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Shirobako Collection 2 (anime review)

shirobako-2Title: Shirobako Collection 2 on Blu-ray

Director: Tsutomu Mizushima

Writer: Michio Yokote

Studio: P. A. Works

Produced by: Warner Entertainment Japan

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 24th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Drama

Age Rating: TV PG

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

It’s official. Musashino Animation’s next production is “Third Aerial Girls’ Squad!” In a surprising turn of events, Aoi finds herself assigned as the production manager for the project, but from the very beginning it looks like she may be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the project. Of course, her old friend Ema is already aboard as one of the animators, while Midori makes an enormous contribution by taking on many of the program’s important research duties. And when Misa’s new company contracts to produce CG for the series, all but one of the members of the old animation club are working on the same production! Left out again, Shizuka auditions for a role, but, as a relatively new voice actor the odds of her being cast in a major part seem highly unlikely. That doesn’t break the bonds of their friendship, however, and there are tons of surprises ahead as TAGS’s journey to broadcast draws to the finish in the second collection of SHIROBAKO!

Commentary:

Shirobako is one of those anime that will end up standing out as a go to anime for all serious fans. It will also find its way into the library of those who aren’t everyday fans but those who are looking for another slice of life anime that deals with everyday struggle that come with any job and deadlines. Anyone who has ever been a part of a major project with tight deadlines will enjoy this series because that is what it is all about.

The real strength of Shirobako is the character interaction and the wide variety of personalities blended in the stressful dynamic of the world of anime production. Everyone must start somewhere and for Aoi this is her big opportunity to discover her abilities and to maybe even learn something about herself that will help her become more confident in the path she is following.

The rest of the cast have their ups and downs but it is Aoi who is the spotlight and who has the biggest job that requires wearing many different hats. I loved the way we saw the doubt and resolve in her life along with the support she got from those around her along with the suspicion of her abilities for some.

Overall Grade: A

I can say that I have been very lucky with many of the series I have had the chance to review over the last few weeks and Shirobako stand at the top of the list with my other favorite Space Brothers. Both of these series take on the topic of following your dreams and even look at finding what is important in life too. Shirobako gives us glimpse into the fast paced world of anime production and also shows us how many different people and companies are involved in getting something as complicated as an anime on the air.

When it comes to anime or any series I find the story to be the driving reason to like it. Shirobako’s story hits a home run and is another one that could easily be prime time TV in the U. S. I think more and more families are discovering anime as a great source of entertainment and once people get over the sub title issues they will discover a whole world of stories that they could have never imagined existed. This type of series is s shining example of the difference in American and Japanese animation. I for one can’t remember the last time I watched a slice of life animation from any american production company. Yea for Anime give us more shows like Shirobako please!

Shirobako Collection 1 (anime review)

shirobako-Title: Shirobako Collection 1 on Blu-ray

Director: Tsutomu Mizushima

Writer: Michio Yokote

Studio: P. A. Works

Produced by: Warner Entertainment Japan

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: February 9th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Drama

Age Rating: TV PG

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

After making an animated film together in high school, Aoi and her friends Shizuka, Ema, Misa, and Midori made a promise to each other: to all get jobs in the anime industry and someday work together again.

Two years later, Aoi is learning that working as a production assistant at a small animation studio is far more demanding than she ever imagined, and Shizuka’s aspiring career as a voice actor involves more time waiting tables than recording.

Meanwhile, Ema’s slowly making a name for herself as a key animator, Misa’s moved from 2D to 3D and now works in computer graphics, and screenwriting hopeful Midori is lagging furthest behind, still looking for her first big break. But are they ready to give up on their dreams just yet? No way! Because while anime may come from inspiration, in the end it’s the ones who’re willing to put in the perspiration that make their dreams real in Shirobako!

Commentary:

Shirobako is wonderful way to start off the 2016 release season. It is a smart lively slice of life that gives us a group of young adults trying to make their way into the anime profession. As we follow these five young ladies it becomes very clear that we are seeing a true cross-section of how life works. The series gives up a rather upbeat view of their world with moments of struggle and frustration tossed in. It is easy for most of us to think how great it would be to in the anime industry but the truth is that it is a meat grinder that demands long hours and a work ethic that s second to none. Shirt Bako does a great job of portraying these struggles but is not too discouraging.

I think that approach may be the real strength to the story. I would never want to totally discourage people who are still as idealistic and have big dreams because once you loose your dreams life just becomes a series of good and bad moments. Of course I am coming from a jaded viewpoint of someone who has been a part of the corporate world far too long.

Overall Grade: A

Shirobako isn’t a top notice anime just because it gives a solid slice of life. The truth is that is does this without making you cry. I was beginning to think that slice of life meant sad and depressing, but it is great to see a positive anime come out and breach the fourth wall an look back at its own industry. There is also the fact that it is rated PG, not TV14 or even MA, but rather PG. That is awesome in my mind because a story like this should be available for all audiences. I think there are plenty of younger teens that might watch this and find it to be something of value rather than something that just bleeds all over the place.

It is understandable that P. A. Works took on this story and why it turned out the way it did. Way to go P. A. Works, here is another anime that proves that you understand what you are doing and why you are still going strong after 15 years. You have survived through some of the toughest years and still bring us some of the best series out there. Shirobako is a  good one thank you.

Shirobako is a series that you need to check out. It is well produced, well written and well voice acted. I love that it fires on all cylinders and proves that it is not boring to tell a good story and make it believable.

You’re Being Summoned, Azazel DVD Complete Collection (anime review)

Azazel, You're Being SummonedTitle: You’re Being Summoned, Azazel DVD Complete Collection

Director: Tsutomu Mizushima

Studio: Production I. G.

U. S. Distributor: Lucky Penny, Nozomi

U. S. Release date: Feb. 3rd, 2015

Format: DVD / 26 Episodes / 338 Minutes

Genre: Comedy

Age Rating: TV 17

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Have a stalker you just can’t shake? Fear your spouse is being unfaithful? You might consider hiring Akutabe, a detective who summons demons to do his dirty work. While his methods might seem unorthodox, he always gets results. However, as powerful as Akutabe is, manipulating demons is a delicate art. His new part-time employee Sakuma, a young college girl, doesn’t get to spend too much time exploring the finer points of controlling demons before Akutabe forces her into a demonic contract with Azazel. Azazel is lazy, lustful, and depraved… Everything you’d expect a demon to be. Sakuma needs to keep Azazel on a tight leash, but to do that, she may have to dabble in a little depravity herself.

Commentary:

There are plenty of shows out there that aim to push the boundaries of absurd and questionable. As for Azazel, You’re Being Summoned will be treated some of the best and worst of this style of comedy. After the first episode I thought it might stay somewhat straight forward, but with the introduction of  Beelzebub any chance for redemption goes straight down the toilet. Or rather it should go down the toilet. Any time you have a major character that feeds on feces you can be sure that things will only get stranger from there, and they do.

This comedy is fine and sometimes funny, but I began to find it rather tedious and unnerving. I did appreciate the way that Rinko developed and ended up becoming a little more edgy, but in the end she still retained some of her original humanity. Akutabe on the other hand is the kind of person that I typically detest and in this case he still ends up being nothing more than a jerk, but the fact that he doesn’t have any eyebrows is cool.

Now when it comes to the demons I almost would have preferred that they didn’t revert to their chibi form when they come to the human world, I could have gotten a better sense of what they really were. The story line was simple and stayed on tract which I think help make it easy to watch and maybe even saved it for some of the over the top things that happen.

Overall Grade: B

Azazel, You’re Being Summoned is not for the under 16/17 age group and at time was hard for this middle aged man to watch. There were plenty of other moments where I laughed out loud and found the humor to be spot on. It reminded me very much of an Austin Powers movie that was mashed up with something like She Devil or even a stranger Elfin Lied or even Archer. Much of the story made fun of the weakness in our own human nature and in a few rare occasions made a valid point about the dichotomy of humanity.

If you are looking for a comedy that pushes the boundaries of what humor is and will make you uncomfortable at the same time then you should pick this up. The base humor is in line with American sensibilities and may make you laugh and at the same time be a little sad that you are even watching it.

Genshiken Second Generation premium edition (anime review)

Genshiken Second GenerationTitle: Genshiken Second Generation (premium edition)

Director: Tsutomu Mizushima

Studio: Production I. G.

Original Story: Shimoku Kio

Music: Shuichiro Fukuhiro

U. S. Distributor: NIS America

U. S. Release Date: Feb. 3rd, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 308 minuts / English Subtitles

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Otaku

Age Rating: T for teen 13+

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis: 

It’s a new semester at Shiiou University, and for “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture,” AKA Genshiken, that can only mean one thing – new freshman recruits! Originally founded as a club for otaku to discuss their unabashed love of anime, manga, and video games with one another, the current president of Genshiken, Chika Ogiue, may have bitten off more than she can chew by recruiting a bunch of yaoi-obsessed fujoshis to join their ranks!

Meanwhile, the original members of Genshiken who have since graduated find themselves coming to terms with their new lives as productive members of society.

Commentary:

Genshiken Second Generation turns the original series upside down by taking the otaku world into the 21st Century. This changes the focus on the standard old school world to the new generation of girl fans that love the yaoi. This is new newer fascination even here in the U. S., the standard yaoi fan were middle aged ladies who enjoyed the oddly erotic world created by the series. For Genshiken Second Generation the world has changed, the number of young men in the club has dwindled to 2 and one of them prefers to come to the club dressed as a cute young lady who is also into yaoi or rather BL (boys love).

This dichotomy creates most of the tension and comic relief for the show. I’m not real sure if it is the savior or the failure but it is the major focus in these 13 episodes. For me I did have an issue with the way Hato was portrayed at times. For him to work so hard at cross dressing and then to have his development end up denying his feeling and sexual orientation. Hato clearly has erotic feelings for a former male member and to have him clearly state that he is strait is almost a cruel denial of the acceptance he has been able to experience from the current a former member Genshiken. I think that if Hato’s character would have come out a gay it would have added to the overall high quality of the series.

There was also another odd event in the series that put me off a little. When a older sister of one of the Genshiken member visits from America and speaks English the quality of her speech is not true to the character. She ends up sounding like a Japanese speaking English and it does not work for her characters and the involvement with the group. Actually, I really enjoyed her part and how it shook the club up, even if for a short time.

Overall Grade: B+

Even though there were a could aspects to the show that bothered me I did like the series and the way it shows how times change and genres ebb and flow, but all in all it is still fun to be an Otaku.

The quality of the animation is great and the writing was well done. Most of the characters were very well developed and easy to connect with, I liked most of them so much that I would have enjoyed being part of the club myself.

If you are familiar with the first series and connected with the club then I am sure you will connect with them in Genshiken Second Generation. There are plenty of old faces and the new members prove to be as much fun as the series offered before. So, if you are a self proclaimed Otaku then I am sure you will connect with Genshiken Second Generation.

Extras:

Even though there aren’t any extras to the show to speak of the premium box set comes with an awesome book. In the past NIS America produced their books in a long thin format and now the sets come with a manga sized hard cover book that provides plenty of additional information and amazing art work. These premium sets do really make a difference and with the price of anime today it is great to get a premium that is a true premium. Thanks, NIS America!

Girls und Panzer: The Complete OVA Series

Girls und Panzer: The Complete OVA SeriesTitle: Girls und Panzer: The Complete OVA Series

Director: Tsutomu Mizushima

Studio: Acras

Author: Reiko Yoshida

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks / Section 23

U.S. Release Date: February 25, 2014

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 6 Episodes / 74 Minutes

Genre:  Action, Comedy, School, Military

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: D

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Girls und Panzer: The Complete Series

 

Synopsis:

The girls in tanks are back, in six special episodes. And whether they are shopping, or partying, they bring their own special way of doing things to the task they plan to accomplish.  Including a water war, survival war, school ship war, snow war, banquet war, and talent war, as never fought before.

 

Commentary:

I absolutely loved Girls Und Panzer, and was very happy to hear that more was on the way. I was practically drooling in anticipation. That dried up rather quickly. The Girls Und Panzer OVAs are quite different from the actual series. In essence there are a lot less tanks, war games, battling, or strategy. Okay, there was nothing at all like that, but there were a lot more swimsuits, beaches, bathing, hot springs, camping, eating, and a talent show. The first thing you will notice is that fan service is way up from the little to none found in the original series. They started off with the cliché beach episode as the first one, so it quickly set the tone for what was to come. The second thing you notice is how quickly the episodes go by. With six episodes in 75 minutes you can only average twelve and a half minutes per episode. That time does include the opening and ending animations which remain unchanged. Well maybe a little shortened. The couple long episodes take 15 to 17 minutes and one was a quick as 5 minutes. Episode 4 was only 5 minutes and consisted of the opening, a quick goose fish dance with the entire main cast, in the weird costumes you will remember from the original series when they lost a bet, and then a quick closing and credits. I swore the credits took longer than the actual episode.

 

The only two episodes that really related to the original story was the recap of what Yukari and Erwin did when they left camp to spy on Pravda School forces in the original series, which was not covered then. I actually found that quite interesting and to be a meaningful addition to the original story line. They also had scenes with the Pravda girls and expanded a little on what I thought was the most interesting school other than of course Oorai High School. And they also included an episode that revolved around the celebration of their final victory in the original series, which included a feast and a talent show that made me chuckle a little.

 

Unfortunately that was about it and I found it sadly disappointing that they failed to expand on the original story line any more. They did use the time to expand the other characters besides Miho Nishizumi a little, but fell well short of adding anything meaningful. In the end I thought it left much to be desired. Everything they did fell short of expectation, and “a little” was all I got from it, which as you saw was mentioned more than once above. Ultimately, Girls und Panzer: The Complete OVA Series felt more like is should have been included in the original as a special feature, instead of being a separate release.

 

Extras:

Girls und Panzer: The Complete OVA Series includes clean opening and closing animations, Sentai Filmworks trailers, and DVD Credits as special features.

 

Overall Grade: D

If you really wanted to see the girls in bathing suits, partying, and doing nothing at all related to tanks and war games, this one is for you.