Sunday, May 10, 2009

New MR Review

Top 5 Anime will resume tomorrow. For tonight, here's my latest feature review for Nabari No Ou.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Top 5: Anime

Today's Countdown entry is number 4 on the list: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

If you have never seen Gankutsuou, you need to go take care of that. Now. I'll wait for you to watch it all.

Okay, good. Now what exactly was it that blew your mind?

The correct response should be: "everything."

Gankutsuou is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Every single review of this series has talked about its stunning animation. I don't have much to add that hasn't been said before. You could put Gankutsuou on a television, kill the volume, and it would still be more fascinating to watch than 95% of the anime that is currently avaialable.

When characters dress up for the opera house (specifically Haydee's outfit and Eugenie's piano performance dress), the results are nothing short of spectacular. Also, bonus points must be awarded for having the protagonist, Albert, appear in a pirate costume for an episode.

The story takes Alexandre Dumas' original story and (despite all odds against it) creates an enveloping science-fiction-tinged adaptation. Events of the first episode take place on Luna (presumably the moon) before relocating back to France on Earth. Chateau d'If becomes a prison at the end of the universe and inter-planetary politics are briefly touched upon.

Perhaps what I enjoy the most is the way the series examines class-conflicts. Albert, a son of the wealthy elites, has everything handed to him : trips to Luna, an endless wardrobe--even his fiancee. He hangs out with his rich pals, who do whatever they want, whenever they want. When one of them befriends a soldier named Maximilien, it brings on a clash of values that can (of course!) only be settled by a sword fight. Maximilien is most put off at the way these young men treat their fiancees: they casually agree that marriage has nothing to do with affection, but more with creating alliances among the rich. When he duels with Albert, it is a bitter moment, as the viewer knows that even if Maximilien prevails in the duel, he cannot change the way the wealthy will act. Even better, however, is the way the series gives equal attention to the girls in these relationships. Albert and Eugenie have lengthy discussions on the subject of whether or not they're good for each other; Valentine de Villefort finally tells Maximilien that while the boys are busy fighting over her, not a single one of them actually cares to ask her how she feels about the matter. It's this level of character depth and attention to social realism that truly makes Gankutsuou stand out.

All of this, and I still haven't mentioned the titular character. The Count is a most fascinating enigma of a man--from his mismatched red and green eyes to his endless supply of money. Continuing with the examination of class-based behavior, the Count proves that having money in all the right places gets him access to any information he desires. And what he desires has nothing to do with wealth. He seeks revenge in what may be the most well-planned revenge tale of all time (I am referring to the NOVEL which served as the basis for the anime). The Count's charisma is impossible to deny, which makes it especially difficult for the viewer as the series progresses and his deeds become more and more sinister. (I must add that Joji Nakata's baritone voice lends a lot to the Count's character.)

Gankutsuou is a tale of people who use each other. While some do it for wealth, some for pleasure, and some because they can, every major character has a set of motivations that truly bring them to life. Even better, there is not a single character without a flaw--you will watch every character make a judgmental error so great it will make you cringe. Even worse, though, is the fact that you will completely understand why they chose the wrong path.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Top 5: Anime

I figured that if I was going to start doing lists, I could start with a nice, broad topic. The goal is to do one of these a day for the next five days. Hooray for attempted consistency.

Since blogspot has something against me placing an image after the text (yeah yeah, I could do my own HTML-ing, but that would require effort) it's no surprise that number 5 is Mushi-shi.

Mushi-shi is the anime equivalent of a steaming hot cup of tea at the end of a long day of work.

I have never found a more relaxing series to watch. The episodes are all stand-alones, which may throw some viewers off. Instead, I found it to be a nice touch--I never felt compelled to watch a marathon of Mushishi episodes in order to "finish the story." This allowed me to sit back and appreciate every episode an individual work of art. Granted, some of them are more profound than others, but the stories of Mushi-shi all have a unique way of highlighting different aspects of human nature.

Along the way, we are introduced to people who cannot let go of lost loved ones, religious leaders with a stranglehold on a community, a child whose mother is losing her memory, and an obsessive-compulsive rainbow chaser.

The series follows a formula in almost every episode: a person in a village starts acting strange, Ginko tries to figure out which type of mushi has caused this change in behavior, and he does what he can to help the victim.

Ginko's relationship with the mushi one of the show's big draws. He is not an exterminator. His life operates around a principle of respecting mushi as a lifeforms that only act according to natural instincts. While the mushi may be harmful to human hosts, he holds no grudge. He is not on a quest for revenge or to wipe out all mushi. Ginko simply pursues knowledge and experience; he finds a certain wonder in the wide variety of mushi and is utterly enraptured by their endless forms and varieties.

Masuda Toshio's zen-like soundtrack adds the final touch, adding a lush background of classical guitar, piano, koto, and electronic ambience.

Mushi-shi is currently streaming on Anime News Network's video player (although they only have the dubbed version for now...).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Reviews Update

Wow, I fell behind on posting when my new reviews went up on Manga Recon. Following this link will take you to my profile.

You'll find reviews for some good (D. Gray Man, Rosario + Vampire), some not so good (Queen of Ragtonia, Zombie Loan), and some downright terrible (Tengu-Jin). The Tengu-Jin review might be my favorite out of everything I've written so far. That said, I think you'll find all of them are quality reviews.

Be sure to read some of the other mini-reviews, too. My colleagues are super-talented and I love seeing their opinions on everything.