The Third: Girl with the Blue Eye (Za Sādo – Aoi Hitomi no)

The Third: Girl with the Blue Eye (Za Sādo – Aoi Hitomi no) 2007

The Third: Girl with the Blue Eye met most of my expectations and I did enjoy it a lot, but there was a little something missing for me when it came to the ending.

However, I’ll stick with what I liked most first.

As I’ve said before, I love adventure stories, and usually ones based on light novels (or just novels in general) tend to have great plots and charactarisation. And that’s mostly how I feel about this anime; it was great to see heroine Honoka roaming the post-apocalyptic world, saving folks with her blade and mech suit, aided by her AI tank and the mysterious Iks.

There is a central plot that reveals itself in time, and while I said ‘post-apoc’ I should mention that this is a reasonably hopeful future-earth, compared to other shows at least. The setting was one draw for me, and the friendly bickering between Honoka and her tank (Bogie, voiced by Unshou Ishizuka, ‘Jet Black’), was great too, along with the fight scenes and interpersonal aspects between leads.

One thing that really stands out was the fact that The Third has a narrator – usually providing exposition or character monologue, which was interesting. It worked for me – but I could definitely see that as an issue for some viewers.

I also wondered about Paifu and her ‘rivalry’ with Iks re: Honoka, as that came across as pretty odd onscreen, even downright creepy… is Paifu meant to actually be a villain? She tends to act like one throughout.

But my main issue is with the ending. (A few times, the animation also dips and the character models seem fairly ‘off’ but I did get over that.)

Instead, as the series begins to wrap, there’s a significant plot line that seems like it represents the ‘ending’. It gets a few episodes to resolve things, and I finished it feeling the sense that ‘it’s all been sorted/crisis averted’ – but it wasn’t really the end.

There was more of The Third… left, and suddenly, tension had to be rebuilt in the two remaining episodes, and so the actual closing episodes of the anime didn’t feel quite as ‘big’ to me.

Having said that, it wasn’t a bad ending either… but it just didn’t land the same way as the preceding episodes, I guess. I was still interested to learn some final secrets, and I was always going to watch the final two, but yeah. Hard for me to rate, I probably personally enjoyed it a bit more than my score will suggest.

3 Stars

During the early-middle period of the series, there’s an episode or two with these stark, dramatic shadows that I really liked:

Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni)

Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni) 2017

Land of the Lustrous seems to be cited fairly often as a show that can change minds when it comes to anime and CGI.

I guess I’m fairly hard on CGI that I feel isn’t integrated all that well with trad techniques in the anime world, but I wouldn’t consider myself as the sort that would instantly dismiss a text due to its use of CGI either.

All of which is to say that I didn’t need convincing 🙂

The blend is great and so visually Land of the Lustrous is beautiful – the colours are vibrant and the ‘shatter’ effect is heaps of fun. Having comparatively less detailed backgrounds and settings really added to the contrast too, from the grass, to the sea and the snow. I felt bad kinda looking forward to how (visually at least) each stroke of misfortune might end up looking for the characters.

Others have said more interesting things about the visuals than I have and I doubt I’ll add anything ground-breaking about the story or characters either, but while the anime features lots of action-sequences, Land of the Lustrous is definitely character-driven.

Everything revolves around Phos and her struggle to find purpose. Many of the disasters that strike her community (generally a cyclical war between three cultures) come from her failures, choices and desire to do what’s right.

Creator Haruko Ichikawa has also given Phos plenty of great lines when it comes to injecting the comedic element, which definitely kept me smiling.

There’s also clear development for our lead character too – actually, let me pause for a sec. I’ve said ‘her’ before but in fact, Ichikawa describes the gems as being genderless and suggested as much to the translator for the English release, so it’s they for Phos and co, and maybe sometimes in the original some masculine pronouns are used too – but my Japanese is non-existent, really, so I can’t be sure.

If you like a mystery woven in around an interesting and (for now?) narrow setting, then Land of the Lustrous should also satisfy on that level. I don’t want to go into too much detail now, due to my usual fear of spoilers, but I’m keen for a second season so I can learn more!

And not just about the main storyline and the history of the gems, or the master’s connection with the invading Lunarians, but also folks like Padparadscha who I hope has a main role in the future.

Not sure whether Orange have more Land of the Lustrous on their plate for the near future, but I’m definitely keeping an eye out.

5 Stars

Cool hair – so much of anime is about hair, I think.
I guess (visually at least) ‘LotL’ has some fanservice re: costume and framing, but it’s not really the focus overall.

Astra Lost in Space (Kanata no Asutora)

Astra: Lost in Space (Kanata no Asutora) 2019

At a glance I guess Astra could be mistaken for a light comedy or teen romance set in space… but there were definitely a few surprises in store for me.

I had this on my list after folks started talking about it a while ago, and I’m glad I finally got around to watching this series – there’s heaps of things I enjoyed; fun characters, the trials of being lost in space, adventures to new planets, a ‘one of us is a traitor’ plot-line and some big science-fiction twists.

There were also plenty of comedic moments too, even a bit of fourth-wall stuff, which is always a plus. It is anime, so of course there’s an obligatory beach episode but if I’m remembering correctly, it operates to lull you into a bit of a false sense of security in regard to what’s due to follow.   

Now that I’ve come this far, I’m finding Astra: Lost in Space hard to write on without kinda giving certain things away, so I’ll finish this short review by saying that Kanata is an obvious fav, and Aries jumbling up her words is always cute, but best overall moment from a character is probably Zack’s declaration of love.

Maybe take a look if you want a space adventure with some fun twists and reveals.

4 Stars

Heaven Official’s Blessing (More Impressions)

I wish I had more to say today, but basically – I’m still enjoying Tian Guan Ci Fu plenty and also finding it hard to wait between episodes.

The adventure feel is still really strong and what probably amounts to Xie Lian and San Lang’s first date is really cute, even if the scenes aren’t quite played that way onscreen.

One of the only seasonal shows I’m keeping up with this time around! (8 episodes in so far.)

Le Chevalier D’Eon (2006)

Le Chevalier D’Eon

The first episode of Le Chevalier D’Eon offered everything I wanted – swords, magic, twists and turns, intrigue too, and all of it taking place in historical European settings!

In fact, I remember after seeing the opening being pretty thrilled, feeling sure that I’d found a show that I knew I would love. And I would definitely put the first episode (D’Eon∴ Lia) up against most of the first episodes of my other favs for sure.

And in the end, I did love the series but I hit a wall in the middle.

I think I know why – it’s the pacing.

Now, I mentioned pacing here in one of my previous ‘Abandoned’ posts – there was a point where I felt a slight drag on the forward momentum, because I knew that our four leads were going to visit a new town, catch up on local politics, help out, and then collect a few scraps of info on the main quest.

At one point, that pattern repeated itself for enough episodes to deter me, and it took a while to come back to the series, even though at the mid-way point I should have been totally unable to set Le Chevalier D’Eon to one side.

And what’s interesting to me is that I love episodic storytelling but this time around it felt like mini-arcs with not enough of the main plot woven throughout to satisfy my curiosity.

On the other hand, I certainly finished Le Chevalier D’Eon because there was so much I want to know by the end. In addition, the characters, settings and magical elements are all great – along with the swashbuckling too, of course.

But it’s not really an adventure show (despite escapes, conspiracies, monsters and swordplay etc) because as I’ve mentioned before, intrigue and politics feature heavily here. There’s even a touch of romance, but the magic (Poets and Psalms used to destroy and manipulate) are probably the main focus, along with a slew of changing loyalties.

The price of loyalty too, is a huge theme in Le Chevalier D’Eon and one that I enjoyed plenty.

I think another stand-out aspect is the range of (loose) historical elements; not just things like the various royals that our leads meet (or figures like Comte de Saint Germain and Maximilien Robespierre), but aspects that had me reading up on the real-life D’eon. In fact, it seems a shame that the existence of Lia in the anime clouds important details about D’eon.

Finally, I guess I should say, be warned, by the end there is very little left for the surviving leads to celebrate – perhaps unsurprising considering the setting.

Still, the anime was compelling for me, even when its storytelling sometimes became a little opaque or even if, as I see it, giving D’eon room to process truths about his sister is somewhat swept aside by the scope of other events.

4 Stars

(This series is sometimes compared to Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, released a bit earlier, since both are somewhat similar in themes and settings).

Heaven Official’s Blessing (Early Impressions)

I started a fair few shows from the current season but haven’t really drifted back to many of them yet – with one exception, Tian Guan Ci Fu.

Only the first 4 episodes are available but I’m enjoying it a lot – it has plenty of things I love: action, fantasy, historical aspects and fantastic costumes, lovely art and engaging characters, so I’ll definitely continue on.

This early, the romance hasn’t really kicked off – in fact, the show is a little darker, more supernatural perhaps than I was expecting, but that’s not a problem at all. Xie Lian is a great lead too and I’m keen to see how he’ll hold his own against the Demon King.

I’m also enjoying this introduction to the Xianxia genre (which is closely related to Wuxia, I believe), with the heroes not just being warriors but also gods – which creates some interesting problems for the story; how to make them not too overpowered too early etc

Looking forward to more!

It’s also my first introduction (I think) to Chinese animation group Haoliners Animation League, and this is beautiful work so I’ll definitely seek more of their productions in time.

I will say, that I have one minor issue so far, which is with the typsetting for the subtitles, they’re a touch small. Obviously, that’s because both the Japanese and English are placed onscreen, one above the other. Maybe that’s just my poor distance vision, but the alternative is to have no translation at all, and I would not like that!

Trinity Blood (Toriniti Buraddo)

Time for a short review!

Trinity Blood (Toriniti Buraddo) 2005

Another entry into my ‘monsters hunting monsters’ collection – Trinity Blood has heaps of action and enough blood for vampire fans, but probably skews toward political intrigue almost as much as action.

In the end that was probably my favourite aspect, especially within the Vatican but the settings were another highlight. Trinity Blood takes place mostly in Europe, only during a post-apocalyptic time where vampires and human co-exist in an uneasy (and often broken) truce.

Partly due to the setting, there’s a lot of great character designs and costuming, especially from the Empire (not to overlook Caterina), but what I remember most is probably the characters. Father Abel Nightroad has a vague ‘Vash’ feel but is more capable of bloodlust (yeah, a pun, sorry) and is helped along by a fairly large cast. And while I wanted a bit more time spent on folks like Leon and Kate, I can imagine future seasons would have rectified that.

I found Trinity Blood hard to rate however, because despite great rising tension across the season and plenty of stand out moments (most of Seth’s scenes for one), the ending was a little rushed.

No doubt Gonzo were planning for another season (there are plenty of light novels by Sunao Yoshida to choose from) but that wasn’t to be. There is a resolution to the anime, and a set up for the bigger story, but some important things happen ‘off-screen’ which was a shame. I missed the impact of those moments.

4 Stars (maybe it should be 3 but I enjoyed things otherwise)

A-Z Challenge “D” is for Dallos (Darosu)

Dallos (Darosu) 1983

The first OVA produced!

Dallos feels extremely topical now when wealth inequality is so vicious, and you could certainly also read the OVA as a critique of colonialism – though I’m not sure Hisayuki Toriumi, Mamoru Oshii and Studio Pierrot were making a ‘message’ story? I should do more reading there.

Still, the themes are definitely present and expanded via inter-generational conflict as much as being driven by events around the Lunarian rebellion.

Science-fiction and action tropes do fill a lot of the short series, and although there’s time for politics too, what caught my eye (aside from the world-building) were the now ‘old-school’ visuals from both character and mechanical design – it does feel like the 1970s are very close.

But when I learnt that there were essentially two directors on Dallos, I think it became easier to see the action scenes when Oshii was clearly in charge.

Dallos is told from a few POVs. It mostly follows our hero Shun, rebel leader Dog and antagonist Alex as they struggle for control of the colony, and it doesn’t rush the story either, which is great. I guess if you’re mostly into modern animation, however, you’ll really see the age of the art.

In a way, two stories from 1966 came to mind when I finally saw Dallos – one was We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (filmed as Total Recall in 1990) and the other The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. For the latter, the production team mention it as an influence but my association with the Philip K Dick story is a little more nebulous to me – not sure I can put my finger on why.

I still really enjoyed the OVA series and my only qualm I guess, was that I think I expected a little more mysticism from the film for some reason – maybe since the ‘god’ of Dallos itself seemed to be set up that way? Still, that feel was not absent at all, but I guess I just wanted something extra.

Obviously if you’re a science-fiction fan, or curious about this pretty cool piece of anime history, or Oshii’s early work too, then you’ll probably enjoy Dallos but visually it’s not at the level of Ghost in the Shell, for instance, and I wonder if tonally, this is more the work of writer and co-director Hisayuki Toriumi?

4 Stars*

I love how huge the theme can be 🙂

*To borrow from Iridium Eye Reviews a moment – maybe remove a star if you’re not so interested in the history of anime.

And this is my third review for my A-Z Challenge 🙂

SoltyRei

SoltyRei (2006)

[Spoilers appear further below]

Two things bugged me about SoltyRei, although otherwise I really enjoyed the series – but I’ll get to those two storytelling issues in a moment.

SoltyRei has a lot of aspects that I tend to seek out in an anime; a futuristic setting, mechanised gear, even an android to go with the other science fiction tropes. It also features bounty hunting and conspiracy plotlines, and there are some moe elements that bring a fun balance, though I could see some folks making the argument that those aspects clash with the more serious bits. 

The series is quite character-driven, featuring a fairly large cast, but remaining mostly focused on Roy’s compelling struggle as a father, along with Solty’s adjustment to human society. While the large cast means certain storylines rise and fall in terms of importance and screen time, they certainly do tie together in the end.

The anime has an episodic feel in terms of cases that the unlikely pair of Roy and Solty must solve (at first), but the main storyline does come to the fore quickly enough.

Tonally, there are a lot of lighter moments (it was fun seeing Solty learn to cook for example) and while her solo-travelling arc stood out too, it’s not wholly uplifting even if it was among my favourite episodes. Above all other elements, I think Roy figuring out how to take emotional risks once more was the thing that hooked me most. There you can see the classic ‘detective with a troubled past’ trope, but I’m one to dig anything vaguely film noir 🙂

I’m about to get to my two main issues, which will include spoilers, but firstly, the fan-service can present another drinking game opportunity if you’re watching the direction. (Partial spoilers right below too).

Before they kill off a few of the female characters, Gonzo and AIC never miss an opportunity to get the girls into showers, baths or pools. And if you do need to get drunk (to borrow that game from Irina) just take a drink each time there’s a low-angle panning up Rose’s legs or a shot framed to ensure Solty’s shapely butt is visible.

Okay! To the problems I mentioned earlier – I think I’m extremely forgiving when it comes to most shows, and I know that not everything I consider a fault is a deal-breaker (or even a problem) for each viewer, but I wanted to raise two character issues:

  • Our villain, Ashley Lynx has a reason for being what he is, but that information is rushed in at the end, in time for his death scene. It seemed like this was done to evoke some last-minute sympathy – but I didn’t care about him so it didn’t land for me. Had some of this info been delivered earlier, I think his ending would have packed a punch – because there’s some sincere tragedy going on, but it ends up tied to a generic villain that doesn’t get the chance to be much more.
  • Rose is presented in quite an inconsistent way for such a vital character. Her motivations are both contradictory and/or hidden from the audience at different times, making her actions seem bizarre instead of mysterious. And while things were half-explained retroactively, during the period where the audience was kept in the dark, I lost some interest in her future. (This obviously lessened the impact of the ending episodes for me).
  • Half the time, as I watched her playing at villain I was thinking you have no reason to do this and you’re far too smart to fall for this tosh. And I remember thinking those things because previous episodes had taken some pains to establish Rose as clever and as having her own stubborn moral code. When she went ‘off-script’ for no reason, I didn’t find it intriguing, I found it an example of poor charactarisation – not the choice to have her essentially switch sides, but what I thought was a failure to present her motivation onscreen.

Now having spent all that time attacking the way important info about Rose was presented, I’ll also say that I reckon some things about her certainly are foreshadowed well.

Elsewhere, there were enough hints of upcoming things to keep me satisfied in that department overall, but for the anime as an entire story, I’m not sure whether my rating below is slightly reactionary.

For instance, I thought SoltyRei really was ‘great’… save for those two flaws, and so maybe my disappointment drives it down to ‘good’? I dunno, what’s in a rating, right?

(Again, the general sci-fi elements and Roy’s struggle were real highlights for me, in spite of the issues I mentioned above; in fact, those things rise above my doubts about the charactarisation in the end anyway – and there’s a great final episode too.)

3.5 Stars

Casshern Sins (キャシャーン SINS) (Extra Post)

Here I wanted to share a few more images and go over two things that I mentioned last post, in a tiny bit more detail. It seemed best not to have that post drag on any longer, and so this second post might be better.

First, I’ll include an example of the fight sequence style, second will be that ‘cracking’ effect and as it turns out there’s a “thirdly” further below too – I might just share some final random shots I liked.

So, this one is something you’ll see both Casshern and Lyuze do fairly often – leaping over enemies and tearing into them on the way down, and often wide shots aren’t the focus but instead it’s POV shots looking up.

The sequence will finish with the sliced-in-half moment, as another Redshirt robot bites the dust. (I should have included the preceding moment for this sequence, but it turns out I missed it).

These impact shots are always fun too.

For the second thing I wanted to note, a quick quote from the previous post:

(Sometimes the sharp, ‘snapping’ approach to the Ruin (for robots at least) made me wonder whether Land of the Lustrous and their shattering crystals were accidentally foreshadowed here, which was fun.)

It’s great detail but obviously these stills lack a bit of impact without motion or sound involved, but you get the idea.

And finally, just a few bits and pieces from different parts of the series with a note or two, mostly stuff I wanted to include before but again, I didn’t want that first post to run forever.

I wish this had been followed up a little more in the story.
Sometimes the colour changes to something far warmer than the usual wasteland. Elsewhere, greens are usually avoided.
This song was pretty cool, with the multi-tracked vocals by voice actress Nami Miyahara.

Not precisely the villain, but definitely one of the bad guys, Braiking Boss in his 2008 form and classic form below.

And there we go – second post on Casshern Sins completed!

One day, I’ll link back here when I’ve found and seen the 1973 series, or perhaps I’ll be able to locate the OVA from the 90s first.