January 6th, 2008

isopod

Finished series: Code Geass

We've finished watching Code Geass. My first episode review is here.

The Holy Britannian Empire owns about a third of the world. With their knights in mecha, they can easily dominate any battlefield, and their territory is divided into 'Administrative Sectors'. A few years ago, the Britannians invaded Japan, which became Sector Eleven. The 'Elevens' live in poverty in ghettos, while the Britannians order them around.
Lelouch ('Lulu' for friends) is a young Britannian, who attends a school for Britannian youngsters. He plays chess for money against noblemen in his spare time, and on his way back from one such an outing, he witnesses an attack by Japanese terrorists who want to kick the Britannians out. Lelouch gets mixed up in the attack, and he encounters his old friend Suzaku, a Japanese who enlisted in the Britannian military in order to become a 'honorary Britannian'.

The terrorists have stolen some kind of secret weapon, and a special military force is sent into the Shinjuku ghetto to retrieve it -- and to kill pretty much any Eleven they can can find. Lelouch manages to uncover the secret weapon, which turns out the be a green-haired girl, C.C.. She makes a deal with him: in exchange for helping her further her goals, she gifts Lelouch with a geass. When he looks someone in the eye, he can give them an order they are compelled to follow it.
Lelouch hates the Britannian empire, and with his new-found power, he sets out to destroy the Britannian Empire -- and especially the Emperor.

Aided by his sharp wit and of course the power of the Geass, Lelouch sets out on a carefully orchestrated campaign of terror, propaganda and subterfuge. He mercilessly uses his group of freedom fighters, and the Geass allows him to get away with most of it too. He does some really atrocious things, all to further his own agenda -- Lelouch's target is the Britannian Emperor, and he couldn't care less about Japan.

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And in between all of the bloodshed, we get a few episodes in school. And then it is just like any other highschool-kids anime -- which is really weird. Outside, a bloody revolt is raging, but inside the school kids have time to worry about who is on the student council and who isn't. Of course, it doesn't take too long before the war visits the school too...

The show is technically perfect. The visuals are rich and striking, the animation is fluid, the backgrounds lush. The mechanical designs are distinct -- no cookie cutter mechs in this series! The voice acting is very good too (especially Lelouch's).

Good points:
- Very interesting setting;
- Very interesting plot -- Lelouch is a real bastard with a great sense for tactics and the ruthlessness to see it through.
- Techically perfect.
Bad points:
- The complete dichitomy between school life and Lelouch's life as the leader of the resistance is jarring at times;
- The complete lack of resolution. The 'ending' left us staring at the screen for a few minutes in utter shock -- but unfortunately there was no more to show us how it ended.

If you like series with a military undertone with enough attention to the personal dramas of the characters themselves, then this is your cup of tea. I will give it an 8 -- could have been higher if there had been an ending that didn't stop on a cliffhanger moment.
Bishoujo squad!

'New' anime

Some long-overdue reviews of new and not-so-new anime:

Ikoku Irokoi Romantan: Yaoi. Ranmaru, a brattish heir to a Yakuza clan has to marry in a political marriage -- and neither he nor his bride are happy about it. Their wedding is on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, and Ranmaru catches the eye of a very elegant and Japan-loving Italian when he gets into a scuffle with other Yakuza... One thing leads to another, etc etc etc.

Kaiketsu Zorori: Zorori is a fox, who left home to make his mark on the world -- by doing mischief! He gains two henchmen in the two boar brothers, who are loyal but not that bright... When the princess of the land is about to get married to Arthur, the Black Panther, Zorori devises a plan to gain the hand of the princess himself!
Quite cartoonish and upbeat, for younger children. Don't expect detailed animation or deep plots!

Rosario + Vampire: Tsukune failed his grade in middle school, and so he can't go to a high school -- until his father happens to find admission papers for a highschool in the street! And so Tsukune enters 'Youkai Academy' -- which turns out to be a school for monsters! The monsters are instructed to keep their monstrous nature hidden, because they have to learn to fit in with human-dominated society. Tsukune needs to keep the fact that he is a human hidden from his fellow students and the staff! He also meets Moka, a lovely girl, who turns out to be a vampire. But her monstrous nature is held in check by the rosary she wears around her neck, and she decides she wants to be friends with him. Obviously, Tsukune gets into a fight and removes the rosary and Moka kicks the ass of whatever bad-ass is waylaying Tsukune...
Beautiful character designs, lots of panty shots... and poor Tsukune is completely worthless. Will probably turn into 'monster of the week' (quite literally)...

H2O - Footprints in the Sand: Takuma has turned blind due to some kind of traumatic occurrence. He transfers to a school in the suburbs to do some healing. His new school is filled with beautiful girls, obviously. (And, equally obviously, due to his clumsiness Takuma gets to grope them during various situations...) One of the girls, Hayami, always gets into trouble, and gets blamed (and subsequently beaten up) for pretty much everything -- in spite of Takuma's protests. And then there is the mysterious girl who calls herself a spirit, who only visits Takuma when he is alone...
Typical moe harem-anime fare. The character designs take moe another step further. But there is something simmering just below the surface, just like with Shuffle or Sola...

Emily of New Moon: Anime remake of Emily of New Moon. Emily's forehead gave me nightmares.

Shion no Ou: Shion's parents were murdered when she was little, and she was raised by their neighbours -- who just happen to be professional Shogi players. Shion is a natural, and she rises through the ranks quickly. The first episode shows her during the final qualifications to get a pass to become a pro! Obviously, she is up against quite good players, some of whom have their own secrets. And her past comes back to haunt her too!
This could be a nice 'sports anime' (with shogi instead of a sport, just like Hikaru no Go had go), but it starts off so heavy-handed that I found it hard to get into.

Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro: Neuro is a demon who feeds on mysteries, or rather: their solution. He has solved all mysteries in the demon world, and so he has crossed over to the human world to feed. He hooks up with Yako, a girl whose father was murdered. She establishes herself as a detective, but behind the scenes it is Neuro who does all the deductions, and uses various deus ex machine-like demonic powers and leaves no opportunity to tell poor Yoko she is stupid.
Reasonably well executed, but the mysteries aren't really interesting and can easily be solved by the application of one of Neuro's many demonic powers. Also, cocaine soup FTW!

Minami-ke: Three sisters live together. There is the gentle and motherly elder sister, the energetic and stupid middle sister, and the smart and unfriendly younger sister. Not much happens, but it is fun none the less -- a bit like Ichigo Mashimaro, except with older girls.

Kodomo no Jikan: A young teacher starts teaching a class with some hyper-sexualised grade schoolers. Left a bad taste in my mouth. Blegh.

Himawari!!: Second season of Himawari!, wherein Himawari tries to become a full-fledged ninja by studying at the Ninja Academy.

Armored Trooper Votoms: Pailsen Files: Militaristic mecha series. It all starts off with an attack on a beachhead by rather cumbersome mechanised armored troopers -- though apparently the armor isn't thick enough to counter the fire from a fortification at the top of the beach. And though there is some air support, nobody seems to think it a good idea to drop a few cruise missiles or bombs at the fortification -- the tactics of the operation seems to amount to "through enough mecha at it, and maybe it'll work". And meanwhile there is a courtmartial in session against some guy named Pailsen who did something bad. Or something like that...
The CGI is pretty good, but the first episode left us depressed and confused.

Ghost Hound, the Production I.G. 20th anniversary production -- so it has ample budget to spend on the animation and digital effects. And it shows: the series is quite lush! Story-wise it is also interesting: main character is the son of a sake brewer, who was kidnapped along with his sister some years ago. She died, but he was found just in time to survive -- but his dreams are still haunted by the things he saw. Add some supernatural occurences, and you have a very interesting mix indeed.