Sunday, July 28, 2002

DNA² (Dokokade Nakushita Aitsuno Aitsu) OAV

Genre: Romance / Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
Credits: 1994. Masakazu Katsura (creator). Junichi Sakata (director). Powhouse.


Manga and Illustration Books
Original Soundtrack
Skysenshi's Description:
Uninvited visitors from the future arrive at Junta's doorstep, bringing with them chaos and darkness over a promising future. Junta is the ancestor of 12,000 people and to control these descendants, somebody has to take over Junta's life. Looks like the root cause of all the mishaps that has plagued Junta recently will finally be revealed.

(3 episodes)

Why I’d rather gush about the opening song >>> by skysenshi

Please refer to my previous write-up regarding DNA 2 before reading this, since the OAV are supposed to be the last three episodes of DNA 2-meant to be there to complete the series. I wonder, though, because if these three were supposed to finish the series, then why the heck does it seem like the OAV has a totally different plotline from the first 12 episodes that were aired? Not only that, they served to make the story more confusing and peppered with so much plot holes.

Imagine throwing in unnecessary new characters into the fray and then tampering with a few existing characters' DNA just to make it look like there was actually a twist in there. To compound that, they totally destroyed the romantic angle by ending the love triangle with such a blasé performance. It was like the girl who actually ends up with main character Junta just got him by default. Both the jumpy "twist" and this "love story" speak mega-blaring volumes about the lack of transitioning and emotional build-up.

Are there any improvements in the art? No. How about the background music? No. Anything at all that could salvage this piece of junk?

Honestly, watching DNA 2 feels like eating champoy, where you start off eating something sweet and then it suddenly turns sour without so much as a warning.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 3; Characters 6; Sounds 9

DNA² (Dokokade Nakushita Aitsuno Aitsu)

Genre: Romance / Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
Credits: 1994. Masakazu Katsura (creator). Junichi Sakata (director). Powhouse.

Manga and Illustration Books
Original Soundtrack
Skysenshi's Description:
Junta has a not-so-small problem: He can't get a date because he is allergic to girls. He has gotten this "disease" so bad that any sign of sensuality and eroticism makes him retch uncontrollably. When a mysterious girl named Karin arrives, she claims that he is the Mega Playboy who will cause overpopulation in the future and proceeds to shoot him with a DNA manipulation capsule that changes the course of history. Junta finds himself switching personalities at the most inopportune time. Sometimes he still hurls at the sight of women's underwear. At other times, he is completely in control of himself and manages to act like the coolest Don Juan that ever lived. Junta doesn't understand what is happening to him, but he sure can't complain about the sudden influx of girls falling at his feet.

(12 episodes)

Why I’d rather gush about the opening song >>> by skysenshi

As soon as the intro for the opening song chimed in, my heart skipped a beat and proceeded to scream, "L'arc~En~Ciel! Laruku! Laruku!" I immediately realized that it was Blurry Eyes that was playing, a song that effectively illustrated how old an anime DNA2 actually is. Why, Blurry Eyes was popularized in those days when Hyde still looked like the epitome of ultimate femininity and Laruku's drummer was still the drool-worthy Sakura. Think: 10 years ago, when Laruku gave the impression that they dove into a tank full of estrogen.

DNA2's age makes the art and animation forgivable. Digital animation wasn't the coolest thing then so the rough lines and less than perfect form isn't supposed to be so much of an issue.

As for the story, well, it actually has a lot of potential. In fact, after watching the first 8 episodes, I found myself getting restless in the office out of sheer desire to go home and plop the next tape into the player. Junta, the main character, has a dilemma that makes one want to sit down and find out how he deals with it. He suffers from multiple personality syndrome brought about by an agent from the future who messes with his DNA make-up. So the loser, who is actually allergic to girls, suddenly finds himself in a bind when girls who never would've noticed him suddenly vie for his attention. Unfortunately, lack of continuity shot the potential down and threw every bit of this anime's fighting chance into the garbage bin. The series was short but nobody seemed to take the time to draft a passable ending or at least a proper build up for a satisfying climax. Far be it for me to supply spoilers, let's just say that after a much-hyped entrance, the exit was…bleh! They just crammed in a 2-episode conflict, solved it, and then bye bye, sayonara, paalam! One wonders if the short-lived "serious problem" was just a ploy to put a semblance of action into a feature that would have been totally plotless and repetitive.

Well, at least there's the excellent music that made DNA2 one of the few anime that had me watching the opening sequences for every episode.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 6; Characters 6; Sounds 9

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Love Hina Again OAV

Genre: Romance / Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
Credits: Ken Akamatsu (creator). Yoshiaki Ishizaki (director). TV Tokyo.

Love Hina DVDs
Manga and Illustration Books
Original Soundtrack
Love Hina Item Shop
Firesenshi and Skysenshi's Description:
When Keitarou Urashima was young, he had a childhood friend and they promised to grow up together. But one time Keitarou's friend had to leave so they promised to go to Toudai, Tokyo Daigaku (University) and meet again. Keitarou strives to go to Toudai but seems he has difficulty doing so. Yet he strives so much to get in just to fulfill the promise to his childhood friend. But does he even remember her name?

Due to unexpected twist of events, Keitarou suddenly becomes kanrinin (manager) of Hinata Sou (Hinata Inn) and finds himself living with a group of beautiful girls as tenants. Hinata Sou gives a lot of surprises of Keitarou. Will one of these surprises make him meet the girl of his dreams in Toudai?

A new character comes to the fore and she's vying for Keitaro's attention. So what else is new? Everybody gets attached to Keitaro! But wait! The girl has enough emotional hold on Keitaro that she can actually give Narusegawa a true reason to worry!

(3-part OAV)

Déjà Vu: Almost Hentai>>> by skysenshi
In a reed thin whispery voices that speak volumes of shock and despair, I find myself mumbling, "I have felt this before." This godawful sinking feeling that I wasn't going to appreciate most of I will see. Ah, now I remember. I had this same reaction to Tenchi Muyo: Manatsu No Eve movie. I wonder if there's a shortage of creative juices that people would create overly irritating new characters that are supposed to make love triangles a little livelier?

Never mind the fact that the original Love Hina series reminded me so much of Maison Ikkoku in terms of characterization and situations, since I have grown to appreciate the series despite its weakness in measuring up to the latter. But I expected a little more out of this 3-part OAV. I was expecting closure. I was expecting to sigh and bask in the languid feeling of romance. I was expecting to see the most exciting parts of the manga in it--you know when Keitaro ends up with (toot!) and Seita ends up with (toot!) and Shinobu becomes (toot!).

I wouldn't want to burst anyone's bubble, though, so I would still recommend Love Hina fans to still try out this one, if only for the slapstick comedy and the pleasure of seeing Narusegawa at the receiving end of violent outbursts for once. Some might also consider it of value to see that the characters have become a little more daring--to the point that Love Hina Again OAV almost looks like a hentai title. Also, in fairness, Love Hina has one of the best artworks and animation I have ever enjoyed, so I guess it's not such a total disappointment.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 7; Characters 7; Sounds 7


Genre: Action / Supernatural
Parental Guidance Recommended
1997 Miura Kentaro (Hakushensha) / Takahashi Naohi

Berserk DVDs
Berserk Art Books & Manga
Berserk Music
Berserk Video Games
Toys and Accessories
Berserk Bestsellers

Cover Description:
In the castle town of Midland, a new king has come to power through treachery and violence. His demonic agents victimize the citizens unchecked, until the night when a battle weary soldier approaches the city. Covered in a slew of weapons and countless jagged scars, he calls himself the Black Swordsman. The sword he carries is the size of his grudge against the king, and he hunts the servants of evil with unrelenting fury.

(25 episodes)

Nearly mistook it for Rose of Versailles >>> by skysenshi

If the opening song and animation wouldn't impress you at first, look beyond. Berserk embodies the word "improvement" in every episode, in every sense from artwork to animation to storyline. In fact, I found myself surprisingly taken into its clasp somewhere along the way when I really was expecting to get bored. There are amazingly no fillers or unnecessary subplots that could interrupt the smooth plotline. Gripping was truly an adjective made for this title.

In the beginning one sees the makings of another Fist of the North Star, what with all the gore that gets even bloodier by the hour. Guts (or Gatts), the "Buster Sword" wielding protagonist, seems like a heartless bastard who does not show mercy towards his enemies as he tortures them before finally finishing them off. This is the first scene. I recommend going back to this scene as soon as you finish the last episode because it will explain everything.

Going back to Guts, his life will be relived right before your eyes as he flashbacks to a few years ago when he met up with a group of mercenaries who call themselves the Hawks. The next few volumes up to the last are purely flashback driven. What makes Berserk such a curious little package is that during this journey through memory lane, one might get confused as to who the real protagonist is. Griffith, the leader of the Hawks, seems to shine in the spotlight. You are basically looking at the story from Guts's point of view, putting Griffith up as the man of glory: Griffith has everything. Griffith is perfect. Griffith has this rags-to-riches sob story that could bring history books to shame. Griffith basks in romance. Griffith is loved by everybody, men and women alike.

Griffith's dream is the center of Berserk. He takes well into heart the saying, "The person who has grand dreams endure more than the person who has a small dream." How it gets distorted from just simply desiring the best for all, into scheming for the great ambition, is the focus of this moral dilemma. The dream is corrupted by politics, greed, battle of the social classes, and complex conspiracies. Guts's role is to provide support alongside other magnanimous Hawks, the most devoted of which is a feisty non-Barbie Doll female commander, Caska. Each Hawk is interconnected by a thread of similarity: "To protect his little heart, to forge his destiny, one grabs a sword". And Griffith uses this thread as his pillar of strength, until he loses himself when the line of equality and respect get blurred. If you are familiar with the intricacies of revolutions, or even anime like Berusayo no Bara (Rose of Versailles), you'd probably get a clearer picture of what's actually happening here.

In the final chapters, there is an obvious shift from simple human politics to the supernatural. This development can tend to be confusing, as both the historical tale and the supernatural one could stand on their own without connecting with the other. This is the reason why it is advisable to view the first episode again, just for clarity's sake. I'd also recommend not to get attached to any character. It is less burdening for the viewers this way. The ending can be quite a shock and, much as I hate to use the word, anti-climactic. It can also get a little depressing, as it is the bloodiest and most surreal episode in the entire series. Still...there had better be a continuation to this or Guts will not be the only person who's going to go berserk!

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 7

Kodomo no Omocha (Kodocha / Child's Toy)

Genre: Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
1996 Miho Obana (mangaka), Akira Suzuki (director), Akitaro Daichi (director), Hiroaki Sakurai (director), NAS, Pony Canyon, Studio Gallop, TV Tokyo

Kodocha DVDs
Kodocha Art Books & Manga
Kodocha Music
Everything Kodocha

Thundersenshi's Description:
Kurata Sana is a cute, hyper-active 11-year old who stars in a popular TV show called "Kodomo no Omocha". Even with all her richness and fame, Sana is just another cheerful 6th grader, and she doesn't let all her blessings go to her head. She wants to see everybody happy, and does everything to make them so--even if her help isn't wanted. She may act impulsively, but her heart's in the right place and she's actually quite mature for her age.

However, life for Sana isn't always a bed of roses--at least not until she became classmates with Hayama Akito, a quiet, expresionless boy who acts as a leader of the pack of troublemakers (which consist of all the boys in class, actually). Since she started the schoolyear, her class had never been normal, what with all the boys tormenting the hell out of the teacher every single day. Sana tries to put a stop to it since the other girls were too scared, and as a result, the boys have turned against her. But what about Akito? He doesn't seem to want anything directly harmful done to her. That order coming from him stopped the rest of the boys dead in their tracks. What is he really thinking? Why does he do this? What does he want?

(102 episodes)

A Lesson Learned >>> by thundersenshi
When I first slapped eyes on this series, I was dubious. My friend called me over to watch a couple of other titles we haven't seen before, and this was the first of the set. Child's Toy, she said, mentioning the title in English, and it didn't particularly help. I thought perhaps she had made a mistake when she picked it up, and that maybe it was meant for kids (but then she replied it came highly recommended from the store attendant). Well, the main characters are 11-year olds, the artwork was less than sophisticated.

But as you can probably guess, I was wrong. When I sat back to watch it, I enjoyed it immensely. I guess I should have learned from the time I watched Akazukin Cha Cha ...not everything is what it seems to be (just because it looks kiddie, doesn't mean you won't appreciate it). Kodocha made me laugh so hard I was practically violent in my hysteria: I was in tears and breathless with laughter (which only happened with Akazukin Cha Cha). I was rolling on the floor, bopped my head a couple of times, and slapped my friends so hard (and pushed them off the bed), they almost kicked me out of the room. I think I developed my abdominal muscles, too. Simply put, Kodocha is hilarious. The comedy is slapstick at best, but just a reminder--there are also a lot of cultural references. Some jokes and puns are best understood if one is familiar with the current fads, events, and other things in Japan (wait 'til you see the spoof on Takuya Kimura).

Also, the story and plot is more than it seems. Kodocha actually deals with mature situations, too, putting in a touch of reality aside from the hilarity. The characters are very interesting, as well, and the same could be said of the relationships interwoven between them (watch out for Sana-chan and Hayama's bouts). Once in a while, Kodocha will take a break from the insanity and chaos, and focus on these dramatic highlights that never fail to pull at my heartstrings.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 6; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 7

Strawberry Eggs (I My Me)

Genre: Campus Romance
General Audience
2001 Pioneer LDC, TNK, IMM! Committee, WOWOW. Yuji Yamaguchi

Strawberry Eggs DVDs
Strawberry Eggs Manga
Strawberry Eggs Music

Skysenshi's Description:
Hibiki Amawa is destitute and desperate to find a job as a teacher. Unfortunately, the only school nearby would not employ him because it is headed by an extremely prudish schoolmarm who is against the idea of having male teachers around. Hibiki, with his manhood maligned yet with his pride intact, does the unthinkable....

(13 episodes)

Boys Be with a kick! >>> by skysenshi
It seems that I My Me! Strawberry Eggs has become one of the more controversial newer titles to land on our shores. The first episode alone makes one curious enough to look for the rest of the volumes, as the conflict is already shown during the first 15 minutes of the show-with Hibiki Amawa cross-dressing in order to get a teaching job. One will begin to wonder if he's going to get extra "perks" since he is presumed to have access to the female lockers and spends time with many of the female characters. True enough, he gets his share of special undies view but these sequences are mostly accidental and in no way prove that Amawa is a perverted character.

It is actually quite hard to find a fan that would appreciate this title. Male fans balk at the thought that one of their own kind would have to don feminine clothes and act like a woman. Romantic female fans, on the other hand, probably would have preferred a more quixotic Walt Disney ending. Perhaps only true-blooded perverts who see the hentai advantages of posing as a woman would envy Hibiki's deceptive life. That or people who are open enough to appreciate a simple comedy that touches several moral dilemmas.

I welcome the fresh change as I watch Hibiki clash wills with two school leaders who live to massacre the essence of womanhood. It's not everyday that you get to see a man who is still sure of his sexuality despite all the things he's gone through. Hibiki is sensitive, intelligent, masculine and most importantly, solid in his principles. Most guys near perfection are usually gay, but the creators of Strawberry Eggs maintained his straightness. Pity, that this anime gets bad reviews when I believe all men can learn a thing or two from Hibiki.

Focusing on the plot, there really isn't much to be said. It's just a simple series with no ultimate villain and no ultimate good guy. Similar to Boys Be, the story revolves around a group of students struggling with their adolescence. They discover the differences between genders and they go around in love circles. Girl 1 loves Boy 1, but Boy 1 loves Girl 2, but Girl 2 is in love with somebody that ethics dictate she shouldn't have. At least once, the cool guy does not get the girl. The main character does not end up with the man of her dreams. And all your favorite characters end up in quite amusing messes.

The kick is that all throughout, a series of ethical taboos have been questioned: (1) It is not all right for a girl to fall in love with another girl; (2) It is not all right for a teacher to fall in love with a student; (3) It is not all right for a grown man to fall in love with a minor lest he be charged with having Lolita complex; and (4) There is no other reason for a man to dress up as a woman other than to peep and take advantage of young students. This series just busted your regular anime love formula, which is another refreshing development that I am glad for. Of course, with all those dilemmas the anime wouldn't end as expected.

The only gripes I have with it so far are that there are too many characters whose names I forget, and that the main female character, Kuzuha, is tremendously exasperating. One may argue that Love Hina had just as many characters, but then Love Hina characters are so distinct you'd know their names at once. Here the characters, save for the important ones, are quite underdeveloped. As for Kuzuha, she somehow reminds me of Fruits Basket lead Tohru, except Tohru is likeable. Kuzuha is just plain useless. Other than that, I find this anime highly entertaining with a lot of grounded lessons that many people might do well to learn.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 8; Characters 7; Sounds 7

Fruits Basket (Furuba) Manga

Genre: Shoujo / Comedy
General Audience
Natsuki Takaya (creator). Hana to Yume comics.

Fruits Basket DVDs
Fruits Basket Art and Manga
Fruits Basket Games
Fruits Basket Toys
Fruits Basket Original Soundtrack
Fruits Basket Fashion
Fruits Basket Shop
Firesenshi's Description:
Tohru lives in a tent and has a part-time job, which she takes after school, since her mother died. When the Soumas discovered her in this situation, they asked her to live with them in their house. Tohru agreed and lives there to take care of the Souma's chores.

All seemed to be well in the Souma household until one chaotic day, Tohru accidentally slipped and wrapped her arms around the Soumas, particularly Yuki, Kyou and Shigure. She then learned of the Souma's secret -- they turn into animals of the Juunishi (Chinese zodiac) when hugged by the opposite sex.

Will life ever be normal in the Souma household?

(9 volumes)

There's always more in the manga. >>> by firesenshi
The Fruits Basket manga is a totally engaging read. The main advantage over the anime is that it spans more chapters and therefore more background. You will clearly see the stories in the relationships. There are chapters however that I preferred in execution in the anime, such as the entrance of the kooky ecchi Ayame Souma. Reading his weird entrance has more impact with the audio and camera pans in the anime.

Reading the manga, however, I never really felt that there were important stuff that the anime skipped. However, there are certainly fun episodes and details about the characters that you will read about there. That is, of course, typical with any manga to anime transition. The manga, however, has a more in-depth look at each character which was never seen in the anime. For one, there is something about Shigure scheming something and talking about "the one I love in a dream" in the manga. Shigure is a very honest, funny and mild-mannered ecchi character in the story. Having omitted that kind of detail in the anime won't thoroughly affect the main point of the story. However, if you're like me who loves Shigure, you would be disappointed about that. I would understand though that the Juunishi having 12 characters would be hard to put up so much background in just 26 episodes. Even anime like Sailormoon, which has 15 characters and adds more each season, makes you hate the fact that your favorite character only has a minute appearance in the scenes. Such character background can be thoroughly covered more in the manga.

Of course, since the anime is only until volume 6 of the manga, real Furuba fans who have continued to read on will find more background on the characters plus the fact that other characters will be introduced! (2 characters in the Juunishi were not introduced in the Fruits Basket anime.)

On the other hand, the artwork is nicely drawn and not as detailed as Yuu Watase's (Fushigi Yugi, Ayashi no Ceres) work. But the mangaka is loads of fun in illustrating her points! She's very fond of using the Juunishi symbols of the characters. Tohru is symbolized by the onigiri and onigiri saying something is just kawaii!

Read the manga. Learn more about the characters. If you are into bishounen comedies, this is a very very good buy!

Individual Rating: Art 9; Story 8; Characters 9

Abashiri Family (Abashiri Ikka)

Genre: Action / Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended, contains some delicate scenes and violence
1992 Go Nagai, Dynamic Planning, Inc., Studio Pierrot, Soeishinsha, NEXTART

Abashiri Family Item Shop
Cover Description:
They're creepy and they're kooky, but they're not THAT family. They're even weirder! They're the Abashiri family, kingpins of disorganized crime and the most dysfunctional family of criminals to ever perpetrate anti-social behavior on a global scale! So, just how bad are they? Let's just say that seasoned hit-men lose control of their bladders at the very mention of the name and that Mob Warfare has nothing on an Abashiri family quarrel! The most shocking thing, however, is not the Abashiris' nearly superhuman capabilities, nor their reputation for wanton, senseless violence, but the fact that they've built such international notoriety with a gang of only five members! Of course, as Papa Abashiri would say,"Five may not be many, but it takes only five fingers to form a fist, a powerful force that can crush all opposition! Of course," Papa also admits "Some fingers are more important than others, especially if you're pulling a trigger or flipping someone the bird."

(4 acts)

Not a Go Nagai fan. >>> by skysenshi

Although I like Go Nagai's work on Cutey Honey in all its versions and I believe he did great with Devilman, I'm not much of a Go Nagai fan. This is because his sense of humor usually leaves a lot to be desired. This much is evident with the Abashiri Family. It's not enough that almost every member of this proud family is wild and ugly as sin (another Go Nagai trademark), they also have to be quite an incestuous bunch. The plot really just has to be the most retarded piece of nonsense I have ever seen, emphasized with a lot of violence, nudity, and gore as if these elements would be of any help. On the first act alone, I began to think that Abashiri Family is one heck of a lullabye with the most powerful sleeping spell.

There is something quite interesting in the female Abashiri Kikunosuke, though, which was why I was able to finish all 4 acts. I've always admired female characters who have lead for fists. The interest dries up quickly, however, because strong as Kikunosuke is, she is still awashed with Freudian concepts that put the male species exaggeratedly above all other specimen. My advice: Watch only if you're a die-hard Go Nagai fan, otherwise, shoot the person who recommends this.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 5; Story 7; Characters 5; Sounds 5

Cooking Master Boy (Chuuka Ichiban)

Genre: Fantasy / Adventure
Parental Guidance Recommended
Nobuyoshi Ogawa (director). Nippon Animation, Fuji TV.

Not available at this time.
Skysenshi's Description:
19th Century China - A boy named Mao sets out to help the Ju Xia Lou restaurant after the death of his mother Pai. One day, a cook-off challenge has been issued and Mao finds himself face-to-face with Shao An, Pai's understudy, for the position of head cook. For the first time in his life, Mao is faced with a daunting task that requires that presence of his mother. Without her, how could he hope to manage? Thus begins Mao's arduous task developing his own skill and eventually coming out of his mother's shadow.

(52 episodes)

Not to be viewed before dinner. >>> by skysenshi

It has been a year since I have seen Cooking Master Boy on the AXN Asia network, yet the flavor of this genre-bender has never left my taste buds. Let me begin this write-up with a warning: This is not an anime that should be watched with an empty stomach, because there is nothing more torturous to a hungry person than to see sumptuous Chinese delicacies being prepared right on television. Honestly speaking, I would always eat dinner early because I feared I would develop ulcer due to the fact that all my senses would go into hyper mode every time Cooking Master Boy was on.

Don't think that's it's all about food alone, though. Cooking Master Boy has everything that every other anime genre has: action, adventure, humor, tragedy, magic, and even romance. They don't lack ecchi characters either. You think there's no battle between good and evil in a show that's meant to tickle your palate? Well, this particular title defined storytelling and brought it to new heights by throwing in various possibilities that food can offer. See, every dish has a tale. Every taste has a purpose. Some are meant to recover life, some meant to mend broken relationships, and others give value to otherwise meaningless entities.

The main character, Mao, lives to make other people happy with his cooking. Though he starts out as a rather dull, boyish character in the beginning, he grows into his own. He finds his passion and develops them-through food and the people he meets, of course. That he becomes quite a handsome shounen in the second half of the anime is just a plus. Perhaps just another add-on stimuli to a viewer's already swimming senses.

All in all, I'd give two thumbs up for Cooking Master Boy's entertainment value. The only gripe I have with it is just that, for a series with 52 episodes, this one was way too short and way too inconclusive.

[Just an end note: Cooking Master Boy 's Japanese title, Chuka Ichiban, translates to "Chinese Foods No. 1"]

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 8; Characters 9; Sounds 9

Fruits Basket (Furuba)

Genre: Shoujo / Comedy
General Audience
Natsuki Takaya (creator). TV Tokyo. Starchild/King Records

Furuba Artbooks and Manga
Furuba DVDs
Toys and Accessories
Music CDs
Posters Etc.
Everything Furuba
Firesenshi's Description:
Tohru lives in a tent and has a part-time job, which she takes after school, since her mother died. When the Soumas discovered her in this situation, they asked her to live with them in their house. Tohru agreed and lives there to take care of the Souma's chores.

All seemed to be well in the Souma household until one chaotic day, Tohru accidentally slipped and wrapped her arms around the Soumas, particularly Yuki, Kyou and Shigure. She then learned of the Souma's secret -- they turn into animals of the Juunishi (Chinese zodiac) when hugged by the opposite sex.

Will life ever be normal in the Souma household?

(26 episodes)

(As of May 5, 2002, DVD Vol. 9 -- 26th episode is released in Japan)

I wanna be Tohru! ^.^. >>> by firesenshi
If guys want to be Keitarou, living with a group of gorgeous girls in Love Hina, my cousins and I, who watched this, want to be Tohru Honda. Tohru Honda is actually the girl we usually hate -- she's too sweet, she keeps smiling all the time, naive and too goody-goody. But we can't seem to hate her! Even the anime addresses this and like them, we can't seem to understand how Tohru can smile all the time despite all the bad luck.

Oh, well... she's very lucky. Living in the Souma house with 3 bishounen, with occasional visits from other members of the same good-looking family, we'd all want her life! He he!

I first came upon Fruits Basket thinking that it'd be like Ranma 1/2 where people turned into animals and came upon the usual mishap comedies along the way. Fruits Basket, in the meantime, bears a distinctive kind of charm. For one, it's obviously shoujo where its story focuses on relationships. It's very shoujo in that it has the cliche elements of having too many bishounen in one house and the main character herself in some sort of pseudo-love triangle-which-we-don't-know-if-it's-true-yet type of storyline. Ahh... but before you blow this off as 'typical, typical, typical'... look again.

The comedy is totally tongue-in-cheeky and the creator seems to address every single thing we wonder about the characters. Very little slapstick humor. It's all in the dialogue with the scenes rendered for good comic timing. And speaking of the characters, you'll be sure to be engrossed in the variety of this one. The Juunishi of course, has 12 characters, which means that the cursed people in the Souma family are also 12 and you will all get to meet them 10 of them here. Each one has their own personality and background that you will won't stop watching this without having a favorite. If you laughed so hard at Ayame Souma's story, you will cry for what happened to Hatori Souma. There are times, though, that the serious scenes focused too much on relationships that the dialogues became too sappy, I want to sleep through those. As if I can sleep though... 5 minutes later, another character will blurt out something hilarious out of the blue and there goes boredom!

Oh... did I tell you that the Soumas are naked when they transform back to human form? He he. But it does make sense, right? That's all part of the fun! At least the scenes are not made to be purely ecchi unlike in Love Hina. (But of course, that would be an unfair comparison since Love Hina is not shoujo anime.)

After the ending, you will want more of Furuba! That's because the anime is only until volume 6 of the Fruits Basket manga. A lot of Furuba fans have been asking for a second season, an OAV or at least a movie but there still aren't news of that as of now.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 8; Characters 9; Sounds 6

One Piece

Genre: Adventure
General Audience
1999 Konosuke Uda (creator). Eiichiro Oda (creator) Toei/Fuji TV

One Piece DVDs
One Piece Art Books & Manga
One Piece Video Games
One Piece Toys, Accessories
One Piece Posters Etc.
Everything One Piece

Nib's Description:
It's the dawn of the Pirate Age. One boy, Monkey D. Roofy, embarks on a quest to fulfill his dream of becoming the King of Pirates. In his journey he meets up with friends as enthusiastic as he is, but with different goals all their own. As they partake in each other's adventures, they are drawn together as a team, sailing onwards to the GRAND LINE, the place where their dreams can finally come true.

(110 episodes as of Nib's review, 458 now and still ongoing.)

Unexpectedly addicting... >>> by Nib
There are basically two immediate & major reasons why you won't like ONE PIECE: 1.) The rather mediocre artwork and poorly rendered designs, characters and backgrounds & 2.) With 110 episodes to date and still ongoing in Japan, let's face it: somewhere along the line a series that gets to be this long inevitably becomes dragging and somewhat repetitive at times (like DBZ, Sailormoon and Fushigi Yugi).

Get past these two and you'll find that ONE PIECE can get you severely hooked if you let it grow on you. It's best feature perhaps are the characters. Early on in the series every inch of their background and personality is introduced, oftentimes making use of childhood flashbacks that meticulously follows through to their present age--tales that are more often than not awe-inspiring tearjerkers (don't worry it's not like Fushigi Yugi). It's these well-written backgrounds that make for incredible and refreshing chemistry between Roofy, Zorro/Suron, Nami, Ussop and Sanji.

ONE PIECE, like any other long-winded series, is told in various story arcs. Early on they're fairly simple: like Roofy trying to take friends along in his journey. However as Roofy's pirate team grows, the arcs get longer and more complex (hence it can get dragging even though it does manage to pull off surprises every now and then). One arc wherein Roofy's team gets involved in rescuing Nami's hometown from pirates consists of more than 12 episodes.

So if you want to be hooked on an action-comedy-fantasy-romance-martial arts anime with a solid, well-balanced adventure plot (filled with moral values on love and friendship as well) and if you don't mind crappy art and emotional stories, this'll fix ya for a looooong time.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 4; Story 8; Characters 7; Sounds 8

Monday, July 15, 2002

Angelic Layer

Genre: Cyberpunk
General Audience
2001 CLAMP. TV Tokyo.

Angelic Layer DVDs
Angelic Layer Manga
Angelic Layer Soundtrack
Everything Angelic Layer

Thundersenshi's Description:
Suzuhara Misaki had just arrived in Tokyo when she first caught sight of a beautiful, snow-white "angel" on a big screen. This brief interlude prompted her to buy an angel of her own from the toy store and start working on its classifications. She named this doll "Hikaru".

What started as a fascination for the fighting doll soon grew to a more worthwhile hobby. Misaki finds that she has a talent for winning in the games she had only recently started playing. And the possibility of her going a long way in the tournaments doesn't seem so bleak after all. Because if there's one thing Misaki learned in between battles, it's that neither age nor height matters out there in the layer . What's more, a lot of opportunites open up to her as soon as she started playing "Angelic Layer". One can only guess what her victories will bring her next...

(26 episodes)

Sugoi! >>> by thundersenshi

I honestly did not expect to like this anime so much. When I first saw it, it actually reminded me of Card Captor Sakura (it was only after many episodes later that I noticed the name "CLAMP" in the opening credits... sou desu ne). But what can I say...after seeing the first few episodes, I was undoubtedly hooked! I had expected to do 5 episodes per sitting, but it turned out I didn't notice that I kept on going...I had to stop when I realized I had to sleep.

Angels are fighting dolls who are as unique as its owners, called Deuses--the ones who control them using images of the mind. This is because Deuses design their angels as soon as they are out of the package, giving them their suit, gear, special attributes and distributing parameters to strength, speed, agility, defense and the like. Angels are pitted against each other in Angelic Layers, where they are left to the Deus' style, imagination and quick-thinking to win fighting challenges. What a cool concept! I mean, man...I wish I thought of it myself! The story and plot may seem simple enough, but I liked the whole concept of Angelic Layer that I gave it a perfect 10.

I got so involved in watching this that I was practically screaming (mentally, though, because my sister was watching another anime at the same time so I had to keep quiet) in my excitement. I was silently chanting to myself--"Kick! Punch! Sweep her, you foooool! No, no, don't do a flying kick! You are so done for!" for the duration of the whole series. In between opening and ending credits I was moaning to myself--"Why can't I have my own angel?"

I think part of why I love this so much is because I'm a video game otaku as much as I am of anime. I can already imagine myself tinkering with a fighting doll's attributes and developing special's almost like playing around with battle systems and character settings in RPGs. I could not help but wonder that if Angels en masse were possible with today's technology, just how much I'd be spending on that. I'd be addicted...and broke.

Lastly, one other reason why I enjoyed this is...well, it's been a long time since a geniune feel-good anime has crossed my midst. Angelic Layer is simply light and endearing...literally, there's nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy. I must confess, though, that seeing it in its entirety makes me want to do crazy things (urges I haven't felt for a very long time despite me being an animanga fan) look for plastic angel toys that couldn't possibly match the ones I saw on screen, search if there are movies or OAVs...and make a webpage. Ja ne!

Note: It is interesting that Angelic Layer's Hikaru and Magic Knight Rayearth's Hikaru look alike...and they have the same name, too. CLAMP was the maker for both anime titles.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 10; Characters 7; Sounds 9

Sunday, July 14, 2002


Genre: Dark (Horror) / Occult
Parental guidance recommended for violence, gore, and mature situations
2001 Kouta Hirano. SHONEN GAHOSHA Co., LTD / Hellsing K.G. Pioneer LDC. Gonzo

Hellsing DVDs
Hellsing Books & Manga
Everything Hellsing

Cover Description:
A secret war is brewing in the night - a war in which humanity is only a pawn. The mysterious Hellsing Organization deploys within the shadows to protect ordinary mortals from the undead legions that would prey upon us.

Now, as the ghouls and vampires increase in number, they threaten the human police forces forcing the deployment of the Hellsing Organization's ultimate weapon - the rogue vampire, Alucard!

After saving Celas Victoria, a special police operative from death by transforming her into a vampire, Alucard must work with her to fight the undead army - as well as her own newfound hungers!

(13 episodes)

Powerful and gripping. >>> by thundersenshi (07.14.2002)
In Hellsing, we delve back to a macabre world of ghouls and vampires...and what a really gruesome place it is! This anime does not hold back on the blood and gore. At one point, I wanted to reach into the screen and pull out the knife lodged inside one character's throat, because it was just too weird with her still talking like it wasn't there.

As a fan of dark anime, I liked this film. It truly is a powerful and gripping watch. I was enthralled with how two vampires, in a knighthood academy sworn to kill demons and creatures of their own kind, eliminate the ghastly evil who are usually other vampires like themselves. I literally found myself at the edge of my seat in between battles and as conflicts within the academy unfold. The main characters almost always find themselves in the most interesting situations...which is just about as abundant as the ghoulish deaths that happen, too. Just a nitpick, though. Reflections of some characters' psyche were good, but there were several loose ends, too. In fact, the anime itself is open-ended. Ah well, to each her own, I guess. In a different sense, the elements I mentioned aren't so bad as mysterious charms.

All in all, excellently put. The music (this I liked especially...I'm on to finding out who the bands are) and somber coloring sets the mood. The artwork is exceptionally nice, but is not always consistent (I kept noticing Celas Victoria's fat legs and wild blonde hair in some episodes...).

Individual Rating: Art: 8, Story&Plot: 9, Characters: 7; Sounds: 9

Powerful and gripping. >>> by Nib (07.27.2002)

If all you're looking for at the moment is a quick fix of fast-paced action mixed with the trademark macabre violence of vampire-themed animes, then Hellsing's just what you need.

In fact that's probably the only thing that'll keep you interested in Hellsing.

There was so much more room for character development. At first I thought Integral (chief of the Hellsing Agency) would at least bring more substance and bearing to the whole series (much like how Gendo Ikari and Rei bring light to the more complex side of EVA), but as it turns out there was too much focus on her emotions that she gets to be irritating. Celes Victoria is just too green and uninteresting as a novice vampire, and Alucard (yeah I know his name rings a bell)...well aside from providing much of the impressive fighting scenes in the anime, there's really not much character in him anyways, save for a slightly amusing but weird sense of humor.

The sounds weren't bad at fact they compliment Hellsing's scenes and themes quite well -- and they sound pretty original too -- well except the ending theme from Mr.Big.

All in all this is yet another title which was pretty promising at first considering its theme and basic premises. I used to think that vampire stories are certified hits; however, after seeing Hellsing I realized it's probably just the trademark gore that keeps fans faithful to the genre, and this is Hellsing's only appeal. Somehow the creators might've focused more on making it a visual treat rather than making an impressive and gripping storyline.

I just wonder if the manga's any different...

Individual Rating: Art: 8, Story&Plot: 6, Characters: 6; Sounds: 8

Dark, morbid, bloody, fun, and near perfectly executed. >>> by Kyubi Kitsune (02.27.2003)
Despite a couple shortcomings Hellsing is one of the most enjoyable action anime to come out since Cowboy Bebop through the use of creative animation, intense action scenes, slick gunplay, memorable characters, and an awesome soundtrack,

Hellsing is about a pair of vampires, the very powerful Alucard and newbie vampire Seras, who are employed by the Hellsing Organization, a Protestant paramilitary vampire hunting organization sanctioned by the British government. The recent times rash of incidents involving artificial vampires known as "freaks" has been keeping Hellsing busy. It is up to Alucard and Seras find and stop, in varying degrees, the entity causing the problem.

Hellsing has multiple ongoing storylines, and much to Gonzo's credit they are not as ill-executed as Real Bout High School's were, but the problem of resolution still exists. The shows central storyline is well executed up to the end, but one glaring problem exists, it does not get resolved and seemingly leaves room for a sequel that will probably not get made. A subplot involving a turf war with the Catholic run Iscariot Division 13 is unfortunately underutilized, but is enjoyable when it is used. The subplot that really succeeds is the character study of Seras dealing with her recent transformation into a vampire (like her dislike for drinking blood or the inner struggle between her human and vampire inclinations) as it takes a welcome divergence from the seemingly standard angst ridden whining about immortality found in such vampire anime as Nightwalker.

Another strong point about Hellsing is its creative use of vampire mythology to create a somewhat original and interesting interpretation of vampirism.

Characters are a strong force behind making Hellsing into an enjoyable show. Simply put most of its characters are badasses, and well written ones too. There is Alucard, a noble yet brutal vampire whose resiliency to bullets would put Daffy Duck to shame. He also has a habit of nonchalantly and mercilessly taunting his opponents, mostly due to him looking for a worthy rival, before dispatching them with either the two gigantic handguns he carries, or his almost omnipotent vampire abilities. His boss is Integra Hellsing, is a cool headed yet fiery tempered cigar smoking lady who's unafraid about confronting him or anyone else. Integra's butler is Walter, an old former operative who still wields monofilaments, which can cut through just about anything, with lethal precision. How many other butlers in anime can do that? There is also Alexander Anderson, the over the top Catholic priest and Iscariot agent fixated on killing Alucard. He just has to be seen to be appreciated.

Animation is mixed bag, but an interesting one at that. In general the animation is top notch for a television show, but inconsistencies are abound in it that range from stiff character movements to previously mentioned inconsistencies in character animation. However the animators are generally successful in utilizing animation shortcuts into a visually appealing animation style.

Music is well used in Hellsing. Ranging from Brit rock to Spanish guitar work, the music is well done and placed into the show capturing the ambience of the scenes. Unfortunately some songs get reused quite often.

Voice acting is well done on both sides, but in this case the dub eventually proves itself to be better. Generally the term "localization" makes most fans cringe as it most often implies bad jokes and dialogue inserted into a title to make it appeal to a mass audience. This is not the case in Hellsing. Since the show takes place in Britain most of the characters get rather well done English accents, not to mention Pioneer also hired some British actors to fill things in. Also the dialogue in the dub gets changed around a little to give things more of a British feel. The Irish/Scottish accent that Alexander Anderson gets in the dub is so perfect for his character, and as well, regardless of his past performances, Crispin Freeman by the midway point of the series is almost perfect as Alucard.

Dark, morbid, bloody, fun, and near perfectly executed, Hellsing, despite some shortcomings, is an excellent horror/action series well worth viewing.

Individual Rating: Art: 8, Story&Plot: 8: Characters: 9; Sounds: 10

Saturday, July 6, 2002

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (Kidou Senshi Gundam: Dai-Zero-Hachi Mobirusuutsu Shotai)

Genre: Mecha
Parental Guidance Recommended
Credits: © 1995 Sotsu Agency. Sunrise. Directors: Takeyuki Kanda and Umanosuke Ilda.
English Adaptation © 2001 Bandai Entertainment, Inc. Screenshots by GPlus.

Gundam DVDs
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Gundam Toys
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Kyubi Kitsune's Description:
Nine months into the One Year War between Federation and Zeon forces Ensign Shiro Amada is on his way to Earth for the first time to assume command of a ground unit of Gundams in Southeast Asia. Yet before he can get to Earth he has a chance encounter with female Zeon pilot named Aina, from which a relationship develops between the two. But Shiro has more pressing matters at hand as he inherits a dysfunctional unit. Among the problems, his aggressive second in command and fellow pilot is rumored to have caused her last CO's nervous breakdown, and the other pilot on the team has the reputation of being a third time jinx on his comrades. Outside of his team are even more problems. Asides from Zeon forces, Aina's brother is also in the area creating a monolithic Mobile Armor for Zeon, Shiro's superiors do not trust him, and there is a significant guerilla presence in the area unfriendly to both sides. Can Shiro lead his team through the war, and make it out alive?

(12 episodes + 1 "Miller's Report" special)

Probably one of the best Gundam series >>> by Kyubi Kitsune (07.06.2002)
The 08th MS Team stands out from the rest of its predecessors in the UC Gundam timeline in that it takes a departure from the standard conventions of the series. In this OAV the action mostly takes place in the jungle, there are no epic showdowns between Amuro and Char type characters, and the fights are generally quick, intense, and very up close and personal. In a way it is similar to Mobile Suit Gundam 0080 in that the focus is on the common soldier. Because of these departures, an appealing freshness is brought to the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise.

While it would have benefited from twice as many episodes, 08th MS Team is able to present and wrap up an engaging storyline within eleven episodes, and have an epilogue, if somewhat of a misguided one, in the twelfth. Characters are no different. While a lot of them could stand some more development, all the major characters are well presented in a way that everyone has a certain appealing depth to their personalities.

The animation at times is simply gorgeous, like in the beginning of the fourth episode, and is excellent overall for an OAV made during the time. The very nice character designs are done by no other than Toshihiro Kawamoto (Cowboy Bebop). The mechanical designs are a very good update of the ones presented in Mobile Suit Gundam.

The show makes good use of its background music to capture the ambience of the scenes, and the opening and ending themes are nice but none of them really stand out.

While the English dub is satisfactory and is really not all that bad, the original Japanese is just better.

Even if one is not a big Gundam fan, The 08th MS Team is nevertheless a very nice mecha anime that spends as much time on the characters and story as it does the mecha and action.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 8; Characters 8; Sounds 9

The anime equivalent of 'Platoon' >>> by Shunichi Sakurai (02.28.2006)
Like Gundam 0083, this is a marathon-friendly OAV series documenting the events between the One Year War and the Gryps Conflict. Instead of taking the fight to space with Newtypes and enhanced humans, 08th MST turns its attention to the soldiers on the frontline -- the unsung heroes of war. In many ways, this title even outdoes 0083 as viewers are shown just how gritty the fighting is in the jungles, deserts and mountains.

Main protagonist Shiro Amada has to be one of the most emphatic mecha heroes ever. While sharing Kira Yamato's pacifist slant from Gundam SEED and SEED DESTINY, Shiro is a more rounded and human character and far better for it, having no special talents except for sheer luck and a developing commander's eye. Despite his position, Shiro gets himself into some pretty awkward and silly situations!

His ragtag 8th Team subordinates are all equally memorable, and they are fleshed out in a progressive manner as the plot goes along. Michel's fear of war, Sanders' death jinx, Karen's gung-ho attitude and Eledore's cockiness make for a diverse cocktail of personalities. Even more so than Mobile Suit Gundam, 08th MST emphasizes the very real danger of death on the battlefield, and this theme is reinforced by Shiro's promise of keeping everyone on his team alive and the importance of trust.

Hajime Katoki lends his hand to the mecha designs once again, remaking the famous Gundam and GMs into their more realistic and utilitarian Ground Type cousins. There are even MS that are repaired and modified on the field, such as Shiro's Gundam Ez8 made from his battle-damaged Gundam, lending it even more of a realistic "Platoon"-like feel. The character designs are a little less realistic and gritty than 0083's but they do the job and suit Eledore and Michel's comedic moments well. The fight sequences are excellent and reflective of real skirmishes: short, decisive and brutal, with very little in the way of beam weapons and a lot of machine-gun and cannon fire.

My only real gripe is with the final episode and the "Miller's Report" special. They seem out of place with the events of the other episodes and the series would stand better without them. Suffice it to say, this Gundam OAV series, good enough to stand on its own, belongs to the hardcore fan's war film collection.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 10; Characters 10; Sounds 8

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