Ramble #3

What I like in my Anime.

Well, it’s been a while since I updated, but things have been getting hard in real life for me to devote some time to my fanfiction projects. Furthermore, I had been fighting off a really bad case of allergies. But as I get back to my writings, I also find myself being distracted by any new anime series, which appear on the Best Buy, Suncoast or Planet Anime shelves, and I want to watch them all. After all, they’re the reason why I write in the first place. I read a topic on Glen Harris’ webpage, which asks what kind of otaku I am, so I guess one could classify me as a jack-of-all trades type. So far, there are very few anime series that I don’t like.

I guess the first and foremost thing I look for in an anime is whether or not it catches my interest on the first to second episodes. On the whole, I like action, and especially sci-fi and fantasy environments, so series such as Dual, Vandread, Tenchi Muyo and El Hazard had me glued to my seat, munching on snacks, chugging soda and taking mental notes for fanfic possibilities. Comedy and drama is also a good thing to look for and if the series can keep me laughing for the first few episodes, then I'm usually hooked for the duration. I like romance as much as the next person does, if it's done well enough. I like to watch serious issues as well. And yes, I'll even watch hentai. In short, I want to be entertained, because that's the reason why I buy or rent the DVDs. Now I'll explain what I look for in each genre of anime that I come across.

Science Fiction

Well, I suppose you could call me a Trekkie or an 'outer-space otaku,' since I will practically snap up any futuristic or outer space anime that comes across my path. Trigun, Vandread, Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, Bubblegum Crisis, and others have long since captured my imagination. Science fiction and stories about the distant future are really easy to write fanfics about, since the rules are so flexible and a writer can add or delete things, just because he or she can. I love my mecha, oh yes indeed, (though I'm a bit disturbed about the cockpit location in the female-looking mecha of Zone of the Enders, Delores). Robotech was my all-time favorite for giant robot genre and I love transforming machines. However, I also find myself drawn toward old-school style robots series like Gekiganger in Martian Successor Nadesico and my newest series to date, Dai-Guard. These series put a different spin on the ancient robot designs of the Danguard Ace era and give us something new to chuckle about. I just loved Dai-Giard's version of the rocket-punch, (which involved ripping off the left arm and throwing it with the right).

Of course, with any series, there HAS to be a plot, and as long as it is simple enough in the beginning to follow, then you get no complaints from me. Twists and turns can be added later on, as long as they're not TOO contrived or rushed. Action, drama and comedy must also be generously applied to keep it moving, and like all series that I watch, there's got to be either a definitive ending, or at least some inkling of a sequel. I found a few series that left me hanging or confused such as Lost Universe and Martian Successor Nadesico. A lot of stuff was left unanswered or was poorly explained, and even several good series like Vandread left me feeling somewhat short-changed, as things were wrapped up too quickly without explanation.

All in all, a science fiction series will have a good chance of receiving a positive review from me if it meets all these criteria at adequate or better levels.

Action Series

What can I say? I am a total sucker for action flicks, especially when it deals with a LOT of firepower and/or martial arts. Conflict makes the series run better. Constant fighting by itself does not make a good series. However, heaping doses of it never hurts. Keep in mind though that there are good fights, and there are BAD fights. One of the WORST kinds of anime, which deals with this, is the video game-turned-anime.

There are the occasional hits, which do make a good showing, such as the Fatal Fury Trilogy, and Street Fighter II V. However, nine times out of ten, at least by my ratings, the attempt to turn a successful video game into an anime is usually botched. Some prime examples are Samurai Showdown, Tekken, Battle Arena Toshiden and (ugh) Art of Fighting! I believe the problem in making a video game into an anime lies within the plot, or rather the absence of such. Furthermore, due to various reasons, the viewers can easily become confused or disappointed, especially when the characters either don't act the way we know of them in their games, or have few appearances and seem one-dimensional. The main reason why we would want to watch these kinds of anime, is because we've already played the game and therefore, expect the same of their animated counterparts. Anime such as Night Warriors, (Darkstalkers), was a bit of a letdown as it made very little sense overall and some of my favorite characters didn't get more than five second cameos. Another disappointment was the Powerstone series. It was so campy and predictable, that you could show the entire series almost totally unedited on Kid's WB! Now I wasn't expecting much from it, but still, they could have at least made a better effort in terms of plot and dialogue.

As for the latest computer-game-based anime .hack//sign, I personally find it to be... slow. Never having played the game, I often find myself confused at the series in general. That's another drawback to this kind of animation. If you haven't played the game, then you will be lost somewhat. The idea of a character that can't log out of the virtual world of fantasy kind of reminds me of a modernized version of Tron. There's a lot of technical talk about servers, backups and whatnot, which seems so out of place with the medieval setting of the world. Even the main characters seem really bland. I suppose this series would appeal to RPG junkies and such, but for me, it doesn't do much.

Now getting back to the subject of action series, a plot can either play a key role or get in the way, depending on the mood. For one-shots and things of that nature, I'm not too concerned as how to the story goes, as long as there's some good fighting and action sequences. A bare-bones plot usually suffices. For a longer series, a more extensive plot would help keep things in perspective, especially with some high-octane scenes and good dialogue.

Fantasy Series

Ah, now we're getting into a genre that knows very little bounds and can pretty much encompass all other animes. The word fantasy simply means make-believe and for the most part, it deals with things such as magic, mythical beasts, different worlds other than Earth and so forth. This kind of anime has of course, the most flexibility, in which the downright ridiculous is possible.

The most general forms of fantasy series I've come across in anime are the sword-and-sorcery types. They are the classical types, which makes references to the ancient myths and legends of Earth, despite the fact that they don't deal with Earth's history. Some good examples are the Slayers series; Berserk, Record of Lodoss and a fairly recent one called Backstabber Sorcerer Orphen. Of course, having such a genre mix in with some technological aspects, such tanks and machine guns in Those Who Hunt Elves can also be a treat. The more bizarre the series, the more likely I'd watch it in its entirety. Probably the most offbeat parody to date of the standard swords-and-sorcery genre, is a series called Rune Soldier, which was created by the same person who made the epic Record of Lodoss. I found it highly amusing, which was quite a change from the usual serious nature of quests and such. The hero is most definitely not a knight in shining armor and the female characters are not the usual damsels in distress, (that is until Louie PUTS them in distress, hah!).

Of course, plot is a major point, in which I first look for, but good visuals and deep characterizations also help to move the series along.

Drama/Romantic Comedy

Yes, I'll admit it. I do enjoy the more serious and romantic types of anime. What can I say? I'm a romantic at heart. Some notable dramas that I've recently gotten into are as follows:

AI YORI AOSHI: Hmmm, what do you get when you take a girl who looks a little like Akane Tendo, take away that God-awful temper and arrogant behavior, and replace it with Kasumi's personality, but with a little less obliviousness and a little more substance? You get somebody who is a lot better and more likeable that's for sure! Aoi may not be knowledgeable about the world in general, but I find her to be more believable than a certain uncute tomboy.

Though the series is basically a romantic comedy about two people, (with loads of fanservice), unlike the canon Ranma/Akane matchup, I find this one to be less 'forced.' The viewer does get the idea that Aoi and Karou will eventually get together, but there is a lot of character development and interaction, in a more believable sense than in Rumiko Takahashi's series. Furthermore, the side characters are not quite as one-sided. Unlike the emphasis on the arranged marriage and only focusing on getting the two together, while the supporting cast is just for laughs, this series instead deals with more personal issues and reactions with others. Whatever situations the characters get into are not always on the predictable side and their outcomes are more refreshing.

CHOBITS: After watching Hand Maid May, (a really good series in itself), I wasn't too interested with more robotic maid series like Steel Angel Kurumi, Mahoromatic and so on, but then a friend of mine lent me a copy of Vol.1 of Chobits. What can I say? Chi is so darned CUTE! And unlike most series, the filler episodes are actually fun to watch, as they are steps in which the main characters develop their relationships and add to the main plot. So now I'm hooked on it and intend to watch the entire series. This may end up in a Ranma/Chobits fanfic later on.

A relationship between a man and a girl robot has been done already, (Hand Maid May, Mahoromatic, Armitage the Third, etc), but in the case of Chobits, the male is REALLY funny and the cute female lead is so endearing that it makes me feel all gooey inside. The way she acts in the beginning and how she develops during the length of the series is what makes Chobits so enjoyable.

ONEGAI TEACHER (PLEASE TEACHER): Ah, the student who marries his beautiful schoolteacher. It's a fantasy in which many teens dream of during their high-school years, but is considered as taboo in our modern society... until Kei Kusenagi does just that with his half-alien homeroom teacher Mizuho. Although this was intended to be a romantic comedy, I couldn't help be feel emotional, during the touching scenes and the awkwardness of the characters, as they go through the trials of growing up and having first loves. It also exemplifies the fact that love recognizes no age difference. It reminded me of a more-mature version of I My Me! Strawberry Eggs (another good one). Sure the comedy and fanservice are there to give us a laugh and keep our attention, but they're considered secondary (in my opinion), as compared to the overall story.

I MY ME! STRAWBERRY EGGS!: I STILL don't get the title of this series, but it was still a fun anime in which there was no super-powered main characters, rampaging monsters, outrageous weapons and mecha, (well, except during the eleventh episode), and no supernatural beings trying to destroy/conquer the world. It's all about a teacher who wants to prove himself as a capable instructor in a female dominant environment and how he interacts with his students. Doesn't sound too extraordinary, does it? Well, I thought so too, until after I watched the first few episodes. The high school drama found a special place for me as moral lessons were exemplified and watching the characters grow and mature in this short series was quite touching in its own right.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

The Downright Bizarre

Now then, we come to a form of anime, which only makes sense, if there is NO sense! Which anime series comes to mind? Well of course, Excel Saga is a prime candidate, and Trouble Chocolate is also notable. In these cases, plot is NOT a strong point, and is sometimes not needed at all. These are the kinds of anime, in which one can just turn off the higher cognitive thought processes of the brain and just go with the flow. That's what they were meant to do. Of course, they've got to be entertaining and be willing to go the edge, then promptly step off it.

However, one must keep in mind that there must be a limit to the insanity at some point, otherwise the series starts to lose its charm and our brains become totally burned oout from it all.

Whew! That's enough rambling for now. Time to get back to writing.