A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Three)

As I mentioned before, I’m a bit behind in terms of posting a list in each quarter, so I’ll probably push the final entry back to December, perhaps.

And also just like before, you can click here to check a preamble and reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose for quarter one, and there’s also a note about the single change from quarter two here.

So, again – let’s see if anything has changed! (If so, it’s generally because I’ve changed my mind about something older or finally watched something I hadn’t seen before).

I will probably re-post this bit each time though:

  • I’m focusing on TV shows here
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate something
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to see the 1990s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will generally be shorter than this one

The List – Quarter One

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Two

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Three

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


No change!

Where I have made changes is in this larger ‘just outside’ section – a few additions, one of which I want to highlight being ‘The Great Passage’ which I loved, and surely, it has to be one of the few shows out there about making a dictionary?


Outside the List (for now)

This (unranked) list includes shows that I reckon are pretty close/could well sneak into the top ten one day. Again, the longer I do this, the more I’m finding a lot of this process relates to mood as much as anything else. I still suspect that this is where most of the changes will occur over the years.

Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Ghost Hunt (2006)
The Great Passage (2016)
Dororo (2019)
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004)
Vision of Escaflowne (1996)


I fear that I must now resort to creating a Top 50 far sooner than I’d hoped – I also fear the mere thought of a Top 50 😀

Again, I’ve love to know if you think I’ve missed a great show! (Doubtless I have) and so maybe I’ll be able to include it in my list for future viewing… especially if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally. (I’m curious to see whether some of my A-Z Challenge titles might eventually get into this list too).

Thanks for reading!

Too old, huh? (Pt 2)

So, I keep saying ‘maybe I am too old’ but I might not have addressed that properly in the last post.

Part 1 of this discussion-thing/thought-experiment/rambling mess was optimistic, and I’ll try to stay that way now. But at times, I can’t help feeling like my younger self might be wondering – why do you still watch my stuff, old man?

Considering that my life is pretty far removed from that of most protagonists in a lot of anime, what exactly am I relating to with their struggles? Again, it comes back to empathy, I hope, rather than some half-realised Peter Pan Complex, lol.

For instance, I know it’s currently in vogue to dump on millennials for ‘joining’ a Harry Potter house, but I never saw that urge as very different from claiming to be a Gemini or proudly declaring oneself as a fan of a particular sports team.

I mean, spot the difference, right? You learn the names and vital stats of all those involved in the thing you like, you dress up in costume/team colours when you attend the relevant events and you cheer and express excitement, you share opinions with like-minded folks… it’s all the same.

Yet I can’t seem to shake the spectre of doubt – this interest of mine is considered the domain of younglings.

Sure, I teach film analysis and I write about this pop culture element I mostly love, but is that just me cloaking my enjoyment with professional trappings? “Oh, I don’t just watch anime, I teach and write about it too, blah, blah, blah.”

Not sure I’m getting closer to figuring it out, precisely.

It might all be that perceived societal pressure, pressure that chips away at my mind in the background, it might just be the stories that are most often told, or the ones that are super-popular right now haven’t changed much, but I have…

But let me try to return to a more positive frame. Sure, I don’t have to face the same problems as younger folks, and so of course some things won’t speak to me in those shows, but again, not everything has to.

And you’ve probably read a review from me here at the Heap where I’ve either:

a) complained a bit when an anime is once more set in a school.

or b) been happy when an anime was set somewhere other than a school.

Now, these are two phrasings for the same thought, but one is just a little more mean-spirited than the other.

And of course, I do want to see stories about adults too – maybe that’s part of why I’m enjoying No Guns Life so much, but once again, I enjoy plenty of shounen and shoujo and coming of age stories as well. One isn’t better than the other for me, I just want more of both, perhaps.

In fact, I guess I crave a market where stories ‘aimed’ at folks younger than me exist alongside stories about people dealing with the problems and joys of being around my age, or older. Or younger. I want to continue to see stories from all kinds of people and places, because I’ve seen plenty of both and I’m always happy to see more of both for that matter 😀

Sometimes, and usually this comes from fans who seem to be my age and older, I see complaints about how ‘everything is the same’ now, or there’s ‘too much [insert genre name here]’.

Well, whether there’s ‘too much’ of one thing right now is a judgement call and one that I won’t make because I’m simply not up to date with everything produced, but nor would I be comfortable saying that. If heaps of people enjoy a certain genre, cool, go for it! Of course more of that thing will then be produced – sub-genres thrive and then wither in cycles.

And if I want something different, I just have to put a bit of effort in and look for it – after all, there’s around 70 years of animation from multiple countries available if I care to seek it out.

Tired of my rambling, yet? 😀

Okay, having subjected you to two posts worth of this topic now, I will say that there are themes, tropes and settings that I’ve seen many, many times and which won’t be exciting to me.

Especially in shounen or portal fantasy. And so I know what Oshii is saying there, it can be hard to get into a new series if that new series is (even a fun) re-hash of familiar elements. That’s what happens when you age – you see lots of stuff, lol.

But where I disagree with what I cannot be certain he is truly implying is the possible idea that because plenty of new anime is aimed at people younger than him (and me) that such a thing is a problem. (For me, it’s a problem if less variety occurs in the industry, but not if a certain thing remains popular).

Did I even come to any sort of conclusion? I don’t think so.

I feel older because I am getting older but whether I’m heading for my own Oshii moment… maybe not just yet.

Too old, huh? (Pt 1)

Mamoru Oshii is one of the giants of the anime world, and certainly known internationally too, since most folks into anime or film are at least aware of Ghost in the Shell for one, even if they haven’t seen it.

Now, over the years it does seem that he’s drifted quite comfortably toward ‘old man yells at cloud’ territory at times… and while I definitely disagree with a few of his aspersions when it comes to other directors, I do wonder about this 2016 quote:

“I’m not watching anything. There are zero titles I’m interested in. I mean, I’m over 65. Trying to get into anime aimed at young people is impossible. That’s true for Japanese films in general, not just anime. Everything is made for a young audience.”

I certainly can’t speak to the veracity of the translation, nor the state of cinema in Japan, but I think some of what’s there is a fairly straightforward comment that partially rings true for me.

And it’s clear to see the hyperbole in his claims: ‘everything is made for a young audience’ etc etc, but the issue of age is something I’ve been wondering about for the last decade, especially in regards to myself. I’m still not sure I have fully satisfactory answers either. (Although, one thing that is interesting perhaps, is to contrast the comment Oshii made with his upcoming project Vlad Love.*)

So, am I too old for most anime?

I do wonder. Admittedly, Oshii has a little over 25 years on me, but I’m not a young adult anymore, not by any stretch.

And it’s true that the majority of current shows are not aimed at older folks, but then, nor were shows of the past, for that matter. And when I was in the target audience, it was like an endless buffet! Oh, I also wanted to note that ‘aimed’ is a word that relates surely more to marketing, rather than audience reception.

That’s an important distinction, I hope.

Because even if a show is ‘aimed’ at a certain audience, that doesn’t mean other audiences should not be expected to participate.

All I have to do is think of a film like Aladdin or My Neighbour Totoro.

Each movie could be considered a ‘kids film’ but I enjoyed those (or similar films) when I was in that age bracket at 12 etc, and enjoyed them in the years after, all the way up to today. The implication that I should have already abandoned supposedly childish things like ‘wonderment’ and ‘happy endings’ is sad, and probably even a sign of bitterness.

(Doubly important for a writer not to give those things up, I reckon!)

Now, I haven’t been told those things personally – but I do believe that society, in general, loves phrases like “act your age”. And it’s those kind of ‘parent voice’ phrases that I think have long-infected discourse around the entertainment we choose.

[…Hmmm, I’m getting the feeling that I could easily make this post way longer than it already is, but I’ll try to rein myself in a bit! Maybe split it into two. Because while this is meant to be a discussion-style post (one of my goals for this year) I don’t want to hit you with an endless wall of text either… but it seems I do have a bit more to say :D]

Despite my declarations above, I definitely feel that I am essentially ‘too old’ for some anime… but more on that later, perhaps.

Instead, I want to address something I’ve inferred from Oshii’s statement, and which he may not have meant at all. But it seems to suggest that the anime focus on youth is a problem if you’re older. That you’re ‘locked out’, perhaps. But what precisely is ‘lost’ for me as an older chap, if the most popular, current shows speak very clearly to teens and young adults?

Nothing at all, if other shows are also being made.

Which they are.

And plenty of entertainment had that youth focus in the past and it will do so in the future.

And I can also watch those shows if I like, even as an older viewer. I can do it and perhaps remember being a teen, and remember going through that kinda awful, frustrating, sometimes exciting time in my life. It allows me to at least reflect upon whatever growth I’ve managed, but also, I find that it’s another method to keep me in touch with my empathy.

For instance, if a character in an anime (or any medium) is struggling or succeeding, whether that character is a kid, a teen, a young adult or an elderly person, then I should be able to see that on the screen and understand, and not denigrate or belittle those struggles, and also to feel happy for them when they experience triumph.

Even if they’re fictional creations I should feel that. And again, not just as a writer, but I hope I can continue to do that as a person too. I hope what we maybe all hope – that life doesn’t beat that optimism and empathy out of us!

So, there’s a Part 2 coming but for now – how about you? Do you feel like you’re getting ‘too old’ for anime? For certain genres? For certain tropes?

[Part 2 Here].

*I should add, it can be easy to see ‘change’ and mistake it for ‘hypocrisy’ and so I hesitate to guess at the apparent incongruence between these two observations.


A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Two)

So, I’m a little late on the ‘second’ quarter here, but it’s still the second entry in this little ‘series’ of posts, at least 🙂

If you click here you can see a preamble and some reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose for quarter one… but let’s see if anything has changed! (If it has changed, it’s generally because I’ve changed my mind about something older or finally watched something I hadn’t seen before).

I will re-post this bit though:

  • I’m focusing on TV shows here
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate something
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to see the 1990s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will generally be shorter than this one

The List – Quarter One

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Two

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


So, there was a change 🙂

I’ve replaced just one title, but there are a few extras further below as well. But first:

9. Kids on the Slope (2012)

Kids on the Slope is a superb drama with an excellent romantic subplot and a soundtrack that should satisfy most jazz fans, especially if you like the Cool and Bob sub-genres. I loved it and look forward to watching the show again – especially for all the little references here and there, from character design to album covers etc

It’s also basically historical fiction I guess, or at least a period piece (in that it focuses on the 1960s in Japan) so that’s always a plus for me. Like most folks who’ve seen anime, I also really enjoyed the fluidity to the musical performances, achieved via rotoscoping.


Outside the List (for now)

This (unranked) list includes shows that are pretty close/could well sneak in. As I go through the months, I’m finding a lot of this process is based on mood as much as anything else, AND, wondering if this is where most of the action will be over the years? (I’ve certainly added more here than into the Quarter Two Top Ten.)

Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Ghost Hunt (2006)


Based on my missed ‘deadline’ of May for this post, I’ll try to get the third quarter post done sooner, and once more see if anything has changed but if I don’t get a chance to see a lot of new things by September, it might not look very different.

As before, let me know if you think I’ve missed a great show! (Doubtless I have) and so maybe I’ll be able to include it in my upcoming watching if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally. (I’m curious to see whether some of my A-Z Challenge titles might eventually get into this list too).

Thanks for reading!

A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter One)

Okay, so that’s my somewhat opaque way of saying that I want to start posting an ‘ever-changing’ top ten list this year and maybe beyond?

There’s no special reason to do this really – I think it’ll serve two purposes for me; Self-Reflection and Fun. I do think that as bloggers and audiences we tend to crave the act of listing, of categorising and ranking, so I’m giving in to that need today!

Obviously, there’s no weight at all behind these choices (other than that which I give to them for myself) but I’ll also note a couple of other things quickly:

  • I’m focusing on TV shows here
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate something
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to see the 1990s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will generally be shorter than this one

With all that out of the way, let’s go!

Starting from the bottom for maximum ‘suspense’ let’s kick off with one that might be familiar to recent visitors here:

10. Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)

One of my favourite ‘adventure’ anime but one which suffers from a few serious flaws – some that are, for many folks, unforgivable. I love the blend of Miyzaki and pre-Evangelion darkness that this series features. For me, its strengths manage to outweigh the problems.

9. Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)

There’s something exceptionally fun about an RPG coming to the screen as animation and this is jam-packed full of fantasy tropes and expected big stakes. I also love the direction here, with the use of super-dramatic split screen, almost comic-book panels.

8. Neon Genesis (1995)

Ah, the famous deconstruction of the mecha genre. An undeniable classic that perhaps gets as much attention for its polarising ending as it does for the other aspects. I can see this jumping up and down the list but perhaps not leaving anytime soon.

7. Steins;Gate (2011)

Science-fiction, time-travel, angst, detailed settings and even a bit of romance – lots of ticks here. This one had me glued to the storyline indeed, despite nearly dropping it due to Rintaro’s theatrics.

6. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)

I tend to really enjoy historical fiction when it comes to film – and Moribito brings together aspects of action, costume drama, fantasy and a focus on character that I found exceptionally enjoyable. Still holding out a bit of a forlorn hope that there will be another season one day.

5. Trigun (1998)

That loveable goofball, Vash. It’s a common idea that from restraint can come creativity and Trigun fits that bill for me with the pacifist gunslinger approach. Gunsmoke is also an interesting world in its own right – I can imagine this rising up through the ranks when I watch it again.

4. The Big O (1999)

Slowly unfolding mystery in an unsettling but also familiar city, androids, revolving villains, a dramatic multi-genre OST, Batman and James Bond nods and finally a retro-looking mecha placed within a very 20th Century aesthetic – the mash-up is so good.

3. Mushi-Shi (2006)

I didn’t watch this during its original run but I’m glad I finally saw this one, and to quote from my review: Mushi-Shi is full of fable-like episodes that seem to draw on equal parts Japanese folklore and creator Yuki Urushibara’s fantastic imagination, exploring the lives of regular and remarkable people in an almost-Edo-period-setting that includes lots of supernatural elements mixed in with the natural world.

2. Ergo Proxy (2006)

This series does such a great job of revealing true cruelty from humanity – though not via an obvious ‘gore-based’ way common the crime genre perhaps. I won’t spoil how I think the series achieves this but I thought about Ergo Proxy often after finishing it, it has a memorable cast and captivating world-building, and is a grimy but not hopeless science fiction series that seems equally enamoured of philosophy.

1. Cowboy Bebop (1998)

Cue complete lack of shock from my number one choice, right? I haven’t reviewed this series here yet but I did do a post on how I feel that this one is far more than a ‘gateway series’ and will save more gushing for the future. Basically, I don’t know if I’ve seen a show I enjoy more just yet.


The Current List

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


Now, below this list are some shows that are currently knocking on the door, perhaps able to take the place of probably half of the current top ten, depending on my mood, I guess.

Next quarter, one of these might have snuck up the ladder a few rungs but there’s also a chance that something I’m currently watching right now might do so too. For instance, depending on how Golden Kamuy turns out, it just might get in there.

I’d also better note that two of the entries below (Haikyuu!! and Pyscho-Pass) are perhaps subject to ‘decay’ for a lack of a better word, in that, if they continue on for twelve seasons beyond the bounds of the original/main story then maybe I won’t place them so highly in this obviously personal top ten list of mine 😀

Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)


At this stage, I’ll update this somewhat fluid list in May and see if anything has actually changed.

Let me know if you think I’ve missed something stellar (spoiler: I have) and maybe I’ll be able to include it in my upcoming watching if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally.

Thanks for reading!

Real Neat Blog Award

Firstly, thanks to Mia over at 9tailedkitsune.com for the nomination 🙂

I haven’t been involved in a blog-tag-chain-nom for many moons – not since I used to be a poet with my old blog, so it’s nice to get back into a community!

So, as many of you will already know, here’s the structure – I’ll answer Mia’s great questions now and then write up some of my own below, and finally nominate a few folks and see who else is able to jump on board.

1. Is piracy killing or helping the anime industry?

Harming for sure, I reckon – especially now that legal streaming is an option, making anime consumption about 1000% cheaper than it was decades ago. And (as I think we all know) the less income a studio sees from any given series, the less chance there is of getting a continuation of that series. (And of course, I want folks to financially support the artists they love.)

2. What anime are you planning to watch in 2020?

Gurren Lagan – it’s one of the more significant gaps in my knowledge of the Gainax filmography, so I definitely have to remedy that this year. For me, I don’t think I’ll enjoy it as much as Neon Genesis or Nadia but that’s truly not important; and I shouldn’t be comparing them too much, and especially not before I’ve actually seen the series!

3. What is your favorite anime quote and why?

This was hard! I had to go back to an old fav, Cowboy Bebop. I nearly went with Jet’s lesson from Toys in the Attic but instead, I’ll stay with him but switch to a different episode:

Men only think about their past right before death, as if they were searching frantically for proof they were alive.

– Jet, Cowboy Bebop

I think it’s one of my favourite quotes because I like how it illustrates something about his character – I see him as someone who looks back a lot, but hides it too. And for someone who is (rightfully) hard on Spike about running from the past, Jet also maybe sets an example throughout the series re: confronting that past. The quote itself (and the preceding mini-monologue) also works as clear foreshadowing of something that’s been foreshadowed for pretty much the entire series.

4. Who is your favorite anime couple?

Edward and Winry come to mind first if we’re going for romantic couples, though I always liked the way Jean and Nadia end up complimenting each other across the course of Nadia Secret of Blue Water too.

5. What is your favorite video game?

It’s tough narrowing these down to a single choice 😀

So, I think I’ll cheat here and mention a favourite video game from a specific console, which should help me narrow down the field… a little, lol. I’ll stick with the Sega Megadrive firstly, and then skip over some classic games like Sonic 2 and Streets of Rage 3 and choose Phantasy Star IV.

Phantasy Star IV was one of the first few JRPGs I played and it had everything you’d expect from the genre; turn-based battles, distinctive characters and long storylines but also an interesting ‘comic book’ panel approach to cut scenes, which I loved. There was also a macro feature you could use in battle and that was an amazing, time-saving perk that I hope more modern games revitalise.

6. If you could meet only 3 anime characters IRL (in real life) who would they be?

I reckon I’ll accidentally leave out someone that I’d love to chat with and come back later and want to change my mind, but here goes:

Ergo Proxy

This would actually be hard work, meeting Ergo Proxy, but it would be at the very least, fascinating to meet someone so vast… of course, I’d only want to do so under strict conditions I think.

Vash The Stampede

I think Vash would be a really fun guy to be around 🙂

Nausicaa

One of Miyazaki’s heroine traits is to have them transform adversaries into allies via kindness and that’s always impressed me about Nausicaa, so it’d be fun to meet her and maybe ask her to teach me how to ride the Mēve, though I’d probably end up chickening out.

7. Do you recall the 3 worst anime you have ever seen?

Not too well – but I have (like all of us no doubt) abandoned more than a few over the years: 7 Seeds, Coppelion and The Rising of the Shield Hero come to mind. Based on my posts about them, I think it was a mixture of predictability and what felt like a lack of tension within the early episode(s).


Okay! So here’s my questions – I’ve tried to come up with a mix of ones I think might be short or long answers but also, just a warning that the first one might kinda push everyone into spoiler territory:

  • 1. If you could tweak the ending to any series or film, what would you do?
  • 2. If you could replace any world leader with an anime character, who would you choose?
  • 3. What is your all time favourite anime action sequence? (doesn’t have to be a fight, of course)
  • 4. Which anime (film/series/OVA) did you find yourself thinking about long after it ended?
  • 5. What would you say is your favourite anime OST (or just one song perhaps) and why?
  • 6. Who is your favourite director/writer and what do you want to see from them in the future?
  • 7. Who are your top 3 character designers?

The Rules

  • 1. Display the logo.
  • 2. Thank the bloggers for the award.
  • 3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
  • 4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
  • 5. Ask them 7 questions.

And now, nominating any one below who’s able to get involved (hopefully you haven’t been tagged too many times already), with thanks for being extra welcoming to me over these first with months of posting my reviews!

(Hope I didn’t miss anyone – also, can I tag someone back? If so, I’d tag 9tailedkitsune and get to seven :D)

Wolf’s Rain (Urufuzu Rein)

Wolf’s Rain (Urufuzu Rein) 2004

With so much of the Cowboy Bebop team involved here I felt exactly zero seconds of doubt in terms of whether I’d enjoy Wolf’s Rain.

Of course, that shouldn’t be enough by itself – execution matters, right? But Wolf’s Rain definitely works and it’s a great series despite the inclusion of four recap episodes. And while recaps can obviously be useful both from a production standpoint and for the viewers, I was thrilled to be able to skip them 😀 (Supposedly the episodes had to happen due to the production delays re: the SARS scare or perhaps more likely(?), just a temporary budget problem and Bones didn’t want to ‘waste’ the slots they’d already lined up during broadcast).

Well, whatever the reason – you can safely skip the recap episodes and still enjoy a pretty ace show. It covers a lot of ground, dystopian science-fiction, fantasy, action and romance, and looks great, though viewers raised on modern anime might consider the animation dated – though to my eye, it’s pretty much as great as Bebop.

To sum up the story in an incredibly short (and unnuanced) way, Wolf’s Rain follows a small pack of wolves (and the humans who help and hinder them) as they search for a legendary Paradise.

It’s a nice simple premise that allows the ‘quest’ element to shine through, as the wolves slowly come together and learn to trust and work with each other, hounded at times by human hunter Quent, or the menacing all-powerful Nobles, or even their own internal conflicts.

(I especially love this version of the artwork for the physical release)

If you’re familiar with Keiko Nobumoto’s writing style then you can expect a certain amount of sacrifice and tragedy even, so get ready for the heart strings to be manipulated throughout – especially toward the end, though the epilogue should please some viewers at least. You can also probably expect a few surprises about your favourite characters or even the villains, some of which are foreshadowed really nicely too… but I don’t want to spoil any of them here!

Another aspect I really enjoyed was Yoko Kanno’s OST – which is overall really quite lush and orchestral, and one of the recurring themes I especially liked:

Opener Stray shows her ability to once again work with typically western pop sounds, with that 1980s-era Genesis feel to the song, and where the chameleon that is Steve Conte provides another great vocal (with more Tim Jensen lyrics, to reunite the classic Cowboy Bebop musical team).

I know some folks do consider this series ‘slow’ (and even at times dismissive of some its background plot-threads) but I didn’t have that problem myself, nor did I really focus much on the allegorical aspects re: Christianity, they didn’t add to the series nor distract me, as they’re pretty subtle – it’s not like Neon Genesis for example, where it’s very upfront.

With a series like Wolf’s Rain I think the main aspect I really appreciated (aside from the characters and mythology it built, and everything I’ve mentioned above of course) was the fact that it was an original idea (though perhaps that word is a misnomer here) as opposed to being an adaptation, or being set in a school or having only teen leads, which is a nice change compared to a lot of anime.

5 Stars  

(If you’ve never seen this and you do give it a shot, you’ll probably recognise Mamoru Miyano’s vocie (who plays lead wolf Kiba) as ‘Light’ from Death Note or ‘Ling Yao’ in FMA: Brotherhood or maybe where I realised I’d heard him before, as ‘Rintarō Okabe’ in Steins;Gate.)

Sirius the Jaeger (Shiriusu Shiriusu za Yēgā)

Sirius the Jaeger (Shiriusu Shiriusu za Yēgā) 2018

I’m not going to claim to be well-versed in the vampire sub-genre of anime, though I’ve seen a few of them over the years and the ‘exterminate all vampires’ theme is a pretty classic one – though it’s played out by our main character Yuliy in an almost dispassionate way during Sirius the Jaeger.

There’s a chance that if this one didn’t have such a great 1930s aesthetic I might not have been hooked at first, though the eventual main conflict between our MC and his brother kept me going once it developed. That aspect of the storyline was great, though in thirteen episodes the two might not have had enough screen time together, something I also wish that the rest of Yuliy’s team had been afforded because in a way, the show seems to promise an ensemble cast but doesn’t quite go that way.

Despite those and a few other shortcomings, I still finished and enjoyed the show and really enjoyed a lot of the character designs too, especially the Professor and Mikhail, and thought that most of action sequences were pretty ace – it was especially interesting to me that we see a three-section staff as a weapon, a nice change from the usual sword/gun approach.

3 Stars

Meet the main villain – and slight homage to ‘Hellsing’?

Fractale (Furakutaru)

Fractale had some interesting concepts and nice animation… but really wildly inconsistent tone and approach to some of the themes.

Fractale (Furakutaru)
2011

At times there were nice dashes of humour (and you can see the fingerprints of Laputa and Nadia Secret of Blue Water here) but the flickering from violent to moé elements, to super-creepy then high-spirited adventure, and then philosophical… it was really jumping around too much for me.

I have read that director Yutaka Yamamoto (the guy who has been quoted as saying adult anime fans who were obsessed were ‘handicapped’) claimed that he wanted to “overthrow the ‘moé anime Yamamoto Yutaka’ image” and it seems the director felt pressure to do just that… and maybe that’s why the series really missed the mark, for me. Supposedly he’s retiring again this year?

Anyway, I’d almost recommend Fractale for fans of those other texts I mentioned but in the end, the show didn’t pull off that true sense of adventure or the gradual reveal of the darkness – even the ultra bright colour palette seemed to clash with the more mature moments.

The series had some genuinely funny moments and I did like a lot of the character design but in the end, too many great ideas just weren’t explored deeply enough for me, or worse, were mishandled.

2 Stars