Posts Tagged ‘anime’

Something new by the Judgemen-t crew

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Oops, excuse me. I rhymed a bit there on accident. *Cough* It just kind of fell out.

The two of us put together a little video with my nerdy voice over and weird double-jointed hands, reviewing the adorable Kaname Madoka – Maiko Version Nendoroid, an Anime Expo 2013 exclusive-ish from the Good Smile Company booth.

Please let me know how you thought it turned out! I hope to do more of these in the future, I have… an absolute ton of toys that are yet unopened that make this youtube segment handy for me!

Click the image below to go Youtube and check it out:


Friday, July 6th, 2012

It was just announced that there is going to be a new Sailor Moon anime.

Sorry to resurrect with such a short post, but here’s a link to the video, where they made the announcement in French and Japanese: New Sailor Moon Anime Announcement


Millhiore F. Biscotti Nendoroid

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

I’ve watched two episodes of Dog Days, and as much as I really, really, really wanted to love a show about inumimis, I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. For real? A show where “war” is really just Takeshi’s Castle?

However, I just can’t pass up a puppy girl toy! Especially not one that comes with a fucking bird she can ride on! *fangirlish squee*

Image shamelessly stolen from Amiami.


Note – any purchases you make at Play-asia after following my link helps me, and is greatly appreciated. I love both stores and have had nothing but good experiences, and would suggest that you buy from either of them.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Review

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

This anime… This is one of the darkest little girl/mahou shoujo shows that ever will be. It’s directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, who is the director mentioned quite often in the podcasts as producing a lot of “Shinbo-isms.” He has very common elements that he uses in his animes, usually slow pan-shots (which he often uses when he has run out of money), characters with their heads tilted back in every other shot, and the now-classic Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei shot:

Other anime that he has directed includes Dance in the Vampire Bund, Maria Holic, Bakamonogatari, and the new show Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko. He’s also rumored to have been the director in some hentai, such as Blood Royale and Temptation, under the alias Juuhachi Minamizawa.

Shinbo is well-known for the dark elements in the shows that he directs. Tsukuyomi, despite being quite played up and comical, had very dark, depressing elements to them, and Madoka is no different. Madoka is about, well, Madoka. A young girl who finds herself at the center of a battle between witches and magical girls. She has a dream about a little cat-like creature, showing her a young girl getting beaten up and at the end of her rope. He tells her, she doesn’t have to fight on her own! You can help her! Just make a contract with me.


There may be spoilers from this point onward! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!


Dance in the Vampire Bund: Worth the Controversy?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Nozomu Takami’s manga DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND was announced as a TV series for the Winter 2010 season. The initial promotional video essentially promised that it would be a lovingly rendered shot-for-shot adaptation, handled by one of anime’s most unpredictable directors – a man who I simultaneously consider both a pretentious hack and unrivaled genius, Akiyuki Shinbou (or “Shimbô”, if FUNimation has anything to say about it). Something happened between those promises of moving-manga glory and its initial trip to the small screen, something that took what was the single most exciting anime-related news for me in the second half of 2009 and turned it into a brilliantly frustrating train wreck.

In the near future, a mysterious and doll-like child claims to be the Queen of the Vampires, and pays off Japan’s national debt in return for a habitable area she’s dubbed “The Bund”. Decreeing it a safe haven for her own kind, she’s ended centuries of secrecy and doubt; vampires exist, and most of them want nothing more than to co-exist with humans in peace. This unexpected and bloodless territorial coup doesn’t sit with either the ancient princes of the vampires or the panicky masses of mankind, however, and with her personal bodyguard by her side – a fine young werewolf by the name of Akira, the mysterious Queen Mina Tepes sets out to destroy her obstacles one by one, be they snarky political figures or fang-gnashing monsters just waiting to usurp her throne.

Blood drinking fiends engaged high-stakes political blackmail might not sound like the most exciting combination, but that level of carefully measured absurdity is exactly what makes the show such an intriguing concept. Tales of powerful, exotic aristocrats with dangerous and mysterious customs was the inspiration for the vampire myths we know in the Western world today, after all – go on, read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and tell me he’s not a 19th century Jewish stereotype on steroids. Having brought the mythological aspects back to the roots of xenophobia, racism and fear of the unknown makes the idea shine with a certain kind of irony that’s more subtle than you might expect. That’s not to say that there isn’t any conventional action, as few (if any) episodes go by without one of the cast members getting into a bloody life of death struggle. But all of those battles are deeply rooted in the philosophical, political, and personal grudges that anchor the storyline, to the point where the impressive horror set pieces are just the gruesome topping on this unusual thriller.

Don’t worry though, there’s  more than bloody politics on display. The relationship between Akira and Mina – arguably the show’s focus – is one that could have been exploitation gold in different hands. Mina herself is tiny, doll-like, and manipulates Akira with cloying behavior, but she proves time and time again that her ancient life has left her anything but naive. Anyone complaining that Dance in the Vampire Bund is a “lolita complex” anime has clearly never watched it;  Mina Tepes is a brilliant, dangerous monster who’s oft-undressed form is merely the ironic trappings she uses to twist the world around her little finger. Rather it’s Akira, duty bound in chivalrous idealism to protect his childhood sweetheart, who’s infantilized himself; denying himself even basic romantic relationships with “normal” girls around him, and willing to put his life on the line for a person who’s more than willing to march him into grave danger, merely to prove the point that he can walk to the other side unscathed.

With echoes of Anne Rice’s watershed postmodern vampire novels (Lestat’s “daughter” Claudia, specifically) Mina appears to be an immortal adult trapped in a child’s body, but unlike Rice’s eternal child Mina is well aware of – and possibly even able to enact upon – those “adult” feelings… but she can’t do a thing about it, largely for unusual political reasons that are brimming just beneath the surface (rest assured “pedophilia” isn’t actually the problem).  While I suppose I could forgive those so unwilling to divorce the grim reality of child abuse from watching those norms satirized, anyone willing to look past the glimpses of Mina’s nude body will see the all too painful game of cat and mouse she’s playing with the person closest to her. Mina’s caught in a cruel romantic compromise, and uses her position to make Akira – the object of her most personal affections – feel just as frustrated as she herself does.

There’s a clearly lot going for the show… so why aren’t I telling you to order it right goddamn now? What in the name of Vlad went wrong?

In interviews following the premier of the series, Shinbou went on record saying that Takami requested the staff at Shaft animation come up with an “original” storyline… which sort of defeats the purpose of adapting a popular manga, but being troopers, they shrugged and did it anyway. To be fair, the first episode – an almost uncomfortably ‘meta’ take on the world of both Japanese television and the modernized interpretation of the vampire – proved that there was some merit in taking the concepts in bold new directions. But not all of the ideas set quite as perfectly. One new character in particular, Mei Len, is the definition of a Mary Sue and does virtually nothing to the narrative until the final two episodes or so. She doesn’t even get to be a clunky Mary Sue who kicks all sorts of ass (the thing that mostly prevents  Mari Makinami Illustrious from being dead weight in the new Evangelion franchise); she’s just an idea that Shaft thought would be a cool visual, but struggled to find a way to work her back into the framework of the original story they were interested in adapting to begin with.

Perhaps just as frustrating were the multitudes of choppy, seemingly unfinished shots in the broadcast version. Countless cuts of “real” animation are replaced with still shots of a red screen (I called them “slugs” at the time), and sequences of quick, motionless cuts are clearly just photos with photoshop filters slapped on as an afterthought. The fact that parts of the show were gorgeously rendered suggested either a budget strained to the very last yen, or a production schedule that wasn’t doing the series justice. Shaft’s other 2009 Shinbou TV series – Bakemonogatari - suffered many of the same problems, and upon being released on DVD and Blu-ray was essentially re-animated from scratch. It’s fair to say that Bakemonogatari went from being one of the worst looking shows of the year on TV to one of the best on home video, and knowing this, it was with baited breath that I finished the miserable-looking TV version, hoping that the  inevitable Blu-ray would fix up at least some of those massive problems.

FUNimation only made matters worse by picking up the rights to the show just before broadcast. They took issue with the second episode showing Mina getting sunblock rubbed over her nude body by Akira – an act the Queen demands, and one the ‘servant’ is clearly unhappy about. At first this sounds like small potatoes… until you remember that Mina looks like she’s about nine years old and Akira is clearly in his late teens. FUNimation cut the offending scene from the internet broadcast, and censored other scenes which showed more of Mina’s delectably misleading form than they were comfortable with, ending the clusterfuck of a PR nightmare by saying they were afraid the images would be taken out of context as obscene material, and as such would never release the uncensored version. Naturally, the internet quickly got to stamping its’ collective feet, either in favor of the cut (by saying it’s child porn when it clearly isn’t) or against it (mostly out of principle)… FUNimation finally relented once the broadcast of the final episode was over, saying there was a strong possibility that the uncensored version would be released on DVD and Blu-ray.

Here we are a year and a half later. I’ve got my “Limited” DVD+Blu-ray combo set (in both Limited and Regular editions), and in the interest of giving it a fair assessment I’ve decided to re-watch the program fresh, hoping the video release would fix up the stilted animation and make more of the action at least sensible on the screen… but first let’s talk about dat box! FUNimation has been producing “Limited Edition” sets lately with a glossy chipboard sleeve and standard size DVD keepcases, while the ‘normal’ release is the same content in a flimsy cardboard sleeve. One of the very few things I missed about getting 7 separate DVDs at thirty bucks a piece was that at least you usually got a nice artbox to house them in, and FUNimation’s LE boxes have been consistently attractive and high-quality. If you literally don’t care about the sleeve on the discs you get, I suppose you could save a few bucks, but this artbox is worth the price they’re charging, easy. The fact that the Blu-ray is in a regular DVD sized case is a downer for reasons I just can’t explain, but if that’s the worst thing I can say about it that’s not so horrible. It’s not like I don’t already have a shelf or two dedicated to DVD sized cardboard boxes…

The video quality is top-notch,  something FUNimation is usually good about anyway (early SD upscales aside). The hazy, blooming cyan outlines, fine layer of digital grain, TV scan-lines and changing aspect ratios have never looked better. The Japanese stereo and English 5.1 mixes are both lossless, which means they sound bit-for-bit like the master tapes; if you don’t like the way it sounds, you can only blame the original sound engineers. Menus are nice and simple, and while not all of the Japanese extras (particularly the staff interviews) are present, there’s a nice assortment of promotional material, clean OP/ED footage, and some manga-panel based bonus “Intermission” footage – despite looking like pages from Takumi’s source material, they’re original content meant to fill in the narrative gaps between episodes.

It’s worth noting that whenever an episode has a “unique” OP/ED sequence that features the show playing as credits scroll over it, FUNimation left the original kanji as-is, and only adds English credits at the end of the episode. FUNimation was fussing with end credits a lot in the last year or two, so it’s great that they’ve finally figured out how to leave well enough alone. It’s truly appreciated, FUNimation, and gives me more confidence for pre-ordering your products. I admit I’d prefer all anime releases keep their JP credits, but I’ll take that crusade one problem at a time.

The subtitles are tiny, white, and have an extremely thin black border. I’ve never had an issue with FUNi’s subs before this release, but that first episode has so many layers of text that the subs become nearly unreadable! A thicker outline or brighter color was really needed for that first episode, and I’m horrified to think that someone in QC actually watched it and didn’t immediately demand they fix them somehow. (The TV commercials have the same exact problem; thin white subtitles on top of thin white Japanese text… argh!!) Adding insult to injury is the fact that the black-and-white “Intermissions” have yellow subtitles to “pop” against the white backgrounds, yet they didn’t extend the same courtesy to the show itself. FUNimation, seriously… have someone WATCH the disc before you mass-produce it. Small, white, thin-bordered subtitles are absolutely fine 99% of the time, but this show is one of those very real one percentiles.

As for the show itself… well, the biggest narrative problems – Akira’s inexplicable amnesia, the shoehorned in side-character, the sudden ending that lacks any remote sense of closure, all that stuff – are still kicking around. Thankfully, most (if not quite all) of the especially poor moments of animation, such as countless shots when it would cut to a single colored screen on the TV broadcast version have since been fixed, to the point where several episodes are really quite stunning.  Make no mistake, the animation is still rife with odd still shots, bizarre lighting effects and a bleeding, hazy look under a thin layer of grain… but anyone who expected Shinbou to abandon his after-effects driven distortions and experimental cut styles must be dreaming to start with. Even Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – the least “Shinbou Styled” show I’ve seen from him yet – has more than its fair share of familiar camera tricks and ornate color coding, and his presence is obvious in every frame. If you like the Gothic styling of Le Portrait de Petite Cossette and the trippy cinematic experimentalism of Casshern Sins, this sits somewhere between the two. It’s always been a “neat” looking show, but I can’t stress enough how nice it is to re-watch episode 7 and not wince every two minutes at how hard they were trying to hide the non-animation.

Subtitles aside, FUNimation has done a fantastic job releasing this controversial and unusual horror series. It’s completely unedited, the credits are intact, there’s a stack of decent extras, and the packaging – if oversized – is quite attractive in its own right. I’d love to say the show was a masterpiece, but it’s a hell of a mixed bag; if you can forgive the lapses in storytelling finesse, the character relationships beneath them are still worth watching, and as with all Shinbou anime it’s a unique and inventive visual treat. It’s recommended, but only to people who dig dangerously unconventional horror animation.

Ayase, Oreimo, figma now available!

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Now available for pre-order at Amiami, Ayase Aragaki figma from Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (or My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!).

Shit. Pre-ordered. :|

I wonder which we’ll get next as a figma – the brother or the obsessive rich girl?

Now available for pre-order through Play-asia!