Manhattan Love Story

December 28, 2009

What’s this? WHAT’S THIS?! An actual DRAMA post on Jdrama + My Exciting Life? No! But yes. And how. Speaking of that, I really should change the name of this blog since there really are no more drama posts, but I feel like that’s bad luck. I’m not USUALLY superstitious… Anyway, the point here is that I finally found an amazing drama to watch. And it’s all thanks to my old buddies SARS. I really love those guys. They have excellent taste, good video quality and well-written subs. I got most of my drama torrents from them and I occasionally pop in on their website for old times sakes. Thank god I do, otherwise I would’ve complete missed out on one of the most charming dramas I’ve ever seen.

The only reason I downloaded it was because I saw it had been directed by Kudo Kankuro, who I remember fondly for having directed Ryuusei no Kizuna. But even Ryuusei no Kizuna wasn’t THAT fantastic, so I didn’t really have high expectations or anything. However, when I clicked open episode 1 just to see what the video quality was like (bad snobbish habit that I have), I just could not bring myself to close it. I was completely captured.

The show opens with a female cab driver who will become “A”, or Akabane  Nobuko, one of the main characters of the series. It shows her with various passengers all saying things like “Oh, you’re a woman”. Then one of her passengers leaves his phone in her car, and she arranges to meet him at a cafe called Manhattan to give it back.

This part is important, because from here on Manhattan and its owner, Tenchou, become the center of a show with a story that gets wilder and wilder as it parodies other dramas and itself more and more outrageously. And it works. Fantastically.

All Tenchou wants is for his customers to enjoy his coffee, which he takes very seriously. However, soon after he opened the store, a TV station built their office building right next to him. Soon his cafe was flooded with egotistical TV workers. And so the cast gathers. From here it’s hard to explain, you really just have to watch it. And I think, after the first episode, it would be pretty hard to stop.

So yes, this drama has my thorough backing and support. I think this type of show is really  rare and I’m very glad that SARS decided to bring it back for the English speakers because otherwise it would have continued to fade into obscurity – it’s already quite old, from 2003 I think. SARS, arigatou~

Oh right – my favorite thing about this show is that while Tenchou hardly ever talks, he keeps up an almost constant stream of consciousness going through his head. It’s really funny. And SARS also subs this amazingly, with a different color/font! I love you guys! This is turning into a love letter to SARS lol. Anyway, get it while you can! A recommendation from one of the most picky drama watchers out there.


Guin Saga

December 28, 2009

I missed the boat for this one back in spring. But I am SO glad I decided to pick up the batch.

There are several things you should know about Guin Saga before I go into a more orthodox review:

  • It’s based off of a 130 (!!!) volume long series that ran from 1979 (!!!!!!!) to just recently when the author, Kurimoto Kaoru, DIED in the middle of writing the final, 130th volume. The unfinished volume will be published, but NO ONE KNOWS how it truly ends.
  • As if that isn’t intriguing enough!
  • The anime is 26 episodes long and only covers a small fraction of the tremendous original work; I believe the story of the anime follows the first 16-19 or so volumes.
  • There’s no sign of a sequel in sight.
  • No, the novels are not available in English. They are in FRENCH, though, the lucky bastards.

So yeah, I DO need to go edit my “Top 5 series in need of new seasons” post. But really, how sad is that? Kaoru Kurimoto wasn’t even that old. And in the MIDDLE of the FINAL BOOK, no less. That just… jeez. R.I.P.

Plot: Basically Guin Saga is Epic Fantasy. Which, oddly enough, I’m not such a huge fan of. Don’t be shocked, but I actually have not watched or read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I just tend to twitch a little when it comes to most fantasy. I always pick up so many CHEESE vibes. I’m very sensitive to cheesiness. But of course, in every genre there ARE exceptions. And when fantasy is good, it’s REALLY amazing. Which is what Guin Saga is. Once you get through the first couple episodes. This show takes its time setting up and becoming amazing. I mean it wasn’t really til after the first 10 episodes that it really got hold of me.

The first episode is cheesy. There’s no getting around it. The whole first arc of 10 episodes is mainly a battle on a large scale, and at the same time an introduction of the characters and setting. But the second arc… dear lord. POLITICAL INTRIGUE. It was really amazing to see each character interact and develop. In the end there were no “good/evil” characters, which is something I’m fond of; a la Seirei no Moribito.

There’s not much else I can say at the moment other than – add this to the ranks of solid, novel-based, plot driven anime. I’m willing to put it up there with Seirei no Moribito, The Twelve Kingdoms and Kemono no Souja Erin. And also, give us a goddamn second season!

Music: Again, like the first episode it was cheesy at first, but I got used to it fast. It started to remind me of Hollywood movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Probably Lord of the Rings, too, if I’d ever watched that.  The ending theme was quite beautiful and all over the place yet intertwined, with Klimt-esque background images. All in all the music gave the show a nice, united atmosphere.

Art and Animation: Done be Satelight. I dunno, I’ve read a couple complaints here and there about the animation quality and certainly it’s no Seirei no Moribito. But I ended up liking the art style a lot. Quite similar to the art style of Seirei no Moribito, actually. But man, this show really did deserve Production IG as its studio. Anyways, the point is that Satelight did a fair enough job by my standards, and if there WERE flaws, they must have just been the type that I miss. I thought it turned out looking quite nice.

Characters: I do love a good, extensive set of characters. And that is exactly what Guin Saga offers that I couldn’t resist. From the stoic Guin with his mysterious past and leopard head (though Higashi no Eden’s Takizawa Akira was still the best amnesiac of the Spring 2009 season); to the fiery and naive and ever-so-slightly-Oscar-like Amnelis; to Istovan and his ambitions and issues; and of course the TWINS, what is UP with Remus and that skull-face guy?! And of course there’s the scheming Aldo Naris who may be nice or may be awful. There are tons of different people to keep track of, different countries all with different motives and EVERYONE is changing ALL THE TIME. Just like in real life. Yeah, this is my kind of show.

In conclusion: There’s really something here for everyone, if you allow yourself to get past any aversion to cheesy fantasy (and I promise it’s not REALLY cheesy, I just tend to exaggerate when it comes to cheesiness). One on one fighting and largescale warfare, character development, mystery, detailed fantasy world, romance, POLITICAL INTRIGUE, clever plots, ambitious people in dire need of further development which is why we need a second season, and so on.


Winter 2010, anyone?

December 18, 2009

Can’t believe it’s almost winter already. Of course here fall feels like winter anyways, so winter to me means spring. That’s weird… the point is that soon enough Darker Than Black – Ryuusei no Gemini will be ending and will have to wait till the end of January for the OVAs. Lucky for me Kimi ni Todoke and Kobato are continuing; especially since the new season looks to be fairly disappointing. Plus I still have all of Aoi Bungaku to watch when THAT ends. And I really should finish Natsu no Arashi. But wait, back to the POINT; which is that we’re looking at a new season!

I’m still a lame slightly noob-ish blogger, so I waited for THAT’s winter preview to get series info. Anyway here are the series that I think could have slight potential.

Nodame Cantabile Finale:


Duhh… although I WAS disappointed in the second season, by that time I’d already fallen hard for the show. So more Nodame in any form is a good thing. Interesting thing to note: the Live continuation is going to be paralleling the anime. They’re both at the same part of the story and they’re airing very close to one another. I think I’ll be watching the anime first, however.

Anyway I assume this picks up right where the second season left off; with Nodame and Chiaki still in Paris.

Sora no Woto:


I was not one of the “K-ON People”, and I never watched any, but I couldn’t really escape it. So yes, it is quite annoying to see such an intriguing looking  show take on this format. This looks like my type of setting since from what I can gather it appears to be set in some sort of post-dramatic-occurrence situation. I also really loved the music in the preview. More pessimistically, however; it’s only twelve episodes meaning we can’t expect much real plot develop – and if there IS any, it’ll most likely be similar to that of Jyu Ou Sei or Toshokan Sensou: choppy and leaving much to be desired. But I loved Jyu Ou Sei and Toshokan Sensou, so I’m still not sure what that’s saying. Plus, maybe I’d really love K-ON. I haven’t watched any of it. Because it looks irritating… POINT = Will definitely give Sora no Woto a try.

Durarara!!:


Despite the silly name, guess what… it’s Brains Base! It looks just like Natsume Yuujinchou! Well… no. But the animation art is the same, which means I love it. Watch the preview. I’m not sure why, but I find it to be quite fantastic. Hope it lives up to this.

HOLY CRAP I just watched the preview again and noticed the Spice and Wolf reference! Oh my god. I’m also getting something of a Welcome to the NHK vibe, which is BERI GUUD. Plus it’s set in Ikebukuro, which I’ve been craving more of ever since Otogi Zoushi. Excellent.

——————————————————————–

So… this season the good stuff is pretty scarce. But yes, as I mentioned before, Kimi ni Todoke and Kobato are continuing AND the DTB OVAs are coming out. So it’ll be okay. But if worst comes to worst, here are two more options that I was planning on keeping an eye on – a distant and sporadic eye, but an eye all the same.

Katanagatari:

I still don’t trust SHAFT x Shinbo. Yes, I think they’re amazing; but I do NOT trust them. See Natsu no Arashi Akinai-chuu. Plus the character designs are a bit simplistic; but I did get over that for Kemono no Souja. It’s just the shounen-y story that’s keeping me wary. Going off to collect the Twelve Swords of Master So-and-so? Not the best way to attract my attention.

Hanamaru Kindergarten:

Alright… this does sound suspiciously like possible child porn, but the trailer seemed harmless and rather sweet. Of course I didn’t understand a word of it since it didn’t have subtitles, so who knows… but what if it turns into something lovely like Kobato about people who work at a daycare? Then I might not want to miss it. However… I could be completely wrong.


Planetes

December 12, 2009

So lately I’ve been watching a lot of those animes that are widely regarded on the interwebs as “awesome”. But after Planetes… whoosh. I’m not sure I’ll be able to take it if I find something better than this.

I finished the last four episodes yesterday so I figured today I would write a post, but I’m realizing that there’s not much to write about because I actually can’t think of a single thing that’s bad about Planetes. So I guess I’ll just be extolling the wonders of it. In bullet points.

  • The relaxing, slightly episodic slice of life in the shows’ first half about hauling space debris
  • SPACE
  • The lovely OP which grew on me with each episode and immediately killed all stress
  • The turning point in the middle that HIDES the fact it’s the turning point so you think everything is okay and will continue being relaxing and slightly episodic
  • OH MY GOD
  • The fantasticness of the second half in which the amount of drama just sort of slowly grows and grows until you’re sitting on the edge of your seat
  • The moment you realize you’re sitting on the edge of your seat and wondering what happened to the first half of the show
  • SPACEEEE
  • Tanabe and Hachimaki
  • Realism
  • The one deus ex machina moment is totally killed by having a time leap right before it happens so you only see it in flashback and are kept wondering what the hell happened there
  • The fact that the characters save themselves
  • I kept expecting people to leap out and save them but THEY NEVER DID
  • The creators weren’t afraid to make the main characters look deranged for the sake of development
  • I would like to kiss the person who wrote this
  • The ending. My god.
  • The REALISM.
  • The issues brought up about space development were just so real. You may be developing space and breaking out to find new resources, but at the same time you’re leaving all the third world countries behind.
  • The music that plays over the next episode preview
  • The plot twists!
  • SPACE
  • THE ENDING

All right. Maybe in a couple months I’ll be rational enough to write an actual, helpful review but right now I just have to go move Planetes into my favorites on MAL and cry some more because it’s over.


Blast From the Past! Princess Nine

December 11, 2009

Princess Nine was one of those first 90’s animes that I ever watched – along with Battle Athletes Victory and of course Miyazaki movies and Pokemon (the latter two don’t count, because please, everyone watched those.) Since then I’ve watched the whole series several times; and I just watched it again after maybe 3 years. Sigh… natsukashii…

Doesn’t the picture remind you of Ace wo Nerae? I haven’t watched that yet, but I must!

Recently I’ve developed a new passion for 90’s anime. I love the terrible animation and the fact that there’s no CG. I love the pointy and over dramatic drawing style, too. And while Princess Nine does indeed have terrible animation and no CG, I have to say it really is one of the better animes I’ve seen. Maybe it can’t compare to something like Seirei no Moribito in animation and plot, but I’d say it stands up pretty well on spirit alone.

I’m being cheesy here… Yes, it’s true; I do have quite the soft spot for Princess Nine and I’ll admit that if I watched it now with no bias, I might not think so highly of it. But I AM BIASED. So my aim right now is to spread the love and the word about Princess Nine.

Side note: Whatttt?! Takasugi = Sa Sakujun = Yuri Mihalkov = Kiryu Touga = Keiki = Keith Anyan = Jouganki?! This guy is crazy! What’s with him being in everything I watch? No, what’s up with him being in EVERYTHING? His list of character roles on MAL takes like 50 scrolls to get through!

Anyway, Princess Nine is a story about the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for a pair of schools who wants to start a girls baseball team for Kisaragi Joushi Koukou. That’s right, baseball, not softball. Basically, it’s a sports anime about an underdog girls team that has to jump through lots of hoops to make it into the boys high school baseball league. There are moments when it looks like the series’ realism has been tossed out the window (ie people overhearing at just the right moment and misunderstanding) but overall, realism pulled through for a stellar ending that’s a little bittersweet.

The actual story centers around  Hayakawa Ryo, the girl who’s been chosen to be the pitcher and primary member of this new, unwelcome girls baseball team. The series starts out with the team gathering members, and then actually establishing itself and winning the approval of its own school; goes on to training and then the tournament – which only takes up the last 6 or so episodes out of 26.

Within this frame, however; you have, yes, the stories of each of the nine team members. Then you have Takasugi Hiroki, Ryo’s prospective suitor. And of course, what’s a sports series without a rival? Ryo’s rival comes in the form of Izumi, possibly my favorite rival ever. Rivals in athletics and love, but at the same time team members who have to cooperate. I know it sounds like a lot of drama, but it doesn’t go TOO over the top and it has a nice balance. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about this whole series: it maintains a balance between the baseball aspect and the personal life aspect.

Along with that balance, Princess Nine has something else you only find in sports series. And that… despite the cheese I’m going to say it… and that is SPIRIT! This is why I love sports animes and I need to watch more of them. They are just so goddamn inspiring! I’m going to make a generalization and say that most sports animes are not masterpieces. They don’t have to be. As long as they have that SPIRIT which makes YOU want to play sports, they have enough to get me to watch them.

Back to Princess Nine… aughh it strings you along with all these plot elements and makes you like the characters and get all wound up about the final game of the series… and then it pulls a goddamn dramatic bittersweet totally Japanese ending! But I love it. I love that the relationship between Ryo and Izumi actually ends up being pretty central to the series rather than Ryo and Takasugi’s relationship, which you would expect to take top priority.

In conclusion

Princess Nine is an awesome girls sports anime, especially for Japan… they ARE a little behind on the whole feminist thing, and this was even made more than ten years ago. Just the fact that it doesn’t turn into a fanservice fest is pretty amazing. So even though the whole girls and baseball thing may seem a bit old in the US, consider the fact that this is Japan we’re talking about. They love their boys baseball and Koshien, and their women haven’t completely broken the glass ceiling yet. The Kisaragi Girls Baseball team definitely holds their own, and that is quite cool. In addition to that, there’s plenty of non-baseball story to keep people who aren’t sports-anime-savvy happy. I myself can’t give much of an opinion on the baseball scenes since I haven’t watched any other baseball anime… or much baseball in general… but I liked their games. Despite the recycled scenes (forgivable since it’s the 90’s), they didn’t get old in the slightest.

I would recommend Princess Nine to anyone looking for one of those inspiring stories with maybe a little slice of life and human relationships, minus the cheese. Though my perspective may be a little skewed.


Darker Than BLACK – Ryuusei no Gemini: Episodes 05-06

December 4, 2009

Wow… Just wow. I am still really, really loving the new Darker Than Black. Things, as always, are confusing; and the plot thickens.

1. YIN! She’s back…

2. …and Hei is starting to return to his old self!

3. This is awesome

So episode 05 we were formally introduced to Norio and his transgender father, as well as his contractor mother. I’m still not sure what exactly Norio’s role is in this. It looks like it might just be a prop to provide comic relief, Suou’s character development and a link for a new contractor to show up (and then die); but maybe Norio will show up again? I won’t be to put out if he doesn’t, though. I’d rather have more Hei being normal again.

Suou gets a mission, which is to help destroy “Inazaki”… which is Yin?! Once Hei realizes it’s Yin he’s trying to destroy (for “Oreille” – remember to figure out who she is) he and Suou back off. This also provides a backdrop for Suou’s character once again: she hasn’t actually killed anyone yet as a contractor (or otherwise). I’m really loving Suou’s character; in fact I’ve just doubly fallen in love with this show again.

The first season was awesome, but this… this just completely brings out the fan in me. I haven’t felt so excited about a show in a while. I’m gonna lose all my desire to be objective about DTB if it goes on like this…