans to fill in the blanks and school the younguns on the animes that paved the way for the ones we love today. 

I’m not really into the old stuff though. The oldest animes I absolutely love is Trigun…(Yay for the Typhoon! Kya!) Technoman and Vampire Hunter D….(So wicked!) But besides that, I’m into the more modern things, like Fullmetal Alchemist, Inuyasha, Deathnote, D-Greyman, Rurouni Kenshin, Ouran High School, Hellsing, Card Captors Sakura….I could go on, but I will spare you naming all the many who have a place in my heart. 

Basically I really like anime (Slap a big “O” on my chest) and I want to talk about everything. I want to have lots of fun with this, meet more people who like what I like, hear other point of views, and hopefully gain your trust while I guide you through the world of a Gourmet Otaku.

PS: I love Manga too so don’t hesitate to bring it up ;)

Next Time: “What are you watching this season?”