Hamatora Review

Story:
Nice has a special ability, called a “minimum,” that only a few humans are born with. But rather than use it to aid the government or save lives, he creates Hamatora, a group full of others much like himself who can be hired to do, well, nearly anything. But once a serial killer targeting those with “minimum” is on the loose, Nice must join up with the police and past clients to track down the killer before the entire city is engulfed in pure chaos.

Violence:
Overall the violence is normal enough, save for near the end where a character explodes, blood raining down everywhere. I’ve seen more graphic things, even so, it’s not light viewing. Definitely YA level violence here.

Language:
Typical stuff in this corner. D-mn, sh-ts and the occasional b-word during a fight. Nothing new (much like the show at large, actually).

Nudity:
Aside from a scene in which young kids try to grab onto a well-endowed female’s boobs (I don’t even anymore), not much goes here, surprisingly. The worst this show gets would be this whole deal with a guy who likes other guys and can enamor them with his sweat (I swear I can’t even dream this junk up during a fever). The whole thing is pretty much a joke episode, so we’re blissfully spared any serious fanservice in this show. A “Nice” break…. Get it? Nice? As in the character’s name? Ahaha…

Theology/mythology:
One of the characters says a prayer to God before he “transforms,” and the villain mentions God/fate more than once in an attempt to be all deep and junk. There’s nothing in this show that seeks to convert, however. And it’s all vague anyway. Makes one wonder why the creators even bothered putting it in at all…

Personal impression:
I’ll be clear, this series had an interesting angle in that characters had to preform a specific action before they could use their powers and, well, the animation style was pretty. Thaaaat was about it.
Oh, it wasn’t a bad show. Not at all (though the pacing is odd in more than one spot). But it really didn’t have anything riveting to it either. The characters are all stereotypes with nothing to redeem them. Super gifted lead who never messes up? Check. Spacey side female character with a quirk? Check. Side character friend who wants to beat him? Double check. We even got the ol’ huge burly guy and small annoying chick team thrown our way. Oh and the villain is the typical crazy with a weird semi-sexual-ish fixation on the hero story.
Again, this all isn’t really bad, it’s just nothing new. For what the show is, an action/bit o’ mystery show, it’s decent. And the animation is steady throughout (unlike some shows I could mention). It just doesn’t really do anything interesting beyond that.
If you like action shows with psychotic villains, this is a fun run. It just might not be all that memorable after watching it. Except for the ending theme, which is surprisingly quite excellent.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Fantasy, action, mystery
Company: TV Tokyo
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: Can I… trust you?

As I mentioned before the haze of Easter week descended upon my house, some of the best stories are ones in which the audience is told very little about what is actually occurring. In other words, no exposition, please. And in that vain, let’s talk about one of my favorite versions of this: the unreliable narrator and/or main characters.

I mentioned in my last extra that in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya none of the characters in the show actually know what’s really going on. All they can do is simply speculate. This is especially true of the main character and narrator, Kyon (interestingly, despite him being the top guy, we still don’t know his actual name, nor the name of his younger sister or much of anything about his parents). But that doesn’t include all the uncertainties of the show. Although it’s always in the background, it isn’t until the show’s second season that we get hit upside the head with the simple fact that the theories we’re being fed might actually only be ways to manipulate other characters. In other words, Itsuki might not really believe half the stuff he says about Haruhi. Yuki may or may not really be on observation-only mode. Not only are these characters in the dark about the truth as a whole, but what truth they might actually know they may be twisting for the sake of keeping what little control they can on the situation they are in. This is especially true of Mikuru Asahina and her “future” organization’s dubious methods and motives.

In the deceitfully soft looking Princess Tutu, we have a unreliable story teller/puppet-master in Drosselmeyer. At first he seems like he has the whole story on strings, pulling it as he wishes. But bits and pieces of the heroine’s rebellion start popping up and eventually we find that, not only is Drosselmeyer not in absolute control of the story, but what little he does seem to control is connected to how much the other people in the town believe him in control (or are unaware of anything wrong in the first place). In other words, if the characters all hadn’t been so sure he (also the idea of fate itself, something the Dross-man seems to try embodying) had the power to control them, he might never have been able to do so in the first place. They believed he had power and that, more than anything, gave him power. Once characters such as Duck and Fakir realize this, they take their fate, and the story itself, into their own hands, pulling all that smart and creepy narration by Drosselmeyer earlier in the show into question.

For a far more recent, though perhaps a less obvious example, Eccentric Family is often narrated by a youkai. And while they often share a great deal in common with the humans they live alongside day-to-day in Kyoto, a few subtle but important differences occur in the story as a result. Mainly in what information is left out of the tale. For example, we learn early on that the main character’s father was killed via, well, being eaten in a hot pot. It’s spoken of so lightly, as if it’s a common enough occurrence, like dying in a car crash or even simply passing away in one’s sleep. And this is because it is common to them. What is also common is the wreaking of human lives, it seems. When a bit of info on Benten, who is completely human, is revealed, the fact that she was kidnapped by a tengu (a type of youkai) is glazed over. Her family, past, now warped view on the world after being held by a non-human entity that just wanted her for her looks – never mentioned. Simply put, these facts not only aren’t important to the youkai whose eyes we look through in the show, but they don’t seem to be of any concern to youkai period. It makes one wonder how much other info is left to die simply due to the fact that our “narrator” doesn’t find it worth discussing, despite the fact that it clearly goes a long way towards explaining the “why” behind the actions of strange characters such as Benten.

All of these examples, though they seem to leave info out of a series, actually make the show far more interesting to watch. Questioning a show is far more enjoyable than it sounds on the surface. After all, we humans seem built for asking questions and seeking answers. If all the answers are handed to us on page one, what is to hold our attention till chapter twelve?

 

Wizard Barristers Review

Story:
Cecil Sudo is a Wud, a person who was born with the ability to use magic. But after a tragic accident as a child that wrongfully imprisoned her mother, the girl made it her life goal to become a Wizard Barrister, one who speaks on behalf of Wuds in a court of law. But being the youngest Wizard Barrister ever is the least of Cecil’s problems when she joins a law firm in Japan. Her biggest problem is not getting involved in every case that happens her way and drawing too much attention to herself.

Violence:
As to be expected from a show with magic, the violence isn’t too unexpected. We see a few scenes with people getting shot and kicked around. But the main worry for this section is in the stuff at the very end and, since there’s no way not to spoil it writing this review, I’ll just out with it (as a comfort, they tried to have this plot twist as a big shocker near the end, but they waited too long and just ended up looking ridiculous. You’re not missing out on an awesome twist by spoiling it, I assure you).
Ready? In a ritual to summon Lucifer (you weren’t ready, were you?) many lives have to be sacrificed, thus many of the dudes chanting in the room crumple down to the floor, scream in pain and blood seems to come from their eyes. It’s not detailed, distant shots primarily, but it is disturbing, to say the least.

Language:
Typical YA fare. You got the usual d-mns and sh-ts and then some b-words for good measure cause that makes a show sooo much more mature.

Nudity:
Pervy frog thing and co-worker time. Yep, the mascot character for this show is a frog thing that’s always trying to grab the main character’s boobs or butt. The co-worker is the same and she also makes more than a few leading comments and innuendo jokes. The main character doesn’t help the fan service issue by wearing tight clothing or just a towel at home. More than one scene has gotten painfully close to showing way too much. This should have been my cue to drop the show. Heaven knows why I ignored that sign.

Theology/mythology:
As mentioned in the violence section, the tail end of this show reveals that a cult is attempting to summon Lucifer and use its power to take over the world (you have no idea how much I want to be joking). As if this isn’t enough, the show indicates the mechs some Wuds can summon, as well as the familiar things (aka mascot characters), are also summoned through the demon realm. Add body possession to the mix and you’ve got a show that seemed to change its goal from a magical law show to a supernatural action flick about five episodes from its end.

Personal impression:
This was possibly one of the worst shows I managed to trudge through this past streaming season. Why I stuck it out is anyone’s guess. I suppose I had hopes it would pull itself out of the hole it was digging. No such luck. Which was an honest to goodness shame as the set up had a lot to offer. A Law and Order-like show set in a world where magic exists? You can do tons with that. Too bad they decided to take the magic, blow it out of proportion and throw us a huge chuck of cliché nasty at the end. I suppose the aim was to shock the audience. But between that and the animation budget plummeting, well, it just left a really bad taste in my mouth.
And when I say the animation dropped it really dropped. The second to last episode, the big climax, was almost a slideshow. In all my years as an anime fan, I’ve NEVER seen such a poor job in a show. The production was high throughout most of the show, so I’m guessing they just ran out last minute. As if the turd of a “plot twist” wasn’t enough to kill this show for me, the endless still shots with random dialog and sounds continuing on as normal was just… painful. More than once I checked my internet connection. But it wasn’t me. It was their financial team dropping the ball big time.
The first few episodes, although strung through with clichés, had some amount of promise. But if you have anything better to watch, and I mean ANYTHING, I highly suggest you don’t give this show the light of day. Whatever unique possibilities this show had were killed about halfway through and replaced with more clichés and pitiful animation right when the high animation, the kind they wasted on pointless fanservice earlier, was needed the most.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Fantasy, action, mecha
Company: Showgate
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: If you’ve got it, show it

A few anime blogs here on WordPress have already been dishing out their first impressions for the new shows lining up for Spring 2014 and the consensus thus far seems to be a common plague to anime. In fact, it’s an issue that’s infected many media types, especially books and TV shows.

A lack of “show, don’t tell.”

Although the idea is basic enough, it doesn’t hurt to define it one more time. In media, “telling” is just what it sounds like. You explain, often in great detail, what’s going on and why and by who, etc. “Showing,” on the other hand, simply lets the story run, leaving you to figure out what’s going on for yourself. For example, explaining through a monologue that Gundams are extremely destructive machines is “telling,” where as a scene where a Gundam is destroying an entire city, cars crushed, buildings trashed, bridges wrecked, “shows” us a Gundam is powerful.

One of the main issues with “telling” vs “showing” is that it outright accuses the audience of being painfully stupid. And while that assumption works fine in some academic paper writing, as it forces you to define scholarly terms so as not to lose your reader, the concept doesn’t cross over into the creative fields well. While not every viewer/reader is going to be a super analyst, most audiences can actually think for themselves and pick up most bits of info on their own, and some will feel a bit nettled if a show denies them this pleasure. For example, you don’t need to tell your viewers they’re looking at the distant future when you show them a picture of a space colony. However, media is rampant with an addiction to “telling,” with long running anime (often in the Shonen Jump categories) being the biggest offenders (Fairy Tail has been especially bad at this lately). Of course, this means that anime heavily focused on simply “showing,” are pretty rare. Anime such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya are pretty good examples of favoring “showing.” The main character’s personal view is our only “narration” and, let’s be honest, he hasn’t a clue what’s going on. All we have is disjointed information from various characters, and for all the viewers know, all those world theories are just pure imagination/wishful thinking of the characters themselves. No clear answers are ever given concerning Haruhi or the world around her. The characters and the audience therefore have to figure out for themselves what to believe and what to dismiss.

A few other shows tend to lean on “showing,” such as The Eccentric Family, Durarara, and Princess Tutu (I’ll go into this more next week), to say nothing of a few, more “experimental,” shows rated just a bit too mature for this site (looking at you Utena) . The lack of “all knowing” narration and/or characters leaves the viewers to figure out what’s up, which is actually pretty fun when the show pulls the right strings. I mean, who doesn’t like to nerd out on a show, trying to piece together the little mysteries and guess what might be around the corner? Because as ominous as saying, “what happened the next day changed everything,” sounds, it’s just not as gut punching as simply showing us the change from the get-go.

Also, I don’t trust people. So if you tell me, “This guy is a villain,” I’m not buying it until he’s trashing a city in a mech. Just sayin’.

Noragami Review

Story:
You’d think bumping into a god would be an exciting thing. But to Hiyori, it changes everything. For the worse, it seems. When she accidentally ends up saving the life of a largely forgotten god, Yato, she ends up half of her world and half of his, a mixture of human and phantom. But when she requests for the laidback god-for-hire to cure her of her strange circumstance, she ends up entangled in a bizarre world no other humans seem to know exist.

Violence:
Because most of the violence in this show is dealt to monsters, there’s not as much violence as in shows like Fullmetal Alchemist, however there are more than a few scary scenes in addition to a few cuts and bloody noses. The gods and those connected to them can become “defiled,” which blackens their skin, causes pain and begins to fuse them to dangerous phantoms. These phantoms usually have creepy voices and are dark, sometimes formless, shapes with eyes all over. Scary stuff that most young viewers would have nightmares over.

Language:
The usual for a YA show, you have your classic d-mns and a few b-words during intensive fights and such.

Nudity:
Aside from the usual bath scenes that show nothing and a female side character wearing a super short skirt and belly bearing top, the worst this section gets in this show would be off handed jokes by a few characters. But even those are wonderfully tame compared to some of the stuff in comedies like School Rumble.

Theology/mythology:
Considering a forgotten god and phantoms (spirits of the dead) and whatnot are involved in this show, it should be pretty obvious that this one deals with a lot of supernatural themes. Some main ideas in this show include: phantoms are people or left over emotions of the dead OR extreme negative emotions from humans. Also, gods can lose their power when they are forgotten/not worshipped. Although there’s nothing in this show that teaches how to worship gods or anything, there’s enough traditions and such in this show to make me encourage those that aren’t fond of this kind of thing to seek their kicks elsewhere. It’s too ingrained into this show to ignore.

Personal impression:
I fully admit that I started watching this show due to the sharp visuals reminding me of Durarara, a style I never thought I’d like until that show swung around. And, in that department, I wasn’t disappointed. The art is pretty true to its style throughout and the music matches, with just enough of an odd flavor here and there to match the art.
However, it should be stated that the first part of the show is hard to get through. It’s not because the show is badly done. Actually it’s because the characters are a bit too real and thus, when one keeps being a pain in the butt, it take a heck of a lot to turn him around. Rest assured, however, that this character does get a much needed kick in the pants, so it actually gets resolved. It just takes the better part of the middle of the show to do this.
On the far more positive side, the sweet scenes after the struggles are actually charming, instead of forced, like most shows these days. Also, this show, thankfully, focuses the most on friendship. So although there are undertones of a possible romance, the focus remains on healthy friendships, a theme I always find more attractive than the stereotypical romance clichés plaguing so much anime today.
Even though there’s more than enough hints dropped to allow for a second season, this show is a nice, although not completely unique, title. What it does, it does very well. It has good characters, they actually grow during the season, and it’s a fun ride with a few laughs along the way.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Fantasy, action, comedy
Company: FUNimation
Legal streaming: Hulu
Screenshots:
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Extra: Look down, honey

106190“When a man tries to deceive someone he avoids their eyes. But when a woman tries to deceive someone she captures their eyes. There is no evidence for this story, but it seems to be true.”

Before you slaughter me, that up there is a word for word line from Haruka and, no, it’s not in good form in the slightest. I nearly choked on a cookie when it appeared on the screen and I instantly wished the character ill. And such a reaction would have been rather expected if this character had been a villain. He wasn’t. He was supposed to be one of the heroes. One of the heartthrobs. The one who was wearing glass (let us speak not of where he obtained them given the anime’s time setting. I’m still bitter) and a protector of justice and junk. Maybe that’s why I noticed when the villains never seemed to follow through and how many missed opportunities they had to win. Cause I was rooting more for them.

Regardless, the line up top is a very fancy way of saying: If you’re a woman, keep your head down, looking into a man’s eyes is forward and deceitful. Now that’s quite odd as, in actuality, most of Japan isn’t overly fond of eye contact period. It’s considered rude. So it’s interesting how the saying above implies that for this norm to be broken by a man it means absolute truth, where as a woman breaking it implies a lie.

In any case, this character was infuriating for more reasons than spouting off an old saying full of prejudice. He also judged others’ actions based on his own moral code (this is different from a general moral code, which would include, say, don’t murder). His code of: Men do this and women do that, was applied more than once to others as well as to himself. And I certainly had an issue with that.

This is not to say one can’t have a personal moral code. By no means! Let’s look at another male hero character who had strong ideas for how a man treats a woman (try not to be too shocked):

Kenichi. Now, I realize you might be eying that ecchi tag this show seems to get (despite the fact that this show’s fanservice isn’t anything the Teen section hasn’t already seen in most shows). But honestly this is a good example for contrast. See, Kenichi can be slammed for doing the usual chest staring and such, but he did have one very solid life rule: I don’t fight women.

The wording there is very important and also how he handled this little moral code of his. First off, notice how the emphasis is on his own personal actions. I just don’t do this. There’s nothing about other people. In fact, he never mentions whether or not girls can/should fight. In fact, when he first meets Miu, he has no problem at all with the idea of her learning martial arts or being good at it. He’s awed by her skill, but not the fact that a woman is good at it. It is only other people that remark how a girl can beat him up. The idea never really connects in his brain between her skill and gender because it’s not something he thinks about.

Secondly, he does not push this code of his onto others. This is Kenichi’s personal code and he doesn’t expect others to agree with it. When he comes face to face with female enemies, he refuses to fight. They, naturally, get upset, thinking he’s judging them for fighting. But he stands his ground. He doesn’t fight any women, not because he’s judging them, but because he doesn’t think it’s right for him to fight them. For Kenichi, he judges people who are strong and pick on those who are weak. Gender, it seems, has little to with strengths and weakness to him. Women are not instantly weak in his mind, nor men instantly strong.

So while the glasses wearing dude in Haruka made my eye twitch, Kenichi never did. In fact, I actually respected him as a character and rooted for him. It’s not that you can’t be chivalrous towards women or do special things for them. It’s that you should not hold others to your own personal standard. If you have a personal standard, make sure you personally stand up to it. It’s not other people’s jobs to fit into your vision of what makes a man and what makes a woman.