Sunday, January 02 2011

Anime Recommendations

I compiled a list of anime recommendations for a friend of mine, and figured I might as well post a link to it here. It includes a synopsis, short commentary and recommended release for each title. I hope to eventually write reviews on all the shows I have been watching, but I have no inspiration and little time right now.

Anyway, the list of recommendations can be found here.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 20:39 | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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Tuesday, May 18 2010

Toaru Majutsu no Index - Review

Toaru Majutsu no Index

Kamijou Touma is the weakest of the weak in Academy City, a place where people with paranormal abilities, so-called espers, study to increase their power. One day he finds a girl hanging over the railing of his balcony. She says her name is Index, and claims to be a magician. She is being chased by other magicians, who wish to obtain the 103,000 grimoires locked away in her head - all the volumes on magic that have been outlawed. Touma takes it upon himself to protect her, and in doing so involves himself in the ancient struggle between science and magic.

Kamijou Touma
Kamijou Touma:
Wherever Touma goes, bad luck seems to follow; it is no coincidence that his catchphrase is "such misfortune...". The ability he possesses is called Imagine Breaker: any supernatural ability that comes into contact with his right hand is cancelled out. He helps people whenever he can, most of the time without even being asked to do so.
Index:Index, or Index Librorum Prohibitorum in full, is a mage of the English Purist Church. She is the target of many attacks because of the 103,000 grimoires that have been stored in her brain.
Misaka Mikoto
Misaka Mikoto:
The third strongest of only seven Level 5 espers in Academy City, her ability is to control the flow of electrons. Her nickname is Railgun, because she can use electricity to launch metal projectiles at great velocity.

Tsukuyomi Komoe
Tsukuyomi Komoe:Komoe-sensei is Touma's homeroom teacher. She has a bit of a crush on him as well, which is why she enjoys putting him in detention.
MISAKA:Misaka's twin sister.
Accelerator:The strongest Level 5 esper in Academy City, his power allows him to change all vectors he comes into contact with.
Kanzaki Kaori
Kanzaki Kaori:A mage sent by Necessarius, the Church of Necessary Evil, to capture Index. She uses magic to strengthen her body, and attacks with a long katana.
Stiyl MagnusStiyl Magnus:Kanzaki's partner, his magic allows him to produce flames. He is rarely seen without a cigarette in his mouth.
Himegami AisaHimegami Aisa:
Also known as Deep Blood, the smell of her blood attracts vampires. However, when a vampire comes close to her, it will die. She is a very quiet person, with a rather introvert personality.
Kazakiri Hyouka
Kazakiri Hyouka:
The best student in Kirigaoka Academy for Girls, one of the top five schools in Academy City. She is the first person Index befriends, next to Touma.

Note: there are so many supporting characters in this series that I decided only to include those who play a central role in more than one episode.

Let me start off by saying the I really liked this series. I find the concept of a city dedicated purely to science fascinating. It is also interesting to see the two different approaches to supernatural power - one rooted in science, the other in magic.

Now let me say what I didn't like about the series. It starts off extremely slow, causing me to almost drop the series after four episodes. The story arcs were too short at only about five episodes each, as well as quite repetitive; all of them pretty much came down to some bad guy doing some bad thing, and Touma stopping him to save someone he barely knows. The story in itself is not exceptional either, nor is it extremely well told.

However, the thing that really got to me about this series were the characters. We have Kamijou Touma, the world's unluckiest individual, but also truly a modern knight in shining armour. There is Misaka Mikoto, the third strongest esper around, who refuses to admit she likes Touma. And then there is Index, possibly the most adorable and loveable character I have ever encountered in any work of fiction, which I think can mainly be attributed to the excellent voice acting.

Moreover, the humour in this series is very much to my liking. I can't remember any other time when I laughed as loudly on my own as in the episode where Index goes to the beach for the first time and, mistaking it for a hat, puts a jellyfish on Touma's head.

Deep down I want to give this series a four star rating, but I cannot possibly justify such a rating based on characters alone. The fact of the matter is that the story is quite lacking. Still, I didn't want the series to end.

I think I'll go watch Haibane Renmei again to reassure myself of the importance of a good story.

I can imagine myself watching this series many times without it getting old.

Full StarFull StarFull StarEmpty Star

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 23:41 | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Monday, May 17 2010

My Anime List

Just a short informative post: if you want to keep track of what anime I'm watching, what my progress is on series and what I plan to watch in the future, you can view my list here:

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 00:01 | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Thursday, February 18 2010

Haibane Renmei - Review

Haibane Renmei

A girl named Rakka suddenly wakes up in a place totally unknown to her. She doesn't remember much of her life prior to the moment she hatched from a large cocoon-like thing. Overnight, Rakka sprouts a pair of wings from her back, a most painful process, during which a woman named Reki tends to her. While Rakka recovers, Reki explains a bit about the place she is in. She is in a large manor named Old Home, which is close to a village called Glie. Reki explains that Rakka is one of the Haibane, who appear in this world from time to time and are permitted to live there by the villagers in exchange for them taking on a job that needs fulfilling in the village. As time progresses we learn more about the Haibane, as well as the world they live in. I won't say more about the plot to avoid serious spoilers, but suffice to say there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Rakka is at the centre of the story told in Haibane Renmei. We follow her from the moment she is born into this strange world, as she tries to figure out why she is there and what happened to her family.
Reki:The unofficial leader of Old Home, Reki is the one who found Rakka's cocoon and cared for her as she grew her wings. She is strong and reliable, both qualities which earned her great respect from her fellow Haibane.

Nemu:One of the eldest Haibane at Old Home. She is always calm and kind-hearted. She works at the library.
Kuu:The last Haibane to join the family at Old Home before Rakka. She is almost always cheerful and full of energy, and becomes close friends with Rakka soon after she arrives. She works in a cafe.
Hikari:The eldest Haibane at Old Home next to Nemu and Reki, she is always kind and helpful. She works in a bakery.
Kana:Probably the least cheerful of the Haibane, on the outside at least. She is good with tools and works with the town's clockmaker in the clock tower.
HyoukoHyouko:One of the Haibane who live away from Old Home, instead choosing to live in an abandoned factory.
Washii, The CommunicatorWashii:Also known as The Communicator, he is the head of the Haibane Renmei, a group of people who loosely govern the Haibane. He is the only one permitted to speak with the people outside the village walls.

I've not seen that much anime yet, but it's safe to say this is the best I've seen so far. Not only is the plot amazingly well constructed, it also has some of the best character development I've ever seen in any work of fiction.

Furthermore, it has a brilliant tension arc. It starts off very slow, which emphasises Rakka's confusion about the place she suddenly finds herself in. The first half dozen episodes or so focus purely on the other Haibane and what they do, as Rakka attempts to find a suitable job in the village. Then, slowly, the pace of the story begins to pick up as we learn more and more about the world she is in, until it finally culminates in one of the most intense finales I have ever seen.

Aside from the story and characters, I also love the visual style of this series. The artwork and the animation is not of supreme quality, but it has a very unique, somewhat surreal feel to it that fits perfectly with the story.

The voice acting on the other hand is of exquisite quality. I could not imagine the casting being better. I incidentally noticed that the seiyū who did the voice of Reki also did that of Konno Mitsune in Love Hina, which is something I would never have guessed judging from the voices of the two characters themselves.

My only complaint would be that it only consists of 13 episodes. Then again, I guess a writer takes as many episodes as needed, no more, no less.

Overall I would say it is a true masterpiece.

High, although I must admit I have not taken the time to watch it again myself.

Full StarFull StarFull StarFull Star

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 18:30 | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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Friday, December 11 2009

Haibane Renmei - First Impressions

My first real blog post! I'm a real blogging noob, and even anime is something I have not really gone into in any significant detail before, so please bear in mind that this is all very new to me.

I will not go into the content of the show in too great detail, as that has undoubtedly been done many times before in a much more comprehensive way than I could achieve. I will simply give my opinion on what I think of the show, what I find good and bad, and what it makes me think about.

My first impression of the show was complete and utter confusion. We are introduced to Rakka (in fact that name is only given to her about halfway through the first episode), a girl who inexplicably wakes up in a totally unfamiliar place, inhabited by total strangers. She actually doesn't as much wake up as hatch from a giant egg that had nested itself in one of the rooms of this strange place.

Incredibly enough, things get even weirder from there, when she meets the people that inhabit this place. They are manlike in appearance, except for the fact that they have a pair of feathery wings protruding from their shoulders and a glowing halo floating over their craniums. They seem to represent all age groups from small children up to around the mid-twenties range, and apparently are exclusively females. Naturally, all of them speak fluid Japanese, even though some of them appear to be from a slightly more European origin.

Rakka rather quickly sprouts a pair of wings herself (which the subtitles claim to be charcoal grey, though they definitely seem plain white to me), and is given a halo of her own. However, she can't manage to balance it on her head, so she has to use some sort of holding device (read: a headband with some iron wire attached) in order to keep it in place, much to the amusement of the younger residents.

When she finally starts to recover from this entire ordeal, we finally get some amount of information about what this place is. The manor itself (which seems somewhat Mediterranean in fashion, though I could be mistaken) is known as “Old Home”, and the people who inhabit it are called the “Haibane”. All of them were born in a similar fashion to Rakka, and none seem to know where they came from or what their life was like before they woke up there. For some reason though all of them are sure they had a life and family somewhere else before they came to Old Home, which seems kind of weird to me as there is no evidence whatsoever pointing in that direction, but let's just put it down to the sub-conscience for the time being.

The Haibane are not confined to Old Home, nor is their existence unknown to other people. There is a village not too far from where they live, who all know that they inhabit the house. The village itself is secluded, however, and its inhabitants (including the Haibane) are not permitted to venture outside the walls. This leads to some interesting customs, as they do need to trade with the outside world. This is done through the Toga, the only people who are allowed to communicate with these traders from the outside world.

That's pretty much a basic outline of the setting in the first two episodes.

So what do I think of it so far? I mentioned before that the first episode (and the second one as well, though to a lesser extent) confused me enormously, and frankly this is the prevalent feeling I get so far. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing – far from it in fact. I would even go as far as to say that this is the series' greatest strength so far. It perfectly reflects the state of mind of Rakka, who can also feel nothing but confusion about this sudden and dramatic change of environment. The viewer is as surprised by everything he sees as she is, and I think this is a rare quality seldom seen in even the best series or films.

I must admit though that I also find it slightly annoying to have absolutely no sense of where the story is going, though I think this is largely due to watching a lot of series and films where the protagonist's ultimate goal is defined in the first ten minutes, followed by never ending action (something I have become increasingly intolerant for over the last year or so). In a sense, being used to this kind of material has ruined my viewing experience of many things, but that is something I will possibly go into in more detail later.

To get back to my ideas about Haibane Renmei, I am very interested in finding out more about what the relations between the Haibane and the village are like. So far it seems like the Haibane are somewhat of a repressed minority, bordering on slaves to be honest. For one, they are not allowed to posses money and can only use what the townspeople no longer need, but they do need to get a job in the village (unpaid, I assume). This is currently said to be in repayment of the village allowing them to stay in Old Home, but I have a hunch that there is more to it than that. Also the role of the so-called Haibane Renmei, whom are apparently some sort of liaisons between the Haibane and the village, is as of yet unclear and therefore very intriguing.

On a different note, I already have begun to like all the characters presented so far. They seem to be very diverse, all with their own personality and background. I am also rather fond of the art style, the characters are rendered and animated beautifully, and the at times somewhat more rough, almost impressionistic backgrounds go with the atmosphere very well.s

My greatest fear thus far is that I have so many and such high expectations that the series will be one giant anticlimax. I have watched so many Hollywood-styled films and series that I have come to expect everything to not be as it seems, whereas it is of course perfectly possible that such schemes and plot twists are not the driving force behind a series. I'm trying my best not to expect anything, but this is proving to be harder than I thought. I simply naturally assume that something is terribly wrong with that village and the Haibane Renmei, just as I naturally assume we will learn more about where the Haibane come from.

I guess only time will tell.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 15:23 | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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