katmic (Level 10)

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A certain episode in the second half this series opens with three individuals communicating via an internet chat room about their intentions of committing suicide and how they could best go about achieving their goals. Finally deciding to meet to execute their wishes, the individuals are somewhat pleasantly surprised and horrified

The young man and elderly fellow pleasantly surprised to meet each other; both gentlemen horrified to meet the third member of their little suicide group, a little girl no older than 13, cheerfully anticipating death at her own hands.

Three individuals representing the major stages of human life, all seeking to commit suicide, a task they spend the day trying to accomplish, following an attempt by the two men to dissuade the young girl from the position she has taken (mind you she convinces them to allow her to tag along by making some silly argument about feeling left out); an episode that, while disturbing, is also quite funny.

This episode, I believe, best exemplifies the anime that is Paranoia Agent, a psychologically disturbing yet none the less thrilling ride, as confusing in its narrative as it is entertaining.

A must watch? Most definitely, if you are one anime fan searching for something…different, that will leave you pondering on its mysteries for several days on end.

THE PLOT:>

An elementary school kid dubbed "shounen bat" has been going around attacking people with his bent, golden baseball bat. When two detectives are put on the case, charged with putting his shenanigans to rest, they quickly learn that what might have seemed like mere juvenile behavior could be something so much more sinister.

MY REVIEW:>

I will admit that this was a rather anticipated experience for me; listen to enough opinions and thoughts and comments about any given element and it is only rational that you will seek to explore it, to understand whether it holds the water imputed to it.

And I have heard a TON of praise heaped upon Satoshi Kon without ever having watched any of his material. One might say that it is fitting that the first of works I am exposed to is his very first TV series, a foray out of the more complex field of movies, because that then allows me access to several hours of material to analyze in my attempts to truly judge Kon’s abilities.

I read a recent Miyazaki interview in which he had no positive comments to make about anime in today’s age; and a lot of that criticism (actually applicable to anime within the past decade) seemed particularly aimed towards the animation techniques utilized, most of which, he posited, failed to bring a sense of realism to their virtual world and its characters.

Watching Paranoia Agent one would be hard pressed to ignore the rather unique animation style utilized; I say unique only in comparison with today’s average anime series; there was a weightiness in each scene, each character generating a sense of realism in the way they moved, bringing to the fro Miyazaki’s comments and allowing me to appreciate the sense of realism that animation from older series brought to the table, but which has all but disappeared-and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that the characters where drawn with more than a few straight lines.

I emphasize the animation style because it was crucial in allowing the story to impact the way it did. I avoid mentioning the story because of how intimately intertwined it is with its characters; and how do you speak about an anime without mentioning its characters?

Because that is the one subject I find myself avoiding in this review. Paranoia Agent isn’t merely filled with a enormously intriguing cast; but rather each character is a story of its own, one more or less independent yet just as important in the final narrative.

And what makes Paranoia Agent work so well are the various revelations that litter its episodes, those events that aren’t necessary sudden twists and turns, but illuminating points that improve one’s overall enjoyment of the story. And it would be a shame to deprive anyone of the opportunity to experience these moments by spoiling them.

+So what was my first Satoshi Kon outing like? Well, I am still a little way off from calling him a legend. Yet I can see the appeal, as this anime spins quite the thriller. The series is brutal, not in any physical means or amounts of gore, but rather the psychological destruction it unleashes upon its various characters.

The series thrives on its various mysteries and delusions, and keeps you guessing with its numerous questions. Certainly the concept seems rather straight forward, a boy on roller blades going about murdering these innocent men, women and children.

But why? Who is Shonen bat and who are these various victims to him? How can the name of one little boy shake the lives of so many people, most of whom have never even encountered his wrath. And what is his wrath? What is shonen bat?

Does shonen bat even exist? Yes, that question rocks the series most of all, the idea of the insanity and delusion driving what might be truth and what could just as well be myth.

+VERDICT:> A simple appeal. Watch this show. Whatever your thoughts on its rather odd ending or rather confusing narrative –especially in the middle, where the show seems like it might have veered off at a tangent-you will not regret what should be a unique experience in anime.

+RATING:>7/10, a few glitches in the middle there that I thought the series could have dealt with better; certainly I understand the role they played. Butwatching the members of an anime studio literally kill themselves in an attempt to complete the production of an episode on time (which was not only intriguing on its own but very educational about the anime production process) seemed somewhat detached from a story that might or might have not wrapped up a few episodes earlier.

Not that I could call that an egregious failure; Paranoia Agent is still quite brilliant.

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I had every intention of waiting for this particular flashback to end before taking steps to review its intricacies, mostly because a number of the earlier chapters were so uneventful.

However this is starting to feel less like a basic flashback and more like a mini arc of its own, which isn’t a bad thing, granting us the opportunity to understand and follow the progress of this character formally presumed to be the god of the Magi world.

And besides, the past few chapters have been quite action packed, going about laying open all the secrets of the Magi world, so many little details that we (or at least I) paid little heed to but which are suddenly proving to be quite important to the structure of the Magi universe.

THE CHAPTERS:

Young Solomon attempts to break away from the evils of his Father David, in his attempts to unite the world under the teachings of Illah, resisting the campaigns of the orthodox authorities with the assistance of a select few helpers, magicians in their own right, whose names later take on greater significance as the various DJinn of the current Magi world.

MY THOUGHTS:

I have to say that Shinobu Ohtaka’s art has faltered somewhat in some of these recent chapters, especially during battle scenes, where some panels came off as somewhat messy, making very little sense in others. And while I have come up against these faults before in Magi, they have never affected my enjoyment of the series as they did with this flash back.

A flash back that is actually so much more fleshed out than I thought it would be; if these past few chapters have achieved one thing, it has been to allow us a true glimpse into life as it was before the great catastrophe of Alma Toran, presenting the various Djinn as they were before acquiring their current status.

Does this really change events on the ground though? I would say, yes. After all we see what humanity was like before acquiring magic, that they were little more than insects to be hunted by the monsters that roamed Alma Toran, that they were granted power by Illah because they more than anyone else knew what it felt like to be weak and would know best how to temper their greed; that these same humans went about doing to other species what was done to them.

Looking back on those events, the current stand off fares no different; you have two rulers in Kouen and Sinbad, one seemingly righteous and another evil, but both wanting the best for their world and both doing whatever it takes to achieve peace, even bringing about great war.

Aladdin stands in the place of Solomon, a true seeker of peace, one that will see the races united on an equal playing field, with no interest in ruling, but only looking for the best in his comrades and enemies; well, maybe comparing Aladdin to Solomon is a bit of a stretch, because Aladdin is indeed much more innocent and pure than his comrades.

Yet only because he doesn’t have the power that Sinbad has; which Solomon also possessed, so greatly endowed with skill and magic that many around him where ready to worship him; just like Sinbad who dazzles everyone he meets. And while Solomon saw his own short comings and gathered people around him to keep him in check, Sinbad seems to have lost his way a long time ago.

So maybe Sinbad is truly Solomon’s incarnation; because we know things went wrong in Solomon’s utopia; he too must have fallen. And why wouldn’t Aladdin then reveal these events to the most powerful persons in the world, if he can see them slowly starting to repeat the mistakes of Alma Toran.

+The primary goal of this flashback seems to be to flesh out the grand characters of the current magi world, and it is doing a hell of a job, laying out the secrets of the world’s creation, the various beasts that inhabited the planet before humans, the source of the DJinn equip theory, the mechanisms behind Magoi and rukh control, even providing a glimpse at the early life of what must only be Gyokuen.

I mean, we all agree that Sheba is Gyokuen, right? Who else could she be? And why place so much focus around her if she is not growing up to be the great evil of the Alma Toran world? We saw just how nasty she was as a child. That genocidal hate doesn’t go away after just a few years and even Solomon commented on seeing that rage hiding about behind her eyes.

Will she be the one to bring Solomon to his knees? Or does his downfall connect somewhat to the works of his father, David, in bringing about the death of their god, who we can guess will become the source of black rukh and that ‘father’ thing we witnessed in the previous arc.

So many questions littered among so many answers being provided in these chapters. Following the conclusion of Aladdin’s little show and tell, I cannot wait to witness the reaction among his guests, Kouen and Sinbad most of all.

IS this really the beginning of war? Will Alibaba really betray Sinbad? Because for all his deviousness, we know Sinbad stands as the more righteous of the two. Is Yunan a descendant of the mother dragons? And how about the Fanalis and their connection to the red lions, one of the two earliest inhabitants of Alma Toran?

Note: Has anyone read chapter 222.5 of Magi? Because I think Hiro Mashima needs to have a read of what is essentially a five page chapter special, which somehow manages to drastically progress the Magi story .

Hiro, this is how you do a manga special, one that takes an already complex story and further entangles it, allowing David’s time line to intertwine with the current world, giving us a glimpse at the master plan of his intentions, an inkling of the insight he possessed in foretelling the events of the current Magi world and taking steps to manipulate events to his own end.

Five pages; and all Hiro presents us in his 20 something page specials are stories about missing cats and the like. Really, Hiro?

RATING: 6/10, The Alma Toran Arc has been all but flawless, introducing a wealth of well developed and highly entertaining characters; and if not for the sometimes wonky art, these chapters would have had a higher rating.

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THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS CHAPTERS 73.5-74 REVIEW: THE BOND BETWEEN FAIRIES.

Wow, as skeptical as I was about this particular flashback, King’s story turned out to be quite impressive, not only in the manner in which it was told but its implications and how it all finally came to an end.

Nanatsu No Taizai is fast becoming one of my favorite weekly manga series.

THE CHAPTERS: Harlequin and Helbrum come face to face with human nature and are forever changed.

MY THOUGHTS:

That one line more or less describes what Deadly sins tried to accomplish in these two chapters, bringing forth the negative and positive sides of humanity, each of which goes on to shape the lives of these two ancient characters.

Admittedly it took me a while to wrap my head around chapter 73, mostly because the representation of time didn’t make sense to me. Only after some thought did the pieces finally fall into place, regarding what happened when.

What allowed both chapters to stand out so was how they both finally came to a close, or rather the decisions King made at the end of each chapter, both ending with a confrontation between two good friends, in which King took a most difficult decision.

One might say that the chapters allowed King to finally blossom, at least in the eyes of the readers, finally revealing the royalty within him, not only through the sacrifice he finally had to make but the difficult decisions he swallowed for the sake of the his friends and subjects.

I will say this, that King hasn’t looked more regal than he did in these chapters, finally delivering royal punishment; and even with this battlefield finally wrapped up, it doesn’t seem like we will be retreating back to Meliodas’ side anytime soon.

But I can’t say that I mind; I for one still hold some curiosity over King and the events that brought him, Diana and the rest of the deadly sins together. Clearly he didn’t actually serve out his 1000 year sentence.

It is disturbing how little interest I hold in Elizabeth and her fate; truth be told she has never been the most interesting character.

RATING: 5/5, The Seven Deadly Sins seems to have found that perfect balance of insane action and depth of story, sort of like Magi, now that I think about it.

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It has been quite a few weeks since I last read Fairy Tail; and I can’t say it was a bad decision, reading a large chunk of this arc in one go. Admittedly previous disappointments by Hiro continue to persist; but I guess it is still difficult to read Fairy Tail without admitting how entertaining it can be.

THE CHAPTERS: Having survived elfman’s treachery, the fairies invade Tartaros, engaging in a battle for their friends, their guild and the future of magic on their continent.

MY THOUGHTS:

Reading these ten chapters of Fairy Tail resulted in some mixed feelings on my part. On the one hand I was certainly thrilled and entertained. On the other hand, there were SO MANY MOMENTS that irritated the hell out of me. And these issues go back to all those complaints I raised about Nakama power in a separate post.

Like I said, it irks me how fairy tail will basically cheat in favor of the good guys in order to hand them an undeserved victory. There was one moment when Natsu and Lucy were fighting that Hades look alike; and as they were screaming about how they wouldn’t let the demon steal their souls, despite the fact that he was doing just that, I couldn’t help but think about how well that scene exemplified Fairy Tail’s problem.

Certainly it was Lucy that eventually came to the rescue; yet if she hadn’t we both know Natsu would have spouted some nonsense about willfully forcing his soul back into his body, despite the strength of his opponent’s power. Even having broken away from Fairy Tail for a few weeks, that side of the series still irks me.

A manga starts a story by laying down the law of its land; where power ups at least attempt to overcome those rules in the most linear way possible, stories like Fairy Tail flout them. Certainly it was stated at a certain point in the story that action A isn’t possible, but this is Fairy Tail we are talking about. They can do what they want with magic no matter the restrictions; after all they are the indomitable invincible giants of their series.

With that precedence in mind, where exactly does Hiro expect to draw his tension from?

And that is the crux of my problem with these ten or so chapters. No matter how awesome some of these moments got, at no point in time was I at the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. Because we all knew Wendy wasn’t going to die-someone was obviously going to swoop in at the last moment. We all figured Natsu wouldn’t be losing his soul, and obviously MIrajane wouldn’t fall to her opponent’s tricks.

So here are the simple facts; having fought against THE MOST POWERFUL DARK GUILD IN THEIR WORLD, Fairy Tail is going to somehow come out of that battle WITHOUT A SINGLE CASUALTY. Then again, how can I be so surprised. We are talking about a guild that fought seven dragons and came out more or less unscathed.

It is for this reason that the tower of heaven is still his best arc yet, and he has yet to do anything as good. And that is because none of Hiro’s stories every really have any payoffs. And at least Tower of Heaven managed to introduce some depth to the series, some semblance of a payoff (but with none the less zero character development).

+Highlights: Dragon Force Wendy was awesome. I cannot be the only one who was pleasantly surprised that Hiro actually allowed Wendy to shine, without having Natsu ride in to the rescue. Admittedly that same chapter would have been a great opportunity for HIro to introduce some casualties to this conflict but… like I said, no pay offs.

-Almost every battle in these chapters was structured impressively, quite dynamic in not only displaying the resilience of the fairies but the strength of the demons. And that had been the greatest failing of this arc since its beginning, presenting Zeref Demons that were, in all honesty, ridiculously weak.

For all intent and purpose, I can say that Hiro redeemed most of them; and truth be told I really cannot complain about Wendy’s victory, or even Natsu and Lucy’s win, not even Gray taking down that one demon with one strike.

If there is anything these chapters failed at, it was instilling in me any level of anxiety, and that comes down to all that Hiro has done in the past; Fairy Tail has become too predictable for me to truly invest myself into its progress. Hence, you take away that nail biting anxiety one gets from a really good story, and Fairy Tail loses a large chunk of its credit in my eyes.

RATING: I will break this singular rating down into categories, because my overall rating isn’t that flattering.

-Action- 8/10, dynamic, fast paced, well choreographed.

-Art-8/10, while bland in some places, quite amazing in others.

-Character Development- 1/10, typical sappy Fairy Tail, replacing actual solid character development for worthless tearful speeches about Nakama.

-Story-5/10, a little torn on this one; like I said, Fairy Tail is now way too predictable.

Overall Rating: 4/10

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After wrapping up with Freezing: Vibration, Strike the blood was really the worst anime to follow it up with, not really as bad as Freezing but far from stellar viewing.

But maybe i should have expected this. There are certain genres of anime that simply turn me away, the first being slice of life, which i almost never bother with, except for that one anime whose name i forget about some guy that adopts his grandfather’s daughter from an illicit affair-and up to this day i have no idea how it happened that i ever sat down to watch it even knowing what it was, despite the fact that i enjoyed it immensely.

Slice of life series just turn me off completely, stories i know i will not enjoy and always reject watching or reading. Shoujo and Harem come in a close second. Shoujo i might touch once in a while, depending on the story, but Harem i ignore almost completely, mostly because anime and manga in this genres is always predictable, almost like all the writers are following a similar blue print.

Strike the Blood is harem, and the moment i saw that description, i knew what to expect, so maybe i shouldn’t have been too disappointed with what i watched.

THE PLOT:>

The Fourth Primogenitor—the world's strongest vampire, should be no more than a legend. Yet once, long ago, rumour has it that this being of myth manifested in Japan, accompanied by twelve Kenjuu and spreading calamity, a phantom of destruction.

It’s with this knowledge in mind that the government and the Lion organization decided to dispatch the Sword Shaman, this special attack mage, chosen for a mission of observation and then possibly obliteration taking the shape of the apprentice Himegari Yukina.

In possession of the anti-primogenitor spirit spear, Yukina is said to have arrived in the Demon District, Itogami City. What is the true identity of the Fourth Primogenitor, Akatsuki Kojou, whom she encountered over there?

MY REVIEW:>

Is this really what all harem series are about, a male protagonist who might or might not be clueless about his objective in life, slowly but surely attracting the attention of every strong female character that he encounters, each of whom then spends the rest of the series vying for his adoration?

I don’t get it? What’s the appeal? Because STB pretty much followed this formula. Not that Koujo didn’t exactly deserve the female attention he was garnering…actually that was just it, it didn’t really feel like he was doing anything to deserve it.

And that isn’t the only thing turned this show off for me. Strike the Blood had potential, i think; truth be told i remember coming across this anime and thinking the title sounded cool, so maybe i wasn’t too discerning in choosing the anime in the first place.

Anyway, Strike the blood:

+ The primary protagonist- irritated me, and not in that obvious manner that you would find in someone like Shiro from Fate/Stay night. I mean, i don’t need my main characters to be super humanly flawless in all that they do, but koujo felt like the only ordinary fellow in a group of extra ordinary individuals.

He was ordinary without being bland, his existence characteristic of some random support character in any other anime series, a supposedly all powerful immortal vampire that spent a considerable amount of time getting his ass kicked, very passive, continuously stumbled upon situations rather than wilfully getting involved, spouted a lot of cliché shonen lines in trying to justify any unnecessary anger he displayed and… okay all these are starting to seem like rather insufficient reasons for me to dislike him.

So let’s just conclude that Koujp was largely lacking as the main character of an anime series.

+The concept- was kind of dumb to me, a series about a super powerful fourth progenitor that was barely average in ability, vampires that didn’t possess anything characteristic of the undead; a number of very vague reasons to engage in unnecessary combat.

Strike the blood wasted way too many opportunities, introduced a ton of would be intriguing elements that it made no attempts to elucidate upon or inject into the story in any meaningful way, like the Lion something something Organization, the church, war dancer something, the witch of the void.

And did i mention that this show was about the fourth progenitor. They could have placed some effort into really exploring what that meant, at least allow us a glimpse of the other progenitors in action, to enable us to understand just what set a progenitor apart, because at least then we could allow Koujo the excuse of being an premature progenitor, maybe explaining why he was so weak.

And what was with those brief flash backs we got at the start that supposedly explained what happened to Koujo and how he became what he is now, which they did nothing what so ever to explore?

Basically, what was with all those unexplained unexplored elements of the story? Maybe Strike the blood is a sequel to some anime i didn’t know about which explained most of these elements, because that would explain the vagueness.

+Characters- the cast was largely unnecessary to the story, existing only to create the illusion of real life; and real life must be filled with all sorts of unimportantpersons surrounding a core essential individual, which Koujo wasn’t by the way.

I get the One piece message, when it tries to explain to me why people seem to flock around Luffy. Koujo comes off as a random piece of meat that is important for no logical reason (again, i don’t think they explained the threat of the fourth progenitor well enough).

--Positives- i will admit, i normally hate the female leads in anime of the genre as STB. But Yukina was okay, if not a little irritating during her mini spurts of jealousy.

And…okay i wanted to say something positive about the action, but i can’t. Now Strike the Blood’s action scenes i can call bland, nothing special, which is an area where i thought the anime would excel. Again, no serious attempts to explain the concept of familiars, homunculus and the nature of characters like Astarte.

VERDICT: lazy, that’s what Strike the blood was, not nearly as interested in explaining itself as it should have been, and as a result a lot of the dialogue was gibberish, with characters spouting all sorts of nonsensical terms and words regarding concepts they hadn’t bothered to explain, mother system this, angel faux that…

Does that mean it was total crap? No. It was entertaining; i can’t say that i was having a great time watching it; rather it passed the time well enough, worth checking out in fact, because i think there are some people out there that might enjoy it.

But its far from quality anime.

RATING: 5/10, i really wish there was more vampire to Koujo, because, minus the blood sucking, he was just another Pokémon summoning high school kid.

Anyway, what did you think of Strike the blood? Worse than i described it, or better than am giving it credit for? Leave your comment below. I personally place it miles above Freezing.

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