Posts Tagged ‘sakura nogawa’
Two new anime adaptations have been announced in the last twenty four hours with light novels and live action both being covered. In the first announcement, the light novel series ‘Ladies vs Butlers’ (Redi x Bato) has been confirmed for a television anime series. The light novels revolve around a high school student who enrolls in a very right academy. After he is placed in the new servant training department he finds himself in the middle of the bickering maid and butler groups. A website has already been set up for the series revealing Atsushi Ootsuki (Kanokon) as director and animation produced by Xebec. For those of you who might have caught the drama CDs upon their release (all three of you?) consider yourself reassured that the vocal cast will remain the same.
For those of you who thought that this upcoming season was seriously lacking in shorts, you’re now covered. Seiyuu Sakura Nogawa has made it public that a series of five minute animated shorts based on the 2006 live action ‘Kotatsu Neko’ will begin airing in October. Originally a live action movie, the story is about two cats who live under a kotatsu watching their hikikkimori owner play games and not confess to the girl he likes. Nogawa will be playing the role of the white cat Shito.
Save Me! Lollipop
Yet another series that I went into with low expectations only to be very pleasantly surprised!
In this romantic comedy from Sunshine Corporation, the heroine is a twelve year old girl named Nina. While out eating cake with her friends, a mysterious pearl appears on her plate out of nowhere. Thinking that its hard candy she eats it only to have two mysterious boys appear in front of her moments later. Soon she finds out that the pearl she ate wasn’t hard candy at all and instead was a magical pearl being used for a special test in another world.
In this other world, a group of training sorcerers are taking their final exam which involves tracking down the pearl and holding onto it until Christmas. With the pearl now firmly implanted in her, the two boys named Zero and Ichi decide that they must protect Nina until the exam is over in a couple of months. They will have their work cut out for them though as there are a number of other sorcerer trainees who will do whatever it takes to obtain it including Forte and San, Gou and Rokka (who believes Ichi to be her fiancé) and Yakumo (who has a crush on Nina) and Nanase.
Good and the Bad
Wasting absolutely no time, ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ sets up its story within the first ten minutes. Moving at a very steady pace throughout all thirteen episodes, ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ will constantly keeps audiences paying attention for the sheer fact that turning your eyes away will cause you to miss something. Even if this is a series aimed at a younger audience, it’s still not something that can be just watched casually if you expect to see everything you need to.
For the most part, this works in favor of the series. With the characters always doing something fun and interesting, it’s hard not to pay attention as the series continues to play out the story. Other times however, this incredible pacing can work against ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ in a lot of different ways. The most obvious of these ways are that fans are forced to take in the writing and dialogue of the series with little time to digest everything before having to move onto the next plot point.
With so much constantly being revealed about the characters or what is happening within the series, it can be very hard to keep up at times. Ironically, it’s not always the pacing that makes the audience lose their place within the series but just plain bad writing. It doesn’t happen often but there are those moments when fans will just have to stop for a second. This isn’t an old series; it originally hit television airwaves in 2006. So why the dub script called for Nina to say a dated expression like ‘Gee whiz!’ is absolutely beyond me.
The biggest issue that ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ faces with its writing is how often they rehash the plot for the audience. Naturally the staff is using this as a means of keeping the audience up to speed but they never rehash recent story points with the intro, it’s always the basic story which the audience always knows. Add onto the fact that the series is only thirteen episodes long and yet keeps going all the way up to episode twelve and you have audience members with their finger firmly planted on the skip forward button.
As a comedy, ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ works hard to appeal to audiences of various age groups and again, they manage to succeed on most attempts. Almost right away the series really works hard at setting up slapstick comedy as its ‘go to’ source of laughs. Characters are constantly going to be engaging in magic battles but no one ever really gets hurt, they are just blown miles away by huge explosions ready to come back another day for another battle.
What surprised me as I watched this series however was how much the series also decided to use more adult humor to appeal to the older audience members who may be tuning in. As a twelve year old, you don’t really expect Nina to be particularly stacked in the breast department. This doesn’t seem to enter the mind of any of the other characters however as her breasts become fair game for jokes throughout most of the episodes (naturally the hot springs and beach episodes are just filled with almost nonstop boob jokes). Breasts aren’t the only adult humor thrown in though as another early running gag will involve San constantly trying to dress her male partner Forte in various dresses.
The comedy in ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ wouldn’t even come close to successful however if there weren’t a strong cast of characters to deliver them. While Zero and Ichi will have their moments of annoyance (i.e. Ichi is just TOO nice sometimes, Zero isn’t the greatest rebel character), they provide a strong balance for the sometimes ditzy and easily flustered Nina. Behind them though is a wonderful cast of supporting characters that pick up all the slack.
San and Forte are the first supporting sorcerer characters into the series. While none of the supporting cast ever really comes across as truly villainous, these two come the closest early on and really show how far the other trainees will go to get the pearl away from Nina. What is really nice about ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ and these characters however is how much attention are given throughout the series. Episode five, for instance, is entirely dedicated to the childhoods of both San and Forte giving the audience a glimpse into the tragic childhood San was forced to deal with. This episode is one of the best in the series and it’s hard not to be touched by the wonderful relationship between these two characters.
Equally entertaining for different reasons are the pair of Gou and Rokka. Playing right into another running gag of a female being introduced from Ichi’s past which causes Nina to fly into a fit of jealousy, Rokka is another very fun character for audiences to enjoy. While the twist in her character does make her first few moments on screen seem almost creepy in hindsight, she and Gou remain a very fun pair to watch whenever they are on screen.
Even still though, a decent story and fun characters will mean nothing if the animation is lacking. Luckily the animation quality throughout ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ is nothing for anyone to complain about. Throughout all thirteen episodes of the series, the characters and backgrounds spend most of the time looking very good together. None of the designs ever really stand out as poor quality or difficult to look at which plays well throughout. Unfortunately the battle scenes do not get the same high praise that the rest of the series gets.
The attack sequences and battle magic always look very good throughout the series but it’s rare that the sequences really feel like they are blending in with the characters. Constantly looking over produced, it’s hard to be excited or overly impressed by the magical attacks being thrown back and forth when they never really look like they fit properly with the rest of the series. Episode one proves this right off the bat with Forte’s flute magic. While the snakes he conjures look very well done, once they start interacting with the characters (Nina specifically) they instantly start to look like they don’t belong and need to be toned down.
With few exceptions, the music throughout ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ is easily the weakest point of the series. Always very electronic sounding, it’s rare for the background music to ever sound like it belongs in the series instead of in an old school RPG video game. If you need examples all one needs to do is listen to the confrontation music in episode seven between Zero, Ichi, Yakumo and Nanase. Cheesy at best, it’s hard to take any of the characters in this scene seriously as long as that music keeps going in the background.
The vocal themes in ‘Save Me! Lollipop’ are luckily its big saving grace. Episode five in particular features an absolutely beautiful soft vocal theme for San that captures her character so wonderfully. Equally fun (and annoyingly catchy) is the opening theme sung by CLOVER which I guarantee will be stuck in your head sooner rather than later. I can attest to this because it only took about three episodes before I could distinctly hear my housemate singing along to the theme.
Dub vs. Sub
It’s rare that I get to sit down and actually say that the English cast is better than the original Japanese. Most of the voices in the Japanese cast sounded fine; unfortunately there are two voices throughout the cast that just absolutely grated on me. The first was Yukari Kokubun as Gou. In the Japanese cast, Gou is kept as a teenage character who is serving as the caretaker of Rocca while in the English cast John Burgmeier plays the role as a bit older, still young but certainly older than Rocca by a few years. While watching the series play out, I just found that performance so much easier to believe and get into. The second role that got me and wouldn’t let go is Ruby the crow late in the series. Just a grating voice that wouldn’t let go.
The highlight of the dub cast however is listening to Monica Rial and Greg Ayres play off each other as San and Forte. From their history together at ADV, these two have just learned to sync up with each other so well and listening to their dialogue is always just so fluid. These two together is always a treat for anime fans.
On disc two, a few extras find their way to fans including three interviews with Yui Shoji (Nina), Momoko Saito (San) and Sakura Nogawa (Rokka). Each interview is only five to ten minutes long or so and doesn’t go into anything particularly in depth. Mostly the actors all talk about their initial impressions of the series, their characters and what they think of the story in the series. While they aren’t the most interesting interviews, it can always be fun to learn some insights from the cast from their experiences. It’s also kind of fun that the staff decided to interview a couple of the supporting actors and not just the leads.
The last extra included with the series are pages from the US version of the manga (released by Del Ray Manga). Unfortunately this causes the usual problem that DVDs run into when this extra is included: unless you have a pretty big screen, the pages are going to be a little blurry and very difficult to actually read.
Going into this series my initial expectations were very low but it really didn’t take much time at all to get attached to these characters. It’s not a great series by far, but it’s still a cute enjoyable series that’s easy to laugh with. While it’s not something that everyone will enjoy, I can at least say that in a couple of years I’d be happy to watch this again with my nieces as I think they would get a big kick out of it. If you’re looking for a cute series that you can spend some time with, this isn’t a bad way to do it.