Dream (Level 21)

Blade will be the next dud I cover for Ani-Crap Review. Stay tuned!
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Before we get to the review, I have an announcement to make. The review after this will be my 20th Ani-Crap Review and I plan on personally choosing the next title that I will be covering, which I plan on doing next weekend. As a result, I don’t plan on posting a new poll for readers to choose my next title until next weekend. So what do I plan on covering for my 20th review? I’ll give you guys a hint: there’s only one title among Manga Entertainment’s infamous Holy Trinity of Suck I’ve yet to cover and this one has a lot more infamy to it than the prior two I’ve covered. Look forward to next weekend! In the mean time, on with the review.

Astarotte’s Toy was a 12-episode ecchi/ harem comedy TV anime that aired from April 10 to June 26 of 2011. The anime is based on an ongoing manga series written by Yui Haga for the seinen magazine, Dengeki Maoh. Episodes of the series are legally available for streaming via Crunchyroll.

The Plot

Good children should not sexually harass their friends or dress like Lotte does.
Good children should not sexually harass their friends or dress like Lotte does.

Astarotte Ygvar is a 10-year old princess in the kingdom of Ygvarland within the magical world of Alfheimr. Born a succubus, Astarotte is expected to begin organizing a male harem as she comes of age and needing the “life-seed”, otherwise known as semen, of men in order to sustain herself. The princess, however, has a hatred of men and only agrees to organize a harem if the first male she adds is a human, as those in her realm believe humans to be extinct. However, her followers encounter a human male named Naoya Tohara who, along with his daughter Asuha, is brought to Alfheimr to be part of Astarotte’s harem.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Astarotte Ygvar- Known as Lotte by those close to her, Astarotte is the 10-year old succubi princess of the kingdom of Alfheimr. She developed a hatred of men because of the large amount of time her mother spent with her harem. However, this hatred slowly goes away as she starts falling for Naoya as she spends more time with him.
  • Naoya Tohara- A 23-year old human brought to Ygvarland to be the first addition to Astarotte’s harem. He comes to bond with the princess, realizing she needs more emotional support than any male relationships.
  • Asuha Tohara- Naoya’s energetic and outgoing 10-year old daughter. She has the habit of running around without any underwear, much to her father’s dismay.
  • Judit Snorrevik- Astarotte’s head of staff responsible for bringing Naoya to Ygvarland. She is normally sought out by Naoya for advice regarding kingdom affairs and is implied to be a pervert as she has a personal room of various S&M items.
  • Olaf Frismar- Astarotte’s overly-emotional butler.
  • Elfleda Mirjasdottir- Also known as Effie, she is a well-endowed maid coming from a demon race with traits similar to cows, who is capable of producing high-quality milk through her large chest.
  • Ingrid Sorveig Sorgrims- Nicknamed Ini, Ingrid is Ygvarland’s most intelligent being, having access to nearly any type of knowledge imaginable within the world. Having lived a very secluded life, her later encounters with Naoya and Asuha lead her to develop a crush on the former.
  • Mercelida Ygvar I- Astarotte’s mother and the current queen of Ygvarland. A well-endowed and promiscuous woman, Mercelida has a harem containing over 3,000 men of differing races that she uses as a private army. Unknown to many, she is the biological mother of Asuha as she had intercourse with Naoya 10 years earlier during a visit to the human world.
  • Siguro Sveinnsson Svarthaeo- The second prince of the kingdom of Svarthaeo known for his perversion. He falls in love with Astarotte at first sight and desires her hand in marriage, while declaring Naoya a rival-in-love for her affections.

Why It Sucks

Astarotte’s Toy is a series that seemed unsure if it wanted to be a lolicon/ ecchi romp fest or a comedy-drama focused on the developments of Lotte’s character as she spent time with Naoya. Both elements fail at being appealing due to the former appealing to the lowest common denominator of Japan’s otaku fanbase and the latter being riddled with enough clichés you would see from enough similar titles that it lacks any type of freshness.

Mama's got a huge rack.
Mama's got a huge rack.

The ecchi content for Astarotte’s Toy is not as dirty as you would think for the premise for this series. It plays up the old nice guy/ tsundere character dynamic used in past romantic comedies in its focus on Naoya and Lotte’s relationship, with the latter being yet another Rie Kugimiya-style tsundere. To those unfamiliar with what I mean, Rie Kugimiya is the seiyuu for Lotte in this series who has acquired a rep for portraying a number of tsundere characters in her works such as Shana, Taiga and Nagi. The tsundere that Rie typically portray are teenage girls with a childlike appearance having long hair, flat chests and an aggressive “tsun tsun” type personality for their character.

For the character dynamic in this series, it looked like Astarotte’s Toy was ripping off Hayate the Combat Butler with the male lead (Naoya) being man servant to the demands of the rich and spoiled tsundere (Lotte). But while Hayate the Combat Butler had its effective comedic delivery to make the premise work with Nagi and Hayate at least being a few years apart in age, Astarotte’s Toy tries to be more focused on the developing relationship between Lotte and Naoya. The approach fails to work here because the character dynamic has been done enough times before where its quite stale and the creepy lolicon implications of the relationship are present since Naoya’s a full-grown adult (despite appearing much younger) and Lotte has yet to even approach adolescence.

Mama's about to become a pedophile (which I'm sadly not kidding about).
Mama's about to become a pedophile (which I'm sadly not kidding about).

Outside of the relationship developments, Astarotte’s Toy also suffers in its comedic delivery and having some questionable moral elements to its story. For the show’s humor, it dabbles into the typical and tiresome perverted gags and innuendo jokes you would find in ecchi titles that involve intercourse, certain bodily features, arousal and the sometimes too-intimate interactions between female cast members. The title’s moral elements also raise some red flags as it was implied Naoya was underaged when he had intercourse with Lotte’s mother and our male lead having some pretty lousy parenting skills considering he left his daughter to fend for herself during the first few episodes of the series when he entered Alfheimr and having very loose conduct with his parenting considering Asuha’s habit of not wearing underwear, allowing her to dress in some scanty clothing and her touchy-feely behavior with members of the female cast.

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Looks like I have another situation where I found a series to be not as bad as folks were passing it off to be with Iron Man, as much mixed reception I’ve heard of Madhouse-Marvel’s anime work. This is still standard fare, but I don’t find it to be horrifically bad. With that in mind, I’ll be tweaking my review format slightly like I did with my Upotte review to reflect on what worked and not worked with Iron Man. Now onto the review…

Iron Man is the first of four anime titles animated by Madhouse that adapted a popular superhero franchise from Marvel Comics. The series originally aired in Japan for 12 episodes from October 1 to December 17 of 2010. It was licensed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, who aired an English dubbed version of the series on G4 starting in July 2011 and was released on DVD in 2012.

The Plot

That's a lot of Iron Men.
That's a lot of Iron Men.

Tony Stark arrives in Japan with the purpose of building an Arc Station that will provide clean energy to the populace and claims to have retired as Iron Man as he is working on a mass-produced version of his armor called Iron Man Dios that will serve in efforts to curb any global threats. However, his efforts are sabotaged by a secret terrorist organization called Zodiac, who steal the Dios armor and plot to hijack the Arc Station for their own nefarious purposes. Tony resumes his guise as Iron Man in order to combat the robotic threats of Zodiac and figure out the organization’s motives.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Tony Stark/ Iron Man- A multibillionaire who runs a weapons manufacturing company called Stark Industries and created the Iron Man armor, with the suit giving him superhuman attributes, flight, adaptability to hostile environments and access to various beam weapons. As atonement for his weapons having contributed to various acts of war and terrorism, Tony swore to use his company’s resources to better humanity and combat global threats.
  • Chika Tanaka- A Japanese scientist who assists Tony in his Arc Station developments and dealings with Zodiac.
  • Nanami Ota- A reporter who keeps trying to grill Tony for interviews during his stay in Japan.
  • Kuroda- The Japanese government’s Minister of Defense who serves as Tony’s support as he adapts to life in Japan and quelling any criticism of his actions in the country.
  • Nagato Sakurai- A member of Japan’s SDF who usually comes to Tony’s aid in later episodes by making use of a battle armor called the Ramon Zero.
  • Ho Yinsen- A Vietnamese scientist who helped Tony in changing his beliefs on life when both were captured by terrorists to make weapons. Thought to have been killed during their escape, Tony is shocked to discover that Yinsen had survived and now serves as a member of Zodiac donning the stolen Iron Man Dios armor.

What Works

Tony doing what he does best.
Tony doing what he does best.

Madhouse clearly put effort into the animation used within Iron Man and it shows with the visual presentation being above average for a TV anime. The scenery of the Tokyo landscape is vast with plenty of detail and vibrant colors shown with buildings and different locales. Character designs appeared to be going for a more Western style with facial designs looking more realistic in their proportions and details compared to more conventional approaches, with a good amount of detail depicted in their designs as well. CG animation was used in the rendering of Iron Man and other robots/ battle armors seen throughout the series which look slick, detailed and fit almost seamlessly with the anime’s regular animation. Battle scenes are well animated with movements looking fluid and intense, taking place on the ground, the air and even an episode occurring in space

With the series seeming to be made in mind for those who seen the 2008 live-action American movie or read the comics, fans will likely pick up on the subtle nods made to events and characters from both sources. And for those who haven’t seen neither source, there is an episode in the anime that focuses on exploring Tony’s origins as Iron Man and what led him to adapt his mentality to use his wealth for the better of humanity.

What Sucks

Another literal case of "when sharks attack"?
Another literal case of "when sharks attack"?

The main plot to Iron Man is a standard one that has been done enough times in conventional anime titles where the hero (Iron Man) is up against an evil organization seeking world domination (Zodiac). The series adapts an “enemy of the day” style plot for each of its episodes where Tony goes up against a different enemy threat from Zodiac for much of the show. In addition, the motives of the organization and the leader of Zodiac are rather predictable as the series presses on, killing much of the surprise the anime wanted to build up. While these elements are not so bad, they feel no different from the typical premises you can find in more popular anime titles and make the show’s plot feel kind of bland.

The weakest material coming from Iron Man comes in the motives of characters involved with Zodiac. Some of the enemies in the anime’s “enemy of the day” setup are human threats whose motives for joining the organization are poorly written and just an excuse to have them go up against Tony. This is especially a problem with Yinsen’s character as the anime effectively retconned his fate, just to create a weak twist in its plot when his actions and reasoning for involvement in Zodiac are contradictory to the type of character he was in the movie and comics.

Overall

While its plot is clichéd and rather forgettable, Iron Man is far from being a dud in my personal opinion. Action anime and Iron Man fans could clamor to the series for its well-animated battle scenes or just be giddy to see Tony Stark made into an anime character. Plus, the anime still has some respectability for its source material in depicting Tony’s character and origins, despite how Yinsen is depicted. However unless you come into this series looking forward to the fights or seeing Tony being Tony, Iron Man isn’t pulling anything groundbreaking with its plot and you will likely be disappointed with what it portrays.

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Angel Cop was a six-episode OVA cyberpunk series animated and released by Soeishinsha from September 1, 1989 to May 20, 1994. The series was released on VHS in the 1990s by Manga Entertainment and later released to DVD in 2000. Both formats of the series are now out of print. Alongside Mad Bull 34, Angel Cop is notable for being among a trilogy of horrifically bad Manga Entertainment releases dubbed the “Holy Trinity of Suck”.

The Plot

"If this is justice, then I&squot;m a banana."
"If this is justice, then I'm a banana."

In an alternate universe of 1990s Japan, the country is the world’s economic power with a communist terrorist group called the Red May trying to take down and take over the government. In response to this threat, the Japanese government has formed an agency called the Special Security Force, who have the authority to operate outside the law. However, the Special Security Force comes to discover that a second group is also hunting down the terrorists.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Angel- The main protagonist of the series. A Special Security Force member who believes in completion of the mission over the lives of others.
  • Sakada Raiden- Angel’s partner in the Special Security Force. After being seriously injured in a mission against Red May, Raiden volunteers to become a cyborg with abilities that allow him to fight on par with the psychic Lucifer.
  • Ichihara- The mad scientist responsible for giving Raiden his new cybernetic body later in the series.
  • Lucifer- The main antagonist of the series who is one of three powerful psychics called Hunters tasked with hunting members of the Red May. However, she has more fanatical motives in the goal as she kills anyone she perceives as aiding the terrorists, including members of the Special Security Force.
  • Asura- Another one of the Hunters who later partners up with the Special Security Force against Lucifer upon realizing her radical motives.

Why It Sucks

Angel Cop attempts to create a cyberpunk anime out of events that took place during the late 1980s and early 1990s for Japan with its focused themes on communism, political corruption and Japan’s bubble economy. Unfortunately, the series never bothers to go into much depth with these major themes for its plot as it is more focused on showing off its gritty mood, graphic violence and mostly unsympathetic cast.

Brigitte Nielsen's carnage begins here.
Brigitte Nielsen's carnage begins here.

The anime never bothers to go into depth about the motivations concerning the multiple factions of the series and why one should care for their beliefs, instead portraying a sense of jingoism with Japan being the sole superpower in the world that others wish to attack for no particular reason. Angel Cop is quite infamous for its later plot twist being quite anti-Semitic when it is revealed Jews are responsible for influencing the problems plaguing Japan. Fortunately, Manga Entertainment did have the courtesy of altering this plot element in their English dub and subtitles, replacing it with the influence being an American corporation.

Angel Cop does sport a good amount of graphic violence with characters shown to be killed in horrible and gory ways. In one notable instance, you get to see a female terrorist being shot in the head, which explodes in gory fashion to show off brain matter and an eyeball flying out.

The characters in the series don’t help matters in the title’s quality as many of them lack depth and/ or are rather unsympathetic. For instance, our female lead Angel is willing to kill off a terrorist and his child hostage in one scene, placing her mission over the lives of civilians.

Enough detail with the gore?
Enough detail with the gore?

The visuals to Angel Cop also have their faults in terms of quality and the way its settings and characters are shown. Some of the character designs (particularly Lucifer and Asura) and settings (a music bar with a glam rock band) were meant to depict popular trends of the 80s, yet were hilariously outdated as Angel Cop was animated into the 90s as these trends died out. Also, the animation quality of the series tended to be quite inconsistent throughout its run, having its well animated spots and awful moments in various scenes.

Like a good number of Manga’s early dubs, Angel Cop is peppered with profane language not found in the original Japanese version of the series and has a laughably bad English dub with flat emotional delivery and some unintentionally funny lines in the dub’s script.

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Mouse was a 12-episode adventure/ harem comedy anime aired on Japanese TV from January 5 to March 23 of 2003, with each episode airing for 15 minutes a piece. The anime was animated by Studio Deen and based on the manga series written by Satoru Akahori and illustrated by Hiroshi Itaba for the seinen magazine, Young Animal, from April 28, 2000 to October 29, 2004. A rather interesting fact about Mouse is that the series actually aired on a children’s channel called Kids Station during the time of its broadcast in Japan.

The series is currently licensed in America by Media Blasters under their Anime Works distribution line, with the series still in print by the company.

The Plot

Sorata and his fellow Slutsketeers
Sorata and his fellow Slutsketeers

A young college art teacher named Sorata Muon takes on the secret identity of Mouse, a professional thief whose exploits have been passed down through his family for 400 years. Assisted by his three highly devoted and attractive assistants, Mouse is able to successfully elude capture by authorities and steal whatever valuables he declares he will steal, no matter how secure and protected they are.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Sorata Muon- A popular college art teacher who follows his family’s centuries long tradition of being the thief, Mouse, and is normally in toll with his three attractive assistants.
  • Mei Momozono- A busty computer and physics expert and the first of Sorata’s assistants to be acquainted with him. Appears to be a shotacon as she got turned on meeting with Sorata when they first met when he was in his teens and she being older than him.
  • Yayoi Kuribayashi- A busty biology expert who had a fear of men before meeting up with Sorata to become one of his assistants. Has the most sexually driven personality of Sorata’s assistants.
  • Kakio Hazuki- An expert martial artist suffering from multiple personality disorder who is the third of Sorata’s assistants. Has a cosplay fetish and the unusual habit of appearing in strange places like the bathroom or a washing machine.

Why It Sucks

The thievery attire of the Slutsketeers.
The thievery attire of the Slutsketeers.

The major low point of Mouse comes in the form of the three assistants that assist Sorata with his thefts. Clearly being the selling points of the series, their roles are seemingly only being sluts content to serving Sorata and wishing to have their way with him with their suggestive attires and behavior, as well as the prominent large busts found with Mei and Yayoi. While their sexual advances on Sorata are not frequent in Mouse, the three girls still aren’t too appealing on the eyes thanks to the title’s subpar animation as their details look rather crude and rough

Beyond the assistants, Mouse is focused on a number of storylines throughout its run that involve Sorata’s various thefts, how he met his assistants and crossing paths with an enemy syndicate wishing to kill him and his assistants off for their thievery. While there’s enough substance in the series for some semblance of a plot, all the show’s characters are stuck with whatever character archetype they are tacked on with and don’t do much of anything to grow out of it. The thievery of Mouse and his crew isn’t even too interesting of a plot element to be hooked on as the plans for his thefts are too ridiculous to take seriously, with a couple instances where he literally steals entire buildings.

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OniAi (also known as Onii-chan Dakedo Ai sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne!) was a 12-episode ecchi/ harem comedy TV anime series that aired from October 5 to December 21 of last year. It is based on an ongoing light novel series written by Daisuke Suzuki and illustrated by Gekka Uru, which has been published since December 31, 2010. Funimation currently has rights to stream the series online via their streaming site.

The Plot

It's funny, because they want it to happen!
It's funny, because they want it to happen!

After six years of separation, twin siblings Akito and Akiko Himenokoji reunite and live together in the dormitories of Saint Liliana High School. Akiko has developed an incestuous interest in her brother due to their time apart and wishes to act upon those feelings on him. However, she finds this difficult as the siblings share their dormitory with three other girls who each have differing forms of romantic interest in Akito.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Akito Himenokoji- The male lead of the series. He wishes to live his life normally, yet finds himself being hassled by the girls living with him in the dormitory. Akito secretly writes erotic novels to earn income that involve brother-sister incest under the pen name Koichiro Shindo, who is ironically his sister’s favorite author.
  • Akiko Himenokoji- Akito’s twin sister who has a serious case of brother complex in wanting to seduce her brother and isn’t afraid to make her feelings known of him to others, even in public.
  • Anatasia Nasuhara- A half-American, half-Russian girl who is wealthy thanks to being the daughter of a worldwide industry owner. She’s a sharp-tongued girl with a cold personality and has the habit of asking strange and sometimes crass questions. While being well-rounded in knowledge, she is horrible with doing house chores due to her upbringing and has an interest in cute things, keeping a large number of plush animals in her room.
  • Ginbei Haruomi Sawatari- Akito’s childhood friend with an androgynous appearance and masculine personality that lead others to mistake her for a boy. Because of coming from a merchant family, she was raised as a boy and forbidden from finding a job as she is living through her family’s income. Often gets into the habit of mumbling over Akito’s ignorance of her feelings for him.
  • Arashi Nikaido- A third-year student with heterochromia who is often seen wearing an eye patch on her right eye. She is a bisexual who acts sexually aggressive towards anyone who interests her, particularly Akito whom she wants to make into her underground lover or sex slave.
  • Alisa Takanomiya- A 12-year old girl whose family adopted Akito and became his fiancée. She moves into the dormitory with Akito and the other girls in the second half of the show to become the dorm’s caretaker.
  • Kaoruko Jinno- Personal editor of Akito when writing as Koichiro Shindo. Because of the subject matter in his erotic novels, she fears that Akito is in an incestuous relationship with Akiko.

Why It Sucks

OniAi is an ecchi title that milks the typical elements you would find from the genre and harem comedy titles. Our male lead Akito mostly serves as a doormat to the antics that he has to put up with from his unwanted harem, with the girls mostly having stock archetypes for their characters that you would likely see at one point or another from other ecchi or high school themed anime.

Guess someone found out your secret!
Guess someone found out your secret!

While the ecchi behavior in OniAi is not of the gross-out variety, it still can push things quite a bit at points with its content having crass humor, innuendo, suggestive predicaments and fan service shots of the female cast. Outside of the incest element being milked for the title’s ecchi antics with Akiko, things do get a bit uncomfortable in some of OniAi’s later episodes when Alisa’s character becomes part of the household and is milked for some of the title’s ecchi scenes.

Outside of the anime’s failed efforts to milk comedy off the antics of Akito’s unwanted harem, OniAi is mostly a dull affair as there isn’t an ongoing plot to follow and the characters don’t have much in the way of dimension or depth to them beyond whatever archetypes they are following.

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