#12 : Hero Hero-kun

(104 episodes)

What’s it about ?

This is a show for very young kids about a weird boy, his family and friends.

The episodes are five-minutes long, and must have been broadcast several times a week, given that 104 of them were pumped out in under 10 months.

Characters

Hero Hero, our hero, is an elementary school kid who’s a bit absent-minded, and has talking nosehairs. Often he jumps and flies around for a bit.

His dad is pretty much of the same mold. Mom is obsessed with her appearance, and puts on tons of makeup for her job at the supermarket. They also have a “dog” (or whatever Pup Pup is).

Bari Bari is a “delinquent” friend of Hero Hero’s who’s even tamer than you can imagine. But he looks so cutely rebellious on his tiny bike !

Kira Kira is another friend of his ; she’s mostly there to be baffled by his antics.

Production Values

This is very rough and crudely animated, but it does have some charm in its energy.

Overall Impression

I’m way too old for this ; it’s clearly targeted at a much younger audience, who’ll appreciate the manic dialogue and the slow outlining of the concepts much more than me.

It’s mildly interesting as a footnote to see what kind of shows were produced in 2000 for 5-year-olds, but 5 minutes of it were well enough for me. (And anyway, it’s not like anyone bothered to fansub more than one episode.)

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 3

#11 : Gate Keepers

(24 episodes)

What’s it about ?

This adapts a Playstation RPG videogame. The overall plotline is classic “vaguely governmental agency recruits superpowered teens to fend off alien invasion” fare, with the oddity that it’s set in 1969, with Japan still busy rebuilding itself after WWII.

Characters

Shun, our protagonist, is your typical teenage hothead, angry at his dad for getting himself killed and leaving Mom with a serious case of depression and two brats to feed. Aside from that, he’s quite a decent dude, getting on well with the supportive neighbours. He’s the kind of guy who refuses a place on the kendo team (and the potential scholarship attached) because he’s rather start working part-time right now and put some food on the family table. On the other hand, he instantly loses points for constantly comparing his life to a sports manga. (Which is too cute to be funny the first time around, and gets more aggravating as it goes on).

Ruriko is the first superpowered teenage agent of A.E.G.I.S. (the good guys), but they hope to recruit more down the line. Her core powers involve healing, but as that’s not enough she can also channel them to fire white arrows of death at the enemy. Her mission here is to escort a bus transporting some big macguffin, and of course it goes sideways just as Shun happens to be passing by. Obviously he had dormant powers, and after she kickstarts them he’s able to destroy the immediate threat. (Also, he then realizes they were neighbours ten years ago, because what’s one more gratuitous plot contrivance at this point ?)

I’m not really sure how the logistics of the alien invasion work out. Apparently they’ve infiltrated every layer of society and are ALL THE ASSHOLES ? (The punk harassing honest business-owners, the boss firing his secretary after having his fun, and so on…) But then they all go out in bright daylight, transform, and combine into a massive black ball of weaponry that attacks the goodies ? The heck ?

The OP & ED sequences showcase a few more members of this nascent teenage brigade, but they’ve yet to show up. This first episode is busy enough already, after all.

Production Values

Unfortunately, this is a production which lacks the budget (and maybe the visual creativity) to support its ambition. Everything looks slightly too cheaply animated, and way too often the director substitutes a dutch angle or a random close-up on eyes for actual movement. (And not in the aesthetically pleasing way Akiyuki Shinbo has become famous for.)

And of course, a good chunk of the character designs (especially Ruriko’s “modern” student uniform) look completely out of place for what starts as a period piece.

Overall Impression

I think I can see what this is going for. Rather than taking itself seriously, it’s a madcap romp that keeps upping the batshit insanity. Of course none of this makes any sense ; who needs coherence when the good guys have a tourist bus (with their elite field agent as the guide) that can convert into a super-armoured tank, chased by a big ball of combined aliens ? This is stream-of-consciousness delirium.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t click for me. Part of it is the clash between the madness and the relatively grounded world surrounding Shun at the start ; the show can’t quite pull off the contrast. Indeed, the set pieces often feel like they’re missing the design sense needed to really bring them to life. And then, there’s the protagonist who actively drags my enjoyment down whenever he shows up.

As a concept, nice try ; too bad the execution is so lacking, and discouraging me from pursuing it any further.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 2

#09 : UFO Baby (Daa! Daa! Daa!)

(78 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a comedy shojo manga series.

Characters

Miyu is an ordinary high-school student… except her parents just went and left for the US to work at NASA (Mom’s an astronaut, Dad an engineer). She’s left in the care of a long-time friend of a family. Who’s a monk living in a shrine, because no commute is complete without a ridiculous flight of stairs. Said monk almost immediately lands a ticket for a trip in India he’s longed for all his life, and absconds as well.

This hasn’t been a good day for Miyu.

Kanata, the monk’s son, isn’t especially thrilled to be left alone with this random girl all of a sudden. It’s mild irritation at first sight, and we all know where this leads in a shojo manga.

Ruu is a baby who shows up in a flying saucer that night, just as Miyu was about to leave. It’s obviously going to be the plot device bringing the lead couple together as they must care for it.

Wannya is Ruu’s “sitter pet”, who conveniently explains how the baby got there (random space wedgie), how long it’ll stay (at least a year to fix the navigation system), and presumably will care for it while the teenagers are off to school.

Production Values

The artstyle looks very 90s shojo indeed, and in some ways not dissimilar to the early days of the Sailor Moon anime. The lush pastel backgrounds are certainly pleasant to look at.

Overall Impression

I can easily see how this was successful enough to last for a year and a half : it’s got a fun premise, decent characters, and a good grasp of comedic timing. On the other hand, it’s a bit on the slow side, and not that funny. Also, I’m probably a bit too high above the target age range to really be invested in it.

This is perfectly okay at what it does. But 78 episodes is a bit too much for me to stick with it.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 2

#07 : Shinzo (Mushrambo)

(32 episodes)

What’s it about ?

As far as I can tell, this is series is very loosely adapted from Journey to the West, but shifted to a post-apocalyptic futuristic setting, with maximum toyetic flavour.

Characters

Yakumo, our female protagonist, is one of the few humans left alive. She woke up in a deserted lab one day, with the advice to go west (of course) to the mythical land of Shinzo (where there may or may not be other humans). Her main characterization point is that she’s absurdly respectful of live, despite most of the anthropomorphic animals around trying to kill her. But Killing Is BAD, and she’s sticking to that rule.

Mushra, a beastboy that totally didn’t try to swindle the locals and got hung to dry for it, honest ! He was totally framed ! She rescues him because that’s what she does, and he sticks around as a bodyguard in gratitude (while a bit baffled by her no-killing stance). His “Hyper-Mode”, which can transform him into a red-armoured humanoid, should be quite useful for that.

Kutal, a catman who offers to guide them through a shortcut that’s totally not a trap so that he can eat the tasty human. It backfires horribly, but somehow Yakumo still trusts him to accompany them after that.

There’s a blue-armoured guy hanging around the fringes of the plot and occasionally lending a helping hand.

Our Mook of the Week is a mantis-like bounty hunter who can (sigh) shift into Hyper Mode by eating a card. As you do.

Production Values

Okay-ish as far as saturday-morning cartoons go, but the characters designs are really dull and uninspired. And then there’s… well, read below.

Overall Impression

Oh, dear. This is one of the few shows in this project where I could only locate a copy of the American dub. Unfortunately, it seems to be a case where the localization was a complete hatchet job : both literally (as it looks like the first two original episodes got fused into one), and on every other level. The plot gets put through the wringer : Yakumo’s origin story, presumably the meat of the pilot, gets reduced to a 30-second opening narration. We can’t just have a girl getting the lion’s share of screentime through half an episode, after all ! Ah ah, no, we must instead open with Mushra’s predicament, whatever havoc that wreaks on the world-building.

I’m not saying the original show was a masterpiece either ; it was clearly already quite uninspired and toyetic as heck. I would have gotten bored either way. Still, this kind of massacre is infuriating whatever it happens to.

Obviously, there’s no point in watching any more of this.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 2

#06 : Miami Guns

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a comedy manga series that follows a couple of cops in Miami City (a parody of America where everyone has Japanese names and drives on the left).

Characters

Yao, the flashiest member of the force, happens to be the daughter of a super-rich business conglomerate owner. When she shows up late, it’s by parachute-diving from a helicopter. (And bungling her landing, because that’s funnier.) She’s an exhibitionist egomaniac who never thinks her “daring exploits” through. The only reason she somewhat gets away with the collateral damage of her stunts is that she can easily buy her way out of trouble.

Lu, the daughter of the police chief, looks at first sight to be the straight (wo)man of the pair, deadpanly snarking at the ludicrousness of Yao’s antics through most of the episode… Except that when she gets bored, she just charges in with a tank to put an end to this crap.

The Chief hates his life and having to deal with Yao, but makes a valiant effort in trying to do his job properly. For all the good it does to him.

Our Perp of the Week is a a hoodlum from out of town who makes the mistake to try and hold a bank up here. Unfortunately for him, (1) in Miami City every bank customer brings in a gun, and (2) Yao & Lu are on the case.

(Good thing Yao bought the whole building, as it’s not standing anymore by the end of the episode.)

Production Values

A bit dated, but decent enough to sell the jokes. The characters can act and the set pieces aren’t too embarrassing.

There’s more than a bit of fanservice (Yao spends half the episode in a bikini), but thankfully the camera isn’t much in pervert mode (except when it’s funny).

Overall Impression

Let’s be clear : this isn’t subtle comedy at all, as it goes for the cheapest laugh at the first opportunity. But with that said, it’s actually quite funny, with most of the jokes landing. The constant refuge in audacity helps.

It’s not a lost gem in any regard, but it seems short enough to be decent popcorn watching and not outstay its welcome. I’m quite interested in coming back to it later on.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 2

#04 : Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran (Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

This is an action-comedy series set in the Edo period, following two drifters who fight their way through hijinks.

Characters

Ran, our lead, is someone everyone mistakes for a masterless samurai. She can walk the walk if needed (and WILL win any fight she’s involved in), but her chief concern is to find nice places to rest, and maybe some food despite being perpetually broke.

Meow, her soon-to-be sidekick, is a martial artist from China who randomly stumbles into the same town as Ran this episode. She’s much more bumbling and naive, but no slouch in a fight either. And she’s impressed enough by Ran to stick around with her.

The plot of the week involves a crime group terrorizing a town, with the previous head family haphazardly trying to hire the two heroines to oust them. Very basic stuff that’s enough to showcase the different ways our two leads react to the situation.

Production Values

Quite good : the action setpieces are quite fluid indeed, and sell both women as badasses.

Also, this is the type of series where you can’t go wrong with an enka opening song.

Overall Impression

I’ve said my piece about this show a couple years ago, when I watched it at OM’s recommendation. In short, I didn’t care much for it : it’s a repetitive joke that got on my nerves after a while. It doesn’t help that I feel Samurai Champloo got much more mileage out of a similar setup.

Still, it’s a decent first episode ; the running gags are still fresh, the main characters haven’t annoyed me too much yet, and it looks great for its time. I could see myself put it onto my to-watch list if I hadn’t already seen it. (And then I see the next-episode trailer for the underground sake brewery episode, and urgh. Drunk Ran episodes were the worst.)

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 2

#02 : Candidate for Goddess (Megami Kouhosei)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Unfortunately, the protagonist isn’t actually a candidate to become a deity ; that would just be too interesting. This is is instead a run-of-the-mill space opera show, where the mecha are called “Goddesses”.

Adapted from a manga series. In typical fashion, I’m told the anime ends on a cliffhanger and never resolves the plot.

Characters

In the Star Year 4084, the only thing preventing the annihilation of humanity at the hands (?) of the Victim (sic) is a 5-strong team of mecha defending our last planet. Unfortunately, while the current pilots are quite good at it, it’s acknowledged that they won’t last long due to the toll the task entails on their bodies, and so the system needs a constant input of fresh bodies.

Said five current pilots don’t get the occasion to rise above their archetypes : the casanova hounding the one girl of the team (who’s said to be by far the best of them), the nearly-mute one, the philosopher, and the jerkass. They’re all teenagers despite being veteran fighters, because of course.

Zero, our protagonist, is one of the candidates to replace them eventually. He’s lucky one of the main requirements is some genetic predisposition, as it’s certainly not his brains that qualified him. Nor his personality, as he’s more than a bit of an obnoxious twat. As these things happens, he immediately gets lost in the training facility and stumbles into the mecha hold… and then into the first cockpit on sight. Totally an accident, seriously, he’s just THAT clumsy. (Also, sick in zero-gravity.)

There is some suggestion that the Goddesses are somewhat sentient, with this one explicitly leading him to itself (and allowing him to bypass security). The process of synchronisation doesn’t look too pleasant, even accounting for the fact he’s not the official pilot.

Also seen early on are a few other teenagers who are obviously other Candidates : the sullen dude who takes every word as a personal insult, and the guy in glasses who speaks only in exposition. But then, that seems to be a plague affecting everyone in this world, from the jaded instructor who’s seen too many youngsters put to the grinder, or the mysterious figures in shadow running the show.

The OP/ED sequences showcase a much larger supporting cast, with the suggestion that each pilot gets a thematically-appropriate technician partner.

Production Values

The mecha and spaceship scenes might have been the cutting edge of CG work at the time (I have my doubts), but they certainly look clunky and dated by now. And they jar quite a bit with the pedestrian character designs and animation that make up the bulk of the show.

Overall Impression

This was a dreadfully unpromising first episode. (Technically “Curriculum 00”, but seriously now.) It accumulates the mecha & S-F clich├ęs at… well, not great speed, as the constant exposition makes it look even more uneventful than it actually is. None of the characters shown so far are much likeable, and certainly not our protagonist.

There’s literally nothing here that’d make me come back for a second episode : it just feels uninspired through and through.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000

#01 : Boogiepop Phantom

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Sanity slippage, the anime. (Adapted from a light novel series.)

Characters

The titular Boogiepop is an urban legend bogey(wo)man ; everyone has vaguely heard spooky stories, and many of the strange happenings in the city are rumoured to be linked to her. In true horror anthology fashion, she barely shows up for a couple of minutes at the end of this first episode, killing off the monster and quickly explaining the plot. If you want to push it, she could just be a “normal” high school girl with advanced knowledge of the occult and wearing a fancy coat and hat over her uniform… but what are the odds of THAT ?

Moto, our actual point of view character for this episode is an angsty, self-conscious high school girl. She’s got issues over her best friend Yasuko becoming more socially proficient (and sexually active), and regrets not pursuing her crush on Yasuko’s former middle-school boyfriend further.

Saotome, said ex-boyfriend, has recently disappeared, and only shows up in flashbacks. Whatever happened to him (Boogiepop claims to have killed him), the thing that Moto stumbles on and has taken his form definitely isn’t him. She’s very lucky Boogiepop was in the vicinity to take out that man-eating monster.

I’m pretty sure that’s the end of Moto’s story, with each subsequent episode focusing on a different character that intersects briefly with the others’ path. As Moto’s narration says, what happened to her was just a ripple effect of a bigger story.

The credits prominently feature (and name) three characters :
– Touka is the only one who gets any actual screentime here ; she’s an ordinary student at Saotome’s highschool who crosses paths briefly with Moto and tries being helpful, despite Moto not wanting any help.
– Nagi is another student at that highschool, although she spends most of the OP looking grim in leather and riding a motorcycle. She doesn’t even show up at all here, although it’s said Saotome had a crush on her. Everyone knows her to be bad news.
– And then there’s some older guy in a trenchcoat, who doesn’t appear at all either.

Production Values

Atmosphere ! This show is all dull greys and browns, which is great at setting up the mood, but not so much at making the characters easily distinguishable (especially as the non-supernatural characters have naturalistic designs). Still, it’s very good at selling the alienation and the anything-could-happen nature of the setting.

Aside from the rocking OP/ED sequences, the soundtrack has very little actual music, instead playing up sound effects for maximum otherworldliness. What little music there is in the action sequences, is disrupted and fragmented. (In a good way.)

Overall Impression

As it happens, the first show on the list is the one I’ve already seen twice, and one of my all-time favourites. The shifting-POV, non-linear storytelling at play here is a thing of beauty, as each subsequent tale builds into a cohesive bigger picture. It’s relentless, it’s creepy, but it still leaves a ray of hope at the end of the day, thanks to Boogiepop herself.

I love this show, and I’m really tempted to rewatch it right now. That’s going to be a tough act to follow.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000