Category Archives: Action
Based on my own research into philosophy and my experiences on the subject, it’s clear that morality cannot be categorized into good or bad, black and white. It’s ever-shifting and depends entirely on the circumstances a society or even an individual finds him or herself in. The culture clash at the heart of Suisei no Gargantia illustrates one of the times in which humanity might be forced to put aside its notions of protecting the weak and that’s the emptiness of deep space.
The thought of euthanasia and weeding out those people deemed incapable of contributing sticks in most people’s throats, but I think the key thing to remember is that Ledo comes from a very different society than we’re used to—one based solely on the quantity of resources. In space, limited supplies and proper allocation would be paramount to survival and it shows that when backed up against a wall, we’re capable of making tough decisions that are necessary for the benefit of all. Food, water, electricity and even oxygen are as precious as life itself (literally the essentials of life). Read more of this post
Spring 2013 to summer 2013 (25 episodes) (Japanese title – Shingeki no Kyoujin) (more info)
I’ve often sold myself as the guy whose tastes differ with mainstream opinions in order to stand as the representative of anime fans who think a lot of big titles are highly overrated. However, today I’m taking a more relaxed position as the voice of reason to try and calm things down a bit. When I saw this image indicating that Cruchyroll had given Attack on Titan five of five stars with only two episodes out, my first reaction was, “really?” and the second was, “hold your horses.”
It’s just my own style to refrain from giving new anime I’m optimistic about a score because there’s no guarantee that the same level of quality will continue to hold up as the series continues. But I’m not willing to let a perfect score go unanalyzed with so little to go on. All we have so far is the setup, in which a young Eren and his childhood friends witness the power of the monstrous and disturbingly human titans that seem to have crawled straight out of the uncanny valley.
The only thing that the humans have done is get their asses handed to them, with no glory whatsoever. Episode two in particular was incredibly lackluster with several time skips and way too much summarizing of what happened in between. Sure it was stuff that had to be said, but it could have been said more elegantly and in a way that didn’t sound like reading a history textbook.
Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying Attack on Titan doesn’t deserve those five stars, because it very well might. The music for the opening and ending themes is epic and orchestral—befitting the grand scope of the setting that not only is big, but FEELS big. It’s got a fresh art style too with very sharp lines that makes all the edges pop out, giving everything a lot of personality. The writing has done a great job getting me emotionally fired up, although the only emotions I’m feeling are hatred or disgust for everyone outside Eren’s circle of friends and an uneasy sickness towards the titans. We have been treated to a oversized, dark and hopeless situation that needs a hero to turn things around.
But I have a worrisome suspicion that our hero may be a rather shallow trope. He’s a cocky, loser kid who is quick to make enemies of those stronger than him and has some rather unfeasibly grandiose dreams. If that isn’t a familiar formula then clearly you don’t watch mainstream anime because that sounds an awful lot like Naruto to me. The preview for episode three even indicates that Eren continues to be the stereotypical screwup in basic training.
If we’re looking for a beautiful action series that’s likely to have some masterfully flowing battles flavored with a thick revenge sauce, I can definitely see Attack on Titan being just that. But I don’t foresee it being some deeply thought-provoking introspection on the human condition, which leads me to my conclusion that Crunchyroll’s praise is premature.
Winter 2013 (10 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – The Troublemakers Are Coming From Another World, Right?)
When someone is stuck between a rock and a hard place, it’s good anime logic to call for heroes from other dimensions. Mondaiji-tachi is still in the early stages, but is showing plenty of the traits associated with a good action / adventure with a worthy cause. The cast is full of colorful characters with superpowers of suspect origin, but they have enough flexibility to be put to some creative uses. My biggest complaint about the series so far is the fanservicey design behind the orchestrator of this setup, the Black Rabbit who happens to be a literal bunny girl. She feels very much like an unnecessary cry for attention from a series that is actually interesting enough in its own right. Like many series before it, I wish writers would have more confidence in their work to not devalue it with characters like this. But as she’s the only issue I’m having with this series thus far, I can overlook her and enjoy the battles that may not be keeping me on the edge of my seat, but still have excellent flow.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)
Much like Nanoha, Vividred Operation is a magic girl show that hides its more supernatural elements under the guise of technology. And it’s not a bad formula. It helps alleviate some of the setting’s baggage that comes with the genre when it gets depicted in the more traditional sense like Sailor Moon, My-HiME or Symphogear. For me at least, this is the way I usually prefer my magic girls. The series also follows the mahou shoujo tradition of giving the heroine an adorable animal sidekick, but whether or not Vividred is going to give in to other magic girl tropes like having to collect a certain number of some unspecified substance remains to be seen.
The enemy that main character Akane is going to be fighting appears to be strongly inspired by the Neuroi from Strike Witches, which makes sense because the two anime have the same director and character designer. The rest of the setting feels original and has some imaginative elements that the future could conceivably produce. I particularly like its concept that an abundance of free, clean energy around the world has led to an era of peace. And it’s no stretch of the imagination that an attack by forces outside the Earth would not only be more likely in such a situation, but targeting the world’s focal point of energy production would be the most logical first step in a larger campaign. So far, Vividred Operation has shown itself to be well thought out and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.
Final impression – play the game first (7/10)
Fall 2011 to winter 2012 (25 episodes)
Yuu Narukami is a city boy, who for various circumstances at home, ends up moving out to the countryside to live with his uncle and little cousin. But being a naturally suave and likeable guy, he’s quickly able to shake off the aura of being a transfer student and makes some friends. But when the tiny town of Inaba he finds himself in is rocked by a series of bizarre murders, he gets caught up in a creepy cold case where the victims are seen on a mysterious TV program called the Midnight Channel that airs on foggy nights when you have your TV turned off. In the face of such unbelievable circumstances, Yuu and his friends become the only ones capable of rescuing the victims by diving into the television and fighting the bloodthirsty monsters that live there using a manifestation of their psyches called Persona.
Writing an objective review on P4 was difficult for me since I’ve played the game it’s based on. This isn’t the same as reading the manga that serves as the source material for an anime since both of those media are non-interactive. Video games on the other hand are and being put in the position of having no influence on the characters’ decisions or the pace of the story was a little unsettling. I wonder if many other people feel this way about adaptations of video games that aren’t a loose reinterpretation of a concept, but instead a faithful retelling of the same story.
That being said, P4: The Animation recreates the events of the game as closely as is possible, with a few changes made that were probably necessary for the transition to TV. This includes obvious things like completing a side character’s story in a single episode rather than the game’s slower progression that might be spaced out over the course of the entire play time (or even not completed at all if the player neglects that particular social link). But one thing that always disappointed me about P4: The Animation was the fight scenes. The game is something of a visual novel built around the framework of a really solid RPG. That setup should have been a natural cue that the anime ought to be an action / drama. And while the drama does well, the action is dry and has an air of inevitability to it that never feels the slightest bit suspenseful.
All in all, it makes me sad because, because I loved the game and my hopes were high that the anime would live up to that same level of quality. If nothing else, the soundtrack for the P4 anime is even more amazing than the game and includes all of the original music in addition to new and expanded tracks with terrifically-written English lyrics that really gets me fired up. In the end, Persona 4: The Animation is a supplemental anime for fans of the game, but still a very solid series.
Final impression – smart action, sharp story (9/10)
Spring 2012 to summer 2012 (24 episodes)
Haruyuki Arita was your atypical rotund kid. The target of bullies and dealing with self-esteem issues, he at least has a few good childhood friends to make his life bearable. But one day, the gorgeous and unapproachable student council president, Snow Black (yes, that’s really the name she uses) offers Haruyuki a chance to break free of the chains the world has placed on him. After installing the program Brain Burst, given to him by Snow Black, he becomes a burst-linker—someone who can accelerate his mind beyond normal perception to react to situations in ways that would normally be impossible. But each use of the program costs a point and recharging will require him to enter the battlefield that is the Accelerated World.
Accel World has everything a shounen action anime needs to be good, plus a whole lot more that makes it great. One of the things I love about this anime is that it gets you thinking in some very creative ways right from its very premise. The thought of slowing down time—or more literally, accelerating your perception of time—is not only exceptionally original, but proves to be a flexible enough concept to allow it to keep expanding its usefulness through granting access to new abilities and rewarding out-of-the-box thinking. This subtlety of the powers granted by the Brain Burst program is where this concept’s true strength lies. To truly master the system requires a burst linker to come to terms with the scars of his or her past, which is manifested in his or her duel avatar.
As much as I talk about how important aesthetics are to me when it comes to anime, Accel World’s choice to cast a short, plump, weak-willed, generally unattractive young man as the protagonist was both daring and genius. His flaws are huge and conspicuous, leaving Haruyuki plenty of room for growth and opportunity to overcome challenges as the story progresses. But this rather simple starting point pales in comparison to the metaphoric dichotomy that is Haruyuki Arita, the slow and tubby junior high school student and his sleek, shiny and fast duel avatar, Silver Crow.
Rarely do we see the manifestation of someone’s desires visualized so clearly, and since all the characters are a part of this system of emotional scars that take on an incarnate form, this entire anime becomes one big canvas for depicting each character’s backstory through it’s visual design—even if it’s only speculative in some cases. In this way, I could appreciate this series far beyond its beautiful art style.
Since Brain Burst is at its heart a fighting game, it would be a shame if Accel World didn’t have some excellent action scenes. And once again, it delivers in this area as well. From more simple, straightforward fights that give the message that in battle using your head is just as important as using your fists, to bigger, grand melees that have a pace to them that tests players’ abilities to read the battlefield and adapt to the pace of the fight, there’s no shortage of excellent skirmishe punctuated at the right times between the daily lives of the characters.
One thing about the fights that disappointed me slightly was that towards the end of the series things start to lose the cleverness that filled the earlier fights in favor of something more akin to a dry battle-of-wills where the winner just wanted it more. But it never gets obnoxious because the focus always remains on the characters and they never feel defined by their powers—rather just the opposite, because the players are the ones who give their powers form.
One of the things about this series that I think shouldn’t be overlooked is how deep its premise really goes. Being able to accelerate your time and interact with people to grow and mature at a rate several orders of magnitude faster than is normally possible makes you wonder about these children’s futures. The obvious advantage of their abilities is to analyze situations in detail and essentially, “cheat time” but they can also develop themselves mentally. Are some burst linkers already many years ahead of their peers with respect to their maturity? Will they accelerate through their childhoods and become adults far sooner than they otherwise could were they not given the Brain Burst program? This even challenges our definitions of what it means to be an adult. Can we really define that developmental stage in a person’s life correctly in a world of young people who experience time at a different rate compared to the rest of us?
The story has a few flat spots that I felt messed with the pace a bit—most egregious being Snow Black’s trip to Okinawa—but if that’s my only complaint, I’m not going to hold it against this otherwise brilliant series. Most pleasing is the ending that leaves things open to the possibility of continuing, but has none of the failings of a cliffhanger. It’s complete and brings everything to fulfillment. Instead of leaving you wanting more, it’s simply the impression of “well that’s the end of that chapter. Life goes on and maybe someday I’ll get to see more.” But more doesn’t feel necessary. This makes Accel World one of my top shounen action anime in recent years.
Autumn 2012 (alternate title – Rebuild of Evangelion: 3.0, Evangelion: 3.0 Q Quickening) (more info)
What a turning point for the Evangelion franchise. A true revolution I must say. As I sat awestruck in the theater after the movie finished, something crossed my mind that I knew I had to share with you. “This was necessary.” With the third movie, this revisit of the story first told back in 1995 has found its own identity and will not live in the shadow of its predecessor.
To avoid spoiling anything, but still giving you a taste of what to expect, I’m going to focus on the powerful transformations the characters have undergone that shape the story in new and exciting ways.
Asuka has given up the mantle of depression and tsundere indecisiveness and become a true soldier. The degree to which she has matured contrasts most strikingly in her relationship with Shinji. Where before she had trouble tolerating his naivety, she still had a modicum of sympathy for him and respect for his talent. But now she sees Shinji as an irreconcilable child who has no business trying to save the world. He’s no longer “stupid Shinji,” he’s become, “bratty Shinji.”
One of the things I was disappointed about in the third movie was how small Mari’s role is. After her stunning battle with the tenth angel, Zeruel, and the stirring words of encouragement she gave to Shinji, I thought she would have a bigger influence. But I will admit that she wasn’t necessary to most of Eva 3.0 and the primary reason for my disheartened feelings come from my love of Maaya Sakamoto’s acting, which hasn’t been so active lately. Maybe in Eva 4.0…
Misato’s character has undergone what’s possibly the most drastic change. Her softer side melts away to give rise to an icy, authoritarian woman who is large and in charge; she has to be for the sake of everyone around her. She never fully trusted NERV and that serves her well as she finds herself facing a world balanced on the edge of a razor.
Gendo always sought control of things no man should hope to control. Before, he was a villain whose motives could not entirely be called evil. He now goes about pursuing his ideals with single-minded purpose and will stop at nothing to achieve those goals. Any shred of humanity he had before is lost and nothing will satisfy him short of his personal vision of perfection.
As always, Rei is an enigma. I don’t know what to think of her and neither does Shinji. The distance between them is painful at times, but all things considered this is a story about Kaworu and Shinji.
Kaworu’s kindness in the face of so much strife is the hope of this movie. He’s a genuine young man and becomes seemingly the only person Shinji can truly call a friend. Once a schemer in the TV series, he becomes an unwavering pillar of wisdom in a world gone mad. He goes from mysterious shadow to the voice of reason and motivation—even when Shinji loses himself in despair and then loses himself again in delusion. His importance cannot be undersold and is probably the most likeable character in 3.0.
And then there’s Shinji. At times ready and willing, at others lost and ashamed, his rollercoaster ride of emotions is palpable. To some degree, Shinji has always allowed himself to be a tool of the authority figures around him, but his inability to find his will is understandable. Lacking a full view of the big picture, he’s unable to form sound decisions so what would you expect? Additionally, his source of support in Kaworu is also compromised when both become misled by the powers that be. It’s not that Shinji is weak—far from it. Perhaps he’s merely too trusting and too confident that his own good feelings and positive attitude will lead to the best result.
And that’s a valuable lesson. It’s reminiscent of the old phrase, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It’s not that Shinji is unlikable—more inevitably pitiable. Trapped by his circumstances, it’s a rail path that’s doomed to end in a crash. When he does his best for the sake of everyone but ends up hitting rock bottom, you feel for him and want to encourage him to get back on his feet and keep trying. But ultimately, it’s about accepting the consequences of your actions and moving forward instead of dwelling on the past. Focus on the “will be” instead of the “had been.” After all, as the subtitle suggests, you cannot redo.
Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (full title – Ixion Saga: Dimensional Transfer) (more info)
Clearly Kon has forgotten rule 29—on the internet, all women are men. Where Aoi Sekai made fun of the console wars, Ixion Saga makes fun of (MMO)RPGs in general. It does this by accentuating how mismatched min-maxing players’ outfits look and how by all rights nobody should have the time to charge up a finishing move without someone coming in and delivering a knock-out blow.
But beyond that it’s not very clever. It really has poor taste in the unscrupulous sensibilities of the party’s cross-dressing maid, makes fun of child marriage and main character Kon is just an unlikeable, lecherous wad that portrays a poor image of the gamer stereotype. If you like this style of writing and story with fantasy elements mixed with modern heroes in an alternate dimension, Hagure Yuusha did a much better job presenting this subject matter last season and I’ll even encourage you to go check it out instead of wasting time with Ixion Saga.
Autumn 2012 (?? episodes) (title literal translation – In the Center of the Blue World) (more info)
There’s really no hope for this anime. I like to use more sophisticated terms to voice my opinions, but as a parody of the console wars, Aoi Sekai no Chuushin de is just lame. I don’t even have the patience to conceal the names of the completely transparent empires named after game companies. Basically, Nintendo (complete with Mario as a major general) is the big bad-guy empire that’s trampling everyone and a young man named Gear—as in Game Gear—is the new hero who is going to save the land. Unfortunately, because we all know how the console wars really went down, this anime reeks of fanboy pandering to what is ultimately a lost cause. Unless the hero and the Sega nation fall and Nintendo’s true rivals Sony and Microsoft appear on the scene, it’s just a silly alternate history with some awful writing.
Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)
Code:Breaker is one of those anime that’s just trying too hard. It’s got this gritty, edgy attitude pushing a punishing level of violence that feels out of place with its art style that resembles a series geared towards a younger audience. It has potential because the story so far is showing good pacing; meshing a little mystery with misdirection. Then there’s Rei, the male lead who is feeling very much the antihero—believing death to be both just and merciful.
However, the female lead, Sakura, is showing signs of poor characterization between her hot/cold personality that’s both tenacious while at the same time tending to give up too easily. Misunderstandings about her interest in Rei inevitably can only go in one direction—presumed romance, leading to a comedic relationship—possibly with the heroine exhibiting tsundere traits—that ultimately leads to a real romance. The stink of cheese isn’t too bad, but it’s strong enough for me to comfortably send Code:Breaker to the recycle bin.