Emma – episode 4

May 4, 2005 on 9:00 pm | In Emma | 1 Comment


This episode left me in high spirits. Considering that I was preparing to murder the internet beforehand, this makes it a good outing. The Adventures of William and Hakim Emma is one entertaining series.

In this episode, Emma goes to Mudie’s library, where Hakim and William are browsing the Victorian pornography. Emma escapes with a blush and a book about a servant falling in love with her master: it’s all dreadfully romantic. After having been rejected by Emma, Hakim lets William know that the path is clear. This leads to the least painful William and Emma interaction so far!

This episode wasn’t big on plot, being as it was about Hakim’s displacement. Eleanor didn’t have any reaction to Hakim’s presence at all – but she did have a debriefing scene in front of her mirror, except that she has her maid to talk to. What was important here is Hakim’s harem. They are pretty much funny in whatever scene they are in. Their immobile features grow on you the more immobile they become, and there’s something inherently hilarious about one of them gunning a motorcar.

Also important in this episode is the inclusion of Arthur, William’s younger brother. Arthur seems to be the embittered child who actually has to make something of himself. “You’re inheriting the family business,” says he to William, “I can’t just loaf around like you.”
It’s true; William is the definition of a man of leisure. He has underpaid servants to do his work for him, so he can spend his days being awkward around the ladyfolk. If William did not have Hakim with him, this series would not be as fun because it would likely become apparent he’s a bit of a jellyfish. If one is to be a cad, they must have the courage to do it properly!
Did anyone notice that Emma gets very little screen time indeed.

A nice, enjoyable episode with a satisfying ending. But what’s up with the vehicles? They don’t look near as sharp as anything else in the program.

City Hunter 2 – 46 to 63

May 1, 2005 on 8:48 pm | In City Hunter | 1 Comment

City Hunter has its diehard fans. I would almost count myself as one of them. While it may have taken 100 episodes to get there, there was one truly awesome moment: a moment that I felt.

“Goodbye, Hardboiled City”, about a terrorist ring led by the mysterious “Sarah”, is one of the best Ryo and Kaori relationship stories there has ever been. It is exactly as if the writers had set out to fashion a heart-pumping City Hunter extravaganza. The action, the music choice … pure synergetic magic – and now certain things are out in the open, not drowned as in “Kaori has amnesia!”.
Even the fact that Ryo disarms a nuclear bomb by shooting a wire and hoping for the best cannot detract from this episode; the status quo doesn’t disappoint, either.

What is disappointing is that this is followed by City Hunter‘s first recap episode, Crystal Prophecy, in which a fortune teller tells Kaori that she always puts Ryo in danger. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of these, and this one is pretty lame. The positive aspect is that most of the clips are from season one, so long ago I couldn’t remember them, but City Hunter does not work based on action alone; also, the few comedy bits make entirely no sense out of context. Umibozu as Colonel Sanders, sure; but why? The new animation is way off model – particularly Reika – and they try to make up for it all with a sweet Kaori and Ryo moment at the end, but by then it’s too late.
Of course, this episode can be summarised by my notebook: “What kind of crappy fortune teller tells the past?”

The issue of Kaori knowing herself emerges in “Reunion After 20 Years”, wherein Kaori’s elder sister appears. It had been so long, I had quite forgotten that Kaori and Makimura were not blood relatives. The moral of this story (which is not not that Kaori looks good in a dress) is strong: does Kaori know her own truth? Has she forged her own, with which she is happy? Ryo is not the only one with silencers on his heart. On the one hand, you want to scream at the characters for not coming clean to one another, but on the other you can forgive them. Ultimately, it is important to understand that Kaori lives in the underworld through her own choice, not that of Makimura or Ryo.

“Proposal from a 17 Year Old Girl” is another strong episode featuring old people. A girl is made heir to a vast fortune, and attracts many suitors, so she pretends to be engaged to Ryo. Three of her suitors hang around together, and plot murder. Sometimes, you have to wonder about these things; also about where yuppies got grenades from. Still, this episode has one of those heartwarming City Hunter episodes that we strive for; old people always have so much to atone for.

There’s even an eighties dance spectacular episode, with some fanciful animation, an episode about Ryo teaching a boy prince what it is to be a man, and an episode in which Ryo protects a male-phobic by getting about in drag. The gay jokes in this series are so innocent and hilarious.

“Good Luck, My Sweeper” is the first City Hunter three parter. Contained within are the details of Ryo’s childhood, and the question of trust. Does Ryo trust Kaori implicitly? Does “protecting” her from the truth actually detract from their relationship? It is a comfort to learn that he really can tell her anything, and she will be supportive; yet he still can’t tell her what she needs to know. The series ends on a very nice note with this set of episodes.

The fact that Umibozu and Ryo were once enemies, something we have never witnessed (they were not friends before the commencement of the anime, but they had reached an understanding) emerges in conversation, proving once more that these characters have rich pasts.
Yet the question emerges along the way: why are Umibozu and Ryo the only sweepers on the market. Umibozu always turns up as Ryo’s “surprise” adversary. This is one of the few things about the series that gets old. Silver Fox has been seen in the past, but no sweepers besides these two? Highly questionable! Not series breaking, though.

If you’re the right sort of person, City Hunter rocks. City Hunter 2 is even better than its predecessor. There is a lack of Saeko in these episodes (and to think, what I used to complain about was a lack of Umi-chan), but the amount of character drama and relationship development is spot on. At this point, it is genuinely sad to think that there are only 26 episodes over two series left to watch.


May 1, 2005 on 6:16 pm | In DNA² | Comments Off on DNA² TV & OVA

Mixing genres is a favourite thing for anime directors to do. A lot of the time they get something fresh and daring. In the case of DNA², aiming for sci-fi comedy romance time travel drama, they get a mess.

One hundred years in the future, the Earth is in danger of over-population thanks to one man: the Mega-playboy, a man irresistable to women. Mega-playboy (or Mega-play, as the dialogue frequently shortens it to), one hundred years ago, had children to twenty women; each of these children turned out to be Mega-plays themselves, and they continued the cycle. The Mega-play DNA was clearly strong enough to have a 100% success rate.
This brings us to modern day, where pathetic loser nice guy Momonari Junta. Junta is a student who vomits bright pink whenever he comes close to anything vaguely sexual. The future “DNA Operator” Karin, however, is convinced that Junta is Mega-play and shoots him with a DNA bullet. To her horror she realises that she had the wrong bullet and could very well have injected Junta with the DNA that created the Mega-playboy!

This prospect sounds funny enough, but there is something off in the execution of the series. By the second episode, Junta as Mega-play has convinced popular girl Saeki to break up with her philandering boyfriend Ryuuji. Ryuuji, then, hires a gang of punks reminiscent of Fist of the North Star to rough Junta up. Not only do they beat Junta in a café, they then proceed to attempt to rape Saeki right there on the floor. What part of this is funny?! It is not even dramatic in the “plan goes horribly wrong”; it’s just sour.

The mid-section of the series is dedicated to a ridiculous concept: Junta tries to cure Kotomi of her embarrassing ailment – she farts whenever in the presence of boys. It is handled almost sweetly, but this story has nothing to do with plot: this would be because Ami, Junta’s next door neighbour and obvious silent crusher, is a character who does nothing but look dopey (a fault of design), bite her lip and say “damnit!”.
There is entirely no chemistry in this relationship.

Basically what happens is that there is an overall idea and it is ignored; Mega-play is never a danger, and his comedy potential remains unmined. The drama that is introduced is along the lines of deep seated psychosis, and even then there is no threat in the form of Mega-play. Ami is needlessly mean to Junta, so there is no fear here! She will just slap him into place! There are some good what the hell is going on? moments, but they are nothing compared to the bad moments that provoke exactly the same feeling. A showdown in the biggest house in town, western in design, on top of a mountain, in the middle of an area of otherwise Japanese architecture? Talk about dark and contrived.

After the series proper, there’s a follow up three part OVA (actually designed for TV, but never broadcast because the show wasn’t popular enough). This OVA acts to clear up some parts of the series but, like a lot of OVA follow ups, it feels empty. The main new character is not very sympathetic or well developed and, really, by this time you get the feeling that Ryuuji has been through enough.

The characters overall are too “romance comedy”, a genre that has, since Love Hina been widely pilloried and revered. Ami, for her part, is an infuriating character. A lot of these shows have girls who secretly love the main character, won’t admit it to that character or themselves
Also, this is close to suffering the great anime disease: in Japanese high schools, there is only one boy that every girl wants. In this case there are only four girls after Junta, but honestly; one can only suspend disbelief about these love battles for so long. The writers can’t even accurately balance the female characters adequately, with Tomoko getting far too little time for what she intends to do, and Kotomi forgotten about when her purpose is served.
Junta, at least, has some charisma; he is a nice guy. Unfortunately, Ami has next to no personality, except for liking Junta.
Magic User’s Club had it more right than this; there was more than one boy, and very little competition.

Production wise, however, DNA² is largely beautiful. This is a project by Video Girl Ai‘s Masakazu Katsura, so the characters have his traditional pretty look. Based on the OP alone, one would expect something great from this anime. In action, the characters still look fine – although at times Ami’s forehead is far too large, making her look sleepy.
There are little moments of excellent fluidity, and a heck of a lot of fan service for 1994. It would be no exaggeration to say that the greatest aspect of DNA² is its attention to panties. The best moments are those devoted to bra detail – but alas! This is not a panty festival.

The casting is pretty good, with Tominaga Miina as Karin and Koyasu Takehito as unbalanced pretty boy Ryuuji stand outs. Hayashibara Megumi plays against type as the manipulative half-nice Tomoko; she’s a little shrill. Not really surprisingly, Kasahara Hiroko is as flat as her character Ami. The best audio experience of the program is definitely the OP and ED by L’Arc~enciel and Sharan Q respectively.

DNA² is entertaining from time to time, but is in no way cohesive. A lot of the comedy is lame, and the drama too out of place (and, honestly, doesn’t make a lot of sense). With more focus, this could have been a much better series; as it is, DNA² is simply tragically beautiful and, like genetic modification, just that slightly morally ambiguous.

Berserk – episodes 14 to 25

May 1, 2005 on 3:53 pm | In Berserk | 3 Comments

The final stretch of Berserk is excellent … but then there is the matter of the ending.
It can not be denied that the characters and situations in Berserk are excellently realised; I have got a fair bit of mileage from regaling my friends with stories of the exploits of the series, so rich and colourful that people react in all the right spots (“This guy’s a bastard!”). This is the sort of anime you could steal and adapt it to tell by the firelight at a hunting lodge or smithy deep in the mountains.

From the battlefield. where Guts and Caska reach an understanding, Berserk bleeds right into court drama. Moreso than on the battlefield, the nature of Griffith can be understood in this context. Griffith is not a nice person; his dream, as Guts realises, takes precedence over all else. One can understand Griffith’s charisma, but the audience can see his determined eyes: they are huge and cold; piercing, like a hawk.

Guts, on the other hand, is not as cold as one might think: some of the best moments in this series are the conversations between Guts and Caska. Here it is revealed how well he knows his fellow band members, and that he genuinely cares for them. Guts may be gruff, and uncomfortable in fancy regalia, but he is very human indeed.

So, to the last two episodes: they deliver exactly what is promised in the first. What we get is Supernatural Berserk, which I did not really find enjoyable. Most of the program had nice moments, but the conclusion is completely bleak; it is from these two episodes that Berserk receives its reputation.
The change of gear is not the major issue, however: Berserk ends on the biggest cliffhange ever! Almost never has there been a louder shout from the director of “buy the manga!” than Berserk episode 25. This is very edgy indeed.

While the final episodes may produce nail-biting moments of tension, Berserk was wonderful at what it aimed to be: an account of Guts’ life in the Band of the Hawk.

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