Dream (Level 21)

The Winter 2015 season's winding down. Expect me to be whipping out a few reviews on titles I've been watching this season over the next few days.
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Master of Martial Hearts was a 5-episode OAV anime series released from October 29, 2008 to February 25, 2009. The series was animated by Studio ARMS, who are well-known for creating Elfen Lied and a number of other ecchi titles, and is currently licensed in America by Funimation Entertainment for streaming and video release.

The Story

Yes, this is a fighting flight attendant.
Yes, this is a fighting flight attendant.

High school student Aya Iseshima comes across a brawl between two girls competing in a tournament for a prize called the Platonic Heart (Martial Heart in English dub) that will grant any wish to the winner of the tournament. Aya finds herself making friends with one of the two girls, a young priestess named Miko Kazuki, who chooses to retire from the tournament as her wish of making friends with someone came true. However, Aya finds herself placed in the tournament in Miko’s place. When the priestess is mysteriously abducted from her home, Aya finds herself competing in the Platonic Heart tournament against a number of fetish-themed women to learn of the whereabouts of Miko and the true nature of the tournament.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Aya Iseshima- A high school girl skilled in martial arts who takes Miko’s place in fighting in the Platonic Heart tournament to discover the whereabouts of her missing friend.
  • Natsume Honma- Aya’s cheerful and supportive best friend.
  • Miko Kazuki- A 19-year old priestess who participated in the Platonic Heart tournament to make friends. After making friends with Aya and Natsume, she drops out of the tournament and is later abducted from her home, serving as Aya’s motivation for advancing through the Platonic Heart tournament.
  • Haruki Honma- Natsume’s older brother and Aya’s crush.

Why It Sucks:

Originality is definitely not Master of Martial Hearts' best area. The series takes aspects of Ikki Tousen with its fan service and clothes-tearing fights with many aspects of the show’s plot being an excuse for said fights, even with the occasional hints dropped regarding the true nature of the Platonic Heart tournament. The fights Aya gets involved in involve women in fetish-themed outfits from their professions whose only roles are to pander to the title’s otaku audience and be punching bags to the female lead.

Teacher/student brawl with the typical clothes-tearing.
Teacher/student brawl with the typical clothes-tearing.

Master of Martial Hearts also takes a page from School Days’ book in trying to create an unexpected and shocking resolution in its final episode when Aya learns the truth surrounding the Platonic Heart tournament (which I won’t spoil here). While School Days made some sense with its shocking resolution with how hated much of its cast became from their actions (one of the few times you'll hear me praise the series for something), the revelations concerning the tournament for Master of Martial Hearts come across as poorly written and mean-spirited in comparison.

The action scenes don’t even work well in this title because of the subpar animation in Master of Martial Hearts. The quality and detail in the series looks more on par with a TV anime than an OAV and the action scenes weren’t too engaging or fluid as attacks from many female fighters tended to be themed for whatever fetish that the fighters stuck with and shortcuts with animation were quite notable. Also, don’t be too surprised if you see a change in the bust sizes of Aya and Natsume as they tend to switch quite frequently between being normal-sized and huge.

Might also want to avoid listening to Master of Martial Hearts' opening music as it makes for quite the obnoxious and irritating little J-Pop song.

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  Think a certain scene in the second-to-last episode of Tiger and Bunny resembled a memorable DBZ scene? Check this out!
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The video speaks for itself, especially considering the amount of hype the subject has had with American anime fans over the past week.
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Should get a kick out of this if you've seen Ramen Fighter Miki. Heh, heh!
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As part of my exclusive work for Anime Vice to commemorate my tenth year as an anime fan, I will be doing a ten-part weekly article series where I offer you guys a look into the best anime I seen for each year throughout the decade where I started off my anime fandom: the 2000s. I will be doing either a top five or top ten list for each year depending on the number of titles I had enjoyed from that time. Be warned that whatever I present for these articles is my personal opinion. So do not take things too personally if I do not include an anime you liked.


10. Emma: Victorian Romance

Emma: Victorian Romance is a romantic drama that offers up the classic premise of “love overcoming social status” in its focus on the developing relationship between young maid Emma and the heir of a wealthy upper-class merchant family named William Jones. This isn’t just an anime that falls under the clichéd maid premises you would find in romantic comedy titles that pander to the otaku crowd. This series offers up a believable take on the connections that Emma has with the elder employer she serves in the form of former governess Kelly Stowner and even exploring how the two meet one another alongside Emma’s harsh past. It is also very meticulous in its exploration of the Victorian era English society that Emma is set in with accurate depictions of popular sites, clothing styles, customs and societal norms of the time period. This first season of the series is focused on the slow build up of Emma and Will’s relationship before it becomes well known and tensions flare when others learn of it. However, the series does lack a proper ending as its second season would not air until another two years later. Still if you want a classic romantic premise to look into with a very accurate depiction of a historical time period, definitely check out Emma Victorian Romance.


9. Aria the Animation

A relaxing slice-of-life title to get into, Aria the Animation explores the everyday developments of young apprentice gondoliers Akari, Aika and Alice in a futuristic version of Venice, Italy on the planet Aqua. The series is quite notable for its vast and beautiful scenery shots depicting accurate depictions of various famous sites in Venice, its friendly, likeable cast of characters and calm and serene soundtrack. This is a definite watch for anyone wanting a mellow, wholesome and relaxing series to get into.



8. Honey and Clover

Being one of the first josei manga titles to be adapted into an anime series, Honey and Clover explores the complicated romantic developments and career-deciding dilemmas faced by several art school students. Sometimes bordering on melodrama and other times being inspirational, the series mixes around elements of comedy and drama exploring the situations faced by its cast such as mellow male lead Yuta Takemoto, the eccentric Shinobu Morita and child-like, talented artist Hagumi Hanamoto. Outside of the romantic elements, Honey and Clover believably explores the career decisions made by the cast and actually goes several years with the cast as they go through their years of art school. The series is notable for its pastel-like animation style sporting soft colors and a decent amount of visual detail with its scenery and characters. This is a definite watch if you are a fan of josei titles.


7. Eureka 7

A worthwhile mecha title to check out, Eureka 7 features the exploits of 14-year old Renton, the mysterious young female pilot Eureka and the band of renegades known as Gekko-State going up against Dewey Novak and the militaristic UF Force. The series is prominently focused on Renton’s coming-of-age as he comes to learn of the reality surrounding Gekko-State’s revolt, Eureka’s origins and the corruption of the UF Force’s under Dewey’s influence. The series does explore a number of themes throughout its run with its characters such as religious tolerance, personal identity and responsibility, parenting and moving on from past tragedies. A unique element to Eureka 7’s mecha theme is their occasional recreational use thanks to the liftboards equipped to the LFO units piloted by some of the characters, with the hobby being popular in the world of Eureka 7 and many of the Gekko State members being skilled lifters themselves. Besides lifting being one of the show’s animation highlights, the show has a great amount of quality in its animation with a good amount of detail put into its various character, mecha and ship designs; as well as battle scenes being fluid, intense and diverse with ground and aerial battle sequences that involve humans and LFOs.


6. Kamichu

Some folks have compared the animation and plotting to Kamichu to a Studio Ghibli film and while the series isn’t among the beloved studio’s works, it still stuck out prominently enough when it aired in 2005. While the series seemingly appears as an “everyday lives of high school gal pals” slice of life-type series at first glance, female lead Yurie’s status as a goddess and her regular interactions with different spirits and gods offer up some fun and unusual elements to the typical slice-of-life premise. While the series doesn’t bother exploring how Yurie acquires her powers as a god, it does do well in exploring the complications within her life as she juggles her duties as a god and the awkward experiences of growing up with her crush on a classmate. Kamichu mixes around elements of comedy and light drama in exploring the developments faced by Yurie and those close to her thanks to her divine status. The series has great quality animation for a TV anime series featuring bright, vivid colors and plenty of detail in the designs of vast, beautiful scenery shots and character designs that do closely resemble the Studio Ghibli animation style. Animation within the series is fluid and lively with many characters shown to move about onscreen at once and some scenes feature Yurie making use of her powers to perform her duties and deal with spirits causing mischief within her town.  


5. Fantastic Children

Don't let the old-school, simplistic character designs fool you. Fantastic Children is a serious drama that interweaves several story arcs that become more closely connected to one another as more details are unveiled concerning those connected with Helga, the Befort Children and the GED Organization. The series creates enough mysteries surrounding the motivations and origins of many of the characters in the series to the point where when a plot twist comes around, you genuinely wouldn't see it coming. The main cast gets a good amount of development in terms of knowing the type of people they are and their pasts, as well as some powerful character chemistry as they face their ordeals in this series. Fantastic Children makes for a great title to look into if you like epic-style dramas.



4. Mushishi

Mushi-shi is an anime title that is quite serene and laid-back with its storytelling approach. This episodic series centers on Ginko's encounters with people who each have their own conflicts with the forms of mysterious life known as Mushi. Each episode provides a sense of how each person lived their lives before and during the times they are affected by Mushi. Ginko is then given the task of solving whatever problem that the Mushi is giving. With exception to Ginko's appearance, everyone he encounters live in a feudal Japan lifestyle so attitudes and ways of basic living are accurate to the time period. Different themes regarding the presence of the Mushi introduce lessons in each episode which involve themes such as acceptance, loss, sacrifice, guilt, and survival. In addition, there are no fast-moving and intense elements such as action, violence, and comedy. This anime encourages you to just sit back and enjoy the stories being told. The stories even have different outcomes. Some are able to end happily thanks to Ginko's knowledge of the Mushi causing problems. Others end tragically as there is only so much that Ginko can do to help those who are suffering. A couple even provide depth on Ginko's past and reveal what led him to become a Mushi-shi. This mellow mood also went into the show’s presentation with vivid, beautiful settings of scenery and the mellow soundtrack featuring new age and traditional musical tracks. Yet another perfect relaxing title to get into if you do not mind the episodic storytelling style of this series.


3. Paradise Kiss

One of the first popular josei titles released in 2005, Paradise Kiss takes a look at a young woman’s beginnings towards becoming a fashion model discovering all the successes and pitfalls of the profession and the circumstances that lead her into the profession. This made for quite an original premise for an anime series as the challenges of the fashion world were portrayed quite accurately in Paradise Kiss as there was a great amount of attention put on such pressures as developing clothing designs, the application process for modeling and photo shoots for magazine publications. The personalities of the characters involved in the fashion world are portrayed quite well, as the viewer will get a sense of a world that exists outside of the normal lives they experience. Outside of the fashion environment, the series also explores the sexual tension in relationships between characters, especially with George and Yukari. This goes well with the outside worldly environment in which Paradise Kiss achieves. Animation wise, the character designs and background scenery were richly saturated in color and detail with an intricate amount of detail put into the clothing designs being modeled by Yukari.


2. Gankutsuou: Count of Monte Cristo

As covered in my top 25 best anime video, Gankutsuou offers up a suspenseful, futuristic take on Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel of a mysterious count seeking revenge on three influential and corrupt Frenchmen who incriminated him for their misdeeds. The show slowly builds up the Count as a cunning and tragic villain who deceives and humiliates the targets of his vengeance, even using the young son of one of his foes as a pawn to provide information on his old foe. It is one of Gonzo’s better works featuring lifelike settings of notable landmarks of France and having its moments of fluid and intense animation in battle and transport sequences.



1. Monster

The mystery/ suspense series continued picking up steam into 2005 for me as it slowly unveiled more about Johan Liebert and the twisted inner workings of Kinderheim 511; continued Dr. Tenma’s pursuit of him; and introduce more characters with connections to the twisted titular foe and find their morality pushed to the breaking point thanks to the young man’s manipulations or come to believe in Tenma’s innocence as they gather more details on Johan.

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