Posts Tagged ‘shonen’
So there I was earlier this week thinking about some of the titles have been coming out lately. Sure, there has been some good moe out there like K-ON and just recently fans were given a loli fix with To aru Kagaku no Railgun. But surely there has to be more out there… where is our loli, slice of life, moe bait series? Oh… right here apparently.
Earlier this week, Weekly Shonen Champion magazine revealed that a TV anime adaptation has been given the go ahead for the gag manga Mitsudomoe. The series centers on triplet sixth graders: the sadistic Mitsuba, the athletic Futaba and mystery solving Hitoha Marui and they daily adventures in school. I’m not really familiar with the series so I’m not sure what those daily adventures involve but it’s been running in a shonen magazine since 2007 so obviously there’s something in it that is drawing an audience (I meant besides the triplet lolis though I’m sure that has probably helped in no small way).
As with 90% of the magazine announcements that get reported, only the initial detail of a series being in the works was revealed. Naturally that means no word on cast, crew or a release date but new details and images will be debuting in the next two issues of the magazine. Guess there’s nothing to do now but wait patiently for images of triplet lolis to appear on my screen. Have I said triplet lolis enough times yet in this article? Didn’t think so.
Buso Renkin closes out the series with a few good stories and a shaky ending.
The second half of Buso Renkin starts exactly where we left off. Victor is being resurrected as he drains the life force of everyone in the school. Tokiko and Kazuki take him on but completely overmatched, Kazuki will be forced to trade his life and humanity for the power of the black kakugane giving him uncontrollable power and causing the fight against Victor to end in a draw.
It’s not until after this battle that Kazuki will learn the full gravity of what he’s done. Powered by the black kakugane, the Alchemist Army can’t allow him to live. Kazuki, Tokiko and a new ally will make the trek to the place where Tokiko got Kazuki’s kakugane in the first place to try and find answers. Along the way they’ll run into trouble though in the form of four elite alchemist warriors including Captain Bravo.
While this is going on, another elite alchemist warrior named Chitose will be tasked with finding the team that will ultimately find and eliminate Victor.
Good and the Bad
Continuing with the trend that started with the first set, the introduction to the second half of the series is very well done. With the start of the second half, a new villain is introduced right away and immediately made into the primary focal point of the episode. The transition between the plot of the first half and the plot of the second is seamless to watch and moves in a very quick pace.
Buso Renkin does a lot of great things with the first few episodes of this set. Moving in a way that defies the shonen genre arc pattern, the story will move in ways that audience members won’t see coming. The shift to making Kazuki the target instead of the hero is a bold move that will keep audience members guessing as to what will be coming next.
The writing staff does a great job with the interweaving storylines that constantly float in and out of episodes. Along with Kazuki and his search for answers with Tokiko, there is also the story of Kazuki being hunted by not only the elite warriors but his mentor Captain Bravo. Papillon returns for the second half as well and finally there is the story of Chitose and her search for a Victor team. All of these stories are complex in their own ways and all of them will take turns that are far from predictable.
What makes these stories work so well are the characters though. Buso Renkin does one more great thing for itself by evolving its characters. Every character that returns for the second half has evolved or grown in some way. Kazuki shows the most growth immediately when he realizes what his new powers mean while Tokiko will show growth in her relationship with Kazuki. The most growth seen for any of the characters though will come from Captain Bravo.
While he served as the primary source of comedy in the first half (along with Papillion), in this half Captain Bravo will become much more somber. Charged with killing his own protégé and subordinate, the audience will get to see brand new sides to this character. New parts of his past will be revealed slowly including his time as a young warrior.
Despite all this, there are a few things that Buso Renkin either does to sabotage itself late. The easiest one to point out are the Buso Renkins themselves. In the beginning, all of the kakugane and their powers made sense and were completely believable. Nothing ever stood out as so fantastical that they defied any suspension of disbelief but as the series wears on, they just start to get more and more insane.
One of the warriors chasing Kazuki, Hiwatari, has a Buso Renkin that produces a giant napalm bomb. Later in the series we will see Buso Renkin of the military dog which produces two robot Dobermans and even later than that the audience will hear Buso Renkin of the missile launcher. Eventually it was just too difficult to get behind the more ridiculous of these but luckily this was just around the end of the series.
The ending to Buso Renkin itself is weak to say the least. With the very real shift from a more comedy based series to a much more dramatic one, Buso Renkin attempts a lot of things with its ending. In the final three episodes, the series will set up the final battle well. I have to admit that when Mahiro got a little choked up, I did too. Once that battle begins though, it all goes downhill and Buso Renkin proceeds to rob the audience of everything they’ve invested their time for.
All throughout the final episodes I waited to see the battles that had been building since the beginning and instead received two very anticlimactic finishes. Tokiko’s past will remain a mystery to the audience, perhaps this is something that is resolved in the manga but why bother even bringing it up within the series if they weren’t going to do anything with it?
The last two nagging complaints lie with the final two episodes. In episode twenty five the episode will do something every few seconds in order to serve as a reminder for the audience. If I tell you what it is, it will spoil a big part of the finish so I’m going to hint around it instead. When you see the episode, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. It happens every few seconds, comes with its own metallic chime music and does nothing but redundantly remind the audience of what they already know and kill time.
The last complaint lies in the final episode’s ending credit sequence. During this sequence, there is a short animation drawn in manga style. Complete with word bubbles. That no one bothered to translate or even create subtitles for. If you don’t speak Japanese it’s fairly easy to follow what’s going on but it would’ve been nice to know exactly what characters were saying.
The clichés infect the musical department as well. Every episode in this half will feature the typical action trumpet music that plays in and out of eye catches and episodes. They are annoying but after awhile you are able to tune them out if you try hard enough. Aside from that, the background music in this half really did a phenomenal job of amping up the drama. The theme from Kazuki’s black kakugane transformation in episode fourteen stood out as great in particular.
Starting with episode fifteen, a new ending theme will replace the old. The new theme is titled ‘Itoshiki Sekai’ sung by Aya Kagami. The thing that struck me as odd about this song is that the lyrics mostly would be attributed to Papillion and even the ending theme features him. The song itself is well fitting of the character and has a very creepy sound to it.
Dub vs. Sub
Both casts had their pluses and their minuses during this set. Karen Strassman remains a plus for the dub cast with her still sickeningly sweet performance as Mahiro. David Lodge’s voice for Angel Gozen remains one of the most irritating things I’ve ever heard in my life though it’s hard to tell if it’s just the voice or the voice in combination with the character. Other standouts for the dub cast come from Caroline Kinsolving as Alexandria late in the series and Deborah Sale Butler as Chitose.
The Japanese cast had their own standouts. Aya Hirano impresses me once again with her performance as Mahiro, not only because of how good it is but how strong her range is to make me completely forget that it was her for most of the series. Ryoka Yuzuki remains the strongest of the cast though putting out an amazingly varied performance as Tokiko.
The only extra attached to this set is a special behind the scenes feature on disc three. In this twenty five minute feature, audience members will be taken behind the scenes during the dub recording and meet various member of the dub cast as they talk about production. The interviews with the actors really do not go into the series that much beyond the actor’s impressions of their characters but fans who are interested in some behind the scenes footage or some little secrets of the industry should check this one out.
Overall, I’m pleased with how this series turned out. The ending came across as an anticlimactic letdown but the buildup was a thrill. I may not recommend this series to everyone that I meet, but the action and progression of the characters will warrant a return spin through my player at some point. Recommended.
Final Grade: B-
One set, two discs and two story arcs that will blow you away.
In the future, mankind has polluted Earth (or Terra as they call it) so badly that they must evacuate and colonize space. In order not to repeat the mistakes of the past, a new form of government was created. The government controls everything from how people live including putting children into homes with no blood relation to their parents and designating what role every person will play in society.
At the age of fourteen, every individual takes an adult examination test. They are removed from their homes and go through a rigorous procedure which sorts you out. You can be fit and move onto the next phase of life which is a higher education or be unfit and secretly destroyed.
In the first five episodes, we meet Jomy Marcus Shin who is about to go through his adult examination. At first he’s excited but during his examination it is discovered that he contains strange powers. He is about to be destroyed when suddenly he is saved from the testing and government by a mysterious Soldier Blue. It’s then that Jomy learns that he is actually a Mu, a race of humans with special psychic powers.
Feared by the government, every time a Mu appeared within testing they were destroyed or worse. Having been saved, Jomy will embark upon a new mission to learn about whom he is, how to accept his fate and eventually step up to become a new leader for the Mu to follow.
In the last three episodes of the set, the story shifts back to the world that Jomy leaves behind. His friend Sam Houston (yes, seriously) has passed his adult examination and has moved onto a higher education on a space station called an education center with the official name of E-1077. While there, Sam meets another student named Keith Anyan. Keith is quiet, cool, always collected and never shows emotion. The two become best friends and soon we’re jumping ahead again to the entrance of another student named Shiroe.
Shiroe enters with an extreme dislike for the system to begin with. He doesn’t fall in line with the other students and he is obsessed with being better than Keith. He makes it his mission to beat Keith at everything, break his records and learn everything he can about him. But the more that Shiroe learns about Keith, the more questions emerge as Shiroe learns more about him than anyone in the system wants to be known about him.
Good and the Bad
Right away though the series almost loses its audience. While the opening story arc proves to be ultimately interesting as it winds down in episode five, the first four episodes really make it hard to get behind the story due to character issues. Jomy proves to be a likeable hero right away. In the first episode he truly believes that he’s just going to take his adult examination and move on with his life as instructed. Before long his entire world is thrown into upheaval as he learns that he is in fact, not a human but a Mu.
The Mu themselves are annoyingly enough the troublesome part of this equation. The Mu are written in a very unlikeable way making it hard to sympathize with their plight. As Jomy continues to struggle with his new reality and powers, none of the Mu ever treats him as someone who belongs. Constantly belittling, threatening or scolding him, the Mu come across as arrogant and deserving of exile. Who would want these people around anyway?
Ignoring their annoying personalities, the Mu are otherwise a very interesting race of characters. While their powers of telepathy and telekinesis are not exactly unique, linking that to a heightened empathic ability made for interesting viewing. A lot of humor is attached to dialogue about characters being able to sense from all over the ship whenever Jomy was upset or frustrated.
Moving past that though, the second story arc proves to be the most spellbinding sequence of the set. While the shift in timing and setting is a little jarring since there is very little segue from the end of one story arc to the start of the next, the adjustment is quick. The opening sequence of events within this story is really disturbing in a cerebral way. Right away the audience sees exactly how these students are programmed by the system. The students are told and raised to believe that if they keep working together in harmony and listen to what they’re told, they may someday get to revisit Terra.
All of the characters introduced in the second story arc are what keeps the story that much more interesting. Every character has something interesting to add to the story. Keith Anyan will be the obvious choice for everyone as more and more is revealed about him. Within seconds of his introduction the audience learns that he has no memories from before his adult examination. That first little tidbit of information is only the first of many clues that will be littered throughout the dialogue of the next three episodes.
The primary outlet for these clues will mostly come from the primary antagonist of the arc, Shiroe. While the audience will first meet Shiroe earlier in the series, episode seven will be the first time that the audience really gets to know this character after he passes his exam. The brash and arrogant youth is yet another interesting facet to this series as not only does he provide clues about Keith but also about himself through nightmares and other small scenes. The second set is going to be made all the more interesting as Shiroe gets his big scenes.
The animation transferred very well. All of the colors were very bright and clean. The CG animation also came across very well and fit into the theme of the series without feeling like it stood apart from it. The two styles blended very well together very well and remained easy to watch the entire way through.
The pacing of this series moved very well. While the first five episodes tended to drag a little bit more with a constant flow of exposition, the last three moved very smoothly. The episodes flowed well one into the next besides the previously mentioned shift from story arc one to story arc two. The opening sequences that caught the audience up on previous episodes sometimes also felt like they were holding the series back, this problem seemed to become less of an issue as the series began to occasionally use them for foreshadowing as well as recap.
The opening and ending themes are both soft ballads that played well with the series. The closing theme lifts its melody from the classical favorite Pachabel Kanon in D. Fans of classical music will pick up on this right away as the melody is obvious in the first few seconds and the closing seconds as well.
Consisting of a completely instrumental background score, the series really runs a strong variety of music out. During episodes six and eight, there were two particularly great pieces that really stood out from their scenes as well put together. During episode six’s rescue sequence, the music here really led to a real sense of urgency. The pace of the scene was sped up that much more due to the intensity of the music.
In episode eight, Shiroe and Keith face off and the guitar theme that plays throughout also does a great job of capturing the intensity of the scene. The scene in this case though is much more about aggression and the hard guitar riffs really catch that while reminding the audience that there is still a game going on in the background.
Dub vs. Sub
For this set, Bandai only released the Japanese track. While I’m sure that this isn’t the first time they have done this, I can’t remember the last time they did. Having said that, the Japanese cast does a great job with mostly well written dialogue. The one issue that proved to be the most difficult to past with the dialogue were the peppering of English phrases throughout the series.
While I’m not an expert on the Japanese language, having so many English phrases peppered throughout the dialogue is a big distraction for the series. Toward The Terra really could have been better served to replace the English phrases with Japanese equivalent for the sake of continuity and consistency if nothing else.
On the first disc, there are two extras available. The first is an interview with the series creator Keiko Takamiya. In the eight minute interview, Takamiya will answer questions about how ‘Toward The Terra’ began for her, the difficulties in writing a Shonen style manga, picking the theme of the series, how she came up with the plot and what message she’d like to give to the fans.
The interview is continued on disc two in a second part that lasts about four and a half minutes. In the second half of the interview, Takamiya will talk about the characters some more going over Soldier Blue’s design and her relationship with manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori (Cyborg-009 among many others).
Takamiya comes across very well in this interview, light heartedly laughing at her own stories. The creation of this series is fun to listen to from her and the interview is certainly worth checking out if you enjoyed the set.
Also included on the set are the clean opening animation for episodes 1-4 and the alternate clean opening animation.
What started as an interesting science fiction drama about a big brother society with annoying telepaths will very quickly develop into a deep and moving mind trip. The overall feel to this series, brought on largely by the characters, made this series very hard to walk away from. Every episode had left me just enough information to have to see more and the cliffhanger at the end of this set has the second set already poised to move to the top of my review pile when it arrives. Very highly recommended.
Final Grade: A
Moving into the battle stage of this story as Ichigo and his friends enters enemy territory.
Ichigo and his friends have all managed to enter the headquarters of the Soul Reapers. Getting in was the easy part though as upon entry, they accidently get split into four groups. In one corner, Ichigo and Ranji are stuck together. In another corner its Orihime and Oryu and finally Chad and Yoruichi are stuck be themselves. To make things worse, all of them have been targeted by the now alerted Soul Reapers.
Ichigo, Ganju, Orihime and Uryo will all have some very tough battles to face on this volume. And they still have to find a way to regroup and rescue Rukia.
Good and the Bad
As with any long running series, there is a tendency to start dipping into routine. Before the conclusion of the first story arc, the stories had started to fall into the tendency to have a lot going on without a lot actually happening. This story arc had this playing against it from the start and while it hasn’t quite managed to shake it, the four episodes on this volume do a good job of trying.
In these four episodes, the group is split up and the audience get to see something entirely different. While most of these characters we’ve already seen fight before, Ganju as the new addition to the team creates some automatic interest from the audience to see what he can really do. Better than this however is the fact that the team has been split up into entirely new teams. This is the first time that audience members will get to see Uryo and Orihime really team up to fight together against a common enemy. This is really the first time in general that we’ve seen Orihime really step in and truly fight beyond a few defensive moves. The set up and storytelling here is really well done.
Ichigo has the biggest fight of the volume when he faces off against another Soul Reaper. The fight scenes in this volume are much more graphic than they have been over the last few episodes. Bleach continues to do something unique with its fights though. The staff really didn’t show a ton of graphic blood. The blood was shown but the artwork changed to maximize the story line aspect of the defeats rather than the blood with many of the more violent scenes being changed to black and white manga style artwork. Just a really simple touch that emphasizes the plot device.
Episode 26 is the first to have the second opening theme and animation as well as the third ending theme and animation. The new opening theme is titled ‘D-technolife’ and is ballad with a bit of a rock edge to it. The lyrics fit well with the new animation showing Ichigo and his team fighting against the army of Soul Reapers. In the new ending theme, another soft ballad titled ‘Houkiboshi’ is placed in. This theme plays over an interesting background animation featuring all or most of the Soul Reapers that are going to be showing up over the next few episodes. One thing that proves to be kind of an extra treat for fans is how this particular animation changes ever so slightly during the first few seconds on each episode.
Dub vs. Sub
The dub and sub casts continue to provide great performances on either end. Joining the cast on this volume were quite a few new voices for the party’s opponents. Perhaps the most surprising addition to the cast is Vic Mignogna as Ichigo’s opponent on this volume, Ikaku. Vic turns in a very gritty performance on this volume and you can really feel the lust for battle in the voice that Vic gives out.
Production art and clean animations.
A lot of things are going on in this volume but not much actually happens. The characters are in a brand new situation and the audience is getting to see brand new reactions from them. Now the audience is seeing what the characters would do in a brand new life threatening situation while we work our way towards the next big opponent. The action on this volume is strong but to be honest, I’m much more interested in seeing what is going to happen on the next volume with Uryo and Orihime. In other words, I enjoyed this volume but I didn’t feel like I gained a lot of ground in terms of the story. Recommended for fans.
Final Grade: B-
Once again, this volume proves that this series is its characters.
The brand new story arc officially gets into full swing on this volume. Led by Yoruichi, Ichigo and his team made up of Uryo, Chad and Orihime enter the Soul Society in order to save Rukia from execution. Upon arriving they will have to face a couple of obstacles to even enter the inner circle that holds Rukia including a giant Soul Reaper named Jidanbo and a gang leader named Ganju.
In the end, all of their plans will instead rely on one person, a woman named Kukaku Shiba while Rukia is now down to just a few days remaining and others inside the Soul Society are whispering about conspiracy.
Good and the Bad
As with previous volumes, this volume proves again that the characters are what makes this series special. Throughout these four episodes, established characters will get to show new sides to themselves and new characters will provide just the right amount of levity to keep the episodes moving.
If there’s one thing that this series has really managed to do well in the last few volumes its keeping a steady stream of new and one off characters introduced into the series to keep things from going stale. With the action and dialogue relying heavily on clichés to get by, these new characters really help this volume out and keep things strong.
While Ganju was obviously entered to work as the set up to all of Kukaku’s or Ichigo’s one liners and abuse jokes, Kukaku feels like more than a simple two dimensional character. While her role in these episodes is small, her dialogue indicates a deeper person beyond the comedic exterior that will be interesting to see develop when she is brought back into the series later. Be sure to remember her.
Speaking of remembering characters, the staff really does something cool on this volume by bringing back Yuichi, the little boy trapped inside Chad’s parakeet from early in the series. I had honestly completely forgotten about Yuichi until he reappeared in this volume. Brought back for just the one episode, this was a great way to tie in earlier events to the present in order to develop Chad. So many things audiences are constantly forced to deal with new characters that have absolutely relevance to the story and have the sole purpose of developing an established character. It’s really nice to see that this series didn’t fall into the same old routine of ignoring the past in order to foreshadow the future.
The dialogue and action in this volume unfortunately remain weak. The jokes are quite constant throughout this volume but all of them fall into the same verbal or deadpan visual comedy that we’ve come to expect from this series. The one bad thing about this story arc is that Rukia has been completely removed from the front line which means the writers have to insert other characters into the ‘straight man’ role to Ichigo’s punch lines. This doesn’t always work but so far this volume has managed to fill in the gaps adequately.
Seeing established characters get to open up a bit more really does a lot of things for this volume. In particular, Chad and Orihime are both going to get some great screen time on this volume. Chad gets his scene with Yuichi early in the volume which shows a new side to him that audiences are going to feel for. Orihime finally gets to bust out a little and show what she can do in battle situations which bring out completely new sides to her. I’m still not sold on the fairies that hide in her hair clips though. Stupid fairies.
The music on this volume remains consistent with no drops in quality. None of the music on this volume particularly stood out. I actually can’t even really pull any scenes out of my head to use as an example right now.
Dub vs. Sub
Both tracks are strong picks on this volume with Stephanie Sheh once again turning in a great performance as Orihime. Orihime has been starting to grow a little stale over the last couple of volumes with very little interesting happening to her. That makes the character busting out a little more on this volume that much more fun and Stephanie Sheh does a great job with the role during these episodes.
Production art and clean animation.
If it weren’t for the great characters and solid comedy that is delivered in each volume, this series would definitely fall into the ‘just another shonen’ category. Twenty four episodes in though, I’m still finding myself interested in these characters and what happens to them next. I can’t imagine that anyone who has watched this far into the series hasn’t been sold on it yet but I know some people who weren’t wild about the first story arc so if the series lost you early, this is another great chance to get back into it with minimal information to play catch up on.
Final Grade: A-
Four episodes that take us into the heart of a new story arc and the Soul Society.
In these four episodes, the story arc introduced on the previous volume is taken to new heights. The Soul Society has finally caught up to Rukia. Renji has been sent to terminate her. When Ichigo enters himself into the fight he quickly finds himself outmatched and is eventually outdueled by Rukia’s older brother, left with no spiritual energy and barely surviving. Saved by Urahara, Ichigo learns that Rukia has been taken to the Soul Society where she is awaiting a death sentence. A team is gathered and a plan is formed: Ichigo and his team mates will all enter training to learn how to use their powers or in Ichigo’s case, regain his powers or die painfully trying. Then, go rescue Rukia.
Good and the Bad
The animation through this volume remained strong with the battle scenes once again looking very well put together. The animation was very fluid and paced itself well. The only questionable animation on the volume is during our first look into the soul society. With all the build up that this setting has gotten over the last 15 or so episodes, the staff really had created quite a standard for themselves to present something spectacular. I understand the traditional Japanese décor of the scenes but it seems like this series really settled for not taking the opportunity to really make the soul Society Stand out instead of being so understated and common.
Beyond the animation though and much more importantly, the story that the series tells on this volume is just a great new arc. As we get into the ‘training sequence’ for the hero the story had to do something pretty special to avoid becoming predictable. While certain things are just a given during this volume, the staff really do a great job in these episodes of keeping things fresh. Even if you see something coming on this volume, these episodes do a great job of making sure that even though you’ll know what’s coming it won’t happen quite like you expect it to.
The character development in this volume was really well done due to how focused it was on this volume. While not a lot of development happens with Rukia, there are still a few pivotal scenes that will certainly shed brand new light onto Rukia, particularly her relationship with Ichigo. Urahara also gets quite a bit of development with his assistants getting development by proxy. This is the character that I’ve wanted to know so much more about. There is little to be known here which is a shame but what is revealed will have the audience really interested in learning more.
As with most volumes of this series thus far, the music during these episodes tend to be very hit or miss. A perfect hit example: The solo violin music during the entrance to the soul society was very well performed. I really liked the simple melody. A perfect miss example: The funk themes in this series do not appear to be disappearing anytime in the near future. They drive me nuts personally but since the staff has pretty much married the concept, it’s here to stay. We should probably just learn to cope with this.
Dub vs. Sub
Both tracks remained consistently good on this volume. I was particularly impressed with Michael Lindsay as Urahara. He really pulled out some great dialogue on this volume that was delivered with a perfect laid back style while his training scenes were very intense. Both the Japanese and English tracks provided very enjoyable viewing with no major issues on either end.
I realize that it would be way too costly to put extras on every single one of the… let’s say dozens of DVDs that Viz will releasing over the course of this series but come on, can’t we get some? Production art and clean animations are nice… but something? Anything?
Continuing to be a very fun story arc, this volume moves us into very interesting places and settings. With a very solid lead in completed, this story arc is going to be very interesting to watch as Ichigo and his team move into the next phase. Fun to watch this volume keeps the series moving in the right direction.
Final Grade: A-
One story ends and another begins and thus the cycle begins again.
While the first half will close a story, the second half will open a new one. In the first two episodes, the duel has continued on between Ishida and Ichigo. Hollows are coming in like crazy and it’s becoming overwhelming for both of them. Caught in the mix at school though is Orihime and Tetsuki who are attacked by a hollow who can control people. It’s during this battle though that Orihime discovers something special about herself. The duel will rage onward through the second episode until the two will be forced to go against something that almost no one ever seen in person.
A new story arc begins in episode 15. Rukia realizes that she’s being watched by the soul society and decides to run away in order to protect Ichigo. Hunted down though, Rukia is cornered until Ichigo comes in to make the save. Meanwhile, Urahara receives a warning from his best friend.
Good and the Bad
It has been a foregone conclusion for a very long time that Orihime was going to be revealed as having special powers. It was going to happen and there couldn’t have been many audience members who were truly surprised by it. I have to question the power though. Mentioning what the power is will really ruin the scene for people and so that’s not going to happen but if you do happen to watch this volume, check it out and then join me in a “Wow… really? That’s what you came up with?”
The pacing of the story climax during the first half of the volume was very well done. While the writing tended to wander onto the cliché side every once in awhile, the series manages to retain its individuality by not forgetting what makes it so great in the first place. The comedy segments during the final battle were really well placed. They did a great job of keeping the pacing from getting too fast or too slow.
The writing in the climatic battle is also some of the better writing for a fight scene I’ve seen recently. While the comedy ends up giving out for a very simplistic finale, the scene remains strong due to those well placed segments.
Urahara is the character to watch on this volume. Even though there are only a few scenes with his presence in them, his scenes were always very interesting to watch. With so many episodes ahead of us, it would make sense to assume that he will be developed at some point but that point could certainly get here faster.
The big climax to the battle had some music that was really quite well done for the most part. I wasn’t really ecstatic about the R&B theme that played during the early portions but the final climatic moment had a great soundtrack playing over it. Episode 14 has a new ED theme titled ‘Thank you’. It’s a soft rap ballad. Not particularly good or bad. It just kind of stood out as average.
Ironically though, I think one of the finest audio moments of this volume was the one that didn’t involve any at all. During one of the final scenes of the volume, a tense confrontation will take place and during this scene, the staff chose not to play any sort of background music. This seems almost as though it’s completely irrelevant but the way the silence allows the words to be punctuated during that scene, just a very cool move.
Dub vs. Sub
Stephanie Sheh turns in a great performance on this volume during her battle against a hollow. It was a scene a long time coming and Sheh absolutely nails this scene. Also very strong on this volume was Michael Lindsay as Urahara.
The usual clean animations and artwork.
Picking up exactly where it left off, this volume gives the audience absolutely no time to rest between stories. While a couple of the smaller side stories such as Kon attempting to run away ended up just being silly filler, the rest of this volume has great action and a great sequence of events to carry us into what has started as a very interesting new story.
Final Grade: B+
Don’t think of it as lacking in innovation, think of it as having tons of what you already know and love about the shonen genre.
In this modern world, people are killed secretly by creatures called homunculus. Homunculus were created many years ago through the power of alchemy but hidden away from the world. They are small robotic embryos that attach themselves to humans and devour the host’s brain and body until they are eventually able to take over the host body and eat other humans to survive. The ones who fight and kill them are alchemist warriors who have the other great discovery of alchemy, Buso Renkin, to fight with.
The first thirteen episodes of the first season are included in this set. The hero of this anime is Kazuki Muto who after wandering to the haunted factory behind his school is killed by a homunculus while attempting to save the life of a girl he sees there, Tokiko Tsumura. Tokiko is an alchemist warrior fighting in Kazuki’s town and intrigued by his act of bravery, gives him a kakugane which gives him a new life and the ability to wield a Buso Renkin, a powerful weapon powered by its owner’s will to survive and the powers of alchemy.
Unable to turn away from his new found power and desire to protect the world from the homunculus, Kazuki teams up with Tokiko to face off against the mysterious Papillion Masked Creator who is creating these monsters.
Good and the Bad
The first thing that anyone who picks up this package has to notice is the wonderful job that Viz Media did with the packing of this release. Normally packaging isn’t really factored into my reviews but the case for this set is very well put together with separate pages within the case for each disc. I did find that the special postcards that were included with the set tended to slide around which sometimes made it hard to close the case or keep the postcards in the case. If you plan on removing the postcards from the case for various display purposes, this won’t be an issue.
Getting into the anime itself, this anime almost lost me from the start with a very over the top bit of dialogue that forced me to roll my eyes. Getting past this initial hurdle, audiences are going to very quickly enter a world where over the top and shonen clichés are the norm. All of them are there for the audience: A clueless hero entering a world he knew nothing about, a desire to protect the innocent, new super fighting powers (with or without props, they’re both there), names for the attacks and weapons, the adorable female character and the tough female character. The only thing missing was a snarky female character though Tokiko certainly has some great snarky moments.
Breaking down those elements though, the audience is going to find that all of the representations are well presented. Mahiro is a very cute representation for the ‘little sister’ role and remains a very strong source of comedy and emotion throughout the thirteen episode set. Tokiko is also an excellent example of the tough warrior maiden character that every shonen series needs.
The story and writing in this series is exactly what you would expect with very few surprises being thrown at the audience. Despite its liberal use of clichés, the writing in this series remained strong throughout managing to pull me in with its action and its ability to connect to the audience on an emotional level early in the series driving them towards wanting to see more. The series does hit a very poor speed bump with its comedy though.
All of the comedy is basically visual gags with a few clever situational gags thrown in. This ended up being really disappointing since the writers rarely even attempted to use more clever forms of humor despite having characters that could support it easily. Captain Bravo alone could have managed at least a couple of scenes on his own with more clever dialogue but is just never given the opportunity. There were a few example of clever writing though. Kazuki was really written well as a rookie fighter and hearing the villains cut off his big hero speeches was a unique twist that made me chuckle a few times.
Over the course of thirteen episodes, audiences are taken through two connecting story arcs. While any description of the second story arc will lead to spoilers of the first, it can be said that the first story arc has an absolutely terrible ending and the second story arc almost falls into the same pit of early over the top writing that does a very strong job of pushing its audience away.
The second story arc suffers from its own set of problems really though. The introduction of new characters in the second story arc makes it episodic very quickly. The staff does a great job with combating this issue though by keeping the storyline strong throughout the episodes to tie them together firmly and keep the series moving at a very good pace.
The animation is very strong in this series. While the CG animation of the series was very noticeable, the battle scenes were very well animated and choreographed. While the weapons of the series tended to be a little impractical, they were innovative. This innovation in the weapons led to some very exciting battles worth watching. It is a little surprising to me how violent and bloody this series is though. While it is obvious that there is going to be violence and blood just due to its genre, it still managed to surprise me as an audience member the various ways that people were being killed.
Most of the music that stood out in this series was very nice Jazz melodies that melted well into the background. In particular fans should pay attention to the soft jazz theme during the episode five mountain scenes. Also very enjoyable was the Jazz themes that played during Mahiro’s Buso Renkin seminars. The battle scene music really came across well when I rewatched this series with surround sound. The strong orchestra music really played well with the scene and the strong brass really captured that shonen fighting spirit that heroes keep going on and on about.
Throughout the set the audio quality remains consistently strong with no detectable drops in quality.
Dub vs. Sub
Going back and forth between the English and Japanese casts, I just could not get behind Tara Platt’s performance of Tokiko. The difference between the performance from Platt and the performance of Ryoka Yuzuki in the Japanese cast felt like they were almost night and day in terms of inflection and emotion. While I could certainly hear the different intonations that Yuzuki delivered in her role, Platt delivers a performance that is flat and even throughout. She rarely changes her vocal tones and is always speaking in a very serious tone. While this makes complete sense for the character, it also makes the character very boring and hard to cheer for. Eventually I got used to the character and the flat tones but it did take awhile.
Karen Straussman as Mahiro, however, was very nice. The performance here was very nicely done though it’s so sugary sweet I can see it getting on the nerves of some members of the audience and sending someone into diabetic shock at some point. Another big plus for the dub cast was Spike Spencer in the role of Chono/Papillon. I can’t think of an adjective to describe the performance without offending one subset of the population or another so let’s just say… a foppish cream puff?
For this set, the edge in terms of performance really has to go to the Japanese cast.
There aren’t a lot of extras included with this set but the ones that are included are enjoyable for all members of the audience. All three discs have a commentary track on them with the first one hosted by Steve Staley (Kazuki) and Tara Platt (Tokiko). On the second disc is a commentary that I believe is hosted by Steve Staley and Spike Spencer. I say ‘think’ because the actors never actually introduce themselves on the commentary which left me having to figure out who was talking based on what they were saying about the characters. This commentary was the best of the three though as the actors (whomever they are) were really hilarious as they riffed on the anime and cracked jokes about the characters. The third disc commentary is with the ADR director and script adapter, Rene Veilleux and Donald Roman Lopez.
Also included on the third disc is a behind the scenes feature taking fans into the animation process of the series. While they don’t show anything particularly new that fans who have watched other extras of this nature haven’t seen before, it’s still worth checking out.
Despite a small effort on its own part to change my mind, this is an enjoyable release. While this is not the series that you would ever show to someone as a great example of the shonen genre, those who enjoy their anime filled with action and monsters and new powers are going to find little to be disappointed with here. As long as you take it at face value and don’t think about it too much, this is a nice set for an anime fan to kill a weekend with and with any luck, Viz will announce a release date for the last thirteen episodes soon.
Final Grade: 85% – B