Archive for the ‘Spice and Wolf 2’ Category

The best anime of 2009 [my top anime of 2009]

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

It’s that time of the year again, when, after we’ve seen the shows the year had to offer, we adjudge them upon their merits and critique them with their faults. It’s surely going to be different with every person, but here’s my personal top five (I’ve seen enough to write about a top ten, but I don’t really like them enough to put them even in a top ten for this year).

1. Kara no Kyoukai: Mujun Rasen

unlimited blood works

unlimited blood works

For the people who have read the past few posts, this comes as NO surprise at all. A lot of people may have been turned off by the complicatedly heady storytelling, but since I’m an absolute fan of that stuff (my favorite author is Faulkner) I marveled and attempted to digest the besotting and inebriating anachronism of Kara no Kyoukai. The best movie among the seven was this, the fifth, primarily because it took this kind of storytelling to the limits and pulled it off majestically.

The purpose of the highly fragmented progression of the story was to draw similarities to a spiral, and I thought ufotable did it successfully. There’s also a well-created central villain for this movie (and for this series, I guess), and an obvious pathos admixed with the awesome animation merits it to be the best anime of 2009. (It actually came out theatrically during 2008, but the subs and the DVD came out early January this past year, if I remember correctly.)

2. Kara no Kyoukai: Satsujin Kousatsu (Go)

This was during Garan no Dou, but Shiki looks awesome in this image.

This was during Garan no Dou, but Shiki looks awesome in this image.

There are some series that start wonderfully, have a very good bridging and explicative middle part, but an ending that’s very disappointing. Toradora and Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini are such examples, at least personally. They had endings that were disappointing, especially when compared to the whole series. This did not made them bad; it only put them down a notch or two from the top.

Kara no Kyoukai did not have such a weakness. While I don’t even think it’s arguable that the best movie was the fifth, if for the sheer balls of experimentation and pulling everything off, the final movie served as a wonderful and eclat-filled conclusion to a majestic and avant-garde series ultimately about the transforming power of love. Saying more about the series will sadly spoil it, but the ending was just as strong as the entirety of the story, and seeing the true pain and suffering of Shiki for the sake of love was simply beautiful.

3. Bakemonogatari

I loved this scene.

I loved this scene.

I can’t believe I almost forgot this beautiful and wonderful anime slideshow series. This series is quite divisive because of the method of storytelling SHAFT and Shinbo did with this series, focusing on choice shots and close-ups rather than animating everything. It may perhaps been a method to save money, or genuinely a unique way of storytelling, but it grew on me and I really liked it.

I loved how the individual arcs tied together with one another, and I loved the perfect cocktail of drama, humor, and romance. I also really loved how they ended the TV airings of the show, and I think episode 12 is one of the most memorable ending episodes in anime, especially because the ending theme was so apt with the ending itself. It’s certainly a memorable series somewhere in my top ten, but Kara no Kyoukai is simply transcendent.

4. Kara no Kyoukai: Boukyaku Rokuon

Shiki and Azaka as drawn by Kobayashi Jin

Shiki and Azaka as drawn by Kobayashi Jin

This was probably the most tangentially related of the movies among the series. Instead of featuring the tribulations of Shiki, it features Azaka. Simply put, it demoted the series’s protagonist into a side character for this movie. It’s a filler for the most part. Does that make this movie bad?

NO.

I thought the sixth movie was as entertaining as the other six movies, although not as deep or focused. It was not bad by any means, still blowing me away with amazing animation and characterization. Nevertheless, it still had a decent plot. This was how anime movies should be made: whether they are intrinsically or tangentially related to the plot, they should be made properly and with quality.

Besides, it also moved the plot forward. It paved the way to Shiki knowing more about the past she had forgotten, and was an introduction to the moving and conclusive Satsujin Kousatsu (Go).

5. Hatsukoi Limited

The girls of the series

The girls of the series

I possess quite a fondness for J.C. Staff, but it’s not because of my fondness that I am rating this series highly. It’s because it was an adaptation of a manga that was better than the manga itself. Ultimately, we’re made to realize that the characters we’re observing are still children, and that they’re still on the way to realizing what life really is. Nevertheless, what they have experienced or are currently experiencing will be an indelible memory that will forever shadow their future decisions. The series possessed a wonderful balance between comedy, drama, and fanservice and ended in such a way that was pleasant, with closure, and yet open enough for the viewer to know that their lives are still beginning. It was a good show.

6. First Squad: The Moment of Truth

This was one of the most misleading images EVER.

This was one of the most misleading images EVER.

I will probably like Summer Wars, but I have not watched it since there hasn’t been a proper RAW yet. Although the subs have been made, and I assume they have been made properly, it’s quite distracting to watch a movie hard-subbed with Korean text. I found it distracting, and I think many others have, as well.

I had expected much from this movie. After all, it was from Studio 4C, creators of such avant-garde masterpieces such as Tekkon Kinkreet. I was expecting more of the same from them, and more of the same quality as well. What I got instead was a quasi-documentary laced with an animated OVA, which were both decent, but not awesome or groundbreaking.

During the Second World War, Russians and Germans have gone into studying the occult and using the supernatural and paranormal to aid them in their conquests. I guess both of them were that desperate. This movie-cum-documentary featured a young girl who joined an army department that trained them mentally and psychically. Her friends died in war, but she was able to contact them to prevent a Soviet catastrophe. It doesn’t sound great, and it isn’t. The trailer, however, was very dissimulative, featuring the girl battling zombies with a katana. I instead got a lot of dialogue with a smattering of action here and there. The movie wasn’t great, but the technical prowess of Studio 4C prevented it from falling into being a bad OVA. It was a decent show, and after I destroyed my expectations when I saw real-life old men being interviewed regarding the occult tactics of the Second World War, I just enjoyed the show for what it was.

* * *

There have been some anime with notable first series but with disappointing second seasons, such as Spice and Wolf, and Darker than Black. The first seasons of both series are probably in my top twenty, but their second seasons have been disappointing, at least from a personal perspective.

Spice and Wolf barely had any development for Holo, and developed Lawrence even more, who was already developed a lot during the first season. I disliked the unevenness of the series, because while it showed that Lawrence really loved Holo, it didn’t show her reciprocating that love. There remained much of the same verbal fencing, much of her teasing, and much of her characteristic queenly attitude, but there was little progress of her, from what I saw. It was a letdown, but at least I have the comfort of knowing that it is highly probable that there will be a third season.

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Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini, on the contrary, was just disappointing. It was awesome at the beginning up to the middle, but simply fell apart with its highly inconclusive end. While some people like pondering about quirky endings (I’m also like that), I also want to be given a few answers. All I currently have, however, is an interpretation of the ending that some people agree with, and some people disagree with. It doesn’t help when the creator and the director of the show blatantly says that the show has ended, and goes as far as explicitly saying that there will be no third season. It was not bad by any means, but I can personally say that I would rather there have been no second season since the first season left things open, but had a lot more closure. The focus of the series was on Hei’s choice, and I liked what he chose by the end of it all. I thought the ending was all right, and the series all right as well, but it wasn’t as good or as riveting as the first season.

This is Darker than Black 2 summarized.

This is Darker than Black 2 summarized.

At least there’s the OVA, I guess. I am by no means a fan of Yin as I am a fan of Hei, and I just did not really want Hei to suffer more than he did during the first season. Yet from what I see, Tensai gives me that. He turned his back on the choice that was most comfortable and beneficial for him the first season to give both humans and contractors a chance to exist with one another, and the only one left for him was Yin. During the second season, Tensai just had to take it away from him, and probably left Hei with nothing more than himself. Its level of tragedy is comparable to that of Chrno Crusade with other people’s interpretations, and it is not pleasant. Unless proven otherwise, I will stick with my own interpretation. It makes sense, anyway.

How about you, guys? What are your top five anime of 2009 and your reasons why you listed those series as such?

I hope everyone has a happy and enjoyable new year later (or tomorrow, depending on where you’re from!).

Qualms regarding Horo’s development in Spice and Wolf 2

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

The past week has actually just been one long joyride for me: after I realized that anime, after all, is not as harmful an addiction, I have enjoyed the free time that would be absent until perhaps Christmas. A day after I watched Bakemonogatari, I started watching a series I vowed to finish when it aired, and it was the second season of Spice and Wolf. As a show fuelled by character development, the show was solid and quite well-done. However, I did not like it as much as the first season because it seemed as if the second season revealed a cornucopia of Lawrence’s character: despite being a merchant, he has grown to be kinder and more caring as well as knowing what his real priority in life is. On the other hand, I felt Horo remained relatively staid: nothing really developed from her, and from what I observed she has changed little from her actuations during the first season. This has been most obvious especially during the final arc of the second season, where while Lawrence pours his entire heart and soul just to have Horo as a companion, and finally realizes his own feelings towards her, Horo nonchalantly remains the same knowledgeable, kind, but flirtatious character.

I thought this scene was especially sweet.

I thought this scene was especially sweet.

It is undeniable that Horo has feelings for Lawrence. Even when he felt she was going away from him, she was actually trying to assure his victory over Amati. Her loyalty lies with Lawrence, and it reflects in her actions that she treasures Lawrence beyond just a friend, or even a best friend. However, she keeps on dragging Lawrence, playing with him, and never telling him what she truly feels for him. While this unwillingness to open herself up is extremely understandable (she has loved before, and it has ultimately ended up with the death of her love), I was just thinking that she should stop toying Lawrence around. If she could perhaps curb her tongue when she speaks, and perhaps just cherish their moments together it would probably be better.

It is no longer Lawrence’s turn to act. He has willingly sacrificed everything he had valued before because he loves Horo, and he has put that into words. He lost a significant amount of money, could no longer be a town merchant, but he was willing to give all of his previous apices just to be with her. Even with that, Horo barely reciprocates his emotions. I just don’t really find it funny, sweet, or heartening.

Has anyone watched the second season and observed this? Perhaps actions speak louder than words, but words are still important to convey one’s truth in one’s emotions. One cannot live with actions alone, and it is with this reason that people get mad when they have no one to talk to. Madness arises from the inability of people to reach out to others and to ask for help through their own words. Horo may have been hurt in the past, but I don’t think that’s an excuse to skirt the truth of the matter regarding Lawrence.

The second season remained to be an eminent show. But for all its beauty, a unidirectional development will eventually be tiring. My own ranking of the season would be an 8/10.