What I’m currently reading and watching

I had every intention to get my review of Death Note out today, but I’ve been incredibly busy with work and haven’t yet written it. I’m switching my posting day from Tuesday to Sunday, so I should have the Death Note review ready for Sunday. I hope I get some comments on this review… it’s not going to contain the usual love this series gets…

 

Anyway, instead of a review, here’s a look at what I’m currently reading and watching, so you’ll get an idea of what reviews will slowly make their way onto this blog. Once I finish them. When I have time. When I’m not working 😥

So many books!

Currently Reading:
Darker Than Black: Jet Black Flower. Chapter: 27/33. [Completed]
Fullmetal Alchemist. Chapter: 22/108. [Completed- rereading for the hell of it]
Read or Die. Chapter: 10/23. [Completed]
07 Ghost. Chapter: 18/99. [Completed- rereading in preparation for review]

Blue Exorcist. Chapter: 64/65. [Ongoing]
Fairy Tail Zero. Chapter: 7/8. [Ongoing]
The House Where Nightmares Dwell: Ghost Hunt. Chapter: 11/11. [Ongoing]
Psychic Detective Yakumo. Chapter: 42/42. [Ongoing]
The Wallflower: Chapter: 45/133. [Ongoing]

Unrelated to manga: The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas). Chapter: 17/67.

About to Start:
Read or Dream. [Completed]

oh anime

Currently Watching:
City Hunter (Korean drama). Episode: 6/20. [Completed]
Ghost Stories. Episode: 8/20. [Completed]
Personal Preference (Korean drama). Episode: 6/16. [Completed- actually rewatching for the third time]
Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom. Episode: 19/26. [Completed]
Stigma of the Wind. Episode: 19/24. [Completed]

Fairy Tail. Episode: 48/48 (223/223). [Ongoing]
One Piece. Episode: 392/683. [Ongoing]
Running Man (Korean variety show). Episode: 31/236. [Ongoing]

Recently finished: Death Note.

 

Now that I’ve typed it all out I want to cry! I’m falling behind or not catching up on the ongoing series, but at least I’ve almost finished most of the completed series. Definietly need to change my style of consuming media from watching several at once to binge watching one or two. Hopefully I’ll catch up soon!

Feel free to chat with me about any of the above series (keeping spoilers in mind). I’ll try to get my Death Note review out on Sunday!

 

-S

My favourite compilation AMVs: Part two

Here are the last three of my favourite compilation AMVs! I still can’t get over how awesome these are… enjoy!

NOTE. As before, there may be spoilers in these AMVs. Also, some of these AMVs may induce motion sickness or epileptic seizures. Watch at your own risk.

Vivifx’s “Ship Happens”

Is there another name for AMVs that include customised music? If you know, please let me know in the comments! This AMV has its own music created by the maker and it is that kind of annoyingly catchy song that you know you’ll have in your head for the rest of the day. I love how this AMV focuses on that massive aspect of the anime culture… shipping! Although I don’t ship any of these characters, I still think it’s a fun AMV (and second one from Vivifx to feature!).
For the uninformed: Here is some terminology to help you along in this AMV; shipping = the act of romantically pairing two characters together (from relationship)- note that a particular pairing is referred to as a “ship”; OTP = one true pairing- the couple that are the ideal/best ship; cannon = the actual storyline (i.e. a ship that is cannon is one that occurs in the storyline); crack ship = a ship that is so impossible/unlikely that you must be on crack to ship it (usually refers to shipping between characters from different anime/universes).

Chinnapat Ponharash’s “Not Alone”

First up- this AMV is only four minutes long, not eight. The video repeats itself without the sound in the second half (probably to avoid copyright infringement on the song). Secondly, it’s FREAKING AMAZING. The scenes in this AMV flow so well. There’s such a big build up at the start and you know it’s going to be awesome. I love the range of anime in it and it evokes so many different emotions including excitement, sadness, and hope… even though I’ve only seen some of these series! That’s a testimony to how well it’s been put together.

Suction’s “Ai no Kakera ~Fragments of Love~”

This mixed-media AMV is one MONSTER of a video. I love how it features such a large number and variety of anime, as well as a visual novel and game thrown in. The build up and explosion of action in the AMV is awesome, as is the fade-out towards the end. Sure, it looses pace slightly in a couple of sections, but considering the video is twelve minutes long (!) I think that it’s remarkable that it can hold my attention for so long. The music also as a number of different cool melodies going on in it. Overall, it’s a pretty awesome experience.

Well those are my favourite compilation AMVs, I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Do you have your own favourite compilation AMVs, or perhaps one you’ve made yourself? I’d love to read about it in the comments 🙂

-S

My favourite compilation AMVs: Part one

I decided to do another post about AMVs (anime music videos), and this time it’s not Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Well, not just FMAB, because it does feature it some videos. Instead, I thought I’d focus on compilation AMVs. That is, AMVs which feature multiple anime (and sometimes multiple media). I can’t even begin to imagine how much time and effort it takes to make these videos… picking the right scenes from the right anime, finding a uniting song or theme; it’s amazing! Some of these AMVs have also had some serious editing into them to make them as awesome as they are. If you’re into anime, you simply MUST check these out. They make me so excited about anime!

I’ve split this into two posts simply because it’s easier to navigate the seven AMVs, and because one of them is super long. Also, these are in no particular order 🙂

NOTE: Firstly, there may be possible spoilers ahead. I haven’t watched all of these series so I’m not 100% sure. Watch at your own risk. Secondly, some of these videos may induce motion sickness or epileptic seizures. Again, watch at your own risk.

 

Vivifx’s “Anime 101”

I’ve seen this AMV make its rounds on the internet a couple of times now. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out! It covers several things about anime including genre, common anime jokes, as well as many of the most popular series, all in a school setting! Be sure to re-watch it and pause to read all of the writing in the background… it shows how much thought has been put into this AMV! (Note: there are definitely spoilers about deaths in FMA/FMAB and Attack on Titan in this AMV).

 

sloken18amv’s “Fighting”

Two guesses as to what this AMV is about. There’s a nice collection of different fight scenes in this AMV. Although the song is not as intense as you’d expect it to be, I still like how everything fits together. A nice look at the whole “fighting for what you believe in” that you see in almost every anime. (Note: the first 26s is an introduction to the AMV, feel free to skip).

 

TsukuyomosAMV’s “Across the Line”

This is a relatively simpler AMV, but is a great example of “less is more”. It gets me so excited about anime when I watch it! I love how the scenes and lyrics match up so well, and how  I haven’t seen most of these anime, but it doesn’t matter, because the AMV is this good. All around it’s very clever!

 

Baka Oppai’s “Face Your Fears”

I thought I would finish up with something a little bit different. This incredibly clever AMV may not directly focus on as many different anime as some of the other AMVs, but it certainly produces one hell of an atmosphere. I love how the video shifts partway through from creating the horror feel of the AMV to showing off a couple of fight scenes. Videos like this get me really excited about what people out there can do with AMVs!

 

Stay tuned for part two next week… delaying it so I will hopefully having something written for the week after!

-S

 

[30 Day Anime Challenge]: Day Sixteen: The anime with the best/most interesting art

Zwei (Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom) and Hei (Darker Than Black)

Zwei (Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom) and Hei (Darker Than Black)

I’m actually going to answer with three anime that really impressed me; Darker Than Black, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, and Blue Exorcist. I really like how the art in these three series are fairly realistic in terms of body (and face!) proportions compared to other anime. They also have really pretty, fluid animation; I especially love the way the movement is done in Blue Exorcist, and the focus on eyes in Phantom and Blue Exorcist. I think the fight scenes are what really caught my attention in these anime as they involve lots of movement which looks super cool.

Rin (Blue Exorcist)

Rin (Blue Exorcist)

I also want to answer for the most interesting art, and this goes to [C], with its really weird clashing of different styles in the Financial District. Although the faces have a tendency to look elf-like, there is a lot of experimenting going on with the art, and it looks awesome. The fight scenes are also really interesting.

[C]

[C]; Control- the Money of Soul and Possibility

From this I have learnt that I really like to watch pretty fights.
-S

Darker Than Black: Gaiden [Anime]: If only the second series got as much attention as these OVA episodes

Despite my disappointment with the second series of Darker Than Black, I still went on to watch the OVA Darker Than Black: Gaiden (2010). Now, I wouldn’t normally review the OVAs in a series, but I will make an exception here because it plays an important role in filling the gap between the first Darker Than Black series and the second (but was released last). The OVA only consists of four episodes.

Gaiden

What’s it about?

After the Tokyo explosion, Hei and Yin are on the run from the Syndicate, trying to get out of Japan. Working hard to keep one step ahead of their pursuers, things start to go astray when Hei notices that Yin starts acting erratically, seeming to ‘evolve’ from what she has been ‘programmed’ to do. Because of her ‘evolution’, she’s suddenly wanted by several different organisations. These OVA mark the beginning of Izanami’s possession of Yin.

The Positives

The quality of the art and music are still as good as the two series of Darker Than Black. Character styling is better in the OVA than it is in Gemini of the Meteor, and action scenes are still done very well. What’s really nice about these episodes is that they have the atmosphere of the first Darker Than Black series, but still manage to focus on themes of romance. Instead of feeling like a bizarre attempt at a shoujo, the four episodes have a sad, sweet, dark atmosphere.

It’s nice to finally get some explanations about the series, even if it’s only enough to get the second series to make a lot more sense.

However, the biggest strength of these episodes is the characterisation of Hei and Yin. Yin’s transformation is interesting to watch, especially when it becomes apparent that it is not a simple evolution but a possession, meaning that there is something else taking over her body. I really liked the way they portrayed Hei’s reaction to this change in Yin. At first he seems angry and frustrated with her, but it’s clearly obvious that he is concerned, even scared, about the changes, and that he cares for her deeply. There are also a number of cute, sweet moments between the two.

Hei x Yin

The Negatives

The first episode and last episodes are really good, but the middle ones feel like they are dragging in places. However, given that there are only four episodes, it isn’t a major concern.

One of the main negatives of the OVA is that there are still too many questions unanswered. When I first heard about these episodes I was looking forward to having some satisfactory answers… but it didn’t happen.

Anything else I should consider?

I watched these episodes after watching the second series, but I would advise you to consider watching them beforehand. They will fill in a lot of the gaps in the second series, and will allow the series to run a lot more smoothly.

Conclusion

Art:  8/10: The great quality art is maintained in the OVA, with character styling and action scenes particularly well done.

Story: 6.5/10: While not a lot happens, the OVA answers questions about the second series and also explores Yin and Hei’s relationship well.

Characters: 7/10: There are some interesting side-characters, particularly the Contractor Claude, but the main focus is on Hei and Yin.

I think that Darker Than Black: Gaiden achieves what it sets out to do in filling the gap between the two series. It’s handled very well with good art and music, and a lot of attention to Hei and Yin’s relationship. Although there isn’t as much action, the opening scene in the first episode and the closing scenes in the last episodes are memorable. However, you’re still left wanting explanations that you’re not going to get. Overall, I give it a 7/10. Watch it if you really like the Darker Than Black series, but if you’re looking for explanations beyond what happens between the two series, this isn’t going to help you.

-S

I thought that Claude, who only appears in the OVAs, has the best Contractor abilities.

I thought that Claude, who only appears in the OVAs, has the best Contractor abilities.

Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor [Anime]: A let down in many, many ways

Following up last week’s review of Darker Than Black with its sequel, Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor (2009). This series is only 12 episodes long. 

gemini

What’s it about?

Taking place two years after the end of the first series, Contractors have been exposed to the world and war seems to be brewing throughout. We are introduced to Suou Pavlichenko, a girl around thirteen years old living in Russia. Her twin brother, Shion, is a Contractor, and kept hidden in their house. Suou’s life is turned upside down when her house is raided by a number of organisations who are trying to find her father and Shion. Amidst all the fighting, one solo Contractor donning a black jacket and a mask kills Suou’s father. Later, Suou is forced to partner with Hei when he offers to take her to Tokyo where Shion is waiting for her, with Mao and the Doll July from the first series also accompanying them. For Suou, things go from bad to worse when she manages to gain Contractor powers.

The Positives

Firstly, it’s good the see that the art is still maintained at a good quality throughout this anime. As before, the action scenes are well executed and exciting to watch.

In terms of music, I only liked the opening theme, Stereopony’s “Tsukiakari no Michishirube“, and found the ending theme to be bland. However, the soundtrack, although minimal, still works well in the scenes, and particularly helps in keeping fighting scenes intense.

It was nice to see the creators branching out in terms of their story-telling. As Suou is the main character, there is more of a focus on what it is like to turn into a Contractor, so there is a larger focus on emotion and drama, which adds more depth to the series as a whole, and also to Suou’s character. There is also more of a focus on comedy, and I actually laughed out loud during a number of scenes, a big change from the first series.

July

Some attempts at comedy were really good.

Finally, it’s nice to get some, not much, but some explanation of the events that occurred in the first series (but still nowhere near enough to be satisfying).

The Negatives

There are a number of negatives that are apparent from early on in the series. Firstly, with the creators branching into different areas, there are less action scenes. However, something that was more of a let-down for me was the lack of atmosphere compared to the first series. The dark, film noir aspect was only there in a couple of scenes, and as a whole, the series felt like it was lacking life.

Secondly, a number of the male characters give of creepy, borderline-paedophile vibes with the way they interact with Suou. This also extends to Hei to some degree, particularly when he returns as an alcoholic. Furthermore, most of the other characters lack depth and are uninteresting, although I did like Mina Hazuki and her light-sabre katana.

I imagine that “Oh it’s happening within the Gate, there’s no need to explain what’s going on” was the thought process behind this ending…

Finally, the major let-down of the second series; its plot. I think the main problem is that it changes focus too much; first it’s about Suou becoming a contractor, then it’s about Hei finding Yin, then it’s about “Izanami” and “Izanagi” and the destruction of the world, with minimum connections between the different focuses. Furthermore, the pacing is weird, and not ‘weird’ in the sense of the first series, but just all over the place. Earlier I said that you get some explanations concerning the first series, but there is little explanation for the events of the second, with the writers seeming to assume that the audience already knows background information, particularly in regards to Yin. Finally, the ending will leave you googling for an explanation because you will have no idea what the hell happened.

I imagine that “Oh it’s happening within the Gate, there’s no need to explain what’s going on” was the thought process behind this ending…

Conclusion

Art:  8/10: The good quality art is maintained, and character styling remains pretty good throughout.

Story: 4/10: A weirdly paced plot that jumps focuses and leads to a massive “huh?” conclusion.

Characters: 6/10: While I liked the new edition of Suou, and Hei, once he returns to his former glory, a lot of the other characters were uninteresting or downright creepy.

Compared to the first series, Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, is a massive let down, and not just because it offers little meaningful explanation of the first series. Whilst action scenes are still maintained at a high quality, there are less of them, and the expansion into more comedic and dramatic scenes results in a loss of atmosphere. In some scenes, it starts to feel like the creators decided to turn the gritty, film noir Darker Than Black series into a shoujo. Overall, I give it a 5/10. Watch it if you want to see the continuation of the Darker Than Black story-line, like I did, but don’t expect too much. It might be an idea to watch the OVA Darker Than Black: Gaiden first, to fill in the gap between the two series.

-S

If you don’t like bugs, there will be some scenes you won’t enjoy…

 

Darker Than Black [Anime]: Awesome ideas destroyed by the plot

I chose the mystery/action/supernatural anime Darker Than Black (2007) to review this week (and next week as there are two seasons). The first series is 25 episodes long with one OVA.  

darker than black

What’s it about?

This anime is set in the future where two mysterious areas, “Heaven’s Gate” in South America and “Hell’s Gate” in Tokyo, have appeared, replacing the real stars with fake ones, and leading to the emergence of ‘Contractors’ and ‘Dolls’. Contractors are characterised by wielding unique powers, but at the cost of a particular behaviour they must perform after using their power; their remuneration. Contractors tend to express little to no emotion, and see the world in a purely rational light. Dolls are blank, seemingly-programmable humans, who are able to gather information by sending out ‘observer spirits’ through various mediums such as glass or water, and are primarily used to gather information. All things about the mysterious Gates, including the Contractors and Dolls, are kept secret from the public, with only those working in domestic and international police/intelligence agencies, as well as the underworld knowing of them.

The story focuses on the exploits of Hei (known as Li Shenshun in civilian life), and his work for the ‘Syndicate’; an underworld organisation that targets information relating to Hell’s Gate. Hei works as part of a group, which includes the female doll Yin, the contractor Mao (in a cat’s body), and the ordinary human and ‘handler’ of the group, Huang.

The Positives

Starting with the visuals and sound. The art is very good, with fight scenes very fluid and well executed. The characters all look really nice with good styling. Hei is always well presented with his trademark mask and black cloak, and Yin caught my eye right from the start, although I don’t like Amber’s outfit. Sound is great; I loved the first opening and ending themes (abingdon boys school’s “Howling” and Rie fu’s “Tsukiakari” respectively), and, although I was less keen on the second opening and ending themes, they still fit the feel of the anime. The soundtrack throughout the series adds to the dark, film noir atmosphere of the anime. It’s edgy and cool, and is appropriate in all of the scenes (including the somewhat goofy ones involving private eye Gai Kurasawa and his assistant Kiko Kayanuma).

main

(L-R) Huang, Yin, Hei and Mao. I really liked Yin’s styling throughout the series.

Another thing I really liked about this anime was the ideas in it. The Contractors are awesome; it was interesting to see exactly what their powers were, as well as what their remuneration involved. Some Contractors had better deals than others; one girl could set fire to any object at will, and had to hum for her remuneration, whilst one woman who could sing at any frequency and cause other objects to resonate had to eat something and vomit it back up. Because there is a lot of variety in powers, the fight scenes can get really epic, and, as already mentioned, the animation does it justice.

Finally, I found the majority of the characters to be likeable. Although Hei and Yin are at first very blank, you learn more about them as the series continue. Mao does a good job of lightening the mood every now and then, and I really liked Huang, particularly towards the end. However, Darker Than Black has a whole host of other characters, from the regularly occurring Misaki Kirihara and other members of the Public Security Bureau Foreign Affairs Section 4, to once-off Contractors, with all adding their own dynamic to the episodes they’re in. I also liked the involvement of different domestic and international organisations, and their different interests and motives.

The Negatives

The first thing that I noticed about this anime was the pacing. Generally each story arc, almost always focusing on the mission that Hei is involved in, is made up of two episodes. But each pair of episodes are barely connected to each other, which results in some weird pacing, and makes most of the anime feel disjointed.

Secondly, a lot of the characters don’t stick around for long. Most of the more interesting Contractors are only in their two-episode arc before they are killed or disappear with no explanation. I found this really annoying, especially since you feel so involved with the characters when they are focused on.

Mai Kashiwagi was one character I was expecting to see a lot more of.

Mai Kashiwagi was one character I was expecting to see a lot more of.

However, the biggest let-down of Darker Than Black is its plot. There is an overall plot, but you aren’t aware of it until the last few episodes, making this one of the slowest anime I have watched. When you do get to the good bit of the plot, it’s over in the space of a few episodes. Furthermore, the ending is messy and quite confusing, but at least you are assured knowing that there is a second series to (maybe?) make everything clear. The plot is also irritating in that there are virtually no explanations of the appearance of the Gates, what leads people to becoming Contractors or Dolls (or even whether Dolls are ‘programmable’ humans or just humans who have been through some sort of trauma and are now a shell of themselves), how the Gates led to the replacement of the night sky with a false one, or really anything that could explain what the hell is going on. 

Anything else I should consider?

If goriness isn’t your thing, best give this anime a miss. There are some brutal fighting scenes, including a character who slices his arms open constantly, as well as a number of other slightly disturbing scenes; a lot of dead, bloody bodies; a couple of people getting burnt to death; a woman getting her fingers broken during an interrogation, etc.

Conclusion

Art:  8/10: Good character styling, with quality art throughout, particularly the fight scenes.

Story: 6/10: Terrible, terrible, pacing, with a lot of unanswered questions remaining at the end. The only thing that really redeems it is the interesting ideas.

Characters: 7/10: The characters are nothing spectacular, but are likeable enough.

Darker Than Black could have been a lot more than what it is if there was more attention paid to pacing and explanation. The fighting scenes are good, the ideas are interesting, and the characters are likeable. However, I found myself watching it more for the dark atmosphere and the different powers of the Contractors than the story, but I did enjoy it for that. I mostly liked the final few episodes where there was actual plot, and it gave me hope that the second season would address the issues of the first. Overall, I give it a 7/10.

-S

Hei