Valvrave the Liberator: Season 2

Valvrave-Season-2-00Time to return to the review the second half of a series where the Main Character dies at the end of the first episode. Yes, it’s time to take a look at the second season of Valvrave the Liberator. Will it keep up the death toll of the previous season? Spoiler alert: Yes! A lot of people die.

Now that Module 77 has reached the moon and become their own nation it’s time to travel to the Earth and face the Magius. As Haruto struggles to keep in the fight he discovers the dark secretes surrounding the Valvraves. From the Valvraves being powered by Runes (which come from human memories) and the Magius’ have existed since the dawn of Time, Haruto has a lot to deal with.

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The intensity from the first season doesn’t let up in this second season. It’s almost better to watch if you weren’t watching as the broadcast came out and didn’t have to wait the fourth months between the two seasons. The first episode even picks with the battle that was the cliffhanger of the previous season. The series screams to be the kind show that you binge watch some friends on a long weekend.

Only problem with binging this series is it has too much drama to watch at once. The group that goes down to the earth don’t all come back and some come back in body bags. With every little victory the Valvrave pilots experience seem to result in twice as many set backs. The Magius are a ruthless organization that want the Valvraves and will stop at nothing to get them back.

valvraveNew mecha are also introduced in the series. The strike brace is an attachment weapon that helps to cool down the robots and has both defensive and offensive capabilities. It’s a pretty cool piece of hardware. The enemies also get new suits known as Kirschbuum which are meant to be Anti-Valvrave type suit and are incredible destruive. These robot additions help to keep the combat scenes strong but often detracts from the characterization of the show.

Given the epic grand scale effects of where the series ends, it might have been better to show more development in how things turned out. Once again much like Code Geass and Gundam Seed, Sunrise Studios tries to tie up the entire show in the credits of the final episode. You can’t keep doing this to us guys. Fans need proper endings and they won’t get it if you wait until the last minutes to properly draw everything to a close.

The series ends good but kinda depressing. There is a lot of death and destruction and not necessarily in a good way. There is the possibility of sequel but it definitely won’t contain certain members of the cast which really helped make this show worth watching. Overall, not the worst attempt by Sunrise to make other robots other than Gundams.

RATING: B

Escaflowne: Girl in Gaia

2vttu8g Retelling month coming to an end as I review a movie that re-introduces a story with a much different look then before. New art, modified character designs, but the same story about a girl named Hitomi who gets teleported to the world of Gaia. This is Escaflowne: Girl in Gaia.

Hitomi is a girl with depression who wishes she could disappear. She gets her wish and transported to the world of Gaia where she meets the warrior prince, Van. Together the two of them must use the “Dragon Armor” called Escaflowne to retake the world. There is a prophecy though which talks of a “winged goddess” who will bring destruction to the world. Is this about Hitomi and will she destroy the world?

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The change in art is the most noticeable change from the show to the movie. The characters look much darker and harsher in their tone and the landscape and scenery shots are a wonder to behold. The movie does lacks the fun and lighter moments which were in the series as it seems to follow the art and keep a much harsher tone throughout the entire film. This change is what divides the fans of the series. Some like it and some hated it but for the most part everyone is happy the characters no longer have the pointed noses they did back in the original series.

The characters also have a change from what they were in the series. Van becomes a much tougher warrior from what he was in the TV series and gets the addition of having psychic powers. The first five minutes of the movie show him boarding an enemy vessel and slaughtering the crew. Hitomi gets a change too. She is much less love struck than she was in the show. The character may have changed but they are still very intriguing to watch.

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The mecha overall remain the same but there isn’t as many of them as their were in the show. Instead of everyone and their mother having a robot, they are much less common an occurrence. When the enemy Guymelef (the mecha for the series) makes its appearance it is a big deal and a lot of people are killed because of it. This change is a odd choice but the fight between the enemy and Escalowne is an intense battle that is one of the best parts of the film.

Overall, the Girl in Gaia manages to tell the story of a girl being taken to another world and meeting a prince with a Giant Robot in far less than half the time and half the mythology. Despite this lack of ability to cover all the points from the original, the movie is very good and it a great treats for fans of the series. There you have it, the end of the first themed month for this blog. Next up, time to take a step back to a first in a franchise.

RATING: B+

Eureka Seven: Pocketful of Rainbows

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The two previous entries in this theme month managed to condense the story of the original series in a fun and entertaining way. Today’s movie doesn’t succeed in that regard and instead results in something which takes a turn from the original in ways which don’t pan out for the better.

Renton is looking for his childhood Love Eureka, who was taken from him when he was very young. After enrolling in the military and through the use of his robot, Nirvash, Renton is able to reunite with Eureka. What Renton is unaware of is that forces close to him plan to use her for their own purposes.

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The major change with the movie which brings won the film  as a whole is the new take on the crew of the Gekkostate. No longer just rebels trying to expose the military’s dark secretes, they are now former military experiments who are tying to find a way back to a paradise they saw called Neverland. The entire plot of the movie is them using Eureka to find a way to get back there because if they don’t there is a good chance they won’t live much longer. To obtain this lost Eden they are willing to do anything including assaulting Eureka. Yes, there is a scene where Hap and Stoner, fun loving characters in the original series decide to assault Eureka to confirm is she is the maiden who can help them return to Neverland. its a bit disturbing to say the lease and the film doesn’t’ really recover form it at all. Especially since the scene ends with Renton getting show in the stomach.

The ending is also a bit less than chipper as well. Eureka and Renton end up together but not in nearly as happy as they were in the series. This is the main problem with the whole movie. Instead of a good feeling of satisfaction which came after watching the original series, the movie feels awkward and uncomfortable. Not the best follow up to one of the best Mecha animes ever.

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This movie does have a new form for for the robot Nirvash (pictured above). Its a new evolved form which looks a bit like Tekkaman Blade from the anime series of the same name. As a fan of that show I think it looks impressive but isn’t in the movie long enough to save it from the crippling alterations they made. You are better off just taking the time to watch the original series.

There you have it, a retelling that didn’t work out for the better. Not every film is able to have the same joy and feelings epicness as the series they were based on. Next time, a retelling that takes a much different approach by reinventing the entire look of the show. For the better in many people’s opinion. See you then crew.

RATING: C-

Macross: Do you remember love?

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Time to return to the wonderful world of Macross. I’m looking forward to the new series, Macross Delta but it will  have to wait until later this year. For now we find ourselves still in “retelling” month and looking at a movie which retells the original Macross series and asks the important question, “Do you remember love?”

Out in the solar system, the spaceship, the Macross is out exploring when it is attacked by Zentrati forces. Helping to fight against them is Hikaru Ichijou, a pilot who finds himself falling in love with the young idol named Lynn Minmei. Things get turn upside down when Hikaru and his commanding officer Misa Hayate get thrown from the ship. As they struggle to survive the two grow closer and may have found the way to defeat the Zentradi by harnessing the power of love.

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This retelling is a masterpiece that adds a great deal to the original show it was based on and does so while looking so good in the process. The visuals in this movie are incredibly detailed to the point each missile with its vapor trail is lovingly hand drawn (rumor has it if you pause at the right moment you can see they drew one missile as a Budweiser can) and the landscapes are detailed in a way which conveys distress and hopelessness at just the right moments. Its truly a sight to behold.

The characters also have a bit of an alteration from the TV show. Minmei isn’t as annoying as she was in the show and you can feel the struggle with the result of the love triangle between her, Hikaru , and Misa. Also, they managed to squeeze in some time for Mira and Max’s relationship but sadly one character doesn’t have any change and once again Roy Fokker still meets with a very traumatic fate. Why can’t he just stay alive in one version and retire to private sector with Vanessa on his arm?

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The movie does have a few plot holes which are never properly addressed.  This has led to questions like “Did Mira shrink or did Max enlarge?” and “Why does an ancient alien song sound like 80s pop?” Still these little nitpicks don’t distract from the overall enjoyment of the movie and has some really memorable moments which mecha fans have been treasuring for years. The film is a quality piece of animation for not only fans of giant robots but fans of anime in general. Now if we could just get a physical media release of it in America. Are we asking too much for that to happen?

Two entries down and two to go on the first themed month. So far the entries have been successful in retelling the series properly. Next week though we find one that doesn’t succeed in properly recreating the feel of the show at all. Look forward to it crew.*

RATING: A-

*I’m thinking of addressing my readers as crew. Thoughts? Love it? Hate it? Comment and let me know.

Rahxephon: Pluralitas Concentio

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Welcome to my first themed month. Every post in this month of January will be dedicated to the theme of “Series retelling.” These movies take the plot of the original series they were based on and retell them in a short condensed movie. The first entry in this theme month is Rahxephon.

Ayato Kamina and his young girlfriend have been separated by the Tokyo Jupiter Incident, which cuts off Tokyo from the outside world. Ayato is approached by a mysterious woman named Haruka who leads him to the giant winged robot Rahxephon. Now Ayato must use the Rahxephon to fight the Dolems send by the Mu, who caused the Tokyo Jupiter Incident and find a way to reunite with the love of his life, Mishima.

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Since the month is about retelling the story, evaluating whether its a good or bad retelling should come first. Overall, it does a pretty good job retelling the story of Rahxephon. The mysteries don’t get as much time to drag out as they did in the TV show. Still they make sure to focus the important beats of the original story and add some very interesting scenes.

Speaking of interesting scenes, the love story between Ayato and Mishima is the main focus of the movie. Though their romance was a subplot in the original series, focusing on it really helps to showcase just who important it was to the overall plot. Also, the two of them are a cute couple and their love is very entertain to watch develop. Small spoiler but the two of them make love. Personally, I find this refreshing as not all anime couples get the option of having the aspect of an adult relationship without it become some kind of ecchi fanservice comedy or straight up hentai.

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Sadly, the studio didn’t add any new mecha to the film. Would have been nice if they had added one movie exclusive robot for a new fight scene. They do make sure to include a few of the better fight scenes form the show but probably could have benefited from one just one more fight.

Overall, this is a good movie to watch. All fans who enjoyed the Rahxephon series should make it a point to watch this film. This was made at the point in time when many thought that Studio Bones doing a mecha anime was always going to be a recipe for success. Sadly, shows like Heroman and Captain Earth have made it so fans must be a little wary before diving head first into one of their shows. Still, Bones still has a pretty good track record and I become hesitatingly optimist every time I hear they are doing a giant robot series.

There we go. the first entry in the “retelling” theme month.  If you like the theme let me know and I’ll work on adding more theme months in this blog’s future.

RATING: A-

Gankutsuou

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Ever watched an anime and it made you want to look into the original source materiel? Today’s anime made me want to read the original novel which consequently became my favorite book of all time. The series which helped me find my favorite story is called Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Albert and his friend, Franz are on vacation on Luna for a festival. The two soon find themselves being saved from a jam by the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. Thankful, Albert invites the Count into his home, unaware of the sinister plot his guest has for him and his family.

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This show is a very unique adaptation of the original story. Taking place in a future complete with space travel, giant robots, and aliens yet still being a tale of betrayal and revenge. Definitely, a departure from the Victorian setting it originally displayed. It also follows a support character and makes him the protagonist in this adaptation. Albert is a naive character who is unaware of the web of lies that is spinning around him. Its interesting to watch how things play out for him as he falls for the charm of the count.

Much like Gatekeepers, this series is another of those shows where its not until later its revealed to have Mecha in it. It turns out that the armored suits in Albert’s house aren’t exactly decommissioned and are in perfect working order to use in a deal later in the series. Like old fashion knight these suits are equipped with a sword but have flight capabilities. They are impressive but needed to be introduced much sooner in the series. They are used in one of the most pivotal sciences in the series though so they make up for coming in late.

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The most noticeable thing about this anime is the art style. Even if someone doesn’t enjoy the show they will remember the art from this series. The mixture of layers and 3D animation make for a very visual and engaging experience. The compliant that it is hard to look at has been mentioned by other critics but much like the grips about the motion of the camera affecting those who saw Cloverfield, it doesn’t affect everyone that way. If it gives you a headache don’t watch it. No one has a gun to your head.

In the end, Gankutusou remains a fascinating adaptation and re-imaging of a classic novel. I’m not going to say adding a giant robot to all literature is a good idea but you never know what will happen. Look how good combining Jane and Austen and zombies turned out.

RATING: B+

Denji Sentai Megaranger

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Sentai series are an experience. A weekly superhero show where you watch a team rise to an occasion to fight a force of evil that plays out over he course of a year. There are many emotions a person can experience on this long journey. Despite how entertaining it can be if it doesn’t leave a lasting impression was it really that good?

The Neijirejia, an army from another dimension wants to conquer Earth. The International Network of Excel-Science and Technology (INET) has recruited a group of teens, Kenta, Shun, Kouichirou, Chisato, and Miku to combat them. Together they become the Denji Sentai Megaranger.

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The problem with this show is that after watching it, not much really stands out as groundbreaking or incredible. The sentai members fall into the stereotypes based on their major personality traits. They are playful (Red/Kenta), serious (Black/Kouichirou), sensitive (Blue/Shun), bossy (yellow/Miku), ditz (Pink/Chisato), and eccentric (Silver/Yusuku). Sure, the character have a bit of growth as they are students working towards graduation but that’s all there is. The team could have used a few more emotional moments.

The support team of the series is okay but need a bit more. Their mentor figure is Professor Eikichi Kubota, who acts like father figure to the team. He’s intriguing enough but one interesting character can’t save the show. Also, Yusuku Hayakana, the silver ranger really just wants to goof off and act like a kid with the rest of the team. It was fun at watch at the time but looking back its kind of awkward as he was a 25 year old man hanging out with high school students. Megaranger 38

The villains of the series are just as shallow. There isn’t as much growth or intrigue like in other sentai series. The commander Yugande has a huge following from being turned into Ecliptor for Power Rangers but sadly he isn’t as intriguing as he is in that series. Yes, he’s devoted to the main leader Dr. Heinler but it isn’t as touching to watch as Ecliptor willing to sacrifice everything for Astronema. That relationship still tugs at the heart strings. The Jaden Sentai Naeziranger also appear in this series, but yeah, they an evil sentai, but again, that’s it. Just evil for the sake of evil. Their novelty wears off fast.
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The mecha is at least half way interesting with what they do with the design. The show makes an approach that hasn’t been done in a series in a long time. They start with the Galaxy Mega, which is not only the HQ of the team but also their main robot. It’s a departure from the previous sentai robots as it isn’t a combiner. Sure, a combiner robot does come later in the series but not until after the halfway point. For a long chunk of the show, its Galaxy Mega, fighting by himself.

All and all its not a bad series and is really enjoyable as you watch it. The problem is that when you over you will find yourself looking back and saying, “Is that it? Is there nothing more.” Basically, its like a diet sentai. Great taste, but not very filling, and you always reflect on shows you enjoyed a lot more instead. Man, I was really harder on this show then I thought I would be.

RATING: B-

Samurai Flamenco


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Ever watched a show which started on one path but then took a few turns and you are watching a completely different show from what you started with? Now this isn’t always a bad thing and many shows actually are memorable because of taking such a bold step. When I write my reviews, I try my best not to mention that many plot twists or surprises a show will have because for the most part I’m hoping that you will discover some of these titles for yourself. Unless the media in question is terrible and then I’ll spoil it like crazy because I’m trying to prove why you shouldn’t give it your precious time.

Today’s show though wasn’t awful but I can’t help but need to mention major details of the later story to review it properly. That’s why for this show I have created the category and hash tag “Spoiler Warning” to give a heads up that I will have to reveal elements of the plot to properly analysis the movie or show. That way I’m able to give subject the justice it deserves. Speaking is justice, that the perfect segway to start talking about this anime.

Goto is a cop with a normal assignment and a long distance relationship with his girlfriend. One day on the way home he happens upon a man who is totally naked and claims to be a superhero. This man is Masayoshi Hazama and he trying to be a hero by enforcing all the petty laws that everyone doesn’t want to follow. Before long and thanks to Goto’s help Hazama becomes a hit on social network and soon the entire world is talking about his alias, Samurai Flamenco.

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I am a big fan of Superheroes and stories about what it takes to be a hero. I can appreciate this show for wanting to break down this genre and exam it for what makes it tick but I can’t forgive it for its inconsistencies and its weird pacing.This is a series that I remember enjoying while I was watching it but doesn’t hold up to scrutiny as I go back and review. In the mist of the viewing I would have given it a much higher score then the one it will receive. If it had been a series where a man dealt with coming to terms with being hero, unable to reach these goals, and finally being able to in the end save his friend from his own demons (and at about half the length) I really think this show would have an essential anime for those who love heroes much like Tiger and Bunny.

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Since it is an anime I’m reviewing you’d expect their to be a giant robot in here as well. You are right there is eventually a giant robot and an entire power ranger team of heroes that call themselves the Flamenco Rangers who just so happened to be based under the city that Hazama was operating out of. Really comes out of left field and the Mecha is really just a parody knock off of a Sentai robot and not a good one at that.

 

The inconsistency with this show also needs to be addressed. The beginning and end of the series seem to take place in the world much like our own but the middle is something else entirely. This series started as a story of a man trying to honor the heroes of justice he loved as a kid in an everyday world, became a legitimate monsters in the real world preying on humanity, with a twist of reality warping aliens, and ends with a down to earth story of helping a friend unsuccessfully coop with his delusions. If that sounds confusing to you then don’t feel bad because that’s the feeling you’ll be left with after finishing this series. Samurai Flamenco is series that was made up as it was going into production and doesn’t hold up on review. Sorry true believers.

RATING: C-

Vandread: The Second Stage

vandread2logojn1As state previously, any time there is an anime that has a second season that should be analyzed, I will take the time to break them into two different reviews. Much like I did with Valvrave the Liberator. Today its time to finish up Vandread and see if the series is able to bump itself up a bit and receive a higher rating.

The crew of the Nirvana is still on its way back to their home planets. Just as the group is starting to grow closer together some new crew members come aboard. The first is Misty, a young woman from a planet where Men and Woman coexist and Ezra’s baby, Karu gets delivered. Team members also start to grow and mature but stakes also get more intense. Can the crew save their homes or with the alien force beat them their first?

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There is a lot of growth in this series and that’s really key to any good series to have a lasting impression. Characters change and grow closer as the series progresses along. Whether its Bart’s cutting his hair in memory of a lost girl to Ezra having her baby in an trapped elevator, the second series if filled with a lot of great character moments that seemed to be lacking previoulsy. Its as if someone looked at what went wrong with the first season and did their best to improve upon it.

The series is really able to bring it home at the end. The last few episodes are an intense mix of emotions and action as the crew is broken apart, is brought back together, and just in time to fight in the final battle. Between the heroic speeches of Hibiki and the others professing that they are going to fight for their freedom and all the different friends and allies they have met coming to help them, the joy and intensity hits a high point.

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A new Mecha is introduced in the second season. A combination of three different dread ships and Hibikis Vanguard robot fuse into Vandread Hibiki (Also known as Super Vandread). The new robot is impressively strong but sadly doesn’t get to be seen more than twice in the entire series. Isn’t that how it always happens? The most destructive and powerful robot doesn’t get used as much as one would hope.

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Though this is the end of the series there is a light novel that helps to add as a prologue. Unfotunately, this book has never been translated into English so the only way to really know what happens is to read fan sites and Wikipedia. Shame too as it seemed to really have a very satisfying ending for Dita and Hibiki’s relationship.

Thanks to the fun ride with the last few episodes the series is able to come from behind and goes up in its rating. Over the course of the full run of both seasons, the show serves to be a great mixture of comedy, action, and giant robots. Check it out and see how much fan the battle between the sexes can truly be.

RATING: B

Vandread

232094 Animes that have a lot of hype on their initial release but then fade into obscurity are not uncommon at all. Its a little surprising that this show has seemed to go that way as it had a huge fan following when it first came out. Still, its not exactly an essential series when it comes to Mecha so I guess I can see why it had that effect. It is worth discussing though so let’s dive in.

Men and women are from different planets and are at war with each other. Hibiki is a low class laborer who wants to prove himself to the rest of his fellow workers. He sneaks on board the latest warship to steal a Vanguard robot but the ship is attacked by women. In the course of the battle, the two flagships of both men and women fuse and are transported away. Now Hibiki has not choice but to work the alien obsessed Dita, the cold Meia, and flirtaous Jura and combine his Vanguard with their Dread ships to create Vandreads.

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The interactions between men and women that treat each other as aliens offers some very entertaining moments. Dita is cute with her quirk of calling Hibiki “Mr. Alien” and its adorable to see the two of them grow closer. The side romance between Duelo and Parfet is also interesting to watch but sadly they never get a really good romantic moment (not even in the second season). The series does well to showcase that it takes a combination of men and women working together to truly succeed in life.

The robots in this series are interesting but could have had a better focus. There really isn’t any data files or show moments that showcase each of the different Vandread’s full abilities. Instead each of the three has a generic specialty such as offense (Dita), defense (Jura), and speed (Meia). I personally prefer when a robots abilities are established rather than being able to pull out a special move from thin air as the situation dictates. Sadly they never thought to make technical specs for this series so each robot basically has the ability to do what it needs to when the story requires it.

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Again I won’t make the claim that the Gonzo effect is in place here. The series starts and ends on a good note with little in terms of a decline in quality of the art. This is probably right before Gonzo started to cut corners and work on getting the most anime out on as little budget as possible.

So that’s Vandread, or at least the first half. Fun bit of romantic comedy mixed with giant robots. Its worth a look but I wouldn’t spend hours trying to track it down or anything.

RATING: B