In 2006, I watched 58 anime series in 8 eight months, or 7+ series per month! Sadly, in 2007, I’m off to a pathetically slow start: Just 11 anime series in 4+ months. The reason for this: Amazing live-action series like the new Battlestar Galactica – Season 3, new Smallville – Season 6 and rewatching the older Star Trek Voyager – Season 4 (1997) which introduces “Seven of Nine” (Jeri Ryan) for the first time. And now, my best bud Vanessa convinced me to start watching her Alias (2001; Jennifer Garner) in exchange for her watching my Dark Angel (2000; Jessica Alba), lol.
So now, in an attempt to catch up with my anime, it’s time to give my long-delayed reviews of the 11 series I’ve seen so far this year, ranging from the super-cute 1992 series Sailor Moon to the ultra-violent 2006 series Black Lagoon – The Second Barrage … I hope you enjoy the ride!
++++ Innocent Venus (1-12) – Started 04/24. Finished 05/01. My speed review: “WOW! Formulaic but unexpected twist and amazing piano!” (4 of 5 stars!)
My most recent anime is the post-apocalyptic mecha series Innocent Venus (2006). Despite its brief 12-episode run, several elements clearly stand out: The fluid animation of the vehicles and mecha, plus the haunting mix of piano-laced and pulse-pounding tracks. Another element was the sharp twist of a supposedly comfortable character. While the emotional attachment to the lead characters seem lacking, this title still earns my maximum “half season” rating… 4 of 5 stars!
+++++ Planetes (1-26) – Started 09/??/06. Finished 04/02/07. My speed review: “DOUBLE-WOW! Spectacular sci-fi realism, tragedy, hope and love!” (5 of 5 stars!)
Wow, what can I say about Planetes (2003)! On top of its sci-fi realism and slick animation, the complex interaction of multi-dimensional characters is one of this anime’s strongest points. From the hard-headed but trustworthy Hachi to the wide-eyed idealistic newcomer Tanabe, and every believably eccentric supporting member in between, the Space Debris Section must face mechanical mishaps, internal politics, aggravated relationships, dusty pasts, as well as international terrorists! It’s hard not to love Tanabe and her new friends, which makes finishing this 26-episode series that much harder to take, lol. Bravo!… 5 of 5 stars!
+++++ Fushigi Yuugi – Season 2 (27-52) – Started 07/08/06. Finished 03/24/07. My speed review: “DOUBLE-WOW! Older but complex quest and love story!” (5 of 5 stars!)
Because the first season ended in such tragedy, it took me months to finally continue and finish Fushigi Yuugi – Season 2 (1995). But I’m glad I did! Despite its older animation quality, if one looks past that and into the story, one can see the ongoing growth and development of Japanese junior-high schoolgirl Miaka, her best friend Yui, as well as her new love Tamahome and her new friends within the storybook world of ancient China. Almost every emotion can be found and felt in this anime: Happiness, sadness, jealousy, comedy, inspiration, fear, hesitation, hope, heartbreak and disbelief! This series definitely withstands the test of time, even if the fiction-to-fact crossover ending can be kinda confusing, lol… 5 of 5 stars!
+++++ Angelic Layer (1-26) – Started 03/09/05. Finished 03/18/07. My speed review: “DOUBLE-WOW! Cute, colorful yet heart-breaking, inspiring!” (5 of 5 stars!)
Awww, Angelic Layer (2001) is one of those cute and inspiring animes that you can watch anytime in the day or year, during breakfast, dinner, or while exercising on the bike or treadmill. Even more, while the battle-doll episodes can be quite formulaic, the central character and junior-high schoolgirl Misaki is effortlessly endearing. I found myself cheering her on, whether she was fostering new friendships or developing her battle strategies. By the end of the series, I couldn’t help but share her tension, heartbreak and satisfaction at the conclusion. To match these colorful shades of action and emotion, the orchestral style of the soundtrack enhanced the atmosphere perfectly… 5 of 5 stars!
++++ Sailor Moon – S1 (1-46) – Started 02/11. Finished 03/15. My speed review: “WOW! Older, but surprisingly funny, energetic and lovable!” (4 of 5 stars!)
At the request of several online friends, I was finally and thankfully convinced to watch the cute-and-colorful classic, Sailor Moon – Season 1 (1992). Yup, finally, fifteen years later! While the original 46-episode “Dark Kingdom” series followed a rather formulaic battle pattern, and only featured the first five “Sailor Soldiers” including the lead character Usagi/Serena as “Sailor Moon”, the story is still quite engaging! It’s funny and action-packed at some moments, yet dramatic, even unexpectedly tragic, at other moments. Ultimately, the growing attachment to the familiar repetition, as well as the playful interaction and development among the Sailors and supporting characters, are what make the series lovable, if not exceptional. Then again, it certainly might have been an exceptional anime back in 1992, lol!… 4 of 5 stars!
+++ Kono Mini (This Ugly Yet Beautiful World; 1-12) – Started 02/17. Finished 02/19. My speed review: “Enigmatic yet nostalgic!” (3 of 5 stars)
Hmmm, while there is some definite skin-revealing eye-candy and anime-honoring references, Kono Mini (This Ugly Yet Beautiful World) (2004) seemed to lack something outstanding. The initial getting-to-know-the-new-girls was amusing and engaging, there were promising pockets of scenic nostalgia, mortal desolation and enigmatic revelation, but as the series wound down, it also felt a bit anti-climactic. Moreover, despite a decent array of colorful characters, it was difficult to feel any stirring emotional attachment… 3 of 5 stars.
+++ Nanaka 6/17 (1-12) – Finished 01/25. My speed review: “Cute, funny, yet intriguing!” (3 of 5 stars)
Like I’ve mentioned before, lovability of a series isn’t the same as its tearful emotional impact. Consequently, while Nanaka 6/17 (2003) shares many of the same “boy meets girl whose memory or form changes for a brief period” qualities as the wonderful Midori Days, it didn’t have as much of the expected impact towards the end. The premise sounds simple but is surprisingly layered: The cool and quiet Nanaka, age 17, accidentally hits her head and when she awakes, she behaves with the mind and heart of the loud and bubbly Nanaka, age 6. As a result, her childhood friend Nenji must deal with her new (that is, her old) personality as well as his own changing feelings about her. The 6-year-old-minded Nanaka is indeed cute, hilarious and lovable! But I think Nenji’s unclear feelings could have been further developed to maximize impact… 3 of 5 stars.
+++++ You’re Under Arrest – S2 (1-26) – Finished 01/25. My speed review: “DOUBLE-WOW! Continuing the action, comedy, drama and romance!” (5 of 5 stars!)
Ah, created by Kosuke Fujishima, the same manga-ka who created the unforgettable Ah! My Goddess anime, You’re Under Arrest – Season 2 (2001) follows the continuing over-the-top antics of policewomen Natsumi and Miyuki, and the rest of the nosy and romantic and eccentric gang at Tokyo’s Bokuto Police Precinct, where Season 1 (1994, 1996) left off! Battling baseball vigilantes, invincible scooter ladies, and protecting grade-school children, all while fighting to keep Tokyo safe from criminals and accidents (and sometimes themselves), the fiesty super-strong Natsumi and the reserved mechanical-minded Miyuki form one of the closest and understandable friendships I’ve ever seen in anime. Despite the older animation quality and musical styles, neither of these get in the way of the storytelling humor, heartbreak, action, romance, and drama. Indeed, it has both lovability and emotional impact. I can’t recommend it enough… 5 of 5 stars!
+++++ Black Lagoon – The Second Barrage (13-24) – Finished 01/22. My speed review: “DOUBLE-WOW! Even blacker, bloodier, and more twisted!” (5 of 5 stars!)
Now it’s time to catch your breath, kiddies. Far — that is, extremely far — from cuteness or cuddliness or lovability, the smouldering and decaying underworld of Black Lagoon – The Second Barrage (2006) reeks of the worst of the worst souls, the sickest of the sick, the bloodiest of the bloody, and floats in the shit-stinking puddle between the Eastern and Western worlds, between the black market and the military mafia, between the cold war and a warm gun. Attaining a splattering yet addictive level of action and violence — plus a touch of black humor — worthy of the blood-drenched Hellsing Ultimate, this breath-taking series also successfully wields an international scope and depth — mixing Asian and European and other influences — found readily in big-budget Hollywood blockbusters! So come hell and high water, get ready to follow the Chinese gunslinger Revy, the Japanese newcomer Rock, and the rest of the smuggling crew of Black Lagoon! In fact, while the maximum “half season” rating I typically give is 4 of 5, I cannot help but consider the original intensity of the first season (2006; 4 of 5 stars). Therefore, taking all 24 episodes together, as well as its undeniable scope and depth, not to mention its rockin’ opening theme and haunting closing theme, this title clearly deserves an exceptional 5 of 5 stars!
+++ Burst Angel (1-24) – Finished 01/11. My speed review: “Pretty but not quite satisfying. Not bad!” (3 of 5 stars)
I must admit, after laying my eyes on the earliest windswept and gunwielding PVC figures of Jo and Meg for the first time, I was definitely interested in watching the anime Burst Angel (2004). Sadly, after finishing the series on January 11, 2007, I was rather disappointed. While the opening theme sequence is catchy and eye-catching, and the CG mecha battles are spell-binding, the animation quality of the characters is comparatively mediocre, with a lackluster plot to match. If I contrast this with another similar mecha anime, the Innocent Venus series (reviewed at the top of this post) boasts a higher-quality character animation to match its CG, a more intense soundtrack, as well as a more focussed storyline in only half the episodes. But still, Burst Angel and its opening theme were pleasant enough to pass the time, lol… 3 of 5 stars.
++++ Rozen Maiden – Traumend (1-12) – Finished 01/05. My speed review: “WOW! Still a miniature yet captivating package!” (4 of 5 stars!)
The captivating Rozen Maiden – Traumend (2005) was the first anime I finished in 2007, specifically January 05, 2007. Almost immediately continuing from where the first season (2004) ended, the series once again introduces the junior-high schoolboy Jun-kun, and his come-to-life mystical dolls, including the red-adorned Shinku, pink-bowed Hina Ichigo, and twin red-and-green-eyed sisters Suiseiseki and Souseiseki. While the episodes are smilingly sprinkled with new and endearing slice-of-home-life slapstick antics, the deeper drama is taken to a new level when a new doll appears, a defeated nemesis returns, and the “Alice Game” pursuit-of-perfection begins, with both tragic and hopeful consequences. Like before, this title deserves my maximum “half season” rating… 4 of 5 stars!