The Daughter of Twenty Faces (Nijū Mensō no Musume)

The Daughter of Twenty Faces (Nijū Mensō no Musume) 2008

This (loose?) adaptation of Edogawa Ranpo’s ‘Kogoro Akechi’ detective stories really becomes two different shows for me, with the first third being far superior. Not that the last half or ending is poor, but the focus becomes a bit muddled I reckon.

But is any of it outright ‘bad’? Not at all.

And I think if you like adventure stories and heists, then The Daughter of Twenty Faces should do the trick. (It also has plenty of daring escapes and fun action sequences from late 2000s-era Bones too.)

Thinking back, I remember that the first episode almost had me give up on the show – I won’t spoil why, but pay-off is worthwhile, I reckon.

In fact, the anime throws out a few twists and turns as you follow the clever Chizuko through the post-war Shōwa era on her quest to find the truth about the mysterious benefactor who operates as something of a surrogate father.

Twenty Faces and his crew, especially Ken, stand out as co-leads/supporting characters (and so does Tome, perfectly demonstrating heroism without brawn) and as much as I enjoyed the surprises and larger scope of the story, I’ll probably watch this again one day for the characters themselves.

[Spoilers below]

When it comes to a few things that stand out as disappointing, I will say that the decision to simply do away with almost the entire cast after about episode 6… well, I’m still of two minds about it.

Clearly, it works wonderfully to force Chiko to become more independent but it seemed also a way to place her into a generic school setting, to make sure certain manga arcs could be animated?

It really slashed into the tension and introduced tangents that weren’t as interesting to me as the main storyline.

My subtitles were a little hit-and-miss too, so I didn’t quite pick up on the full dialogue toward the final few episodes, but one day a re-issue might sort that out 😀

Despite my grumbling about those issues, I liked The Daughter of Twenty Faces due to the characters and the storytelling, and still find myself wondering how it was received ‘all the way’ back in 2008.

4 Stars

Tiger & Bunny

Tiger & Bunny (2011)

Ah, superheroes who have problems beyond saving the world.

This is an ‘old’ series now, (first airing back in 2011) featuring a lot of comedy and action, typical of the genre, and both things that are definitely pluses for me. Having said that, my knowledge of superhero texts is very much limited, and to decades past, so I won’t be trying to contextualise things here.

I ended up binge-watching large chunks of the show because the story beats were spot on, and I was quickly invested in the world and the human struggles of the leads.  

Kotetsu is my fav, not just because I like Hiroaki Hirata’s work or the buddy-cop arc with Barnaby, but because Kotetsu pushes back the hardest against the corporations and their vacuum of values.

And while half the time you watch the anime you’re shouting at Kotetsu to do the right thing by his daughter, he’s definitely the kind of guy who will live up to his own convictions.

If you haven’t seen Tiger & Bunny but are planning to, I think that if you’re like me, before you get invested with the characters you’ll be hooked on the world itself.

The superheroes are basically competing with each other to maintain their corporate sponsorship, and so there are constraints placed upon them beyond the scope of their powers.

Commercial pressures and obligations to their ‘owners’ weigh heavy and so you have the heroes doing product placement and side projects to generate revenue for the corporations. It’s a bit like Idol + Superhero, something I personally hadn’t seen a whole lot of before.

A few quick dot points before I wrap up the review:

  • I hope Lunatic gets some more time in the new season as he is an interesting antagonist
  • Transforming the word ‘Barnaby’ into ‘Bunny’ is pretty good 😀
  • The slow thaw between Kotetsu and Barnaby is another high-point in the storytelling
  • Great opening theme song
  • The CGI hasn’t aged too much
  • I really liked the sleek mech-costumes for our leads too

Tiger & Bunny isn’t flawless of course (very few things are, right?) and there are a few cheap shots at the expense of Fire Emblem’s homosexuality, even sort of painting him as a harasser, which sucked.

You’ve also got the typical anime/superhero costuming which is both a plus and a minus – thinking about Blue Rose or Barnaby here I guess, but neither are one-note characters and there is a kind of ‘equal opportunity’ approach to fan service at times, lol.

Overall, plenty to enjoy if you like the genre and I’m definitely seeking the films next.

4 Stars

Yasuke

Yasuke (2021)

Let me preface this review by saying that I will watch more of Yasuke.

I did find that the scope of events in the latter half quickly outstripped the amount of episodes allocated to the season, resulting in a pretty rushed feel which left me feeling a little cold toward the show.

If Netflix would simply stand by their creators and not rush out a handful of episodes at a time, maybe it’d be easier for shows to pace their storytelling, to give characters and events room to breathe/develop. (Of course, I don’t know if that is actually what’s happening).

But stepping away from possible production issues, I didn’t need much convincing to try this short anime at all – samurai, supernatural stuff, outsider lead character, all things that I tend to enjoy.

And enjoy them I did. Most of the action was great and while there were times where the dialogue didn’t land for me, the range of character designs and colour palettes balanced that out.

While I didn’t go in seeking historical fiction from the anime, I did really enjoy the flashback portions of the story. In fact, Yasuke’s backstory became more compelling than the main storyline at one point, and I would have watched more in that vein for sure.

That’s not to knock the mentor relationship between Yasuke & Saki but there was a lot about other characters that didn’t work for me.

An example of that would be the sense that Achoja and co were meant to be rogues that come around to the side of the good guys when faced with a bigger evil, and yet the narrative sort of jammed them and their flat banter into events then did away with them before giving enough time to get to know or care about them.   

Maybe I misread the purpose of those characters in the narrative?

As much as I liked the variety in character designs, Saki did sometimes have a little of an ‘adult face in kid’s body’ look and Father Abraham reminded me a bit too much of Anthony Hopkins. Minor things, but I noticed them.

For me, the first few episodes feel like a great beginning to a pretty epic story.

The next ones less so, but I’m still keen to see what happens next with future seasons should they appear and ended up preferring Yasuke over Cannon Busters.

3 Stars

(I should mention that the OST by Flying Lotus really stands out too.)

Gingitsune

Gingitsune (2013)

Okay, time for a short-ish review!

I know I’ve said this before, but sometimes I dislike using the word ‘sweet’. Mostly because I worry that it has dismissive connotations or that it suggests a lack of tension, or stakes. And that’s not the case in Gingitsune for me.

Maybe ‘feel-good’ or ‘uplifting’ is better for a description of tone in this short series? If I was pressed in terms of genre (beyond supernatural or fantasy) I’m thinking of that blurred line between Slice of Life and Drama.

The main draw for me was the grumpy-but-caring Gintaro (messenger to the fox god Inari) and his relationship with heroine Makoto, the young shrine maiden. Their quarrels and triumphs were great and Gintaro’s obsession with oranges was always funny.

I also enjoyed the Shinto aspects. I’m not very familiar with that cultural aspect of Japan at all and so it was great to learn a little about it, even in the fictionalised context of an anime.

Notwithstanding the tediously jealous Hura, the characters are all cute and fun and I liked the episodic nature of the stories too, along with those beautiful backgrounds – of which I’ve shared only a few.

So, if any of the above sounds like your thing and you’ve not come across Gingitsune before then consider finding it because I reckon it’s pretty great 🙂

4 Stars

The Review Heap: 2021 Directions (Adjusting)

Another update/adjustment for the blog – though it’ll probably feel minor, I have added a couple of things to my plan. (And removed others for now).

A reminder of the goals I had in mind in the past:

  1. Keep reviewing at my own pace
  2. More Anime
  3. Review albums
  4. More discussion posts
  5. Review more games
  6. Do more collaborations
  7. Release a book

Has much changed? Yes and no, I guess. I’ll quickly address a few of them before I get to the additions:


  1. Review (nearly anything) at my own pace:

Basically this is still happening – although I haven’t done much stuff outside the form of animation.


3. Review Albums

Still haven’t tried this.

Not sure if I will go this way at this stage, we’ll see.


4. More Discussion Posts

Only managed one, from memory.

These might not end up being a goal, so much as just a super-occasional thing that I sometimes do.


5. Review More Games

I still want to keep this one.

Plenty of cross-over with audience-interest here, I guess, but I still haven’t done this yet. One day!


6. More Collaborations

Going well!

Have completed a few of these and doing more as we speak – though I’m holding things up a bit personally at the moment.

I love and recommend doing collaborations, so I’m very pleased that things are going well there.


7. Release a book

Nope 🙂

Still no progress. Again, it feels like 100% a vanity project so it’s not high on the list of priorities for now.


Additions


Cover Art Comparison

This is one started doing monthly a while back and while I forgot for a long while, I’d like to resurrect this type of post.

Just not monthly, more like ‘whenever I feel like it’ might be best 🙂

Anime-OP/ED

A bit like above, I was doing this on a monthly schedule at one point but it turns out that I dropped the ball again.

And so it too, while it’ll stick around, might be appearing only when I think to do so. (Next one should probably be Nomad since I’ve enjoyed both so much).

What Else Did They Write?

An extra new thing now.

What I’d like to do, is a post that highlights an anime writer and explores other things they’ve written. It might be several episodes or a whole show/film, but I’ll do some highlighting and maybe analysis.

As a very quick example, Sadayuki Murai adapted the Perfect Blue script and also worked on another Kon film, along with Steamboy. I was surprised to realise that I hadn’t noticed he also wrote one of the standout Cowboy Bebop episodes: ‘Pierrot le Fou’.


Okay, so that’s it – update/adjusted goals/reflection thingy post complete!

Ashley  

Yugo: The Negotiator (Yuugo: Kōshōnin)

Yugo: The Negotiator (Yuugo: Kōshōnin) 2004

I think all lists that include ‘smartest anime character’ should probably have Yugo in them. And maybe lists ranking ‘most resilient’ ones too for that matter.

Because boy, Yugo really does get put through some tough times here – especially in the first negotiation (episodes 1-6).

But before I continue I’ll include a quick premise from Wikipedia:

The series follows Yugo Beppu, a hostage negotiator, in various cases around the world. Having both a very tough body and determination, and his keen insight, Yugo often goes to great lengths to rescue those he was asked to help.

Yugo doesn’t feel like a typical anime to me. Perhaps it’s due to the settings and its lead character, Yugo, or the overall tone.

I think there’s a carefulness to the show, or a sense of deliberation; the action is often (but not always) more a battle of wills and mental resilience, which sometimes translates to a more static camera but that’s not a drawback for me at all. It allows for extra focus on character, on motivation and even ideology.

All of which I really enjoyed!

Another thing I loved about Yugo: The Negotiator was the fact that the anime gave me a glimpse into other places and times – Pakistan and Russia in the 1990s, though due to the subject matter, it certainly won’t come across like a travel show.

Based on the manga from the 1990s by Shinji Makari and Shuu Akana, Yugo: The Negotiator is basically historical fiction now, so it addresses specific conflicts and events from the past.

It seems very well-researched too, although I didn’t search long and hard on that note – but I did find this great post which talks about representation in the Pakistan arc, which left me curious about thoughts on how the anime depicted Russia too*.

To switch to things that stood out in a less positive way, I did find the OP and ED perhaps a bit too upbeat but maybe that’s a purposeful contrast?

If you get a chance to watch Yugo, you’ll note that each arc is handled by a different studio – G&G Direction and Artland, resulting in a fair contrast in art styles between negotiations.

On one hand, with G&G Direction in Pakistan there’s a real sense of intense, oppressive heat with a lot of overexposed-looking shots and more washed out colours, whereas the episodes by Artland in Russia are more vivid. There are subtle differences in design too.

Those things weren’t enough to hamper my enjoyment but they’re definitely noticeable.

I finished Yugo very keen to see more negotiations too but that’s probably impossible, whether in anime or manga form… unless I learn to read Japanese. Maybe one day!

Big thanks to Curtis at Iridium Eye Reviews for reviewing this here because without it, I doubt I’d ever have come across this seemingly little-known anime.

5 Stars

*Curtis’ review has a lot of great insights and also some interesting analysis of differences in the details of the script/dub too.

The Other Top Ten?

Last year I was doing posts for a so-called ‘liquid’ top ten, meant to suggest that it was kind of a flexible, ever-changing list etc etc

Maybe a year or more after starting the posts I think there’s not enough movement for me to make them quarterly… however, what about numbers 11 – 20?

Well, today is one post about those anime 🙂

(You can click here to see the most recent Top Ten and some of the parameters I set for myself but below is for different shows).


The Other Top Ten (11-20) But Not Ranked


Megalobox (+ Nomad) (2018 / 2021)
Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004)
Vision of Escaflowne (1996)


Now, maybe I’m cheating by counting ‘Megalobox/Nomad’ as one entry, but I see them as two parts of one story (obviously) and so I’m keeping them in 😀

Perhaps later I’ll do a few thoughts on each (if I haven’t already done so before). Maybe framed around why they didn’t quite make it to the Top Ten, rather than too much on why I like ’em.

And like last time, I’m always looking for classics to add to the list and so if anything you think I’d like is missing, I’d love to hear about it!

Brave 10

Brave 10 (2012)

Brave 10* was definitely fun but maybe not super-memorable.

Or at least, it never got a chance to become too memorable for me – since as with a lot of anime series that are only 12 or so episodes long, there’s just not enough time to tell those stories with a more epic scope.

And Brave 10 was leading up to some bigger conflicts for sure but it only had time to present an opening salvo.

Still, the season is not given an awful cliff-hanger ending, so if you want a short, supernatural ninja series with a lot of action, some angst and a conclusion, then Studio Sakimakura/TMS Entertainment definitely deliver.

I know I haven’t actually said much about the story or characters but to be brief – in Brave 10 a wandering ninja ends up protecting a shrine maiden who is more than she seems and in time there’s a shift toward the ‘drawing the team together’ plot, in order to prepare for a big struggle that sort of occurs.

And while Saizō wasn’t as interesting as some of the other characters, I liked Yukimura a lot and I know his role would have expanded in future seasons, so that’s a shame. (On the note of characters I can’t figure the motive behind the story playing coy with Kamanosuke – for laughs or to kinda rebel against social labels?)

To switch from my regrets to a positive, I do like costume dramas (and other historical elements) and in Brave 10 certainly Isanami and Yukimura (among others) get to show off their threads. Overall, I shouldn’t complain precisely, as I certainly finished the anime and would have watched more to hopefully see Yukimura’s plans come together.

3 Stars

*Drawing from the ‘Sanada Ten Braves’.

B: The Beginning – Succession

B: The Beginning – Succession (2021)

I’m not sure how to write about this short season…

It seemed like the prologue to a bigger story to come, and at the same time, like an epilogue to a bigger story that had already been told.

Which it basically was.

In terms of negative aspects, first up is that fact that I didn’t enjoy the side-lining of Keith Flick* for pretty much the entire series. Maybe it’s like Superman needing kryptonite. If a character is too smart, it can be hard to surprise them and so dramatic tension is cut.

While the political intrigue was an interesting extra facet this time around I think it maybe took the place of a compelling villain, but since this season seems to function as something to tide folks over, I should probably hold back on judging too soon.

Things still look great and there was plenty of dramatic lighting and warm colours, along with some exciting action sequences, but overall I’m still finding myself a bit disappointed.

Having said that, I’ll still watch more episodes if they appear one day and it was nice to see Izanami return.

So, maybe 3 stars, I guess?

*I’m also wondering if Keith’s past with his adoptive sister is going to be explored or whether it’s just some run of the mill shock tactics stuff?