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    Once again, the first fansub version of Gunparade March turns up the day after I watch it untranslated. I've been interested in GPM for a couple years now as it seems to be one of the most popular PSone games ever released, even though most people in America have never heard of it. My first impression of the anime is that it's a spiritual successor to Gasaraki. I expect this to be a character show, but the first episode had a whole lot of pretty impressive mecha action in it. I'll need to watch this one translated, and see more of it before I draw a final conclusion, though.

    Fansubs of the first episode of Granzort sort of caught me by surprise. It's been so many years since I've even heard the name that I'd nearly forgotten it (even though I actually have a vintage Granzort import artbook in my collection.) I'm a bit more familiar with Wataru, which is from the same creator and infinitely more wacky and bizarre. A bit of the humor and sight gags were in Granzort, though. This is a pretty cute 80s anime. A nice bit of nostalgia, but nothing outstanding.

    I watched Ghost in the Shell TV ep. 9 again, fansubbed this time. It still didn't make a whole lot of sense.

    With Wolf's Rain episode 5 either the show is getting marginally better or I've lowered my expectations. Now that the show is concentrating on a group dynamic between the four characters instead of concentrating on them individually it seems more interesting. So far it's still not the masterpiece I think fans were expecting it to be, but at least now it doesn't seem quite as disappointing as it did at first.


      .hack//DUSK episode 3 did a nice job of going over some of the same territory covered in .hack//SIGN but making it more appealing and entertaining. I'm glad real RPGs don't have "level down" traps.

      The first half of Hare Nochi Guu Deluxe OAV 3 was simply bizarre. I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen it, but those who have seen it know what I'm talking about. This was prime Guu humor as good as anything in the show.

      The fight continues in Naruto episode 18. The drama is also quite thick, and the show showed an uncharacteristic emotional depth in this episode as well. With each episode that I watch, I find myself enjoying this show more and more.

      On the other hand, the Green Green OAV was the worst anime I've seen in quite some time. Hideous 2 frame a minute animation quality and terrible story made this a pain to watch. At least it's enlightened me that Japan does still occasionally turn out terrible OAVs.

      Heatguy J episodes 10 & 11 were both stand alone episodes. Episode 10 seemed very disjointed and confused until the end when everything made sense. Episode 11 was overtly more linear, but had some physics problems when thought about. But this isn't the kind of show that you really should think about.

      Mahoromatic series 2 epsiodes 13 & 14 were quite a surprise. Episode 13 was a really solid and powerful ending. Episode 14 was a left-field surprise I couldn't have even guessed was coming. Although I don't really like episode 14 because it so dramatically alters the established conventions of the show, I have to admit that it was a pretty good ending.

      I watched Gunparade March episode 1 again, subtitled this time. The dialogue definitely raised the tension level a bit, but didn't really reveal any character depth that I didn't get from the untranslated version.

      After being treated by Mahoromatic's good ending, I got an even better ending with Gatekeepers 21 OAV 6. This really was what Gatekeepers has always been building up toward, but needed everything prior to make possible. Beside the relatively useless episode 3, I think Gonzo really hit this one out of the park. I liked the Gatekeepers TV series, but the OAV series was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to picking up the R1 DVDs when they're released.

      After watching Raimuiro Senkitan episodes 2 & 3, the show's roots in a hentai game are much more apparant. (The show's title is obviously supposed to be "Like Iro Senkitan," but I've decided that that spelling just looks weird.) After 3 episodes I still haven't formed a final opinion on this show. It's certainly disposable fluff, but so is virtually all of the Sakura Taisen anime. I can't say that I like this show yet, but I also don't dislike it. If I have the time, I'll probably watch a little bit more of it and see where it's going before I decide to either stick with it or move on.

      Shanghai Nights was definitely Jackie Chan's best American film. That said, I guess it's about as good as his aging body can still do. The humor was thankfully not too moronic, and the film thankfully didn't descend too far into cultural or ethnic stereotyping humor. What was seen of Donnie Yen was pretty good. I just wish we would have gotten to see more of him in action.


        I bought a copy of the Dragonball: Red Ribbon Army Saga DVD yesterday, as soon as they came in stock. I waited too long on the Tournament Saga DVD and we sold out of our initial shipment of copies. So now I have to wait a few days until we get a re-stock. Anyway, last night I spent a few hours watching the 8 episodes on disc 1. Original Dragonball still moves pretty slowly, but it's really nice to just sink into some classic hand drawn 80s anime with its flaws and scratches and hand made charm intact.


          Made it through 5 of the 9 episodes on the second disc of the Dragonball Red Ribbon Army DVD collection.


            Finally Nurse Witch Komugi-chan OAV 2 turned up! The first episode was really cute, but this episode was so much better! When the cosplay parody kicked in with the extended Tekkaman and Gatchaman parodies, not even Cosplay Complex matches it.

            UFO Princess Walkure episode 7 upped its fan service quotient considerably from the previous episode but otherwise wasn't much different from the prior episodes.

            Condor Hero episode 4 still has a somewhat annoying main character, but balanced it out with his respect for his new master. The relative fast pace of this episode kept it interesting to watch throughout.

            I don't care if the Japanese romanize it as "Herlock," Captain Harlock is still Captain Harlock, with an "A." The first OAV episode of Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Endless Odyssey was everything I could have hoped for. Beside one jarring scene of re-used animation, the character design and whole look of the show is gorgeous (if you like Matsumoto's distinct style of art design), and the whole show is designed around giving everything the proper gravity and drama. The Harlock of this series is every ounce the honorable but imposing and frightening man of legend known throughout the galaxy. After the terrible Cosmo Warrior Zero and somewhat disappointing Harlock Saga, Endless Odyssey seems to be the Harlock animation that fans have been waiting for since the Arcadia of My Youth movie from the mid 1980s.


              I honestly thought that the end of the Clay Man story in GetBackers episode 10 didn't live up to the promise of episode 9. That's not to say that it wasn't a good episode. It was simply a bit more conventional than I expected. Episode 11 seemed like it may be the beginning of an interesting adventure, but didn't reveal too much more than that.


                Both of my room-mates thought that Daredevil was decent, but not spectacular. Perhaps its because I've got a penchant for dark heroes, I really enjoyed most of Daredevil. The film certainly has its flaws- mostly its comic book uneven pacing and sudden full-blown romance, and its utter lack of subtelty and annoying use of music to provide characterization with the finesse of a brick to the head, but I still liked it enough to overlook these flaws.

                I do and don't like .hack//DUSK episodes 4 & 5. To be more specific, the episodes continued to be very enjoyable, but I don't think I like the revelation of the cause of the disturbances in The World. I won't give away spoilers, but unless this is fleshed out to be more than it appears, it appears to be rather disappointing.

                It turns out that Galaxy Angel Z episode 7 (parts 13 & 14) was the episode I saw broadcast on television when I was in Tokyo last November. It's nice to see that, after watching it fansubbed, I actually did interpret it almost exactly when I originally watched it in untranslated Japanese.

                Maho Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto episode 2 especially brought back great memories for me because it featured a Yoshinoya resturant. Oh how I wish Yoshinoya would franchise here in Florida. You people in California that have Yoshinoya resturants don't know how lucky you are. Anyway, episodes 2 & 3 made me think of this show as a sweet and personable magical girl show for adults. I won't compare it to CCS because of the reliance on Clow Cards. It's more like Hime-chan's Ribbon for older viewers.

                I finally got to see the Lunar Magic School movie. I don't know where this copy came from because it was never released to home video in Japan, but I'm not going to question it too much. The short movie reminded me a whole lot of Dragon Half, in a very good way. Too cute!

                Get Backers episode 12 was a lot of fighting and action, and some nice character interaction between Ginji and... that guy (Forgot his name). [Dr. Jackel, remembered it.]

                Ganbare Game Paradise 2 was a strange one. Its elements remind me of something from the late 80s, but its animation quality and contemporary humor seem to date it in the mid 90s, but something tells me that it might also be a very recent short OAV with a retro style. I was also distinctly reminded by similarities between this odd, cute comedy OAV and the equally cool, but almost unheard of Struggle Bunnies anime music video. The little raccoon girl (raccoon, not tanuki) in this OAV was "chou kawaii!"

                Naruto episode 19 finally wrapped up the Tazuna storyline brilliantly. The episode was filled with an uncommon courage and heart and strength that was obvious, but not excessive or melodramatic. This is the sort of depth and resonance that can only come from a great deal of time spent on developing strong characterizations. A stunning ending to a surprisingly solid and effective show compared to what I'm used to from typical Shonen Jump anime adaptations. Not knowing anything about the manga, and based on the next episode trailer, I just hope the upcoming episodes can sustain the high expectations these just concluded episodes established.

                After watching the first two episodes, I like Kamen Rider 555 (pronounced "Kamen Rider Fives") more than the Kamen Rider Ryuki it's replacing. The new show was a faster, more energetic pace. It also has some very nice special effects, and really inventive and impressive costume designs for a rubber suit sentai show.


                  AD Vision sent us a screener DVD copy of Colorful, so I watched episodes 9-16. The show itself is still very funny, but unless I'm mistaken, the AD Vision DVD seems to have either edited out the Japanese credits, or it uses a clean opening foe every episode. I seem to recall the fansub episodes having credits during the opening animation. The ADV DVD openings have no credits. Strange.

                  Gunparade March (henceforth "GPM") episode 2 was entirely a character driven episode. I can already see why the game is so popular. There's enough diversity in the characterizations that everyone can find someone to like and dislike. I thought it was especially interesting that Mai is initially introduced as a no-nonsense soldier type, but then begins to show signs of actually having some insecurities about herself and personal conflicts. Nonomi is also very cute.

                  I did some catching up with Juuni Kokki episodes 14-17. I'm almost shocked to say this, but I'm sort of glad that it was Media Blasters that picked up this title because they've already stated that they expect to treat it as a marquee title. This show deserves it. This show is definitely a suitable follow-up for Rurouni Kenshin and Berserk. I love the way Juuni Kokki creates a complete world full of minute details. Unlike shows including Rayearth and Fushigi Yuugi and Escaflowne that created an alternate world around their characters, Juuni Kokki creates a thriving and believable world, then puts characters in it. The show is totally absorbing because it feels real and solid and believable; it feels like a world with thousands of years of history and culture that we are being introduced to, the same way Yoko is discovering the world. In the way I made predictions that Arjuna would someday receive the recogniztion and acclaim it deserves, I'm saying now that one day Juuni Kokki will be widely recognized as the exceptional, outstanding show that it is.


                    Last night was another one of those nights when I didn't get around to as much as I wanted to.

                    The first half of Galaxy Angel Z episode 5 seemed like it would be cute and sweet with Ranpha fixing up the waitress robot and making friends with it. Of course, it turned in something completely different. The second half, with the girls finding jobs in the private sector, was so typical Galaxy Angel that it was relatively forgetable.

                    Mao-chan episode 19 actually had a small new plot twist. Nothing major, but at least it was something interesting.


                      Mao-chan episode 20 has got to be the best episode of the series. I won't give away spoilers, except to say that this episode has a connection to the creator's other famous title. After watching episodes 20-23, I have to wonder why the early epsiodes weren't this good. It's still not a great show, but these later epsiodes seem to be a lot better than the early ones.

                      I watched Mouse episodes 3-5. Beside the heavy H content, there's really nothing unusual or memorable about the show. At least these episodes weren't quite as painfully stupid as episode 2 was.


                        I finished off the last three episodes on the Dragonball: Red Ribbon Army DVD.

                        I also watched the first episode of the live action Ring TV series. It doesn't seem to be a creepy horror the way the movie was. The TV series seems more like a mystery. It's obviously heavily patterned after the movie, but also throws in a second sub-plot. the big twist came at the end when Sadako's video turned out to be not Sadako's video. I guess the TV series had to do something differently. I'm not sure where this is going, nor whether I like it or not yet.


                          Heatguy J episode 7 was an unusually disposable episode.

                          So was Chojushin Gravion epsiode 5.

                          Overman King Gainer episodes 8 & 9 were sillier than previous episodes in some respects, but in other ways a bit more "straight" than previous episodes.

                          I finally got around to watching more Gundam Seed by watching episodes 2 & 3. Based on these two episodes, this may be the best Gundam series in years if only because it's not as absurd or bad or excessive as most of the recent Gundam TV series. For me, Zeta Gundam is the series by which all others are compared. How good or bad I think a Gundam series is usually relates to how much it varies from Zeta Gundam, which is what I consider the epitome of what Gundam is supposed to be.

                          After watching Kamen Rider Ryuki episode 4, I appreciate even more how much better Kamen Rider 555 is.

                          The description "live action anime" gets used a lot, but I don't think I've ever seen a better example of it than the first episode of Bakuryu Sentai Aburanger. This live action superhero show was essentially what you'd get if you combined Power Rangers with Digimon and Zoids: giant, evolving robotic dinosaurs stomping through downtown Tokyo, overturning cars, destroying buildings and fighting each other. Then add in super powered heroes and villains, and villains getting hurled through buildings and you've got Aburanger. Even in untranslated Japanese this first episode was immensely goofy and highly fun to watch.

                          I had a suspicion of what to expect from Hand Maid Mai when I saw "Five Ways" in the credits. The first OAV was better than most of the awful adult anime Five Ways produces, but not by much. Besides a cute, brief sight gag reference to Hand Maid May, the first Hand Maid Mai OAV was a bland and relatively lifeless domestic comedy. There's more H humor in Mouse! Unlike the Hand Maid May TV series, which had its negatives but also a fair amount of charm and engaging personality, this new OAV series is simply a limp, bland and forgettable mediocre OAV with a tired, seen-it-before style. Hopefully future episodes will be better.

                          Black Mask 2 was simply a train wreck of a movie. It was too big and expensive to be a total washout, but too terribly bad to be good. A giant talking brain, Rob Van Dam turning into a human octopus-type thing, plot points and characters introduced then forgotten about until an hour later; the film was like Daredevil, Highlander 2, Japanese sentai shows, professional wrestling, a romantic comedy, and a half-dozen Full Moon Pictures movies all rolled into one. I'm glad that I watched the film, just for the experience, but I can't wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone unless you're just interested in seeing just how absurd a film can get when a director with lots of creativity but no self-discipline is given a blank check and full creative control.

                          On the other hand, the Thai action/drama Bangkok Dangerous was amazing. I've heard the film compared to John Woo, but beside one obvious homage, I didn't see any real similarities. The comparison between this film and the work of Wong Kar Wai, though, is very appropriate. The film does a simply amazing job of creating an atmosphere of spiritual and emotional hopelessness and desolation with its visuals and acting. Life is cheap, and the film only goes downhill from there. Stylistically the only things I can really compare it to are Wong Kar Wai's Ashes of Time and Tsui Hark's The Blade. The use of music and smart editing create an amazing sense of tension in a film that's not a suspense movie. The violence isn't gratituitous, but is very shocking and immediate. The film is also very bloody, almost fetishizing not the violence, but the blood itself. This absolutely isn't a film for everyone, but it's definitely a must see for fans of Asian crime/gunplay/action films. I watched the domestic First Look Pictures DVD, which sadly seems to be pan & scan only. Also, don't watch the trailer first. It gives away far too much, and really does a horrible job of expressing the raw and dirty elegance of the film.


                            It's getting difficult for me to talk about .hack//DUSK without giving away spoilers. After watching episode 7 I'm beginning to have doubts about the show. I really like it when it's just a light fantasy adventure, but now it's getting harder for me to accept. Since we never really get a clear impression of CC Company, I find it difficult to believe that if people are actually getting hospitalized on a regular basis because of the game, CC wouldn't just shut down the game servers, at least temporarily. I also find it hard to accept that CC employees have to log in to the game like regular players to deal with bugs in the game instead of just making a few keystrokes on a keyboard in their office. I also don't like the origin of the "Twilight." The cause of it doesn't even seem old enough to have been capable of interacting with the game during the time of .hack//SIGN and .hack//INFECTION. I enjoyed .hack//DUSK when it was just a simple adventure, but now that it's getting more complex, some of the logic flaws and poor writing that plagued .hack//SIGN are becomming apparent in this series as well.

                            I also watched Condor Hero episode 5, which is neat if for no other reason than because it tries to actually animate choreographed kung-fu, which usually isn't animated because it's so complex and time consuming to animate.

                            And I played a bit more Xbox Bloodrayne, which I started on Saturday. It's no masterpiece, but it's decent brainless, bloody fun for the $20 I spent on it.


                              After watching Gunparade March episode 3 I've decided that my favorite character is little Nonomi. She's not Chiyo-chan, but she's close.

                              Naruto episode 20 was better than I expected it to be. Now that the dramatic and tension filled story is over, I expected the show to go back to a light and forgetable tone, but the episode actually had a bit more bite to it than I expected. Definitely a pleasing surprise.

                              Maybe it's me, but I just don't get Hunter x Hunter. The show has got to be very popular, and I admit that I've only seen a random smattering of about a half dozen or so TV episodes and only the first 2 or so first series OAVs. Last night I watched Greed Island OAVs 1 & 2. Just like all of the show I've ever seen, it seems to be very slow and obsessed with either something that happened previously or something that's going to happen in the future, leaving very little interesting for the present. I'm assuming that it's because I haven't seen enough Hunter x Hunter, but my opinion of the show is that it's simply very mediocre. After watching Hunter x Hunter anime I always seem to shrug and think to myself, "It's okay, but nothing more."


                                Since Media Blasters released Idol Project, I've been in a mood to watch it again, so I ran the first DVD last night. First of all, I'm very pleased to report that all of the Japanese text and titles was left untouched. On to the show. I still find it as enjoyable as ever. Idol Project is the virtual epitome of anime. It's virtually everything that anime is supposed to be. In the wake of titles like Lain and Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion, I think it's too often forgotten that the #1 purpose of anime is to be entertaining. Idol Project certainly isn't going to reassure your masculinity, nor is it going to impress you with cutting-edge pomo style. However, if you go with it, it's everything you associate with anime: fast pace, catchy music, big eyes, multitudes of cute girls, bizarre story, sexy and mature themes... The vocal cast is excellent because it performs so seemlessly that you don't notice it unless you actually listen for it. The voices seem completely natural and real, and if you listen for it, there's so much emotion in the voices- the screams and shouts all sound so natural and spontaneous. The show is simply cute without being condescending or sappy. It's also not quite like anything else. If you try to name another anime that's quite like it, you'll probably find that you can't. And finally it has a fantastic vocal soundtrack.

                                I also watched the first episode of Romeo's Blue Skies. I'd forgotten just how exceptional the opening theme song for this show was since I haven't heard it in so many years.