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?
The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando) 2019
As I’ve said before, I don’t mind being a year or two behind the pace when it comes to new shows because I tend to miss both the hype and the reactionaries.
However, I did catch on that a lot of folks enjoyed this when it came out, and I can now add myself to the ranks.
The Promised Neverland is edge-of-your-seat stuff, with memorable characters and formidable villans indeed, with a largely dormitory setting that manages to have enough variety to keep things interesting visually, but also, retain a heavy sense of claustrophobia, I reckon.
While it’d definitely be safe to say that this is a horror anime, and that it has a few other genres mixed in, I think psychological thriller/suspense is probably the one that jumps out at me. Very few characters have clear motives and it seems like everyone is, at one time or another, keeping secrets.
It was nice not to know exactly how something would play out, as well as be surprised a couple of times too. I can see how ‘Mom’ was voted as a fav villain and while I was hoping for a different resolution to her storyline, I remain excited for the delayed second season early next year.
I don’t want to write too much more, in fear of spoilers or hints, in case anyone is planning on watching The Promised Neverland but I will add that if you’re not keen on seeing kids suffer – a lot – then maybe give this a miss. Having said that, it’s not relentlessly grim… but it’s no walk in the park, that’s for sure. Cool opening theme too!
(Mamoru Kanbe also directed ‘The Perfect Insider‘ which could be said to be in the same ballpark re secrets, mystery and suspense).
Note: I should have mention before, but Sister Krone’s design is not great. She’s an actually character with a mini arc but design-wise, yeah, too evocative of minstrel shows.
Aside from that category, to my eye Ghost Hunt fits firmly in the YA genre (to use the literature terminology). There are things like the ‘absent parent’ trope, a focus on first love and our young heroes take centre-stage (in generally believable ways).
So to switch back to anime vocab for a moment, this is a great shoujo series that I wished had been given another season. Maybe like so much anime out there, was it always partially meant to be a gateway to other media forms, or maybe – more likely I think, it just wasn’t popular enough for JC Staff to afford another season? I’m finding it hard to find much in the way of contemporary reception for a ‘non-landmark’ show from 2006.
But I guess you could say that I have a soft spot for JC Staff productions, and this feels like one of their stand-outs. Based on a series of light novels from (you guessed it) the 1990s, Ghost Hunt was an anime I stumbled across during a bit of a supernatural binge I was on a fair while back now.
And I was quite happy to find Ghost Hunt, since it featured comedy and drama while being genuinely creepy at times. I wanted to take a moment to talk genre too, because it’s very much ‘suspense’ rather than horror, so depending on your tolerance, even if you don’t like shows that are meant to be scary, I’d say that Ghost Hunt is most often ‘spooky’.
Part of what keeps the tone generally lighter a lot of the time, is the focus on humour, with banter and ribbing between a large team of characters (folks who do care for each other) as they work to solve paranormal mysteries.
I think I was especially drawn to the folklore and mythology aspects too, plus the occasional historical storyline. The season only covers a handful of ‘cases’ but the pacing is taut enough that you’re pulled along through the various 3 or 4 episode-long arcs quite nicely, I reckon.
Visually, I certainly have no complaints and Mai and Kazuya are engaging characters, probably exactly what you’d expect for leads in the age-group, but the supporting cast I enjoyed as much. There’s even a Catholic priest from Australia, John Brown, who uses the Kansai dialect. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this correctly from other shows, but it seems that because the dialect is maybe a bit ‘broader’, then it is sometimes used for AU and UK characters in anime?
Not sure how good my memory/understanding is there at all – in fact, if anyone knows I’d be interested in your thoughts 🙂
To finish at last, this is a fun suspense anime with a bit of folklore, comedy and romance mixed in. Like so many series, sadly, it never gets a chance to reveal all its secrets in regards to a certain key character, since there was no follow-up season and thus you might finish it feeling a little short-changed in some ways.
Vampire fiction often brings an erotic sub-text along with the horror but Blood: The Last Vampire focuses on the dread. Not only because here, our vampire is a fury-filled avenger, but because the creatures she hunts are more like demons, perhaps. And not handsome ones, either.
Still, whichever name these bat-like fiends have, they’re to be hunted, and it’s up to Saya to do so. She’s sent into an air base and the nearby school for her hunt, posing as a student in part for maximum costume effect, I think. (Not in a fan-service way, but more to contrast between the look of a typical victim and hunter).
(In a different vampire story, Saya would probably be a first victim and then a villain – but this is more of a Buffy approach).
Anyway, getting back to this story; I loved every minute and was disappointed that the following ‘Blood’ movies and shows are not particularly related.
But if you like the genre and you find this OVA somewhere, then I reckon what you’ll be watching is bit of a seminal work.
For me it is, anyway.
Or maybe that’s just my tendency to lift up something that I probably first saw in high school as a paragon (as can be all too easy to do)… but either way, Blood: The Last Vampire seems like a masterclass in lighting alone.
The whole thing is quite cinematic, really. The CGI too, is incredible, especially considering the release date of 2000. Now, lately I’ve been taking shots at older CGI left, right and centre, and sure, you’ll see a few moments here and there that don’t seem perfect, but the team must have worked so, so hard on those visual elements.
Like other examples of the genre, this short film is very much set in ‘night’ and the shadows reflect that, but it’s not an inky mess of low-key lighting that will have you squinting for detail; there’s plenty to see and heaps of variety in colour too, including a great, sickly green at times.
What also had me transfixed, aside from tantalising hints about Saya’s past, was the setting, both the time period and the location. I can’t say I’ve seen many anime films or series set in a US air base on Japanese soil, on the eve of the Vietnam War in 1966. During Halloween, no less!
In terms of the plot, there was at least one little twist that I didn’t see coming, and I thought it was pretty perfect. Aside from the visuals, what I remember most at this moment, is how sullen, angry and cold Saya is. And yeah, that’s a pun that I could have avoided 😀
But I bring her disposition up because I was interested to see whether (or to what extent) she’d warm to poor Amino, the school nurse who is, to some extent, as much a main character as Saya herself.
Connected to their reasonably brief time together is the realisation that Blood: The Last Vampire is definitely a prologue. It was envisioned as the first in a three-part tale, but perhaps because Sony was involved with Production I.G for the funding and production, the rest of the story is made up of sequel video games (and a manga too).
Having said that, this is a self-contained OVA with a resolution, but it very clearly sets up expectations and interesting hints, and functions as an excellent first bite of a longer story. And yeah, again – I couldn’t help myself with the silly pun!
(With an eye to please international audiences, this film has a lot of English audio and not a whole host of subtitles, also allowing some of the cast to show skills in both languages 😀 )
I definitely enjoyed Lily C.A.T but I think if you want terror in space, then you will invariably be more satisfied by the film it owes the most to, which is of course Alien.
However, that doesn’t mean this longish OVA is not worth checking out if you’re interested in the genre. Or that it doesn’t have moments of tension. And for me, there were also parts that definitely ‘explored the human condition’, to borrow a phrase from literary fiction circles.
And as a bonus, I actually wanted some of the characters to survive!
As an aside that is actually a couple of paragraphs long, when I use the ‘Toys in the Attic’ episode of Cowboy Bebop in my classes, we talk a lot about the influence of Alien on the ep (and 2001: A Space Odyssey among others) but I think Lily C.A.T should get a mention too.
It feels like part of that famous homage episode (especially the blob itself and the blowtorch) are close enough to what you’ll see here, to warrant a mention at least. Certainly, my obsession with connecting texts to one another is something I might one day cut back on, but it’s out of my system for the rest of this review at least!
There’s plenty about the film that uses the typical ‘crew dies one by one’ structure, but the menace itself is something a little different. And when you do catch glimpses of a certain thing, you might recognise creature design by Yoshitaka Amano, with a Vampire Hunter D style, if a little more muted perhaps.
Actually… it turns out that I lied about the intertexual references, as I do have one more that I’ll get to in a moment:
So, there’s a nice layering of mystery in Lily C.A.T that I also enjoyed.
Generally, the crew is trying to figure out what went wrong to interrupt their ‘hypersleep’ flight. However, at the same time they learn of imposters aboard, and so while folks are trying to determine who they can trust amongst the humans, they’re also having to deal with increasing threats from the non-human.
It does add an extra dimension to the suspense, which I really enjoyed but if you’re looking for a really slick, vividly animated film then you might find Lily C.A.T a bit dated. However, that’s not to say it’s bad – for instance, the hanger door sequence was ace.
But back to the reference I mentioned – parts of that sub-plot seemed to echo They Were Eleven (an earlier space flight themed manga/anime) though obviously the idea of false identity is not new.
Worth it if you’re interested in ‘retro’ anime, I reckon.
[This is the first entry in a challenge (that I hope to one day finish), where I have set myself the goal of watching something for each letter of the alphabet – you can see the list over here if curious].
Perhaps a quick warning – this review is even more rambling than usual, so if you’re looking for a plot summary maybe click here first 😀
So! There was a whole lot I liked
about B: The Beginning (and it’s nice
to know there is a second season in production) but one thing that bugs me is that
the working title was Perfect Bones –
which is far better than the generic final title, right? Is it just me? Perfect Bones* clearly links to the meat of the series in a subtler and more
satisfying way and again, is far less
generic than… well, anyway, I enjoyed this series!
And that’s partly because of the odd mix between aspects that are quite at home in a CSI/Criminal Minds cop team (featuring an uneasy genius and a taciturn leader) and the supernatural, the teen angst, and some horror and occasional bits of comedy too.
At first I thought there were too many disparate parts, but the series mostly brought it all together, definitely enough for me to suspend disbelief and want to see how it ended.
(However, keep in mind that I do enjoy genre mash-ups a lot and so I have that bias).
The story follows twin, converging storylines which are both engaging for differing reasons and while it seems one has more action (young Koku’s search for a lost love) and one more investigating (Keith Kazama Flick’s search for a killer), the division isn’t always clean cut.
Both stories essentially offer plenty of both action and intrigue, delivered with the fairly ‘slick’ modern animation that’s always pretty impressive if not always distinctive, but then, you don’t always want super-distinctive. Sometimes you want reliably enjoyable, I reckon.
And I don’t mean for either of those descriptions to come off as put-downs either, so hopefully they don’t do that.
Aside from those aspects it was probably the characters and the mythology that the series created and wove in and out of the story that I found most enjoyable.
In terms of character, I think it was Keith and Lily’s relationship, which has an abrasive mentor/rival/student thing, that I enjoyed the most – her earnestness is endearing and his drive is too. On the note of the mythology, I’d actually have loved more of that (perhaps over the boarding school flashbacks – though they certainly served a purpose) and maybe season two will do just that?
Despite my enjoyment of Keith and his storyline, the slapstick sometimes seemed oddly out of place and to some extent, the Koku character is reasonably standard, but again, that’s not a deal-breaker for me as everything lifted up the more conventional aspects; slick, vivid animation, some great villains, a few twists and real comedic moments were joined by interesting mythology and an Italian setting, so yeah, I was a pretty happy viewer 🙂
And the ending theme is another
highlight, both the credits sequence itself and the moody song – which fans of
Megadeth might be interested in, as it’s performed by Man with a Mission in collaboration with Marty Friedman.
Back in 2016 when Netflix were making those early pushes into anime this show was announced as: “the first ever original anime title to debut all episodes simultaneously in 190 countries around the world” and so it was clear they wanted it to succeed, and partnering with Production I.G on this 12 episode series was a pretty great first step.
Obviously a big distribution deal, an average title and a great ending theme song aren’t enough to make a killer series; it’s everything in between that we’re interested in – but for me the separate elements added up to something memorable.
Having said that, I suspect if you watch a lot of US crime shows or anime in general, Perfect BonesB: The Beginning won’t be surprising but it hit a lot of the notes I was looking for.
*And yeah, I understand that the visual representation of the ‘B’ itself is also important to the story but still, Perfect Bones would have been better 😀