Anime Theme Song of the Moment
Monster - Skrillex (Inuyasha Fan Made Video)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Death Note

What would you do if you suddenly came to possess a book that could allow you to change the world, for the better? Would you use it, even if it meant giving up your soul?

Okay, this might sound like the movie, The Devil's Diary, that I reviewed in 2010, but no, this anime is sooo much better than that. While the movie was about something that corrupted whoever used it, and they would hurt people that pissed them off, or people they hated, this takes it much further.

How so, you may be wondering.

Well, those of you who appreciate Dexter because he's a serial killer who kills bad guys - this anime is one you'll appreciate.

Light Yagami is an extremely intelligent student (basically a genius). However, the violence and evil that surrounds him takes the fun out of the world. For a long time, he believed that it needed to be cleaned up, rid of all the evil.

Well, a Shinigami - or Death God - named Ryuk feels the same about his own world. He had two notebooks, and dropped them both - on purpose - into the human realm because he was bored with how things were going in his own world, and uses tracking down the lost notebooks to enter the human world.

After meeting with Light, he decides that humans are more interesting than he first thought.

Okay, so how do the The Devil's Diary and Dexter have anything in common with Death Note?

Well, it just so happens that each notebook came with instructions. The "owner" of the notebook can write the name of a specif person, but must picture the human in question (to make sure the right person dies, and not someone who just happens to share the same name), and within 40 seconds of having written the name, that person will die.

Now, there are also stipulations about how a person can die too. If nothing is written, the person will die of a heart attack. But, if you write down what you wish to happen, it will.

Light discovers the book, but doesn't believe it at first, so he decides to test it. While he is agonizing over whether to test it on someone or not, he learns of a wanted murderer who takes children and adults hostage in a daycare.

Figuring that nothing would happen, Light writes down the guy's name as he pictures him in his head (a news reports so kindly provided all the info he needed). He waited, and waited. Nothing appeared to have happened. He began to suspect the notebook to be a fraud and before he could shut off his TV, he heard a report that the man holding everyone hostage just collapsed. However, this didn't convince him, so he decided to test it again.

Realizing what he possessed, he began going after criminals. Rapists, murderers - anyone that didn't really deserve to live.

That's how the anime starts.

As with anything of this nature, though, can Light avoid being found out, and can he avoid falling into the dark pit of power, or will he be able to remain on his quest to rid the world of evil? Or, will his desire to be a god twist his goals towards evil ends?

As the world calls him "Kira" and encourages him to continue what he's doing through online sites dedicated to Kira, the police are at odds - do they let it go because most of the criminals killed were on death row or sure to be executed at some point, or do they stand for what justice is supposed to be, even though the acts of Kira are saving the economy the money from having to house these criminals?

Of course, no story would be complete without a nemesis. The mysterious, but equally (possibly more) intelligent "L" steps up to help the police answer this question. By turning the investigation over to "L", the police and Interpol kind of get absolved from having to do anything.

L vs Kira - who will win?

You'll have to watch the anime series (or read the manga) for that one because that's the fun of watching! :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fruits Basket

I had this entire post talking about the very first episode, but by the time I finished watching the last episode, I knew that what I wrote just wasn't going to cut it, not for this series.

Now, I haven't read any of the graphic novels this series was based on, but watching this series has made me want to read the whole thing!


Well, when people see the word "Japanese anime" or "graphic novel" all they think about are American cartoons and comics, and that is so not the case and does absolutely no justice to the artistry of the craft. The thing that sets anime/graphic novels/manga apart from most American comics is the strong literary essence that lives within each series. I admit, that some are comedic, but all involve the change or evolution of one or more characters that literary critics claim make Romeo and Juliet classic literature. Let me tell you, the transformations of the characters - and I'm not referring to the fact that they transform into animals either! - that I've witnessed in this series.

The character evolutions in this series are so strong and so emotional that they put these so-called classics to shame! I have yet to cry watching any version of any Shakespeare tragedy - It's not as if he created any characters I could connect with in any way! In fact I bet he didn't really care if the audience did care about his characters... - but I have managed to get so sucked into many anime stories and have found myself crying for the characters, just not as much as I found myself sucked in by Fruits Basket.

I honestly couldn't believe they didn't take this series further! For this reason, I plan on reading the graphic novel. Even though I watched the entire anime, I know that there are some things that differ from the one story to the other, so I want to experience the whole thing. I just can't help myself!

I read, a lot. I read every genre from romance to sci-fi to horror. I have a genuine appreciation for the story itself. One thing I can say is that most books I read don't offer this kind of glimpse into the human condition that Japanese Anime and graphic novels do. The more I watch, the more I appreciate not only the artistry that goes into the graphic side of the stories, but the depth of emotion that the authors pour into them when they are written.

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for me to put down many books, but it's damn near impossible to stop watching an anime series once I start it. I have a new series to add to my favorites... :)!

So, what is it about this series that's so great?

The title Fruits Basket seemed odd and I felt didn't really do the story justice. In fact, part of me wonders if that title chases readers away because they don't understand the depth of it's meaning.

"Fruits Basket" is the title of a children's game. Each child is assigned the name of a fruit, and then as the game progresses, the name of each fruit is called out, that child must find a new place to sit - basically musical chairs with fruit names. Tohru is not liked by her classmates, and they call her Onigiri (rice ball). It takes her a bit to realize the malicious intent of the children, but it doesn't phase her because she loves rice balls anyway.

So, she's a girl doesn't feel she really belongs anywhere. However, her mother does the best she can to Tohru feel loved. When an accident steals her mother's life, Tohru's world is completely toppled, but she doesn't let that get her down. To make matters worse, the house that she's supposed to live in with her father's relatives is being renovated and she is required to find alternative living arrangements until the remodel is completed. Rather than be a burden to her friends, she opts to camp in the woods temporarily.

When Tohru first meets classmate Yuki Sohma (outside of the schoolroom) and his cousin Shigure, and they discover her living conditions, they convince her to live with them. In exchange for room and meals, she becomes their housekeeper.

At first, she feels as though she's found a place to belong. Then, as the story progresses, and she learns their dark secret, she realizes that she doesn't really belong with them, that she's once again onigiri in a proverbial fruit basket. Some feel the relevance of the title stops when Yuki and his other cousin, Kyo, come to her "grandfather's" house (really the house of her relatives, now) to bring her back to live with them because they've realized that in the short time she lived there, they were used to having her there, and didn't want to be without her.

However, the relevance of the title goes far beyond that in the anime, and I'm curious to see if the relevance is as deep in the manga. As the story unfolds - in the anime anyway - we witness changes and evolutions in many of the Sohma family members. However, they aren't the only ones that must go through a trial. Tohru's true test comes at the end of the anime, when she learns Kyo's true form.

The anime builds up to and culminates with Tohru's reaction and response to what she witnesses not just from the truth of Kyo's true nature, but what she experiences at the hand of Akito - the leader, the most violent and most feared of the Sohma clan effected by the family secret. It is in these trials that she truly discovers if she belongs or if she's still just onigiri in a fruit basket.

I'm hoping the manga delves into this more, which is why I'm going to read it from the beginning.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

School Rumble

The dubbed version of this is available for free viewing on Hulu. Despite the humor I talk about, this series gets a PG-15 (possibly even a PG-17, depending upon parental involvement) rating for the violence (some street fighting as well as martial arts fighting) and the "sexual thoughts". While it is for the younger crowd, the anime kids are still in high school and they all have hormones. Let's face it, boys at that age usually think about one thing - seeing a girl naked! :). Overall, it's a humorous look at teen sexuality, relationships and friendship dynamics. But when considering Glee, School Rumble is also something that can be enjoyed as a family and possibly used for ice-breaking talking points on many levels! For example, there are some points where one guy acts like a perv, and another acts like an idiot, but most of the girls consider them both jerks and let them know it...all the time! Maybe not in the best way, but that's where parental talking points come in.

Following are some thoughts I experienced as I watched the series:

Season 1: First Term
I've barely got through the first episode, when I realized I had to note how humorous the dubbed version is. It's definitely made for young audiences from what I can tell just from the opening couple of scenes.

At the heart of this tale, it's about a 16 year old girl, Tenma Tsukamoto, who's not the brightest bulb in the pack, but in love with Oji Karasuma, an eccentric and mysterious boy, professes his love to him in an unintentionally anonymous letter. Talk about embarrassing! However, she feels her efforts are for naught anyway because he's supposed to be transferring to another school the next day.

She gets to her classroom to see Karasuma sitting at his desk only to find out that he delayed his transfer, and rumor has it that it was because of some letter...her letter! Talk about pressure! Now she has to figure out how to tell him it's her letter without freaking out.

Except, there's going to be one problem throughout this series, and that's going to be school delinquent and bad-ass fighter, Kenji Harima. He seems even less intelligent than Tenma, however, as time continues, you realize that's not necessarily the case. Everyone but Tenma is afraid of him. He now shows up to school everyday in an effort to find a way to tell her he's in love with her.

Karasuma is clueless to Tenma's feelings for him, Tenma is clueless to Kenji's feelings for her. However, in episode 1, I did notice that Karasuma made a point to say, "Hello," to Tenma's blonde-haired friend, Eri, so it should be interesting to see how this turns out.

There are also warning throughout the entire series that crack me up, but I suppose they are more of a "let's cover our asses" thing. For example, in season one episode two, Tenma ends up stuck in the girls' bathroom because Karasuma happens to be outside the door. She's not really stuck, but her feelings for him cause her to feel so embarrassed that she just can't leave and risk him seeing her. She decides to throw a mop to distract him, but just as she throws the mop, Harima walks by, and gets hit by it! Now he's furious because he has no idea Tenma's the one who threw it. She goes back to the janitor's closet to find something else, but the only left is a plunger or two.

For some unknown reason, she took one of the plungers out and was playing with it. She had it against the wall, repeatedly pushing it in and out until it got stuck against the wall. It took considerable force to get it unstuck from the wall. However, this gives her the idea of using the two plungers to scale down the outside of the school building.

Sounds impossible, right? Well, there's an actual warning accompanying the shot that says, "Impossible stunt. Do not attempt."

No offense, but it is a freaking animated program! Who would be dumb enough to actually try that? If there are any kids dumb enough to think that it would actually work, then we seriously have to think about what our children aren't learning, lol!

To matters even more hilarious and embarrassing, when Tenma reaches the bottom of the school wall, someone asks, "Are you okay?" Imagine her utter shock to find Karasuma standing there! She tells she's okay. Then he says, "Well, just be careful. You're lucky you didn't get hurt." He says it so matter-of-factly too. That's what makes it so funny. She's so mortified at the end of the scene that I couldn't help but laugh.

Just to give you another example of the kind of humorous stuff that goes on, I'll tell you some more of what happens in season one episode two. It's physical examination day at school - yeah, that's part of what makes Japanese schools different than American schools, not to mention the uniforms (I believe even public schools have a uniform dress code). Anyway, Tenma is sooo gone for Karasuma that she wants to know everything about him, including his height and weight. Since she's no good at judging - and rather than asking one of her friends - she comes up with a plan to infiltrate the school's examination area by pretending to be a nurse. Her friends are very used to her by now, and get a kick our of watching her, to see what she does next. They don't stop her to find out why she's doing this, nor do they tell her how ridiculous her idea actually is but watch her for their own amusement. Nice friends, huh? Oh the sarcasm, can't avoid it with this show!

So, she gets all dressed up - okay, color me an outsider, but I find a bit odd that she just happens to know where the nurse outfits are, or that she just happens to have one in her locker - and makes it all the way in to the exam room only to find Harima posing as a young doctor! (Yeah, he came up with the same idea she did!) Rather than go into this, that's where they choose to end this episode! Like I said, this series is just too funny!

Season 1, Episode 8 has some cheesy version of Star Wars in it called, Comet Wars! Again, way too funny!

Episode 9 - anime within an anime - I love it! Harima is just too funny!

Episode 10 - the truth of Karasuma's love interest is revealed! :)! I'm not telling! You'll have to watch to figure it out!

Episodes 9 and 10 are the best so far and they put such an interesting spin on the entire show!

This series just keeps getting better and better! While somewhat silly at times, it's still got some complex character development going on. Tenma, while 16, is much more immature than Kagome Higurashi (InuYasha) was at 15. However, Tenma's naivete allows for some very interesting situations!

As goofy as it is, I like the lighthearted look at relationships and they way we flub things up when we try so hard! It gives a great message, if one decides to look between the "frames".

Season 1, Episodes 24-26 are so bizarre, confusing and you can't tell what's really going on - a graphic novel in an anime - I love it! It's a great effect and comedic way to deal with the harder realities of feelings. I keep hoping for Karasuma and Tenma - I can't help it! I also like the strange combination of Harima and Tenma's sister, Yakumo.

Due to the somewhat exaggerated dialogue in the dubbed version - and because the dubbed versions are never quite what the subtitled versions are - I'm now curious to see what the subtitled versions are like. If nothing else, the English dubbed versions are definitely good for a laugh as I was literally laughing out loud at the goofy situations and how the characters handled them.

Season 2: Second Term
The story continues - Will Harima ever confess his love for Tenma? Will Tenma ever find out how Karasuma feels?

It had it's funny moments, but as I reached episode 24, I began to worry that it would be all funny and no resolution would occur. However, Episodes 25 and 26 sure made up for all the goofiness that lead up to it.

Season 3: Third Term
While there were many, many viewers that wanted to see an entire Season 3, but alas, it was never to be. However, there is what's called an OVA. It's basically Season 3 smashed down in to 2 episodes. In a way, I kind of liked this, for the end anyway. The only way to watch it, though, is subtitled. You might find it dubbed, but I'm not sure.

This is where the story culminates. I really liked this because you finally got to learn Karasuma's true feelings, and the real story behind his aloofness about a lot of things, including Tenma! There isn't much room for silliness, as there's a lot of seriousness in these final two episodes to cover. A couple of times, I actually realized I was tearing up - okay, that could have been hormones, but still, the voice acting was really good!

This series is a definite watch!

For more information,
visit the wikipage: School Rumble!
To watch season 3, visit: