Thursday, December 28, 2000

Clanned After Story review

"Clannad" received an anime adaptation in 2007 with a total of 23-episodes and was released on DVD earlier this year in the US from Sentai Filmworks. The second season known "Clannad ~After Story~" (which takes place after the first season of Clannad and then ten years later) is now being released in the US. The anime series is directed by Tatsuya Ishihara ("Air", "Kanon", "Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya") and a screenplay by Fumihiko Shimo ("Full Metal Panic!", "Air", "Burst Angel", "Gravion", "Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya"). The character design for the anime series is by Kazumi Ikeda ("Kanon") and is faithful to the original designs by Itaru Hinoue ("Air", "Kanon").

"Clannad" was an anime series that focused on high school students Tomoya Okazaki and a girl he meets his senior year named Nagisa Furukawa. Tomoya, who was a brash teenager who got into a lot of fights with his father and Nagisa, a frail teenager who has been out of school for periods of time due to an illness but somehow along the way, these two have found a special bond and love for one another.

As the first season of "Clannad" focuses on these two characters and their friends, the first part of "Clannad ~After Story~" continued with storyline of high school life and focusing on a storyline for each of the main and supporting characters and life for Tomoya and Nagisa after he has graduated from high school.

But with "Clannad ~After Story~ - Collection 2 , the final half of the series focuses primarily on the two as they now prepare for marriage and having a family life and the story moves forward ten years later. Needless to say, as the series has had its share of emotional episodes, the end of those story arc's have ended with happy endings. With this second collection, things grow much darker and tragic and if you thought the prior episodes were emotional, this final volume is much more deeper than ever.


So far, each anime series that were based off a Key video game such as "Kanon" and "Air" have both been fantastic anime series featuring vibrant animation, colorful backgrounds and just many settings that really make the series stand out. The same can be said about "Clannad ~After Story!", the animation and production is absolutely fantastic. Kyoto Animation has done a wonderful job with the artistic backgrounds. Also, the animation is solid and character designs are also done very well. "Clannad ~After Story~" is featured in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen and picture quality for the anime series on DVD is wonderful! The OVA "Another World: Kyou Chapter" wasn't aired in Japan as part of the TV series but because its an OVA, has better production quality than the TV series with more detailed background art and more shading in the animation.

As for the audio, the audio of the series is in Japanese 2.0. Japanese voice acting is solid and a lot of well-known Seiyuu are involved in the series. Dialogue is understandable and clear. Personally, I chose to have my receiver play the series with "Stereo on All Channels" for a more improve soundscape. As for English dubs, there are no English dubbed dialogue available for "Clanand" or "Clannad ~After Story~".

Subtitles are featured in English.


"Clannad ~After Story~ - Collection 2 features the clean opening and closing animation and Sentai Filmworks trailers.


This is the part I have waited for and have heard so much about from fans of the series. "Clannad ~After Story~ Collection 2 becomes more real as Tomoya and Nagisa now live their adult lives as a married a couple and eventually wanting to start a family. We have received hints from the opening of the anime series with a girl and a robot but the storylines were vague until you reach this final half of the season.

The final half of "Clannad ~After Story~" is fantastic and emotional. I don't think I have cried this hard for an anime series since I have watched "Grave of the Fireflies", that is how depressing and emotional that "Clannad ~After Story~" has gotten and episode after episode, I couldn't stop, it was that captivating and suffice to say, you are pulled in as you have watched many episodes of Tomoya and Nagisa grow from their high school years and now to their married years and you have two bombshells dropped on you that is so emotionally hard to take in.

Also, knowing that those emotions and what you see, mirrors reality in knowing that there are fathers who have had to deal with a similar situation that Tomoya had to go through. The series does have a happy ending and of course, the realism of the storyline can be lost but in the context of what we experienced throughout this series, especially with the Fuko and Yukine storyline, there are magical things that happen in the world of "Clannad". The balls of light that we have seen in several episodes and the discussion of alternate universes (especially with the two OVA's), the screenplay plays off possibly like its video game counterpart that this is not a an anime series based on reality, it's a series based on possibilities and anything is possible.

For the realists, one can feel that with episode 21, the tragedy that unfolds is their true conclusion. For those who want that magical, happy ending... episode 22 and the final episode summary gives you that other option. It's interesting because typically, you don't get a choice in the matter at the end of an anime series. Pretty much at the end of a series, what is done is done (unless there is a movie or OVA version reimagining the series). Not for "Clannad ~After Story~", the series has always had its enjoyable happy moments and its emotional moments. As a viewer, part of me felt that episode 21 is how things should be, to capture that realism of the storyline. But knowing how things happened during the Fuko, Misae and Yukine storyline in "Clannad" and "Clannad ~After Story~", magical things happen in the town where Tomoya and Nagisa live which can't be explained and thus episode 22 and the summary episode is an ending that makes sense.

In the end and now watching this series from beginning to end and almost like a marathon, so captivated that I couldn't stop, I realize why this acclaimed series is loved by many.


Wednesday, December 27, 2000

Haibane Renmei review

hat a divine series this is - in every aspect of the word. I finished watching Haibane Renmei I began enthusiastically recommending it to my friends. When one asked "So what makes it good?", funny thing was, I couldn't really answer it. There's almost no conflict or action in the series. There's no traditional good guys VS bad guys, no spellbinding magic, no science fiction - not a trace of computers, aliens or mecha. There are fantasy elements, but they're kept to such a small, human level that you can't really call this series a fantasy in the traditional sense. So what is Haibane Renmei?

It tells the story of a group of angel-like beings called Haibane. They're born from cocoons, grow wings, given halos, and have no memories of their past other than the dream each has in the cocoon. They all live in a protected city called Glie, where nobody is allowed to go beyond the walls. The Haibane are watched over and protected by a group called the Haibane Renmei. Haibane must each work to support themselves, and do their best to be a "good Haibane". It tells the story of one such Haibane - Rakka - coming into the world, and learning how to live in it. The supporting cast of Old Home (where they live) is equally essential. Towards the finale, much of the focus shifts from Rakka to Reki - one of the elder Haibane, who is a mother figure to those in Old Home. Then there's Kuu, Kana, Hikari, and Nemu whom all have very different, but likable personalities.

Haibane Renmei moves at life's pace. Slow and deliberately it moves through its stages - dealing with many humanistic themes along the way. Moving through seasons and emotions with dignity and grace. It would be very easy for fans of traditional anime to consider this series "boring", as it's certainly not exciting in any traditional sense. You really have to be in a certain mood to appreciate Haibane Renmei's charm.

Yoshitoshi ABe (Original Story, Character Designs) said when he began Haibane Renmei that he had no set idea where he was going with it all, creating the story in the moment. In this light, Haibane Renmei becomes like a stream of conscious meditation on life. He also said that while Haibane Renmei has a religious feel, it is not about any particular religion. It is really a type of spiritual and emotional journey. There are anime series that that are very much allegorical. Haibane Renmei works more like CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia in that it deals more in allusions than strict allegory. This means its more open to personal interpretations - and all the better because of it.

In a way, this series reminds me of the anime equivalent of Yasujiro Ozu's films. Ozu is a director who focused on regular people in everyday life confronting life's small, but meaningful moments. His films, like Haibane Renmei, rarely have any big emotion or big drama. It's all about calm reflection as we move through life. The viewer is never forced into the story or the characters. Rather, we're given time to relate these characters to our own life. Their moments of sorrow and pain, as well as joy and triumph has been our own. Their search for meaning has been our own. It's through this very human level that we're able to connect with the Haibane and share in their emotions. This makes moments like Rakka's monologue inside Kuu's room profoundly moving.

The animation is superb. It's easy to miss in such a quiet setting, but almost every frame reveals subtleties of the Haibane's world. They use a wealth of Earth hues - wonderful greens and browns - that provide a very warm and inviting tone. The animation itself is beautifully fluid as well. But it's probably the town itself that's best rendered. The world of Glie is so well conceived and drawn, giving a real sense of a heartwarming environment. The skies, for example, are almost always drawn like beautiful paintings - often reflecting the seasons. Beyond the animation, the direction and cinematography is superb as well. The ease at which the viewer can get lost in this beautiful world is astounding. ABe mentioned that previous to working on anime he was a Japanese style artist, and his works show it. I think more than anyone currently working in anime, ABe understands what a visually powerful medium anime can be. The music is equally as accomplished; consisting of mostly simple, elegant orchestral pieces. The infusion of music in the series is adeptly applied as well - entering at all the right times and evoking all the right moods.

If there are flaws in the series, they are almost too insignificant to mention. The voice acting is not the best (sub or dub), but the cringe worthy moments are kept to a minimum. The finale perhaps comes too suddenly, making it perhaps less dramatic than it should have been. I also felt some of the characters could've been better developed, and a bit more history and background given about them. I especially wish they would've slowly developed Reki's history, instead of saving it for the end. But all of these are minor grievances, and really not worth even subtracting a single star for.

I've seen Haibane Renmei three times, and each time I'm extremely saddened by the end. Not because the story is sad, but because theirs is a world I'd never want to leave. This series has a great, meditative "zen" like quality, and for those in the right frame of mind, you will become thoroughly engrossed in both the lives of its characters and the world in which they exist. You'll smile at their joys and triumphs, and you'll cry at their losses and sorrows. In the end you will be left with a wonderful feeling akin to a spiritual cleansing. The result is nothing short of divine.


Tuesday, December 26, 2000

Death Note review

his show is a must see not just for anime fans but for anyone who enjoys well written and well thought out drama. The story follows the young and brilliant Light who happens upon a notebook with the power to kill people. With the best of intentions at heart he sets out to use this new power to create a better, safer world. Unfortunately for him not everyone agrees with his methods and Light soon finds himself under investigation lead by the world's premier super detective know only as "L".

The intellectual struggle between Light and L is nothing less than riveting. I was stuck helplessly watching episode after episode because I couldn't wait to see what these two boys were going to come up with next. I also found that Light's decent from good natured student to sociopathic mass murder was really well done and an interesting look at how power corrupts.

I'm always reading these reviews to see what people think before I buy stuff but this is the first time I've ever bothered writing one myself. I was just that impressed with this one. Warning though, it is pretty dark and somewhat depressing so if you're looking for happy,happy,feelgood this is probably not your cup of tea. But, if you're looking for a great original storyline that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish then I highly recommend you give this one a try. It's one of the best shows I've seen.


Monday, December 25, 2000

Fullmetal Alchemist review

Fullmetal Alchemist is one of those stories that while you're watching, you wonder how anyone could have come up with such a complex and original plot. The anime is based on the manga "Fullmetal Alchemist" but the stories go two separate ways. They share a few similar plot twists, but ultimately the outcome for the two characters is completely different.

This DVD is a great buy for people who enjoy learning about the behind-the-scenes stuff from the show.


Sunday, December 24, 2000

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit review

If you're a fan of series like Shonen Onmyouji or Twelve Kingdoms here's another fantastic series worth your time. The basic story-plot of the series is that the second prince of the kingdom is feared cursed and will be about the destruction of his peoples lands but his mother forsakes this prophecy and enlists the aid of a wandering female warrior who rescued her son previously from drowning and feels she will be able to protect her son from the machinations of the royal courts decree. Along the way of the series we see the true reason of the royal courts fears as well as the true destiny of the young prince, the one thing that endears you to the series other than the fantastic story, animation, and characters is actually the prince himself. I thought that like previous series with this kind of story you would have the prince as a young pampered brat, but this prince turns out to be actually sincere in his desires to help the people and his own personality to do the work and interact with the people on a personal level not acting at all like a stuck up royal prince. The series won't be for everyone if you're expecting some hardcore supernatural fights or powerful demons to cause destruction that you'll be disappointed, but if you've seen the series mentioned above or another one called Princess Mononoke than this series will be just for you. The audio and video are done well with the added bonus extras being a nice touch, if there's any complaint it would be the box set itself like mentioned before the set is eight dvds put into a single dvd case with a center spindle to stack one dvd on top of another which I found annoying but hey for the price of $15.00 dollars instead of the $95.00 dollars for the other set I can look pass this. So for a great Edo era action anime with a great cast and story-line here's a wonderful choice for anyone.


Mobile Suit Gundam 00 | 9

First off, a lot of people called this series slow and boring. DO NOT LISTEN. The first few episodes are building up the story for the later episodes, which will have you on the edge of your seat at the end of almost every episode! It especially picks up at the second season with some epic battle scenes and some tension-building political and economic dilemmas.

I did have a few problems with it though. For one, a few of the characters came across as whiny and annoying, namely Saji, Allelujah, and Feldt, although this might be because it was the dubbed version.

Also, although the last 10 or so episodes were incredible, it became increasingly hard to discern which Gundam was which, especially in the finale. I had hardly no idea who was still alive until the "epilogue" scenes.

And, oh yeah, the animation? Absolutely astounding. Probably the best I've ever seen

Saturday, December 23, 2000

The Twelve Kingdoms review

I ALMOST passed on this spectacular anime series because I was initially put off by the main character at the beginning of the story. Boy am I glad I didn't and you shouldn't either!

At first, the set-up for Twelve Kingdoms is somewhat similar to Fushigi Yuugi: A rather annoying whiny schoolgirl and her friends get sucked into another world similar to ancient China. They can't get back home, they get separated, and undergo several harrowing encounters. But fortunately for us, the resemblance ends there.

The main protagonist Youko Nakajima develops from a very insecure and self conscious high school girl to a courageous and self-aware young monarch of the Kingdom of Kei. All the supporting characters including villains are complex and add to the multilayered storyline.

Twelve Kingdoms is a very detailed mythological fantasy that's like an Asian version of Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia without the religious undertones or allegory. The animation is gorgeous and the soundtrack specially the opening theme is epic in scope. It's just too bad the series is incomplete. Nevertheless this is one you should not to miss.


Friday, December 22, 2000

Clannad review

This series is an excellent buy. If you're unsure of it but watch a bunch of anime then I'd say to give it a try at least. I wasn't sure when I first saw it but it quickly grew on me as one of my favorites. From making you roll around laughing to inducing tears, this series is full of all kinds of emotional twists. Upon first glimpse, I thought it was just another Anime involving high school students, but the more I watched, the more I realized how much of a masterpiece this was. Definitely check it out. Tomoya Okazaki is a bitter, sarcastic, pranker in his senior year of high school, spending most of his time ridiculing his friend and fellow lethargist, Sunohara. However, it all seems to change when he meets Nagisa Furukawa, a kind-hearted, yet unsure, girl who wishes to revive the drama club. The journey the two go through together with the friends they make along the way, is one you shouldn't miss. The new English Dub was rather well made and interesting.


Thursday, December 21, 2000

Ghost in the Shell SAC review

First of all, I just want to mention that I was always interested in GITS SAC, but between the other expensive collection floating around and the fact that it only airs once a week at 4am, I've never really had the chance to take a closer look. That is, until this convenient, affordable set-up.

Well, anyway, GITS SAC revolves around the investigation of a cyber-terrorist known as the "laughing man." Throughout the series attempts are made to stop this heinous criminal only to reveal that the plot is much thicker and deeper than first imagined.

Along with the overlying plot, stand alone episodes act as avenues for character development, philosophical questioning as well as world building. Perhaps two of the better (or at least entertaining in my point of view) episodes consist of Batou's backstory while investigating a fighter and the tachikoma's consistent questioning of life and death.

Though these stand alone episodes offer much in the way of development, they have a habit of breaking the pace a little. If you are not intending to watch large chunks of the series at a time or in reasonable succession, important details can easily be forgotten.

All and all, GITS SAC offers espionage, action, philosophical debate and characters that you can't help to feel for. Just remember one thing while diving through the GITS SAC world: Nothing is at it seems. And one other thing: it doesn't hurt to keep the remote in hand to rewind to what you missed.


Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Mobile Suit Gundam Seed | 8

This has got to be one of the best Gundam shows out there today. The animation is everything modern technology can offer, amazing choreographed fighting sequence and perhaps, one of the most intriguing plots.

The basic plot to Gundam SEED is a war has broken out between the Earth Alliance (Naturals or normal human beings) and ZAFT (Coordinators or genetically enhanced human beings), and two friends, Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala are pitted against each other. Mobile Suits come into play when the Earth Alliance secretly begin to produce Gundam Mobile Suits, to which Zaft is intent on obtaining. The attack on Heliopolis not only allowed Zaft to capture four of the Alliance's mobile suits, but reunites Kira Yamato with his childhood friend, now enemy, Athrun Zala. Kira like Athrun is a Coordinator and his decision to help the Naturals deem him a traitor and pit him against his fellow Coordinators. Kira must now fight in the Strike Gundam against Duel, Buster, Blitz, and Aegis Gundams as the seemingly never-ending war continues. Casualties will amount on both sides, forcing both Athrun and Kira to battle relentlessly.

One of the first things that drew me into the show was the vibrant colors and the character development. You have the protagonist, Kira Yamato, who is a conflicted and emotional teenager. And though he is extremely skilled at piloting a Gundam, he rather live peacefully rather than fight. Every time a death occurs on or off the battlefield, he feels it's his responsibility, thus the toll of characters that die throughout the show, effect and burden him immensely. He is extremely sensitive to other people's feelings and does not like taking the life of an other. Some may accuse him of crying too often, but I view his breakdowns as human, which is a reason I like his character so much.

His relationship with his old childhood friend, Athrun Zala, is extremely heartfelt, because it is obvious the two don't want to fight each other and care immensely for each other, yet they're forced to fight against each other. Notably, the supporting characters in this show are extremely memorable. Athrun's teammates, Yzak, Dearka, and Nicol have interesting character developments, rare in a lot of anime shows. We see Nicol as an aspiring pianist with hope for a piano playing future. He looks upon Athrun as an older brother and is very kind and supportive of Athrun. Both Yzak and Dearka's personalities are further developed later on in the show when we see them both make surprising decisions and completely different sides to their characters. There are also characters on the Naturals side like Mwu La Fllaga, Murrue Ramius, Sai Argyle, Fllay Allster, that are memorable, especially in their relationship with Kira and how they affect him to fight.

For once, the main female leads are not annoying. Lacus Clyne and Cagalli Yula Attha actually have important roles in the series. Lacus as the emotional and physical healer and supporter for Kira, while Cagalli is the tie between Kira and Athrun. The awesome aspect of this show is that it has characters worth caring about and excellent voice overs. The only disappointing factor is, if you're watching the Cartoon Network version, a majority of the more violent and graphic scenes are completely edited out and makes the events happening in the show, lose it's full potential and true effect.

The music for Gundam SEED is extremely compelling and perfectly accompanies the show. In my opinion the best songs you hear are "Invoke"

by T.M. Revolution, "Meteor" by T.M. Revolution, and "Anna ni Isshodatta no ni" by See-Saw.

Overall, Gundam SEED is an excellent anime show with compelling characters, and fantastic animation.

Vision of Escaflowne review

An astounding series brought to us by some of the top talents in anime, Escaflowne is in fact a story about the discovery of the lost city, Atlantis', secret and about the consequences of Isaac Newton's reactions to this discovery. On the somewhat atypical surface, however, Escaflowne is about a young Japanese girl's romantic involvements with the other main characters.A medieval setting allows for an all new and original interpretation on traditional mecha, as the behemoth battle armors, or "Guymelefs," are composed primarily of gears and use swords, as opposed the Gundam type servos and beams. Nevertheless, the animators found ample opportunity to include some flashy digital effects, stealth cloaking will impress you.Although I found Hitomi Kanzaki, our main character, difficult to relate to, Van Fanel and Allen Schezar, a descendant of Atlantis and a royal knight respectively, steal the show. Thier efforts against a powerful military regime known as Zaibach Empire, who seek not only control over the planet, but over the laws of casaulity (fate) itself, are truly a sight to behold. A seemless blend of science fiction and medieval fantasy produce some of the most memorable anime characters and scenes you'll ever set eyes on. A superb musical score and acceptable dubbing round out this awesome package.Unfairly labeled a "girl's cartoon" in some sects, Escaflowne is some of Japan's very best anime and is truly deserving of this fantastic box set edition (thanks bandai). Episodic anime just doesn't get any better than this!


Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya review

The first season of "Haruhi Suzumiya" is guaranteed to cheer you up with cute sexual innuendos, scientific mumbo-jumbo and a symbolic religious message hidden underneath the fan service.

The show is based on an oddball story, focusing on a high school boy named Kyon, who meets an unusual high school girl named Haruhi Suzumiya. The girl is a strange firebrand, who is more interested in aliens, espers (psychics) and time travelers than in actual humans. Somehow, Kyon strikes up an unusual friendship with this girl.

However, Kyon never planned on getting involved with starting up Haruhi's own club, the S.O.S. Brigade. The club's mission is to spread happiness around the world, through all the fetishes that anime geeks would love. Aliens. Psychics. And an adorable time traveler girl with big breasts. The show pretty much covers all of Kyon's experiences with Haruhi, the bossy dominatrix who may have mysterious powers of her own.

Although it is hard to discuss this series without revealing some major spoilers, the show is a major hit with college anime clubs in America for many reasons. The first episode is a big home movie spoof, where the high school characters try to act like Haruhi's favorite anime characters in an embarassing film project loaded with weird jokes. The ending credit sequence features the funniest and most infamous anime dance, performed by Haruhi and the other members of the S.O.S. Brigade. And the philosophical members of the S.O.S. Brigade always treat Haruhi like she's a supernatural being who has the willpower to change humanity as we know it.

Religious pundits will no doubt scoff at this off-kilter combination of sexual tension and philosophical dialogue. However, they will no doubt remember this series for all the jokes that seem to come out of nowhere. This is one of the few series that packs all the goofy anime-style fetishes that fans will love. You know, like girls in bunny suits, speedy fights with alien girls and philosophical jokes about the meaning of life. Even the broadcast of the show presented the episodes in an unconventional manner, like a anime-style version of "Pulp Fiction."

The show was also a milestone series which featured many new story-telling styles for an animated film. The narrative is told completely from the first-person perspective of Kyon. The first episode presents the animation from the lens of a shaky, indie-style camera. The tone of the series can switch drastically from light comedy to an apocalyptic thriller sequence. Unlike most anime shows with romantic comedy, "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" features some frightening scenes in the fifth episode, with blood and gore.

The gutsy cinematography effects and genre bending stories all contribute to make this one of the most unusual anime series ever made. Although plenty of other romantic comedies delivered similar conservative themes of love and codependency, "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" was the only one that flooded the love story with the best gut-busting pop culture references. And anime has only gotten better because of it.


Monday, December 18, 2000

Mushishi review

Ginko is a Mushishi - an expert on Mushi, odd spirit-like creatures not everyone can see and that occasionally cause harm to unwary humans. Ginko travels Japan studying Mushi and helping solve problems related to them, such as a village paralyzed by rust mushi, or a bamboo mushi that traps travelers in its forest. Each episode stands on its own, telling of a different place with different mushi, with Ginko observing and assisting when needed.

This is a very languid, beautiful series. Ginko does have a backstory that is eventually revealed, but the series focus is individual episodes. The scenery and mushi combine to create a delightful viewing experience, and the stories are engaging, quickly drawing you in to the world they create. Watching this show made me feel relaxed and I came away from each episode with a contented, peaceful feeling. Not that the stories are boring - since Ginko is a healer like character, most of the stories involve people who are suffering from their contact with the mushi. But the resolutions are normally uplifting and satisfying.

If you are looking for an action show, this is not it. If you are looking for a show that has an continues storyline, this is also not it. But if you want a show that you can just watch and enjoy on an episodic basis, that has emotional stories and beautiful scenery, please give this show a try. So far everyone I've showed this series to has enjoyed it, and I hope you will too!

Random Trivia: "Mushi" is the Japanese word for "bug", which is what the mushi of this show often resemble.

Sunday, December 17, 2000

Mobile Suit Gundam Seed | 8.0

While I understand that the point of a review is to inform, I am honestly disappointed in the ones posted by my peers. Most of the reviews are either blindly positive or blindly negative. I hope that this review proves to be informative and unbiased, so that it attracts the attention of interested parties.

The plot of Gundam Wing is standard fare for the epic Gundam saga: in the near future, orbiting space colonies are unfairly repressed by a greedy terrestrial government. On the anniversary of a great colonial leader's death, five young rebels go to Earth to wage guerilla warfare on the Earth Alliance. Their weapons: Gundams, giant humanoid battle machines of immense power. As the five boys fight for independence, the Alliance is overthrown by OZ, a secret society run by a powerful military-industrial complex that has been pulling the strings all along. Soon after, the Gundam pilots, their civilian allies, and like-minded members of OZ join forces to take down the warring factions and bring real peace.

With the characters, we have a group of young people who are highly misunderstood by the anime community. Heero Yuy, pilot of Wing Gundam, is a teenage soldier who's been trained to keep his emotions in check to the point where almost seems inhuman. On the civilian side is Relena Darlian, an introverted girl whose lonely upper-class childhood has left her seeking real friendship. The connection that begins with their chance encounter on a beach eventually leads to great emotional growth in them both, as Heero learns to live with his humanity - and his mistakes - and Relena becomes a more assertive, well-rounded person. Completing this classic triangle is ace pilot Zechs Marquise, Relena's long-lost brother, who entered the military so he could exact revenge for the slaying of their parents and the destruction of their homeland. Aiding Heero in his battles are the other four Gundam pilots: the cheerful Duo Maxwell, the somber Trowa Barton, the caring Quatre Winner, and the brash Zhang Wu Fei. On the side of OZ, we have the anachronistically noble Treize Khushrenada, his multi-faceted aide Lady Une, Zechs' old friend Lucrezia Noin, and Dorothy Catalonia, Relena's war-loving rival. Rounding out the main cast are the civilians: rebel soldier Sally Po, the Maganac Corps (a group of soldiers allied to Quatre, junk dealer Howard, and the "mad" scientists who built the Gundams.

The story is carried out pretty well. Most older Gundam series have the problem that they focus on the main character so much that it almost seems like the world revolves around him. With Wing, time is spent with a large number of varying characters, giving us a better picture of the After Colony world. The characters are well-written and exhibit a lot of growth, keeping with the central theme of communication between people. The mechanical designs are skillfully handled by three Gundam veterans: Kunio Okawara, Hajime Katoki, and Junya Ishigaki. The soundtrack features slick pop tunes by Two-Mix and a large number of well-orchestrated background tracks that underscore the action perfectly.

Admittedly, there are some pacing problems (such as two consecutive clip shows), but it all evens out in the end. A lot of people like to trash certain characters (Relena in particular), but as I've seen, most of this springs from their forming an opinion of the characters within their first five minutes on screen and never changing it. Some people complain that the Gundams are too powerful, ignoring the fact that they HAVE to be strong to fight entire armies by themselves. Also, while some say that Wing is "a complete rip-off of the original series", it's actually more original than Gundam Seed, a more recent addition to the family. And there is a bit much in the way of stock footage, but that can be expected with almost any anime.

There's another stumbling block, though: a disproportionate amount of people insist that the entire male cast is homosexual. Despite what the fangirls may say, this is not official. The actual series, and its sequels, show Heero and Relena as very close, with subtle hints at a deeper relationship than the princess and her knight in shining armor.

So, what's the final verdict? Personally, I love this series, so obviously I'm going to recommend it. But I will say this: if you decide to watch Gundam Wing based on my comments, ignore everything you read or hear about it. Watch the series with an open mind and no preconceptions. Don't listen to anyone else, because in the end, the opinion that matters the most is your own.

When they cry 8.5

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni starts off in a quiet, peaceful little village that looks quite ordinary and amiable to anyone.

But, of course, there's always something horribly wrong.

Higurashi was first brought into the world in the form several PC games, with the covers designed to look quite disarming so any person would think that this series was harmless. But once you get into the meat of it, things aren't looking so rosy. You'll be pulled, dragged, and unwillingly shoved into a head-spinning mystery that you wished never surfaced in the first place, fighting for your life against people you trusted, and digging through graves and lies in order to survive.

There are four "question" arcs, consisting of four different viewpoints of the fateful Hinamizawa festival and two "answer" arcs (in the anime), which will reveal what went wrong in two of the question arcs.

What's best of all is the horror, both physical and psychological. If the blood won't get to you, the emotional tension will. With a cast of memorable and lively characters, you won't be able to watch this anime only once.

Higurashi no naku koro ni, based off very popular Japanese PC games, is a horror anime about a town named Hinamizawa, formerly known Onigafuchi, or 'Demon's Abyss'. There is a rumored curse, the curse of Lord Oyashiro, making people disappear every year. The story is told in 4 Question arcs and 4 Answer arcs (The last 2 aren't planned to come out in anime form as of yet).

Each question arc shows the story happening in different ways, with different victims each time, and the answer arcs fill in info missing from the question arcs.

The story starts out with Keiichi Maebara, a high school boy who's just moved to Hinamizawa. He soon starts learning about the strange happenings called Lord Oyashiro's curse, and gets very involved.

This show is the first horror anime I've ever actually enjoyed (granted, I haven't seen that many), It's fun trying to figure out what exactly is going on in the town. I don't think Sherlock Holmes could solve this case, for for you anime fans, Shinichi Kudou.

There are FOUR of them now. Yes, you'll have to deal with four creepy girls instead of one like a normal horror film would. They'll be cute and bouncy for one moment, then murderous and psychotic the next. Full of twists, turns, and unpleasant surprises, after watching this, you won't be able to close an eyelid for some time.

The Wire review

Imagine a show that every critic on the planet loves. Imagine a show so deeply layered that it makes every other drama seem simple. Imagine a show where each character is equally important. Imagine a show that reinvented itself every season, yet still felt like it was part of the world it created from the outset. Imagine a show so complex that you will always discover something new the next time around.

Doesn't this sound like perfection to you? Trust me, it is, in more ways than you can fathom.

THE WIRE is a show so meticulously crafted and executed that it would take me a dozen reviews to scratch the surface of what makes it great. After catching the very first episode on HBO, I immediately bought the 1st season. The rest, as they say, is history.

I'm so afraid to ruin anything that I don't even want to give away characters' names. To even let you go in expecting certain traits from a character would spoil the fun. So instead, I'm deliberately being vague about what occurs. If you've never heard about this series, you deserve go in cold.

But I'll give you a few details, starting with the very first scene. THE WIRE begins when a detective is questioning a young hoodlum who witnessed a murder. The detective asks why the guy and his friends allowed the victim to continue rolling dice, after he'd been known to snatch the money & run. The scene closes when the kid says, "Got to, man. This America."

Then the show begins its title sequence, in which The Blind Boys of Alabama's cover of "Way Down In The Hole" plays over a montage of seemingly random clips of police activity & urban life. But as you'll learn the more you see this title sequence (and song), this montage is actually filled with clues, both literal and metaphorical. The greatest crime dramas throw clues in your face without telling you how important they are. Believe me, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, one of the greatest films of all time with its labyrinthine plot, has nothing on THE WIRE. And we're only just getting started.

What you'll also notice from the opening scene is the dialogue. It actually took me two viewings to find out what the detective and the dice-roller were saying. As if that wasn't enough, I eventually had to turn on the English subtitles just to find out what each character was saying. The dialogue flows so naturally that THE WIRE never feels like a TV drama. There are no scenes where the characters recap what happened in the previous episode, unless the characters would actually take a moment to remind each other. This sounds like a challenge, and indeed it is. THE WIRE requires (and deserves) your undivided attention. Pause if you have to. Rewind if you have to. Use the subtitles if you have to. Many have called THE WIRE "a visual novel", and they couldn't be more right. You see how much attention I've given to just the first few minutes? Guess what, the entire series clocks in at 63 hours.

So, what's the premise of the series? The first season's main story begins when a team of Baltimore police is assembled to take down one of the city's high-profile drug dealers. The investigators and surveillance teams endure what real cops would endure: long hours, cold trails, bad weather, tedious paperwork, crummy offices, and criminals. THE WIRE gives the justice officers an equal amount of screen time as the targets they pursue. The dealers aren't delightfully vicious or glamorous in the least. Sort of like the Corleone Family or the protagonists in GOODFELLAS, THE WIRE portrays its criminals as guys who either can't do anything else for a living, or refuse to do anything else for a living. The series goes even deeper, as we're engaged in the lives of judges & lawyers, homicide detectives & their office-dwelling superiors, drug kingpins & their corner workers, and even the homeless. Calling this "epic" is an understatement. If you're as interested in the urban drama as you are in the police procedural, then you're on the right track. Don't worry, you will get to see the cops bust a few doors and arrest a few thugs, but just be aware each event it treated as ordinarily and naturally as anything else in THE WIRE. To the characters, these events are just another day.

Now bear in mind, I've only given a little info on the first season! I won't give away any details, but Season Two continues in the exact opposite way you'd expect a sequel to. The cops and criminals shared equal halves of TV time on Season One, but for the seasons that follow, they share equal parts with a completely new side of Baltimore. Just wait until THE WIRE continues through its next few seasons, it gets even more deliciously complex. If you think Season One sounds like a beastly Rubik's Cube, wait until you get a load of Season Two, not to mention the seasons afterwards. After all, you can't predict how a single story is going to proceed if you're too blindsided by how it begins. One of the most interesting aspects is that slowly over time, THE WIRE becomes more than a crime drama --- the series evolves into a multi-layered epic, where crime is only part of the picture. Each of the five seasons feels like its own individual story, but naturally connects with the season that comes before and after it.

I don't want you to be discouraged by this onslaught of convoluted storytelling. There is a method to the madness. Audiences (including me) are too used to knowing where we are at every given point of the story. THE WIRE purposefully refrains from the kind of clarity we're used to. This challenge that will stimulate your mind in ways that no other TV show has. In so many ways, it's the kind of entertainment we've always wanted: Surprising yet Natural --- isn't that always the goal?

THE WIRE is so great that everyone is going to take something different from it. This show can be interpreted in a million ways. Nobody is right, and nobody is wrong. How can that be? Well, creator David Simon is to be credited for this neutrality. Simon is as hands-on as any other TV series producer, writer, or creator. Every single aspect of the show is exactly what he wanted it to be. THE WIRE was never the victim of a writer's strike, or cancelled seasons, or poor broadcasting schedules, or any other excuse. If there is a character or story arc you don't care for, it isn't Simon's fault; your personal taste just doesn't mesh with it. Sure, I have one or two nitpicks about what THE WIRE should've been in my eyes, but not once did I believe it was for a lack of focus. For example, one particular season takes a more didactic approach to the series. We witness moral dilemmas with an ambitious mayor, unethical cops, and newspaper staff --- all tackle the immortal question, "Do the ends justify the means?" This more black-and-white angle is exactly what David Simon wanted to use. I preferred a more gray-shaded tale, but Simon decided that this tale needed a more direct statement. Now, even though this isn't my preference, I overlooked my own criticisms because this season was built this way. There are a couple of other little things that might not sit well with some viewers, notably how the "star" of the show's cast disappears for most of one season (don't worry, you'll know it's coming before it happens). The point is that THE WIRE never once strayed from its intended path.

I think that's what I'm going to take away most from this show: It tells every story it wants to tell. It answers every question it poses, unless we're meant to ponder. It forces us to sympathize with those we'd normally condemn, and to relate to those we'd usually ignore. This television drama is a masterful work of art, from the page to the screen.

Full Metal Panic review

I just received this set and have watched through roughly 4 episodes and a little bit.

For those that don't know, Full Metal Panic (or FMP) is a show from early 2000 based on a series of short novels. The story involves a boy soldier (well, mercenary), sent by a secret organization to protect a girl who is known to be a "Whispered." Being a "Whispered" means that the person holds knowledge of "black technology" without really knowing they know it. Mostly it's about Sagara Sosuke, the boy soldier, being clumsy with people and having an obvious crush on the girl he is supposed to be protecting. The feeling is mutual and the girl he is protecting, Chidori Kaname, is just as awkward in dealing with Sosuke.

Giant robot action is also included as a sort of bonus. Think of the show as a romantic comedy with serious drama and military action thrown in.

In terms of the Blu Ray, this release is an upscale of a standard definition release as the studio that animated it, Gonzo, was only animating in SD at the time of its release. Either way, a proper software upscale done on a Blu Ray will always look better than an upscale done through hardware (watching a DVD via the PS3 upscaled to 1080p for instance). This release is no exception.

The nice thing here is that the opening sequence is unaffected by the upscale this time around, unlike Funimation's release of Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Box Set [Blu-ray] where the opening was improperly encoded and skips frames.

Picture quality is nothing short of amazing. Crystal clear and from everything I can tell, there are no artifacts or other weirdness brought in from the upscale. If you had this on DVD and want an upgrade in picture quality, this is a worthy purchase as it looks perfect. If upscaled DVD looks good to you, well there may be no point in upgrading to Blu Ray.

Something to keep in mind is that this show was originally done in the 4:3 aspect ratio (SD). The opening, while widescreen, isn't anamorphic and wasn't actually animated in HD, so it will always contain bars at the top and bottom of the picture. This is as it was originally animated and FUNimation has taken no liberties to try and stretch it to a widescreen format, which is appreciated.

The opening and endings are the same as the ADV DVD release so the opening/ending title cards are all in English. If you're looking for the Japanese title cards, you'll need to purchase the Japanese releases to have Japanese title cards as they are not included in any ADV or FUNimation release.

In terms of audio, you have 2 options. You can watch the show in Stereo Dolby True HD in spoken Japanese (the original show was 2.0 stereo in Japan, so you are getting the audio as originally intended by the Japanese producers for the Japanese market) and you are also given the option of Dolby True HD 5.1 in spoken English. When ADV released the series oh so many years ago, they upgraded the 2.0 audio to a 5.1 mix in the US. The result in English, for me, is a mixed result as much of the time it still feels like a stereo mix. I also generally watch Anime in Japanese, so I was really just swapping around during action sequences to see how the channel separation sounds and it's good, but nothing amazing.

Overall the audio sounds pretty good. There are no drop outs or other audio issues and the added bitrate afforded by Blu Ray and True HD, but then, there weren't really any issues with the original DVD mixes either.

Some nice extras are included, including one that wasn't in the original single release from ADV (nor was it included in previous ADV sets). The new extra is the interview with the show's producers and original author of the novels. This was recorded for the Japanese Blu Ray release (or possibly to air during the re-airing of the series on Japanese TV, I'm not sure), I believe, so it actually is encoded in HD, 1080i. It's a look back on the show's release and is really good.

There is something missing from the extras. The original DVD release included some production sketches in video form. These do not exist on this release, which means it isn't "complete," however they weren't amazing. It is disappointing they aren't here though.

You have 8 episodes per disc, on 3 discs. I was worried there would be audio or video issues trying to cram so many episodes on a disc, however the bit rates are high throughout and it really looks quite amazing.

If you love the series and want the release with the best video quality yet released, this is the one to pick up. If you need to have all the extras, you'll need this release (or the DVD equivalent) and the original ADV release for the production sketches.

If you've never seen the show and don't own a previous version, this is the one to get.


Saturday, December 16, 2000

Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid review

Funimation has taken one of its most well respected mecha franchises and decided to give it digital remastering treatment for an upcoming Complete Series box set release.

Coming in at a total runtime of 320 minutes, Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (TSR) The Complete Series spans 3-discs packaged in a pair of thin packs within a nice cardboard outer slipcase. As with the previous release, the set comes complete with the TSR OVA, Episode 000, 7-part featurette (scouting in Hong Kong), textless songs and a crop of Funimation anime trailers.

Language options are quite thorough with English (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or original broadcast Stereo) and Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or original broadcast Stereo) with the option of running English subtitles below either language track choice.

The program wears an appropriate TV 14 rating due to some violent sequences, themes of conflict, and a bit of non-suggestive female (incestual) nudity.

In my opinion the mark of a solid piece of sequel anime is a show's ability to not only present new material but to also seamlessly intertwine it with the plot of the original. Enter Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (TSR) from anime master workers, Funimation. This gorgeous set represents the proper formula for improving upon the season before it (which just so happens to be the first of the series) without pulling the story off onto an unrelated tangent.

The Second Raid follows the exploits of mercenary soldier Sousuke Sagara who, right from the beginning, does an adequate job of fulfilling his undercover mission as a regular high school student. Unlike the first season, which focused more on the importance of female-lead character Kaname Chidori, this time the viewer is treated to a bit more sympathetic take on the almost child-like innocence of Sousuke. While their hot and cold romance still forms the backbone of the tale, there is no shortage of political motivation or interesting characters to accompany the action.

While Souske resumes his meteoric rise to the title of Sergeant for the paramilitary outfit called Mithril, the major struggle being presented finds Mithril locked in battle with the terrorist group Amalgam. In truth, and despite how well the good guys are presented here, it's tough not to find the bad guys terribly interesting. Among these is a lesbian pair of twin sister assassins, the enigmatic Leonard Testarossa (who just so happens to be the brother of Mithril's own cheery colonel, Teletha) and his extremely wicked robotic enforcers. Last but certainly not least is the lead villain Gates who, quite frankly, captures the concept of full ought insanity in animated form like something American animators can only dream of achieving through The Joker.

And since Full Metal Panic! initially hooked me with its near-flawless use of mecha, it's only proper that I take a moment to recognize the simple truth that TSR not only picks up where the first season left off, it may even supercede the robotic combat at times. Notable here is the ongoing struggle for Souske to make full use of the full abilities of his unit, the Arbalest, and its emotion controlled Lambda Driver. In my opinion the FMP series succeeds where other robot shows fail in both the mobility of the robots (called Arm Slaves or AS' for short) is in their sheer speed and maneuverability. Right from the beginning of the very first episode viewers are treated to an incredible display of AS stealth, speed, and power. It's cinematic showmanship in the purest form and enough to give even diehard anime fans the chills.

Although not entirely essential to the overall plot progression, I should mention that another Arm Slave, the M9 Falke, makes a few appearances that just dazzle with eerie coolness.

The discs themselves contain no shortage of bonus entertainment. The complete 13-episode series is presented across three discs in uncut, digitally remastered glory with dialog coming in the selectable form of English, Japanese or in original broadcast format with English subtitles. While the series itself technically consisted of 13 episodes, Funimation packed both a mini-bonus episode (complete with a scene that had this reviewer actually laughing out loud) and a conclusion OVA full-length episode as well. There is a 7-part featurette entirely in Japanese with English subtitles that does a few interesting things whether they were intentional or not. The first of which is that this section provides an unrivaled look at the Hong Kong lifestyle complete with unlimited comparisons to how life differs there from life in a typical US city. Next it paints the show's creative staff in an entirely different light. I'm guilty of stereotyping anime writers, producers, artists, and directors as moody, withdrawn and slightly disturbed individuals but nothing could be further from the truth with the down-to-earth team responsible for FMP. Finally, anime may be known for an unsurpassed level of detail but never is this reality made clearer than when the viewer is offered a chance to look at the actual Hong Kong locations that inspired the backgrounds of the show. It's downright mind-boggling and a testament to the amount of work that goes into putting a series like this together!

Additionally the set contains a comical little segment in which our creative team takes a trip to a Japanese Self-Defense Force expo for inspiration on the military equipment that appears throughout the series. There are Japanese (English subtitled) commentary tracks across every single episode from several of the show's voice actors and finally the set offer textless versions of the show's theme songs.

The truth is that it is very difficult if not impossible to come away from this presentation without having taken something worth remembering. The anime itself is rich, deep, and oftentimes silly enough to warrant a chuckle but there's something here even for those who wouldn't consider themselves fans of the genre. The creative process and attention to detail is downright awe-inspiring.


Thursday, December 14, 2000

Wolf's Rain Review

This has a very unusual plot line without a doubt, however, I am of the opinion that if the plot had not been as unusual as it was (wolves appearing as humans, searching for paradise) that viewers wouldn't have gotten quite the same feeling from the show, it's sort of hard to describe. I went into this thinking I would be watching an unusual action flick that simply wanted to grab audiences by saying: "look we have wolves in our story!", thinking I would be forced to give up from the awkwardness of having "wolves," and that that the writers wouldn't be able to correctly compensate.
I was, to say the least, extraordinarily surprised.

Throughout the series the characters are truly easy to connect to. They all interlace and mesh, they fit together well and are somewhat of polar opposites, which makes for a great altogether feeling. In the beginning of the series I felt a little bored, but only for a little while. As soon as the second episode ended I was craving for more. The storyline is not for everyone, some would get bored with it. However, the fair amount of action coupled with the short (essentially 26 episode) series means that you wont be dealing with monotonous amounts of action. Overall the story is VERY original and definitely interesting, I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like stories that can truly cause an emotional response, then this series is for you. It is extremely moving and deeply intense in its imagery.

The story manages to stay simple, while explicating something extremely different than the norm. All while doing so using characers that could not possibly be easy for a writer to accurately carve. I mean, what would a wolf be like in humans form? really? You wont find any dull or pointless characters here-I think they nailed it personally.

About halfway through the series you really start feeling for the characters, its then that you realize that the characters have really gotten to you-they actually mean something.

As the end draws closer, you really begin to feel the darkness and dreariness of the close. Then, as the end collapses, I can say that I for one shed a tear, and not because the series ended. I believe the series was a perfect length (30 episodes, a storyline lasting for 26 with 4 recap episodes-bleh). The storyline progresses well and there are not lulls where the characters are running around the country doing nothing useful, they are always going for their objective. As suddenly as you begin to become interested and pay attention, the action starts, and then all of a sudden you're at the end of the series-crying for each one of the characters. Its like a well written book, its not too long, its not too short, but just right, it tells the story and then ends.

A MAJOR contributor to the series was the audio/soundtrack, it truly made for a more than just wonderful experience, it made me *feel* the emotions of the story. I have only come across a few audio tracks that rival the ones in this series, those written by John Williams, (Star Wars, Harry Potter, and others), and the soundtrack from 3:10 to Yuma. The soundtrack from this was just simply staggering. I actually downloaded it right after hearing the "heavens not enough" song near the end of the series.

The art portrayed in this can be at times simple and yet beautiful. Overall the art throughout was very consistent and well made, I'm not going to say that it was unbelievable, but it was rather good. Although, the picture of the arctic wolf laying in the snow with its eyes half opened was simply amazing, and I wish I could get hold of a high quality version for use as a wallpaper. (edit: I actually got a hold of a high quality version, google images!)

I would like to note: if you watch this series, the original series was 26 episodes, then the studio released 4 extra episodes on DVD. These extra episodes were to make up for 4 episodes that were put into the series which were simply recaps of the past events in the series-a complete waste of time. If you watch this series, you MUST watch the 4 episodes released onto DVD, you will not have truly experienced this series until you have watched the last 4 episodes.

Thanks to the simple yet deep characters, the secrets kept about each up until the end, the few number of main characters (protagonists-8), the unbelievable mind-blowing soundtrack, and the rather good art, this series was an overall stunner and will be recommended by me to everyone I know. I'm giving it 9*, I was going to give it 8, but I have just realized that I haven't seen anything that quite matches up, so it gets a 9.

Eureka 7 review

If you have never seen Eureka 7 you need to see it, period. If you are a fan of Evangelion, you need to see it, period. If you love crazy mecha action, you need to see it, period.

I'm not kidding. This show has me thinking . . . . dare I even say it. . . that it is even better than my beloved Evangelion. I never thought there would be anything that could ever come along that would make me even suffer a fleeting thought like that but with Eureka 7, my mind has been flooded with that realization. . . . Eureka 7 may be the greatest anime series of all-time.

Now it has to be said, there are a lot of similarities between Eva and Eureka 7, and you can tell that BONES was highly influenced when creating this story by the classic Angel series. How only the "chosen" can pilot the Nirvash (just like the 1st, 2nd and 3rd child in Eva) and there seems at least at the beginning to be another alien race that wants to destroy mankind (like the Angels in Eva) and that the subject of rebirth for mankind (the Third Impact). But Eureka 7 seems to run with these themes and tie them all together with one of the most heart-wrenching love stories I have ever seen. Pure brilliance.

And I have to say that I have watched the series both with the Eng subtitles and with the Eng dub and I have to say the English translation on the dub is great and perhaps delivers an even more moving performance from the voice actors.

I have never teared up more at an anime. Weird. What always got to me was during the English dub at the end of every episode Renton and Eureka would both say in unison "To be continued. . ." but in a way and tone that reflects how the episode ends emotionally. At the end of many episodes they sounded happy, chipper, excited, relieved, worried. . . it really let you know how the characters were feeling.

But what really got to me was the end of episode 47 I think. They had such a sound of hopelessness in their voices like everything was done. . . and then at the end of episode 49 . . . there was only Renton uttering those words. I have never been more emotionally invested in the characters of an anime series in my life and it may be because they reel you in with 50 episodes!


Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society review | 8.5

Stand Alone Complex- Solid State Society. It has been two years since "Major" Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9, a Special Forces unit assigned to cyber crime and answerable only to the Prime Minister of Japan in 2034. Family man Togusa is now leading a much larger force. Chief Aramaki has visibly aged in the job, walking painfully with a cane and attended by Proto. Batou has become a brooding, depressed commander of the training school. All wonder if the Major will ever return.

This time around our heroes must deal with the seemingly unconnected rash of suicides, mass child abductions, conspiracy involving elderly healthcare, a "Wizard Class" hacker called the Puppeteer, and as always, corporate malfeasance and political wrangling. All tidied up with a terrific subtle "what if?" ending.

At $3.2 million SSS is one of the most expensive TV movie anime's yet, and all the money is up on the screen.
Increased detail in both background and foreground (missing in 2nd Gig). "Busy" scenes found only in big budget movies. Naturally smooth movement by people and machines. Small touches like the Nissan concept cars, wrinkled clothing, reflections and small lighting effects, raindrops, "Handheld" camera angles, etc. There are plenty of "remember this?" scenes and other touchstones from the series, including great music by Yoko Kanno, with Origa singing the opening and closing songs. Motoko's face is even cuter than ever and the rest of her- you just don't mess with perfection.

Ghost in the Shell:Solid State Society is an exciting,intelligent,complex and very interesting film.This movie is a real masterpiece.Director Kenji Kamiyama tells an excellent story in this movie.The animation is perfect.Solid State Society is a very intelligent entertainment,which makes us think at the same time it totally entertains us.This masterpiece is a pleasure to any lover of the cinema.

In the first category,I would put almost all of the teen anime with melodramatic stories,girls using the school uniform,tragic heroes,giant robots,surrealistic humor and magic creatures.In the second category,I would put more serious movies made to adults where the narrative has a complexity and emotional impact: Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell.

Ghost in the Shell review

An existential action anime? That's what Ghost In The Shell, a.k.a. Kokakukidotai (Shell Mobile Force) is, with animation sporting top-of-the-line computer imagery in the Bladerunner-like metropolis of Newport, but that's secondary compared to the underlying intellectual theme.

Major Kusanagi Motoko is a skillfully trained cyborg assassin in Newport's Section 9, who's taking out a diplomat illegally trying to give immunity to a listed programmer, demonstrates her training, including an amazing moment when she dives off a building, picks off her target, and via a thermoptic camouflage (i.e. portable cloaking device), vanishes from sight.

She and the members of her team, consisting of the mostly human Togusa, Ichikawa, and Batou, a burly no-nonsense blond cyborg with electronic eye implants, are trying to track down the Puppet Master. The Puppet Master is a master hacker who hacks into people's brains and uses them for his dirty work, presumably to carry out espionage or terrorism, leaving his puppets no memory of their infiltration. One of his puppets keeps using a public computer to try to infiltrate the brain of his wife, who is divorcing him and wants custody of their child. When he's picked up, he is told by Section 9 that his wife, child, and divorce are all false memories imprinted by the Puppet Master, causing further distress to the man when he is told the fake memories can't be erased.

However, there are two conflicts going on. One is Kusanagi's mission to hunt down the Puppet Master. The other and the one with a deeper meaning is the search for her identity within the scheme of a whole, or rather, something beyond her individual self, highlighted by her words taken from the Book of Corinthians: "For now we through a glass, darkly." This reflects an earlier statement when she says in observation of a victim of the Puppet Master, "all data that exists is both fantasy and reality. Whichever it is, the data a person collects in a lifetime is a tiny bit compared to the whole." A postmodernist flair is introduced when the Puppet Master says "While memories may as well be the same as fantasy, it is by these memories that mankind exists."

The question thus is, is it possible for the soul to exist in a highly technological world, where special operatives have cyborg shells, metabolic control systems, ESP, and cyber-brains?
The search is also symbolized when she surfaces, and the animated image of her rising up to meet her reflection, representing her true self. She wonders if she has a ghost, an animating soul or spirit. In looking at the construction of her body in the opening credits, one sees that she's heavily mechanized, with an outer layer of flesh surrounding her.

Her attempt at defining the self begins with a unique face, voice, childhood memories, feelings for the future, and the set of mental processes producing a consciousness that is "me." However, upon a discovery involving the Puppet Master, she further worries that what if there wasn't a real "me," that "I believe I exist based only on what my environment tells me. ... What if a computer brain can generate a ghost and harbor a soul? On what basis then do I believe in myself?" In other words, what if there is no higher power to connect to, bringing into mind the word "religion," which means "to reconnect to."

The action sequences aren't extreme, ultraviolent, or gratuitous in the chase sequences, but are moderate, that is until the heavy artillery is brought out, at which point glass, metal, and rock starts to fly. A very intelligent, thought-provoking, one-of-a-kind existential, soul-searching anime, with Kusanagi despite its cyborg dominance showing some human traits.


Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Ghost in the Shell SAC Solid State Society review

Solid State Society is hopefully a sign of what is to come in the world of Ghost in the Shell. After Stand Alone Complex's 2nd GIG, I was definitely left with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The pacing of the 2nd GIG felt uneven and the story felt more convoluted than tastefully complex, creating an adequate but not perfect addition to the GitS series. However, Solid State Society takes the best from the Stand Alone Complex series and in little under two hours presents a story as rich in detail and as lovingly complex as the series preceding it.

A huge plus of the movie is that instead of feeling like an overstretched episode, it feels more like a long arc of quality episodes stringed together while still feeling cinematic in its presentation. Solid State Society gives us everything we expect in a GitS story: a sci-fi universe that draws you in but never overwhelms, continuity in character development, rich and intelligent dialogue and plot that almost seems plausible down the road, and of course, some light philosophy and shades of grey. Even if you aren't an anime or a strict sci-fi fan, you might just enjoy this one.


Monday, December 11, 2000

Ghost in the Shell SAC 2 review

While S.A.C. occurred in the `near' future, 2nd Gig, and the annotated film, Individual Eleven takes place in 2032. Prior to the dissolution of Section 9, and the resignation of Major Kusangi, the world experienced two `world' word from 2000-2015, and 2015 to 2024. The use of nuclear weapons marked the end of WWIII, and the consequent threat by the American Empire to do so again had kept the global forces in Japan at bay. As Section 9 winds down, a new threat rises. The increase in independent states and sovereign regions that grew from the chaos of the last 30 years has led to a divided planet with major questions on sovereignty and administrative jurisdiction.

As the director said in an interview, "In other words, we simply couldn't ignore the way society had evolved since the events of 9-11 That was the approach we decided to take, and I tried to illustrate a 21st century (near-future) war. But to tell you the truth, I couldn't avoid feeding back into modern reality." Given the war torn climate in Section 9 and the circumstances the Japanese people find themselves in a complex discussion of the reactions and actions of both the military and militants was the only possible scenario for the series.

The complexity of the 26 episodes, 2nd season, is simplified in the motion picture, "Individual Eleven". While the original episodes contain a more dynamic, more in-depth plot flow than the 160 minute film, the full 700 minute presentation is equally spectacular. With such a complex storyline, the editing and directoral decisions required for the short version must have been hellish. The resulting 160 minute `short' is riveting, and leads viewers through a nightmare world of politics, survival, semantics, and loyalties. As in any time of war, there are aggressors and defenders, and the forces led by the Togusa struggle with suicides, random acts of violence, and seek to uncover the "Puppet Master".

Amidst the intense plot driven "Individual Eleven" and "2nd Gig", several sub plots wind through the main tapestry.

With Section 9 investigating the machinations of the "Puppet Master", the Tachikoma's appearance adds another layer to the story. Similar to the Q Collective in Star Trek, they are robots endowed with sophisticated AI with a little free will and philosophical discussion thrown in. Ultimately, their sacrifice paves the way for the successful conclusion of the conflict that Kuze controls.

That brings us to another interesting plot line. Kuze, the lone survivor of the Eleven, fled to the refugee camps and soon became a magnet for other survivors. His silence, and ability to make cranes with his left hand, served as therapy and those around him offered their life stories. He disappeared from view, and his relationship with Kusangi was resurrected as both were cybertized.

There are so many themes and plot threads running through this series that a book can be written on them. Intelligent animation has the power to inspire, and SAC is very intelligent! The animation style is worthy of an Academy Award, and should be recognized as such.


Sunday, December 10, 2000

Ghost in the Shell SAC review

irst of all, I just want to mention that I was always interested in GITS SAC, but between the other expensive collection floating around and the fact that it only airs once a week at 4am, I've never really had the chance to take a closer look. That is, until this convenient, affordable set-up.

Well, anyway, GITS SAC revolves around the investigation of a cyber-terrorist known as the "laughing man." Throughout the series attempts are made to stop this heinous criminal only to reveal that the plot is much thicker and deeper than first imagined.

Along with the overlying plot, stand alone episodes act as avenues for character development, philosophical questioning as well as world building. Perhaps two of the better (or at least entertaining in my point of view) episodes consist of Batou's backstory while investigating a fighter and the tachikoma's consistent questioning of life and death.

Though these stand alone episodes offer much in the way of development, they have a habit of breaking the pace a little. If you are not intending to watch large chunks of the series at a time or in reasonable sucession, important details can easily be forgotten.

All and all, GITS SAC offers espionage, action, philosophical debate and characters that you can't help to feel for. Just remember one thing while diving through the GITS SAC world: Nothing is at it seems. And one other thing: it doesn't hurt to keep the remote in hand to rewind to what you missed.


Saturday, December 9, 2000

Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers review

I'll admit, when I first started watching this movie I was a little put aback. I knew it was a "re-imagining" of the entire series, but it still threw me for a loop. Even with that said, I still enjoyed the movie. I didn't compare it to the series in artwork or storyline, I didn't expect them to re-imagine the wheel or anything. Some of the characters became unrecognizable, but I think that was also some of the fun. They took time to mention ALMOST everyone from the series(I missed you Lady Sakuya). All in all, yes I'd much rather watch the series, but the movie tried to manage to re engineer the whole series in the span of hours where the anime had fifty episodes to do as it pleased.


Friday, December 8, 2000

Last Exile review

I can not tell you anything that the other reviewers have not. I had not picked this up because it looked like something more for a younger audience. Well while there is very little blood and there is no nudity or fan service to really speak of yet this is something that I was very surprised with.

Visually this is a thing of beauty because of the CGI, the animation itself is well done. Yet it is the blend of the two that makes it stand out in my mind. The story line moves ahead at a good pace and you get so many very well developed characters. Take for instance Dio, whom was my favorite sub character, although he did not have the biggest part he added so much more to the story.

This story is about a teenage boy and girl who have lost everything except each other and their Van Ship. They start out as air delivery messengers and are happy with that then they deliver a message that brings them into the problems of war. From that point on you are meeting new characters that bring new problems.
As I said...this took me by surprise. It has a rich story and is a beautiful thing to watch which also means replay value. When it is all said and done everything is wrapped up for a well done ending.

Gonzo is a studio that has had a very diverse range of shows that it has made but Last Exile is by far the best, and one of the best animes out there. It has a steampunk aesthetic which always adds a hint of mystery and romance to the setting, which is great considering the plot requires just that. It is an uplifting story with a lot of heart, sure to make new and old fans alike enjoy.

Warning: This anime actually has plot, character development, and depth. This is not for folks that want plenty of blood and guts fights, sword and sorcery, and/or fan service from unrealistically proportioned female characters. This is one of the classiest shows out there.

Thursday, December 7, 2000

Gungrave review

If You already have anime series like Samurai Champloo, Cowboy Bebop here's another fantastic series for your collection. The series gives a nice backdrop of the two main characters and their differing points of view on life and while they disagree on some views they are the best of friends, though the main story-plot does have on betray the other for his own rise to power within a powerful organization. The dead apparently don't stay dead though in this series and through science the betrayed friend is brought back to life to protect a very important person from the organization that is now run by the very friend that betrayed and murdered him. What you'll truly appreciate and grow to like is how throughout the years the betrayer has hidden regrets for his choices and a wish to redeem his sins that he's made in his life. That is probably the most heartfelt parts of the series as you see the bygone years of these two friends as they rise from street hoodlums to great power and money in their careers, but you also see the cost for theses choices as their friends are killed, personal sacrifices are made for their positions or remaining living friends, and finally the one choice that ends with one friend dead and another to gain ultimate power but at the cost of his remaining happiness. The ending fits the storyline greatly and while may annoy some viewers with how it ends it's still a nice climax for the two friends to find salvation and peace within themselves and each other. The video is clear and sharp with no blurriness or distortions to worry about and the audio was great as well the voice cast for the Japanese and English actors/actresses were great for their roles, the extras sadly aren't much just the usual trailers and textless intro/ending songs but that's about it. The box sets has seven dvds put into an individual slim cases and put into a paper sleeve. So if you like the dark drama animes with a lot of action, gunfights, and drama with a entertaining storyline with it here's a great choice to try out and for this price well worth it...


Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Samurai Champloo review

Mugen is a cocky, rebellious, bandy-legged fighter who incorporates break-dancing techniques into his unorthodox fighting style. Jin is more your typically calm and stoic samurai (or ronin, to be more precise), steeped in martial tradition, who finds satisfaction in the perfect execution of his warrior craft. Mugen and Jin aren't friends - in fact, they are contentious and want to test their skills against each other - yet they find themselves joining forces, thanks to Fuu, an insistent and kinda quirky waitress who inveigles the two into helping her search for the Samurai Who Smells Like Sunflowers. For 26 episodes, the discordant trio undergo many adventures, some serious, some hilarious, some just plain out weird. The only constants are the bickerings amongst the three, the scrounging for food, and the intrusion of modern day sensibilities. Oh, and the rampant butt kicking as done by Mugen and Jin.

On the heels of his popular Cowboy Bebop anime series, Shinichiro Watanabe decided to put a new spin on the samurai anime with his irreverent, hip Samurai Shamploo. Shamploo means "stir fry" or a mix, and this is certainly what this series is about, as it fuses the traditional samurai credo and decorum with the unexpected modern day incursions of hip hop attitudes, beatboxing, street tagging, and baseball. The episodes are supported by cool Japanese hip hop music soundtracks and blazing hip hop scratches for scene segues. Watanabe also makes beautiful use of visual metaphors, thereby adding more depth to the shenanigans. The ripping animation and dynamically constructed fight scenes are guaranteed not to disappoint.

Kudos, too, to the voice actors, especially Steven Jay Blum (aka Daniel Andrews, who also voiced Cowboy Bebop's Spike) as the bestial Mugen. Kirk Thornton as Jin and Kari Wahlgren as Fuu are both excellent. The voice actor for the sometimes series narrator Policeman Sakami Manzou ("the Saw") is also very good.

These episodes are definitely rated PG-13. This anime series doesn't hesitate to throw in scenes of drug use and graphic violence. Some episodes even contain mild sexual scenes.

My favorite episodes are "The Art of Altercation" (for the rapping samurai and his beatbox backup), the atmospheric "Cosmic Collisions" (where the trio fight the undead), the hilarious "Baseball Blues" (where the American pitcher couldn't find the strike zone with the dog at bat, and he ends up inadvertently hitting the mutt - not to worry, no animated dogs were hurt in the making of this anime), and the concluding 3-episode arc "Evanescent Encounter" (where Mugen and Jin are challenged to their very limits, resolve their rivalry, and Fuu at last catches up to the Sunflower Samurai).


Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 review

CODE GEASS: LELOUCH OF THE REBELLION R2 gets off to a start that is both slow and absurdly abrupt, as we're suddenly introduced to a situation in which the main character(Lelouch) is behaving in ways that seem drastically out of character in several aspects, with no idea how he got there and where he suddenly picked up a strangely creepy little brother that'd never been mentioned before. This is resolved within the first few episodes when we get an after-the-fact explanation of what happened following Season 1's abrupt cliffhanger ending, but weakens the overall story somewhat.

However, Volume 1 also briefly introduces deuteragonist Li Xingke, who is sort of what happens when you take Lelouch, his rival(Suzaku), and toss them both into a blender with a heavy supplemental dose of awesome - unfortunately, he doesn't do anything much just yet. But the concluding episodes to this volume, while uncomfortably reminescent of last season's episode 21 in terms of a major plot point that is introduced, set the stage for the show to REALLY take off running, and Vol 2 and onwards much more favorably compare to Season 1.

All in all, while as most sequels do it can't quite measure up to the first season, it's a fairly solid start to an excellent follow-up.


Gurren Lagann review

Gurren Lagann is what happens when you ask Studio Gainax, of Evangelion and FLCL fame, to make a saturday morning cartoon. It is a mecha anime made in the spirit of legendary shows like Getter Robo and Mazinger Z. The plot starts off with blood brothers Kamina and Simon fed up with life in their underground village, when suddenly a giant mecha known as a "gunmen" crashes through the roof, followed by a buxom babe by the name of Yoko fighting it with an oversized sniper rifle. And over the course of 27 episodes it spirals out of control and turns into the most over-the-top crazy awesome show in existence. To put it bluntly, in the Gurren Lagann universe, sheer force of will is enough to break the laws of physics. That is not an exaggeration, that is canon.

Most of the talk of this show refer to it's sheer badassery and fanservice, so some poor individual with no knowledge of the show might think it's nothing more than a Michael Bay movie put in animated form. That is utter bull, for Gurren Lagann has some of the most memorable characters I've seen in an anime, as well as a rather interesting plot, two things lacking in most Bay films. Characters like Yoko, who you would think would be nothing more than eye candy, are given some very good character development. You become so attached to these people that when some of them are killed, you feel it. It honestly made me cry. And if it can make my cry, I consider it art. Gurren Lagann is something everybody, not just anime fans, need to see.


Monday, December 4, 2000

Cowboy Bebop review

Cowboy Bebop follows Spike, Jet, Faye and Edward as bounty hunters aboard the spaceship Bebop. Now onto the many reasons why this anime series is perfect.

First the story: Which blends comedy, drama, action, adventure, Sci-fi and even some romance perfectly like no other show. Most of the series are one episode stories yet I think are all connected in the development of the characters. The story of each individual episode is done perfectly giving a beginning a middle and end with no lose ends. The action is brilliant and I still haven't seen anything to compare to it. Finally we have the last few episodes leading to the ending. I won't give anything away to the people who unfortunately haven't seen this series, just it will blow you away.

Second the characters: Again done perfectly. Each character has their own unique personality who grows as the show goes along. Spike who used to work for Red Dragon crime organization and his haunted by his past. Jet a former police officer who is now working with a criminal, and his haunted by the mistake he made in the past. Faye who awakes from a 54 year cryogenic sleep with no memory of her past, who lives for the moment. Finally Edward a eccentric computer genius, who ran away from her father. Each character brings life to the series and draws you in caring about what happens to each of them.

Third the animation: The animation done by Sunrise is simply brilliant, and is still amazing after 10 years.

Forth the soundtrack: The music to the series is the perhaps the greatest soundtrack to anime series ever. It has a little of everything from Rock, classic, Jazz, Heavy Metal and others. Each adding something extra to the series. I even have the soundtrack to the series

Fifth the Influence: Cowboy Bebop has Influenced many series much like Trigun. Shows like BLACK LAGOON, SAMURAI CHAMPLOO, and others. I think that's a great compliment.

Overall Cowboy Bebop is a perfect anime series and is must to any anime fan.

Sunday, December 3, 2000

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion review

I don't have the time to sit down and write a multi-paragraph review, but I'll state my opinions as briefly as possible. There is no such thing as a series for everyone, but if action, comedy, drama, and a deep plot with many twists and turns sound good to you, you're sure to be one of the many people who love this series. I've seen the whole thing and will attest to the fact that this is the beginning of excellence. To anyone who has seen or read Death Note, this is essentially a combination of that, and a very well done mecha. As for the actual box itself, the dvds include the first 9 episodes of the series, there is the first of two soundtracks to the series (Excellent music also, by the way), the first drama CD, 3 informational books and an art book, not to mention the box itself, which is absolutely stunning. All of this together is an amazing deal, and I highly recommend picking one up. To anyone who does not know what a drama CD is, it is essentially extra back or side stories for the characters told through audio-only, like a radio broadcast of sorts, this adds even mroe depth to the series than already exists, and I love listening to it over and over. As I said earlier, there is no such thing as a series for everyone, but as far as I can tell, this one comes REALLY close, as nobody I've shown it to has disliked it. Happy Watching! :)

Saturday, December 2, 2000

Neon Genesis Eva review

Despite haters of the show, you can't really escape the influence and impact Neon Genesis Evangelion had on the anime world. Hotly debated yet receives just as much love as it does renouncing, if people are first entering the anime field, this is usually picked as a "starter series". While plot is sometimes confusing and characters speak in philosophy speeches at times, it's still a great although slightly overrated show but it's filled with enough memorable aspects that it at least deserves a viewing.

The year is 2015 and humanity's population has been cut in half. Thanks to an event known as "Second Impact", the climate has changed and people in New Tokyo-3 are living in a city built higher than the water levels. Appearing now and then are weird and massive creatures known as "Angels" where conventional weaponry is useless. However organization NERV has created the Evangelions, giant mech robots designed to fight them back. But things aren't as simple as the designated pilots; Shinji Ikari, Asuka Langley Soryru and Rei Ayanami, have to contend with their own personal issues as well as the real reason Second Impact happened and the potential for a Third.

Evangelion is one of those kind of shows where it does tend to stay with you, whether you liked the show or not. There's enough iconic imagery or scenes as well as characters that even 9 years after watching the initial run, I'm amazed at how much of it I remember. In fact, I even understand the show more having seen it a second time. Of course some things are fuzzy and the more philosophical dialogue characters go on sometimes goes over my head but not once do I feel like I'm being intentionally led around because people think confusion equals depth. At least here it's better written and more existential than the animated online comic "Broken Saints". Talk about pretentious.

Is there some issues with the show? Of course. There's a noticeable pattern in some episodes. Angel shows up when characters whine about whatever, angel does something completely surprising and characters do something completely out of left field to save the day. Having characters repeatedly say something is having no effect or no response over and over can get pretty old. Not to mention some characters don't really grow. Asuka is a controlling, egotistical ***** when she starts and she's pretty much the same when she ends as well as Shinji who is basically doing things because others tell him to but would rather just do nothing yet feel praise for doing something. As for episodes 25 and 26, there's been so much hatred for them that while I don't dismiss them since they're actually well-done, I can understand at how some might not like how the series decided to end.

My one gripe with this package is what's not included. The individual sets came with special features such as commentaries. While some might not completely mourn the loss of these, some might feel cheapened that you're not experiencing the completeness of the set, missing out on what others who buy the single editions get. So it all depends on economy and the amount of bonus features you want: lots of stuff included with the episodes or a relatively inexpensive box set compared to buying them separately.

While many other series might be more advanced animation-wise and had longer seasons, not many have had the impact Evangelion has and it's a series that at least everyone interested in anime should watch at least once.


Friday, December 1, 2000

Gankutsuou: Count of Monte Cristo review

Never let it be said that modern anime is particular about where it draws its inspiration. The concept of creating a series based on a novel written in 1844 then setting it in the year 5053 sounds like a far stretch for any production staff and yet somehow, someway Mahiro Maeda (the director of Blue Submarine No. 6) manages to pull it off in Gankutsuou with style. The novel of course is none other than Three-Musketeer's author, Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo (in case you somehow missed this series' title).

Here in the United States, this is a re-release by Funimation of an earlier Geneon DVD release of basically the same name. Side note: Geneon typically labeled the show Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo while Funimation flips the order to The Count of Monte Cristo: Gankutsuou. Other than that the only difference is that rather than spreading the 24 episodes across six discs, Funimation manages to do it in four (packaged in a pair of beautiful thin packs within a subtle cardboard outer case). The source material comes to us via the brilliant minds of Japanese anime studio Gonzo; who themselves bring a long list of unique, thought-provoking titles to the table (such as their 2007 anime adaptation of Romeo and Juliet).

This set, as has been the trend of late, contains virtually no extras to speak of although the language options are thorough (English dub and original Japanese with or without English subtitles).

The story is setup to appeal to fans of the original work and those with no prior exposure alike as it retains all of the key plot points but adds a few new elements and tells it from a totally different perspective (kind of like what John Gardener's novel Grendel does to the classic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf).

The Count of Monte Cristo: Gankutsuou tells the epic tale of a wrongfully accused man's intricate plot of exacting revenge through the relatable doings of a fifteen-year-old aristocrat from Paris named Albert (pronounced "al-bear" in homage to the French author's original motif). As stated above, the show goes to great lengths to establish an atmosphere stunningly reminiscent of 19th century France while integrating just enough technology to remind the viewer that this is, in fact, the future- and the very distant future at that.

Pacing is deliberately slow and thorough and really compliments that rather dry-nature of the source material. However, while this may be viewed as a negative with some shows, Gankutsuou turns the story telling element into an art form in and of itself. This is adult anime and not because of the usual pitfalls that eliminate younger viewers from the equation. Rather than sexual references, violence and language, Gankutsuou can be called mature on account of its sophistication and mood-appropriate visuals.

In fact it is nearly impossible to find a review of the show that doesn't trip all over itself in praise for the artistic vision and unique animation style. The best way to describe it is imagine near photo-realistic textures layered behind transparent character models. If that sounds odd to you, rest assured, it is but somehow it works. What makes the visuals so unique is that the textures are static, meaning they don't move even when the character boasting them does. It's one of those traits so unique that you may go as far as to label it distracting early on yet it manages to become subdued as the viewer loses himself in the ever-thickening plot. Even by the later episodes there are a few ugly examples of where texture-overloaded scenes come off as overly busy or muddled but as a whole, the source material literally benefits from this unique art style.

If there were a single complaint worth mentioning about the show it would have to be the simple reality that this isn't run of the mill anime by any sense of the word. It's pretty difficult to place the show into a genre in fact. The story is, quite frankly, unlike any other seen in modern anime, which I suppose is to be expected when you remember that this is classic literature in animated form. Viewers expecting scantly clad women, characters with abnormally large and watery eyes, or slapstick of any kind need not apply. Being that the setting does take place in the distant future, there are a few robotic fight scenes (duels that wouldn't look out of place in Escaflowne) and some pretty cool space travel concepts.

As a whole, though, it would be easy for viewers with a short attention span to become bored. There's a steady and reliable flow to the plot that requires patience and a bit of maturity (or at the very least, an appreciation for fine culture).

When directly compared to the original novel, some may scoff at the fact that there is a slight supernatural angle that acts as the backdrop here. Without revealing too much of the actual mystery presented within, let me just comment on the character of Edmond Dantes allowing an insalubrious entity (Gankutsuou) possession of his body so as to escape imprisonment and to realize his ambitions of revenge. A fan of the original work, it is a bit disappointing personally to note that Edmond's creativity in escaping his prison was omitted here. Worse still is that while the original can be viewed essentially as a cautionary tale in the dangers of allowing vengeance to overtake one's life, here the metaphor is perhaps taken a bit too literally. Otherwise, and especially true for those not tied to the beauty of the original work, the supernatural elements do go a long way in adding intrigue and creepiness to the formula.

The show's music score is not only hauntingly appropriate; it's at times, dare I say, catchy (especially the opening theme which is about as unique as they come). Throughout are rich piano scores and solid symphonic pieces.

In all, Gankutsuou: the Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most unique properties of all time to grace anime ideology. With a timeless story, unique art style, and underlining themes that nearly anyone can benefit from in their own lives, Gankutsuou reminds us all that modern art is far from dead; if even only the result of rejuvenating the classics as the case may be.