Anime Me! #10: Blood +

Anime Me!  #10: Blood +

The Blood+ 50 episode anime series premiered in Japan on October 8, 2005 with a new episode airing weekly until September 2006.  The series was directed by Junichi Fujisaku and features original character designs by Chizu Hashii.  Now initially ratings for the anime began to drop, but eventually in December 2005, Blood+ was one of several anime series selected as being a “recommended as an excellent work” at the 9th annual Japanese Media Arts Festival.  The series was ranked #41 on TV Asahi’s list of top 100 favorite anime series for 2006.

The original story was inspired by a stand alone anime called Blood: The Last Vampire.  While there are very few elements that are the same between each, it is quite clear the characters and basic premise from Blood: The Last Vampire was attempted to be explored and evolved in Blood +.  Each season has separate opening and ending themes from a variety of artists, with the final episode using the season one ending theme.

Now first and foremost.  It may seem like your average hack and slash, “villain of the week” type anime.  I will admit there is a lot of violence in this anime.  But it is not used as a crutch to hide a poor story.  Rather it is used as a tool to help move the story forward.  A very interesting and detailed story, from beginning to end.

Using the anime movie as a mysterious back story.  Under the care of her adoptive family, Saya Otonashi has been living the life of an anemic and amnesiac, but otherwise ordinary schoolgirl.  Saya’s happy life is shattered when she is attacked by a chiropteran, the demons from the movie.  She learns that she is the only one who can defeat them.

Armed with her katana, Saya embarks on a journey with her family, allies, and her chevalier, Hagi, to rid the world of chiropteran and rediscover her identity.  The course of the journey reveals the background history of the chiropterans and Saya’s very deep past, which extends into the mid-19th century.

The series is initially set in present day Okinawa City, on Okinawa Island, near the US Kadena Air Base.  In the course of the series, Saya visits locations across the world, fighting enemy chiropteran and searching for her origins.

As stated it is a decent and detailed story, very rare for anime.  On top of that, the 50 episode length is very convenient, and is enough to tell the story in a way where it doesn’t seem rushed, nor drawn out as others I have reviewed here.

It must be said, that there are a few twists and turns that help develop the main characters into what they are meant to be.  But it is still not for the feint of heart.  The story is told in a grown-up way.  Not every action that is taken is a positive one, nor do the “good-guys” always win.  There will be a point where a decision is made that inadvertantly sacrifices a character.  There is no magic potion, no redo button, the story is told as life.  You must live with your decisions.  I will have to admit this will cause viewers to be astonished and heartbroken.  Some of these decisions will effect the characters, just like real life decisions would.

For a story, or in this instance, an anime, to do this…is classic story telling at it’s best.

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Anime Me! #8: Love Hina

Anime Me!  #8: Love Hina

Love Hina is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Ken Akamatsu.  A 24 episode anime version of the manga was produced by Xebec and aired in Japan from April 2000 to September 2000.  So popular it was soon followed by a bonus DVD Christmas and Spring television specials.  One draw back was the lack of a proper ending for the series.  A new OVA series was created Love Hina Again, originally rumored to be a complete sequel, this series was only 3 episodes long, quickly introduced new characters and a plot that slightly confuses the original.  It ultimately resolved everything rather quickly, due to the short length.  But it still gave a proper ending to the series.  Oddly enough, this anime is still considered one of the best selling anime, manga, and critically popular series worldwide.

The series itself is listed as a Shonen title, but is never recomended for anyone under 16 years old since there is many sexual innuendos littered through out.  So for this purpose I have listed them as both a Shonen and a Seinen.

The series follows the daily life of Keitaro Urashima, the manager of an all-girls dorm, as he attempts to pass the Tokyo University entrance exams and find the girl he promised to enter Tokyo U with when he was a child.  While it seems to be a Harem series, with the girls in the dorm all having personal opinions about Keitaro, some eventually have crushes on him.  Even with the initial main female character Naru, it doesn’t truly become a Harem until Keitaro meets Mutsumi and the debate starts as to which girl he really has made his childhood promise to.

While there is really never any doubt who Keitaro will end up with.  It is wall to wall comedy, as each time he either gets the nerve to approach Naru, or one of the other girls try to approach him there is always one thing or another that seems to get in the way.  The main running gag in the series has Keitaro trying to approach or say something to Naru, just to have it misunderstood or completely missed, usually resulting in Naru punching Keitaro (which sends him soaring into the sky).

When I initially heard about the ending before I started watching this series, I was hesitant.  I do not like anime which doesn’t resolve the story arc, nor if the ending is a cop-out.  I was happily surprised with the ending to the original series.  Without giving anything away, I felt the series did have a satisfactory ending.  Even with the Specials and the extra OVA.  That being said, you have to take this series for what it is.  A light hearted comedy.  It’s not hard to follow, and each female character in the dorm are very interesting.  Each has there own quirks and style.  Each has there own reasons for “liking” Keitaro, some bizarre, some funny, some down right sweet.  You start to have your favorites as the series progresses, and you even seem to root for different girls, even though the one he’s destined for is rather easy to predict.

I personally found myself yelling at my TV.  This is how I know for sure, that this anime is a keeper.  If you can be that invested in an anime where you can lose yourself, it’s a good one!

Anime Me! #3: Black Lagoon

Anime Me!  #3: Black Lagoon

This week, I bring to you one of my all-time favorites.  Black Lagoon.  This is one of those rare animes that I have just immersed myself into.  I have the original Japanese manga books, as well as the English translations.  I have the anime DVD’s, as well as the anime soundtrack.  So it’s not going to take a genius to figure out, I love this anime.

Black Lagoon is a manga series written and illustrated by the great Rei Hiroe, and published in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX since 2002.  The anime series based on the manga aired in Japan from April 8, 2006 to June 24, 2006.  It totaled twelve episodes.  The second season was called Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage and ran for another 12 episodes beginning on October 2, 2006.  The third season was just recently announced as Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail, and has been slated as an OVA.

The story follows a team of misfit mercenaries known as Lagoon Company, who smuggle goods around the seas of Southeast Asia.  They are located in the fictional city of Roanapur in Thailand.  Their main means of transport is an 80-foot Elco-type PT boat named Black Lagoon.

Each episode basically consists of the team taking on a variety of missions in various Southeast Asian locations.  What really draws me into the anime is that the stories take on a realistic view.  Such as if cars or other vehicles are destroyed in one episode, they remain destroyed in subsequent episodes.  Even some instances were some injuries will continue on in later episodes.

We begin the anime with the introduction of Rock, your mild-mannered Japanese businessman, and he’s been used by his bosses in a situation he wants no part of.  While you immediately feel sorry for him.  It won’t be the last time he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He joins up with Lagoon Company and immediately gets at odds with most of them because of his moral compass.

While female anime characters are not exactly rare.  You will NEVER find one as tough, or as strong, or as talented as Revi.  She is the muscle for Lagoon Company and the protagonist for the series.  She is of Chinese descent and is very skilled with firearms.  What makes her character rare, is that she enjoys killing her enemies.  While normally calm, she tends to have some sort of internal emotional instability.  You can see this flourish with her interactions with Rock.  You can immediately tell, both of these characters need each other.  Rock needs Revi’s strong backbone, and Revi needs Rock’s moral stability.  This of course causes many fights, some very violent.  One of which almost costs Rock his life.  But it is soon realized that without each other, both characters just wouldn’t be the same.

But the anime doesn’t stop there.  Chock-full of many characters, and all of them are given a sort of depth, especially in the manga.  Some do border on cliche for anime, such as nuns & maids (both of whom are skilled in firearms).  But the characters never show any sign of just being thrown into the story.  Each has a purpose, and each are used to the fullest.  THAT is rare in any story telling in this day-and-age of old, tired, retread remakes.

Another aspect I enjoy is the humor.  A very dark humor that involves adult themes such as drugs, alcohol, guns, sex, and murder.  All usually during very violent scenes and gun battles.  One of my favorite is the Rock, Paper, Scissors game Revi plays with another character.  They are playing to see who will start killing first.  When Revi loses, she begins to whine like a child.

On the flip side, there are scenes of great depth, and thought.  The submarine scene with Rock and Revi comes to mind.  It is the first real instance where both Rock and Revi explain to each other their views.  Some scenes concern themselves with philosophical thought as well as emotions, actions, and responsibilities.

It’s a real treat to find an anime that can satisfy you with action, violence, thought, depth, and humor.  Quite literally you’d be lucky to get one of these with most.  With Black Lagoon, you get it all.

Anime Me! #1: Monster

Anime Me!  #1: Monster

This week, the first Anime I am viewing is called “Monster”.  This anime is based on a seinen manga (Japanese Comic) written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, published by Shogakukan in “Big Comic Original” (1994 – 2001).  It was adapted as a 74 episode anime series by Madhouse.  It originally aired on Japanese NTV from April 2004 to September 2005.


Monster

First to note, this is not for children.  A seinen anime is generally targeted at an 18–30 year old male audience.  The series follows Dr. Kenzo Tenma as he pursues a young psychopath & sociopath named Johan, whose life as a little boy, Tenma once saved.  In doing so Tenma must make a severe moral choice, one that haunts him and alters his life and they way he views it.  It is a unique anime as it does not involve any locations within Japan.  In this instance most, if not all, locations are based in Germany and the Czech Republic…

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