Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time Review

Story:
Haruka used to think she was just an average high school girl. Until she got sucked down a well and found out she was the Dragon God’s priestess. Now she’s stuck in another world where war between humans and demons has raged for years with her only defense being eight young men destined to protect her until her role as priestess is complete.

Violence:
Just what you would expect from a typical shoujo: mostly fighting that implies injury more often than showing it. Once or twice you’ll see a character get cut and bleed, but it remains rather tame. There are a few scenes showing bodies covered in cloths, presumably corpses. It’s not graphic, but it is morbid and thus might shock very young viewers.

Language:
Aside from precious few instances of the “illegitimate son” word, this show really doesn’t get ugly in this area. D-mn is the most common curse and even then it doesn’t happen too often.

Nudity:
Another pretty clean break. This show doesn’t really have a nudity issue. Aside from a dancer/enemy who has a bare torso, we don’t see much skin in this series. Heck, we don’t even get bare chested guys. It’s the one cliché this show dodged. Amazing, right?

Theology/mythology:
Alright, we have various creatures as gods, Buddhist monks, youkai, vengeful spirits (aka ghosts) and demons in this show. Now there are implications that the “demons” are just humans with different hair/eye color that are persecuted, but nothing is explained well in this show so it’s hard to say for sure what they were going for. Even the gods and how they work, the powers connected to them and the guardians is left to speculation, which, conveniently enough, allows the writers to pull out whatever trick they need and just “explain it away” later. In other words, there’s a lot of “religious” name dropping going on, but really nothing in terms of indoctrination, or even a basic explanation.
(side note: What was the point of creating a new world with multiple gods and junk when you’re just going to drag Buddha into it anyway? Honestly.)

Personal impression:
I’m not stupid. I know a shoujo title when I see it. Those images they put up for the shows tell all. One chick and a ton of dudes that, to the untrained eye, could possibly be mistaken for women? Yep, that’s a shoujo title. That said, this is by far one of the laziest shoujo shows I’ve come across. Now I don’t use the word “lazy” due to this show falling for every single shoujo cliché out there (aside from lack of shirtlessness in the dudes. Kinda an odd exception for a shoujo title), even when that includes one of the guardians wearing glasses in a society that can’t figure out how to lock a door (who the heck made those things?). Nope, I saw those pitfalls coming. It was the enemies contradicting themselves every couple minutes that made this show a real drag and a half. They say they need x to do y and then proceed to destroy x in the next scene. It’s almost as if the writers were either drunk or half asleep or both. Maybe both. This series has nothing unique to offer, which probably made it a rather boring show to work on. Then again, add some prankster co-workers and a great restaurant nearby the office and it might not have been all that bad.
But back to the show.
….Well, there’s not much more to say. Some of the piano music in the background is nice enough. That’s probably the only highlight though. The opener, ender, and art all taste like every other shoujo piece ever made (the best part animation-wise were the paper fans. Beautiful folding action. Nothing else, really). If this is your first show in this genre it might not seem so dumbed down to you. But if you’ve seen shoujo before, this title not only fails to do anything new, it also fails in making its overly basic script walk straight. It’d be best to seek a fix for a shoujo craving elsewhere. After all, you know nothing will get resolved anyway. And, unlike most shoujo shows that at least imply a proper couple at the end, this show flat out white washes the male interest leaving viewers with no idea what just happened at the end. If you need a fix, this show isn’t the place to look.

(Note: As with many Bandai titles, while the streaming is still supported legally on Hulu, DVD distribution no longer exists in the US)

Personal rating: 10+

Episodes: 26
Languages: Sub
Official rating: Not rated
Genre(s): Fantasy, romance, drama
Company: Bandai USA
Legal streaming: Hulu
Screenshots:
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Extra: Kids don’t need the culturez

If you’ve been around since the good ol’ Toonami days, back when they pretty much played anime and little else, you’ll get where this article is going pretty fast. For you flesh bloods out there, here’s the low down (and you might be noticing this based on what kinds of streams you watch, as well): Anime that targets the very young, be that All Ages or even some PG works, often get denied a subtitled version.

That’s right. They are denied a sub, the cheapest translation option available to a US company. After all, without the need to hire actors, the company need only focus on the actual translator(s). That’s a heck of a lot cheaper. In fact, more than a a few companies as of late have been offering subtitle only shows as a way to cut costs and get the product ready for sale faster. In light of this, why in heaven’s name would a company go out of their way to create a more pricey dubbed version and exclude any basic subtitled version? The answer links right back into the ol’ localization trap, which I’ve touched on before. Remember Brock’s “donuts?”

There are, of course, practical reasons. Most companies opt for the dub only for kids shows in the hopes that these shows will be aired on broadcast television, making a dub a requirement. These shows usually don’t count on being sold, only televised, making the subtitled version unnecessary. They also count on the fanbase remaining in the young ages the show is intended for, which often end up too young to read at the speed needed for shows with subtitles. That said, I can’t help but wonder if the United States would still have such low reading ability as a whole if we would only stop expecting kids to be idiots and actually challenged them once in awhile. Just as with localizing cultural elements and phrases, forcing a show into a different language it wasn’t intended for and not releasing the original is based on the assumption that the audience won’t be able to handle or enjoy the show in its original form.

And, yes, while there are some that prefer the dub for a variety of reasons (it’s less work, they wish to focus on the show rather than reading, they enjoy English actors/voices, they’re slow readers, etc), more than half of these same dub only shows also experience heavy editing and localization. Considering that most kids today struggle not only with reading their own native language, but also have no idea about other cultures or where Japan is on a globe, I personally think it would do some good to show kids that, hey, your nation isn’t the only one on the planet and, hey, there are languages other than English out there and they’re all beautiful in their own way. Forcing everything down into an English only mold isn’t just more costly for anime companies in the US, it also encourages a rather narrow minded view of the world we live in.

A Little Snow Fairy Sugar Review

Story:
Saga is a remarkable girl and not just because she loves playing the piano and is amazingly good at it. She can also see season fairies, small creatures who can control the weather. Of course, no one else knows this. In fact, she doesn’t even know it herself until a peculiar little snow fairy drops into her life, looking for a “twinkle” that can unlock her real powers and allow her to become a full fledged season fairy.

Violence:
This show is kid’s fare through and through, so the worst violence you can expect to see would be a character tripping and getting a scrape on their knee.

Language:
Another section where one doesn’t need to worry. You might hear a frustrated character say “shoot,” but that’s about it.

Nudity:
Aside from scenes with the main heroine in the bathtub, there’s nothing to say here. Although, as to be expected, you only really see her shoulders and up. Maybe a knee or two (scandalous!). A lot better than most beach experiences.

Theology/mythology:
As the title suggests, there are fairies in this show and they control the weather. If that bothers you, defiantly skip this show as there’s just no way around it. Also, as is common with anime, the main character sometimes talks to her dead mother, almost as if keeping a vocal diary. There’s no religious implications there, though.

Personal impression:
This show is painfully G rated. Every squeaky clean cliché you can think of is in it, poor talented girl with big dreams, rich snob girl who is her rival, little fairies that make her life complicated, but fun, etc. It’s nearly as bad Hamtaro, except this show at least has an ongoing storyline, a goal. Hamtaro was just aimless fun. Cute, but aimless. This show does head towards something. It kinda wraps up and kinda doesn’t, as many anime seem fond of doing these days, leaving a few strands undone just because, well, why not? There was one twist I didn’t see coming, but, overall, this is Disney level (or worse) on the predictability scale. Unique isn’t on the menu here.
The art and music are just as childish as the show, by the way. Actually the art is a bit painful in places, with an over simplified line count and flat faces that sometimes seem oddly shaped, as if the dimensions were more whacked than usual.
If you want a clean show you can watch for a sugar rush, this show fits the bill well enough. Don’t expect anything else though. Just like a spoonful of sugar, this show may be sweet, but there’s really nothing else there.
(It should also be noted that the only version for streaming currently is the dub, which is quite badly done. Ye be warned.)

Personal rating: All ages

Episodes: 26
Languages: Dub
Official rating: Not rated
Genre(s): Fantasy
Company: Sentai Filmworks
Legal streaming: Hulu
Screenshots:
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Extra: Thanks for not being serious…. seriously

Drama filled, philosophical heavy samurai shows are a dime a dozen and, generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of many of them. Anime adoptions, such as Samurai 7, had a few interesting twists thrown in, such as the splatter of high tech alongside the old feudal systems for example. But I often felt more interested in the political workings than the characters themselves. In fact, shows like that often had their main characters so very serious that they ended up feeling stiff, leaving viewers like me unable to really connect with them well. Generally this makes the tension within a show also feel forced, leaving one to think the series was sub-par, if not forgettable.

That’s why death scenes in comedy based shows like Sengoku Basara feel a bit more real than over half the drama found in a typical shoujo show (I actually felt the injustice of it all, despite the show being so brilliantly over-the-top, which was more than a little unexpected). Also, the sweetness of Nano finally realizing she has true friends in My Ordinary Life is actually very touching, despite the fact that the whole series is based off a four panel comic. After all, to see true smiles and to hear hearty laughter is to see that the characters have something to lose. Something amazing. Which, in turn, makes hardships seem legitimately horrid. Of course, because most comedy based anime tend to be slice-of-life, there’s often not much at stake anyway (the whole end of the world thing is pure Sengoku Basara crazy town). Even so, comedy can make the bad falls all the worse and the good scenes all the sweeter, where as a lack of any comedy at all tends to be off putting in most cases.

This isn’t to say that humor is the best way to go story-wise, of course. There are indeed times and places where being serious is vital to a story. But when all you can do is be serious and there is no laughter, no joy, a story feels stilted. I, for one, often wonder why I should be as serious as the characters are being as the only thing the characters have to lose is a boring, stiff and overly dramatic life seemingly without so much as hint of a real smile. Heck, I’ll trade that existence for a gag-reel any ol’ day of the week. Better to live a moderate life full of laughter than an adventurous one full of sorrow, right?

(My apologies for last week. I have been feeling off lately. A review is scheduled for tomorrow and from this Saturday onward regular posting will commence. Thank you for your patience, readers. ^^)

Sengoku Basara Review

Story:
There is no way the feuding war lords of Japan would join forces. Unless a terrifying and honor-less foe were to appear. Now multiple leaders, each violently apposed to the other, must combine their powers to fight a far greater evil threatening to cover all of Japan in darkness: The Demon Lord.

Violence:
This is a samurai show so be ready for characters getting stabbed to death, sliced, etc. There’s also a seriously bad dude who drinks wine (at least I think it is) from a skull. The wine is red. Yeah, kinda gross. You see blood pretty much every episode so if violence makes you queasy, skip this one.

Language:
Pretty standard stuff. D-mns, sh-ts and b-words in the heat of battle. Although, since fighting is so common in this title, you get the ol’ “illegitimate son” word more than some YA titles.

Nudity:
We don’t get any outright nudity, but we do get fanservice. All the female characters are pretty busty and one, in particular, is ever wearing a tight bodysuit that has a huge V-cut down the middle. Soooo, lots of cleavage. Also, she’s kinda infatuated with her “master” so there are more than a few scenes where she’s kinda high on his mere presence. It’s played as a joke, but it’s definitely an awkward thing for others to walk in on.

Theology/mythology:
Characters talk of the will of gods  and evil and such, but there’s not really any religion to it so much as just tradition. In any case, no explanations on gods are given.

Personal impression:
I watched this oddity back when FUNimation was just rolling out their dub, so it’s been quite a few years. But I didn’t need to do a skim over to refresh my memory on the extreme ludicrousy of it all (I now claim that as a word regardless of what my browser tells me). That’s the strong point of this show. The over-the-top zaniness of the characters, situations and the world itself. Oh sure, there are some familiar names and places and fights from Japanese history in there, buried under all the crazy metal horses and machine guns and sword fights that somehow cause nuclear fusion. Yet this series really only uses those points as an after thought. It’s really all coming from the over-imaginative mind of a bored kid in Japanese history class. Having an old war hero riding a metal horse is more memorable, after all.
This show is truly a beat-em-up all the way through. But it’s the delirious insanity added to it all that makes this show fun to watch. The corny dialog, over dramatic lines, Joker-esque villains, all makes this show still rather fun to watch despite not really doing anything all that unique story-wise.
If you like laughing at old, corny, over-done samurai movies, you just might like this one. But if you like serious or deep shows, I’d skip it. This really doesn’t fit in that mold. Go in for the fights, guns, swords and warped history turned fantasy. Otherwise you’ll just be confused.
(You’ll noticed the confused official rating down there. Seems FUNimation’s channels can’t agree. Hulu has most of the series marked as M while YouTube marks them as TV14)

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12 (this review only covers season one)
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: TV14/M
Genre(s): Action, comedy, fantasy
Company: FUNimation
Legal streaming: Hulu and FUNimation’s YouTube
Screenshots:
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Extra: 200 posts, ratings and pressing on

Around three years. That about how old this blog is, give or take a month or two for bata launching. And we’ve finally hit our 200th…. what?

Wait.

Soooo, this post isn’t the 200th post?

No, it isn’t. This post is the 201st post. The big 200 goes to that last WZ on Black Butler. Which, oddly enough, is rather perfect. Not because of the show, but because that post exemplifies why this blog was created to begin with. Our rating system in the US sucks. It’s sucked for years and, if you can believe it, it used to be even worse.

Back when I was just getting into anime, in the early 90s, there was no concrete rating system for anime. Technically speaking, there still isn’t. But now most companies have agreed to use the basic TV system (TV-G, TV-PG, TV14, M, etc). This wasn’t so back in my long abandoned era, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and ate children as they slept. At that time anime companies rated their shows however they wanted. Some chose the traditional movie rating system: G, PG, PG13, etc. Others used age indicators: All Ages, Teen, Young Adult (ps – what’s the difference between teen and young adult? Flip a coin, it’ll make more sense that way). While still other companies liked both systems so much they decided to create a Franken-rating system using both and whatever they thought looked good on the package. Acceptable for Most Ages? Oh, good. I was worried taking this into the Future Age might prove problematic. And let’s all just ignore Anime News Network‘s pathetic “objectionable content” slot. It’s just too sad to look at (again, coin flipping is more useful).

But even with the more “leveled out” playing field for ratings, anime still ends up in the odd rating basket often enough to make those ratings, especially the overused TV14 rating, only vaguely useful. Especially as most companies won’t tell you why they gave it that rating, making you wonder: Nudity? Language? Bloody limbs being used as boat paddles?! WHY?!

And so, here we are. Here you are. And I like to think, at least once, my heavily opinionated, sarcastic, lumpy posts have helped you in your quest for anime, my friend. I know, strangely, they’ve helped me. In the last three years I’ve reconnected with anime, watching new streams, keeping better track of companies and releases, all for the sake of up-keeping a little sliver of internet space.

So, thank you for reading. For commenting. For liking.

And just for fun- Let’s throw out some stats!

Weirdest search terms used on my blog:

  • Winry “unbuttoned”
    (what does that even mean?)
  • Mythical Villains Pictures
    (…wait, what?)
  • xxxHolic nudity
    (got this one multiple times. Let me comfort you on this)
  • Tsuritama shirtless
    (….why?)
  • Adult anime
    (I think you’re on the wrong site)

My most viewed Review:
Black Cat

My most viewed Extra:
Your Feminism in my FMA

My top commenter:
Congratz Artemis!

And that wraps up post 201. So, faithful readers, what do you think? Is this site useful to you? Is it missing something? Do you too burn with the need for mythical villains pictures?