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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Super Milk-Chan Show was actually an effort from the title's American licensor, ADV Films, to combine two TV anime seasons of the series together for both televised and physical media releases. The first season of Milk-Chan, known as Super Milk-Chan, was televised in 14 8-minute shorts on Japanese TV from June 17 to September 16 of 1998 and animated by Genco. The second season, known as Oh! Super Milk-Chan, aired 12 24-minute episodes that were broadcasted in Japan from January 27 to April 13 of 2000 and animated by Studio Pierrot.
ADV Films acquired both seasons of Super Milk-chan in 2002 for North American broadcast and video distribution. The company created two different English dubs for both seasons. One version closely followed the translated script of the original Japanese version. The other one was an Americanized dub that altered many of the jokes from the original version to have them appeal to American audiences and replaced the live-action segments of the Japanese version with comedic live-action skits featuring ADV's voice-acting cast and production crew for the series.
The closely adapted version of The Super-Milk Chan Show was broadcast on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block from November 8, 2004 to February 27, 2005. ADV released both versions of the series on DVD in four individual volumes throughout the second half of 2004 and early 2005. Each volume of the series contained two discs that contained both the original version of Super Milk-Chan and ADV's Americanized dub for the series. Both seasons of Milk-Chan are currently out of print here in America. However, ADV's Americanized dub of the series is available for legal streaming via Hulu.
Milk-Chan is a rude and foul-mouthed little girl who lives as a supposed superhero and gets enjoyment out of tormenting her robotic maid Tetsuko and the President of Everything. She regularly receives missions from the President that she will or will not complete depending on either her mood or any other predicaments that come along to occupy her and her comrades.
Both seasons of Super Milk-Chan are shown to be lacking heavily for a quality comedy title and serves as a nice example of the pitfalls ADV had as a distributor that led the company to its closure later in the 2000s.
The series follows a repetitive structure for many episodes with its comedy as it shows Milk-Chan berating Tetsuko for whatever reason, receiving a call from the President that involves Milk berating the President and receiving her mission she may or may not accept, Milk-Chan's group attempting said mission, said mission resolving itself with or without Milk-Chan's involvement and Milk-Chan taking credit for resolving it. The second season of the series adds on additional elements to its episodic structure such as the deterioration of an ant family's stability, the President indulging in random predicaments and Milk-Chan's group visiting Dr. Eyepatch for a random robotic invention to aid in their missions.
Both seasons are shown to satirize major issues and elements to Japanese culture such as divorce, drug possession, economic corruption and compensated dating. While this idea would seem like a fun approach to a comedy on paper, the flat and blatant delivery of the title's comedy and the repetitive structure of its episodes cripple much of the potential this could have had at ripping apart elements of Japanese culture. The visual presentation to this is also lacking with the simple and crude details of the characters and the many animation shortcuts that are employed throughout the runs of both seasons to Milk-Chan.
ADV's handling of both seasons of Milk-Chan also deserve mention as to the issues they add onto this series. One of the biggest pitfalls that ADV had that led to their closure in 2009 was the heavy amount of licensing they committed to, a decent number of their titles being questionable in any marketability and appeal they would have to a Western audience. In the case of Milk-Chan, the title's humor made nods to current events and issues that were often unique to Japan itself and would very likely fly over the heads of much of the American anime fanbase.
It looked like ADV became aware of this issue after they licensed Milk-Chan and decided to remedy the cultural divide problem with their Americanized dub. The effort they chose to put into both the more faithful and Americanized versions of the series showed what priority they had in marketing the series in America. While the more faithful version did indeed more closely follow the translated script of the original Japanese version, the voice acting delivery was flat and lacked much range of emotion. However for the Americanized dub, there is more effort from the voice cast in line delivery, energy and emotion.
ADV's Americanized dub adds in worst crass humor than the original version and makes frequent pop culture nods. On the one hand, this approach makes Milk-Chan's character more believably rude as her character's rudeness seemed more reserved in the Japanese and more faithful English dub of the series. On the other hand, the add-ons that ADV makes for the series script often don't match up to the intended context of the scenes that the series attempts to play out and it looked like the company got too giddy with what it was trying to pull with its comedy by adding as much offensive humor and pop culture nods as they could. The live-action skits added to the series were a bad addition as well since the voice actors didn't seem convincing in many instances with the comedy they attempted to pull and had the bad habit of abruptly cutting in during the animated episodes of Super Milk-Chan being shown.
Adding more to the questionable decision-making of ADV licensing this series was that they gave broadcast rights of the series to Cartoon Network for their Adult Swim block in 2004. Airing Milk-Chan was a bold move at the time as many anime titles on Adult Swim were action-oriented and it had the potential to allow more comedy anime to air on the block if it did well ratings-wise and make for a decent promotion of the DVD release, assuming this was ADV's Americanized dub. Instead, ADV gave Cartoon Network the rights to the dubbed version featuring Milk-Chan's original script. The series bombed in ratings and was quite unpopular for many Adult Swim viewers who had mostly been used to the title's airing of action anime titles up to that point and were not getting hooked on the title's niche style of comedy.
Maken-Ki was a 12-episode harem comedy anime animated by AIC and aired on the Japanese AT-X network from October 5 to December 21 of 2011. The televised airing applied censorship to cover up the anime's more gratuitous fan service shots and nudity, which was later left uncensored for video release. The series is based on the ongoing shonen manga series written by Hiromitsu Takeda since April 20, 2007. The series was licensed for home video distribution by Funimation in 2012, who released the series in a Blu-Ray/ DVD combo set in November of last year. A second season of the series called Maken-Ki Two is currently airing this season on Japanese TV.
Takeru Ohyama is enrolled at Tenbi Academy, a high school that recently converted into a co-ed school. Happy at the thought of being able to see plenty of pretty girls, Takeru is surprised to learn that Tenbi is a school for students possessing magical energy called Elements and wield weapons called Maken. He joins up with the school's Security Committee, where he becomes acquainted with several girls who become drawn to him for varying reasons.
Maken Ki is yet another recent anime offering in Japan whose sole purpose of existence is to objectify its female characters to its otaku fanbase with ample amounts of huge boobs, gratuitous panty shots, nudity and other perverted hijinks involving its female cast.
The typical character archetypes and tiresome cliches you can expect of anime like this are played up enough here with Takeru being your lecherous doormat of a male lead, Haruko his busty upperclassman/ childhood friend, Kodama the tsundere and Inaho the ditz. Also expect a good number of the typical situations that are played out in titles like this that are a cheap excuse to show off female skin like bath scenes, pool episodes, undressing and Takeru getting in enough compromising predicaments with members of the female student body.
The series also appeared to be following in the vein of erotic battle action titles like Ikki Tousen and Queen's Blade in that much of the cast are capable fighters with some type of superpower, as well as making an attempt at some kind of plot when an enemy group of Maken users make their presence felt in the second half of the series. The former failed to impress due to Maken-Ki's subpar animation. The latter is a mix of cliched and poorly written, being more focused on the antics involving Takeru and the female student body and ignorant of properly developing its plot and characters beyond shallow cliches and archetypes.
It looks like ufotable is digging into more work from Type Moon. The studio that made animated adaptations of Fate/ Zero and the Kara no Kyoukai film series will be working on a remake of Fate/ Stay Night that will premiere as a TV anime in the Fall 2014 anime season. Takahiro Miura, the director of the two prior Type-Moon titles adapted, will lead in direction of this new adaptation of Stay Night.
Fate/Stay Night was previously adapted by Studio Deen in a 26-episode TV anime series back in 2006, which was licensed by Geneon in 2006 and then Sentai Filmworks in 2012. The 2006 TV anime was released by Sentai on DVD and Blu-Ray video formats last year.
Both titles are adaptations of Type Moon's popular visual novel game that was originally released in Japan in 2004. The series revolves around a high schooler named Shiro Emiya who becomes entangled in a tournament called the Holy Grail War that involve battles to the death involving the spirits of seven warriors famous from legendary and historical lore.
A trailer for the upcoming remake can be seen here:
Cartoon Network's Twitter account confirmed just today that they have acquired television broadcast rights to air Black Lagoon. The series will premiere on the network's Toonami block starting Saturday, March 22 where it will replace Soul Eater's current time slot of 1:30 AM.
The 12-episode action anime is adapted from Rei Hiroe's seinen manga series that aired in 2006. The series focuses on Japanese salaryman Rokuro "Rock" Okajima becoming involved with a trio of pirates called Black Lagoon Company who have their headquarters in the crime-infested Thailand town of Ronapour.
The series was originally licensed and released to American home video by Geneon in 2007, before the distributor closed down later in the year which left future volumes of the series in limbo. Funimation acquired licensing rights to the series in 2008, releasing both seasons of the series on DVD and Blu-Ray formats. They have since also released the third OVA installment of the series, Roberta's Blood Trail, onto DVD and Blu-Ray.