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You know, I've never actually counted...  All I can really tell you is that I've watched more that I've reviewed, because I started out watching everything alphabetically, and I never got into reviewing until Blue Gender so utterly failed me.

Edited by Hicks

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I Dream of Mimi

(3 episode OVA)

This '90s vintage OVA is a guilty pleasure, and not just because of the nostalgia factor of the visual design. You see, this is an ecchi, which means lots and lots of naked boobies to those of you unfamiliar with animu terminology. ;) That automatically tends to put it in the "pandering, not good" category for me, much like Sekirei and High School of the Dead. This isn't because I dislike fan service or anything -far from it- but when it becomes the point of the show, I guess I don't see the point of it when I can just watch out and out porn if I want to look at boobs, and (probably) real ones at that. ontome.gif What sets I Dream of Mimi apart for me, though, is mainly its subject matter, which has the effect of doubling the nostalgia factor - computers.

Much like Chobits, this OVA follows*sigh* rolleyes1_zps35045579.gif an average high school student named Akira Takaoka, who through happenstance comes to own a computer that looks like a young woman, and hijinks ensue. Unlike Chobits, though, is that said computer, Mimi, isn't retarded. I can't tell you how refreshing that is after having seen more than once series that follows the same basic structure of what's come to be called the "magical girlfriend" genre. Usually this entails a "normal" male character having an unusual female character foisted upon him, and then having to somehow explain her off to all of this friends and acquaintances because he doesn't want them to think he actually has a girlfriend for whatever reason. But while most shows of this genre dance around the two of them coupling, due to the male character wanting to be chivalrous and "pure" or whatever, in this OVA, Mimi rapes Akira with her mouth within minutes of being let out of her box, so she can get his "user input".

Well, I did say this was a guilty pleasure, didn't I? ;)

Anyway, Akira is basically fooled into buying Mimi from some shady character in an alley whose motivation is never explained or explored. He was actually after a normal PC that was supposed to be on sale, but was sold out by the time he got to the store, so at first he's actually upset that he has a seemingly sentient bio-android instead of a computer. Of course this isn't made any better by the two of them almost immediately being attacked by another bio-android like Mimi that wrecks the hell out of his house. Being Japan, this entails a battle of two machines that throw energy beams/balls at each other, though in this case it also involves sticking disks that have the pre-programmed attacks into Mimi's "front drive slot". With Mimi being fully functional and anatomically correct, you can probably guess what that is. ;) Akira (and the audience) is then further shocked to learn what upgrading Mimi's memory entails, because apparently bio-androids can make physical memory out of spooge. And since her "front drive slot" is already in use, we now have a new catch phrase for anal - giving her a memory upgrade. richard.gif

While most animes of this genre involve the protagonist giving his newfound magical girlfriend some kind of fake identity, this is about the only one I've seen that involves hacking the government's mainframe to actually make a legitimate identity. And of course by hacking, I mean actually entering the computer/network, which inevitably leads to battles with other computers.


"I fight for the user."

This eventually leads to foiling some kind of secret evil plan that involves American Macintosh-I mean Nackintosh computers invading Japan's computer network and sucking all of their breasts to get all of their data, since breasts are hard drives on bio-androids, apparently. Naturally this leads to Mimi saving the day, and Akira gaining a harem. :D

As you can tell, there really isn't a lot to this OVA, and not just because it's only three episodes long. And while you might expect the dub to not be all that great given when this OVA was made, to be honest, there just isn't a whole lot of enthusiasm from any of the voice actors, even in the Japanese dub, and it's not hard to see why. Mostly this just added to the enjoyment my friends and I had watching this, in a so bad its good kind of way. Plus, there's the nostalgia factor; I mean, anyone else remember when Quadras and Performas were the shiznit back in the day? No? Well, this is kind of what I'm talking about when I mention that I'm the right age to be an old school anime fan, even if I'm only just now watching these older shows.

So while there are some darker aspects that just kind of lead me, as someone now pretty familiar with anime, to say something along the lines of, "facepalm3.gif Oh, Japan...," overall I still enjoyed this series, even if it isn't what I'd consider to be "good." It's thin on plot, and characterization, making heavy use of clichés and character types, and with the only enthusiasm coming from the animators, but it's still fun and thoroughly entertaining to watch. Still, its lack of quality does lead to a somewhat low score, overall. 7/10. Not bad for computer pr0n. thumbup.gif

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Fist of the North Star - Season 1

(109 episode series)

I first learned of this series, which originally aired in '84-'87, from the Anime Abandon look at the 1986 movie. Looking into it further, I found that both the movie and the series were done by the same people at essentially the same time. This lead me to believe that there was a chance that the movie's Charlie Foxtrot nature was due to it actually being a compilation movie based on the series, much in the same way both Blue Gender and Gurren Lagann have compilation movies made out of them. I wasn't especially kind to those movies, and I really raked the Fist of the North Star movie over the coals, too, as the only real appeal to that movie is the '80s corn, anime clichés, and ultra-graphic ultra-violence. So, even though the large number of episodes was somewhat daunting, I decided to give the series a chance, for giggles and grins if nothing else.

While the series' main appeals are essentially the same as the movie's, it's infinitely more watchable due to the story being more paced out and spread out over its episodes rather than having all of its elements crammed into a movie with no sense of the structure movies are supposed to have. I also found many elements were different between the movie and the series, such as the character of Toki, who is one of four adopted brothers who were training in the Hokuto Shin-Ken (Fist of the North Star) martial art, along with Kenchiro, the protagonist of the series, Jagi, and Roah. Toki is actually a pretty major part of the story in the series, as are many of the other characters who are essentially reduced to cameo roles in the movie. Then there's the way the final fight of the movie between Roah and Ken is actually a mixture of a raid Ken and his allies conducted on a prison city to rescue Toki, and the first fight between Ken and Roah. The sudden end to the fight in a draw by Roah make slightly more sense in the series, in part due to attempted character depth, and in part due to Ken actually being more evenly matched with Roah. So I'd actually liken the 1986 movie to the Toward the Terra and Cyborg 009 movies, which also came out in the '80s. This is because I feel the movie and series were separate adaptations of the source manga, even if the same production staff worked on both projects, and just as with the two movies I just mentioned, the production team made the mistake of trying to put too much from the long-running manga into a movie.

Anywho, it was obvious to me not very long into the first episode that this series was meant for a fairly young crowd. Sure, there's the fact that the series cuts back on the graphicness of the many, many deaths by either coloring the gushing blood white or black, or by cutting to silhouette before their various body parts exploded or fell apart from the various made-up martial arts being used on them, but I'm referring more to the mentality of the series. What I mean by that is the type of morality being shown, with the various bad guys Ken ends up exploding being very one-dimensional bullies. Ken represents the counter to that, then, where those with strength should use their strength to defend those weaker to them rather than preying on them. So basically Ken is the kind of characters little kids can fantasize about having to defend them from bullies who beat up on them, or fantasize about being so they can beat up those bullies themselves. Then there's the way a narrator will excitedly describe all the various made-up martial arts being used on the show, which usually are then never seen or mentioned again. Kind of the same thing whenever one of the established characters pull some new move out of their ass, too. The series is also very childish in how it views male and female gender roles, even though there's the whole Japan misogyny thing in there, too. Incidentally, one of the characters, Rei, shows his affection for one of the female characters, Mamiya, by ripping her clothes off at least twice. Rei is supposed to be one of the good guys, by the way. He also gives Mamiya crap because she has chosen to be a warrior and a leader to her villiage, rather than being "just a woman." The series treats every female warrior that way, and felt the need to give all of them some kind of tragic background to explain how and why they became a warrior.

So after saying all of that, you might think I kind of hated this series, when in fact I have something of a strange fondness for it. It isn't what I'd consider to be "good," but it is very watchable. Basically it has a lot of the same appeal of the movie - the '80s corn, anime clichés and general ineptness I like to laugh at, and random shit like Ken punching a WWII tank to death, and at another point fighting Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Yes, really, though to the show's credit, they don't lampshade it.

There are also things like Ken's signature "Ya-ta-ta-ta!" as he rapidly punches or kicks someone or something that make the show amusing to watch from a so-bad-its-good perspective. On top of that, the story actually does manage to be somewhat interesting to follow, even if it can be a bit repetitive at times. And by repetitive, I mean that in some ways this series reminds me of Casshern Sins in that much of it consists of the main character wandering a barren wasteland on foot, coming across people he ends up killing. Still, I often found myself wanting to marathon through many episodes in a row so I could find out how something turned out. So the story is something of a mixed bag, because on the one hand there's a general ineptness that can be either annoying or amusing, and on the other there's a somewhat interesting story going on. I honestly almost quit early on in the series because of how formulaic the episodes seemed to be getting, but I decided to hang in there, and I'm happy I did because the series eventually does get better.

So, for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here are the basics. In 199X, the world erupts into nuclear war, and the survivors are forced to eke out an existence in a desert world. While uncontaminated food and water are (supposedly) hard to come by, the good news is that there's plenty of hair dye, clown makeup, and football armor left over once all the bombed out stores have been looted. So you could say that there are plenty of similarities to Mad Max, but then the creators of Fist of the North Star admitted as much. They never really explained how in this world of scarcity that so many men are able to grow into muscle-bound giants, or how characters are able to find wood for campfires in the middle of the nuclear wasteland, but whatever. The story seems to be set only a short time after the nuclear holocaust, although other aspects of the story make it seem like almost a century has past, but that isn't really all that important to the simplistic plot.

The plot basically has Ken facing various foes who are also experts at some type of made-up martial art. First is Shin, who almost killed Ken, and took Yuria, his fiancé, for himself. So Ken is initially out for revenge on Shin and to rescue Yuria from him. Of course by the time he get there, his princess is in another castle, so to speak. The series is also somewhat manipulative when it comes to Yuria and a few other characters, and at times it can feel like they're pulling stuff out of their fourth point of contact. Like how the "Last Nanto General" is always drawn masculinely, even if covered head to toe in armor, all so they can pull a Samus on us. Anyway, the story is split up into various arcs that separate the series into 4 distinct parts in the first season, each dealing with a primary antagonist Ken and his allies must face. Last is his adopted older brother, Roah, who names himself Ken-Oh and swears to conquer heaven, right after he's finished conquering Earth. He also looks like something right out of Heavy Metal.


Incidentally an image I wish the people I glowered at from my forklift could see.

The characters, like every other aspect of the series, are also something of a mixed bag. Ken, the main character, is actually pretty bland. And while at times this can actually be a bit fun, like when he tells a foe that they're already dead right before their head explodes, it's a little annoying in how Superman-like his character can be. Not only can he regenerate the clothes he shreds by flexing his muscles during a fight, but he can also regenerate himself at will, even after being severely injured. One almost wonders why he wasn't able to heal the wounds that produced his signature big dipper scar before they'd actually turned into scars. But really, the thing with him is that there's no real drama with him. He's incorruptible, and frankly unbeatable. If there's any drama to be had, it's if he can manage to save other characters before they can be killed by the various bad guys Ken ends up fighting.

Then there's Lynn and Bart, the moé and comedy relief, respectively, and who also have the most annoying voice actors out of the entire cast. Say what you will about early English dubs, the voice actors for the English dub of the 1986 movie were a lot less annoying. Of course the voices fitted the characters, because they were also really annoying. Lynn, even though she's like 6, apparently gets a crush on Ken after he saves her and cures her muteness. She becomes even more clingy than Overly Attached Girlfriend, following Ken around and usually putting herself and Ken in danger as a result. Bart is mostly only annoying because of his stupid little schemes.

Yuria, the McGuffin, is annoying mainly through her passiveness, in keeping with the Japanese view on women, apparently. There's also the way every man who sees her apparently falls in love with her, all because she represents the "mother star" or some bullshit like that. Like Ken, she's also pretty flat, though with her it was kind of amusing the way Shin would keep doing horrible things in a misguided effort to win her over, even though she'd tell him right up front that she thought those things were horrible.

Speaking of Shin, one of the more positive aspects of the series was that it actually attempted to give its antagonists more than one dimension, at least the main antagonists like Shin and Roah, anyway. Roah in particular, despite being an evil bastard who stated that he was totally going to kill both Ken and Toki, eventually broke down crying and found that he couldn't bring himself to follow through with it, stopping just short of killing them both, and eventually he even gave some of this life force (somehow) to Yuria in order to extend her life so she and Ken could be together for longer. [spoilerS] This also had the effect of allowing Ken to defeat him. [/spoilerS]

So what's the bottom line? Well, I'm not going to give this series a very high score - it just doesn't have what I would consider to be actual quality deserving of a high score. But I would still recommend this series if you just want to see something for the fun of it. It may seem pretty daunting given the episode count, but keep in mind the age of this series. Much like Armored Trooper VOTOMS, this series saves a lot on animation by having a lot of its overall 24 minute run time taken up by its long opening theme and end credits, and varying lengths of recap. This makes most episodes only 15-20 minutes long. Many of these episodes are also only recap episodes, and can be skipped through pretty rapidly for what little new content is in them, or even skipped entirely. This is actually a bit ridiculous in some ways, because the end of Part 3 is taken up by 5 recap episodes, and Season 1 itself is actually ended with a recap episode. So you could probably breeze right through this series in a couple of free weekends. 3/10.

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Robot Carnival

(1987 movie)

It's films like this that really make me like '80s anime. An anthology, it showcases the work of nine different animation directors, some of whom were just starting out as directors. A more modern example might be Halo Legends or Batman: Gotham Knight, with the main difference being that those examples had entire studios behind the short stories that made up those movies, and the shorts in this movie are the work of only one to two individuals. Really, though it was done by a different studio, this movie could be thought of as another example of Neo Tokyo, which I reviewed earlier.

I can't help but feel the need to gush about this movie, and about '80s anime in general, really. There's a level of detail to it that you just don't see in modern anime, in spite of the fact that technology has actually made it easier to create animation compared to when this movie was made. True, there are some real stinkers, some of which I've already reviewed, but what decade doesn't have its fair share of them? Then there's the subject matter, with older anime seeming to be a lot more willing to delve into sci-fi than modern anime, which seems way more interested in the antics of some nerdy high school kid(s). Compare that to robots running amok in Robot Carnival and Neo Tokyo, and frankly I find them a lot more interesting to watch, but that's me. ;) This movie and others like it also serve as something of a time capsule, and there's an added level of entertainment due to the '80s corn.


So very, very '80s...

Getting back to the actual review, as I mentioned, this movie is an anthology, made up of 8 distinct short stories, with only two of them having any actual dialog. This actually made for a pretty interesting contrast, as stories being told entirely visually isn't something that's done very often. That being said, the types of stories being told vary greatly in tone, and also in the amount of symbolism being used. Most of them are comedies, though some are dramas, with one in particular being quite sad, at least in my opinion. This does leave me with something of a problem, as I'm not entirely sure how to go about reviewing this movie. It's obvious that I'm going to have to discuss each story individually, but I'm somewhat reluctant to go into too much detail, because frankly I think you should watch this movie for yourself and I don't want my review to make that seem like it would be redundant.

Opening/Ending/Epilogue: Much like Neo Tokyo, this movie also has a kind of framing story. The difference here is that in Robot Carnival, it's much more meta, directly referencing the title by making it a giant sand crawler, reaping destruction across a swath of the post-apocalyptic desert. It's rather cartoonish, and has a very dark sense of humor, making death and destruction kind of funny. The ending actually shows a brief history of the carnival, back when it was more of a traveling circus, but even the opening kind of hints at this. Essentially, this sequence continues the theme of the short "The Order to Stop Construction" from Neo Tokyo of robots becoming destructive if left on their own for too long. This shouldn't be much of a surprise, though, as both stories were done by the same director, whose dark humor would later go on to produce Kite and Mezzo Forte. Incidentally, the visual style of this piece also reminded me a bit of Nausicaä, which made it a little more amusing for me.

Franken's Gears: There isn't a whole lot to this short, which is mostly just fun to watch. It's about a crazy old scientist who builds a robot, Frankenstein style in an appropriate-looking laboratory, filled with old school sci-fi equipment, which includes plenty of levers, hand cranks, and giant gears. It's a bit slap-sticky, cartoon sound-effects and all, and yet very fitting of this film's theme, which includes some more dark humor thanks to the scientist's creation imitating him a little too well. The sci-fi nerd in me noted some similarity to old-school German sci-fi, but that's about all the more I could tell you about this short, other than that it was kind of fun to watch.

Deprive: This is a very stereotypical '80s anime sci-fi, featuring an alien invasion, a kidnapped girl, and a heroic robot who comes to her rescue. That's pretty much it, aside from the fact the heroic robot somehow is able to make himself look like a generically good looking '80s guy (according to anime standards), and that the bad guy in charge of the alien robot invaders looks like an '80s rock star (seen in the first picture). It was also kind of fun to watch, though more for the '80s corn than anything.

Presence: This is my favorite short of the entire anthology, and is frankly the only one that has any real layers to it. It takes place in a kind of neo-Victorian setting, which might take a little explaining. basically, most of the architecture and dress of the characters in this setting scream Victorian England, yet there are extremely human-looking androids, hover cars, and a huge cyber-punk factory made entirely of pipes and valves that dwarfs the town most of the action is set in. The main character of this short is a rather stiff man who seems to have a strained relationship with his family, apparently at least in part due to the fact his wife seems to be the primary bread winner while he works in a factory and tinkers with toys and his sex-bot in his spare time.

Okay, to be fair this isn't explicitly stated, it's just that he made an android who looks like a young '80s female pop star, and mentions some stuff about not really feeling fulfilled with his marriage and needing something more "fundamental," so what else am I supposed to think. Plus this short isn't exactly lacking in symbolism, even to someone fairly oblivious to it.



This short might actually be kind of fun to analyze, though my own take on it is fairly straightforward. For me, the sadness comes from the loneliness of the robot this man creates, apparently out of a sense of emptiness within himself. However, much like this his family, he seems unwilling or unable to emotionally connect with his creation, and this is what makes it a little unclear as to what exactly he was hoping to accomplish by building this living doll. Unfortunately for the robot, when she shows him some affection, this causes him to freak the hell out and beat her to death. Years later, his regret manifests itself when he starts seeing visions of his robot reaching out to him, and the sort plays with the audience a bit as to whether the visions are actually real or not. My own interpretation of this man's creation is that the robot is actually an idealized version of his wife, because until the very end of the short, her face is purposely left obscured. Apparently, the robot's open affection for him was just too much for him to handle for whatever reason, but like I said, this is my interpretation of what I saw.

This is also one of only two dubbed shorts, and while some people like to bitch no matter what about dubs, I actually quite liked the dubbing here. Effort was put into it to make it fit the setting, and I thought it helped add to the mood as much as the effective, if simple soundtrack. I did try watching the Japanese version for comparison, but unfortunately the subs followed the same script as the dub, so all I can really say is that the Japanese version had a lot less dialog in it.

Star Light Angel: A little more standard fare, this short follows a teenager and her best friend as they spend an evening at a robot theme park. They do pretty typical teenager stuff, so much so that the lack of dialog is no impediment on the story structure. This includes finding out in the most awkward way possible that her boyfriend is a complete bastard who started cheating on her with her best friend, with the two of them apparently unaware of the other's connection to the main character. So basically this short is typical teenage soap opera drama, but with robots. This includes a fight with a giant robot that appears out of thin air, because anime. Again, not much depth here, but enjoyable to watch nonetheless, if nothing else because it looks so awesome.

Cloud: I can't say I really cared for this short, which really stands out from all the others. It's about a robot born out of a cloud, that walks in front of clouds, until finally becoming a real boy at the end. Supposedly, the clouds represent time or some such, and at times I did make out the shapes of dinosaurs, and the anime version of "The Creation of Adam," weeping angels, followed up very quickly by the apparent nuclear armageddon. All while our little jaded robot apparently doesn't notice, apart from the weather becoming crappier during the nuclear war. According to what I read, there was supposed to be Romans and stuff in there, but I sure never saw it. Visually, it's very plain and simple, storyboard-like, really. Personally it's something I'd skip through on rewatching this movie.

A Tale of Two Robots: This is apparently a parody of WWII-era Japanese propaganda, and I can definitely see it. It's set in the 1800s and features a giant robot fight, because what's anime without giant robots. Steampunk fans would also probably like the fact that the Japanese mecha is wooden and steam-powered to contrast the Westerner's electrically-powered brick mecha. Story-wise, it features a "Westerner" trying to take over Japan with his giant mecha, "the product of his genius" as he calls it. In his way stands a small group of Japanese, who just so happen to have made a giant mecha out of wood for a parade that had been planned for the festival that was being interrupted by this foreign invasion. Destruction abounds, and much fun is to be had, as the writer/animator obviously had tongue very firmly in cheek.


Also, this happens.

There was apparently some butthurt over the dub of this short, with those involved being accused of racism for making the Japanese very Engrishy voices. The people upset about this should be slapped and kneed in the groin, because the fact that this short was a parody of WWII propaganda was apparently lost on them, with the dub company adding to it by parodying American WWII-era propaganda. Incidentally, the Japanese dub actually does have an English-speaking voice actor as the Westerner, which is why there are hard-subs for Japanese audiences during all of his dialog. Unfortunately I can't judge the Japanese, as I don't speak it and the subs provided only repeated the English dub.

Nightmare: Older anime seems a lot more influenced by Western culture and animation, which isn't surprising as the big-eyed look of anime is actually derived from the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, being influenced by Disney. Which makes it that much more ironic because this short seems to be very heavily influenced by two Disney works. Essentially, this is another "robots run amok" short, which is very reminiscent of Neo Tokyo's "The Order to Stop Construction," in just the shear scope of the robot action. It's also very reminiscent of Fantasia's "Night on Bald Mountain" in that as darkness falls in downtown Tokyo, a robotic Chernabog suddenly appears and begins to create robots out of random objects and machines scattered throughout the city with the help of a robot "horseman." I call him that, because while all this is going on, a single drunken homeless man awakens to see the machines overrunning the city, and tries to run away while the "horseman" chases him. The drunken human has often been called the chicken man, and I can't help but be reminded of the Disney version of Ichabod Crane. Of course, the director admitted as much, so there's that added bit of fun to this short. There's also how almost all sound during this short is made using musical instruments. Overall, it's pretty fun to watch, and it's actually one of my favorite shorts of this movie.

If I could gush over another aspect of this movie besides its animation, I'd also like to highlight the music used throughout this movie. Each short was given a distinct sound, which was perfectly appropriate for them, and helped to set the mood for each of them. Much of it is very '80s, but then, as I said, that isn't really a bad thing in my opinion, as it helps to make this movie a kind of time capsule. There was a certain fascination with robots in the '80s, besides just in Japan, and this movie perfectly captures that while having fun, as well as taking a moment or two to explore the more sci-fi aspects of artificial life.

I can't encourage you enough to watch this movie. Honestly, I wish that there were more movies like this, as long as the quality was at least as high as this movie's. Here's the trailer made for the American release. Really, seeing the trailer and reading even less about this movie than I've written about it right now was enough to get me to give this movie a try, so I hope the information I've given you can help you.

It's kind of hard for me to stick a rating on this due to its nature, but I think it was a bit better than Neo Tokyo, which I gave a 7. I think I'll rate this movie an 8/10, then.

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Girls und Panzer

(12 episodes + 7 OVA episodes)

This series is what happens when you mix sports anime, Japanese school girls, and history nerd fap material.  Which is to say that this series is essentially fluff with a focus on WWII tank combat, but with cute high school girls, since that’s apparently a thing now.  At first I wasn’t sure what to think when I heard about this series, but I already knew about shows like Strike Witches, so I was pretty sure this would be more in the same vein as that, which did not appeal to me in the least other than to possibly make fun of.  But, as with a few other series, my friends talked me into watching it, and I actually wound up enjoying it.

The series mainly follows Miho Nishizumi, a recent transfer student who actually initially tries to hide her background as a tank operator from a long line of tank operators.  In fact, she transferred to Ōarai Girls Academy, one of many scaled up aircraft carrier ships that serve as something akin to a floating university town, specifically because it didn’t have a Sensha-dō (Way of the Tank) team.  I’ll get into the reason why later.  What matters is that the three-person student council find out and basically shanghaies her into being the commander of a Panzer IV D, because as it turns out, Ōarai actually used to have a tank team, and they are restarting it in order to compete in that year’s Sensha-dō competition.  So, like I said, sports anime, but with tanks.

Ōarai’s Sensha-dō team is pretty small compared to the other teams, which they face one after another, starting with a British-themed school.  Ōarai is also somewhat unique in that while all the other teams are focused on one particular nationality, they have tanks from Germany, the US, and Japan.  Incidentally, Miho is from a German-themed school, which is probably why she ended up in the Panzer.  The Ōarai team is also somewhat unique in that while the other teams seem to be really hardcore into it, some of their members have to be convinced to join, and they are largely made up of misfits.  So really it’s an underdog story.  Even more so due to the fact that they apparently have to win the tournament or their school will be shut down, since aircraft carriers aren’t exactly the cheapest things to operate, even if they are manned almost entirely by schoolgirls. Eh, I guess it makes as much sense as anything else, like how the tanks are able to shoot each other without blowing each other up and killing or maiming any of their occupants.  Anyway, this does give it a pretty clichéd feel, not unlike something like Remember the Titans, but the show was fun enough for me to overlook it, because everything is cuter when anime school girls do it.  :3  I suppose there’s also some fondness on my part for this series due to my current obsession with the online game World of Tanks, which actually has most of the tanks featured in this series.

I think my biggest problem with this series comes from the conflict between Miho and her sister and mother from the Kuromorimine Girls Academy that has a German theme.  This is the school Miho transferred from, where at one point she was the commander of the flag tank of the Kuromorimine team.  The reason why she transferred and didn’t want anything to do with tanks anymore was because in the final match of the Sensha-dō competition against Pravda, a Soviet-themed school, she abandoned her tank to save the crew of another tank that had fallen into a river and was going to drown.  Subsequently, the flag tank was shot and “killed,” which is the way Sensha-dō matches are won.  So basically, everyone except the girls whose lives she saved blame and shun her over this as a display of weakness.  I’m guessing this is largely an example of values dissonance, because I don’t understand this at all.  She saved people from dying in the course of playing what is effectively a game.  In my opinion, that would make her a big damn hero, but apparently to even her own mother this made her a coward and a weakling – risking her own life to save the lives of others.  This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if it wasn’t so heavily focused on in the series.  Still, it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the series all that much, it’s just that it was really stupid as a source of conflict and it kept being revisited.  That and it was only resolved in the sense that Miho showed her mother and sister that she was able to use her more flexible tank tactics to win against their very strict and rigid doctrine.

It’s a pretty entertaining series overall, with each match having a pretty unique flavor to it, with the antics of the various team members providing a large amount of the fun.  It’s also a pretty satisfying build-up and pay-off for the finale, which turns out about like you’d expect.  True, this means the series is pretty predictable except for the finer details, but considering that this show is basically action fluff that aims mainly to make you laugh and nerd out over the tanks, I don’t really hold that against this predictability against it.  Not everything has to be high art, after all.  ;)

The OVAs are also largely fluff, with only one episode even being full length.  That one focuses on a battle that was actually skipped in the series proper, against an Italian-themed school. The other OVA episodes are your requisite beach and hot springs episodes, along with one that only consists of the Ōarai girls dressed up as anglerfish doing the Anglerfish Dance.  As such, they aren’t terribly long, but they do make a pretty fun addition to the overall show.


Normally, I might talk about the characters, but to be honest there isn’t a whole lot to most of them outside of stock characterizations that you might expect from any high school anime.  This isn’t really a bad thing in this case, though, as this actually is where a lot of the humor comes from as per how these characters act given the situations they face in tank combat.  That’s also it’s weakness in that these are very much stock characters, and most of them never really get a chance to develop, or to even be fleshed out much.  There’s some drama in that one of Miho’s crew members comes from a family that does just floral arrangements, and her mother doesn’t like the idea of her daughter tanking, and basically disowns her.  Much as with Miho and her family drama, this is only really resolved through the team winning, like pretty much every underdog-sports genre show ever.  Miho is probably the strongest character of the bunch (naturally as the main protagonist), and also undergoes the most development, changing from being shy and unsure of herself as a leader, to being more confident in her leadership ability and flexible style, thanks to the support from her team.  Of course the upshot is that this show is really only about having fun.  It’s simply playing with the standard moé slice-of-life genre by mixing it with the sports genre, with the twist that the cute girls are doing cute things in tanks.  But while it might not be good in the same sense as Ergo Proxy or Ghost in the Shell, I’d say that it’s still pretty enjoyable to watch just as something fun.  I guess what I’m saying is that while it might still be aimed at selling plastic, at least it had some thought and effort put into it, along with a healthy sense of wit in order to at least do something a bit different with some very cookie-cutter genres that seem to have been flooding the market lately. 

The music score is also one of the fun aspects of this series, and it’s enjoyable to listen to on its own. It adds very much to the sense of whimsy that the show is trying to achieve with the idea of moé high school girls driving tanks (with the juxtaposition of this being traditional and feminine).  Also included are some light renditions of traditional army songs from around the world, like “Panzer Lied” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  Another great addition is a rendition of a traditional Russian folk song, “Katyusha,” sung by the voice actresses of the Russian team Pravda on their way to battle the girls of Ōarai, at least if you watch the original Japanese dub, anyway. 

This actually brings me to a topic I rarely, if ever, broach in my reviews.  I think I’ve mentioned briefly before that I will almost always choose the English-dubbed version of an anime, simply because I prefer to watch anime rather than reading it.  Yes, I’ve heard every argument there is, ranging from preserving the original artistic intent of a work to just straight-up elitism, and I just plain don’t care, because while not every dub lives up to the quality of something like Cowboy Bebop, usually at the very least they are serviceable, unless it’s something from the early, awkward days of localization.  That being said, this dub is far below what I’ve come to expect from a modern anime.  I’ve heard some people complain that American voice actors can never match the moé tone from Japanese dubs.  Since I don’t really care for moé, I honestly don’t give a shit about that personally, but if you do, I’d agree that the English voice talent does not in any way compare with the tone the Japanese actors achieved.  If anything, the English dub seems to be going for “stereotypical Hollywood high school,” and they succeed a sounding like a bunch of bored kids.  I lay this blame almost entirely on the director, as everyone, including what few recognizable voice talent there is (such as Monica Rial and Luci Christian), sounds this way.  Actually, Monica Rial seems to be the only one having any fun.  I’m left with the impression that whoever was behind this localization just didn’t give a shit about this show, and decided that no real effort need go into it.  I’ve watched some really shitty things from the RightStuff/Crunchyroll mystery box that were made during the ADV days that at least managed to have fun with what they were doing, but the Girls und Panzer team seemed like they were doing it more out of obligation.  In any case, I couldn’t make it past the first couple of episodes of the English dub, and I found the original to be much more enjoyable.  In spite of all the tank battles, the pacing manages to be such that even someone like me who isn’t the fastest at reading subtitles can follow along without any trouble.  So this is one of the few times I’ll ever recommend to someone that they go with sub over dub.  Sentai, I am disappoint.  :-[

So I’d say that I definitely enjoyed this series, though it probably helped that I’ve gotten into the game World of Tanks.  Part of my enjoyment came from the concept of anime school girls driving tanks, and part of it came from seeing some of the same kind of antics my friends and I have gotten into in World of Tanks.  The show does not take itself seriously, which is why I’d actually recommend it to anyone, even if you aren’t a tank nerd.  I’d rank this an 8/10 on my nebulous scale of good, which isn’t bad for a series that mainly consists of fluff.

Edited by Hicks

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My Bride is a Mermaid

(26 episode series + 2 episode OVA)

This show is basically a parody of harem rom-coms. I say “basically” because the sense I get out of it is that it tends to have its cake and eat it, too, when it comes to the tropes it’s raking over the coals. As you might guess, though, this series does not take itself seriously in the least, and definitely has its fair share of moments.


Moments like this.

Its humor tends to be of the slapstick variety, although it also tends to be very referential at times, with references to Terminator, Fist of the North Star, Full Metal Panic!, and classic Japanese cinema being among the more common ones. The series also loves to lampshade common romantic comedy tropes, in much the same way The Irresponsible Captain Tylor did for space operas.

Most of the series focuses on protagonist Nagasumi Michishio, though it boasts a very large ensemble cast, most of which gets to shine in some way throughout the series’ run. For me, the refreshing thing is that Nagasumi is not a whiny pathetic loser, and he can and does stick up for himself and others, such as his bride to be, Sun Seto. As you might guess from the title of this show, Sun is a mermaid, who also happens to be the only child of the powerful Seto family, which is head of the Seto gang, a mermaid yakuza group. One day while Nagasumi is vacationing at Seto Bay, he starts to drown and is rescued by Sun, who has a strong sense of morality and chivalry. However, according to mermaid law, the existence of mermaids, who can actually alter their appearance to appear entirely human, must be kept entirely secret from humans. This means that either Sun or Nagasumi (or both as I got out of it) must be killed along with Nagasumi’s parents in order to preserve this secret. The only way out of this is for Nagasumi to marry into the Seto family. And since Nagasumi and Sun share a mutual attraction for one another, this is naturally the option they go with. The hang-ups being that aside from Sun’s mom and a character named Masa, none of the Seto gang like this idea and frequently try to kill Nagasumi, and that the two of them are only middle school aged. So what ends up happening is that Sun goes to live with Nagasumi and attend school with him, and the Setos come along to keep an eye on things since the two of them presumably can’t get married until they reach the age of majority. The catch is, Sun can’t keep her legs from transforming into a tail when splashed with water, and the secret of mermaids existing has to be kept, and thus situational humor. Eh, it works for the most part, especially since later an association is made between the transition of legs to tail and orgasm. ;)

Anyway, there isn’t an overarching plot aside from Nagasumi trying to gain the respect of Sun’s father, and the series as a whole is very episodic aside from the last few episodes of the series proper, and the OVA episodes, which do not deserve their own review. As the series progresses, more characters are added to the ensemble, also adding to the harem aspect of the series, as apparently plain-ol’ Nagasumi is somehow very appealing to many of the female characters for various reasons. Thankfully, there is never much of a will they/won’t they with the other potential love interests, which is something I tend to find annoying with harem animes that tend to be cookie-cutter in nature anyway.

The main strength of this series is its large cast of characters. My favorite of them is hands down Masa, who is a smooth, cool, high-ranking member of the Seto gang that rocks an afro and sunglasses. The running gag of the series is that he’s so attractive even heterosexual males are attracted to him, Nagasumi in particular as Masa “gave him his first kiss” in the process of performing CPR on him in the first episode. He is a pretty cool character, often spouting bits of manly wisdom for Nagasumi and Sun to take to heart.

The series also has a very good English dub, with voices I recognized from other series like Bacanno and Desert Punk, which had a way of adding a layer of amusement for my friends and I. I mean, how can you not love the hell out of the thought of Ladd Russo being a shark? :D

If I can fault this series for anything, it’s that it can get a bit too into the typical rom-com stuff for me, to the point that there was a couple of episodes I actually found quite boring. Also, the OVA basically reset things as far as character growth and

Nagasumi finally earning the respect of Sun’s father and thus his way into the Seto gang by rescuing her from getting raped while otherwise being a narrative continuation of the series by taking place the following school year from what was seen in the series. But other than that this series was very enjoyable to watch, especially considering my dislike of the vast majority of rom-coms. I suppose that has a lot to do with this series not really doing what so many others do as far as having a whiny male protagonist who acts like he’s afraid of women, and doing the will they/won’t they with basically every member of the “harem.”

That being said, I would definitely recommend this series, even if it doesn’t quite rank as a personal favorite for me. It was definitely worth a watch. 8/10.

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The Big O

(26 episode series)


I’m not quite sure what to make of The Big O.  One the one hand, it’s a wonderful mix of film noir, pulp fiction, and old school giant robot anime, and on the other, it’s an odd mix of Twin Peaks and Evangelion.  Well, to be fair, not having watched Twin Peaks yet, I can only go off of what I’ve read about it, so sufficed to say, it gets a little weird, especially at the end.  The ending in particular seems to be a divisive topic among fans, but I’ll get into that later.


The series itself follows protagonist Roger Smith, a rich playboy negotiator, styled very much like Bruce Wayne from Batman: The Animated Series.  He even has a talented British butler who looks after both him and his toys, named Norman Burg, and a femme fatale love interest named Angel who could be compared to Catwoman.



I don’t recall Alfred ever wielding a machine gun, though.


R. Dorothy Wayneright doesn’t really fit the Batman comparison very well, other than as a sidekick of sorts, though she is something of an odd competitor for Roger’s affections given that she’s a gynoid and all. 



One wonders if she’s fully functional and anatomically correct.  ;) 


Of course these comparisons aren’t all that surprising once one considers that Sunrise Studios, the studio responsible for this series, subcontracted with Warner Brothers to help make Batman: The Animated Series.  Though, the other film noir influences, such as the heavily referenced Metropolis, do come as something of a surprise to me given that this series’ country of origin.  Hell, you don’t see much in Western media that uses any of the camera angles or visual design from film noir, for that matter.


Anyway, the story takes place in Paradigm City, which is the audience is initially informed to be the only surviving city following some unknown calamity that took place 40 years prior to the series’ start.  Unknown because no one seems to have any memories from prior to the event, which is why Paradigm’s other name is “The City of Amnesia.”  Some people, Roger Smith included, seem to have memories or memory fragments from before “The Event,” which gives them something of a leg up on everyone else in the city, allowing them to attain great wealth, hence Roger Smith and his primary antagonist, Alex Rosewater.  These memories also make them aware of the existence of the giant robots of the series, called megadeuses, which really represent a form of power, not unlike the lost technology of the killer robots the government in Desert Punk was seeking, and it’s even hinted at that the megadeuses might somehow tie into The Event, perhaps as a cause.  This isn’t helped by the major separation between rich and poor, with the rich living in opulent surroundings enclosed within artificial domes, while the poor live in varying degrees of urban decay, as sections of the city are literally in ruins.  Aside from the close by Electric City, which is in fact a hydroelectric dam, the rest of the world seems to be a desert wasteland.  Underneath everything is a vast network of tunnels, which Roger Smith utilizes to transport his megadeuse, Big O, to wherever he happens to need it by simply calling for it into his radio watch.  And which everyone is apparently afraid of, for some reason (the tunnels, I mean).


The overall story is primarily about discovering just what The Event was, what caused it, and what the world was like prior to it.  Of course, Roger Smith is hardly the only interested party, and this brings him into conflict with others, which leads to the episodic giant robot fights.  Admittedly, a lot of the conflict in each episode could come off as just an excuse to have a giant robot fight, but the atmosphere created by the visuals, score, and yes, the writing, made me personally not really care all that much if the giant robot fights didn’t necessarily fit in all that well with the seeming high art concepts of the series’ influences and overall story.  The mystery of the story’s plot was also a major draw for me, though it could also be a source of frustration, which ties back into the odd ending.



But if all you care about are giant robots punching each other, there’s plenty of that.


The characters were also very well done in this series, with all of them being at least somewhat complex and interesting to watch.  It was easy to get invested in not only Roger Smith’s character, but also R. Dorothy and the more aloof Angel, which was helped somewhat by the odd love triangle between them.  I say odd because it wasn’t exactly straightforward, which in turn made it more interesting to watch as these characters grew attached to each other in their own ways.  There are also friendships, like the one between Roger and Dan Dastun, a Jim Gordan-like character who was a man of integrity who is increasingly frustrated by the government he serves.  Even Alex Rosewater and Alan Gabriel, the series’ main antagonists are fairly complex and are not straightforwardly evil, at least not until fairly late in the series.  Psychotic or sociopathic, maybe, but not evil exactly.


Where the series really misses, in my opinion, is the ending.  I’ve already hinted at how weird it is, but you almost have to watch it for yourself to truly appreciate it.  (This is also major spoiler territory, so skip to the last paragraph if you want to avoid that.)  Everything seems to be leading up to the revelation that everything about Paradigm City is artificial, that the people were grown as mindless vessels complete with barcodes, and given their basic identities 40 year prior to become what they are from that point on, though the motivations behind this remain a mystery.  This also doesn’t gel with an earlier episode which seemingly has Roger Smith wandering as a homeless man through the streets of Paradigm City prior to The Event, encountering people he already knows in much different roles, though they seem to have the same names.  But all of that falls apart in the last episode.  Everything just keeps building and building, like someone blowing up a balloon, and just when you think you’re finally going to get all the answers, someone lets all the air out of that balloon instead.  So instead of the world literally being a stage, we end up with something more along the lines Evangelion, with the world and all the people in it being there specifically because a person decides that they exist.  Then everything resets.  This pissed a lot of people off, but I’d say what I felt was more along the lines of disappointment and disgust.  I kind of felt led on, like with Lost, where all this mystery was built up with no real resolution or pay-off.  Of course the argument could also be made that not everything, or even anything needs to be explained, and that the series is simply leaving things open to interpretation by the audience.  There is some merit to this argument, but while I like a certain amount of symbolism and having to interpret or figure things out for myself, I’m still ultimately disappointed by the story seeming to refuse to resolve itself.  It’s like someone slamming on the brakes just before the end of a rollercoaster ride.  And let’s face it, prior to the second season, this show was pretty straightforward, and it was mostly about giant robots fighting.  So I couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated.


After rewatching it a second time, the show actually did set itself up for its odd ending from the very first episode of its second season.  It’s my understanding that the show was always planned to be a standard 26 episode series, but that it got cancelled and cut short to 13 episodes, with the ending to this first season being made with the hope the show would be picked up again later.  It was, but not for two years, and by the Cartoon Network of all things.  Apparently the show was much better received in the US than in its own country of origin.  It must’ve been frustrating for fans of the show when it originally aired, but for me, marathoning it long after the fact, the most abrupt thing I noticed (aside from the series taking on a weirder tone) was that Norman suddenly had a different voice. 


Looking back at the series as a whole, I can’t help but wonder if how the second half of the series ended up being what it was always meant to be, or if Cartoon Network interfered in some way.  Admittedly, while Roger lost some of his wise-ass humor, the show overall seemed to gain a more comedic tone to it even as the plot got more Ergo Proxy-like.  Still, it very well could be that the “I think therefore you are” was always the original direction of the show, even as unseen or barely seen forces battled to gain memories, or to destroy them, while Roger Smith tried to convince himself that memories weren’t really that important.  And even as the audience was given glimpses of some apocalypse involving giant robots, and we were informed of a program which implanted the memories of others into children, we were also straight up told by the character who wrote about this apocalypse in that Metropolis book that everything in it was a lie.  And wouldn’t you know it, but it turned out to be.  That doesn’t change my disappointment at the ending, though.


Still, I would say that overall I very much enjoyed this series.  It had an interesting story surrounding an intriguing plot, interesting characters, a great visual design and soundtrack, and the dub is right up there with Cowboy Bebop (and even features many of the same voice actors).  I would definitely recommend this series, though it would be with the caveat about the ending being somewhat disappointing.  But if you liked Ergo Proxy and Batman: The Animated Series, chances are you’ll probably like this series.  8/10.

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Blade of the Immortal

(13 episode series)


While somewhat interesting to watch, and featuring fairly complex characters and ideas, I’d say that I found this series to be disappointing more than anything else.


As the title suggests, it follows the exploits of a man who cannot die, or at least is very difficult to  kill, named Manji.  Heavily scarred and missing an eye, he’s known mainly for his body count, allegedly 100.  He served a lord like most samurai, but went rogue and killed his master when he found him to be corrupt.  This made him an outlaw, and as a result he ended up killing his own brother-in-law, a lawman, in front of his younger sister, which was such a shock to her that her mind reverted to that of a child, according to the series’ backstory.  Prior to the series’ start, Manji was infected with some kind of parasitic worms by and old woman, which will quickly heal him and even bring him back to life, even if someone blows his brains out with a musket or chops him into little pieces.  This in media res start is one of the more frustrating aspects to the series, because it left me feeling like I’d missed something, like I was missing the first volume of the series and had actually started a few episodes in.  Still, I was drawn into the series because I wondered if it might not be a bit like Highlander in that it would start in the Edo period and skip ahead to modern Japan.



Largely due to this image from the opening and commercial title card.


Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  I suppose part of my disappointment comes from that, and my lack of interest in hack-n-slash samurai stories in general, since when it came down to it, that’s all this series was.  The novelty comes from the protagonist being able to overcome impossible odds that would kill a normal man, even an especially skilled warrior such as himself, by simply being able to come back to life after being hacked to bits after being overwhelmed or otherwise meeting his match.


As the series starts, Manji is mainly angry at his immortality, and the difficulties in caring for his sister, who damn near eats horse apples because she thinks they’re bean cakes.  He’s ready to go straight from his life of crime, right up until some other men come to avenge the deaths of some of the 100 he’s already killed.  Of course instead of killing him, they end up killing his sister instead.  Following this he swears to kill 1000 evil men to make up for the 100 men he’s murdered in the hopes that the old woman will free him from the blood worms and allow him to die and join his sister in the afterlife.  And thus starts the stereotypical hero’s journey, even if Manji is more of an ani-hero than a hero.  Because as luck would have it, he comes across Rin Asano, who is fresh on a quest to avenge her parents’ deaths at the hands of the Ittō-ryū.  Not terribly skilled as a warrior herself, and being very naïve, she hires Manji as a bodyguard and assassin.  And thus Manji gets a pretty good start on that body count of 1000.


The series is ok-ish.  Production I.G is involved, so as you’d expect, it looks pretty nice.  But the story only held enough of my interest to want to see how it all turned out.  As you might guess from my introduction, the story is pretty much what you’d expect.  Essentially Manji has to take on members of the Ittō-ryū either one on one or in small groups, with varying amounts of difficulty. 


Honestly this aspect of the series comes down to taste, and it just wasn’t to mine.  For me, the real strength of the series was with its characters, ironically more with the antagonists than with the protagonists.  The series was very good about painting the majority of them in a sympathetic light, and even the Ittō-ryū group in general while criticizing an aspect of Japanese culture that is practically deified.  This would be the strict adherence to a particular school of combat, along with the kind of snootiness that tends to come along with belonging to a particular school.  The Ittō-ryū’s ethic is that you do whatever is necessary to win.  Naturally this rubs basically every other school the wrong way, which lead to the Ittō-ryū being ostracized.  In response, the Ittō-ryū started to fight and slaughter the members of these other schools.  Which is what lead them to Rin Asano’s family, as her father was the teacher at one of these schools.  Of course, the thing that put the Ittō-ryū in the wrong was the rape and murder of Rin’s mother, which was done by a particularly sick member of their group.  And just to double down on that, he taxidermied the mother’s head and had it sewn to his shoulder, opposite his wife’s head.  You know, just in case there was any doubt this guy was evil, since I guess there had to be at least one of those.  The leader of the Ittō-ryū, Anotsu Kagehisa, is mainly just cold-blooded, and is only twisted in that he liked to paint odd designs on women’s nude bodies. Yet he does hold to a personal sense of honor, because when Rin attacked him with her pathetic knife-throwing attack (using the Russian method), rather than killing her, he actually gave her constructive criticism and told her to get better at fighting before facing him again.


One particularly weak area was with Rin, which is kind of bad considering how heavily she features in the series.  The series kept going back and forth on the idea of her becoming a fighter, or just settling down and accepting that she was a woman.  It’s a little pathetic that this series from the 2000s would carry essentially the same message as Fist of the North Star from the ‘80s, but I guess that’s Japan for you.  About the best that can be said is that she wasn’t as naïve at the end of the series as she was at the start of it.


As for Manji, there honestly wasn’t a lot to him from what I could see.  He was a somewhat stereotypical anti-hero – a killer that was somewhat remorseful of the deaths he caused, while steadfastly defending the necessity of most of them (self-defense, getting rid of his corrupt leader, killing other bad people, etc.).  He also serves as the pragmatic voice of reason to Rin’s naivety.  The series does kind of tease at ‘shipping them, but nothing ever really comes of it.


Of course, that’s kind of how I feel about the series as a whole.  The ending just kind of sneaks up and never really resolves anything.  The overall watching experience is like maybe you only got the middle volumes in one of Crunchyroll’s random anime boxes.  This may be because the manga the anime was adapted from had not quite finished yet, and there was some hope of a second season that hasn’t yet materialized, or it could because they’re hoping you’ll read the manga.  Either way I’d only rate this series at 7/10.  If you like samurai stuff that’s at least semi-realistic, you might like this show, but in my view it’s nothing really special even in that light.  Really the only thing it has to stand out is the immortality of some of its characters.  I can’t really fault them for their utilization of this factor, as it was decisive in some of the fights, but it just wasn’t enough to make the series stand out in my opinion.

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Princess Jellyfish

(11 episode series)


I’m not sure what it is about shows like this that get so many of my fellow nerds excited.  That’s not to say that I don’t like seeing shows about other nerds, as I liked Otaku no Video (come to think of it I should probably write a review for that show at some point).  But while I haven’t watched shows like The Big Bang Theory or The Community, this is mainly because the things I’m hearing about it in a positive light do not appeal to me in any way.  I’m a nerd, but for me this is a nonissue, and frankly I don’t go out of my way to watch shows about other nerds.  I suppose some of it has to do with seeing negative aspects to a fandom I might be part of.  Kind of like how I consider myself a Trekkie and yet cringe at much of what I saw in the documentaries made about my fandom.  I got another taste of this by watching a couple episodes of America’s Greatest Otaku.  Sure, I can poke fun, but at the same time, I can’t escape the fact that I’d be associated with the aspe uber-nerds from the perspective of someone on the outside looking in on the fandom as a whole.  So I like to just avoid seeing as much of it as possible, because while I can derive some enjoyment out of making fun of it, I just don’t go out of my way to do so.


Before anyone starts in on me, I only watched this series because my friends all voted for it for our little informal anime club.  Plus, at least one of them really liked it and hoped the rest of us would like it, too.  And there’s also the entertainment some of them got out of seeing me suffer through watching a show that emphasizes cuteness and all the cringeworthy things the protagonist and her fellow nerds did.  So if you want to blame someone for the lashing I’m about to give this show, blame them.  ;) 


So as you might guess, I didn’t particularly enjoy this show.  There were a couple aspects to it I liked, though not really in a way I would consider to be objectively good – more in the sense of “fun.”



The uncle character being one of these aspects.


The series follows protagonist Tsukimi Kurashita, a geek who is super-obsessed with jellyfish owing to pleasant memories of time spent at the aquarium with her mother who died when she was still young.  She lives in an apartment building called Amamizukan with other female geeks who also have no job, no formal higher education, or social skills, but apparently have parents who will pay for them to live in their own apartment, otherwise known as NEETs.  They jokingly refer to themselves as being nuns, like most geeky or nerdy people who can’t get laid might, although this is largely due to their inability to be near men out of nervousness or general dislike, along with anyone they might consider to be fashionable.  Along the way, she meets a fashionable drag queen who actually makes a pretty passible woman by anime standards.  Apparently she and her cohorts can overcome the fashionable part (after a while), but not the fact this drag queen, Kuranosuke Koibuchi, is physically male.  So Tsukimi does her best to keep this secret from them and talks Kuranosuke into going only dressed as a woman with this as a requirement for being at Amamizukan on his many frequent visits.


Kuranosuke is the product of an affair between a Western fashion model and a Japanese politician from a family that apparently has a many of its members in politics.  Cross-dressing is apparently his way of being closer to his mother in the sense that she is no longer actually in his life and her location is being kept from him (for reasons never adequately explained), and also to avoid any expectation that he might get involved in politics himself.  He is attending a university for, uh, something, but apparently the writers didn't think it was important enough to ever have him say what it was, or even to depict him at his university for more than a very brief time in one episode.


This series is a romantic comedy, through and through.  There's the standard difficulties couples in pretty much every standard rom-com go through, like not even recognizing they have a thing for each other at first, a bit of a brief love triangle between Kuranosuke, his older half-brother, and Tsukimi, and random drama thrown in to give them an external reason to bring them together.  This is where the main "plot" of the show, I guess, comes in, which is that there is some kind of corporation that wants to develop the area Amamizukan is in, and Kuranosuke has involved himself enough with this group of nerds and what they have there that he practically forces them to rally together to save their own building.  You know, in between giving them makeovers they don’t want, because that’s funny, I guess.  There is also a sub-plot involving Kuranosuke’s half-brother being blackmailed by a woman working for the development company who utilized date-rape drugs to fool him into thinking they’d had a one night stand. 


Bit of a brief side discussion here - I found the bit between the half-brother and this woman to be completely tasteless, mostly because it was played for comedy, and because later on, it was hinted at that the two of them were genuinely developing romantic feeling toward each other.  She drugged him, stripped his clothes off, and staged a photo of herself snuggling up to him in bed with which to blackmail him with.  Which she does, repeatedly.  I guess sexual assault and blackmail is funny when you swap the sexes, apparently. shakehead.gif


Back on topic, most of the series focuses on Tsukimi and her NEET friends, educating the audience on the particulars of NEET culture and what pathetically special little snowflakes they are, usually in the form of a cute little cartoon jellyfish with a pointer and a chalkboard.  I honestly could not care less about any of that crap.  I’ve never been one to walk on eggshells, and if someone is unable to be functional within society, well, I guess I already used the word “pathetic” so there you have it.  About all I can say positive on that end is that at least they all show a little growth.  Well, except for the misanthropic hikikomori manga artist who draws boy-love hentai for a living, who we never actually see on screen.


I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get any laughs out of this show, though, even if they were cruel laughs at the expense of at least some of the characters.  Things like the fact Tsukimi is only an ugly duckling because she wears glasses, sweats, and no makeup, or the various quirks of the NEETs that didn’t make me want to facepalm.  Probably the two most enjoyable aspects of the series for me had to do with two characters.  One was an uncle of Kuranosuke (see the picture above) who is secretly an otaku at home who indulges his cross-dressing nephew in basically everything while being the respectable politician in public.  The other was the cool driver for this family who was obsessed with Mercedes cars and can make really good drawings of these cars, but of nothing else.  Part of this is because he can be blackmailed by Kuranosuke (or anyone, really) into doing things by threats of him putting smudges on the car, which the driver is almost constantly washing and waxing.


This wasn’t a horrible anime by any means, it just really wasn’t something I could get into.  Failing to really resolve the love-triangle thing didn’t really help it either, in my view.  But hey, if you like watching a show about other nerds, this would probably be a show that you’d like.  I just can’t rank it above a 6/10, and only that high due to the artistic quality of the series, or I might rank it lower due to my lack of enjoyment of the series.

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Lily C.A.T.

(Single episode OVA)


This OVA is very much a product of its time – that time being the late 1980s.  I say that, because it’s very obviously influenced by two very influential movies that came out in the decade prior to this OVA’s release (1987) – Alien and The Thing.  Having seen both of these movies prior to seeing this OVA, I have to say I had mixed feelings about it.  It wasn’t bad exactly, and this OVA made good use of atmosphere that made it pretty enjoyable to watch, it’s just that I could see the all the elements from Alien and The Thing for what they were.


As you might guess, the story is about a small-ish group of people who are essentially trapped on a large space ship.  It’s also a very ensemble show, without much of an obvious protagonist, mostly to keep it very open as to who might die (even if it is somewhat heavily telegraphed when a character is going to die).  The story is essentially that a ship has been hired by a multinational company to drop colonists off on a planet that’s set for colonization.  To get there, the colonists and crew go into cryogenic sleep, including a cat that belongs to one of the female colonists, who just happens to be the daughter of the company’s president.  The ship runs in an automated mode until it gets close to its destination and revives its crew.  Just as it approaches its destination, the ship’s sensors pick up an unknown organic substance and it brings it inside using a Space Shuttle-inspired crane.  Since someone failed to set proper limits on the movement of the crane, it opened up a hole in the ship and the alien sample ends up in a water tank somewhere in the ship and dissolves.


Of course, at first the crew doesn’t know anything about this.  Instead, what they have is a partial message warning them that they have two imposters aboard, compounded by the fact that the colonists are all from different countries due to the multinational nature of their company, and none of them actually know each other.  As the characters explain, this actually makes a lot of sense, given the length of time journeys like theirs take (20 years one way), as, if they are able to return to Earth, theoretically they and their crimes might be forgotten.  Or, as this a colonization mission, they could simply make a new life for themselves on the planet being colonized.


It’s never explicitly stated what crime the imposters are accused of committing, at least not in the dub, so the ship’s captain quite pragmatically states that there’s no real point to trying to determine who the imposters are, as it’s a small ship and they have nowhere to go, and it might actually endanger them if they try to root them out by causing the alleged criminals to panic.  To add to that, not long after they wake up, a person dies, so the captain figures that problem takes priority.  Unfortunately, the employee from the Australian branch of the company comes across the partial message warning of imposters and insists on interviewing everyone and comparing their answers against their computer records.  So pretty much everyone sees him as an asshole for prying into their private lives in front of everyone (apparently it never occurred to anyone to conduct private interviews).  If that wasn’t bad enough, the only doctor on board dies from an alien bacterial infection that he describes as being similar to Legionnaires’ disease.



As if that wasn’t bad enough, some mysterious party has apparently coopted control of the ship and the main computer is seemingly cutting portions of the ship off from itself and destroying them in an effort to protect itself from corrosion brought on by the same bacteria that’s been killing the humans on board.  It’s made very clear that this is also a case of “crew expendable” as at least two members of the crew die as a result of this, not to mention that it’s spelled right out for the audience just like it was in Alien.



Literally just like in Alien.


And if that wasn’t weird enough, the bodies of the people who were killed end up disappearing.  Even the cat gets killed in a horribly gory way as it’s torn apart as it’s pulled into a hole that’s been corroded in the bulkhead of a corridor. 


The thing about this OVA is that it has aspects to it that make it somewhat good, but there are other aspects to it that end up making it mediocre.  For instance, one of the things that made Alien so good is that it introduced the setting and the characters very well.  While Lily C.A.T. borrows heavily from Alien, it doesn’t accomplish this anywhere near as effectively as Alien did.  And the thing is, there was some material there which would have made this possible, but for the most part it ends up being dialog in passing, which means we get a hint of something that could have been better, but instead end up with the majority of the characters being essentially stereotypes, if they even get that much attention (the majority of the ship’s crew suffers from this).  But some examples of what they got kinds of right would be the brief discussion of how old the ship’s captain and first officer actually are, and the effect these decades-long missions has on their lives, like the captain leaving an infant son and coming back to see a fully grown son, now physically older than he is, and that his next trip out had him return to a grown-up grandson.  This aspect of how cyro-sleep and interstellar travel can affect people is really what potentially could have made this a good sci-fi.  Especially in light of some of the characters failing to really consider that while it seemed like just a night’s sleep for them, 20 years have gone by on Earth.  Like the character who brags about having a bunch of dogs he’s proud of after they’ve woken up at the end of their trip apparently not realizing that all of those dogs are probably dead and have been for some time now.  This after criticizing the company president’s daughter for bringing her cat with and having it explained to him that she did so because otherwise her cat would die before she ever got to see it again.  And of course there’s the way anyone returning to Earth after 40-50 years and just one trip essentially becomes a living relic, completely out of time, and looked down on by the rest of humanity because of it.


Other aspects I liked were the attention to detail to things like the ship having to flip around backwards to slow down as it approached its destination, having certain timetables that they’d have to follow to land on a particular site on the planet they plan to colonize, having to unzip multiple layers of a spacesuit, and even at one point showing how a couple of characters improvise flamethrowers.  Though, one aspect they got wrong is that on a ship with artificial gravity, shooting a firearm or one of those flamethrowers would not throw the person who fired it backwards - it would only do that in a low or zero-gravity environment.  Still, between that and the talk of how cyro-sleep can be both a blessing and a curse, it shows that at least some thought went into this OVA, even if it very awkwardly rips off some other movies.


Speaking of, while the aspects of Alien are fairly obvious as far as the look of the ship and its computer, as well as the apparent callous nature of the company running the colonization effort, the The Thing aspects mainly come from the effort to suss out who the fake colonists are, as well as the nature of the alien that develops from the bacteria after it’s digested its victims. As I mentioned earlier, the bodies of previous victims disappeared, and as it turned out, it’s because the bacteria that had basically filled their lungs and drowned them then went on to digest them, forming an odd slime monster out of the tissue that could then physically attack people and eat them.


Other than that, the only real stand-out aspect of this OVA are some point-of-view shots that are done pretty well, like a shot where a character walks from one corridor into another.  In a normal movie, this would be nothing, but in something animated, that would take a lot of work.  Unfortunately, not much else stands out.  The soundtrack is mostly just there as, well, kind of like wallpaper.  I barely noticed it except for a few scenes.  And, as I said, there isn’t much about the story or characters to make them stand out.  The story was somewhat oddly paced as well.  This OVA is only about an hour long, but it manages to feel longer because of this.  It goes from rushing things along rather quickly (where it probably shouldn’t), to slamming on the brakes for some exposition, and this includes the discussion about how the technology of the story affects humanity.  The thing is, while I like that aspect, I feel it wasn’t executed very naturally, as it was mainly just exposited, and really just as a way of breaking up a fight.


And this is where we get into the dumber aspects of the story.  This means spoilers, so if you want to avoid those, just skip ahead to the last paragraph.  Because while it’s obvious this OVA wanted to be Alien (for the most part), it really didn’t plot things out in a way to really exploit that.  And what I mean by that is that there’s really nothing ominous about the company wanting to automate these interstellar ships that go on these colonization or supply runs.  In fact, it could be argued as a way of sparing human crews from being out of time and out of place.  What makes them bad and frankly stupid is that they apparently implemented this while still having a human crew on board, essentially just so control could be snatched away from them during this crisis which their robot/computer combo caused to begin with.  And then there’s the really dumb aspect, which is seemingly only done to give the OVA its name.  Because the mysterious party that takes control of the ship is a robotic cat, named and modeled after the cat the president’s daughter brought on board.  And if that wasn’t dumb enough, the robot cat tries to attack the crew when they try to regain control of the ship, because the ship is being set on a return course to Earth and will bring this alien bacteria along with it.  It’s also implied that the robot cat infected the doctor who was trying to find a way to fight the bacteria at the beginning of the story.  And its name has to be one of the lamest acronyms I’ve seen: Computerized Animal-Shaped Technological Robot.  And since it's named after the real cat that was named Lily, the title of the OVA.



"The Master"


I can kind of understand a robot, even if the reasoning behind it is flawed as hell, but a robotic cat? wtf.gif  Anyway, it turns out that the Australian guy and Japanese quasi-protagonist Hiro are the two imposters, and the message itself was staged, including the garbled ending that no one could figure out how the imposters might have managed to attempt deleting.  Hiro apparently murdered some men for kidnapping and turning his little sister into a crack whore, which he awkwardly exposits about along with how she died not long after he found her.  The Australian guy is with INTERPOL or at least is some kind of detective, and is so focused on getting Hiro that he almost doesn't seem to care about, you know, the alien infection thing that threatens all their lives, right up to the point his infected body is ripped apart to form a Thing even as he's handcuffed to Hiro.  And if that wasn't pathetic enough, it's not that this detective had a strong sense of justice or anything and just feels Hiro went too far by killing people out of revenge instead of letting the law take care of it, no, he straight up says that it's because Hiro screwed up his drug investigation that would have let them take down an entire criminal organization.  I suppose this could be seen as a "needs of the many" argument, but it comes off as this detective having some really messed up priorities.


Oh, if you're wondering why Hiro is the only character I actually name, it's because his is the only name I remember, partly because my odd sense of humor imagined Enrique Iglesias singing his song "Hero" every time Hiro's name came up, and the other characters failed to make enough of an impression on me beyond their stereotype or the role they played in the story.


Basically everyone ends up dying except for Japanese quasi-protagonist Hiro and the blonde American president's daughter, everyone dies, with the captain destroying the ship so it can't return to Earth and spread the bacteria.  Of course, who knows if the two young colonists can survive on the planet they land on or not, as they escaped on an old style space shuttle that the captain kept on board as a good luck charm and may or may not have any supplies on board, or, more importantly, if the two of them might be infected and end up becoming bacterial blobs that go on to infect the entire planet's biosphere.  After all, this is what happened to the Australian detective, and was starting to happen to the captain as he was sabotaging his ship.


So basically what it comes down to is that this is a somewhat disappointing hour-long OVA.  It borrows heavily from Alien and The Thing, but fails to really make good use of what it takes from these movies, to the point this movie could really be called a rip-off, especially of Alien.  And while it sets up some interesting themes, it fails to really exploit them.  Likewise the characters are never really given much of a chance to shine, and only the captain was somewhat interesting, probably because his pragmatism appealed to me.  So my overall opinion on this OVA is that it was just good enough to make me wish it was better.  6/10.

Edited by Hicks

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Venus Wars

(1989 movie)


One of the things about sci-fi, particularly older sci-fi, is that there tends to be a rather iconic mode of transportation associated with it, whether it's the Enterprise, a DeLorean DMC-12, a phone booth, or a police box, there just tended to be that kind of an association.  This includes lesser-known sci-fis like Venus Wars, which I found thanks to the fandom that apparently still has a thing for the weird monocycle everyone seems to obsess over in this anime.



Something that seems designed to kill its own rider.


The opening is a text scrawl describes a comet (described as an ice planet in the dub) striking Venus and changing its climate enough to enable its colonization.  The date of the comet strike was the far-off year of 2003, and colonization began in 2018.  I have to admit, text crawls at the beginning of movies are kind of a bad sign.  There are a few exceptions (Star Wars being the obvious example), but usually it's a bad sign.  They can bring the audience up to speed on the story, but they can also serve as something of a crutch for lazy writing - telling rather than showing.  Though in this case, it's more that it's completely unnecessary, and mainly just adds a little amusement in the overly-optimistic dates used in what was apparently seen as far enough in the future for inter-planetary colonization to take place.  The point is, though, that the opening text has very little to do with the plot of the movie, which is a fairly standard military conquest story set in a dystopian cyber-punk future, told from the point of view of some civilians.  You know, basic '80s sci-fi goodness, or at least it would be if it was executed in a way that made it anything other than kind of a chore to watch.


Some of you may have seen Bennett "The Sage" review this movie already, and if you haven't, I encourage you to watch, well, all of his reviews, really.  We tend to overlap at times, because, well, we seem to have similar tastes in anime, apparently.  Also, I'm not against watching something I know is bad just to make fun of it, but I have to admit that what I read about Venus Wars on Wikipedia and TV Tropes actually made it sound like it might be somewhat interesting on its own merits.  You know, '80s sci-fi goodness.  It seems like he was a bit harder on it than I'm going to be, though we do agree on one important point when it comes to the plot structure of this movie - it isn't structured like a movie's plot structure should be.  Which is to say it almost seems to meander aimlessly rather than having a proper build-up to a climax followed by a falling action and resolution.  I actually have a theory about that, though the Wiki article doesn't say anything about it and Sage didn't either, but I got the distinct feeling as I watched it that it was actually a three-episode OVA that had been re-edited into a movie.  Because rather than just meandering, the plot structure actually seemed like it could have had distinct build-ups, climaxes, falling actions, and resolutions for multiple episodes.  I'll get into the specifics later, as well as an additional bit of supporting evidence, but I've already put off the actual review part of this review for long enough.


The story is basically about a militaristic nation called Ishtar invading and conquering the nation of Aphrodia (based on real names for the actual "continents" of Venus), which is where the story takes place.  It initially follows an investigative reporter named Susan Sommers, who we are introduced to as she is strip searched at a spaceport after landing on Venus.  She is very much the stereotypical driven reporter, who manages to be both incredibly naïve and incredibly insane at the same time.  After all, she's not only anxious for the invasion to start, but she actively places herself in the line of fire.  The story then abruptly shifts to follow a group of monocycle racers as they participate in a race that reminded me very heavily of the MST3K-featured movie The Sidehackers.  Specifically the team calling itself the Killer Commandos, though a teenager named Hiro (two in a row for me ;) ) becomes the focus as the story progresses.  The invasion actually interrupts a race in progress, where Hiro is showing just how awesome a racer he is by abusing the hell out of his monocycle, only for him to have to contend with giant planes dropping giant tanks that seem to be inspired by the British Tortoise assault tank from WWII.


From there, the story is about what you would guess, with the protagonists getting tired of living under the amusingly named General Donner and try to fight back which culminates in two separate confrontations with General Donner by our two different protagonists.  This also involved getting shanghaied by a group of self-described freedom fighters that seems to be made up of the remnants of Aphrodia's military, which incidentally makes heavy use of militarized monocycles that are armed with cannons capable of killing the ridiculously armored Ishtar tanks (somehow).


The main theme of the movie is essentially a kind of nihilism.  Essentially it argues that people can't count on their government, as Hiro and his family was amongst many that were all part of a failed agriculture project that was played up by the government as a huge success in the terraforming effort on Venus, and later the way the young people of the Killer Commandos team were exploited by this group of freedom fighters.  Oh, and then there's the way the Aphrodia government quickly folded and became a puppet to the invading general, to the point that for no real reason I can figure out, the police were really ridiculously desperate to kill Hiro because he ran from a raid on an apartment he was visiting, again for no reason I could really discern.  Another aspect that was brought up was the way many within the capital city seemed to want to pretend that nothing had changed in spite of the invasion being fought in their streets just the day before, and how odd this attitude was, even if it's somewhat understandable since most people have their own day-to-day concerns they're worried about.  And while I'm somewhat sympathetic to that viewpoint, the way the movie presented this argument actually made me somewhat annoyed at essentially being preached to, though I suppose part of that could be because I was annoyed with the mouthpiece being used to preach it, Hiro.


The characters are one of the more taxing aspects of this movie.  Well that and its odd mood swings.  Susan Sommers is one of the most annoying protagonists I've seen.  Not only is she the stereotypically obsessed reporter, she's arguably insane, and completely self-centered.  At one point she literally throws a temper tantrum because her squeeze won't let her go with him on an attack mission.  At another point, she berates Hiro for wanting to go back to his city and see if he can find his kind-of-girlfriend, Maggie, accusing him of cowardice even though it really just amounted to not wanting to be exploited by the rebel army they'd gotten kidnapped by following their own failed attempt at attacking an Ishtar tank.  Which, speaking of Hiro, the other protagonist of this movie is also one of the more annoying aspects of this movie.  The story eventually shifts almost exclusively to his viewpoint, but he basically comes off as a rebel without a clue more than anything else.  He's basically angry for the majority of his screen time, seemingly at everything he sees, including his rich, naïve, would-be girlfriend, Maggie, who is ridiculously tolerant of his bullshit.  The thing is, he never comes across as a particularly strong or sympathetic character because he doesn't actually seem to advocate for anything so much as against almost everything, excepting the previously mentioned failed attack on a single tank that worked out about as well as one would expect infantry fighting an armored doom turtle to go (they're no Wolverines). 


Then there's the antagonist, General Donner, who is essentially the stereotypical military dictator.  There really isn't much to him, and most of his screen time is dedicated to being the stereotype he is, threatening the captured government and such.  He's so full of himself that it doesn't seem to concern him very much when someone actually pulls a gun on him, right up until that person actually tries to pull the trigger.  In the meantime he made one of the dumbest arguments I've ever seen anyone make regarding war and who is to blame for the deaths and damage that occur in it.  Donner's excuse is to blame war itself.  Generals are just bureaucrats and administrators who don't actually personally kill anyone, and the soldiers who do the actual killing people and wrecking their shit aren't actually responsible because they're just following orders according to him.  I've seen that argument before regarding real world events, but it rings pretty shallow even when it's not coming from a military dictator trying to convince someone not to shoot them.  Of course, Donner isn't terribly bright anyway, as evidenced by his later lack of understanding of how tank cannons are ranged weapons, and how gravity works.


Gary, the head mechanic and owner of the Killer Commandos is probably the most interesting characters in this movie, but then I like me a good pragmatic old fart.  It turned out that he was smuggling weapons into the occupied capital city, but it seemed more like a money-making scheme on his part.  He actually argued against his team going on the attack, and he was actually right on the money in that none of them had any real idea what they were in for, and frankly were treating the guns like toys.  He probably only went along with the attack because he wasn't succeeding at talking the team out of it, and was probably hoping to keep any of them from getting themselves killed.  This actually makes him something of a tragic character, though most of his screen time seemed dedicated to comedy relief.


The mood swings of especially the beginning are another major failing of this movie.  The story keeps shifting between some very serious subject matters, like civilians getting caught up in war, police hunting down unarmed civilians like sick dogs, and the effects of invasion and occupation by a foreign power from the perspective of people who aren't all that different from the people in the audience, and the goofy shenanigans of the kids on the Killer Commandos team and the crotchety old man who owns the team.  So, basically this is like a sci-fi Red Dawn that insists on constantly injecting comedy relief for no real reason, other than that apparently someone thought the mood needed to be lightened.  I might complain about how that made this movie hard to take seriously, but this movie has plenty of other things that prevent that, yet actually make it somewhat enjoyable to watch in a "so bad it's good" way.



Like this, for example.


Yes, in another case of "apparently someone thought this was good idea," this anime has a few sequences that were filmed out in a desert somewhere, with animation being superimposed over the top of the image.  Now, I'd guess this was an attempt to save money, though it's also possible this was an attempt to add realism, but I can't help but be reminded of a film called Epic: Days of the Dinosaur, which Brandon's Cult Film Reviews covered a while back, at least as far as how convincing it looked.  Though, to be fair, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is about the only example I can think of animation on a live action background being done well.


Another example would be the mono-moped Hiro made his escape from the police on.  After going through a ridiculous amount of punishment on his flight, Hiro falls off of it after getting grazed in the leg as the moped goes down a short flight of stairs.  This happens in slow motion, up until the moped hits the wall at the bottom of the stairs, which as executed looks like it was just barely enough to break the headlight before it flops over and promptly explodes.  It's obvious that the writer just needed the explosion and raging inferno to cover Hiro's escape from the police and soldiers pursuing him (they presume him dead), but it just looks hilarious to see the moped seem to just gently tap the wall and explode after all the impossible jumps and overall rough ride Hiro gave it up to this point.


There's also quite a few odd expressions from characters in this movie, especially if they're in the background, as well as the signs and graffiti older anime seems to have that's good for a laugh.  Examples here include "Ishtar must die the death!" "Getout! The invaders" and just "Death!" in random places.  There's also a bit at the end of the movie that has Susan Sommers allegedly writing something about the war she saw on Venus, but is actually a paper about Reagan and Gorbachev agreeing to nuclear disarmament, and then prints out as a paper about the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.  And as much as some of you weebs like to complain about dubs, the delivery in this movie's dub has its moments, too.  Of course for me, that's usually part of the charm of older anime like this.  Plus it can lend itself quite nicely to riffing.  ;)


Other than that, probably the most interesting aspect of this anime is its visual design.  I know some people are really in love with the monocycles, but I kind of liked the ridiculousness of the tanks, and the giant airplanes that looked like something out of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind


That said, this movie can still be a real chore to watch, but like I said earlier, I think this is because this movie was originally meant to be a three episode OVA.  While the beginning of the story seems to have trouble actually getting started (way too much prelude), eventually there is a build-up and a climax in the form of a battle at the race track the movie started at.  Then the story suddenly hits the brakes as the Killer Commandos find themselves shanghaied and begins a distinctly new storyline.  There isn't as much of a build-up or a climax compared to the first "episode," other than that one of the racers ends up getting killed.  There's then another slow-down before the story moves into its overall resolution with the final battle to retake the capital city.


It's not perfect, especially since what would theoretically be the first episode actually takes up more than half the movie (the rest of the movie just seems longer), but this could be explained by the last two episodes being heavily edited to reduce the overall run time down to something closer to an hour and a half run time (just a pity they didn't edit out more of the beginning).  I do have a little bit of supporting evidence, in the form of this guy who is only introduced in the last half-hour of the movie as he offers Hiro a couple of hours of buttsex to kill time:



Pow!  Right in the kisser!


And it's not just that this character is suddenly introduced just before the end of the movie, but that he has a significant screen presence during the rest of the movie's runtime, not to mention that Hiro has some flashbacks to random stuff this character apparently said to him, but that we didn't actually get to see him make the first time.


I could be wrong, of course.  This disjoined feeling could just be the result of a really awkward adaptation that tried to follow a little too closely to the source material, which was a four volume manga.  Not having read it for myself yet (and not likely to any time soon), I can only guess based on what I saw in the movie.  But whether this is a repurposed OVA or a poorly executed adaptation, it's still kind of fun to watch to watch the train wreck, especially with friends.  I suppose I am kind of disappointed in that I didn't get an actual good sci-fi that could have explored the themes it presented in a better way, but it probably would have actually been an OVA to accomplish that, since there was obviously more material than could be fit into a single movie (not for lack of trying, though).  Never even addressed were the effects of the unique day, year, and rotation of the planet on the people living on Venus, even if it was somehow made magically habitable, or how colonization would have resulted in independent nation states rather than colonies of whatever nation sent the people to the planet.


Anyway, it drags in parts, especially the beginning, but this movie is still fun to watch, even if it isn't what I would really consider to be "good" in the traditional sense.  If you can stream it or otherwise watch it without having to go through too much trouble, it might be worth it to watch it and make fun of it with some friends.  6/10.

Edited by Hicks
forum software coding fail

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H20: Footprints in the Sand

(12 episode series)


I honestly can't remember how this one ended up on my watch list, and now that I've seen it, I'm not quite sure what to make of it.  It's essentially a fairly typical harem anime, with the typical silliness and, for me, eye-rolling shenanigans that one would expect from such an anime.  There's even plenty of soft-core fan service thrown in for fun, which can be quickly spoiled if you remember that these are middle school or junior-high-aged children.  This series is actually adapted from an adult visual novel, which had erotic content and an "emergency button" to click on in case someone comes into the room and you don't want anyone to know you're looking at pr0n.  The thing that keeps it from being just another clone of every harem anime ever is that it actually does have a serious dramatic plot mixed in there amongst all the attempts at cute.  So basically it has the same issues with mood swings that made Higurashi something of a mixed bag for me.  H2O further complicates this by adding something of a psychological aspect to it that made me wonder what actually happened versus what was just in the main character's head.


Of course, this isn't the only confusing aspect of this series.  Hell, just the title has taken up more of my thought about the show than it probably should have, as "Footprints in the Sand" is actually a Christian poem about walking on the beach with Jesus.  I actually got a copy of the poem on a bookmark for my confirmation that I still have, uh, somewhere, which is why my mind immediately goes to that.  The fact that the small Japanese village the story is set in actually has a Christian church (at least in appearance) further adds to this, though religion isn't ever discussed in the story itself, and while town meetings take place in the church, there are never any services seen or talked about.  Plus, a Christian church in Japan?  According to Wikipedia, less than 1% of Japanese claim Christian belief, so why is there a church and why does it seem to be a major focal point of the town even though the story barely has anything to do with it?  About the best I can figure out is that this might be a reference to the nature of the story as seen from the viewpoint of the protagonist, as there is a spirit involved that only he seems to be aware of.  And I suppose it might be an excuse for the series to be bookended with a reading of the poem itself, though the reference seems to be more connected to a boy's mother, or perhaps the spirit in her relationship to the protagonist.


Okay, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.  The story follows Takuma Hirose, a young blind boy, just after he has been moved in with his uncle in a small village following the death of his mother.  His blindness is itself left something of a mystery initially, though it's made fairly obvious that it's probably connected in some way to his mother's death since it's stated that he became blind after this happened.


And just a brief aside, but am I the only one amused by the way blindness is often represented in anime by having the character have their eyes closed all the time?  Of course this does lend itself to riffing in the form of "just open your eyes!" and the like whenever the character in question complains about their blindness.  :D


Anywho, we're introduced to a character Takuma refers to as Otoha, a young blonde girl, at the same time we're introduced to him, which involves being chased out of the woods by a wild pig in an attempt to take a shortcut to school.  Initially it seems like she's just some friend of his, except that as he collides with Hayami Kohinata, another student from his class, it's made obvious that he's the only one who is aware of her presence (almost said "see" there).  Otoha actually comes out and says as much not long afterwards, as a setup to explain Takuma suddenly being able to see not long afterwards, and for the majority of the series.  This miraculous restoration of his sight is essentially the set-up to the series, as Otoha explains that he's been given his sight back to accomplish something.


What that something is becomes readily apparent as it's soon shown that Hayami is essentially the school's and the village's whipping boy (so to speak).  She's shown to be generally a good person as she helps Takuma find his way to school following their rather rough introduction to each other, even as she becomes really anti-social afterwards.  Takuma naturally has no idea what the hell is going on, yet for some reason everyone seems to think he should.  And really what it comes down to is that other students will use pretty much any excuse to bully and beat the crap out of Hayami, with others, including the teacher, basically just pretending that it isn't happening.  Takuma reacts the way most people would to this and intervenes, but at least initially he seems to have new guy immunity. 


The story of the show then becomes Takuma trying to figure out why the hell everyone treats Hayami like a pariah.  And I do mean everyone.  Hayami lives in the woods by herself in an isolation enforced by village taboo, and at best, people pretend she doesn't exist or just talk shit about her based on how horrible her family was supposed to be (for that matter, it's still kind of a mystery as to what exactly happened to Hayami's family).  Meanwhile, Takuma is trying to just get everyone to get along, all while dealing with basically every girl in school displaying an odd amount of romantic interest in him, especially considering he just showed up.  Oh, and this naturally includes a token loli, because it just wouldn't be a harem anime without one.  ;)



It's not easy being a pimp.


This mystery aspect to the series, along with Takuma fighting the bigoted nature of the village are what really appealed to me.  The downside is that, much like Higurashi, what could be a really interesting story is constantly interrupted with the stereotypical harem aspects of the anime.  Your mileage may vary, of course, but the harem stuff was at best something for me to poke fun at.


Another area of amusement was the portrayal of the village itself, though partly due to how universal some of the stereotypes are, not to mention how disturbingly accurate those stereotypes can be sometimes.  The way people tend to gossip about one another, the way going into a bigger town can be a special occasion that you make a day trip out of, and I hate to say it, but the way certain families can be treated deferentially as kind of community leaders, while others are looked down upon, and it can all be based on something that their grandparents or some other extended member of the family might have done back in the 1950s.  Shiki kind of captured aspects of this as well. 


Another area of commonality between this series and Shiki is the way in which people could otherwise act like good people, and yet have a dark side to them.  In Shiki it was the casual way the villagers would go about killing vampires who were people they had known in life, and in this series, it was the way everyone could go from being super nice and hospitable to  Takuma, to turning around and acting like completely horrible people to Hayumi.  Hell, early on, some of them get toilet water and dump it on her.  Or there's the way one of the village elders forced his youngest granddaughter to replace and live as his oldest granddaughter, who died in an accident.  More messed up is that she was the granddaughter he and the rest of the village looked down on as a disappointment to the family while the granddaughter who died had been the stereotypical prodigal daughter.  And then there was the way everyone would talk about how fortunate it was that she'd been the one who died rather than her older sister after the switch has taken place.  And if that wasn't messed up enough, apparently her grandpa was planning on setting her up with Takuma so that the two of them would get married and presumably Takuma would inherit the unofficial leadership role the old man had within the village.


It might sound a bit weird for me to say this, but these were actually the aspects of the series that appealed the most to me due to the dramatic elements in them.  So hopefully it's understandable why all the cutesy harem aspects of this show tended to bring it down for me.  Because just as we're starting to learn more and more about what's going on in this village, or watching Takuma playing peacemaker and extending a helping hand out to Hayumi, the anime throws out a beach episode or something like that. 


The story turns out about how you'd expect, given that it is a happy ending (I think), though there are a couple of odd twists toward the end of it which I'll get into in the more spoiler-heavy discussion later on, along with the confusion I have from it.


I hate to say it, but the characters didn't have a heck of a lot to them beyond the stereotypical roles one might find in any harem anime, beyond a few things here and there to make them somewhat unique.  Takuma was an average student, and his blindness and seemingly miraculous recovery was about all that made him stand out, at least until you got into the story and the way he acted in the face of the village's treatment of Hayumi. Granted, those are good things about his character, it’s just that there isn’t much more to him, and he comes off as a generic good guy character.  This makes a kind of sense given the source material, but I feel Takuma is an example of the duality of this series.  It wanted to have some depth to it, but it wanted to be cute, too, and in Takuma’s case, this results in his character lacking any real depth to it.  We know his mother died and that his blindness is most likely a result of the trauma this caused.  We know that he’s generally a good person, open to people and ideas, but not sure what to make of all the attention showered on him.  Which is another thing – almost everyone seems to like him for no real reason, even the bigoted, scheming village elder, and it takes a lot of him standing up to people’s bigotry toward Hayumi and refusing to abide by their messed up rules for some of them to dislike him.  I kind of got the “insta-friend” vibe when it came to his interaction with the majority of his classmates.  It isn’t until almost the end of the series that we get to really learn much about him, and even then it’s limited, and the drama involved with that comes off as rather contrived.  And most of the other characters are the same way.  Takuma’s uncle is, for the most part, the generic meddling relative who is very open with his affection, as well as his desire to see Takuma get a girlfriend and get laid.  He’s easy to like, but the thing that made him stand out for me was that one point where he had a bit a brevity with Takuma in discussing what exactly happened with his mother’s death and what was involved in it.  As a supporting character he didn’t really need much depth, but his moment of brevity is another example of what I’m talking about when I say I’m disappointed there wasn’t a bit more to this show as far as the drama went.  The only characters we learn much about are Hayumi and Hinata/Hotaru as the series explores that whole mystery aspect as far as why everyone hates Hayumi and what happened to lead up to that.  I already spoiled that a bit as far as Hinata/Hotoru, actually.  But I feel that this exploration into their characters through exploring the story allowed them to at least somewhat step aside from the clichéd character types that they are introduced as.  Actually, the story is a little clever in that it presents these clichéd character types as the role the characters play within the community, though this angle is never really explored very much.


And here’s where we get into real spoiler territory, so if you want to avoid that, skip ahead to the last paragraph for my final thoughts and score.


Man this show is messed up. 


I already got into the whole thing with how Hinata is actually Hotoru, who took on the name and role of her sister basically to save face for her family.  But the really disgusting thing is that it shows that Hotoru was every bit as smart and academically talented as her sister, and all she’d have needed was the love and support she’d gotten as Hinata.  I really wish this point had been explored, well, at all, really, but no one ever confronted her grandpa about this point, and no one else in the village was confronted about it either (you know, all the people saying how lucky it was Hotoru died instead of Hinata, because Hotoru was the stupid one and a disappointment to the family).  Of course, either the people in the village were stupid in that they couldn’t tell one girl from the other, because the sisters were not twins, or they were essentially brainwashing themselves into believing it.  Even more messed up is the reason why Hotoru was looked down on by basically everyone, which amounts to being bad at math and good at art.  So when we find out later that she had the ability to excel academically, we also have to keep in mind that she had potential as an artist, too.  Then, of course, there’s the other thing she was looked down on for, which was that she was friends with Hayumi.


It is never explained what exactly the village had against Hayumi’s family, and it seems the only thing they seem to have against Hayumi herself is that she was a member of that family.  Actually this is one of the more frustrating aspects to the show.  It’s simply put out there and accepted that Hayumi’s family were just horrible people.  And the only example we get is that her family apparently had arranged a marriage between one of their sons and Takuma’s mother, and apparently when she broke it to marry another man, they kept pressuring her about it, even after Takuma was born, to the point that she apparently committed suicide.  And that’s basically used as a monkey wrench for the relationship that had been building between Takuma and Hayumi.  But nothing is ever shown or explained as to why the village got so pissed off at Hayumi’s family to the point that they burned down their house and either kicked them out of the village or straight up murdered them.  Which brings up two other questions: why is Hayumi still in the village and why did the state never get involved?  I mean, maybe it’s different in Japan versus the US, but at least on this side of the pond, kids don’t get to just live by themselves out in the woods.  Is Haymi being kept there against her will?  Why is she there?  If her family was banished, why didn’t she go with them?  If her family was murdered, why was there no apparent police involvement?  Why then is Hayumi not a ward of the state?  Yes, I know the real reason for this is so that we have a show, but I couldn’t help but go back to these questions as I watched the series.


But then, there are plenty of questions like that which come up during the course of the series.  Questions like, where is Takuma’s father in all of this?  We literally never see him, and yet he’s the man Takuma’s mother broke an arranged marriage for.  Where are Hinata/Horuto’s parents?  Maybe I missed an explanation, but her life seems dominated by her grandfather with basically no room for her parents in the story.  Is she orphaned? 


And then there’s what exactly happened to Takuma’s mother, and to Takuma himself for that matter.  It’s implied that Takuma knew all along that his mother didn’t actually commit suicide, but rather died attempting to save a small child who apparently was too stupid to live (dove in front of an oncoming train after his soccer ball).  Why then does everyone claim his mother committed suicide?  I mean there would have been the kid’s body along with Takuma’s mother, not to mention a family wondering where their kid went.  And to complicate this, at least for me, is that Takuma’s realization of this happens as Hayumi apparently makes the same sacrifice.  Or did she?  Because the way it’s shot, it sure looks like the train takes her and another kids who’s too stupid to live out.  But the ending epilogue shows us Takuma and his classmates as adults, and an infant that looks like what you would expect of a combination between Takuma and Hayumi by anime logic.  Wikipedia says this is actually the product of a crossdresser and another character, but those characters were always on the periphery and I didn't even catch that the one character actually was a crossdresser, so it would be pretty easy to make the mistake I did about the infant.


Of course this is following Takuma regressing into childhood and thinking that Hayumi is his mother.  So just a bit of Oedipus complex thrown in there for fun, I guess.  But this is why he connects what happened to his mother to something that was happening as he and Hayumi are standing at a train crossing just as the gates are closing. I guess the upshot of this was that Otoha (who is apparently the spirit of Hinata) was sent to help Takuma to get over his blindness by accepting what happened to his mother, and that she never intended to leave him as she did (hence she didn't actually commit suicide and that aspect of it was all in his head, apparently).


Maybe I’m reading too much into it and the ending messed with me more than it should have, but then one of the other things put forward by the climax of the series is that Takuma had been blind all along through the series, and everything he thought he’d seen had been all in his head all along.  The scenes that play behind the credits and as a stinger to them only added to my confusion, as Otoha makes an appearance just before Hayumi shows up again some time after the scene at the train crossing (everyone is grown up now), and both in the dialog leading up to this and in Takuma's reaction to seeing Hayumi left it pretty ambiguous as to whether she was actually alive or simply a spirit as Otoha was.  Which basically lead me as a viewer to wonder what exactly was real as far as the series went, and hence a bit more disappointment on my part because I feel kind of cheated by having to ask that question to myself.


Eh, maybe I’m overanalyzing things.  My friends were pretty convinced that Hayumi was alive and the baby we saw another of their friends carrying at Horuto's house was definitely a product of Takuma and Hayumi (though it's actually the product of a couple characters named Hamaji and Maki).


I guess what it comes down to is that while this series has an interesting premise with some potential to it in terms of being a drama with some mystery elements to it, I feel that this was somewhat overshadowed by the harem aspect of the series, as well as the constant need to inject “cute” throughout.  This made for quite a bit of mood whiplash watching it.  However, if cute is your thing, especially with a slice of life feeling to it, you might like this show, though the mood whiplash might get to you from the darker elements.  It made for an interesting watch once through, I doubt I’ll ever make a point of watching it again.  6/10.

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Patlabor: The TV Series

(47 episode series)


I had originally planned to watch this series after watching the original OVA and the first movie, but my anime group voted to watch it so I ended up watching this series first out of the franchise.  From what I can gleam from reading about it, this doesn't really matter because the TV series was its own adaptation of the original manga source material.  As for how it was...  Eh, it wasn't bad, I guess.


This series follows the "Mobile Police, Division Two," a police department that specializes in the use of a type of combat mecha that is itself part of a larger category of machines known as "labors," because as the opening of each episode informs us, they were initially used in construction and industrial applications, until criminals figured out they could use them to commit crimes with.  Then, much like with Ghost in the Shell and the internet and internet crimes, there was a police response that created the "Mobile Police" which used specially made "patrol labors," hence the "Patlabor" name.  Division Two are essentially the underfunded underdog of the police force, even compared to other mobile police divisions that use patlabors, constantly needing to justify its existence and expense, in spite of actions that often result in some rather high amounts of damage.


The series is largely episodic, and has an overall light tone.  There are a few continuing story arcs throughout the series, which actually apparently caused to series to be inflated from an originally planned 24 episodes to its nearly 50 episode run.  For instance there's an arc that features a continuing terrorist threat against some kind of UN initiative called the Babylon Project (something lent itself rather well to Babylon 5 riffs), which itself was never really explained all that well beyond that it was some kind of international/globalist effort that terrorists were constantly trying to attack.  There was also an arc that dealt with the military-industrial complex that involved a labor company trying to get test data for its labors by secretly testing them in combat against military and police labors, and while there could be humor in those stories, they tended to get more serious in tone than usual.  For the most part, though, the series is interested in showcasing the antics of Division Two, which tended to be rather hit and miss.  There were some pretty hilarious episodes, though, like the one where one of the mechanics goes to New York but it's all in his head so it comes off as this weird mirror universe version of Division Two.


While it could be argued that Noa Izumi is the protagonist of the series, it's actually more of an ensemble.  Noa is a fun character, in part because she reminds me quite a bit of a woman I've had a crush on for a long time, not only in her looks but in her enthusiastic attitude and her competence in combat. 



*sigh* :)


Actually one of the more humorous aspects of the series is that Noa is basically the most competent member of Division Two, not only in terms of piloting her mech (which she names Alphonse), but as a police officer, in spite of being a rookie when it comes to piloting the labors.  This contrasts her with the other labor pilot in her division (they only have two labors), Isao Ohta, who seems to see himself more as a soldier than as a police officer, and is responsible for most of the damage caused by Division Two.  He's a bit like a Japanese Dirty Harry, only he sucks at his job.  There are a few other interesting characters, like the half-American/half-Japanese Kunuka Clancy, who initially starts out as something of a competitor for Noa until the two earn each other's respect, and Asuma Shinohara, who is actually the son of the head of the company that produces the labors for the police (and most of the world, apparently), and ends up being something of a will they/won't they romantic interest for Noa later on in the series.  Aside from Noa, my favorite character has to be Captain Kiichi Goto, who has to be the most laid back authority figure I've seen in any show.  He's strict when he has to be (like when Noa and Ohta end up doing a lot of damage), but for the most part he channels his inner Dude.  We're talking about a guy who barely raised an eyebrow to being confronted with the ghost of a samurai warrior and just calmly grabbed the closest thing to defend himself with (you'll just have to watch that episode for yourself ;) ).


This was a fairly entertaining series to watch, though it could really be boring at times, and it was pretty obvious that it was aimed more at younger crowd, even without the knowledge that some of the labors were introduced on the show to sell toys.  You can just tell right off watching it that it was made for kids, because it really comes off as a Saturday morning cartoon.  That isn't to say that it's a bad show (I watched and enjoyed Avatar, after all), just that you have to be ready for what you'd be getting yourself into when watching this.


Another issue many people might have is the dub.  This isn't to say that it was especially horrible or anything, just that it's exactly what one might expect of a dub made during the earlier days of localization.  Most of the cast is okay, it's just that a couple of them had some pretty bad delivery.  The actress that dubbed Noa in particular stood out, probably at least in part because she was a central focus of the show and thus had a lot of lines.  But when she tried to sound excited or scream or pretty much anything that didn't call for a completely flat delivery, she came off sounding like a kid playing make-believe.  It just didn't fit with the character in my opinion, but I didn't hate the dub or her in particular or anything.  If anything I see it as something to take in stride as being part of the experience of watching an old anime like this.  Doesn't mean I won't bitch about it, though.  :D


There really isn't much to do in way of analysis or further commentary to make for this series, other than that it does touch somewhat on the military-industrial complex, as well as the relationship between the military and law enforcement, and the importance of the distinction between the two.  Probably the only extra thing I can really say is to poke a bit of fun at the patlabors for their use of giant revolvers instead of having integrated weaponry, but that's just kind of a mecha thing in general that I like to make fun of.  There's also the premise that the top-of-the-line Ingram patlabors used by Division Two have to be customized to their pilots, which is just ridiculous from an engineering point of view, along with the notion that prototypes are somehow better from the production model of something (rather than being the working model used to identify and eliminate problems).


I'd say that this is a somewhat fun series to watch, though probably not something you can marathon, and probably not something you would get much rewatch value out of.  I have to admit that this is partly because of the length in my case, but the boring stretches of filler certainly don't help either.  I don't want to sound too negative, as there are plenty of good episodes in this series' 47 episode run, it just probably isn't worth watching them more than once.  This, for me, makes it slightly above average (but not much), earning it a 6/10 on my nebulous scale of good.

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I've been thinking of starting a video review series for a while now, and while it will still be quite some time before I can actually start on it, I figure it doesn't really hurt to get some ideas going for it.

First up, should I keep the anime and movie reviews separate, or should I make an all-encompassing show? My main inspiration for this show is SF Debris in that it would be all voice-over with relevant clips from whatever I'm reviewing and maybe a few images for bits of humor. The main difference is that while SF Debris largely summarizes and makes commentary throughout, I would focus more on review and analysis.

Aside from the format of the show, one of the first hurdles for me is coming up with a name. I kind of suck at coming up with names for things, which is why my text reviews are all called something along the lines of "My Anime Reviews."

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