Posts from January 2010

3 Episode Taste Test: Durarara!!

Within moments of the first episode, Durarara!!'s connection to Baccano! is obvious: brightly coloured eyecatches punctuating the opening and enumerating the sizeable cast. Sharing a significant portion of its predecessor's production team, director and character designer included, it likewise refuses to be pigeon holed into a single genre instead throwing its weight behind its eclectic characters and pacing. Unlike its predecessor however, everyone introduced in the first three episodes is fascinating in isolation, but fizz with chemistry when the ensemble cast collide.

the deadly serious kidnapping of Magenta is in stark contrast to the blonde bartender who punches a gentleman's clothes off

Set in Ikebukuro, Mikado Ryugamine arrives at the train station after being invited by his friend to attend the local high school. Eager to be part of the city life, Masaomi Kida shows the somewhat naive Mikado around, introducing him to friends and warning him of the dangers that the entertainment district of Tokyo holds. Weaving through the busy night time streets, they pass a girl meeting up with a man she has supposedly spoken to online. Events spiral out of her control and things look bleak until one of Ikebukuro's urban myths arrives: the Headless Rider - an enigmatic driver of a jet black motorcycle. Story threads diverge and coalesce with equal frequency as more oddball characters are introduced including a Russian giant hawking sushi, a monstrously strong bartender and a whimsically vicious young man.

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3 Episode Taste Test: Sora no Woto (Sounds of the Sky)

The easiest way to describe Sora no Woto is to identify its most obvious influences. Already well established is the K-On! style gelatinous character designs however the set up and pacing has more in common with Haibane and its European influenced locale. Most prominent however is the tonal similarities to the Valkyria Chronicles series which is unsurprising given Studio A1 Pictures' leading role in its production, likewise for the animation which shares a great deal with Kannagi. The entire package is distinctly different to all of its progenitors but the opening episodes can't fully escape the gravity of its derivations.

this is a cynically constructed series targeted for maximum marketability and minimum friction

Kanata, who in her infancy witnessed a beautiful woman playing a trumpet to the sky, joined the army in the hope of learning to play her bugle for free. Upon arriving in the town of Seize she is caught up in a local festival and, after dirtying her military uniform, is taken in by the curt Rio. Kanata inadvertently loses Rio's pendant and forgoes her induction into the local barracks to search for it only to be lost herself and needs to be rescued by those she was due to meet earlier. What follows is an introduction to the slow life of an isolated border-town's army base and the numerous inconsequential adventures that result from it.

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3 Episode Taste Test: Dance in the Vampire Bund

Stepping back into Moonphase territory while simultaneously riding the resurgent interest in vampires, SHAFT and director Akiyuki Shinbo take on the adaptation of a manga infamous for its racy content and violent overtures. The first three episodes of Dance in the Vampire Bund demonstrate little of the latter and a lot of the former, sparing no expense in keyframing the vacuous male lead slathering neon green liquid onto the diminutive protagonist's naked body. It's uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons and coupled with the blindingly over-animated opening, the series projects itself as yet another tiresome indulgence by a studio producing more misses than hits as of late.

animation is [...] wholly imbalanced lavishing detail on the frequently disrobed Mina and remaining unspectacular elsewhere

Mina Tepes is a vampire of some repute who, after introducing herself to Japan via the high-veracity medium of a late-night talk show, throws herself at schoolboy Akira before attending the school itself. It transpires that she and Akira have a history together and - what else - made a pinky-promise that despite his untimely memory loss, remains important to the confusingly twee vampire princess. When her life is threatened on the outskirts of the under construction vampire island, Akira comes to her rescue and regains some of his fractured memories, however his ordeal is not over when a school council plot to evict Mina from their school turns into a competition to detain the unwilling Akira.

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Queen's Blade (Season 2)

The first season of Queen's Blade was underwhelming, beyond the initial deviance on display it went only slightly further than many of the other fighting-fanservice genre shows and exploited none of the opportunities a guaranteed late night, paid channel slot offers. Season two does nothing to change this status quo and, if anything, regresses by reducing the rampant titillation and dialling up the poorly choreographed fights. It still exists in the penumbra between unabashed pornography and cheeky teenage lasciviousness but whereas its forebear had a streak of deviance, there is a laughable attempt at characterisation which transforms the plot from background noise to utter drivel. Scant recommendations can be made when the series wholly fails to elicit any response, emotional or lustful, other than pitying indifference.

the disrobing becomes an afterthought to dead-pan serious problems

At the end of the last season Reina had made her way to Gainos and - after a brief scuffle with an avatar of the oft alluded Swamp Witch - the current reigning champion of Queen's Blade, Aldra announced that the Queen's Blade tournament could now begin. All of the previously introduced combatants take part for reasons best ignored lest they crumble under scrutiny, and after the more insipid ones are knocked out, the protagonists Reina and Tomoe once again take centre stage. With nefarious whimsy Aldra pits friend against friend and master against pupil, however it becomes increasingly apparent she has an ulterior motive to the battles and that her power to petrify the living is not borne from human magicks. As the contestants are whittled down, deaths follow and harsh realities are brought into acute focus leaving all but the most stalwart able to survive.

Please note: the remainder of this post contains images of nudity, if you are offended by these or are otherwise unable to view these images within your municipality due to laws or moral obligations, please do not proceed.

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Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini (Gemini of the Meteor)

The second season of Darker than Black requires a lot of faith to watch for it not only dawdles when it should be running, it becomes increasingly obvious that it will not answer any of the questions posed in the first series, but will be raising innumerable subsequent questions. Ambivalence when beginning the new series will make the ending, if it is reached at all, all the more bitter; Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini expends every chance to present a complete and satisfying series instead fixating on trivialities and ignoring aspects which desperately needed addressing.

flying cars, a talking squirrel, an aggressive bisexual and ill-defined organisations - credibility becomes an issue.

Set an indeterminate amount of time after the end of season one, Gemini of the Meteor picks up with Hei, now working for the CIA, in Russia. Dishevelled and abrasive he collides with a young girl, Suou, who has just lost most of her family in an attack and is on the run from the authorities. In a seemingly purposeful act, Suou becomes a Contractor and able to materialise an anti-tank rifle from a necklace given to her by her father. An uneasy alliance between Suou and Hei begins, bolstered by the doll July and the return of Mao who now resides in a neckerchief wearing squirrel, they all begin the perilous journey to Japan. Dogged by both Russian forces as well as the mysterious Japanese Section Three, whose new recruit Misaki is eager to discover the truth to ongoing events more than to apprehend the fleeing fugitives, the trip will not be easy and exposes difficult truths about everyone involved in the Hell's Gate incident portrayed at the climax of the first series.

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