Posts Tagged ‘review’
Spice and Wolf II Complete Collection
In the two stories that make up Spice and Wolf II, the first involves Lawrence and Holo arriving in a village just in time for a local festival. After meeting a new friend, the pair find themselves in a bit of trouble when he decides that he has fallen in love with Holo and wishes to buy her out of the hands of Lawrence to make her into his wife. In the second story, another plot to sell Holo forms around a city ruled by the church which has placed a strict embargo upon fur trading.
Good and the Bad
Not terribly long ago, I watched and loved the unlikely series, Spice and Wolf. I could tell you that it was the gripping story that pulled me in but we’d both know that was a lie. What makes Spice and Wolf so charming is the world that are filled with such special and fun characters; particularly its leads and it’s such a wonderful feeling to say that the second season does little to betray that initial feeling.
Maintaining the same emotional pull, the world that you loved in the first season remains true with beautiful backgrounds and design that makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to a world from the distant past. The world is filled with rich, lush colors and comes to life before your eyes. Keeping in tradition as well, the world is only aided by the continued lessons in fictional economics from Kraft Lawrence which educate everyone around him on how to make a profit.
As this season unfolds, it’s clear that not all things have stayed the same. One of the nice things about the first season that kept the series constantly fresh was how quickly the series moved from one story to the next. Around every corner there were new twists and adventures which eventually would draw the Lawrence and Holo closer together. In the second season however, this method of storytelling is ditched entirely to tell two longer story arcs which make up the entire season.
This proves both good and bad. On one side, both of these stories are strong narratives which give the audience real chances to feel the tension arising between the leads. Within the first couple of episodes, Lawrence gets himself into quite the mess and will have to work hard in order to get out of it. While the conclusion is a predictable wrap up, I can’t deny that I felt the drama rise as time ticked down to the deadline.
What is unfortunate is that with these longer story arcs, Spice and Wolf shows a major flaw in that it doesn’t know how to fill up time properly. With single stories taking up half a season each, each episode has a large amount of time that it must fill up with simple dialogue that doesn’t always have anything to do with the story. Sometimes these moments are sweet bits of back and forth between Holo and Lawrence as their relationship begins to evolve into a very flirtatious one filled with a hint of romance. These moments were fine and the banter back and forth rose to wonderful new heights that will please anyone who has secretly urged these two on to finally say what is important.
But then there are the moments in which Kraft will discuss business and this takes up a lot of time. It’s at these times when sometimes all you want to do is tune out Lawrence discussing his latest business strategy to win back Holo from their current predicament. It always involves great detail and will always involve complex dealings that were sometimes confusing to follow. The one saving grace to these stretches is the motivation behind the writing, the passion that the character feels in order to win back his personal tsundere and that’s just a nice reminder of why you loved them to begin with.
Being that this is a second season, there is naturally an at least small barrier to be hurdled along the way. While not completely impenetrable, those who are coming into this season without any prior experience are going to find themselves struggling for at least parts of these episodes. While there are plenty of flashbacks to the first season eluding to things that have happened, there is rarely any real elaboration on what those events were at any given point.
While it may sound recycled from season one, the new period tracks on this series continue to make Spice and Wolf one of the best series musically from within the last few years. Matching the setting perfectly, the music composed by Yuuji Yoshino are always a beautiful addition to any scene and match the tone wonderfully. The one place that left me in a small state of confusion came in episode five when a sudden almost saxophone sounding melody began playing which completely threw its particular scene off the rails for a few moments.
Funimation gets so many bonus points here it’s not even funny because they actually brought over the original Japanese extras. Beyond the clean animations, the two notable extras on this set involve education with Holo and stretching with Holo. In the first one, Holo educates the audience on some simple terms used throughout the series and while cute is nothing compared to the latter. An absolutely ridiculous little stretch of animation that involves Holo stretching with the audience. Yups, just plain ordinary exercise stretches. Why? Oh, why not? It amuses me that these extras were ever made to begin with but to have them included on the region 1 release just amuses me to no end.
While it might be a little harder for viewers discovering this series for the first time, this was a series that I never got tired of watching. Worthy of being called a wonderful sequel, this series tells two more stories that fans have every reason to love with all of the charm and wit of the first season. Spice and Wolf II is a hidden gem worth discovering.
Angel Beats Complete Collection
When Suzuru Otanashi wakes up he finds himself in a strange new world. Apparently he has died and is now living in an eternal high school setting made up of others like himself; without a sense of peace in the way that they died or how they lived. Living the normal high school lives they never got to have on their own, this is where people go to come to peace with what they lived before being reborn into their new lives. All of which happens under the watchful eye of the student body president.
Right away, Otanashi meets the leader of a group that is taking a slightly different approach to the whole situation. Led by a girl named Yuri, the battlefront is a group of students who are taking the fight to the afterlife. In their new lives, they are heavily armed and do battle against the student council president, Angel, in an attempt to get a message to god: we’re pissed with how you screwed with our lives. The students will draw blood and die many times each in order to take over the school and get revenge for their tragic lives which were cut short.
Good and the Bad
Forgive the past and look forward to the future. That is the overall theme and lesson that I took away from Angel Beats as I watched every episode and thought about the harsh realities that each of these characters dealt with. It’s a hard theme to do well but this is a series that does.
Written by Jun Maeda, directed by Seiji Kishi and produced by visual novel studio Key, Angel Beats is a series that is flawed but forgivable. The animation quality from PA Works is never quite perfect and is dogged by Yuri’s character design being another Haruhi Suzumiya rip off but you look past this because of the fluid battle sequences and the touching moments that such as during a late embrace in the final episode that do look good.
Then there’s the constant location labeling with every scene telling the audience exactly where each scene was taking place. If the series were any more detailed about this you could use them to draw a map of the school. It made the series feel more like a visual novel than it needed to and were even downright distracting at times.
However, Angel Beats manages to tell a soft heartfelt series of adventures all about the members of the battlefront, teenagers who now inhabit an endless high school setting as they wait to come to peace with the lives they once led. The group is composed of a large variety of characters that never seen to overlap with each other. While not everyone will be able to serve a real purpose to the series (Sorry TK), the ones that do serve a real purpose though stand out against each other quite well. The cast of characters even does it’s best to avoid being overly moe (naturally there are exceptions like Yui and Kanade but for the record my favorite was the ever cynical Shiina).
As the group does battle, where the series truly shines is in the introduction of the character’s histories. While not everyone’s past is revealed, there are still a number of them which will tug at your heartstrings. Slowly revealing these stories, the series does it’s best work when it is trying to make you sympathize with a character. Where the series falls apart however is in the overall narrative which never really finds a complete feeling.
Relying more on episodic stories, the series never feels very well put together with its story telling. Once the series breaks away from the characters, the rest of the series generally relies on the missions of the battlefront which mostly follow similar veins for most of the series: an endless arsenal of weapons made from dirt, an endless stream of jokes based on characters getting ‘killed’ (they’re already dead so it’s not like they can truly die again in this world) and storytelling that feels forced for most it’s run time. Fortunately things come together reasonably well in the final act.
Mostly made up of piano scores, the background music in Angel Beats is another strong selling point that makes this series worth picking up. What really sells the music in this series however are the powerful pop songs sung by the band within the series, Girls Dead Monster. Made up of a quartet of characters, the powerful songs contain strong melodies and lyrics which make them a treat to listen to whenever they appear and even play well out of context away from the series.
Dub vs. Sub
Listening to this series entirely in English, I was pleased to hear a strong variety in voices that matched the characters well. No one felt out of place in this cast and the performances matched the emotion well. What killed me constantly throughout this release however were so many bizarre or inconsistent pronunciations. At some points the accent on Yui’s name would be changed from scene to scene and at one point characters can be heard practicing a SUPlex instead of a SUplex.
Once upon a time, I wrote this series off because it didn’t grab me right away. Now that I’ve seen the entire series, I regret writing it off so quickly. It takes awhile for this series to get going but once you get to the ending, you’re going to be glad that you made the trip. Sentimental and bloody, Angel Beats does the job despite it’s flaws. The overall message of this series is one of the things that makes it something worth watching. This is a series that tells us all that it’s ok to forgive the past and look towards the future. We all need that reminder once in awhile and this series hits that message out of the park. Very recommended!
Katanagatari Set 1
Taking place in the Edo era of Japan, a young man and his sister are the last survivors of the Kyoto Ryu martial arts family on an island their family was exiled to after the previous revolution. One day, a woman named Togame arrives looking for the head of Kyoto Ryu, currently seventh generation Shichika. Working for the shogunate as a master strategist, Togame needs Shichika to be her sword as she searches for twelve legendary swords made by the legendary sword maker Shikizaki Kiki to bring ultimate power to the government.
Good and the Bad
I admit it, I’ve been having a torrid love affair. The name of my affections vary but the source is always that which adapts the works of NisiOisin. It started innocently enough with Bakemonogatari but then I met Katanagatari and knew that my heart would be forever stolen by these series. In my defense however, it’s only because this one in particular is so good.
For the entire length of this set, Katanagatari is going to challenge the audience in many different ways. First of all, this is an action series that chooses to go a slightly different route with as an action series. Yes, there is action in every episode but they aren’t always the defining moment of the episode. If you’re looking for an action series that is going to deliver this non stop, you’re in for a world of disappointment.
What truly defines this series is the artwork and writing which make this series stand far away from all of its predecessors of the genre. For the look of this series, studio White Fox went with liberal use of colors and the character designs from Tsuyoshi Kawada are cartoony and lack any real definition. The look of the series is admittedly something to get used to but it’s also thanks to these unique fixtures that this series looks nothing like any other series in recent history that I can think of.
Then there’s the writing and storytelling. The endless writing. The writing that will go on… and on… and on sometimes. As a twelve episode series told in hour long chunks, Katanagatari keeps itself moving forward by being a dialogue and banter based series. The good news is that this banter and storytelling is constantly doing something interesting to keep the viewers attention and this is where the series earned it’s highest marks with me.
Katanagatari is plain fearless when it comes to playing with the audience and constantly taking them on journeys or detours that they were not expecting to take. Most of the time, the audience is allowed to go along and enjoy things as they come. Some times, things are made a little easier with episodes flat out spoiling what is coming next or breaking the fourth wall for a short joke.
Still other times, the series goes with a bait and switch approach. In one episode, the next episode preview features an epic battle as Shichika does battle for one of the twelve swords… and that ends up being the most you ever see of the battle as the next episodes features none of it. In yet another instance, a certain character will be introduced with one personality, only to be revealed to be almost yandere and delivering the line “My apologies. I must commit torture now.” These are just a few examples of the many ways Katanagatari keeps the audience guessing and wanting to see more with a sense of humor.
Like the animation, the background music composed by Taku Iwasaki is interesting in its many different styles and genres being brought together. For quieter scenes involving lots of dialogue, there are more traditional sounds including strong, full string themes. But then there are times when things are the complete opposite and you’re hearing a soft hip hop beat for a lecture from Togame or one of the battle scenes. The unique mix worked well for this series and felt particularly well in place during the funnier or more flirtatious moments featuring the lead couple.
As with all NIS America sets, it’s hard to complain about the packaging or extras. Along with the oversized box there is the collector’s book included with this set which is a wealth of artwork and information including episode and character guides as well as liner notes (which would’ve been easier to read had they been alphabetized).
This is going to stand out as one of the better releases of the year. The quality of the series is high and the packaging is just an appropriate bonus. This is a different type of action series and it’s better because of it. Stylish and fun, this is worth going onto your shelves.
My Ordinary Life Eps 1-13
Two anime for the price of one!
In this incredibly surreal comedy from Kyoto Animation, the gloves of comedy are off! On one side of town, there is a seemingly normal high school attended by Mio and her best friends Mai and Yuko. Filling their daily lives with insanity, within the first 13 episodes there will be deer wrestling, a plot to overthrow a king, a camping trip from hell and the more mundane forgetting of homework, fights with friends and keeping BL manga drawings a secret at all costs.
On the other side of town lies the Shinonome Laboratory where a loli professor has invented her own robot Nano. Constantly fitting her with new and consistently pointless updates and features, the pair live together with their talking cat Sakamoto dealing with every day situations including the consequences of the professor’s inventions, snacking and how to kill a bug trapped under a cup.
Good and the Bad
I had such a difficult time when it came to write the story synopsis for this series because really, how are you supposed to describe this one? In the latest outing from Kyoto Animation, the gods of comedy are smiling gracefully on this series as every episodes pulls out the stops and unleashes a tidal wave of sight gags, overreactions and set ups that will last for entire minutes on end just to get the audience laughing. From where I’m sitting, they’ve succeeded.
What I found so hilarious about My Ordinary Life is its willingness to go the extra mile to get the laugh. To be a fan of this series, audiences are going to have to get used to one thing very quickly and that is incredibly long set ups. Ranging anywhere from 30 seconds to 8 minutes, most of this series is when its in a period of setting up whatever joke its going for. Once you get to that moment however, sometimes you’re going to find that your moment is actually just an illusion that was never coming to begin with. The absence of a punch line is the punch line and I couldn’t help but laugh every time.
When this series is on its mark however (particularly throughout the Hakese/Nano scenes), the comedy in this series is a rain of gold down upon your brain. Going to extreme lengths, My Ordinary Life will never stop with the incredible reaction gags and physical comedy which pits woman on man, man on psychic medium or even principal on deer.
What shocked me the most about My Ordinary Life is the incredibly strong musical score that goes along with this series. From deep dramatic tones to more whimsical horns, the orchestra behind this series really does an amazing job of playing up each scene to epic proportions and when you have incredible reaction gags like this series does, having a background score that can play it up to 11 is always a good thing.
This is the surreal comedy of the year that should have everyone laughing. While a good sense of patience is required for this one, there is little else standing in the way of anyone having a good time with this series. This is another comedy gem!
Ohana is a teenager in Tokyo with a woman who vaguely resembles a biological mother. I mean, she IS her biological mother but she doesn’t act like it. Left completely to her own devices, Ohana has learned to take care of the house while her mother did nothing but work and go off with her boyfriends. On one night, Ohana is shocked to learn that her mother is running off with her current boyfriend in order to duck some bad debts that he is piled with. Since Ohana can’t go on the run with them, she is being sent off to the traditional inn run by her grandmother in the country.
Once she arrives, Ohana receives a rude awakening as she meets a grandmother who wants a new worker, not a new boarder. Now faced with coworkers who don’t particularly like her right away and a much harder life, Ohana must grow up while learning about herself along the way.
Good and the Bad
The 10th anniversary project from PA Works didn’t have a lot of buzz surrounding it if I recall correctly. Once it premiered however, people started talking and it became hard to dig through the praise in order to find the few negative words scattered about.
In particular, this is a beautiful series. From the opening frames to the soft background scenery that fills each episode, there will never be a time when there isn’t a feeling of pleasant comfort as Ohana goes about her days at the inn. Matched with warm tones and colors, Hanasaku Iroha has a sweet style to its artwork that goes out of its way to help create a charming world with warmth at its center.
As the series progresses, things move forward with a gentle grace. Once you meet Ohana, you know a girl who has had a rough life growing up. Her mother is completely uninvolved with her life. She’s even been trained to believe people are completely untrustworthy and undependable. Despite this, Ohana is a strong lead character that is worthy of carrying an entire series on her back.
Not a person to let her new situation get her down, Ohana breaks the mold on dramatic female leads for constantly working hard to improve herself and her situation. Unlike others in her life who are out for the easy ride (such as an aspiring famous novelist staying in the hotel), Ohana is out every day getting things done and trying to do her best along with her young coworkers.
Every Sunday morning since this series premiered I have been able to enjoy her life and feel like I’m growing a little bit along with Ohana as she discovers who she really is. Unfortunately that’s one of the places where Hanasaku Iroha fails is that this is not a series that is meant to be marathoned. Every week, the adventures of Ohana play out but very slowly in order to create a fuller episode. Very rarely will this series tell a story that lasts more than one episode but generally this works in its favor when you’re taking it one episode at a time.
There is only so much teenage drama you can watch in one sitting and Ohana will stretch that limit to the extreme. While a strong character, Ohana is prone to her own crying fits and outbursts when she really feels the need. Between figuring out how she feels about the male best friend she left behind or her mother suddenly appearing in her life again, Ohana’s life is one of drama through and through.
A slow piece but a moving one filled with plenty of wonderful affection. A well written coming of age story, this is a soft drama that everyone who complains about moe can enjoy. Well produced and put together, this has been a wonderful weekend treat for the last few weeks and I can’t see me having any issues with continuing further. Please enjoy this one!
Tiger and Bunny Eps 1-13
In Sternbild City, people with extraordinary powers are referred to as NEXT and a select group of these people are protectors of the people keeping criminals in check. Heroes, however, are not made of money and so they have corporate sponsors and compete on a reality TV show for points and the prestigious MVP award given out at the end of every season.
In the latest season, a veteran hero named Wild Tiger has lost his sponsorship and is left with a choice. He can either walk away entirely or he can team up with a brand new hero named Barnaby who shares his exact same power and none of his same ideals. As the two pair up as the very first super hero team, the two must learn how to coexist and work together for the good of the city.
Good and the Bad
I initially went into this series pretty certain that I was going to hate it. The concept sounded silly and I really didn’t see how anyone was going to manage to pull it off and make it live up to this ‘best of the season’ wrap that it was getting early on. Well, I’m here to just put it to rest now: this isn’t the best of the season but it’s a damn good impression of one.
Imagine that all of your favorite super heroes have been turned into Japanese counter parts and you have a good example of this series. This is a series that deals deeply with super hero tropes and the obvious plot holes that they leave behind and does it well. The series opens with an introduction of all the heroes interrupting a crime already in progress. One by one, the heroes make their entrances in appropriately flashy ways. The crime also goes appropriately over the top with one criminal stealing three vehicles of increasing magnitude (all the way up to an airship!) and even features a near death or two as characters are shot at and dropped from very large heights. What we realize about this right away however is that these heroes aren’t just rushing out to save the day, they’re all competing for points on the city’s reality TV show which features their exploits live to a cheering audience.
However all of these heroes also have real lives that they must handle as well. Some are students trying to get through their studies and make it to their real goals while also being a hero while others are all about saving the day and having to hide it from their families. I loved watching these characters lives come into sharper focus as their hardships came to light one by one.
The real story here is all about Kotetsu/Wild Tiger and his new partner Barnaby Brooks Jr. As the veteran hero, Wild Tiger is past his prime and now without a sponsor. With his contract picked up by another company, he must either partner with a newer, younger version of himself (who shares his exact same power) or retire and walk away entirely. This leaves the two very opposite personalities trying to figure out how to trust each other and work together.
What has always kept the series such a work however is that it never takes itself too seriously. The stories that it tells are dark and sinister (Barnaby fills the Batman role by having parents who were tragically murdered in front of him) but the light hearted banter between the heroes and over the top personalities keep Tiger and Bunny grounded along the way.
I’ve been particularly impressed by the music throughout this series as while the animation rarely goes particularly dark, the music isn’t afraid to deliver on the sullen such as when Barnaby is alone going over the records of his parents death. In other moments however it’s lighthearted and captures the hardships that these heroes face in their real lives.
Another strong series that caught me completely unaware, I’m unsure about where the series is going to go for the rest of the season. I like this feeling and am giving this one a pass with flying colors. From action to comedy, the buddy cop interaction between Barnaby and Kotetsu makes this series a strong winner of the spring season. Looking forward to seeing more!
|Maid Sama Collection 1
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Up until recently, Seika High was an all boys school with a reputation for being a little rough around the edges. With times growing harder and the population shrinking, the school eventually opened its doors to females but retained it’s rough around the edges reputation creating a not incredibly welcoming environment for the female population.
Enter Misaki Ayuzawa, the man hating, fire breathing girl who wants to see the school as a place where boys and girls can coexist. Working hard to get the role of student council president, Misaki manages to achieve her goal by working to comical lengths and earning the trust of the faculty along the way. That’s just one side of her life however.
On the other side, she’s working in a maid cafe while struggling to pay off the debt that her deadbeat father left her and her family with. As she is attempting to keep her double life a secret, she is discovered by the most popular, laidback boy in school named Usui. Seeing it as a chance to keep a fun secret, the series spends the next thirteen episodes exploring the always teasing, often Misaki infuriating relationship that grows between the two.
Good and the Bad
At the risk of spoiling the rest of the review, let me just say this now: I love this series. I have loved this series in the past and I will continue to love this series in the future. It is a deep unabashed love and I can make no secret about it.
What makes this series special is a clever mix of visual humor with sharp writing that keeps each episode fresh while slowly creeping things forward. From episode to episode, the series maintains a fresh new level of fun events occurring within the president’s life. In one episode she may be dealing with students from a richer school picking on her own students while in another she attracts a quintet of brothers who wish to emulate her incredible work ethic. In yet another her best friend falls in love with an underground rock star forcing them all to go on a lunch date together. No matter what is happening in the foreground however, Maid Sama is always delivering in the background.
It doesn’t matter what is happening right in front of you, what keeps this series intriguing are the ever changing movements being made in the background. Weaving an excellent and ever changing relationship between Usui and Misaki, each episode deals with these characters while always ending in an increasingly predictable ‘Usui saves Misaki from Situation A’. Despite this, the display of emotion from these characters as Misaki attempts to figure out how they feel about each other is always hilarious thanks to sharp verbal (and sometimes physical) jabs inserted along the way.
What makes this series frustrating at times however is that this relationship is really only half this set. Making up the other half of the series, Maid Sama stands apart from other series for really taking the time to develop its supporting cast. From their interests to their histories, everyone from Misaki’s best friend Sakura to the ones who are lovingly dubbed The Three Idiots get some time on screen to become real characters. Even the other girls working with Misaki in Maid Latte are given a little time to be more than just moving props.
While occasionally you’re going to hear a very status quo type of piano theme for background music, the main impression that one takes away from the music is the often ironically rich themes that fill the series. Inside Maid Latte there are very Victorian string themes that fills the room every time Misaki tries to be moe. However be warned that in every single episode you’re going to hear Misaki’s victory theme play at least once in one form or another which will either put a smile on your face or make you want to fast forward until it stops playing for the thousandth time.
With this release, Sentai Filmworks grabbed a winning series. Filled with heart and humor, this will be a favorite in my collection for years to come. This one can’t be recommended highly enough.
|Our Home’s Fox Deity Collection 2
Released By: NIS America
In the second half of Our Home’s Fox Deity, the brothers will continue to get into supernatural trouble thanks to Ku and Ko living with them. First, the second half starts with the brothers taking in a mysterious girl wrapped in enchanted cloth. It seems that she was actually to be delivered to the oni who are making a bigger ruckus than usual. After that, the brothers will get tied up with werewolves while Sakura gains a new rival for Noboru’s affections (not that he ever notices).
Good and the Bad
In the second half of OHFD, the audience gets pretty much exactly what was delivered in the first half with only a couple of new tricks added to the mix. Changing from the first half, in the second half the majority of the episodes belong to multi episode story arcs. Even if the stories are being stretched out over multiple episodes though, there are still no real changes to the flow of the series. These are still people living everyday lives and hopefully being entertaining in the process. This doesn’t end up being that true but we’ll get to that in a bit.
A couple of times in this half, the series tries it’s hand at multi episode story arcs. In these stories, the tone and pacing is the same with episodes often times feeling rushed throughout. The main issue that the series has is the way it lays its stories, and subsequently, its episodes out. Every story is laid out and written but ends up being broken up in all of the wrong places. A great example of this is the werewolf story which ends on an episode that begins with the fight and filled the last half of the episode with emotional wrap up. Had this episode ended with the fight and tightened the emotional wrap up, there could have been something really special here.
Tragically, this and every other story in this half just falls victim to a pacing that grows frustratingly worse. Perhaps it was just the increasingly draining feeling that I felt from these characters but looking back, it’s weird to think about just how quickly this series was finished and I’m not being complimentary. While the multi episode arcs had trouble with where the split the episodes up, the single episode stories have their own problems with simply rushing through each episode. Sometimes there is resolution, sometimes there isn’t but the pacing always felt like a race to get there.
What is fortunate for the series is that there is just enough ‘new’ here in order to keep the audience at least halfway awake. While Mubyo was the one who stole my heart in the first half, the second half features another character named Miyabe who is there as the rival for Sakura. Though to say that Sakura needed a rival is laughable in itself since it was already a foregone, predictable conclusion that her story was going to go absolutely nowhere. Let’s face it, no matter how many times they might have hinted at a rivalry it wasn’t as though anyone ever thought that there was going to be any sort of romantic wrap up. It was just never going to happen and all of this time spent trying to play up that drama is a waste at best.
What’s nice about this series are the same things that kept it warm and fun in the first half. These are simple stories that anyone in the family could enjoy simply because they are cute and non threatening. At its most dramatic moments, this is a series that won’t have anyone on the edge of their seats wondering what is going to happen next. This isn’t the type of series where you ever have to worry about the good guys not finding a way to get through their latest situation. It’s just that kind of warm show that doesn’t need to challenge anyone’s intelligence. For what it is, it does it well enough.
Beyond the new ending theme that starts with episode 19, there really wasn’t anything new or exciting about the soundtrack to this half. The music is a strong supporting full orchestra but there isn’t anything that ever stood out about it beyond select moments. Early in the half when Toru is watching his new friend being driven away, there is a nice violin theme and xylophone theme that accompanies the mountain scene in the final episode are both examples of momentary moments but for the most part this is a very average score for a very average series.
This collection contains all of the same extras that the first half did such as the ridiculously sized art box and hardcover character guide. Also included in this half however is a special bonus disc which contains multiple special events in Japan and original commercials.
If I really had to make a judgment call I’d say this is a series that really should’ve been kept at 13 episodes as there just isn’t enough story to keep it that interesting all the way through. However if you push past the whole inviting feeling being a little weaker and the terrible episode pacing, this is still a cute series. If you enjoyed the first half a lot, you won’t be disappointed by how things end. However if you were only on the fence about the first half, you can skip this without feeling like you’re missing out. This was an average second half that was nice to watch but won’t be revisited.
|Wagnaria Complete Collection
Released By: NIS America
At a family restaurant in Hokkaido, the crew is made up of various bizarre people. There’s the newest recruit Takanashi who only joined because of the cute, pint sized, senior named Poplar. Joining them are the man fearing Inami, katana carrying head waitress Yachiou and the do nothing manager Kyoko. This sounds like this would be enough to create some crazy times but then you have to add in the head manager who is constantly on a search for his direction less wife, the runaway teenager who lives in the attic and the snarky kitchen staff all trying to get along together in an odd family type of way.
Good and the Bad
You might remember series better as Working as that was what it was called when it was first released in 2009. However, it’s not called that anymore so let’s just get used to this and deal with it even if the series is littered with references to the former title.
Much like Office Space was the movie for those stuck in cubicles, Wagnaria is the series for anyone who has ever worked a crappy customer service job. In particular, those who have ever worked a crappy customer service job in a restaurant. Based off the 4koma manga, this is a fun comedy that brings the audience in with its off the wall cast of characters in a not so off the wall setting.
Relying entirely on the characters, the humor in this series is based around the relationships between the workers and their growing affections for each other (or in some cases, murderous intent). While it has the romantic comedy angle to keep things moving forward, most of the humor here is based around these characters and the ways that their unique quirks affect their relationships with each other. In some cases, you’ll be laughing at the relationship between Takanashi (who loves small cute things), Poplar (who is a small cute thing despite her efforts to grow) and Inami (who likes Takanashi despite her fear of men). Many other times it’s Yamada attempting to keep up her false life around a crew who really want to know what her story is. At all times, it’s the interactions all of these characters share with each other keep things fresh.
With its sharp gags and off the wall crew, this series is approachable because of simple things it does within the adaptation. While the gag manga tend to be very short and to the point, the anime takes the time to create a smooth flowing story. The punch lines stay sharp in this one but the set ups are always given more than enough time to keep the audience interested along the way without making the series feel like it’s jumping from one joke to the next. This is comedy that hits its mark more than Inami hits Takanashi.
While occasionally dipping into the familiar (just how many times do we have to sit through another female character afraid of men?), Wagnaria works on another level because of the twists in each of the characters. Instead of the delinquent character being a tough teenage boy, this time it’s the manager with a doting head waitress, Yachiyo, willing to follow her to the ends of the Earth. In the kitchen, there is a blackmailer along with the stoic head chef who wishes to be seen romantically by Yachiyo but doesn’t stand a chance in her eyes. It’s different and that makes for happy viewing.
Produced by A-1 Pictures, nothing is skimped on and this creates a warm inviting atmosphere just like an actual restaurant. The character designs however have the most interesting aspect especially when you start getting into Takanashi and his four sisters. While all having a distinct look, the sibling resemblance makes for fun comparison shots as you can actually see the artist putting extra care into creating the vaguely similar looks.
Beyond having one of the catchiest opening themes and animations ever, the music throughout Wagnaria kept a very easy going almost elevator feel to it. Always soft and airy, the music provides the proper amount of support while rarely being used to sell the punch lines which made it a nice addition without overshadowing any of the characters or writing.
Along with the hardcover box, the series comes included with the standard oversized fan book. Like other books, the special attraction to this book is a series of translated manga. In the manga, characters and simple story elements are introduced which serve as a nice introduction to the comedy style of the series. It makes for a lovely keepsake but you’ll likely only look at it a few times before putting it away.
Successfully in its adaptation, Wagnaria does a great job of balancing the story with its humor to create a smooth flowing final product. With the romantic plot thread manages to keep the episodes moving forward, everything else is simply able to catch on and keep the audience laughing in the meantime. This is a fun release that deserves your attention and a solid addition to your collection.
|Our Home’s Fox Deity Set 1
Released By: NIS America
After the younger one is attacked by a demon in his dreams, brothers Toru and Noboru are summoned to their family estate by their grandmother. There they break the seal on their family’s guardian spirit Kugen to defeat the demon. Unwilling to seal it back up, the brothers agree to take on the fox spirit as their personal guardian deity and take it home to live with them along with another guardian shrine maiden named Ko. Now with two unexpected house guests, the family learns to adjust and has adventures including meeting and doing battle with local gods getting jobs and going on vacation together. All while the older brother, Noboru, is left to deal with mounting expenses tied to housing a guardian deity and being completely oblivious to the obligatory best friend character named Sakura. Good and the Bad It’s easy to look at this series and just take a pass. It’s another fantasy slice of life and really, who among us haven’t seen enough of those to last a lifetime? Just for that reason alone I could see many people passing on this and never even thinking twice about it but then those people are the unlucky ones missing out on something sweet, charming and unexpected. This isn’t a series that designed to blow anyone away with its amazingness. Produced in 2008 by ZEXCS, this is an episodic romp through a fantastic world that is now the Takagami household. As the members adjust to their new additions, wrinkles will pop up that need to be smoothed out from episode to episode. Sometimes the wrinkles are large such as with Toru constantly being attacked by demons or local gods Mubyo and Eibyo start causing a ruckus. Other times, the wrinkles are much smaller such as when shrine maiden Ko proves herself to be a complete klutz and has to get a job in order to pay for damages made to the house along the way. In spite of this and the lack of any real overarching story, Our Home’s Fox Deity works mostly thanks to its fun characters. Led by the fox deity Kugen, with it the audience gets the best of both worlds with a character that can change gender at will. This eliminates any need for the character to have to act in a particular way for any given situation and creates the perfect moe for any given instance. While most of its time is spent in its female form, sometimes a guy needs to make a good impression and that’s where it’s handy to be able to become a bishounen (certainly a skill that I wish I had). As mentioned though, sometimes you need to ask for a favor directly and sometimes that’s just so much easier to do as a female. While every character had their own unique quirks (I loved Ko’s very animated explanations and Kugen’s throaty laugh), the god Mubyo stands for being one of the most unique god characters from recent memory. Clad in an overcoat, Mubyo spends much of her time communicating to others through the hand puppets that are always covering her hands. While a larger secret lies behind her, Mubyo provided some of the strongest laughs and even tears in this half keeping her a welcome addition to the second half of the set. Where the series really fails to capture the imagination of the audience are in the brothers that the entire series is centered on. While Toru is vaguely more interesting because of how often he gets attacked, Noboru proves to be one of the least interesting characters of the series. For a series completely filled with spirits, gods and demons this creates nothing but opportunities for the audience to realize just how boring these brothers are by comparison. Always stuck in their roles, there is nothing to indicate in these episodes that they are even headed towards something greater. Being only 3 years old, the animation quality within this series isn’t something that deserves any sort of trashing. Going with the general feeling of the series, the animation in this series is made up of mostly light colors and muted backgrounds. It’s much rarer for Our Home’s Fox Deity to do anything particularly flashy but on the few occasions that it does (such as when a god needs to unleash an attack), it always manages to appear as a nice accent to animation rather than an unneeded burden. Unfortunately not everything is perfect as NIS America has once again put out a product with errors. While some fans were already aware of the packaging recall that already occurred with this series, while watching the discs I found some noticeable errors with encoding leading to blurry or completely unwatchable picture. Luckily these instances were few and far between but just their mere presence is an annoyance that I’m sure many fans will be grumbling about upon receiving their sets. Music Matching the pace of the episodes, the music here rarely grows into anything that I would call intense. Almost always using soft flutes or strings to get its point across, the music is a sweet and sentimental pairing to the picture and story. In particular, music fans will want to pay attention to the themes accompanying Mubyo due to the wonderfully simple string themes that follow her everywhere she goes. Extras As with other NIS America releases, I have to complain about the size of the packaging. Measuring 11 inches long, these releases always have to be turned one way or another in order to fit into my shelves and I wish they would shrink them down. That said, this is still another release filled with wonderful extras for fans. Beyond the art box to keep it all in, this set includes a special full color hardcover collector’s book with nice notes on the episodes and characters. You’ll want to wait until after you’ve finished the set to look at it to avoid the spoilers within it but another package of great extras are here for fans. Overall I enjoyed this set so much more than I thought I would. Charming and easy going, this was never a series that I had any issue with popping into my player so that I could enjoy another couple of episodes. The episodic nature flowed well from episode to episode making it easy to just take in episodes at whatever leisurely pace you’ve decided on. While it’s not a series of the year contender or something that is going to blow you out of the water, there’s more than enough here to make this worth watching. This is a solid first half that doesn’t rely on moe tropes to get by and instead goes the old fashioned route of using decent storytelling to bring the audience in. This is worth checking out!