Thursday, December 29, 2011

[Ended] Mawaru Penguindrum: Beyond Imagination

Once a while, an anime series will appear out of nowhere and shocks everybody who watches it. It's actually quite a rarely occurring event, but this year, we are so fortunate that there are three such series: Madoka Magica, Steins;Gate, and lastly, Mawaru Penguindrum. Each of these would leave an impression in everybody that could forever change how people look at all animes in the future--they will become the new standards for all animes of similar type to try to match and beat.

Back to the anime itself, the core of the story revolves around the concept of "fate" and how everybody in the story tries to change it. It may sound like a simple idea, but the story writer manage to use it create an epic story filled with twists and turns that keeps the audiences guessing what's to come up till the very last minute of final resolution, literally.

At first, the story itself didn't really make much of an impression for me, but what did get me interested was the randomness and the whackiness of the series of events that no one could understand at the moment. Then, a small twist came out, then another one, and another one, and another one. Before I knew it, it has become a game of guessing what new twist is to come in the next episode. But I have to say that my success rate of that game was more or less zero.

In the past, even the most unpredictable series has a critical point that is usually 2 or 3 episodes away from the ending where all the fogs get blown away and everything becomes crystal clear. Then from that point on, it was just cruising towards the inevitable goal. In Penguindrum however, this critical point is about the half way through the final episode. Yes, it is that unpredictable.

Another thing about this series that I personally really like about is the fact even there are plenty chance to, the story itself never actually use the "miracle token" to try to save anybody. In fact, the story is so intricately written, there is no need for a miracle anywhere in the story to bail anything out of a plot hole. That, is some amazing story writing.

That brings up the topic of the series' ending. There has been many great series fell short in terms of ending the story properly. That is not the case here. The ending is so very fitting and drenched with strong emotions that I can say this is one of the best ending amongst all the animes I've ever seen. 

I can go on and on about what is so great about this series, but you still won't know the greatness of this series until you actually watch it. At this point, even though there still are unfinished series from October season, I already tell you Mawaru Penguindrum is the

2011 Anime of the Year

Final scoreboard:

Drama: 100 (Great twists and turns)
Comedy: 98 (Very very funny)
Action: 99 (Very well presented)
Art/Animation: 99 (Great effects)
Sound/Music: 100 (Amazing songs and BGMs)
Character: 100 (Intriguing)
Plot: 100 (Thoughts provoking)
Ending: 100 (Perfectly written)

Re-watch value: 90 (Still would be amazing)

Overall: 100 - Simply Amazing

Recommendation: There was a 4 years drought for an anime that earned my perfect score before Ano Hana finally did it in this spring. What I wasn't expecting, is that the next one came so quickly. If you only going to watch one anime from 2011, this is it. The anime of the year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

[Ended] C³: Dark and Twisted Comedies

Like many,, is a lightly couple series of short arcs that meant to be for both character development and tie-ins for the final battle. While this is a very typical in recent anime trends, added some extra dimension such as twisted people with twisted mind as well as some pretty graphical scenes that you wouldn't normally expect from the show after seeing the earlier episodes.

As a whole, I think it's one of the better series of the season. It achieved a good balance between what you would expect out of a typical series as well as a couple of surprise factors. Although from time to time, they drop in a big dose of fan service, it managed not to cross the line of excessiveness.

Final scoreboard:

Drama: 80 (Ups and downs)
Comedy: 86 (done fairly well)
Action: 88 (Quite good)
Art/Animation: 89 (Pleasing)
Sound/Music: 90 (Good theme songs)
Character: 86 (Intriguing)
Plot: 80 (Loosely coupled)
Ending: 80 (Not quite)

Re-watch value: 60 (Not so sure why you would)

Overall: 82 - Twisted and Light

Recommendation: I think this series is not very well received by many, citing mediocrity in execution and plot distraction being the major disappointments. However, if you put the series into the context of light novel, which the originally was, those two problems would be irrelevant since they're seldom used to measure the quality of light novels. So in my opinion, as long as you've set you view correctly, this is actually quite an enjoyable series. Though not as a much watch recommendation, it's definitely amongst the better ones came out in October 2011 season. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

UN-GO: Quite Brilliant

Currently finished: Episode 9

While its core concept may somewhat looked like Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, the story itself is actually quite different, in a very brilliant way. This latest arc had shown us how much potential would a hybrid environment where reality mixed in with just a tiny bit of supernatural could achieve. With only two episodes left to go, this story has silently reached its climax where you know something big, something really big is about to happen. UN-GO has definitely put itself up as a contender of anime of the season.

Monday, December 5, 2011

[Movie] Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo (Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below)

 Background Sky with Cloud seems to be a defining property of Shinkai Makoto's Films

Japanese Title: 星を追う子ども
Translated Title: Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below

This, is the director/producer/writer/art director Shinkai Makoto's (新海誠) latest film, whose portfolio include 5 Centermeters per Second, The Place Promised in our Earlier Days, Voice of the Distant Star, and both Ef series. As a producer/director/writer/art director, he is famous for combining beautiful background, intricately crafted stories, strong emotions, along with extraordinary background music into a single package to create an unforgettable experience. His latest work, is no exception.

Having said that, however, I have to say that I just can't help but notice that early on, there are some distinct similarities between this story and Princess Mononoke by the frontier of anime movie production, Studio Ghibli. The difference, is that Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo has a much greater depth and the line between good and evil is much more vague.

Since I'm on the topic, I'll expand a little about my opinions on Studio Ghibli's films vs. Shinkai Makoto's films:

If you have been following my blog for a while, you'd know I am a huge fan of Shinkai Makoto's work, but not so for Studio Ghibli's films. I know many people out there disagree with me and consider Ghibli one of the greatest anime production studio. While it is true that Studio Ghibli's films are pretty and usually contain some moral that is good for people at all age, my problem with Studio Ghibli's films is they lack of depth and dimensions. In another word, the stories from Studio Ghibli's film are very one-dimensional. The most recent example being Karigurashi no Arrietty where there isn't really much of anything that would leave you with a lasting impression other than the awe-inspiring art works and the strong and blatant environmental undertone.

On the other hand, Shinkai Makoto's Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo, even though it looked simple early on, as the story went on, more and more dimensions were added to the core storyline and eventually became something much more than what it started. Even when so many things from this story seemed borrowed, the depth and dimensionality of this story would make you agree that it far surpasses its concept origin, Princess Mononoke.

Another major difference between the two studios' approach to stories is that Studio Ghibli's stories almost always have a clear cut between good and evil--you can almost never misidentify the good from evil nor would you ever be able to take the side of evil while still stand on moral high ground. On Shinkai Makoto's side, however, it's much harder to judge the motives of a character to have it clearly placed in the land of good or evil--there are always much of the good intents that are being achieved by ways that people may perceive to be evil, and what are presented to be evil almost always have intents for greater good. This moral indistinguishability is part of the reason why I love Shinkai Makoto's work so much.

Anyway, back on the topic, in this film, you will see all that you would expect from any Shinkai Makoto's film: beautiful art works, an intriguing story, and spectacular background music by Tenmon that is always right on cue. But I have to say, as a personal preference, I think I like his works that are based on current world (or a world that isn't too far in the future) much better than his works that are based mostly on a pure imaginary fantasy like this one. I think his ability to make spectacular from real life is much more prominent than creating a completely new fantasy world. But nevertheless, this is still one good movie.

There really isn't much more I can say about this story without spoiling anything, I would recommend just go watch it. To some, it may look extremely like a Studio Ghibli's film. But if you look carefully, the extra depth and dimensions is how you can tell it isn't. Disagree with me all you want, but I maintain Shinkai Makoto Produced films are much finer pieces of arts than Studio Ghibli's.

Score: 88