Monday, January 27, 2003

Najica Blitz Tactics (Najica Dengeki Sakusen)

Genre: Action / Sci-Fi
Parental Guidance Recommended
2001 Studio Fantasia, Unbar Film Works, Media Factory, G.D.H.

Najica DVDs
Najica Art Books & Manga
Najica Music
Najica Toys, Accessories
Everything Najica

Skysenshi's Description:
A perfume chemist by day, a secret agent by night, Najica prides herself in her beauty and finesse. With the single red rose that becomes her trademark, she tackles every case bestowed upon her with stunning grace and sophistication unusual of a good marksman and skilled martial artist.

When news of a new partner greeted her prior to her next mission, Najica is aghast. Sure, Lira, her new sidekick, is a Humalitte armed with superhuman abilities, but Najica always did everything on her own. When it becomes clear that her future missions will involve retrieval of other Humalittes, Najica soon begins to rely on Lira. Humalittes are very complicated creatures to understand, however, and Najica must learn to accept Lira's nature if she must rely on the latter to survive.
(12 episodes)

Panties here, panties there, panties in your hair. >>> by skysenshi
The first thing that struck me about Najica wasn't the action sequences. Sure, there are lots and lots and lots of action goodness in this anime. What struck me, though, was the ludicrous number of panty shots that can be found here. It would have been ok, if it weren't painfully obvious that the creators were really aiming for the white panties, but you can see that the girls of Najica would end up in various indecent positions while having their panty shots taken. No, this is not hentai.

I really shouldn't have any complaints because I find Najica a very sexy woman. Yes, I am a girl, and it's quite rare that I find a female character that turns me on as much as Najica did. In fact, the last time I was "lusting" after a female anime figure was in the late 90s and the subject was SailorUranus. But gawd, they really should've just made this a hentai anime instead. It's almost not funny being teased like this. Thank gawd for Lira's kawaii moments. She breaks the ice with her baby-like innocence and crazy antics, especially when it comes to discovering new things.

On with the rest of the anime. As my synopsis painted, Najica is about a beautiful secret agent of the same name. The episodes that chronicle her stunts are very mission-oriented as opposed to the usual anime that derive heavy support from equally heavier plots. In other anime, it could've been called "monster-of-the-day" type, but this one is "mission-of-the-day" themed, with every task concentrating on the retrieval of the beings known as Humalittes. Each of the episodes can stand alone. Of course, you will notice that as the missions progress, the Humalitte's abilities advance as well. Najica starts off facing a Humalitte that has next-to-zero personality and then in the last few encounters, she begins to see that Humalittes grow and develop like human beings with their own free will. Perhaps Najica's goal, which only becomes apparent in the middle of the series, is to make Lira come to terms with her own personality and her own decision-making skills. These make the perfect foreshadowing for the final episode, where the turning point of Najica and Lira's relationship arrives.

Najica is like a mix of Cowboy Bebop, Noir, and a little of Cutey Honey. I guess it's partially because of the music, which tries to be different, because it infuses a lot of Ska and Big Band Swing tunes. Not as great as the works of Yohko Kanno, of course, but basically pleasant. Another is the similarity of the opening sequence to that of Cowboy Bebop's and Noir's-featuring guns, silhouettes and playful colors. Of course the ecchi element is reminiscent of Shin Cutey Honey. So there you have it. It's observable that there are two markets being targeted by this particular title: (1) the ecchi fanboys who never tire of immaculately white panties, and (2) the fangirls who are thoroughly obsessed with powerful women. Either way, one can see that it's totally fan service.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 6; Characters 8; Sounds 8

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Steel Angel Kurumi

Genre: Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
1999 Naohito Takahashi, AIC, WOWOW

Steel Angel Kurumi DVDs
Steel Angel Kurumi Manga
Steel Angel Kurumi Music

Cover Description:
Steel Angel Kurumi, known in Japan as Koutetsu Tenshi Kurumi, is a 24 episode Japanese anime series that was based upon the popular manga by Kaishaku. Each episode of this charming series runs 15 minutes in length and was initially broadcasted on Japanese channel WOWOW; and produced by OLM (Gunsmith Cats, Pokemon). Steel Angel Kurumi's Japanese broadcast started on October 5th, 1999 and ended on April 4th, 2000.

The story of Steel Angel Kurumi is set during the period of Japan's Taisho Era (1912-1926 AD), the Japanese government has produced special androids of immeasurable power and potential. Any one of these unique androids possessed the prospective ability to obliterate an entire army, and they remained unconditionally loyal to whoever first activated them. Depending on who awakened androids first, the world could be either reduce to rubble or lead in to a new era of peace and prosperity that was void of conflict and strife. These special androids were known as the Steel Angels.

24 eps 1st TV season
4 omake episodes

Pure eye candy... >>> by Xellos-sama
The best reason to watch this anime is for the character designs. Seriously. Everyone is just so pleasing to the eye and fun to watch, that you don't really notice the so-so storyline and plot that this series has to offer. IF you like your anime overloading with ultra-kawaii bishoujo, (i know I do!!!) then this series comes highly recommended.

The series is basically about some kid (that looks like he's ten or eleven) accidentally waking up Kurumi, a "steel angel" (some sort of superweapon in robot maid form....yeah, i wouldn't have it any other way either). Anyway, as the typical script goes, Kurumi falls for her master as soon as she sees him. Nakahito (the master/kid's name), being a kid, tries to resist her advances. More steel angels appear, some joining the duo, and something happens regarding the destruction of the world.'s not that there isn't any's just that I was so caught up in just WATCHING the show, that i kind of missed out on it.... This is the kind of show that makes you actually WANT more filler episodes. (Thank god for bonus episodes 25-28!!!)

The animation in the series really stands out. The characters are all very unique, distinguishable, very watchable and ultimately overflowing with cuteness. The series itself is quite colorful, and even the untrained eye can tell that this series' art and animation are well above average.

Soundwise, the series delivers as well. The ultra-cute ultra-pop-py opening track is a true guilty pleasure, and the other songs are hard not to like as well. As for the seiyuu, they all do a great job, brininging the characters to a whole different level of cuteness. I'm sure there are some other famous ones here, but I was excited to recognize Michiko Neya's voice. (Though she only plays a supporting role...)

The only thing really bad about this series is the tired plot. I mean come on. Some sort of dark power going out of control and threatening man's destruction...? Been there. Done that. More than once. There's nothing WRONG with the plot per se. I'm just tired of plots like this one.

Overall, this is a very good series with truly memorable characters. The pacing is fast enough (episodes are only 12 minutes long), and the art is great enough for you to forgive them a little thing such as a stock storyline.

Watch it for the cuteness.

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

Real Bout High School (Samurai Girl)

Genre: Action
Parental Guidance Recommended
English Version © 2002 Mixx Entertainment, Inc. (Distributed by TOKYOPOP)

Real Bout High School DVDs
Real Bout High School Art Books & Manga
Real Bout High School Music

Kyubi Kitsune's Description:
At Daimon High School disputes and power struggles are settled through organized fights known K-Fights. Ryoko Mitsurugi, a girl who aspires to be a modern day samurai, is the current champion. If not tied up through constant challenges for her position, she is also occupied in dealing with her own stalker, competing for the love of the Kendo Club president, learning under a master swordsman, and saving the alternative dimension of Solvania from demon invaders.

(13 episodes)

Not one of Studio Gonzo's highlights. >>> by Kyubi Kitsune

Real Bout High School faces a major identity crisis as it fumbles through many story ideas. At times it is a fantasy adventure, other times it is martial arts oriented, sometimes a parody of various genres, and some high school drama is thrown into mix for good measure. Oh yeah, it also has gratuitous panty shots to distract the viewer from its lack of coherency.

Story wise, nothing ever really gets resolved in RBHS except for the Solvania sub plot, and even this is not done very well because it never gets fully developed. It just seems like the show takes a shotgun approach to the story by throwing a whole lot out at the viewer hoping that something will be appealing, if not just to overwhelm the viewer. This is a shame because some elements, especially the high school elements of show like the rivalry between Ryoko and Azumi (the Naginata wielding president of the Flower Arrangement Club), Ryoko's rivalry with Shizuma (another top contender for her champion status who has some devastating energy attacks), and the K-Fights themselves would make for a good anime in itself. Actually if the series tried to be truer to the manga it was based on, it probably would have turned out very well. In all fairness there are some very good episodes in RBHS like the seventh episode which involves a K-Fight between Ryoko and Azumi which plays out to be an over-the-top skewering of the Iron Chef style of cooking shows.

RBHS is filled with an interesting cast of eccentric characters like Ryoko, Azumi, and Shizuma, but the schizophrenic storyline never quite allows them to shine as bright as they could.

Animation is rather nice as one would expect from Studio Gonzo, but there are places where the quality noticeably drops, and still shots are sometimes used. Character designs are done by Gonzo regular Keiji Gotoh (Nadesico), and mileage will vary depending on how you like his style. In this case they work rather well. However some may take issue with Ryoko's design where she has thicker legs than most anime heroines, but due to her athletic nature the design works rather well.

What show does really well is its fights, as they are well animated and choreographed. This is where someone may find interest in this series. For example, the fight in the first episode between Ryoko and Azumi is well worth a viewing.

Music in this series is almost strictly a love-hate aspect of RBHS. The opening is mildly catchy, yet is nonsensical and strictly generic J-Pop. Ending fairs to be an even worse generic J-Pop tune which most people will opt to skip over to get to the next-episode preview. Background music almost resembles the plot in a sense with its variety. While there is some nice techno music playing during the fights, there is also some horrid '80s synthesizer material along with some other forgettable tunes.

The dub is good considering that the show itself was not well written initially. One of the better American dubbing studios, Bang Zoom!, handled the dub on RBHS, and while you know the voice actors (three of which played the major characters in the often praised Cowboy Bebop dub) are actually talented in their craft, the source material really does not allow for them to standout and do their job.

Real Bout High School is a tough one to recommend. It does have some good elements to it like characters, humor, and the fights. However it tries to be more than what its thirteen episodes allow for it to be, and the flashback episode (episode 11) did not help the pacing out either. Before buying this series, definitely either borrow or rent the first couple volumes to see if you can tolerate it. This is definitely a good example of a series where you are either going to like it or hate it.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 5; Characters 8; Sounds 5

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Fushigi Yuugi OAV 2: Eikoden

Genre: Shoujo / Adventure / Fantasy
General Audience
2002 Watase Yuu, Megumi Nishizaki / Shogakukan, Pierrot, FCC, PEAJ

Fushigi Yuugi DVDs
Fushigi Art Books & Manga
Fushigi Original Soundtrack
Fushigi Video Games
Fushigi Apparel
Everything Fushigi

Cover Description:
Miaka and Taka are now happily married and expecting their first child. Unfortunately, Mayo, a jealous young girl infatuated with Taka finds the Universe of the Four Gods and uses the power of Suzaku to steal their unborn baby! Now Taka must return to Konan to save his new family and save Konan from an unknown menace that threatens to destroy the book and all that live within.

DVD Extras: All 4 bilingual episodes on one DVD with removable English subtitles; 4 non-credit versions of Ending credits; Art gallery; A 28 page full color booklet. The limited edition version is packaged with a set of ten mini-pencil boards.

(4 episodes)

Please end it here. >>> by skysenshi
Yes, I know. This series has been milked for all its worth that I've grown sick of it. I can't even remember what transpired in the first Fushigi Yuugi OAV. They really have to end it here because it's getting old.

I'm sure many Fushigi Yuugi fans can recall what happened in the TV series. Friends Miaka and Yui get sucked into an old Chinese book; both became priestesses of Suzaku and Seiryuu respectively; and the rest of the episodes were spent looking for each of their guardian seishi. The goal: to save the world inside the book. Well, there you are. The basic formula for this new OAV. Need I say more?

Okay, I will say more. What they've added is in fact a new pseudo-heroine with an absolutely annoying clinginess (to Tamahome) brought about by her excess baggage. In short, there's a girl out there who wants Tamahome — oh, excuse me, his present-day name is Taka — so much that she's brought a lot of angst unto herself. The magnitude of her bitterness endangers not only Tamahome and new wife Miaka, but also the world we've known and loved in the TV series. What I couldn't understand was, how can a girl become so heartless just because her parents often fight or just because the love of her life got married? At least she doesn't live in a 3rd world country scurrying about in the streets in search of food or a place to stay. Tamahome isn't even hers to begin with! Really, one can only take so much teenage angst. I feel like the creators of Fushigi Yuugi just unloaded 4 seasons of Dawson's Creek into this installation. My gawd, please just stop! Stop!

I must comment about the English dub, too. I've seen both the TV series and the first OAV in its original Japanese format, aired by AXN-Asia a few years ago. Now, with the advent of the DVD, one can't help but be curious and check out how the English dub fares. Ick. Everyone's sentences ended with "my friend". If that's not bad enough, well then how about noticing how Chichiri ends all his statements with "you know"? To make things even worse, they all sound so painfully effeminate and whiny, save for Tamahome and Hotohori. Why, Nuriko, I never thought your influence could be that strong!

There are some good things that can be said about Eikoden, nevertheless. It's fun to watch our favorite seishi get reincarnated as children. Kawaii! Chiriko and Mitsukake of the TV series might as well not exist because their personalities weren't really defined in the first Fushigi Yuugi. Here, you'd see a lot of cute angles that only their child-like selves can project. There's also a little surprise for Nuriko fans out there, so I'm thinking they'd find this very interesting. I know I did. It's actually the reason why I bought this title despite having grown tired of FY's penchant for endlessly reincarnating itself.

One other bit I loved in Eikoden is that Houki, Hotohori's wife, ceases being the one-dimensional pretty face that she was in the first FY. You get to hear her side of the story, a welcome angle that is both touching and inspirational. It shows her strength both as a mother and a dowager queen.

The artwork and animation have improved, which is saying a lot because FY had great graphics to begin with. This time, however, they've incorporated 3D CG effects so don't be surprised if you see that Suzaku and Seiryuu now have more solid looking bodies.

Well, it's nice. Still, I keep my stand. Leave the extensions to fanfic writers and the overly dramatized shallow teenage problems to Dawson's Creek.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 10; Story 7; Characters 9; Sounds 8

Friday, January 17, 2003

Salad Days

Genre: Romance
Parental Guidance Recommended
Credits: Inokuma Shinobu (mangaka). Shonen Sunday.

Currently unavailable online.
Tsumenki's Description:
Salad Days, tagged as the 'brand new standard of love stories' is a combination of one-shots and short story arcs about young love in Tohka High School. Told from different points of view and featuring a variety of characters and storylines, the manga manages to touch on the many aspects of romance -- from hilarious situations to bittersweet endings to tender triumphs. Perhaps the 'main' characters of the series are Kawamura Futaba and Kamiyama Yuuki (first appearance: A New Life), whose unspoken affections for each other unfold in a recurring storyline spread throughout Salad Days' volumes.

(18 tankubons or manga volumes)

'Brand New Standard' uses tried and tested methods >>> by tsumenki
I'll be the first to admit that it's not perfect. Not even close. But there's just something about Salad Days that begs for a second look, and I'd say it would be worth your time.

While the art is satisfactory, I have a problem with the fact that most of the characters are indistinguishable from one another. When I first read Volume I, I didn't even realize that the characters had changed by the second chapter. The girls, as cute as they may be, share the same generic look -- and the guys are no different from each other either. No matter if they're the school's golden boy or the resident dropout -- they all sport similar features. Perhaps the only exception is Hanayama Yoshi (first appearance: Yoshi-kun's Love), whose thick lips, droopy eyes, and large frame make him stand out among the faces on the page.

Okay, so maybe the characters are not memorable per se. But you're sure to relate to their struggles with identity and insecurity. On the whole, they can come alive in the few pages that you encounter each one, by the sheer force of their familiarity to your own teenage drama. Inokuma Shinobu knows the right strings to pull.

And the generic look is forgiven once you get hooked with the stories. With each volume, you are treated to six to seven chapters of unadulterated teenage mush. While most of the situations are fairly normal tales of schoolyard romances, others have rather imaginative storylines. A particular favorite is about a guy who was once humiliated by his preschool crush, only to find that the girl has transferred to his high school and continues to embarrass him by turning him into her personal slave. It starts out with a comic vein, but continues with a rather heavy mood.

I must confess that after a while, the other storylines can get repetitive. After all, how many times can you honestly go through a boy-loves-girl-loves-his-best-friend scenario in one sitting? But because of the different treatments of such plots, you'll discover that there are some gems in this manga -- and that not every love story ends happily ever after.

Salad Days can be read in no particular order, except perhaps for the Yuuki-Futaba stories, but even those can stand as one-shots. Maybe in that sense, the manga is introducing a brand new standard -- something new for everyone. But at the core of it all, Salad Days employs a very traditional formula: boy meets girl. With its quiet appeal, the manga reaches out and reminds you of the magic of falling in love.

Individual Rating: Art 7; Story 8; Characters 8

Thursday, January 16, 2003


Genre: Action / Mecha
Parental Guidance Recommended
2001 Goro Taniguchi, Sunrise, TV Tokyo

Scryed DVDs
Scryed Art Books & Manga
Everything Scryed

Manga (Tokyopop) Description:
Kazuma, an Alter who uses his powers for mercenary work and the occasional heist, keeps himself out of the spotlight, providing for himself and his ward, Kanami, in the wastelands of the Lost Grounds, away from the fledgling cities that have begun to sprout from the ruins of the former Yokohama. But when he crosses paths with one of the most fervent officers of HOLY, Ryuhou-an Alter himself who has decided to help bring other Alters into HOLY under the auspices of order and justice-Kazuma becomes enraged with the organization's self-righteous attitude. He has no love for Alters that sadistically abuse their powers, but he also feels that HOLY has overstepped its authority.

As he witnesses greater abuses by this special police force, Kazuma becomes consumed with stopping HOLY. Alter User Kazuma Torizuna may be the only one able to defy HOLY in search of the truth.

(26 episodes)

The ending ruined it. >>> by skysenshi (01.16.2003)
After all the hype that had me buying this series, I expected an anime that would pull me out of my current high over the soap operatic Hana Yori Dango. Mecha would be a great genre that would relieve me off the spell.

True enough, Scryed looks very good. From the very first episode, the artwork, animation, and character designs will do no less than keep you in Scryed's grip. The work is definitely nothing short of superb. Much more intriguing is the concept of having characters with the innate ability of altering matter to fit their fighting styles-thus the name Alter Users.

The story is rather unique. Two men live in lines parallel to each other. One is a boy, Kazuma, who enjoys doing whatever it is he wants as long as he thrives in his freedom. On the other side of the wall is Ryuhou, a man who knows only luxury and fighting for the sake of his duty. While distinct from each other, due to their obvious difference in personalities, the two are innately alike. They have the same dark and blurry pasts and women who are willing to stand by them.

The characters are amazing! The supporting ones are all well developed and one can't help but feel sympathy for each of them. The figures that strike me most are Cougar, that flashy Alter User who prides himself in his speed (and his penchant for running off at the mouth), and Sherris, the young sidekick who harbors a childish infatuation with Ryuhou. We also have the two leading ladies: Mimori, a compassionate doctor who has always been fascinated with Alter Users, and Kanami, a little girl who's almost like a lover and a younger sister to Kazuma.

What actually makes the plot unique is that for the major part of the conflict, there really isn't any bad guy; just two men who clash because.well, they happen to be similar despite their adamant protests. You basically have a lot of contradictory ideals-nothing too grand or painfully overdone like world domination-complimented by breathtakingly dramatic battle scenes. For the most part, anyway.

Sadly, this exciting package dwindled to mediocrity at the end. An ambitious whatsisname enters the scene, using the opposing ideals to create a chain of tiresome whodunits with constantly confused supporting characters that cannot decide which side they're on. This bedlam results in a bittersweet battle that should've ended at episode 24. Unfortunately, the creators had other ideas and decided to stretch the series to fit the traditional 26-ep pattern. What you now have are two unnecessary extra episodes that contain an equally unnecessary battle sequence and absolutely zero resolution whatsoever. I'm not going to spoil it for you by telling you what has not been resolved. Let's just say I love action long as they don't drone on forever. As long as they have a purpose in the general scheme of things. As it is, I already have difficulty clamping down the yaoi thought that lingers in my mind as I watch Kazuma and Ryuhou relieve sexual tension through that pointless battle.

Really. They should've just left it at episode 24.

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

"Reckless Fire" indeed! >>> by MarkPoa (written ??.??.2004 posted 01.29.2005)
he premise of this series is not that hard to follow: two men fighting for their ideals on different sides of a conflict. On one side, Kazuma is your good-hearted brash anti-hero type; nonetheless, he fights to correct injustices perpetuated by those in power. On the other side, Ryuhou fights for justice, as a member of and, subsequently, against HOLY.

Scryed is your typical hot-blooded shonen adventure anime with cool psychic (called Alter) powers, nice mecha, and awesome fight sequences. The character designs are great and the animation is smooth. However, the designs of the Alters (the physical manifestations of the Alter Users' powers) are a mixed deal. While you get cool designs like Straight Cougar's car and Maxwell's Super Pinch (boy, did *that* made me laugh out loud), you also get Ryuhou's lousy final armor design and Kazuma's "lion-hey-did-I-see-that-from-Saint-Seiya" armor. Seriously, the main characters' final armor designs looked dumb in comparison to their lower-powered powers.

Strangely enough, while most of the character development focused on the two leads, the supporting characters were often more interesting than the main characters. I couldn't help but feel sad at Sherris' one-sided devotion to Ryuhou, chuckle at Cougar's antics, and wonder constantly on what's happening with Kanami. The fact that the motivations of these characters are clearly laid out helped to make me symphatize with them.

That doesn't mean Ryuhou and Kazuma are uninteresting characters, however. The series' plot twists and turns serve well to show their individual personalities. Ryuhou, in fact, started out as a gruff, revenge-driven serious fighter who acts like the good soldier for HOLY, no matter what others say. He grew out of his self-erected shell towards the middle of the series, as he was exposed to the people he used to think nothing of during his stint in HOLY, and started to fight for real justice. It was engaging to watch his transformation into someone you would love to loathe in the beginning to someone who could earn Kazuma's respect by the end of the series. If there is one thing that may be proved by his constant enmity towards Kazuma, it's that a person would usually hate someone who is too much like himself.

My favorite feature of the series, though, is definitely the opening song, "Reckless Fire", a very, very appropriate song for this hot-blooded anime.

Maybe Scryed caught me at a good time, but I had a lot of fun watching this series. While it might not rate a place among my all-time faves Dragonball Z and Yuu Yuu Hakusho, that is only because its length did not give it the status of an epic series.

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

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Final Fantasy X

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation 2
Credits: 2001-2002 Squaresoft. Screenshots and images courtesy of Amazon.Com.

Final Fantasy Games
Final Fantasy Guides and Books
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Everything Final Fantasy (Editorial) Product Description:
Final Fantasy X is the first title in this landmark RPG series to be released for the PlayStation2. The main characters are Tidus, a star of blitzball (a hugely popular sport in the Final Fantasy universe), and Yuna, who has learned the art of summoning and controlling aeons, powerful spirits of yore. These two people of different backgrounds must work together as they journey through the world of Spira. This installment of Final Fantasy has a distinctly Asian influence, bringing a fresh feel to the characters, music, settings, and story.

Features include voice-overs for the first time in the series (utilizing the Facial Motion System), high-polygon, motion-captured player characters designed by Tetsuya Nomura, and a camera that automatically adjusts its perspective to correspond with the movements of the characters--a feature now possible because the game is largely polygonal.

PREVIEW >>> by firesenshi (Mid 2001)

I know, I know! You can't wait for Final Fantasy X. So can't I! It already came out in Japan, July 2001 which is this year. But where is the English version? Well, if you are like me who didn't get an import in Japanese because of the PS2's exclusivity (and her Nihongo still being "dekiru kedo ... mada heta desu" -_-;;;), nothing beats but being totemo impatient. (Excuse the Japlish. -_^) They say it's going to be released early next year. The month I hear is February.

But that doesn't stop me from delivering to you a preview of this lovely lovely game anyway! The news is real. The same developers who did Final Fantasy VIII did develop the battle system. As with renowned surrealist artist Yoshitaka Amano doing character illustrations as per FF tradition, Tetsuya Nomura of FFVII and FFVIII is doing the character design. Is this bad news for those "old-school" gamers? Well, you can treat it that way. Or if you still prefer games doing the old-school way, there's no stopping you from digging your SNES. I certainly won't dig up mine or get an emulator in case I can't dig it up under other buried treasures.

I think though, that from the reviews and and outstanding game sales rivaling previous FF games like FFVII and FFVIII (sorry folks, FFIX did not sell as much), good response must mean good game. And good game came along with good reviews. I've certainly read some from those who have played it.

Expect an alternative battle system here. I'm not sure if there's still room for MP, but the things for certain is that the good ol' ATB meter is gone. They've replaced it with a system where you have a series of turns -- things which upon reading only in magazines, I can't picture yet. Character classes are back, unlike in FFVII and FFVIII where your characters have pretty random magic differentiated only by limit breaks. In Final Fantasy X, you have a swordsman, a summoner, a black magic user and a thief. There are two other characters I can't classify.

But here is the list of characters I've translated straight from Playonline's Japanese version. (I've translated it for all you who don't speak Japanese. But all of this information is all by Playonline and NOT by me or Disc13.)

Enjoy the information! And next time, once you play FF X, we'll want to know what you think about it! ^_^

(firesenshi's note: They keep mentioning osamu everywhere! Maybe that's what Yuna's summoner tribe is called. So don't be surprised if you see brass mosquito because that's how it is literally translated. ^_^)

Tidus chara translate
Protagonist. A very cheerful 17 year-old youth. As for character, he's vigorous being optimistic and unyielding. Immediately, he is the type who takes on any condition but as for the motor nerve considerable ones. Underwater grapple ball game ' Bu Ritzu ball ' (blitzball) ace player. (Blitzball is also one of the mini-games that is said to be incorporated in FF X)

Yuna chara translate
Her father and the "brass mosquito" (unsure, may be the name of her Summoner tribe) are the great summons loyal retainer along with the “ Shin. ” Deciding she is prepared and being pushed down, she goes on a journey. (Yuna is part of a tribe that are Summoners. So in this game, she is the only one who can summon. In the trailer, I hear her say that to defeat "Shin," she must find the ultimate summon. So begins the quest of Final Fantasy X)

Kimari chara translate
Youth of Ronzo family. He protected the "brass mosquito" and was an orphan over 10 years. Being taciturn, almost you should not question him, there is no strong will but to protect Yuna is concealed in heart.

Seymour chara translate
He was born between sub- race Guato family and a human. He is the old age teacher of those succeeded the Ebon.

Lulu chara translate
22 year old woman. She is the guard who protects Yuna like an older sister and watches over her kindly. She can have this excessive feeling. Harsh speech and behavior shows
her to be cool most of the time, but that is because she doesn't seem very optimistic.

Auron chara translate
35 year old man. Has calm composure and is a strict swordsman. At one time he fought together as a guard of Yuna's father, the large summons loyal retainer (summoner tribe).

Rikku chara translate
15 year old woman. Girl of Albedo family. Very bright, vigorous and lively. (Oh no, another Yuffie? -_-;;;) But a gentle character. Doubt is felt in being caught to the rule of the Ebon. Worries about Yuna and would like to protect her.

Wakka chara translate
23 year old men. 'Bu Ritzu' (blitzball) ball team player and coach of " B side. While loving Yuna like a younger sister, he's still a managing Blitzball player (huh? o_O) and guard accompanying her in traveling. He is very open, but also quite irresolute. He seems to be a childhood friend of Yuna or Tidus. (This one I'm not sure.)

An overview of the battle system:

Answering to Yuna's prayer, the legendary summons beast appears. In addition the latest summons magic so far, this concept is different from the rest of the series. The largest point of difference is that, when one summons, the summon permanently stationed in the battlefield, but here, the Summon Beast can do a command battle in place of the party member.

Overdrive (Final Fantasy X's version of Limit Breaks)
When overdrive gauge becomes full, the character is in Overdrive state and a powerful attack becomes possible. It is possible to add an action depending upon the character to furthermore draw out powerful attack.

Here are the Overdrive Skills for the characters:

  • Tidus = Sword Skil
  • Yuna = Master Summons (I'm hoping this is not another Garnet type Eidolon useless limit break)
  • Kimari = skill petrochemical press of enemy (similar to Jump it seems to me)
  • Lulu = Temptation (something happens to her Moogle doll)
  • Auron = "Himitsu" which means The Secret. (sounds cool to me! ^_^)
  • Rikku = compound stock item (?) (it seems she can use two items at once. like two bombs at once.)


>>> Preview by Firesenshi
Reference of Characters and Battle System is lifted from Playonline's Japanese version. Simply translated here so that people who don't understand Japanese will know what to expect of the game. Disc 13 does not claim ownership to the above information.

Thirsting for my sub quests...>>> by skysenshi (01.10.2003)

First off, I would like to make it clear that what I'm about to discuss is Final Fantasy X International Version (FFXi). Firesenshi would be the one writing a review for the regular FFX game, so those who are so hooked into FFX would do well to wait for her take on it. Our experiences of the game are almost starkly different from each other, which only means that the version really matters. But first, the good parts…

Story and Characters
You basically have seven party members: Tidus, the ace blitzball player; Yuna, the summoner; Wakka, the retired blitzball player and guardian of the summoner Yuna; Lulu, the black mage; Kimahri, the hornless Ronso; Rikku, the naughty Yuffie-like Al Bhed; and Auron, Tidus' father's friend. All of which have lives that are chronicled quite well in the story. Everyone gets equal focus, with the exception of Tidus, of course, since he is the lead character.

Tidus becomes you. As Tidus, you are the star player of the Zanarkand Abes. You are great. Everyone loves you. You have everything else you can ask for in this world. But deep inside, your father's shadow looms over you ominously. He is the player that you think you will never be. With this depressing thought in mind, you get ready for your next game. Again you think of your father…just as this being known as Sin arrives and destroys your city, your fans, and your entire life right before your very eyes. Amidst all the turmoil, you are thrown 1,000 years into the future. Or was it that you were unconscious for 1,000 years and woke up in a completely changed world? You make friends, but their lives are nearly devoid of any form of enjoyment. Sin has been their greatest fear since time immemorial. Suddenly, everyone's problem—Sin—becomes your own and for every mystery you uncover with your new allies, a horrifying realization dawns. This adventure is your story. And your story might spell the end of your existence…

What can I say? The approach for the FFX storyline is quite different. There really aren't any surprises because all the facts have been laid out from the very beginning. Gawd knows how many hints have been scattered here and there that would tell you the real score. So don't expect much of twists as to who is Sin, or what's behind Auron's mysterious countenance, or should Seymour the blessed Guado be considered a highly suspicious person. I'm saying the approach is different because the writers purposely placed a dark cloud full of tragedies hanging over your head while you fight your way to the final battle. You already know that the outcome would be tragic, yet you go on. And with the stunning visuals and sound effects, you can't help but be moved. I even cried. I don't think I remember crying over any other Final Fantasies.

The most obvious of all the good things this game has to offer is of course the highly sophisticated near lifelike graphics. All the FMVs of the characters look so real that you'd be praying they'd be actual people you can have a crush on (*ahem* Lulu for the guys and Tidus for the girls). Even non-FMV CGs have improved tremendously, especially the summons. Shiva, in particular, who is a mainstay in all Final Fantasies, has evolved into a lovely goddess that suspiciously resembles supermodel Elizabeth Hurley. The only thing I find quite weird is that Yuna in the FMV looks different from her regular self. Other than that, I have no complaints in this department. In fact, I'm even happier that Square finally realized we'd want to view those FMVs again, so now you can buy these movies in one of the FFX towns.

Another department worth a non-stop applause. Truly, Nobuo Uematsu has outdone himself yet again. Of course he's not alone. Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu helped create a dramatic overall feel into this piece of work. If the piano intro hasn't touched your heart yet, wait till you hear Suteki Da Ne. I would bet my love life that the FMV where this song is featured would be one of the most replayed movies in your adventure. I would like to go on and on about the wonderful soundtrack of this series, but I figure I should save that for my FFX OST review. The good news is, like the movies, you can also buy sound spheres from the same place where you buy the FMVs.

Gameplay and Battle System

What you'll definitely miss here are the abilities to explore the world map and to level up. But the sphere grid system is definitely another groundbreaking innovation brought to you by Squaresoft. This is quite difficult to explain but you have this map-like structure known as the sphere grid, which contains all the skills you can have your characters learn while you go along the way. For every battle you finish, you earn AP and these are converted into "moves" that you can use to progress in the sphere grid. The more AP you earn, the more moves you can make, the more skills you can acquire.

What I appreciate about this sphere grid is that you can actually customize your characters. Sure, it's already been established that Lulu is your black mage, Kimahri is the blue mage/dragoon, Rikku is the thief, but you have the option to mess things up and make your characters go through different paths on the grid.

Each party member has his or her own Limit Break gauge called Overdrive. This is similar to FF7 and 8's Limit Breaks and FF9's Trance. In the previous FFs, the gauges charge when an enemy hits the character. This time, however, you can set your Overdrives. You can decide whether it will charge if the character gets hit, his ally gets hit, when he hits, when it's his turn, when he heals, when he wins a battle…Actually there are about 17 Overdrive options available to the player, depending on what he's been able to activate.

One other important battle fact to note is that the summons, also called Aeons in this game, can now fight like regular party members. And, like regular characters, your Aeons also have Overdrives.

Other Features
True to Final Fantasy tradition, you still have time to enjoy yourself by playing some extra games. This time you can do blitzball, an underwater soccer game, and even participate in chocobo races to get some rare items. Unfortunately, I didn't find blitzball as exciting as FF8's card game and the chocobo race here is nowhere near as fun as FF7's. In fact, while I've always found chocobos to be cute, I couldn't help but want to shoot them here. The controls for riding them are a mess and you never really have a chance to develop your own high breed chocobo.

FFX International Extras
Well, this is where 90% of my gripes come in. See, the reason why I bought FFX International and not the regular FFX game is that I've heard that the plot closure that wasn't in the original FFX would be found here. That was all I wanted to see. I didn't really expect the FFXi extras to actually ruin my enjoyment.

True enough, FFXi is more difficult and I do understand why. The bosses in FFX are quite easy. Many of them are susceptible to status attacks. The game itself is too easy. You already have a map that tells you where to go, and auto-scan weapons that tell you your enemies' weaknesses without spending MP. So the developers up and made FFXi more challenging by placing ridiculously difficult bosses, with equally ridiculous amounts of HP, over the sub quest areas. What frustrates me is that I couldn't go through areas—that regular FFX players can just go in and out of—without running into an eternally berserk Dark Aeon.

Like for instance, I went back to this dungeon where I could get the key to Tidus' special weapon, and whoa! Dark Bahamut comes in and wipes out my party with an attack that takes out 99,999HP. He might as well have cast death over me. It would've had the same effect. I go to another area, Besaid Village, to retrieve some sub quest items and what do I find? Dark Valefor! And like Bahamut, he takes out my party with the same moves without giving me a chance to even run away. Oh yes, there's also everyone's beloved optional boss Omega—except FFX players were able to defeat him with the same stats I had. How? While Omega had a paltry 99,999HP in FFX, he had 999,999HP in FFXi. That one extra "9" made a whole lot of difference. Yes still seems easy to defeat. He had a very obvious pattern. But I don't want to spend the next few hours trying to wear him down. Truthfully, FF5's Omega was much more difficult in that his battle tactics require more thought. FFX's Omega only requires patience.

There must be a way to defeat them, you say. Yes there is. You have to get all the legendary weapons and go through the entire sphere grid to max out your stats. In short, you have to have a whole lot of leveling up and a whole load of tedious tasks to do. Maxing out your sphere grid takes the pleasure away from having customized characters because by then all your characters would have the same stats, the same skills, and the same abilities. Now where's the fun and challenge in that? Also, in my refusal to fight all these ultra beefed-up Aeons, I lost the pleasure of exploration. I've accomplished very few sub quests and my game ended too soon.

Was it worth it? I should've just played the original FFX. I never lacked buddies who were able to view the extra movie anyway. If I had done that, I would have been able to enjoy the game and just wonder about the extra clip later.

DIFFICULTY: Easy (FFX) - Difficult (FFXi)
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: N.A. (Auron with 7K+ HP; Yuna with 3K+ HP)
RATINGS: Gameplay 10; Battle 10; Story 9; Visuals 10; Characters 10; Sounds 10; Replay Value 5

Friday, January 10, 2003

Battle Angel Alita (Gunm)

Genre: Action
Parental Guidance Recommended
1992. Kishiro Yukito (creator). Hiroshi Fukutomi (director).

Gunm DVDs
Gunm Art Books & Manga
Everything Gunm

Cover Description:
While rummaging through a stinking pile of trash, cyborg healer Ido discovers Gally, a sophisticated robot whose brain is still miraculously functioning. "Nursed" to her full health, Gally becomes quite a cheerful person with a soft heart that couldn't resist sympathizing with people. What concerns her, though, is that Ido seems to disappear every night-just when news about brain and spine theft had spread throughout the entire colony.

Suspicious, Gally follows him one day. Ido seems to be involved in an underground war and seeing him fight triggers Gally's powerful abilities, with moves designed solely for elite assassins. Gally's life changes before her very eyes and with it, a struggle for survival ensues.

(2 episodes)

Yukito Kishiro is a genius! >>> by skysenshi
For a very short OAV, with only 2 episodes to its name, Battle Angel Alita (or Gunm as it is called in Japan) packs a lot of punch. It covers not only Gally's struggle with the new discovery of her lethal abilities, it also deals with several other issues that cause the overall conflict in this title. There are three other major characters that bring inspiration: Ido; Chiren, Ido's former lover; and Yugo, Gally's love interest. Ido is a man of principles who has left his old home, the floating city of Zalem, for reasons that aren't made too clear in the anime. Suffice it to say that because of his principles, he has been one of the few concerned citizens that are determined to see injustice destroyed.

Both Chiren and Yugo are obsessed with Zalem. Because of this obsession, they indirectly make life more miserable for Gally and Ido. Chiren, a cyborg healer like Ido, has the nasty habit of creating hideous monsters meant to destroy Gally and, in effect, Ido. Yugo, on the other hand, is just plain out of his mind. He'd do everything just to earn enough money to get to Zalem, even at the risk of his own life.or Gally's.

The artwork is superb, especially when it comes to Gally. And the moves! If there's something that you won't see in the much more complete manga version of Battle Angel, it's this. Gally puts realism in the codename "Battle Angel", for she moves with the grace of an ethereal being-almost belying the deadliness of her blows. Her only flaw? Well, she falls in love with an ugly guy who has no sense. Must be caused by her overly long stay in that stinky junkyard Ido had found her in. She can't all be that perfect, but then, this necessary glitch is actually what makes this Yukito Kishiro masterpiece just that-a masterpiece. Truly, a man who can infuse so much realism in an imaginary world can only be called a genius.

Oh yeah, before I forget. Expect a lot of blood and gore (and a bit of naked flesh) to compliment the intense action scenes.

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

X (TV Series)

Genre: Dark / Occult
Parental Guidance Recommended
© X TV Series. CLAMP. Kadokawa Shoten/ Bandai Visual. MADHOUSE. 2002. Yoshiaki Kawajiri (director).

X/1999 DVDs
X/1999 Art Books
X/1999 Music
X/1999 Video Games
X/1999 Toys, Accessories
X/1999 Posters Etc.
Everything X/1999

Firesenshi's Description:
Kamui Shirou returns to Tokyo after being traumatized by his mother's mysterious death. His childhood friend, Kotori, along with her brother Fuuma, are overjoyed by Kamui's return and remembers the bond that tied all of them.

There is indeed a bond that that ties them until this time. Kamui's strength and power are sought by a dreamgazer named Hinoto and her sister Kanoe. It turns out that the fate of the world is divided into two -- the Seven Seals of the Dragon of Heaven who seek to preserve the Earth, and the Seven Angels of the Dragon of Earth who seek change and destroy it to be reborn. And the fate of this world lies on one man -- Kamui, whose own destiny will decide the one future of the Earth.

Their destiny was already foreordained.

(26 episodes)

Gripping story with memorable characters. >>> by firesenshi

If you have watched the X/1999 movie, was disappointed in the extremely concise version from the manga, and felt cheated with the brevity of the storyline and background of the characters, you will be eternally pleased that great masters in the anime industry have come together to create X, the TV series. X, the TV series, filled the drought that was left from X/1999 movie. However, X TV deviates in certain concepts (such as the end of the world, etc.). Therefore, this will end differently from the movie, as though they really made the movie to stand alone from the series.

Irony and Conflict. No one illustrates apocalyptic scenarios into beautiful images than CLAMP. And nobody else tells stories of people with sad doomed fates can actually be powerfully appealing than Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the director of Ninja Scroll.

X TV is not your stereotypical plot where everything starts out peacefully and later on surprises you, tell you who the hero of the story is and that the world must actually end... From the start, and even from the opening credits, you are made aware that the fate of the world lies in the balance. And although, it shows how our hero Kamui goes through a phase of discovering this, you know he is well aware of his own destiny, which plagues him and the people he cares about most. Immediately, X TV series gives you direct hints about the Apocalypse... as in the Apocalypse, translated magically in X TV's terms as the destruction of the kekkai (a barrier) which protects the Earth. You see Kamui meeting his friend Fuuma and his sister Kotori. As is the signature of CLAMP, they draw their eyes in detail to show a feeling of fear and longing, with scenes of Kamui and Fuuma suffering through flashbacks of magical duels, scenes of the dreamgazer Hinoto looking into the future of Earth -- it lets you know what 'doom' feels like at the beginning of the movie.

Despite being bent on this apocalyptic genre, the story is more concerned on the inner conflicts of the characters, such as Kamui's reluctance and indifference on being charged with the fate of the world. And because this is a CLAMP/Kawajiri tandem, a lot of angst is part of the storyline wherein you see the classic irony that destiny separates two friends to become the greatest enemies.

More Character Development. The battles of the Seven Seals versus the Seven Angels in the X/1999 movie seemed unnecessary for lack of back story. It was more like they just added the battles in there to add more action but you will never understand what prompted some to either be overzealous in fighting or not to be scared of dying. In X TV series, all Seven Seals and Seven Angels were given ample camera moment and background. Cool characters such as omyouji (Yin-Yang masters) Seishirou and Subaru, who were taken out in the X/1999 movie, get an astonishing fight scene as to how Yin or Yang will prevail.

What's incredibly amazing about the character designs is that there is balance from both sides. Not all of the Seven Angels, even though they seek for the destruction of the Earth, are brooding or indifferent or just plain dark. Nor are all of the Seven Seals who seek the preservation of the Earth, saints who desire to live. For instance, Yuuto, an Angel, is an optimistic 'pretty boy' who just 'goes with the flow.' Karen, a Seal, obviously from her favorite baring negligeé attire, works at a red-light district.

It is these background stories that actually kept me going through the series. I would not have otherwise have watched anything 'apocalyptic' in nature, knowing how the subject of doom depresses me. But the background stories have everything -- friendship, family, betrayal, discrimination, love. Each Seal or Angel has a memorable story to tell, most of them sad, but extremely dramatic not to take notice.

The greatest one for me is about Arashi and Sorata, who, like the overall theme of X in dramatic irony, is a story where you know the ending is sad but you continue to torture yourself watching anyway. Sorata, is a houshi (monk) foreordained to have a destiny to die for the woman he loves. The question is: will he find the woman he loves? Will she love him back? The moral of the story then tells you that it is not when your life will end that matters, but on how you live it. Cliché but true. And in Sorata's story, that cliché hurts like hell.

And that is only ONE story. Couple that with other amazing side stories of the characters, the plot twists, the fate of the world -- it's no wonder X TV is one overwhelmingly POWERFUL series. I don't even know when to be happy or to cry because they all happen at once.

This is NOT shoujo. Should that turn you off, anyway? Even though X shows a lot of bishounen because of their detailed artwork and choice of fantastical 'fluffy' elements, like wing feathers blowing in the wind as imagery, the story is heavily dependent on duels. Thus, it exhibits a lot of violence. Although the TV series was not as morbid as the manga (where there is gore and decapitation), fantasy surrounds the battle and glorifies the fight scenes, if you will. Besides, there's Kanoe, and with her sensual entendres and shower scenes, I'm pretty sure you will be convinced how un-shoujo this is.

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

Sunday, January 5, 2003

Gran Turismo 2

Genre: Racing
Platform: Playstation
Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Screenshots and images courtesy of Amazon.Com.

Gran Turismo Artbooks and Strategy Guides
Gran Turismo Music
Gran Turismo Games
Toys and Accessories
Posters Etc.
Everything Else

Cover Description:
The world's most advanced racing game returns with screaming new features.

Over 500 cars from world-class manufacturers.

  • All vehicles are designed according to their exact specifications and are fully customizable.
  • Insane Arcade Mode with power slids, burnout's, jumps, and excessive speed.
  • Increased 2 player racing.
  • Killer soundtrack from star-studded bands.
  • Benchmark 3D graphics.

THE driving simulator on PlayStation. >>> by Shunichi Sakurai

29 tracks. 600 cars. One game.

There's no denying that Polyphony Digital's "driving simulator," Gran Turismo (GT1), became a monster hit when it came out in 1998. Barely two years later, they have tweaked their game and packed in so much new stuff that it had to be released with a "2" in the end.

Yes, this is Gran Turismo 2.

Polyphony Digital (PD) has given car nuts more of a reason to celebrate, given that GT1 served up a total of 166 cars racing on 11 tracks. GT2 tops that with around 600 cars on offer, from around 40 different manufacturers from around the world (some of which you may never have heard of). I'm impressed Sony and PD even bothered to include mundane city cars in the lineup, including hot hatches like the Peugeot 106/206, Ford Ka, Fiat Punto and even Japan's wacky k-cars. GT1, in contrast, predominantly featured sportier cars mainly from Japanese manufacturers.

These 600-plus cars can leave fresh lines of Michelin on a total of 21 road courses and 8 rally courses. All but one of GT1's courses are carried over, and GT2 even offers two challenging real-life venues, the infamous Laguna Seca racetrack in California and the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

One of the most prominent additions are GT2's Rally races, which feature a totally different driving experience for GT1 stalwarts. If you're looking for some good ol' drifting action absent in this grip-obsessed racing franchise, Rally mode is the way to go. The eight tracks are challenging, rewarding careful throttle and steering correction---they may as well have been part of the World Rally Championship. All of them are on dirt, however; there is no ice track.

Also in the mix are more Endurance races, some of which can take as much as two hours or more to complete 90 or so laps. Any Formula 1 or Touring Car dreamers can live out their fantasies here, pit stops and all.

So now that we know what's in the game, how much have things changed since GT1?

GT2 is much more reliant on the Dual Shock's analog capability than GT1, as it's noticeable that steering has been slowed down a bit. Some people may relish this change as a step towards realism; others have dismissed it as a backwards step from GT1's cat-quick steering on analog sticks.

For the plethora of race events in Simulation mode, GT2's restrictions system now works to limit maximum horsepower. For example, to race in Special Stage Route 5 of the FR Challenge, your car must have less than 394HP.

Tweaking your car's settings (after you've bought the appropriate parts) is a big part of the GT franchise as well, and GT2 is no exception. However things seem to have been idiot-proofed for GT2, as non-engine-related tweaks do not cover as wide a range as they did before. You can't overboost your brakes' balance to shave 100mph in a split second of braking, for example.

The music has changed a fair bit too, and personally I prefer GT1's soundtrack to GT2's, the former more into driving rock and techno. GT2's soundtrack is a mite too pop-oriented.

In terms of sheer racing challenge, I don't think GT2 is as hard as GT1. The difficulty has been decreased a bit, especially because the Normal Car Tournament (no modifications allowed, not even tires) has been all but removed. To this day I am still unable to finish this GT1 special event. It's also an easy task of building up money to modify your car(s), if you know which events to race in.

When driving in stock cars, expect to be bumped around by the CPU drivers a lot, just like in GT1, as they are going to do their best to move you away from the racing line. That means drifting is done at your own risk; they can always hit your rear and make you spin. Of course, you can always do that to them, too. Heheheh.

The graphics have been smoothed a bit from the previous game, although gone is the GT HiFi mode that allowed you to race in slick high resolution. Silly, awkward jumps in the Autumn Ring and Grand Valley Speedway tracks are now gone, making for more natural racing.

The replays are something else. GT2 now gives you around 10 different camera angles you can use to view your progress, and as always, you can save your best replay videos onto a memory card.

In my opinion, GT2 is a must-buy for absolute car fanatics who want to know everything and anything about cars. It helps that it's a pretty darn good driving game, too. As a racing game, strictly speaking, it has its share of detractors.

This isn't a game that encourages drifting too much, so those of you who do may just stick in Rally mode or play Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit instead. But if all you want to do is go car-crazy, GT2 is your ticket.

COMPLETION TIME: 60-100 hours
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: "GAME COMPLETE: 97.5%" (max for US version: 98.2%)
RATINGS: Gameplay 8; Battle 9; Story N/A; Visuals 9; Characters N/A; Sounds 7; Replay Value 10

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Great Teacher Onizuka

Genre: Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
2000. Toru Fujisawa (creator). Noriyuki Abe (director.) Studio Pierrot and SPE Visual. Fuji TV.

Great Teacher Onizuka DVDs
Great Teacher Onizuka Books
Great Teacher Onizuka Music
GTO Toys and Accessories
GTO Posters Etc.
Everything GTO

Cover Description:
Tough on the outside, all heart on the inside, Onizuka turned to the life of a high school teacher for less excitement and action...or so he thought. GTO, A.K.A.: Great Teacher Onizuka, is the racy story of Onizuka, a former motorcycle gang member who becomes a teacher to make a difference and... to meet girls? Using his street smarts to deal with colleagues, students and troublemakers, Onizuka finds that he too has many lessons to learn!

(43 episodes)

NOTE: Some of the reviews were written sometime in 2003 and was recorded in the classic Otaku Fridge as ??.??.2003. Unfortunately the database would not accept non-numerical values, so this review is now dated January 01, 2003 by default.

WATCH IT. NOW. >>> by Xellos-sama (??.??.2003)

This has probably been THE most inspiring series I've seen in a VERY long time. The series honestly made me rethink my career path and consider taking up a life of teaching.

The basic premise of the series is quite a hook -- a former gang member takes up a life of teaching to hit on underage schoolgirls. Wahoo!!! A veritable goldmine of ecchi situations!!! Sound tempting enough yet?

...Well, like any other 'baka' that's watched the series, then you've already been fooled...

Don't get me wrong! The series is still chock-full of pervertedness (seeing the above premise, that pretty much IS a given), but it's not about the ecchi. It really isn't. GTO is about the determination of one man to become a teacher. It's about how one sensei can make a difference in the lives of his pupils. The series actually gives you hope in the human race as a whole. Sorry if i'm being a bit dramatic. The series deserves it.

Animation isn't exactly top-notch, as it retains the same roughly unpretty drawing style and character designs that the manga had. But like other top-notch anime with bad art COUGH* Initial D *COUGH, the characters grow on you and you learn to love them. ALL of them. I mean it.

Sounds are above cool. The opening track for the first season is "Driver's High" by L'Arc~En~Ciel. If you're familiar with this song, i shouldn't have to extoll it any more. The seiyuu (voice actors) are all top-class here, with some anime staples such as Mitsuishi Kotono (yay!), Hikaru Midorikawa, and Seki Tomozaku. (I couldn't really place the rest of the voices... gomen). The rest of the openings and endings grow on you as well.

As I said above, the characters ALL grow on you. You really do learn to love all of them. Each one of Onizuka's major students has excellent character development and gets his or her own place in the limelight. Everyone actually has believable reasons for being the way they are. Everyone is very, very real.

Overall, the series is nicely put together in a very strong package. Do what you can to watch it. You won't regret it.

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

Surprisingly addicting. >>> by firesenshi (04.19.2003)

At first I thought that I would never like this. I am not too forgiving on the ecchi genre (well almost). The idea that a crazy, really ecchi ex-gang member wanted to be a teacher just to get close to the lot of young high school girls in short skirts and knee-length socks is uhh... someone who I'd throw off the 32nd floor. Heh. Gomen. I have been relating the first part too much with real life.

But having read the hype on the manga everywhere -- as in, for a time, that was all I found -- press releases in anime print and internet magazines on the GTO manga. Crazy ecchi teacher storyline that suddenly became a cult favorite? Moreover, I saw the live action movie starring Takashi Sorimachi as Onizuka. And that just piqued my curiosity.

The story is about a 22-year old ex-motorcycle gang member, who after graduating from a substandard university, aspires to be a teacher. His dream: GTO - Great Teacher Onizuka. Now it starts off with everything ecchi as is the nature of our hero here. What do you expect from a guy whose hobby is to look up under escalators staring at school girls' panties, eh? (And damn... I think I was a victim of that in high school too. Go fig.) During the first part, I thought, is there all there is to it?

But in a series of overwhelmingly surprising events, things started going well. Life wasn't always easy for Onizuka-sensei. There were times he almost gave up being a teacher, his students gave him a hard time (and by hard time, one of them meant having a snake crawl under his pants), his fellow teachers wanted him out of the academy... AND YET, with his unusually high stat in luck coupled with his street smarts, funny antics, he managed to overcome all of these. And like one of the impossibly hard-headed brats in his homeroom class of 3D, Onizuka-sensei managed to win me over in just a couple of episodes. Even if he was still dang hentai in the end.

It was not only Onizuka-sensei who made this entire anime work. You will follow the stories of students in Onizuka's class. There's the story of Yoshikawa, the wuss being bullied by girls (and if I were you, you'd watch out how this boy...grew up); Urumi, the gifted child prodigy who deliberately gave her teachers a hard time; Tomoko, also called Toroko for her unusual F-cup breasts... etc. etc. Add to that, the fray of teachers, most notably, Fuyutsuki Azusa-sensei, Onizuka's veritable... crush? (You go find that out.) See, it's not a boring class!

What's great about this is that as you follow the episodes, there are a lot of developments. The students really go through their own coming-of-age, surprisingly thanks to our Onizuka over here. Relationships develop. And definitely, first impressions will change. There are astonishing revelations to each and every character, that the character you thought you'd hate would redeem themselves in your eyes wonderfully in the end.

So like the review above says, "The characters grow on you." And boy do they. At the end, I found myself feeling sad that I only have 6 episodes to go on my 2-day marathon. But then, like I always say, I'm okay with anything ecchi as long as it's the ecchi I like.

Besides, the opening credits are actually good. There's even something reminiscent of Andy Warhol style and graffiti art on the opening credits that I haven't seen anything that creative since *gasp* Cowboy Bebop. (I mean seriously, most of the opening credits on anime are just cutscenes from the entire series over there. GTO's credits look like one good MTV.) Besides, Laruku's song and the ending song Shizuku were not bad at all. How about that?

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

Onizuka is my sensei! >>> by MarkPoa (10.24.2005)

Ah, high school life, my high school life...

I sometimes wished I had an anime-style high school life. True, I'll probably be the standard anime otaku/geek/nerd archetype, but what the hey... it would definitely be an interesting life.

At least, if you studied under the greatest teacher in all of Japan...

Great Teacher Onizuka chronicles the travails of a former biker gang leader who decides to become a high school teacher... with the hidden agenda of having a 16-year old wife when he reaches 40. Openly lecherous, flamboyant, headstrong, and... well, unorthodox to say the least, Onizuka faces the perils of middle school class 3D, featuring the most diverse group of teacher bullies in any animated world to date.

GTO's main strength is in its extremely likeable and sympathetic cast of characters. Though, it's possible that sometimes you might find yourself wondering if these are really middle-school Japanese kids... given their penchant for violent and disgusting acts. It certainly doesn't fit the mold of a typical Japanese teenager. But, then episodes would show that they're concerned with love, fitting in, money, friendship, image, family--concerns of any teenager--and you'll realize that these are pretty realistic teenagers here.

Onizuka himself is not a typical anime hero. He's perverted and violent (wait... come to think of it, he is a typical anime hero!)... but you can plainly see his determination and will to be a great teacher. Most of all, you'd feel good about his genuine care for students, demonstrated in numerous instances, such as saving a girl from kidnappers, giving up a Mercedes Benz to an old teacher, rescuing his student from bullies, rescuing a potential suicide (yes, he does a lot of rescuing), and more as the series progresses.

And corny as it may sounds... Onizuka does the right thing. He may not do it in an expected fashion... but you couldn't deny his results. The resolutions he comes up or the situations he finds himself into may be a bit contrived at times, but as Onizuka tries to overcome each problem he encounters--each more troublesome than the prior one--you'll find yourself rooting for him and wondering how the heck he's going to crawl his way out of each hole.

Art-wise, GTO's unique character designs take some getting used to. The characters are drawn in a semi-realistic fashion... which means that there is a tendency to have ugly "realistic" characters. Case in point: Onizuka's expressions. But, hey, they're funny!

Soundwise, GTO features some truly appropriate opening and ending themes. "Driver's High" is one particular favorite. The opening and ending themes capture the edgy feel of the series.

And of course... humor is another of GTO's strengths. Prepare to laugh. Hard. Sidesplittingly painful. And often.

One by one, Great Teacher Onizuka wins his students over. Watch episode after episode and I'm sure he'll win you over as well. Highly recommended.

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

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