Arata the Legend Review

Story:
Arata hates the world he lives in where he is constantly bullied at school. But when his wish to be taken away to another world is actually granted, he finds that being bullied might have been a lot easier to deal with than a coup d’etat hinging on the assassination of the princess by her own subordinates.

Violence:
Most of this show is pretty stereotypical action violence, nothing that heavy. And then the last few episodes happen where we get the intensely unasked for honor of witnessing a character lose an eye and another character give him one of his own. Thankfully they are in mid shadow so the details aren’t that viable, but the sound effects really make this scene. Hilarious, that is. Honestly, there’s no way to take this kind of thing seriously. You don’t just puck out your eyeball and snap it into someone else’s socket. It’s not a universal nightlight.
Also of note, one of the weapons used is made of what appears to be bone and the room it is in has what appears to be a bunch of corpses in it. It’s pretty creepy, so be warned on that end.

Language:
As expected, the usual TV14 fare. You’ve got your everyday sh-t and d-mns alongside the occasional b-words. Nothing unique.

Nudity:
We are wonderfully blessed in this section. There’s not much to report other than a few females having large chests and some of the guys going shirtless on and off (one scene shows Arata taking a bath). Beaches hold more danger. A lot more danger.

Theology/mythology:
First off, there’s the whole idea about being chosen by swords which apparently used to be “gods” and whatnot. Like many shows, not much is explained on this. It’s more mentioned in passing and for all the characters know (or care) the weapons are just super powerful equips. The lead character’s weapon is, of course, pared with the idea of creation and being the “origin” of the weapons or something. Again, this isn’t really explained and it’s pretty much just an excuse to make the hero seem like a hero despite the fact that you could replace his personality with that of a lab rat and get the same results.

Personal impression:
No, really. Nothing unique. In this whole show. Rarely have I seen so many cliches in a single series. In a comedy, this would be a boon. But in a show that’s trying to be taken seriously, it’s just painful. Every move was easily predictable and oftentimes completely flat due to the horrid characters (although I must admit that the whole eyeball exchange scene was pretty left field. I mean, really. I have no words).
The art and music don’t stand out either, making this show the most bland I’ve seen in quite some time. Which is actually pretty amazing as more than a few anime board the cliche bus at some point, but this show never got off. As it’s only twelve episodes, I kept waiting for it to get better… No dice.
That said, it’s gotten good ratings, oddly. So if you haven’t seen too many shows (or played many RPGs) this show might just seem unique to you and keep your interest. But if you’re a seasoned anime viewer, this show might be a bit too ridiculous. And by “a bit” I mean a lot.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, fantasy
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: The Cinderella set up

extraThere are some stories that are so timeless they have been retold in various forms longer than any scholar could even begin to guess. This is especially true of folklore, often in forms we now refer to as “fairy tales.” The tale of Cinderella is perhaps the most well known, and in no small part from Disney’s popular animated version (the live actions they’ve done have never stuck well). Of course, Disney was by no means the first to tackle this story. Heavens no. The Cinderella tale, also known as the rags-to-riches story, has been told and retold all over the world for hundreds of years. In fact, no one knows for sure where the story began. As soon as one old tale that seems the be the “original,” known academically as the “Ur tale,” is found, another text shows up even older and on the other side of the world to boot. It is for this reason (among others) that many professors believe the Ur tale to be a myth itself. They often believe that these stories stem from basic human needs or some kind of collective human consciousnesses. But regardless of whether or not you believe such theories, the fact remains that these motifs and plots are used heavily in nearly every culture in the world.

Which brings me to Fruits Basket‘s main heroine: Tohru. She’s a near perfect example of the Cinderella character. She has a painful past, yet smiles. She had a horrid family, yet remains kind. She is overworked and taken advantage of by others, yet continues to be cheerful. All of these attributes are seen in Cinderella’s heroine, even in the odder versions from various points on the globe. The universal idea that a girl who does not lose her integrity and “goodness” despite being in bad circumstances shall surely be rewarded in the end is pretty strong in this show. And, of course, there are two very separate camps on whether or not this Cinderella tale is as wonderful as it first seems.

One camp of thinking is that this kind of selflessness is demeaning to women. That the entire story was (and still is) a way to tell women to take whatever hardship and abuse come their way with a smile and a submissive nature that never questions anything. I fully admit that this is a compelling point considering that there are indeed many folk tales that were used as… “instructional” materials, to put it gently. However, like many stories that have been retold so many times, whatever intentions may have first existed in the stories’ creation, new ideas have indeed been added and the “point” of Cinderella may not be as straight forward as it seems. After all, is not hardship inevitable for many in life? How many exist in the world in situations that are horrible through no fault of their own? Bad things can and will happen in our lives. Should we use these bad events to justify being angry, spiteful and hateful people ourselves? I certainly hope not! And so, the Cinderella tale still makes a good point or two – so says the second camp of thinking.

I’m more in the middle myself. You will get angry over things that happen in your life that are unfair. Emotions are a part of us and that will never change. But the strength is in not allowing those emotions to control you. Not in never having them at all. And so while the Cinderella tale – and characters based off of it – has a message we all need to strive towards (that is, not letting the events around you control who you are), I think it’s a bit more understandable – and healthy! – to see a bit more of the emotions one must conquer first. Genuinely smiling after someone has cruelly bullied you is no easy task. You have to face the rage and pain inside you first. It’s not impossible to move on, it’s just not quite as easy as Cinderella (and Tohru) would lead many to believe.

Fruits Basket Review

Story:
Tohru Handa is living in a tent. It’s not the ideal way for a sixteen year old girl to grow up, but without wanting to be a burden to her family, she feels she has no other choice. Until she’s offered a place to stay with a strange family who just so happen to be under a curse. If they are touched by members of the opposite sex, they turn into animals from the Chinese zodiac.

Violence:
Most of this is slap stick type violence, but there are a few fist fights that show a bit of blood. Also, near the end there is a transformation that’s a bit ugly and could be quite scary to really young viewers.

Language:
Anything too bad gets bleeped out for comedy purposes, but expect a few d-mns and such here and there as well. Kyo has the worst mouth by far with phrases like “p-ssing me off” and “you’re an -sshole.”

Nudity:
Alright, so as to be expected of a shoujo show, when the guys transform back into human form, they are without clothing. We are spared details thanks to a very convenient colored smoke that accompanies transformations, but you will see bare chest and legs. Also, there is one scene where one male character makes a crude remark to another after he comes out of the bathroom. Oh and banter between two other male characters who are long time friends is… odd. They make suggestive comments to each other frequently. Nothing X rated, and most of this stuff would fly over very young viewers, but still. It’s there.

Theology/mythology:
Naturally since the story contains the zodiac animals, there’s some stories swapped here and there about them. God is referenced right off the bat in a fable like tale, but due to the loose definition of “God” in Japan (the same term is sometimes used to refer to many gods and also to refer to God as defined by most western religions) whether or not it’s religious remains ambiguous. I’d say it isn’t due to the story forms used. These tales are far more like fables and folklore. In any case, if the idea of curses and humans turning into animals bugs you, this show isn’t your thing.

Personal impression:
This show is pretty stereotypical shoujo fare. That said, it’s also pretty enjoyable. Tohru (I have also caught her named spelled as Toru) is very cheerful even though her past and current circumstance kinda suck big time. And there’s enough comedy from the other characters to keep things from getting too serious. Until the end, anyway.
Overall, the animation and music is pretty standard for its day, although it’s considered a bit too basic now. And the story, again, is pretty standard. It’s also pretty well paced, so it’s a bit relaxing so it’s a nice break from darker shows. Just don’t wait around for everyone’s back story to get wrapped up.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 26
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Romance, comedy, drama
Website: http://www.funimation.com/shows/fruits-basket/anime
Legal streaming: Hulu
Screenshots:
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Extra: The ultimate race

(Warning: this article contains spoilers for Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet)

gargantiaWorld War II. Hitler. The holocaust. The events that happened concerning Nazi Germany are still etched into people’s minds. And with good reason. Not only is the murder of so many horrifying in and of itself. It also showed the most ugly side of humans. The side that looks on another human being and thinks that they are inferior. This aspect of human nature occurs on multiple levels throughout life and art. But true to its Gothic origins, science fiction can’t help but push the concept to its limit: genetic manipulation.

Genetic manipulation actually already occurs today, although this is mainly in plant life. Multiple crops are now grown using genetically modified seeds designed to keep yields high, produce more food and resist disease and pests. How ethical this kind of action may or may not be is still debated today (especially as there aren’t any current laws in the US requiring companies to tell you if the food you’re buying has been modified or not). However, genetic tampering with animals is a bit more complex. Experimentation exists, of course. But the results are not as clear and the battle over whether or not it should be tried at all is even more of a hot button topic.

Enter science fiction, skipping right over animals and going straight for the throat: human genetic manipulation. In shows that address this, as in Gargantia, the mentality of those modified runs right into Hitler territory (for the record, the ideas Hitler propagated were not new. Many others had come up with the same thing, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll use the most extreme historical example: Hitler). The idea that someone can claim superiority over another simply due to an uncontrollable factor, such as genetics, is frightening enough. But the implications of what genetic “modification” might do in the long run is even worse. Even though in Gargantia’s case the issue is only touched on and never fully resolved, what is seen on the issue is enough to cause more than a few chills.

Deep down, most people know they are judgmental at heart. We not only judge books, but also other people, simply by their covers (first impressions, anyone?). This is one of the many reasons why I think topics like this are so much more scary to us. Because we could be that monster we fear so easily. We could become Hitler. And if our technology advances faster that our humanity does, we might very well see a future where the human race itself is fractured into different “species,” some believing themselves better than others. And willing to destroy anything we deem “beneath” us.

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review

Story:
Ledo was born and raised to think of and act on nothing but the survival of the human race, a thing which is not always assured in the vastness of space. But when a return jump to his settlement ends with him and his fighting machine spinning out of control, he finds himself on a planet he has never seen before: Earth. But this planet is nothing like the barren frozen wastelands he was told about in history books. This planet is covered by ocean and traversed by human colonies on large ships, one of which is known as Gargantia.

Violence:
There’s a decent amount of violence, although not nearly as bad as Fullmetal Alchemist. The worst violence isn’t really to humans, but to alien creatures. They do bleed red, so it can be gross. A couple explode, their guts clinging to the robot’s exterior. Also, genetic manipulation is revealed later on and it pretty disturbing. We don’t see many details, but what we do see is pretty creepy, so be warned. This part alone bunks the show to a YA.

Language:
Nothing out of the ordinary here. Some d-mns, and s-its. Also, one “go to hell” which was actually hilarious, oddly enough. Language isn’t frequent though, so no worries there.

Nudity:
Japan just can’t stay away from its fanservice, can it? Despite more than one female having a figure only a comic book artist would dare dream up, there are only a few scenes that actually utilize the fanservice punch card. One is a beach episode. With no beach. Its… complicated. Anywho, expect bikinis and junk. Nothing too shocking. Except for the creepy transgenders that show up in a shady street and sexually harass the male lead. It’s all comedy, but has that layer of disturbing to it. Secondly, there is a belly dancing scene. Butt-shakin’ and all. I laughed. A lot. I mean, they’re so darn obvious about it all. But they try to stay on track by cutting back and forth to a serious discussion at the same time. Cause that makes it legit? Whatever. It’s eyeball rolling, but thankfully doesn’t reveal too much. It’s just embarrassing for all human begins to watch (I can’t speak for the non-humans, obviously).

Theology/Mythology:
Not much to put here. “God” is thrown around by a strange colony near the end that consider the strong as superior to the weak and whatnot. Claiming it as “God’s judgement” or some such. No scripture is evoked, however. Also, a machine claims to be “God” near the end because it has the ability to lead, and thus control, others. There is no attempt at indoctrination in this show. Just plot points. Pretty obvious ones, at that.

Personal Impression:
This show is short. That’s probably a good thing. While I enjoyed it reasonably enough as I was watching it, it was pretty predictable. And long predictable shows are far less favored than short predictable shows.
The main drive for this series was the mysteries surrounding the main character’s circumstance (why there are difference human settlements, what the enemies actually are, etc) and the main character attempting to understand his new world. In those regards, this show did pretty well. In fact, it actually wasn’t that predictable on the first part. Unfortunately, it was very predictable in the second. Expect a great deal of drama due to miscommunication here (the fact that his machine talks in roundabout ways that are typical Japanese – despite being a “logical” machine with no need to do so – only makes this element worse).
This said, the art and music are typical, if a little disappointing (the theme is very pop and actually clashes a bit with the tone of the show). And because this show is so short, the plot drama a bit more forgivable (less time to do damage, I suppose). Even so, the ending is pretty satisfying, something not many shorter shows afford these days. So if you like to have more closure in an ending, this show will give you that. It also poses a few issues that it never aims to correct (like human experimentation). It makes sense for the world to leave these unaddressed, and it actually adds validity to the world as you know issues still exist out there in the galaxy, even if the main character doesn’t have to directly deal with them anymore. So props to the creators for having the guts to make a more complete world for once.
Just be prepared for more than a few eye rolling drama plot turns throughout. And an opener that screams, “I was picked out of a hat. A pink Hello Kitty hat.”

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 13
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, science fiction, fantasy
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: Rules, rules, rules…

Rm2013“It’s not real, you know.” Sure we know that fantasy isn’t real, but it wouldn’t be the first time people have misinterpreted this truth as meaning that fantasy is nonsense. While nonsense does actually have a place in the arts, it should not be confused with fantasy. A fantasy world may not be “real,” but to the characters within that world, it’s real enough. In fact, it’s all they know. And so, to these characters, the world must have a logic. A structure. Rules that run it. Otherwise it ceases to be fantasy and has become nonsense (as a side note, although a world with a lack of rules sounds easy enough to deal with, this actually makes it harder to create and manage. Very few successful nonsense works exist).

Some of the world’s most well known and beloved fantasy worlds have very firm rules that govern them. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis are two writers that were so convinced that fantasy needed structure that they wrote essays on the topic, claiming that without rules, a fantasy world was not even worth populating with characters as the “suspension of disbelief” could no longer be managed. As a consequence, the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia are known worldwide and more than a few readers have lost themselves to the adventures within them over the years.

Unfortunately, not all fantasy worlds are so carefully created. Any attentive reader or viewer can identify an ill constructed world. They may not be able to identify exactly what is wrong, but they will often comment something along the lines of, “It just wasn’t believable.” Fantasy may not be “real,” but the job of an artist is to make it seem real so long as the audience is engaged with the work. But there in lies many issues. Making rules that govern an entirely new world is quite an undertaking and not all artists are very good at it or even get a decent shot at trying (depending on the media form being used, that is. Comic books, for example, go on for many years and often employ many writers. It is not always possible to keep a world consistent under such circumstances). And when a show contains various worlds and fantasy characters with no clear set rules, as is the case with Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen, what should be a good fight ends up only leaving viewers wondering what the big deal is. After all, the enemy is too strong and the world the hero is in doesn’t make sense. Anything can and will happen. Specifically, the hero will win through luck and get home because the world they’re in will “magically” allow it for some half-baked reason or another. Without rules, viewers can’t know for sure if a character is actually in danger or not and seasoned viewers will instinctively know that a deus ex machina is on the way. Rules draw a clear battle arena, upping the tension. They also keep a world from feeling like it was made up on the spot.
Because that’s the whole point of fantasy. Feeling just as real as our own world, without the cumbersome burden of being our world.