July 18th, 2009

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Finished series: Macross Frontier

I haven't written any reviews for a long time now -- the review queue has grown to twenty items. Time to get crackin' again.

We've finished watching Macross Frontier. My first episode review is here.

The series is set on a Macross colony fleet, with the main ship called Macross Frontier. It is escorted by various agricultural and urban vessels, called 'islands', as well as a military fleet. The colony spans all vessels.
Alto is one of the inhabitants of Frontier. He is training to be a pilot, much to the chagrin of his father, who heads a kabuki group -- Alto has very fine features, which makes him the star player for female roles. Alto and his friends practise a lot in 'glider suits', motorised suits with wings to glide through the air, though Alto tends to scold at the 'low sky' of the Frontier dome.
When interstellar super idol Sheryl Nome visits Frontier for a series of concerts, Alto and his friends are contracted to perform some stunts during the show. Alto runs into Ranka Lee, an energetic part-Zentraedi girl who is a huge fan of Sheryl. During the show, the Vajra attack Frontier. The Vajra are some sort of hive-mind space-faring species that are capable of flight and folding without any machinery involved. Outgunned, the Frontier military gets slaughtered, and Alto witnesses one human pilot being crushed by a Vajra -- which then turns to threaten Ranka. Enraged, he climbs into the cockpit of the Valkyrie and shoots the alien.

Thus begins the struggle between humans and Vajra. Alto joins SMS ('Strategic Military Services'), a so-called "Civilian Military Provider" -- mercenaries that are hired by the military for certain tasks. Think Blackwater Security, only with Valkyries and Quadlunn-Rae. Sheryl falls ill and has to stay on Frontier. Ranka decides she wants to become a singer too and starts to work on her career by singing about rainbow carrots. Both fall in love with Alto.
And so it has all the traditional Macross ingredients: Collapse ).

There's not much more to tell -- you just have to see the series to believe it. It is both a 'modern' series with modern themes and a very modern look, but it is also very 'Macross', with a plot that strongly resembles the plot of the series that started it all twenty-five years ago.
With the focus on music, the voice acting cast was carefully selected -- and with great success. The voice cast works really well for all roles. And as for the music -- once again, Yoko Kanno undertook writing the score, and as always she did a great job. There's an ending song by Maaya Sakamoto too, which scores major bonus points. ;)
What is really impressive is that this series is the debut of Megumi Nakajima, who voiced Ranka Lee -- both voice and song. She did a really good job, and proved herself very proficient. I hope to hear more of her in future anime.

Good points:
- Never a dull moment;
- Great visuals -- CGI space fights leave you spinning in your seat;
- Great music and songs, with many a wink and a nod to the long-time fans of the franchise;
- Excellent plot.

I can't really think of any bad points. A worthy successor to the Macross name, and a must-see for everyone. I'll give it a 9.5.
Viking!

Finished series: Druaga no To - The Sword of Uruk

We've finished watching Druaga no To - the Sword of Uruk. My first episode review is here.

It's a straight sequel to Druaga no To - The Aegis of Uruk, which I reviewed here. If you haven't seen that series, don't bother with this one -- start with the previous series!

It's six months after the occurrences of the first series, and since the death of Druaga, all monsters have dissapeared from the tower. King Gilgamesh has moved the capital to the city at the base of the tower, and lots of tourists have come to the Tower to see the sights. Meanwhile, the heroes of half a year back are all broke and washed up -- Fatina is a tour guide and uses tricks to sell souvenirs, Kelb operates an inn, Utu works as a strong man in a circus, etcetera. And Jill stays in his room in Kelb's inn, being depressed.
When Fatina drags him out one evening, they meet a little girl who is chased by the Golden Knights -- a bunch of knights with a heavy-handed 'might makes right'-attitude under the direct control of the king. Of course, our friends can't leave the girl alone and flee with her to Kelb's inn, where they are joined by Utu. Henaro, a druid who also frequents the inn, is mixed up in things too and has to flee as well.
The girl, Ki, promises to help them enter the Mystical Tower -- a magical tower that appears when Druaga is killed, and that Neeba and Kaaya went into. Of course, this triggers our heroes to buckle up once again and to make the long trek to the top and into the Mystical Tower, in pursuit of Neeba and Kaaya!

Collapse )

There's still comedy in the series, but the overall tone is much darker than previously. Betrayal is a rather big part of the plot of this one, along with the accompanying angst.
Visually, the series is as nice as the previous one, though the mixing of CGI and cell animation is sometimes quite noticeable, which is a bit of a pity. But there's the same voice cast as the first series, so there's nothing to complain about in that respect.

Good points:
- Amusing fantasy romp;
- Good ending.
Bad points:
- The tone is much darker.

All in all, a good successor of the first series. Still, the first series remains the best of the two -- they'd better not make a third series. I'll give this one a 7.