Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Heaven's Lost Property Forte Anime Review

Heaven's Lost Property: Forte
Sora no Otoshimono Forte
Funimation
Complete Collection - 4 discs
300 mins. - 12 episodes
$39.98 (2014) Blu-Ray/DVD
$64.98 (2013) Blu-Ray
$59.98 (2013)
ISBN 704400058783
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Hisashi Saito
Studio - AIC

Synopsis: Tomoki Sakurai was a regular high school student living in a boring town who just wanted to enjoy a quiet existence.  All of that ended when he discovered the Angeloid named Ikaros one evening.  She fell from a place called the Synapse and became Tomoki's servant.  To make matters worse she was followed by another Angeloid named Nymph.  Both Angeloids now live and go to school with Tomoki.  There go his chances for any peace and quiet!
Ikaros attempts to get close to Tomoki...with disastrous results
The Angeloids can fly, are extremely durable, and each have special abilities.  In her former state Ikaros was a fearsome Angeloid called the Uranus Queen with highly destructive capabilities.  It appears her memories were suppressed from this time and her emotions are purposefully stunted.  Nymph is a walking supercomputer and has highly technical abilities (although she is much weaker physically than Ikaros).
Nymph laments the loss of her wings in the first season
Tomoki's friends help him deal with the Angeloids and their antics.  They include his next door neighbor Sohara (who has a secret crush on him), the eccentric Sugata who is head of the New World Discovery Club (he's pretty much the only member), and the sadistic student body president Mikako (her family are Yakuza).  Together they try to learn about the Angeloids and the Synapse while getting into outlandish situations.
Tomoki devises an ingenious system of peep holes - how long until he's caught?
Another Angeloid is sent to Earth to eliminate Tomoki!  Her name is Astraea and she is one of the strongest Angeloids, but woefully clumsy and not very bright.  She also has enormous boobs.  She remains on Earth and plots to somehow destroy Tomoki, but keeps hanging around his house to mooch food.  She gets sucked into all the goofiness happening in Tomoki's life including - Mikako's snowball battle girls vs. boys, Tomoki's panty robot pedal bicycle (don't ask), a mock game show to prove Tomoki is despised by all the girls at school, the forbidden eating of Ikaros' watermelons, Mikako's mock fishing contest where the 'fish' are busty girls who have been tied up, Tomoki's peeping network and more.
Astraea comes down from the Synapse to snuff Tomoki!
Another Angeloid is sent from the Synapse and she's a next-generation model called Chaos.  She is ultimately powerful, inadvertently evil, and emotionally still a child.  Will even the combined might of Ikaros, Nymph, and Astraea be enough to stop her?  The evil master of the Synapse will stop at nothing to destroy the rogue Angeloids and their 'master' Tomoki.
The Angeloids face the fearsome Chaos - the next generation of Angeloid!
Pros: Great animation and backgrounds, every episode ends with a different song/closing credits based on what happened in the episode, tons of comedy moments and funny situations, even more fan-service than the first season, some very small character development and plot reveals (particularly Nymph), Chaos is a suitably dark and scary nemesis for the Angeloids in this season
Tomoki pulls his best prank yet
Cons: Female characters are ridiculous and wear collars with chains on them, Ikaros has zero personality and usually just stares blankly at stuff, plot barely moves forward (not much revealed about the Synapse), Chaos is fairly annoying, a lot of really silly episodes
We learn very little about the evil master of the Synapse
Mike Tells It Straight: The first season of Heaven's Lost Property (reviewed here) started out as your typical harem anime and eventually won me over with its outlandish comedy situations.  I was impressed with the unique ending credits and songs for each episode.  It stood out as a decent show with good animation and the serious parts were mildly compelling.  Tomoki is an unrepentant horn-dog and the mystery of the Synapse was mildly compelling.
Sugata meets the mysterious Daedalus who built the Angeloids
This second season continued the tradition of unique ending credits and nice animation.  The show is all about the ecchi/fan-service and this theme grows exponentially.  Entire episodes seem to be dedicated to Tomoki's lecherous ways, ridiculous contests surrounding boobs, and Tomoki is often sporting a boner or completely naked (with little graphics covering his parts).  It's crazy!
Nymph runs a diagnostic on Ikaros after she falls ill
I wish the series spent a little less time on Tomoki's massive porn collection and focused more on the mystery of the Synapse.  We get some new information, but nothing on the actual master of the Angeloids.  This was a letdown along with the annoying childlike Angeloid, Chaos.  She would have been practically unbearable if it weren't for her sheer scary evilness!  The battle with her was pretty wicked and overall Heaven's Lost Property Forte was a zany show.  It kicks the fan-service (no explicit nudity just lots of groping) and comedy up a notch while sacrificing plot development.  Even more of a guilty pleasure than the first season ;)
Ikaros manifests her full powers as the Uranus Queen
TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ghost Hunt Anime Review

Ghost Hunt
Gosuto Hanto
Funimation
Complete Collection - 4 discs
600 mins. - 25 episodes
$29.98 (2010) S.A.V.E.
$59.98 (2009)
$49.98 (2008) Parts 1-2/ea.
ISBN 704400079122
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Rei Mano
Studio - J.C. Staff

Synopsis: Mai Taniyama is an ordinary high school girl who likes to tell ghost stories with her friends.  She meets a mysterious young man who turns out to have been hired to investigate a supposed haunting in an abandoned school building.   Then Mai accidentally breaks one of his video cameras and even gets his assistant injured.  Feeling guilty she ends up taking the assistant's place during the investigation and witnesses some unexplained phenomena.  The young man is Kazuya Shibuya who runs Shibuya Paranormal Research (SPR), but Mai decides to call him 'Naru' because of his lofty, narcissistic attitude.
From left: Masako, Ayako, Yasuhara, Naru (Kazuya), Hosho, Mai, and John
The apparent haunting gets more severe and more investigators are called in.  They include:
  • Hosho Takigawa is a former Buddhist monk who is adept at exorcising spirits (using Buddhist mantras) and is very brave.  He appears to be very laid back and even wears stylish clothes.  Mai is put off by his appearance at first, but soon discovers he is a capable expert and very brave.
  • Ayako Matsuzaki is a Shinto shrine maiden who is brash and outspoken.  She doesn't look or act the part of a holy maiden by any means.  She also has the ability to release spirits (using Shinto kuji like the 'nine cuts') although her reputation is not very good.  Mai surmises that she talks a good game, but doesn't have the spiritual power to back it up.
  • John Brown is a Catholic priest hailing from Australia.  He is very soft spoken and kind.  When performing an exorcism he uses holy water and reads passages from the Holy Bible.
  • Masako Hara is a famous television star who has the ability to sense and even channel spirits (a medium).  She apparently has a crush on Naru, but its unknown whether he returns her feelings.  Mai is instantly jealous of her.
  • Lin Koujo is Naru's assistant and keeps to himself.  He is highly capable and even has some spiritual abilities.  Mai is convinced he hates her.  
I really hope, for Mai's sake, that's just a dream
Naru ends up hiring Mai to work with SPR to pay off the rest of the camera she busted.  The group investigates a wide variety of 'hauntings' with varying degrees of authenticity and danger.  Each member contributes in some unique and valuable way.  Mai feels a bit out of place among these seasoned hunters, especially Naru and Lin who are both very forthright in their dealings with others.  Over the course of the investigations Mai becomes a believer and she even begins to show some skill at solving cases.  When the group find a real haunting or possession is when the true danger begins.
The team have fun investigating a possible haunting in the park
Subsequent cases SPR takes on include:
  • They visit a home where it's believed a poltergeist is at work.  The family includes a young girl who has a creepy doll.  Can the group uncover the tragic history of the house and the mystery of the doll before another accident happens?  
  • The team is then called in to a school where many strange accidents have been happening to students.  It appears a desk is cursed, but also other places in the school.  A girl who exhibits psychokinetic abilities (spoon bending) has been blamed, but Mai is convinced she's innocent.  Is the girl lashing out at her enemies after they publicly ridiculed her?
  • Something is purposefully interuppting young lovers at a local park.  Whenever someone tries to kiss they get splashed with cold water.  Is it the work of a jilted spirit?
  • John brings the team to the aid of a local parrish where possessions have been happening more frequently.  A boy disappeared many years ago and it appears his spirit is becoming agitated.  Can the SPR team solve the mystery before another child goes missing?
  • The team is called to another haunted high school where the principal and headmaster are both gruff unbelievers.  They meet a helpful young man named Osamu Yasuhara who explains the curses started happening after a first-year student named Sakauchi took his own life.  Add the fact the entire student body has been playing a strange game similar to a Ouija board and the school has become a hotbed of spiritual activity.  Mai has a horrible dream which spells disaster for the group.  Can Naru solve the case before anyone else gets hurt?
  • Several groups of paranormal researchers are called in to solve the disappearance of a pair of young men in an old mansion owned by the former prime minister.  Not all of the investigators are what they appear to be and not all of them make it out alive.  The house has a macabre history and Mai seems particularly sensitive.  When a seance is held all hell breaks loose!  Can the group escape the horror hidden beneath the house?
  • A family hires SPR to help them avert a curse which happens any time the head of the family changes.  The team faces their toughest challenge yet as they encounter possessions, malevolent spirits, and even Naru is caught unawares.  The death toll rises and Mai's dreams become increasingly dire as time runs out.  During the last change a team of ghost hunters were lost and SPR could suffer the same fate!
Keep your eyes on this creepy doll...or else!
Pros: Good cast of characters (with actual character development), nice blend of creepy horror sprinkled with a little lighthearted comedy, opening/ending sequences/music were decent and reminded me of those late night psychic/spiritual infomercials, I liked the multiple episode story arc format which allowed suspense to build up until the last episode of each case, a few genuinely scary moments, not many horror anime out there that do a good job
The SPR crew encounter this dangerous hell hound!
Cons: Some of the solutions to the cases can be far-fetched (like the first case, the one with the boy who disappeared, and the last case), the ending of the final case was too convenient for all of the story buildup, some goofy moments, not all questions are answered
What has Mai gotten herself into?
Mike Tells It Straight: I almost quit this series after the first three episodes, but am very glad to have stuck with it to the end.  The story was originally a light novel series, then a manga, then adapted into this anime series, and currently an ongoing manga again.  There are not many decent horror anime out there and I can say Ghost Hunt is one of them.  One of the best aspects of the show are the interactions of the SPR characters.  Mai is the main protagonist/narrator and she gives a good perspective on the other characters.  The characters grow over the course of the series (especially Mai's latent psychic abilities).
Performing a seance in the bowels of a haunted mansion
The series is split into multi-episode story arcs which I found to be very appropriate.  Each case takes a few episodes to solve and it allows a nice buildup of suspense before the finales.  I liked the characters which definitely grew on me over the course of the series.  There's some nice character development.  Some of the later stories were particularly scary (the Bloodstained Labyrinth and the Cursed House) and I enjoyed watching the series alone at night!  It's few and far between to find decent horror anime and Ghost Hunt does a good job.
Mai comes face to face with an unspeakable horror - is it just a dream?
Some things which bothered me about the series were the convenient ending to the final story arc.  We get a great buildup to the final episode and then it just ended with a convenient reveal of some hidden power.  Not how I would have liked it to end.  Everything up to that point was pretty good, but the ending was a letdown.  A few of the situations in the series were kinda lame and very far-fetched (even for an anime).  Okay, so it's way harder and more uncommon to have ghosts/poltergeists show up than what happened in the series (I've watched a few episodes of Ghost Hunters on SyFy network).
Some spirits can actually do harm to the living
Despite its flaws I still enjoyed the series and would recommend it if you are looking for a creepy anime to watch alone at night.  It's a good combination of humor (Mai's pining for the stoic Naru and her rivalry with Masako) and suspense while the group is confronted with difficult psychic phenomena.  The character interactions make the series along with a few scary moments.  It can be a little slow-paced at times, but I was surprised at how much I actually liked the series.  
The team visits Naru in the hospital after a particularly nasty case
TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor Anime Review

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor
Musekinin Kancho Taira
The Right Stuf International
Complete Collection - 4 discs
650 mins. - 26 episodes
$39.99 (2013)
$49.99 (2009) Remastered
$99.99 (2005)
$34.95 (2001) Vol. 1-4/ea.
$129.95 (2000)
ISBN 742617200526
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Koichi Mashimo
Studio - Tatsunoko Productions

Synopsis: Justy Ueki Tylor is an aimless young man who decides to join the United Planets Space Force (UPSF) because he thinks he can ride out a cushy desk job and then collect a pension for the rest of his life.  His timing is terrible as it appears the UPSF is heading for space war with the Raalgon Empire.  It appears luck is on his side when he gets assigned to the military pension office until he delivers a pension to a bed-ridden former admiral who is being held hostage by terrorists!  Tylor somehow foils the terrorists plot despite or possibly because of his blundering headlong into the situation.  He gets promoted to ship's Captain as a reward even though he has absolutely no qualifications or experience.  The ship is the decrepit old destroyer the Soyokaze and is filled with a crew of derelict soldiers considered to be at the bottom rung in the UPSF.
Jusy Ueki Tylor is an aimless youth without a purpose in life
Tylor makes a big splash on board with his careless and disorderly command style.  He tells the crew they can do what they want and it starts a mutiny!  The motley crew is made up of insubordinates, buffoons, and a few diligent officers trying to make a name for themselves.
From left: Emi and Yumi Hanner, Kojiro Sakai, Kyung Kim, Makoto
Yamamoto, Captain Tylor, Yuriko Star, Harold Katori, Sgt. Cryborne,
Lt. Andressen, Nurse Harumi, and Dr. Kitaguchi
The crew includes:
  • First Officer Lt. Commander Makoto Yamamoto is strait-laced, determined, and completely inept.  He's a career military man who dreams of becoming captain one day, but doesn't have the smarts to pull it off.  Torn between his duty to follow the military chain of command to the letter by supporting the Captain's wacky decisions and his need to blow the whistle on Tylor's disregard for protocol, Yamamoto is perpetually chasing his own tail.  
  • Lt. Commander Yuriko Star is another upright military officer and she's not afraid to call out her Captain for breaking the rules.  He's a constant source of aggravation for her and she's always trying to restore order to the Soyokaze.  It doesn't help that Tylor finds her attractive and seems to ignore her reprimands.  
  • First Lt. Kyung Kim is the communications officer of the Soyokaze and preoccupied with her good looks.  Regardless she proves to be a versatile crew member able to handle unexpected situations.  She doesn't know what to make of the new Captain and usually doesn't take him too seriously.  
  • First Lt. Harold Katori is the ship's navigator and cool under pressure.  He's a very centered individual who takes in stride all of the new Captain's quirks.  
  • Emi and Yumi Hanner are the daughters of the admiral Tylor saved and are hopelessly devout to their Captain.  They followed him into the UPSF and are endlessly enthusiastic.  The pair are very cute, but inexperienced.  
  • Second Lt. Kojiro Sakai loves his space fighter more than anything else in the universe and spends countless hours polishing it.  He's a total hot-head and gets into arguments with the marines stationed on board.  He's also very awkward around women.  
  • First Lt. Andressen leads the marines on the Soyokaze and he is a rough man of action.  He's not afraid to buck command and engineers the first mutiny against Tylor.  
  • Master Sergeant Cryborne is a tough customer and the scars on his face are a testament to his iron will.  He's as insubordinate as they come and earned his place on the Soyokaze.  
  • Naval Surgeon Kitaguchi is a complete drunk and only a competent physician when he's inebriated.  
  • Staff Sergeant Harumi is assigned to the Soyokaze and makes an immediate splash due to her fetching good looks.  Every man aboard is instantly smitten with the new doctor's assistant and makes up some excuse to see the nurse.  What is her daring secret and how does it involve the Captain?
The destroyer Soyokaze (yes, the flag waves in space)
On the opposite side of the galaxy the Raalgon Empire is in transition following the recent assassination of their Emperor (the UPSF is blamed).  The Raalgon are a proud race who value strength and conviction above all else.  The Emperor's daughter Azalyn ascends to the throne, but she's barely sixteen and unaccustomed to ruling an empire.  Furthermore, she's not allowed to openly grieve for her father's death as it's not acceptable for an Empress to show weakness.  She's torn between her duty, grief, and wanting to feel normal again.  To make matters worse, the Emperor's advisors are back-stabbers (quite possibly in the literal sense) who want to control the inexperienced Azalyn and are rallying for a complete attack on the UPSF.  Azalyn has only one confidante in Captain Ru Baraba Dom who truly cares for the Empress.
The Empress Azalyn rules over the war-like Raalgon yet privately
mourns her father's passing and yearns to recapture her lost childhood
The Soyokaze immediately stumbles across a Raalgon advance fleet and Captain Tylor is put to the test.  Can the crew put aside their differences and rally behind the Captain to save the day?  Captain Tylor barely recognizes the true danger he's in from both within and without.  Only a miracle will keep the Soyokaze in one piece, but can Tylor's uncanny luck possibly continue?  The UPSF top brass want Tylor to fail miserably and he's not making a good case for himself.  How will the Raalgon's Empress react when she meets Tylor?  Can the most irresponsible man in space stay in one piece?
The Captain of the Soyokaze is not your typical ship's captain
Pros: Great ensemble cast of characters, some genuinely funny moments (my favorite was Empress Azalyn's sixteenth birthday), fun homages to other sci-fi series (like Macross, Gundam, Space Battleship Yamato), unique showdown between the two space fleets (UPSF and Raalgon), Tylor definitely has his moments of genius, good ending
One of the marines wears a hockey mask and is named Jason...wait a minute!
Cons: Tylor really acts like a fool and it can get a bit tiresome at times, plot and situations are completely ridiculous (on purpose), opening/ending theme songs are bland, older animation, not very exciting, some boring episodes, the whole 'Paco Paco' thing with Empress Azalyn
The ship's doctor is a raging alcoholic (although he does
perform better when drunk)
Mike Tells It Straight: This series originally aired in the early 1990s and I finally got around to watching it after having the collection on my shelf for a few years.  It was definitely a mixed bag with some good points, but also a lot of parts which left me scratching my head.  First off it's a comedy/space opera.  The main character, Captain Tylor, mostly acts like a nonchalant moron with very little regard for structured authority.  He's incredibly lucky and seems to blunder his way through difficult situations with ease.  It can be slightly amusing or extremely annoying at times.  Some of the situations are absolutely hilarious, but many are downright lame.
The crew of the Soyokaze support their Captain in his time of need
The supporting cast was the highlight of the series and each character contributes in some way to the overall story.  Their interactions with the Captain make the series much more enjoyable.  The series definitely grows on you and the ending was actually pretty good.  Some of the episodes were total duds, but a few were great.  I really disliked the whole 'Paco Paco' thing with the Captain and Empress Azalyn.  It was corny, but the episode with her sixteenth birthday party was absolutely hilarious.  I liked the episode with the space confrontation between UPSF and Raalgon fleets.  The tension and build up was cool.
Shia Has - because alien space-faring races wear bikinis
It's an older series and the animation shows its age.  I liked how the Soyokaze and some of the character designs were homages to other space opera series (like Macross, Gundam, Space Battleship Yamato).  The opening and ending animation/music was weak, but the episode soundtrack was good.  This series is just okay - it has a few funny moments and is lighthearted, but Tylor's character can get tiresome.  I can see why it sat on my shelf for so long, but I'm glad I finally watched it.  Somehow it seems to grow on you and the last few episodes are pretty darn good.  Now I've got the sequel OVA sitting there and I'll have to check it out to see if the story gets better.  Stay tuned!
Let's go!

TO BUY and Recommendations: