RahXephon

Blue blood and genetics are the only way to tell who is human and who is not. Called Mulians, these are the invaders the conflict of RahXephon centers around. In the beginning of RahXephon, Ayato Kamina is a modest 17-year-old living in Tokyo. He is an average student, who enjoys painting and spending time with his classmates Hiroko Asahina and Mamoru Torigai. He has affectionate relationship with his mother, strained by her long-hour work. During the sudden attack on Tokyo, Ayato hears the singing of his classmate Reika Mishima. She leads him to a giant egg containing the RahXephon. Haruka Shitow, an agent of the defense research agency brings Ayato and the RahXephon to their headquarters.

Like most mecha, Ayato and his RahXephon are unique instruments in the conflict with invaders. Unlike other series, mechas in RahXephon are made of clay; much like the golems of Jewish folklore. Full of action, as you would expect from the genre, RahXephon’s storyline is unfortunately a complete mess. Full of plot holes and side stories, it is almost incomprehensible with a single view. The story is much clearer in the movie rehash but still lacks any real power to draw in the viewer. However, the character interaction and development is excellent. The tension between Ayato and Haruka throughout the series is believable and endearing. More time is spent outside the Dolems, the name for the mechs in this series, than within them. It is a story of self discovery to a point, but it lacks the often whiny moping of many other mecha shows. Yes I am looking at you, Evangelion. Ayato is active and rises to challenges; basically his is a likable protagonist who is simply flawed and has moments of weakness.

The animation is good; action scenes are vibrant and crisp as you would expect from Bones. Computer graphics are present but seamlessly meshed with Bones’ fluid traditional animation. While the story was a a long chew, the ending neatly and clearly cleans up all the strands. RahXephon is best watched for the character plot lines and interaction than the overarching story.

Omamori Himari

Take Inuyasha and cross it with a horny 13 year old’s dreams and you get Omamori Himari. I will go ahead with the disclaimer: this anime is full of anime nudity and sexual comedy mainly at the protagonist’s expense. It can be classified as harem or nearly echii. Wikipedia has the series labeled as shonen – male oriented – which is understandable with the way the female characters form a harem around Yuto Amakawa, the main protagonist. However, the female characters are strong willed and far more able than Yuto. The female protaganist and Yuto’s protector, Himari Noihara, is especially strong and capable.

Omamori Himari begins with Yuto Amakawa suddenly under attack from demons or ayakashi after a charm his grandparents gave him stops working on his 16th birthday. Himari bounces to the rescue (literally bounces – the bust sizes rarely drop below double G). Yuto discovers she is a demon cat (with his cat allergies as ample warning) charged with protecting him until he develops his demon slaying powers. His grandparents and parents died before they could tell him about their great family lineage as demon slayers to Yuto’s misfortune. Himari claims to have spent much of Yuto’s childhood with him, but Yuto has little memory of that childhood. Himari moves in with Yuto and the sexual comedic hijinks begin much to the irritation of Yuto’s neighbor and friend Rinko Kuzaki. Over the course of the anime, women and female demons continually move in with Yuto to protect him or learn about him.

The too ample breasts and sexual situations (Yuto is prudish and easily embarrassed unlike every female exempting Rinko) unnecessarily detract from the character and story development. Yuto is a pacifist that wishes humans and ayakashi to live together; reality forces itself upon his ideals with demons who enjoy killing for the sake of killing. Himari is interesting. She has the usual protector mentality common to anime but is torn between the human world and her demon nature. Demon cats are ferocious killers of humans and other ayakashi. Every time she fights to protect Yuto she risks falling into her demon nature and losing what makes her Himari. She is very similar to Inuyasha with this conflict. Of course she is a cat, bakeneko, instead of a dog demon.  The back story of the demon slayer families also wasn’t fleshed out as much as it could have been.

The animation was pretty good; although too much time was spent on certain….uh…physics. The fight scenes are where Omarmori Himari shines. While it wasn’t bones quality, the fights are better animated than the first season of Inuyasha. The characters and clothing move fluidly with very few of the cheap action lines common in action anime. Again, the “up-skirts” frames in these action scenes got tired quickly. They were too contrived.Cup size seemed to denote power with how every heroine or strong foe filled the screen.

Omamori Himari had a fair bit of potential. It was refreshing to see such strong female characters take roles that are normally reserved for males. But it fell flat with how these women turned to mush when they tried to seduce Yuto and squabbled over him. Far too much time was spent on sexual comedy and awkward situations; time better served fleshing out story-lines and characters. Sexual comedy has its place in a larger story, but it fails miserably when it is contrived and used too often.  I found Himari more interesting than Inuyasha with her internal conflicts, but the Inuyasha series is far more enjoyable and watchable. It just failed to reach into its full potential to be more than a 13 year old boy’s wet dream.

If you can look around the nudity and sexuality, this show has enjoyable moments and interesting characters. My final verdict: it’s one to skip. Stick to Inuyasha if you enjoy fantasy action anime.

The World Only God Knows

Online Keima Katsuragi is known as the God of Conquest. No girl can refuse him. In reality he is an intelligent gamer geek who cannot function in meatspace and spends his time playing dating sims. Game and reality collide when he replies to an email challenging the God of Conquest to conqueror the unconquerable girls. Elsie, a demon, shatters the sky and informs Keima that he just made a pact with hell. If he refuses both he and she will die. The challenge: capture escaped spirits from hell that possess the hearts of young girls. It should be a breeze for the God of Conquest after all.

Only Keima cannot even speak with a girl in the real world. He wants nothing to do with reality and it’s “poor buggy” design.

Keima comes off as a douche. He is manipulative and cunning with how we approaches girls. He acts fearlessly to discover the key to her heart. Nothing is off the play list. All his plays are taken from dating sims, so they don’t always translate well to comic effect. However, despite his manipulation he does genuinely fall for each of his conquests. Conveniently, they lose their memory of their encounter with him when he finally drives out the evil spirit with a kiss.

Elsie is a kind hearted demon and a little wonky. She becomes Keima’s younger sister and takes to the role with genuine affection for her strange elder brother. Her roles is to detect the demons and help Keima in his schemes.  Conquests follow the stereotypes of dating sims, from sports to the shy librarian. However, each story is genuinely touching, and each of the girls are changed for the better. Keima simply helps them unlock parts of themselves they are trying to unlock but unable to.

Don’t expect action from this anime. It is all about social awkwardness, relationships and psychology. Animation isn’t extremely detailed or fluid. Many of the scene’s jittery style changes are jarring, but they do get the emotion across. The animation is acceptable for the most part. The characters are charming, except Keima of course. He has the entire douche look down pat, but the glimpses of his softer side would lose its impact if it wasn’t for the severe contrast to his everyday character. The music can be repetitive, like with the pop idol.

The series is ongoing so we have yet to see how it plays out. If you enjoy psychology and relationship humor, you will enjoy this anime.

Vampire Hunter D

Vampire Hunter D is what Twilight could have been. It wasn’t the best anime, but not terrible either. The future is a Wild West wasteland a la Cowboy Bebop but with a Victorian Goth twist to the decor. Humans have almost made vampires extinct or flee the planet on rockets. A few half-human, half-vampire hunters still exist and hunt their full blooded brethren. The main character, D, is one of them.  Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust opens with D, who looks like a character from a Final Fantasy game, accepting a bounty to kill a vampire and bring home the noble’s daughter – alive or dead.

Another crew of all human (well kinda) vampire hunters is already in pursuit of this vampire and missing woman. After facing off against the vampire’s blood sucked zombies (who strongly reminded me of Hellsing‘s zombies), D discovers the human daughter is genuinely in love with the vampire. Sounds familiar? And like a certain sparkly vampire, this vampire also fights his urge to feed on her out of genuine love. Well anyway, the vampire decides to seek help to escape the hunters so he and his human love can live happily ever after. Of course, this being anime, things are not as they seem.

Vampire Hunter D is incredibly detailed. The environments look like paintings hanging from a museum, and D looks wicked as a Final Fantasy wanna be complete with a body length sword. Unfortunately this anime suffers from the 1980s-90s animation despite being made in 2000. In fight scenes you convulse in epileptic seizures to make the action feel more exciting. Flashing backgrounds behind static, detailed characters in action poses does not action make with action like Naruto, Bleach, and Ghost in the Shell the norm.

D has some type of demonic parasite living in his hand. The creature is useful, but the anime would be better without it. It was annoying and unnecessary.

Vampire Hunter D had the same love story of Twilight, only these vampires are violent and cruel. They were also very hard to kill. Even a split head can’t kill these ones. This makes the love story far more interesting than the wimpy, safe vampires of the cult phenomenon.   The anime is violent and bloody but nowhere near the vampire insanity of Hellsing.

Vampire Hunter D was a decent watch. The action animation greatly detracted from an otherwise beautifully drawn anime. I don’t like to have seizures just to feel like violence is happening. The music was forgettable and barely noticed. At least the voice acting was decent; although D sounded like he was mumbling through his few lines. If you enjoy vampires, beautifully drawn landscapes, and love stories you will enjoy this one. If you think Hellsing is the measure of vampire than you may want to skip this one. Vampire Hunter D doesn’t measure up to the intensity and insanity of Hellsing, but then it wasn’t intending to.

Audition

Not all horror, be it movie or otherwise, is created equal.  Some is good, some is bad, some is just plain ugly.  Horror is (many times, but not always) like a joke.  You build up, build up, build up…then boom! Punch-line!  You get a laugh or a scream, whatever the case may be.

Audition falls into the ‘joke-like’ category of horror.

I doubt there will be any laughter at this punch-line, however.

The movie has a simple premise: a man named Shigaharu Aoyama lives as a widow for seven years, raising his young son in the process.  He is a successful business man, and slipping towards middle age.  Lonely, he decides to find a wife.  His friend helps him out, by holding auditions for a movie the company is thinking about making.  The women are between 20 and 35, and all very talented individuals.  Of all of them, only Asami catches Aoyama’s eye.

They meet…and Aoyama is smitten. ..

…then things get weird.

I’d better back track a bit here…I want to slap a few disclaimers on here.  Word to the wise…fair warning…whatever you’d like to call it.  First is that this movie is pretty long for a horror flick.  About two hours.  And it’s slow.  For those of us interested in that sort of thing it gives us a bit of a peak into the Japanese psyche.  For those of us who don’t have that mindset, it’s probably really, really boring.  I promise you though, the pay-off is well worth it!

Which leads to my second disclaimer: this isn’t a movie for the faint of heart.  The squeamish need not apply….the movie is slow but hot damn!  The last half hour or so punches you square in the jaw with a barrage of bizarre depravity.

You see hints of it throughout…the mysterious bundle, the creepy old man, and the dream-like quality of some of the scenes towards the latter part of the movie.  Her clinginess…the fact she is waiting by the phone for him to call.  The fact Aoyama’s friends all tell him to slow things down a bit…to be careful.  “This is your life, best not be too hasty,”  one friend cautions…

…then..boom! Punch-line!

Oh…and one more similarity between a good joke and a good horror movie.  A good joke sticks with you.  You remember it and might even be able to actually repeat it.  A good horror movie is similar.  You remember it.  That punch-line…it sticks with you…such is the case with Audition.

My friends, I have one last word of wisdom before we part ways.  Call it a life lesson, if you will.  If you find yourself smitten, enamored by a special someone, stop.  Listen to your friends, your family, those who care about you.  See what they think about this person.  After all, they are necessarily more objective about the matter than you are.

So listen well, and if your friends all say there is something odd about  your amour, something just not right…for the love of God listen!  Especially if you enjoy all of your extremities attached right where they are.

Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman

When I first came across Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman I genuinely thought it would be scary.  Just before watching it I felt that it’s either going to be really scary or really stupid.  It turned out I was wrong on all counts.

But let me back up a moment.  Carved is about a mysterious woman who appears and abducts children.  She is dressed in a long coat, caries a long pair of scissors, and wears a surgical mask over her face.  She has these weird pale blue eyes and her face is, well, slit.  She’s an urban legend all over Japan, but the disappearance of a boy in the park incites a man hunt.

It’s a pretty simple premise and I thought it was pretty cool when I first heard of it.  And the movie is actually pretty good if formulaic.   I wasn’t exceptionally creeped out by it though.  The fact that the woman preyed on kids was creepy.  But overall the movie didn’t grab my attention as much as I thought it would.  It wasn’t boring, but it wasn’t incredibly entertaining either.

Carved dwells somewhere in the middle ground I’d say.  Not really good, but not really bad either.  It’s a decent little movie.  Maybe if I had kids of my own I would find it scarier.

The only thing that bothered me a lot about this movie was the depictions of child abuse.  It was weird because I couldn’t decide if the movie was implying that every mom shown in the movie was an abuser or not.  At least three were for certain…the rest might have been merely sick (Spoiler: the ghost possesses women to take its human form. Possession is signified by coughing fits.)  The focus on abuse was sort of interesting to me in that it was exclusively mothers shown as abusive.  In America we tend to associate any sort of physical abuse with father’s, but that wasn’t the case in this movie at least.  Is this sort of thing a problem in Japan?  I have no idea.  It could be the writer just didn’t like his mom, or was abused himself.  I don’t really know but I did find that interesting.

That being said, the other part that got to me involved the origin sequence for the slit-mouthed woman.  It’s creepy and screwed up on a lot of levels.  Other than those bits and a scene were a guy gets his Achilles tendons severed I wasn’t overly bothered by this movie.

I’ll call it an entry level horror…not as genuinely creepy and mind screwing as Ringu or Audition, but not as awful as Grotesque.  Somewhere in the middle and you know what?  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s an all around decent flick.

But then I’ll leave that up to you.  Let me know what you think!

Oh, and if a tall lady in a surgical mask asks you if she’s pretty…I’d advise running away as fast as possible.  Or maybe just tell her she’s pretty…maybe she’ll let you off.  Or not.  Least you won’t die tired right?