Friday, December 5, 2014

High School of the Dead OVA Drifters of the Dead Anime Review

Highschool of the Dead: Drifters of the Dead
Gakuen Mokushiroku Haisukuru obu za Deddo
Section 23/Sentai Filmworks
15 mins. - 1 episode - 1 disc
$9.98 (2013) Blu-Ray
$6.98 (2013)
ISBN 9781616153991
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Tetsuro Araki
Studio - Madhouse

Synopsis: One day Takashi and his friends were regular high school students and then the world ended in a zombie apocalypse.  A small group managed to stick together and survive the initial outbreak.  They include:
The group find themselves on a tiny island just outside of the city.
From left - Rei, Alice, Kohta, Saya, and Zero
  • Takashi Komuro - childhood friends with Rei and best friend was Hisashi
  • Rei Miyamoto - swore a pinky promise with Takashi to marry each other when they were kids, but she ended up dating Hisashi until he turned into a zombie
  • Saeko Busujima - president of the kendo club, she is calm and reserved
  • Saya Takagi - also a former childhood friend of Takashi's, daughter of wealthy and political parents
  • Kohta Hirano - nerdy and overweight, he likes guns and has surprisingly good survival instincts
  • Shizuka Marikawa - school nurse with enormous breasts, despite being the only adult in the group she is mostly helpless
  • Alice Maresato - young girl whose parents were killed by zombies and was rescued by the group
  • Zero - Alice's dog
Time to relax and have fun at the beach!
The group is on the run again and stop on a tiny island off the coast of the city.  The island appears deserted except for a summer food/clothing stand.  Taking the opportunity to relax without a horde of zombies on their heels, Takashi and crew don skimpy swimwear and enjoy a day at the beach.  What they don't know is the island may be harboring a dark secret and safety is just an illusion.  

The girls convince the guys to go foraging for food - from left:
Rei, Shizuka, Zero (being squished), Alice, Saeko, and Saya
Pros: A lot of funny scenes with slapstick and lewd poses, pushes the boundaries of fan-service (practically all fan-service), bridges the gap between the first and upcoming second season, good dub
Rei lies out to get a tan
Cons: Incredibly short at only 15 minutes, should have been bundled with first season collection (instead of a standalone release), nothing actually happens in the episode, total fluff(er) episode
Saya plays in the ocean water
Mike Tells It Straight: This title has one single, short OVA episode and it's a joke to release a standalone volume for it.  It should have been released with the HOTD complete collection set as a bonus feature.  I think this OVA was released with a volume of the manga in Japan, but it's not standard for a single episode to be sold in the US market.  I dunno, maybe it did really well because it was cheap and rode the popularity of the first season, but I have to think a lot of consumers were pissed to find out it was so short.
Takashi rocks the 'banana hammock' 
I watched the first High School of the Dead season and found it to be somewhat interesting, but focused too heavily on fan-service to be taken seriously.  While there were exciting moments and some small character development, the show is definitely geared toward adolescent males and its highlight was the jiggling boobies.  This episode took out all of the story elements leaving just the comedy and fan-service aspects of the regular series.
Things heat up at the campfire, but what's really going on?
It's not uncommon for an anime series to release OVA episodes which are just hot springs or beach visits.  Drifters of the Dead pushes the boundaries of the fan-service, but stops just short of baring full nipples.  This episode is pure T&A (even Takashi dons a 'banana hammock') and basically exploits women as helpless, sexual objects.  There, I said it.  The most recent HOTD collection release includes this OVA, but it's a premium release which costs a ridiculous amount of money.  Don't waste your money and it's actually cheaper to buy the regular first season plus OVA disc.  Overall, check out this OVA if your favorite part of HOTD was the fan-service.
It gets even hotter away from the campfire, whose hand is that!?

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nuku Nuku DASH! Anime Review

All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku DASH!
Bannou Bunka Neko-Musume DASH!
ADV Films
Complete Collection - 3 discs
300 mins. - 12 episodes
$44.98 (2005)
$29.98 (2003-04) Vol. 1-3/ea.
ISBN 702727142727
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Yoshitaka Fujimoto
Studio - MOVIC/Starchild

Synopsis: Ryunosuke is riding his bike home from school one day when he witnesses a beautiful girl rescue a cat from getting run over.  He arrives home to discover this same girl is now going to live with him!  His father is a research scientist who works in their basement constantly and his mother works at the Mishima Corporation's headquarters.  The girl is Atsuko Higuchi, but please call her Nuku Nuku.  She's a lovely 19-year-old who is going to be the Natsumes live-in housekeeper.  Nuku Nuku suffers from partial amnesia and Ryunosuke's father, Kyusaku, is helping treat her condition.
Kyusaku, Ryunosuke, and Nuku Nuku
Being a typical 14-year-old, Ryunosuke falls madly in love with Nuku Nuku and obsesses over her constantly.  What he doesn't know is she's the mysterious super-girl who appears in town and is seen battling Mishima Corporation weapons (they apparently test weapons within the city quite regularly).  This super-powered girl wears a tight spandex outfit, has cool shades, big antenna on the side of her head, is super resilient, and can fire energy blasts.  She's a tough customer and the Mishima Corporation is out to get her.
The beautiful mystery girl battles a Mishima mecha
Nuku Nuku is trying to find out her origin and why she is compelled by her creator to "protect all life".  She loves cats too.  Poor Ryunosuke's mother, Akiko, is a middle manager at Mishima and gets assigned to apprehend the latest runaway Androbot (android-robot) with little clue she's actually living in the same house!  What's an office worker to do when she's forced to pilot variable mecha?  Mishima has an arsenal of sinister Androbots and mecha to throw at Nuku Nuku, but Ryunosuke is more worried about convincing his friends that she's his girlfriend!  A typical horny teenager and an ultra-powerful android-robot against a ruthless corporation.
Ryunosuke's mild-mannered mother, Akiko, gets stuck piloting
the Mishima mecha which attacks Nuku Nuku
Pros: Solid characters with decent personalities, Ryunosuke is perfectly portrayed as a hormone-crazed teenager, many lighthearted moments, mild fan-service
Ryunosuke does the old 'awkwardly trip and fall on the
beautiful girl' move
Cons: Weak character and mecha designs, older animation, surprisingly bad picture quality (probably the transfer to digital), plot is fairly silly throughout, Ryunosuke's hair with the red stripe down the middle is ridiculous, title is too darn long!
Nuku Nuku battles another Androbot
Mike Tells It Straight: This series was adapted from the All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku manga by Yuzo Takada.  The manga must have been pretty popular because this series is actually the third adaptation.  The first two were a 6-episode OVA and 14-episode television series.  This series is completely unrelated to the previous two and has a few differences.  The cast is portrayed as a little bit older (i.e. Nuku Nuku is 19 here where she was around 15 in the other two series).
A charming rich guy chats up Nuku Nuku
I haven't seen the previous two series, but I found this one to be just average.  The character designs were boring and the plot was stale.  The best part of the show was Ryunosuke's crush on Nuku Nuku and his attempts to look cool to his friends.  He's a typical horny teenager, but matures a little by the end and becomes a real stand up guy.  While the plot was mostly silly and the villains were complete idiots, there were a few serious moments.
Kyusaku takes Akiko on a hot springs vacation, leaving Ryunosuke alone
with Nuku Nuku - to put moves on her.  What a cool Dad!
I was mildly amused although the picture quality wasn't very good.  The plot twist with the rich guy who meets Nuku Nuku was pretty good.  I guess this series would be suitable for beginning or younger anime watchers, but it has very mild fan-service and a little violence (a character dies too).  All the questions about Nuku Nuku's past are answered by the close of the series and the final scene was heartwarming.  A cute, but ultimately mediocre series and now I know why it was sitting on my shelf for so long!
Nuku Nuku loves cats!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Knights of Sidonia Anime Review

Knights of Sidonia
Shidonia no Kishi
Netflix Original Series
300 mins. - 12 episodes
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Kobun Shizuno
Studio - Polygon Pictures

Synopsis: In the distant future the Earth has been destroyed by a fearsome alien species called the Gauna.  It has been one thousand years since humanity became adrift in space on massive colony ships.  They travel the galaxy looking for a new home and trying to stay one step ahead of the Gauna.  The ships were spread out in hopes of being harder to track and to improve chances of finding a suitable planet.  One such ship is the Sidonia and it could quite possibly be the last human population in the universe.
Tanikaze Nagate trained in the underworld to be an expert Garde pilot
Human culture and science have evolved on the Sidonia.  To bolster and safeguard the population cloning has been accepted and even a third, asexual gender was developed which adapts to their partner.  All humans now photosynthesize to conserve resources aboard the ship and are only required to eat once a week.  Even anthropomorphic animals exist and participate in the workforce.  Everyone wears a belt with a clip to attach to safety rails throughout the interior buildings when the ship performs maneuvers.
The Sidonia is a massive ship build around a fragment of the Earth
The Gauna are large alien creatures which can survive in the vacuum of space.  They are highly self-sufficient and can self-propel through the airless void.  Their bodies consist of an impenetrable core surrounded by a malleable proto-mass called Ena which can be manipulated to different needs of the core.  They remain a mystery, but one thing is clear - they are a near-impossible enemy to defeat and have pushed humanity to the brink of extinction.
The Gauna are a terrifying alien race which seem to be pursuing the human race
The Sidonia has not encountered a Gauna for almost a century after a hero from the last generation drove them off piloting a Garde Type 17 called the Tsugumori.  A special substance was discovered which could pierce a Gauna's core and destroy it.  Now nearly every able-bodied youth is trained to become a Garde pilot and defend the Sidonia.  Civil unrest has become more commonplace as protesters claim the Gauna are a hoax of the government.
The Sidonia is guided by the Immortal Council
Tanikaze Nagate was raised in the Underworld (the unpopulated areas of the Sidonia) by his grandfather, but is captured when venturing out to find food.  He has trained exhaustively on a simulator to be an expert pilot of the Garde Type 17, but has no social skills.  He is enlisted into the Guardian program to be a pilot when the Gauna reappear on his first assignment.  Now the Sidonia must send another generation of pilots to battle an impossible enemy for the survival of the human race.
From left - Midorikawa Yuhata, Shinatose Izana, Tanikaze Nagate,
Kunato Norio (background), Hoshijiro Shizuka, and Ren Honoka
Pros: Epic storyline as humanity teeters on the brink of total extinction, some exciting plot twists and reveals, Gauna are a fearsome enemy, character deaths are meaningful and tragic (Yoshiyuki Tomino would approve), killer opening theme and good ending theme, some actual science fiction with cool concepts (cloning, humans photosynthesizing), good series ending, suspenseful and made me want to watch each new episode immediately

Cons: Character animation looks awkward and artificial due to full CG rendering, characters and some mecha have too dark black flecks on them meant to look like weathering (too harsh, where's the color rendering?), looks kind of CG cheesy when a Gauna's body disintegrates after its core is destroyed, plot progresses a bit disjointedly and too many questions raised with few answered
Hiyama Lala is the bear lunch lady who takes Tanikaze under her wing
Mike Tells It Straight: Let's set the record straight - this series originally aired in Japan and was licensed by Netflix for broadcast distribution.  Netflix added a dub (for its various international audiences) and premiered it outside of Japan (the same way Funimation licenses anime series).  When I first saw the 'Netflix Original Series' label I thought they had produced the series and were moving into original animated content, but it's not true.  They're just cutting out the middleman (i.e. Funimation and other anime licensing companies) and doing the dub/sub themselves.  Netflix is a billion dollar company and depending on how successful this first series performs then they could become a player in the anime distribution game.  Could impact Funimation, the biggest anime licensing company, and possibly Cartoon Network, one of the bigger anime broadcasting channels.  Time will tell, but I think KoS was a good gamble.
Tanikaze gets in big trouble early on with the female pilots
While the series may only be available through streaming, rest assured it will eventually hit Blu-Ray/DVD soon (House of Cards did).  It was highly suspenseful and kept me enthralled to watch the next episode (binge watching fodder).  The series is based on the manga by Tsutomu Nihei (Blame!, NOiSE, Abara) and follows it very faithfully.  The manga is still ongoing and ending date is unknown.  In Abara, Nihei's protagonist is a Gauna who can form bone armor and weaponry from his body.  The Gauna in KoS appear to be a nod to this previous series.  Nihei is known for his futuristic storylines and unique art style which were both present.
Human cloning is now commonplace to bolster the population count
I found the series very enjoyable and had to watch the next episode to find out what happened next.  It was addictive and fun, but mildly disturbing as well.  The show is fairly mature and I don't recommend it for younger viewers.  The Gauna are a fearsome opponent and the pilots have a high mortality rate.  Yoshiyuki Tomino (creator of Mobile Suit Gundam and well known for killing off the majority of the main cast in his works) would definitely approve.  The science fiction concepts were pretty cool - humans photosynthesizing is a first, clones, and a third gender (transgender).  The mecha designs were decent and CG rendering was great.  Loved the opening theme by Angela and good soundtrack.  Characterization was well done and suspense was killer.  Reminded me of Attack on Titan which is high praise.
Tanikaze is an expert Garde 17 pilot as seen by this simulation footage
- too bad the current generation of mecha is the
Garde 18 with significant interface changes!
What didn't work for me were the CG character renderings, these were mostly terrible.  Movements were unrealistic, jerky, and the only way to tell characters apart were their hairstyles.  The characters and mecha had these black marks on them which were meant to be weathering/wear, but were just harsh black lines and too simple.  The plot progressed in a non-linear fashion and more questions were posed than answered.  I guess it sets groundwork for future reveals which will probably be spectacular.  I've read many complaints about Tanikaze's bland personality and I can rationalize his demeanor as being caused by living underground his whole life.  I wasn't very happy to see a makeshift harem forming around him which is an anime genre I'm not really into.
Hoshijiro and Tanikaze are shipwrecked in space after a battle
- Hoshijiro photosynthesizes while Tanikaze nervously looks away
Despite its flaws KoS was an epic series and I was hooked from the first episode.  It's mature and carries a sense of urgency as humanity fights for survival and characters die.  A nice mix of science fiction and storytelling among many familiar anime themes.  Tanikaze is the epitome of a last, best hope (at least he trained for it and it's not just inherent to his being).  I rank it among the new breed of anime which strives to surprise and engage the viewer instead of carrying down the familiar path.  If you have Netflix and enjoy anime then give it a shot.  Looking forward to the second season when it gets released.
The Gauna find a way to demoralize the human pilots by
using the fallen Garde pilots against them

TO BUY and Recommendations: