Pet Shop of Horrors is a great example of ‘episodic’ storytelling, with its sombre tales contained neatly within each episode. There are two links between stories – Count D and his LA pet shop, and detective Leon, who is trying to uncover the truth about the place.
Aside from the cautious friendship between the two characters, the mysteries here focus on Count D’s customers and their folly.
Perhaps in time, maybe Madhouse could have built successive OVAs into a series – but that was probably never the plan. I guess also, this show isn’t ‘horror’ enough for folks who want gore and shock? And sometimes when a show doesn’t easily fit into one genre, it’s hard to sell. I dunno, I should research its reception!
But my point is (finally!) that this Pet Shop of Horrors is more like supernatural mystery more than full-on horror, and even at times, tragedy.
And while there’s a clear structure to the episodes – meet a customer to see what dangerous creature D sells them, then watch that customer struggle with their choices, there’s enough variety with mermaids, rats, serpents and kirin, and the characters, that I enjoyed each tale.
It was also fun to see what felt like a nod to Gremlins (but may not have been, of course) re: Count D’s rules about his caring for his pets.
Finally, the question of whether and/or how the customers invariably broke those rules was where most of the horror came into play, and depending on whether they were meant to be sympathetic characters, so too, the tragedy.
This feels like a somewhat forgotten OVA from the late 1990s now, but I liked it a lot.
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.
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.
Moody stuff from this reboot of the 1973* anime; a bleak, quiet series that still has a steady stream of battles but which divided fans upon release.
I know that changing the tone (and also canonical story elements) with a reboot can be risky, but without having seen the original, I basically accepted the anime ‘as is’, though I could see the influence of the past on the character design for sure.
But it’s time to get to the premise – which is, the overpowered robot Casshern wanders a wasteland that is falling further into ruin, a ruin that he created, but cannot remember. On top of this, nearly everyone wants to kill him because they believe it will save them from the relentless decay.
It’s a grim story full of desperate folks, shown in shadow or washed out colours, contrasted by the brightness of a few key characters, mostly Ringo. I was pretty much enchanted, which is an odd word perhaps, considering what I’ve just described, but I was hooked by the visuals and also the need for Casshern to succeed, to make things better.
Earlier in the review, I mentioned that there were a lot of battles but it’s not precisely an action-heavy series. In addition to the destruction of many, many robots, the anime features an equal or higher share of silences, wandering, or characters facing off with their stares as much as anything else. It’s dramatic, and that drama is matched by the direction or at least, shot composition, with all the extreme close-ups being fish-eyed, and plenty of silhouette shots too.
More, the drama continues via the stylised, at times samurai-like combat, which ranges from ‘single slash’ to ‘slow-motion-acrobatic’. I think it’s very much about maintaining the graceful aesthetic that the slender characters posses. On a vaguely related not, it’s interesting that Lyuze has less of the ‘70s vibe of others, and more a 2000s ‘urban’ costume.
Time to switch to dot points, I think:
Staying with the action sequences a moment, many are quick, to show Casshern’s dominance, but the first struggle against Dio is great, it had the most tension for me – more so than their final encounter.
Luna is a pretty great villain, an extremely selfish thing that operates almost on reactionary whim, which makes her a fantastic false prophet in a way.
Ringo is almost unbearably bright and cute – and thus very welcome, a very necessary character that brings balance, I reckon.
One of my favourite characters is Dune, but I have a bit of trivia instead of a note about the character. I found it interesting that same voice actor is behind both Dune and Akoes – but more so, it is the criminally underrated Yūto Nakano, whom I instantly recognised as ‘Ginko’ from Mushi-Shi.
Sometimes the sharp, ‘snapping’ approach to the ruin (for robots) made me wonder whether Land of the Lustrous and their shattering crystals were accidentally foreshadowed here, which was fun.
Character design was a real stand out for me across the series – there’s the extreme grace of the key robots like Casshern, Dio, Leda and Lyuze etc, but the ‘redshirt’ robots are far blockier, far more 70s but in a different way. Sometimes, I got a Code Geass feel too, especially due to the prominence of triangles, and with some of the more insectoid looks.
There’s an episode for Lyuze that’s kinda odd, but I think I see mostly what it was going for with her internal struggle.
Across the whole of Casshern Sins, the episodic wandering half feels like it contains more of my favourite moments, like those with singer Janice or Margo the painter perhaps.
Because it’s ultimately a dystopian show, there’s that loss of ‘humanity’ which turns the desperate into the animalistic, and really adds to the bleakness. However, when I think about contrasting scenes with bright, more vivid colours (often featuring flowers and general cuteness) these moments are often undercut by the menace of fear – my worry for Ringo or other innocents.
And further, there’s a fantastically melancholy soundtrack, which is beautiful but has a similar function to underscore the threat of the ruin, the transient nature of everything in Casshern’s world.
Transience is definitely a key theme, and how different characters deal with that knowledge, whether it’s a more gentle approach like Ohji or a more pitiful – and probably contemptible one – like with Leda.
To finish at last, I want to mention the ending – because Casshern Sins is definitely about robots fighting, but it’s also a redemption quest that doesn’t quite work out the way I was expecting, which was great.
There are a few ‘final’ fights in those last episodes but the real climax is actually Casshern’s promise to Luna, which I won’t spoil, but it’s an extremely satisfying close to the anime’s theme, even if it isn’t an all-guns blazing conclusion.
* One day I’d like to compare the two eras, especially because I think it’ll be a stark contrast.
[Turns out I have more than one post in mind for Casshern Sins, so I’ll link it here but it’s mostly because I took too many screencaps (as usual!). In the post, I’ll go over a few things I mention here, I think, like the ‘shatter effect’ and some of the combat or small things I didn’t include here.]
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.
For a while there I was on a real supernatural binge but I soon shifted to quite the nostalgia trip, hurling myself down memory lane.
So far, that has involved watching a lot of 80s and 90s anime but more specifically, a lot of coming of age things. Last month that included Kidson the Slope and Almost Famous and more recently, I’ve finished Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad).
Here’s the premise from wikipedia:
[Beck] tells the story of a group of teenagers who form a rock band and their struggle to fame, focusing on 14-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka, who until meeting guitar prodigy Ryusuke Minami was an average teen with a boring life.
And things for Koyuki definitely do get more interesting – he goes through all the classic coming-of-age storytelling markers; love, betrayal, doubt, loss, jobs and success. And because he’s a nice kid, the significant musical success he achieves doesn’t leave him with a monstrous ego. (There are also plenty of scenes showing Koyuki and the band putting the work in, which is great).
Beck uses a fair amount of serial storytelling, but it is all leading to something big – it’s more the sub-plots which have that feel. And there’s a good share of school drama on hand but the music and interpersonal relationships within the band take more of a front seat. Secondary, is probably the stop-start, romantic sub-plot, between Koyuki and Maho.
[Minor spoilers from here on in]: The episodes build really well to the big festival, where one of the more feel-good scenes happen, and it was interesting to see that uplifting conclusion undercut by the ‘break up’. Of course, there was time for another shift in the storyline but because I’d grown to care for the characters, I wished that the tour had been more ‘on screen’ rather than shown in montage, but I can see, since the anime only had one season, that the tour had to be compressed.
Time to switch to dot points:
I’ve seen a few complaints about the character design in my reading up on the series, but I think they’re distinctive, even if the animation doesn’t appear as seamless as in other shows.
Pretty much everything about the band feels spot on – players moving in and out of the group as ‘real life’ pressures kill dreams, the rivalry with other groups, the small steps with first gigs, the hard work that has to happen, it’s all there!
For those of you who dislike love triangles, Beck almost has one, but it’s more of a bittersweet realisation of change, and it gets ‘solved’ in a sensible way, which I liked.
Saitou provides most of the comedic moments – he’s hyperbolic, but has more than one dimension at least.
Since Sakuishi’s manga started in 1999 you’ll probably note a lot of references to 1990s rock and metal music throughout, and RATM fans will see more thanone clear homage too, all of which was fun to pick up on.
Koyuki might seem a little meek in some ways… and yet, he’s really not, especially if you consider the swimming pool and the Dying Breed gig for just two examples.
In terms of the sub vs dub, I think most folks will enjoy the songs more in the dub.
Related to this, I like the way that some of the English that Maho and her friends use (and her brother at times) isn’t always given subtitles in the sub. That way, if you don’t speak fluent English, just like Koyuki, then you’ll experience the same uncertainty he does, which is an important part of the romantic sub-plot.
While Leon is supposedly the film’s primary antagonist, I think the real villain just might be Ryusuke, whose secrets and tantrums often threaten band and even the lives of his friends. Seriously, he has redeeming qualities but oh boy.
And yeah, part of that last one is me wanting teens to act like well-adjusted adults, when it’s never that simple when you’re growing up; it’s hard work, and more, the mistakes the characters make fuel the story and the drama after all 🙂
Okay, I’ve likely missed some things I wanted to mention but I think that’s enough for now.
Ultimately, I doubt I can fully separate my memories and associated feelings around being young and playing in bands with the show itself – but even if you’ve never joined a rock band, Beck will probably still satisfy so long as you enjoy coming of age/teen dramas (and hard rock and certain metal sub-genres in general).
Thanks to Curtis for the reminder about this series too!
Review Count: 147(I thought I might mark my 150th review, so I’m counting down at the moment).
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?
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 😀
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.
Happy that my guess from the last episode was right, but on the other hand it was more fun to see that nasty surprise from Wachowski near the end.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m noticing the most of the more serious episodes use this blue, green, grey palette with the lighter ones going for warmer tones, though it’s not a bright show in any sense.
Despite the action and revelations here, it still feels like that ‘pause before the big finish’ I’ve been expecting.
I’m hoping for some rising tension to build quickly now, as we head to the end of the season. But maybe I’ll be extremely wrong and there’s only a really cruel cliffhanger coming, rather than a strong resolution?
I’d love for some other folks to return also, like Kronen, and he was at least mentioned here, so I have hope!
Again, I’m a bit short on stuff to say – basically, I still look forward to No Guns Life in spite of how much I grumble about what I consider to be pacing issues.
Ah, the cliffhanger – I’m on the edge of my seat a bit after having watched episode seven, both because I’m keen to see what happens next but also to see if my prediction comes true, re: Juzo and Tetsuro.
It feels like all the silence from Juzo in that final scene is meant to push me toward assuming one thing, but comparing it to the conversation he has with Tetsuro in the office and I suspect I’m meant to go with another assumption 🙂
Anyway, since this ep once again offered glimpses into Juzo’s past I was pretty satisfied and while I still feel like there’s not enough time to take on the Big Evil Corporation, I’m ready for whatever debris will fall when Juzo begins his wrecking ball act!