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Anime Review #2: Witchblade

Posted by sosbrigademgo on November 4, 2008 at 1:39 AM Comments comments (0)
Witchblade

Synopsis:

Masane Amaha and her daughter Rihoko (Riko, for short) have just recently moved to Tokyo. Six years prior, a massive earthquake had leveled a major part of the metropolis. Lots of people were killed. Masane and her daughter were among the survivors; they were found and rescued at the epicenter of the quake. Masana Amaha has no memories of her life before the earthquake, and her daughter was an infant.

Being homeless and unable to properly provide for her daughter, Masane Amaha is constantly on the run from the Child Welfare Ministry, which wants to take her daughter. Masane, however, wields the Witchblade--the Earth's most powerful weapon. Two major corporations want the Witchblade for themselves, each with a different motive. The Doji Group claims that they owned the Witchblade and "misplaced" it during the great earthquake; the NSWF wants it for research.

To be honest, I don't know what I can say in the synopsis. The the twenty-four episode run of the show, it's a bit of a roller coaster ride with high and low points.

The story starts out with Masane and her daughter moving to Tokyo, wanting to start a new life. Not too long after that, the Child Welfare Ministry (CWM) catches up to them and successfully take away the daughter. In an attempt to rescue (a.k.a. steal back) her daughter, Masane Amaha assaults a couple of cops and steals a police car. The attempt fails, and she is thrown in jail. In the jail she encounters her first enemy and makes her first transformation into the battle-hungry vixen of the Witchblade. She kills it with no troubles, escapes the jail, gets tranquilized and passes out. Meanwhile, there are a string of strange murders going on in the city. You have a hardy detective, and a money-hungry freelance reporter-wanna-be trying to make his big story that would be his meal ticket into the news career.

The reporter thinks that the NSWF is involved because all the murder victims are workers of NSWF. NSWF, incidentally, is the parent company of the CWM. So he scopes out the Child Welfare facility. While there, he gets the butt end of an escape attempt by Rihoko, Masane's daughter. She manages to convince him to take her to the jail to see her mother. When the get to the jail, they hear an explosion. The reporter checks it out and sees Masane's Witchblade form escaping.

All of that happens in the first episode, alone. Suffice it to say, early on, this show introduced too many characters too early.

The story of the show is light. While it does well with giving every character, or organization, some good motivations for what they do, in the end it's all really very cut-and-paste. Off hand, by the end of the twenty-four episode run, I can remember a total of seventeen characters. I have a feeling there's more than that, but like I said that's why I can remember just off the top of my head. That's a lot of characters for twenty-four episodes.

However, it really starts to pick up some steam by the fourth or fifth episode. The motives have generally been explained, though a lot are still held back. Witchblade has more than its fair share of strong moments. There were more than a few times where I was genuinely touched by the interaction between Rihoko and her mother. But still, no matter how well-written those strong moments are, it seemed like the rest of the show is just filler episodes.

The show had me watching one episode after another, but unlike Hell Girl, I could easily pry myself away to do other things. In essence, there were instances when I left the episode to continue running, while I distracted myself with other things to do. It left me feeling like I really wouldn't miss anything, either way.

With so many characters, and the show suddenly making a turn in story arcs midway through, I felt like it could have been so much better had it been two full seasons instead of one. Everything seemed to have been resolved half-way through the show, but then some new "issues" popped up, and suddenly we're dealing with an entirely new foe.

The show felt like a soap opera, continually getting fed some intrigue and drama, then filled with some action sequences in between. It does well with having you sympathize with a character or two, but being able to relate to one or two characters out of at least seventeen kind of makes the characters something of a failure.

There's really not much more I can say about this show. So continue on with the ratings.

Story 6/10 = It manages to pull off a handful of strong, memorable moments - especially between Masane Amaha and Rihoko - but beyond that, it's rather predictable.

Video 7/10 = The characters are generally well drawn, and some are even attractive. But being an anime of mostly female characters, expect some extra-large breasts. There is no nudity in this show, but that's a loose thing to say, really. Masane's Witchblade form, for example, shows almost everything except for a few well-placed patches of "armor" to cover up her "vital" areas.

Audio 9/10 =
There is at least one thing they did absolutely right here. There's a moment or two when the voice actors get a bit annoying, but from what I can recall, they were purposely done so for particular characters.

Overall 6/10 = At the end of the day, this is still an entertaining show. While it's not something I would definitely go out and buy, it's still worth a watch, if only in short bursts. There's not much to come back to after having been seen once, so it may not be worth owning.

Final Words

While the show is indeed somewhat shallow in the story department, it still is very entertaining to watch. The story, though dry, is charming and it has some very memorable moments. It could have done better being trimmed to a single story arc. What it says in twenty-four episodes, it could have said better in twelve or thirteen. Inversely, with the two arcs, it could have been separate seasons, and the second arc could have used a little more development.

I recommend giving this show a pass. It's worth a watch, but not worth the admission fee. Especially considering it has the weakest ending of any anime in recent memory.

Anime Review #1: Hell Girl

Posted by sosbrigademgo on October 21, 2008 at 4:51 AM Comments comments (6)

Jigoku Shoujo or Hell Girl

Synopsis:

Ai Enma is a supernatural being with single purpose: revenge. Mind you, it's not her own revenge she's after, but other people's. People go to a special website that appears only at midnight. It has only one page: an entry form. You enter your tormentor's name and click "Send". Moments later Ai Enma will appear before you and offer to take revenge for your sake. She will ferry the soul of that person straight into the depths of hell. But there is a price: when you die, you will also go to hell. "You will never know the joys of heaven. You will wander a world of pain and torment for all eternity."

The first seven episodes of the show is somewhat hard to get through. Each episode seems shallow - one is the same as the one before, but with different characters. The show, for the first seven episodes follows a strict formula: teenager is "tormented" by someone (a fellow classmate, in Episode 1, for example), teenager goes to the website, teenager takes revenge, "tormentor" goes to hell, teenager feels better but is branded and hell-bound.

However, after the first seven episodes, the show deepens in story. You get more persistent characters. By persistent, I mean characters that aren't there just for one episode and are then gone for good. Enter Shibata and his daughter. Shibata is a freelance reporter, and he's been quite interested in the urban myth of the Hell Girl. For some strange reason, his daughter is bound to the Hell Girl. His daughter sees what Ai Enma sees, and at times even utters what Ai Enma says.

When Shibata learns that the Hell Girl is real, he has made it a personal goal to stop her. Taking revenge does not solve problems: sometimes life can be unfair, but surrendering your soul to an eternity of torment just because someone is mean to you is no logical solution. So in the later episodes, it becomes a powerful moral dilemma. In the end, the people that Ai sends to hell are genuinely bad people and deserve to go to hell. Or do they?

Lastly, in the third and last act of the show, it explores not only the moral division of taking revenge and its effects on everyone, but it also explores why Ai Enma is even doing these things. You get glimpses of her in what is presumably purgatory, simply wasting time, finding idle things to do, waiting for the next message, notifying her that someone wants revenge.

Clearly, in the show, you can see that Ai Enma doesn't like what she does. And you get a very distinct idea that she does it regardless because she's bound to it. But why?

The final episodes of the show are among the most powerful I have seen in any medium. It had me glued to my seat from midnight to almost noon, watching from beginning to end, because I simply could not stop myself from watching the next episode. The final episodes, as I said, are among the most powerful I have seen in any medium. It has a tremendous emotional impact.

Anime fan or not, this is one show no one should ever miss. This is how anime should be done. Each episode showing more and more of the grand scheme, until the final moments, when the realization dawns on you, at the same time as it does on the characters. From beginning to end, this show focuses on itself, and its details. It doesn't take itself lightly, but it never takes itself too seriously. It makes the viewer feel for himself the consequences of the moral choices made by the characters.

I have never felt so strongly about characters in an anime before. Especially for characters that are only there for one episode. When a show can make you feel strongly about mere extras, you know the writers have done something absolutely right.

I give this show my highest recommendation. Go out there and buy it ASAP!

Story = 10/10 - Incredible depth and moral perception.

Audio = 8/10 - Good sound, the voice acting is well-done. Though some of the "extras" seem a bit off.

Video = 9/10 - the art style is superb. The colors are vibrant, and the character designs are generally attractive.

Overall = 10/10 - This is not an average of the scores but rather the score of the show itself.

Do yourself a favor and watch this show. Get past the first seven episodes and you won't regret it.
Support the creators: Don't watch this show illegally. Seriously, this show is so good, you won't regret buying it.

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