La Corda d’Oro [Manga]: Run-of-the-mill shoujo with a nice musical aspect

La Corda d’Oro (Kiniro no Corda) (2004-2011) is a 17-volume (75 chapter) manga by Yuki Kure. It is an adaptation of role-playing game, and has also been made into an anime (more information below). I was initially drawn to this manga because it’s set in a musical school. Having played the flute throughout primary school and high school, anything involving music, especially at school, really interests me.

La Corda d'Oro

What’s it about?

Seiso Academy is a prestigious school with two education streams; the musical department students and the regular high school students. Every few years it holds a prominent musical competition, which, although technically open to all students, is only ever full of the musical department students. However, this all changes when regular student Kahoko Hino meets Lili, a musical fairy who gives her a magic violin and a spot in the competition. Although reluctant, Kahoko agrees to compete and meets the other competitors; violinist Len Tsukimori, flautist Azuma Yunoki, trumpeter Kazuki Hihara, clarinetist Shoko Fuyuumi, and cellist Keiichi Shimizu, who greet her with various reactions; some are friendly, but some feel she shouldn’t be there! Luckily, Kahoko’s fellow regular classmate pianist Ryotaro Tsuchiura also joins the competition. As the competition continues, Kahoko finds unlikely friendships forming with the other competitors… and maybe a little love?!

The Positives

This is a reverse harem, so you know that all of the male characters are going to be stereotypes. Having said that, however, that majority of them are likeable. I also quite liked Kahoko as the main, even though she occasionally fell into typical shoujo-protagonist behaviour (especially in the latter half), she’s still a reasonably strong main. I really like how she dealt with the dilemma of feeling like she was cheating by having a magic violin, and how she perseveres under pressure and anxiety. She’s quite the little determined character, and isn’t so easily pushed around.

As I already mentioned, the thing that really drew me to this manga was the aspect of music. I thought that it’d be interesting to see how something audio would be represented in such a visual medium. I think it’s handled pretty neatly. The way the artist depicted the characters playing was pretty cool; runs of notes, swaying in the music, etc. I could almost hear the songs they were playing. The music pieces mentioned in the manga are also really nice pieces. I recommend checking them out if you’re unfamiliar with them (listen to the songs when the characters are having their spot in the competitions!), if not all of them, then at least “Ave Maria”. As mentioned, the art was nice when the characters were playing, and it’s pretty good throughout the whole manga. Character styling is nice, the attention to the instruments was good, and all-around the art is attractive… until you see it in colour and realise that half of the characters have green hair. Not like, Zoro, Freed or C.C. green, but horrible, oddly coloured green. Or light blue. Or purple. I know this is anime, but I think it would suit the manga more if the hair colours were normal.

 

The Negatives

I have to say that Lili’s intervention (and history hinted at in the first few pages) would have been more interesting if it had been explained and expanded on slightly more. With only a few appearances, most of them being “here’s a magic violin, go ahead and play”, the character seemed sort of odd. Not a major negative of the manga, but something that sort of stuck out.

Another thing about the manga that I really didn’t like was how one of the characters, the flautist Azuma Yunoki, was portrayed. This character was an asshole and it was played off like he wasn’t. I’m sorry, but no. I don’t care how difficult his family life is, the way he treats Kahoko is cruel and irritating. More annoyingly, she lets it happen, and doesn’t take the opportunity to stand up to him. Typical shoujo main characteristic. (Also why is the flautist always portrayed as the bitch?! We’re not that bad!). On a related note, Aoi Kaji, a character who is introduced later in the manga, is really quite creepy but played down as being “cute” for transferring to Seiso Academy purely because Kahoko attends it. Not cute. Creepy.

You may be pretty, young man, but I can not stand you.

You may be pretty, young man, but I cannot stand you.

The above things, although annoying, are still quite trivial compared to this last negative. The manga noticeably loses pace after the competition, and seemed to be really stretched out to cover a number of other aspects of school life (Sports Festival, Cultural Festival (Romeo and Juliet production??), and then some other competition thing I didn’t care much about). Usually I love seeing this kind of thing in a school setting, but it just wasn’t exciting enough after the events of the competition. As the manga continues, you start to see that the romantic story in it really isn’t very good. Of course it’s a reverse harem, so almost everyone has a thing for Kahoko, and you can tell which person was being batted for the most throughout the manga… personally I didn’t think he was the best fit, because he’s the typical “arrogant-but-really-just-need-some-understanding” character stereotype that I can \not stand. Finally, and related to all of this, the ending is a massive let down. It’s not even really an ending. It just sort of… stops.

Anything else I should consider?

I’ll put this here as a reference for anyone who wants to check out the whole La Corda d’Oro series, because I was really confused. Basically, La Corda d’Oro (manga) is based on one of the games, and has been adapted into an anime called “La Corda d’Oro: Primo Passo”. There is also a two-episode special called “La Corda d’Oro: Secondo Passo” which was made to promote the game. There is a spin-off manga called “Linden Hall no Aria” which is based at the same school but with different characters. That manga was adapted into the anime “La Corda d’Oro Blue Sky”.

Conclusion

Art:  7/10: I quite liked the art in this manga, which is surprising, given that it’s a shoujo. Although I wish I could un-see the hair colours.

Story: 5.5/10: Would have scored higher if the story-line wasn’t stretched out, the love-story flat, and the ending disappointing.

Characters: 5.5/10: The main character is likeable for her determination, but the males are stereotypes or otherwise played off as not being as mean-spirited as they really are.

This is a standard run-of-the-mill shoujo, but noticeable for the aspect of music included in it. The characters are, for the most part, likeable, if not a bit boring, and the art is quite nice. However, the manga’s ending and the predictable love story are major let downs. Check it out if you’re a fan of music or the original game, but don’t expect too much. Overall, I give this manga a 5.5/10.

-S

Hakuouki Reimeiroku [Anime]: A surprisingly good prequel

This week we have the final instalment of the Hakuouki series; Hakuouki Reimeiroku (Demon of the Fleeting Blossom: Dawn of the Shinsengumi) (2012). (I know there are two movies, but I haven’t checked them out yet… they look like a retelling of the series, albeit with even better animation; watch the trailer here.) Hakuouki Reimeiroku is actually a 12-episode prequel to the other two series. It’s not, as I hoped it would be, the story of the dojo that Isami Kondou led which eventually became the Shinsengumi, but rather focuses on the back-story of the group’s involvement with the “Water of Life”, and how they transitioned from the Roshigumi to the Shinsengumi.

(Keeping it consistent with game art)

(Keeping it consistent with game art)

What’s it about?

Kamo Serizawa is a ruthless man; he’s proud, violent, and difficult. However, due to his connections in Kyoto, particularly with the clan ruling Aizu, Isami Kondou has no choice but to form an uneasy allegiance with him, allowing the Roshigumi a chance to serve and protect the Shogun. Ryunosuke Ibuki is thrown into this tense environment when he is saved from the brink of death by Serizawa, but is forced to pay back the debt by working for him. Ryunosuke watches as Serizawa and the rest of the group, in particularly Toshizou Hijikata, clash again and again, as the story inevitably leads to the decision of who the Shinsengumi should be.

The Positives

As with the other two series, art remains a strong point in the prequel. Although I am not a fan of Ryunosuke’s styling (blue hair, orange eyes??), you still get the top-notch backgrounds and art (for the main characters). The music is much like Hakuouki Hekketsuroku in that it is incorporated into scenes well, but isn’t particularly memorable.

This series does a pretty good job of dealing with the complicated origin of the Shinsengumi. You see the political tactics at use, particularly when Hijikata tries to restrain Serizawa and keep the Roshigumi honourable. The series also provides an insight into the social order of Japan and how influence worked during the Edo period in getting the group recognised and in a position with power. The prequel also works the ‘Water of Life’ angle in really well; not only does it make sense in the story-line, but it is pretty believable in the context of the historical period.

How cute is child Okita?! Don't worry, he's still a pain to deal with. (There are a few small flashbacks to the dojo days)

How cute is child Okita?! Don’t worry, he’s still a pain to deal with. (There are a few small flashbacks to the dojo days)

Hakuouki Reimeiroku’s strongest point is its characterisation. I know- character growth in a Hakuouki series! What is this madness?! But all jokes aside, the series represents the ‘growing up’ period for the group, from naive, optimistic dojo students, to the fierce and proud warriors we see in the other series. The main characters who are the focus of this change are Hijikata, Heisuke Toudou, and Souji Okita; all of them loose their initial idealism but gain realism in return. Whilst we see Heisuke’s loss of innocence and Hijikata becoming the “Demon Vice-Commander” for the sake of Kondou, Okita is a slightly different story; he is, by far, the most interesting character psychologically, and the prequel allows us to see how he gets that way. Not only do we get these treats with the main characters, but as the antagonist, Serizawa is also a solid character, and it is proven that he falls into a somewhat ambiguous grey moral area, which means I don’t know whether I like him or not!

The Negatives

Ryunosuke, the main character, isn’t particularly interesting. Don’t get me wrong, he’s nowhere near as bad as Chizuru, but as he is an original character (i.e. not based on a historical figure) he is merely a spectator for the conflict occurring between the other characters. He is irritatingly passive and rather bland, but at least he’s better than Chizuru.

Ryunosuke does *try* to be more useful at some stage, but it's short lived. (Also, obligatory Saitou picture).

Ryunosuke does *try* to be more useful at some stage, but it’s short lived. (Also, obligatory Saitou picture).

Like the other Hakuouki series, the prequel suffers from slow pacing, and isn’t exactly the most exciting series. However, it was set up purely for explanation (as are all prequels), so it can somewhat be forgiven for this.

Anything else I should consider?

Although Hakuouki Reimeiroku is a prequel, it was released later than the other series. It is feasible to watch it before the other series; it might make some of the male characters (particularly Okita) more sympathetic, but it will spoil everything to do with the ‘Water of Life’, and you might be disappointed when you don’t find find closure about Ryunosuke’s fate in the later series. I liked watching the prequel last, because it felt like I was greeting old friends.

Conclusion

Art:  8.5/10: As usual, the main characters looking pretty good, backgrounds are very pretty, and all non-bishies look the same.

Story: 7/10: Although quite interesting, the plot is explanation-based, slow, and lacking excitement. It is still a pretty clever look into Edo Japan.

Characters: 7.5/10: Ignoring the main character (why are they so blah in the Hakuouki series?!), this series is far better at character growth than the other two combined, and has an interesting antagonist thrown in as well.

Hakuouki Reimeiroku is definitely worth the watch if you liked the other two series. It is a solid prequel that does some pretty good character growth, it flows well with the other series, and is quite watchable, providing more than the standard ‘this is information you might want to know’ version of prequels. Overall, I give it n 7/10 (meaning the Hakuouki series overall gets a pretty solid 7/10).

-S

Ending with a nice tie-in to Hakuouki Shinensgumi Kitan

Ending with a nice tie-in to Hakuouki Shinensgumi Kitan!

Hakuouki Hekketsuroku [Anime]: A good ending to the Hakuouki series

Following up last week’s post, Hakuouki Hekketsuroku (Demon of the Fleeting Blossom: The Record of the Jade Blood) (2010), is the ten-episode sequel that follows Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan. (This review will contain spoilers for the first series).

(Again, game art)

(Again, game art)

What’s it about?

After their defeat in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, Chizuru and the Shinsengumi have left for Edo, aware that if they are to survive, they have to embrace the new ways and technology. Changing up their traditional garments for Western clothing, the Shinsengumi now have to navigate the strife between the new government soldiers and the remaining supporters of the fallen Tokugawa Shogunate. The stress placed on the Shinsengumi will eventually lead to its collapse, so what fate awaits the surviving members?

The Positives

The art remains as good as it was in the first series, with the emphasis remaining on pretty backgrounds and the main characters. I really liked the new Western styled clothes, and character styling remains a strong point. The music of the second series is even less memorable, but is still incorporated into scenes well. Just like the first series, you still have the fusion of history and the supernatural. I really liked how the second series looked at the different reactions to incorporating Western themes and cultural aspects into the Japanese way of life, from clothes to shaking hands. The violence and fighting is much more prolific in the second series.

New series = new wardrobe!

New series = new wardrobe!

Although there is nowhere near enough character exploration going on, you do get to learn a little bit more about the male characters in the stories. The second series is very good at highlighting the common beliefs that are shared by the men, but also what lines they differ upon. The final appearance for each character does a great job of characterising who they are and what the stand for as an individual, making the characters much more memorable than what they would otherwise be. Sadly, though, Chizuru remains the same bland character that she was in the first series.

Finally, I thought that the ending was quite a satisfying closure to the series. Although not every characters’ future is explicitly shown, a lot is implied, and overall, Hakuouki Hekketsuroku is rather bitter-sweet. If you know the fate of the actual men the characters are based on, you’d already have an idea of what sort of ending we’re looking at. I thought it was handled sweetly and touchingly, and brings about a nice conclusion.

A bitter-sweet ending is the order of the day!

A bitter-sweet ending is the order of the day!

The Negatives

I found that the plot of Hakuouki Hekketsuroku was a little more in disarray compared to the first series. This is mainly a result of the pace. Whilst the characters who leave the Shinsengumi get their stories wrapped up quickly (in some cases, way too quickly, as the plot moves like lightening to get through it), Chizuru and Hijikata’s story feels like it drags on forever. And they somehow manage to accomplish this without as many ‘staring thoughtfully into the sky’ scenes as there are in the first series. I understand that the writers only had ten episodes to work with, but I am sure this could have been handled better.

Some characters' final episode wrapped up far too quickly...

Some characters’ final episode wrapped up far too quickly…

Finally, the love-story between Chizuru and Hijikata really seems to fail. Not only does it take the ENTIRE TWO SERIES to start to get anywhere, it feels like too little, too late. I know it goes against Hijikata’s character to you know, actually have emotions and be human, but it wouldn’t hurt if there was some meaning behind Chizuru’s extreme patience in waiting for him to acknowledge her.

Conclusion

Art:  8.5/10: The art remains very similar to the first series; pretty backgrounds and even prettier characters.

Story: 7/10: Whilst the plot gets upset by the pacing of the anime, it does provide good closure to the series, and ties up all loose ends.

Characters: 7/10: You get a little more character exploration in the second series, helping to cement each male character. However, big points are lost thanks to Chizuru remaining bland.

Whilst this series may not have the happy ending you’re looking for, its bitter-sweet ending is handled really well, and the characterisation of the male characters makes them hard to forget. If you liked the first series enough to even think about watching the second, go right ahead and do it. It is a good closure for the series, although not without its faults. Overall, I give it a 7/10, same as the first series.

-S

Here, have another picture of Saitou looking pretty...

Here, have another picture of Saitou looking pretty…

Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan [Anime]: History, myth, and samurai bishies

I have to say I am a little ashamed to admit I really liked this series. Why? The series mainly focuses on good-looking samurai bishies. But I assure you that there is a lot more to this series than the aesthetics. Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan (surprisingly, the English title “Demon of the Fleeting Blossom: The Mysterious Tale of the Shinsengumi” is longer) (2010) is a 12-episode anime adaptation of a historical drama otome game of the same name. There is also a prequel and sequel series that I will be reviewing at a later date. 

(Actually game art)

(Actually game art)

What’s it about?

Chizuru Yukimaru’s father has been missing for some time when she finally decides to go out looking for him. She quickly finds herself in danger when she is confronted by two demon-like, blood-thirsty creatures. Fortunately she is saved by Hajime Saitou and Souji Okita, two members of the infamous Shinsengumi. However, she’s seen their secret experimentations with the mysterious “Water of Life”, and the leaders of the Shinsengumi, including Toshizou Hijikata, Keisuke Sannan and Isami Kondou (amongst others, there’s so many male characters) decide that it’s best that she’s kept as a prisoner.  She soon learns that her father was involved in the Shinsengumi’s experiments, and eventually comes to help the group look for him. Can they survive the social and political upheaval occurring in Japan, and keep their secret experiments under control and hidden?

The Positives

The art in this anime is pretty amazing! That is, if you’re a main character. Overall, character designs are very pretty, if it not historically accurate. The background characters, who receive less attention, making them all look the same, display the correct outfits and hairstyles. There is surprisingly little fan-service, given that this anime is targeted to females. The males are varied enough, both in looks and personality, to keep them interesting. Overall, the background art is very pretty and beautifully done, and movement and action scenes are done well.

This anime is so pretty!

This anime is so pretty!

The music is very pretty in this anime. It may not be particularly memorable, but certainly ties in well with the scenes; sweet melodies in the touching scenes, energetic music in the fighting scenes, etc. I really liked the first opening theme, “Izayoi Namida” by Yoshioka Aika.

What I really liked about this anime is the fusion of historical events, supernatural occurrences, as well as action, emotion and comedy. The whole series is set in the context of Japan’s Bakumatsu Period (1853-1867), the historical period in which the Shinsengumi existed. During this time, Japan was in the middle of social and political upheaval due to several events, and this series does a good job of painting the turbulent atmosphere at the time, with loyalties to different Clans and violent outburst. I liked the fact that this anime didn’t back away from the fighting scenes; there was surprisingly a fair bit of blood and violence. This would be a fairly accurate depiction of the Bakumatsu Period, if it wasn’t for the fusion with the supernatural in the form of immortality/the Philosopher’s Stone and demons. Overall, the fusion between the fiction and non-fiction is handled pretty well, and makes for a compelling story. There is also plenty of action and comedy thrown in, and some more emotionally touching and sad scenes towards the end (the last scene had me in tears!).

Not afraid to back away from the fighting and bloody scenes...

Not afraid to back away from the fighting and bloody scenes…

The Negatives

Despite all of the action and political tension going on in the background of the plot, the focus on Chizuru’s story is actually a little slow. The time jumps between different episodes reinforce this. Although it doesn’t make the story disjointed or impact it in any real negative way, it does make you wonder just what are Chizuru and the Shinsengumi doing in the months that pass? Considering how urgently everyone tries to find Chizuru’s father, they sure as hell take their time doing it.

The second negative, which seemingly comes hand-in-hand with shoujo and otome game adaptations, involves character problems. None of the characters get fully developed, due to limited meaningful interaction on-screen. Don’t get me wrong, the male characters are dynamic and different enough to be likeable- you just don’t know a lot about them, and they’re not developed. Chizuru fills the role of being the sickly-sweet, hard-working, always-needs-saving female lead, leaving her annoyingly bland, but still as likeable as shoujo female leads go.

Despite repeatedly drawing her wakizashi, Chizuru has so far failed to accomplice anything

Despite repeatedly drawing her short sword, Chizuru has so far failed to accomplish anything.

Anything else I should consider?

There is a 6 episode OVA called “Hakuouki Sekkaroku” (Demon of the Fleeting Blossom: A Memory of Snow Flowers) that occurs between episodes 8 and 9 of the first series. Whilst it’s not vital to the plot, it’s worth checking out if you like the series. It focuses more on Chizuru going on an undercover mission as a geiko, but also features sweet scenes between her and the various male characters. I think it’s a reference to the various endings of the game, in which Chizuru could have ended up with any of the male characters.

Conclusion

Art:  8.5/10: The backgrounds are beautiful and the character designs of the main characters are really nice, but minor characters have little attention paid to them.

Story: 7.5/10: The story is an interesting blend of history and myth, with plenty of action and sweet moments between characters. However, it tends to be slow.

Characters: 6.5/10: There is little-to-no character development and the main character is bland. However, most of the characters are likeable, and are different enough to be interesting.

Whilst I think the odd mixture in this anime, and the fact that it doesn’t back down from fighting and showing the turbulent atmosphere of the Bakumatsu Period is designed to appeal to a broader audience than females, I still think this anime is largely female-oriented. Don’t get me wrong- if you’re male and like the sound of it, there is hardly any fan-service and a compelling enough mixture to make this enjoyable, but I’m still not convinced it’s that appealing to males. Unfortunately, all viewers will have to have to put up with the slow pace and bland female main typical of the shoujo genre, as well as little character development. Overall, I give it a fairly-solid 7/10.

-S

My favourite of the Shinsengumi, left-handed Hajime Saitou (isn't he pretty?!)

My favourite of the Shinsengumi, left-handed Hajime Saitou (isn’t he pretty?!)

Book Girl [Anime]: A charming series

Book Girl (Bungaku Shoujo) (2010) initially caught my attention because the premise I read (describing the character Touko Amano) was a little odd and I wanted to see what it was all about. After watching the two sets of OVAs (one set of 3 and one additional one) and the movie, I am so glad I decided to check it out. This anime is an adaptation of light novels written by Mizuki Nomura and illustrated by Miho Takeoka. The majority of this review is geared towards the movie, as that’s where most of the plot occurs.

Book Girl

What’s it about?

One day, Konoha Inoue sees an older student at his school, Touko Amano, eating paper. When she notices him, she demands that he joins the Literature Club, making him the second member after her. Why? Because Touko can’t eat food, and works of literature are her only source of nourishment. Apart from this odd occurrence, though, Konoha is a seemingly ordinary student. But the truth is he has a tragic past that he is trying to keep hidden. Can he keep up the façade when the Literature Club starts receiving strange notes?

The Positives

What I really liked about this anime is that it’s a little bit different. The series is an odd mixture of drama, romance, idealism and quirkiness, which gives it an overall unique charm. Not a lot happens plot-wise until the latter half (movie), but that’s okay, because the focus is on the characters. Whilst Konoha is a little on the dull side, he’s a nice enough main. Touko is a pretty interesting character, pulling off ditzy and wise successfully in different moments. Despite being the title character, she is more of an audience to the conflict between Konoha and the ‘antagonist’ Miu Asakura. Although her ability (?) of eating literature seems a little unnecessary, I think it gives her a brand new take on emotion, something which is put to good use throughout the movie. On the other hand, Miu is a psychological mess, selfish and possessive. I think her character was put together really well, and it a great contrast to Touko. She’s also voiced by Aya Hirano, which is awesome.

Miu was by far my  most favourite character

Miu was by far my most favourite character

The music in the series is nice and fitting, but not particularly memorable. Likewise, there are gorgeous backgrounds but character art is overly simple.

Finally, there is a lot of reference to a number of great literature works, in particular Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad, a classic Japanese novel. These references ground the anime and add a lot of credibility to Touko’s character. There’s also pretty interesting and, based on Tokou’s description of them, I’ve since looked them up with the intention to read them.

The Negatives

Although I don’t think there are any major flaws in this anime, I can understand two major things that others may have an issue with. Firstly, a lot of the themes and aspect of the anime, especially Touko’s character, are more understated than what you normally see. While this means that the drama isn’t irritatingly over-the-top, it does mean that a lot of events/actions/speeches have very subtle connotations, and the viewer is left to figure it out themselves.

Secondly, although I personally liked the conclusion of the movie, believing it tied in well with Touko’s mysticism, it is very convenient… and… well… corny, to be perfectly honest. So if high-tensioned, dramatic climaxes are your cup of tea, prepare to be disappointed.

Definitely a low-key ending...

Definitely a low-key ending…

Anything else I should consider?

As I mentioned earlier, this ‘series’ is actually composed of three OVAs ‘Book Girl: Memoire’, the movie ‘Book Girl’, and a stand-alone OVA ‘Book Girl Today’s Snack: First Love’. Memoire was broadcasted before the movie, and is a prequel. I strongly recommend watching Memoire first; although you already know the secret of Konoha’s past, Miu’s character is a lot more sympathetic in the movie. If you don’t watch the OVAs first, I think you will find the movie disjointed and Touko’s character out-of-place. Be sure to also check out the stand-alone OVA as well. I thought it was a really cool look at Touko’s experience of literature. I watched it after the movie, but it would fit in well either before or after the movie.

Conclusion

Art:  6.5/10: Backgrounds are quite pretty and colour palette is beautiful, but character art is simple.

Story: 6.5/10: Although the plot isn’t overly complex, the overall story that it tells is quirky and interesting.

Characters: 7.5/10: The characters are the focus of the story, and the two mains, Touko and Miu really shine in different ways.

I really loved this anime’s charm, and the overall ‘bookish’ feel to it. Not a complicated story, but the characters are really well done, and the overall atmosphere is pretty unique. I found it very enjoyable, and if it seems like your thing, check it out… it’s better than expected. Overall, I give it a 7/10.

-S

Touko's love of literature is infectious!

Touko’s love of literature is infectious!

Mini-Reviews: Fruits Basket, Ghost Hunt, Ouran High School Host Club [Anime]

So, I’ve already reviewed Fruits Basket, Ghost Hunt, and Ouran High School Host Club in their manga forms, but I also wanted to give a review of them in their anime forms. Instead of doing a full-length review and essentially repeating myself for the plot and characters, I decided to take a quick look at each one, point out the main differences between the anime and manga and give a very brief review and a rating. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket

The anime adaptation (2001) of this manga is only 26 episodes long and covers volumes 1-7. However, to get a more dramatic ending, the revealing of Kyo’s “true from” takes place at the end of the anime, when in the manga it occurs in volume 6. Apart from a few other minor changes, which you expect to see in such a short adaptation, the anime is fairly faithful to the manga. However, only covering the first 7 volumes means that the anime does suffer from missing out on the darker aspects of the story and the more in-depth focus on the characters. There is a stronger focus on the friendship between Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo, which, at times, makes the anime feel a lot sillier than what it should be. Having said, however, the characters are bought to life really well, and the bright colours of the art really suits the story. The soundtrack is quite good, and helps draw out the comedy elements of the story. I particularly loved the fanfare that played whenever Ayame’s intense personality came out. The opening and ending themes are cute, but nothing special, and the overall art style remains typically shoujo.

Conclusions. The anime is a lot of fun, but without the entire story being adapted, it feels a bit silly in places. However, the characters are bought to life really well, the anime is funny, and I like that the writers went to some effort to give the series a tied-up ending. Overall, I give it a 6.5/10.

Ghost Hunt

Ghost Hunt

Every case but the last one is covered in the 25-episode anime adaptation (2006) of Ghost Hunt (volumes 1-9). I’m a bit disappointed that “The Forgotten Children”, which is one of my favourite cases, wasn’t covered, but at least you miss out on the weird twist that is revealed at the end of the manga. Overall, the anime adaptation is very faithful to the manga, the characters are bought to life really well, and the scary scenes have the right creepy atmosphere. The art is very similar to the manga, which is a good thing, and the music really fits the spooky atmosphere. I particularly liked the starting theme.

Conclusions. This is a good little anime to watch, and is a really nice adaptation of the manga. Although the series is not really concluded, partly due to the case-by-case approach of the plot, it doesn’t matter too much. Even if you haven’t read the manga, this is a good anime to watch. Overall I give it a 7/10.

Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club

This shoujo manga was adapted into a 26-episode anime (2006). The adaptation is bit haphazard; volumes 1-5 and 7-8 are adapted, but with changes to the order of events and the combination of other events; volume 9 is adapted to the ending of the anime, with some aspects of volume 6, and the inclusion of a non-cannon character, Éclair Tonnerre, who is quite similar to Princess Michelle of the manga. All things considered, however, the anime is fairly faithful to the manga in the way in depicts the events and the character; it’s obvious the writers were attempting to make events more salient and give the series a better conclusion than what it would otherwise get. What I really liked about the anime is that the characters’ personalities are captured really well. Tamaki’s flamboyancy really comes out in the animation, and contrasts with Haruhi’s straightforward and apathetic nature. The emphasis of the anime adaptation is fun and humour; the sound effects and music during the comedic scenes highlights this well. Although the actual artwork itself is not super amazing, it gets the job done.

Conclusions. Overall, this is a pretty good adaptation of the manga. The focus on the first few volumes means that you don’t get all of the character development that goes on in the manga, but you do get the fun, over-the-top, Host Club atmosphere. A must-watch if you loved the manga. Given it’s such a short adaptation, I still think it deserves a 7/10.

 

-S

Les Misérables: Shoujo Cosette [Anime]: For the hard-core Les Mis fans

Something a bit different now, the anime Les Misérables: Shoujo Cosette (2007), based of Victor Hugo’s classic Les Misérables. This anime is an adaptation of the novel from the point of view of Cosette and is 52 episodes long. 

Shoujo Cosette

What’s it about?

Set in nineteenth-century France, the anime follows the story of Cosette as she grows into a woman. The story begins when Cosette’s mother, Fantine, leaves her with an innkeeper and his family to go and work, as she is continuously refused work for being an unmarried mother. Unknown to Fantine, the innkeeper treats Cosette as a slave, until she is saved by Jean Valjean, a kind man and ex-convict, who raises her as his daughter after Fantine’s death. However, trouble seems just around the corner with Jean Valjean’s dark past coming back to haunt them and the growing unhappiness with France’s inequality.

The Positives

As this is an adaptation of a novel (one of my favourite novels, no less), I’m going to do a lot of comparing to the original source. One of the strong positives is that the middle of the anime; that is, Cosette’s life once she’s left the convent, her romance with Marius, and the lead-up to the revolution, are all pretty faithful to the novel. These episodes are all done really well. There are non-cannon characters that appear in the anime, but there aren’t very many. Of the few that do exist in the anime, they mesh well with the original plot and serve a purpose. The characters from the original novel are all bought to life really well and I loved the attention to detail in the costume and setting designs. Finally, it’s interesting to see the story told through Cosette’s point-of-view, and I think the writers did a good job at expanding her childhood with the innkeeper at the beginning and with her life in the convent. Hence, the majority of the changes that they made from the original novel, with the exception of the ending, are forgivable. Les Misérables is, after all, a massive story, and all adaptations of it, from the musical, to the 1998 film, to the 2012 film, have taken liberties with the plot.

So cute

Cosette, Eponine and Azelma on their first meeting.

The art in this anime is quite decent, but nothing spectacular. There are a number of pretty background scenes, but it’s clear that there was a tight budget.

Finally, the music is very grand and fits well with the setting of the anime. The opening and ending songs are sweet, and I really liked the insert song “Lullaby” that Fantine and Cosette sing.

The Negatives

I think the main negative of this anime is that it is obviously aimed at children. Les Misérables is not a children’s book. Not even remotely. In fact, you pretty much read about the death of every character that is introduced in the book. So, it seems like it is a bit of a bizarre choice to adapt to a children’s anime. Having said that, only a little bit of the tragedy is re-written to be kid-friendly, especially the ending, where a number of characters survive and get a better future. But, there is a bit of strange juxtaposition between the tragedy of the anime and the sweet, growing-up tale of Cosette that jars quite a bit throughout the anime, giving it a weird mix that doesn’t feel like it’s aimed at children, but also doesn’t feel like it’s aimed at anyone older.

You said it.

This anime is also really slowly paced. The story drags right from the start with the focus on Cosette’s childhood, and continues to drag right up to the beginning of the revolution. Which I guess does make it pretty faithful the novel. At least we are spared the history of Paris’ sewerage system.

Conclusion

Art:  7/10: Quite cute but not top-notch. However, character designs and attention to detail are really nice.

Story: 6/10: The story is fairly faithful, but does commit some terrible, terrible sins against the novel.

Characters: 7/10: The characters are generally done really well, but suffer with the transition to a more kid-friendly adaptation.

This is a bit of a hard anime to judge. The decision to aim the anime towards children is bizarre, and fans of the original novel will find the kid-friendly changes sinful. The mix of tragedy, Cosette’s sweetness, and the length makes me wonder if many children would actually enjoy this anime. I suggest giving it a watch only if you’re a hard-core fan of the novels or musical, otherwise it won’t interest many others. Overall I give it a 6/10.

-S

Do you hear the people sing?

Do you hear the people sing?