Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Millennium Snow Volume 1

Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: Created by Bisco Hatori, this shōjo supernatural romance story follows Chiyuki Matsuoka, a young woman in high school with a weak heart. When she was born, the doctors said she would be lucky to live until she was 15. She now tries to live to see it snow as many times as possible.

One evening, she sees a young man in a black coat jump off a building, and she goes to find him, only to discover that the man is unhurt. She learns that his name is Tōya Kanō, and that he is a vampire. He also has the opposite problem that Chiyuki has, he will live one thousand years. In the world of Millennium Snow, vampires also mate for life with a human whom they feed from. The human also lives one thousand years. When Chiyuki finds this out, she offers her blood to Tōya so she can live longer.

Tōya refuses, claiming that he hates humans and blood. The truth is that he doesn't hate humans and he likes blood, but he doesn't want to burden anyone. However, he gives Chiyuki some of his blood when she has a fatal heart attack, so that she can continue to live.

After she recovers, Chiyuki is able to go back to school for the first time in a year, and tricks (it's not a very good trick, so Tōya must not be very smart), Tōya into joining the school so he will be around people more often. Also, Tōya has a bat companion named Yamimaru who talks strangely (I'm not sure why).

After reading the first four volumes of Ouran High School Host Club and loving it, I was eager to check out Bisco Hatori's first manga, Millennium Snow. It has some similar themes to Ouran, for example that both female protagonists grew up with one or both parents dead, but it's not as well done as Ouran is. Still, I enjoy a good supernatural shōjo, and in the first volume a werewolf is introduced at the high school who is also vying for Chiyuki's affections. Good times. The series is only two volumes currently, with it being on hiatus because of Hatori's work on Ouran.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ouran High School Host Club Opening Anime

Overall Rating: A++
Synopsis: Adapted from the manga series by Bisco Hatori, the series follows Haruhi Fujioka, a scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran High School. Haruhi is a girl, but she got gum put in her hair so she cut it short, and wears boys clothes. This wouldn't be terribly important, but one day she stumbles across the school's Host Club. The Host Club is basically a place for six idly rich pretty boys to be idly rich pretty boys, and idly rich pretty girls to come and fawn over them and pretend the boys are their fiancées and boyfriends. After breaking an extremely valuable vase, it is determined that Haruhi will work off her debt by becoming a member of the club. Despite the fact that she is neither idly rich, nor a boy. Oh ho dear readers, what will happen next?

I reviewed the manga version of Ouran High School Host Club back in November, but I only recently saw the anime, and I knew I had to review it as well. It's not often that I see an anime that actually improves on the manga. They're certainly out there, but odds are that the anime version of a manga lets you down in terms of plot, and often leaves out important aspects of characters. I'm not sure why, but this anime more than delivers. In fact, I think I may enjoy the series even more in anime form.

I knew I loved it from the opening theme, and it's adorable music and cry of "Kiss kiss fall in love!" The animation is amazing, the adaption is extremely accurate and they add fun things like a little pointer at the vase Haruhi breaks for a couple of minutes before it happens that had me giggling like crazy. Try to track this one down and check it out. If you like the manga it's a must, and if you haven't checked out the manga yet, it's a great Shōjo series.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Alice On Deadlines Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: A Shōnen comedy and fantasy series created by Shiro Ihara, Alice On Deadlines follows the misadventures of the Shinigami Lapan and the human Alice. In the book, shinigami are more like the ones featured in Bleach, than in Deathnote. They appear human, have a bureaucracy, and collect souls for the afterlife. They cannot travel to earth in their bodies however, so they must possess a soulless body.

Lapan is a degenerate shinigami who doesn't do his job and looks at porn all the time. As punishment, his boss sends him to take care of a wandering soul (similar to Hollows for those familiar with Bleach) in the form of a skeleton (Lapan was hoping for a sexy woman, though how sexy a woman might be...).

However, due to a mix-up (it hasn't been determined how it happened yet), Lapan ends up in the body of Alice, a sweet, buxom, and living young woman who goes to (of course) an all-girls school. Alice, in turn, ends up in the skeleton that was meant for Lapan. Wackiness ensues.

Lapan, being the letch he is, decides to grope Alice's schoolmates, while Alice (as a skeleton) beats him up and threatens him. Good times. In between hilarity and panty shots, Lapan retrieves the lost soul, and they learn that it will be a year before their situation can be fixed.

When I first started reading Alice On Deadlines, I thought it was weird and kind of fun, but the scenes with Lapan trying to molest young women didn't sit well with me, and the non-stop pervy humor was wearing thin.

Then, they introduced a new character, Ume. Ume is another male shinigami who is the son of the head shinigami (at least that's what's implied). He is also in love with Lapan, and stalks him. He gets special permission to be sent to earth in a young woman's body and starts harassing Lapan. At that point, the book turned truly hilarious, and I enjoyed it a lot more. I will probably pick up volume 2 just to see more interaction between the skeleton Alice, Lapan in Alice's body, and Ume.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Speed Grapher Anime

Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: A drama/supernatural mystery anime from Gonzo, the series follows Tatsumi Saiga, a semi-famous photographer who took photographs during the Bubble War. Speed Grapher is set 10 years after the war in Tokyo, where the rich have become depraved sex addicts, who attend private clubs, and make deals to get access to what they want. Not too different from real life, right?

Saiga is out to photograph one of these exclusive fetish clubs that revolves around a 15-year-old "Goddess" named Kagura. That's where things start to get messed up.

As he is trying to take a photograph of Kagura, he's discovered. The members of the club prepare to kill him, but Kagura kisses him first, granting him the ability to destroy anything he photographs.

As it turns out, Kagura's bodily fluids can grant people bizarre powers related to their fetishes or obsessions. The club has been hypnotizing her and abusing her to grant those powers to the wealthy. Fun, right?

Kagura naturally wants to escape this life, and Saiga sets out to help free her. Unfortunately, it turns out that she is the daughter of the richest woman in the world, who is keeping her captive. Saiga and Kagura are on the run from people with more resources than them, and bizarre powers. Not a good combination.

I liked this series a lot. Unfortunately, towards the end of the 24 episodes, the plot became a little too convoluted and difficult to follow. However, it does an excellent job of setting up the mysteries of the bizarre powers people have, and how they got them.

I would recommend this one to anyone who likes their anime to have supernatural mystery and sex without turning into Hentai.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Princess Princess Anime Disc 1 - Boys Will Be Girls

Overall Rating: A
Synopsis: Princess Princess is a Shōjo series based on the manga of the same name. The anime follows Toru Kouno on his first day at a new all-boys school, Fujimori, the most elite school in the area. Things are a bit strange at the school, and Toru immediately notices all the other boys looking at him, and obviously happy to see him. To make things even weirder, his homeroom teacher (who is also male) comments on how attractive Toru is.

As it turns out, the school has a very interesting tradition. Each year they select the most attractive boys to become Hime, or princesses in order to add some excitement for the other boys. The princesses dress up as girls and attend school functions and act as fake idols.

When Toru arrives, there are already two other Princesses, Yujiro and Mikoto, who treat the job very differently. Yujiro seems to enjoy it, while Mikoto obviously hates the job (it turns out that he has a girlfriend and is worried about what she will think). We also find out that while becoming a Princess is, in theory, optional, if someone refuses or quits, they are usually expelled from the school.

It's not all bad though, if Toru agrees, all of his meals, clothes, and other expenses are paid for, and he gets to be late or absent from class with no repercussions.

At first, Toru seemed upset by the idea of becoming a Princess, but after hearing about the benefits, he immediately agrees and becomes the third Princess.

I love this anime. It's hilarious, and has some very interesting gender play going on. For example, there is a scene where the Princesses need to change into the outfits the Home Economics club made for them. The start to change in front of the club, but the members stop them. Confused the Princesses ask "But aren't we all boys?" To which the members say, "We know that, but please don't ruin our dreams." If you like your Shōjo to have comedy and boys dressing as girls, this is the one for you.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pumpkin Scissors Volume 1

Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: Pumpkin Scissors is a military drama manga with a healthy dose of comedy created by Ryoutarou Iwanaga. The series is set in a fictional world, similar to Western Europe that does not have wireless communication or automatic weapons. The manga is set five years after the end of the war between the Royal Empire and the Republic of the Frost. Starvation, pestilence, and soldiers who have turned into bandits plague the countryside, and in response the military has created "Imperial Army State Section III" also known as "Pumpkin Scissors" to aid in the war relief effort.

Led by a member of one of the noble families, 2nd Lieutenant Alice L. Malvin, the group is a rag tag team with little funding and even less respect. Some consider the group a waste of resources, and others consider them a propaganda tool for the military, but the team itself seems to take the matter seriously (at least sometimes). Things start to change when they meet Corporal Randel Oland, a veteran of the mysterious 901 ATT. The infamous Gespenst Jäger (Ghost Hunter) squad who single-handedly take down tanks. These dudes are crazy. In the first volume, we meet everyone and see some examples of what the Pumpkin Scissors are working to fix.

I won't lie, I read Pumpkin Scissors because of the name. It sounded weird and interesting so I checked it out. What I got was a world that intrigued me, but not quite enough to really draw me in yet. I'm definitely interested in finding out more about the Invisible 9 (secret platoons of which the Gespenst Jäger is one), and I like Alice a lot, but there isn't a concrete plot yet, and the other characters don't do much for me. Hopefully, Volume 2 will build on this and I'll get drawn in.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Venus Versus Virus Anime Disc 1

Overall Rating: D
An anime series based on the manga of the same name, Venus Versus Virus follows Sumire, a school girl with the ability to see Viruses. These Viruses are demons who devour the souls of humans. She has teamed up with Lucia and the Venus Vanguard, a team dedicated to fighting the Viruses, and can even turn into a human anti-virus to fight them. Unfortunately, this power is a double-edged sword, and in her berserker state, she is also a threat to her allies.

Some of you may remember when I reviewed the manga here, and gave it a glowing review. When I heard they were making an anime of the manga, I was excited to say the least. That excitement quickly turned to disappointment and confusion less than five minutes into the anime.

The anime version of the series doesn't introduce the characters, drops you into the middle of plot with no explanation, and has inserted a random small girl into the story for apparently no reason other than to pander to the audience. The characters you recognize from the anime (the leads Lucia and Sumire in particular) act nothing like their manga counter parts, and are far less interesting.

The result is a pretty anime, that leaves a lot to be desired from fans of the manga (speaking of which, the second volume is out, and it's great!).

I gave it a D instead of an F, because it wasn't devoid of promise, and I think that if I hadn't read the manga I would have given it more of a chance. As it is, I only made it through 2 and a half episodes before deciding I was just going to get more frustrated the longer I watched.

If you haven't read the manga yet, and watch the anime, let me know what you think, and then read the manga. It's a lot better in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Fall In Love Like A Comic Volume 1

Overall Rating: D
Synopsis: Fall in Love Like a Comic! (should be Like a Manga) is a romantic comedy shōjo manga by Chitose Yagami. The story centers around Rena Sakura, a mangaka and high school student, and Tomoya Okita, a hot high school boy. Rena wants to get a boyfriend in order to write better romances, so she proposes that Tomoya be her boyfriend to help her. This leads to the inevitable "I'm actually in love with you" moment, where Tomoya declares his love for Rena. This leads to shenanigans as their relationship is tested by Rena's success as a mangaka, and Tomoya gets an acting role in a movie adaptation of her work.

You know those series where the male and female lead have a clear attraction, but never seem to get together? That's frustrating, but can be interesting. Fall in Love Like a Comic! is frustrating because the plot is about a mangaka making her work more believable by falling in love herself. If we apply this concept (you have to be in love to write a good romance), then I would have to recommend that Chitose Yagami fall in love. The romance between Rena and Tomoya feels forced and unbelievable.

Where I had been hoping to find a new twist on high school romance (a mangaka trying to find inspiration), all I got was a romance I didn't care about, and some half-decent jokes. The only thing humorous in the book is how many times Rena melts (literally her body is drawn as going all "melty" or “mero mero” when Tomoya holds her. In short, I recommend skipping this one.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Last Exile Anime Review - Disc 1

Overall Rating: A-
Synopsis: A steampunk anime by Gonzo Studios, and falls squarely in the adventure category. The story follows Claus Valca and Lavie Head, two orphans who make their living as couriers. Claus is an expert pilot (apparently, just like his father), and Lavie is his navigator in the steampunk world of Prester. Of course, they make some money on the side running races in their vanship.

Unfortunately for Claus and Lavie, they get caught in the middle of a war between two countries, Anatole and Dysis, when they run into (almost literally) another courier with a package with a 7 Star (they had just finished a 3 star run, their most difficult one yet) danger rating. The "package" is a small girl named Alvis Hamilton, whom they must deliver to the battleship "Silvana".

Silavana is a neutral party in the war, and everyone seems to be afraid of them. Probably because when they enter one fight, they might help you or shoot you down. You don't fucking know, they're crazy like that. On top of all of that, there are crazy-looking robot ships that are hunting the girl down, but we have yet to learn why.

So far, I want to love this series. I almost do, but it's going to take at least another disc worth of plot before I can commit. It's showing a lot of promise though. Regarldess, it's gorgeous, and if you love steampunk half as much as I do, check this series out.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Socrates In Love

Overall Rating: A+
Synopsis: Also known as "Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World" in Japan, this manga is an adaptation of the Japanese novel written by Kyoichi Katayama. The story follows Sakutaro "Saku" Matsumoto as he looks back on his relationship with Aki Hirose. From the beginning, we know how the story ends, with Aki's death, but the journey there is compelling and touching.

The two meet in junior high, and from the beginning have a clear connection to each other. Everyone else thinks they're dating, and it's pretty clear they both want to be with one another. They share audio diaries, go on excursions together, and enjoy summer vacation. In High School, they finally give in to their feelings, and start dating. Unfortunately, it's then that things start going wrong, Aki develops Leukemia and it doesn't look like she's getting better. Can young love survive this tragedy?

Socrates in Love made me cry. I'm struggling to describe why I like it so much without sounding cliched, but the characters and story felt real, and the relationship between Saku and Aki reminded me of how it felt to be young and in love. Despite the weighty subject matter (like I said, you know that Aki is going to die from the beginning of the book), I wanted to find out more about the characters, and found the story very engaging. This is an excellent manga, and I highly recommend it, but be prepared and have some tissues ready.