Review: ERASED

Murder mystery, the butterfly effect and the bonds between people = a really unique show.

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The Lowdown:

Show: ERASED

Studio/years aired: A-1 Pictures, 2016

AniB’s thoughts: Once again, a recommendation was made to pick up a show, and so, laden with high expectations of a promising watch, this critic is happy to report that it was indeed an excellent watch. ERASED, or Boku dake ga Inai Machi as it is known in Japan, is a thriller of a ride, with an unusual time-travel/butterfly effect mechanic and a murder mystery that is 15 years in the making at the time the story begins.

ERASED has a character driven narrative that is matched by a superbly paced story that keeps flowing at an appreciable rate with the constantly shifting turn of events in the show. You don’t sense that a moment is wasted, something that is further reflected in Satoru- the main protagonist- as he seeks to unravel the mystery of a horrific string of murders from his childhood and discover the true killer behind them. The desperation in this case, adds to the narrative tension in a very positive way that keeps the viewer engaged in the story that unfolds.

The most unique mechanic about this show, and Satoru though, is something called “Revival,” where he is able to somehow jump back in time, but under only very specific conditions to prevent a fatal incident. According to the character, these normally had been short incidences between 1-5 minutes back, but for the main story of ERASED, Satoru is sent all the way back to 1988 as a 10 year old, which sounds conceptually crazy (and it is), but is just works. This show is probably the second or third time that any sort of time travel plot worked for me in animation, the first being Steins;Gate (which I have a review of here). What’s most curious is that upon being reverted to being a kid again, Satoru retains all of his memories and knowledge from his lived life up to the point of his Revival leap, meaning that he actually has the mind of a late 20 year old man when he makes said jump, which make for both some funny and insightful banter, plus a sleuthing mind that no normal 10 year old could hope to have.

Saying more on this mechanic or the reasons for Satoru’s large Revival jump would be tantamount to spoilers, but both his adult and kid versions play major roles in this tale. This fact is reflected in the OP’s visuals, where it opens in on a movie theater, which both the adult Satoru and his kid self enter. This theater in turn turns out to be the “film reel” of his life- and so, memories are held inside his mind like a constantly flowing movie, which is also represented visually in the show as well. In this way, he is also able to tell what changed from the original timeline or event if something shifted as a result of his actions…

The level of detail in this show is very good, as you’d hope from a solid mystery. Both real and false leads are planted for the viewer to decide on, and even if the answer for certain questions may come quickly, there is often a nagging doubt about whether one’s suspicions are right in this show up until the moment of truth for so many ideas and theories. Accompanying the intriguing setups is the cast to match, which is delved into below in the grading section, and a lot of key lines that often have mirrors in the narrative if you pay attention closely enough.

Overall, ERASED was simply flat-out enjoyable in the way a great story should be, with excellent execution, interesting characters and a story that lives up to the hype and the best of its genre. It’s a bit of a crazy ride, but this is a good crazy, and I suspect plenty of people, not just the murder mystery crowd, will love it if they haven’t seen it already. As far as I see it, this is a great representation of what modern anime can be capable of, and by extension, an adaptation.


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D animation, computer-shaded, with slight bits of 3-D thrown in. ERASED is a story that understands its medium well, and uses it in its storytelling to great effect.  4.75/5 points.

Characterization: As talked about, Satoru Fujinuma is the main protagonist of this tale. A struggling mangaka, or manga artist, his uneventful existence in the present (which is 2006 in this show) is interrupted by a series of unexpected and tragic events that reopen the wounds of a brutal crime spree that erupted around him 15 years ago. As a result, the Revival Satoru experiences is in response to try and fix those events long ago, and so alter the course of history.

Within that path for Satoru, there are several important characters between the past and present that have implications within ERASED’s storyline.

Kayo Hinazuki is one of the victims of a mysterious serial killer on the loose in 1988. Shown as a loner and an introvert, Kayo’s off-putting demeanor is actually in part the product of an abusive mother and by extension, an unstable home life. (SPOILER): She is the character young Satoru attempts to change the fate of when Revival sends him back to 1988, and in the process, attempts to give a young girl hope for a future and happiness. (She’s also the girl in the picture for this review.)

In the present, Airi Katagiri is Satoru’s co-worker at a part time job he holds at a pizza place. Bright, curious and inquisitive, she takes an interest to the introverted protagonist and ultimately proves to be a reliable friend, even believing in Satoru when no one else would as events unfolded. A high school girl with long brown hair and a slim figure, Satoru’s mom “believes he has a chance with her” though her son isn’t buying it.

Speaking of which, Sachiko Fujinuma was an ace reporter and also an ace mother for her only son. Sharp on her feet with a quick wit but also an unwavering dedication to help her son in life, she proves to be a smart, unflappable woman with big hopes for Satoru no matter what. Her ability to find the truth is something that was passed onto her son, and so for her, she notices all the little details around her, good or bad.

Also of note in the past is Kenya, Satoru’s best friend from childhood (who in the dub at least shares the same VA that did dubbed Gon Freecss and Ryuko Matoi, Erica Hernandez). He’s a smart kid who’s quick on the uptake and mature beyond his years in many aspects, though noticeably flustered if he perceives anyone to be ahead of him at something complex.

There is also the main villain of this show, but those who have seen Erased know what a spoiler that is, and those who haven’t seen it ought to discover the big bad. This individual is definitely a solid antagonist no doubt- a hitman who leaves no trace of their misdeeds if it can be helped.

Finally, there is a solid supporting cast around these characters as the show unfolds, both past and present. Everyone fits in nicely, and the character development is superb, and right at the center of the narrative. Strong characters always lend themselves to a great production, and this is very much the case in this show. 5/5 points.

Story: A strong character base lends itself to the actual narrative of ERASED, which is a thrilling case of murder mystery meets corrective time travel. Indeed, this anime blends two genre aspects together seamlessly and in doing so, creates a thoroughly engaging experience from start to finish that leaves you guessing the details at each turn and always intrigued as to what the next move and eventually the endgame shapes up to be. Truly superb. 5/5 points.

Themes: There’s a lot to unpack here, but the central theme of ERASED in a word, is “relationships.” There’s a lot placed into the worth of good family and friends, and always having someone who will be there at your side, even when the chips are down. There’s also a powerful message about having the courage and confidence of doing what is right even in the fact of fear and the uncertainty of damning failure if things go awry, and the persistence to dig into one’s own self to go beyond what they thought possible in a pressure-filled situation. 4.25/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A show that knows how to maximize its shocking impacts when they happen. This isn’t a show that has “excesses” when it comes to its use of any sort of violence, which in turn maximizes the effect on the viewer. A lot of credit as well to a well conceived opening and ending themes and the graphics to match. 5/5 points.

Total: 23.5/25 (94%): A gripping tale that combines high drama, compelling characters, a well paced and interesting narrative, along with a good application of a difficult concept in time travel makes for an amazing show in this case. A high recommendation from this writer!


Like what you see? Are you a fan of ERASED or totally new to this series? Leave a comment!

Review: Sweetness and Lightning

A surprisingly sweet slice-of-life with a dash of warmth and a pinch of reality.

The Lowdown:

Show: Sweetness and Lightning (Amaama to Inazuma)

Studio/years aired: TMA Entertainment, 2016

AniB’s thoughts: Consider this show and its review the unexpected surprise of my year so far in animation. I wound up stumbling upon the opening song of this series, and found its distinct, upbeat and cheery demeanor infectious, so I I checked out the first episode and the rest is history. Sweetness and Lightning is quite a pleasant watch, so it’s a pleasure to share it with those who have not discovered it yet and for those who have, you may in fact share the same sentiment.

Originally a 2016 release, this show is fairly niche so I’m not holding my breath for a dub two years on, but it is an excellent representation of the “slice of life” genre. It’s not over-the top visual humor and skits like a Nichijou, or even something like Lucky Star, but instead is its own unique production, following the story of a young widowed teacher and his daughter as they navigate their lives, which in turn is given meaning by the friends they make and the cooking they learn to do over the course of this show.

One of the aspects of this show that truly stood out to me was Kōhei Inuzuka- the single father who is tasked with raising his energetic only daughter- Tsumugi- after the sudden death of his wife, something that happened off-screen and before the events of the show. Balancing his role as a loving parent and also as a teacher is a tricky balance and yet, his gentle love and kindness comes through in a way that is simply marvelous. There aren’t a lot of anime in particular that I’ve seen give a major focus to parenting or the parent(s) in general on a realistic level and this show does a wonderful job of that, putting the dynamic of father-daughter at the forefront of its storytelling narrative.

It’s rare that a SOL just feels both the right amount of cute and realistic without being cringe-worthy in even the smallest sort of way, but Sweetness and Lightning manages to do that. The cooking sessions that Kohei and his daughter take up with a student from his school- Kotori Iida- wind up being a source of both life lessons, a sweet sense of friendship, and quite a few tasty -looking dishes. Everything moves with a rhythm and beat as the narrative follows father and daughter, through both joyous highs and unexpected lows, and as a result, each episode in some ways is as delicious to watch as the foods they’re named after.

Some of the more grounded aspects of the show comes from the fact that it’s also a seinen, but for this critic at least, it enhanced the overall show’s engaging potential and made it work on a level it might have not otherwise. Also to be lauded is a lack of fanservice as the narrative focus stayed squarely on a small, but concise cast of characters and their roles in the story that unfolds. While I could go on more about the details of Sweetness and Lightning here, the rest is better saved for the grading and for one’s own experience of one tasty anime


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D anime, computer shaded. A bright show visually, the animation pops with the narrative, and in a show that heavily features cooking as a major part of its plot, food has to look good…and it does here! Character design is simple, but believable (as you can tell from this piece’s featured picture), and for this style of show, everything is extremely appealing. 4.75/5 points.
Characterization: As was talked about in my thoughts, Sweetness and Lightning revolves around the father-daughter pairing of Kohei and Tsumugi Inuzuka and in particular, the latter’s quest to make his daughter happy by cooking for her delicious homemade food.
I detailed information earlier about Kohei, but he’s a kind and caring father who is described as “plain looking” by more than one observer. A math teacher at a high school, it’s interesting to see the strain of working a full time job and caring for a young child can put on one person, but he handles it well, and mostly with a smile. He’s a responsible caregiver and a loving parent.

Tsumugi is an outgoing young girl, described as “adorable” by most observers between her bright perky face and gorgeous head of hair. She is a creative child with an active imagination, is extremely fond of an in-universe magical girl show that airs on TV, turns out to have a diverse palette for food (unless it’s green bell peppers), and loves her daddy very much. She’s the beating young heart of Sweetness and Lightning, and her boundless energy is infectious.

 

The one who initiates the idea of cooking sessions is Kotori- a student at Kohei’s high school where he works, and in fact one of his students. She loves good food as a result of growing up in and around her mother’s restaurant kitchen- but feels increasingly lonely as the latter so happens to make it big as a celebrity chef. The cooking lessons therefore become a source of bonding for the Inuzukas and Kotori, which also results in the side effect of improving culinary skills… A kind if somewhat shy girl, Kotori’s idea turns out to be the glue of a nice tale.

The rest of the cast is not that big, but there are solid supporting characters, chiefly Yagi- Kohei’s long time friend who works as a barkeep and cook at a restaurant, and Shinobu, Kotori’s best friend. It’s a sweet little cast where less is definitely more, and it comes together to form a cohesive cast. 4.25/5 points.

Story: Sweetness and Lightning is a “slice of life” meaning the overarching plot is more rooted the day to day routine of the characters, and in fact, takes on a much more “episodic-style” like many Western animated shows. It is a character-driven plot that revolves around those interpersonal dynamics, and as such, the actual substance of the show is in its cast, where everything else (setting, backdrops, etc) are more or less the foundation upon which that structure is built on. To that end, it works well: a cohesive narrative that keeps its premise clear and simple but also unique at the same time, and the execution is on point. 4.25/5 points.

Themes:  The story of a single father raising his daughter is one of committed parenthood, of friends and food, and of growing up for young Tsumugi. It’s a show that works on different levels for different viewers and I think that’s a beautiful dynamic to have in your theming. 4/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A sweet show with plenty of engaging interactions, a lack of fan-service and a family dynamic? Yes please! Add in the adorably catchy opening to this show and you’ve got a winner in terms of the intangibles. 5/5 points.

Overall: 22.25/25 (89%): Adapted from a manga, Sweetness and Lightning is a delightfully under-the-radar pick from 2016 that should not only find appeal with long-time anime fans, but with casual viewers as well. A warm emotional heart beats in this “slice of life,” as well as lot of really tasty meals (complete with recipes!) This pick is definitely worth a look for all ages.


Like what you see? Enjoyed Sweetness and Lightning or curious about the show? Leave a comment!

Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur

July was a busy month, indeed. Despite that, a few weeks back I finally sat down and watched the final two Pixar films I hadn’t seen yet, and one of them was this film- a 2016 release that generally gets forgotten in the pile of excellent films that Pixar has produced over many years, and perhaps doubly so given that it was wedged in between a year with Inside Out (2015) and then last year’s animation standout in Coco (2017), which I also wrote about here. Let’s jump into it though!

 

The Lowdown:

Film: The Good Dinosaur

Studio/year released: Pixar, 2015

AniB’s thoughts:

What a pleasant film. As mentioned in my preface, this was one of only two Pixar films I hadn’t viewed yet (the other being Cars 3). However, I made an evening of the two and the result is the review you’re reading now.

The Good Dinosaur is a charming movie with a warm emotional heart. It’s not nearly as deep as some of Pixar’s finest films, but it still manages to hold its own between some absolutely breathtaking scenery, a very refreshing twist on the “if dinosaurs and humans coexisted” question that cinema has explored for as long as there’s been film reels, and a likable underdog in Arlo, an undersized sauropod whose story revolves around “making his mark”- in other words, growing into the dinosaur his parents think he can become and more.

It’s my prevailing thought that this film may have claimed the title of most overlooked Pixar film (over A Bug’s Life, which is a fine movie.) It’s got a nice mix of tragic and heartfelt in its narrative, and in some ways feels like a more nuanced version of Blue Sky’s Ice Age from many years back, particularly when it comes to the idea of the “road less traveled. To borrow a quote that I picked up from my undergrad work, “successful interpretation (in a story) is often like the weaving of a tapestry or [symbolized] by the arduous journey home.” Indeed, this idea is fully on display with Arlo: when he first travels away from his comfortable homestead his life is thrown into disarray and confusion, which also turns into a mission to prove his worth. Without trying to spoil too much, it’s when he’s farthest away from all he knew that he’s at his nadir, but the moment he takes his first steps back towards where he came from is the moment he really begins to grow. In that sense, this movie’s true beauty is not just the gorgeous reflection and clarity of 3-D water, or the vivid landscapes that can capture the imagination, but rather how this interesting thematic idea plays out in the animated medium, along with the true antagonist not necessarily being some certain hungry pterodactyls, but rather, a young dinosaur’s struggles along the path he takes with an unlikely new friend- Spot, a human boy.

As it stands, The Good Dinosaur makes for a fine movie night, especially as a family-friendly flick. There’s no doubt in my mind that the deeper thematic ideas will find some root with most people, while kids would love the antics of Arlo and Spot- a dynamic that works rather nicely and far more nuanced than I expected initially. While this film might never get the recognition of other Pixar fare- a safe assumption given the extraordinary stable of titles the studio has- it’s a very good movie worth a look.


Animation Quality: Pixar’s usual 3-D animation. As you’d expect, it looks superb in every sense of the word, and also typical with the studios’ films, it also incorporates that gorgeous art right into the storytelling. While the dinosaurs in the movie slant far more towards “cartoony” than “realistic” in their looks and proportions, it works well for the film. 5/5 points.

Characterization: As talked about, the main character of this tale is Arlo- a young sauropod who is the runt of the litter among his other two siblings on the farmstead his family keeps. Desperate to live up to the rest of his family and make “his mark,” Arlo’s adventure is one spring-boarded by both tragedy and fate.

His unlikely companion on that journey is “Spot”- a small human boy who in this alternate imagining of the world, acts far more like a wolf or a dog. He’s very agile, relatively fearless and is also shown to be rather caring as the movie progresses, fostering a cute, heartfelt relationship with his young dinosaur companion.

The rest of the film mostly features a supporting cast designed to frame Arlo’s journey, and they do so effectively, from his family to a couple T-Rex herders who essentially are cowboys. It works well, but ultimately the film’s main dynamic hinges on Arlo and Spot, and while simple, it comes together nicely.  3.75/5 points.

Story Quality: I’ve talked quite a bit about this already in my thoughts, but this movie’s about the journey and how one can “make their mark.” It’s relatively straightforward, especially compared to some of Pixar’s best film, but the execution of the idea is done very well and has a stronger emotional undertone than was expected. 3.75/5 points.

Themes: Tying directly into the story portion, this is in a very real sense a coming of age tale forged through unusual and trying circumstances. It’s also a tale of the proverbial “ugly duckling” finally taking wing and figuring out how to fly, or in Arlo’s case, stand on his own four feet as he navigates his adventure. Indeed, there are some influences from other places (and a certain event is almost certainly inspired by The Lion King), but this is a film with a good strong sense of its main thrust and it drives it home well. 3.5/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A very family-friendly film that has a good emotional heart and stellar animation as mentioned above is always a winner in the intangibles department. The music worked well enough, and it’s a clean watch without any sort of grievously objectionable material.  5/5 points.

 

Overall: 21/25 (84%): A very solid, underrated pick in Pixar’s robust stable of movies, The Good Dinosaur is a solid film that has universal appeal and solid messaging. It’s worth a quick pick as a watch option for a night.’


Like what you see? Are you a fan of The Good Dinosaur? Leave a comment!

 

Review: Noragami

The unusual story of a hobo god, his sword, and a girl.

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve gotten to write! Thanks to a summer course I’ve begun, my focus shifted away again from here, but I’m happy to report that I have some new material on the way, and this series is one of ’em. Initially released as an anime in 2014, this review covers both currently aired seasons of the show (titled “Noragami” and “Noragami Aragoto” respectively), and there’s apparently been speculation for a while about a potential 3rd season. Whatever the case may be there, the fact remains that the first two seasons exist, and that is the topic of this review!

The Lowdown:

Show: Noragami (season 1), Noragami Aragoto (season 2)

Studio/years aired: Bones, 2014 (season 1), 2015 (season 2)

AniB’s thoughts: Before I really delve into this review, a thought I’ve held onto for a while struck me again while covering this series: Man, I never quite like it when they split up seasons by different names and even different listings on your popular ranking sites (think MyAnimeList). It just makes things more confusing, in my own opinion, and while grading each season on its own is perfectly valid, for the purposes of this piece I would rather talk about the entire product as one show. So yes, Noragami  and Noragami Aragoto are simply season 1 and 2, or two anime cour as some call them.

As I mentioned in my preface, Noragami was a 2014 release (and presumably got buried under Kill la Kill hype at the time.) As an idea, it’s an interesting concept rooted in the Japanese tradition of shrines and different gods for different causes and wishes, and while this may be the case, this is hardly a religious show, but rather one of friendship, deep conflict, high stakes, and at the heart of it all is Yato- a minor deity without a shrine to call his own, with a shadowy past unexplained that slowly begins to come into focus as events unfold. Yato is an enigma at first- aloof and almost bum-like in his mannerisms; apparently quite difficult to get along with as he’s gone through a number of regalia- uncorrupted souls named by a god to be their holy weapons (more on that in the next paragraph), but as time goes on it’s revealed that he has a much more complex personality and understanding of the world around him, as well as an unsavory reputation as a “god of calamity”- meaning he is quite good at combat, if nothing else. Curiously though, he’s shown to take no pleasure when it comes to taking life, which is an odd contrast for a war god…

 

The master-regalia aspect immediately reminded me of Soul Eater’s meister-death weapon partnerships, but there are several important differences between a likely inspiration and the system employed in Noragami. For one, it is a deity in this universe that gives an un-corrupted soul a name as a bond, which is a “blessing and a curse,” as one certain character puts it, and somewhat similar to the Soul Eater relationship, both master and regalia must be perfectly in tune to perform at an optimal level. In fact, if the regalia acts out, or the master has some sort activity that makes then unclean, both can become “blighted”; a condition that left untreated will eventually kill the god and cause a regalia to transform into a phantom- corrupted spirits that take on monstrous forms, and which can only be rended by what else- a master and regalia.

There’s an interesting 3-wheel dynamic between the leads of this show in Yato, Hiyori Iki, the main female lead of the show, and Yukine, Yato’s young new Regalia. The former comes into contact with Hiyori through a certain incident that’s in the first episode of the show, and while initially she hounds Yato for a certain wish, she eventually does in fact become good friends with him, treasuring the relationship. The same goes for Yukine in relation to the other two, though how this all unfolds is the territory of spoilers. I’ll say this much: the young regalia has a pretty good character arc that unfolds for him in the context of the show. The supporting cast also plays major roles in different arcs of the show; each season has roughly two arcs in it, which develop the plot and the characters nicely.

 


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D computer-animation. As you’d expect, it looks quite good, and understandably so, given the studio (Bones). the animation certaintly helps illustrate the tension and world of the “supernatural within the ordinary” well in this show; the monstrous phantoms in particular were reminiscent  of some of the stranger, more disturbing scenes of 2018’s Devilman Crybaby, but actually worked well in the context of this show. There’s some minor fan-service mostly centered on Hiyori and another character, but it’s not terribly egregious in a way that truly detracts from the show. 4.75/5 points.

 

Characterization: As mentioned in my thoughts, there’s a triumvirate for the lead cast: Yato, the former war god-turned-attempted fortune god, Yukine, his Regalia that takes on the human form of a teenage boy, and Hiyori Iki, a teenage girl who becomes an half-ayakashi, or half spirit being upon a certain incident that this critic can’t help but think was a reference to the first episode of Yu Yu Hakusho

Yato as mentioned is a minor god, typically said to be a god of calamity in his past, but in the present, is doggedly in pursuit of his own shrine and a new reputation. While he seems outwardly narcissistic and uncaring at first, he’s shown in fact to be far more perceptive than people give credit for, and as the show unfolds, quite the opposite of those initial impressions. In particular, he grows a deep bond with Hiyori, which becomes a point of conflict given her unique status as “in-between” the human and spirit worlds, and Yukine.

The oft-mentioned regalia in this piece, Yukine takes the form of a katana when wielded by his master, known as “Sekki.” With the “Yuki” command he turns back into a teenage boy; while Yukine’s past is only surmised in a few panels, it’s implied he died of some tragic accident as a human… Yato saves his uncorrupted spirit by making him his regalia, and takes on a fatherly role that grows closer after a series of events. As a teenager, Yukine is prone to mood swings and often laments that he can’t do normal teenage things, and while this comprises a portion of his plot, it also helps explain why he befriends Hiyori Iki…

A regular, kind girl, Hiyori led a perfectly normal adolescent life until a chance encounter with Yato led to her becoming a half-human, half spirit being who could split from her body at any point, notably gaining a “tail” in the latter form, which actually signifies her link to the living world. As a result, Hiyori is able to see the gods and remember them whereas normal humans cannot, and gains some superhuman abilities in her spirit form. However, it leaves her corporeal body vulnerable, as she falls asleep as a human (which her friends believe is narcolepsy, unaware of her actual predicament.) She seeks to get rid of this status by making a wish to Yato, but later comes to treasure it as she befriends the god and his regalia, plus some others.

 

There’s a good supporting cast here with varying levels of importance, from Bishamon, the supreme god of war who holds a long-time grudge against Yato, to Tenjin, the god of learning who has an extensive shrine and who a former regalia of the latter’s went to; and Kofku and Daigoku, a god/regalia pairing who while eccentric, are friendly with Yato and take kindly to Yukine and Hiyori as well as allies. 3.75/5 points.

 

Story: The story revolves mostly around Yato and everyone else’s storyline sort of fits in neatly around that dynamic. It’s a bit complicated to explain, but it makes sense in context when you’re watching the show. This show is heavily character-driven, meaning the plots here are largely driven by character action as opposed to some other force, but it works overall, with each arc’s story demonstrating good tension and engaging climactic moments. It’s overall very good. 3.75/5 points.

 

Themes: There’s some heavily existential type questions in this show tied into the existence of one’s being, their place in the world, and perhaps also the concept of free will. How such topics are explored is part and parcel with the subject material of the show, which answers these questions in different ways and through different character arcs. It’s a very human sort of look into the deepest sort of fear we tend to experience, despite the supernatural and fictional settings/characters juxtaposed against the backdrop of modern Japan. 4/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: There is definitely a lot of intensity in Noragami, from phantom slaying to very high stakes battles and all sorts of unusual problems. The show also features two absolute bangers for OPs, which are pretty catchy. Overall, a good presentation. 4.25/5 points.

 

Overall: 20.5/25 (82%): An interesting adaptation with a heavy Japanese cultural influence driving its story, Norgami delivers a solid, character driven narrative with plenty of emotional highs and lows, and a good balance between lighter, comedic moments and far more serious ones. It’s worth a look, and it remains to be seen if a third season is released (which if so, I’ll be sure to revisit this series!)


Like what you see? Enjoyed Noragami or are you curious? Leave a comment!

 

Movie Review: Incredibles 2

The long awaited sequel is here at last. Does it live up to its name?

As promised, here is AniB Productions’ review of Incredibles 2! In a first, there’s going to be a spoiler-free section…and some spoiler thoughts as well, along with the usual grading format.

The Lowdown:

Film: Incredibles 2

Studio/year released: Pixar, 2018

AniB’s thoughts:

The 13 and a half year wait is finally over. Yes, today (at the time of this writing) was the day Incredibles 2 finally turned from fiction into reality and audiences jumped back into the world of heroes right where they left off back in 2004, with John Ratzenberger’s Underminer announcing his “war on peace and happiness!” In a twist though, the movie is opened up with government agent Rick Dicker in the same questioning room from Jack-Jack Attack with Tony Ryndinger, Violet’s new boyfriend as he describes the beginning of the attack and the shock of finding out Violet was in fact, a superhero…and off we went.

Since this is the non-spoiler section, it won’t be entirely easy to dish out the juicer details of the film, but there are some things that can be confirmed without doing so, such as the return of the jazzy Incredibles motif courtesy of Michael Giancchino, or that Jack-Jack inevitably plays a bigger role in this film, hardly a surprise given his relatively minor casting in the original film. However, the more pressing question that anyone’s dying to ask is “was it worth the wait?” To that, the answer is a pretty clear “yes,” with a lively action plot, more than a little influence from classic Bond adventures, fluid fight sequences with all the beauty you’d expect a Pixar film to have, and a rousing climax. It is in a word, “super”- and worth the investment into a theater trip when the rest of the cinema is (or was, if you read this weeks or years after the fact) lacking at the time of its release any sort of rousing alternative….until Jurassic World’s sequel hits theaters next weekend, but that’s another story entirely.

(Skip ahead to grading if you don’t want spoilers.)


Okay, so now it’s time to discuss the little nuances and details of a long-awaited film that exceeded expectations.

First off, picking up where they left off was probably a good decision now that I’ve seen the film, though I would have liked to see more of the Underminer after the frenetic opening sequence. He’s still digging his tunnels underneath Municiberg for all we know (and he’s one ugly mole for sure.) This part of the movie was as action packed as you’d expect (and hope), and a useful framing for introducing the wealthy businessman who’d push to revive the supers via a comprehensive plan- which he wanted Elastigirl to spearhead, much to the chagrin of Mr. Incredible.

I’m sure you all want to hear about Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack, the Parr children. I’m happy to report that the expanded roles they get in this film are in equal parts charming, funny, and serious. Violet receives an interesting subplot after Tony’s mind is wiped by Dicker at the beginning of the film, and true to her development from the prior film, she’s a lot more outgoing from the get-go, and isn’t afraid to voice her displeasure when things go south. She also has much better command over her powers, and definitely gets to do some cool things with her force fields in particular. Dash is the only one of the original VA cast that was replaced between the first two films (Huck Milner stepped in for Spencer Fox, who simply got much older in that time frame), but you’d never be able to tell the difference as on screen, he’s still the same confident, slightly cocky kid you’d come to expect. In this film, he gets a running gag of pressing the wrong buttons on control panels of very high-tech things…which actually pans out with the unexpected and fun return of the Incredimobile after the discovery that Bob still had the remote to the car.

The single biggest change in this film though, had to be the emergence of Jack-Jack as a major factor in the film. As you might expect, the youngest Parr’s role often was fairly comedic, but the humor visually worked, particularly the fight with the raccoon as a good example. Jack-Jack also wound up being a major source of Bob’s headaches in parenting while Helen was away- but also a source of joy as he was the first to discover the baby had powers (as no one actually realized in the first film that Syndrome’s defeat was directly caused by Jack-Jack’s manifestation of abilities, or anything about the events of Jack-Jack Attack. In another clever nod, when Edna Mode is later tasked with babysitting him from a weary, sleepless Bob, she finds that Mozart stimulates his powers, indeed confirming that the Mozart that the babysitter Kari talked about over the phone to Helen in The Incredibles was in fact the initial trigger for Jack-Jack, and a sneaky reference for those who knew the film assiduously.

 

The single biggest aspect that set apart The Incredibles from its sequel was the villain. I detailed a bit in The Incredibles review about why Syndrome was exactly an amazing villain that lifted the whole movie, and I’m not sure I can say entirely the same about Screenslaver. In context, she was a pretty neat villain idea- a hypnotist puppetmaster who was also a communications genius that decided to hijack monitors and use special goggles as mind-control devices, and one embittered by personal tragedy and blame- but there was never quite the same emotional heft to her character that Syndrome built in relation to Mr. Incredible-the spurned fanboy turned supervillain with an island base of his own creation to boot. I also will add I had zero problems with the woman being the villain here, or in any movie that actually does it, and I was also happy with Elastigirl’s expanded role in this film doing “hero work” as we actually got only some tantalizing glimpses of her in action during the original film (and not much at all solo.) Likewise, in building on the first film’s “your family is your greatest adventure” lesson for Mr. Incredible, he takes much more of a front and center role in learning to be a better dad, although this fails miserably for a while as he winds up getting a total lack of sleep as well…

 

Overall, this was a very good film, in fact, even excellent. Is it as good as the first? Not quite, but it’s close, and after years of waiting, it proved to be a worthy followup. It’s a funnier film than the original, but in return sacrificed some of its heavier emotional weight, but the end product remained the same in the most basic sense: a seriously entertaining film.


Animation Quality: The latest offering from Pixar is always eye candy, and Incredibles 2 was no exception. The action sequences in particular stood out as fluid and lively, and the colors popped off the screen with a vividness that was wonderful. 5/5 points.

Characterization:
You probably already know and love the Incredibles family, but the major difference this time around is that Helen takes center stage, while Bob plays more of the deuteragonist role this time, but in a way that both supports their characters well instead of awkwardly.

Mrs. Incredible, real name Helen Parr, is Bob’s wife and the former pro hero Elastagirl, noted for her incredible stretching powers and elastic limbs that allowed her to contort her body into almost any shape and develop a unique melee style of combat. In retirement though, she’s a devoted mother and wife who wants the best for Bob and for her kids, who can be a handful between teenage Violet, Dash, and the youngest Parr, baby Jack-Jack. She secretly misses being a hero, but she’s equally as willing to live in the role of a stay at home mother as she is Elastigirl. In her words, “she’s flexible.” That mantra is put to the test when a wealthy telecommunications tycoon pegs her ahead of her husband and Frozone to lead a comeback of the supers- meaning that while she gets to revive the Elastagirl mantle, she’s forced to leave the kids with Bob, who between his glory days dreams and usual status as breadwinner until recently, wasn’t cast into that role.

 

Mr. Incredible, real name Bob Parr, is a man who still pines for the glory days of his youthful prime as a hero before the government decided to push the idea of a hero society underground. Reinvigorated by the defeat of Syndrome, things go awry when the attempt to stop the Underminer turns sour and Rick Dicker shuts down the experimental program to bring supers back, deflating him until a new offer comes in…and Elastigirl takes center stage. And so, instead of being “the man” this time around, Bob’s challenge is to be a good dad while also dealing with the general jealousy of not being “Mr. Incredible” all the time. Bob, despite his shortcomings, is a good family man, husband and father, and his best interests at heart intersect in his mind with what’s good for his family. When he actually takes to the fight though, he’s blessed with the power of super strength and enhanced agility/reflexes, his power on the battlefield is no joke.

This go-around, Violet and Jack-Jack play a much larger role, while Dash plays more of an important supporting role. There’s a subplot with Violet in her role that unfolds as a clever mix of the age-old angsty teen and the issues of being a super that conflicts with having a normal social life. These issues Violet works through in the film, along with showing off some pretty impressive uses of her force field abilities this time around, along with invisibility.

Jack-Jack’s role I talked about at length in the spoiler section, but for the non-spoiler people, he does in fact get a much larger role in this film. You won’t have to wait until end of the movie this time to get some significant action for the baby of the family.

Dash mostly plays a supporting role, but still has some genuinely funny moments and things he’d only do that sometimes work…and sometimes don’t work at all. The change in voice actors also went off seamlessly. Sadly, he doesn’t get quite as cool a sequence as “100-Mile Dash” from the first film, but he’s still a fun character.

Frozone and Edna reprise their roles as well. I’m happy to report Frozone gets a larger role in this film, particularly when it comes to actively battling, and Edna still gets her moments, so don’t worry about it.

I’m not going to mention much about the new characters here for spoiler reasons, but they definitely give a much different feel to this film than the first. They also work well within the context of the story. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know who I’m referring to. 4.5/5 points.

Story:
The plot from the first film about super being illegal rears its ugly head again as the main issue at the center of the film, and it’s within that context that a comeback attempt for heroes is spearheaded by a certain new character and his influence. In the mix of that is another family tale that unfolds. There’s a clever inspiration from Bond films that you can feel in this movie, along with the obvious silver-age superhero influence, and a touch of modernity that creates a clash of the cutting edge against the old-school, and like the first movie, technology plays a big role, though it’s not via giant hero-killing robots this time. 4.5/5 points.

Themes: The family aspect of the Incredibles remains intact, along with the fine balance of superhero work that created issues for Mr. Incredible in the first film and now Elastagirl. It’s still really well done, though perhaps not with the same level of depth as the first film, and while the main villain is good, that individual might lack some of the extra personal depth of a “Syndrome” though the conviction is certainly there. 4/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: Michael Giancchino’s score once again is wonderful, reprising the jazzy themes that helped carry the original film, albeit with new flairs and leimotifs. This film is a fun ride throughout, and is briskly paced, balancing storytelling with action in a way that makes for an entertaining end product. 5/5 points.

Overall: 23/25 (92%): It was always going to be a daunting task to live up to the original Incredibles film, which is no doubt a modern animated classic at this point. However, this film managed enormous expectations with flying colors, and viewed purely on its own merits, it’s an excellent adventure that preserves the family-flavored brand of superhero-ing that The Incredibles is known for, creating another worthy adventure for all ages to enjoy.

Movie Review: The Incredibles

Pixar’s superhero family gets revisited in their classic first adventure.

In an unusual break from AniB Productions’ usual schedule of shows and characters, we’re actually doing an animated film review! Yes, the timing to do The Incredibles is right. Not only is it my personal favorite film, it comes entering the final stretch before Incredibles 2 finally debuts, and I couldn’t be more excited. Truthfully, this review is also going to be a bit more contemplative on the context and details of the film, especially as The Incredibles is by now a very well-known quantity. I don’t doubt some people might still not have seen it all these year later, but this review’s going to have spoilers- and I don’t regret that one bit. So here’s a look one last time at Pixar’s first family of supers before they return for their long-awaited debut, with a special review of The Incredibles!

The Lowdown:

Film: The Incredibles

Studio/year released: Pixar, 2004

AniB’s Thoughts:

 

“It’s showtime.”- Mr. Incredible

 

From the first moment Michael Giacchino’s first notes of a wonderfully jazzy score hits your ears to the final note of “The Incredits”, this was a film that created an enrapturing world into the age of the silver age superhero…and the challenges of suburban life as a normal family, albeit with superpowers. The film came in the footsteps of Pixar’s previous successful endeavors, including the prior year’s Finding Nemo (2003) and Monsters Inc. (2001), and would go on to be an important part of the studio’s absolutely dominant decade in the animation medium- a period that saw the modern animation giant grab an unprecedented 6 out of the first 10 Best Academy Awards in Animation, including this film.

Before we delve into The Incredibles as a film though, consider the circumstances in which it emerged, which were wonderfully unique. First off, the movie released in a time before the superhero deluge of the last decade or so emerged, which in turn allowed these brand-new characters to thrive in that niche. Then there was the year itself: 2004 proved to be an unremarkable year in animated film fare aside from this wonderfully complex tale of a hero family, featuring competition like Disney’s Home on the Range (which actually can tie into a greater story about how that point was around that studio’s nadir, but we’ll save it for another time), The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, billed as the “finale” to the flagship show of Nicklelodeon’s, except that it wasn’t, Shrek 2, which while arguably the second best film of that franchise, didn’t exactly have a high bar to clear in retrospect as that series began a prolonged decline for DreamWorks, and Shark Tale, the studio’s other film from that year which a) featured Will Smith as a talking fish and b) was utterly inadequate compared to the aformentioned Finding Nemo that had proceeded it as an “animated fish film.” When looking back on these other films, it may become easier to begin seeing why Pixar was so dominant at that time, and the massive chasm other animation units had to overcome in improving their films up to a certain standard, which in reality was a good thing- as animation can be a wonderfully deep and complex medium through which a story can be conveyed, not merely fodderized to the tune of “kid’s movie.” Such a mere descriptor did not do The Incredibles justice.

 

Indeed, The Incredibles was uniquely layered to tell a different story to any member of its audience at that given moment in time- from Mr. Incredible’s mid-life crisis, to Mrs. Incredible’s pressure at being a good mother and faithful wife; Violet’s teenage shyness and very apt name as she grew from a “shrinking violet” into a blooming flower with her confidence and self-assertiveness through the film, and Dash, who yours truly at the age of 10 related perfectly at the time to a kid frustrated at not being able to show off his true talents, but also with a side of mischievousness that added levity to high-pressure situations. While the family is definitely compelling with a wholesome dynamic often absent in films that makes it all the more refreshing that it exists here, I actually wanted to devote some time to the one major character who won’t jump from the original film to the new iteration, and that of course is Syndrome.

 

Syndrome was a pretty well-constructed big bad for the film with a compelling, if straightforward origin story inflated to the extreme. The one-time Mr. Incredible fanboy as “Incrediboy,” a massive childhood obsession for Buddy Pine turned sour after a fateful night for all parties involved, and feeling rejected by his hero, he turned it into an insatiable and clearly unhinged plan for revenge over many years. While the film leaves a lot to the imagination, Pine clearly continued to develop his prodigious talent as an inventor in the intervening years, and was also successful enough in developing weapons technology that he became incredibly wealthy, buying and transforming Nomanisan Island into his own personal base and testing ground equipped with state of the art facilities and technology to carry out his “Operation KRONOS” plan. The dark truth behind Syndrome’s identity isn’t too hard to figure out once his adult self makes his explicit debut on screen with his perfected Omnidroid prototype, but it does make for an impactful moment when Mr. I discovers the secret computer storing the data of the villain’s diabolical scheme- and confirms the sinking suspicion that old heroes forced into retirement by the government were in fact test sacrifices to build the perfect super-proofed robot of doom. Vindictive, smart and with more than a healthy dose of deep-seeded, misguided hatred at the figure he once idolized, Syndrome’s dreams come crashing down ironically at the hand of his own perfected doomsday machine, and then perhaps even more profoundly, by Jack-Jack Parr, who represented the youngest of the new generation of heroes the man worked so hard to destroy once and for all.

As The Incredibles gets set to debut to a whole new generation of viewers, the original film has and will remain a timeless classic in the art of animation and filmmaking, and continue to be one of Pixar’s brightest films as time continues to move on. It’s exciting to see a revival of the franchise, but it’s also great to know why a sequel was so highly anticipated, and more than anything, that it was an incredible movie.

 


Animation Quality: This film looked great for 2004 and still looks good now. Since 3-D animation has tended to take exponential leaps since it began to be used in the early 90’s, this film looks remarkably good for something nearly 14 years old at the time of this writing. As you’d expect, Pixar’s films are eye candy, and this brings your convincingly into this compelling world, from the classic cityscape of comic books, to the middling feeling of 50’s-esque suburban planning, and even to the lush backdrop of a tropical island containing a diverse self-contained biome interwoven with the underbelly of Syndrome’s operation. 4.75/5 points.

Characterization: If it wasn’t obvious from the title, watching the film, or my thoughts above, this film is about the Incredibles family and the various personal challenges they work through during the film in order to come together and thwart Syndrome’s master plan.

Mr. Incredible, real name Bob Parr, is a man who pines for the glory days of his youthful prime as a hero before the government decided to push the idea of a hero society underground. (Ironically, this is essentially the opposite of the world established in the current anime My Hero Academia, but that’s another discussion entirely.) Stuck in a desk job at a big corporate insurance agency, he’d become an overweight, unhappy man who despite having a still intact sense of justice and heroism, is repressed from doing the one thing in his life that gave him meaning…while not always noticing the family who has grown with his waistline over the years. Still, Bob is a good family man, husband and father, and his best interests at heart intersect in his mind with what’s good for his family. That vision is challenged through the film though…Blessed with the power of super strength and enhanced agility/reflexes, his power on the battlefield is no joke.

Mrs. Incredible, real name Helen Parr, is Bob’s wife and the former pro hero Elastagirl, noted for her incredible stretching powers and elastic limbs that allowed her to contort her body into almost any shape and develop a unique melee style of combat. In retirement though, she’s a devoted mother and wife who wants the best for Bob, knowing the stress he’s enduring, and for her kids, who can be a handful between teenage Violet, Dash, and the youngest Parr, baby Jack-Jack. She too secretly misses being a hero, but she’s equally as willing to live in the role of a stay at home mother as she is Elastigirl. In her words, “she’s flexible.”

The kids don’t actually play huge roles compared to their mom and dad, but they do have significant moments and character growth that is all their own worth mentioning. Violet of course comes into her own as a young woman; while her invisibility power tends to be the one she favors, especially when timid, the confident Violet gains control over using her force fields properly, which prove even strong enough to (temporarily) hold off the full weight of the perfected Omnidroid in the final battle. Along with a change in personality comes the subtle but age-old symbolism of a change in how she wears her hair; formerly hanging in her face, it becomes pulled back, figuratively “opening” Violet up.

Dash is a little spitfire: a 10 year old with excess energy and the speed to match. He is proud of his speed superpower and wants to show it off, which causes him a lot of trouble from his mother, who simply wants the family to keep a low profile. Dash is finally unleashed upon Nomanisan Island, where he finally gets to run to his heart’s content…in life and death battles.

Jack-Jack is just the baby, but gets one uber-important role which was already mentioned. His major side plot is actually explored in the Pixar short film Jack-Jack Attack, which chronicles his time with Kari, a teenage babysitter Dash and Violet left their youngest brother with when they stowed away on the island mission. (If you’ve never seen it, it’s a hilarious little film.)

The other two major allies of the Incredibles are Frozone, real name Lucius Best, and Edna Mode, a top-flight fashion designer who specializes in hero suits (“No capes!”). Both are known for being quip machines in relation to how they are referenced in pop culture, but Frozone is Bob’s best friend and an important ally (as a hero who generates ice by freezing water particles in the air) and Edna literally creates the now- iconic hero outfits for the family. Add in that they’re voiced by Samuel L. Jackson and director Brad Bird himself, and both characters are a lot of fun.

 

Syndrome I spoke about at length already, but to reiterate: he’s an excellent memorable villain who has just the right motivation, infrastructure and smarts to feel like a properly viable threat, along with a cutthroat ruthlessness that is territory animated films don’t normally deal with. (I mean, the man wanted Mirage, his personal assistant, to shoot down a plane with a mom and her kids aboard because they entered his airspace…and then used it to crush Mr. I’s hope. Great writing stuff there.)  5/5 points.

 

 

Story Quality: The tale of Mr. Incredible’s heyday, fall, comeback attempt and redemption forms the main arc of the story, but this is a tale actually about the whole family and so it asks the question “what happens if I put the family dynamic into this repressed world of superheros and suburbia?” What’s even more innovative is that the family actually saving the day at the end is in reality a series of misadventures and improvising, from Mr. I’s misguided foray into thinking he needed redemption as a hero and a man while forgetting his family idolized him; Mrs. Incredible’s solid attempt to be the glue that binds the family together leading to an unlikely island rescue that involves the whole family unintentionally (save Jack-Jack); and Syndrome’s own hubris being his downfall in the midst of a clearly well-developed and complicated plot years in the making. There’s a lot more aspects to this film’s story than that, and darker elements as well too (hero test subjects, for one), which makes for a richly compelling film that insists you get something new out of it with each viewing. 5/5 points.

 

 

Themes: If it wasn’t obvious before, family, family, FAMILY! The Incredibles was able to actually turn this important, if rote topic, into something innovative and original; the classic American family re-imagined in a story of heroes and villainy that makes for high drama and great adventure, along with the wholesome message that can be imparted to younger viewers. Inside that basic overarching idea though, there was riffs on mid-life crises, the pressures of adolescent socialization, the idea of revenge gone too far and the mistakes of the past not being recognized until far later. Each time you watch the film, something new can spring into your mind (take the jab at corporate bureaucracy and the pressure of results over helping customers when Bob encounters his boss as one of those thoughts.) Not many films do that- and I’m not just talking about animated fare. 5/5 points.

 

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: This film has all the jam-packed action and drama of a top-notch hero film without the crassness of some, and brings its own unique family dynamic to the picture. The score of this film is also jazzy heaven; it brings to life the atmosphere and storytelling of the film and remains a welcome listen to this day even as an OST. It’s a superb family experience that will find resonance with mostly everyone. 5/5 points.

 

Overall: 24.75/25 (99%). Do I think there’s such a thing as a “perfect movie?” In theory, yes, but The Incredibles will have to settle for being just one of the better films you’ll see, especially in its genre. It’s worth a revisit before the new film drops, and will continue to be re-watchable for years to come.

Review: Martian Successor Nadesico

The Lowdown:

Show: Martian Successor Nadesico

Studio (US network)/years aired: Xebec (Cartoon Network/Toonami), 1996-1997

 

AniB’s thoughts: Man, it’s been a while since I visited the 90’s in an anime review. It hasn’t been a while overall, since I did a quick Batman: The Animated Series look not too long ago. In fact, for whatever bizarre reason, this is only the third anime I’m covering here on AniB Productions from the 1990’s since I started writing (although I’ve seen quite a few more, which means other future reviews!) and if we’re being very honest, this show actually encapsulates the major ideas and themes of that era very well. It’s a space epic with a crew full of your usual anime types cast as characters, and features plenty of combat with an “unknown enemy” – the so called Jovian Lizards, which for whatever reason requires the deployment of giant mechas in dogfights. (It’s also billed as a comedy, though I’d argue it’s closer to a drama than anything.) If that doesn’t scream “90’s” to you, I’m not sure what will. But, carrying on:

Nadesico attained fairly good popularity in Japan during its run, which actually saw Akito place in the top 10 of the July 1998 Animage Grand Prix male results (which Shinji Ikari of Evangelion fame won.) There was originally going to be a sequel, which the finale of this show (no spoilers!) seemed to also be setting up for, but all that came of it was a movie that occurred after a time-skip, apparently focusing instead on Ruri, the young navigator of the titular ship rather than the original lead characters from the show. It was confirmed around 2005 that the proposed sequel series was scrapped, confirmed by the director of the series (Tatsuo Sato) on his blog.

 

As for the content of the show itself, a majorly innovative move it made was the incorporation of an anime within this anime- specifically, a show in-universe called Gekigengar III.  Modeled as a homage to giant mech shows of the 70’s, this seemingly minor fanboy interest of Akito’s and fellow pilot Gai Daijogi winds up taking on a much more prominent role in the overall narrative that was unusual but a refreshing idea that worked in the context of the show. Interestingly, Xebec (the studio) made Gekigengar into a full-fledged OVA that featured the clips from this show as well as some new content, and within Nadesico itself, the recap episode that occurs around the midway point of the show is a clever reversal in which Gekigengar characters commentate on the show, suggesting an alternate universe exists in which the show actually follows Nadesico and idolizes it. Either way, the way in which this idea of an original anime influencing the actual anime in which it is employed is a clever, if unconventional decision and interesting to watch unfold as the show’s events play out.

Overall, Nadesico was a solid period pick with some unusual twists mixed in along with fairly standard anime tropes and a colorful cast. It’s worth a look for fans of the 90’s, or anyone interested in the genre as a good but not sensational show. Also…the dub isn’t that great, but it’s there as an option, as a heads-up.

 


Animation Quality: Classic hand-drawn 2-D animation. The 90’s bear the distinction of being the last major decade to see hand drawn, hand colored and shaded animation techniques as its predominant form, and Nadesico is no exception. I’m not sure I’d say it’s a standout among its peers from the era in this respect, but the style and presentation gets the job done for the show, and there’s nothing too unusual or amazingly notable about how it’s employed. It’s engaging enough to comfortably fit the genre at hand, and looks good even now years after the show aired, so it’s held up against the test of time. 3.75/5 points.

Characterization: The cast and crew of the Nadesico, the state of the art battleship the show is named after, comprise the main and supporting cast of the show with some exceptions. As a result, a large variety of the more “everyday” issues take place within the ship itself, not unlike a Cowboy Bebop- but unlike that show, this ship has a much larger crew, leading to abjectly more silliness.

The main protagonist of the show is Akito Tenkawa, a young man who mysteriously wound up on Earth after a major attack by Jovian forces on his home colony on Mars. Despite having the skills to be a combat pilot and a special implant to do so, Akito prefers to run from his past, steadfastly claiming that his goal in life is to be a great cook- and he does in fact pursue this goal. However, after a chance event has him run into a dear childhood friend, Akito find himself hired aboard the Nadesico- as both a cook and “emergency” pilot. In turn, his actual goal through the series is to find out what happened on Mars and the secrets that seem to surround his life and circumstances as a result.

The childhood friend in question is Yurika Misumaru. The daughter of an admiral in Earth’s elite military forces, Yurika is anointed the captain of the Nadesico, where she flashes both strategic competence and youthful naivness in equal part. As it turns out, Yurika spent her childhood with Akito on Mars, before leaving the planet shortly before the Jovian attack, but continued to harbor a childhood crush on the main protagonist, notable despite not seeing him for years. Her arc therefore is a subplot of pursuing Akito’s heart onboard the Nadesico, which has unexpected suitors, and her role as a competent and able captain, which oftentimes finds itself in doubt due to her flighty and emotional side quests.

From the picture that headlines this review, you’re probably curious who the rest of these women are, and I can tell you they are a hodgepodge of bridge officers and mech pilots who all have a clearly defined role to play in the story. Quite a few of them have an interest in Akito as well, who is the reluctant focus of an entirely cheesy romance subplot that while amusing, isn’t particularly amazing, but also not entirely unexpected in how it unfolds.

There are other players too, from the lecherous head mechanic who’s also a genius at mechanical engineering and electronics, to the kind cook who mentors Akito on his cooking skills; the fanboy pilot Gai Daigoji who centers his life around Gekingengar, as mentioned in my thoughts, and several other interesting parties involved with the government, or the makers of the ship itself (NERGAL, an international corporation and private firm in the business of space exploration.) 3.5/5 points.

 

Story Quality: A space drama with mecha elements and comedy, Nadesico has an intriguing enough narrative core which progresses, but the resolution of the plot’s main questions finds itself with a merely okay answer as opposed to a spectacular revelation the show seemed to be gearing up for. I can’t say much more than that without spoilers. It does get off to a fast start though, lags a bit in pacing during the middle of the show, and picks up again as the final episodes come along. Overall, a pretty 90’s centric plot and feel, with some clever references and homages in particular to mecha anime. 3.75/5 points.

Themes: A huge emphasis in this show is that “there’s always another side to the story.” This is true from character-specific interactions, to government secrets, and even to the true identity of the Jovians the Earth is at war with. As different truths are unveiled, the plot of the show takes some interesting and unexpected turns, and while this show isn’t as deep as a Cowboy Bebop, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, and it does well with what it has, despite also falling into some fairly standard anime tropes and cliches. 3.25/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: As I talked briefly about in my 10 Thoughts column, this show has an incredibly catchy opening: “You Get to Burning.” It’s just got a nice iconic sound to it that still resonates strongly in terms of the mood it creates and its overall catchiness. Aside from that, the show has some of the typical cliches as mentioned under themes, and the comedy can be a bit heavy-handed at times in comparison to the more serious parts of the plot. However, none of the drawback remotely make for an unwatchable experience, and so a good mark is earned. 4.75/5 points.

Overall: 19/25 (76%): Martian Successor Nadesico serves as a representative period pick with more good than bad to go off of and a fusion of the space drama and mecha anime. It’s worth a watch for fans interested in what it offers.


Like what you see? Any thoughts on Nadesico? Leave a comment!