Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist Review

In a world where dirty jokes don’t exist, and the mere mention of a sex organ can get you thrown in jail, a hero must rise as a symbol for all things lewd. The mysterious Blue Snow, proudly wearing panties over her face and armed with naughty images and a foul mouth, aims to overthrow the government’s strict oppression and bring back the art of filth! Tanuki Okuma, the son of an infamous ero-terrorist, has chosen to not follow in his father’s footsteps but instead lead a life of morality in order to chase his dream girl Anna Nishinomiya. However, when he has an encounter with Blue Snow, AKA Ayame Kajou, his plans are ruined, when he is entangled in SOX, Blue Snow’s new ero-terrorist organisation.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the farm-based sex comedy No-Rin, a show I enjoyed a fair bit, and which I praised for how far it was willing to push the envelope in terms of raunchiness. However, after watching Shimoneta: A Boring World Where The Concept of Boring Jokes Doesn’t Exist, I have quickly come to realise that being as lewd as possible does not make for a funny show, as, despite pushing things about as far as they can go, Shimoneta is an utter failure.

I’ll be totally blunt and to the point. I think that Shimoneta is fundamentally broken as a comedy series. When I talk about comedy anime, I normally like to add in a little passage about how, despite the fact that I either liked or didn’t like the comedy in question, others might disagree, such is the incredibly subjective nature of comedy; however I can’t help but feel that Shimoneta actually defies this. Although the setup is pretty good, parodying dystopian futures seen in the likes of Psycho Pass, it is completely wasted. I genuinely do not think it’s possible to actually think this kind of show is funny, unless you’ve yet to leave primary school. The main problem is that there actually aren’t any jokes here. I mean, the script-writers clearly thought they were writing jokes, but I think to qualify as a joke, you actually have to put an ounce of thought into the script. What seems to qualify as a “joke” in Shimoneta is simply saying or showing something sexual. That’s it. To give an example of what passes for comedy, there is a gag where Ayame simply rolls on the floor repeating the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ over and over. See what I mean? That pretty much sums up 90% of the comedy, and it is painfully unfunny.

Admittedly, there is a way to make that kind of comedy work, and that’s when the viewer doesn’t see it coming. For example, in Episode 2 of the slice-of-life comedy Eromanga-Sensei, there is a gag where you see a cute, innocent girl, who suddenly says “I love dicks”. It hits you like a freight train, and comes from absolutely nowhere, and I thought it was hilarious. In contrast, all of the characters in Shimoneta are acting perverted 24/7, so you’re always prepared to see something lewd, therefore it’s neither shocking nor funny, it’s just dull. Any kind of amusement you get out of the sheer profane nature of the series is gone by Episode 2, as you just become numb. Even when it keeps pushing the boundaries further and further, it cannot escape from the fact that sex doesn’t equal comedy. You actually need amusing, unique or bizarre situations for the sex comedy to work and simply having a character say “Cock-a-doodle pussy” or showing someone masturbating on a table, talking about “love nectar”, does not qualify as comedy.

Perhaps the most offensive part of Shimoneta is its portrayal of rape as funny. Yes, really. Throughout the series, protagonist Okuma is sexually assaulted on several occasions and almost raped, something that is played entirely for laughs. Not only is trying to play rape for laughs disgusting enough, but it doubles down on the awful stigma that sexual assault and rape against men is something not to be taken seriously, to a point where I actually find it genuinely offensive. You would never see a comedy series in which a woman is pinned down and blindfolded, whilst being straddled by a naked man in an attempt to forcefully have sex with them, yet here, with the genders reversed, it’s perfectly fine, apparently. Honestly, it’s reprehensible.

Matching up with the abysmal comedy in Shimoneta are the equally abysmal characters. The protagonist is your run-of-the-mill, dull as dishwater main character, and everyone else is a pervert. No kidding, that is it. I suppose that, technically speaking, Anna develops, in that she starts as morally upstanding before becoming a pervert, but her character doesn’t really change for the better, she just turns from a dull and bland romantic interest into a perverted romantic interest. Perhaps a greater variety of characters might have helped mix up the comedy a bit to prevent stagnation, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

If there is any kind of saving grace here, it’s exclusively based in the technical aspects of the show: the animation, voice acting and music. Although they do great here, it actually saddens me a bit that J.C Staff, the studio behind A Certain Scientific Railgun, Toradora! and Little Busters, had to work on such an awful project, and I’d much rather have had the team there work on something, anything, other than this. Funimation UK’s release includes both an English and Japanese voice track. Not to diss the English voice track, the couple of episodes I watched with it on seemed decent enough, but Shimoneta is certainly a series you’ll want to watch in Japanese (if at all), if for no other reason than wanting to avoid the embarrassment of knowing other people in the house can hear what you’re watching. I can’t really say that there are any noteworthy performances, all the actors do a good a job as can be expected, given the material, but again, it’s kind of sad that skilled voice acting talent was wasted on such a show. The soundtrack is also pretty decent, making it a standout feature amongst pretty much everything else in comparison. The OP and ED “B Chiku Sentai SOX” by SOX and “Inner Urge” by Sumire Uesaka are nothing brilliant, but fit the series relatively well.

Funimation UK’s (uncut) release includes the usual clean opening and closing, as well as some episode commentaries.

In Summary

If you’re a prepubescent boy who still finds the word ‘penis’ funny, you’ll get a kick out of this, but everyone else should stay well clear. Even by ecchi standards, this is a god-awful trash fire of an anime.

Title: Shinometa: A Boring World Where The Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi
Studio: J.C. Staff
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 18
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 4/10

Absolute Duo Review

Welcome to Koryo Academy, a high school where students are trained to be future peace keepers by utilizing the power of Blaze; the ability to manifest one’s soul into the shape of a weapon, like swords and chains. Tor Kokone, however, is an exception, as his Blaze doesn’t manifest as offensive weapon, but a defensive shield. This makes him an ‘Irregular’ and a person of interest for many females at the Academy including his Duo partner Julie Sigtuna, a silver haired girl from Scandinavia who happens to carry a tragic past, just like Tor.

Supernatural schools are a tried and tested genre that has been done to death both in and outside of anime, so what makes Absolute Duo stand out, if at all? Well, the power to manifest a weapon based upon what lies in someone’s soul is an interesting concept, as it can tell the audience a lot about a particular character if they conjure a small dagger or gigantic building-breaking sword. In conjunction with that fact, the power isn’t automatically ‘on’; instead people must take injections in order to awaken the powers AND level up to become stronger warriors. It makes you wonder how they came about discovering this Blaze power in the first place, and why constant injections must be taken; is it forever or only up till a certain point? The school issues them and trains them to become ‘peacekeepers’ – what does that entail exactly? Is there an ongoing enemy that multiple groups are trying to find ways to defeat or is it something else entirely?

None of these questions are answered in the anime.

Why a Blaze manifests as it does is part of Tor’s character arc, which gets a serviceable semi-conclusion in the finale, and the reason why English female Lilith Bristol manifests a gun is implied, but no other characters get enough screen time to understand why their Blaze is the way it is. All the injections the characters have are shown on screen and discussed as if the cast know exactly what they are but we are not given the proper context for the audience, and the whole ‘peacekeeper’ thing is never elaborated. The last part is especially a point of contention as we are introduced to other factions such as Equipment Smith, who use technology to supposedly help the world, as well as brief mentions of even more leaders and their groups in Episode 10 when they come together for a conference, but nothing is explained.

Compare this to a series with similar elements, RWBY: the web animation also has duos/groups assigned at the school for fights and each student is training to become a huntsman/huntress to fight a common evil, but the world is fully realised and the characters fleshed out in a natural, clear way that allows the audience to get the mythology and care about how the cast is evolving. Admittedly it may seem unfair to compare a Western web animation with a Japanese anime adaptation, but what I’m trying to say is that we learn more about the world of RWBY and its residents within just the first volume (run time 123 minutes) than the entirety of Absolute Duo anime (300 minutes). There are decent ideas scattered across Absolute Duo but it plays out as if the full story wasn’t fully realised before production was started, or at least the anime didn’t carry across said world-building from the original material effectively, if it existed in the first place.

Absolute Duo isn’t just a fantasy show, however, it’s also a harem, so despite it being a mixed gender school the show mostly focuses on Tor and his growing group of girls as they progress. Credit where it’s due; even though each girl gets a turn to be ‘saved’ by Tor, the females also get their own moments to shine in combat and show off their unique weapons, however brief that moment might be. Also, it’s interesting that some of the girls come from different corners of the world with the British student Lilith being the one who’s forward about her feelings, and Julie is the silent but deadly girl from Scandinavia (a made up Scandinavian country, but still it’s a part of the world that doesn’t normally gets representation in anime). You also have the martial arts expert Tomoe who gets phased out more as the series progresses and Miyabi, the shy one with genuine feelings for our male lead until she does a character 180 just to give the audience cheap drama for the finale.

The relationship that gets the most development however is between Tor and Julie as they are Duos, meaning that they have to fight, train, share a room and eat together. Due to their similar tragic backgrounds and the pair having genuine chemistry, their relationship develops the most naturally despite being heavily weighed down by tired tropes such as panties somehow ending up in Tor’s possession, him accidently groping her and so forth. Tor himself isn’t as annoying as some male leads in harem shows, instead he takes his situation in his stride and is not afraid to talk to the various women or be upfront about his feelings. This is refreshing, even though half the time with the flashbacks to his tragic past to reminds us why he’s at the school in the first place, he feels like a character that should be in a different series altogether, rather than a harem one.

So, if the harem is only somewhat passable and the fantasy elements are sub-par, is there anything that the series is truly invested in? Yes, fanservice. Although not as over-the-top as other series like Samurai Bride, the series is not ashamed to have many close-ups of breasts, panty shots mid-battle and throwing the male lead into situations where he gets to grope said girly-parts. All the females have larger-than-average boob sizes (aside from, interestingly, Julie) with clothing designed to cling to their chests like it’s hanging on for dear life and the female school uniforms are formed of a waist-hugging corset and mini-skirt to emphasize all the necessary body parts to focus on. Fan service isn’t automatically a bad element in itself, if that’s what you’re into, but you need the animation budget to make it worth your time and it really isn’t here to support it. The breasts are constantly perky and upright regardless of what the girls are wearing and they sometimes move independently, so they’re an annoying distraction rather than a fun quirk. The series also relies heavily on the ‘female trip and fall into male’ trick, but every time it’s executed poorly by making the girls seemingly trip over nothing to land on Tor in embarrassingly impossible ways and places; the anime would make them trip on a pebble from three miles away if it gets them to land boobs-first on the male. The fan service is cheaply done in all instances so it’s not recommended if that is what you’re looking for.

The animation across the series is overall average if you go in without much expectation but the budget had been spent on the wrong aspects. The opening animation has a lovely dance number between Tor and Julie that’s very elegant and promises things for the anime that do not follow through, and with three different ending animations to accompany the various songs, it’s clear that the budget went into them when really, they should have saved some for the fight scenes and fan service. The former especially as there’s plenty across the episodes but they range from badly choreographed to choppily edited, with some very odd hastily ‘cut-to-black’ moments thrown in for no apparent reason; all they accomplish is ruining the flow of the battles.

Atsushi Hirasawa provides the score and, despite his lack of experience, his offering is one of the highlights of the series. There’s a lot of calmer, easy-going pieces that seem to share similar chords to classical pieces such as Bach’s Jesus Bleibet Meine Freude (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring) and Ave Maria. Then the action pieces use more modern elements from electric guitars to techno effects. It’s an effective score overall and complements each scene nicely.

The DVD version of the series was reviewed; all 12 episodes come with the set and it includes commentaries for Episodes 10 & 12, clean opening/closings, promos, the US trailer and trailers for various anime such as Yona of the Dawn and Blood Blockade Battlefront.

Absolute Duo is the textbook definition of mediocre; it ticks the boxes it needs to pass off as a fantasy/harem high school show but fails to really try and make something of itself or provide a memorable experience. There are a few interesting ideas that could have blossomed in a better show, but as it is, it’s a series not worth investing in.

Title: Absolute Duo
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: Harem, fantasy, action,
Studio: 8-Bit
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 5/10

Nisekoi Season 2 Review

Raku Ichijo, only son of the leader of the Shue-Gumi yakuza gang, and golden-haired Chitoge, only heir to the rival gang, have been made – unwillingly – to enter into an ‘engagement’ to bring an end to the rivalry between the two clans. But is Chitoge beginning to develop feelings for Raku? The sudden appearance of Hana, Chitoge’s formidable businesswoman mother, unexpectedly leads to Ichijo attempting to prove himself as her secretary. Can he make Chitoge’s wish to spend Christmas with her mother come true? And if he can, will this change the way the couple feel about each other? He still has not found the key to unlock his pendant – or the girl with whom he made that childhood promise ten years ago. And he still has feelings for sweet-natured Kosaki, the ‘girl next door’, not to mention orange-haired Marika (truth be told, she has feelings for him) and earnest bodyguard Seishirō… and now Kosaki’s younger sister Haru has just started high school and she won’t let Raku anyway near her beloved big sis…

And so we are treated to Marika’s parrot, the arrival of Seishirō’s rival Paula McCoy, the usual Valentine’s Day chocolate shenanigans, a swimsuit episode in which the friends clean the school outdoor pool, and an unexpectedly touching section where Raku’s infuriatingly upbeat friend Maiko reveals hidden feelings for someone at their school.

Raku makes an unusually likable protagonist for a harem series; he does his best, in spite of the many tribulations the adoring girls put him through. Their adulation (or love-hate) is expressed in so many increasingly ridiculous ways that it’s surprising he doesn’t snap and tell them where to get off. He is, after all, the son of a yakuza boss. But this is comedy la-la land and, in spite of the high school trappings of tests, uniforms, sempai and kouhai, Nisekoi is not striving for realism.

But what felt fresh and amusing in Season 1, begins to feel rather tired and repetitive in the second season. Nisekoi relies on the well-worn shtick of ‘which girl will he choose?’ with the all-important locket holding the clue. But as yet more girls are added into the mix, without any substantial progress in the main relationship, the series feels as if it’s spinning its wheels. It still looks a treat, with its bright colours and attractive character designs, and if you love the main girls (and their VAs) there’s a treat for you, as they all have their own Ending songs with kawaii animations to match. There’s even a spoof Magical Girl episode (#8) in which Kosaki becomes Magical Patissiere Girl.

Nisekoi benefits from a talented cast of experienced Japanese VAs (there is no US dub) with Kouki Uchiyama (Yuri Plisetsky in YOI) convincing and appealing as unfortunate hero Raku and a strong performance as Hana, Chitoge’s absent mother, from Megumi Toyoguchi (Winry Rockbell in Fullmetal Alchemist).

This review is about the DVDs (it’s also available on Blu-ray) and there are a couple of little issues that may bother some viewers. Four DVDs, with only three episodes per disc (and textless songs as the only extras). Subtitles in French or English (it’s from Kaze) – and they’re in white which makes them difficult to read against light backgrounds. Nice clear picture quality and sound but there were moments when I struggled to read the subtitles and keep up with the dialogue. Navigation is also a little clunky as you have to choose between French and English before you can proceed to the (always the same!) trailers which lead – eventually – to the main menu.

Tomoki Kikuya (Squid Girl, Hidamari Sketch) again provides the music which is appropriately lively. And I am indebted to the ANN database for the details of the many songs included in these twelve episodes! The main new upbeat OP, “Rally Go Round” by LiSA, accompanies a madcap bicycle-based sequence which soon escalates into flights of comic mayhem, setting an appropriate tone for this second series. The second, “Magical Styling”  by Kana Hanazawa (the VA for Kosaki Onodera) appears in Episode 8.

The cute Ending Themes, using the vocal talents of actresses playing the main female characters, are:

#1: “Aimai Hurts” by Nao Tōyama, Kana Hanazawa, Mikako Komatsu, & Kana Asumi (Episodes 1,3,6,9,12)

#2: “TrIGgER” by Mikako Komatsu/Seishiro (Episode 2)

#3: “Sleep zzz…” by Nao Tōyama / Chitoge (Episode 4)

#4: “Matadō Love” by Kana Asumi/Marika  (Episode 5)

#5: “marchen ticktack” by Ayane Sakura/ Haru Onodera (Episode 7)

#6: “Tōriame Drop ( Shower Drop) by Yumi Uchiyama/Ruri (Episode 10)

#7: “Crayon Cover” by Kana Hanasawa (Kosaki Onodera) (Episode 11)

Nisekoi relies heavily on the ‘will-they, won’t-they?’ variation on the harem scenario, teasing the audience (and the much put-upon hero) with many potential pairings as well as the main false ‘engagement’. By Season 2, patience with the ongoing audience-teasing is beginning to wear a little thin. All the little set-pieces are fine, but do they deliver any significant character development or advance the relationships at all? In summer 2016 it was announced by Weekly Shonen Jump that the manga (by Naoshi Komi) was building to a climax (shorthand for end) but the TV series is nowhere near anything so conclusive, leaving the viewer (well, this reviewer) longing for some proper plot resolution, not just hinting.

In Summary

Nisekoi still looks and sounds good and is a lively and colourful watch. But however fun spending time with Raku and the girls may be, this second season is little more than an entertaining diversion that doesn’t really deliver any answers to the underlying question. I guess we’ll just have to read the manga…

Title: Nisekoi Season 2
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Harem
Studio: Shaft
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 12
Running time: 290 minutes

Score: 7/10

Little Busters Season 1 Review

After being orphaned as a child, Riki Naoe shut himself out from the world. However, he was soon saved when he met a boy named Kyosuke, and was recruited into the Little Busters, a group of friends who spend their childhood fighting off evil doers and enjoying their youth. Now in high school, the close-knit group have decided to form a baseball team in order to commemorate Kyousuke’s last year before graduation. There is a problem, however; there just aren’t enough members! Now Riki himself must do what Kyosuke did all those years ago and look for new recruits for the Little Busters.

In my humble opinion, the biggest sin an anime can possibly commit is to be boring, however coming in a close second to this is when an anime has glimpses of greatness but is dragged down and marred by flaws, turning what could have been great into something lesser. Unfortunately, this is the best way to describe Little Busters, the 2012 adaption of the visual novel by Key, the company that also produced visual novels such as Clannad, and Angel Beats, which has to be one of the most frustrating series I have seen in recent memory.

What makes Little Busters so frustrating to watch it that it seems to constantly flip between really well-executed character-focused arcs and rather dull and generic Slice of Life fodder, and the gulf in quality between the two is really quite astounding, to the point where it kind of feels like two different shows happening at the same time. Whilst the more down-to-earth and lighthearted episodes aren’t necessarily bad, they are painfully average, and don’t really do anything you haven’t seen before. There are some rather unique scenarios, usually spurred on by a subplot where a member of the group receives notes promising to tell her ‘The secret of the world’ if she performs all the tasks given to her, such as to put on a puppet show for a group of kids or to save the cafeteria, but they still just generally feel like nothing special. This plotline initially feels quite important, and at first I thought it was going to be the main driving force of the series, but it ultimately goes without a resolution. Given this is the first of three seasons, however, I can forgive it, assuming that it does actually go somewhere later on.

Running in stark contrast to these episodes are the truly fantastic character-driven episodes, and it’s in these episodes where you can really see something fantastic trying to break through all the mediocrity. Unlike other shows of it’s ilk that normally only dedicate an episode to each character, Little Busters takes a good amount of time, normally about 3 or more episodes each, to really flesh out each of the highlighted characters and develop them greatly. What really signaled to me that these episodes were doing their job effectively was just how invested and attached I got to certain members of the cast, even in some instances bringing to the brink of tears. It’s incredibly rare for media to have such an effect on me, and it speaks volumes about the quality of these episodes, more so than any words I could write. One thing worth mentioning is just how dark these episodes seem to get. It caught me kind-of off-guard, but these backstories go into some fairly bleak subject matter, and given how light- hearted the general tone of the series is when not focusing on characters, it can cause a little bit of tonal whiplash going from, say, the cast having a fun sleepover to emotional and physical child abuse; however, it never feels overly jarring.

The only real downside to the great amount of focus placed on each character is that you get a lot of the cast left on the sidelines in terms of depth. At a ridiculously large 10 main characters, even 26 episodes isn’t enough to give them all attention, and when the character development for the others is so good, you can’t help but feel characters like Makoto, Kyousuke, Rin and Kurugaya get short-changed a bit. The biggest casualty is definitely the protagonist Riki, who is just about the blandest, most personality-void and dull lead character you can imagine. His sole defining trait is that he has narcolepsy, but this is never even relevant to the plot at any time and seems totally pointless. It is hinted that it has more importance than it seems, and might lead to something in the second season, but here it just feels tacked on.

Another element to Little Busters you can probably file under ‘Explained in Later Seasons’ are the supernatural occurrences. The majority of the series is based in real life, with nothing out of the ordinary, but every now and then, something supernatural will happen, with literally no explanation given. Given how rare something like that actually happens, it feels incredibly out of place given the nature of the rest of the series, and the fact that it’s never explained just exacerbates this feeling. However, once again, this will probably be tackled later on.

The amount of times I’ve had to say that something feels incomplete really paints a picture of just how unfinished Little Busters feels. This first season was definitely meant to be a launch pad, and you only get half the story. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make Season 1 alone a hard sell without its sequel, and even without seeing the second season, I definitely feel as if they were meant to be watched as a whole.

Little Busters is animated by J.C. Staff, the studio behind Toradora and Prison School, and is rather unremarkable to say the least, especially in comparison to some of their other works. There are some cute character designs courtesy of Haruko Iizuka, based on those from the Visual Novel, but other than that, there’s really not a lot here that another studio couldn’t have done just as well.  

MVM’s release of Little Busters features both an English dub and Japanese audio, and the English voice cast is just as much of mixed bag as the series itself is. There are some really great performances on display here, my favourite easily being Tiffany Grant (Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion) as Kud, who puts on an amazingly adorable Russian accent for the character, that makes her really quite endearing. I also was quite the fan of Brittany Karbowski and Tia Ballard too, as Rin and Komari respectively. The problems with the cast mostly come from the male side, with Shannon Emerick sounding positively bored and uninterested throughout the majority of the show as the lead Riki, and Greg Ayres’s gravely voice is, as always, is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

On the music side of things, Manabu Miwa, PMMK and Magome Togoshi all contribute to the soundtrack, which I was a pretty big fan of. Although there are a lot of differences generally speaking, there were many passages that reminded me of Persona 4’s soundtrack with its instrumentation, which is one of my favourite soundtracks, in terms of both games and anime, so is definitely a plus. Less good, however, are the OP and ED, ‘Little Busters~TV Version’ and ‘Alicemagic’ by Rita, as they both just come off as kind of unmemorable.

Special features on MVM’s release are the standard clean OP, ED and trailers.

In Summary

When Little Busters is good, it is really good, but when it’s not, it’s middling at best and plain boring at worst. Personally, I think the sheer quality of some of the characters make it worth sitting through the less fantastic bits, but frankly, your mileage may vary.

Title: Little Busters Season 1
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama
Studio: J.C. Staff
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2012
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 650 minutes

Score: 7/10

Fairy Tail Collection 13 Review

Warning: Review contains episode spoilers

“Hans [Christian] Andersen slept in this room for five weeks – which seemed to the family AGES!” – A note in Charles Dickens’s house.

Last time the Fairy Tail wizards were trying to find the pieces of a magical clock, while all the time battling against the Legion wizards working for the Zootopia Church. However, by the time Fairy Tail manage to collect the pieces, they learn too late that this is actually the one thing that they should NOT do.

The pieces are part of a gigantic magical device called the Immortal Clock, which, when activated, will release a spell called “Real Nightmare” that has the power to alter the perception of time and cause chaos across the world. They also learn of the identities of the people who are responsible for all this troublemaking – the Dark Guild Oracion Seis – or rather, the reformed Dark Guild Neo-Oracion Seis.

The guild, consisting of among others the poison Dragon Slayer Cobra, old Sir Erigor of Esienwald who now refers to himself as Grim Reaper and controls storm magic, and Midnight who now calls himself Brain II, have been responsible for the attacks on churches. Except that it is not the buildings they have been attacking, but celestial wizards protecting the clock. They have been manipulating everything to suit their own ends, including which ones of Fairy Tail’s wizards end up facing them in battle. To top it all off, Neo-Oracion Seis has another member called Imitatia, a wizard capable of impersonating people. The person she has been imitating all this time is Michelle Lobster, Lucy’s supposed relation, who takes Lucy and Natsu prisoner.

Natsu is locked in Zootopia’s prison, while Lucy is taken to the Immortal Clock, because for it to work it must be controlled by a celestial wizard, and she is to be forced to make it go. The rest of Fairy Tail, and later the previously tricked Legion wizards, end up having to try and bust Natsu out of the nick and free Lucy from her plight.

After this is all over, there then comes the matter of some other important guild business. Makarov decides to make Gildarts the new master of Fairy Tail, but before he does so, Gildarts goes away on another trip leaving just two instructions: allow Laxus back into the guild, and make Makarov guild master again.

The other important matter is that over the past seven years (during which many of Fairy Tail’s wizards went missing) Fairy Tail has now become the worst ranked guild in the land, with the new top guild being one called Sabertooth, which has two Dragon Slayers in it: the White Dragon Sting and the Shadow Dragon Rogue. The fastest way to reach the top is to enter into a competition called the Grand Magic Games tournament, which Makarov agrees to, chiefly because of the vast prize money. The problem however is that the likes of Natsu, Gray, Erza and Lucy are all seven years behind mastering the magic abilities, with only the worst wizards making any progress in that time.

Thus they need to make progress over the next three months, but then Lucy is summoned by Virgo to the celestial spirit world which is in danger, taking several other wizards with her. As a result, time that could be used for training might be getting wasted.

In this collection, one of the main attractions is the difference in tone between the two story arcs that appear in it. The first is dark, menacing, and contains its fair share of conspiracy in the Zootopia Church. You also have the subject of betrayal when you discover Michelle’s true identity, but this becomes even more so when you discover that not all the members of Neo-Oracion Seis are who they appear to be, with their memories being manipulated. The story does however have a nice pay-off with the relationship between Lucy and Michelle being fully explained.

The second story arc appears to be jollier, with it seemingly about a contest between wizard guilds, although we have only just started the arc. There is, as seems obligatory with long-running anime series like this, a beach episode, but also we start to learn more about the dragons as well.

One other major factor to be highlighted in this second arc is that it is also arguably the last arc. We are now coming to the end of the first series of Fairy Tail, which ended in March 2013 and then went away for a year. There are only two more collections in the first series left to go, so it is interesting to see how this conclusion builds up.

This time, all the extras in this collection are just on the second disc. There are episode commentaries, trailers, interviews with Todd Haberkorn and Newton Pittman (the English dub voices of Natsu and Gray), and textless opening and closing. This includes new pieces of music, “Break Through” by Going Under Ground for the opening; and my personal favourite of the two, “Kimi ga Kureta Mono” by Shizuka Kudo.

Title: Review of Fairy Tail, Collection 13
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Shonen
Studio: A-1 Pictures, Satelight
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2009
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 275 minutes

Score: 7/10

Busou Shinki Complete Collection Review

There is a saying that goes around about slice-of-life anime and how it’s often ‘cute girls doing cute things’. For this review of Busou Shinki I’ve decided to repurpose that saying to ‘cute robot girls doing cute robot girl things’ because while it looks like this series should be an action series (and you’d be forgiven for thinking this, judging by the cover art), it’s actually more of a slice-of-life tale.

The anime is based on telling stories about the Busou Shinki toys, which you can buy in Japan. These Shinki toys are small action figures which are always female and generally have the ability to transform into more mecha-like forms if the situation demands it. Despite being robots, in the anime the Shinki have a wide range of emotions and are generally always looking to make their owner, their ‘master’, happy.

In the Busou Shinki anime we’re introduced to four Shinki who all belong to high school freshman Rihito (last name is never given). These four – Ann, Ines, Hina and Lene – peacefully live out their day-to-day lives while looking after Rihito. The anime follows their adventures as they deal with the mishaps of daily life, such as Rihito forgetting an umbrella or his lunch. I wish I could say that there is an overarching story or an actual plot to be found, but sadly there isn’t. The series is very episodic. Apart from the first two episodes and the final two you could watch the show in any order and not really have any problems doing such.

It’s because of this episodic nature and the lack of a plot that I struggle to really recommend Busou Shinki. Admittedly I’m not someone who enjoys a series without an end goal of some kind, but even putting those feelings aside and looking at Busou Shinki objectively, it’s just boring. The series implies that Shinki can be, and usually are, used to battle one another in competitions, but because Rihito is against that kind of thing, we never see competitive battling in the anime. Had this kind of thing been included, I’d probably have been far more interested, especially as the action scenes that the anime delivers are often far more attention-grabbing than anything else it has to offer.

On the whole I don’t really know what Busou Shinki wanted to be. It’s clearly one big advertisement for the toys but beyond that it’s too boring to be a good slice-of-life, not funny enough to be a comedy, and the action is so sparse that labeling it an action series doesn’t really stick. If you really like the idea of robot girls looking after a master then perhaps you’d get something out of their daily adventures, but I think that audience is fairly limited. Ultimately it stands that the only thing Busou Shinki really has going for it is to be a moderately okay animated advert.


Speaking of animation, the series has been handled by studio
8bit, who are perhaps best known for their adaptations of Shonen Maid and Absolute Duo. Where Busou Shinki is concerned it’s difficult to get excited for the animation. There is a little bit of dodgy CGI, and even beyond that the colors are quite muted and limited for a show that was only released in Japan in late 2012. It’s not poorly animated but I’m not so sure that the quality is anything to write home about either. It’s firmly in the camp of being okay and nothing more or less. Also, it has to be said that although the Shinki are meant to be robots with the ability to transform, their designs are all fairly generic and not at all as interesting as the series would try and have you believe.

The music for Busou Shinki has been handled by Tetsuro Oda and on the whole is rather forgettable. The opening theme is “Install x Dream”, which is sung by the four main Shinki voice actors, while the ending theme is “The Sun’s Sign” by Azusa. Neither song will stick in your mind for long, perhaps like the anime itself. While there is nothing wrong with the voice actors for the series, they’re playing such stereotypical and bland characters that it’s equally hard to say anything notably pleasing about them. 


This series has been brought to the UK thanks to
MVM Entertainment, who have released it on both DVD and Blu-ray. The release is split across 3 discs on DVD and 2 for the BD and contains all 12 episodes of Busou Shinki as well as a 13th unaired episode. This release is sub-only as there is no English dub for the show and the only extras to speak of are clean opening and ending videos, as well as a selection of trailers.

Overall Busou Shinki isn’t a terrible series, it just suffers from being incredibly boring. I’m sure someone out there will get something out of it but a slice-of-life anime about robots that could be doing much cooler things (like battling) is just simply not for me. I walk away, not so much disappointed as wishing for my time back.

Title: Busou Shinki: Armored War Goddess Collection
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Slice of Life, Mecha
Studio: 8bit
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2012
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 15
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 4/10

Eden of the East – Complete Collection Review

Eden of the East was undoubtedly the big hit of 2009, and now you can own the whole series and the films in one rather lovely Blu-ray box. Before looking at the set itself, let’s have a quick reminder of the series, or a general synopsis for those who have yet to take the plunge into the world of Eden of the East.

Eden of the East is brought to you by Production IG and Kenji Kamiyama, a winning combination that has previously produced the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series. Within the opening episode we see young and impressionable girl Saki Morimi on a trip to the US and encountering a naked man waving a gun around who later reveals his name to be Akira Takizawa, although he only knows this due to a passport he found. He has amnesia, and, in true Jason Bourne fashion, goes back to his place only to find guns, various passports along with a mysterious phone he had on his person (well, had in his hand…)

Saki and Takizawa soon travel back to Japan, which is still recovering from a series of missile strikes, the first of which mysteriously managed not to kill anybody, though that wasn’t true for the latest strike. Without going too deep into the storyline, Takizawa is one of 12 “Selecao”, a group of seemingly random people who have been given a “”Noblesse oblige” phone in which they can use to contact someone only known as Juiz and order anything, literally. From assassination to missile strikes to asking to suddenly own a business or a building, with the only catch being they’re limited to 10 billion yen and they must use this power for the betterment of Japan. If they run out of money or they’re judged to have misused the power of the phone, they’re killed by “The Supporter”, who is one of the 12, but which one is unknown. When “Mr. Outside”, the shadowy leader of this game, deems someone to have “won” it, the other participants will be executed.

It all seems rather heavy, and it is, but the story is handled so well mostly because of the lead characters. Both are charming, pleasant, realistic (within a very unrealistic contest) and their feelings for each other are very sweetly played out across the series. Saki has several friends and family members, most of whom run a small business called “Eden of the East”, which hosts a website where someone can tag any person, building or object with a description and other people can see these tags through their phone’s camera. Seems unconnected, and it is, but it does come in handy as the plot progresses. Each one of these side characters again feels very real; it’s only the Selecao that come across as over-exaggerated or a caricature.

The animation is beautiful. The character designs are unique and endearing, the scenery and backgrounds are extremely detailed and busy, and the few bits of CG used for cars and some phone-related screens are perfectly integrated. The background music isn’t exactly memorable, in fact I can’t actual think of any, so that’s one negative, but it’s pretty tiny in comparison to everything it gets right. Even the English dub is good, with Saki and Takizawa retaining their sweet and gentle voice and excitable teen voice, respectively, although like a lot of dubs they miss the mark when they have to voice a sudden “outburst” of anger or panic, complete with comic facial expressions. It’s a very Japanese thing and hard to dub, so it’s understandable and it doesn’t actually happen that often in the series.

The opening of the series as it broadcast on TV was “Falling Down” by Oasis, which is surreal to hear a British band from when I was growing up doing an opening, but very fitting… and also expensive to license, apparently. It features as the opening for Episode 1, and that’s it. Episodes 2 – 11 have “Michael ka Belial” by Saori Hayami instead. Oasis probably just charged too much per use to do anything more. The ending theme is “Futuristic Imagination” by Japanese band School Food Punishment.

As stated at the top of this review, this set not only collects all 11 episodes, but also the two continuation movies, King of Eden and Paradise Lost, which is good because they effectively serve as Episodes 12 and 13 in that the plot isn’t resolved until the final film. In fact King of Eden barely stands on its own, it’s continuing on from episode 11 and ends in a cliffhanger that gets resolved as Paradise Lost starts. It really is safer to say it’s a 13-episode series, it’s just that Episodes 12 and 13 are a lot longer and have a higher budget. It’s also interesting that the compilation film, Air Communication, is included as an extra on the King of Eden film disc, although it’s Japanese with English subtitles only. Obviously there is no need to watch it when you have the 11 episodes it condenses in the same set, but it is nice that it’s there given it’s the “Complete Collection”. I’m surprised it’s not listed in the extras section on online webstores.

Speaking of Extras, it has plenty to tuck into, including several interviews with key staff and voice actors, trailers, TV spots and textless opening and closing, though only the second opening, obviously. As for physical extras you get a nice rigid box, a thick series booklet, art cards and some stickers. A very nice thing to have on your shelf.

So should you invest in Eden of the East? Yes! Absolutely. There was a reason that was the talk of the (anime-related) internet back when it aired, and even the films, which didn’t really stand well on their own when they were released, are perfectly fitting here in the one box. It tells an interesting mystery and techno thriller while simultaneously telling a well written and acted love story. If you’re already a fan of series then you can replace your stand-alone Manga discs and get the whole series and films in one box complete with nice physical extras, and if you’ve never brought or watched the series before, then here it is, settle down and enjoy a proper modern classic.

Title: Eden of the East - Complete Collection
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Mystery, Psychological, Romance, Thriller
Studio: Production I.G
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2009
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 455 minutes

Score: 10/10

Archive: Review of Gurren Lagann Ultimate Collection

On 1st April 2007, Gurren Lagann debuted. To mark its 10th anniversary, we have republished our review of All the Anime’s Ultimate Edition boxset which was first put on sale in 2014. The series has since been re-released as a Collector’s Edition exclusive to Zavvi (details here). Sections in italics (except the top quote obviously) specifically concern the Ultimate Edition boxset.

“‘Space’, it says, ‘is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…’” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams.

Past reviews of this anime, including on this website, frequently say that Gurren Lagann is not perfect. In response to this, I reference the following true story. When Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life won the 1983 Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival it was seen by the film director Henry Jaglom, who claimed that it was the best thing Python had ever done. In response Terry Gilliam said to him: “No, there’s great bits in there, but there’s crap in there as well.” Jaglom replied: “No, that’s why it’s great, because the crap is there to balance the greatness.”

This is how I feel about Gurren Lagann. OK the humour is not the most sophisticated, the plot is perhaps not that original, and the animation of one episode was so shoddy that it led to one of Gainax’s co-founders, Takami Akai, having to resign because of the way he handled the criticism. However, when you look at the way that it was made as a whole, the story that was created, the characters that were portrayed, and the sheer scale of the entire project, it all combines into what is probably one of the greatest anime of all time.

People also said at the time that you “shouldn’t believe the hype”. I didn’t believe the hype, because I was unaware of any hype. This was because Gurren Lagann was one of the very first anime I had ever watched, and when it was first shown to me back when I was in the University of Teesside Animation and Comics Society back in 2007, I had never heard of it before. I knew very little about anime at all, but when I watched it I thought: “Yes, that just sums it up. This is one of the best things I have ever seen.”

It was because of Gurren Lagann that I am became interested in anime. Without it I would not be here reviewing stuff for this website, which in turn would mean I would not be reviewing manga for MyM Magazine, which was my first regularly paid job. This was my gateway show. Of course, a single piece of work cannot sum up an entire art-form, but if you wanted to encourage people to take an interest in anime, this would be an ideal title to show.

Now I realise that at this point some people may be rather annoyed that I haven’t actually started reviewing this collection yet, so let’s start.

This “Ultimate Edition” of Gurren Lagann has been in the pipeline for some time. All the Anime announced their plans to release the series back in June 2013, and eventually said this collection of just 2,000 sets would be released in June 2014. However, several problems have meant it has not come out until four months later. This of course is a big deal, not just for the fans but for All the Anime too.

For a six-disc Blu-ray box set with an RRP of £149.99, consisting of the entire TV series, both films (never released in the UK before), the OVA “Parallel Works” (also making their UK debut), a hardback art book and various other extras, this release needed to be perfect. If they messed this up it could ruin the entire company’s future reputation. Have there been any problems – well, there have been some complaints.

In some collections, and I have to report this is true with mine, the glue used on the third Digipack tray is loose and thus it slips around the box. In my opinion this is nothing major and it is not the fault of All the Anime, but of the people who put the box together and All the Anime have made complaints to the manufacturers. Other people have complained about images freezing in Episodes 5, 7 and 10, and some talk about a skip in audio. The company has since issued this statement saying that: “we had to switch in the DVD footage as the best solution since no re-supply was possible in this case. Otherwise, you would have had 9 seconds, 13 seconds and a momentary image freeze with ongoing audio in its place. Not ideal. These are the only instances and as you can tell they are not over any crucial moments, so whilst annoying it doesn’t impact the overall viewing pleasure & quality of watching Team Gurren on your big TV.”

Some people, including on our own forums, have expressed complaints about these cock-ups, especially given how major a release this was for them. Some have been put off by All the Anime altogether; others are complimenting them about their response to the problem. For me personally, I haven’t noticed anything major that disturbs my pleasure from this collection, and I would rather have this series available on Blu-ray, in Region B, that it not be available at all.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, Gurren Lagann is set in a post-apocalyptic future, in which humanity has been driven underground, living in isolated villages. The central character, Simon (pronounced “See-mon” in Japanese), works as a digger, using his conical drill to dig holes to expand the size of the village, as well as to find his own treasure. These bits of treasure include a rather small drill-like key known as a “Core Drill”, and later on some kind of large face. Simon’s friends consist of a shades-wearing “mole-pig” creature called Boota, and a troublesome guy named Kamina. Kamina, normally seen wearing a pair of trademark pointy specs, dreams of going to the surface where he once went as a kid, but no-one else apart from Simon believes him. Things all change however when a gigantic mecha crashes through the village ceiling and chaos ensues.

Kamina starts to fight it, with Simon wanting to hide away, but then a buxom girl named Yoko comes down from the surface with a big rifle and starts firing at the mecha, which she tells the guys is known as a “Gunmen”. Simon comes to realise that the big face he has found is actually that of a small Gunmen and his Core Drill is the key to activating it. Together they use their big-faced Gunmen, which Kamina christens “Lagann” and appropriately enough for Simon it uses drills as a weapon to defeat the Gunman attacking the village. Simon also uses the Lagann to help Kamina, Boota, Yoko and himself to escape to the surface of the world, now a barren wasteland.

Simon and Kamina learn from Yoko that the humans on the surface are constantly attacked by a race of creatures known as the “Beastmen”, who serve a man known as the “Spiral King”. To fight back, Kamina steals his own Gunmen, which he names “Gurren”, and eventually comes up with the idea that Simon’s mecha should combine with his. Amazingly Kamina’s idea works, with the combined “Gurren Lagann” seemingly being stronger than anything else.

With this humanity begins to fight back against the Spiral King, with Simon and Kamina gaining more followers. These include Leeron, a camp gay mechanic from the same village as Yoko; Rossiu, an intelligent boy who originally came from a village where they worshipped an old Gunmen as a god; two young and excitable children from Rossiu’s village called Gimmy and Darry; and a group of Beastman hunters known as the Black Siblings: eldest brother Kittan and his three sisters Kiyoh, Kinon and Kiyal. Together they continue to collect more mecha and fight against the Beastmen, with their most common foe being the shark-toothed Viral of the Human Eradication Army.

As the story progresses, we encounter comedy, tragedy and love in equal measure. The mecha become bigger, as do the battles and the danger. The story itself extends over a period of years. We see the characters, Simon amongst them, growing up but still encountering even more terrible dangers, which not only threaten humanity, but the whole of the Earth.

As stated already, there are several reasons why people might be put off Gurren Lagann, whether it be errors made in this box set or the quality of the series in general. But the positives by far outweigh the negatives. The first thing to mention is the way Gurren Lagann combines so many elements. There is comedy, drama, tragedy, action, romance and science-fiction. It works a bit like the “Gurren Lagann” mecha itself, in that one genre will combine with another to make the show more powerful.

It works brilliantly, and also rather strangely. You will be watching a sequence where there is a huge battle going on, and there is fighting, chaos, carnage and death – the whole scene is full of fear and tension, and while this is all happening, little Boota is hiding away, seeking shelter from all the horror and the hurt, hiding away… in Yoko’s huge tits. You get the feeling that this is what a mecha series would be like, if it was being filmed by the Carry On team.

This is most clearly demonstrated in the sixth episode which is set in a bathhouse. For most of the episode Kamina, Simon and Gimmy constantly try to get a glimpse of the ladies who are also bathing. In this episode there is one scene in which Gimmy sticks his finger up Simon’s arsehole, another in which you see Gimmy totally naked, and in the end Yoko’s bikini flies off Barbara Windsor style.

When this episode was first broadcast in Japan it had to be cut, but the “Director’s Cut” version is all the collections. You also have the original broadcast version of the episode as one of the extras in the “Ultimate Edition”. However, I think that this is one of the best moments in the series, as this is humour that we British can relate to. I feel that it is also important to state, given recent news events [i.e. the then recently introduced UK laws on cartoon pornography], that I feel that there is nothing wrong with the “Director’s Cut”, including the depiction of the naked Gimmy, whose penis is visible in the episode and in some of the other “Ultimate Edition” exclusive features. A person should not feel pressured into thinking that just because you are seeing a picture of a naked child that this automatically makes you some sort of suspect sex offender. Everyone in the world has been seen naked by at least one person, and you cannot and should not criminalise the act of just seeing a person naked, whether they are fictional or in real-life – if you did you’d have to arrest an awful lot of midwives who had just delivered new-borns.

The second reason for why Gurren Lagann is so great are the characters. The main characters especially are brilliant for varying reasons. Simon starts off as being timid, wanting not to fight and at times wishing to return home, but as the story progresses he overcomes obstacle after obstacle. Simon matures and develops into a stronger character. Things really start to happen when Simon encounters the character of Nia, who becomes his love interest and helps Simon to overcome some of the major tragedies that has recently had to face.

Kamina is one of the best anime characters, in my personal opinion. Acting as mentor to Simon, he is the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Simon’s Luke Skywalker. However, Kamina also has the added factor of being possibly the most over-the-top character in anime. He has some of the best lines I have heard in an anime series. How can you not like a character who says things like: “Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in me! Believe in the Kamina who believes in you!” or “Reject common sense to make the impossible possible”, and, “Who the hell do you think you are? Isn’t your drill the one that will pierce the heavens, the earth, and through to tomorrow?”

There are also lots of other elements that combine to add to the greatness. While the animation in the fourth episode is admittedly poor, to the point where it cost the jobs of two staff at Gainax, elsewhere it is brilliant. The character design, the landscapes, the mecha and 3D animation neatly fit together to create a believable setting. Plus there is the soundtrack. The opening theme song, “Sorairo Days” by Shoko Nakagawa, automatically acts as a hook. The end pieces – “Underground” by High Voltage, “Happily Ever After” by Shoko Nakagawa, and “Minna no Peace” by Afromania are also fun. But probably the best is “Rap is a Man’s Soul” by Spontania. I’m not a rap fan, but even I like this. There is also “‘Libera Me’ from Hell”, a combination of rap and classical. The soundtrack should be credited to the composer Taku Iwasaki.

But the best reason by Gurren Lagann is so good is because it is so big. It starts of small, with Simon in his village with his Core Drill. But his Lagann has a big face, which combines with Kamina’s large Gurren. Later they combine with other mecha, and take on bigger enemies. Kamina has his big glasses and a massive passion for what he believes in. Yoko carries a gigantic gun and has plenty of room in her bosom to support Boota. Then the mecha themselves get bigger and bigger. They get so big it seems almost impossible to talk about their size without having to go into bold block capitals for added emphasis. The whole series is so big, brash and loud that it is the sort of show that you want to project on the biggest screen you can find and shout at those passing by to stop whatever they are doing right now and just watch this!

While the series itself is great, we need to turn our attention to the matter of this particular collection, apart from the sliding Digipack and the issues regarding freezing images. Appropriately enough, for such a big series there is plenty extras and bonus material to keep you entertained. Both the “Ultimate Edition” and the standard Blu-Ray edition contain the following extras: Yoko Goes to Gainax!, a behind-the-scenes documentary presented by Marina Inoue, the Japanese voice-actress who provides the voice of Yoko; a collection of early 3D test animation taken from the second half of the series; an animated storyboard, which features the original illustrated storyboards played over the entire 15th episode; and clean opening and closing title sequences, which include the animated music video which is used as the ending for the 16th episode (the compilation episode).

Out of these extras, my personal favourite was the 3D test animation. This is mainly because it features some ideas that did not appear in the final cut of the anime. For example there are sequences in which Nia is riding on Gurren Lagann while they are fighting some mecha that in the end she does not encounter in the anime. The only problem is that none of the written text is translated.

When it concerns the extras that are just on the “Ultimate Edition”, these are plainly obvious as soon as you open the box set. One of these is a hardback 112 page art book, containing designs of the characters, mecha and landscapes. If you are keen on your art this makes for a rather useful reference work. You also get an art card, signed by the “El Presidente” of All the Anime (and the man who has had to deal with all the complaints) Andrew Partridge, which displaying the number of your release (in my case No. 816 out of 2,000). You also get, as previously stated, the original broadcast/censored version of the sixth episode (the one in which you don’t see Gimmy sticking his finger up Simon’s bottom).

But the really big extras are two discs containing anime previously unreleased in the UK: the two Gurren Lagann films – Childhood’s End and The Lights in the Sky Are Stars – and the Parallel Works OVA collection, which are on the fourth disc along with the final episodes.

The two films mostly contain old footage from the original TV series, but also include new material that sometimes gives more background information on the series, and sometimes tries to make the series bigger than it already was. Childhood’s End tells the story up to the battle between the Four Generals of the Spiral King. The Lights in the Sky Are Stars starts briefly with the Battle of Teppelin and then tells the second half of the story.

There are plenty of differences between the two films and the original series however. In Childhood’s End you learn more on how the Spiral King came to be; the contents of several episodes are significantly abridged, mainly the encounters Simon and Kamina have with new characters (Kittan, Rossiu etc.), and rather than the Four Generals attacking separately, three of them gang up on Simon and his followers in a single, climactic battle.

In The Lights in the Sky Are Stars, which in my few is the better of the two films, you see how civilization developed quickly after the Battle of Teppelin, and significant changes to the battles that take place in space. For example, certain characters which are killed in the series remain alive in the film. This seems to be an excuse for the creators to make more mecha, even bigger and more powerful, ultimately creating the final Gunmen which so large that even entire galaxies are dwarfed by it. Given how big Gurren Lagann already is this just knocks the series sideways.

The Parallel Works are a series of short stories with no spoken dialogue, set to music from the original soundtrack. The stories vary wildly in terms of plot and animation style, and most have no relation to the original anime. Stories range to a European medieval retelling of the story with Simon as a knight rescuing a Nia maiden; a steampunk wild west setting with Viral as the hero; a nude Gimmy stealing people’s clothes by sticking fingers up people arseholes; how Kittan got his Gunmen; a surreal sequence in which Gimmy and Darry find a series of strange doors leading to alternative worlds (my personal favourite); and a story with Kiyal as a magical girl. Some of these stories are funny, some are interesting artistically, and others help build the context of the series more. Like with the other extras, the written text is not translated which is annoying in some of the stories, but for most of the xx?, it is about the animation, music and mini-stories, which are made more interesting the lack of any speech.

To sum up, I think the reason I like, and indeed love Gurren Lagann is because that not only can I not imagine a similar programme being made in this country, but I also can’t conceive of a programme being made on such a scale ever again. Simply being so big in terms of the setting, it’s impossible to think of a way that you can top that. While some parts of Gurren Lagann are arguably not original, when it comes to scale it seems to have dwarfed everything before it, and I can’t see anything topping it while maintaining a similar level of quality. It is only fitting that such a big show should get such a big box set. I forgive this series for the faults it has in it. I feel sorry for All the Anime for the problems it has faced during its production and for all the delays it has had.

It is hard to for me to write up a clear view about Gurren Lagann without getting emotional. Yes, I can understand why some people are put off by it, and all the hype that goes along with it, and many people will be angry with the fact this release is not 100% perfect. But Gurren Lagann has never been 100% perfect. Since it began people have complained about it, and people will always complain about it. I don’t think you could ever have a 100% perfect collection of Gurren Lagann. Look at the extras they might have included but didn’t: when Beez Entertainment brought out the series, they had things like the soundtrack and various patches and props that you could use for cosplay purposes like a lighting-up Core Drill. Also, what about episode commentaries or specially made documentaries about the series? The other thing you have to remember is that more Gurren Lagann stuff is always being made. A stage play of the anime has been made, so a future release might have something about that.

Of course, this was always going to be a problem – for an anime so huge it’s truly impossible to include everything good about it in one box set. I know there are issues of cost and licensing, plus for some the idea of making an even bigger collection is daft. You couldn’t do that, it’s just plain common sense. But to quote Kamina, I think we should reject common sense to make the impossible possible.

Title: Gurren Lagann: Complete Series Ultimate Box
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Mecha
Studio: Gainax
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2007
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 986 minutes

Score: 10/10

Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy Review

“The condition of man… is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.” – Thomas Hobbes.

The original Mobile Suit Gundam series that ended in 1980 was not a success. In fact, the series got axed. It was only afterwards when big sales of toys based on the series and repeats of the show indicated that the series had an appeal – and sure enough, Gundam has been around ever since.

One of the other factors that help to cement the success of the original series was a trilogy of three compilation films. The first, simply known as Mobile Suit Gundam I debuted in March 1981. This was followed by Soldiers of Sorrow in July 1981, and finally by Encounters in Space which came out almost exactly a year after the first movie. For the first time, these films are now available to buy, although they are only available via All the Anime’s own website, and there are only 500 copies. However, it is not just the location and number of copies which limit this collection. You can only buy it on Blu-ray, you can only watch it with subtitles as there is no dub, and there are no extras at all.

Also, remember that these are compilation films. These three movies mainly consist of material from the TV series, which is already available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK.

For those unfamiliar with the series, it takes place in year Universal Century 0079, and humanity has expanded from Earth and is now living in various space colonies called “Sides”, under the rule of the Earth Federation. One Side however, Side 7, has rebelled, declaring itself the Principality of Zeon and an independent nation. Thus a war has begun between the two sides that after eight months has killed half the human population and ended in a stalemate after eight months.

The Federation’s newest weapon to fight back against Zeon is the “Gundam” mobile suit. A young boy named Amuro Ray is caught up in a battle when he finds it and pilots the Gundam himself. This results in him and other civilians being drafted into the Federation’s army in the warship White Base. Amuro ends up fighting against the might of the Zeon forces, in particular the “Red Comet” Char Aznable, who has his own private reasons for fighting the war – namely his desire to eliminate the Zabi royal house who rule Zeon and in turn tried to kill his family. However, Amuro ends up battling his own personal demons, and finds himself slowly evolving into the next stage of humanity, the “Newtype”.

The first of the three films covers Amuro’s first battles in the Gundam up to the death of Garma Zabi; the second film continues from there and ends with White Base’s arrival and departure from the Jaburo base; and the third film deals with the final battles in space with Amuro gaining his Newtype abilities.

The main reason for getting this box set is to see the new material that is included in these films. These include making some elements more realistic than they were in the TV series, and more details about some of the battles.

However, at £34.99 it seems that you are paying too much for so little that is actually new. Most of the stuff in the films appears in the original TV programme, and at least in that you get a choice of sub or dub. This collection therefore is really for the completists. It is for that die-hard core of Gundam lovers who want to embrace all the aspects of the show.

Therefore, if you’re already a fan of the series and this is something missing from your collection then here is the opportunity to finally get what you want. If you’re a more casual fan however, best stick with the TV version and get the full, unabridged story.

Title: Review of Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Action, Mecha, Military, Sci-fi
Studio: Nippon Sunrise
Type: Movie
Original vintage: 1981
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 12
Running time: 413 minutes

Score: 5/10

One Piece, Collection 16 Review

Episodes 373-396, may contain spoilers.

A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.” – Oscar Wilde.

This collection marks several landmarks in One Piece: it sees the end of the “Thriller Bark” arc and the start of “Sabaody” arc; we witness the official addition of the ninth and currently final member of the Straw Hat Pirates; and as there will be 781 episodes of the anime broadcast by the time this review is published, it means that with this collection we pass the half-way point of the entire anime adaptation.

We begin with the Straw Hats finishing their duel with Gecko Moria on Thriller Bark, with Monkey D. Luffy being able to regain his strength to return the shadows stolen by Moria to their original owners. This means that 1,000 people, including Zoro, Sanji, Nico Robin and Brook, can now safely live under the sun’s rays again. However, there is little time to celebrate as Nami recognises another terrifying figure who makes his appearance: Bartholomew Kuma, another of the Seven Warlords.

Kuma has been given the job of killing Luffy. Everyone tries to stop him, but Kuma has the powers of the “Paw-Paw Fruit” which allow his hands to reject anything he touches, as well as the ability to warp instantly from one place to another. He also reveals himself to be a type of robotic weapon called a “Pacifista”, made by the world’s greatest scientist, Dr. Vegapunk.

Kuma uses his powers to create a high-pressure bomb that devastates the whole ship, with only Zoro still being able to fight Kuma. Zoro asks for his life to be taken instead of Luffy’s, but in exchange Kuma uses his powers to make Zoro feel all the pain that Luffy felt in his battle with Moria. Kuma then departs and Zoro collapses from the pain, while Luffy ends up being perfectly fit. The Straw Hats then rest for a while, with Luffy inviting Brook to join the crew. Brook agrees, in order to fulfil his previous crew’s promise of reuniting with Laboon the whale, and thus the Straw Hats end up with nine pirates. During this time we also learn that Blackbeard has been made a Warlord and that Ace is in grave danger.

After a small bit of filler, mainly consisting of a flashback of Brook’s backstory and an encounter with an old enemy, we return to the main story. After crossing a dangerous current which includes a sea filled with waterspouts, the Straw Hats reach the Red Line, meaning that they have sailed halfway around the world. The issue now is how to cross it. Then the Thousand Sunny is attacked by a huge sea monster with Luffy defeats, but the monster vomits up two individuals: a talking starfish named Pappagu, and his master Carie, a mermaid who keeps getting caught by all sorts of monsters.

Carie learns that her fishman boss has been kidnapped by Macro, who works for a group called the Flying Fish Riders. The Riders plan to take him to the Sabaody Archipelago, which holds a slave market. Sabaody is also the only accessible route for pirates to cross the Red Line, so Luffy and his crew agree to help. Things soon go wrong however. Firstly the identity of Carie’s boss is someone known to the crew – someone who once helped to make Nami’s life a misery. Then there is the problem with the leader of the Flying Fish Riders, Duval, who is desperate to kill Sanji – because it was Duval’s sketchy face that appeared on Sanji’s wanted poster.

After finally dealing with this they make their way to Sabaody itself, which, while on the surface seeming friendly, is home to all sorts of shady business. For starters, there are 11 “Supernovas” on the island, these being pirates with bounties with over 100,000,000 berries on their heads. Two of them are Luffy and Zoro, but there are other pirates on Sabaody too, such as the “Surgeon of Death” Trafalgar Law. There is also Sabaody’s brutal use of slavery, and the power of the World Nobles, also known as the Celestial Dragons. These descendants of the founders of the World Government are so powerful that if a pirate harms them, an admiral will come down to punish the wrongdoer. It is not long before the Straw Hats end up in trouble on the archipelago.

As said at the beginning, this collection is important for being a landmark in several ways. The main one of these is that Brook is now confirmed as a Straw Hat Pirate, and we now have the full crew (at the time of writing). What we have therefore is the completion of what is arguably the best ensemble cast of characters in anime. With Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, Franky and Brook all finally together, we can enjoy the whole crew having fun and fighting it out among themselves. It is also interesting to see the reappearance of some old characters and the introduction of some new ones, with Trafalgar Law in particular playing an important role in the story later on, although he doesn’t say much in this collection.

Another plus point has been the pacing of the story. Although it was a tad perplexing as to why they ended the Thriller Bark arc in this collection rather than the previous one, this collection does end at a nice dramatic point in the story. The filler itself is not too bad either, nor is it too long. This is probably down to the fact that the two story arcs in this collection are among the shortest in the One Piece canon. Not only is the current story paced well, but we are given knowledge of a future storyline involving Ace; a plot that those who are familiar with One Piece will know counts as probably the most dramatic in the entire series.

There are however still some issues with the show, chief among these being the animation. The computer animation is still slow and clunky. Also, some of the normal animation looks a tad off. There is one short scene in which Zoro drinks a glass of water that looks a bit shoddy.

However, this aside, this is still one of the better collections, with the story building up to the next major battle. It is all looking good so far.

 

Title: Review of One Piece, Collection 16
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Shonen
Studio: Toei Animation
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 1999
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 563 minutes

Score: 8/10