Abandoned #11 (Sonny Boy, The Case Study of Vanitas, The Detective Is Already Dead & TEXHNOLYZE)

Okay, I admit that this is one of my most click bait-style headings so far, since the word ‘Abandoned’ is probably a little too strong for some of these entries.

And so here’s the usual disclaimer – I’m not ruling out one day returning to any of these shows… one of which at least I am 99.9% certain I will finish.


Sonny Boy

Ideally I want to come back to this when (now that?) it’s finished, so I can watch more episodes back-to-back, since having a break between each episode at the beginning wasn’t working for me.

I think I’ve seen the first three, and despite being hooked on the premise and the unanswered questions, and enjoying the visual aspects, I don’t think I’m actually interested in any of the characters.

The Case Study of Vanitas

Might return to this one day as I was enjoying the world, but I found Vanitas too annoying for a lead character.

Once he upgraded from being just annoying to ‘dude that commits sexual assault at the first opportunity’ I groaned and not only because it didn’t play like a flawed character who will one day change, and seemed more designed to fall rather neatly within the ‘cheap thrills’ category.

The Detective Is Already Dead

Nearly finished the first episode.

Might try to take a second look one day, as the premise caught my attention to begin with.

TEXHNOLYZE

99.9% sure I will finish this sometime during 2021.

I’m six or so episodes in and I was enjoying SO much about the anime. It is also just a tiny bit familiar too, as though I’d seen some of it a long time ago.

But whether my memory is any good or not is an issue I’ll put to one side for now, however, because I’ve been able to pinpoint what made me pause my viewing: for whatever reason, I’m just not in the mood for dystopian/bleak stuff at the moment.

I will be sooner or later, but it’s been over a month since I started and I haven’t returned just yet.


How about you? Seen/planning to see/abandoned any of these?

Supporting the Anime Industry

Back in my Wonder Egg review I wondered how I could directly support animators working in an exploitative industry, and I was feeling despairing of things changing…

And so today I’d like to share a couple of links that allowed me to help at least a little.

One is a bit of an overview of things you can do to help, and the other is a specific, ongoing crowdfunding campaign.

Here’s the first:

How YOU Can Support the Anime Industry

And it was from that link and its range of ideas that I came across the 2020 Animator Dormitory Project.

It looks pretty great and I’ve donated, hoping I can make a bit of a difference that way. (I would have liked to support the union mentioned in the first article but I couldn’t figure it out).

But for the Dormitory Project, if you’re interested in reading more you can check it out below:

2020 Animator Dormitory Project

And there’s a video explaining a bit about it here:

Heaven Official’s Blessing (Tiān Guān Cì Fú)

I tend to be a little disappointed in romance anime that hold back on the developing the relationship onscreen – especially when it comes to homosexual relationships, but that’s probably not always fair.

Heaven Official’s Blessing (Tiān Guān Cì Fú) 2020

And I say ‘not fair’ not in terms of a discussion between chaste vs lewd content, but more a case that I wish the industry would treat the relationships of gay characters the same as heterosexual ones, though it feels like that’s changing slowly. 

Having said that, I think I should also add – I hope things continue to change in so long as it’s safe for the creators, that is. (Obviously, country of production has an impact).

But until things change, there’s still somewhat sweet shows like Heaven Official’s Blessing, based on the novel by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu and animated by Haoliners Animation League. I hadn’t seen many works from China at all, but this looks fantastic, with whimsical and menacing settings, fluid action and memorable leads.

Heaven Official’s Blessing feels like a balanced mix between supernatural action and almost cute romance, (with lead Xie Lian even taking on the clumsy ‘damsel’ role at times) and I enjoyed the mythological aspects as much as the character interplay across the 13 episodes, and I’m definitely hoping there’s another season one day.

I saw HOB on the soon to be defunct Animelab, and while the subtitles were far too small for my eyes, I’m glad they were there because without them I would not have been able to watch the show at all. (There were mythological elements and context that I missed too, especially those last few episodes I suspect).


The ending to episode 12 kinda demanded an OVA or a ‘special’ because while it wrapped the action plot, the relationship between Xie Lian and San Lang needed more screen time, which did happen with #13 thankfully.

Definitely recommended for fans of the above-mentioned genres.

4 Stars

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song

Vivy made me wonder whether great art, exhilarating fight sequences, catchy songs and fun costume changes with engaging characters were enough for me to say yep, 5 stars – even in spite of some disappointment with the plot.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song (2021)

(In the end, it doesn’t matter whether I finish the review with a 4 or 5 star rating, or any other number, but apparently I enjoy overthinking and so I’m still not sure about a score :D)

Anyway, getting back to Vivy itself– if you’ve been craving time-travel science fiction and action that looks great (with an interesting compression of a 100-year timeline) then there should be more than enough to keep you watching.

And there was for me – I looked forward to each new episode and in addition, it was really fun to see the show via Karandi’s posts too.

Ah, the wrist-grab trope

Occasionally, I felt some of the jumps in time were a bit sharp and Matsumoto can be hard work to listen to, though those were minor issues for me. Again, I personally find it easy enough to overlook aspects I didn’t enjoy when the visuals are great and WIT studio lives up to their reputation here, I reckon.

While there are a few threads / mini arcs that I preferred over others, I think I’ll quickly mention some fav scenes or smaller aspects instead:

  • The robot welcome in the factory stood out, nice way to humanise them and also kinda manipulate the audience
  • The ‘falling’ fight scene in episode 9 is pretty ace
  • Gradual thawing of Vivy’s personality works really well
  • OP is a cool song
  • I also enjoyed the little bit of exploration around possible rights/privileges of non-humans (robot marriage etc)

Without spoilers, there was a particular point toward the end where the choices of characters (and connected time-travel difficulties) gave me fair pause, and some disappointment there did impact the finale for me.

However, I wouldn’t say I felt the same level of disappointment as with say, The Promised Neverland or Wonder Egg Priority.

And in spite of the issues I had with the last few episodes I liked that time-travel wasn’t something that solved everything neatly, often when Vivy and Matsumoto took action, they found changes harder to make than planned.

In the end, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is definitely a show I’d like to add to my collection one day, no doubt about it.

4 Stars

What Else Did They Write? (Sadayuki Murai)

Not sure exactly how this series of posts will work, maybe it’ll evolve over time into a different structure or focus?

But for now, I’m planning to just highlight a few shows or episodes I’ve enjoyed + include extra titles that I didn’t realise the writer was involved with.

Further to the above, I’ll note right away that my research is rarely going to be exhaustive 😀


And further further related to the above, while any given writer might be credited with ‘series composition’, ‘screenplay’ or ‘script’, the terms aren’t always interchangeable. That also means that I can’t always directly credit the writer I’ve chosen with a tone, character, sequence or line of dialogue with 100% accuracy.

Nevertheless, here we go with Sadayuki Murai!

Perfect Blue comes to mind first.

I think the main idea for this series of posts came from noticing that Sadayuki Murai adapted Perfect Blue for the big screen and also worked on another Kon film, the amazing Millennium Actress.

When I later realised that he was also credited with one of the standout Cowboy Bebop episodes: ‘Pierrot le Fou’ I was surprised (in a good way). And if you’ve seen either the Bebop episode or Perfect Blue I think tonal similarities are clear.

There’s a relentless kind of menace to both and perhaps something similar can keen seen in Boogiepop Phantom, which credits Murai with series composition. (There’s also Bebop’s ‘Gateway Shuffle’ too, which always struck me as another comparatively dark episode).

You can also see Murai’s work in screenplays for Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, Devil Lady and Knights of Sidonia along with all of Kino’s Journey and the script for Steamboy too – among plenty of others.

Ideally, I’d like to include a quote or two or mention a few moments in the various scripts to highlight things I’ve enjoyed.

I think I ought to do more than that actually, but while I’m still figuring out how I want these posts to work, I’ll just note three things today:

• Spike’s sleight of hand in ‘Gateway Shufflealways pleases me
In Millenium Actress while Chiyoko takes medicine she says “never listen to doctors, they always think that old people are sick”
I’ve said this before but the inter-generational conflict in Steamboy is one of the real highlights for me, I always thought it was written really well

And done!

For the next one of these posts I’m planning on writing about Chiaki J. Konaka.

Wonder Egg Priority + Special (Wandā Eggu Puraioriti)

Wonder Egg Priority (Wandā Eggu Puraioriti) 2021

I wrote some of this review not long after the end of episode 12 and it really feels like so much depends on the OVA…

Wonder Egg Priority should feel familiar but also new and exciting at the same time. Everything is intense too, whether it’s the colours, action sequences or storylines, all with that familiar CloverWorks feel.

And while there are a certain amount of ‘power of friendship’ moments the themes are overall dark and at times, maybe handled bluntly – but I wonder how I’d feel, if I were young right now and struggling with tough issues, to see an anime like this that showed kids fighting back, how cathartic and hopeful it might be.

If you decide to watch Wonder Egg here’s a bit of what to expect as per the plot adapted from Wikipedia:

Ai Ohto, a junior high school student, is temporarily not attending school following the suicide of her close friend Koito Nagase. During a late-night walk, Ai finds a gachapon machine that dispenses a “Wonder Egg”. That night, Ai gets drawn into a dream world where the Wonder Egg cracks open to reveal a girl, whom Ai must protect from a horde of monsters called ‘Seeno Evils’.

Ai is an engaging lead and the bonds she forms with her friends are the highlights, even over some fantastic fight sequences and unanswered questions that pull you along. I wanted things to work out for her and the team by the end of the series, a sure sign that things were working as far as I was concerned.

But certainly the show hasn’t satisfied everyone.

A few months ago (at the time of writing this review) there was a bit of online dribble re: ‘casuals’ and the magical girl genre. For me, if you use the word ‘casual’ to disparage someone, I know I never have to take your opinion seriously, because who cares how someone is introduced to an anime or a genre?

Or a game, or an album, or whatever.

… and so I’ll just move right along.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about Wonder Egg Priority was the roster of villains. [Spoilers below]

For me, there are three to choose from in Wonder Egg Priority; a pair and two individuals.

I’ve probably quoted the adage that ‘a hero is only as good as the villain’ in a review before, and Acca and Ura-Acca are indeed bad news; a pair of sock-puppets skillfully manipulating vulnerable kids who enter their desperate circle of selfish madness.

But you are given a chance to understand why they are villains at least, just like the glimpse we get of the ‘role models’ for poor Rika – someone who demonstrates the sad truth that people who are abused can become abusers themselves.

Frill is the villain with the least amount of screen time, and while her role in the present of the anime remains unclear, her flashback episode is certainly memorable. In fact, that single episode is as confronting as any other in the series can be, and remains one of my favourites, both visually and in terms of having a self-contained storyline.

I believe I might purchase Wonder Egg one day, because I liked enough of it to do so, and I don’t want to reduce this show to its flaws because, it’s a lot more than that.

However, I can’t finish the review without mentioning the special.

… and I don’t want to pile on here, but boy, after a 25+ minute recap at the beginning, my expectations did plummet pretty swiftly.

The final episode (delayed during the original run of the show) definitely achieves a label of ‘unforgettable’ for me.

It disappointed a lot of folks of course, and I found it hard to separate my negative feelings in general, from what the story was actually showing me in episode thirteen.

The special does offer an ending and follows through on some of the earlier foreshadowing, but also raises new plot points perhaps a little too late. I will address one criticism I’ve read about the special, which is that Rika abandons Neiru too quickly, when she learns that her friend is AI.

To me, that behaviour is 100% consistent with a character that called an overweight fan a ‘wallet’.

Thinking back, I don’t think I actually enjoyed the episode very much but I’m glad there is an ending.

Because like so many viewers, I grew to wonder just how much abuse were staff members being put through by the industry (and us as fans?), both via criminal working conditions and unrealistic expectations?

And now I think to myself, should I even keep consuming media that is so obviously burning out artists left, right and centre? I have no answer and being powerless to change things is not an enjoyable feeling. And it’s in so many industries too, certainly not just anime.

Until things change, I should do more to support artists directly – just have to figure out how.

Wonder Egg Priority might end up being remembered more for its heroines, or for the special, or maybe as a show that highlights awful, awful working conditions in the animation industry and for me, I definitely end up associating it with all three when I think of it now.

It feels like over the next few decades (and now of course), it could be regarded as more than the sum of its flaws.

Akudama Drive (Akudama Doraibu)

Akudama Drive (Akudama Doraibu) 2020

I’ve been thinking about Akudama Drive on and off since finishing it and I’m wondering if it’s actually Cyberpunk in name and aesthetic only.

And if so, does that even matter?

This was one of my fav shows from the last few seasons and I enjoyed it plenty, no matter the labels that have (or have not) been attached to it by other folks, or by me for that matter 😀

A bit more on genre further below, but for now I’ll do a sort of short, general overview.

For fans of action, science fiction and also amps that go up to 11, I reckon Akudama Drive will have exactly what you’re looking for – flashy action, boldly drawn characters that sometimes push beyond their archetypes and a neon cityscape full of corruption.

There’s even a slight Suicide Squad feel to the premise.

Now that I’ve opened by saying I enjoyed the anime, I will say that I might not have finished the series without Swindler (or the kids, I guess) as there were very few characters I wanted to see succeed.

But by the end I definitely wanted to see some vengeance.

And a real plus for me was the fact that the anime actually has a resolution and an ending, and one that feels both inevitable and satisfying. So fear not if you’re the kind of viewer who is endlessly frustrated by anime without endings.

Getting back to my opening paragraph, typically I harp on a lot about genre so I’ll try to keep it brief here for a change.

Basically, I think Akudama Drive is most concerned with the action conventions of spectacle, both visuals and violence, and less about exploring technology’s impact on humanity, and thus it might not be a Cyberpunk text in every sense of the word.

On the other hand, when you consider that the anime is so clearly fulfilling that ‘punk’ side of resistance – fighting an oppressive state/government that needs to be defeated, then Akudama Drive in that respect is indeed cyberpunk through and through.

If I were to pick at a minor issue, for me the kids’ story could have been introduced earlier but I still enjoyed it.

Cutthroat is merely “psycho for the sake of psycho”, which feeds quite neatly into the action movie conventions and while one highlight is probably the sequence with Swindler in the abandoned factory, once again the threat of sexual violence seems like a predictable go-to. (Also, a trope that feeds directly into the action-genre.)

Akudama Drive has quite a big finish too – and despite my quibbling over genre above, the anime does address the role of technology in our lives but it’s just not the main focus.

In the end, I still think of this show as an action series before anything else, but I’m not claiming that as a problem, just my reaction 😀

(It’s also a series I might collect in the physical edition one day too.)

4 Stars

BEM (2019)

Remakes of classic shows feel risky, since time can divest modern audiences of context, and of course tastes around art styles and technological advancements change the visual landscape so quickly.

And here we have BEM, a remake created as part of a 50 year anniversary, and so the characters have been around a little while 🙂

Doubly so, that risk I’ve been thinking about seems to stand true for an international audience unfamiliar with the original (which was definitely me) but I took a chance on BEM because I like the supernatural and science-fiction genres.

And while I haven’t seen the 1968 nor the 2006 versions of BEM, I’m quite curious to do so now.

At the core of the series is a struggle for identity and belonging, combined with the Pinocchio quest – a favourite plot in anime for decades.

Here’s a quote adapted from wiki on the premise:

Even though Bem, Bela and Belo (three yokai) are often abused and discriminated against by other human beings due to their appearance, they still strive to protect the human populace of their city from other monsters, one day hoping to become human beings in return for their good actions.

On that note, the theme of ‘becoming human’ is one I craved a little more of in the anime* but it’s definitely present, as the three leads each face doubts about their desire to change.

While they explore the dream, there is a ‘monster of the week’ episodic feel to the early half of the anime, giving us time to get to know the yokai, and I probably enjoyed these episodes better in part because when the ‘big bad’ was at last revealed and brought in to the narrative, it was maybe a little late. She had less impact for me.

On the other hand, the designs were memorable and the action was fun and the themes of discrimination were welcome (depressing as they could be) as it added another aspect to the anime. In this, I imagine there’s a clear link back to the original, surely.

But getting back to the idea of risk, another thing I noticed were the 1960s kinda character designs that remained.

I reckon the artists would have wanted to update things without destroying the original designs.

To me it worked overall for sure, but two things struck me – the most obvious being Bela’s change from adult to teen, and the second being the occasional character like the bowling ball bad guy, who felt kinda goofy.


Those issues aside, I finished the short anime interested in more and enjoyed it enough to seek out the film BEM: Become Human, which luckily enough at the time, AnimeLab had on hand.

3 Stars

*The movie definitely does explore this theme in more depth and the animation budget seemed a bigger too.

(Also, I enjoyed the OST from Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, the themes most of all I think).

Murder Princess (Mādā Purinsesu)

Get ready for fantasy, sci-fi, political intrigue, romance, action, comedy and prominent use of the body swap trope, if you decide to take a look at Murder Princess.

Maybe that seems like bit much for one text – but I definitely liked the mix and thought this was a fun OVA. It’s not the shortest one out there, and it does tell a complete story across only 6 episodes too.

The series was released in 2007 and animated by Bee Train during their heyday and I don’t remember having many complaints re: the visuals or direction, though you won’t see the super-dynamic camera-work common to modern action anime.

As per the title, you can expect regular violence over the course of the betrayal of Princess Alita’s kingdom and her subsequent struggle for vengeance.

She manages to recruit some interesting folks and while there are a lot of familiar story-beats along the way, I was hooked by the body swap aspect which brought in a few fun ‘fish out of water’ moments.

However, one thing I did wish had been given some extra screen time was both Falis and Alita coming to terms with the switch, as it does play second fiddle to the action.

As an example, I imagine it would be pretty disconcerting to look at someone else and see your own face, see ‘you’ doing things from the outside, yet both leads adjust a bit too quickly perhaps.

Obviously it wasn’t a huge problem for me, but I do wonder whether the manga does more with that aspect?

Even though the star rating will probably seem a bit low, I still enjoyed Murder Princess – in particular Romi Park* as Falis, and remember the ED as standing out.

As I said before, this anime did leave me curious about the manga – and so maybe one day I’ll seek it out.

3.5 Stars

*Took me a moment to recognise her as the voice of Edward Elric, actually.

Trese

Netflix feels reasonably hit and miss when it comes to anime and related forms but I’m glad someone at the corporation is putting money into projects I might never have had the chance to see otherwise.

Trese (2021)

Terese is one of those shows, and one I enjoyed a lot, finishing it keen to see more of her story.

Here’s a hint of the plot from Netflix: In Manila, where dark supernatural forces pervade the criminal underworld, it’s up to Alexandra Trese to keep the peace — but there’s a storm brewing.

Now, going in, I was curious about the ‘horror’ label too, because some animated horror doesn’t hit as hard as live-action, but there’s blood and gore (rather than a lot of suspense or jump scares etc), and plenty of creatures and dark magic.

Having said that ‘supernatural’ is probably more useful in terms of genre if you’re after a single word for the show’s focus, which meant I was on board pretty much right away. I guess you could argue that there’s a slight Buffy feel to Terese, but there are very clear differences – for one, there’s no teen drama.

Another difference was my favourite element of Trese: which was experiencing aspects of Filipino culture, folkore and mythology. To me, Terese feels like a series made by a Filipino team for Filipino audiences, as they rarely broke the narrative or pacing to stop for exposition, which was great.

If you are on the fence about the show I think you’ll know if you’re going to like it after viewing episode one. For me, Terese’s role as peacekeeper between humanity and various creatures made sure there was variety but if you hesitate re: ‘monster of the week’ hints there are interconnected narratives where events from the past slowly bleed into the present.

As a stand out for me, I’ll mention (but not spoil) episode 3 – creepy indeed. (I should also note how much I enjoyed the settings, some of those establishing shots especially).

While not every action sequence dazzled in the way that some legacy studios might have produced, I was never pulled out of the moment. Some extra focus on Trese as a character beyond her role as protector might have been nice but aside from those two aspects I didn’t have much in the way of complaints.

I saw a fair few big names in the English cast, which seems like one measure of international support it had during production, and I so hope that there was enough interest in the show that more episodes are produced one day! 

4 Stars