She looks like my DQ9 character!
Excuses, excuses, excuses… That’s normally how I open these blogs. Each time I sit down to write, I’m disappointed by my own lack of steady resolve. My desires fall short of my reality; another example of life in progress. And, if I am being perfectly honest, at this point these apologies are an easy literary crutch. I usually struggle to find someway to open these pieces and it’s easy to complain. Columnists have been doing it for decades. Of course I make it my own by adding a touch of self-flagellation. In my own defense, I was sidetracked this past week by an unyielding obsession with the Nintendo DS titled, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
. Over the last few years I’ve grown very fond of the franchise and prefer it to Final Fantasy. I know it’s repetitive, but the familiarity is part of the appeal. I’m not too interested in learning new control and combat systems with each incarnation, so consistency has greater value to me than innovation. To an extent, that outlook is reflected in my anime preferences, too. Comedies, especially harems tend be very emulative. Curiously, Dragon Quest made an appearance in the first show I’ll look at this week:
B Gata H Kei (Type: B, Style: H)
100 Lovers or Bust!
The Spring 2011 anime season from Japan promises to bring a show named Lotte no Omocha!.
It’s described as the story of a 10 year old succubus who must consume a particular substance secreted by males in order to maintain her youth and beauty. On the surface of it, it seems to be a series that will make a significant number of people uncomfortable. I mention it because a year ago, the description of B Gata H Kei
appeared to be similarly unsettling. “Yamada
is a 15 year old virgin who wishes to have 100 sex partners.” Seikon no Qwaser
has taught me to presume any level of deviance in anime, so being manga-illiterate, I rely on my past experiences and the synopses published online when formulating my expectations. B Gata H Kei’s
premise was fundamentally as conveyed; however instead of a tawdry, provocative tale of impersonal sexual adventure; it was a sweet often riotously funny romance about two high schoolers discovering first love. At least two-thirds of the shows had me laughing out loud at the clumsy antics and improvised theories the cast created to fit their ignorance of love and sex. When I wasn’t chuckling at the absurdity, I was touched by the sincerity of their desires. Yamada’s outlandish mission evolved into a genuine expression of affection overcoming the unavoidable hurdles of fear, jealously, confusion and anxiety. She wanted sex but found love.
Miyano - Miharu - Kyouka - Chika
As mentioned, B Gata H Kei’s
heroine is named Yamada. She is bright, beautiful and popular. She is adored by all the boys and regarded as the school’s “idol”, but still sees imperfections in herself. In order to correct her inadequacies, she resolves to acquire one hundred different sex partners. Why she arrived at that solution is in itself troubling and illustrates the deep sense of inferiority she masks overtly with a dominant autocratic façade. To her classmates and friends, she is confident and resolute, but in the solitude of her room she allows herself to be fractured.
Kosuda and Yamada
It’s been said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so Yamada planned to lose her virginity as quickly as possible. Now, the choice of her suitor had to meet one particular condition. He had to be a virgin otherwise his experience would increase her sense of inadequacy. She imagined the faceless candidate mocking her innocence. Rather than have that torment realized, he being a virgin would place the two on even ground. While shopping for guides on sex and seduction at a bookstore, she meets Takashi Kosuda, an innocuous, fair-looking boy who, much to her surprise sits next to her in class. She sees him as a disposable donor for her goals, and believes coaxing him to her bed an effortless task. Of course, it quickly becomes apparent that she has no idea what’s she’s doing. Yamada is as inexperienced in matters of the heart as any normal teenager and all her misconceptions are revealed with each misdeed and mixed signal she sends. Many of her schemes are poorly calculated and end with her fleeing the situation embarrassed and perplexed by the jumble of unfamiliar emotions churning within her.
is no better prepared for what unfolds. Early on he is surprised by her interest and repeatedly questions if he’s imagining her intentions. He feels unworthy of her attention since she is the campus queen. In all fairness, she does little to ease his doubt since she doesn’t know what to make of their relationship either. Her “love’m and leave’m” plan is befuddled by their blossoming affections. He persists though and struggles through her inconsistencies as the attraction between them evolves into something more heartfelt. Kosuda’s kindness and unexpected courage revises her image of him. While it upsets her designs, it crafts him into someone she wants to be with. The attachment she develops creates new problems as potential rivals are introduced; one being Kosuda’s childhood friend and another being a wealthy and equally beautiful challenger to Yamada’s popularity.
Over the course of its twelve episode run, B Gata H Kei
consistently surprised and delighted me. The relationship between the two leads reminded me strongly of another favorite of mine, Toradora
; however due to a stronger emphasis on humor and the limited length, it scraps the melancholic turn that series offered in its latter half. This was a good decision because it left me optimistic and content with its final episode. However, while I am pleased with its ending, I think there is room for a second season. There were a few plot points left open that could be addressed with another run. Whether or not, we see a continuation takes nothing from the absolute enjoyment I had with this show. It was very funny and sentimental in the light but engaging way. I strongly recommend it to fans of romantic comedies. Incidentally, the title’s “B” refers to Yamada’s breast cup size and the “H” defines her personality type. I believe the “H” is short for “hentai’ meaning she’s focused on sex. All the female characters’ cup sizes are highlighted in the opening credits. Two are “F” cups!
D.Gray-Man - Part 1
Not sure which is "da gray man"
was one of those shows I’d heard people mention in forums and online magazines for the past few years. It gained a moderate fan base, although not to the degree of other similar titles. Parity can be a double edged sword it seems. The show is very accessible, but also too indistinct from concurrent shonen shows like Bleach
and Naruto Shippuuden
. The upside is if you’re a fan of either of those, chances are you’ll enjoy D.Gray-Man
, too. Then again, some shonen fans can be fiercely allied to a single franchise and become defensive when others are compared, so who’s to say really? Either way, it reminded me of those two and I consumed 51 episodes without much effort. That’s a positive in my book. If you’re in the mood for a lengthy paranormal action serial, this is one of the better available.
If he can see you, he can touch you!
The story revolves around teenage protagonist, Allen Walker
and his experiences as a novice exorcist. These aren’t the somber black-clad priests depicted by Hollywood battling pea soup spewing schoolgirls. In this 19th century alternate reality, exorcists are specialists gifted with the ability to host and utilize fragments of a mysterious and powerful element called “innocence”. Millennia ago, a supernatural weapon was created to oppose a sinister and ethereal evil that sought mankind’s destruction. The celestial battle forestalled humanity’s extinction but conjointly shattered the innocence weapon and littered its shards across the planet. In the time of this story, the Black Order gathers the slivers and protects them from those demonic forces. Each fragment can be bound to a single person and when the two are joined, they have the capacity to destroy demons. These are the exorcists.
The dead are enslaved
Allen’s “innocence” is a parasitic type meaning it’s part of his body; his left arm to be precise. The series suggests (to this point) that he was born with it which is unusual as most fragments are fitted to their hosts later on. In addition to his proficiency as an exorcist, he’s also been cursed with the ability to identify demons that hide among humans in their guise. Demons themselves are born from the sorrows of grieving people who unwittingly form a contract with the Millennium Earl
, the ancient malevolence foiled ages earlier by the innocence. The soul of a grief stricken’s deceased loved one is chained to a construct created by the Earl and becomes a tool of destruction controlled by him. In most cases, the shackled demon kills the saddened human and assumes their identity within society. This is how they hide among the population and conceal their murder. Because he can see the tethered souls empowering a demon, Allen has also discerned that destroying a demon frees the soul. It’s this knowledge that strengthens his commitment as an exorcist.
Lenalee leaps into action
At the Dark Order’s headquarters, Allen is teamed primarily with exorcist Lenalee Lee
. The twin-tail styled, vivacious girl has been with the Order since childhood and considers all its members her extended family. Her actual older brother, Koumi Lee
is the Order’s supervisor of operations. Lenalee’s power is the “dark boots”, an innocence fragment that provides enhanced movement and damaging kicks. She seems to serve as a potential love interest in the story, but like a lot of shonen, any romance is only hinted at through flushed faces and brief moments of embarrassment. One of the positives of her focus is her development as a character within the series. She’s probably the most defined personality short of Allen himself. There’s a very humorous episode named "Lenalee's Love" (ep. 18) that spotlights her relationship with her brother. Perhaps because of the nature of shonen storytelling, or maybe just in this particular example, I feel she’s still seems hollow. There are only 103 episodes of this series and considering I’m half way through, I doubt the production will have the time to properly flesh her out past the “pretty girl hero” template. There is a second female exorcist who I liked more than Lenalee, but I’m fairly certain her continued involvement in the story will be secondary. Tick-tock-sigh.
Kanda - Lavi - Koumi
There are two other exorcists that Allen is occasionally teamed with. The first is an irritable and insensitive swordsman named Yu Kanda
. For reasons yet to be revealed he’s committed to the expedient completion of each mission assigned to him. He informs Allen early on that he will abandon him if his wellbeing interferes with mission. His gruff exterior is eventually revealed to be not quite so callous, but the circumstances that formed that detached disposition remain a mystery. The only hint is a fragile flower sealed within an hourglass. I know more about his past and the reasons behind his temperament will be explained soon enough, but more could have been done during the first half of the series to make him more interesting. As he stands currently in my eyes, he’s just the “angry dude”. The second sometimes-teammate is Lavi
. He’s a little different than a normal exorcist in that he’s also a bookman. They’re an ancillary guild within the Dark Order whose purpose it is to chronicle the hidden history of mankind. They’re the librarians of the world recording the actions of the Order, the Millennium Earl and other mysteries absent from accepted texts. He’s jovial and a bit of a smartass. I like him well enough, but again there isn’t too much to him. He’s the “buddy” type for the group whose presence lightens the mood of most situations. Unlike the others, I’m not disappointed by his trivial development. And, like the alternate female presence in D.Gray-Man
, there’s another guy who I’ve enjoyed more than Lavi that could have filled his archetype.
Miranda - Arystar
It’s hard for me to say I am disappointed in the series, since it’s been so easy to watch. Never once did I have to force myself further into the show, but on the same token, there feels like there was a lot a waste in the production. I wonder if the producers had planned for a greater story lasting hundreds of episodes like Bleach
because the progress has been very slow so far. I don’t know anything about the manga, but I suspect there may be some filler included in the first half. If not, then I believe the studio should have been more aggressive in their editing. I believe the show would have benefited from a tighter script. That would have also provided more time for deeper characterization. Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
is another similar series but one that makes the best use of its time and crafts a compelling story rich with multifaceted individuals. D.Gray-Man
underachieves in its potential. But, let me reiterate, I like the show. I just want to like it more than I currently do.
Rio – Rainbow Gate - Part 1
Viva Las Rio!
I really enjoy reading the variety of blogs published here on Anime Vice. Most are informative, some are thought provoking, and a few are just humorous. One recently posted, zombiepie
’s Drunk Blog
inspired me to write something myself on the featured topic, Rio – Rainbow Gate!
. His effort prompted me to talk about the one show this season that I am watching regularly. When it comes to anime, I have very little patience and a pretty short memory. So, I rarely follow a new show until it’s finished or at least until its season is complete. I placed Star Driver
on hold when I realized it was going to go past 12 or 13 episodes. I haven’t touched Toaru Majutsu no Index II
for the same reason even though I really liked the first series. Occasionally, I’ll delve into a series when I know that each episode is self-contained and for the most part, independent of the next or previous story. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
are shows I dabbled in when they were originally airing. Even in those cases, though I went back and looked at them all from first to last when their original run was done. I appreciated them more when their entirety was all freshly experienced.
Anya - Rina - Rosa with Chip - Mint
is the rare exception to my standard practices. Very soon after the show started to air, the early impressions started to appear online and all of them were bad. Here on AV, the few people who took a chance on it said it was the worst thing they’d seen in a while. Out of curiosity I checked out its background. The character, Rio Rollins
) is a Tecmo creation for their Super Blackjack
series of video games. She most recently made an appearance in the Dead or Alive Paradise
game for the PSP. I admit I find the character attractive, but I’ve got a weakness for redheads. Busty ones are even better. So armed with this knowledge and a proclivity for fan service, I delved into the show.
Cosplay is part of her job description
Now, I must clarify that unlike several others who posted their reactions to the show, I watched the first and second episode back-to-back. Because of this, I didn’t hate it and actually, I might even say I enjoyed my introduction to the character, Rio. She’s kind of a cheerful doormat. If this was a hentai she would be a willing slave. That premise would vastly improve the show, but since Tecmo is uptight when it comes to properly exploiting their characters (titillation short of eroticism), I think that direction will be relegated to the doujinshi community*. Anyway, she’s apparently this casino “idol” who radiates good luck for gamblers. Just her being on the game floor can change the fortunes of players. And, if management realized this, you’d think they’d bar her from the casinos just as they ban card counters. However, like Gerry Cooney shaking hands at the entrance to the Luxor
, she’s also an attraction for visitors. Travelers believe that her presence brings good luck, so they come to the casino, waiting around for hours, gambling away the time, hoping she’ll appear. Casinos know that the player has to win every now and then to keep them coming back despite losing. Rio is hope in high heels. On top of her usefulness as a living attraction, she’s also a willing sex symbol who accepts her boss’s sexual harassment as just an element of her job. Rio is all about making others happy, so if that involves exposing her body in public, she’s more than willing to (partially) strip if it brightens their life.
The wacky games are one of the few highlights
I wish I could say that the show gets better after episode one to validate my enjoyment for the show. While the second episode is indeed better than the snooze-fest that comprised the first; the third, forth and fifth (haven’t seen #6 yet) are about as entertaining as the opening show. In the second show, the producers set up this interesting tournament idea involving prized playing cards and Takeshi’s Castle
-like games played between card holders. There were also a few “wardrobe malfunctions” and some semi-nudity covered by a swirling card suit light show censoring all the good bits. The odd “physical challenges” that comprise the game played for the special cards is what invigorated the series for me. Sadly, the potential exhibited in the second show is omitted from the third and marginalized in the 4th and 5th. Creativity is abandoned for some boring story about Rio’s childhood friend, Rina
. There is also the introduction of an annoying apprentice dealer named Anya Helsing
. She’s a blond, ditzy, clumsy, naïve bimbette who’s more likely to dump a tray of drinks on a player than deal them a proper hand.
Residents of the Howard Resort
I don’t think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. So far, it can best be described as “empty calories”. I chose to watch this series because I knew it would require no commitment on my part. Like a bag of pork-rinds, I can consume the show without having to muster any attachment to the characters or plot. Good shows draw you in and make you care about the cast. Mediocre shows can still provide something that lures a viewer back. The most I can say about Rio is that its utter lack of appeal is its best attribute. I plan to keep at it because I’m curious to see how my opinion changes over the course of its run. Will I think it better than it is by the end? Or will it exacerbate me to such a degree that I irrationally despise it like Girls Bravo
? The journey is half the adventure.
And, so with that I bring this long overdue blog to a close. I’m not going to speculate what the next one will be about, but I do hope it will come sooner than later. I’m also hoping to complain about something other than my own failing next time. Actually, I’d like to explore girls who cackle in anime but that term (“cackle”) doesn’t feel right. I’ll give it some more thought between now and next time. Here’s another video to watch if you want. It's the promotional video for Lotte no Omocho!
mentioned above. It doesn't really look all that salacious.
* I ran across an interesting piece of news
. When Rio is released on Blu-Ray later this year, the final disc volume will include and extra episode. It’s only my own conjecture, but this might be the “not safe to primetime” episode similar to the ones that close Ah, My Buddha
’s first and second season.