Anime of Tomorrow
Category Archives: Action
Fall 2012 (11 episodes) (SAO Review)
After waking up from the gorgeous nightmare of Sword Art Online, Kazuto’s first action is not to attend to his own atrophied body, but to immediately begin to seek out Asuna, his in-game wife who he promised to find after they escaped. He finds her, but there’s a problem. Despite clearing the game and majority of players having returned to the real world, Asuna remains trapped in her NerveGear. Filled with the pain of helplessness for being unable to save her, Kazuto attempts to return to his old life displaced by over two years while remaining by her side for support.
But when a friend from Aincrad (the world of SAO) shows him a screenshot of Asuna trapped in a birdcage, he dons his own NerveGear once again and dives into the world of Alfhiem Online to rescue her from the new prison she’s found herself in. But he has to hurry because within a week, Asuna is going to be ushered into an arranged marriage with one of her father’s business partners. Read more of this post
Summer 2012 (14 episodes)
Kazuto rushed out to be one of the first players for a new form of virtual-reality gaming using a system called the Nervegear. This device lets a player use his or her brain to play video games with a full immersion experience as if they had been transported to the actual game world itself. The first game released is the fantasy MMO, Sword Art Online or SAO for short. Assuming the online identity of Kirito, within hours of starting he and thousands of other players become trapped in SAO’s world of Aincrad by its creator, Akihiko Kayaba. Things get even more serious when it’s revealed that dying in the game means dying in real life too because the Nervegear has a hidden function that fries the brain of anyone whose HP drops to 0. The only way to escape is for someone to clear the world’s massive, one hundred floor dungeon. Read more of this post
Last Saturday, Rooster Teeth, the guys who make the Halo machinima comedy series Red vs Blue released the last trailer for their anime-inspired series about a group of female fighters called RWBY (pronounced “ruby”). Very little is known about the series thus far outside of what has been revealed in the four trailers themed after the colors of each of the main characters, red, white, black and yellow. Read more of this post
Winter 2012 and Summer 2012 (24 episodes + 1 OVA) (English title – Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne)
Madoka may be a boisterously cheerful, overly outgoing and enthusiastic young woman, but at the end of the day she’s just an ordinary high school girl with an odd personality. So when she’s approached by mysterious, uniformed girl named Lafinty and invited to do her part to help the world, it’s understandable that she didn’t expect to become a mecha pilot. Being an athlete of all manner of sports and martial arts, Madoka quickly adjusts to her new responsibility as a guardian of the Earth. But when her older cousin arrives on the scene vehemently against this development, it’s clear that there’s more to the situation than everyone is letting on. Read more of this post
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.