Anime Me! #7: Toradora!

Anime Me!  #7: Toradora!

Originally a Japanese  light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya.  The series in total are ten novels released between 2006 and 2009, published by ASCII Media Works under their Dengeki Bunko label.  A manga was then adapted by Zekkyō and started serialization in the shōnen manga magazine Dengeki Comic Gao! formally by MediaWorks.

After a run by an internet radio show in 2008 hosted by Animate TV, a 25 episode anime adaptation produced by J.C.Staff aired in Japan on TV Tokyo starting in 2008 running through 2009.  The title Toradora! is derived from the names of the two main characters Taiga Aisaka and Ryūji Takasu. “Taiga” sounds like “tiger” in English, and tiger in Japanese is tora. “Ryūji” literally means “son of dragon” in Japanese, and a transcription of dragon into Japanese is doragon.  Thus Toradora!

Toradora! is one of those stories that just hooks you and never let’s go.  Now like most “high school dramas” it follows the lives a few characters and their interactions between them.  They go through normal everyday events and their daily struggles through high school.  A love triangle story develops and becomes interestingly twisted as each character finds their true feeling for the one’s they truly love.  At one point you actually do start rooting for certain characters to find each other.

We find Ryūji Takasu, the male protagonist and absolute neat-freak, who is becoming more frustrated by his own looks as he enters his second year of high school.  He has a very gentle personality, but his looks, mainly his eyes, make him look at first glance as an intimidating delinquent.  He is at a time in his life where he is looking for a girlfriend, but he is utterly hopeless about going about it.  From his constantly hungover mother, to his best-friend (Yūsaku), to the one girl (Minori) he has a secret crush on.  He unexpectedly knocks into “the school’s most dangerous animal”, Taiga Aisaka.  Who just happens to also be in his class, and is a good friend of Minori.

Taiga has a negative attitude towards others and just about everything (except Minori).  She will not hesitate to snap at anyone.  After meeting Ryūji, she takes an instant dislike of him, and literally smacks him upside the head.  Now here is where the story gets interesting.  As it so happens, Taiga has a crush on Yūsaku, and Taiga finds out about Ryūji’s affections towards Minori.  Both Ryūji and Taiga decide to team-up for the purpose of helping each win the hearts of the ones they love.  At first Taiga exploits the fact that Ryūji will do anything to get closer to Minori.  But along the way they open up to a side of each other that neither ever shows.

I won’t spoil anymore, and there is a lot more to view, side plots, and an added love triangle, not to mention much more to have laughs with.  On a side note the opening theme Pre-Parade by Kugimiya Rie & Kitamura Eri & Horie Yui is very catchy, and very appropriate for the series.  By far it is one of the most enjoyable themes in any anime.  Now to be truthful, I was very hesitant about this anime.  At first glance it seems like a Shojo type romance story, and in some regards it is.  But ultimately the story itself is what keeps this anime going.  It is a very interesting look into why you should never judge a book by it’s cover, as you never know what is inside, until you look.  Lesson learned…lol.

From the many, many comic gags and situations throughout the series, to the touching scenes towards the end.  There is no doubt Toradora! is one of the best stories I have seen.

Anime Me! #6: Fullmetal Alchemist

Anime Me!  #6: Fullmetal Alchemist (Brotherhood)

For the sake of this review this week, I am combining the 2003 anime (known as Fullmetal Alchemist) and the 2009 anime (also known as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood).  They are both based off the 2001 manga of the same title.  The only difference being, the 2009 anime follows the manga story arc much closer and is currently still ongoing, as the 2003 anime was altered due to being produced at the same time as the manga itself.  Thus there are some major changes in the story arcs.  Believe it or not this was done on purpose and with permission from the creator, Hiromu Arakawa.  In an interview she explains that “…she would not like to repeat the same ending in both media, as well as to make the manga longer to work more in the development of the characters…”

Simply put I felt the original anime, even though it differed quite a bit from the finished manga, was one of the top notch Shonen anime of all time.  The 2003 anime spanned 51 episodes, and even culminated in a theatrical film that ended the story arc.  It was very engaging and exciting through out.  That being said, I was hesitate when I learned that a “reboot” of sorts was planned in 2009.  I was worried that the reboot was going to altered too many things, as is the “new” wave of Hollywood remakes in this day and age.  I was gladly and pleasantly surprised to find that the 2009 anime was following the manga much better than it’s original did.

The series itself, in both versions, follows the story of two alchemist brothers, Edward  and Alphonse Elric, who want to restore their bodies after a disastrous failed attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy.  You see, in their failed attempt, they paid a heavy price.  Edward loses a leg.  Alphonse on the other hand loses his entire body, nearly dies, and is only saved by his brother quick thinking.  Unfortunately by saving his brothers life (by affixing his soul to an empty suit of armor), Edward also loses his arm.

As you can tell, this anime is not exactly for anyone young and the scene above is very graphic and may not even be for everyone.  Such is life, and I am glad this pivotal scene remained as the common running theme of having consequences for every action (even well intended ones) still rings true.  As we pick up the story we find that Ed has equipped himself with metal prosthetics with the help of his mechanic and childhood friend Winry Rockbell, and Al is still affixed to the suit of armor.

Speaking of the suit of armor.  A common running gag within the series is Ed’s reactions to people calling him short, or people mixing him and his brother up.  Some people they meet already know of the Elric brothers and know that Ed is the oldest of the two.  But when they see Al’s very tall suit of armor, they just assume he is Ed because of his height.  Since Ed has a short fuse when it comes to his height, there is always an argument over the subject.

A few years after their failed attempt, the boys get involved with the State Military, because of their talent with Alchemy.  In this world, you soon realize that Alchemy has become much more prominent and relied upon scientific technique.  They take the opportunity to learn as much as they can in order to discover a way to return their injured and broken bodies along with their deceased mother.

Now if you are watching both anime, you will notice quickly that exact scenes and characters are changed in Brotherhood, but pretty much remain identical to the 2003 anime.  That is until you start reaching the 17th-18th episode.  You will then be treated to an entirely different story arc.  Some seemingly minor characters from the 2003 anime become much more prominent in Brotherhood, and some others are killed off.  After the stories diverge it really does become 2 separate animes, both very enjoyable.

As of today’s date, there are 57 episodes (60 that I know about) in the 2009 anime version, with many more to come.

Anime Me! #5: Angelic Layer

Anime Me!  #5: Angelic Layer

Officially marked as a shōnen style anime, this weeks review is Angelic Layer.  It is the anime I introduced my own daughter to, and she cannot get enough.  First off, originally developed by CLAMP. an all-female group formed in the 1980’s.  They are one of the most acclaimed group of artists in Japan, and very rarely make appearances.  Due to their work, they are credited as part responsible for the manga explosion in the United States.  They have an uncanny ability to write towards male and female readers and because of that will always straddle that line between shōnen and shōjo manga.

This title is CLAMP’s first work to use a different art style.  There is less emphasis on detail and more on posing and gestures.  This kind of artwork would be used on later titles, and become some of their most well known and popular series.  The manga was adapted into a 26-episode anime series produced by Bones which aired on TV Tokyo from April 2001 to September 2001.

Angelic Layer introduces us as the viewer to a universe that CLAMP will go to again and again in different and later series.  This notion that multiple titles and characters exist in the same world becomes part of the charm for most of their titles involved.  Some of CLAMP’s other works which are interconnected include Chobits, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Cardcaptor Sakura, Clamp School Detectives, as well as one of there current running anime Kobato.

The primary character and protagonist of the story is Misaki Suzuhara, a seventh grader who just moved to Tokyo to live with her aunt.  She is inspired by a video she sees on a jumbotron outside of Tokyo Station and becomes infatuated to learn as much as she can about the popular live game called Angelic Layer.  The game itself is based on dolls, called “Angels” that can move and fight via mental control across a stage/ring called a “Layer”.  She meets many different characters, who all seem to be interconnected throughout the story.  While all this is going on, the meat of her back story takes shape, as she deals with not only adjusting to her new surroundings and budding relationships, but also her past about her mother, whom she has not seen in years.  Like other manga and the anime based on them, Angelic Layer’s ending as well as relationships were changed.  So I’ll stop there to avoid spoiling you any further.  LOL!

What I do extremely like about CLAMP’s work is the interconnection of the different series.  For instance Angelic Layer is a de facto prequel, without actually being one, to another CLAMP work called Chobits You can pick up each of these titles and understand the story with out the other, but can be happily surprised when certain characters or places make appearances.  The manga shows much more of this, but the anime has some information about certain characters as well.

For Angelic Layer specifically, it was the first opportunity to show my daughter something I enjoyed watching and she, enjoying it along with me.  The story itself is easy to follow, even with all the character relationships, and back story weaving in and out of the main plot.  Most of the “Angels” and trainers (called Deus) are female with one or two exceptions.  While the over all moral of the series is “believing in yourself is essential in accomplishing your goals”, there is more than enough action as the game itself can be a combination of boxing, wrestling, and video games all rolled into one.

By far Angelic Layer was exciting, emotional, action-packed, and hilariously funny as any anime can ever get.  It was the first CLAMP anime I watched, and it set me on a path to find more of their works to view.

Anime Me! #4: Chrono Crusade

Anime Me!  #4: Chrono Crusade

This week, I bring to you Chrono Crusade.  Easily one of the best presented anime on my all-time list.  The shonen manga was written and illustrated by Daisuke Moriyama.  The individual chapters were published in eight tankōbon volumes by Kadokawa Shoten from December 1999 to September 2004.  The anime itself first aired on Fuji TV in Japan on November 23, 2003 and ran for 24 episodes until June 10, 2004.

Of quick note, you will sometimes find the spelling of the name to be different.  Sometimes it is “Chrono”, and others “Chrno”.  In a bit of an embarrassment, Moriyama’s publishers during the original serialization apologized for the typo.  It has since been corrected as well as the logo itself has gone through a rehaul to be less confused with other stories that use the word “Chrono” in the title.

After the first few episodes you start to feel like it’s the same story.  It starts to have a “villain of the week” type plot in every episode.  As anyone who knows me, knows I don’t look fondly on “villain of the week” stories.  But the moment you feel this, it switches up and give you a swerve.  An actual story, lol!

Chrono Crusade is set in 1920’s.  The division between rich and poor is growing day by day during WWI.  At this time, a darkness is rising influencing the choices of mankind.  A fictional organization known as the Order of Magdalene fight demonic forces across America.  The main characters of Sister Rosette and her demon partner Chrono are part of this organization.  The main story arc that is revealed breaks up the seemingly “villain of the week” episodic nature, and starts driving that arc right through the end of the series.  We see that Sister Rosette and Chrono have more of a past than we are led to believe and they are connected spiritually as well as “physically” (I really do not want to spoil any further).

Sister Rosette Christopher is an impulsive, 16-year-old, and the protagonist of the story.  She seems like any other 16 year old, considering she is a demon hunter.  Except the swerve I mentioned earlier, involving her “contract” with her partner.  Again, I will not spoiler any further.  But from the moment we learn of the contract, the series switches from a “villain of the week” type story to more of a character driven one.  While her character is altered more in the anime than in the manga.  I feel it, in no way changes her character for the purpose of the story.

The anime follows the manga story through the events of Vol. 4, but it really diverges during a crucial point in the plot and as a result, creates different arcs and endings.  Most anime that diverges from the manga story, I have always felt falls flat.  In this instance, the only aspect that I disagree with is the final confrontation between Aion and Chrono.  While I will not reveal specifics, it feels way too fast for the build up it gets throughout the series.  I won’t reveal anything further, but I will say, it’s not even the end.

Let me say this.  I have NEVER watched a more emotional scene than the final 10 minutes of the final episode.  I DARE anyone, who has sat through the entire series, to watch the final scene…and NOT cry.  ANYONE!