A Note on Anime Reviews

Review: C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

Genres: action, drama, mystery, psychological, science fiction, supernatural, thriller

C - Control

Plot Summary: Kimimaro is a scholarship student whose only dream is to avoid all this and live a stable life as a civil servant. One day, however, he meets a man who offers him the chance to make money fast. From then on Kimimaro is drawn into a mysterious realm known as “The Financial District,” where people engage in supernatural battles for the possibility of money. He discovers the financial problems of his country is in part due to Midas money and must do something before all of his friend’s futures are lost.

Story – 4.1

     Ah yes, Control is one uniquely twisted series. From beginning to end nothing is quite reality like it can be with a little Midas. My first glimpse into this alternate reality was rather strange: A seemingly content man named Kimimaro Yoga is struggling to go through life. All he wants is to have a set job, a wife and some kids. So when a strange man named Masakaki shows outside his house offering free money at the cost of his life as collateral, our hero at first denies him. But, seeing the seemingly love of his life Hanabi with another man eating at our hero, he decides to use what is called the Financial District to ensure his future. I liked the premise that the financial district is an alternate universe where time does not move. At first I was a little confused, but as the show progresses we find that the reason it doesn’t move really has to do with the shifts in reality. Money, and what it is used for, is a healthy topic throughout the series.. Even the Deals, fights against other Entrepreneurs called Entres, are aided by “Assets” , the future embodiment of the Entre, which use in turn economic terms for ways to hurting the economy of your foe. All this talk might come across pretty quickly at times, but that might be more because the show itself is only 11 episodes long, which does prove somewhat problematic for C – Control.

     However, despite this I believe the show found a pretty strong leg when we start to explore the person that is Mysu (or Myshu in the dub), Kimimaro’s Asset. I think around that time C – Control found its legs and proceeded to produce some of the best anime in recent times. You see, not only are the assets the future embodiment of the Entre, but in some cases may actually be people who’s future was denied. The more Kimimaro learns about his Asset, the more he sees her as a valuable friend and seeks to protect her. I won’t spoil what that realizes itself into, but suffice to say these are some awesome points in the show for sure.

   Before I delve further, there are some deviance I must deal with. While the show is limited in use of vulgar words and any blood in the battles just black Midas money pouring out, there is a scene where a certain detective you like named Jennifer is randomly chosen at the beginning of an episode to be seen in her shower naked. It is unfortunate that she is exposed on her upper body. Perhaps that was the way to let the viewer know Kimimaro wasn’t gonna find an interest in her or whatever…either way it was not consistent with the rest of the series and was done just for the sake of fan-service. C – Control will be dinged for this violation of morality.

   Now heading back to the story, we are introduced to a man named Souichirou Mikuni who curiously comes to Kimimaro’s aid at the first Deal, and tries to recruit him into his guild. Mikuni believes that the negative effects of C can be overridden by every member ending a Deal with the smallest of differences in money. Kimimaro is still unsure of himself, but is pushed to the guild’s side when he has to fight his school teacher. The subsequent defeat of the man ends up being so destructive when our hero sees the bankruptcy of the teacher loses him everything as even the teacher’s children themselves are removed from existence. I liked where the conversation went from here, and how Kimimaro struggles to find the answer to what he should be doing. While he doesn’t want to be absorbed into being all about Midas money, he can’t help but see the inherent destruction it causes as he learns even his father was a former Entre.

     I liked the shock and desperation that Kimimaro finds himself in, and as he seeks council his uncertainty continues to push him farther down the philosophical path. Yes, the Financial District is a lovely death pit, but at this point there is nothing that can be done about that. Instead, Kimimaro must find a way to keep his future and the people he loves to exist before they all vanish from the effects of C. I especially was intrigued and appreciated at the healthy view the show puts on money. Its not that money is inherently bad, but rather the use of the Midas money, since it has no real life value save what the confidence is in the currency, is desecrating people’s lives and futures by people trying to steal or otherwise stop the inevitable from happening.

    At one point, our Hero faces a strange man who thinks he can stop the bad C effect by just using his money to give to the people. This firm desire to live in the present without regard to the future is repugnant to Kimimaro’s friend Mikuni, who feels that the man’s inheritance has blinded him to the reality that not everyone is ok with where they are or wants to just receive handouts forever. The proceeding conversation takes place while we are intrigued by another intellectual facet of C, in that Myshu is beginning to find interest in this Entre of hers and the Ramen that he so enjoys. The amount of impact Myshu has on our hero is impeccably awesome, and I believe the discussions combined with the financial perplexities of today’s world, really felt like the show handled it very well. Ultimately the answer is not in maintaining the present nor stealing the future from others to keep yours. Kimimaro realizes that everyone deserves their own future, and living a life without one is not the right path to take.

     Fortunately for Kimimaro, there is an organization called the International Monetary Fund who wish to stop the effects of C entirely. While it does takes some time for Kimimaro to decide to fully support them, their representative and detective Jennifer proves to be a help in our hero’s journey to find what is truth. Especially since her mutual informant provides Kimimaro with enough dirt on what Mikuni is really up to. Mikuni’s desire to keep the present for himself and his coma-induced sister is really unfeeling to the masses by which he crushes…our hero can’t do that and so fights against both the guild he joined and C itself. Just some great intellectual fodder to soak up, for sure.

    The final showdown between Kimimaro and Mikuni was great. Not only at this point are both sides at an impasse because of Mikuni’s desperation, but the future of Japan is at stake. You see, there are other countries that also use Midas Currency, and this has added a squeeze on Japanese enterprises, and Mikuni acted fast to save Japan from what he thought was going to destroy the present. What he has chosen is much worse, and I believe the real strength to the show. You see, there is this special black card that allows you to directly borrow from the Financial District. The problem is when you borrow from there, the loan is at the cost of your life. Worse, at stupendous amounts as Mikuni does rashly is actually taking collateral the future of Japan itself! So what Mikuni thinks is maintaining his future is destroying the future of everyone else. Such disastor spurs on our Hero and the fierce fight that ensues is nothing short of fun to watch.

  And then, there’s the finale of C – Control. I did mention the show was only 11 episodes, and I feel this is where the biggest impact on the show is affected. You see, after Kimimaro stops Mikuni from completely destroying Japans future just to keep his own version of the present. We are treated to the aftermath of everything by the realization that the show didn’t know quite how to end it. Its kinda sad to some degree since nothing that happened really meant anything. Sure, Japan’s future was saved and Midas money deleted from its control on the country, but the next generation can be seduced into the possibilities of Midas money. So how much did Kimimaro really do? He does give a future to his Asset Myshu in the real world (I won’t spoil it by telling), but to what point? The problem was only delayed for the time being, and we are briefly introduced to Masakaki who tries to declare all of this toying with people’s future was to help man come together for one purpose…what? Umm..that doesn’t really pass the smell test….

   I don’t want to seem too harsh, because the bittersweet nature of Kimimaro’s victory in being forgotten by his friend Hanabi and having no one around who remembers him for the time being was great. Its a perfect fit to the show since we get to see how much Midas had been effecting life. But for C – Control to attempt to convince us that the system itself is an angelic idea is ludicrous. Its a devilish scheme that needs to be put to rest…..at least Kimimaro will have the option to enter the Financial District again. And for one thing, any change in the future he will know right away.

     Call it what you may, but C – Control really was aimed at getting the discussion going. That the ending was a wee bit extreme is ok. That individual liberty is hailed as good and that the attempt to bail out people with the future of other people’s lives is shown logically as being foolish if not destructive is fantastic. There is another focal point to C, and that regards the proper way of what it means to fight for the right thing, but I will delay that to the emotional section.


Emotional Draw – 4.0

   First, C – Control has a problem with just being 11 episodes long. This doesn’t mean it didn’t develop well, but at times scenes felt a wee bit rushed. I thought the humor in the show was rushed half the time, instead of building up the character Kimimaro, but as we see later in the series this is because the show really isn’t precisely about Kimimaro but the main characters in the show. While I was a first a little conflicted by this way of story telling, it works out well overall as its really adds to the sadness of seeing our friends being destroyed slowly since the characters were developed before the actual episode of their demise or trouble.

     Now relating to the development of the characters, there is this really sweet scene where Kimimaro is in the eating section of the Financial District. He’s had a little success and he sees an Entre who is trying to mockingly force-feed his Asset food. See, Assets usually don’t eat food, so Kimimaro’s Myshu eating soup has gotten on the nerves of some of the riff raff. Kimimaro hasn’t yet decided where he is at, and he steps out and finally finds what his aim is with Midas money. He goes back and clocks the jerk in the jaw for the comment. The proceeding scene sees a beat up man who explains to his incredulous Asset how he has decided to stop standing in the middle of things. What I found so powerful was Kimimaro’s explanation that the reason he went back and gave that jerk a smack was because while he wasn’t sure what was right, leaving the scene thinking about it made him feel guilty and thus something he shouldn’t avoid defending. This amazing kindness to Myshu is part of what makes her really start to like and respect Kimimaro and just brings the show into a new level of greatness. Honestly my reader, this decision regarding the jerk really is telling of what makes a true hero. Its easy to equate justice as fighting against a clear enemy, but it takes a true gentleman and lady to stand up for what is right even at the risk of harm to oneself. Sure, heroes and heroines don’t always have the answers for things, but it is listening to their conscience that reminds us of the perfection that God gave us so that no one can feign ignorance of what is just and injust. At this point in the show, there is a lot of respect for Kimimaro since you can be sure he will always follow his true heart and do the right thing. Sweet and powerful look into what it means to be just after all.

     Kimimaro learns at episode 3 that his father was in it for the money…and then later the possible connection of Myshu and himself..so why wasn’t this developed more? I felt like this personal story of C – Control should have been explored more if not for the limitation 11 episodes inherently forces. A real shame since it was pretty good. Speaking of Myshu, the romancing in this story itself also felt a little rushed early, but halfway into the show it is very sweet. When Myshu asks Kimimaro what a kiss is, and what it means to be in love, those scenes were just flat out sweet. Especially when Myshu claims she likes him 30x as before and demands a kiss, that was such a sweet scene as Kimimaro kisses her forehead. Perhaps the term “ahh!!” is in order? So it is a little regrettable that the ending leaves a ton of questions. Yeah, the bitter-sweetness of this is perfect, but a part of me wanted to know what exactly Myshu would manifest her future with.

   As for any other favorite scenes, i would have to include the first time Myshu got to eat Ramen and the first time she asks Kimimaro what it meant to kiss and love someone. Those scenes really bring out the respectability of our hero and established the affectionate interest the viewer is supposed to have for Myshu.


Characters – 4.86

Kimimaro thinking well, Why dont you kiss me - MyshuKimimaro Yoga – 4.9

More of your average joe, this college student is forced into a life of wagers where the next Deal can mean bankruptcy if your not careful….the consequences which are worse than death. Kimimaro steps well into the role as hero in this story and his commitment to those around him is unwavering throughout the show.  Todd Haberkorn, who is well known from his Natsu performance in Fairy Tail, lends his talent to the screen. I thought he did as usual an excellent job with Mr. Yoga, and nailed the scenes well with his Asset Myshu.

Myshu and Ramen! Myshu at her cutestMyshu – 5.0

An asset to the Entre Kimimaro, she has a hard time understand why her master is so concerned over her. However, with Ramen as the first step, she begins to develop affections for her kind Entre as she learns what it means to be a human and is quite the fire magician with her abilities. Cute and confident, Myshu will be sure to gain your interest in her fast. Brina Palencia did an excellent job on her character throughout the series. She nailed her spots very well. I still laugh over the “what’s a kiss?” scene.

Mikuni fighting Mikuni the bad guy Sōichirō Mikuni -5.0

The man behind the large Midas expenditure in Japan, he uses his ill-gotten gain to try to keep the present to stay the way it is. A worthy opponent for Kimimaro, I thought J. Michael Tatum’s performance is as classy as he’s always since my early days of hearing his performance in Legend of the Legendary Heroes. Just keep your affection at a distance ladies, he’s quite the suprise villain in this series.

Jennifer in her glassesJenniferJennifer Sato -4.4

 Martha Harms does an excellent job on Jennifer. Without a doubt the acting in this series was great, and Martha is no exception. I kinda wished for more of her, but I liked her ending performance in the last episode and felt her sadness very convincing. Jennifer is a secret agent for the International Monetary Fund, committed to ridding themselves of Midas influence in Japan. She is usually seen eating some kind of candy or food and wearing some cool shades. Just don’t get in her way, her Asset will smack you in a heartbeat.

Masakaki at his creepiest Masakaki the weirdoMasakaki – 5.0

The personification of villainhood, this mysterious man is one of the few things that runs the Financial District. He is accentric and twisted as they come, and is certain to get on your nerves. I thought Scott Freeman sounded much like the crazy man that is Masakaki. Kudos to the C – Control series for their excellent casting.


Creativity – 4.3

     The artistry in C – Control is spotty throughout the first half. It seems the budget was lacking in money. “cough” “cough”. Whatever its reasons, it did take getting used to some of the scenes since the sound would cut off too soon before the next important scene would show up. In fact, in one episode a casual walk along a walkway with other people saw only the people’s frames drawn in and the rest of it was CGI…it was really awkward since the motions were basically just lowering the people up and down. There were other scenes I think in the same episode where half of the scenes where Kimimaro’s frame itself was CGI. Oops. Despite the high irony of the early lack of funding, C- Control got enough interest from its complicated story and fixed many of these issues by the end of the series.

     I thought the drawings were very harshly pointed for some the characters compared to the manga, especially for Mysu, but that is probably just preference in the end. The Financial District itself was nice to look at as well as the various city looks as things would change, that was nice to see the small touches in drawing the buildings. As for the way the Financial District ran, I liked the idea of the Midas money being appropriately black to the Entre’s only as well as the special black card that allows the user to borrow money against the life of the buyer. That was an extra cool feature that further pushed the near morbid nature the show presented throughout.

   Opening song is  “Matryoshka” (マトリョーシカ Matoryōshika) by Nico Touches the Walls and the ending theme is “RPG” by School Food Punishment. I liked the music throughout the series and especially any of the fight scenes. That “hey! “breath” Hey!” repeating sound during the most intense parts of the battles just made the experience really fun. A great vocal is showcased at various places called Antiphona. As well as an ending song named High Heel Shoes in Pink, that sounds so reminiscent. In fact, I would highly suggest getting the OST for the show, it really was a complete experience throughout.


Grade Overall4.21

(C – Control is actually a really well-thought series. It is unfortunate that it only had 11 episodes to cram all that awesomeness inside it, and so loses part of the glamor that the story really deserved. Definitely worth a watch)

Extra Pictures!!!

Mikuni curious Mikuni with some emotion! Myshu looking adorable Mikuni

Review: Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy

Genres: comedy, drama, romance, supernatural

Head Scene

Plot Summary: One year after goddess Belldandy emerged from Keiichi Morisato’s mirror and promised to stay with him forever, a new threat to their happiness emerges, one that could end the contract between Belldandy and Keiichi.

Story2.5

      Progressing from the first season, Ah! My Goddess hits off rather well. I must say, that the plots got better and more engrossing until the end, and the show was very well put. As we travel along Keiichi’s path to telling Belldandy his feelings, we have all kinds of silly and purely entertaining episodes. I think if you just saw the show in pieces and never knew what you were watching really, that this season would be very enjoyable. It is fun, but one can’t ignore its flagrant violation: Namely, that Keiichi doesn’t want or desire to confirm his love for Belldandy via an ‘eternal’ union of marriage.  The first season had us seeing Keiichi finally admit that he likes Belldandy. The second season however, in the first 5 episodes or so, goes on an arch about the bigger picture and how Keiichi and Belldandy need that permanent contract of love. In fact, you’ll find the rest of the episodes hint towards this as things get more unstable with Belldandy. Even the Earth Goddess’ appearance seems to confirm for Keiichi the grave need for him to find a more permanent approach with Belldandy as well as answer what his true intentions are.

     First we start with Keiichi coming on a high after the Lord of Terror fiasco, until he is told that the contract between him and Belldandy have been lost in all the mess. Right here the show has an excellent opportunity for Keiichi to progress from the first season, and with Urd very sweetly sacrificing her freedom to put back the information in the system, it certainly felt like a romantic’s dreams. In the very next episode we  even see a Christmas scene where Keiichi wants to cement the relationship via a ring…romantic, and can this be? An engagement!?! Umm…no. instead, more wishy washy “let’s stay together and just be more than friends”. Sure, its technically not the “friends-with-benefits” package, but that’s only because Keiichi is genuinely an honorable man. What happened to the awesome, grown-up version of Keiichi from the first couple episodes? Completely forgotten.

     Instead, since the show cannot answer what love really means here, we are all treated with a distraction by another goddess named Peorth, the Earth Goddess, who appears to offer Keiichi the physical need he is wanting. In fact, Peorth is under the impression that Keiichi entered into the contract for this purpose. Wait a minute, your asking. I thought Keiichi was an honorable man? He is, and part of being a man means getting married and having children. The fact that there exists fr Keiichi this need for the ultimate expression of love, further alienates the story from where the rest of the series takes us. Don’t get me wrong, the naiveness of Keiichi is hilarious whenever its presented, but from a story stand point you get this sinking feeling as if Keiichi has not matured much at all. He has gotten it in his head that being in a bath tub with Urd is a bad idea or that Peorth, like Urd was in the first season, is trying to catch his love through food/drink. But aside from this, Keiichi is no closer than a middle school kid to expressing his commitment to the person he likes. Its depressing.

     Around mid-story, we do have an interesting change in Belldandy. For the first time Belldandy is jealous with all the other goddesses going after Keiichi’s affection (took her long enough), and the resulting emotions is quite shocking and a pleasant twist to things. Because the contract is sorta of in a limbo of sorts, Belldandy recognizes that their time together may be much shorter than she was expecting, and this shortness is causing her to doubt herself to being fully capable of pleasing Keiichi as she desires to. All of this confusion adds another facet to the scene, namely that Belldandy is slowly turning into a demon from all of this. For the first time also, everyone else aside from Urd begin to worry a bit about Belldandy’s feelings and are concerned at Keiichi’s unwillingness to commit to a full relationship, and that felt reasonable. If only those thoughts would remain consistent throughout the series. Alas, it seems that the show can only establish how much the goddesses are trying to hook up with Keiichi throughout the series (save Skuld of course), and we’ve already seen this a thousand times.

     Having said all this, Flights of Fancy didn’t completely forget its roots, and presents a minor and major arc that really was impressive. Skuld has been pining away since her magical ability isn’t ready for her own little angel, and through some great scenes with bikes and a first love, Skuld’s magical powers get awoken and she is able to call her own little angel. The arc was very satisfying and really showcased how much fun Skuld is aside from her robots always blasting Keiichi, of course. The major arc is much more involving and we got to see more of our favorite trouble maker Urd encountering a former lover of hers. Yes, the arc is complete with Keiichi having to run for his life from a jealous Angel and in part from Marller, the local demon hack, Urd’s personality is split into her two races (well, angel and demon). What transpires is messy good fun with some actual drama since the Demon Queen Hild has come again this time for Keiichi.

      From Goddesses to Demons, you’ll find what Hild brings is pretty nifty with that alternate reality she has magically imposed onto Keiichi. Unlike the other try-hards, Hild has altered Keiichi’s past (and no, we aren’t really to question the validity of this all) and made it near impossible for Belldandy to get him back. The frustration and despair was pretty deep for the series, and I thought good fodder to hopefully enhance the relationship between man and goddess. Safety in trust, safety in commitments, we all seek this. Life is turbulent enough as it is, and Belldandy is forced to despair ever having any kind of relationship with Keiichi and even potentially becoming a Demon from this all. It’s really quite satisfying to see the actual plot thicken and the way Keiichi is able to free himself from Hild’s attempt at changing memories. If only the series had truly desired this.

     Everyone wants safety in friendships. However, Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy seems content on resting in a “its-fine-to-live-with-you-but-never-ask-you-to-marry-me” kind of nonsense. The words “I love you” then are put into deep question to their validity and in short leaves you irritated that Keiichi doesn’t want to get serious. If a ring means nothing, if going to the ends of the earth to speak to come back to Belldandy isn’t enough to say yes and at least get engaged, I don’t know what is. This kind of half-baked maturity of Keiichi just leaves the ashes in your mouth throughout the whole season, despite the great content since you know its all in vain. Such disregard to the feelings of the viewers gets this awesome show a huge ding in its ratings. If you are clueless to love, then I think you’ll find this story very amusing. Otherwise, like me, you will be very frustrated that Keiichi just repeats season 1.


Emotional Draw – 3.5

     Flights of Fancy is even funnier than the former season, and that was a high order to pass up. All the usual gags and misadventures of Keiichi return with an even cleaner delivery, from love potions to Christmas parties gone afoul to an sensuous earth goddess who tries constantly to feed tainted food to a wary Keiichi. Certainly, the episode where Urd, Peorth, and Skuld mix that potion that backfires on them was really funny. I laughed so much at the predictability of the scenes as Keiichi is trying his best to avoid the inevitable.. It was classic stuff. If only I wasn’t so bothered by the misdirection of the first few episodes, I would have enjoyed the series a lot more.

     Still, Skuld gets herself a lot of laughs trying to ride a bicycle and the boy who helps her.  Even if the romancing was on a childish level, no parent could not help but break a smile watching it all come out or when she is attempting to get her little angel, it was fantastic. And boy, was the angel episodes so cute the way Skuld was discovering her emotions…it felt like you were with her on her journey to growing up a little..  And….speaking of romantic elements…well, a crash and burn with more bright moments. And its not because the romancing wasn’t on, it surely was. But if we are talking about Keiichi and Belldandy, well you know what I think. What still earns a well done is Urd’s romantic adventure with her former boyfriend. That arc was so funny but also very touching as Urd starts to remember who the nice Angel she’d had dated for some time. The music, sure it was corny, but it felt right at home here in Ah! My Goddess! And hey, a few bugs on Keiichi never hurt to laugh at either.

     Some of my favorite scenes include when Urd makes a potion designed to help Keiichi get through his attempt to say he loves Belldandy (big whoop at this point), but Peorth messes with the brew causing it to go horribly wrong, and Keiichi is forced to to run for his life. “Don’t you care about my feelings?”, “I can’t do anything about your feelings!!” Ah….those two phrases bring back a lot of laughs, as will you through this show.


Characters – 4.17

Keiichi almost grownup KeiichiKeiichi – 3.5

     Keiichi is mainly solid throughout the series. However, because of the lack of character growth, your investment in him is held back unnecessarily and I felt impacted his character. You’ll definitely get to see some of the grownup outlook he has early on in the series, so why the shift backwards I will never understand. Drew Aaron, the English Cast member, performs well enough with this character again, nailing a lot of the tender scenes that Flights of Fancy is spoiled with. However the lack of character growth stymies the performance a lot.

Belldandy being concerned Belldandy the naive. xDBelldandy – 3.4

     Now here’s a character that has no soul, and yet is able to produce tender scenes with some magnitude as the series progresses. Some of this might be Eileen Stevens‘ fault in the Dubbed version, but I believe you will find this Belldandy much more believable as she begins to unwrap her feelings and convictions towards Keiichi. Just wish that she went all the way…

Urd the AwesomeUrd – 4.9Urd's BF

     A classic half demon and half angel, Vibe Jones sails with flying colors once again in this series. Arguably your favorite goddess, she’s always into something regarding Keiichi and I really liked how her sense of responsibility is gradually being developed in the series. Sure, Urd never forgets herself, but what a great performance with the romancing scenes…kudos to Miss Jones, who is a relative unknown actress in acting…a shame really.

Hild the Devil Hild the girlHild – 4.5

     Just when you thought the series couldn’t get any more crazy, Hild has to barge in a ruion everyone’s parade. Her rather strange behavior all stems in her desire to get to know the goddess she had born, I felt that Hild’s character showcased much more of her power in this series than prior. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, who many know as Tsunade in the Naruto franchise does an excellent performance on Hild and I believe nailed the spots in her role wonderfully.

Peorth the funny weirdo Peorth the incorrigablePeorth – 4.1

     Eccentric, and all about the earthly passions of men that she represents, Peorth was quite the odd one. Her character warms up well with Keiichi and she’s always trying to seduce him humorously with what she believes was a genuine request from Keiichi, even if he doesn’t separate the boundaries well enough. Juliet Cesario does a great job on Peorth, which is great considering her career in acting has only just gotten started.

Skuld and her Angel Skuld the YoungSkuld – 4.6

The little kid that could, I must say that this series I really warmed up to her performance. It probably helps she had several episodes all about her, but I believe Annice Moriarty took advantage of her role rather well.


Creativity – 4.3

     The scenery in Ah! My Goddess! Flights of Fancy are quite well done. There are a lot of beautiful scenes to go with the poor story progression that is quite lovaly to look at. As usual, the goddesses have this pointed face to themselves (aside from Skuld), but I liked the drawing style and thought it fit well. Music was about the same as previous, and that is acceptable enough. As far as the ending goes, I really liked the different child memories we are taken too, and the different facets of Keiichi we get to see, it really helped make the romancing of Keiichi and Belldandy work well.  SO WHY DIDN’T THEY COMPLETE THE STORY….sigh…oh well.

Grade Overall –

Overall Score3.41

(Ah! My Goddess! Flights of Fancy fails to really capture the essence of the series not so much in its gags, but not in progressing the story. And this lack of attention to the story cripples the series and never lets it reach the heights that Ah! My Goddes! really deserves to reach.)

Review: Steins;Gate OVA

steinsgatefavSteins;Gate OVA Dr Pepper

Story – 5.0

Starting after the events of the series, the OVA is basically a way of tying up loose ends. Lets face it, the chance meeting of Kurisu isn’t enough for the avid fan, you gotta see them get together!

One thing I appreciate the creators of Steins;Gate is that they took the time to nail it. Instead of a rushed TV schedule, the creators were able to take all the time they needed for the OVA, and that’s something every good show knows to do.

I think the real advantage of the episode is its redeeming value for viewers. Okabe gets to show how much he has matured, and there is a general consensus that the two of them are destined for one another.

The conclusion is supremely satisfactory and I think when you consider the OVA, Steins;Gate comes off as the best piece of Anime to come out in recent memory…or ever I’d wager.

We start with Okabe back in Japan. He’s met Kurisu, but sadly enough nothing really came of it besides becoming good friends. The arc is around going to see her in Los Angeles for a science conference, but more importantly regarding the side effects of changing world lines.

If you recall, there are some memories that can be remembered by people so long as they are put in a position or thought that was very important to the former World Line. I really appreciate this view of the timeline, as it acknowledges the other world lines were real, so unlike other time travel adventures this leads to an unparalleled satisfactory ending.

Some of the side things, like meeting Suzuha’s mom was pretty cool, as well as further explaining the Steins;Gate effect. While I don’t want to get in the way of my next section, you can be assured the OVA plays out like the other episode, if not more masterful and tactful then ever (is that possible?).

Highly recommended.

Emotional Draw – 5.0

If you liked the previous romantic scenes from previous series, prepared to be dazzled!
Whether its seeing Kurisu dressed up for the Maid Cafe (the interaction with Okabe was classic stuff) or when everyone stays at the dusty hotel overlooking the desert, the emotions come of fantastically.

My favorite scene, as hard as it was to choose, is when Okabe tells Kurisu he’s madly in love with her, but asks how she feels about him. “that’s….not fair…” was the quote of the century the way it came out. It was so easy to put yourself in her shoes (obviously, being a man I can empathize with her embarrassment, limited as I am regarding the fair sex).

Another thing I noticed throughout the series and especially in the OVA, is how natural and real all the lines were, and how much the characters have depth to them. Your interest in them isn’t fazed by any glaring moral depravity, or character that is unfit for a man or woman of character. You can imagine your right there, as if you are one of them, if need be, which is exactly what plays are supposed to do.

Seeing Kurisu have her memory jogged by Okabe as he explains why she has those memories of other world-lines was done very sweetly, and is sure to bring a smile on your face.

But did I mention the ending was downright epic? instead of trying to make up a great moment, Steins;Gate has Kurisu’s answer of how she feels about Okabe, fall clearly on recent memory of her first kiss. Familiarity is comfort, and also makes sense to capture the most captivating moment in the series.
And like a true masterpiece, you don’t even need to see them lock lips, it’s just that good. Instead, as comforting and exciting as can be, all you need to hear is her say “close your eyes.” to melt with the emotions…..

Yeah, definitely not cheap Soap Opera… 😀

Characters – 5.0

Okabe in the Desert Okabe & Kurisu talkingOkabe – 5.0
As classic as ever, Okabe also shows he’s matured a lot. I think that played a lot in making the romance seem that more real, as his foundation is quite adequate for a relationship, and marriage (the union between the sexes).
Solid performance for a solid show.

Kurisu 'not fair' Kurisu Okabe spatKurisu Makise – 5.0

The English performance by Jackie was brilliant. So many great lines where her voice hit the mark, and of course an easy character to like. I love how the lines also felt as if you were peering into our Heroine’s soul.
And if you thought her performance was pretty good, the ending knocks your socks off!

Creativity – 4.9

While not branching far from Steins;Gate in terms of music, it’s still an excellent production. Especially in any of the sensitive scenes, the music was spot on and helped push the mood, which was great.

Artistically speaking, Steins;Gate is simplistically solvent, but the OVA gets to add a few great scenes, like that Highway or lone diner Okabe ends up at. And in particular appreciation the last scene was done as tenderly as you could ask for, with the fading sun in the distance for that added depth of emotion.

Final Grade – 4.98

(exactly what any fan of Steins;Gate would want and a superb example of what all Romances should be like. Real, Fresh, Redeeming, and just superfluous)

Review: Steins;Gate

Genres – action, adventure, comedy, horror, supernatural

Steins;Gate Cover 2

Plot Summary: Rintaro Okabe is a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” who believes that an international scientific organization named SERN is conspiring to reshape the world according to its own interests. He and his friend Itaru Hashida inadvertently create a gadget able to send messages to the past. The discovery and experimentation of this instrument become the catalyst of fundamental alterations to the present. Okabe is the only one aware of these changes because he possesses a Reading Steiner, the ability to retain the memories from previous experienced timelines. Oblivious of the consequences of their actions, Rintaro and his friends end up creating modifications of grievous proportions. He must then try to find a way to return as close as possible to the original timeline in order to save his precious lab partners.

Story -4.95

Steins;Gate is one amazing show. You have a great set of characters, who progress definitely, with an ever spiraling doom scenario for our Hero to figure out. The Psychological turns that an impending and unavoidable death comes with, with one of the best romances Anime has ever produced!

Steins; Gate has it all: the wit, humor, action, suspense, a fantastic romance, you name it; The show begins by seeing a near schizophrenic scientist name Rintaro Okabe inventing time travel using a simple microwave. Although his contraption fails to fully explain itself to our Hero at first, Okabe uses the opportunity to change events in the name of an alter ego he calls Hououin Kyouma.

Here is where the brilliance and splendor of Steins;Gate begins to unfold. As Okabe attracts lab members to his seemingly frivolous experiments beginning with Kurisu, he offers them one wish that he makes true using D-Mail (the ability to send information in the past via electronic messages). What he doesn’t know is that he has shifted the present to what is known as the Alpha Track, and dooms his friends to grisly deaths. So poor Okabe spends the rest of the show trying to get to the Beta line to undo his mistakes since he has a rare gift called Reading Steiner. I thought Reading Steiner was actually well thought out and allowed you to feel satisfied with the ending. But as to the changes Okabe has made, devilish twist that is! A nasty event happens which only Okabe is able to stop, but it seems like Alpha track will not let our hero escape its fate.

This Time Travel idea is the best one I’ve ever come across of. In a timeline you have many different lives that all collide in what is called a Alpha Track. This collision is kinda of like the main point in a story, so no matter how you differ some of the lesser events, it will not change the main timeline. So unless you find what those major events were, you cannot escape destiny. While this is a largely simplified version the show tells us, I believe you’ll find this is rather close to what time-travel would really be like if God allowed us to do so.

(Spoiler Alert) :

Seeing Muyari die over and over was really dark, and it drags you to deeper levels each time poor Okabe has to reappear at the same spot and listen to the same things in his house. As the writer knew, it’s not about the big bad ugly things that scare you, its the tiny, repetitious, and unavoidable things that do.

I must say, on a psychological point, this part of the show is a tear jerker. Even the little things like a god-father watch clock stopping just before Mayuri’s death gets very creepy. Such twists and turns might rip apart a normal show, but Steins;Gate shows no fear as it keeps everything together.

For all of our train wrecks in the form of wishes have an excellent point to them with Okabe around. Because our Heroe’s progression sees Okabe turn into a great and honorable character. He throws his power to help each of his friends, and when he must return to the Alpha Track, Okabe never forces any of his lab mates into giving up their desires. I think this loyalty and splendid honor of his is what makes all the wishes so powerful. Especially since they do cover some great points.

Ruka is quite the topic. First, I do agree with Okabe’s decisions in this huge arc. And second, I appreciate when Ruka’s is asked if he likes Okabe, he gives the honest answer of “well, I do respect you”. That it is really truth. For Ruka cannot love Okabe in the romantic sense, for he is not able to do so with any other outside of a woman. Why this comment? It is crucial you see. While it’s a high shame Steins;Gate does not see Ruka find peace, the story really isn’t about him. Its about Okabe. This parable is simply something that further shapes Okabe to not be concerned with how others think, but rather whether its the right thing to do. Because we all are humans and prone to weakness.

As it turns out, Ruka is not happy either a girl or boy. As the story plays out, it becomes clear that Ruka is his own source of misery, and the only one to blame for his problem. As it says in Proverbs, he who compares himself with others is not wise. I mean, Ruka isn’t exactly surrounded by the essence of manliness. He’s got a tall and skinny Okabe, and a short and fat Itaru as his comparisons, so what gives? Worse then all this is the fact that Ruka insists on wearing girl’s clothes, with a feminine hairstyle perfected by that flower, and yet insists on complaining to Okabe, upon first meeting him, about how people keep thinking he’s a girl…

Well duh, man…And even when he does become a girl, Ruka finds his lack of feminine physique to be a source of frusteration…in other words, we find that Ruka is always unhappy with how he is made and dresses like a girl to make up for that. Yet, as Okabe sees, we often think we know what is best, but God in the end is always right. Ruka’s disgust at having a wimpy body (he’s barely 15. sheesh.) and, ultimately, anger at his Creator spirals him into a never ending cesspool of misery and is exactly what causes his horrid self-deprication.

To our Hero’s credit and to the viewer’s liking, Okabe wisely tells Ruka that it isn’t about Gender. Okabe wasn’t his friend because he was a boy or girl, or even looked like either. Instead, it was because Okabe was interested in his soul as a friend. His encouragement of Ruka to be proud of who he is, only to have it fall on remorsefully deaf ears, was a very sweet and yet sad moment. Okabe’s response was the driving nail to cementing my respect of Steins;Gate, as Okabe hands Ruka that Katana, entering in that well-known scene of master and apprentice. As Okabe points out, he seeks to toughen up Ruka…in his hope that Ruka would grow out of his self-pity and truly begin to live. Because Okabe, his friend, is right there for him.

Let the reader understand the point of all this: It is not Steins;Gate’s premise that being Gay is good…because it is not. Instead, it sheds light on the core element of such a miserable person that they are not only their own source of misery, but also reminds us that such a person can never be satisfied in the end. And it is to Steins;Gate’s splendid honor that it deals with such a tender subject with all the empathy and respect one could ask for, as it lays out its conclusion.

Another great point in a show with a narcissist for a hero is seeing Okabe grow in maturity. In the midst of the constant horror, Okabe is starting to grasp and realize the vanity of his altar ego, as he admits bitterly to Kurisu he isn’t a mad scientist. He never forces any of the drastic decisions on any of the lab members, and of particular note is learning to rely on others for those really tough moments in life. And that’s how it was meant to be, since it is not good for man to be alone.

So what about Steins;Gate’s weakenesses? There is the couple fan-service scenes where we just get a brief vantage point at Kurisu and Suzuha, but those were mild to be sure. Perhaps the only real grief comes from the fruit jokes, but those hilarious scenes were presented rather innocently and, frankly, everyone knows Itaru is somewhat of a perv. The rest to say I leave for the proper section.

The former topics on Ruka and Moeka are exactly what makes Steins;Gate so brilliant. It is as deep as its constant twists roll forth. Even the ending itself is well thought out and gives a high amount of satisfaction to the viewer. I would speak more but I’m afraid to spoil it for the reader. As the reviewer Carlos Santos described it:  a “thriller masterpiece” and “one of the most addictive Sci-fi thrillers in recent anime history.” He concluded that it has a “well-researched time travel concept” and “memorable characters,” and that its “constantly surprising storyline” makes it “a supreme edge-of-your-seat thriller.  ^ Santos, Carlo (September 27, 2011). “Review: Steins;Gate”.

Emotional Draw – 5.0

Emotions are centerpieces to what makes us humans, and Steins;Gate clearly understands that. From great humor, to a fantastic budding romance, Steins;Gate doesn’t fail to deliver.

While from a technical stance I have to agree Steins;Gate isn’t a romantic show, in all practicality it really is. Move aside Twilight to what real Romance looks like!  You have it all: characters who’s chemistry with each other is as the voice acting is superb, drama that doesn’t kill your man from watching, and a realistic budding romance that includes so many great moments. Whether Okabe is on the roof spilling out his soul to an empathetic but worried Kurisu, or at the lab freaking out with her at his side, or that scene in the rain (classically romantic)…all without ever once breaking off from their characters or with stupid comments like “sssshhhhhhhh….your hurt.”

When considering some of the arcs, I must say, it seemed like Steins;Gate could do no wrong.

Consider Suzuha. Her search for her dad and seeing Okabe sincerely desire to help her was so sweet…up to the point you realize he causes Suzuha to lose focus in ways he never foresaw. Like the anvil crashing down on your dreams, it was so heart-wrenching the way we hear Suzuha cry “I failed! I failed! I failed! I failed…” over and over. Man, that was some good powerful stuff.

Moeka’s arc also did not disappoint. And in some ways was my favorite of the D-Mails (well, aside from the first one). The way Steins;Gate presented her was excellent, and successfully made the 360 turn from feeling pity to hating her guts (oh yeah you do!) to having all the empathy in the world for this heartless wretch. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better with her arc, meeting FB was so horrifying to watch. All I could do was open my mouth in horror as I’m led to the conclusion of Moeka’s desperation. Man this show is awesome.

Faris in turn was a sweet arc. I loved her comment to Okabe about him being “her Hero”. The sad, firm conviction she sees in Okabe in being requested to give up her wish melts her heart towards his wish, and I felt did a great job of translating that to the audience. Classic stuff.

I think when you add the truly tragic elements of the Steins;Gate universe, you get drama that pushes you to some strong, defined emotions. As I’ve already mentioned, the dramatic elements of Steins;Gate are quite excellent. Mayuri’s death, Moeka’s plight, Feris’ dilemma, Ruka’s frustration, all these arcs were done spectacularly. Anytime the show wanted to get sad or funny, it did so without any hitches. And like a true masterpiece, Steins;Gate knew how to get you in the mood beforehand, making a killing when each episode ended. Brilliant.

Now the humor in the show is equally great in both context and in presentation. As I’ve said before, Steins;Gate isn’t for kids due to the romantic and dramatic elements to the show, which are great, just a little mature. Early on you have that scene with the fruit jokes, which while normally might be thought a little obscene, I believe was innocently done and should be a source of a few good laughs.

When I say this, this is because there is a way to joke that IS obscene, and another way that is not. Of course, the words you use can play a huge role in this, so assuming your not being crass in description, you can offer something that is genuinely funny while maintaining an aura of respect for everyone involved or witnessing it. And that’s something Steins;Gate generally does a good job at threading the needle here. Let’s face it, the awkward and embarrassing scene is one of the best sources of humor, especially when it’s done right.

Plus, its not like that’s all the show had to offer us. We have a few scientists, and a mad one too, so there was plenty of witty humor throughout the show. And I believe humor in Steins;Gate is that much better, because it remains natural throughout the series, which maintains your interest and ability to be engulfed in the show. Well done.

Characters – 4.86

Okabe Distraught Okabe v1Rintaro Okabe – 5.0

  No one ever said being crazy was all bad, and Okabe proves this with unparalleled awesomeness.

  A man who invents his friends from his scientific research of time, Okabe’s personality is as strange as it is inviting. his constant fear of Sern and his mindless (but funny) jargo using huge words that rarely see the light of day. A very solid character progression made it really easy to get into our partially vain hero (although the ending we see a huge improvement from that).

The English version is frankly superb. J. Michael Tatum‘s chemistry with the other actors was great and helped push the envelope on the standard for acting in such a rush rush industry (English Dub has only a few months to do what the Origin had a year to do). His lines were very realistic and I loved so many of those witty comments he’d make at Kurisu. My favorite quote I think is still “I’m…uh…here to save your life.”

(trust me, you’ll understand when you hear it!)

_

Kurisu Intro Kurisu sad Kurisu Makise – 5.0

Ah, a brilliant scientist and a brilliant voice actress. The earthly but sensitive sound that Trina Nishimura worked very well with Okabe and I thought that much of the dialogue between the two felt as fresh as it did real. It was so easy to put yourself in her shoes and think ‘that’s what I would say’, which is always a good sign of acting.

Her character change is sweetly done, and her invaluable commitment to being there for Okabe comes off romantically superb. Great heroes and heroines make great shows.

_

Suzuha the Lab Member SuzuhaSuzaha – 4.9

A mysterious girl who “runs” into Okabe and later is a key element to the search or the Beta Track, ()’s performance was pretty good.

Suzuha’s love of bikes was endearing and I thought her usefulness later on the show not only makes sense but added a level of endearment at knowing a little about Itaru. he he. Solid character for a solid show.

_

Mayuri Dead MayuriMayuri – 4.5

Jackie Ross‘s dub version was fairly decent. there are times when she sounds either too much like an adult or just plainly flat, but I felt that overall she wasn’t a bad character.

Her simple naive outlook was sweet enough that seeing her die felt very sad. I did think that she might have made things worse for Ruka with all the Cosplay stuff, but hey. But as to her overall attraction as a person of interest, most of her lines were great, its just the consistency part was off somewhat. So in this case the reason for the high grade has to do with acknowledging the failure of the voicing, and not so much the character.

_

Faris v2 FarisFaris Nyannyan – 5.0

Jad Saxton‘s classic, somewhat sassy performance was endearing as it was consistent. Like with Reki in Aria the Scarlet Ammo, Jad nails every opportunity she has.

Her cute moments with her cat ninja moves (well, as a guy I liked it), and her high character really have you thinking she’s a great girl. I especially liked the contrast you see from her after she got her wish, and I think it helped the arc hit great heights.

_

Moeka intrepid MoekaMoeka Kiryu – 5.0

I wasn’t sure whether to hate her guts or feel sorry for her, but Steins;Gate does a great job of pulling off the emotions. Her wretched state you see later on was superbly done, and hit the nail on the arc.

Now I can’t go too far, as Moeka doesn’t exactly have a lot of lines (she usually just texts instead), but I think you’ll like her character. Voice acting was done by Jessica Cavanagh, and like the other characters had the right feel. Well done Jessica.

_

Ruka Dude Ruka

Ruka – 4.8

The show makes him look like a girl, which is one backdraw for drawings, but I felt like overall that actually played well later on when he gets his wish.

Lindsay Seidel‘s performance of Ruka was okish, but not bad, and I felt casting her for his role probably was the better choice anyways. Perhaps it was a matter of opinion, since that big arc of hers was excellently done, and hit most of the moments when emotions arise. Weird character of the masculine persuasion. ha ha!

Creativity – 5.0
 
The whole show revolves around a few areas of the city , so there isn’t a huge difference from show to show. However, as you might have observed in your own life, familiarity is a comfort in itself, and that’s how the scenery plays. There are some great scenes speckled throughout the show (especially after Faris’ D-Mail) and in particular with Okabe and Kurisu. Splended stuff. Artisticly the characters are a little on the tall side, but I thought they meshed well enough together with the scenery.
I also thought the music played very well overall, and there were many scenes that tugged on your heart, in particular towards the end. Just fantastic stuff.
 
Grade Overall – 4.96
 
(Steins;Gate is truly a work of art, both in content and intellectually stimulating conversations that conclude with a highly Biblical viewpoint (and thus logically superior). Not too overbearing either in any of the latter, Steins;Gate also has a view of time travel that crushes the competition in its brilliance. I’m confident Steins;Gate will be in your top 5 favorite shows.

Seriously, it’s that good. A Masterpiece!)

Review: Ninja Scrolls (TV)

Genres – action, adventure, comedy, horror, supernatural

Nnja Scroll TV

Fourteen years after defeating the immortal warrior Himuro Genma and thwarting the Shogun of the Dark’s evil plans, Kibagami Jubei continues to roam all over Japan as a masterless swordsman. During his journey, he meets Shigure, a priestess who has never seen the world outside her village. But when a group of demons destroys the village and kills everyone, Jubei becomes a prime target after acquiring the Dragon Jewel – a stone with an unknown origin. Meanwhile, Shigure – along with the monk Dakuan and a young thief named Tsubute – travels to the village of Yagyu. And with two demon clans now hunting down Shigure, Dakuan must once again aquire Jubei to protect the Princess of Light named Shigure.
STORY2.9

What’s better than seeing an awesome samurai beat the tar out of bad guys rocking a cool beat? Maybe an awesome story as well? While Ninja Scrolls certainly has many “awesome” moments, it’s story is about par with most ‘brave hero rescues princess’ stories.

Par as it may be, Ninja Scroll has its element of surprise, reaching into the void of weird encounters and pulling out nightmarish demons and foes alike. Each episode is its own horror story, with Jubei and his core companions being the only ones to survive usually. I’ll have to warn you, there is a lot of weird and horrific violence in the show, even to the point of seeing someone drink a dead man’s blood. Whether its the risque (it did earn on technicality the “ecchi” label, although I would differ still) or creepy factor, its not your kids show. Still, seeing Jubei defeat his foes with nothing but his sword and wits is what made the show significant. And to the degree that the Light Maiden Shigure made her presence in the story, there is a lot of love given to Jubei.

Having said this, Shigure’s plight and ultimate purpose was definitely a cool move for the show. All the fire and smoke, and fierce enemies were a huge plus when our Hero beats them all. But at the same time, getting to that purpose did require going through a quagmire of twists which might seem a little cheesy with the average acting skills. Or should I say bad acting skills? Even though they do get some nice ratings, don’t misunderstand: A character may very well do well in a show dispite bad lines or bad story telling, but that still can’t you out of the ditch. Consider at the end with poor Shigure: Jubei is a hero, and she all the more greatful, yet dispite being around them, you feel Shigure’s past and future is largely a mystery, and there is some cause to feel frusterated.

Now, I did feel the way Jubei’s and Shigure’s ending departure like the old classic stories, but this also got the show in more trouble. Because it feels unsatisfactory. Jubei is just going to travel beyond, never finding peace and leaving a romantically confused stiff-board to soften without ever getting to be soft. And when looking back at the somewhat cheesy Samurai Jack ending, and your further bothered by the apparent bad overall taste Ninja Scroll leaves you.

Without a doubt, a cool idea that just never made it to the level it should have. And for all those Samurai-Jack lovers, it almost a let down that a grown-up version gets even worse acting skills than a show that didn’t really REQUIRE acting skills to begin with.

EMOTIONAL DRAW3.7

Humor in the show is reserved, and probably rightfully so. As I said, Ninja Scroll is not a kids show, and some of the enemies (in particular that tree demon we meet), employed some powerful, even loathsome emotions from the viewer.

There was a scene involving the same tree demon which sees her getting raped by another grotesque demon. And as if that wasn’t disturbing enough, the events that occur afterwards were really gross. Or the beginning scenes with that demon in the shed….quite the weird horror going on. Really, if you get easily upset over intense material, Ninja Scroll is probably not your show.

Now…as for acting, well the show probably tried hard with their one take. Don’t expect very much emotions from many of the cast members, because it wasn’t a very big focus from the director. He probably took one take with the sentences and maxed out his budget! How absurd to waste intense scenes and powerful moments in a show because you didn’t care enough to go over the material a few more times.

Ninja Scroll was decent, but not too good. It had some moments but combined with the lack of enough emotions in the anime and the prolonged scenes (from which Samurai Jack had some inspiration I’ll wager) made it forgettable. Ouch. Still the ending wasn’t so bad, as it certainly struck some well timed feelings, particularly with Shigure….if only the rest of it was half as good…

CHARACTERS4.08

Jubei 1 Jubei 2Jubei – 4.8

Not bad. He was the most consistent of the characters. You really got into him, which felt was a lost cause at the end with all the mono-toning going on. In fact, his voice was rather good. A champion for justice, Jubei further rocks a sweet beat whenever he gets into his groove, and definitely was the highlight of the show.

Shigure 3 Shigure Shigure – 3.7

She is the light maiden whom everyone is chasing. Not too much is known about the maiden, so besides her great looks or soft voice, there’s not really much to further deepen your interest. Seriously…the lack of attention for details in voices took away much of the impactful scenes, and is about the only reason she gets such a grade (I guess I’m feeling half-full today).

DakuanDakuan – 4.7

Well done little priest. Ugly but had very good humor in a world where average is normal. One of the few with good acting skills, he has a few surprises to show you throughout the show, and was pretty legit when he needed to be.

Tsubute

Tsubute – 3.1

Decent character, worse voice talent. We first meet him on a road attempting to steal the jewel Shigure possesses. Somewhat of a bumbler who’s always trying to steal, he accompanies the group and ends up changing his ways of a sort.

_

CREATIVITY 3.5

Decent at best. The uniqueness of every occurrence and the horror-like feel of the show with its harsh drawings made it so you didn’t stay bored with some of the bad acting. I did feel however that some of the classic Samurai Jack feel was lost in some of the transit, with the author’s attempt to make every encounter more disastrous a little too much. The simplistic scenery was forgettable and perhaps got in the way a few times, but overall decent.

Music is a classic rock and roll feel, and although not noted as much as it deserves, the main theme will rock your socks off when the going gets tough. Definitely a highlight of the show was the beginning intro (his theme song), and helped put you into the mood for watching something very strange yet mesmerizing.
OVERALL SCORE3.46

(Ninja Scroll is a classic Samurai adventure story set in a unearthly time period when evil lurks behind every rock. Although the acting will rob some or a lot of the glamor (depending on your patience) , I believe you’ll find Ninja Scrolls worth a watch)

Review: Legend of the Legendary Heroes

Genres: adventure, comedy, drama, fantasy, psychologicalLegend of the Legendary Heroes

DUB version done by FUNIMATION

Plot Summary: Ryner Lute is a lazy student of the Roland Empire Royal Magician’s School. One day, the Roland Empire goes to war against a neighboring country Estabul, and Ryner loses his classmates in the battle. After the war, at Emperor Sion Astarl’s command, Ryner sets out on a journey to find the relics of a “Legendary Hero”. During his quest, he finds out that a deadly curse is spreading across the continent.

STORY 3.0
For a pretty funny show, Legend of the Legendary Heroes (LoLH for short) sure starts out pretty badly.
You get the gist that something cool is in the air when Ryner and his Alpha Stigma show off some cool moves, but because the episodes don’t start out very coherently, you feel kinda lost in the shuffle. Perhaps thats also the English Dub’s fault. From a terribly portrayed betrayal of a friend you never cared for anyways, to a terribly voiced (well, dry of sorts) youth who aims to be king, all the characters came off flat (not Ryner of course) and for a while the show was in serious danger of losing its audience. Add some random time travel in a few of the episodes, and you could sum up the beginning as somewhat awkward.

However, after the 5th episode or so, things get moving: the humor blossomed with Ryner’s interaction with Ferris, and the Alpha Stigma became a great combustible power for both awesomeness and some serious discussions.
Speaking of serious discussions, the Alpha Stigma offered not-so common points to chew on. The whole laziness of Ryner was not only explained, but I felt very philosophically sound in its presentation.
Ryner’s distaste for himself, and the blood and death the Alpha Stigma always brings, was a very sound, and different look at what laziness can mean. Of course, LoLH wants the viewer to face reality and to not ignore evil (albeit if its your past and future), because peace isn’t achievable without some kind of sacrifice.

As for awesomeness, once Ryner and Ferris are together as a team to search for Legendary weapons of old, the second arc came alive so long as they are in focus. It also is spectacular that Ferris, as rough as a woman probably gets while still maintaining her feminine side, is perfectly suited to handle the lazy Ryner. Between Ferris’ Sword and fist to Ryner’s constant desire to sleep, you get not only an excellent duo, but essentially what made me get into the show a lot.

If your wondering if there’s a bad guy. well, continue to ponder that. One of the interesting things about the show is most of the characters have a true Knighthood about them and their interactions, so finding a outright bad guy is hard given the chivalry. If you had to guess, only Milan really felt evil, but you get the feeling he simply is being attracted to those of ambition, and not the culprit here. This ambiguity actually played nicely for the show. as it allowed some things not to seem too predictable (which I’ll discuss later).
As for my favorite scene? Without a doubt it would have to be towards the ending of the show , when Ferris’ life is being threatened big time by Ryner’s Alpha Stigma. The raw, majestically evil power of the Alpha Stigma along with the shining light of Ferris’ empathetic side, truly made the scene a winner. And let’s not forget Ferris either. Her history is as perverted as they come, and instantly seals your interest in her. While the material might be too mature for many, I believe it just propelled the morals of the story to greater heights.

I wish that we’re the end of it, but towards the end things pretty much fall off the edge. Here we have Ryner and Ferris being united, and the feeling of something cutely romantic budding between them them when all hell breaks loose. “Suddenly, as if in a bad dream, Ryner is in the rain and at the King’s courtyard, being attacked by the King himself while music and credits are rolling (are there two?). Sion has apparently magically recovered his mental breakdown from earlier and wields…umm, are those undead people? Ferris’ “brother” is suddenly in town (but doesn’t do anything when Ryner scores some points with Ferris, despite giving his threat regarding her), but like Milan, they soon are ignored in the show. And as if waking up out of a bad dream, we arent near the Kingdom anymore…The warring nation’s leader, is he bad or not? And what really is the Specter that claims to be Ferris’ brother?

Why are we jumping around everywhere, am I supposed to feel sad when I’m confused? and why all this sudden music… no, now your pushing multiple scenes together as if your making a poster…ah man, this is the ending!?! What in the world?”

Even after watching it over again, I still couldn’t justify the sudden changes in the show. Usually when one wants to change the narrative drastically, one adds bridges before slamming info on the viewer. I seriously thought I was watching the wrong episode until I looked it up….never a good sign.

In essence, you feel that the show was cancelled and what you were seeing was the leftover pieces of episodes that were never to be, leaving the Legend of the Legendary Heroes to rot….ouch.

EMOTIONAL DRAW 2.9
Another show about the tale of two halves, the beginning was just lame. In fact, if not for the continuous dialogue between Ryner and Ferris, I would have quit this show. I mean first you have a terribly portrayed “friend” of Ryner’s, who you would rather punch in the nose than feel any empathy for her, even as your watching all of Ryner’s group die fiercely. No surprise dialogue, everything was predictable and limp.

However, like light is to a starving moth, Ryner and Ferris proved the show worthwhile. Their hilarious interaction (usually involving the “lecherous” beast Ryner to be smacked) lit up the whole show. I love Ferris’ tough yet kind-hearted nature, and her fierce desire to prevent the “beast” from engaging in any acts inappropriate towards the youthful “flower” and innocent women (which Ryner was never at fault of doing). This quick assumption (jealousy it turns out) provides a lot of funny material poor Ryner has to try escape from. Very witty and good-natured indeed. Ha Ha!

There are plenty of scenes that touched off nicely, particularly when Ryner starts to piece together who Ferris is (when he’s not getting smacked of course). Even the dry King wasn’t to overshadow this hilarious duo. Looking at the end, yes, I know it sucked since it ended so abruptly, but lets not forget how awesome that scene was with Ryner and Ferris towards the end. Just seeing Ferris eat dangos made you break a smile, it was very sweet.

And who knew, that Ferris and Ryner boy had their dark pasts would get so much emotion to be squeezed out? So even though the Emotional Draw was rated low, it deserved much more considering the two. I can’t repeat it enough, the main attraction of the show is clearly Ryner and Ferris.

CHARACTERS4.33
Ryner Lute 4.9Ryner_Lute Ryner Lute2

Very solid performance in the dub version. He and Ferris hit off so well, I’m still cracking up over the jokes. Ryner’s character also was solidly developed throughout the show. Ryner’s laziness proving significant to his character, as light is shed on it, makes for solid growth in many ways. Very nice.

Ferris Eris 5.0 Ferris being FerrisFerris in her Prime

Without Ferris, there is no Ryner. Without Ferris, there wouldn’t be any exaggerated tales of the lecherous beast or the hilarious bashing of poor Ryner. Without a doubt, a nice character with some attitude.

Miran Froaude 4.7Milan Miran the Cold

Milan is a creepy dude who has little or no history, depending how you look at it. Quite the bad guy material, Milan is instead hired by Lucile to help with the wars. I love his high class villainy, and his dark magic totally fit his personality.
My only sadness is Milan is practically ignored at the end, a shame when besides the two Heroes, he’s the most consistent of the characters.

Sion Astal 2.7Sion as King Sion

Although he clearly is better than many of the badly voiced characters throughout the show (not a compliment), Sion sort of fails along the way. Part I think is because the director didn’t compensate enough on his emotional faces and the rest is to his lines. Yeah, he talks like royalty, but does it have to sound so monotone? Irony says that the ending is where you find him to get interesting with that weird, unwelcomed, and certainly unexplained dual conscience that becor mes his characteat the end. But I suppose getting across the finish line limping is better than not at all.

CREATIVITY4.0
As you can probably tell, the last two sections score much better here. Even though the overall drawing of LOLH isn’t anything special, it pulls through nicely. When you get to any of the important figure’s clothing, you’ll find the artist’s painstakingly different designs help give a feel reminiscent of the Fire Emblem game Series. And whenever a character uses their magic, the artistic symbols are pretty cool to look at too, so all in all, a very nice setup.

Music was not too noticeable, but hit its marks where it counts. And really, from an artist’s point of perspective, that’s not a bad thing. It did just enough to get you on shore in the story, and that’s all you can ask from a music director.

OVERALL SCORE3.36

(The Legend of the Legendary Heroes is a funny, yet serious show that employs many cliche’s on its path to find itself. So even though it doesn’t score too well because of this, I do believe you’ll find it is quite worth watching and will have you laughing at the “lecherous” beast)

Anime Reviews

So your looking for that best anime out there? Those anime’s with the best romance, adventure, and the like? At the Hesperian, you’ll also get a unique rating process where the artistic style of the show is foremost. To make it short, you’ll find reviews on shows you can scream and shout for excitement, as I do. Also, in understanding these small points, you’ll find as you understand the show for the story-telling, the morals, and the characters depth, your love of a show will increase greatly and emotions will be more heightened as a result! At least, that’s my hope for the reader.

I rate my anime shows by the following categories:
Story, Emotional Draw, Characters, and Creativity

Story is perhaps the most important of the categories. How the story progresses, the morals it contains and teaches, and how pieces are put together at the end. Does the story move smoothly or do random events ruin the experience? If there are random events, how do they relate to each other in the story? As for morals, while cheating on your friend isn’t itself ruinous to the show, if there is not a proper sense of justice, if the character does not pay for that breach of trust correctly, then you’ve cheapened what love or the moral means. Any breach in morals will result in a substantial penalty. Again, a character may participate in wrong doing so long as the show points out its vanity and wrongfulness. Anything else is propoganda and encouraging falsehood.

Emotional Draw is how well the show manages the emotions. When its sad, does it really feel sad? Or like one show, do I find myself laughing when a sad scene occurs? Does the comedy make me laugh? As shows progress, does the emotions change smoothly? How well can I empathize with the character? Without Emotions, even the best stories are hollow and timewasting. I therefore weight Emotions twice.

Characters are weighted once and averaged among the characters. I am somewhat selective on who I rate though. Part of this is because the rating system might be ruined if I included one minor character who was horrid, even though the others got 4.5s. If the show has enough side characters, I will sometimes group them together. Since I rate mostly the English Dubs, I rate how well the voice actually fits the show, and how well a Hero/Heroin/Villian interact with each other and the world of the story.

Creativity is also weighted once. This covers the drawing, and anything that is impressive. You don’t need to have the greatest style of drawing to score well, you just need to fit that anime world with witty, precise things to make the show that much better. In fact, since it also covers music, in a large way Creativity will have an effect on the emotional draw. Any hidden thing, like in Moon Phase where every episode had some cat ears implanted in the scenery, is very much appreciated and usually is the sign that the makers had a lot of fun making the show. In other words, how well does the show’s world draw me in?

Since Story and Emotional Draw are weighted twice, I divide the scores by 6 and that’s the score you get. If I find that the score doesn’t quite match what I thought it should have gotten, I will adjust the score but am always open to your opinions of the scoring process. Ultimately this is my thoughts on the show, and I hope that from a story-telling standpoint, you might appreciate art in its own world, free from your cultural prejudices.

What shows will I watch? Fortunately for Anime, they are seperated into many categories. From shows for kids, teens, and adults (each having 3 subcategories for guys or girls or both), and another for NA17. This in turn has its genres like romance or adventure. Thus I can avoid any stupidly mushy and pathetic stories like Maburaho. (that show made you want to repeatedly slap yourself and will never be in my reviews xD)

What’s my guidelines of the shows I’ll watch? Two stipulations:
1) Must have a proper sense of justice. This I refer solely to the moral aspect of it. If the main character is a homosexual or if he or she engages in some activity which, being an abomination, is hailed as the only and right way than I reject this said story. Fortunately, I can avoid most of this purely by the categories as most would fit under Hentai(we call it Porn in the USA), Yaoi (Gay), and Yuri (Lesbian).
2) Whatever of the body is shown, so long as it is not done for the direct purpose of sexual gratification, I have no problem with it. Of course, some shows will still get the boot depending how much they put in there. After all, fanservice (not to be confused with Ecchi, shows that center around intentionally causing you to think dirty) can get really annoying when overdone.

Review: Garo the Animation

Genres: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Demons, Witches, Alchemists

Plot Summary: When the Kings advisor Mendoza tries to put to death all of the Makai Knights and seize control of the kingdom, guardians against the Horrors that feed on human depravity,  a child is born in the midst of travesty. This child named Leon and the surviving son of the King, Alfonso, would take their place as future Makai Knights…if only Leon can control his violent anger…

STORY – 3.4

Garo the Animation is a lot of things: fun, exciting, tragic, heroic, thematic, romantic, bold…maybe too bold. This wild story brings a combination of epic to head-scratching confusion with style, all before landing back to its roots. At least, until the end.

Adult Elements:

Garo takes liberty showing off the human body, particularly men in this show. As an equal opportunity offender in selling sex, a majority of the episodes involve some kind of bed and a woman, suggestive positions short of softporn (think Halle Berry’s sex scene in Die Another Day (2002)). To be fair, the conversations are meaningful, so skip at your own peril as finer elements are explained in these awkward scenes. Additionally, language is causally used at a TV-14 level, though expect to hear a few dog names.

Main Themes:

Accordingly, Garo the Animation dwells on dark, human aspects of our lives, focusing on how the quest for personal vengeance can destroy potential and of despair and personal ruin. A fantastical world with Horrors, demons who embody hatred and wickedness in a soul, even engulfing both body and soul. Throughout the episodes, tragedies bring out the disparity that hits close to home, of how are base needs, including sexual, can confuse and destroy people.

Throughout a majority of the episodes, our main protagonist, Leon, feels natural in his struggle to forgive and leave his vengeful quest to satisfy the pain of his mother’s death. The answer to this Leon’s past is veritably redeeming in defining what it means to be a hero, not simply slaying evil men or protecting people for the sake of a hero. From an audiences’ perspective, much of what Garo tries to accomplish feels mature and candid, whether or not the answer leaves you feeling satisfied.

On Romances:

This mature posturing of Garo the Animation, lends well to a constant theme for the one our main protagonists, German Luis, bearer of a magical demon armor called the Makai and in search of a son…and by son, I mean finding any brothel or random beauty he may spread his cloak of love. To say this was not annoying at first would be a lie, but oddly enough as the show progresses, we find German’s philandering humorous as it is insightful to our own sexuality. Naturally, German seeks this the wrong way until he meets an unlikely woman who can answer his burning desire.

Oddly enough, aside from the girls at the brothels, most of the women German happens upon are decent girls, and one in particular is more than capable of taming this wild oat. The themes of mature love, of redemption, of how marriage answers deep desires in our hearts is what makes the romance solid and its morals stable.

A Dead Witch, a Lecherous Knight, and an Angry Hero:

german-killing-the-beastNow, the beginning starts with a sad scene of a young “witch” being burned at the stake; the scenery is slightly gothic before bowing to the fake CGI effects of a silver wolf-knight, German. The knight himself is unable to save the woman, but not before she miraculously emits a power that preserves the unborn child out of the womb and into the arms of what turns out to be the husband’s hands.

Ordinarily, I dislike convenient magical events, since this betrays the lack of depth in the story to stay believable, although this amazing birth of Leon comes handy later on as an excellent contrast both to the father’s promiscuous lifestyle and the child’s thirst for vengeance. Why Leon has any memories at all is never explained, but the payoff is worth the shaky beginning.

Enter now Leon’s father, German, weaving the former tale to a voluptuous woman in her bed. Naturally, this is a brothel, though the foreplay is limited and technically the woman turns out to be one of our Horrors, but the suggestive material is pretty sensual. To be fair, Garo is pretty much eye candy for the women, and the constant case of losing his clothes does lend to some humorous moments.

Makai Knights, a loveable Alchemist, and the Slow-Cooking Presentation:

Notwithstanding, Garo is not a fair description of the Makai Knights in general, these noble warriors serve deities who are neither lovable nor efficient. I appreciated the conflicting nature of these Knights: Sworn to never use their power against normal humans, these Knights oddly enough use the same power of the horrors in their armor that they fight against. Not to say Garo convolutes morality in this world, only which naturally lends to the disdain of the villain in the story, a former Makai Knight himself, who sees the power of the horrors as nothing to be fearful of. In fact, the twist is he seeks to control and consume them with a rare artifact, in his quest to be superior against what he sees as the order of life.

For this villain, hereafter named Mendoza, his goals and aims are fleshed out in the series fairly well (save for the ending), and the doomed subservient of his are in direct contrast to his apathy towards the world. This made for an intriguing series the way Garo the Animation directed the viewer to think about each person’s humanity in a way that was reflective and dark.

Moreover, the first major subservient, a Black Knight with ties to German from youth, has a fairly decent arc that lets us meet a beautiful, yet crafty Alchemist named Ema, who magnificently saves Leon early on, affectionately calling him “Boy” throughout the series. My only shame at this point was the lack of cameo for Ema, yet this was soon to be rectified.

Speaking of Leon, the initial fight with the Black Knight reveals his propensity towards losing his emotions quickly. Leon’s thirst for vengeance for his mother causes him to lose control over his Makai Armor…so while this does afford him great power, it also endangers everyone involved. The musing that follows between German and Ema regarding Leon, was less of a conversation than a weary concern that Leon will never be worthy of the Makai Armor he currently possesses. This ominous feeling does not disappoint and Garo starts to suck the viewer into its twisted universe.

leon-disgracedWhich brings me to an important point about Garo the Animation. At no point does the show dump everything onto your lap…even the Makai Knights are slowly introduced with their backstory one by one. Furthermore, the adult conversations throughout the show are deep, emotional, and hit closer to who we are as sexual beings than you might care to admit.

Consider the episode where Leon and Father come upon a town where the residents are ugly and unwelcoming. The crux of the story involves a boy who was bitter that the town slew his father out of fear of curses, and by happenchance meets a demon who with his help slowly picks off those in the town one by one. While the child’s desire for vengeance is a bit different than our Leon, his desperation for his missing father is both disturbing and tragic, to excellent effects.

Weaknesses in Garo and a Prince:

By this time the show was picking up in steam about Leon’s past, intrigue following by an odd sort of episodes that barely move the plot and have forgettable characters and stories. Take the fight the Black Knight where Leon is knocked unconscious…he loses his memory?

What? Why? And what gives with such a lame side-arc that feels forced, is not scary, and fails to be either imaginative or insightful, even when the concept surrounds a “ware-wolf”? The villain to this small clichéd village, where Leon finds himself, is selling children off to slavery, dressed as a ware-wolf. He uses the church to his advantage, but really, the villain is not very bright. Why anyone “recognizes” Leon is stupid, the villain’s backstory feeble, his Horror comedic, and however you call that a “fight” scene, on a beautiful bridge in front of the tearful kids, silly.

Is this Lame? Dirty? Innocent? Or do streamers attract the ladies?

Granted, Garo sometimes feels like a half a bag, anyways. Every third episode feels like the stories surround tropes that neither push the story nor engage the audience. So, when German also loses his memory from a unsightly injury, the audience is unsure whether we should scoff or be intrigued. Thankfully, this turned out to the latter, as the show hit gold when we also discover German also has lost his clothes.

To be fair to this episode, the premise sounds innocent enough. Find a woman running away from some normal human brutes, play the hero, running away to a barn where the woman is bound to be receptive to your chivalry. When the woman words her words seductively, Leon is not one to pass off a chance at love, and with bold gusto flings his clothes off only to be discovered by the brutes at the worst possible time…oh, and the girl is one of them.

“Think of what could have been” …Not even nakedness throws German temperament…strikingly, the sultry view that says everything here had me hesitant to whether the scene was obscene or just hilarious. Even better, the ENTIRE EPISODE INVOLVES HIM RUNNING AROUND TRYING TO FIND SOME CLOTHES. For an episode that has a naked man running around looking like a pervert to find some clothing, Garo the Animation actually made this one of my favorite episodes of the series…who says you cannot traverse in the comedy that in the sanctimonious nature clothes afford?

Conversely, we even meet German’s next love, washing some clothes and smirking away at German’s predicament. Slyly, Garo manages to make her memorable while not forgetting the arc at hand, which includes the woman thief from before desperately clinging to German, pleading for his help since her companions are dead. Moreover, we find pleasing German’s perceptive words about knowing what happened to the small leader of the group, who had turned into a horror.

But best of all the scenes comes at the end of the episode, where after getting his clothes back and meeting up with Ema the Alchemist, they have one of the greatest humorous, yet serious conversations about Leon’s future while German has nothing more than a pink bonnet to cover him. I swear, this feat alone is worth an award.

leon-again

Of Solid backstories, real Honor, Villains, and Great Justice:

              Garo continues to raise its stock with a mostly successful backstory of German, his dead wife, and the Black Knight’s friendship together. By this point in the story, the villain Mendoza has seized the kingdom, pushed out the prince and is holding the Queen hostage. Here, another impressive event happens when the prince, Alfonso, pulls off an amazing decision to NOT be a cliché by saving the Queen first…all of this feeling original and brave of the show.

              True, the luster of the arc dims a little with the Black Knight’s defeat by German who inconsistency goes from “YOU ARE DEAD TO ME” to “My Brother”, but Garo does not disappoint with its bold story-telling.

              Mendoza, awakens a giant horror he seeks to destroy the world…maybe better described as a headless boob monster…and we have a great fight scene with our heroes, only Leon’s anger makes him an easy target for Mendoza. Ironically, this plays into Alfonso’s hand when Mendoza forgets about the boob monster and is swallowed whole. Between the visionary madness of the wizard and Leon’s fire for vengeance, having the Hero be the greater threat when he in his golden armor breathes fire and lays flat half the Palace!

              While the wolf hands do look a bit corny, Garo is not afraid of challenging our expectations with great dialogue. Not only was Leon useless in the battle against Mendoza, but he destroyed half the palace city and subsequently stripped of his titles and his magical armor!

              Throughout, Leon’s humiliation and inability to repent, feels human. Appropriately, Garo shows us what life is like, and how people do not always choose the right decision when the time comes. Occasionally, our pain and sorrow we bring on ourselves can help shape who we are, but only if we allow the circumstances to teach us.

             Dramatically, the despair Leon feels hits the mark. We comprehend…the show knows…his sorrow is not from humility, but self-pity and shame of what he has done. Until the time when Leon recants from who he was, Garo the Animation never forgets to expose the inner turmoil that Leon is self-inflicting himself, and ends up with one of the best scenes in recent years.

A fine Romance, Romeo and Juliet:

              After an intermission, Garo moves the plot along following Leon’s despair at his own worthlessness, even seeing him attempt suicide by leaping off a cliff! Moreover, the show rises to the occasion, as a sweet-tempered farmer’s girl, named Lara, by happenchance saves our unlikely hero. The scenery of the farm was splendid, where normal life is fascinating, and digging a waterway on hard ground a serene, deep point about how life is long. For life is messy and slow, yet often forcing our will misses the insight that technique and friendships offer. For Garo acknowledges that it may be good for a man to have his face smashed in the dirt, to be humbled by his circumstance, so that he might find a hope and a future, as much as find redemption to the viewers’ perspective.

Satisfyingly, Leon is slowly romanced by Lara’s cheeky personality, their friendship budding in the wind as the crops grow. Albeit Lara’s boob scene (“so we keep our rating MA”) was unnecessary, like a master story-teller Garo throws the right kind of tension in the air when we peak at Mendoza’s handmaiden, who escaped notice in the arc before.

Sensational, what a nail biter we have in the coming episodes! Here, Leon has found peace with himself, a friend whom he begins to care for, and even is given encouragement by the Prince, who is back to traveling and hunting down Horrors. The sensuous scene from before leads to a false hope for the two of them when a particularly nasty giant Horror worm finds its way to the farm’s doorstep.

leon-saying-goodbye-to-laraAnd what tremendous scenes that follow! While Leon desperately trying to save his friend with Alfonso’s help, I was convinced Lara would stay alive…yet, Garo again shows its maturity. Candidly, her death left the audience feeling numb…after all, Lara is in the ending credits (and stays there for the rest of the show)…Leon and Alfonso were so close…the deafening silence of Leon’s great sadness at seeing his lifeless friend, Alphonso muted shouting at his frustration and pain… Masterful. Even Leon’s romantic last words with Lara transcended to new heights…

As if this tragic event could not be more touching, in the next episode, Leon is burying Lara…yes, they spend an entire episode on Leon facing his own inner Horror and letting Lara slip away. Although his grief is deep, Leon’s understanding of what his purpose is, beyond merely “protecting those I love”, but transcending to a unique flavor of protecting the memory of what they stood for and cherished, as much as that person. Leon, for the remainder of the series, made his desire personal to each individual he seeks to defend, and comes off amazing.

Take the next episode, where Ema the Alchemist has been searching for her former husband, now a Horror. As independent as Ema pretends to be, Garo does not lose sight of these powerful moments, and propels the show by virtue of Leon’s newfound nobility and grace with Ema’s misery.

funny-garo-pic

Empathy for tragic fools, and an Ending, Memorable?

Interestingly, Garo also was capable of presenting the human, raw side of a villain, the Handmaiden of the Wizard whose loyalty to Mendoza actually leads her to killing off an innocent servant girl we grew to like to save herself. Heck, look at the way the girl died, eaten by a Hollow that Mendoza has control over, and even willing to lose a leg to avoid suspicion. Garo was rocking, unafraid to test the limits of story-telling.

But first…did I mention Ema and Leon falling in love? No? Yet, aside from two cryptic mentions, the latter a joke on Leon becoming like his father… that was all. As we find out, it was a blunder by Garo when the audience feels left out of the loop at such an important element. Yes, Leon makes some awe-inspiring statements about valuing life and there are some touching moments given even to the handmaiden…but why does Ema not deserve any love?

For sure, the Handmaiden’s death was beautifully tragic. For Ema’s perceptive understanding of how little Mendoza actually loved the girl was pointed, even as we sense Leon’s Father has been overwhelmed by Mendoza’s numerous horrors. And who can forget Leon’s encounter with Mendoza, unfazed by his taunting and even capable of upsetting the villain by his newfound wisdom.

The problem then, is these epic moments are ruined by such an impossible, incorrigible metaphoric fight that ensues between Leon and Mendoza. Mendoza’s god form was neat, but the apathy towards everything ended up making the fighting look pathetic.

And to have the sorcerer fight about musings, a trope that has seen use a thousand times…Mendoza’s ascension is splendid, and opening up that portal to hell and thrusting Leon (who pulls him along) was promising. But what are we entertained with? MORE WORDS…in fact, that is all that happens. For magically, Leon’s mother appears and conveniently tells him how her love is a fire in this world that can hold Mendoza in purgatory forever. Oh, and Garo’s Father apparently died so that he can have his “touching” moments with Leon as Garo cannot have Leon doing anything brave or noble. No, just receptive from convenient latent powers he had nothing to do with.

How can Garo call this an ending? Did the author think about the ebb and flow of the show? Why couldn’t Ema, writhing in agony over her situation on being the outside of the portal Leon went into, at least offer a little romance for her troubles? Garo was perfectly fine giving a dead father time, but for Ema, nothing!

Perplexingly, why all the talk by Mendoza about having sex for posterity, if neither one of the couples in the show obtain anything! Leon apparently has no sway with his estranged lover after this epic battle and German never will be there for his pregnant wife. Is this the extent of the shows’ morals? Leon did sleep with Ema, yet is that all the goodness it can muster?

So, are the knights just lascivious fools, who happen to fight for justice? I recognize that Leon is not like his father, but in effect, how can you say otherwise? If sleeping with someone does not afford more than a platonic pretense of romance between Ema and Leon…the show lets the viewer down on cement, without any care to how depressing and dissatisfying the ending was!

Emotional Draw – 3.5

alphonso-brave

For Adults, By Adults. From Garo, with Love:

Not to say Garo was truly unsuccessful in its ambitions. Rather, it made a colossal mistake towards the end by focusing on vague concepts of love for the dead while ignoring the living souls whose lives were of interest to the audience. The result capitulated, rather than promoted, the romantic, softer elements of the show.

That said, Garo is definitely an adult show with adult humor. Providing deeper observations about our sexuality and emotional makeup through its humor and sexy dialog, Garo moved the conversation about who we are to our core to phenomenal effect. Sure, considerable amount of the humor is at the expense of German, but ruminate on the situation: Leon is barely into man-hood, so utilizing a character with experience and age allowed Garo to explain who Leon was, without getting too creepy with Ema’s romance.

Taking a step backwards, consider the episode involving Alfonso the Prince and German with that warring Lord and his daughter. As it happens, the Prince escaped the boring, vain position as political king, into a carriage of the Lord, who has caught the man who dared to fall in love with his daughter. Nothing is wasted in this episode, as German is a guest at the same Lord’s mansion, searching for some white flowers that the lady he fancies had expressed desire for. Even the moral of the story was deep, as people lionizes certain historical heroes in order to escape the reality of our fallen state. After all, everyone knows how to fail…

Remarkably, Garo was exceptional in whenever it tried. Whether it was German’s romance with the landlord he ran into during that fateful naked episode, and the reason he retrieved the white flower, or Leon’s friendship with Lara, those scenes were so powerful. In particular, my favorite scenes include the banter between German and the landlord, and watching German be stymied by her wit and self-confidence was satisfying.

Ema’s Romance: A Missed Opportunity

              Take Ema’s story on the search for her husband, where the show made her frustration ours, her despair ours, and the way the horror dies seemed to string our hearts. Add to the fact Leon, now grownup after the death of Lara…is capable of empathizing to a level, as Ema put it: “how can you sound so grownup!” It was powerful!

So then it becomes a sore point when Leon is patching up Emma after her fight, who by then is kind of drunk, Leon allows himself to kiss her…and more. Even if you want to fantasize about how “Leon is growing up”, what happens when he tries the hardware before marriage? The romance is given zero room to grow. Having one quasi funny comment about fornication, and a great scene from Ema towards the end before Mendoza is defeated, but nothing else.

No payoff, no hints, nothing that reminisces to what was special before. If Garo wished us to envision a drunken romance, hurt by amnesia, fine. But instead of giving the viewer any hope, the show drops the audience by the curbside, wondering why both characters cannot be honest with themselves around each other, not even an adorable embarrassment trope to spare the viewer.

Characters 3.82

Leon Luis – 3.9

A boy, and yet a man, Leon’s temper and quest for vengeance has him unable to wield the Makai Knights’ power, let alone even be useful for half the show. His enduring struggle to let go of his mother, to find joy in others was ours. Particularly, his attempt at suicide pushed the boundary for heroes, and hit well. The English actor, Ricco Fajardo, played well, nailing almost every opportunity he had. Some favorite scenes where our hero shows real maturity include the epic burial scene with Lara and facing off Mendoza before the portal.

Lara – 4.0

Lara is a character that only appears between the epic portions of the show, but do not let her sweet personality catch the viewer off guard. This farmer’s girl had a cute romance with Leon and perhaps had her greatest achievement in her death and burial, then in life. Lara is innocent and brave, noble and kind, and seeing her in the ending song for the second season was rather bittersweet. Kudos to Brina Palencia, a fantastic actress in her own right, for taking advantage of her limited role and left Lara as one of my favorite characters.

German Luis – 4.0

Pronounced jer-mayne in the show, German is an eccentric, womanizer with noble aspirations. Often scandalous with the ladies, German is simply looking for an heir to his Makai Knight armor, and finds love in the oddest of places, a landlord.

Now, David Wald captures the essence of this lovable pervert, who unknowingly is searching for love in all the wrong places. Catchy with every woman, bold in all his lines, German ends up being one of your favorite characters towards the end….so it is a shame he does not survive.

Alfonso San Valiante – 3.2

Justin Briner tries to do his character justice, and is generally successful in the second season. A Prince forced into tough times when Mendoza steals the thrown, Alfonso finds his niche after Mendoza’s first downfall, growing into a great, noble character who befriends Leon.

Ema Guzman – 4.0

Right away, I knew Monica Rial‘s rendition of Ema was golden, though we do not see her enough in the series. As an Alchemist in search of her lost former husband, Ema gradually allows her heart to soften for a young man…. if only the show did something with this. A shame for a solid character and even better voice actress.

Mendoza – 4.0

Vic Mignogna has been in Anime for a long time, and he is no stranger to fantastic roleplaying. As a crooked Makai Knight gone wrong, Mendoza’s lust for power and immortality leads him to desire the end of the world, almost as maddening as the gods themselves, who seem not to care. By far, the greatest strength of Vic was making senseless musings at the end sound interesting, even if the show collapsed around it.

Creativity3.3

Overall, Garo is fairly imaginative, a kind of gothic look that falls off from weak limits of the awful CGI it chose to render the Makai Knights and a few Horrors (boob monster and airplane horror the worst). But don’t let that mislead you into thinking Garo is a kids’ show, as many of the horrors take legitimately creepy forms.

As for the scenery, the landscape and architecture were often memorable and pleasant to the eyes. An example is Lara’s farm, where looking over the hilly farm land against evergreen trees was grand as it was conducive to the story-telling. Also, Mendoza’s god form was stylishly tremendous, and conversely, from a stylistic approach Garo captured the human emotions throughout the show.

Musically, Garo the Animation has classic fight music, and a decent opening intro song with “Honō no Kokuin -Divine Flame-” by the vocal giant JAM Project and an even better second edition “B.B.” by the same after the first season. Ending Songs include a forgettable performance by “CHIASTOLITE” by Sayaka Sasaki and a rocking hard-rock song “FOCUS” by Showtaro Morikubo, sure to be a favorite for some time to come.

Grade Overall 3.50

(Garo the Animation ventures often outside the normal bounds of a show, developing deep and mature conversations around despair and our own human sexuality. However, Garo is short of a classic since it deviates from its own winning formula by giving an end that is more reminiscent of two philosophers bickering than a fitting battle between two ideologies.)