Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East (Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Yet another adaptation of the classic 19th-century Japanese epic novel. Supposedly about 8 half-brother werewolves, although only one shows up yet and there’s plenty of other fantasy lifeforms around.


Shino, one of three siblings who survived a dire accident years ago by contracting with supernatural beings. The younger boy, his body has absorbed a mythical sword that transforms into a talking bird… er, yeah. Anyway, he’s the impulsive brat of the lot.

Sousuke is the elder brother, and contracted with a wolf he can transform into. He’s the reasonable one, consulting with elders about the plot.

Hamaji, the girl, has two roles in this episode : she’s a terrible cook, and she gets captured by the evil Church.

Production Values

Perfectly okay, with some decent designs for the creatures, but very boring human character designs.

What did I think of it ?

As I said before, I fell asleep while watching this the first time around. After a rewatch, I can’t say there’s anything wrong with it per se, aside from very pedestrian execution (and old-fashioned gender politics). It’s just utterly unexciting.

I’ll pass.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2013 – Page 5.

From the New World (Shinsekai Yori)

(25 episodes)

What’s it about ?

In the future, everyone gets telekinetic superpowers at puberty ! The consequences were so dire that the adults have set up a massive conspiracy (disguised as coming-of-age rituals and education) so that part of those powers get sealed off, and the most unstable kids get “disappeared”.


Saki, our protagonist. Her powers were late to bloom, so she joined the school-for-powered-kids after all her friends (a handy way to get some exposition out on her behalf). Not much in the way of a personality yet, aside from “somewhat scared”. (Which is a perfectly reasonable reaction in her position.)

Similarly, her friends fall into familiar categories (the quiet top student, the asshole loudmouth, the innocent guy, etc.) and don’t really stand out as characters yet. But then, this is an exposition-heavy first episode, and there’s 24 more for them to develop.

Saki’s parents aren’t really in a position to prevent the “disappearance” of their own daughter (the committee which oversees this is apparently quite autonomous). It really doesn’t help that Saki once overheard them talking about it.

Production Values

Quite good ; for some reason this is set in the countryside (did civilization take that much of a hit ?), and we are treated to some decent scenery porn on and off. The character designs are very generic but serviceable.

The direction is very good at creating a very toxic and paranoid atmosphere. It’s a bit rough around the edges, with sudden flashbacks often coming out of nowhere, but it helps building an oppressive mood. Especially effective is the opening scene depicting the emergence of superpowers in all its horror.

Overall Impression

This is quite promising. The setup isn’t particularly innovative, but it’s presented in such a way that it’s very creepy indeed. While most of the episode is centered about inoffensive-looking rituals, classes and slice-of-life scenes, the paranoia is slowly ramping up over the course of it.

The downside is that none of the kids really have any depth yet. Heck, Saki’s parent display more character and pathos in three minutes than the kids in the whole rest of the episode.

Still, that can be resolved later on, and at least this episode set the stage properly. I’m curious to see where it goes.

via [In which I review] New anime, Fall 2012.

Gankutsuou – The Count of Monte Cristo

(24 episodes, 2004-2005)

My previous exposure

I first heard of this one through the president of my college anime club, who was a big fan of the artstyle. I think he even showed us the first episode. I never got around to actually watching the full thing it for ages, though, as I waited until I thought I’d be “ready”.

I’ve obviously heard of the basic plot through cultural osmosis, but I’ve never actually read the original doorstopper of a novel (or watched any of the numerous movie/TV adaptations). So I was mostly fresh on the actual plot twists the series had in reserve for me.

What’s it about ?

It’s the future, but conveniently society is basically the same as early-19th-century France (well, kinda, I’ll come back to it further down). Albert de Morcerf is the young naive heir of an up-and-coming politician, engaged to the daughter of a rich banker, and promised to a bright future… until he meets the eccentric Count of Monte-Cristo on the Moon. Little does he know that his newfound friend is actually out for a (very convoluted) revenge against the three men who wrong him 20 years ago… including Albert’s father.

Let’s be honest, the SF setting is just a parlour game, as one will try and guess how each element is transposed from the original context. But it’s also an excuse for the visuals to go marvellously insane. A duel will become a battle between giant armoured mecha… because why not, after all ? The show revels in its artificiality, using psychedelic images to make its story even more grandiose and baroque, as best exemplified by the use of unmoving elaborate textures to depict people’s clothes and hair. It will either burn your eyes or make you fawn over how pretty it is.

What did I think of it ?

I loved it, as you probably can tell by now. Not only is it gorgeous, but it never sacrifices the clarity of its storytelling. This is a very well-structured adaptation, with my only little qualm being that the Count’s plots take ages to actually go anywhere. But when they finally come to fruition, it makes all the build-up worth it.

It is interesting how little this adaptation cares about the Count’s past life as Edmond Dantès. He barely gets ten minutes of flashbacks very late on, as the strict minimum necessary to explain why he became the implacable vengeance machine known as the Count of Monte-Cristo. (Not the how, though, the series doesn’t care about that at all.) The Count himself is an antagonist throughout, with only token displays of hesitation while he tramples over the lives of innocents to get at his targets.

The focus here is clearly on Albert, which is a bit tiring at times given how much he’s a naive spoiled brat who takes a lot of time to distrust the dude who looks like a vampire. (Or heck, even be aware of how much many of the adults around him are scumbags.) But then, this is not a series for subtlety, and the core goal here is to display how the Count’s revenge wreaks havoc on innocents’ livelihood. Albert, as innocence personified, is the perfect incarnation of collateral damage. The storytelling choice of making the Count’s motives distant (and unrevealed until nearly the very end of the show) only adds to the monstrosity of his actions. Yes, those three assholes probably deserved punishment (not only for what they did to him, but also for their various other misdeeds later on), but the Count’s sweeping retaliatory action was always bound to provoke more future strife in an endless cycle of vengeance.

Perfectly illustrating the pointlessness of the Count’s actions, and looking great while doing so, this is a show well worth watching.

via [LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond – Page 11.

One Stormy Night – Secret Friends (Arashi no Yoru ni: Himitsu no Tomodachi)

(52 episodes)

What’s it about ?

The unlikely friendship of a goat and a wolf. Adaptation of a bestselling children’s book.


Mei, a somewhat naive young goat. She’s not entirely clueless, though. (Also, this is proof that Rie Kugimiya can sound charming when the role requests it.) One stormy night, she stumbles into a dark shelter, where she meets…

Gabu, a young wolf. Since it was dark, they got to talk for enough time for him to get fond of his newfound friend. Even when he learns she’s food. He carries most of the episode, with the conflict between his heart and his stomach.

Production Values

This is entirely CG-animated… and it doesn’t look half-bad. Nice scenery porn, decent cartooning for the characters’ body language…

Overall Impression

One the one hand, it’s a perfectly decent start that introduces the premise well and makes the archetypal characters grow on you. This would fit quite well as the 20 first minutes of a decent kids’ movie. (And presumably the 2005 movie was along the same lines.) But… 52 episodes of this ? I was already starting to get a bit tired of Gabu’s inner conflict by the end of the first episodes, so I dread how repetitive it’ll get by the third month of it.

Yeah, I think I’m going to skip this one.

via [In which I review] New anime, Spring 2012 – Page 12.


(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Horror series set in a little town. 26 years ago, a middle school student from class 9-3 called Misaki died. Her class acted as though she was still attending up to the graduation. And the urban legend would be only mildly creepy if it had stopped there…


Kouichi, our protagonist. He came to live with his grandparents in the town because his father is busy teaching in India (Mommy is dead). He’s of weak health ; a lung collapse makes him miss his first few months of school. And of course he’s now attending class 9-3. There’s a lot his classmates aren’t telling him yet, although the implication seems to be that his name is somehow associated to tragic circumstances (despite him only having been around for a few months long ago and not remembering much of it).

Mei Misaki, a mysterious 9-3 student with an eyepatch. Kouichi crosses her path in the hospital as she goes to the morgue to “offer a gift to the other her”… Er, yeah. Given how she later claims not to recognize him at school, I’m guessing twins or something.

I’m not getting much of a handle yet on the other classmates. Sure, they’re obviously hiding something, but I’m not sure who’s actually important there. (And what’s a “Countermeasures officer”, anyway ?)

Production Values

This is a PA Works production, so of course there’s lots of scenery porn and cautious attention to body language (the latter of which is key to such a series). This is their first attempt at horror that I know of, and boy does it show : there are lots of random shots creepy dolls or awkward closeups that feel a bit clumsy ; unlike, say, SHAFT, they’re obviously not used to doing this. Similarly, the soundtrack may be laying the atmosphere a bit too thick.

It’s also a pity that the careful buildup in the prologue is marred by a terrible OP song by ALI Project.

Overall Impression

I really wanted to like this : sure, horror shows in little towns with a dark secret are a cliché, but this looks like a decent attempt to go back to basics. Unfortunately, it’s trying a bit too much, and the atmosphere doesn’t fully gel.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I like here ; I’m probably going to watch it through. But it could be better executed.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2012 – Page 5.

The Tatami Galaxy (Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei)

(11 episodes, 2010)

My previous exposure

It’s a noitaminA show whose OP sequence was among JesuOtaku’s “best of 2010”. Beyond that, I knew nothing of it.

What’s it about ?

Our unnamed protagonist/narrator is a young college student who has spent the last two years in a quirky club ; he thought that’d be an occasion for socializing and having a great time, but it made him miserable and the only “friend” he made was Ozu, a backstabbing asshole who even looks impish. Well, there’s also this Akashi girl from the engineering department who might be a possible prospect… but our protagonist has by this point made such a mess of his life by this point that he thinks it’s too late to make a move, and really wishes he’d joined another club and never met Ozu.

The joke is that each episode has him joining a different club as he enters college, still meeting Ozu somehow, and still making a mess of his life in a completely different way. The series plays quite a bit on the format, first in #6-8 by having him join three clubs at once (with three different endings to about the same series of events), and then by climaxing in a tale where he never joins any club and things get really weird.

What did I think of it ?

Well, this is certainly a different anime from about everything else I’ve watched. I’m reminded a bit of some of the works of Satoshi Kon, with a stream-of-consciousness kind of storytelling that leaves a lot of room to dreamlike imagery. The character designs are deliberately cartoony, which helps when the plot gradually becomes more insane. I also love the ED sequence, which can only be described as “blueprint porn”, as rooms shuffle around rhythmically and thrust into one another along the tune.

This is a very wordy series. The characters are very talkative, and when they shut up, the protagonist takes over and never lets go. It could be tiring (and it is a bit), but the series is funny enough to get away with it. There are some great gags in every episode, the highlight probably being ep #3’s Cycling Club and its feud with the Illegal Parking Brigade.

What truly makes the series remarkable, though, is that the repetitive structure works. Each episode is different enough to entertain, and through each iteration we get a better handle on the supporting cast and how they all fit together. Especially remarkable is the final reveal about Ozu : he does have a purpose and a plan beyond random mischief, and it’s actually quite endearing. The weakest link may be Akashi, who doesn’t show that much personality beyond “ideal love interest”, but there’s still enough depth in her for the romance not to be forced. (It helps that some episodes have the narrator pursue some completely different women… or approximations thereof.) The ending is a bit weakened by the obviousness of the fractal structure of the narrative being made into the actual text, but there are enough pay-offs to what initially looked like throwaway bouts of weirdness for it to work.

This is a very good show which tried to do something very different from the norm and pulled it off. And it’s a lot of fun, too.

via [LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond – Page 7.

Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito)

(26 episodes, 2007)

My previous exposure

Heartily recommended by this thread at least thrice.

What’s it about ?

This is set in the Yogo empire, a parallel version of pre-industrial Japan with a rich spiritual world bubbling under the surface. A good part of the plot revolves on the relatively recent Yogo empire having mostly erased the spiritual knowledge of the previous civilization for political purposes, and having it biting them in the ass.

Case in point : Chagum, the young second son of the Emperor, has become the host of a major water spirit ; the Emperor mistakes it for a demon (because that’s how the faked histories describe it), and engineers “subtle” attempts on his son’s life to get rid of the menace. Chagum’s mother isn’t too keen on that, and hires Balsa, a foreign female bodyguard reputed to be very good at her job, to try and save him. Cue chase scenes and all-too-brief respites in the countryside in between.

Also among the main cast are Shuga, the high priest/diviner (and Chagum’s tutor) who leaked the news about the spirit to the Emperor and really regrets it ; Tanda, Balsa’s not-boyfriend, a skilled herborist who’s really handy to cure her frequent wounds ; and Torogai, Tanda’s teacher in all things spiritual, a wise (and abrasive) old woman who’s one of the few characters with enough knowledge to understand the significance of Chagum’s possession…

Because what Chagum is really carrying inside him is the egg of a water spirit whose rebirth is essential to the cycle of life in the world ; on the other hand, all the data Torogai can gather seems to confirm that Chagum is going to die in the process…

What did I think of it ?

This is a gorgeous show, with tremendous attention to detail. We spend a lot of time with our main characters living quiet lives in the countryside, and all of it feels real and well-researched. The (relatively rare) fight scenes are also impressive, Balsa being the most badass depiction of a spear-carrier I’ve ever seen. I also like that Chagum’s character design slightly changes in the last few episodes to reflect Balsa’s training and growing maturity.

The only false note on the production side is the score ; not that it’s bad (it’s very adept at rendering the atmosphere of a slightly eerie countryside with barely-concealed danger lurking underneath), but because it’s so strongly similar to another Kenji Kawai score from the same time period ; as a result, I was often half-expecting a redhead with a billhook to jump in at any time. That was quite distracting indeed. It’s only within the last few episodes that the soundtrack really manages to rise above this.

The strength of this series is its deep grounding in verisimilitude : all of it feels real, even when the cast is battling giant crablike monsters or sliding into the spiritual world. The society looks real, the politics are depressingly familiar, the characters feel like actual people (even the one-dimensional evil Emperor is a somewhat believable jerkass), and the supernatural elements are carefully and methodically worked in progressively so that they don’t feel jarring. I also enjoyed Chagum’s characterization ; he doesn’t whine, and he’s smart and well-learned. Actually, most of the characters are quite smart, and see reason relatively easily once they get the right information.

And this may be the part that doesn’t quite click : a big part of the plot hinges on the Emperor being a ruthless asshole as the only explanation for why the more reasonable rest of the cast spends so much time blundering about and working at cross purposes. It feels a bit like forced conflict, with the heavy-handed Message that forgetting (or worse, erasing) old knowledge is Wrong.

Still, this is a very entertaining tale that tries very hard to hit a mythic vibe, and mostly succeeds. Not my favourite genre, but it’s so well-done it doesn’t matter.

via [LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond – Page 6.


(11 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Mystery series set in the near future.


Shinjuuro Yuuki, “the Defeated Detective”. He’s very good at his job, but gets involved in cases so politically sensitive that they tend to get covered up by the authorities (hence his nickname, as his successes never get publicized to the wider public).

Inga, his intense pint-sized sidekick. Or is it Inga, the tall and sexy woman he claims to be his “boss” and who can hypnotize anyone in giving one (and only one) truthful answer ? Obviously there’s something bizarre at work here…

Rinroku Kaishou, elite consultant in Justice affairs (among other stuff). Apparently in the future justice will be privatized and corrupted so that this dude can order the whole system around. Sure, he’s a talented sleuth, solving the whole case despite not even being on the scene (he’s a recluse), but he’s also the one announcing the cover-up in the same breath.

Rie Kaishou, our point of view character so far, daughter of the former, sent to a political gala in his stead because he can’t be bothered. She fancies herself as a good sleuth too (and invokes his authority until he barges in through video-conference), but she gets carried away by the first red herring…

Izumi Koyama, a prosecutor. She’s mostly superfluous in the proceedings (which she obviously seems to resent quite a bit), and is often reduced to helping some exposition along.

The case of the week involves a businessman who allegedly embezzled money from reconstruction efforts (“as you know, our country was recently at war with terrorists…”), and gets killed halfway through the costume gala he set up to try and clear his name.

Production Values

It’s Studio BONES, of course it looks good. I note that they somehow managed to dress half the cast in period 19th-century garb, eh. The character designs have a bit more style than their usual offerings (especially Inga, in both forms).

What did I think of it ?

Well, this is certainly a fast episode : it burns through a complete mystery plot (including two full-blown red herrings) and some extensive setting exposition at breakneck speed. While you do need to pay attention (in particular, the “description of character” overlays are a bit too fast), it never loses sight of clarity. While it’s hard to try and deduce the solution before it’s given (especially are some crucial data is shown too late because of screentime constraints), it’s still a decent mystery in itself, with some nice pieces of foreshadowing.

I’m a sucker for the mystery genre : of course I’m going to keep watching this. But the quality is quite good, and I’m intrigued by the setting and Inga’s weirdness. It also seems to be fully aware there are only 11 episodes available, and is paced appropriately, which is a good sign.

via [In which I review] New anime, Fall 2011 – Page 10.

No. 6

(11 episodes)

What’s it about ?

In the future, after a near-apocalypse, most humanity has settled in a few super-awesome cities where they live carefree existences in a hi-tech environment… Well, at least that’s the official story ; considering there’s a Ministry of Peace around, I really doubt it’s as utopian as it claims.


Shion, our point-of-view character. A very mellow and easy-going high school kid who feels a bit constrained by society’s straightjacket. The utopian setting means he’s on the fast track to elite university and possesses very good first aid skills. He lives with his mother in the kind of house that clearly establishes him as very high in the food chain. (Or maybe everyone’s got one of these in the utopia, but I really doubt it.)

Safu, Shion’s classmate, who’s clearly interested in him, but gets politely relegated to the friend zone, to her despair. We also get to see her grandmother, who’s clearly bored out of her mind considering the dozens of hand-knit sweatshirts in her closet. (Utopia, my ass !)

Nezumi, an escaped convict who takes refuge in Shion’s house (who had left the window open). To his surprise, Shion doesn’t report him to the authorities, and actually hides him and nurses him back to health. Now, Nezumi clearly ain’t has bad as the newsflashes make him out to be, but Shion’s reaction is hard to explain unless you just accept it as part of his personality… And, well, I’m told the original novels played up the gay subtext a lot more, which I have no trouble believing.

Production Values

It’s Studio Bones : of course it looks good. The direction’s not particularly subtle, though (witness the numerous close-ups on the kids’ RFID tags !).

Overall Impression

This is obviously an ambitious project, earnestly trying to be meaningful and deep… but I’m not convinced it works. It’s way too unsubtle in its depiction of the udystopia, and I get the nagging feeling we’re heading for “Shion and Nezumi grow close together while running away from the authorities”, which isn’t a story I have the least bit of interest in.

I’ll give it another episode to try and convince me there’s more to it, but I’m not hopeful.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2011 – Page 6.

Moshidora (“What If a Female Manager of a High School Baseball Team Read Drucker’s Management ?”)

(10 episodes, aired on weekdays over the next two weeks)

What’s it about ?

Well, the title says it all. An anime adaptation of a best-selling light novel that’s basically an infomercial for Peter Drucker’s Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices.


Minami, our protagonist and new manager of the high school baseball club. She used to be quite good at the sport, but quit years ago because of a yet unclear incident that made her hate it. Anyway, she buys Drucker’s book by mistake while looking for some documentation on what she’s supposed to do, and proceeds to read it because, hey, what the heck, she spent the money and had better get some use of it.

Yuuki, Minami’s best friend for years and former manager of the baseball club. She’s got some chronic illness that put her in the hospital (with scheduled surgery down the line). Obviously she was in no shape to continue with the club, which is why Minami pitched in and takes it very seriously.

Ayano seems to be the assistant manager or something. Very shy, she doesn’t make much of an impression so far.

We don’t get to see too much of the actual baseball players yet, beside that they’re not much good and only a few are motivated enough to even come training. The pitcher only sees baseball as a line on his resumé for his future business, and so on.

Production Values

Below average. There’s no flair whatsoever to the directing, the animation’s cheap, and the soundtrack is so generic it hurts.

Overall Impression

Ouch. This is even worse than I was expecting. Low production values, exposition through omnipresent narration that never lets you forget that this adapts a novel, no attempt to conceal the blatant advertising for Drucker’s book, one-dimensional characters… and of course it’s baseball, one of the few sports I have zero interest in.

And yet… it’s a sports anime, and I’m a sucker for those due to being brought up on the likes of Captain Tsubasa and Attacker You !. I’m still quite curious about how a general “Management” book could be of any use for a sports team : the “Mission Statement” stuff this episode was already straining it a bit, how is the next chapter of “Marketing” going to be relevant ?

So yeah, I’m going to keep watching it mostly for the novelty value. And it’s going to be over quickly anyway.

via [In which I review] New anime, Spring 2011 – Page 15.