Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sekirei Pure Engagement Anime Review

Sekirei: Pure Engagement
Sekirei Season Two
Complete Collection - 5 discs
350 mins. - 14 episodes
$64.98 (2012) Blu-Ray/DVD combo
$69.98 (2013) Season 1-2 Blu-Ray/DVD combo
ISBN 704400058417
Japanese/English Subtitles - English Subtitles
Director - Keizo Kusakawa
Studio - Seven Arcs

Synopsis: Minato Sahashi has joined the Sekirei Plan as an Ashikabi.  He was just a regular guy having trouble passing his college entrance exams when a beautiful girl bumped into him.  Her name is Musubi and she is a Sekirei.  The Sekirei are numbered (up to 108) and must battle each other according to the Sekirei Plan which is a run by the clandestine MBI Corporation.  Musubi has chosen Minato as her Ashikabi, the human partner who can amplify a Sekirei's power through a kiss.
Musubi and Tsukiumi have a hardcore rivalry on who can shop fastest
The pair's bond has been tested through battles with other Sekirei/Ashikabi pairs as well as MBI's cruel Discipline Squad.  They have become stronger as a result and Minato has proven himself a confident individual.  He and Musubi live at a boarding house, the Izumo Inn, filled with other Sekirei.  Most of them have chosen Minato as their Ashikabi and compete with each other for his attention.  They include Musubi (who uses hand-to-hand combat), Tsukiumi who considers herself Minato's actual wife (she wields power over water), Kusano is a young girl who plans to marry Minato when she gets older (her ability is plants), and Matsu the computer-genius.
It's always party-time when Kazehana is around!
The Inn is also home to a few mysterious Sekirei including the ridiculously well-endowed Kazehana (she controls wind and drinks a lot of sake) who develops a keen interest in Minato, the secretive Homura who hides a chilling secret (yet is a Fire Sekirei), Uzume who hides the fact she is a Sekirei (what is her true goal and who is her Ashikabi?), and the frightening innkeeper Miya whose roots reach back to the birth of the Sekirei Plan.  We also get to meet Minato's mother who actually works for MBI - will she protect her son or choose her employer?
Homura doesn't like getting interrupted in the bath.  Mystery or
just common privacy?
The Plan progresses and peripheral participants are forced into the forefront by MBI's maniacal chairman, Hiroto Minaka.  This includes Uzume, Homura, and even Kazehana.  Minato and the girls are thrust into action to oppose MBI and the Sekirei Plan.  Events take a serious turn as friends are pitted against friends in a battle to the death.  Can they stand up to the Discipline Squad and the other Sekirei, or will they be torn apart?
The original Discipline Squad has a few familiar faces
Pros: Decent opening theme music (ending theme is just okay), this show is all about fan-service and there's a lot, good animation, Minato is a stand up guy and not the typical harem genre wimp, more action than the first season although perhaps less fan-service O_o, we learn more about the Sekirei Plan and MBI
Tsukiumi warns Kazehana to keep her giant boobs away from Minato!
Cons: Story is not very deep or compelling, more attention is given to the peripheral Sekirei and not as much to the Musubi/Minato relationship as the first season, MBI's chairman is a ridiculous jackass, the plot moves slowly forward without many real answers
Not this douchebag again!
Mike Tells It Straight: I watched the first season of Sekirei and despite being heavily focused on fan-service I found it to have a good heart.  The growing relationship between Musubi and Minato was charming and I was really impressed at him being an atypical harem-genre male protagonist.  He actually had a spine and stood up for the girls in his 'harem' which was very refreshing.  The plot wasn't so great and it was more about girls losing articles of clothing during battles (or the ample bath scenes), but showed enough promise to make we watch this second season.  
Kazehana must rescue Minato from the current Discipline Squad
The story picks up as the Sekirei Plan moves forward and MBI's chairman forces Sekirei/Ashikabi pairs to participate.  Focus shifts to the mysterious Sekirei living at the Izumo Inn as we get the story of Kazehana, Homura, Uzume, and Miya.  I was a little let down by the overall story progression of this season despite and maybe because these peripheral characters take away the focus from Minato/Musubi.  I found the firs season's best aspect was their buddy relationship and the 'harem' aspect of the show blocked them getting closer.
Who is the Veiled Sekirei?
Focus shifted toward the story vs. the fan-service in this second season, but there's still plenty of busty half-naked girls.  It felt more serious and one of the peripheral cast is taken out.  MBI's chairman is a total chump and not a menacing villain at all.  I really hope there's a third season because the finish of this season didn't resolve the story.  If you liked the first season then check this one out (you should obviously watch the first season before this one), but if fan-service and ridiculously-proportioned women are not your bag then steer clear.
Each year the Sekirei submit themselves to a physical examination
by the MBI Corp.  Yeah, it's pretty hot.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Simpsons Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

Hayao Miyazaki has announced his retirement (once again) this past September 2013 and The Simpsons pay tribute to one of the greatest animators of our time!   He has retired before and rumors are already spinning as to the possibility of him returning for another project.  I wouldn't mind.

Absolutely love this homage!  I saw parts from My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service (gotta review that soon), and Princess Mononoke.  It seems they only included films he actually directed, but I didn't see anything from Laputa (Castle in the Sky).

Did I miss anything?  What did you see!?

Homer and his buddy accidentally step into the world of Spirited Away


Monday, January 6, 2014

Summer Wars Anime Movie Review

Summer Wars
Sama Wozu
Warner Home Video
Movie - 114 mins. - 2 disc
$29.98 (2013) Blu-Ray/DVD
$34.98 (2011) Blu-Ray
$29.98 (2011) 2-disc
ISBN 704400094811
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Mamoru Hosoda
Studio - Madhouse

Synopsis: Kenji Koiso is a hopeless high school nerd - when he's not spending endless hours as one in a million moderators of the online world of OZ then he's studying mathematics.  See, he's kind of a math genius, actually.  It makes having a social life next to impossible, but somehow he gets invited on a trip by his beautiful and outspoken classmate, Natsuki Shinohara.
Kenji and his buddy Takashi spend all their free time moderating for OZ
Natsuki's heading back home to see her family and celebrate the upcoming 90th birthday of her great-grandmother, Sakae Jinnouchi.  Great-grandma Sakae is one tough old bird and the matriarch of the Jinnouchi clan who can trace their ancestry back almost four centuries to feudal times.  The clan has a rich and defiant history as warriors, but has recently fallen into financial hard times due to fiscal mismanagement many years ago by the clan's patriarch.  The family has been trying to regain their former social and wealth status.
Kenji meets Natsuki's great-grandmother Sakae
When Natsuki introduces Kenji as her fiancee he absolutely loses it!  She talks him up as coming from a prestigious family, living in America for a year, and attending a quality university - none of which is true!  Poor Kenji is trapped in the Jinnouchi compound with Natsuki's whole family and trying to pretend he's her fiancee.  He's hopelessly fallen for Natsuki and will do anything she says at this point, but the pressure is almost too much to handle as he sits through family dinner.
Kenji meets the rest of Natsuki's her fake fiancee!
Kenji is barely surviving his visit when he receives a mysterious text in the middle of the night.  It's a series of numbers and appears to be a math problem requiring the solution to the code.  He wakes up in the morning with only a faint recollection of working out the problem, but apparently all hell has broken loose in the online world of OZ.
The black sheep of the family - Uncle Wabisuke
OZ is a virtual reality world where users create avatars to navigate the world on their behalf.  OZ has become so popular that it's integrated into both social and governmental systems.  People can have entire lives within OZ including virtual careers, sporting events, relationships, and anything else you can think of.  Someone has cracked OZ's security barrier and is appropriately user accounts and tampering with the infrastructure of the world.  Things become serious when the hacker starts playing with utility services and traffic signals.
Kenji solves a mysterious numerical code sent to him during the night
Did Kenji accidentally hand someone the keys to OZ?  His account seems to have been hijacked and will the Feds come breaking down the door to find him?  If he was uncomfortable at the Jinnouchi's residence before then things have hit a whole new level of bad.  Natsuki's disowned uncle, Wabisuke, shows up and causes a big stink with the family.  What's his connection to all the strange happenings?  When the Jinnouchi's learn what's going on they kick into overdrive to try and solve the problem, but what can one real family do to save the unreal world of OZ?
Kenji's avatar gets hacked in the virtual world of OZ by 'Love Machine'
Pros: Great story with family as a central theme, Madhouse puts out some great animation and the virtual world of OZ is really detailed (the sheer number of the little avatars for people is staggering), excellent animation and lush backgrounds, nice combination of realism with fictional virtual reality
Fortunately Kenji's buddy Takashi gets him a new avatar to use
Cons: A lot of characters to keep track of, story jumps around a bit, can be corny at times (although meant to counter-balance the serious moments in the movie), plenty of suspension of disbelief with this one, slightly mature (there is a death)
King Kazma is a virtual fighter in OZ who takes on the hacker
Mike Tells It Straight: Summer Wars is an entertaining film with a lot of different elements - part near-future science-fiction with the virtual reality world of OZ, part slice-of-life family drama with the Jinnouchi clan, part boy-meets-girl romantic comedy with Kenji and Natsuki, and part thriller as both aspects collide in a countdown to save the real world from the virtual world.  It starts out slow as we're introduced to OZ and then Kenji heads to Natsuki's family home.
The hacker becomes a much tougher oppenent to rival even King Kazma
I found the characters to be likable and varied.  Each represents a specific age category - Kazuma is the teenage loner, Natsuki is the naive high school girl, Kenji is the bumbling high school boy, Wabisuke is the exiled rogue returning home, great grandma Sakae is the spunky oldster who still has some fight left in her, and the group goes on.  I think everyone could identify with at least one family member which gives this anime a broad appeal.  The little kids were out-of-control and manage to wreck everything with their wanton enthusiasm.
The Jinnouchi clan watches as Kazuma takes on Love Machine
The story is pure dramedy with Kenji being the main focus until the family organizes to take on Love Machine.  I liked a lot of the scenes and themes of the movie, but felt a lot of gags were thrown in to make if funnier.  I guess it's more comedy than serious drama.  The battles between Kazuma (as King Kazma) and Love Machine were really exciting and epic.  Madhouse brings great visuals and lots of detail to this film.  It was a lot different than I expected - somehow I was thinking another dimension filled with weird little creatures (the avatars pictured on the cover) were invading the real world and a group of people had to stop them.
Love Machine gets deeper into OZ and starts wreaking havoc on the real world
Overall I would recommend this film as a lighthearted comedy with a nice family theme.  The ending is well done and director Mamoru Hosoda follows up The Girl Who Leapt Through Time with another successful movie.  I think it has broad appeal to almost all ages (recommended for viewers 8+ due to 'a death' and old people probably don't know what a virtual reality world is) and is a heartwarming story.  It particularly reminded me of Eden of the East which was an interesting show.  Check it out!
The Jinnouchi clan (plus Kenji)

TO BUY and Recommendations: