Gundam Wing Endless Waltz Review

[Warning: this movie’s event follow after the Gundam Wing series]

gundam wing endless waltzStory:
One year after the war, earth and the space colonies have finally settled into peace. Or so everyone once believed. Amidst the calm, the government’s new organization, The Preventers, stumble onto conspiracy that was in the works long before the peace treaty was formed. With earth on the line, the Gundam pilots are forced out of retirement, yet the plan they must stop is the very one that created them in the first place: Operation Meteor.

Violence:
As with the original series, the violence in this show actually remains rather tame. The most violent scene is when a small girl and a man are shot near the end. Quite a bit of blood is shown (in the girl’s case, it’s a bit ridiculous). But even though the blood doesn’t look as real as it might, the idea of a child getting shot is still disturbing and thus this movie remains at a YA rating.

Language:
The language in this movie is on the tame side, actually. Only one or two d-mns and one declaration of taking some mobile suits down to hell.

Nudity:
There isn’t any nudity in this show, wonderfully.

Theology/Mythology:
Unlike some of the high-brow speeches that featured God in the series, this movie is free of any religious theology. The closest theology comment would be when one character claims he is willing to become evil itself to find out his place in the world. Nothing ever comes of this comment, however.

Personal Impression:
As a Gundam Wing fan, this movie is all shades of amazing. Even though a few things, like the sudden change in the Gundam designs, don’t make sense. For fans of the series that felt something was off with a few characters and wished for a bit more of a wrap up, this show provides just that. Action is brought up almost immediately and flashbacks to many of the pilots’ pasts give more insight into their motives for joining Operation M in the first place, information that was largely left out of the series. It also addresses some ethical issues, such as the fact that humans are the ones that decide to fight and thus they must decide peace is worth standing up for. Just taking away weapons isn’t enough (incidentally, this is now a major issue for our own times once again).
The music and graphics are all fantastic, especially considering that this movie is now well over a decade old. Perhaps the only downside to this movie is that it is so very focused on the characters’ pasts and the current situation on earth, that the personal lives of the pilots during the year of peace is largely ignored. Also, the wrap up is brief, only showing a few of pilots returning to their lives during the credit sequence. So if you wish to see the day-to-day aftermath, this movie won’t give it to you. However, considering that nearly every loose end is tied up nicely and even characters you never thought you’d see again make an appearance, this movie is definitely worth a watch. Or, in my case, regular viewing as I watch this movie with my brother every New Years Eve. Nothin’ like bringin’ in the New Year with giant robots, right?

(Note: this show was originally licensed by Bandi Entertainment and thus is no longer being produced. However, DVDs are still available at reasonable prices at major online retailers)

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: movie (was originally three OVAs)
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Science fiction, action, fantasy
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: n/a
Screen shots:
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Extra: Where are the guys?

all girlsHave you noticed this trend? If you haven’t yet, you will soon. Over the last decade or so, anime has seen more and more shows with an all female cast, making more balanced casts harder to find. Perhaps the best example of this shift in trends can be seen in the casting for the first Last Exile and its “sequel” Fam. the Silver Wing.

When Last Exile first came out, back in 2003, it has a reasonably rounded cast of both male and female characters. And while it is a fact that the main male character, Claus, did attract the attention of most of the female characters on the show, the story doesn’t linger on this aspect too frequently. While it may seem shallow to encourage a cast listing by measure of how it can please a wide range of fans, Last Exile was certainly able to do this. There were female characters guys could love and male characters girls could swoon over. One gender was not favored over any other. This also made more sense given the setting. After all, why should ships be all men or women? Mixes are normal, though, as expected, military units were mainly male.

In sharp contrast, the new “sequel” series, Fam. the Silver Wing (2011), featured a nearly all female cast with the only few male characters making very brief appearances or being the villain (that, in and of itself, is an entirely different essay). The positive outlook on this change might be female empowerment, however, to exclude men from the story entirely is not so much a step in equality as a step in supremacy. It also doesn’t bode well that many of the female characters still play to common stereotypes and are thus not all that empowering. In fact, many of the instances the female characters end up in can actually be demeaning, as when the princess dresses up as a maid on board the Silvana. As such, this trend is less empowerment and more a simple trick of the industry to lure new male audience members into the viewership by promising girls. Lots of them. In suggestive situations.
Shows like Bodacious Space Pirates carry this trend further still, making the few men not only side characters, but already married or not-quite-human characters to insure none of the females even consider liking a man. A forced Yuri in the worst sense of the word.

This is not to say I am against female leads. Good gracious, no. But I certainly don’t find it fair to short change men either. And if a show does go for the one gender route, it needs to makes logical sense. An entire airship “manned” by women, every kingdom ruled by a woman, and entire armies entirely made up of -you guessed it- women just isn’t a logical scenario.
I never thought I’d say this given the amount of harem anime out there, but: I’m missing our male leads…

Last Exile: Fam. The Silver Wing Review

Last Exile -Fam, the Silver Wing-Story:
Fam is a member of the Sky Pirates, a group of pilots who attack airships for their goods. But when Fam decides to target a high class vessel, they end up in the middle of a war with two betrayed princesses and various kingdoms hanging in the balance.

Violence:
Considering the violence levels in the original Last Exile, this “sequel” stays on pretty much the same level. Some characters are stabbed or shot and blood spills, but thankfully not much focus is given to it. That being said, the opening theme shows a character stained in blood and that all on its own is disturbing. Also, as in the first Last Exile, there are some instances of mass genocide. Again, this kind of thing isn’t gory, but it’s far too intense for younger viewers.

Language:
Average levels for young adult ratings. Some d-mns, even a b-word or two. Not too common and no f-bombs.

Nudity:
There is a bath scene, but mist covers any detail. Also, in one scene in the first episode, Fam takes off most of her clothing. She’s still wearing her underwear (which is Victorian in nature and thus covers a decent amount). In another scene one of the princesses is performing a ceremony and her dress is pretty sheer. No details, but it’s hardly necessary.

Theology/Mythology:
The Exiles, or survivor ships, are sometimes spoken to almost as if they were gods as the passwords to their systems are often in poetic verse. Also, they seem to find the large lake of pure water to be like a goddess of some sort and “pray” to it. However, no indoctrination or theories of the universe here, only what seems to be tradition and ceremony. These elements never play into the larger story in any way.

Personal Impression:
Before you worry about not having seen the first Last Exile, don’t worry. The first Last Exile and this “sequel” really don’t line up much at all. So you can just watch this one straight away if you want. My only warning is this: very few things are explained. Ever. Following the political intrigues takes a hundred percent of one’s concentration. Which is part of the problem.
If the series had focused just on the political, which only a few character issues on the side, or the reverse (lots of character with a little political), it might have fared better. Alas, this was not the case. The creators of this show attempted to marry equal parts serious political warfare and character drama. Suffice to say, the result was more than a little ridiculous. After all, the political aspects were extremely serious. Mass genocide in the name of “justice” isn’t light material. Yet such scenes of horror were trailed by petty misunderstandings between Fam and the princess. While some may say this is realistic, I find it very hard to back a political figure who gets bent out of shape when things don’t go her way.
The ending is no better as that genocide I mention earlier is pretty much justified as the show attempts to get the audience to sympathize with the villains. Problem is: genocide. Just no. That is NEVER ok.
As a final note: there is a great deal of… awkwardness between all the female characters of this show. Which is considerable seeing as all the main characters, aside from the villain, are female. In fact, you can easily count all the male characters on one hand. Some (including myself) refer to this as “light yuri,” though nothing concrete ever happens. Nevertheless, it’s extremely annoying and completely unnecessary. Not the mention the fact that it makes no sense. I mean, where are the guys in this scenario? And the unnamed male pilots in the background don’t count.
Overall, this show clearly decided to cater to newer fanboys instead of its long held fanbase and ended up alienating much of its audience in the process. If you don’t mind a bad mix of petty drama and awkward sorta-yuri right alongside mass murder, feel free to check this show out. It does have amazing graphics. However, don’t expect to get all your questions answered. And don’t expect good ethics from this show either…

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 21
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, science fiction, steampunk
Website: http://www.funimation.com/lastexile-fam-the-silver-wing
Legal streaming: FUNimation‘s site
Screen shots:
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Extra: Kyon’s mind

kyonmovie[Warning: this post discusses the mental struggles present in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya]

if you’re still reading you have either A) watched this movie already or B) have far more curiosity than you should. Either way, welcome to the discussion on Kyon’s mental stability!

When Kyon was first “recruited” into Haruhi’s gang of misfits, he wanted nothing more than to be normal. At least, that’s what he claimed. Truth be told, normal is desirable at first because it’s so safe. But it’s not always the way one wishes to live. After Haruhi’s disappearance, Kyon all but snaps mentally. However, the situation should not be one to cause such a reaction. The world has reverted back to normal, after all. That is what he wanted. But deep down, Kyon knows something else. Something he hasn’t even admitted to himself. He loves not being normal.

But all of this is a bit beside the point. The question is: would a normal human be able to take this? After being thrown into one alternate time after another and going through as many time complexes as he has, Kyon is really overdue for a breakdown. The fact that he lasts as long as he does is truly amazing and speaks volumes about Kyon’s mental state. In fact, when Itsuki first meets Kyon and comments on how he was “an ordinary human being,” it might not have been entirely true. Kyon seems to have an unusual ability to readjust his mind to the new circumstances at hand, no matter how bizarre. After all, how would you react to many of Kyon’s situations? He becomes used to Haruhi’s eccentric nature pretty rapidly for someone so “normal.” And after awhile, his reactions to strange events begin to cool as well.

So what’s your opinion? Is Kyon really average or do you think he has a talent for adapting?

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Review

[Warning: This movie follows the events of the series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya]

Story:
Haruhi loves the holidays and, as usual, she goes overboard planning for Christmas by making Kyon, as usual, do all the work. But when one morning starts out without Haruhi in class and then one student after another claims to have never heard of her before, Kyon begins to realize that something has gone very, very wrong.

Violence:
There is a stabbing scene and the blood, while not over-the-top, is pretty obvious. Thankfully though, it’s the only violent scene in the movie.

Language:
Just as in the series, the language is pretty average with da-ns, sh-ts and such. Not too frequent, but there.

Nudity:
Again, just as in the series, Mikuru has a large chest and Haruhi makes her dress in skimpy outfits. There aren’t nearly so many fan shots in this movie as there are in the series though.

Theology/Mythology:
Some see Haruhi’s powers as a sign of divinity, but, just as with the series, it never goes beyond simple theory. No one doctrine or world view is absolute in this show as all the characters mainly try to make sense of the world around them.

Personal Impression:
This movie bends minds. Honestly. Of course, any time the time continuum is mentioned one should expect some brain twisting. Which is certainly what occurs in this movie. There’s also a surprising amount of character development, a refreshing change from many anime movies where the point is simply to kill time in a subplot while never affecting the main plot.
Animation-wise this series is amazing. The music is not the most memorable, but it does its job. The story is reasonably airtight, as expected from this show. And, of course, some excellent character development goes down for Kyon, who understandably goes a little crazy. And, unfortunately, that’s all that can really be said of this movie without spoiling the whole thing. So if you loved the series, defiantly check out this movie continuation. Though if you happen to be still reading this not having seen the series, you have some homework on your hands. Don’t worry. This movie won’t disappear while you’re gone. Well, I’m pretty sure it won’t….
Note: this series was owned by Bandai Entertainment and thus is no longer being distributed in America. Copies still exist,  though it is unclear how long supply will last. Thankfully, this title is popular enough that another company might one day pick it up again.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: movie
Languages: Dub and sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Science fiction, suspense, action, comedy
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: n/a
Screen shots:
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Extra: The four panel

luckystar mangaMost people know that many an anime title has started as a manga (Japanese graphic novel). Yet not every anime fan is as familiar with the various categories of manga out there. Shoujo, manga for girls, and shounen, manga for guys, get a decent amount of attention as they each have publications dedicated to them (Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump respectively). However, there are many other genres out there. Namely the four panel comic (Yonkoma in Japanese).

Cultural Note: While we often categorize books and movies by type (Ex: Romance, Action, Science Fiction, etc), Japan’s categorization system is generally based on the intended audience.

The four panel comic relates to, well, comedy. Similar to our comic strips, four panels focus on giving a laugh or two. Many popular comedy-based anime have come from these four panel comics, including the ever popular Lucky Star and the now old, but still loved Azumanga Diaoh. Although most categories of manga have their own art standard, four panel art often varies from work to work. Some work that isn’t even official, such as the Melancholy of Haru-chan, becomes such a hit that it gets an official license and an anime production.

For a more extensive list on four panel comics, check out Wikipedia’s smashing Yonkoma list!

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