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Basquash! (anime review)

Title: Basquash!: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Shoji Kawamori (chief director), Shin Itagaki (episodes 01−15)
Eiichi Sato (episodes 16−26)

Writer: Tatsuo Sato

Studio: Satelight

U. S. Distributor: MAIDEN JAPAN, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: June 18th, 2019

Format: Blu-ray / 26 Episodes / 650 Minutes

Genre: Adventure, Mecha, Sports

Age Rating: B+

Synopsis:

On the planet Earthdash, the infrastructure is crumbling and everyone wants to escape to the technologically advanced lunar city of Mooneyes. Unfortunately for young Dan, who dreams of taking his disabled sister to the moon for medical treatment for her paralyzed legs, only their societies’ most elite are allowed to leave the planet. Dan’s big chance comes when he crashes a game of Bigfoot Basketball, which is played with giant robots, and accidentally revolutionizes the sport.

Taking the game to new heights of mayhem and destruction, he gains fame but not fortune or a trip to the moon. Instead, he’ll have to fight his way to the top of a radically changed game while solving a mystery that could affect the future of the entire planet!

Commentary:

I am not going to mislead you and make you think I was looking to enjoy this series because I thought the concept was more than a little silly. As I watched the first few episodes I began to realize that there is a lot more here than a simple Mecha Basketball anime. In fact I found it to be something more than just a little entertaining. I found it to be filled with a rich cast of characters and some dramatic points that helped keep the series focused. I am not real sure how I feel about Dan, he is somewhat annoying and even though he is all about helping his sister that chip on his shoulder is more of a hinderance to his character than a help.

Overall Grade: B+

Maiden Japan sure does know how to pick some very special titles. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 and Den-noh Coil are two surprising titles and now I have to add Basquash! to the list. The animation is very good and carries off a rather high production value along with the depth of story and characters. Of course the writing makes all of it come alive while the animation make the story easy to watch.

I never thought I would be recommending a Basketball Mecha anime to anyone and would have never thought I would have enjoyed it, but this is one strangely fun anime that I have to give the thumbs up on. Check out Basquash!, you just might find it worth your time.

Land of the Lustrous (anime review)

Title: Land of the Lustrous: Complete Collection

Director: Takahiko Kyōgoku

Written By: Toshiya Ōno

Music By: Yoshiaki Fujisawa

Studio: Orange

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 21st, 2019

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

No matter what the odds, life will find a way to continue, with young Phos and the other gems as the ultimate proof. Instead of flesh, their bodies are made of living crystal, allowing them to survive in a world too toxic for any human. But their gem bodies also attract a terrible danger: the Lunarians, who hunt the gems and use their shattered forms to fabricate jewelry and ornaments. The gems with the strongest forms defend the others, but Phos is too weak and brittle to fight. Instead, Phos is ordered to compile an encyclopedia; but could that research discover hidden secrets that could help the gems? Join Phos, the toxic Cinnabar, the powerful Bort, the valiant Diamond, and others in a glittering world unlike anything you have seen before!

Commentary:

I am not sure what drives creators to chose the style of animation techniques that are employed. I am also not sure what possesses creators to leave stories with so much to be interpreted by the viewer. In any case I will say that Land of the Lustrous falls short in these two areas and excels in almost every other area it used to tell this strange yet poignant tale.

Watching the cast of characters work though their own complexities and trying to discover their own identities is in many ways the story all of us moving through our own life. With such a strong connection to Buddhism the realities of life was not lost in this surreal world. I particularly enjoyed watching Phos grow and overcome her weaknesses.

Overall Rating: B+

The weaknesses that stood out in the series was clearly the decision to use Computer Graphics (CG) to animate the series. In doing so is was easy to see the group of gems in a more natural state, but the over-reliance of the software took away from the ease of watching the story unfold. The hard edge and stiffness of the production delineated from the story and at time overwhelmed the viewer ability to truly absorb and enjoy the story and many of the complexities of what was happening. This really spotlighted the writing which proves to make the series shine. If the animation would have been done using a more sophisticated program of letting the human hand get more involved then I believe that there would have been a second season and more enlightenment about this strange yet poignant world of Land of the Lustrous.

Land of the Lustrous may not be for everyone, but I think that if you are able to overlook the poor choice of animation style then I think you will find a story that gives you plenty to think about.

Armored Trooper Votoms OVA Collection 1

Title: Armored Trooper VOTOMS OVA Collection 1

Director: Ryōsuke Takahashi

Studio: Nippon Sunrise (Sunrise)

U. S. Distributor: Maiden Japan, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 14th, 2019

Format: Blu-ray (Standard Definition) / 8 OVA / 595 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha, Space Opera

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

They may be encased in suits of powered armor, but the soldiers who wear a VOTOMS unit in battle are simply serving the purpose that infantry has always served in war: to take ground and hold it, no matter what the cost. Combine that mission with the explosive fuel mixture and thin metal of their powersuits, and their chances of survival are decreased rather than enhanced, and only a handful will live to fight again. But of that elite group of survivors, a few will become legends.

Return to the universe of the most realistic mecha warfare ever animated as the beachhead established with the epic 52-episode Armored Trooper VOTOMS widens into a full scale invasion of spectacular and previously unreleased original video animations in Armored Trooper VOTOMS Collection 1!

Commentary:

I am becoming very weary of all the 1980’s Mecha anime that are being rereleased. I understand the ease of reproduction and play to nostalgia along with the quick ability to make money. I also understand that there is a push to revitalize the toy sales from these series. If you remind enough people of what they saw when they were young you might be able to sell them some collectable items.

As for the series, it is a rather predictable story that gives you plenty of melodrama and action along with a taste of how far the Japanese pushed these story lines back in the 1980’s. I can’t say that I found it easy to watch, but I did find it entertaining along with somewhat relaxing because of the total non-committal posture I took while watching it.

Overall Grade: B-

In may ways the series should be rated much lower. I opted to try and place myself in a 1980’s frame of mind and it gave me reason to give it a B-. The writing was fair enough to bring it over the finish line. The production quality was rather interesting if you look at it with the understanding that technology was still a non-starter and the men and women who made this series worked in sweatshops and almost never got to sleep in their own beds even if sleep was something they had time for.

I did find the look into the past rather refreshing which gives me even more reason to be critical of some of the poor quality anime that is being made now.

The main reason I gave Armored Trooper VOTOMS OVA Collection 1 is due to the overall melodramatic quality of the story. It became rather tedious from time to time and in the end I can honestly say that it doesn’t make me look forward to collection 2.

If you are a serious fan of old Mecha and looking for some additional material from the Armored Trooper VOTOMS series then I can tell you that you will need this in your collection.

Kokkoku The Complete Collection (anime review)

Title:  Kokkoku the Complete Series

Director: Yoshimitsu Ohashi

Original Creator: Seita Horto

Screen Play: Noboru Kimura

Music by: MICHIRU

Studio: Geno Studio

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Please Date: April 16th, 2019

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Sci Fi, Supernatural

Age Rating: MA

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis: 

Juri Yukawa needs a timeout from her life. She’s failed 19 job interviews, she’s stuck living with her crazy family, and her chances of escaping to a life of her own are becoming increasingly remote. Suddenly, all of that becomes unimportant when her brother and nephew are kidnapped and held for an impossibly high ransom. That’s when Juri’s grandfather reveals an incredible secret: a mystical stone that allows Juri, her father and her Grandpa to enter the state of Stasis, where everyone else in the world is frozen in time! That should make rescuing their family easy, right? Wrong, because there’s a sinister organization working against them who also can literally beat the clock!

Commentary:

Every year there is typically a standout drama that captures my imagination and continues tp support my belief that the anime world has not given way to the fan service or pop idol craze. This year may not be half way through but Kokkoku is that anime so far for 2019 hard copy releases. In may ways it is sad that Amazon streaming had this one because it meant a very limited viewership. I am glad I discovered this as a hard copy blu-ray because it is a series that I will go back to over and over again as the years pass by.

Kokkoku gives us a rich imaginative world that has the confusion that our main group deals with having just learned of this strange family power and the overwhelming religious cult that has a singular mission. Each character has very unique personalities and very special roles in this story. 

Overal Grade: A

Kokkoku is a shinning star in the sea if mediocre anime so far this year. I gives us a solid drama that allows the viewer to follow along and grow to like and dislike the characters as the story unfolds. I felt as though the writing and character development are the strongest part of the series. There are some very human characteristics portrayed in this group of unlikely characters. There are a few mysteries that are not fully explained but there are even more that are. This short 12 episode series does a wonderful job of giving us a complete story.

Dramas for adults are very hard to find and Kokkoku is one of the few that does not find itself pandering to overly sexualize or give us gratuitous violence just because it sells. We get to see humanity at its purest form. We have the idealist, the hard core family member and plenty of the simple minded followers that are just looking for something to gasp onto and of course we have the pure self centered greed motivated ones that look to make themself richer or more powerful among the peers. 

If you are starving for a great drama? Well, Kokkoku is for you. Get ready for a interesting story that makes you want only the best outcome not looking for blood and gore or bouncing boobs in every scene.

Mitsusboshi Colors Anime Review

Title: Mitsuboshi Colors Complete Collection

Director: Tomoyuki Kawamura

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: 4-30-19

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes /300 Minutes

Audio: Japanese and English

Genre: Comedy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Yui, Sacchan, and Kotoha are three grade school friends. In their youthful energy and self assurance, they have formed a group called Colors making it a mission to protect the peace in their town. Yet their inherent mischief and childish logic bring distress to Saito, a local security officer.

Their peace keeping mission is a rather broad idea and (surprise) childish, but they do attempt to help by ridding the town of allergy causing pollen, find a mystical creature, solve mysteries and save the elephants.

The trio often hang out in their club house in the wooded park. Having freedom to head out on their own all over town, they stop in the small shops in the market to visit with the friends they’ve made. Notable is Pops a big friendly bear of a guy who gets a kick out of their antics and is often an enabler in the wacky schemes.

Commentary:

Mitsuboshi Colors is a silly anime that is endearing and fun to watch. It is all upbeat and appropriate for everyone. (Well, if you have a mischief maker who might get some new ideas, you might want to avoid it.) I’m glad anime like this is still being made and brought over. A plus is it has an English dub, opening it up to be enjoyed by younger viewers. This anime got its start as a manga series, so hopefully there is more to come.

The characters are developed enough to be fun in all their personality traits. This made it a lot of fun to watch the officer Saito have to deal with the brazen Sacchan. He didn’t really see the humor in the illogical Colors the way Pops did.

Sound support for Mitsuboshi Colors was well done with all the background noises and the often subtle but relevant music. My common complaint was that some of the voices become grating with excess squeakiness.

I found the setting to be wonderfully Japanese. The girls had a childhood freedom foreign to us here. The markets, the food, the shops, the human interactions add to the interest of it all, the newness and discovery. Even with the differences, we can all connect with the spark of life, excitement and community.

Overall Grade: A-….. funny, cute, squeaky, colorful, silly, adventure, annoying, energetic, dis-logical….The annoying qualities of childhood that are essentially so silly that it elicits warm humor.

Doreiku The Animation (anime review)

Title: Doreiku The Animation on Blu-ray

Director & Writer: Ryōichi Kuraya

Studio: Zero-G, TNK

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 23rd, 2019

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Seinen, Drama, Thriller

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating D+

Synopsis:

Doreiku: The Animation contains episodes 1-12 of the anime directed by Ryoichi Kuraya.

It’s an insidious invention, originally created to control animals. Now it’s the ultimate rush for a dark cult of jaded thrill seekers. Place one SCM in your mouth and your opponent does the same. Then play a game… any game… and the winner literally takes control of the loser, binding them to their will and turning them into a personal plaything until the winner decides to set them free – if they ever chose to free them at all. And as the use of SCMs snakes its way through the undercurrents of society, with increasing numbers of unfortunate players bound into submission as drones and harems, the even more terrifying discovery of SCMs that can take over anyone, at any time, threatens to enthrall the rest of the population.

Commentary:

Wow, I am never really surprised when I watch a series that makes me cringe over and over again. Doreiku clearly is made to make the viewer cringe and it is all about being a voyeur into a world of forced masochism. I understand that human nature lends itself to this torture and violent underlying tendency, but that doesn’t make this series any easier to watch.

There is a great deal of that overarching good natured affront to the series when it is really all about watching slavery and torture as it washes across the screen. I felt a little ashamed that I watched and try to justify its existence .

Overall Grade: D+

I wish I could give Doreiku a better grade and I know that there are many out there that will disagree with my opinion, but I am not sure how spotlighting this type of masochism and control of another human being. Yes, I know that it spotlighted the evil and darkness behind it all, but it also might play in the overall normalization of this behavior. I think that it should remain taboo and a topic of derision rather than something to be viewed and approved of.

Princess Resurrection (anime review)

Title: Princess Resurrection: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Masayuki Sakoi

Studio: Madhouse

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 9th, 2019

Format: Blu-ray / 650 Minutes / 25 Episodes + OVA

Genre: Comedy, Supernatural, Harem

Age Rating: PG

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Princess Resurrection the Complete Collection contains episodes 1-25 of the anime directed by Masayuki Sakoi plus the OVA: Princess Comatose in standard definition on a blu-ray disc.

When Hiro Hiyorimi tries to save a beautiful young woman from certain death, he ends up a dead hero himself! However, since the drop-dead girl is Princess Hime, daughter of the King of the Monsters, his “reward” is to come back as a not-quite-living soldier in her honor guard of horror!

That means helping fight off the army of supernatural monstrosities Hime’s siblings are unleashing against her in hopes of moving up the ladder of succession. And if facing off with vampires and zombies isn’t bad enough, how can anyone be prepared for the truly weird ones like were-sharks, pandas and killer dumplings? This sure isn’t the afterlife Hiro was hoping for, but the really sad part is that Hime is the good girl in all of this. Or at least, as close to good as you can come when you’re on the wrong side of the gates of Hell! Get ready for the wildest animation about reanimation ever in Princess Resurrection – The Complete Collection!

Commentary:

As the anime market expands there is a rush to bring back some almost classic anime that have been set aside for years. This is just the case of Princess Resurrection. In other words this humorous anime has bee resurrected. Weh I say humorous I really mean it. I did find myself laughing out loud several times but most of the time I managed a smile in the simplistic approach to this harem. It made me think of other anime that conjure up a very similar story such as Is This A Zombie and even Karen.

The premiss of Princess Resurrection is not as groundbreaking as hopped for, but the execution is entertaining enough to justify its return to the anime sales shelves.

I am not saying that Princess Resurrection is just laughs, i found it to have just enough drama and mystery to keep me watching. There is a underlying mystery that needs to be discovered, but getting there is fun and entertains.

Overall Grade: B+

I often worry about these older series that are bing brought back for the new generation of fans to discover. Princess Resurrection manages to make itself a little more accessible than many others. The animation is average and not too dated. The writing is strong enough to keep the viewers interest and the humor is solid enough to keep you smiling.

Princess Resurrection is a worthy revival anime that more than deserved to be resurrected.

Hakumei and Mikochi Anime Review


Title: Hakumei and Mikochi, Tiny little life in the woods ; Complete Collection

Director: Masaomi Ando

Hakumei and Mikochi Bluray

U.S. Publisher: Sentai Filmworks

Format: Blu-ray / 10 Episodes plus OVA/ 325 Minutes

Audio: English dub or Japanese with English sub

Genre: Slice of Life, Fantasy and Travel

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

Hakumei and Mikochi share a house in the woods. They may be 3.5 inches tall, but their life is typical for living outside a village in a wooded rural area. The time period could be the 1800s (without electricity), but with an 2000s mindset.

We get to know the pair throughout the series. Hakumei is energetic, enthusiastic, a bit of an adventurer and has a talent for carpentry. She had been homeless and joined up with a traveling caravan for a while, before coming to the village, meeting Mikochi, whose talents range from sewing to cooking.

Their friendship is central to the series as they live out their daily lives, meet new people (or animals, or bugs), and go on some little adventures.

Commentary:

Hakumei and Mikochi is a quiet little fantasy with its miniature people, talking animals and some pseudo-science magic. In the American entertainment market, it is difficult to figure out who the target audience would be. It has an overall feel good kid’s cartoon vibe, but there is smoking and alcohol consumption, which doesn’t fit with that identity in here. True, I’m chronologically not a kid, and at first I wasn’t too interested in the anime. There didn’t seem to be a reason for them to be tiny people, which is annoying ( like in The Life of Budori Gusuko, there is no reason for them to be cats). I mean, if you look at the Borrowers or the anime take on that literary series, Ariettty, then you see how their size impacts their life and how they adapt to their surroundings and in turn adapt items into their little piece of the world. Here in Hakumei and Midochi, most of what they have and how they live is just like being a regular sized person. They have real houses and towns with regular doors, regular teapots, nearly every thing is regular. The big exception seems to be food in its natural state, berries are the size of their head, a fish is the size of a truck, and a daikon radish is the size of a mini cooper. Transportation seems to involve a rodent, whether they hop on the back of a raccoon or ride in the bus pulled by a guinea pig.

Size issues aside, I did get settled into the anime routine and this is what I liked about Hakumei and Midochi: I did choose this one by the cover for the pretty background art, which it continues throughout and didn’t disappoint there. All the animation was good, the colors bright and saturated. The dub was good, not annoying, and I thought it worked well. The characters were likable, positive and upbeat and their friendship was nice to be a part of. I think that is what we often appreciate in anime, the friendship connection.

I think if you like Aria or Tamako Markert, you would also enjoy the series Hakumei and Mikochi.

Overall Grade: B- With all the cuteness of a beetle with a bow on her antenna, Hakumei and Mikochi is also available in a manga series.

Just Because Anime Review

Just Because!


Title: Just Because; Complete Collection

U. S. Publisher: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: 2-26-19

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Director: Atsushi Kobayashi

Genre: Romance Drama

Age Rating: 14+

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

The end of high school is near. The third years are going to be moving on, whether to college or entering into the work force. Most of them are preoccupied with studying for their entrance exams.

If that isn’t enough to worry about, Eitu Izumi has just moved back in the area for the final semester. He moved away during middle school and time moved on. With a lack of energy or interest, he visits his new high school, finds out that some of his childhood classmates attend this school. His old friend Haruto Soma is surprised, but they connect quickly over baseball.

Eitu learns his middle school crush, Mio Natsume, also goes there. This is where things lie hidden and complicated. Eitu likes Mio, Mio likes Soma, Soma likes Morikawa, she doesn’t seem interested in anyone and finally, Ena Komiya likes Eitu.

The classmates and friends move cautiously as they are about to crash into their adult lives. It is time to savor their youth, and they know they will be losing the life they are comfortable with. They need to say what is in their hearts before the oppertunities are lost. However, with everything about to change, does it really matter.

Commentary:

I enjoyed watching Just Because!. And not just because I happened to watch the Valentine’s Day episode on February 14th. It is a high school drama, which most of us have probably seen many over the years, but it didn’t feel like an old story. We meet this new group of teens as Eitu moves back to his former town. As he is reacquainted with the people his friends became, we are introduced to the school and students along side him.

It was interesting how Eitu’s moving really highlighted the change they all had being going though over the years and that this is the finale of their childhood. It was really pivotal to the telling of their story, the changes of life and who you become as you deal with it all.

Just Because!  does take place in a high school, so there are plenty of common, comfortable elements. Besides the exams, there are the issues of liking someone. What do you do with that? I liked the way the characters could develop different views on love and not be stuck in a childish idealistic view. It was interesting how their personalities contributed to the way they dealt with things, it could be moving on, persistence, or changing the circumstances. Do you speak up, confess, or stay back?

I enjoyed the animation, it looks like rotoscoping was used. The animators paid attention to details, back grounds, keeping the camaera angles interesting an adding in visual interests through out. I think it makes it all more immersive and interesting than live action. You can see things differently. There were several instances where they really made a point to emphasizes the animation, like a tear rolling down Komiya’s face, when Eitu was throwing a ball or Soma was swinging a bat. An especially cool moment was when Soma was riding a bike and we see ahead of him from his point of view, the way the shadows change as he passes lights.

Just Because! is both subbed and dubbed. I mostly watch the dubbed, because I prefer it, but then I get used to the charters voices one way, so the Japanese voices seemed like they belong to someone else, but still it was good.

All in all, I liked the characters. The only issue I had there was Eitu’s seemingly indifference. His expressions and emotions were too subdued, but oddly enough, I still like his character. There was something deep within him, but his life circumstances seemed to weigh down on him.

The ending was satisfactory. I want to let you know to watch past when the credits start. They still include story content.

Overall Grade: A- If you like Say I Love You or Tamako’s Market, I think you will like Just Because!

Kino’s Journey (anime review)

Title: Kino’s Journey: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Ryūtarō Nakamura

Studio: A. C. G. T.

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: Feb. 26th, 2019

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Adventure, Sci Fi, Philosophical

Age Rating: PG

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Three days. Two nights. That’s how much time Kino and Hermes allot to each new place they visit before drifting off again, crossing a mysterious land filled with mystical sights and strange customs. Kino’s an enigmatic loner, skilled with weapons and always anticipating what might lie around the next hill or bend of the river. Hermes is Kino’s friend, companion, and motorcycle, gifted with the ability to think and speak, seldom as bold as Kino, but always there when speed is required.

What is their goal, their ultimate destination? Like life itself, it’s all a mystery that one can only solve by taking the journey. All Kino and Hermes know is that adventure, danger, and new wonders lie on the horizon, waiting to be encountered at each passing stop. Join the odyssey and drift along for the ride!

Commentary:

Kino’s Journey is a rather different series that takes a hard look at humanity in a sometimes harsh reality. It does something that I have only managed to come across a few times in anime or any series for that matter, which is to get to the hard realism of our own brutal nature. Of course there is plenty of optimism interlaced, in fact Kino is a shinning beacon for our tortured species. Although Kino managed to remain rather detached or appears to be separated there are moments that you realize that Kino cares much more than is apparent.

Overall Grade: A-

Kino’s Journey reminds of another series that looks at our species though a rather odd lens, that series was Mushi Shi. Both are somewhat reflective but the quiet nature of the main characters manage to provide a grounding for the disturbing qualities in the ones that surround them and the environments they discover.

The only detractor for Kino’s Journey has to be the age of the series and the animation production quality. It is clear that Kino’s Journey was produced for television and the overall production quality is on the low side, but that is where the deficiencies end. The writing, voice acting and overall concepts are well above average which make Kino’s Journey a real treasure.

Looking for a series that will make you think then Kino’s Journey should be place at the top of your list.