Posts from 2011

Mawaru Penguindrum

Darling of the erudites and intellectuals, Mawaru Penguindrum is a series quite unlike any other. A visual and cerebral feast, it explores the ideas of fate, of families and, as the title would suggest, penguins. Its allegories and layers however are unfortunately but an enticing mask for a flaky and unsatisfying story beneath. Morsels of exposition are stingily doled out when not being secreted away behind monologues or incongruous character histories.

there is thought and care applied to every scene and word, and it poses complex and interpretive questions
By and large those back stories all boil down to child abuse, meted out by deranged parents. Parental sins visited upon their children is a theme that underscores each of the main characters and, perhaps because of that, every one of them is utterly reprehensible. Doing away with any chance of empathy, the spectrum runs from simpering do-gooder to austere ice-queen but results with a cast that is hard to like, but unique enough making them hard to hate.

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Baka to Test to Shokanju Ni (Idiots, Tests and Summoned Beasts 2)

There is no way of reviewing humour. It's always personal and at the mercy of such fickleness as "I wasn't in the mood". Enough then to say that Baka Test is my kind of humour; the kind where the jokes are obvious from the setup but the punchline is so much more over-the-top than expected. The kind where the minute-to-minute plot is irrelevant as long as the laughs keep on coming. The kind where with all the rules established, it's just a case of exploiting the environment.

laugh along at the absurdity, embrace the archetypes and accept the obvious but still giggle at the outcome

I called the first series a "thigh-slappingly hilarious comedy" and the second is no different, primarily because there is nothing new here. No great switch-ups or new characters only more of the same but tweaked and intensified. The reliance upon Hideyoshi's effeminate appearance is dialled down and tertiary characters such as Akihisa's and Minami's siblings are sidelined for a greater focus on the core love triangle. It's here it's at its weakest with a lengthy foray into Minami's move from Germany and then a confession that leads to confusion that leads to drama that eventually leads to a reset. Lacklustre and bereft of the sharp eye that makes the comedy so great, it's dead weight when compared with the homosexual overtures from Miharu and Toshimitsu that manage to be more genuine despite being played for laughs.

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To resurrect their Blood franchise, Production I.G. enlisted the help of CLAMP to spawn the latest entry, Blood-C. Beginning like a relic of the past with stereotypical do-gooder Saya, candy-sweet twins, a mysterious café owner and flowery nonsense spouted by an unseen narrator, the opening episodes settle into a comfy monster-of-the-week format with a dash of playground idealism. Then people start to die. A lot of people. Starting with innocent bystanders then progressing to, what was assumed to be, main cast members, the carnage is relentless - the final episode a murderous orgy of violence and bloody slaughter set to a grand orchestral score.

It's certainly unexpected.

only the sword-wielding school-girl core is retained with the bat-like chiropterans banished to grainy flashbacks

The first time the show springs a meaningful death - not overall-wearing red-shirts - it is brutal, unequivocal and has all the trademarks of a hideous dream sequence. Amazingly, it's to the series' credit that this discord is maintained. Even the denouement, a clever in-context breaking of the fourth wall, feels like protagonist Saya is should wake with a gasp and clutch at a fevered brow. The ribbing of so many tropes is elegantly done, whether it's the ethereal dog's comment on Saya's lack of prudishness or the hardened father's love of sweets.

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