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Bateszi Anime Blog

Anime fans fornever

Being swept away

I have many a faint and fond memory of Eureka Seven, but wasn’t sure how to feel about news of its sequel. It ended with a quite profound sense of finality, after all. Everything that needed to be said, was, and underscored with probably the finest insert song ever used in anime, too. I’m using a lot of absolutes in this post because that’s just how I feel about Eureka Seven. Holland, Talho, Dai Sato, Supercar and Denki Groove. It was a great series.

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Beauty prevails

By most people’s standards, the above image will look a bit… ugly. It was snapped from episode 455 of One Piece, but, the thing is, I thought this episode was beautiful; beautifully animated, that is. The above is merely 1 frame in a sequence of animation depicting an old lady weeping. Her face changes its expression a lot in just this one scene, and while it may not look pretty, it’s the movement of the animation itself that conveys her emotion.

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Injections of fun / Trapeze and episodic anime

"noitaminA rocks!"

At the moment, I’m probably more satisfied with the anime I’m following than I have been for a long time. Whenever a new season begins there’s always the temptation to try to see as much as possible, particularly as an anime blogger with the self-inflicted responsibility to talk about this stuff ad nauseum, but for the autumn at least, I resolved to take things at a slightly slower pace.

The truth is that I’m not good at following anime week-in, week-out anyway, and quite frankly, I’d much rather enjoy the anime I’m watching than to make some token effort just to keep up with everyone else. There’s definitely some new series that I’m really itching to see, but it can all wait until it’s finished.

Well, there is but one exception. I mentioned before that I’m watching Trapeze (also known as Kuchu Buranko.)

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Trying to get back into anime movies / Sword of the Stranger

Action from Sword of the Stranger

Writing this now is probably a bit old hat, but I finally got around to watching Sword of the Stranger at the weekend!

Why the delay? I’ve developed a strained relationship with anime movies; having become so used to watching anime in the 20-min TV format, the mere suggestion of watching anything even slightly longer than normal isn’t attractive at all! I might have been institutionalized by TV!

As such, I’ve avoided many of the most important releases of recent years. I still haven’t seen Mind Game, The Sky Crawlers and Howl’s Moving Castle, and I’m embarrassed to admit I still haven’t seen Paprika, either.

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Naruto Shippuuden episode 82 is a masterpiece

image047

After all these years, I still love watching Naruto. I’ll place it on hiatus every now and then, but it still is, and always will be, one of my biggest favourites. This past weekend marked the end of my latest break from Shippuuden, but already, here I am again; writing away. I couldn’t let this feeling pass without trying to convey it, this sense of being an anime fan and seeing something so great it can’t be contained by just me alone; I have to share it with you.

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A love letter to FMA: Brotherhood #19 and why I love anime

Lust's final curtain

I still read my fair share of blogs and forums, so I had something of an inkling that this episode of Brotherhood was going to be quite special, but even still, I loved it to pieces, and once the credits were finally rolling, all I could think is that this was the exact moment that Brotherhood finally stepped out from its predecessor’s shadow and became great anime in it’s own right.

Ah, it’s been a long road. Between the die-hard fans of the manga and lovers of the first series, Brotherhood was always going to face a long and hard battle to win over new admirers, but now there is absolutely no excuse to not be watching this series. I won’t accept it. Episode 19 was perfect.

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Soul and style: Toradora and Michiko e Hatchin

Cool afro

It’s the eve of the latest spring season, but I’m still playing catch up with a lot of last year’s finest. Last week it was Xam’d, and this week it’s Michiko e Hatchin and Toradora.

I’m only too aware that the anime community is driven by an insatiable desire for ‘newness’, and I’m really excited by some of this new anime too, but there has always been a feeling that a more considered, ‘concentrated’ and, dare I say it, slower viewing style is the ideal way to go. It’s true that sometimes a good series is impossible to resist, but I’m also thinking that there is so much more to gain from taking in only one series at a time.

Such is the way I’m approaching most anime these days. If nothing else, at least I’ll have the opportunity to write about something different each week, and this time, one of those things happens to be Michiko e Hatchin.

Hatchin

Since Shinichiro Watanabe was attached to it, this was one of my most anticipated anime of last year, but generally speaking, I would have watched it anyway, because, basically, Michiko e Hatchin looks really cool. It has a punk rock style, with a strong emphasis on things like fashion; the clothes are ever changing, the hair is messy and the voices are lazy. As if to suggest it couldn’t give two shits about whether you like it or not, it’s like the perpetually sneering, Johnny Rotten of anime.

If style was all that mattered, then this would be perfect, but to really admire something, I need characters to care about and a story to be fascinated by, too. Michiko e Hatchin has none of these things and as such, it ends up feeling ever so empty and aimless. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, because I was able to watch all 22 episodes in one week, so, obviously, I found it entertaining and beautiful to look at, but reflecting on it now, it just feels like there is nothing left to say. The fusion of anime and South American culture is a cool idea, but may be too much emphasis was placed on recreating the visual style and tropes of, for example, Brazilian cinema, to the detriment of a good story.

Looks like FLCL?

Then we have Toradora. I watched the final four episodes this morning and not expecting much at all, I was surprised by the impact it wrought on me. I’ve been back and forth with my opinion of Toradora for a while now, but, undeniably, the finale was hugely involving. We had the soulful dreaming of characters like Ryuuji and Taiga, Minorin’s conflicted smile and Ami’s desperate loneliness, each of them contemplating the state of their lives, while searching for happiness in indirect and painful directions. I lost a lot of faith in the series when it descended into cheesy Christmas songs and illogical plot twists, but the finale won me back over. It may be a generic set-up, but, in the end, Toradora was an honest and heartfelt drama. I couldn’t ask for any more.

I’ll ruin you because I love you

Some times, you need not say anything. Merely the way you move, a seemingly insignificant, deft touch, can betray your heart, because context is everything; words have no meaning without it. Your context is your smile, those tears, that sky. It’s a visual thing. When all that you can see might provoke such a strong sensation, words are an almost tragic nuisance, forever contradicting the simplicity of the moment. Episode four of Casshern Sins is visual poetry; evocative; melancholy; beautiful. This is when words are insufficient, it simply must be seen. Like ballet or wuxia, as if on stage, these characters spin, twist and jump, towards and around each other, every movement an indirect, evocative step forward, like feathers carried by winds of fate, blown across red pools and rocky desolation, secretly dancing to the soundtrack, transfixed by an insatiable desire to understand the other. It is emotion in action, confused, joyful, elegant. Have you ever done something, yet felt the exact opposite? That is episode four of Casshern Sins, an animated, beautiful contradiction. Perfectly flawed, just the way I like it.

Reflecting on Kemonozume – Too cool for otaku

It’s fair to say that the creative staff “working on” (more like playing with) Kemonozume must have had so much fun, from flying heads and sexed up monkeys to a perverted old man shoving a pair of severed female arms down his skanky speedos – this is a show that clearly had no pretension of sensibility and instead embraces insanity, playing out like a giddy reimaging of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s apocalypse. If there is an on-going theme, it is love; and the sad things that love can do to you! The end result is a spectacular if rather superficial show, it leaves us with no sense of tragedy or enlightenment, but one can’t help but be enthralled by such an enthusiastic and eccentric stab at animated story telling.

It’s important to note the word “animated” here. A lot of anime seems to revolve around depicting everyday cold, hard realism – so much so that we almost forget that this is actually animated. It’s a shame because the beautiful thing about animation is that anything is possible, why the need to ground us in reality when there are no limits? Actually that’s wrong, the only true limit is the artists imagination, and imagination is rare. Just look around – most anime looks the same, borrows the same boring old archetypes and sticks to tried and test formula. The industry is still looking for a new Miyazaki; an innovative and important new director able to speak to fans beyond the typical otaku crowd, but they struggle because for years they have been stuck recycling shounen, slice of life, harem and fan service anime for the masses.

In the sea of generic trash that largely makes up today’s anime and despite its somewhat limited popularity even within anime fandom, Kemonozume is one of the few shows unique enough to find a lasting audience. If there is hope for the future of anime, it’s to be found in a show like this or Mushishi, where whimsical and exciting animation takes precedence over easy money.

Kemonozume – 10 – Sex-starved monkeys and eating fish with giant detectives

Since we’re now hitting the final couple of episodes, Kemonozume is building up to an action packed climax. The villain, or “big boss”, has turned out to be the fat Ohba – I liken his bizarre appearance to that of a clown, and deep down, we’re all scared of clowns – their smiley made-up faces covering a deeply seeded malevolence. Just ask Stephen King! Ohba wields a double “Kemonozume” too; both his arms are transplanted claws ripped from innocent young flesh eaters – so no doubt, he will prove a fearsome opponent for Toshihiko. He is a vile and nasty piece of work.

As for Toshihiko, he’s off training with sex-starved monkeys and eating fish with giant detectives. When I’m watching Kemonozume, I hardly noticed how fucking strange this series is. Yuka has been abducted by Ohba, so he’ll need to power up if he’s going to get her back.

Artistic and mad is a word I’d use to describe Kemonozume’s typically staggering opening few seconds – this time, I imagine it could be a tripped out dream sequence seen through the warped perspective of an insane and drunk Adolf Hitler. It’s like watching a fragmented, dizzy replay of a drunken memory.

To honest there’s no easy way to sum up Kemonozume’s visual epilepsy. You really have to see it to understand how damn colourful it is; so do that. Go and watch Kemonozume.

Kemonozume – 9 – Old habits die hard

Still on the run from the Kifuuken, we join the love birds Yuka and Toshihiko aimlessly wandering down vast and empty roads when they are offered a lift by an old married couple. Their journey (squeezed inside a white van) is a chance for them to reflect on their young relationship, inspired by the beautiful and reflective scenery, and of course they can’t help but stare at the old couple still head-over-heals in love with each other after decades of marriage.

Later that evening, Yuka and Toshihiko take a walk down by a rocky beach but return to find tragedy; the old couple, having taken some strange medicine, have transformed into grotesque monsters and are biting chunks out of each other. Toshihiko tries to stop them, but Yuka is attacked and this in turn triggers her own transformation. The old couple end up dead, the medicine sold to them by the Kifuuken. Utterly horrified at having feasted on the old lady, Yuka leaves Toshihiko and runs crying into a near-by forest. Here she bumps into the frog like old man from the Kifuuken. He has a sick, greedy look on his face; grinning widely as if to suggest he has finally found his prey.

There is a lot of talk here about love and what it means to love someone regardless of their physicality. Subverting and repressing your nature, attempting to become something you’re not, this inevitably leads to heart break. Yuka is a flesh eater and she must accept this fact if she is ever to become happy.

This was another fine episode – noted for a particularly symbolic and beautiful scene where the characters find themselves walking on blue sky and fluffy clouds; a completely flat, shallow river that reflects the sky above. The novelty of a 60+ year old woman dreamily discussing sex not withstanding.

Kemonozume – 8 – Hard violence, hard sex, hard feelings

At the beginning of this episode a boy student is excitedly kissing his innocent girlfriend for the first time. They hold each other in an emotional embrace, it is a pivotal moment in their lives, “Ah the day has finally come, Takako-Chan’s warm, soft, slippery thing is in my mouth…”. But the boy gets too excited, “What’s this?” he wonders aloud, sensing something wet and sticky. He opens his eyes to realize he has accidentally bitten Takako-Chan in half. Whoops. Turns out he was a flesh eater, and along with a bucket load of her blood, the top half of Takako-Chan’s corpse dribbles from his fanged jaws. “What’s this?”

Kemonozume is the coolest show airing right now. It’s an adult anime, it has sex, it has attitude and it looks so completely different to everything else. With that said, it clearly isn’t for hard-line anime fans; the art is simply too eclectic and weird for most – fluid and evocative, it lacks the mundane and familiar beauty of typical anime, yet bursts with a free wheeling and fun loving spirit.

I have my doubts about the durability of the story – namely Romeo (Toshihiko – human) and Juliet (Yuka – flesh eating monster) are still on the run from their hunters – these characters, for all their swagger, feel as though they lack a compelling substance. I love that they are eccentric, passionate and unpredictable. All the characters in Kemonozume are fun to watch, but something still feels hollow; a gaping sense of empathy I’m still to locate.

Though these are just nagging doubts; so far Kemonozume has been a fiendishly successful experiment in dripping, post-noir style. Hard violence, hard sex, hard feelings. This is the bleeding edge of modern anime.

Kemonozume – 1 – Delicious gut-munching innovation

The moment I clapped eyes on its highly evocative promo art, I knew I’d love Kemonozume. It just looks so damn cool, completely in another league to the typical “doll face” anime style; here characters look and move like real people, the fluidity of movement and facial expression oddly fascinating. Forget following the narrative- simply watching Kemonozume in full flow is enough of an immersive experience, the animation is wonderful. Like Noein, where the sheer visceral speed of the moving characters somewhat deforms their cliche anime “beauty”, Kemonozume plays with some raw but undeniably vivid art to evoke a thick, gritty atmosphere, sparkling with gems of fleeting beauty amidst an other wise grimy, street-wise setting.

I’ve said a lot about the art of Kemonozume because it is that important. The story is interesting if a little predictable- a male demon hunter falls in love with his beautiful “prey” and they have passionate forbidden sex (yes, actual sex in modern anime, who would have thought it?!)- tragedy surely awaits them. I hope I’m not the only one to notice how similar the premise is to Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s erotic horror Wicked City. Masaaki Yuasa’s colourful, hyperactive and quirky directing style elevates Kemonozume above mere gothic territory and offers up some truly (monkey loving) zany moments, offsetting the grim horror with important touches of light (offbeat) humour.

Though its unique style won’t be for everyone, Kemonozume is an experimental horrific delight that completely shuns the contemporary anime style in favour of delicious gut-munching innovation.