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Yes! Wait! It’s Exactly What You Think! School Rumble, Second Semester Fails Laughs 101

I’m usually not a fan of anime which have multiple seasons. For some reason they don’t seem sincere, or necessary. If an anime can’t say what it needs to say in twenty six episodes, it just doesn’t have anything to say. There may be exceptions to this rule, but so far, I personally haven’t come across any.

In picking up School Rumble, Second Semester, I expected to enjoy further laughs and mayhem with a romantic twist, just like I did in Season One. I also expected some answers to the copious amount of questions piled on in Season One.

School Rumble, Season One is all about hopeless teen drama, puppy love and crushed expectations. It’s funny throughout most of the series, and downright dramatic the rest. The first season is authentic and sweet. In short, School Rumble, Season One is a great romantic comedy with heart. School Rumble, Season Two, is, not so much…. Continue reading

Ouran High School Host Club, Part Two, Graduates Top of Its Class!

ouran-high-part-02

Read my review of Ouran High School Host Club, Part One!

The fiesty twins, Kaoru and Hikaru, try to steal away the heart of Tamki’s “baby”, the cute and out of place Haruhi, in the second half of Ouran High School Host Club!

Plot Summary

Haruhi can’t catch a break from the duties and attentions of the Host Club. The twins continually vie for her attention, much to the chagrin of the club’s “king”, Tamaki, and said clueless leader won’t let Haruhi out of his sight. She’s also become a popular Host that the Club’s unsuspecting female guests can’t get enough of.

But Haruhi senses something amiss when the beautiful facade of the fantasy world the Club has built begins to crumble. Will the King set aside his crown and let his kingdom fall, or will he hold fast and continue to dote on his eager guests?

Review

Ouran High School Host Club has my vote as the best anime comedy I’ve viewed to date. The laughs were smart and timed with exquisite precision. Freshness and originality abounded, and the pacing was perfect.

The anime didn’t rely on overdone gags and lowbrow humor. It didn’t ride a schtick into the ground or use the same line over, and over and over.  Ouran’s a series which really understood its genre (romantic comedy) and audience (shoujo lovers), and knew to take the high road in making a romantic comedy. Its take on harem anime and shoujo romance was a polite parody/ homage to a played out genre, not a mean-spirited roast. Continue reading

Casshern Anime Series Trailer!

Have you seen the live action Casshern movie?  Well, here’s a trailer for the upcoming Casshern Anime Series:

From Twitch:

Japan’s Madhouse Studios have been hard at work on a new Casshern anime series.  Titled Casshern Sins the show is slated to hit Japanese airwaves in September…

I think it looks pretty cool from the teaser, but I’d love to see more!

Anime and Manga News, May 2008

Bandai Entertainment logo

Bandai Visual logoBandai Visual USA

The consolidation of US anime distributors is continuing. On July 1, Bandai Namco Holdings will combine Bandai Entertainment and Bandai Visual USA. The latter will be liquidated by the end of September.

Bandai Visual USA has been shrinking. As of April, they had only two employees. The company head, Tatsunori Konno, moved back to Japan earlier this month.

Bandai Visual USA was established to primarily present collectors’ editions of Bandai Visual titles from Japan. The price structure was similar to their Japanese counterparts and was not warmly received by North American consumers. Last year, the company had over $1.15 million in sales, but had a loss of $595,000.

Bandai Namco logo

On a related note, parent company, Bandai Namco Holdings announced their financial numbers on May 8 for last fiscal year which ended in March. The news was not bad, but it also was not good. According to Anime! Anime!, the consolidated income was 460,473 million yen (about $4.4 billion US). This was only a 0.3% increase from last year, and did not meet the projected amount of 480,000 million yen (about $4.6 billion US). Other numbers:

  • operating income was 33,411 million yen (about $319 million US)
  • recurring income was 36,198 million yen (about $345 million US)
  • net income was 32,679 million yen (about $312 million US)

ANN Story:
Bandai Visual USA to be Liquidated by September

Press Releases:
Bandai Namco
Bandai Entertainment
Bandai Visual USA

Anime! Anime! Story (translated by KatanaXtreme):
Namco Bandai’s financial result reveals the hard fight of AM, and visual and music content businesses

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Gurren Lagann montage

In other Bandai news, Bandai Entertainment announced that the Gainax series, Gurren Lagann, will air on the US’s Sci Fi Channel. It will air as part of Sci Fi’s Ani-Monday block beginning July 28. Two episodes will be presented every week through October. The announcement was made earlier this month at the Talks on Gurren Lagann panel discussion which was part of FanimeCon (San Jose, California).

Image © Gainax/Aniplex, KDE-J, TV Tokyo, Dentsu

ANN Story:
Bandai Entertainment Confirms Gurren Lagann on Sci Fi Channel (Updated)

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Futto Toshi open capture 1

Director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) recently supervised the opening and ending animations for NHK’s new documentary mini-series, Futto Toshi (Effervescent Cities…ANN’s translation of the title is Cities in Tumultuous Change). Production I.G animated the title sequence and Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell movies) composed the music.

The 8-part series premiered on May 18 and focuses on cities which are “becoming new international players with the advance of globalization“. On the NHK website, Shinichi Terazono, Senior Producer (Special Programs Division in charge Futto Toshi) comments about the series:

This is said to be the year when the world’s urban population is overtaking the world’s rural population. Globalization is also shifting power away from the United States to other growing economic powers. I believe we can present a new type of documentary. The title sequence images have been created by Mamoru Oshii, whose work is popular among young Japanese people, and the pace of the program will be faster than in our conventional documentaries. Dubai is the first rising city of the series, followed by London, Dacca, and Istanbul.

Futto Toshi open capture 2

Image captures taken from a promotional video of the first two episodes of Futto Toshi:
Copyright NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

ANN Story:
Oshii Oversees Opening, Ending for NHK Documentaries

NHK Reference:
On two new NHK Specials, Futto Toshi (Effervescent Cities), and The Arctic Circle – The Future of the Globe
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ADV logo

Crunchyroll logo

ADV Films and San Francisco based video sharing site Crunchyroll have teamed up with a digital promotion campaign. The first 12 episodes of the 24 episode series, Welcome to the NHK will be available on Crunchyroll’s website. Currently, episodes 1 – 4 are available (as of May 29). Over the next four weeks, the remaining episodes will be posted, two episodes every Thursday. As a cross-promotion, ADV is also offering Volumes 1 – 3 of Welcome to the NHK DVDs at 50% off the suggested retail price at select retailers.

Welcome to the NHK boxCrunchyroll has its own promotional tie-in. They are running a contest to find the “Top Otaku”. The contest is open to community members, who have to post photos of their otaku room showing off all their fan stuff. The winners will get Volumes 1 – 4 of Welcome to the NHK DVDs. For full rules, check the Crunchyroll website.

What makes this partnership a little unusual is that Crunchyroll is known for pushing (and often stepping over) the boundaries of copyright law. The site has been popular and, in 2007, Viacom nearly bought Crunchyroll for $10 million. Probably someone in the company realized that the purchase of a company known for posting copyright infringing content would hurt their lawsuit with Google (YouTube) and the deal was dropped. Still, Crunchyroll was able to secure over $4 million of funding earlier this February from venture capital firm Venrock.

ANN Story:
Crunchyroll to Stream ADV’s Welcome to the NHK

Crunchyroll References:
Crunchyroll Pushes the Envelope On Video Copyright
VC’s Back Crunchyroll: Guts? Brains? Or Sheer Stupidity?

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Speaking of copyright infringement, the Belarusian baked goods and confectionery company, MINSKHLEBPROM, seems to be pushing the envelope with a mascot character shown on the packaging of their chocolate waffle. The character looks suspiciously like Haruhi Suzumiya, the title charater of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (light novels, manga, and anime). Several online sites in Japan have nicknamed the Belarusian character “Haruhinov,” “Haruhichov,” “Haruhikov Dekovitch,” and “Haruhinikov Uchujinsky”.

HaruhiBelarus waffle wrapper

Haruhi Image © 2006 Nagaru Tanigawa / Noizi Ito / member of SOS

ANN Story:
Haruhi Lookalike Appears on Belarusian Waffle Packaging (Updated)

Japanese Source:
newAkiba.com

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Hello Kitty with Minister of TourismJapan’s Ministry of Tourism is hoping that kawaii will bring in more visitors from China. Earlier this month, the Ministry appointed Hello Kitty as the tourism ambassador to China and Hong Kong. She is very popular among children and young women there and ministry officials are hoping this popularity translates to helping with their “Visit Japan” campaign’s goal of attracting 10 million overseas visitors every year. Last year, there were 8.35 million overseas visitors to Japan, a record high.

It doesn’t hurt that Hello Kitty’s Dream Light Fantasy, a multi-million dollar musical, opened earlier this year in Beijing. The musical is currently touring China and will later visit Malaysia, Singapore, and the U.S. as part of a three year run.

Hello Kitty will be the first fictional character to be used as a tourism ambassador. Past ambassadors include J-pop duo Puffy AmiYumi, Korean singer Younha, and Japanese actress Yoshino Kimura. On a side note, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tapped robot cat Doraemon as Japan’s anime ambassador in March.

Picture of Hello Kitty with Japan’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara

Associated Press Story:
Hello Kitty is named Japan tourism ambassador

Glass Fleet, Volume Five


Whoo-hoo! Volume Five means there’s only one more volume of Glass Fleet to review!

plot summary

After their escape from prison, Cleo and his new friends fight their way to freedom through Vetti’s fleet. Cleo is then at last reunited with Michel, and the two discuss the future of the People’s Army’s future.

But burdened with the knowledge the galaxy is slowly being sucked into the phenomena known as the Black Cross, Cleo is determined to save it, no matter the cost. He must now convince his friends and allies to band together to help him with his new purpose. Cleo must find stronger allies, than these though, and Michel is worried where, and who, Cleo’s dangerous new thoughts will lead them.

review

Glass Fleet has resumed plummeting to its doom thanks to this volume. Volume Five isn’t the worst volume of the bunch (that’d be One) but it’s regained the momentum of suckdom Volume Four managed to shake.

The story has once again become ludicrous and out of focus. The laughability of the “plot” has multiplied, again. And the laws of physics are once again blatantly flouted by a freefall jump into the vacuum of space by Cleo. It takes a really bad piece of work to break the laws of physics, FYI.

We’re supposed to swallow the hastily wired together idea that Cleo is now the galaxy’s savior, not it’s future King. The series shifted gears so fast, I think it stripped something. If this is what the anime was about all along, what the hell was I watching to begin with? Where was the foreshadowing? Why did I have to see the Revolution Army fight four volumes worth of war, only to have the entire idea of nobles and war swatted aside as being inconsequential?

The studio could have easily switched ideas towards the beginning of the series and still introduced Michel as a rebel leader and all that her history entails. They wasted the entire series, thus far, flying around, shooting canon balls in space and looking like a bunch of Fashion Week nightmares. It turns out, none of the previous plot matters, although it was built up as being meaningful and purposeful.

Only about one quarter of what was told prior to this volume has any impact on the new focus. That means I watched 75% pure filler junk. I say filler junk because none of what I saw built character development or provoked any connection. The ideas were put together in such a craphazard way, they didn’t further the story in the least.

Character Development Icon Character Development

The last episode had actual story, but the story wasn’t attached to the plot. It was a tale about the pilot, Elmer. The episode was slightly entertaining, but still bad.

Rachel is turning into a psycho wife-leech who needs Vetti in order to define herself. What a difference a marriage to a nut job tyrant can make….

Anime Character Design Icon Character Design

It’d be too much to ask for the character designs not to continue to be an affront to the senses. The designs kept right on being tasteless and freakish and even upped the ante in the last episode. I think phallic gate posts win most tasteless design this volume round.

Animation Icon Animation

It really truly feels as if a different group of people animated each volume, even episodes, of Glass Fleet, the animation feels so inconsistent. One shot is detailed and passable, the next is mechanical and grainy. The animation is beyond sub par. Gonzo should have at least had the decency to keep the shots bad throughout.

Conclusion

Joyous is the day I watch Volume Six of Glass Fleet. For only then will my punishment will be over and the gods of anime will truly have forgiven whatever slight caused them to curse me with this series in the first place.

Rating Icon Rating

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Glass Fleet, Volume Five gets .5 outta 4 Hammies!

Retail Info

  • Publisher: Funimation
  • Release Date:March 25, 2008
  • Retail Price: $29.98
  • Number of discs:1
  • Episodes:19-22
  • Run Time: 125 minutes
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Language: English, Japanese
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Format: Animated, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen

Black Blood Brothers, Volume Two

Charming and dangerous vampires fight for survival in Volume Two of Black Blood Brothers.

plot summary

Far from finding the peace they sought, Jiro and his brother Kotaro are in more danger now than when they first entered the Special Zone. Although the Company compromiser, Mimiko, assured the two vampire brothers they’d be welcome in the Special Zone, they’re anything but.

In order to successfully survive in the Zone, new vampires must approach one of the affiliated vampire houses and ask for membership. This is harder to achieve than Jiro could imagine, and much more dangerous as well.

Some of the obstacles he must overcome are from past ties and acquaintances, but there’s also a fresh threat from the Kowloon Children. Facing either old friends or new enemies, Jiro is still determined to find a safe haven for his bloodline. But will the Special Zone ever be safe with Jiro around?

Review

The world of Black Blood Brothers doesn’t feel recycled. Maybe it’s because the sorry state of the world is due to mutant vampires and not bombs or some other man-made catastrophe. It could be because vampires are the secret allies of humans and both fight a common enemy. It could also be because there aren’tany angst ridden fifteen year old heroes saving the day. Whatever the reason, the setting doesn’t seem stale.

The ideas aren’t new by a long shot; supernatural hero in red with sad past tries to move on by saving the world. But the combination and dosage of the ideas feel pretty fresh.

The story treatment of vampires in Black Blood Brothers is also a contributing factor to the fresh appeal of the anime. Vampires in this world are almost human, but follow their own code and formalities. They can even walk during the day, but will dissolve (not die) in water. They don’t turn human victims into vampires with just a bite, either. To the contrary, humans get quite a rise out of being bitten. It’s the ultimate pleasure.

If I have any negative comments on the series, it’s the hentai-ish manner these vampire-human scenes are handled. They’re visual softcore speed bumps which add nothing to the story. I prefer to “see” these things offstage. Leaving some things to the imagination is a good policy in such instances. Geez.

Character Development Icon Character Development

Things got interesting quick in this volume. Tiny flashbacks at the beginning of the episodes started to fill in the blanks to Jiro’s checkered past. Jiro’s relationship to Lord Dragon, Cain and Cassa are becoming fleshed out by bits. Jiro’s history as a trouble-magnet is being hinted at with casual remarks and pointed instances.

After the third episode, it’s evident what a name the Silver Sword really has for himself and why the poor guy can’t catch a break for himself and his bro.

The Kowloon threat is starting to develop as well, with the introduction of a character who until now has been in the offing. It’ll be interesting to see how far Jiro’s past is interwoven with the Kowloon Children.

Conclusion

Volume Two zipped by and was over before I knew it. So much was revealed, hinted and promised the time flew by, but the anime was never rushed or cramped. There’re only four more episodes left to BBB so it’s understandable why the story is zooming so fast. Black Blood Brothers gets big time credit for not cramming useless info (except those out of place bite scenes) into the series and for having excellent pacing. With interesting characters, unique situations and good pacing, Black Blood Brothers has an engaging bite.

Rating Icon Rating

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Black Blood Brothers, Volume Two gets 3.5 outta 4 Hammies!

Retail Info

  • Publisher: Funimation
  • Release Date:March 25, 2008
  • Retail Price: $29.98
  • Number of discs:1
  • Episodes:5-8
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Language: English, Japanese
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Format: Animated, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen

School Rumble, Volume Six

school rumble dvd 6School Rumble “ends” with this last volume in the series, but why does it feel more like a “See You Soon” than a “Sayonara“?

plot summary

Class 2C and 2D are locked in a battle of brawn as the two compete for school supremacy at the athletic meet. Harima steps up to the plate in order to save the class from a smack down, but is really only doing so to thank Eri for saving him from humiliation.

Harima is still struggling with Eri’s weird feelings towards him, his misunderstood relationship with Yakumo and his unrequited love for Tenma. In a bid to forget it all, the delinquent takes to the high seas.

Tenma has decided she will tell Karasuma her feelings, and sets out to do so, only to find herself caught in a dream, or is she?

The soap bubble which is the class’ adolescence seems ready to pop, but not before it floats some more along the Milky Way of teen love.

review

Gah, School Rumble really is a soap opera! It has just as many convoluted twists, turns and “gotcha!” moments as All My Children. There were two, count ‘em two, cop out scenes which turned out to be dream sequences or something similar. Why would the studio pull this on the last volume in the last two episodes?!

Eri_Harima6

It was a given the series wouldn’t have anything resembling a tidy ending due to the path Volume Five was going down. I wasn’t as miffed as I normally would have been at the thought School Rumble wasn’t going to “end”, because the story still kept moving forward and was still building character and story development. But c’mon, why would they choose to dodge the chance to get more story lines resolved by substituting dream sequences for concrete storytelling?

The minute the story started getting really weird, I knew what I was seeing was a dream sequence, then again, weird stuff is always cropping up in this series so I wasn’t 100% sure until the sequence became even weirder. The minute I figured I was seeing a dream, I resigned myself to watch about ten minutes of fluff. Afterwards, I thought that would be the end of made-up sequences, but then BAM! Is this a dream too? Gimme break! It’s not to say the sequences sucked completely or weren’t entertaining, but the series appeared to be offering closure and then pulls it away. That was a mean prank, especially so close to the end.

Music Icon Music

The last episode had a new ED song, “School Rumble 4 Ever“, by Go Takahashi. It was a very cheery, hip hop flavored tune, and wrapped up the series on a happy note. It’s always good to go out with a positive impression!

Manga_Harima

Conclusion

If this volume was supposed to be the absolute end of School Rumble, it was disappointing. However, the anime never built itself up enough to start focusing on a stopping point anyway. The series kept gathering steam, even adding more characters, but neglected to mention, “Yeah, we’re planning on ending.” So this series didn’t actually end. It didn’t even trail off. It simply shut down and will reopen shop in Season Two. Which isn’t bad, especially seeing as it never promised to end to begin with.

Volume Six was just like previous volumes: funny, entertaining and sweet. Unlike previous volumes, it had those two irritating, time-consuming dream sequences.

Rating Icon Rating

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School Rumble, Volume Six gets 3 outta 4 Hammies!

Series Conclusion

Stepping back and looking at the anime as a whole, School Rumble is a great series. It’s funny, touching, human, weird, dramatic and all together entertaining. The anime has a touch of randomness which keeps each episode fresh. Yet it also has the feeling of a romantic comedy, so it resolves issues and story lines which come up in previous episodes.

I recommend the series for all who wish to remember (or commiserate with) the pangs and joys of teen puppy love. Except this time, you can laugh at the pain!

Rating Icon Series Rating

The Anime Blog Whole RatingThe Anime Blog Whole RatingThe Anime Blog Whole RatingThe Anime Blog One-Half Rating
School Rumble, Season One gets 3.5 outta 4 Hammies!

Retail Info

  • Publisher: Funimation
  • Release Date:March 18, 2008
  • Retail Price: $29.98
  • Number of discs:1
  • Episodes:23-26
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Language: English, Japanese
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Format: Animated, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen

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