Dream (Level 20)

Time for crap to fly again. Shall reveal what I've got in store in two weeks.
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If you're a Toradora fan, this should be good news for you. NIS America, the American licensor for the series, is planning a re-release of the series that will contain an English dub. This will mark the first series that NIS America released an English dub for since they started releasing anime in America in 2010. Here is who will be voicing the major characters of the series:

The series will be released in Premium and Standard Blu-Ray/ DVD combo sets on July 1 with the new English dub. The Premium Edition will be priced at $129.99 and include all 25 episodes of the series, an OVA and a hardcover book. Bonus features will include clean opening and closing sequences, four mini-episodes, bonus clips and TV promos. The Standard Edition will be sold in two sets for $59.99 each for Blu-Ray/ DVD combo sets and $44.99 just for DVD sets.

Toradora was one of the first anime titles to be licensed by NIS America. It is a romantic comedy based on the popular light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya and Yasu that focuses on two social outcasts, Taiga and Ryuji, who help one another out to try starting up romantic relationships with their close friends.

Here is a trailer for Toradora's English dub release:

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R-15 was a 12-episode ecchi/ harem comedy TV anime that originally aired in Japan from July 10 to September 25 of 2011 and was animated by AIC. The series was based on the light novel series written by Hiroyuki Fushimi from July 2009 to August 2012. The series was aired in an edited format for TV broadcast and released unedited for its video release. It is available for legal streaming via Crunchyroll.

The Plot

Our lead swimming in lingerie and other random stuff.
Our lead swimming in lingerie and other random stuff.

Inspiration Academy Private High School is a school for gifted high school geniuses that is attended by Taketo Akutagawa, who is known to write erotic novels. Considered a pervert by many among his class, Taketo aims to be the top student of the school and attempts to befriend several students among the school's female student body.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Taketo Akutagawa- The main lead of the series. An erotic writer who is unpopular among many in the school as he often has nosebleeds from having lewd fantasies about those among the school's female student body that he uses as inspiration in writing his novels.
  • Fukune Narukawa- A shy clarinetist who is the first girl that Taketo befriends. She struggles to meet up to the high standards set up for her by her father.
  • Raika Meiki- A photographer for the academy newspaper who regularly tags along with Taketo to use him as a model for her work and tends to take photos of him during his embarrassing predicaments.
  • Kurumi Kuroki- The chief of the academy newspaper club normally protected by a pair of bodyguards.
  • Utae Sonokoe- A popular pop idol who is one of the few in the academy to not mind Taketo's erotic writing.
  • Ran Musen- A computer programmer whose proficiency is such that she can hack government satellites and computers. She is the most hateful of Taketo's erotic writing within the academy.
  • Tsukuru Kagaku- An inventor known to make machines and devices that malfunction, usually at Taketo's inconvenience.
  • Ritsu Enshu- Taketo's close friend and a mathematician. When aroused, Taketo normally has him recite pi to calm down.
  • Botan Beni- An avant-garde artist known for painting people's bodies and using other students for her canvases.

Why It Sucks

R-15 is yet another ecchi title with a premise that is a thinly-veiled excuse to show off perverted content involving our male lead and several girls he gets acquainted with at Inspiration Academy throughout the show's run.

Makes one wonder why they even bother airing this on TV.
Makes one wonder why they even bother airing this on TV.

The characters are all two-dimensional archetypes you would find out of high-school-themed and harem titles, many of whom hardly getting much in the way of fleshing out. The plot is mostly centered on Taketo becoming acquainted with a different archetypal girl, earning their trust and using whatever situation each girl is in as inspiration for his erotic novels. Also, perverted content is mostly the norm in this turd with lewd fantasies, revealing attire, undressed moments, innuendo gags, panty shots and compromising situations being shown at many points throughout this series.

Of particular note with this show is the way it censored its content for its TV broadcast. Beams of light are used to cover up any questionable content visually shown. However, there are points where this censorship gets quite overboard and even inconsistent as there are points undressed states like panty and lingerie shots are either censored or not at all, even if said shots weren't gratuitous or bordering on showing outright nudity.

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What was thought to be an impossibility from yours truly has become a reality. It was just announced on Discotek's Facebook pagethat the company will be planning a video release of School Days containing all 12 episodes of the series and the Magical Heart Kokoro-chan bonus OVA series for June 24 of this year. The release will come only with Japanese audio and English subtitles.

School Days is based on the eroge dating sim game released by 0verflow in Japan on PC on April 28, 2005, with the game having been released here in the United States in 2012 via the remastered School Days HQ release. The game is notable for having fully animated scenes that play out compared to the static shots of other dating sims and gaining infamy for its graphically violent "bad" endings. The storyline of the series is focused around high school student Makoto Itou finding himself caught up in a love triangle with love interests Sekai Saionji and Kotonoha Katsura, with any decisions you make in influencing Makoto's actions leading up to one of the game's endings.

The anime adaptation of the series was animated by TNK and aired on Japanese TV from July 3 to September 27 of 2007. The anime attracted a great deal of controversy with its final episode that would involve showing a variant of the game's bad endings. A real-life event in Japan that involved a teenage girl killing her father with an axe led to many of the show's broadcasters cancelling the airing of the episode and replacing it with a slideshow montage of live-action boat shots that led to the popular meme of "Nice Boat" to spawn from the events. Japanese premium channel AT-X would still air the episode, albeit in an edited format to censor the episode's violent content. The episode would be shown in its original, unedited format for its video release.

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Pilot Candidate (also known as Candidate for Goddess in Japan) was a 12-episode TV anime animated by Xebec and aired on Japanese TV from January 10 to March 27 of 2000. The series was based on an incomplete manga series written by Yukiru Sugisaki for the seinen magazine Comic Gum.

The series was licensed for American video release by Bandai Entertainment in 2001 and was broadcast on Cartoon Network's debuting Adult Swim Action block from February 23 to May 11 of 2002. The series was originally meant to be broadcast on the channel's Toonami block, resulting in the series being edited for content considered objectionable to a younger audience when it premiered on Adult Swim. The series has been long out of print for video release.

The Plot

Since when do good mecha pilots need training running on hamster wheels?
Since when do good mecha pilots need training running on hamster wheels?

Humanity has colonized other planets with their civilization under attack by an alien threat called Victim. Protecting the planet Zion from the Victim threat are mecha pilots capable of piloting five giant mecha called Ingrid. To be an Ingrid pilot, one must have a rare blood type called EO and have a special ability known as EX. Zero Enma is a young man who is a candidate to pilot the Ingrid who travels to a training academy called GOA to learn how to harness his abilities in controlling Ingrid.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Zero Enma- A young man who is a candidate to become an Ingrid pilot. An optimistic, impulsive and energetic boy, his personality often gets him in clashes with other classmates and personnel.
  • Hiead Gner- Another Ingrid candidate with a cold and distant personality. His past is implied to be a dark one due to the manifesting of his EX abilities.
  • Clay Cliff Fortran- A smart young man more interested in learning more than being an Ingrid pilot.
  • Kizna Towryk- A repairer of Ingrid units assigned to being Zero's mechanic during his training. She has artificial cat ears due to an accident that damaged her ears when she was younger.
  • Ikhny Allecto- A repairer assigned to Hiead Gner with a timid personality and low self-confidence.
  • Azuma Hijikata- The strict personal instructor of Zero and the other candidate pilots aboard GOA.

Why It Sucks

Pilot Candidate is a series that is quite vanilla in what it offers up with its content and is quite infamous for the lack of developments that its plot and characters undergo due to its inconclusive ending.

And here I thought Gonzo was the king of Conspicuous CGI in their work.
And here I thought Gonzo was the king of Conspicuous CGI in their work.

The premise and characters that this series offer up are all those that have been done before from past mecha titles like fighting abnormal enemy threats with mecha, a training academy for potential mecha pilots and hints of possible shady activity within the mentioned academy. Many of the characters are also stock archetypes found from many anime titles like the impulsive and energetic male lead, the cold and brooding loner, a catgirl, the bespectacled genius and a shy, timid meganekko.

What makes this series particularly bad is the sloppiness of its overall writing and inconclusive ending. Many elements to the show's plot and characters have a decent number of holes to them, are vaguely hinted to yet never explored and nothing is allowed to develop at all with the plot and characters. The series abruptly ends after 12 episodes with the Victim threat still lingering and many unanswered questions regarding major elements to Pilot Candidate such as the backgrounds of characters, the nature of the Victim threat, whether the Ingrid units have some sort of sentience, any hidden agenda within GOA and so forth.

The CG animation used for this during Ingrid and Victim battles is also quite bad with very crude and rough renderings of both teams and poor animation of them in action.

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Note: Guess despite what MAL and ANN voter ratings claim, this series isn't as horrible as I was expecting. A matter of fact, this is easily the best quality title I've covered on Ani-Crap Review thus far and that is saying something considering the nice amount of trash I've covered thus far. Regardless, I'm tweaking my review format slightly to cover my thoughts on this series instead of ripping it apart. I'll very likely be able to relish in that when I cover Pilot Candidate next week for my final review for Adult Swim Month. Regardless, read on, enjoy my look into Reign the Conqueror and judge for yourself if you agree with me or the voters among both MAL and ANN.

Reign the Conqueror (known as Alexander Senki in Japan) was a 13-episode TV anime series that aired in Japan from September 14 to December 7 of 1999. The series was based on a light novel series written by Hiroshi Aramata from 1998 to 1999. The animated adaptation of the series was animated by Madhouse and had Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung involved in its designs of settings and characters.

The series was licensed by Tokyopop in 2001 for American video distribution as part of their anime line of releases. Originally, there was an attempt by a group of producers led by veteran voice actor Jack Fletcher to direct the series before Tokyopop announced their acquisition of Reign. Tokyopop retained the original dub done by Fletcher for the title's first four episodes done for their video release and had their own voice cast dub the remaining nine episodes of the series. The English dub of Reign was aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block from February 10 to March 3 of 2003, where it underwent a great deal of censorship to edit or remove scenes containing intense violence and nudity. Tokyopop has since lost their rights to the series and Reign is now out of print.

The Plot

Our prince is literally on top of the world.
Our prince is literally on top of the world.

Alexander is the young prince of the Macedonian Empire, born to King Philip II and the snake witch Olympias. Fending off assassins and rising to gain the throne of his kingdom, Alexander begins his quest to conquer all lands throughout the known world. Throughout this quest, the prince also comes to question an ancient prophecy that foretells of his quest leading to the destruction of the world.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Alexander- The young prince of Macedonia born to Philip II and Olympias. Upon gaining the throne to his kingdom, Alexander begins to conquer a number of kingdoms throughout the known world and struggles to come to grips with a prophecy that claims he will be responsible for the world's destruction.
  • Olympias- The mother of Alexander and an infamous snake witch. She is crazed in delight with the prophecy that her son will lead the world to destruction.
  • Philip II- Alexander's father and the original ruler of Macedonia. His jealousy of the attention that his armies and Olympias give to Alexander drives him to divorce the latter and attempt to wed another woman to produce another heir over Alexander. However, he is later killed by a guard hypnotized by his former wife.
  • Aristotle- An acclaimed Greek philosopher seeking the whereabouts of an ancient artifact said to possess all knowledge of the world and tries to prevent Alexander from fulfilling the ancient prophecy that would lead to the world's destruction through the manipulation of his daughter, Cassandra, who accompanies Alexander on his quest.
  • Diogenes- An eccentric Greek philosopher who lives a simple lifestyle due to his beliefs in cynic philosophy. Alexander encounters him following his takeover of Thebes and their encounter leads the king to cut back on many of the strict demands he gave on the city of Athens.
  • Philotas- Alexander's most experienced and loyal general who has doubts about his king's loyalty later in the series when he recalls hearing of Olympias' claims about Alexander's prophecy.
  • Ptolemy- A Macedonian cavalryman who joins Alexander's armies after the prince acknowledges the value of calvarymen on the battlefield. While loyal to Alexander at first, he starts questioning his loyalty to him upon hearing that a prophecy exists where he would become the Macedonian king if he succeeded in assassinating the king later in the series.
  • Cleitus- An officer of Alexander's who wields a lance in battle and joined the prince's ranks upon his acknowledgment of the importance of calvarymen.
  • Darius III- The king of the Persian Empire who acknowledges the fearsome capabilities of Alexander when he first encountered the prince disguised as a woman when Alexander and several of his men sabotaged a meeting between Athens and Persia in an attempt to forge an alliance.
  • Roxanna- A young Bactarian princess who later becomes the wife of Alexander after he is successful in conquering Persia.

The Review

Being a loose take on portraying the life of famous Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, Reign adds in supernatural elements, steampunk and influential philosophers of the time period to explore the struggles of Alexander coming to grips with his destiny to conquer the known world. The anime features Alexander gathering allies, conquering various parts of Europe and Asia and trying to make sense of the supposed destiny he has had since birth where he would lead the world to its destruction with his attempts to conquer all known lands.

Olympias sure loves her snakes.
Olympias sure loves her snakes.

The major elements that make this series stick out for quality are its excellent integration of metaphysical themes and ancient philosophical figures that were renowned around Alexander's time that influence his conquests throughout the course of the series. Alexander is blessed with a high degree of luck and charisma in his conquests that gets explained as being influenced by the fate bestowed upon him by an ancient artifact capable of algorithmic manipulation of reality that he seeks out in later episodes of the series to find meaning to his supposed destiny. This makes his existence threatening to several cults influenced by differing philosophical schools of thought who attempt to assassinate Alexander throughout the course of the series and influential Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Diogenes serve to either guide or hinder Alexander's quest to conquer countries and come to terms with the supposed destiny he has. The assumptions of Alexander's destiny made by many throughout the course of the series are not what one would assume on the surface, which is hinted to at points earlier in the series and the title's finale. On top of the show's creators shown to have done well in their research of Greek philosophy and supernatural lore for their spin on Alexander's life, they also make their own unique takes to major feats that Alexander accomplishes such as his taming of the wild horse Bucephalus, his encounter with Diogenes and his cutting of the Gordian Knot. These nice touches make the exploits of Alexander's character for this adaptation of the series all the more pleasing to see unfold.

"Neiiggggh. I don&squot;t want that ass riding me. I don&squot;t swing that way."
"Neiiggggh. I don't want that ass riding me. I don't swing that way."

When it comes to other characters in this series though, the series is a mixed bag in their focus on them. Some characters get enough focus to have defined personalities and developments that show what beliefs or loyalties they have that lead them to either be loyal or opposed to Alexander's pursuits. Others that have major roles in the series are either quite underdeveloped or shallow in their characters that make them difficult to connect with. The series also appears to have been left open-ended as Alexander is still alive and well following his journey in the title's finale, yet is still intent on pressing forward with his quest to conquer the known world. However, I think this might have been intentional by the show's creators since the series was more about Alexander trying to come to terms with himself instead of an actual focus of his entire life.

The presentation for this series certainly sticks out from standard anime fare. On the plus side, many character designs are drawn to be quite lifelike with realistic details for muscle tone and facial features, settings that are faithful to their intended historical settings with occasional elements of steampunk tossed in for technologies employed, subdued color tones that make for a nice touch to the dark mood this series gives off and decent use of CG animation for some of the complex animations seen in the series such as a glimpse of the universe seen when Alexander enters the barrel hut of Diogenes, armies marching and the elaborate "world of destruction" seen in the finale of the series.

Our king not looking too good.
Our king not looking too good.

On the bad end, many of the major characters in this series (mostly the men) sport very revealing attire and silly attire like tight thongs, shirts that expose midriff, exotic masks and formal attire that look like women's bathing suits that give the series somewhat of a homo-erotic feel and are obviously not faithful to Alexander's time period. Plus outside of the CG animation, the hand-drawn animation to this is mostly subpar with animation shortcuts and tricks employed to give off a sense of fluid animation that doesn't look convincing in many instances.

The soundtrack to the series sports tense and dark insert tracks that do their part to compliment the serious mood of this series, though don't particularly stick out. The original opening song for Reign ("Anata no Kiss wo Oshiemasho ~You Were Mine~") sports an upbeat, optimistic mood and lyrics that go against the intended mood this series wishes to give off. Yet in a occasional case where changes done by an American distributor are done for the better with a series, Tokyopop created a new opening song for their English dub of the series ("Worthy of your Soul") that sports a melancholic mood and lyrics that both better accompany the feel of Reign.

A rather awkward way to meet your future wife.
A rather awkward way to meet your future wife.

Overall, I'm actually fairly surprised with this series. I was expecting a dud thanks to much of the negative reception that this series received from anime fans. But I think this reception was exaggerated thanks to Reign's attempts to be different from the norm. Granted, the homo-erotic attire of the characters will turn away some fans and there are a number of characters I felt could have been better developed. But the series does do well at integrating supernatural lore and unique spins on major elements of Alexander's conquests of the known world. It's not perfect, but I think the reputation of this series as a supposed dud is greatly exaggerated.

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