Posts from October 2010

3 Episode Taste Test: The World God Only Knows

The best thing The World God Only Knows has going for it is confusion. With its anti-social protagonist and dating-simulator slant, the series can't make up its mind as to whether it's an acerbic take on the two dimensional approach to dating-simulators, or a parody of the spate of story-reset-repeat visual novel adaptations that have spawned recently. Equally though, it could end up as neither and result in bland drivel that the first three episodes skirt dangerously close to.

It all starts so promisingly with Keima who, despite being obnoxious and reclusive, somehow isn't instantly repulsive - likely the effect of his dandy cravat. After a bubbly spirit girl drops into his life the story spanks along and seems to eschew common staples like the moving in ritual or the transferred into school ritual. Then the first episode ends with the girl transferring into his school and the next episode starts with her moving into his house. The series doesn't so much ignore genre tropes as delay them, then air them half apologetically.

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3 Episode Taste Test: Star Driver

This is what happens when you cross effeminate young men with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. A frenzy of colour and Studio Bones' deft creative hand is juxtaposed against incongruously suggestive female outfits and canned animation sequences. This is not the same studio that brought out Eureka 7 and Sword of the Stranger, but one leaving the afterglow of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and on the downspin after the disappointing Darker than Black sequel and the no doubt expensive risk of Heroman. This is Five Star Story style robots, fighting in Gurren Lagann's alternate space with Code Geass's chutzpah. This is Star Driver.

Opening episodes are always a gamble: bedazzle now and risk a depleted budget later or hold back and aim for long-term, unwrinkled quality. The first three episodes here try and do both with a swift and incomprehensible collection of enigmatic snippets of dialogue followed by a kaleidoscopic mecha battle. The latter is then repeated, down to the vocal song and preceding animation snippet, for every subsequent episode. It's sloppy and lacks the finesse expected of a Studio Bones production.

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3 Episode Taste Test: Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls

An amnesiac girl falls to earth. Girls fight until their clothes fall off. A man stands pure and oblivious amidst a brothel's worth of females. A beleaguered viewer has seen it all before. Take your pick from Queen's Blade, Ikkitousen (any flavour) or Tenjou Tenge and Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls (Hundred Blooming Flowers Samurai Girls) will follow both logically and thematically. The premise is simple and familiar: put as much flesh on display as frequently as possible with only a hastily scrawled story to keep it legitimate.

The series' aesthetic draw beyond the curvaceous dolls on parade is the odd blend of chunky, flat characters against abstract watercolour backgrounds which expertly evoke ancient Japanese vistas. So too does the ethos of the characters, steeped in the bushido code of the samurai, the chaste speak of honour and fealty to their master while the unclean employ subterfuge and dirty tactics - as well as servicing their fickle master's sexual whims. It could easily be taken as naive patriotic propaganda with the opening episode's exposition of weapon-wielding girls taking down squadrons of World War 2 planes.

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Flashback: Dangaioh

This is the second part of my dive into some of the anime that I watched during my adolescence in the wee hours of analogue satellite stations. The first part concerned the ultraviolent Genocyber.

When I began my project to relive my formative anime experience, I was looking for a series that had a very specific scene. The only reason I can remember it vividly was not the anime itself but more what happened around it. Suffice to say, Dangaioh was not the series I was looking for, and despite my memory assuring me I had watched it, very little jogged my memory (this could be to do with Manga Entertainment only released two out of three episodes). Much of that familiar feeling though can be attributed to how trend setting Dangaioh was for its time period, something that mecha design and sci-fi series in general would mimic and cherry pick from in the years to come.

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Exploring Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve)

The recently released Eve no Jikan movie is a succinct and mostly successful retelling of the six original net animation episodes released between August 2008 and September 2009. Set in a future where commercial helper robots are commonplace, the titular "Time of Eve" café is a place where the delineation between robots and humans is removed and the problems encountered with such a blending are made manifest.

Like many robot-focused stories, Eve no Jikan's central conceit is artificial intelligence. Divorcing that from the concept of robotics, the mechanics of which are already available in various forms not least of which the famous ASIMO robot from Honda, is important. Autonomous (rather than "intelligent") robots have their own, not exclusive set of hurdles to overcome, starting with the mundane - navigating simple environments - precipitously growing more complex: speech recognition, language parsing, decision making... The list goes on.

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