Argentosoma – episodes 15 to 25 and episode EX

April 30, 2005 on 11:39 pm | In Argentosoma | Comments Off on Argentosoma – episodes 15 to 25 and episode EX

Sequel to this article from two months back.

Despite its clunky start, Argentosoma geared up in its second half to present a dynamic blend of intrigue, twists and drama.

Takuto realises that he is not exactly the nicest person to talk to, through the assistance of Hattie. Watching Hattie lash out and “not shut up” really opens his eyes; she also makes Takuto realise that she is not Maki, and he cannot treat her as such. Their resemblance and shared seiyuu are little more than anime-flavoured coincidence.

The questions of “what are we fighting for and against?” are answered more than satisfactorily, with at least one of the revelations being a true “anime shiver” moment – one where you can feel the impact in your spine (I have had this feeling only two other times that I can remember: once in Nadia, and the other in City Hunter 2). For this reason, Argentosoma graduated to something very special for me.
Adding another layer of excellence is the fact that after the conclusion there is an epilogue episode, set six years later. There is not only the relief of seeing a matured Hattie (she ends up fine, folks – her voice changes!), but also of seeing the growth of the rest of the cast (and Sue’s inexplicable makeover).
This is not the kicker; the kicker is that by the end I had come to love Mr. X. In grand anime tradition, he managed to provoke a strong reaction with his final appearance.

After this is the budgeted but unbroadcast episode EX. It is chronologically implacable, occurring before key events in the series but relying on the viewer to have knowledge of revelations. This episode deals with giving Sue a depth of history and is quite good, if unessential. It is definitely odd to watch after the series proper, but is worthwhile for the hilarious Takehito Koyasu/Horie Yui omake ED.

If anything, Argentosoma exceeds expectations. Patience pays off, and the ED makes divine sense after all!

Emma – episode 3

April 27, 2005 on 10:35 pm | In Emma | Comments Off on Emma – episode 3


Warning: Meeting Emma may impair your social judgment!

In this episode, William’s friend Hakim comes to visit from India. Hakim takes William on an elephant ride through the streets of London, but William gets sick and has to stop off at Emma’s house. Emma meets Hakim, who is instantly taken by her; Hakim consults Emma as to her feelings for William, and then confesses his own feelings.

This appears to be the first episode of Emma to actually go for the laughs, with Hakim’s tight-lipped harem following him everywhere; William’s younger brother is particularly distressed by all of the foreign goings on. William himself is consistently dazed by what’s happening around him but is pleased because “I got to see Emma”. Nothing goes wrong in this episode, besides the obvious issue of another person vying for Emma’s affections (please, people, she doesn’t want your gifts!).

On the Emma front (as there is remarkably little Emma in Emma): Mrs. Stownar seems a bit mean to Emma, but I suppose that’s what high class people do. Also, Emma does have a moment of reflection in her room, but it is mercifully not while she’s combing her hair and looking into the mirror; the consideration scenes in this episode, both her own and William’s, are well done.

All in all, a fine episode that even included some nice CG.

Next time: Hakim, Eleanor, Emma and William Battle Royale!


April 27, 2005 on 10:04 pm | In Vandread | Comments Off on Vandread

In the future, men and women have had a falling out … to the point where they have split planets and are perpetually at war. The men live on Tarak and the women on Mejale. Tarak babies are produced in factories, and Mejale babies are produced internally by some scientific process with special words that probably make sense to someone.
This is not their story, but it is the context from which this story springs.

Vandread opens with the Tarak forces launching a new space station filled with new ships known as vanguards. Only moments after lift-off, they are set upon by pirates – female pirates! Realising that the old part of their station has been lost, the Tarak jettison it, leaving the pirates and three unfortunate male stow-aways on board. The Tarak blast the old station with a “Paksis” beam, which does not destroy it but rather fuses it with the pirates’ ship. The Paksis also changes several key areas of the ship, including the engine and all of the mech units on board.
Escaping in their new ship, the Nirvana, the pirates keep the men prisoner but realise in time that the unique services offered by the trio are necessary for smooth running: Hibiki on vanguard, Bart as the helmsman, and Duero as doctor (women of the future can make children by themselves, but cannot perform medical checks without machines). They also realise that the new vanguards can combine with the women’s dreads to form ultra powerful vandreads.
This is useful, because they also have the matter of attacks from unknown alien forces to contend with!

The story of Vandread is developed fairly well, with this thirteen episode series tightly directed and featuring a cute Christmas episode (beware SF anime with nice Christmas episodes!). The final three are quite dramatic and conclude fairly well, then do that classic “lead-in to a sequel” that everyone loves so much (Second Stage followed soon thereafter). The only point of contention is that the final dramatic push is set into motion on a fundamentally flawed premise that involves wild character irrationalities. Still, this amounts to less than half an episode and can be overlooked; the majority of Vandread is fun with a splash of intrigue simmering in the background.

Much is made of the fact that this is a war of the sexes; while there is tension on the ship, it is not to the extent that one might expect. The men and women featured in Vandread are all atypical of the society they live in: the women are pirates, and the men are all outcasts in Tarak. Standard Mejale and Tarak would kill each other on sight; naturally, this would not make for a great series.
Interestingly, in a society that would by default suggest all of its members are homosexual, there are only a few clearly defined lesbians. Men on Tarak have conversations along the lines of “When this is all over, what say we make a baby together?” “A baby with you? That sounds like a great idea!”.

Despite the large cast of women, there are clearly defined important characters: the core Dread team of Jura, Dita and Meia; pirate captain and sole old woman Magno (more commonly referred to as “Old Hag”); and Hibiki. Duero and Bart have important roles as well, but they get significantly less screen time, as does ship mascot Pyoro.
Dita is the old-fashioned enthusiastic, dedicated-to-one-guy girl who cheers the ship with her endless vitality. She also has feelings and is not completely oblivious to those of Hibiki. Meia has her own past and Jura is an excellent comedy foil as well as sometime lesbian.
Hibiki is plagued by class-consciousness, an inferiority complex and an impatience when it comes to women. Yet somehow he manages to have a heart of gold and a stomach of cast iron. He is a character that has self doubts without being a whiney crybaby.

The OP and ED are perhaps too dramatic for their own good, with the ED sounding like the equivalent of an aural drowning. This is a Gonzo program, so it is packed with CG. The amazing thing is that the CG is actually quite good, as TV of this 2000 period really shouldn’t have had much CG thrown into it. The action scenes look pretty damned nice; not much TV seems to do the CG kick lately (that I have seen, anyway), and in many cases it seems pretty … lame … but Vandread pulls it off elegantly due to its lack of attempts to blend: every scene is either all 2D or all CG. The characters are really quite attractive, and there’s quite a bit of bounce going on. This is fan service at the high class level it was before the modern saturation point.

Vandread is the right sort of anime, created at a time before this sort of anime went bad. The level of fan service is just right, the characters are fun and the CG is surprisingly not bad at all. Add in a little bit of drama, and some excellenté discussions of the rights of orangutans in space and you’ve got a nice series to watch.

Emma – episode 2

April 24, 2005 on 11:05 pm | In Emma | Comments Off on Emma – episode 2

“Two worlds”

It sounds obvious, but one should not watch an episode of Emma with an hour between halves; it leaves one with misgivings and feelings of terror. This is because, despite William’s affability, he is unable to understand his society. In some ways he is ahead of his time, and the problem with being ahead of your time is that it is inappropriate in regard to social mores.

In this episode, it is revealed that William actually does have a job, working for his father’s company; he just never attends, the cad. This is not his father’s issue; the problem is that William has not attended any balls in the latest Victorian social season. So William acquiesces and attends a ball, where he meets Eleanor. Eleanor is a blushing young girl who has one thing over Emma: she comes from the nobility, which the gentry aim to marry into.
Eleanor is a nice character; she is not scheming or vindictive. As a rival for William’s affections, she is unobjectional, if ultimately (see the title) unsuccessful.

The problem with this episode is simple: parasol shopping. Never ask a woman what a good present for a woman is, and then buy the present in front of her, and then not give her the present in question. That’s suicide, man!
Naturally, William intends this parasol for Emma. Yet, as a maid, Emma can’t possily accept so many, and so expensive, gifts.
“Really, it’s nothing,” says William.
“It is for me,” says Emma.
Somehow, by the end of the episode everything is resolved so neatly that one can’t help but forgive the clueless young rogue and his painful social stumblings.

Other highlights of the episode include the introduction of William’s siblings, attractive and nice people. The only problem with Emma is that scenes featuring Emma gazing into her mirror and combing her hair threaten to be rife.

Next episode: exotic foreigners, from foreign lands exotic!

Burn Up W

April 24, 2005 on 5:23 pm | In Burn Up W | Comments Off on Burn Up W

Burn Up W was once considered extreme. By today’s standards, it is practically tame. It is also one of the better OVA series from that interesting time in anime history, the mid-nineties.

In the future (2007, according to internal documentation), Tokyo’s police force is centralised in a giant complex known as Police Town. Within the police force is a secret crack team known as Warrior, consisting of four cute women, a tough one, and a perverted man with a video camera.
The series opens with a terrorist attack on a hotel complex. The terrorists demand ridiculous things in exchange for their hostage’s freedom. Things such as a naked bungee jump performed by their favourite idol. Unsurprisingly, this is a camouflage tactic. The true purpose of the hostage situation is for a syndicate to test its new “Virtual Drug” system.
As the episodes progress, the syndicate becomes increasingly sinister, right up to the realistic (if not crowd pleasing) conclusion.

From the first two episodes, one would be excused for thinking that they were watching two different programs simultaneously. The light and fluffiness of Team Warrior – with star member Rio and her Loan Hell – counteracts the dark violence of the syndicate and its mysterious red-head leader.
The last two episodes work because in the first two we gain insight into the lives and behaviours of the characters, and the antics they get up to with their large breasts and panty-selling to get out of debt. In fact, there are even tender moments allowed, adding just that bit more meaning to proceedings.
People freak out when Team Warrior and the syndicate finally clash head on half way through the third episode, yet this is actually one of the strenghts of Burn Up W. Few people can accept just how realistic this series is; for all of its virtual idols, slashed lingerie and giant robot parodies, Rio can’t spend her entire life in the homicide division of the police and expect her worries to revolve solely around shopping debts forever.
The unspeakable tragedies that occure within the third episode are entirely within the realm of possibility. If these events did happen, Rio would react exactly as she does. People can go around leading comedy rich lives and be struck by sudden tragedy. It happens.

Burn Up W is arguably the first “big tit” anime (it’s not, really, but it is a good example of the genre). The characters are attractive, unlike the ultimate in this line, Eiken. Besides which, Burn Up W has a story. The problem seems to be not so much with the fan service as it is the mingling of nudity and violence. Using my unique stance on these things, I argue that certain parts of this program are not service charged.
The most often cited example is Rio versus the knife fighter Wolfhead. To rob Rio of her power (and, more importantly, her pride), he makes her strip. The long pans of Rio’s body as she sullenly removes her uniform may be accused as wholly inappropriate. While it is wrong to objectify Rio in this instance (although this may have been director Negishi’s intent) it is clear that Wolfhead was doing so, an insight into his bastardry. This is exactly as rape in anime isn’t always meant to titillate, and isn’t as jarring as one might expect if they don’t allow it to be.

The animation is pretty right on, the characters are attractive (on the sensible side of top-heaviness) and Imai Yuka is really cool as both comedy Rio and drama Rio – somehow dropping her trademark deep voice for this performance. The OP, “Flash Your Dream” endures in my mind as a classic anime song, and there’s just a general AIC-ness about the whole thing that makes it great to watch.

Burn Up W is actually pretty good, if approached in the right way. The first two episodes are pretty good for comedy, and the last two have a natural progression into drama. Not everything can be expected in this life, and that is what this program tells us. For even more fan service and laughter, there is also the rockin’ sequel Burn Up Excess a worthy and less worrisome successor to this crown.

Emma – episode 1

April 20, 2005 on 11:04 pm | In Emma | Comments Off on Emma – episode 1

“The Gift”

Victorian Romance Emma is the new big anime. So big, even Momotato is watching it. Heck, it’s so big even I’m watching it, and I stick to DVDs.
Continue reading Emma – episode 1…

Outlaw Star – episodes 14 to 26

April 18, 2005 on 6:37 pm | In Outlaw Star | Comments Off on Outlaw Star – episodes 14 to 26

Outlaw Star generally maintains a high standard in the last stretch, but does fall into some dangerous territory along the way. Dangerous, arbitrary territory.

The MacDougall brothers, until the halfway point, were the main “villains” of the story. They were menacing and, in the case of Harry, borderline psychotic. This was some good material, but along the way the writers seem to realise that they were making these two characters a little too sympathetic, and need to inject a threat. The brothers’ drama is great, but narratively they are seen as less important.

So along comes the the Anten Seven, Outlaw Star‘s equivalent of Rurouni Kenshin‘s Shinsengumi, Kyotogumi – just about any -gumi, really – and Trigun‘s Gung-Ho Guns. A group of seven warriors, among them a face copier, a straight up gunman, some sort of necromancer, and a mistress of using cats in space, the Anten Seven are also after the Galactic Leyline. For a while, it looks like the Anten Seven are going to infect the show and make it a countdown to inevitability. This, fortunately, does not eventuate.
This storyline does throw something for a loop. One might expect that an “expert with cats in space” would be a funny thing, especially when this deadly assassin is a twelve year old girl. Yet this episode turns out to be one of the more serious in the series, and has a truly unexpected outcome – the height of the storyline.

The final break before the home stretch is the episode titled “Hot Springs Planet Tenrei”. It is exactly as it sounds, and is one of the best fan service and comedy extravaganzas ever. The fan service isn’t ultra servicey, but it goes a long way to producing big laughs while also providing some history of the universe. Not an overall important episode – it was skipped in American TV broadcasts due to the simple issue of Aisha naked – but definitely entertaining to the max.

The final arc builds well, with plenty of drama and laughs. The sole problem is that it becomes extremely arbitrary at the very end, introducing the idea of making Hazanko, leader of the Anten Seven, centre of a big final confrontation piece. The journey had been fine, but this seemed like the wrong way to conclude it: with giant big growing things that should not ultimately have been as important as they were.

Outlaw Star was fun to watch, with one of the most shocking episodes and one of the best fan service episodes ever. The thing that makes this sort of series work is a great crew, and the Outlaw Star definitely had one of those.

Lightning Speed!

April 11, 2005 on 10:09 pm | In Site News | 2 Comments

I have decided that in the interest of expediency and me not having to draw at straws, for the second halves of series I’m no longer going to try giant explosive entries. Anime Pilgrimage’s concept is not as it was when it began 13 months ago. There’s not enough time to write each series as a journey.
This way, I will be able to banish Argentosoma and Outlaw Star with small, concise articles, and guiltlessly move onto something else.

EDIT: HC made me realise that I was a bit ambiguous, so I’ve edited this to make my intent clearer.

Angel Heart – Love of City Hunter in the shadow of its sequel

April 10, 2005 on 11:02 am | In Angel Heart, City Hunter | 2 Comments

Note: Those who intend to take up City Hunter should not read this article until they are far, far, deeply immersed in the series – and only then if they’re thick-skinned.

Angel voice, a new but nostalgic echo
–“Angel Night” OP for City Hunter 2

A post at Kakumei alerted me to the fact that a new anime called Angel Heart is to be part of the upcoming Spring season. The comment “what’s that? City Hunter!” intrigued me, and I set out on a quest. Taking my readings somewhat further I found that, 14 years after City Hunter ’91 comes a “sequel”.
It is not pretty, and for this reason mangaka Tsukasa Houjo suggests that he has written an “alternate universe” for fear of upsetting City Hunter fans. And I am upset.

“Parallel universe” and “coincidentally the same characters” arguments don’t cut it. City Hunter is a world where danger is supposed to lurk, and tragedy can strike. Think of Angel Heart as a bus stop: one might choose to get off at the end of City Hunter or to stay on, venturing to parts unknown. Double think and remove any knowledge of Angel Heart from your mind. Walk away!

Angel Heart is the story of the professional killer “Glass Heart” – a woman who feels remorse for the crimes she has committed. Glass Heart commits suicide, but is saved by surgeons by way of heart transplant. You can probably see where this is going … (or not, seeing as this is nothing like what City Hunter has offered) the heart that Glass Heart receives is that of Kaori, hit by a car on the day of her wedding to Ryo.
Glass Heart eventually finds herself at Cat’s Eye, where she meets Ryo. Ryo has given up the role of City Hunter but connects to Glass Heart through the shared link of Kaori.
So as not to weigh the series down completely, Ryo does learn to move on somewhat; that is, he still hits on the visions that pass by Shibuya. Saeko can see that Ryo is not completely reverted to “mokkori pervert” mode, but this is how the series has always worked: serious Ryo hiding underneath the outgoing Ryo.

The core issue presented to Ryo at the outset is impotence. The most dramatic moments in City Hunter occurred when Ryo was powerless to do anything to stop disaster. In this instance, Kaori is not claimed by a bullet, or by anything to do with the underworld, but rather as a result of her own kindness: saving a child from being hit.
The unstated reason that Ryo rarely let on to Kaori his feelings was because he wanted to shield her from that world. Time and time again he saved her, and now it seems that it was all for nought. Not even City Hunter can stop that sort of tragedy.

The idea of Angel Heart so upset me that I knew there was one thing that would stop me from ever watching it: Kamiya Akira. For a while now I have thought that I might be unable to watch Macross again because Kamiya is Ryo – and to see anyone else in the role would be criminal. At the moment I understand that Kamiya is reprising the role of Ryo (last played six years ago) one more time. Kamiya handles the role perfectly, and with the somewhat delicate material on offer here, this will definitely be necessary.

Thinking about this issue has made me realise how much I love City Hunter: Kaori, Ryo and everyone else. The series is written in a way to make the recurring characters as friends to the point that to see any one of them die, even Reika, is upsetting. Getting this news in the week I saw an episode of City Hunter 2 that truly moved me is an extreme coincidence.
The other odd aspect is that, in reality, Kaori has been dead for four years, Angel Heart‘s manga having debuted in 2001. Yet, due to chance, I found out just this week. Almost definitive proof that chance is indeed a harsh and fickle mistress – precisely the idea peddled in Angel Heart.

Angel Heart, whether or not I choose to watch it (indeed, if someone chooses to sub it), has done something important for me. In light of its announcement, I have realised how important City Hunter and its characters are to me. I will cherish the time I have left with Kaori and Ryo, and then perhaps move on, as Ryo inevitably will. Angel Heart is not just about its tragic base: from it, something new has to grow.
Undoubtedly, it would be interesting to see what that will be.


April 9, 2005 on 11:55 pm | In Eiken | 3 Comments

Again, extreme use of breast synonyms follows. Also I went overboard with text enhancers.

I recommend Eiken.

Wait, no I don’t. In this world we have anime like Cosplay Complex and Love Hina that have very few redeeming features, but it is the anime like Eiken that receive the truly bad press. What I noticed when I removed the DVD from my player is that the logo is designed to read Eiken ….
Ultimately, “…” is the only appropriate response to this two episode, one hour tit festival.

What the hell is Eiken about? Nobody knows, not even those who have watched it. Especially not those who have watched it.
Mifune Densuke enrols himself at a school with 54,000 students. On his first day, he accidentally trips and fondles wunderkind Shinonome Chiharu’s gigantic breasts. For reasons unknown, this means that he is qualified to join the Eiken Club. What the Eiken Club does is unclear; the only thing for sure is that all of its members except the lolis have ginormous boobs.
After about seventeen minutes of hilarious misunderstandings!!!! between Chiharu and Densuke, the school’s annual competition kicks in. Who knows what the prize is? Who cares! Swimsuits!
The second episode continues the competition and introduces a rival for Chiharu’s non-existent affections!

Yeah, I still don’t know what it is about. What is plain to see is that Densuke has no personality. Also, Chiharu has no personality. Densuke even introduces himself as a “boring student”. Chiharu gets no dialogue beyond her stuttering. The rest of the club are just as hideous and annoying, from their leader Kirika with her arbitray decisions to the pink haired girl who probably doesn’t have a name and whose own boobs stick out well past her elbows. There’s even a scientist loli who complains about everything … and a bear.

The designers of Eiken clearly have no sense of aesthetic. The mammaries on display are somehow made to look even more sick by the bright yellow colour of the school uniforms. Amazingly, the one time when the look is almost pulled off okay is when the characters are wearing school swim suits. Kirika is somehow contained, yet there is no hope for pink haired girl (after all, pink haired girl has no torso to speak of; really, she’s just a host for two giant parasites).
Get the characters into normal swim suits and all hell breaks loose – they leak out the sides. To whom did this seem like a good idea? And why did it take a year to animate the second episode?

What is right about Eiken? Practically nothing. The only thing I can think of is the buttocks and panties; in the arena of fan service, miraculously they managed to get the lower half of the female body correct. The few moments when the camera focuses on anything other than massive tits are spent on the more realistically (and, importantly, more attractively) designed … not-breasts.
It is pretty sad when the best thing about an anime program is its ass content.

The cast is made up of mercifully few popular seiyuu, but Kawakami Tomoko has added a rare blotch to her resumé. There are a few up and comers, but most of the cast stayed in junk like this. Oshiro Miwa is particularly bad as Chiharu. Chiharu has no personality to speak of, and here you can see it’s not just the fault of the script!

Eiken is not good. Eiken does not make sense. The characters’ obscene breasts are only barely made up for by the tasteful-by-comparison ass and panty shots. Still, this does not deserve to be the most pilloried anime release ever. It’s not worse than so much other pointless, bad anime … without the boobs, it is almost certain that no one would care.

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