Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: god

Kamisama Kiss Ep. 1

Initial impression – almost no original ideas (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (Japanese title – Kamisama Hajimemashita) (more info)

While I don’t hate Fruits Basket, it’s just not written in a style that I’m very fond of.  The male characters are all androgynous pretty boys, side characters show no potential, ideas come and go on a whim and the premise is really hard to swallow.  So when Kamisama Kiss follows that formula like it was cut from a piece of the Fruits Basket quilt, even someone who liked that setup more than me ought to give this series a second thought.  The degree to which it’s ripping off its inspirational material is staggering.  The female lead starts out homeless, it’s centered on the premise of gods and spirits and the main man in her life is an unlikeable jerk that the viewers are expected to forgive just because he happens to be there for her at the last minute.

That’s not to say it isn’t fun.  Being subjected to all the responsibilities of a god without any of the upsides is full of opportunities for all kinds of hilarious trouble.  Maybe I’m just the wrong kind of person to have an appropriate attention span for this kind of random flow.  I’d say check out Kamisama Kiss if you were a Fruits Basket fan, but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be a disappointingly shallow spinoff.

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Binbougami ga! Ep. 1

Initial impression – weird and scatterbrained (3/10)

Summer 2012 (13 episodes) (title literal translation – The God Of Poverty is!) (more info)

I’m fine with anime making references to other anime for comedic effect.  Hayate no Gotoku, Lucky Star and Pani Poni Dash did wonderfully with that method of humor.  But Binbougami seems to be throwing in references haphazardly and with such rapid succession I can’t get my head around the joke it’s trying to tell.

Ichiko flits between arrogant, whiny and magnanimous far too easily.

It’s almost as if this series is a sort of anti-Ah My Goddess where main character Ichiko is visited by the spirit of misfortune Momiji all for the sake of restoring the good luck she has accumulated throughout her life to a more normal level.  I’m sure a jaded misanthrope will find this premise of bringing down those who have experienced a large amount of success down to their level appealing to his or her sensibilities, but it’s not a very happy or even funny topic to use as the central premise for a comedy anime.  While it’s good to push the envelope and try to find new, exciting ideas, you’re bound to hit a few snags along the way and Binbougami is definitely one of those.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, talk about an art style that’s all over the place.  Maybe I’m just being overly superficial, but I think this anime is ugly.  I’m serious.  I don’t want to look at another second of this series filled with such unattractive people (some purporting to be blessed with good looks far exceeding the average person).  I’m sure there’s a crowd for this kind of random weirdness, and if you’ve read to the end of this review all the while calling me a snob in the back of your mind I imagine Binbougami will probably appeal to you.

Campione! Ep. 1

Initial impression – it has my attention…now it has to hold it

Summer 2012 (?? episodes) (title literal translation from Italian – Champion) (more info)

Campione is the story of Godou Kusanagi, an ordinary boy who gets thrown into a crazy, supernatural situation because of some ancient artifact he’s obtained and is expected to perform his role as the destined hero.  As is usually true of these sorts of anime, the first episode isn’t very easy to follow.  It wavers between realistic logistical problems for the protagonist (such as a young Japanese man in Italy being unable to speak the language), followed by a mildly ecchi scene in which the heroine, Erica Blandelli, gets intoxicated and needs his assistance, to having him suddenly be able to control the power of the gods so that he can protect the land.

But despite how standard this kind setup is, Campione isn’t committing too many missteps.  The art style fits nicely with the European setting and the writing and character design shows potential when Godou has some convincingly improvisational moments in which he must negotiate with beings not accustomed to lowering themselves to being a human’s bodyguard.  I don’t expect Campione to be any kind of masterpiece, but this first episode has caught my interest because I can see the definite beginnings of something that looks like it’s going to go somewhere.

Shakugan no Shana III Final (review)

Impression – the end of a legend that unfortunately, may not endure (8/10)

Fall 2011 to winter 2012 (24 episodes) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)

After Yuji recovered Reiji Maigo from Bal Masque he, Shana and Kazumi resumed their Christmas Eve. It was to be Yuji’s responsibility to choose between the two girls in order to settle their rivalry in romance once and for all. But something happened that neither of his wooing ladies expected. Yuji just disappeared. It was as if his existence as a torch had been snuffed out as all of his possessions and remnants of him through the memories of others simply vanished. But Shana sensed that he still existed…somewhere. So they had no choice but to resume their lives as best they could and wait for his return.

For all of you who were put off by Shana II much more than I was, let me start by saying that Shana III is undeniably better. Gone is the love triangle between Yuji, Shana and Kazumi…as well as pretty much everything else to do with school life in general. It’s back to the much more action-packed style we saw in the first season that favors story progression. Please do try to ignore the first three or so recap episodes that start Shana III in a pitiful attempt to get new viewers up to speed. Rest assured that the old format is finally back, but it’s much colder and calculated—fitting of two worlds on the brink of war.

Although it tries its best to bring back everything that made season 1 awesome, there are a lot of new problems in Shana III that just can’t be overlooked. The most difficult for me to grudgingly accept was probably unavoidable because of where the story needs to go—the ever-expanding cast that seems to grow by about five characters each episode for the first half of the series. It gets really hard to keep track of names and loyalties after a while, especially when they only get about a thirty second introduction and then reappear a few episodes later to finish the tasks they’ve been given—major, plot-altering assignments at that. Occasionally, I had to just sit back and let them do their thing and most of them are so poorly characterized their presence hardly seems necessary.

Yes, I understand that this is war and there’s a hierarchy of commander and subordinates all playing their part in the big picture that needs to be established. But a lot of this is fine details that I feel could have been done without. It leads to getting things spread too thin and I wish Shana and Yuji could have had a stronger presence. Either that, or some of the bigger players should have been allowed a more gradual introduction so we could get to know them better and care about why they’re taking part in this endeavor—even if they’re just going to die in a few episodes. At least then it wouldn’t have felt like such a waste.

But as I said in my Shana II review, the amount of dead time back in the second season starts to show very clearly in the third because so much material is getting crammed in to make a mad rush to the conclusion. So while Shana II was painfully slow, Shana III has the exact opposite problem of being almost too fast to keep up.

But there’s a lot of high points, too. The psychological attributes of season 1 that had been mostly absent in season 2 have made a strong comeback. It’s also managed to up the ante from Shana I and push the limits a lot higher. Shana I simply dealt with the nature of existence on a very platonic level. But Shana III addresses a deeper theme in the purpose of existence. There are some very strong concepts dealing with loss of direction in one’s life as everything you devoted yourself to becomes irrelevant and a future full of nothing but aimless emptiness is all that waits after several lifetimes devoted to a single-minded cause that has suddenly disappeared. But if freed from this burden, there is also a chance to discover a new, greater cause if you manage to not despair and broaden your focus to look at the big picture.

One thing that has always endured through the Shana story is the very clear understanding that the Crimson Denizens are not all evil. Just as you wouldn’t call a lion evil for killing a zebra, the bad guys have always been simply acting on their nature, even if at times the terms excess and greed could be applied to their methods. Particularly in Shana III we are given a difficult-to-handle dilemma of just who is actually on the right side during this war—the Denizens attempting to achieve their own, personal paradise or the Flame Hazes who zealously deem such a paradise nothing but a dangerous delusion.

The ending manages to find a compromise between these two extremes, but it doesn’t feel half-hearted or conciliatory. It instead goes for a tone of understanding and inevitability even if that isn’t something that adequately ties up every loose end. And as much as I like the characters of Shana and Yuji as separate entities, the two could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering they inflicted on each other unnecessarily if they had just sat down and talked things through honestly, which is a sad little detail that undermines a lot of the dramatic strife of this series.

I’ll say it again, Shana III is better than Shana II because it takes a lot of cues from Shana I, making itself into a nice wrap-up to a really great franchise. The battles are suitably epic in the smart, well-composed flow that is a hallmark of the action sequences in the Shana series. It’s let down by a few writing and pacing problems, but overall is a solid and thought-provoking anime.

Shakugan no Shana II Second (review)

Impression – an epic fumble that does manage to recover a little (7/10)

Fall 2007 to winter 2008 (24 episodes) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)

Picking up right where Shana I left off Yuji, Shana and Kazumi are confronted by a new classmate whose appearance so closely resembles Hecate—a powerful Crimson Lord they recently faced—that it goes beyond mere coincidence.  However, after their suspicions turn out to be unfounded, Fumina Konoe is found to be a rather nice, if simple-minded girl from a wealthy family who needs a friend.  Much to the dismay of Shana and Kazumi she attaches herself to Yuji and the four friends indulge in enjoying the summertime youth of their first year in high school.  But a few other strange occurrences surrounding Fumina keep them on edge and only time will reveal her true nature.

After such a spectacular first season, it was always going to be hard for a sequel to live up to that kind of quality, but to fall this far was truly sad.  It goes from a psychological, action series with romance elements to a low-key aimless high school drama (at least for the first half).  Season one dealt with big issues such as the nature of existence and season two’s change of tone is so jarring it doesn’t even feel like the same anime anymore.  The characters have also taken on such a wishy-washy passive-aggressive attitude it’s hard to believe the half-baked romantic rivalries that dominate much of this second season.  It’s clear that Yuji wants to be with Shana, but combined with his gentle nature and Kazumi’s home wrecker attitude that just won’t let him go, there’s no shortage of frustration in the direction of the plot.  And if this love triangle that’s already been well established wasn’t bad enough, Hecate’s way-to-obvious clone Fumina Konoe turns the triangle into a pyramid with the all-too-trusty Yuji being exploited left and right because he can’t find his backbone.

The second half of this series does manage to head back in the right direction and attempts to recapture the spirit of its predecessor, but by then it’s really nothing more than a simple matter of too little too late.  To its credit, the ending is spectacular; crowned by an epic battle that really satisfies with its brilliantly constructed flow and amazingly intelligent strategy as characters on both sides take advantage of the changing battlefield.  Also satisfactory is the final scene that, while a bit of a cliffhanger, at least gives the distinct impression that the indecisive romance that plagued the rest of this season has finally come to an end.

The most telling failing of the second season really gets revealed in the third season because it highlights how little actually happened in Shana II, making everything feel empty and futile.  What was the purpose of this series in the grand picture of the whole Shana franchise?  If it was to establish Shana as Yuji’s official love interest, we pretty much already figured that at the end of season one.  The cool, insightful Yuji of the previous season who was Shana’s greatest pillar of support also stagnates horribly—making him into a football that the characters good and bad pass around and occasionally punt to satisfy their own objectives.

All this negativity could easily be misinterpreted that Shana II is a bad anime, when it is absolutely nothing of the sort.  It’s just…well…a little above average…and that makes it pale in comparison to the awesomeness that was Shana I.  It’s really just an unacceptable fall from grace that highlights the wasted potential that deserved much better than this.

Mirai Nikki (review)

Final impression – the journey is better than the destination (7/10)

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (26 episodes) (title literal translation – The Future Diary)

Yukiteru Amano has been entered as an unwilling candidate into a survival game by Deus Ex Machina, the god of time who will use the contest to decide his most appropriate successor.  Yukiteru was chosen, along with 12 other contestants, because they have been keeping impeccably accurate observation diaries that Deus deems a worthy character trait to qualify them for the role of the god of time.

As part of the game, each player has had their diary upgraded by Deus to predict the future out to a considerable amount of time.  Their actions in the present could change their futures and those changes will be reflected in updates to their diaries.  Thus the best candidate will be the one who can control their future and eliminate the others.  But Yukki isn’t the most gung-ho about being unwittingly involved in this survival game no matter how big the prize, especially when he has to put up with his creepy, stalker girlfriend, Yuno Gasai, whose diary is capable of predicting his every move.

I’m not the type of fan who can fully enjoy a series based solely on the adventure.  I need some measure of closure at the end—something to wrap things up or at least signify a proper ending.  It doesn’t matter too much if I disagree with the outcome.  After all, it’s at the writer’s discretion to tell a story the way they think it should be told, not to tell it the way I want.

That’s why I’m so conflicted about Mirai Nikki.  It seems too focused on the path to the conclusion than on the conclusion itself, even if the voyage along the way was a doozy.  The finale does an exceptionally poor job of signifying a true ending as it goes about a little epilogue with a real dearth of imagination.  I just can’t imagine sitting in a self-imposed exile doing nothing but lamenting the loss of your loved one for 10,000 years.  I was always a big believer in the concept of time healing all wounds; particularly those of the heart.

Many times in this series I think Yukki’s personality is just far too inconsistent; even taking into consideration the chaos that’s always threatening to envelop him at any moment.  The pacing of the story also can’t keep a steady tempo with a lot of little bunny trails that seem to lead off to nowhere.  But for all of my complaints it does do a good job of telling a story filled with a terrific variety of interesting characters with a multitude of motivations and flaws; all packed with some pretty grisly details that make me wonder if they’ll be uncensored on the blu-ray.

Can true love literally last forever even if you can never see that person ever again?  Is it really healthy to remain true to your greatest passion or does there come a point when it’s best to just let go and move on?  And what about endings?  Is it best to have closure or can the journey be just as rewarding, even if the reward at the end is seriously lacking?

Shakugan no Shana (review)

Final impression – a triumphant beginning (10/10)

Autumn 2005 to winter 2006 (24 episodes + 1 OVA) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)

High school has started and Yuji Sakai is already making the most of his youth.  But on his way home one day he steps into a sealed zone that is separated from the normal flow of time.  In here, he is attacked by monsters intent on devouring this strange human who can move within their trap.  But at the last second he is saved by a beautiful girl with flaming red hair; easily overpowering his attackers.  But despite protecting him from the monsters, it turns out Yuji Sakai is already dead.  His existence was eaten by a denizen of the Crimson World some time ago and all that remains of him is a tiny spark that will soon burn out.  He decides to spend his last few days before he disappears in the company of his savior, aiding her in any way that he can before he is gone without a trace.  However, a fortunate turn of events may give him an unexpected reprieve from oblivion.

Shakugan no Shana is a spectacular story.  It starts with the initial, horrifying concept of the enemies of humanity consuming people’s very existence as energy, leaving nothing behind to remember them by.  It’s a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that is dramatically mitigated by Yuji’s ability to keep a positive attitude about the whole situation.  He never despairs and is always thinking about how he can best make use of his limited potential.  It’s a testament to the tremendous strength of character people can exhibit when cornered by the most trying circumstances.  The series expands on its intellectual, action-filled beginning and moves into a more romantic theme as the steely Shana realizes that she’s not an emotionless killing machine and her feelings for Yuji go beyond mere camaraderie.  Even the final battle is more than it superficially appears to be because the plot never misses a chance to include a thought-provoking discussion about the characters’ inner motives.  And then to top of the amazing writing is the gorgeous art style of Ito Noizi and excellent music courtesy of Mami Kawada, KOTOKO and several other bands and singers who knew just the right style to set the mood for this epic series.  In short, the first season of Shakugan no Shana struck a perfect balance between fighting, philosophy, artistic tone and romance to create an amazingly profound first season.

Mirai Nikki (ongoing)

Impression – sometimes clumsy, but always inescapably exciting

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (26 episodes) (more info)

It’s a satisfying accomplishment that Mirai Nikki manages to create a compelling scenario that keeps two very different people together for a common goal—even when one is a boring, weak, down-to-earth average Joe and the other is an obsessive, willful, crazy, psychopath.  But while the necessity of Yuno and Yukitero staying together feels like a match made in hell, it doesn’t help the rest of the anime when so many of the other characters keep passing on their chances to win this survival game.  It usually boils down to massive personality flaws borne either of a pretentious and overconfident nature or simply overindulging in the thrill of their admittedly finite powers of prediction.  Either way, the end result causes them to foolishly forfeit the opportunity of an unbelievable reward.  But setting aside that niggling little shortcoming, Mirai Nikki is dramatic and unpredictable, which keeps everything tense and thrilling.  The twists of this often painfully engrossing anime always leave me wanting more.

Shakugan no Shana III (ongoing)

Impression – finally living up to its legacy

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (24 episodes) (more info)

For Shana fans who endured the disappointment that was season two, the third and final season started pretty rocky and didn’t look very favorable as a contender to redeem the series.  There was a lot of really confusing, unnecessary summarizing of the previous season that I’m fairly certain didn’t succeed at getting new viewers up to speed and only served to delay new content for a couple episodes.  But once that got out of the way the story really started to take off and there wasn’t any sign of the romantic quagmire that stifled season two’s first half.  Once again we get treated to the thought-provoking scenario of existence itself being a harvestable resource and the continuation of the secret war that is to determine the fate of not only lives but memories as well.  The changes that have happened in the characters’ personalities are huge and could have had disastrous consequences if they hadn’t been so carefully constructed to match the growing ambitions of the young people as they begin to find the adults they are to become.  There’s a lot of names and faces to remember as the war reaches its crescendo, but if a slow start is my only other complaint, then I’ll gladly give Shana III my seal of approval.

Mirai Nikki Ep. 1

Initial impression – subtly beckoning

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (26 episodes) (title literal translation – Future Diary) (more info)

What would you do if you were given a diary that tells the future?  Well, if Yukiteru is anything to go by, you’d use it as a cheat sheet to get all the answers correct on your tests.  But other people would surely use their future diaries for more nefarious ends.  These characters include a killer who uses the info to track down his victims and Yukiteru’s female stalker Yuno, who uses hers to keep tabs on his daily life.  But underlying all the shenanigans the character’s future diaries allow them to do they’ve just been entered into a game by Deus Ex Machina, the god of time.   This game pits the players against each other in a survivor-style, winner-takes-all contest with the reward being nothing less than Deus’s throne.  Given the diverse cast that’s been hinted at, there are definitely going to be many different paths intertwined in an attempt to achieve the prize.  It’s really compelling and keeps you invested in the events, especially when Yukiteru becomes god’s chosen favorite after cheating his foretold death.  How will he end up using this incredibly versatile power?  Will it corrupt him or can he turn it into a tool to help people?  And how will Yuno play into the proceedings when the winner must off all the other competitors to become the heir to the god of time?  Mirai Nikki presents itself terrifically in the first episode with good pacing that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves you wanting more.