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    John's Viewing Journal

    As usual, last night was a busy night, so I didn't get around to nearly as much as I'd like to have watched.

    The amatuer Japanese produced OAV Hoshi no Koe: Voices of a Distant Star was thoroughly impressive, really illustrating what a good blend of CG, digital animation and traditional style anime are capable of. Since it's pretty clear that the artist's forte is in storytelling and CG work rather than character design, the anime wisely uses interesting mis-en-scene to avoid focusing on character faces whenever possible. The chara design style is cute, but does sort of resemble the work of an amatuer artist. The story of this short sci-fi/action tale is a bit sentimental and melodramatic, but wonderfully touching- really establishing a sense of loss and melancholy over two lovers separated by massive distances in time and space. I was really reminded of Gunbuster while watching this- the best parts of Gunbuster. My impression is that this short OAV is really what anime is all about. It's story is well thought out, and clearly the product of fans that really cared about their creation and spent a great deal of time thinking through the story. The virtually photorealistic CG was also quite impressive. This is one DVD that I'll be looking for in second hand shops next time I go to Tokyo. (It's too short for me to want to spend full price on it to buy it new.)

    Ai Yori Aoshi episode 2 continued the nice, placid tone of the first episode. Aoi's face when urging Kaoru to eat the smoked fish was cute, and hinted at the sort of Love Hina-ish comedy that the "episode zero" promo and the trailer for episode 3 suggest is coming. Entertaining, and solid continuing character development for a longer series, but not terribly interesting in and of itself.

    Chobits episode 4 was as entertaining as the rest of the show, perhaps a bit more than the previous ones because it began to really show Chii acting like Chii. She really seemed to have more to do even very early in the manga series than her appearance as essentially a paperweight early in the animation. Sumomo is really cute, but is she really a computer when she seems so lifelike and spontaneous? Not that I'm complaining.

    The weekend was good to me, allowing me enough time to watch relatively a lot of new stuff.

    The Gensomaden Saiyuki movie seemed to me as though it wanted to be more than a pure superficial action film, but didn't try hard enough to do so. The entire film, in fact, seemed like a schizophrenic attempt to be a final movie, a dramatic epic and simultaneously a fast paced, fun action film. In most cases, whenever a movie tries to merge so many disparate elements, it usually fails. The Saiyuki movie seems to have partially succeeded. The music and drama seemed to me as though they wanted to create dramatic emotional impact, but there's simply not enough characterization or motivation given to the new focal characters for a viewer to really care about them. The inclusion of the opening action scene and the nemesis team seemed included merely for the sake of appeasing fans rather than actually helping the movie's story. The digital animation and CG looks pretty bad, but is helped by the fact that so much of the movie occurs in darkness or night time. Overall enjoyable, but seemingly a film that could and should have been much more than it was.

    Hunter x Hunter OAV 1 - I don't dig the idea of making more TV episodes and selling them straight to video at $50 each.

    RSI's first DVD of the Vanilla Series, Bondage Mansion, was all in all what I think of as "average quality" hentai. Slightly sub-par animation quality and only the barest minimum of intelligent story. It does the job, but only marginally. I'm now looking forward to the second Vanilla Series release, Mei-King. I've already seen the entire series raw, so I know already that its better than the first release.

    I absolutely love the Azumanga Daioh anime! It's just so laugh-out-loud hilarious! Chiyo's detachable pony-tails just take the cake!

    Chobits episode 5 finally had Chii in full-on "mime" mode, finally.

    Panyo Panyo Di-Gi-Charat 12 was more of the same. So how exactly does this simple minded, innocent Dijiko turn into the selfish and conniving Dijiko of the normal TV series only 3 years later?

    One Piece episodes 101-107 are starting to introduce a dramatic element that I haven't seen since the Arlong saga. In fact, this is a much larger scale drama that I've never seen in One Piece before. Clearly Bibi is at the center of it because episode 107 introduced a new ending animation centered on her.

    Tenshi na Konamaiki episode 1 started off like the sort of bosozoku anime they don't really make anymore, then threw me for a loop when it added in some magic. Considering that it's got Megumi starring as the "Cheeky Angel," this seems like it's the modern day updating of Ranma.

    RahXephon episode 9 continues to impress me with its exceptional character design, direction and sheer visual style. It also continues to seem like an amalgamation of influences ranging from Utena to Angelic Layer to Evangelion to Macross.

    Rizelmine episdoes 3 & 4 were more typical MOE fluff revealing just why this show is broadcast after midnight.

    Tenchi Muyo GXP episode 1 isn't really Tenchi. What always characterized Tenchi Muyo for me was its subtle emphasis on Japanese tradition and nature and tranquility. GXP seems to rely on purely background art for this, which is a poor crutch. In fact, the animation quality and background art is much better than GXP deserves. Photon proved that Masaki Kajishima is capable of doing good comedy. GXP is not good comedy. The show may get better, but the first episode definitely lived up (or more accurately, down) to my expectations.


      Full Metal Panic episodes 15-17 moved along quite briskly, although they're still using that annoying loophole of not making it unequivocably clear when a major character is actually dead or not. It looks like episode 18 will be reverting back to the silly comedy style of episodes 13 & 14.

      Tokyo Mew Mew episode 1 was essentially every other magical girl show I've ever watched. But cat girls are rarely ever a bad thing.


        Spent most of the night wrestling with Windows XP, so only got around to two episodes last night.

        The first episode of Gakkou no Kaiden (Haunted School/School Ghost Story) was far more interesting and entertaining than the live action movies it's based on. I'm also somewhat surprised by how dark and sinister it was. The one or two live action Gakkou no Kaiden movies I've seen in raw Japanese seemed to be quite childish and non-threatening to me.

        Happy Lesson episode 4 continues to seem like a series that would go over pretty well in America. Take one teen boy and give him 5 attractive "mamas" two cute sisters and a cute female class president who's got the hots for him, and you've got Love Hina toned down to Tenchi Muyo's style of domestic comedy. The series also has one of the cutest ending animations I've ever seen. Dancing anime girls are cute. Take any anime girl, no matter what she looks like, and make her dance. Instantly cute. Make it an SD girl dancing and you've got the pinnacle of "kawaii."


          I was beginning to think that Galaxy Angel Second Series was nothing more than an unoriginal rehash of the first series after watching episodes 9 & 10, but episodes 11 & 12 changed my mind slightly. Episode 11 was wonderfully fun, and the conceit of having all the characters switch bodies was a fun way to let all of the cast deliver their roles in odd accents and mannerisms they normally wouldn't do. Episode 12 was the first dramatic episode I've seen, and caught me somewhat off-guard. I loved the way Forte was drawn with a rounder, more full and more "realistic" face toward the end of the episode to subtly emphasize a more dangerous and realistic atmosphere instead of the typically more stylized character design more appropriate to a comedy.


            Guren OAV 2 held up the quality standard set by the first OAV. Although not quite as fun, nor as original, this series is still one of the best hentai anime OAV series I've seen since the original La Blue Girl. It seems to actually have decent characterizations and action exclusive of all the sex.

            Chobits episode 6 finally began to show a bit of emotional drama. Perhaps the show is finally beginning to really develop its characterizations now that they're all introduced.

            Tenshi na Konamaiki episode 2 is still pretty fun to watch, and Megumi Hayashibara's voice is always a treat to hear.

            Now that I've seen 3 epsiodes of it, I think Juuni Kokki rivals RahXephon as the most interesting show on air. I was excited about this show when I first saw stills in Newtype, and my anticipation has not been disappointed. Fans of Fushigi Yuugi will be familiar with the concept- a Japanese girl pulled into an ancient Chinese land- however 12 Kokki includes magic and monsters and a fair amount of bloody violence reminiscent of Escaflowne. This is so much the series that I had hoped Himiko-den would be. After 3 episodes I still don't know what's going on, but I love not knowing. (And I love shows that feature girls with swords!)

            PitaTen episodes 3 & 4 remain cute as anything. The best way to describe this show based on the Koge Donbo manga is as a combination of the sweet innocence of Sugar with a bit of the spiteful comedy of Di-Gi-Charat.

            Tokyo Mew Mew episode 2 introduced the fuzzy mascot. I know people that would gag on this, and would euthanize me if they knew I was watching a show that's this effiminate. However, I have no hesitation to say that I'll watch just about anything anime.

            Tokyo Underground episodes 4 & 5 give me the impression that this will be a short series, however TV Tokyo doesn't typically make 13 episode shows. Although the past few episodes have been relatively repetetive, the fast pace has helped the series stay fresh. There's also the Arai Akino ending theme, and no anime that's ever used Arai Akino music has been bad so far.

            With episode 3 Azumanga Daioh continues to be one of the funniest anime on TV right now.

            I managed to sneak in all 4 epsidoes of TOKYOPOP's DVD release of Real Bout High School (I did say I love girls with swords) and for the most part I'm quite pleased. I'm happy to see the eyecatch and episode titles left in the original Japanese, which adds an essential immersive quality to the anime, but disappointed to see an American title screen edited in. At least it's relatively inconspicuous, so I'm thankful for that. I'm also pleased to see the kanji left intact throughout, especially on the computer screens in the first two episodes when the computer automatically condenses kana into kanji. This is the exact same type of footage that was digitally edited out of ADV's American release of Gasaraki. I have a suspicion that there was a bit of digital overlay editing on the laptop computer screens in episode 3, but I'm too lazy to dig out my untranslated Japanese copy of the episode to compare. There's also a typo in the subs for episode 3 when Azami refers to Ryoko as "-san" but the subs say "sempai." It doesn't really make sense after the first two episodes have made a point of Ryoko acknowleding her younger status. I'm also slightly bothered by Azami's address of "Tatsuya-sama" being translated as "Lord Tatsuya." Even in Azami is unusually formal, it simply doesn't sound natural to my ears to hear her calling a fellow classmate "Lord." Otherwise, I'm pleased to see as much "Japanese" left in the subs as was included- as this really gives the viewer a sense of watching Japanese anime. Finally, for a shameless plug, although the production quality dakes a steep dive in upcoming episodes (I think it's either ep. 5 or 6 that has simply atrociously bad character art) I think that this is a show that deserves a bit more attention from fans and viewers. It's quite fun.

            And finally, a 2 AM last night I managed to squeeze in the first OAV of Mazinkaiser. Goofy character designs aside, it's hard to argue with a solid 25 minutes of non-stop carnage, action, giant robots and rocket punches.


              For the first time in probably 10 years I re-watched Yuen Woo Ping's Madam City Hunter last night. Apart from a bad 80s haircut, Cynthia Kahn is still as beautiful as I remember her being. And Tony Leung's performance is simply wonderfully funny and light-hearted as the obvious Ryo Saeba character. However, I'd forgot exactly how bad the film is. Logic holes, unexplained plot, poor direction, and simple absurdities including a magic one-way table (a wooden table that will shield the hero from bullets but still allow her to shoot through from the opposite side) and a gun fight with accuracy that makes the A-Team look like sharpshooters make the film utterly rediculous. However, Yuen Woo Ping's skill as a fight coreographer is still very evident as the fights have a great rhythm and sense of movement and speed, making them worth the watching of the rest of the film. And although the names have been changed, the character of "Blackie" is a spot-on double for Kaori, substituting only the magic hammer with kung fu punches. As a very loose psuedo sequel to Jackie Chan's City Hunter movie, I find that I still like this movie much better than Chan's silly effort. It's unfortunate that the World Video DVD transfer is simply a ratty, worn-out, scratched and dirty VHS copy transfered to disc.

              And I managed to also squeeze in Happy Lesson TV episode 5. Is it me or is Chitose's personality changing somewhat? In this episode especially the main character seemed a bit more sarcastic and critical than usual.


                After buying it two weeks ago, I finally took in Media Blaster's DVD release of De:vadasy. Going in with low expectations due to Anime on DVD's review, I found it quite entertaining, although I doubt that it's quite suitable for everyone. Apart from more modern looking character design, everything about Devadasy is pure "Golden Age" 80s anime, made in 2000. All of the trademarks of 80s anime including nudity & sex, gore, bloody violence, strange looking giant robots, numerous unexplained plot points, a virtually nonsensical story, and a tone that takes itself deadly serious are in full effect. If you've never seen any anime like Armored Legend Legaicam, Good Morning Althea, Hagane no Oni or even Dragon's Heaven and Megazone 23, this is a good primer of what you've missed. That being said, I loved Devadasy for its nostalgia factor, but fans weaned on more slick and accomplished contemporary anime that usually actually makes sense may be disappointed by this title.

                And I also squeezed in Rizelmine episode 5, which continues to be pure mindless fluff, even lighter and more insubstantial than previous M.O.E. productions like Kotetsu Tenshi Kurumi and Hanaukyo Maid Tai.


                  25 years of waiting paid off last night with a Star Wars movie that comfortably nestles into the "holy trilogy" and even manages to vindicate The Phantom Menace. Some of the acting and line delivery seemed a bit forced and hammy toward the early part of the film, although Ewan McGregor simply "is" Obi-Wan right from the onset. But by the middle of the film, such smaller matters are easily overlooked or forgotten in relation to the sheer scope and epic scale of AOTC. Episode II doesn't have the pure innocence and sense of wonderful fantasy found in the original trilogy, but to compare it directly is to do it a dis-service. ATOC is a different film and a different type of film. It does what it intends to do brilliantly. Like a revelation, everything now makes sense, and the scale of the revelation revealed in ATOC is simply mind-boggling in its expanse of time and distance.

                  I saw Star Wars twice in theaters back in 1977 and instantly fell in love with the Star Wars saga. 25 years later I find that there's still no reason at all for me to betray or disregard or disrespect that loyalty.


                    Happy Lesson OAV 3 seemed to come out of nowhere. It's a brand new production, so I assume it was created to correspond with the new TV series. It's definitely in the OAV series story continuity, but otherwise isn't much different from any other Happy Lesson anime.

                    Kisaku OAV 1 maintains the art and animation quality typical of other releated hentai anime OAV series Isaku and Shusaku, but largely replaces much of the fetishistic sex of those series with some strange humor. That's not to say that Kisaku didn't have its fair share of B&D sex, though. It probably won't be long before this series makes it to America.

                    Full Metal Panic episode 18 seems to me to be the beginning of the end. The hints in the show, and the new opening and ending animation, seem to signify that the remainder of the show will be a single storyline.

                    Now that I've watched .Hack//SIGN up to episode 6, I'm still not impressed. Unlike Juuni Kokki, which still doesn't make sense up to episode 4 but at least drops hints that suggest forthcoming revelations, .Hack simply seems like its either underwritten or somewhat aimless. I'm left with too many questions in .Hack to be able to consider it a great show. There's too little deliniation and too little character development. Everyone seems to be after the mysterious sorcerer, yet it's never clear what it was that he did originally to cause everyone to want to either help him or capture him. Furthermore, the knights that wish to capture him seem to wish to do so purely out of blind responsibility instead of any sort of personal motivation; and likewise the heroes seem to want to protect and help him just because the script writes them that way.

                    Fruits Basket episodes 22-26 seemed to conclude almost too quickly for my taste, but that doesn't negate the fact that the show is one of the best I've ever seen. Especially in episode 25, Fruits Basket is everything we watch anime for. It's almost more real than real. Friends are more devoted and loyal than real friends, emotions are more raw and immediate and affecting, tragedy is more tense, sorrow is more painful than in real life, and everything is melodramatic without being sappy or patronizing. I'm really looking forward to a hopefully good translation of this great show from FUNimation.

                    I'm developing more respect for TOKYOPOP with their translation notes and subtitles after watching GTO volume 2. It's a wonderful show that can go through 5 episodes while making it seem like you've only been watching long enough to have seen 3.

                    Having seen Hare Nochi Guu episodes 14 & 15 in raw Japanese several months ago, it's nice to now see them fansubbed. I'd love to see someone license this great comedy for US release, but it may be a bit too "different" for America.


                      For a while it looked as though Galaxy Angel II was going to get back into logical, sensical stories, but that didn't happen. The final couple episodes were quite strange, as seems to be the case with most of the second series.

                      Mahoujin Guru Guru episode 6 may be relying a bit too much on the visual gag about RPG game text boxes, but otherwise remains one of the very best parodies of the fantasy genre. I'd love to see this old series make it to America, because in some ways it's very easy for American fans to relate to, but because it's an obvious children's show, like Akazukin Cha-Cha it's probably destined to remain a Japanese exclusive.

                      Tenshi na Konamaiki episode 3 is still unusually fun for some reason. I guess it's all in the great characterizations. The same goes for Chobits episode 7. For some reason I find myself addicted to this show- even though it's not the best thing out there. Chobits episode 7 also had the mother of all cliff-hangers. If it weren't for the "coming next episode teaser" to provide some small comfort, I'd be chomping at the bit waiting for the next episode.

                      Like most sports anime, the first episode of Whistle relies much more on strong characterizations than actual sports. As such, it's relatively insignificant and typical, but still engaging and entertaining. I really appreciate the lack of stereotypes and exaggerated characterizations presented in the first episode. Making all of the characters "real people" helps make the series more believable.

                      Kaze no Yojimbo is quite interesting from a critical perspective because even more so than Perfect Blue, it's an anime that could have been made in live action. In fact, it's an anime retelling of live action to begin with. It's an updated anime version of Akira Kurosawa's classic film Yojimbo. It's nice to see that episode 4 largely dismissed the odd camera tricks used in the first three episodes. While interesting to look at, they somewhat undercut the seriousness and effectiveness of a simple story told well. I'm hoping that Soldats fansubs more of this interesting story because I'm very curious to see where it's going.

                      Azumanga Daioh episode 4 was again absolutely priceless. The entire comparission of breast sizes without ever directly making clear what was being discussed struck me as wonderful storytelling as it really requires a viewer to pay attention, and it's so much more rewarding as a result. Kimura-sensei is an odd character especially to an American viewer because there's no way that such a hentai teacher would last even a few hours in an American school, much less get away with what he does in Azumanga. I really can't decide which girl I like best. All of their characterizations are so wonderful!


                        I was expecting to be partially disappointed with Tsui Hark's effects heavy recent film Legend of Zu. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed at all! I suppose that if a mainstream filmgoer were to watch the movie expecting a logical plot, he/she may be confused and disappointed. Being used to Asian films, I didn't mind at all the unexplained back-story, sudden character introductions, leaps in logic and so on. The film made much more sense than the original Zu: Warriors From Magic Mountain did, and the visual effects were simply stunning. Legend of Zu did a perfect job of really transporting the viewer to a different world above the mortal world where immortal superhumans wage a war of good and evil.

                        I was expecting Ai Yori Aoshi to be another Love Hina clone, but episode 3 especially has started to prove that there's a bit more to this show than I thought. Episode 3 revealed a degree of melancholy and background depth that I wasn't expecting. This is still no deep, emotional drama, and doesn't look like it's going to turn into one, but it does seem to want to be just a little bit more than pure slapstick comedy.

                        Usagi-chan de Cue OAV 3 packed more fan service into a single 30 minute OAV than I thought was possible! Aika probably still retains the crown for most panty shots, but Usagi-chan 3 had more nudity than most outright hentai OAVs do. Watching it in untranslated Japanese, as I did the first 2 OAVs months ago, I still don't understand the story, but this episode was fun and had a great cat-girl vs bunny-girl chick fight in it.


                          After seeing only the first episode, King of Bandit Jing is already near the top of my must watch list of current anime. Ever since I saw the first stills of the anime a few weeks ago I've wanted to see this new show. I expected it to be a typical Shonen Jump style family adventure like One Piece or Rave or Yu Yu Hakusho, and I guess it really is. The show had much more comedy in it than I expected. I was simply thinking that it would be all adventure. The visual style is very stylistic, and shows some influence from Tenchi ni Narumon and The Munsters, in a weird way, as well as the stylized look of SoulTaker. I'm definitely hoping to have a chance to see more of this one.

                          I don't know how many episodes the Kogepan anime had, but I wonder how many they could possibly make. I knew what to expect from this short little show about a piece of scortched bread in humanoid form, but I was still surprised that they managed to create about 5 minutes of anime revolving solely around Kogepan rolling around, sleeping, fuming angrily, and existentially ranting at the cruelty of the universe.


                            I caught the second episode of Abeno Bashi Mahou Shoutengai at Fanimecon untranslated, and finally had a chance to see it translated last night. The subs didn't really make much of a difference, but the episode itself is still a riot. You can always depend on Gainax to make entertaining anime.

                            I'd also seen the first two episodes of Cosmo Warrior Zero a long time ago, but watched them, along with episodes 3 & 4, again last night, in untranslated Japanese. The first two episodes are relatively slow, but decent. In a way it's nice to see Harlock attacking metaloid spaceships because it really affirms why he's known as a space pirate. Unfortunately, episode 3 was far and away the worst studio produced anime I've ever seen! Part of it relied on ugly cel-shading; the ships were suddenly all CG instead of cel animation; the animation quality was on par with South Park (which is intentionally bad), and the art design looked like work from a high school art class project. I simply can't understand how the studio even let this make it to public view. The only thing that I can possibly compare this to is something like Sailor & the 7 Balls! It was really that bad! Thankfully the fourth episode partially redeemed the show by at least attempting to get back to the production standards of the first two episodes. I'll try to watch more of it this weekend, and I'm praying that it doesn't torture me again the way the 3rd episode did.


                              Whistle episode 2 was decent but unspectacular.

                              Tokyo Mew Mew episode 3: "Lettuce Ribbon Rush!" What else needs said?

                              Full Metal Panic episode 19 almost seemed like "the fanservice episode" but did actually get a story told as well.
                              Happy Lesson TV episode 6 was quite cute. The idea of Kisaragi-mama deciding not to take over the world is pretty cute.

                              After watching .Hack//SIGN episodes 7 and 8 I'm still waiting for it to get good. I can't understand why everyone in the show seems to be so interested in Tsukasa because the series has yet to make clear what exactly he's done wrong or what's so unusual about him. I can't understand why Mimiru wants to befriend and protect someone so utterly annoying, helpless and unworthy. The little newbie player in episode 7 that resembled Mill from Maze Bakunetsu Jiku was cute, though. Oddly enough, although I don't really like .Hack, like a car race or baseball game I keep watching it, waiting for something to happen.

                              Chobits episode 8 was quite nice, beginning to really hint at Chii's hidden nature.

                              Kai Doh Maru seemed, even more so that Blood: The Last Vampire, to aim for an atmosphere of no resolution, reason or explanation. I was actually hoping for more than a mere revenge story, but I wasn't totally disappointed. I was curious of the washed out monochrome color pallate at first, but later understood why it was done. To say more would be to mention spoilers. I can say that Kai Doh Maru is perhaps the best anime depiction of "real" samurai action- almost totally non-supernatural or superhuman, and very quick and dirty. I can only guess that the wafer thin writing is intended to represent the samurai life-style of never knowing what's around the next corner and living only to serve one's lord.

                              Mazinkaiser OAV 2 yet again indulged in an excess of nostalgic giant robot chaos.

                              Many moons ago I stopped the fansubbed tape of Hana Yori Dango volume 7 half way through and never came back to it. Finally I put the tape back in the VCR and went through 8 straight episodes, 27- 36. When you don't watch the good stuff for a while, you forget exactly how good it really is. And Hana Yori Dango is good! It would take up too much of my time and too much space here to report all of my thoughts. The people that have seen this show will know what I mean. Put simply, Hana Yori Dango is one of the best anime series I've ever watched. Now if I can only find the time to get through the last 3 or 4 tapes.

                              I regret to say that the second half of Tenchi Muyo GXP episode 2 actually got semi-watchable, because it stopped focusing primarily on the main character. It's not good news when an anime is better without the main character. Although it's called Tenchi Muyo, GXP is not Tenchi Muyo. It has no wit, no charm, no emotion, and no depth. If I come across more of it I'll watch it out of curiosity, but at this point I'm ready to write it off for good.

                              Gatekeepers 21 OAV 1 lived up to my expectations and then some. Since it's new Gonzo OAV I knew that it would be good, but I'm happy to report that it's more than just the TV series in present day. Not much more, but more none the less. I enjoyed Gatekeepers, but admit that it's nothing more than disposeable fluff. Gatekeepers 21 not only presents the beautiful character design we expect from Keichi Goto, and the action choreography we expect from Gonzo animation, it actually evolves the Gatekeepers mythology and serves as a genuine sequel, not just an update. Excuse me for not pointing out specific examples, but I don't want to give away spoilers.