xxxHolic Review

Story:
Kimihiro Watanuki can see mythical creatures most people can’t see. Unfortunately, this also means these same creatures are drawn to him, tormenting Watanuki wherever he goes. One day, Watanuki accidentally finds a strange house that is home to a woman named Yuuko who is able to grant any wish a person may have, for a fee, of course. She makes a deal with Watanuki. If he works at her shop for her, she will keep him protected from the many spirits that want him dead.

Violence:
The violence level in this show is pretty low. Some characters might get tossed around and such, but the worst things should get would be a few scrapes. Certainly nothing graphic. The most frightening aspect of this show, graphic wise, would be the youkai, which might be a bit too scary for very young viewers.

Language:
There’s not much in the language department in this show, thankfully. A few da-ns. Nothing too shocking.

Nudity:
We’re spared any nudity in this show. Some of Yuuko’s outfits are loose at the front and this shows  some cleavage. Sometimes she shows a lot of leg too. But it’s nothing a bikini at a beach wouldn’t show.

Theology/Mythology:
Just as in Natsume no Youjin-cho, this series has a high level of youkai within it. And these creatures are a major part of the story. While culture and folklore are not as heavy theme-wise in this show, the creepy and terrifying aspects are. People occasionally get possessed and magical items, such as photos of dead people and special rings, are common as well. And Yuuko herself is often referred to as a dimensional witch.

Personal Impression:
This series does put its comedy before its horror, which is good considering that horror isn’t really my thing. That being said, there isn’t nearly as much character development in this series as in Natsume no Youjin-cho, so if deep development is your thing, this series might disappoint. That being said, there is a bit of growth on Watanuki’s part. He starts learning how to trust and lean on others by the end. He even starts learning to enjoy himself and have fun. But it’s a slow development. Most of the series is a case by case style, each episode dealing with an often random person and their individual problem. The only connecting thread being the growing trust between Watanuki and Doumeki as they fight against various youkai.
Animation-wise, it’s not exactly normal looking. CLAMP is known for their odd character designs and it crosses over into the anime variation, so be prepared for very tall and skinny characters. The music is appropriate, though non-stellar. Overall, this show is more for the laughs and the creepy than getting to the heart of their viewers. But if you’re in the mood for something creepy, but nothing too out there, this a good show to try out.

Personal Rating: 10 and up

Episodes: 24
Languages: Dub and Sub
Official rating: PG13
Genre(s): Comedy, horror, supernatural
Website: http://www.funimation.com/xxxholic
Legal streaming: Youtube and FUNimation‘s site
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Extra: Japanese Ghost Stories

Telling scary ghost stories around a fire at camp, or at a sleep over, is something most people have experienced at some point in their lives. But ghost stories are told for slightly different reasons in Japan.

First off, ghost stories in Japan are usually told in the summer because when people are scared, they sweat. And when people sweat, their bodies cool down. This is also why spicy food is often consumed during the summer. And instead of being around a big fire, people will often light candles and encircle themselves with them as protection against any ghosts listening in. Traditionally, after every story is told, a candle is blown out until none are left burning, signaling the end of the ghost story marathon.

However, unlike many American ghost stories that tend to be singular events unconnected to one another or to religion, Japanese ghost stories are connected to their culture intimately. Japanese youkai are special creatures who often appear in ghost stories. These creatures often appear in many variants of Japanese religion and literature. Just as studying ancient Greek culture leads to study of Greek gods, so does studying Japan’s culture often lead to studying youkai.

So, ghost stories hold a biiiit more significance to the people of Japan than our ghost stories do to us. Plus they cool you down in the summer. Culture/religion lessons AND an natural coolant. Pretty sweet, and scary, deal!
Do you have a favorite Japanese ghost story? Post it in the comments below!

Tsuritama Review

Story:
Yuki can’t seem to communicate with people. Luckily for him, it’s not a human that wants to become his friend. Haru is an alien who needs a fishing partner to help him catch a really big fish that’s in the area. Which is why he squirts Yuki and Natsuki with his mind controlling water gun and creates a fishing team with some of the most unusual people around.

Violence:
There’s really no violence in this show. Yuki’s face tends to deform under stress, but it’s not grotesque so much as it’s simply silly. At the very end the Duck military group threatens to bomb the town and there are some explosions. We’re spared any blood though.

Language:
This series almost got away clean, yet there was one or two instances where the horrid “illegitimate-son” word was used. It was quick, however, and is easily missed.

Nudity:
No nudity in this show, really. Haru’s sister wears a bikini top and sometimes the guys go shirtless as they fish. That’s about as nude as it gets. Beach visits are far more dangerous.

Theology/Mythology:
The legend that opens up this series plays a role in the rest of the show. Sometimes the princess is called a “goddess.” However, this has nothing to do with religious doctrine and is simply a way to refer to a woman who seemingly “came down from the sky.”

Personal Impression:
This is an extremely weird show to me. Yes, I realize that I’ve seen shows many would consider more bizarre. However, those shows were strange for comic purposes. This show is just plain strange. Yuki has major social issues and the creators of this show thought it’d be a good idea to visually represent this by making his appear to “drown” whenever he’s in panic mode. Which is a nice idea, but really only makes the scene just as awkward for viewers. Then there are scenarios that should be funny, like the fact that the organization watching for alien activity is called Duck and their poses are ridiculous, yet fall flat. Because while these things are ridiculous, no one seems to think so in the show and thus there is an uncomfortable blend of the realistic and the weird living side by side with no one there to raise their hand and say, “Something’s wrong with this picture.” Yuki’s grandmother being sick, Natsuki’s separation from his father, and Haru’s inability to completely understand how humans feel are all serious and beautiful concepts, yet often they are overshadowed by the awkward moments of the show. Thankfully this strangeness clears up a bit at the very end, but the series is so very short that it hardly matters.
Animation-wise this series was pretty good. The voice acting (Japanese) was good and the music was fitting. If you like more laid back shows, this series might be fun for you. Just expect a fish tanks of awkward and weird in this one.

Personal Rating: 10 and up

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: NA
Genre(s): Fishing, drama, fantasy
Website: NA
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
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Extra: The Gothic in Japan

Before I can begin analyzing Gothic tones as they appear in anime and other forms of Japanese media, I feel I must attempt the painful definition of “Goth” first.

The term “Gothic” originally applied to Gothic architecture that was popular around the 12th century, though it was not to be called “Goth” until years later. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the 1700s that “Goth” came back into fashion, as it were, through the emergence of a revival, primarily based in literature. Inspired by the odd beauty of old Gothic architecture, artists and writers began to question the idea that beauty lies only in the bright and perfect. Gothic literature was soon born, blending terror and romance. This revival later paved the way for other genres held dear today, such as science fiction, steampunk and cyberpunk. All held on to the basic Gothic mindset that is dedicated to finding beauty in unexpected places. And if one is to boil down what “Goth” is, it’s truly as simple as that. Yes, hardcore Goths I hear you. The music. Yes, Gothic music was a large part of the more recent Gothic revival of the late 1970s. However, regardless of the form, all aspects of Gothic art cycle back to the basic rule of finding beauty where few see it. Finding beauty in a red rose despite the browning and withering of its petals, as an example.

Of course, that means that the term “Goth” applies to a far broader range of topics than many originally thought. Even so, like all aesthetics, Goth has its stereotypes. And like all forms of media, these stereotypes are more frequently seen than their true forms. …Or are they?

While a typical harem show is likely to contain some girl dressed in black whose personality is quiet and predictable, there are a few shows that tap into the Gothic. Animes like Gosick have dark settings strung with the mysterious and supernatural, common elements seen in Gothic literature. Other shows like Trinity Blood and Natsume Youjin-cho also share some similarities, such as scenes of terror, the feeling of isolation and the questions of what it is to be human. Then there are others that simply joke around about the whole thing by dragging out an extreme stereotype (which is actually quite hilarious, if done correctly), as seen in shows like The Wallflower.

As far as Japanese culture itself goes, we get a mixed bag. Just as some Goths here in the states are more about the fashion than the thought process or literature, so is the case in Japan. Perhaps the most prominent examples being the Gothic lolita and visual kei fashion trends (on the topic of music, Japan has a very different standard altogether and I won’t even attempt messing with that landmine). However, the differences between these trends and the American versions that inspired them are pretty numerous, so it’s not surprising that what we in the US consider to be Gothic is often quite different from what would be considered Gothic in Japan. One must also consider that Japan has a very different outlook on terror/horror genres (in fact, the idea of “genre” is very different in Japan and largely doesn’t exist. Instead, categorization is focused on the intended audience. Example: Shoujo for girls, Shounen for boys, etc.), thus it’s unlikely that their version of Gothic literature is even considered Gothic.

Japan’s version of the Gothic, while having many of the same stereotypes as the US’s version, is hardly the same subculture. We are dealing with another country here, so it’s only natural that they have taken a concept and made it their own, applying it in new ways and creating a new kind of art through it. After all, that’s what has been happening in the Gothic subculture this whole time. Every revival has only redefined the original. At first it was a type of building. Then a mindset, a literature, a kind of music, a kind of fashion. Gothic, as a rule, must always be changing. Because the point of Gothic art is to find beauty where few see it, to draw attention to the white flower by putting a black curtain behind it, to feel the kiss of rain despite the cold.

Trinity Blood Review

Story:
Abel Nightroad is not exactly human. In fact, he’s a Crusnik, a vampire that can feed off other vampires. And he works for the Vatican, the only policing force left in a post-apocalyptic world where humans easily fall pray to the Medusa, otherwise known as vampires. As the political situation with the Medusa becomes more unstable, Abel holds the key to ending the decade long struggle. And that key just might just come in the unexpected form Esther, a young girl struggling to understand the cruel world around her.

Violence:
The worst part of this series is most definitely the violence level. From episode one a vampire gets his still beating heart ripped out from his chest. Later on, arms are chopped off, vampires get drained of their own blood and shrivel into dust, etc. This series has no problem showing blood and violence. To be honest, this anime wouldn’t even be reviewed except that these extreme moments of violence do not occur in every episode. While this show does manage to stay within the YA rating, those with blood and violence trauma would do well to avoid it.

Language:
As with most YA rated series, this show contains the “illegitimate-son” word. As well as d-mn and “female-dog-in-heat” word (yea, for actual dictionary definitions).

Nudity:
A few female characters have a large, um, rack (no nice way to put this), so there’s some fanservice in this series. Thankfully, it doesn’t go far. There are a few bath and shower scenes, but mist covers all vital parts, so only bikini level skin is shown (though, with quite a bit of cleavage).

Theology/Mythology:
Considering that the Vatican is behind this policing task force, one can only imagine how much religious theology is brought up. Many of these religious tones are Catholic in nature. The idea of praying over those already dead, asking a priest for forgiveness, a judgmental God, etc. However, this series, while containing many references to God and sin, focuses far more on the question of what it is to be human than any religious question. Even so, be prepared for some scripture quoting once and awhile.

Personal Impression:
This show really pushes my limits in the realm of violence. That being said, this show has some amazing moments. The animations is fantastic, the world is  dreary, yet gorgeous, the music fitting and the story is layered enough to keep it from being predictable. Character wise, Abel Nightroad is a loveable character who is goofy one minute and kicking butt the next. You can’t help but feel sorry for him the more you learn of his past. Esther is harder to identify with for some, but she has early prejudices against vampires that are realistic and, thankfully, addressed early on in the series. And just as the human world has its own version of government, so do the Medusa. This fleshes out the world considerably and keeps things running. There’s certainly never a lack of action in this show, that’s for sure. Even the stand-alone episodes often end up playing roles later, which is a very nice touch. There’s a touch of humor now and again, though it takes second place to the action and plot.The only real problem with this series is that the source material (light novel series) contains far too much to cram into a 24 episode series. Thus the ending is a bit… less than what was hoped for. Even so, if you love vampire shows and can take the violence levels, you’ll enjoy this dark and detailed series.  Just don’t expect all the plots to tie up at the end…

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 24
Languages: Dub and Sub
Official rating: Mature
Genre(s): Fantasy, supernatural, action
Website: http://www.funimation.com/trinity-blood
Legal streaming: FUNimation‘s site and their YouTube channel
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Extra: So this is different…

Many an anime has come from the humble cradle known as manga (that’s a mouthful). But not all shows keep to the cannon. In fact, many TV series and movies veer off course, leaving original fans either content with a new interpretation or enraged by the let down of seeing their favorite battle sequences in colorful animation. But these differences aren’t always a matter of interpretation. While it is true that Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (which is based off of a novel, not a manga) is indeed just another twist on a single story, other series, like Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Cat, have a different reason for being… well, different.

The more frequent reason for a series taking a drastic turn from its story is the original story being incomplete. That’s right. Companies often start making an anime adoption before the manga is finished. Of course, this sounds just plain stupid to us, but there is a bit of logic behind it, abet it being business logic. Because, while many a fan don’t want to admit it, anime and manga are businesses. And when something is licensed by a company, they are concerned with making money off of the deal as soon as they can. In the case of changing a manga story into an animation, companies often fear that the hype around the manga will die down after it is completed, thereby affecting sales for the anime. Companies like to “ride out” the fan feels of a series early on, least it peters out later. Which is why a series will often start off while its original version is only, at best, halfway through telling its tale. Of course, this causes problems of its own. What ever does one do when they have caught up to the original story and yet must rush forward anyway? That’s when animators decide to either bring in the original mastermind of the piece and work along with them (rare), or take their own route for the story (common).

So there you have it. That’s why Train meets Eve while still an enemy in Black Cat and why the middle part of the first Fullmetal Alchemist series feels mega strange and many plot elements are left to die. But, hey. At least we get more adventures with our favorites characters! Even if those adventures seem a bit… odd.
What’s the last show you saw that had an anime version that was different from the manga? Did you like the differences or hate em?