The first thing that will probably strike you about Tokyo Ghoul is the opening. It’s a visually stunning minute and half that blends together vast, impossible skyscapes with cracked glass and twisted reflections of the main cast. It establishes this as a series about duality, about masks and, most of all, about the nature of monsters.
That opening is attached to the second episode and had I baulked at the first episodes’ unrelenting viciousness, I would have missed out on what turned out to be a supremely rich and entertaining series. It definitely isn’t my usual fare. Primarily because of that misanthropic sadism that is more or less the entirety of the opening episodes, reminding me far too keenly of clunkers like Elfen Lied or Brynhildr in the Darkness. Make no mistake though, this isn’t just self-indulgent gruesome violence, it has a purpose that goes miles beyond trying to make the series edgy and “adult”.
The elephant in the room whenever I’m talking about a series like Monogatari, ef, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai or, in this case, Mekakucity Actors, is the director Akiyuki Shinbo. I have tried and usually failed to address that elephant when reviewing his shows yet each one he does without sharing directing duties is indelibly stamped with his unique vision. My issue being that despite his obvious talent and corruscating view of the world, it takes an enormously strong story to match that style. Mekakucity Actors does not have that.
an obnoxious mash-up of a vocaloid and the Microsoft Word paperclip
Madoka did which is why it’s difficult not to maintain the niggling suspicion that it was so successful despite the director rather than because of him. He is consistently strong when it comes to aesthetics, with allegories and metaphors bubbling contentedly beneath the surface but with Mekaku it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. There’s the fascination with time and cogs with crooked clock towers and giant hourglasses littering the landscape and drenched in neon like a futuristic Salvador Dali. Sunsets and stained glass windows frame moody looking teenagers holding books and cocking their heads with signature aloofness.
There’s something to be said for actually missing a show when you’ve finished watching it. Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family) left a small, peculiarly shaped hole where it once occupied my regular viewing. There’s nothing outwardly distinguished about the show - Kyoto is very pleasantly rendered, every character is well drawn and the story is quietly unique - but something about its structure and pacing lends itself to the same familiarity that lies at the heart of the titular eccentric family.
she conceals a profound sadness behind an abundance of courtesy and muted charisma
Focusing on the triumvirate of tanuki, tengu and human society - the lead is taken by Yasaburo, a teenage tanuki layabout who splits his time between transforming into various human guises and looking after the curmudgeonly old tengu, Yakushibou. It transpires that shortly before the events of the series, the father of Yasaburo and his three other sons passed away via, what is for tanuki, natural circumstances.
Intentional or not, medieval fantasy series always fall under the shadow of Berserk. Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu doesn't do itself any favours by featuring an effeminate, silver haired leader or an desirable, unusually powerful ally. There are certainly other parallels to be drawn but the first three episodes prove wholeheartedly that the series has its priorities straight by focusing first on characters, then on narrative and some way down the list on the mythos-specific idiosyncrasies. In short, it's forging its own path and being thoroughly entertaining while doing it. Its title may be outlandish but the strength of the cast and its willingness not to cower before gore or tragedy means it is a promising start to an intriguing full-length series.
The opening episodes don't pull any punches [...], capturing that dark fantasy vibe bubbling under a façade of sky blue and sunset amber
In the kingdom of Roland, ravaged by war and rotten with corrupt nobles, a magical academy that takes in orphans and the children of criminals has two particularly special students. One is Ryner, a slovenly and unmotivated boy who has cursed eyes known as Alpha Stigma which give him immense magical power. The other is the charismatic Sion who was subjected to ferocious bullying while young due to his birth as a bastard child of a noble father and common mother. Now though, he has the support of a shadowy and lethal family of bodyguards as well as the conviction to ascend to the throne with the aim of purging the country of its ruinous ills. Both will be instrumental in the upcoming turmoil - war and civil unrest - and the old legends of powerful demons and heroes may yet play a part in that.
High School of the Dead recently began airing and has brought the irrepressible zombie to a media which has peculiarly ignored their archetypes in favour of more culturally relevant afflictions such as demonic possession and the like. Based on the manga of the same name, in only two episodes the series has shown a remarkably sympathetic hand for including genre sensitive elements - is that the signature tune for 28 Days Later at the end of the first episode?
it says volumes that the only females to survive are curvaceous and beautiful
Widely credited with the creation of the zombie movie genre, George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead is one of his earliest and most widely known movies and champions a lot of the situations and scenarios that High School of the Dead apes. More interestingly though, Dawn of the Dead and its mall setting is a scathing commentary on the decadent consumerism and hedonism of the period which is still just as relevant today. Like the best fantasy and sci-fi its fiction was a critique of society and culture, a relevance which very few zombie movies have managed to achieve since.