A review of the Rage of Bahamut: Genesis anime series
After three episodes of Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis (Rage of Bahamut: Genesis), I still wasn’t sure what I was watching. There’s nothing particularly abstract (yes Soultaker I’m talking about you) about the story of two feuding friends going on adventures with a girl from another world. Except, in the first few episodes there are so many different ways the series could have gone - monster of the week, Queen’s Blade journey into fan service, Escaflowne adventures in a fantasy world to name a few - but it seems bullheadedly determined not to go with any of them and instead play the whole series by ear.
Peculiarly, it works. And not just because it throws everything, kitchen sink and all, at you and to see what sticks. After all you have an Arabian deity (Bahamut) mixed in with Christian mythology (heaven, hell, angels and devils) with some added Norse flavouring (the heavenly god is in fact Zeus), some Pagan witchcraft and wizardry and some historical persons of note thrown in for good measure. Like the origin of the dragon personification of Bahamut then, Shingeki no Bahamut is a Dungeons and Dragons campaign in anime form. It has the overeager dungeon master cobbling together a piecemeal mythology with narrative abandon, the rollicking tales of a knight, a rogue and someone who wanted to play a female, and by the end of the campaign the adventurers are riding into battle on the back of a giant duck.
As the opening to Amagi Brilliant Park is keen to point out: this isn’t a fairytale. The series certainly has fairytale elements to it with a princess, a castle, magic and a prince, but as Philip Pullman pointed out in interviews after his reimagining of Grimm’s fairytales:
there is no backstory, no complex motives, no internal life.
And those are things that Amagi has in spades, almost to its detriment. The story of an ailing theme park and the challenges faced by Seiya Kanie in bringing it back to popularity is, at it’s core, an old underdog tale. There’s the time limit to achieving the goal - 50,000 yearly guests by the end of July - the motivation - Seiya knows the owner of the park from his childhood - and the quirky, offbeat cast. To its credit, the series tells that story remarkably well and by the end of the twelfth episode you could leave feeling like you’ve experienced a jolly old yarn. Odd then that the series is in fact thirteen episodes long…
A review of the second Sword Art Online anime series
Some way into this second series of Sword Art Online I found myself thinking that it was quite brave. Taking the clown-shoed silliness of the first series and slowing everything down, focusing on characters and setting, seemed like an odd decision. Like so many other aspects of Sword Art Online II though, I was disappointed. It’s not being brave, just invoking standard shounen-esque time wasting. Meaning if you watched the series as it aired you will have spent several weeks watching wunderkind Kirito and newcomer Sinon sit in a virtual cave in the middle of a virtual desert.
Imagine a character that is part Jesus Christ and part James Dean and you get the idea
I shouldn’t really have expected anything else really. I liked the simplicity of the first series’ bifurcated storyline in a schlocky, intelligence-lite way, but the spark of that first storyline - trapped in a virtual world, die here and you die for real - was gone. Alfheim, the fairy filled fantasy funfair that occupied the second half of that series and is now the staple MMO for the core cast, was bright and cheerful but lacked the tangibility of Aincrad. It’s disheartening then that this second series kicks off by plunging Kirito into the grimy, gunmetal grey world of Gun Gale Online.
I’ve been trepidatious about writing about the second series of Mushishi. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because when I write a review of an anime series it puts a mental full stop on it. And of all the series that I’ve watched, Mushishi is the last one I want to do that to.
meddling with the unknown, the unknowable, rarely ends well when the hubris, obstinance or folly of people is involved
It’s difficult to overstate exactly how important the first, and now this second, series is to me. It’s the series that I turn off my phone for. Turn down the lights, turn up the volume until my skin tingles with anticipation and the drawl of Ally Kerr, and now Lucy Rose fills my ears. I clutch pillows close when I watch it and dare not move until each episode is finished, letting out a contented sigh as it does. It’s the series I reach for when under the weather, that I put on during bouts of insomnia, and memories of it often come drifting back to me when I least expect it. I can name nearly every episode from the first series and tell you offhand which ones my favourites are. The story of Ginko, the mushi and everyone in between is a story that I don’t want to end, despite knowing that the upcoming movie marks the end of the manga source material.
A review of episodes 3 & 4 of Ghost in the Shell: Arise
I was six when the Ghost in the Shell manga was first released, twelve when the Mamoru Oshii movie was originally released and fifteen when I saw it on Manga Entertainment’s first VHS release of it. Since then there has been second Oshii movie which, like its manga sequel by Masamune Shirow, many people would rather forget happened, and the almost universally well regarded Stand Alone Complex TV series, all fifty two episodes, two compilation movies and an original TV movie of it. That’s an awful lot of history for a franchise and is something that the last two releases of the latest entry, Arise, seem all too aware of.
Ghost Tears and Ghost Stands Alone, despite being initially released in theatres, are episodes rather than movies. At only fifty minutes each they have neither the time nor the isolation that movies do, and one would argue, that Ghost in the Shell as a concept needs. I said before that the first two entries, Ghost Pain and Ghost Whispers, held onto the ideas that run across the franchise:
“The layering of bureaucracy and machinations of governments and individuals in a world that is highly networked and ruthlessly mechanised, and ultimately facing new and increasing challenges because of it.”
That’s an awful lot to cram into only fifty minutes, and it has required some sacrifices that not everyone has taken to kindly.