Posts from November 2009

3 Episode Taste Test: Kuchu Buranko (Trapeze)

Kuchu Buranko (Trapeze, lit. Sky Swing) is like a late night bevy of cocktails: all bright colours and mind altering effects. The first three episodes are an all out assault on aesthetics, everything is awash with luminous colours and textured with polka dots or garish swathes of clashing patterns. Sometimes barely discernible from the backdrops, the characters are animated haphazardly when they are at all, often devolving into poorly filtered live-action or blatant rotoscoping and other times jerking between poses with little warning. Like its closet meretricious sibling, Gankutsuou, the visuals are only meant to allure and the real meat of the episodes is worth risking sensory overload.

Beyond the scratchy, haphazard style it often feels like a technicolour slideshow

The mostly standalone stories are about individuals who have some sort of mental affliction which is examined by the whimsical psychiatrist Ichiro Irabu who changes form between an obnoxious green rabbit with permanent facial stubble, a precocious young boy whose lab coat is several sizes too large for him and an androgynous bespectacled boy in his late teens or early twenties. Even the patients are not immune to switching states, often depicted as animals which suit their condition; topping all of this madness off is a supposedly real life psychiatrist Fukuicchi who sporadically pops out of a scene for an aside on the current disorder being explored. The series so far is raucous, visually boggling and brilliant fun to watch.

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3 Episode Taste Test: 11eyes

How many eyes? 11eyes. Certainly more than 3×3 Eyes and The Girl with the Blue Eye, numerically at least. A fascination with eyes and in particular eyepatches (see also Rental Magica, Tenjou Tenge et. al.), this series has the standard outfitting of an enigmatic past and hidden powers connected with said eye as well as a natty patch to keep it all under wraps. Even though it exists as a blatant amalgam of many other ideas and series that have gone before it, 11eyes: Tsumi to Batsu to Aganai no Shoujo (Sin, Damnation and the Atonement Girl) cracks the barrier of dense nomenclature and proves moderately watchable.

it wouldn't be surprising to see a frivolous and inconsequential beach or hot spring storyline in succeeding episodes

A lot of this is down to its refusal to wholly mollycoddle the viewer. By the middle of the second episode the cycloptic protagonist has already worked out it is him that draws those around him into the monster-infested "Red Night" and by the end of the third episode the most recently introduced cast member is given a serviceable raison dĂȘtre. The slow reveal of new party members is still present, again robbed of any interest by the revelatory opening, and the typical standby of the desire to grow stronger and protect those close is bolted to the lead male. By keep the most interesting mysteries close and trivialising the more mundane aspects, the series' introductory episodes maintain interest but demand little further thought.

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3 Episode Taste Test: Sora no Otoshimono (Heaven's Lost Property)

Around the ending credits of the second episode one realises that they've just watched a flock of women's underwear take flight, some with mock jet-streams behind them. That the key element of Sora no Otoshimono's story - a busty, docile angel that fell from a hole in the sky - is the most tame concept of the series demonstrates how abjectly bizarre it is. The opening episode starts out tritely enough but then plunges into bizarre areas as a mostly naked teen runs rampant around his school which is frozen in time, until the penultimate closing scene where everyone in the world apart from the protagonist and fallen angel have evaporated. Were it not borderline misogynistic towards the female cast, this would be a surreal but enjoyable show.

they can alter reality on a whim but not manufacture some more discreet clothing

The sparsely dressed angel that is ground-zero for the ensuing bedlam is completely obedient and accommodating towards the reprehensibly crude lead, Sakurai; the master-slave situation is instantly repulsive, more so that the master of the pair pays little to no attention to her beyond barking orders. The obscenity continues when an order goes awry and causes the other lead female, Mitsuki, to be sans underwear and handcuffed for a large portion of the episode. The first three episodes are intermittently funny but an undercurrent of repugnance sours the otherwise competent show.

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3 Episode Taste Test: Seiken no Blacksmith (The Sacred Blacksmith)

Seiken no Blacksmith is about as close to sword porn as anime is likely to get - gratuitous close-ups of everything from katanas to two-handed broadswords, even a sword that turns into a scantily clothed female - there is no doubt that someone on the production team has a borderline fetish for the weapons. It is not surprising given the focus on blacksmithing, however this is the more glamorous face which has a skinny youth forging works of art rather than leathery old men shoeing horses.

enigmatic portents are scattered liberally throughout the opening episodes

Kicking off with one girl's battle against a beast of indeterminate origins made entirely of ice, she is promptly saved by a katana wielding strip of a lad called Luke. Rewinding several hours, the protagonist Cecily is the typical spunky do-gooder: a freshly sired knight who sees off rapscallions in the market place before getting resolutely trounced by a derelict wielding a sword. Her heirloom sword broken, she seeks out her saviour and sporadic blacksmith Luke who bunks with an elf-eared child with a breast fetish. While the plot of the first three episodes isn't entirely predictable, there is a comfortable altruism to the proceedings that prevents anything too dynamic from occurring.

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3 Episode Taste Test: Kiddy Girl-and

Kiddy Grade has had a troubled upbringing: originally aired in 2002 by a still vaguely respectable Gonzo, it was an unremarkable series until past the half-way point when it briefly became excellent then dipped back down to a simmering mediocre. Notable only insofar that it was directed by Keiji Gotoh who also did the superb Martian Successor Nadesico, apart from the enduring appeal of its numerous racy promo images it sank without a trace. Four years later a sequel was announced and a teaser released shortly afterwards; the full product failed to materialise until almost two years after that with Kiddy Girl-and. The wait hasn't been particularly unbearable, it has however been long enough to forget the minutiae of the first series.

A plot strapped to this ship will only expedite its sinking

All semblance of plot, characters and sense are thrown out the window leaving a colourful, high-pitched husk of a series. The lead character is nauseatingly upbeat and with a voice that sounds like a cat attacking a chalkboard, a sonic assault that is worsened by the insipid plot lines of the first three episodes. From breaking into a "high security" area to secure some dessert to a tedious argument between partners, it feels like a regression to a neolithic phase of storytelling: all cudgels and grunts with a total lack of subtlety. That it features an underwear plot in the first episode (something the seminal My-HiME waited for the fourth episode for) and a bath scene in the opening minutes of the second demonstrates just how keen this series is to attract viewers.

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