New layout, same person

Developing in the background for a fair few weeks now, I’m pleased (though… perhaps relieved is a better word?!) to finally unveil the colourful new layout of “Bateszi Anime Blog”!

In an attempt to break away from my conventional (boring) grey style, I’ve ended up with a “passionate” red colour scheme – gasp – if just to prove it’s not only the yuri fans who can get away with pink; us Shounen Jump fan boys are in touch with our feminine sides too!

I wish I could say there is some over arching concept behind this drastic overhaul – I could make up something about the “autumn leaves” in the banner, but truthfully, it’s all about as random as the butterflies you can see in the right menu, but don’t they look pretty? If you have any comments, good or bad, I’d love to read them.

Welcome to the NHK! – Anime or manga? Yawn

Anime or manga, one is inevitably better than the other – whether it’s just another case of elitism or not, you can always bet on the jumped up manga fans hating the anime adaptations of their favourite stories. This is because the voices you hear in your head will always sound better in comparison with the efforts of some cheap hack actor, because when reading that “damn slow” story can move as fast as you turn the page (in other words – running times are for losers).

Gonzo’s Welcome to the NHK! was an inevitable travesty in the eyes of the existing manga fans. But it is a train wreck that never happened; of the 11 episodes I’ve seen, this has been an outstanding and unique series, veering from bizarre surrealism to painful reality in an exciting matter of minutes. The characters – and especially Satou – are disgustingly sympathetic personalities, shining in their moments of disdainful human vulnerability. I haven’t read the manga – so my opinions aren’t tainted with deluded expectations based on art and imagination. But I can say that out of everything I’m following at the moment, Welcome to the NHK! is the one series I’ll often watch the same day it’s downloaded.

Can manga ever be compared with anime? Can the personal experiences and emotions felt reading a “comic” be judged against sitting through a TV series? Clearly not – film is by and large a passive journey, a voyeuristic indulgence, but reading invites imagination, essentially the reader will often find himself at the centre of that story, able to invent and fill in gaps for himself. Given this tight personal attachment, a film can never be compared with or subsequently become superior to its written source material and it’s unfair for the so called fans to expect their personal standards – inevitably set as high as possible – to be met by another mere individual. Welcome to the NHK! was not directed by god, so it’s not tailored to your imagination, but it’s a fine, thought provoking and entertaining watch. Enjoy it, anime fans!

Naruto – 201 – Weapons of mass destruction

It’s those damn terrorists again! As we’re all aware, the war on terror knows no bounds, and now, not even our anime is safe! The beloved hidden village of the leaf (known to gurning locals as Konoha) has become the target of crafty suicide bombers – who could have suspected berserk eagles with explosives strapped to their claws, aimed straight at the popular village’s renowned statue? One can only imagine how these ingrates managed to brain wash wild animals. Later that day, a veteran suicide bomber disturbingly hinted that it’s now only a matter of time before these eagles are taught to carry weapons of mass destruction.

Luckily for the civilised world, terror soon became jubilation when a brave group of young peace loving ninja, led by one Uzumaki Naruto, stood up for their love of freedom by beating the [geriatric] terrorist to death. Freedom for the win!

Hunter X Hunter – First Impressions

I make no secret of my affection for Shounen Jump anime, from Dragonball Z to Rurouni Kenshin, by way of Naruto and One Piece, it’s a genre – incredibly formulaic though it is – that I drag myself back to again and again, pumped and ready for another sweaty training montage and trash talking decidedly diabolical villain. The protracted action, the limitless melo-drama, I just love it.

On to my latest adventure then – Hunter X Hunter; acclaimed by a passionate few as one of the best this genre has to offer, my curiosity was peaked by the fact that it remains unlicensed outside of Japan. In an age where Bleach and Naruto are the most popular anime licenses in the world, it’s odd that Hunter X Hunter is fading into the realms of mere otakudom.

This evening I had the pleasure of sitting down to watch the first two episodes and although this isn’t really a surprise given my track record, I enjoyed them. While the action is hardly jaw dropping eye candy, Hunter X Hunter provides a warm and realistic perspective on the “adventuring” story-line. When plucky young Gon decides to become a “hunter” and track down his absent father, the inevitable parting with his adopted mother is met not with an enthusiastic thumbs up but a sad and worrisome hug, set against a dark red setting sun. Later in episode two, Gon’s naive country-boy innocence sees him stray perilously close to the murky world of child slavery.

This attention to realistic human struggle is perhaps what separates Hunter X Hunter from its peers, that Gon’s road to adventure is paved with harsh and elegant truths about life and love means his growth as a character is all the more heartening.

As you would expect of a Shounen Jump anime, Gon’s personal quest – though central to the story – is but a means to introduce us to a massive world of eccentric hunters, wild animals and colourful landscapes. Fantastical and fun escapism. In comparison with say Naruto, there are no cool ninja head bands or crazy killer moves – Gon’s only weapon is his trusty fishing rod, but with such an emphatic emphasis on personality, he could be fighting with a spoon for all I care, the heart and soul is what counts, and Hunter X Hunter has made a fine first impression.

Naruto – 200 – Filling time with ninja

It has been a while since I last caught up with Naruto – still its a series I treasure deep within my heart, but these ever enduring “filler dark ages” are even dwindling the concrete enthusiasm I once felt for master Rock Lee and his “spring time of youth”. True to Naruto’s emphasis on fighting spirit, I will never give up on this show, I won’t read ahead and spoil myself with the manga – instead my fandom is on auto-pilot, navigating the blue seas with Monkey D. Luffy. Only god knows when the fillers will end – but my guess, for what another fanboys desperation is worth – is episode 208, the next true increment if the series is seperated by the anime-standard of 26 episodes per season. Fingers crossed, anyway – its been a year already and I’m starting to feel like I imagined characters like Orochimaru, Itachi and even that damn angsty bastard Sasuke.

As far as the quality of this particular filler arc goes – it’s not too bad. Despite a typical lack of tension thanks to the nagging knowledge that deep down we know Naruto is in no real danger and that Konoha won’t be blown up, in small doses it’s still fun and ever so slightly exciting. It’s nice that the chemistry between the various characters still works; them playing off each others ecentric quirks is shallow but entertaining. In other words, I can’t help but enjoy Hinata’s shy affection for Naruto exposed again and again by his dim witted and innocent brauva. It’s great that ANBU are popping up now and again too; their aggressive and cold presence, though fleeting, rekindles my smouldering faith in the darker side of Naruto and reminds me of how once upon a time, this was actually burning brightly as a quite brilliant action series. I long for those days again.

Sci-Fi Harry – Does exactly what it says on the tin

Uneducated and ignorant, my first taste of this most leafy of seasons is the earnestly dubbed “Sci-Fi Harry”. I knew absolutely nothing of this show before today and the only reason I figured I’d give it a try is because of the wonderfully unprentious name. It is literally what it says on the tin – a science fiction anime with a main character called Harry. Mirroring this complete lack of hype, there is nothing outright exciting or colourful about this show, between its typically bullied protagonist and a depressed colour scheme, this is an intentionally serious and down to earth stab at high school psychic horror.

I could describe Harry as frustrating and unpleasant – after all, he is a beaten, bullied and weak teenager and we take no pleasure in his treatment at the hands of his yobbish school mates. At the same time, he is an under dog worth supporting and provided he doesn’t collapse in a pool of [his own] piss, his development as a brave hero will rouse my heart.

Perhaps the best – or at least the most striking element of Sci-Fi Harry is its artistic approach. The surreal and completely unsettling opening theme aside (it truly is an abstract sight to behold), I was impressed by the angular facial features – the eyes are particularly detailed, beaming and jerking from side to side, and it’s been a while since I saw an anime character with a proper nose. No doubt imagining a view of life from the perspective of a jaded kid, Sci-Fi Harry evokes a lifeless and drab atmosphere just waiting to explode, and for this reason it won’t be for the excitable harem otaku.

Ultimately it’s hard to know which way this 20 episode series will eventually head – given the original manga series was scribed by the same author of Night Head Genesis, I’m half expecting an influx of gay bishounen, yet I can’t deny that this first episode of Sci-Fi Harry is striking and interesting, hardly chilling but edgy and moody, wollowing in dank modern suburbia with a curiously ambiguous and confused lead character.

Welcome to the NHK! – 9 – Sparkling festival fireworks

An unusually positive and uplifting instalment of NHK!, I wasn’t planning on commenting on this episode but the sparkling festival fireworks always get me. So bright, so beautiful, so romantic. Even Yamazaki gets some lovin’.

This is so far the best episode, a dizzy mixture of jilted love and romantic despair, it astutly comments on the fickle defensiveness of macho human nature. Yamazaki had his heart broken by his first love and subsequently hates girls, but the moment he gets a little female attention again, suddenly all that pent up anger just fades. Or drops, like the mask covering his real face.

That Sato and Misaki finally get it together is very much the expected outcome of their growing relationship, but it’s still a heart warming and effortlessly touching moment, seeing two people so clearly confused and unconfident gradually throwing aside their fears all in the name of “love”. Such an overblown sentiment is always accompained by fireworks, the pretty mutli-coloured fireworks.

(Note: Instead of screen capping this episode, I’ve clipped pictures from the opening theme. I love the song “Puzzle”, a happy, hopeful and uplifting tune perfectly complimented by the opening animation’s attractive onslaught of bright and exciting colours. I’m gradually realising this is my favourite show airing at the moment, I haven’t read the manga and probably won’t, but really, this is a great series with an underplayed and wonderful grasp of human nature.)