Sunday, February 27, 2011

Top 20 Anime: #19

#19: Seitokai Yakuindomo






Type: Television Series
# of Episodes: 13
Produced By: GoHands, Starchild Records, Dream Force

"I've heard stories of boys coming here with the intent of creating a harem once this place becomes co-ed, so..."

"Harem? ...No way. That's not possible."

"But all that is pointless, you see. Our female students here are lesbians, after all."

And with that, all possibilities of Seitokai Yakuindomo being another boring harem series flew out of the window. Of a ten story building. And died on impact. Without enough of the remains left to identify the body. Yeah.

Based on a gag manga, each episode of Seitokai is split into a number of main jokes and sub jokes, each set up (and separated) by splashes with a line of dialogue that is usually the punchline of the next scene. Not all of them are winners, but at least one in every episode is hysterical, and more than a couple over the series...are just plain epic. ("Doesn't your bottom hurt?")

Obviously, that parenthesized quote gave at least a few people pause. And rightfully so. In fact, in general, Seitokai Yakuindomo has GOT to win some kind of award. East or West, S.Y.D. has some of the raunchiest, most disturbing adult humor I've ever seen in a series, and that's why I love it.

From the Ousai Academy's Student Council President Shino Amakusa, a seemingly perfect girl who can't get her mind out of the gutter, to the peeping tom head of the newspaper club that's constantly attempting to take questionable photos of the student council to sell to what I imagine are rather unsavory individuals, to the teacher that....that...honestly, there are no words for Yokoshima-sensei. There really aren't. (Shota rapist, possibly, but....) Seitokai is full of characters that I've never actually seen, not only in this anime, but any series before.

Even the "regular" character and main protagonist Takatoshi Tsuda stands out from other protagonists of his kind, acting as the perfect foil to the antics of Ousai Academy as a whole, an unflappable straight man capable of deflecting even the most ridiculous comments from his friends (and teachers).

I know the "moe"/harem genre is thought of by most anime fans as the reason animation as a medium of storytelling does not get respect (unless one sees the word "Miyazaki" or "Pixar" is involved), but Seitokai Yakuindomo is a deliciously twisted take on the entire thing that I think is absolutely hysterical.

....Although really...the opening should've tipped me off:



Top 20 Anime:

20. They Are My Noble Masters

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger

Now that the first two episodes of this series are out, I can give my accurate first impressions on 2011's Super Sentai series, Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.



As much as I'd like to pretend that the reason why I haven't discussed this series was because I was simply waiting for the series to begin and not talk in hypotheticals...the truth is I either wasn't feeling like writing about it, or just did not have the time.

Gokaiger's the thirty-fifth Super Sentai series thus far, and as an anniversary series, has been given a unique premise: The team themselves are pirates, but they also possess the ability to transform into whatever other Senshi they like, using their GoukaiCelluar combined with specific "keys" that transform them into past teams.

This is apparently of vital importance, because at the start of the first episode--in a scene that far and above surpasses the "Rider War" of Kamen Rider Decade--every Super Sentai team thus far apparently sacrifice their powers to save Earth from the Zangack Empire, ruthless aliens with almost unsurpassed power in what becomes known as "the Legendary War".

Though we only see a small part of this Legendary War (I'm guessing), what we DO see is incredible. We're treated to sights long dreamed of by Sentai fans: GekiRed and Ryuuranger back to back, smacking down opponents, the Kakuranger and Hurricanger (the ninja Sentai) speedblitzing entire hordes while the Jetman strike from above, and the Gingaman use the power of the elements to send even more grunts packing.

It's a brief minute or so, but what a minute it was. It's almost enough to make one take their mind off the main team and wish for the series to be solely about the veterans. Almost. Fortunately, they take the focus off the older teams fast enough and in such a way that it leaves us all curious as to what comes next and who could possibly be capable of taking down an army that survived battle with over 200 heroes of indescribable power?

With this question burning in our minds, one of the first thing we're shown is that, in a stark contrast to last year's Tensou Sentai Goseiger, the Gokaiger are pros from the start. Their opening scene sees them wiping out a (very large) advance force of a new wave of Zangyack in a matter of seconds with the GoukaiGalleon (their ship) and the GoukaiOh (their robot), before excitedly heading off to Earth in search of the so-called "Greatest Treasure in the Universe".

With that bit of introduction out of the way, let's get down to the actual aspects of the series I've noticed thus far:

Characters:



One of the first things the series has no trouble revealing to the audience is this: The Gokaiger are NOT heroes. As the villains thoroughly wreck the city they stopped to get information in, initially, not a single one of them spring into action.

Naturally, eventually they step in, but it's more out of anger than a sense of heroism. Other than that, so far all we know about the new team are surface characteristics:

GoukaiRed (Captain Marvelous) is a swashbuckling bad-ass who's both a daredevil and a good leader of his team that has seemed to earn the respect of his teammates.

GoukaiBlue (Joe Gibken) is cool-headed, a calculating man that is likely the tactician of the group. From episode 1 and 2 alone, it's fairly obvious he has no problems following Red, but he'll definitely let Red have it should his decisions not work out. ("No so Marvelous now, Captain," is one of my favorite comments from a Blue ever.)

GoukaiPink (Ahim de Famille) is the team's classy, sophisticated member. Everything from her outfit to her speech is fancy. (But she has NO problem laying the smackdown when she's fighting with the others.)

GoukaiYellow (Luca Milfy) is GoukaiPink's foil. Obsessed with money, and her attitude is brash and off-putting compared to GoukaiPink's.

And GoukaiGreen (Don Dogoier) is the group's comedy relief.

So far, the team appears to work rather well together, and my only comment is that they get along a tad *too* well, at the moment, and Don's comic relief/Butt Monkey status is going to get old somewhat fast. Hopefully they'll change up some of this dynamic as the series goes on, but as it stands it's a much more varied and interesting group than last year's Gokaiger.

Setting:

If the setting remains as it is, I'll be very happy. Right now, most of the series takes place either in the world where the team battles the Zangyack or searches for treasure, or on the deck of the very cool looking GoukaiGalleon.

Though we've had Sentai in which a large number of scenes take place on a pirate ship, I've never seen this happen on the side of the heroes. Even better, there's no sign of any "Earthling friend" for the team to help them better understand the planet, a concept I always disliked. It's far more interesting for viewers if the characters don't get a consistent guide and have to discover how things work on their own.

Villains:

I only care about the villains in that they give the heroes something to fight, but I'll say this: The Zangyack look cool. The grunts (Gormin) resemble a threat instead of dudes in primary-colored gimp suits, which is something I missed after Shinkenger's Nanashi Renchu.

They feel like real threats, too. Again, to go back to Shinkenger, when the Nanashi Renchu came out, it was weird if they DIDN'T kill someone. Oftentimes, in Sentai, grunts can appear as if they're going trick-or-treating, with the way they treat the fleeing humans, but episode two specifically shows the Gormin ruthlessly gunning down an entire mob of humans as they attempt to escape. And with their normal guns alone they're capable of destroying skyscrapers!

Their sheer power plus the numbers they have (neverending, one would think) makes it almost believable that they were able to survive the Legendary War.

The other thing I enjoy about these villains is how much like a real military they are. There's a clear chain of command, rather than just grunts and monsters of the week. There are the typical privates (the Gormin), the Sgormin (actually called "non-commissioned officers"), Action Commanders (Monsters of the Week), the actual generals leading the attack on Earth, and the as-yet-unseen Emperor. They even march in step when sent to attack, a very nice touch that can easily go unnoticed if one is not paying attention.

Still, given that these guys "defeated" the Super Sentai...I think Toei/PLEX did a good job designing them.

Fight Scenes:

Awesome. Say what you will about Goseiger, but it's on record now as having some of the best fight scenes outside of Dai/Geki in Sentai history. The stunt choreography, the writers, and the suit actors all deserve praise for showing the Goseiger actually working together in battle rather than attacking separately and passing it off as teamwork.

But if this is true of Goseiger, then Gokaiger ups the stakes a bit more in these opening episodes. Being pirates, the Gokaiger dual-wield flintlock-style pistols and cutlasses, and over the course of the fights in episodes one and two, we get to see how they utilize them in battle, skillfully swapping weapons with one another to allow their teammates (and themselves) to achieve their best buttkicking-ness against their opponents.

It's almost jaw-dropping when GokaiYellow takes two cutlass blades and attaches them to ropes to skewer a number of her opponents all at once, and even GokaiGreen becomes awesome when he's dual-wielding pistols.

This of course, is forgetting the fact that the team is also capable of transforming into old Sentai teams.

...I'll leave that to your imagination, and just say it's as awesome as you think it SHOULD be.

Mecha:

This one I can't comment that much on, except to say: Toei finally appears to have found the guys who designed their robos from 1992-2007. Starting with 2010's GoseiUltimate, GoukaiOh restarts a very neat tradition of cool-looking Sentai robots.

And the mecha fights are both visually impressive (the limited CGI is put to great use, IMO), but also revives the ability for the "sub-commander" grunts to come back and overwhelm the main robot. I liked this in Shinkenger, as it made the fights more interesting (even though the ShinkenOh was designed like crap), so I'm glad to have this back.

Hopefully as our team begins to combine with older mechs from previous series, the GokaiOh will look as awesome as it has thus far. If the GokaiOh/Dragon Mode is any indication, it will.


Blah. This was longer than I wanted it to be, but I kinda wanted to get everything out. I should be able to revisit this when episode 5 comes out, we're a tenth of the way through the series, and the show has a better footing. We'll see.

Till later.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"It's Superman!"

For a long time, I wasn't a huge fan of Superman. He's still *not* my favorite superhero, but the guy gets a lot of undue hate from people who dislike the guy because he's good at his job instead of wasting half his time brooding over nothing.

Plus, when he's written well, he's an example of just how great we as people can be, even if we aren't gifted with godlike powers from the rays of a yellow sun.

Anyways, I've been wanting a Superman cartoon...basically since I realized the last one sucked and we haven't had a new one since Smallville came on television. (Ten freaking years!) This, however, helps to make up for that:



They need to get this guy to do the next Superman cartoon. It had all the charm of the 40's Fleischer series, but it doesn't feel ancient. And this is what he did on a crap budget. Imagine what this guy could create with WB money. Please get on this Johns.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

General Thoughts on Anime

...Really, entertainment in general. For all the talk of what's "art", and what isn't, what's critically impressive and what's cliche, what's avant-garde and what's "overdone", and what's intellectual and what's insane, and so on...no matter what comes out of these arguments (usually nothing), we like what we like.

That statement can sound somewhat ridiculous depending on who it's coming from, and what it's being used to defend, but that doesn't matter. As individuals we all have varying viewpoints, diverse backgrounds and sometimes wildly contrasting perceptions that lead to us reacting to the similar creations in distinct, sometimes disparate manners. This sounds like inconsistent behavior, but it isn't.

Two series can cover the exact same themes with similar plotlines and a person could react differently to both, because the way each author crafted their story would be different, despite the similarities, leading to stories that emotionally resonate with a viewer/reader in very dissimilar ways.

(Of course, there's a bit more to this. Sometimes people's biases won't allow them to enjoy anything but their favorite of something, not even acknowledging the possibility that something may be superior, but for the sake of argument let's ignore these curious individuals.)

I say all this, because I'm Doing a Top Twenty Anime List, it won't match up with yours, it won't match up with the obvious ones, and I Don't Care. Suck It Up. (Fun way to live life.)