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Black Bullet (2014)

Black Bullet (2014)

In the year 2021, a parasitic virus known as "Gastrea" infects humans and turns them into monsters. What is left of mankind now lives within the Monolith walls, walls that are made of Varanium, the only material that can hurt Gastrea.
 
To counter the threat that the Gastrea pose, "Cursed Children"—female children whose bodies contain trace amounts of the virus which grant them superhuman abilities—officially called Initiators by the Tendo Civil Security, are given partners called Promoters, people who work to guide and protect the young Initiators. These teams of two are sent out on missions to fight the monsters created by the Gastrea virus and keep them at bay.
 
Black Bullet revolves around the team of Enju Aihara, an Initiator, and Satomi Rentaro, a Promoter, as they go on missions to fight the growing threat of Gastrea in their hometown of Tokyo.

So that's the premises! Another run-of-the-mill sci-fi/action anime adventure with dystopian plot and male/female in differing ages character combo - but it delivers. The future really is both dystopian and futuristic, and the anime revolves as much around the action as around the injustices that Enju faces, as a 'cursed child', and Satomi's attempt to help them, all the while battling the parasites, until finally it's time for the big showdown. It feels very relevant to current social dilemmas that way, and relatable in that regard. The action's good too.

Unfortunately it's not all positive. We grow to know more people along the way, but most of them die. I felt like they had potential, and the series as well, but in the end so much of that potential is just left for dead. The plot feels inconsistent and jumpy, and though they do a good job at building up the atmosphere, the tension, and the relation between the viewer and the characters, they cast it away all too easily in the form of unnecessary death.

Good idea, good show, but not good enough to rise above all the similar series out there that just can't seem to keep things together enough. A tragedy does not mean depth. A dystopian future does not make something philosophical. They're off to a good start with the intrigue, but build it up wrong, that's how I feel. And it's not just because everybody died.

 rated 3/5: not bad

Hibike! Euphonium (2015)

Hibike! Euphonium (2015)

I stumbled upon this title via a list of anime recommendations earlier this last year, and am I glad I followed that recommendation!

Actually I think it was the only recommendation on the list. One recommendation. It went something along the lines of: watch this.

So I did.

It started off a bit slow. Slice of life. School. Three girls (one in particular) who join a concert band... I wasn't sure I'd keep watching, and yet there was just something about it that kept me in. Maybe the tidbits of knowledge at the beginning: about instruments, and planning, and other behind-the-scenes wisdom from such a place.

It wasn't so much the music, though that part was easy on the ears and beautiful too. But the further in I went, the more apparent it was that its biggest strength was the emotion. The tension. The relations. The onset of nervousness and doubt as the big day neared. The progress they made, as characters, and as a band. Their mindset. Their resolve. How it wavered. How it strengthened. The small things they said, or did, or went through to get better. The little things.

It showed in the animation too, which was clean, bright and slice-of-life-ish, but the tension builds up almost unnoticeably toward the end. And when they're preparing to walk out on stage you're really sitting at the edge of your seat; as wound up as any one in the band about to walk up. Or even the supporter group, who won't be walking. You feel like you're there with them, sharing in the moment, feeling what they're feeling; going through the school of life all over again.

That's what makes it so masterful. It might look like nothing special, but it's a lot like life that way. It becomes as special as you make it.

So maybe everyone gets the same first impressions. Just like the band when they first started practicing. Like: is this worth it? Can I really go so far... with this series? If I try too hard and fail I'll just embarrass myself. Not with the series, of course. You can't embarrass yourself by watching this - though you might immerse yourself enough to feel embarrassed when the characters do! Kumiko, Kousaka, Katou and Kawashima. They're the four main girls.

All I can give is the same recommendation that random stranger gave me: Watch it. If you don't stray from your course, it won't let you down. And to conclude, with a little slice of life wisdom from the show:
You only succeed at your dreams if you say them out loud!

Go on. Once you've seen it maybe you will too.

 rated 5/5: friggin awesome

Triage X (2015)

Triage X (2015)

Triage X is an action anime a bit like Black Lagoon or Elfen Lied. Plotwise it's a bit of a hybrid, considering the main characters are mainly a group of girls - either nurses of patients who went through particularly traumatic life experiences before they found their new purpose (Elfen Lied), and one guy, all whose purpose is now plucking out the 'tumors' of society, as the righteous but still plenty -criminal organization Black Label (that's the Black Lagoon part). There are probably better comparisons, but those two are the ones that come to mind. Black Label only kill the bad guys, but they do kill people.

There's also an almost excessive amount of breasts, and though framed in such a way as to enhance scenes rather than obstruct them, it does get a bit excessive. Arashi Mikami's the main character, and he's usually in good company of at least one girl. Sometimes naked ones. Often with singed or otherwise missing clothes. They never do anything lewd, but they sure do showcase their boobs. Guns. Explosions. Close-up body parts. That's the common combo. I don't know why I'm complaining.

Despite the obvious fan service, Triage X does manage to keep the story pretty serious and sinister on the side, and Black Label's mysterious shadow adversary developing a drug that makes victims derive pleasure from pain helps add in an element of sensual sinfulness as well, a suitable branch for this dark organization. Though there aren't any all too graphical scenes I was surprised at how far some of it went. For an anime.

The visuals are alluring, the animation's great, the action's rampant, and the characters all have their story to tell, but it ends oddly, and jumps between criminals in a way that seems to leave plenty of gaps in the plot line. If you're bothered by oppai that might get in the way too, but I feel the big flaw was the lack of continuity and build-up. It feels fragmented, badly organized and with an inconclusive end.

Character relations don't develop much either, nor between the main ones - or with the villains. It looks, sounds and feels good... but falls flat. It could've been something over the top. Excessively sexual, violent, uncensored and fresh - but though it seems they were on the right way, they don't quite get there.

 rated 3/5: not bad

One Piece - Romance Dawn Story (2008)

One Piece - Romance Dawn Story (2008)

This is One Piece as it should be! Pure, well-animated, fun; straight-forward. Intense when it needs to be, but never too much. It's got it all right. I also liked the older, softer style of drawing better.

The story? The Strawhat's run out of food (after a certain someone ate through the pantry!), and Luffy (the culprit) is sent out on the Mini-Merry to fetch more. He arrives at a small town by the sea, and runs into a girl named Silk just as the Crescent-Moon Galley attack the town. He's only there for the food, but Silk mistakes him for one of the attackers, as do the village people, but no matter: everything is cleared up eventually when he has a run-in with the Galley gang he ends up punching them far off the island, and saving the town that Silk lives in and loves so much. It's a not a spoiler since there's really no other way it could end, but there's a bit more backstory than that, for those of you planning to watch. ;)

It's a feelgood story, and watching this I'm reminded of how I felt when I started watching One Piece, and how far from its roots it's reached over the years. Although things are bound to get more serious as they battle fiercer and fiercer opponents, and gain all the more attention from the law, I miss the light-hearted adventures of old, and the romantic part of it all. That's really all Luffy is: one big romantic with the guts to live out those dreams, and maybe even the stubbornness required to fulfill them.

This took me back, to the good old days of old and gold: the real treasure, One Piece. Great watch.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

One Piece - Heart Of Gold (2016)

One Piece - Heart Of Gold (2016)

Here's a prelude to the big One Piece movie this year: Gold. It stars the Strawhats VS Mad Treasure and his crew, all-new characters with interesting abilities, yet behind the scenes - just like with that little recent filler bit (747-751) in the anime, Grand Tesoro (Grand Treasure in Spanish) is pulling the strings.

Unlike the filler, this is a pretty good story, though the play on Nakama over Treasure is getting a bit old. Luffy keeps screaming how important his friends are, and eventually it seems like the villain actually starts listening, and it just feels sad. That's not how you make a message sink in - pummeling your enemies into the ground a bit after proclaiming your propaganda, then take a break to recoup and shout a bit again. Luffy was so much more straight-forward before. Just get on with it! Punch the guys lights out and reunite with yer crew - they learn by seeing what you do, not by hearing what you say!

There's too much emotion on his part for it to feel 'legit'. But, the 200-year old girl (with all her odd personality quirks), and her father, and the long-lost kingdom of Alechmi are nice touches, as is the element of teamwork overall. It's a good spin-off, but clearly not on par with the movie. I hope.

 rated 3/5: not bad

Naruto Shippuuden 478

Man. That was amazing. Amazing. Man.

I'm happy to say Naruto is getting awesome again! And has been for the last few episodes now. Feels like it might soon be over, but suddenly... I don´t want it to end after all. Hopefully people won't want the same thing so heavily they decide to prolonge it a bit, and add in filler - there's nothing like that to kill a good show. But this episode... amazing. It brings me back to what I felt when the show first started out, and I hope it goes full circle until the end.

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