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

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation (Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru)

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation (Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru) 2015

I probably made a bit of a mistake by reviewing this series a fair while after finishing it – I forgot to take notes right after too, so I’m hoping I remember things clearly nevertheless.

Beautiful Bones contains a lot of aspects I enjoy; episodic mystery, slow-reveal backstory, a clever but odd-ball lead, a bit of drama and humour too, and of course, lovely visuals. I wasn’t watching seasonal anime back in 2015 and so this was an anime I’d heard about but not seen until earlier this year.

Okay, as I sometimes do, I’m launching into dot points now, starting with a random list of things I enjoyed:

  • Sakurako and Shoutarou have a good dynamic, the mis-match adds both drama and humour with young Shoutarou having to be the responsible one at times
  • I enjoyed the specific (if morbid, I guess) forensic elements about bones
  • Gran is a stand out 🙂
  • The source of the cursed painting was a great reveal
  • Interesting to see the ‘beautiful but cruel’ character type in Sakurako softened by her obsession with osteological matters
  • Features some tough themes
  • Settings were detailed and lovely, as were objects (it’s always interesting to see just how much of budgets in other shows seem to be devoured by action sequences)

In contrast, I did have three quibbles to note:

  • Because Beautiful Bones is only one short season, the main villain never quite goes beyond “lurking menace”. Excellent set-up for a future season though… should one ever occur
  • Feels like the ED overcompensates for not being able to put heaps of fan-service in the actual show
  • In regard to the final episode – I think I like it, even though I might not have been satisfied. Sakurako’s past and present were just about converging but without enough episodes not much came of it, and so the conclusion becomes about resolving a different problem. Without spoilers, I think it still gave a sense of closure to the season but I was expecting something different.

So, should you check this series out one day?

Well, if you like any of the things I’ve mentioned further above, and if you can accept an ending that doesn’t deliver many answers, then probably yeah 😀 I’ve not seen anything else from Troyca but to me everything looks great.

Beautiful Bones is hardly an old series either, and so it’d be easy enough to find. I will add that, despite the young co-lead, the anime is obviously not aimed at younger audiences.

4 Stars



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.

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?

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2019

As with my last post, I have a few weekly write-ups starting here from back when No Guns Life was airing and so I guess I’m going to kinda summarise some of them here 😀

There’s a fair chance that if you enjoy science-fiction, action and noir then you’ll like this series and I did for sure… but I do wonder if Madhouse has any plans to keep it going. (Looks like there’s plenty of material available with Tasuku Karasuma’s manga at least).

I mention that possible third season because at the end of No Guns Life I felt that there was still far too much to be explored and I want to see more.

That’s probably the main issue I had with the series.

There’s plenty of action, some eventual backstory reveals about mostly interesting characters and of course Juzo himself was a favourite element, but I wanted a more compelling central villain. It’s clear that the Big Evil Corp (Berühren) take on that role but the episodes here are often building up and then pulling back from developing that central narrative/mystery.

And without a future season there’s not going to be any payoff/resolution for me in that respect.

Instead of expecting that, I eventually started to focus on enjoying some of the smaller arcs or character designs of the humans and Extendeds who live in the almost perpetual blue-green-grey or brown-orange-pink of the city.

What I found really interesting was Juzo and other ‘gun-head’ designs – it obviously makes them seem more impassive, and for Juzo it feeds into the ‘detective with a past’ trope but it also created an issue for comedic moments or scenes that maybe required facial expressions.

And so I thought it was fun that when any given scenario needed to show Juzo as more human, you’d end up seeing stuff reminiscent of Alphonse Elric 🙂

Elsewhere, Kronen and Mary are other fav characters and Victor definitely remains someone I’d love to see more of too but when I balance out some of episodic elements that didn’t work for me (S2E5 for example) and my fear that the beginnings of a great central storyline will be abandoned by financial pressures, then I worry.

And I worry because No Guns Life feels like 24 episodes of establishing character, setting and stakes, all of which has left me invested enough to want more of the story, and it probably won’t happen…

3 Stars  

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 12)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Okay! Another series final – this time No Guns Life wraps up and I’m left kinda desperate for a further season one day.

I feel that mostly because all 24 episodes of No Guns Life seem to be set-ups for something that cannot possible happen within 24 episodes.

There’s just so much more story! And I fear I won’t get a chance to see it. (Especially because I don’t have the shelf space to start collecting the manga, and thus my hope is that Madhouse green lit more.)

Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy this ending episode as much as I’d hoped – but that doesn’t mean I thought it was bad, not at all. (It was interesting to get some backstory on Pepper for instance).

And there was a bit of welcome focus on comedic stuff and the switch in colour palette was refreshing, but the finale wasn’t an explosive finish, even if I appreciated an important reveal in there.

Still, as I said before – I really do want more No Guns Life one day.

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 11)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

After a fairly large recap for an intro, and a bit of recapping within that kinda impacted the pacing for me, the fight between Juzo and Seven kicks up a notch or two.

At the same time, there was a little widening of the focus to bring in other players too, and to give Pepper a chance to make a mess of things.

Maybe there are a few cracks in Seven’s resolve too, enough to weaken him – but I think the most important thing I picked up with episode was basically confirmation that those two have essentially gone rogue.

Not much else that I think needs highlighting for me, other than my feeling that the over-sized arms as weapons could be a touch comical… but then, is it really any more odd-ball than guns as heads?

Nope 😀

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 10)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

So, I didn’t get the big confrontation I was hoping for on Kronen’s behalf, but I’m sure he’ll be in action again soon.

Instead, aside from a bit more of the struggle between Juzo and Seven (and a quick check-in with Mary) it’s mostly a long flashback where we meet Juzo’s Hands and see events that made him who he is today.

As the audience is meant to be, I think most of us have been quite curious about certain details in his past and so I was glued to the screen here. Feels like my old (obvious) prediction that the Big Bad was not going to be dealt with this season has been accurate.

I guess it’s Seven instead, who will be the main antagonist after all, which is, in a way, a little disappointing. He’s no Victor for one, but then, he (and Pepper) are at least more interesting than Cunningham 😀

Gangsta

Gangsta (2015)

Mafia-style stories can be an incredibly hard sell for me in many ways, since I tend not to enjoy the idea of glamorising career-criminals via entertainment media.

But Gangsta isn’t a straight-up crime drama either because there is a little something more going on – namely the human experiment angle, that and the fact that one of the lead characters is deaf, which was a welcome change from typical action heroes.

Having said that, this series still features vaguely super-hero style fights at times, so typical action conventions definitely dominate. Nic and Worick are memorable leads, and while they don’t get a chance to be fully developed, I think it’s clear they were going to get even more dimensions – even, or especially – Alex, who does function as more than eye-candy sometimes.

The villains are fairly strong too and the setting is distinctive – or at least, I enjoyed its general Italian-look for sure. I think you could argue that the super-human ‘Tag’ aspect to the world-building was going to escalate far too quickly for the pacing of a story that definitely needed more than one short season to tell. For me, that meant that some of the action-sequences and associated tension tapered off because characters seemed a little overpowered for so early on.   

But basically, I was pretty happy to see something a little different in this unfinished story from Manglobe and Shūkō Murase. I know that Gangsta sometimes comes with a little asterisk next to it, as ‘the series that no-one liked and which killed Manglobe’ but of course, that’d be a little simplistic. Manglobe certainly did close up shop [a few details here] and some of the vitriol directed to this short series is due to the ‘ending’.

And if there had been a second season, this would be a cracker of a cliff-hanger… but alas, it was not to be.

Like the majority of anime out there, there is a manga luckily, and so if you wanted to keep reading to catch more of the storyline then you’re all good. However, as usual with me, I’ve written about the anime since that’s all I’ve got 🙂

4 Stars*

*This might be me being my usual generous, uncritical self, but since the Gangsta anime is a truly unfinished story, I wanted to add this note about the lack of resolution, since I’m certainly on record as saying that endings are vital.

The selective colouring in the opening I liked a lot.
There’s probably a touch more sexualised stuff and violence than in typical shounen anime, so it’s more firmly in the seinen age-bracket.

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 9)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Yes! Kronen is back 😀

The action is escalating, as are the stakes and risks too, so I’m still enjoying this half of the season. I’m also expecting the narrative to check in with Mary soon, though we’re mid-battle at the end of the episode.

A few surprises in episode nine, and some handled… differently than others, but overall the tension is rising toward that big finish I’ve been craving. I’d really like to see a few characters drawn into the struggle more directly for the next few episodes, chief among them Victor.

As I feel like I’ve said many times before, I hope this does get a second season so a few scores can be settled, especially things that I don’t think there will be time for right now.