Secret Santa 2012 – Samurai Champloo

As you’ll have seen from the 2010 and 2011 offerings, this is the Reverse Thieves‘ annual Secret Santa project, where the only gift you need to give is the gift of a great series your pick hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing yet. In this year’s post to the blog, I’m looking at a series that I’m sure many people have watched already, given it’s already been licensed. It’s Samurai Champloo, a hip-hop infused sword-fest by Manglobe, following our three main characters as they skulk around Japan looking for a smelly samurai.

If there’s one thing that I value in anime above all else, more than piffling things like character development and story, it’s style. Style over substance any day, I say. Luckily, this show has it in droves. Samurai Champloo is dripping in a strange concoction of American hip-hop and Edo period Japanese chivalry. On paper, these two styles are really like oil and water, but all you have to do is watch and see the two mix together surprisingly well, not least helped along by the effortlessly cool soundtrack by Nujabes who, much like the style of the show, merges the hard edge of hip-hop with more ambient melodies in his offering.

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Otakon 2012^H^H^H^H2011

So here’s a post I’ve been meaning to make for exactly one year. Last year I attended Otakon, the annual anime convention held in Baltimore. It was my first time in the north-west of the USA, and it was the first time I’d really went to a proper anime convention, let alone one in the USA. I wrote up some thoughts on the whole experience. Here are those slightly belated thoughts. It’s probably too late to help people with hotel advice, but I hope that attendees can pick some other helpful tips at the very least.

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Secret Santa 2011 – Binchou-tan

Hello again, and welcome to this year’s Reverse ThievesSecret Santa project post. For those unaware of this, it’s a sort of take a recommendation, leave a recommendation system where a stranger will drop in and give you a choice of three shows to watch, while you do the same for your unwitting recipient. Last year, I was tasked with watching Shigofumi.

This year, I was recommended Binchou-tan, To Heart and Darker Than Black. First of all, big thank you to my Santa. These are three shows I really did want to watch after reading their descriptions. Unfortunately, time constraints lead me to only be able to watch one show, but I will certainly be getting around to the others at a later stage. The show I’ll be reviewing is Binchou-tan.

It’s hard not to be enamoured by Binchou-tan on first watch. The series starts by showing us a gorgeous setting – a run-down old house in the middle of a leafy green forest. The noises, the insects buzzing around, the shadows on the forest floor, they all contribute to creating a wonderful scene. Then we’re introduced to Binchou, our title character.

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The Problem with Fractale

Last night, I took the final two episodes of Fractale downstairs to watch on the big TV. I should have been approaching that with delight, at seeing the culmination of a show that was both entertaining and enthralling. Instead, I almost had to force myself to finally finish the damn thing off.

Because Fractale was neither of those things.

What’s odder is how difficult it is to pin down what makes it bad. The glimpses of greatness it teases us with ultimately distract from the mediocre overall package.

Fractale

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MMF March 2011 – A Brief Analysis of Aria

Akari Mizunashi The last time I wrote about Aria, I had only just heard of the series with the latest (and last) anime series Aria the Origination. Since then, I’ve collected all possible volumes of both manga series, Aqua and its sequel Aria, released in the UK, as well as Kozue Amano’s wonderful Illustration Works art books. Knowing this, you probably won’t be surprised to hear my opinion on the series.

To those unfamiliar with Aria, we follow the story of Akari Mizunashi, a resident of Manhome (previously known as Earth) who has come to the water planet Aqua, known as Mars before its near complete terraforming. Specifically, she’s travelled to the city of Neo-Venezia, made in the image of the long-since flooded Italian city of Venice, to become an undine – a gondolier tourist guide on the expansive waterways of the city. What follows is Akari’s slow and steady progression as an undine, the people of the town she meets and befriends and the general wonderment of Akari’s “beautiful miracles.”

I would say that any expectations about Aria from someone who hasn’t heard of slice of life or healing-type stories would quite quickly be shattered, but Aria would never shatter anything – it’s far too peaceful for that kind of verb. After Akari’s initial acceptance as an apprentice of Aria Company, we settle down into a series of chapters showing her everyday life in Neo-Venezia, as well as introducing characters from other undine companies in the city.

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Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt OST

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt - The Original SoundtrackPanty & Stocking with Garterbelt – The Original Soundtrack

Produced by ☆Taku Takahashi

Length: 67:23 (w/o hidden tracks)


We’re well out of the Autumn 2010 anime season now, and I think something we can all take from it is not to put too much faith in hype. In reality, there were a few good shows, but nothing entirely earth shattering. In fact, I would probably call the anime linked to this review one of the worst offerings of the season. While it did something different with its western-style animation and delightfully filthy storylines, and did have episodes where it tried to experiment with its comedy, I didn’t find it terribly humorous or entertaining. Despite this, there are always diamonds in the rough if you look hard enough. The demon sisters were two of those, and this soundtrack is the third.

Like many others, I’m sure, I first noticed the possibility of a good soundtrack with the titular track Fly Away, used as the BGM for Panty and Stocking’s transformation sequences and a good proportion of their ghost battles too. Background music can sometimes take a back seat to the foreground action. Not here. If you were dozing off before the fight scene, you sure as hell weren’t when “FLY AWAY NOW” was suddenly blasting out of your speakers, trance melody in tow, all the while two angels have started undressing in quite a provocative way. It was the highlight of many a dull episode, so there might be a bit of positive reinforcement there too.

This gave us an indication of the style of music the soundtrack would lean towards early on. Lots of dance music (or electronica if you prefer). And because that’s the music I love the most, it made it even more exciting to finally crack open the Amazon.co.jp envelope and get my hands on the thing.

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