Summer Review – Anime

Long has there been a stigma that anime and cartoons are practically the same and that to the lay person it is the same in that it is aimed at kids. NOT SO! Recently I’ve been exposed to some series that are as good as many live action shows out there. If you don’t wish to perpetuate the stigma any further read on as my summer was fraught with new (to me anyway) anime, I’ve done a quick run down of what’s worth watching and what isn’t.

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Hellsing

Plot

The British Government have a division within the police that deals with any supernatural goings on that’s a threat to Queen and country. The head of which is the heir to the Hellsing family, Integra Hellsing, and is protected Aulcard who is known as the original and most powerful vampire after swearing fealty to her family 100 years previous. The story also follows Officer Seras Victoria, who in the first episode is turned into a vampire after a mission to kill a supernatural being goes awry, and how she copes with immortality and adapting back into humanity.

Plusses

  • It’s entertaining and a little bit out there, using classic myths and combining it with modern society.
  • The last few episodes in particular are cracking. After the ‘episode of the week’ is established it takes the story telling and action up a level and really raises it’s game.
  • Quite brutal at times and makes the most of the gunslinger feel to some of the characters.
  • Interesting mythology behind the world that has been constructed, but it really only scratches the surface.

Minuses

  • The voice acting of more than a few characters is some of the worst I’ve heard dubbed in English.
  • There are not enough episodes, and even though there is a feature length film it feels like they blew their story telling load here.
  • Animation looks a little dated.

Overall score – 6/10


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Tokyo Ghoul

Plot

College student Ken-Kaneki gets attacked and survives a deadly encounter from his date who claims to be a ghoul (a human like creature that hunts and devours flesh that also has special powers), and while being saved in hospital has some of the organs from his date (killed during encounter) transplanted into him, making him half ghoul. He then has to deal with his new life, his hunger for flesh and learn how to interact with others in the ghoul society as well as competing factions. All while being hunted by the police.

Plusses

  • The animation is of excellent quality.
  • After the build up of characters and the shit starts to hit the fan, the episodes are some of the best action/fantasy out there.
  • The characters are all well thought out with the creators not afraid to kill off central ones and doesn’t compromise the story in the process.
  • It examines more than just what is going on with out protagonist, it also gets you to look at the dynamic of this society from differing views.
  • The action is inventive and quite engaging. The way the ghouls powers work gives the action sequences scope for being highly creative.
  • Backstories are fleshed out for a lot of characters which just makes it more interesting as a whole.

Minuses

  • It takes a little too long to get away from the episode of the week format.
  • Some characters are unnecessarily annoying, fortunately there are plenty of others to focus on.

Overall Score – 8/10


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Sword Art Online – Season 1

Plot

During the launch of a virtual reality mass multiplayer online role playing game whereby people play through VR headsets but remain unconscious, once the players sign in they find they are unable to log out. They are then told by the creator from within the game that they can only be released once they reach the 100th level of the game and beat the final boss. They are also told that if they die within the game, they will die in real life. The majority of the time is focussed on Kirito, a player that was part of the beta testing of the game and has inside knowledge of how to beat the game. Thinking he can do it easily he goes at the task alone, along the way coming across different factions with alterior motives, making friends, enemies, falling in love, questing for rare artifacts as well as other adventures.

Plusses

  • It is the first look at a virtual reality in this way and does a good job in delivering all the information to understand the plot.
  • The first half of the season really engaging.
  • The action is fun in its own way at times.
  • It explores some psychological and social issues revolving around online gaming.

Minuses

  • Bar a few characters, most of the characters are poorly written, very few are memorable or have much history to them.
  • The second half of the season is a re-hashing of the first half of the season, but without any of the mystery and just in a different setting.
  • The animation was average.
  • It became fairly predictable and the emotional level of the characters is quite juvenile.

Overall Score – 4/10


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Fate Stay Night – Unlimited Blade Works

Plot

The story revolves around a secret tournament that goes on between seven chosen mages, this happens in the shadows of the modern day world. Each mage is then paired with a legendary myth/figure from history and fight each other to the death with their powers, the last pair standing receive the wish granting holy grail.

Pluses

  • The animation is excellent, the contrast of bright colours against a dark background when there’s action is effective with its high production value.
  • Speaking of the action, it’s really quite stunning. The story makes use of the differing styles of each legend to keep each battle fresh and creative.
  • The lore is interesting and clearly has depth to it.

Minuses

  • That being said, it could have done with a little more showing rather than telling of the lore.
  • Given how interesting the premise is most of the characters are pretty shallow and don’t have much to them except the cliche’ anime traits we come to know.

Overall Score – 7/10


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Steins;Gate

Plot

A group of friends led by a scientist customise their microwave and accidently discover they can send texts into the past to change the future. While going through the trial and error of testing the implications of time travel a big evil corporation known as SERN (who have been doing their own research) finds out what these friends has uncovered and attempt to steal their research. It’s up to the group to stop them changing the world as they know it forever.

Pluses

  • After about half way through the episodes go from… “meh this is alright”… to… “HOLY SHIT DID THAT JUST HAPEN.” Really strong second half of the season.
  • Most of the characters have genuine development and change as a result of the time travel. It really shows the impact of the plot on most of our main characters without taking anything away from the overall picture. It has a good balance to it.
  • The animation is solid and the plot does a good job being creative. It’s a time travel plot done right.
  • It has possibly the most emotional impact from an anime that I have ever seen, and is pulled off perfectly.

Minuses

  • A couple of the characters start off in a really cliché’ annoying way that is associated with some anime shows. However this does change as the plot develops.
  • The first few episodes are quite hard to follow and I can imagine some people  getting turned off of it before it’s even started. It is definitely worth sticking with.
  • The very last bit of the ending ended up being a little contradictory and lost some of the impact certain characters decision making had in the episode. It doesn’t ruin it by any means, but going for both a sad and a happy ending didn’t have the impact maybe it intended.

Overall Score – 8/10


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Death Note

Plot

One day bored but intelligent Light Yagimi comes across a Death Note whereby anybody who’s name is written in it will die. After deciding to rid the world of all the people he considers to be evil, the previous book’s owner and shinigami (a Japanese death god) named Ryuk becomes visible to him and explains his involvement in the death note and the people killed. After criminals start dying Interpol start to look into it and get world renown investigator “L” to hunt down the person responsible.

Pluses

  • It is intelligent and well written. For a psychological thriller with very limited action to pull off the tension around the set ups is a testament to what great source material it is.
  • ‘Light Yagami vs L’ is probably the best intellectual battle you will come across in anime. Certainly the most enjoyable.
  • The animation is of a good standard.
  • Most of the themes are pretty mature ones and never looks to treat the audience as if they will not understand. Thorough explanations are ever present.

Minuses

  • Personally I wanted more of the Shinigami’s, their purpose and their background needed to be explored more.
  •  There’s one character, a love interest, who is as annoying as fuck.
  • There is a moment where the overall story goes in another direction that is just not as compelling as what we had. It’s not bad, just not as gripping.

Overall Score – 9/10

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