Wednesday, May 27, 2015

All About Anime: Sailor Scouts, School, Space and Seraph

The last few years have seen a resurgence in anime, with a variety of adaptations of new manga, shinier reboots of classic series, and even original storylines getting a primetime slot.  The current offering has everything from classroom settings in modern day Japan to apocalyptic futures overrun by monsters… that are still in a classroom setting. Japan sure loves their school stories. The quality of animation has improved tremendously and the fact that several series have adopted a seasons format has benefitted them in keeping a consistent quality.

Shockingly, I'm not talking about either of these guy's shows
Ah, who am I kidding, I'm bound to mention them eventually

There are still long running juggernauts like One Piece or Naruto: Shippuden, but shows like Attack on Titan and Nisekoi have chosen to adapt the manga for a standard 26 episode-or-so run then take several months off before returning for the following season.  This has helped to negate the nightmare of most anime fans: filler arcs. While there are some absolute gems created by filler, such as my favorite arc of Dragon Ball Z, the Great Saiyaman adventures, where Gohan becomes a superhero and lampoons Sailor Moon poses and stops street-level crime in mere seconds or my co-host Straw Hat Rican’s beloved G8 arc in One Piece where the Straw Hat Pirates land in the middle of a Marine base, these diamonds in the rough are rare gems indeed, drowned out by the overwhelming quantities of Garlic Jrs, silkworm ninjas in Naruto, cooking ghosts in Bleach, and the old stand-by beach vacation episode in every slice-of-life anime ever. 

Here I will rundown my thoughts on four anime series that came out recently:

Koro-sensei is able to move at Mach 20.
Suck it, season 1 level Flash!

First off, Assassination Classroom! A hit manga that is as crazy as it is fun. AssClass (as it is affectionately called by fans) is the story of a strange bio-engineered creature with a huge round head and several tentacles who threatens to blow up the Earth if he is not allowed to teach a class of junior high students. He then lays out the terms that the students will be trained as assassins and if they are successful in killing him, then not only will they save the world, but they will be given $100 million as a reward from the grateful governments. The creature, named Koro-sensei in a portmanteau of korosenai (which means unkillable) and sensei (which means teacher), is actually very protective of his students and quite supportive of their endeavors. He actively cheers and hopes for their attainment of the goal of killing him, but that doesn’t mean that he takes it easy on them.

The first episode opens with the entire class opening fire with a hail of bullets as Koro-sensei tries to take roll. In another episode, one of his students simply asks him to drink a batch of poison she just made, and he acquiesces, but it does not have the desired effect. Eventually, other students such as a supercomputer retrofitted with high tech weaponry and hard light holograms and a genetically-modified warrior join the class and attempt to slay their teacher, all while that same teacher spurs them onward by preparing them for tests and providing the perfect strategy to win a huge baseball game.

Surprisingly dark and somber at some times, while wildly ridiculous and zany at others, Assassination Classroom is a unique and fun experience that almost anyone could enjoy. The theme songs are fantastic as well, with “Hello, Shooting Star” being one of my favorite closing songs in years. 

The star of the show, Dandy!
He's a dandy guy... in space!
 Space Dandy is the story of a pompadoured bounty hunter and his crew of an outdated robot, who speaks in autotune, named QT and a huge cat-like alien named Meow.  Their job is to find never-before-seen aliens in for registration and collect a reward.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Space Dandy is that it is unique for being one of the very few anime that actually aired in America in English before running in Japan, debuted on January 4th, 2014, while it came out the following day in Japan.

Space Dandy is much more than its premise would suggest. On the surface, it’s a silly comedy about three well-intentioned buffoons trying to make a living and being obsessed with the ladies. And yes, it is filled with pervy jokes, right down to Dandy’s favorite restaurant BooBies (an obvious homage to Hooters).  But each episode follows an intriguing look at the man with the dandy hair. We see him join a war between rival factions who fight over whether they should wear undies or vests, we see him meet with an ancient dog that may or may not be the famous Cosmo, we see him break the very fabric of reality by pulling at the strings of the universe in the most in-your-face example of string theory ever.

Nobody drops a selfie like Meow

But Space Dandy’s absolute best moment occurs in episode 5, “A Merry Companion Is a Wagon in Space, Baby” when Dandy tries to capture a young alien and instead becomes a caring surrogate for her. After traveling with her, he realizes that she needs to be with her family and searches to find her grandfather and reunites them. The emotion in this episode is incredible, and it is underlined by some beautiful background music that plays throughout.

Ultimately, Space Dandy is a fun comedy that challenges classic science fiction tropes, offering one of the most compelling multiverse visions of all time, and has more earnest charm than anything with as many booty jokes as this does has any right having.

In the name of the Moon, I'll look amazing!

Sailor Moon was one of the monoliths of the anime boom in America. Along with Dragon Ball Z, this showed that anime could be huge in the US of A, but it marketed a different audience, girls. What a concept!  It’s a huge bummer that, while Japan does have a fair share of cartoons aimed at young girls, not very many have crossed the Pacific. I can think of Sailor Moon and… a butchered version of Card Captor Sakura. But Sailor Moon hit BIG in all markets. Young girls sympathized with Usagi (Serena to those old dub fans) and her struggles in school and in love, while loving her ensorcelled transformations. Young boys thought the girls were pretty and had some cool powers like elemental blasts and razor sharp magic crowns.

So what do you do with the most popular girl warrior series of all time for its 20th anniversary?  Put some shine on that sucker and make it sparkle! Like a crystal. Get it?

Bad joke aside, the Sailor Moon Crystal treatment is what fans have always begged for when it comes to long-running legendary series. Brand new animation and a faithful retelling of the original story, without being bogged down by filler when it gets close to the manga. For fans of the original, you see everything in gorgeous HD perfection. For new fans, you get a much quicker and cohesive run of the story, with the first Sailor Scout partner appearing in episode 2 instead of episode 10. This faster pace comes slightly at the cost of connecting with Usagi. As a new fan, I’m not sure you would feel like you really connect with Sailor Moon with the next partner showing up so quickly while the original had you really understand how hard she was trying, especially with Luna bitching the poor girl out at every turn.

With one episode every two weeks, it gives the show more room to work and keep the quality at a consistent high level, and it is quite evident. The show is gorgeous. My only complaints is that it feels less “magical girl” when the Scouts transform and are suddenly 3d CG Digimon-esque transformation models and that Usagi doesn’t do her big spin and pose before throwing her Moon Tiara to kill the monster. Yet, even with that, Sailor Moon Crystal is definitely the best way to experience the show.

Come on, Viz! Get that dub ready!

Ah, how swee... oh my god that went south so fast.

Seraph of the End is a story about a world where vampires unleashed a virus that killed 90% of the human population and have enslaved much of the world. A young boy, Yu Hyakuya, is an orphan taken in by a foster home. When the vampires attacked, the adults died, but Yu and his brothers and sisters were able to still live together. Yu, the lone wolf orphan, does not want to accept them as family, but grows to love them, especially his closest adopted brother, Mika.

The theme of family and friendship is displayed here in a heart-breaking manner. Yu finally finds people he can love. He believes he can escape. And his family is brutally and bloodily slaughtered by a vampire noble. He alone survives the encounter and makes it to the outside world where small portions of human civilization still exist and take a stand against the vampire hordes and the roaming monsters of the wastelands.

From here, Yu joins with the Japanese Imperial Demon Army and is enrolled in the local academy. For a time, the series plays with the school setting while a serious threat looms around the corner in an interesting spin on world of Evangelion, only substituting giant Angels for sadistic vampires as the threat that can end them all at any moment. However, unlike Evangelion, Seraph of the End does not stay in the school setting for long. Once he gains his Demon katana, he is sent into the field for battle.

Yu is a fascinating and complicated character. He is hesitant to show affection for anyone, but cannot stand by as someone is in danger. He fights with everyone he comes in contact with and defies orders at every turn, but also defends them with no regard for his own life. Seeing him rebuild his life and forge new relationships is as much of a reward as the wonderful, violent battle sequences.

Seraph of the End is violent and bloody enough to satiate the dark fantasy fan, while being cautious enough in its displays of gore to not discourage those who aren’t comfortable with bloodshed. It’s also gorgeously animated and has an excellent orchestral score. Funimation is airing the dub only a few episodes behind the Japanese broadcast, but the sub is available through them as well. 

Older and battle-hardened, Yu seeks revenge on the vampires

If you like our articles, please hit the Followers button to get updates when we post a new blog!

You can always keep up with our podcast episodes on the Syan & Rican PodOMatic homepage!

Don't forget to hit the subscribe button so you never miss an episode!

You can also catch our episodes on our iTunes Syan & Rican page!

And you can follow us on Twitter @syanofflame and @StrawHatRican, so ask any questions or give any comments you'd like!

No comments:

Post a Comment