Review: Devilman Crybaby

The Lowdown:

Show: Devilman Crybaby

Years aired: 2018

AniB’s Thoughts:

So over 4 (going on 5 at the time of this writing) months after its debut, the hype around this show has died down, thankfully enough. The premature declarations of “anime of the year!” eight days into January were amusing while they lasted, and I can confidently say that this show is hardly “show of the year material”, relative to the hype it generated and when pruned over by a discerning eye.

It has taken a long time to adequately gather my thoughts on this show, despite watching it relatively soon after its January debut amidst an uproar of hype that seemed more like a byproduct of Youtube personalities and other such entities. Delay after delay plagued this review, and while I knew something about this show hadn’t sat right with me, it wasn’t entirely clear how to voice that train of thought yet. However, a bit of background research certainly helped to make things a bit clearer on this series.

Devilman is a beloved classic franchise in Japan, created by Go Nagai back in the 70’s. He also conceived the famous Mazinger franchise for mecha fans, which boils down to “he created some pretty influential works.” The original Devilman anime is pure 70’s cheese, with bad production values, and winds up being far more comedic than anything dark with its dated character models, bad pacing and monster movie villains. However, it was a decent bit of fun to dig back into that time and see what the original inception of Devilman actually looked like, which brings us now to the present.

Even underneath the silliness of the first show, it was evident how dark the plotline actually was, and you could get a sense looking back that with more focused execution, something truly bone-chilling could in fact be conceived. To that end, I think the Netflix series succeeded- boiled down into a concise 10 episodes, there’s nary a wasted moment of impact- but in saying that, what did this series trade-off in order to be the descent into darkness we got?

The answer to that was a resounding “no!” What was presented instead was an overrated vile, disgusting show that despite the thematic brilliance that boiled beneath the surface, was such a depressingly sad slog of a spectacle that I was tempted to simply quit halfway through a 10 episode anime. It’s the “edgy” interpretation of Go Nagai’s original series back in the 70’s, and what I think this show lack specifically is much in the way of “fun.” Animation shouldn’t be a chore to watch through; it certainly can be complex and thought provoking, but this was an instance of a show where I pressed on mostly because of an obligation to complete the show, rather than any true enjoyment of the various events depicted on screen. This is the Titus Andronicus of anime, except with none of the endearing factors and all the bloodiness and explicitness you’d might expect a modern-day interpretation of a show with demons as a central focus might have- and unless you’re specifically in that niche who loves obscene, disturbing imagery and plenty of blood and guts, this isn’t your show.

For more specifics, I think Crybaby is symptomatic of the problems that exist in modern day re-interpretations that try to be too faithful. Don’t get me wrong: I love a well-adapted show from its original source material, but in the case of this specific show, the lack of restraint on modern-day producers in terms of how content is portrayed is a double-edged sword. It means the haminess of the 70’s show is largely voided, replaced instead by a constant, lingering dread of doom that only thickens as the show’s events spiral downwards. Thematically, it all makes sense, but in terms of a watching experience? It’s simply uncomfortable and downright unpleasant most times, which is putting it mildly.

The anime Youtubers and many other fans who raved about Devilman Crybaby are entitled to their opinion, but to me, this was the height of just the worst kind of letdown. It’s a show that’s just plain disturbing on every level, and although there are some ambitious ideas that exist in the fabric of the end production, it’s overwhelmed by a tidal wave of tragedy, disgust and death. Approach it at your own peril. (And no, no one under the age of 18 should see this show.)


Animation quality: Modern 2-D anime. Truthfully, the show has some stunning shots, but on the flip side, what exactly it’s used for is highly questionable at times. There’s a lot of disturbing imagery that I’d argue goes too far a lot of the time, and while some people might call me “old-fashioned” for such a view, I don’t need highly explicit imagery at every turn for an enjoyable experience. Therein lies the proverbial rub- while the imagery the show often employs is effective in instilling the sense of chaos and horror it seeks, it’s often repulsively unenjoyable in doing so. 3.75/5 points.

 

Characterization: The story centers around Akira Fudo, a kind young man who gets unexpectedly pulled into a darker world than he ever imagined during a highly explicit rave party gone wrong. As a result of his run-in with a powerful demon named Amon, Akira somehow is able to claim the evil specter’s powers and body as his own, and becomes the titular Devilman, sworn to protect mankind from other such beings. Unfortunately, Akira is not nearly as good at his job as he was in the 70’s original, and so tragedy after tragedy continues to unfold in his life…

Akira’s best friend in all the confounding events is Ryo Asuka, a mysterious young man who appears on the surface to be a highly ambitious prodigy of the rarest sort, but what exactly his ambitions are leading to is an entirely different question. There is a cruelness to his character that simply does not exist in Akira’s profile before or after his transformation into Devilman, and all of these unsettling aspects are careful foreshadowing to the true background of this unsettling young man.

While there are a host of other characters in the show with supporting roles, the last one worth mentioning here is Miki Makimura, the beautiful daughter of the host family Akira lives with. In this interpretation of the franchise, she’s a star athlete in track and field, and has a pure, kind heart, but in turn, also has a naive nature that sees her into deeper troubles than her or her kind, loving family deserve. I could say more about her, but it’d be massive spoilers (and for people who have seen the series, you know what happens with her endgame.)   3.5/5 points.

 

Story quality: Devilman Crybaby is a tragedy- the kind that unfolds but consistently and calmly crushes any hopeful note that arises for the tide to turn. Heck, even the main antagonist finds themselves roped into this scope of tragedy and goes down with the proverbial burning ship. In that sense, the pacing is actually very good, but the delivery is so joyless on many occasions that one could hardly be faulted for wanting to quit on such a sordid tale. As it is, Crybaby’s brilliant moments are often counteracted by a sort of miasma that just comes from the repeated, worsening hard knocks. You need levity, in in the darkest of tales, and this show has too little of it. (Perhaps it should have taken a few hints in that regards from the OG series?)  3/5 points.

 

Themes: There’s a big, huge thematic expose of God and demons that exists in this show, but perhaps that was inevitable in something called Devilman. Seriously though, the thematic elements are thought provoking on some level, and you have to wonder if on some meta level, it was a criticism of today’s society and the dangers blatant immoraility could lead to, but far more likely is that it was just a more far more focused viewpoint on the implications of a show with shockingly huge stakes. 3.5/5 points.

 

Don’t insult the viewer: What can I say? NC-17 visuals in larges swaths of the show, moments that are literal acid trips, moments where it’s plain disturbing- well, you get the idea. There’s still a story underneath here though, and a pretty sweet remix of the original Devilman theme in the soundtrack as well, so it still counts as “redeeming values” here. 2/5 points.

Total Score: 16/25 (64%): A deeply disturbing horror show that takes the Devilman franchise in an edgier direction than it has ever seen, Crybaby suffered from both overenthusiastic hype and an often joyless presentation filled with extremes (from explicit imagery to just violence). That isn’t to say that the show didn’t do some things well, as was noted- but for as strong an emotional impact the show can have, I don’t like walking away from animation feeling repulsed. I suspect hard-core horror fans will eat this show up, but this is one re-interpretation that could have struck a far better balance in its levity and presentation.


Like what you see? Have some comments on this show? Leave ’em here!

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AniB’s Summer Kickoff: 10 Thoughts

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? While I do deeply apologize for the long hiatuses (and this was one was the longest of all), life sometimes demands that you put your best foot forward into other endeavors, and thus, through both a desire to maintain the quality of AniB Productions as well as the need to take care of academic pursuits, that was the reason that until today I’d been so quiet. With my return though, I can assure you that new reviews and pieces will be coming your way all summer long- and in turn, I didn’t stop thinking about animation during this layoff, or some brand new thoughts and ideas. I also like to do plenty of reading, and inspired actually by hockey columnist Elliotte Friedman and his 31 Thoughts column, it seemed like a fun idea to get the ball rolling with some insights of my own on animation now in the middle of May 2018 (at the time of this writing). So, here we go:

 

1. I never understood the rush by people to obsessively pour over new seasons of shows, be it Western animation or the cours they have in anime. Of course I like to watch new seasons or try a new show out or two, but I think you’ve got to be selective and pick your spots when it comes to jumping headfirst into an ongoing series. It’s not a bad thing to commit to a series that you know you’ll enjoy regardless (like My Hero Academia for myself right now), but it’s not always fun to get stuck watching something you simply are watching because the internet is talking about it. Don’t chase fads, but always chase quality.

 

2. Coming this summer, I plan to write a treatise on fanservice. This issue has been boiling in the back of my mind for quite a while now, and similar to that Valentine’s special I wrote over a year ago on shipping, it’s a controversial big picture topic worth talking about far more intelligently. To put it bluntly, fanservice is something that I at least view as a bigger threat to the medium’s legitimacy outside niche circles, particularly when it comes to anime, but I’ll have more on that when the time comes.

 

3. Speaking of Hero Academia, the end of season 3 should really be something. It’s one of the few series I picked up in manga form on the side, and let’s just say the finale will blow some minds if they stick to script like they have. High hopes, I have there.

 

 

4. On the Western animation end of things, I’ve miraculously avoided spoilers on Season 3B of Star vs the Forces Of Evil, though I am aware the season wrapped over a month ago now. While my studies kept me from watching the rest of the season yet, I do plan to follow it up with a post-season 3 review when I watch it soon. As for the first half of season 3…it’s fair. For better or worse, I’m hoping for a bit of “wow” from a show that’s now established and has built itself quite a bit of character development and storyline at this point. (And no, don’t spoil me in the comments if you follow the show.)

 

5. Coming soon to you: A Devilman Crybaby rant. Seriously, this has been in the works for months, but between bigger priorities and a piece that never seemed to come together right, it hasn’t been published yet. Here’s a preview: I have a bone to pick with this show, and it ties into my first thought on this column. Either way, it should be fun.

 

6. If you couldn’t tell by most of these thoughts so far, my watching habits have taken a heavy turn towards the East in the past year, and it has little to do with Western animation, but more so to do with always wanting a deeper context to the medium of animation and the diverse genres and plots it can carry. Anime is pretty terrific, but it definitely has shortcomings, and the same can always be said for the Western cartoons I’ve covered at length in different reviews as well.

 

7. However, one Western show has caught my notice in the days of my malaise, and it’s classic The Simpsons clips. You only have to watch a few of these to get a sense of why the show has stuck around so long, and there’s some absolute comedic gold (such as the woebegone lunch Skinner attempts to put on that spawned an Internet meme), but like other shows that became long-running phenomenons, doing a complete review and grading might just be the most daunting task any of us could ask for. I don’t think long-running, “classic” series should be immune to criticism, but it’s also hard to dish out a balanced report over a run that spans 3 decades as of next year. (Still, I might write about the show in some capacity at some point.)

 

8. I noted in passing that Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim phenom show, got renewed for 70 more episodes. Good for those guys, but even at this point, I really don’t get the hype about the show. In one of those rare “behind the scenes” moments I’ll talk about, I watched the first 4 episodes of the show a while back, and found myself with some mix of revulsion and general boredom, but I might resume the show at some point for purely professional purposes…if someone can persuade me. I want to be fair to every show I encounter, and so I find myself at an impasse with this series: Something I really don’t want to watch any more of against something people might really want to read about. Who knows? The comment section is useful for this sort of question (or for any of these numbered points, really.)

9. On a hint of what I’ve watched in the past few months, I can tell you all that there’s been a lot of anime as previously mentioned and a pretty healthy backlog of shows that could make their way on here for a review outside of some of the aforementioned shows in this column. The hope is that I can get back to writing regularly this summer, and schedule things moving forward so that I will have time to deliver the same quality material at a more consistent rate. The best news about this point though is that shows are coming! (and you are all hopefully excited now.)

10. It has been 2 years, 3 months and 4 days since Gravity Falls ended its run on Disney X.D. Man, time flies when you’re having fun…and when you’re busy too.

And there you have it- 10 thoughts on animation, for better or worse! If there’s one thing I was doing, it was giving everyone who has been so patiently awaiting a new piece something to chew on as more new material does in fact come your way. A long break off deserved a long response. I look forward to a lot more interesting pieces to write and commentary to be read and replied to!

-AniB


Like what you see? Thrilled to have me back? Leave a comment!

AniB’s 2018 Oscars Preview for Best Animated Picture

As I did last year, I will be doing a brief overview of this year’s best animated picture award competition- and while the probable winner is fairly obvious this time around, it’s worth taking a look at where the field stands on the eve of the Academy Awards.

A year’s already flown by since I lasted breached the topic of the Oscars, and here we are with a brand-new crop of films up for the honor, albeit in a far less compelling race than 2016’s films. This year’s nominees are headlined by the superb Coco, which I wrote a review of for Christmas, and which also marks the return of Pixar with a nominee after Finding Dory’s snub last year; a couple of interesting foreign films in The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent, as well as the somewhat bizarre inclusion of The Boss Baby and Ferdinand. The latter two’s unlikely nominations came from a rules change in the selection process, where anyone in the Academy could help nominate the films, and so instead of animation-focuses professionals, it largely became “what have you seen?” With all due respect to the last two films, congrats on making it, but you’re both two of the weakest nominees I’ve ever seen in the category. Moving on then to a bit of history…

As I said last year: “Generally, I only care about results when it comes to award shows, much the same way as when I watch shows. I don’t follow the Oscars for their over-bloated pageantry, self-aggrandizing celebrities who pat each other on the back and give meaningless compliments to other influential people they know, or to watch people on the Internet have meltdowns over “x amount” of diversity or lack thereof. I’m just interested in the movies themselves, the people who put the work into said films, and the statistics behind it. So, here’s a list of the past 10 winners, with studios, to give a recent historical representation of this category (and note, the year is when the movies came out, not the award ceremony date, which is always the following year.)”:

2017: ?

2016: Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2015: Inside Out (Pixar)

2014: Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2013: Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2012: Brave (Pixar)

2011: Rango (Paramount Pictures)

2010: Toy Story 3 (Pixar)

2009: Up (Pixar)

2008: WALL-E (Pixar)

2007: Ratatouille (Pixar)

So going back a decade, Pixar has unsurprisingly dominated the category, taking 6 out of the past 10 awards- but only twice in the past 5 years (although it’s been Walt Disney Animation in the other years.) However, Coco is the heavy favorite this cycle, which will likely keep the studio at that 6/10 ratio for the decade (can you believe Ratatouille was a decade ago? Me neither.) Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios, who won two out of the last 3 times, is actually sitting this one out this year, though next year we’re getting Wreck-It Ralph 2, which should be interesting… As for the outliers on this list, Rango was a surprise in a very weak year (2011) and Happy Feet in 2006 was much the same, beating out the underwhelming (by Pixar standards, anyways) Cars and Monster House when the category only had 3 entrants in that year.

Historically speaking, the trends are not favorable for foreign entrants, a sentiment I said almost verbatim from last year’s pre-Oscar piece. In a year with a strong Pixar movie as well, that chance falls to almost 0%, especially given that the other Western contenders (The Boss Baby, Ferdinand) aren’t really seen as true threats in this race. Often harmed by their lack of exposure to wider audiences, foreign and niche animated films often suffer the reverse affect of the live action counterparts- if a lot of eyeballs among the general populace saw it and it was good, that film tends to win the category. In this year’s case, both foreign entrants are worthy of their place at the table, but are still definite underdogs; if either The Breadwinner or Loving Vincent won, it would be possibly the largest upset in the history of the category (shy of the lackluster Western entries I mentioned winning), so I’m not holding my breath too tightly on that.

 

This year’s nominees featured three 3-D CGI films, one traditional hand-drawn film, and most uniquely, an entire painted film in Loving Vincent. The latter’s unique style is probably what lifted it to a nomination over other niche entrants; however, while the Academy traditionally likes a range of animation styles in its nominations, it often has little bearing on what movie ultimately wins. In fact, every animated film that has won in the past decade has been 3-D animated, and you have to go back to 2005, when Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-rabbit won to find a different style (and that was also the last foreign film to win as well, marking a 12 year drought.) In fact, since 2001 when the category was created, only one other winner was a non-CGI film- the Miyazaki classic Spirited Away in 2002.

So who wins? The obvious pick of the litter based on both historical trends and overall quality is Coco, and it’s a worthy pick in a generally underwhelming year for animation. It’s arguably one of Pixar’s best two films this decade along with Inside Out (and we’re counting Toy Story 3 as the final year of the first decade of the 2000’s) and it’s got a wonderful charm to it…but if you want my full thoughts on the film, I linked the review at the beginning of this piece, so check it out if you haven’t! As for a quick word on the rest- The Breadwinner is definitely worth a look, as it has both some stunning depth and cultural significance, with a premise that takes off, and for the artsy crowd, Finding Vincent may be worth a look. As for the other two films…neither is terrible, but they’re run of the mill animated flicks in all honesty that will probably be long forgotten in a few short years by all but the most devoted of animation fans. Enjoy the show, and I’ll have an afterword once the results finally come in!


Like what you see? Have thoughts on the Oscars? Leave a comment! Also, credit to Cartoon Brew for the picture.

Review: Nichijou- My Ordinary Life

A delightful slice of life meets random unpredictability.

The Lowdown:

Show: Nichijou- My Ordinary Life

Years aired: 2011

AniB’s thoughts: After watching the slog that was Devilman Crybaby earlier in January (more on that in a future post), I needed an upbeat show, and this little gem delivered. Nichijou, in a simple way of putting it, is pure fun, but it’s also a great show in its own right. It stands out from the slice of life crowd with a superb grasp on how animation works on a fundamental level, channeling its ideas and concepts into a surreal sort of reality, but simultaneously captures its humor and charm just perfectly at the same time.

The single biggest aspect that makes Nichijou shine though, is that the animators behind the show clearly understood the root of the medium they were working in and used it to incredible effect. Not only is this show laugh out loud funny, but the slapstick and surreal individual moments are straight out of the animated school of humor piloted by the likes of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse.

I could talk far more at length about why this show is good, but aside from the stellar usage of animation, it also checks the boxes in terms of characters and writing. The cast of the show is charming as can be and full of personality, and even the various supporting characters have active roles that make it feel like everyone is involved in the bigger picture for everyone else. Plenty of strange and in-explainable things happen, but each one is just another daily occurrence on its own, and so the idea of these totally abnormal happenings in ordinary life is indeed preserved.

Interestingly enough, Nichijou, despite its 2011 release, had release issues stemming from Bandai Entertainment’s cancellation of their plans to do so, and while Madhouse picked up the rights, it was only to certain markets (not North America.) As a result, the series’ licensing state-side did not come until nearly a year ago at the time of this writing (February 17, 2017). Despite its late entry legally into the States, it’s certainly held up the kind of promise you’d hope for, and upon watching it, has a sort of timeless quality.

If you want a taste of a great show, not just for its genre, but in general, Nichijou’s a solid pick and a charming one to boot. Just as it claims, there are some extraordinary things that occur in the everyday lives of those in the show, and I’m happy to report that this description is in fact rather accurate. On to grading:


 

Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime, computer shaded. Although Nichijou’s basisc style is simple and straightforward, the amount and variety of techiniques they use in the show to convey the humor, surreal-ness of certain situations, and the interactions of people is an absolute joy to watch. The show’s conceptual understanding of the medium is simply outstanding, and watching the fundamentals shine in this show is an absolute pleasure.  5/5 points.

 

 

Characterization: There are two main groups of characters that eventually overlap in the story arc of Nichijou: the trio of schoolgirls featuring Yuuko Aioi, Mio Naganohara, and Mai Minakami, and on the other end, a young girl known as Professor Shinonome, her robot caretaker, Nano (who looks like a high school girl) and the cat the duo adopt early on in the story, Mr. Sakamoto.

Yuuko is the de-facto lead character of the show, though no one really is the “main protagonist” in a traditional sense. She’s a kind, energetic girl, but also a bit of “an idiot,” as Mio often reminds her, and a slacker in her schoolwork, reflected by her perpetual habit of not doing her homework and less than stellar test grades. Despite her shortcomings though, she’s a good friend, loves to be a comedian and engage in adventurous new ideas and activities, and enjoys good food. She often finds herself in the center of the strange, amazing events that occur in the ordinary lives of the people around her…

Mio is also a nice girl and at first glance, the most “normal” of the trio, but underneath her surface lies a fiery temper and impatience for bad jokes, ruined food, and anyone or anything that dares to cross her comfort zone. She’s noted for the two wooden cubes she uses to keep her hair in short pigtails, and has a secret talent as a manga artist, a skill that causes her a great deal of embarrassment in front of her friends. Additionally, she harbors a deep crush on Sasahara (another supporting character in this show), which in turn has some deep psychological effects on her.

Mysterious and mostly quiet, Mai’s a girl of few words but possesses a number of extraordinary talents and a fondness for carving Buddha statues. Her actions often speak louder than her often-mysterious words, but she’s still rather fond of her compatriots despite their drastically different personalities.

On the other end of the spectrum, the rather odd but charming trio of a girl professor, her robot and a talking cat are the other half of the main cast.

Nano is a robot caretaker, but she looks and acts like a generally responsible high school girl. She cares deeply for the professor, but often has random inventions installed inside her body without her knowledge from the former, which generally ensues in chaos. She’s also very conscious of the large wind-up screw on her back and repeatedly asks for its removal, but is denied as a running gag.

The Professor herself is a cute 8-year old girl in a oversized labcoat who despite her typical little girl tendencies and wanton love of snacks, is in fact a genius who already graduated from school. She’s a genius inventor, but in turn, many of her inventions often seem to have no practical usage and application, and most of the time, she prefers to play and snack around the house.

Finally, Sakamoto is a black cat who is found in the street by Nano early in the events of Nichijou. The professor invents a scarf so he can talk, in in turn, it reveals the voice of a 20 year old man who takes himself too seriously…and is ashamed when caught displaying his cat tendencies (like chasing his tail).

There’s a sizable supporting cast that also all gets a spotlight at various moments in Nichijou, but for the purposes of this review, it’s best to discover them all yourself, if you haven’t already. From Ms. Sakurai, the nervous schoolteacher, to the aformentioned Sasahara, who fancies himself a sort of nobleman as “the eldest son,” and so on, this delightfully quirky cast keeps the fast pace and style of Nichijou rolling along smoothly. 4.75/5 points.

 

 

Story quality: Nichijou does possess an overarching story, but in a unique twist, is often presented as a series of short daily stories and segments within the episode, often with a sort of randomness that is uncommon in anime. Usually at least one of these stories focuses on the schoolgirl trio and another on the Shinonome Laboratory group, but there’s also segments focused completely on side characters and some reoccurring meta bits, such as “Helvetica Standard” (try to figure out which character is reading this, actually). The sort of pacing is unique for an anime, but in a lot of ways, the humor is much more reminiscent of something like Looney Tunes with the usage of exaggeration in all contexts. While it is a funny show, some of the jokes might go over better if you’re familiar with anime and/or Japanese culture, but overall, it’s easy to grasp.  4/5 points.

 

 

Themes: Well…as its name suggests, this is about ordinary life, right? Yes and no. Mostly, Nichijou is random, goofy humor and some comic zaniness mixed in with its underflowing storyline, but if there was a more serious undertone, it’s about the many different interactions of people in both ordinary and extraordinary situations; the things observed and not spoken of, and vice versa, and perhaps the enjoyment of good friends, better company, and the twists and turns life offers. Mostly though, it’s best just to have fun with this one.  3.5/5 points.

 

 

Don’t insult the viewer: An engaging show that nails the fundamentals of animation all while avoiding fanservice and having a blast while doing it? That’s a solid show by any standard. Add in the super fun OP’s and some well-timed orchestral usage to augment the action like the old-time animated shows, and it’s downright impressive.  5/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 22.25/25 (89%): A unique slice of life show, Nichijou packs plenty of laughs; it’s a constantly moving show that flows with the random zaniness and a memorable cast of characters with distinct personalities and moments to remember, and oozes charm. If you’re looking for a great change of pace or a terrific genre pick, or even something that’s just plain fun, this show is a must-watch.


Like what you see? Have thoughts on Nichijou? Leave a comment!

 

Hunter x Hunter 1999 vs 2011 Part 3: The Zoldyck Family

Meet Killua’s family, the league of crazy assassins.

As the Hunter x Hunter dub enters the year of the Chimera Ants, the ever-popular head to head comparison series between the 1999 and 2011 anime returns! Finally out of the Hunter Exam arc, the shortest arc of the show commences- the Zoldyck Family arc, which gives the viewers a first look at Killua’s family, and also shows the extraordinary resolve of Gon and his friends as they attempt to rescue the former. For those who missed it, here’s the links to Part 1 and Part 2 focusing on the Hunter Exam arc.

 

The First Task of New Hunters! Find Kukuroo Mountain! Rescue Killua! (1999, Episode 32-36, 2011 Episode 22-26)

Admittedly, it’s difficult to even split up any portion of this arc, given that in both iterations of the anime, it spans a mere five episodes (which is is stark comparison to the previous Hunter Exam arc, which ran for 31/21 episodes in both anime version respectively. Add in 2011’s Chimera Ant arc, which spanned 60 episodes, and the brevity of the Zoldyck Family arc is even more pronounced.)

Despite its short length, the arc is extraordinarily important for two main reasons- the first being the introduction (at least briefly) of the rest of Killua’s family outside Illumi, who was introduced formally at the end of the prior arc; and the continuation of character arcs that see the main foursome begin to go their separate ways after this point, where outside of the Yorknew City arc, most of the viewers’ time would be dominated by the brilliant friendship and adventures of Gon and Killua, but that’s for another day.

As for the story itself, the Hunter Exam is now over; Gon, Kurapika and Leorio are officially licensed Hunters, and as such, their first unofficial job is the agreed-upon rescue of Killua from the clutches of his crazy family. After a brief confrontation between Gon and Illumi at the end of the previous arc, the location of the Zoldyck family estate is revealed to be Kukuroo Mountain, on a completely different continent and country (the Republic of Padokea, more specifically.)

Before we reach the family themselves though, the arc also introduced a number of family servants and butlers, who played a key role for the arc:

ZEBRO

1999                                            2011

    Image result for zebro

SEAQUANT

1999                                            2011

Image result for seaquant             https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/f/f3/Seaquant_face.png/revision/latest?cb=20141110065042&path-prefix=ru

 

CANARY

1999                                                             2011

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/6/6b/Canary_high_quality.JPG/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/250?cb=20120226162650      

 

GOTOH

1999                                             2011

     https://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/8/8e/Gotoh_HxH_2011.PNG/revision/latest?cb=20120401042159

Once again, the lighter shading and style of the 2011 anime is noticeable in these character models; however, only Seaquant received a notably huge design overhaul, although his headband and mustache was preserved between both iterations. Zebro’s sideburns are noticeably bushier in the later anime adaptation; Canary’s design is remarkably similar, though her hair is now black instead of reddish (and fluffier-looking), her skin is more natural looking rather than the bleached sort of look in the picture, and her outfit has had a palette swap, with the bolo tie being slightly more pronounced. The same goes for Gotoh, whose face has a bit more definition, a lighter shade, and a red clasp on his tie.

(Of story note, Gotoh and Canary return to play important roles in the Chairman Election arc, which only the Madhouse adaptation has in anime form, but for now, the focus will stay on their roles merely in this arc.)


One of the more striking differences in the Zoldyck Family arc (and there are few, this arc is actually quite similar in both versions) is Gon’s confrontation with Mike, the family’s deadly hunting dog.

In both versions, while Gon is still insistent on entering the estate despite Zebro’s warnings, he instantly finds himself filled with a kind of primal fear upon merely sensing Mike’s prescence, let alone seeing him. However, in 1999, when Leorio accidentally breaks down the fake Testing Gate doors, Gon fins himself face to face with the fearsome canine, who proceeds to try and kill him; an encounter the young Hunter survives successfully with some help from Seaquant. Mike also has a sort of burgundy colored fur in the later version as opposed to the white fur he’s sporting in 1999:

MIKE (pronounced “me-kay”)

1999                                                 2011

        https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/1/1c/Full_Mike_2011.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/210?cb=20150111055109

 

White or red, this is one big dog you don’t want to mess with.

While the servants do get plenty of screentime and moments through the arc, it’s the titular family that steals the show. True to Killua’s claims to Gon, and further validated by Illumi’s official reveal and actions at the end of the Hunter Exam arc, the Zoldyck clan is one of dangerous, albeit eccentric, assassins, all incredibly deadly and driven by individual pursuits often unbeknownst to other family members. Their mansion is spacious, but has the look and feel of a medieval castle; it’s hardly what one might call “inviting” despite the obvious wealth obtained from the dark trade the family specializes in.

Perhaps what reinforces this mental image the most is our first glimpse of the estate is a torture room where Milluki, the portly second-eldest brother of the five Zoldyck children, is whipping a thoroughly unrepentant (not to mention bored-looking) Killua for his venture to take the Hunter Exam.

So, here’s the members of the Zoldyck clan we see for the first time in this arc. I should note that of the family silhouettes in the picture above (which also appear in the intros of the anime), 2 of the figures are not actually seen in this arc; one makes an appearance in the final arc of Madhouse’s anime, while the other never actually has made an anime appearance (and only appears in passing in the manga, for that matter.) As it stands though, here’s the rest of the world’s most dangerous family:

ZENO ZOLDYCK

 

 

SILVA ZOLDYCK

Image result for silva zoldyck

 

MILLUKI ZOLDYCK

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/a/a1/Milluki_Zoldyck_1999_Design.gif/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/226?cb=20131022004202

 

KALLUTO ZOLDYCK

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/6/69/Kalluto_Zoldyck_2011_Design.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/640?cb=20140919160854&path-prefix=ru

 

KIKYO ZOLDYCK

https://i1.wp.com/student.delta.edu/allysonwilliams/project1/Pictures/Kikkyo.gifhttps://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/a/a8/Kikyo_Zoldyck_2011.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/200?cb=20150111053538

 

From top to bottom, you might note that the family’s designs actually are on the whole not too remarkably different, with a few exceptions, between the two versions. In fact, one of the most changed up Zoldycks between the two anime iterations is actually Killua himself, which was explored in the first part of this series,

Remarkably, Zeno’s overall design is almost a 1:1 match, if you take away the brightening of a few colors and the slightly wavier hair. His outfit, down to the kanji is almost exactly the same, with a few minor changes; the piping on his shirt is a lighter shade of purple in 2011 vs a thin line of white in 1999, and the metal collar around his neck has been made slightly rounder and shinier in the new version. In this arc, Zeno’s role of chastising Milluki doesn’t change much; he’s introduced without too much else to say here.

The current leader of the Zoldyck family, Silva’s design from Nippon’s to Madhouse’s gave him a bit more musculature, particularly in the shoulders, and his skin is paler as well in the later version. While his outfit has the same overall design in both, the blues present in ’99’s gi have been replaced with the predominant lighter purple indicative of the Zoldycks in 2011, and the belt has been changed to red from gray. Silva’ hair remains similar, though a slight bit longer in the newer version…in the story, his talk with Killua allowing him to leave the estate is quite similar in both versions, though in ’99 Killua sits in front of Silva, while in 2011 he sits next to him in his room during the discussion.

Milluki’s appearance as a fat guy doesn’t change; and his facial design is almost identical between versions. Madhouse’s show accentuates just how portly he is a bit more, where his shirt seems fit to burst; and in ’99 he’s actually wearing sweatpants and slippers at home, which is a bit different. Arrogant and overtly proud about his technological prowess while jealous of Killua’s place in the family, he’s the same guy in both versions.

Kalluto’s debut amounts to a cameo in both iterations of Hunter x Hunter for this arc. Paired along aside Kikyo, his mom (yes, Kalluto’s a boy despite appearances), he actually received the biggest design overhaul of any Zoldyck; everything from his hair to the color of his kimono was altered in 2011 (although in ’99, the black kimono shows up on him in the Greed Island OVA’s.) Despite the design differences, he doesn’t do much of note in this arc regardless of the version, only leaving an air of mystery around the youngest Zoldyck child.

As is evidenced by the many side by side comparisons, 2011’s anime once again brightened colors on the characters significantly; of interest is that Kikyo appears in a later arc for 2011, but in the Nippon Animation adaptation, this short couple of episodes is the only time she appears. The major difference of course is the yellow dress in 1999; it’s almost the exact same outfit, but now clad in the similar purple others in the family wear with the newer adaptation. As Killua’s mom, she still knocks out Canary in both versions and tries to prevent Killua’s departure from home once more, only to be defeated by her middle son’s furtive glance.


With all the major characters of the arc covered, there’s a few other changes and observations worth noting:

-In the ’99 adapation, each of Leorio, Kurapika and Gon keep working at the Testing Gate until they can open it individually (which is accurate to the manga.) In Madhouse’s version, once the trio is able to open the gate as a team, they proceed onwards to face Canary. In both cases, they thank Zebro and Seaquant for their help with training.

– I’d probably get skewered for forgetting this, but in 1999 Kurapika sports an amazing red outfit that he never wears again after this point, or in the second anime for that matter. In the latter version, the Kurta clan’s lone survivor merely wears the same outfit he had on during the Hunter Exam.

You can’t deny he’s got some style.

– During the Canary sequence in both versions, she has a flashback. However, the contents of the flashback differ, with 2011’s being far more extensive; which includes the entirety of her total victory over Seaquant’s party that tried to attack the family, and some time she spent with a younger Killua, neither really realizing that they wanted a friend… In 1999 it’s very short, showing Killua’s guarded return to the estate after the Hunter Exam, where he dropped his skateboard, which Canary propped up against a tree, along with a hand-drawn sequence that shows Killua offering the apple to her (which is true in both versions, but much more fleshed out in 2011’s context.) Furthermore, young Killua’s brief appearance in the 1999 moment was quite different from 2011’s younger Kil, who sported fluffier hair and a completely different outfit. Killua also asks her whether she wants to be his friend at a different moment; in ’99 it’s when he offers the apple; for 2011, it’s after Canary’s defeat of the hunters. He also shows off the Rhythm Echo in the later version, which Canary confirms she can use with great proficiency as well.

-In Madhouse’s version, Killua arrives at the butler’s quarters before Gon, Leorio and Kurapika, only to be intentionally stalled by Gotoh and company from seeing them when they arrive (and the coin game commences). The Nippon version had Killua still traveling to the lodge as the game was occurring, so as a result, he walked in as it concluded.

-After Gon and Killua are reunited, the latter’s skateboard is nowhere to be seen or in the plot of the Madhouse version, whereas the Nippon adaption has Killua entrust Canary with the board (given it was a part of that flashback and story I mentioned).

-The scene where the four main character depart each other is slightly different but still similar in both versions. (We’ll see Leorio and Kurapika again in Yorknew City!)


And with that, there’s a comparison of the shortest arc in either anime or the manga for Hunter x Hunter. Next installment, we’ll finally see Gon and Killua’s adventures begin with their journey to Heavens Arena, the greatest hub for martial artists in the world.


Like what you see? Is the Zoldyck Family arc your favorite of HxH? Leave a comment!

A few words for the New Year-

Looking ahead, and a few words of thanks!

Hello dear readers,

Once again, Happy New Year! I do hope everyone enjoyed the recent holidays, and as we head further into 2018, I’d love to hear suggestions on what you guys would love to see! As I approach the one year anniversary of AniB Productions, there is plenty in store coming- such as a continuation of the Hunter x Hunter comparison series, new show reviews, character pieces, and perhaps an episode review or two…and, I’m hoping to also again put out a piece for the Oscars when the time comes! (Here’s last year’s piece for reference.) The category for best animated film this year is not nearly as deep as some prior years, but the top looks as good as ever, and I’ll be looking to see the field again…

A new year also means new shows! Several exciting anime and Western developments should be occurring in 2018, including a season 3 of the popular My Hero Academia and hopefully another season of Made in Abyss, which I recently wrote about to start January. Star Wars Rebels will also be finishing its run after a number of years on Disney XD; and as usual, I’ll be keeping a lookout for promising new shows while keeping my other eye on those of the past worth writing about.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who visited the site, made comments, carried on discussions and enjoyed reading the material here in 2017! It’s a terrific experience to watch dialogue and discussion unfold about the incredible world and potential of animation, and some of the insights from certain individuals who contributed consistently (you knwo who you are!) was simply amazing. I might write the pieces, but it’s you, the readers that keep me going despite life’s other busy tasks

Here’s to a wonderful 2018, from me to you,

-Christian, aka “AniB”

Review: Made in Abyss

A intriguing, albeit dark fantasy proves to be a unique descent in more ways than one.

That’s right: Behold, not one, but two new pieces for the new year! In addition to the brand-new Random Episode Rambling (Duck Amuck), the first review of the new year is a request from a reader in what proved to be a most entertaining winter watch at the end of 2017! For that person, and everyone else, I hope you sincerely enjoy this piece.

The Lowdown:

Show: Made in Abyss

Studio/years aired: Kinema Citrus, 2017

AniB’s thoughts: Much like the new year, there might not be a better way to begin talking about new beginnings than with a very recent adaptation of a show that had people buzzing in the anime community very recently: Made in Abyss. It’s such a new adaptation that only a 13 episode sub exists, and while I’m writing this review, it could in short order become a preliminary review based on the abundant evidence that in fact this show will get a second season.

As is the case with a great deal of anime, Made in Abyss is an adaptation of an ongoing manga, and while I can’t verify the quality of the source material, the anime itself is an incredibly bewitching world, in equal part fascinating, full of discovery and adventure in the truest sense of the word, set against unfathomable dangers and some bone-chilling implications and moments that don’t always seem possible given how adorable some of the lead characters look. (What can I say- don’t judge a book- or show- by its cover.)

Before I talk about anything else in the show though, Made in Abyss is visually stunning. It’s not just good-looking in the way most anime are, but breathes life into this multilayered world of “the Abyss,” a giant chasm which hides another world within it, ringed by a giant city ringing its entrance at the top. The ability to convey a wide variety of unique environments in rich detail, while capturing the respective mood of each place, is something worthy of mentioning, before even delving into the characters or the universe in which the adaptation exists. Furthermore, the fact that the animation proves to be key in enhancing the storytelling that it does shows a talented use of the medium in which Made in Abyss exists, and helps augment a series of well-paced, impactful moments.

Finally, the character design ranges from downright charming (seriously, look at the picture for this piece!) with an influence from chibi characters the world over, to foreboding and even downright terrifying…as you’d expect in an excellent fantasy adventure. The Abyss itself is a multi-tiered ecosystem of life, with fantastic beasts living within its many levels, continually evoking the sense of simultaneous adventure and danger that lurks around every corner… and those who explore it, the cave raiders. Among their ranks, which correspond to different colored whistles worn around the neck, the most legendary and feared of such explorers are the White Whistles- an elite fraternity that numbers in the single digits, and who alone are allowed to plumb the Abyss’s darkest depths, for the chasm of wonder hides a terrible secret only known as the so called “Curse of the Abyss…”

More than anything, I think Made in Abyss took me to a certain place of just enjoying a show for the fact that it was enjoyable. It definitely is a dark fantasy as you delve further into it (literally), and has plenty of serious ideas and questions that it probes along the journey that you follow along on as a viewer, but just entering this unknown world and seeing it with the same fresh eyes as Riko- the young cave raider who the story follows- is something that harkens back to experiencing something like Tolkien’s Middle Earth for the first time, or tucking into an adventure that you just know will be exhilarating, come hell or high water. And perhaps that’s why this anime is a perfect pick to start a new year of reviews (at the time of this writing): for a whole new adventure awaits, and like a descent to the bottom of the legendary chasm there’s no turning back.

On to grading:


 

Animation Quality: Absolutely stunning 2-D animation with a smattering of 3-D thrown in. Made in Abyss, as I mentioned above, is absolutely gorgeous, and its animation, far from just looking stunning, uses the medium to its fullest in its ability to impact storytelling, from warm moments to tragic ones. 5/5 points.

Characterization:
Made in Abyss’s story mostly follows that of Riko, a young cave raider who wishes to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the legendary White Whistle Lyza the Annihilator, by exploring the deepest depths of the Abyss, the massive mysterious chasm of which the show centers around. After a series of events early in the show, including meeting Reg and receiving a mysterious letter from the deepest reaches of the Abyss, Riko decides to embark on the perilous, suicidal journey to the unknown bottom of the Abyss in the hopes of finding her mother- and so the journey unfolds from there.

Accompanying her is Reg, a strange boy who is said to be an Aubade- a true sacred treasure of the deep, and while he is seen as a robot, he has decidedly human features that make him truly an enigma. Reg is kind, but rather shy and has several unique feature including extendable metal arms and a powerful weapon embedded in his artificial hands that even he is unaware of its true origins or power source…Looking to find more answers about his mysterious past, he agrees to travel and protect Riko on her journey.

The supporting cast is varied for a (currently) short show, with different characters that play an important role at each level of the Abyss, from the massive town of Orth ringing the pit on down. Normally I’d detail the supporting cast slightly more, but in this case it’s probably better to experience them for yourself (and to avoid heavy spoilers!) 4.25/5 points.

 

Story quality: Simple premise, amazing execution. As is typical of anime, the overarching story plot is present and the main thrust of that plot- Riko’s drive to find her mother- is deceptively simple. However, the setting and the character themselves bridge the “how?” question in incredibly unique ways, augmented by the settings and the experiences of other characters imparted as the journey unfolds. One last note: This show shows how a flashback sequence should be done. Without spoiling anything, people who’ve watched this show or read the manga will know what I’m referring to. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: What drives people to do crazy things? Furthermore, what does humanity’s never-ending quest to see the unknown lead to? For this genre of show, there’s this deep and often unnerving look at the human mind as much as there is a look at the depths of the Abyss, and in turn, there’s real stakes, solids twists and emotional impact that rings true. I’m curious where another season will continue to develop this category. 4/5 points.

Don’t insult the viewer: Alright, alright…so there’s highly disturbing sequences that I do caution the faint of heart about, and I wouldn’t recommend this show to anyone under…16 in good conscience, largely because of how intense parts of Made in Abyss can get, but it’s a tightly packed narrative the whole way with plenty of excellent sequences, some fitting music, a nice OP and ending, and intelligent writing. Can’t really go wrong with that!  4.75/5 points.

Total Score: 22.5/25 (90%). A vibrant fantasy world packed with adventure and danger around every corner has proven to be an exhilarating, emotional trip thus far, albeit for a slightly older audience than you’d expect such cute main characters to be starring in. There’s likely to be a season 2 as I mentioned, but the 13 current episodes are a must watch, though I will warn that the final few episodes are something to brace for.