Hand Maid May

June 28, 2004 on 8:16 pm | In Hand Maid May | 1 Comment

Warning: In this review I “spoil” a plot point that saves the series from being dire tosh and makes it highly watchable. I think that it’s okay to read this as it suggest that there’s light if you don’t like the first four episodes.

Every so often in anime, a new fad becomes popular and many titles are produced to reflect this. Unfortunately, these fads are generally based around fetishes. This is why, a few years back, there was an influx of anime about maids. Then it went one step further: robot maids. Hand Maid May “challenges” the genre further by making the robot maid … one foot tall! Despite her diminutive stature, poor May still can’t escape being objectified.
It’s tough being the victim of a fad.

Kazuya is a university student who plans to create an intelligent robot. His arch nemesis and best friend, Nanbara, gives him a DVD which causes a virus to manifest on his computer that somehow leads to his ordering a 1/6th scale robot maid (a Cyber Doll, or CBD). Then, just when he wants to develop a relationship with this maid, more (human sized) CBD move in! And another CBD desperately wants to collect the $1.4 million payment owing on May!
The only party to these antics if Kasumi, Kazuya’s landlady and unspoken love interest of several years.
Oh, how wacky it all is.

I was going to write this off after the first four episodes, but then with the fifth it gets … better. Suddenly things start making sense, there’s some genuine visual creativity, some of the weaker characters become somewhat substantial, and the fan service services without disturbing.
See, that’s the thing; in the first four episodes, a twelve inch robot in maid clothing is just too kinky. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the series becomes much better when May is remodelled at a human size. Okay; so it is a spoiler, but as far as I’m concerned if it hadn’t happened the whole thing wouldn’t have been worth it at all. It’s another series where, if it hadn’t been planned all along, you get the impression that the writers realised that the direction they were taking wasn’t working; where can one go with a 12 inch robot? Romance is impractical, so …
The good thing is that it quickly dispenses with this romance. When you’ve got an army of robots and one human girl to choose from, I know which I’d choose. The fact that they try to present it so that Kasumi and May are competing for Kazuya’s love was slightly disconcerting, so it becomes a tale of friendship and development of human characteristics, and completely abandons the basic conceit of the opening episodes.

So initially it’s infuriating. Nanbara is annoying, May makes a horrible rattling sound every time she moves, the one character who can provide guilt free fan service wears terrible clothing that’s both revealing and unappealing. You can miss the fact that the story becomes interesting very easily, however; the turning episode has lousy animation and all the characters are hideously off model.
So, Hand Maid May shed its skin and became something sweet. When the creative spirit within is unleashed, then it’s something to enjoy and laugh at. Even the too fast, too high OP grows on you. There’s even a hilarious drama that all of the CBDs are addicted to.
Of course, it’s still not without problems; the DVDs have the most bizarre subtitling tactic ever. Mami is a character who occasionally spouts English dialogue. When this happens, the subtitles translate this English into romanji. It’s generally not too hard to follow, but in anime you should always subtitle the English dialogue because it doesn’t always sound like the English it represents. It was definitely an odd experience.

Hand Maid May is, indeed, something that has been done before. But it’s done well here, so that doesn’t matter. Only when something’s been done before and this time around it’s done poorly do you have a problem. Despite its abhorrent start, after “the change” Hand Maid May becomes watchable without leaving a horrible dirty feeling in the pit of your soul.


June 27, 2004 on 11:48 am | In Geobreeders | Comments Off on Geobreeders

Expect nothing! Get everything! Geobreeders is something that is, in my collection at least, very rare. It’s a comedy that masquerades as a plot of drama and mystery. So don’t go into it expecting high comedy, and don’t go into it expecting high drama. Expect nothing and when you come out of it after three episodes you still won’t quite know what you got, but you’ll have the feeling that you enjoyed it.

Kagura Total Security is a company that hunts phantom cats. Not just any phantom cats, mind – these ones are made out of computer data and can control electronic devices! Kagura’s rival is apparently a company called Hound, which also want to wipe out this phantom cat menace.
When these phantoms hijack a ship containing a nuclear missile, everyone’s in trouble and it’s Kagura’s job to save the world and produce an invoice. Also somewhere along the way the phantom cat that works for Kagura is kidnapped (I still don’t know by whom) and tortured by being dipped in a tub of (potentially boiled) water.

The first five minutes are completely serious and someone expecting raucousness might be confused. Then a tank comes bursting out of a nuclear facility, and it’s being driven by twenty cats. Along the way there’s a bit of fan service, but not quite enough for my liking (a lot of the time I feel like I’m suffering fan service deprivation, so when there is at least some I like there to be a lot). The way it plays itself straight without making too big a deal of the beleaguered male lead (constantly stifled by his all female workplace) makes it something unique.
Just a warning, so that people don’t think the phantom cats are always in cat form: they have human manifestations as well. The first one is a woman who can’t seem to keep her clothes on, but the rest are mostly men who are mercifully dressed for sea life.

Generally it’s a nice looking series with good animation, but it’s a disappointment that at the start of the third episode the character dialogue animation is replaced with cels of elaborate desserts. Sure, they’re elaborate, but they’re not the characters talking.
Finally, as always, Hisakawa Aya turns in a magnificent performance as “Crimson Shooting Star” (“Hell is my office”).

Geobreeders explains nothing, but it’s a base enjoyment. The mambo ED alone is worth the price of admission.

Hot dog night time mambo
Blue sky high flying jumbo …

Cardcaptor Sakura – episodes 66 to 70

June 27, 2004 on 9:44 am | In Cardcaptor Sakura | Comments Off on Cardcaptor Sakura – episodes 66 to 70

And it’s a clean sweep to the very end of the series!

Initially there was some worry as to what was happening with Toya. But after one episode, he snapped out of it. I had expected that because as a human, he didn’t lose anything that was vital to his existence. The cementing of his relationship with Yukito, which even Sakura picked up on for once, made for an exciting final run.
Not surprisingly, all five of these episodes were about feelings. Sakura was allowed to mature because Yukito was completely honest with her. This worked incredibly well, because the feelings of honesty made everything that much stronger. That Sakura didn’t have to fear exposing herself, for one, lifted a lot of weight from her shoulders.

On the whole Eriol/Spinel Sun/Ruby Moon thing: it feels that at the start of this series they were trying to go in a different direction, with all three of them standing around in the background at each of the earlier incidents. But they didn’t develop as villains and, as it was admitted towards the end, all along it’s been about Sakura and her friends. Spinel and Ruby therefore seemed to be just red herrings to give an illusion of great evil afoot. Still, their screen time was a little disappointing. Spinel must have got about five scenes in 23 episodes.

It all worked out in the end, and on the way there were some interesting uses of the series’ artwork. Sakura’s journey into the past produced beautiful watercoloured backgrounds, and the increase in magic led to traditionally unwieldly giant visuals.
These characters are nothing like they were seventy episodes ago, and it was great to see them grow. There was no epilogue, but the time that it ended was the most fitting that there could be. Cardcaptor Sakura may have been children’s anime, but it was one of the most well developed, lovingly crafted works that I have seen. It’s true that other magical girl programs have been sophisticated, but none have transcended quite so much as this.
Ironic, considering that Sakura is one of the younger magical girls there is.

Cardcaptor Sakura is something that will live forever in the hearts of its fans, just as the cards lived in the heart of Sakura. It was a disarmingly genuine and heartfelt series, and its ending moment was truly, truly well done, although a slight miscalculation in DVD authoring (it should have faded to black, instead of going to Fruits Candy).

Cardcaptor Sakura – episodes 59 to 65

June 26, 2004 on 7:29 pm | In Cardcaptor Sakura | Comments Off on Cardcaptor Sakura – episodes 59 to 65

Cardcaptor Sakura really has proved to be a labour of love. It’s going to be sad to see it go. That can be said of most series, but it’s a very powerful feeling in this one.

The three member team for investigating the “strange occurrences” works well, and a nice side effect of Shaoran admitting to himself that he has feelings for Sakura is that it allows him to develop a friendship with Tomoyo. Again, Tomoyo proves herself as an emotional rock, but one has to wonder if it’s going to cause her sorrow in later life.
This comes up when Meilin returns so that Shaoran can give her a very important message. The way that she takes it is great because she runs a full spectrum of emotions. When they culminate at Tomoyo’s house, it’s very, very strong. It was nice to see her back, and it’s only in her return you realise that she’s been gone for so long. Physically it’s only been 17 episodes, but there was a season between them.
It was nice to see her again, but unless she’s somehow worked into the final events, I don’t think Meilin will return.

It’s also nice to see the MIRROR card again, and again to see Toya treating it like a person and taking care of it. Toya has been at his peak in this season, because of his need to talk to Yukito and the fact that it’s entirely clear that he knows about Kero-chan and everything. Perhaps not the explicit details, but enough. His scene with Yue was one of the most powerful there ever has been. There were true moments of beauty here, because it has been a very distressing time.

One of the funniest inventions of Cardcaptor Sakura as a whole was Yamazaki and his elaborate lies. This has reached another level because of the tag team lies with Eriol. Unrehearsed, yet still in perfect synch. They are truly hilarious scenes, and even Chiharu doesn’t know what to do in the situation. When she’s at a loss with Yamazaki, you know you’re in trouble.
Kero-chan has been in a period of underuse yet again, but this time it is entirely excusable because Sakura has become sufficiently independent to credibly fight for herself. With only five episodes left, it’s uncertain if anything will actually come of Spinel Sun, but the scenes with Eriol in his den have always been fun.

My one hope is that Cardcaptor Sakura will have some kind of epilogue. One wants to know what becomes of these characters when they’re older!

Cardcaptor Sakura – episodes 51 to 58

June 23, 2004 on 7:35 pm | In Cardcaptor Sakura | Comments Off on Cardcaptor Sakura – episodes 51 to 58

It takes a while to realise it, but every episode in this season has furthered the plot somewhat. Well, except for The Calendar of Memories, which was one of the best character episodes since those early ones in the first season about Sakura’s mother. In fact, as it progresses it becomes clear that these are the best episodes that Cardcaptor Sakura has ever had.
Of course, the climax of series two was outstanding, but that was a climax. The Sakura card series has consistently thrilled with its exploration of character and ambiguous undertones. Maintaining this high level of quality and suspense has seemingly been effortless.

The episodes don’t even seem to be following much of a formula any more; Eriol causes some mischief sometimes, but the reasons why he does so become ever cloudier. Being who he is, he can’t be evil. He’s troublesome, no doubt. Then, when one of his tricks causes something good to happen to Sakura, it’s even more confusing. The obvious nature of some of his plans, such as the fact that everything that has ever attacked Sakura has been something that he touched on the same day. Of course, as the Cheshire Cat Erriol said, “You and Li are so slow, it’s too easy to play tricks on you”.
On that note, it’s probably a good chance to tackle Eriol’s offsiders: Ruby Moon and Spinel Sun. As Akizuki (Na-ku-ru, as she would have Toya believe), it’s clear that she’s trying to keep Yukito and Toya apart. It’s fortunate that it has already been established that Clow Reed’s belief is “nothing in this world is coincidence”, because otherwise it would be annoying that she pops up every time that Toya says “I … you …” to Yukito. As for Spinel Sun, who’s clearly the Anti-Kero-chan, he’s really too feminine. It’s a big shock to hear him in his big form, because he (especially when voiced by Touma Yumi) is pretty prissy. And come on … instead of the angelic wings of Yue and Kero-chan, they both have butterfly wings.
No wonder “Suppie” doesn’t have a sense of humour.

One of the greatest episodes had nothing to do with Eriol at all, and only a tenuous link to the Sakura Cards. It was the first episode that was about Sakura’s father in such a strong role. The scenes between Nadeshiko’s grandfather and Fujitaka are not quite … heart rending … but there’s a sadness about them. It has reinforced just how much Nadeshiko sacrificed to marry Fujitaka. Her only being 16 when they married, and him being her teacher, they clearly caused an uproar in her family. Of course, now that she’s dead, they regret drifting apart. This episode also featured one of the funniest Kero-chan jokes ever, involving a VCR.

Yukito’s existence is getting more tragic. ‘No matter how much I eat, I never get full …’, he says, standing under a tree. It’s just sad, when you wonder what’s going to happen to him. As for his relationship with Toya, I like that CLAMP in creating gay or pseudo-gay characters don’t use innuendo. Toya cares about Yukito deeply – as Mitsuki told him, he would be in love with someone else when they met again – but there’s no suggestion of anything else. And of course it takes the fun out of the slash writers, because they’ve been given too much to go on.

There was a Shaoran episode in here as well, as the other running theme so far has been about his feelings for Sakura. Once again proving that Tomoyo is the smartest character of them all. When he finally called her Sakura and hugged her out of gratitude for her continued existence, it truly was a moment. Hopefully someday he’ll be able to come clean. Or at least stop denying it to himself.
Other character moments were Yue’s statement that he remembers everything. Acting as he does, it’s hard to believe that he remembers humanity. It would have impaired his judgement, I’d have thought. He had said that the personalities were separate, but he’s the one truly in control. It’s a matter of some concern that should be tackled later on.

Now: Kero-chan’s corner! These included Sakura in Wonderland, with big Kero-chan chasing after her saying “I am not Kero-chan … call me your QUEEN!”. This was followed by his lamentations as to Clow Reed’s treatment of his handsome self, made all the better for Onosaka Masaya’s performance. While I still hold that he and Hisakawa Aya are giving the same performance and that’s what makes it great, I don’t think she could have pulled it off quite the same. Big Kero-chan strikes one as the kind more likely to complain.

Great episodes all around. It’s not one big tease; it’s an adventure in development of plot and character. The series’ evolution has been astounding, and pretty solid evidence to say that magical girl shows shouldn’t always stop at one.

Cardcaptor Sakura – episodes 47 to 50

June 21, 2004 on 12:48 pm | In Cardcaptor Sakura | Comments Off on Cardcaptor Sakura – episodes 47 to 50

The third series of Cardcaptor Sakura is like one glorious aftermath. There aren’t any cards left, so the story throws the exciting prospect of Sakura creating her own magic. What is known in the Discworld as “sourcery”.
There is so much that’s exciting about this season. It offers the prospect of Yue and Keroberos on tap – halving Hisakawa Aya’s role, to be sure, but to see both forms work as if they’re the same person, it’s great that they’re extensions of each other. The inverse can be said about Yue – two more different characters (still clearly “cut from the same cloth”) there could never be.

The relationship between Yukito and Toya is one of the most ambiguous as Toya never lets on how much he knows or how much he has told. The highlight of the second season were the scenes that featured Toya, Mizuki and Yukito together, or just those with Mizuki and Yukito. Providing similar results is the new character Akizuki Nakuru, who always turns up just as Toya has something very important to say.
Now, these new characters; they’re quite patently up to no good. Eriol looks bright and promising, with his placid blue eyes wide open. Then people turn their backs and his eyes narrow; pure … not evil … but certainly bad intent!
While it soon becomes apparent who these people are, it’s still unclear quite why they act.

There aren’t any more Clow Cards; and while the excitement of Sakura creating magic is palpable, the means by which she has to are somewhat questionable. Sakura and the Dangerous Piano, for instance. Just what is going on here? Every episode seems to flow into the next, which is very nice indeed, and the lurking characters are doing a good job of lurking. The fighting’s not as arbitrary as it was with some of the Clow Cards; hopefully the writers are aiming to create a veneer of trust amongst the characters, to lead them into increasingly dangerous situations. That’s got to be it.

Despite the uncertainty as to the direction that Cardcaptor Sakura has taken, with Tomoyo clearly being the smartest of all of the characters, the series definitely has more vitality than it had for a long time. The new ED, which is essentially “Tomoyo, Sakura and Kero-chan’s baking adventure” is a marvellous use of colour and the OP (with heavenly vocal by Sakamoto Maaya) has some delicious hints of stuff to come. It’s pure taste.

I no longer have “primary” and “secondary” programs, just an alternating title; so I’m sticking with Cardcaptor Sakura until the end! (with the exception of a series break between this and the second movie).

Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring

June 20, 2004 on 6:35 pm | In Legend of Crystania | Comments Off on Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring

Directly after “The Motion Picture”, everyone’s names change and Pirotess acts once more to free her beloved Ashram while Redon befriends twins who have been unfairly treated by the gods of Crystania.

The Chaos Ring is essentially just a three OVA continuation of the film, with the existence of this sacred realm finally explained in the opening of each episode. It’s a pretty funny reasoning, really. “The gods of Light and Dark were having a war, and all of the gods who didn’t care went out and started their own country and closed it so the fighting gods couldn’t get in”.
It explains these things well, and the production values are a darn sight better than its predecessor – the characters actually having skin tone this time around.

As for the rest of it, random elements are brought in to spice to story – Beld, the ruler of Marmo until Ashram’s succession, comes along for the ride. The capacity of his role seems to contradict history moreso than it already has been through the course of the Crystania offshoot. Narase and Guild (now known in the subtitles as Kwairde) have even less character than they did before. Irim and Kirim are traditional freaky twin children, and Orville (now Obiere) and Laifan (now Raifan) don’t get enough screen time.
The council of the gods is a recurring scene now. The gods don’t have physical forms and it’s basically a collection of slightly transparent people vaguely resembling animals sitting about. Each time they talk, several closeups of their faces fly over the screen.

Thematically it’s flawed, but in a highly traditional way. In anime, people’s ancestors are always terrible. They seal away the great evil without destroying it, knowing full well that the seal will one day be broken and the great terror will return. What makes it even worse is that the seals affect the public consciousness, persuading them that the great evil never existed. This is counter productive, so the idea that the Villagers of the Seal exist is just … bad. It’s always the way it goes!

Ashram has been redesigned again and at times he looks like himself, and other times he does not. There are some very nice looking scenes in this, but parts of the chaos worlds are sometimes just collections of freakery. The twins and the old woman are also weird, and Aderishia has a different hairstyle, possibly to do with the seal.

Capped off by an ambiguous ending, Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring is a two hour confusion. The characters would have been likeable had they been given more to do, but they essentially sat through this and watched it happening. It’s not terrible, but by neglecting the idea of El Djana, the travellers have very little to travel for.

Legend of Crystania – “The Motion Picture”

June 20, 2004 on 1:53 pm | In Legend of Crystania | Comments Off on Legend of Crystania – “The Motion Picture”

This was actually the second anime DVD I ever bought, four years ago. I watched it once.
It’s another “motion picture” courtesy of ADV films. Legend of Crystania is actually an OVA that somehow fits into the Record of Lodoss War universe. How, it’s not quite clear, as it chooses to focus on characters that were not only secondary in the original OVA, but also characters who were dead.
Despite that, it’s pretty enjoyable and much easier to follow than the time jumping Record of Lodoss War.

Ashram, for reasons undisclosed, is sailing the seas with his people to look for a new place to settle. The voice of Barbas, aspiring King of the Gods of Crystania, offers to open the Gate of the Gods and let his people prosper if Ashram agrees to provide his body as a vessel.
Meanwhile, uh … 300 years later … the people of El Djana are being oppressed by the evil Chancellor. When the Chancellor murders the peace loving Haven, brother of the overthrown king, his son Redon swears revenge. Barbas opens the Gate of the Gods once more, offering Redon the awesome power to take revenge. Then they get involved in a civil war between the various beast tribes of Crystania.
Crystania is confusingly referred to as “the land of the Gods”, despite having an entirely different belief system to the rest of the world. When the script upgrades it to “the sacred realm” – meaning a place that doesn’t take kindly to strangers – it makes more sense. This was produced as one of the first few DVDs by ADV, so the production values aren’t always at their highest.
So it makes no sense in the continuity. Let’s just look at it as the jolly Crystania adventure!

The characters are less obviously a “party” than those of Lodoss War. There’s no real hierarchy, except everyone looks up to the High Priestess Aderishia. Guild is perhaps the most incompetent warrior ever seen. He looks away from the person he’s clashing swords with to observe Redon clashing swords with some other person (or lizard, as it may be). It’s surprising that he wasn’t killed a million times over. Redon stops being angry pretty soon which, despite his anger overpowering him supposed to be the theme of the piece, is well done. When you see what Barbas is doing as the King, it’s no surprise that someone wouldn’t want to strike a deal with him.
Nerese as the sorceror isn’t much of a character, but the two most interesting are Orville and Laifan: the mercenary and the little girl who he travels with. Orville is the hardened warrior type, and his soft spot is unsurprisingly for Laifan, the girl with the strong powers for someone of her age. What little time they get together (and the time that they spend apart) are the most well written of all of the scenes.

The animation and design is at times appalling. The daytime scenes are where it is hit the worst as the animators saw fit to make the daytime sky white, and the sunlight makes all of the characters very pale as a result. The first ten minutes were animated with practically no colour in them at all. At night time, or in the afternoon, everything looks just fine. It’s one of the worst decisions that could have been made. There are some well done action scenes, and it quickly becomes clear that El Djana and Crystania subscribe to the “half” approach to violence – that is, one swipe of a sword can cut a person in half, or amputate their hands. At one point, Orville impressively decapitates a horse and separates its rider’s torso from his body in one strike.
The transformation sequences are similarly well done.
The characters generally look fine, if unimpressive. The only problem is that Pirotess and Ashram are featured in this outing and they look nothing like they used to. Ironically, when possessed, Ashram looks more like himself than when he is himself. It’s heartening, on the other hand, that the two most interesting characters are those who look the nicest – that is, the duo of Orville and Laifan.

The music is actually impressive, particularly compared to the not always up to scratch animation. There’s even an insert song, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s not eldritch fantasy stuff, but it’s more than good enough for what’s on offer. The music panning over the credits shows that quite a bit of imagination went into the production, as well.
Voice acting is actually pretty good as well, especially as Kamiya Akira and Tamagawa Sakiko reprise their roles as Ashram and Pirotess (which they did not do for 1998’s Chronicles of The Heroic Knight). Midorikawa Hikaru as Redon set a precedent for his sword fighting characters, and Nishimura Chinami is delightful as young Laifan.

It’s followed by a three part OVA, The Chaos Ring. Then after that, the “alternate and yet the same continuity” TV series picks up Record of Lodoss War‘s story in the form of Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. Don’t be discouraged by the DVD quality I have described – ADV have actually rereleased this under their Essential Anime line. It’s not actually essential by any means, but it’s much better than I remembered – despite its random production values.

Haunted Junction – episodes 7 to 12

June 19, 2004 on 8:46 pm | In Haunted Junction | Comments Off on Haunted Junction – episodes 7 to 12

Haunted Junction turned out to be, all in all, a high dosage of fun. Every episode had something funny to offer. The first lesson learned is that a lifelong desire to be smart can be destroyed through the discovery of pornography, so all students should take note. As each episode with the exception of the last two stands alone, it’s hard to write about it as a whole.
That’s part of the reason that I don’t generally like episodic anime; but every episode was a comic … not masterpiece or extravaganza … enjoyment. Then the last two episodes did what I love; they took the comic premise and built on it to turn it into drama and then they took something from each of the ten episodes preceding and worked them into the big finale. It was a work of genius that gave Haunted Junction a highly satisfying ending.

As the episodes wore on, it became increasingly obvious that religion had nothing to do with it. Seeing a Minister dressed as a tanuki kind of suggests that the writers didn’t bother looking into anything other the costuming and artifice of any religion; like so many other things in anime, it’s just an excuse to look cool without coming off as gimmicky.
Now, the things that need to be mentioned: “Bones” and Sato’s Cossack dance was hilarious each and every time. But to say much else would just end up being a listing of jokes; comedy is so hard to write for! However, the ending to episode eight was comedy genius/brilliance/gold. The writers ran out of story so they faded to a black screen and provided a skit.

The characterisation was consistent, the only bad thing being that of the seven spirits, some of them didn’t get enough screen time. The Giant was just a pair of legs, and the Mirror Girl didn’t get to do anything at all. Hanako-san is one of the best characters there is, though; it’s so odd to see something from an era when fan service was so understated. There should have been more! More! More! The true fan service junkie can never get enough, except when they get too much.

Haunted Junction is out of print, but you can still rent it. Admittedly, the only reason I bought it was because I knew it was going out of print, but I’m glad I did. I bought Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy for the same reason; but I’m kind of suspecting that wasn’t quite so wise.
Hilarious comedy, then some drama; it was a good balanced program that preaches what I consider one of the most important you can learn from anime: there’s a difference between cheap animation and bad animation. That’s something very important that we should all remember.

Haunted Junction – episodes 1 to 6

June 16, 2004 on 6:29 pm | In Haunted Junction | Comments Off on Haunted Junction – episodes 1 to 6

Now this is low rent, late night anime. It’s also rather funnier than all get out.

Haunted Junction is rather like sitcom anime; none of the episodes have anything to do with each other. It’s about Saito High’s “Holy Student Council”, which consists of a Haruto, Minister’s son, Kazumi, a Monk’s son, and Mutsuki, a Shinto Priest’s daughter. They are responsible for the spiritual activity in the school, and are led by the school’s tiny chairman who is coincidentally some sort of spirit himself.
Every episode is an individual story involving the hard done by Haruto, the possession prone Kazumi and shouta con Mutsuki getting up to some sort of mischief with the spirits (the chief members being “the seven wonders of the school”). Mostly it’s high comedy, but there’s even some sentimentality thrown in occasionally.

Haunted Junction isn’t anime that bothers much with character. If you know that Haruto resents his wacky high school life, that Kazumi is obsessed with the spirit that haunts the toilet and that Mutsuki has an unnatural attraction to boys 12 and under, that’s really all you need to know. Every episode so far has been just an adventure in itself, from the time manga came to life, to the battle over which toilet spirit was the Queen of all spirits. Hanako-san had brand recognition, however, whereas Yamiko was forgotten because of her violent approach.
Everything about this series is very traditionally Japanese. It might help to do some research before you go into this, otherwise most of the cultural references will be lost; I wouldn’t have known had I not read a book that obsessively refers to this particular series a couple of weeks ago. The following two sentences are therefore a crash course!
The two important spirits from Japanese culture are Hanako-san, the maiden who lives in the toilets. She’s sexy and she offers paper to those in need. Sontoku Ninomiya was a boy who studied even as he was hauling heavy loads on his back and it’s not unusual for his statue to be seen in Japanese schools. The rest of the series is just general Japanese “wackiness”, if you can really dismiss it as that.
Really, it has nothing much to do with “real” religious practise at all, so it can’t be treated as such. It’s just a rollercoaster ride of laughter and love!

Nakama Yukie’s performance as Mutsuki is rather flat, but with time you get used to it. This is apparently her only ever anime acting role, and the OP and ED prove that she is a much more talented singer than she is seiyuu. Otherwise, the actors are fairly good, particularly Okiayu Ryutaro as Red Mantle.
It’s low budget in its animation, but low budget animation frequently gives rise to the most creative visuals devised in the attempt to save money. This works very well for comedy, mind … not for drama. The random sight gags are marvels and there was one episode with this repetitive editing technique – the hilarious “Red Mantle wipe!” which announced itself each time it was employed. The other thing Haunted Junction has going for it is that it very rarely uses the same sort of joke twice, and almost every episode ends with Haruto screaming “OH MY GOD!”
In fact, the only thing that strikes one as “weird” about Haunted Junction is that the school doesn’t seem to have any students outside of the Holy Student Council. There were four girls for one scene, and it doesn’t feel like anyone else has been in it since.

Haunted Junction is cheap (so cheap, it’s going out of print), hilarious anime. It can even get away with sentimentality every once in a while by balancing out with HOT HOMOSEXUAL FANTASY. oh crap I’m going to regret having said that next week

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