18 February 2006

Ah! My Goddess: The OAV

Ah!(Oh!) My Goddess (AMG), made in 1993 by creator Kosuke Fujishima and director Yamada Tomoaki, is an anime that I am surprised I did not watch earlier. I had heard about it from friends as being a good, fun anime. AMG is only 5 episodes long and watches more like a movie than a series, although there is an additional separate movie (which I have not yet watched but will shortly).

Poor Keiichi Morisato is a college freshman living in a strict dorm with his auto-club pals. One day he picks up the phone to order some lunch...and finds that none of the delivery services are open yet!! What ever shall hungry Keiichi do? Enter Belldandy, a goddess, who appears to grant him any ONE wish of his choice. Though he is hungry, Keiichi instead wishes that a girl like Belldandy could stay with him forever! His wish is granted, and chaos ensues! He gets kicked out of his dorm for having a girl there, and thus begins Keiichi's new life with his goddess. Belldandy's two sisters Urd and Skuld also eventually come to live with Keiichi and Belldandy through some interesting circumstances. But all is not well, for there is a secret hidden deep within a memory that could tear Keiichi and Belldandy apart forever...

How does it turn out? You'll just have to watch! This was an incredibly fun and refreshing anime. It's probably best categorized as a romantic comedy, and did a great job of knocking me out of my sorrowful mood after seeing Grave of the Fireflies. Each of the goddesses has their own unique personality. Belldandy is a caring, motherly figure, Urd is the sexy troublemaker and Skuld is the young nerdy scientist. The music was fun, but not anything great. The animation was pretty decent, mostly since this was a short anime. The plot was a little...weird...but like I said, this isn't a serious anime by any stretch of the imagination.

Plotline: Very Good
Characters: Excellent
Music: Fair
Animation: Fair

As a last sidenote, I happened to check out the commentary on the 2nd DVD. You can watch the anime with commentary from the English dub cast. While I watched the subtitled version, the commentary is really funny to listen to, and worth the time for some giggles.

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14 February 2006

Nightwalker: Hot Vampire-y Fun

I found this series on "On Demand" (when they actually had anime there), and unfortunately had to suffer through most of the episodes with the English dubs. Sorry I tend to be kind of a purist because 90% of the time the dubs RUIN the series. Anyway...

"Nightwalker" is a 12 episode (half-season) series made in 2000 (info courtesy of Absolute Anime), which focuses on a vampire named Shido Tatsuhiko (that's DETECTIVE Shido to you!) who fights "nightbreeds", evil demons that possess humans. He has a gang of helpers including a little fairy-like thing named Guni, and his own personal buffet, Yayoi. I'm not sure of the origin of Guni, but he rescued Yayoi (in one of the episodes you get to see this), and she became Shido's "blood donor". Later, a little innocent girl named Riho joins the gang as his secretary, and the plot afterward is focused around Riho and Shido.

While Shido is a detective (think "Angel" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), he's got some pretty big problems of his own. He despises his sire, Cain, who believes that humans are only food for the obviously superior race of vampires. Shido broke away from his sire to help humans. Cain still loves him and wants him back (in a weird son yet master-apprentice Sith sort of way), but Shido keeps refusing. Even though Shido manages to stand his ground, Cain is still always on the back burner of his mind.

The plot echos this Cain-Shido relationship with that which forms between Shido and Riho. I won't give away what happens, but it's an interesting plot twist. Most of the episodes are cases that Shido is asked to resolve by one person or another, or tracking down nightbreeds and eliminating them. Ironically these two interests always seem to collide..

Lady 1:"Sir, have you seen my missing Grandpa!? *gives picture to Shido*"
Yayoi, half a day later: "There's been this weird nightbreed with gray hair killing people... *hands picture to Shido*"

You get the picture, I think. Pun intended.

Shido is a hot, hot vampire. I must admit I got a little flustered myself with the Japanese voice actor at some points. The animation itself was just okay. Lots of typical repeat sequences, but nothing that bothered me too much. Even though this series was only 12 episodes it felt a lot longer because it was kind of slow, though maybe I only felt this way because I watched it in two pieces and had to rewatch half of it. It was a good anime, and I love, love, love the opening song "Gessekai" by Buck Tick, but other than that the music was mediocre. The plot strayed a little bit, but pulled it together for the end of the series. The characters were very fun and memorable, and I love the fact that you get backstory on Yayoi.

Definitely kept the vampire genre in the game. Good but not great reviews for Nightwalker. I would still watch it if I had to make the choice all over again. As a last thought, the final scene of the anime is worth watching the series for.

Plotline: Good
Characters: Very Good
Music: Poor
Animation: Fair

11 February 2006

Grave of the Fireflies

You know when a movie starts with one of the main characters dying and seeing a mirage of his dead sister, it really can't end happily. Regardless, I enjoyed the movie "Grave of the Fireflies" by director Isao Takahata. Netflix recommended this one to me too, and after seeing that it won Best Animated Feature at the 1994 Chicago International Children's Film Festival, I knew it was worth a watch.

As I said, this isn't a fuzzy warm feeling movie, so if you want something to watch for giggles some friday night, this isn't it. Grave of the Fireflies takes place in mid- WWII Japan, where Setsuko and his sister Seita are struggling to survive amongst the air raids, lack of food and stingy relatives after their mother dies and their father disappears off to war. This is no story of triumph as you can tell from the introduction of the movie that both of the characters die. This is a story of pure struggle, and illustrates the frightening condition of Japan during World War II in vivid detail.

"Grave" actually reminds me a lot of "Life is Beautiful" (La Vita e Bella) by Roberto Benigni. Even the remedy of the war being over cannot save some people from a cruel death...

As for visual experience, the animation was surprisingly good, detailed, and moving. The music wasn't anything particularly special but complimented the movie well. The plot was engaging (I wanted to yell out to the characters a few times), and the characters themselves were convincing and vibrant. Definitely an "A" overall to "Grave of the Fireflies". Worth a watch, especially if you're into World War II stories.

Plotline: Excellent
Characters: Very Good
Music: Good
Animation: Very Good