Battle Arena Toshinden (OVA) Review

Plot: Uhhh, there’s some tournament called the Toshin tournament, but that doesn’t matter because we never see the tournament over the course of the show. This anime is also based off of a video game of the same name that I’ve never played, but I hope to God at least the fans of the game find some meaning behind this show.

A man named Eiji was apparently the last tournament’s winnerm and his brother, Sho, has turned bad, apparently, and has betrayed his family so Eiji’s on a mission to find him…..apparently.

But there’s also some lady named Uranus who dresses like Lady Gaga’s lobotomized twin. She’s evil and runs some evil organization called….The Organization. Eiji along with a bunch of other characters who are never adequately explored fight The Organization.

Breakdown: THEM anime reviews has, at least at one point, labeled this the worst anime they’ve ever seen. Ouch. Now, I’ve disagreed with THEM before and at this point I’ve seen my fair share of crap. Do I share the same sentiment?

……Uhh, I wouldn’t say ‘worst’ but it’s pretty damn low on the list. It’s bottom 10 at least. This anime is confusing as hell to me. I really, truly hate when shows, anime or otherwise, expect that you should know the full backstory behind something, especially when the backstory is explained in an entirely different medium. I’ve never played Battle Arena Toshinden, yet this anime not only acts like you should know full well the backstory to this whole mess of an OVA, but it also assumes you know every character and what their story is too.

When they actually do bless you with some information, it’s just thrown at you like a rock of exposition. Characters are constantly showing up, especially at the ending where the big clusterfuck of cameos happens. I had no idea who 98% of those people were when they showed up and the ones I did recognize I still knew nothing about. Oh yeah, the old man with Wolverine claws, dominatrix love-interest chick. ♪ And the rest….are here on Gilligan’s Isssllllleeee!

Not like they even did anything either. They were simply meant to fight the lacky no-name no-face enemy characters to give the main guys a chance to go after the characters who actually somewhat matter. Eiji, one of the main characters, actually said “We don’t have time to deal with those pawns!” Yeah, great, thanks for telling me there’s no reason give a crap about what they’re doing.

I didn’t even really get to know the main character that well. He’s a master martial artist and a nice guy…..that’s…about…it.

Another character who literally shows up just to create a plot point is Ellis. She’s a cutesy knife thrower in the circus who was also a participant in the tournament that I’m told happened. She appears in the final minutes of episode one and is in a coma dying from poison five minutes into episode two.

I don’t care about this person. If anything, she annoys me. I don’t care about her dad (It was also an exposition rock that a fighter named Gaia was her dad) And oh she’s voiced by Lisa Ortiz….

Let’s address Uranus, hm? Well, first of all we don’t see her do anything. She’s one of those behind-the-scenes villains who talks big then runs off when she’s confronted face to face. Oh and…she grew wings out of nowhere.

By the way, can someone please explain to me what the hell this is?

It looks she fell in the shower, got wrapped up in the shower curtain, curtain rod and all, walked to the mirror and said, “….Hm…that’s fine. Time to go to work.”

And look at the front!

Her dress has no top! What was that listed as in the item description? “Side-Boob-Displaying Uncomfortable Dress from Hell”? That has got to be one of the dumbest clothing designs I’ve ever seen in anything.

Oh well, she has to look better when she’s prepared for battle, right?

Wow….more practical but still ugly as all hell. That does not look liked she’d be able to move, though, considering the way the shoulder guards are designed. Also, all that armor, looking clunky as a robot made of washing machines, and the two areas they don’t cover are the head and the boobs. Oh well, at least she has boob socks – the strongest of all female armor.

I am thoroughly unimpressed with everything. Thank you.

Our only two actual villains in this movie who do things are Sho and a man-machine (because ‘android’ or ‘cyborg’ are just too complicated) named Chaos. Sho’s obviously the big brother who joined the bad ranks for whatever reason but still wants to fight his brother in an honorable match. Chaos is just a crazy guy wielding a sickle. He has a grudge against Gaia for beating him a while back and that’s about it.

From what story I could piece together, there is nothing here. It’s filled with so many cliches and suffers from such a lack of originality that it’s just sad. Being cliché doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. You just have to be creative with the cliches…and they’re not. I could not care about anything in this OVA. Not the story. Not the characters. Nothing.

This isn’t even really good for action. The action scenes, while not being particularly boring, weren’t particularly interesting either. Their moves are so uninspired that I honestly would never be able to tell them apart if they were done one after another.

They all have regular weapons from your traditional sword, to a buster-sword-thing, to whips (of course the dominatrix character gets a whip….a PINK whip.) to big billy clubs (wielded by a female character who seems to be roller-derby-ish…..and they’re, of course, pink….They also look like giant Nerf toys.) to the aforementioned Wolverine claws. They also have the never-explained ability to use energy-powers, but none of these moves are memorable either.

Oh and did I mention that the ending basically resolves nothing? They manage to get the antidote for Ellis by defeating Chaos. The reason they couldn’t defeat him before was because he was turned into a man-machine. Every time he fought one of the main guys, he’d get data on their fighting styles and predict their moves. How was he beaten? Eiji shrugged him off and said to just fight using each other’s moves so Chaos couldn’t predict it.

Eiji: “You’re a fool for thinking we’d just do the same moves over and over.” You know what? That is a great point and a gigantic flaw in this multi-billion dollar experiment to make man-machine fighters. Way to go, Uranus, you dumb stupidly dressed sack of idiot.

Uranus gets away, the real Sho shows up (don’t ask) yet disappears as soon as he came to just say “Yeah I blew up all the stuff you had. Just wanted to end this BS. Bye!” Uranus escapes due to her unexplained sudden growth of wings (even though I don’t see how she really did escape unless there was a series of holes leading straight up out of the building), the good guys survive the explosion complete with walking out of the flames without even attempting to walk at a brisk pace because bad-ass.

Oh and at the very end, some guy, I guess, according to the Youtube comments, his name is Vermillion, comes out, Eiji smiles, unsheathes his sword, slashes once and reveals the title screen before the end credits start.

Bite. Me.

Look, if you want to release an OVA that is purely meant as an advertisement for a game or a manga or whatever – be my guest. There are plenty of times when that can work, but you have to do it well. You can’t expect that your audience knows all of this crap that may or may not be explained in the video games, and it’s really bad practice to do that because chances are the video game will become dated and phased out due to people ditching their old consoles for new ones, but the OVA will stick around for future viewings and people will be like insanely confused.

I guess the Youtube commenters must’ve been fans of the game because I just kept seeing “this is a good anime” and the like. However, seeing as how many people were also bringing up how this OVA is such a blast from the past, I’m going to either believe they have nostalgia goggles glued on or this OVA really is a lot better when you know of the game. However, I believe even if I knew of all of that stuff that this would still be awful.

Art and Animation: The art is terrible. It’s exaggerated fighting anime style, but it’s still really bad. I don’t know if I’d say it’s some of the worst I’ve seen, but it’s still awful. I will commend them for actually animating the action instead of just resorting to still screens, but the animation as a whole is pretty damn bad.

Voice acting: English Dub. Ranges from ‘okay’ to ‘Wow, they really hired this guy?’ Most of the characters lean on the side of okay, but characters like the Duke were just laughably bad.

Music: The music wasn’t that bad but like everything else it wasn’t memorable.

Bottomline: Unless you’ve played the old Battle Arena Toshinden games and can find some value in this OVA, there’s no point whatsoever in watching this. It’s confusing, poorly paced, extremely poorly written in terms of both story and dialogue, gives you no reason to care about anything and there’s not even good mindless fight scenes to enjoy. And I do have to reiterate – there’s no ‘battle arena’ in Battle Arena Toshinden. There WAS one. You just missed it.

Additional Information and Notes: Battle Arena Toshinden is based on a series of video games for the Playstation (1-3 and Vita) Game Boy and Sega Saturn. There hasn’t been an incarnation of the series since 2009, and even then it was released under an entirely different name with no connection to the previous storyline.

The OVA was produced by Animate Film and JC Staff. It was directed by Masami Obari, who also directed pretty much every Fatal Fury anime, Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer and uh…*cough*….some hentai titles.

It was co-written by Masaharu Amiya (episode one) who also did minor work on Ai Yori Aoshi, Beyblade, Karin, Inuyasha and….Yosuga no Sora.

Episode two was written by Haruo Takayama, and either the dude is too ashamed of this work to display it anywhere he’s listed or the Wiki doesn’t have accurate information. The only Haruo Takayama I can find did the screenplay for both of the Turn A Gundam movies and wrote the script for Jungle do Ikou’s OAV. Nothing anywhere about Battle Arena Toshinden.

The OVA was originally licensed under the now defunct Central Park Media, then known as US Manga Corps. Their licenses were distributed to many other media companies, but it’s unclear who owns the license to Battle Arena Toshinden now, if anyone owns it at all.

Episodes: 2

Year: 1996

Recommended Audience: Plenty of violence, but nothing gets incredibly gory. One nude shot, of course of a woman, of course the dominatrix lady, some sexual-ish content, no swearing. 12+


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Animating Halloween | Corpse Party: Tortured Souls Review

Rating: 5.5/10

Plot: Nine people from Kisaragi Academy High School perform a friendship ritual on a dark and stormy night since one of their friends, Mayu, is moving away the following day. Once the ritual is done, what seems like an earthquake hits the school and all of them end up in a strange different school called Heavenly Host Elementary – a site where grisly murders happened several decades prior. What is the mystery behind this school? And can they return to their world before the tormented spirits within the school kill them first?

Breakdown: It’s been a hot minute since I reviewed the manga Corpse Party: Blood Covered and it’s been even longer since I played any of the Corpse Party games. I was excited to sit down and finally watch an anime adaptation in this franchise since I have enjoyed everything to this point.

However, when I was finally able to check it out, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Let me put something into perspective. Corpse Party: Blood Covered is ten volumes long and covers the same story.

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls is four 30 minute episodes long.

Do you see where the problems are already starting?

This simply isn’t a long enough time frame to flesh out each character, of which there are NINE, explore the individual stories of each group, truly care about whether or not they live or die and properly execute the story.

They gave it a decent shot, but in the end it was all just too rushed and smushed together, and as a result the anime just comes off as an unbridled gore fest. Granted, yes, Corpse Party is, of course, quite gory by default, but this anime was damn near sickening at parts. I tend to handle gore and stuff just fine (Saw is one of my favorite horror movies – Dead Space is my favorite horror game etc.) but there were some scenes in this anime where I legitimately wanted to skip over them because they were just torture porn.

I’m going to cover each individual group’s story before convening them all into the ending.

Naomi and Seiko

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Yeah and we’ll always hang out together……..That was a terrible joke. I am sorry.

Originally, Seiko loved Naomi and Naomi loved Satoshi, so Seiko never told her how she felt. She did have a habit of “play” flirting with her and playfully groping her whenever possible, but Naomi just took it as Seiko being goofy.

Naomi was always very secretive about her feelings for Satoshi, but she still stewed in jealousy when it came to other female characters getting close to him, especially when the school started influencing her. In Tortured Souls, the same is basically in place but there’s not enough time to actually explore that so it’s very much just subtext.

Naomi and Seiko are just the best of friends, and Seiko has become increasingly concerned about Naomi leaving her side one day. Naomi’s jealousy is all but removed entirely.

Once the school’s influence starts affecting them, it leads to the untimely demise of Seiko, who seemingly hangs herself after Naomi snapped at her in anger. Naomi spends the rest of the series in a state of deep regret and guilt for Seiko killing herself.

However, I should note that the scene in which Naomi tries to ‘save’ her is rather stupid. Seiko is actually not quite dead yet when Naomi finds her hanging body. Naomi yanks DOWN on her, TWICE, and instead of getting underneath her and allowing her to climb on her shoulders to get the noose off and come down, Naomi runs to get a bucket, which means Seiko dies in the interim.

It’s a shame because I liked Seiko in the original series too. She was a bit overbearing, but she did love Naomi so much that she encouraged her to pursue Satoshi because she knew Naomi loved him. She didn’t want to ruin their friendship and she wanted Naomi to be happy.

Satoshi and Yuka

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Depicted Above: The World’s Biggest Idiot. Recently beat out the last record holder who was, coincidentally, Satoshi Mochida.

While I am happy that they pretty much entirely omitted the part about Yuka loving Satoshi in a romantic sense, they left in the incredibly stupid part of the Blood Covered manga that I previously ranted about on Twitter.

Satoshi is in the middle of a school covered in corpses and ghosts. They are currently being lead over a field of corpses by a ghost. Yuka needs to pee, so Satoshi, with a smile even, happily leaves Yuka alone in this outdoor walkway WITH THE GHOST while he goes into the next building and SHUTS THE DOOR. Shock beyond shocks, this causes them to get separated and is ultimately the event that leads to Yuka’s untimely death in this version. Yes, believe it or not, the anime managed to make this scene even stupider than it was originally by having Sachiko, the main murderous spirit, escort Yuka as she goes off to pee and Satoshi’s just like ‘Lol enjoy ur p! Baiiii!’

Yuka’s still a pretty annoying character, but she was sweet to bring Satoshi his umbrella at the start. After that, though, it’s pretty much non-stop saying she has to pee and screaming until she dies. And let me tell you something right now, even if you have found Yuka to be the most annoying character in the franchise, she did not deserve the death she got. That was just overly brutal.

Satoshi continues to be the unsalted cracker he has always been. I’m still confused as to why so many girls love him, but in this version it’s not nearly as much of an issue because only Naomi’s crush still seems to be a real thing and even that’s toned down quite a bit. Ayumi’s love of Satoshi does seem to exist, but we’ll get to that later.

Mayu and Morishige

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These two aren’t really together-together, they just happened to enter the same dimensional plane. (For those not familiar with the games, each group is separated not only by space but also by dimensions. IE they could be in the exact same spot in the school but not see or interact with each other because they’re on different dimensional versions of the school. This doesn’t really matter much in the anime, though, since once the ghosts start being appeased the dimensions merge.)

We don’t really see Mayu doing anything before the school starts influencing her (outside of her back at regular school where she’s basically just a nice girl). She gets mind-controlled into being the friend of two of the main ghosts in the school, but when their teacher, Yui, finds her, they kill Mayu in one of the most gruesome ways they could. The manner in which it’s done is canon, but damn it’s still incredibly gruesome. At least she went quick, is all I can say.

Morishige continues to be the creepy sadist psycho he was before, practically getting off from taking pictures of corpses and eventually starting to kill people himself. It’s still unclear whether he was screwed up from the get-go and the school just made it worse or if this is just the way he is. The only thing he really cares about legitimately is Mayu, and he suffers from a final psychological break when he realizes that the giant splatter of person he took a picture of earlier, that was his favorite corpse, was actually Mayu’s remains. His death is not the same as it was in Blood Covered, where he committed suicide out of guilt when Mayu’s spirit tells him to not look at her insides as he was gazing at the photo. Instead, he just becomes ultra psychotic, tries to murder Yuka, he dies via neck stabbage by a character who had never even met him at that point.

I think it was a mistake not having Morishige kill himself instead. That was the one thing that kinda redeemed his character, as terrible as that is to say. Otherwise, it’s impossible to sympathize with him even a little.

Yoshiki and Ayumi

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Yoshiki was my favorite character from both the games and Blood Covered. He’s abrasive, somewhat cold and jealous, yeah, but he’s a pretty good guy. He’s much more interesting than Satoshi and way more likable than Morishige, and you can really tell how much he loves Ayumi, even if it’s difficult for him to come to grips with his feelings himself.

Complicating their relationship even further is the fact that not only is Ayumi completely oblivious to his feelings, but she’s also in love with Satoshi. However, this love really isn’t given proper focus or explored at all in Tortured Souls. When she and Yoshiki have returned to their world and are given the chance to go back to Heavenly Host to sate the spirits, save their friends and destroy the place, she suddenly started prattling off about how Satoshi would go back to save everyone and how they ahve to save Satoshi and the others.

Yoshiki comes off as a gigantic coward and a bit of a jerk in their story. He doesn’t do anything to help until his big moment at the end. Before that, he refuses to go back and try to save their friends even though nothing happened to him to warrant this vehement refusal. Without spoiling too much of Blood Covered, let me say that, while he also doesn’t want to return to Heavenly Host in that story, he still did a lot to help and he went through A LOT while he was there. Not to mention that the task of finding the other items and appeasing the rest of the ghosts as well as finding Sachiko and helping her pass on was a huge venture. The task itself really wasn’t difficult, but pulling it off while staying alive was an entirely different story. It was perfectly justified for him to want to stay behind. Even with all of that on his head, he still went back with her and helped end everything.

In this version, Yoshiki just has a big temper tantrum. Despite only the bare basics of spooky ghosts and seeing corpses happening to him, AND them already appeasing all of the murdered children’s ghosts beforehand quickly and off-screen, meaning they only have to do one thing when they go back to Heavenly Host, he comes off like he gives zero shits about their friends. And then he acts like Ayumi only wants to go back to save her beloved Satoshi. He actually lets her leave without him in this version.

Granted, he does – somehow – return to Heavenly Host later and tries to save Yuka, to no avail, and also kinda saves Ayumi, which is his character’s only saving grace before he’s viciously murdered while trying to confess his love of Ayumi. He has one of the worst deaths in the series, and while I didn’t much care for this version of Yoshiki (it’s at least way better than he’s portrayed in Musume from all I’ve heard about it….) he didn’t deserve to go out like that. Also, considering how few people survive in this version and how he was mercilessly murdered immediately after returning, it just kinda makes it look like Yoshiki was right to not want to come back.

Yui

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I agree. The way they treated your character was sick.

Yui is the only character mostly left to her own devices. She starts out on the same dimensional plane as Mayu and Morishige, but that doesn’t matter much. Yui is definitely the most shafted out of the entire cast. She doesn’t even get an arc. She gets nothing to do. All she does is see Mayu get murdered then she seemingly spends the rest of the series in shock, sitting on the floor of a nearby classroom.

In the games and the manga, she gets a very emotional arc. One of the ghosts pins her under a large cabinet. She has glass and sharp instruments stabbing her in the back and her right arm is crushed under the weight. She has a back and forth with the ghost who keeps trying to convince her that she’s selfish and doesn’t actually care about her students. After a lengthy and very painful ordeal, she manages to convince the ghost of how much she loves her students. The ghost lets her go, but she’s still very wounded. She dies in both the games and the manga via self-sacrifice to save her students, just in different manners.

The last time we see her in the anime is after Ayumi returns to the school. Yui has somehow snapped out of her shock and has a discussion with Ayumi. She alerts her to Mayu’s death, tells her that Mayu wouldn’t want her to feel guilty about it…..and then immediately gets beheaded by falling debris…..

I sat through Yuka’s torture porn death.

I stomached Yoshiki’s unceremonious murder.

I had to pause the video when Yui was killed because I was just THAT insulted.

Why even have her in the anime version at all if you’re not going to give her anything to do? She barely interacts with anyone or anything, we get no insight into her character and then she’s just killed in a goofy fashion for shock value. Yui deserved way better than that. She was a great, tough and loving character who beat the odds and died on her own terms to save others. Fuck this.

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AH! ANATOMICAL MODEL! GO AWAY YOU UNFAIR FRUSTRATING PAIN IN MY ASS!…Oh sorry…game flashbacks…

In terms of the overall story being rushed, you can probably tell from what I’ve already written on how much stuff was omitted or changed from the Blood Covered manga and the games to fit the four episode format. Character deaths are just sorta glossed over without any of them, barring Seiko, being given proper weight. No one’s continuously affected by Mayu and Morishige’s deaths outside of Yui, but who cares, Yui’s death might as well be a footnote, and all that carried through after Yoshiki died was Ayumi asking him to watch over them as they geared up to stop Sachiko. Even when Yuka dies, Satoshi breaks down during the death, but the next episode he’s perfectly fine and barely even mentions her. We don’t even know where he left her body….

While it is even worse than what I’ve already conveyed in regards to condensation and omission, it does manage to hit the necessary beats and tell the entire story of Heavenly Host and Sachiko in a relatively satisfactory manner in the time frame that it was allowed.

They do skip over the appeasement of most of the ghosts, choosing to return their items to them off-screen, but they showed their suffering, at least one of the ghosts passed on to heaven on-screen, and Yuki was still the one who helped them out. In the end, the main story and conflict is about Sachiko and appeasing her, which they did just fine, so it’s not too bad.

I stupidly believed they might have actually been headed in a good ending direction. The Corpse Party games have numerous endings depending on your actions, and the manga ended in a relatively good manner. This is, afterall, the only version I can recall that has Heavenly Host being destroyed without implying that the school, somehow, recreates itself and still perpetuates the rituals and killings without the ghosts around…..But uh….nope.

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In the very end, only Ayumi, Naomi and Satoshi remain. Yes. Only three people managed to survive, which is worse than even the worst ends of Corpse Party, barring ones in which they all seemingly die.

After Sachiko is appeased, the school starts falling apart. They have one opportunity to get back home by doing a reversal of the friendship ritual that brought them there, Sachiko Ever After. Problem is, you need to have the paper slip (from a ripped paper doll) that you originally obtained in the first ritual in order for it to work. Naomi lost her slip but took one from a random corpse, leading to concerns that something might happen to her during the ritual.

To fix this….Satoshi gives her his slip….??? Satoshi says it’s okay because he has Yuka’s slip……????? Yeah, this doesn’t make any sense. In Blood Covered (In the games too, I think) all they needed was A slip from the paper doll. They didn’t specifically need their own slip. In the end of the manga, Naomi also lost her slip, so Satoshi offered his, but she refused. Ayumi reveals that the slip she had was Naomi’s, so she gives it back to her, but then reveals that she also lost her slip. Yui, choosing to stay behind in the collapsing school, gives Ayumi her slip so she can save all of her beloved students.

The anime just makes no sense whatsoever. Satoshi giving her his slip means both of them won’t be using their original slips, unnecessarily putting both of them in danger. He would’ve been better off just giving her Yuka’s slip because maybe having two slips would decrease their chances of something bad happening.

But that’s still not the end.

They perform the reversal ritual and return home….Only to find that Ayumi and Naomi are holding the severed arms of Satoshi – the only parts of him that made it through the portal…

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You girls need a hand? Pbthahahahaha!….Ahh….again, I’m sorry.

Satoshi didn’t use Yuka’s slip. He actually used Yuuya’s slip, which he found and for some reason kept earlier. Yuuya is a student from another school who also ended up in Heavenly Host. He’s a psycho who eventually, somehow, becomes the bane of my existence – the anatomical model. Speaking of that, I guess that’s another point for Yoshiki in this version since he killed that bastard.

Why he kept Yuuya’s slip but didn’t have Yuka’s, I have no idea. Also, why he lied about this I don’t know either. Maybe if he knew it was risky to use a paper slip that wasn’t a part of the original doll so he lied to ease Naomi’s fears, that’d make more sense. However, that was never established. It was just that you needed your original piece.

I honestly don’t know why they wouldn’t have made more of an effort to retrieve the other doll pieces from their friends if they knew this. They knew where all of their bodies were and having more slips would probably greatly increase their chances of surviving the ride back home. Satoshi picked up the slip of some random dude he never met, but didn’t pick up the slips of his dead friends. Logic is fun.

It’s possible that Satoshi just didn’t realize he grabbed Yuuya’s slip out of his pocket instead of Yuka’s, which is just kinda dumb.

The ending is actually framed in a funny manner because we just see Naomi and Ayumi reacting to the disembodied arms (without saying anything or even screaming) and then the credits roll.

In a post-credits sequence, we see Naomi’s mother frantically calling the doctor because of Naomi’s terrible psychological state in which she keeps muttering about imaginary friends, which is mirroring something that may or may not happen in the games. In keeping with the Corpse Party way of doing things, if a person dies in Heavenly Host, they never existed in the real world (eh, kinda. It depends on the ending.), yet things are somehow still identical to the way they were before. The only people who remember those who were lost are the other surviving party members. Losing Satoshi and Seiko and realizing that no one even remembers everyone else, barring Ayumi, must’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

As for Ayumi, we never learn what became of her after she came back home….nor how they explained the two severed arms thing to other people. It’s actually kinda funny that one of the people who is canonically dead in several of the endings to the games is one of the few who survives here.

This is one of those situations where I found my opinions of the anime souring after I sat down and actually wrote out my feelings on it. When I started writing, I felt like giving it a 6 or a 6.5 but I dropped it down to a 5.5.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had a decent amount of fun with the ride. While the atmosphere is diminished because of how rushed everything is, there was still a pretty high scare factor, especially considering that it’s very clear that no one’s safe in this situation. But I have to step back and wonder if I was worried about these characters more because I’m already invested in the franchise and know a decent amount of their other stories…. The answer is ‘maybe.’

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I can imagine someone completely new to Corpse Party as a whole would be incredibly confused and uninvested in these characters, and pretty much the only reason they’d really be scared for them is because of how gory and graphic everything is. The characters are still likable, but it’s hard to really get attached to any of them in this version.

Some of the visuals on their own are fairly scary even without gore, but the gore-less horror shots are few and far between.

Also, while it doesn’t happen that often, this series has a habit of putting gratuitous panty shots in the middle of scary scenes. Like when Naomi is paralyzed on the bed and some spirit is invading her body, the spirit pulls up her skirt so we can see her panties. It’s no alluding to rape or anything – it’s just boop look at my panties. Oh look, Mayu is about to become a stain on the wall, better make one of her last shots as a non-splatter of a human being holding her upside down and shoving the camera right in her crotch.

Bottomline: I realize I keep skewing into trashing this show, but it did manage to hold my attention throughout the entire story, and it provided me with a decent actual horror title to watch for this year’s Animating Halloween. Most of the material this year has been very vanilla, but this provided me with some actual blood, ghosts and psychological terror. The characters, while not being given nearly enough time to be fleshed out, are still mostly good characters, barring the ones who weren’t good to begin with like Morishige.

The voice acting was also extremely good. One of the reasons the more torturous scenes actually got to me was because the actors were able to deliver extremely believable and gut-wrenching screams. When they were drowning in sorrow, you felt it. And when they had a moment of hope, you believed it might be okay. Even the ghosts provided good performances when they spoke.

The music was also pretty good. Nothing that really stuck with me that much, but fitting enough for the series’ tone and nice enough to listen to. The absolute ending of the OP is a bit too high-spirited, though, considering that the series is just not positive at all and the picture they’re holding on is alluding to something tragic and horrific, despite the people depicted smiling in it.

Overall, while this is a fine enough watch for Halloween or for anyone who wants a bite of gritty gore and horror in their anime while having a cast that isn’t obnoxious. While it has some glaring problems as a standalone, many of my complaints come from how bad it was in comparison to the games and the Blood Covered manga, which I loved.

I really think they should re-do this series as a 13 episode run instead of four. That would be the perfect length in my eyes to create strong atmosphere, flesh out the characters, strengthen the relationships and allow the story to breathe while also not overstaying its welcome given the level of gore in this title. Not sure if we’ll ever get another Corpse Party anime. I’d assume it’d be based on Book of Shadows if they did anything in that regard, but I don’t know if it would ever happen.

Additional Information and Notes: Corpse Party: Tortured Souls was directed by Akira Iwanaga, and it was written by Shoichi Sato. The OVA was produced by Asread, a company that hasn’t really fallen on my radar as of yet but has produced Shuffle!, Ga-Rei: Zero and Mirai Nikki. Corpse Party: Tortured Souls has, to date, never been licensed in North America nor is an English dub available.

Episodes: 4

Year: 2013

Recommended Audience: No nudity or sex, though rape/sexual assault is suggested in one scene. The obvious hitch here is gore galore. They do NOT hold back on the blood and gore here. They basically revel in it. It’s one of the goriest anime titles I’ve ever come across, and that’s saying something. 17+


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Cyber City Oedo 808 Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: In the year 2808 in a technologically advanced yet dystopian future, three criminals, Sengoku, Gogul and Benten, are given an offer – they can reduce their sentences in the orbiting space prison by serving for the Cyber Police force in Cyber City. For every criminal caught, they’ll get a certain amount of time shaved from their individual 300+ year sentences. Begrudgingly, they accept the terms.

In order to ensure that they behave, they’re given special collars that will blow up if they fail to complete a mission within a certain time or if they go too far rogue (obviously there’s some wiggle room since this is an action show from the 80’s). This three episode OVA chronicles three individual cases each one giving focus on one of the three.

Breakdown: Let’s just get this out of the way – yes, this premise is extremely similar to Suicide Squad. I can’t call Suicide Squad the ripoff because, technically, Suicide Squad came first. The first incarnation of the team came out in 1959 and the modern interpretation came out in 1987. This OVA came out in 1990. So, if anything, this is the ripoff.

However, I won’t say that either. I think, even with such similar main premises, the series is definitely it’s own thing. It has its own style, characters, setting and relationships to make it unique enough for me to not give it that damning brand. Maybe they’ve earned a disapproving finger wag, though.

Anyhoo, this is another one of those shows that you really just have to sit back and enjoy for its action and ridiculousness. I’m not one to say that bad shows should be excused in lieu of ‘just turn off your brain’, if you know my reviews you really know that much for the most part, but there are those shows out there that are really just trying to have cheesy action fun. Cheesy 80s action fun. Come on, who could resist that? (It was released in 1990, but it was being made in the 80s so it counts)

Three criminals are serving 300+ year sentences in a space prison – Sengoku, Gogul and Benton. Each episode revolves around one of the three criminals.

Sengoku is the roguest of all. In fact, he’s basically babysat by the police robot, Varsas, who is constantly nagging him about police protocol, to which Sengoku rarely pays any mind. He has a real potty mouth as he hardly speaks a line without swearing. Also, I really want to have “Isn’t it your bedtime, motherfucker?” on a t-shirt.

Sengoku’s episode revolves around an emergency in a huge, ridiculous, insane, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking tower. This huge building that stands as the largest building ever made. Wanna know how tall it is? It’s so tall, with a friggin’ pole design, mind you, that it reaches up past the atmosphere INTO OUTER SPACE. If that’s not ridiculous enough, listen to this.

The emergency is that everyone in the building is trapped due to a hacker causing all of the systems to lock up as he goes in pursuit of one of the people who works there. As the perp is being combated by Gogul’s hacking skills, the target’s security and Sengoku, he gets impatient and shuts down a vital part of the building – two gyro disks that are quite literally the only things supporting the building. If disabled, the building….falls. No failsafes, no backups, no nothing. It will fall.

That has to be the dumbest construction design I’ve ever seen. First of all, why is a building that big even needed? We’re always building bigger skyscrapers, but having a skyscraper that reaches out into space balancing purely on two spinning discs seems far stupider than those houses from The Jetsons that balance entirely on a thin stick or two. Second, a power failure or hacker can instantly send the tallest building in the world tumbling down like a jenga game.

Think about that.

Something so minute could end up in the instant deaths of tens of millions of people. Not just the millions that supposedly work in the building (Yes, they actually state that supposedly millions of people work in that building), but the millions on the ground below who will all be crushed when the building falls one way or another, and the additional people who will die from the debris. Yeah, it doesn’t collapse in on itself, it falls in a random direction. Meaning miles and miles of buildings, in a highly populated city, no less, will be crushed ending millions of extra lives.

Crack up job, Mr. Architect. Crack. Up.

We don’t really learn much about Sengoku besides his character traits in this episode, but it is a pretty interesting story. Sengoku typically uses a gun as his weapon of choice (a gun that can only fire if the fingerprints of the person holding it match the registration for the gun, which is really an awesome idea…Little bit flawed but awesome), but all of the characters are given a retractable jitte as a weapon as well. His seems to be able to shoot out the blade part at his enemies.

Next up, we have Gogul, our resident techie/hacker. He’s blind, but he wears a special visor that allows him to see. No idea how he went blind, but he is. His episode involves him helping out an old criminal friend named Sira or Sara, I couldn’t tell. He’s on the run from the military as Sara is trapping him into testing out a new cyborg weapon. We learn a bit more about Gogul in this episode, but not much. However, we do learn that they’re not the only criminals working for their freedom with the Cyber Police as we actually see someone trying to remove their collar through acquired inside intelligence on the technology, but ultimately end up failing.

Gogul doesn’t seem to have a main weapon. He uses his jitte and gun but doesn’t seem to have a specialty of choice since he’s mostly on the side doing techno-work.

Finally we have Benton. Benten’s main weapon outside of his jitte is a very thin and strong wire that can cut through basically anything like it’s nothing, which is pretty cool and fitting for his style.

And boy they broke the mold when it came to his character design.

What is even on his head? But I guess it’s all the same. After all, they needed someone with big poofy hair to complete their 80s hair band trifecta.

Benten’s episode is the oddest of them all. He’s investigating weird attacks where the victim is drained of blood and has two odd puncture marks on their necks. And yes, the very obvious answer is vampires.

However, it’s not a traditional vampire. Some scientist made a serum that allows him to live forever, but there’s a flaw. Something about not being able to replace hemoglobin or something. The point is they need to drink blood in order to maintain their immortality. In addition, this serum unlocks the person’s latent psychic powers such as telekinesis and teleportation. They can even be torn to bits and put themselves back together again in a completely different room.

Because…

Science.

Not only that, but the only way to kill them for good, besides I suppose starving them, is to stab them through the heart with an altered jitte.

Like Sengoku’s episode, we don’t learn much about Benten in this part. He comes across some woman he, I guess, used to work with or against back when he was a criminal, but they give us no information on what they mean to each other, what happened between them – nothing at all really.

In addition to not learning much about the pasts of these guys, you also never get an ending to their story. The OVA has three short stories or ‘files’ then it just ends. Surprisingly, there is no manga that adds anything more to it either.

That’s really my major problem with this series. I really like the stories, the action, the characters, even if some aspects of this world seem ridiculous, but we don’t get to learn anything else about these characters in terms of their past or future. It’s hard to root for them to actually go free because they state several times that they are only doing this because it’s better than rotting in a jail cell. They seem to have every intention of going back to criminal work if they go free. The only exception is possibly Benten, but that’s unclear. They’re cool, badass characters, but you really just want them to stay as they are. They may break rules all the time, but at least they’re doing it towards noble means.

Finally, I really find it funny that they live in the year 2808 with robots and cyborg technology – Hell they live in a place called Cyber City and are the Cyber Police – but they still use floppy disks and look like they belong in an 80’s music video on VH1.

Art and Animation: The art has aged pretty damn well. It’s still very crisp and appealing even if Benten’s design is kinda kooky. Animation-wise, it’s not amazing but still pretty good.

Music: I actually really love the music for this series. The opening is so 80’s, especially with its low robot voice repeating ‘Cyber City’.

Voice Acting: English Dub – The dubbing actually stands up pretty well too. There’s some hokey acting, but otherwise okay. The main cast is actually really good for the most part.

Bottomline: It’s disappointing with its lack of insight into the past and futures of the main characters and really has no linear storyline, but if you’re okay with just having a few short stories involving crime solving, ass-kicking, robots and vampires, go ahead and have some fun! I know I did.

Additional Information and Notes: Cyber City Oedo 808 was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who also directed Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku, A Wind Named Amnesia, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Ninja Scroll. It was written by Akinori Endo, who wrote the screenplay for Battle Angel and 3×3 Eyes, and did writing work on series such as Inuyasha, Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory and Mister Ajikko. It was animated by Madhouse.

While an English dub is available, it is currently not licensed in North America due to the license expiring. It is, however, licensed by Madman Entertainment in Australia and Anime Limited in the UK.

Episodes: 3

Year: 1990-91

Recommended Audience: No sex or nudity, but Sengoku has a real potty mouth. None of the characters are really shy in the cursing department, but Sengoku slings ’em out sailor style. In addition, the series can get pretty damn gory with people blowing up, limbs getting sliced off etc. 15+


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My AniManga-ish Thoughts on Alien Nine

A handful of years ago, I watched the OVA series Alien Nine – a show about three girls, Yuri, Kumi and Kasumi, who were tasked with being their school’s alien fighters. In this world, aliens landed on earth 14 years ago and dealing with them is pretty much the norm. The aliens seem more like a nuisance than a threat, which is how school alien fighters became a thing. The girls are given Borgs, frog-like alien creatures with wings that establish symbiotic relationships with their hosts, to help them fight the aliens.

Alien fighters are only meant to capture any rogue aliens who are causing problems – killing is a last resort. Despite invading their planet, humans respect the lives of the aliens and do everything in their power to not kill them. Not every alien is as tame as the last, however.

I very much enjoyed the OVA. My only two real gripes about it were 1) It ended on a massive cliffhanger, making the entire series one of those shows where it basically requires you to read the manga to get a full story (I recently learned that they intended on completing the OVA, but they didn’t have the funding. The creators said they were in the process of getting the funding, but it’s assumed that the series fell into development hell and was quietly canceled) and 2) Yuri.

Yuri really damaged my ability to enjoy the OVA. She is one of the whiniest most useless anime characters I’ve ever seen. Like I mentioned in my original review, I give her some leeway because she’s just a 12 year old kid thrown into a dangerous and scary job that she didn’t want or ask for. It’s just treated like another chore at school, but it’s still risky and violent.

However, I only have so much slack in that department. Yuri does….nothing. She cries, she whines, she complains, and the only times she’s actually doing something against the aliens, it’s her Borg going into instant kill mode because Yuri’s so scared that she believes her life is in danger. She’s never not being rescued by someone else. If her Borg isn’t going rogue to protect her, Kumi or Kasumi is rushing in to save her.

Kumi does, rightfully, chew her out for this once. She, as the most responsible one in the group, is fed up with having to clean up other people’s messes, and Yuri is basically a human mess. At home, Kumi has had to fend for herself since she was four since her father died, and her mother is constantly working – she even has to help her mom with her work. Meanwhile, she frequently gets tasked with jobs at school and is usually made class president. While she does all of these jobs without complaining, she thought the one job where she wouldn’t have people so reliant on her with be an alien fighter job, and then she gets Yuri as a teammate.

I really wanted Yuri to get better by the end of the anime, even just a little, but she doesn’t. She leaves her friend in danger because she’s too scared to do anything and the only reason she even does a slight bit near the end is because Kumi came in, saved her ass again and literally held her hand through the ordeal.

Sorry to say, but she doesn’t get any better by the end of the manga either. In fact, she pretty much gets worse. Not only does she maintain her whiny crybaby nature throughout the rest of the manga (I swear she must dehydrate herself on a regular basis as a result of all the tears she has pour from her face), but she keeps making problems for the other girls while contributing nothing to help them.

She wanders into the Forest of Spaceships, a place loaded with aliens and noted by the school as being dangerous and off-limits, just because she was uncomfortable as a result of recent events affecting the team.

That’s really dumb.

She’s a massive crybaby and wimp, why would she do something like go into a dangerous restricted area loaded with aliens, the ones she’s terrified of, just because she’s ‘uncomfortable’? Ms. Hisakawa specifically states the reasoning and says she understands, but it makes no sense at all. Run away, fine, but it really felt like they had her go into the forest just because the plot said so.

Yuri is attacked by aliens and her Borg is separated from her. Realizing Yuri would very likely die, her Borg, being loyal to its partner and wishing to preserve her life in any way it can, stored Yuri’s memories before going into hiding. Yuri, having survived her ordeal, is left in an infantile state for a few chapters as a result.

Yes, Yuri the massive crybaby is a literal baby (mentally) for a while. I honestly can’t tell if that was worse or a bit of a reprieve because she, somehow, didn’t seem like she cried as much in that state.

The girls have to risk their lives and go into the Forest of Spaceships to save her Borg so they can retrieve her memories and bring her back to normal.

Then there’s Yuri causing all sorts of trouble because of her scaredy cat nature prompting her Borg to constantly freak out and kill, even innocent creatures (At one point, as Yuri’s walking away from a freakout incident, her Borg just randomly murders Kasumi and Kumi’s Borgs in cold blood). In addition, the freakouts once get so bad that it causes her Borg to rapidly grow. It couldn’t handle the stress of such a massive freakout and died.

Yes, Yuri killed a Borg with her fear.

At this point, I might say she maybe has anxiety issues or depression, so she may deserve a little more leeway. However, not only is it hard to give such a diagnosis here (Being honest, I don’t really think she displays enough symptoms for a firm diagnosis of either) but the series never mentions or even implies this. I’d have to be forcing my own interpretations onto her character, and I’m not sure how fair that is.

She was at her happiest at summer vacation when her friends basically did everything they could to spend the entire vacation with her doing fun things, but even then she spent a majority of it sporting more of a grimace than an actual smile.

After that, she was a focal point in the Sunflower incident. Sunflower aliens, which are sworn enemies of the alien species most common at the school, the drill clan, of which the Borgs originate, capture Yuri and manipulate her into helping them take over the school. I can’t really pin that much on her in that regard, the Sunflower aliens just targeted her as a host for some reason, but she still acted like a brat during that time – including slicing up Kumi’s body (This will make sense in a bit) and murdering visions of her friends.

You could certainly pin some of her behavior on the Sunflowers, but they never make off like Yuri isn’t Yuri. She’s still conscious, she’s still making decisions on what she does and says, she’s just being influenced by the Sunflowers. In fact, the vision of Kasumi specifically tells Yuri they’re tricking her not controlling her. Their method of manipulating her was giving her encouragement and praise while viewing her friends as picking on her.

I kinda get this, but I also kinda don’t. She’s been given plenty of encouragement and kind words from everyone. They just start faltering on her in response to her stark negativity and, well, personality. It’s not like they’re ragging on her at every turn, they still give her comfort and encouragement all the time, it’s just that there’s only so much they can put up with. It’s difficult to keep giving positivity to someone who responds to most of it with whining and negative comments.

This is the one arc where she actually kinda does something useful of her own volition as she rebels against the Sunflowers’ influence for a minute in order to stop them from taking over Kasumi. She really just plucked the alien off of Kasumi’s head like it was a hat, but she still did something, so that’s good. (For contrast, though, immediately after this, Ms. Hisakawa stops herself from getting taken over by a Sunflower by ripping it apart with her teeth.)

Then, in the sequel Alien Nine Emulators Yuri’s kidnapped by aliens again, needs to be saved again, then she’s targeted AGAIN, and needs to be saved AGAIN.

I understand why she was targeted in the very end, because it was Kumi’s desire not really the aliens, but I don’t get why she’s such a prime target for aliens considering they need hearty hosts. Both the minds and bodies of their hosts need to be strong to properly withstand fusion. Yuri’s body can’t be that strong considering she never actually fights (though I guess she’d be more adapted to alien influence given her time as an alien fighter) and she’s CERTAINLY not mentally strong (Fun fact: One of the chapters has little blurbs from the OVA voice actors on how much they liked the characters they played and how much they enjoyed being on the show. Yuri’s voice actress, Hitomi Tachibana, made a note saying “By the way, I’m not as dumb as Yuri.” I laughed out loud.)

And that’s how the series ends. With Yuri having developed approximately 0%. She started the series as a whiny useless sack of diapers and she ended the series as a whiny useless sack of diapers.

Even her mother stated, out loud, with Yuri right next to her, that she’s always complaining and has never been good at anything. Then she ends the series not being good at anything or even putting forth effort into anything. She never tries to learn how to be an alien fighter, not even for the sake of being better able to protect herself or her friends, she never tries to bond with her Borg or make the best of her situation, she just puts up with it because she’s being forced to do so.

If you’re curious as to why no one will let her quit, I still have no clue. The point of the alien fighters is both to protect the school and train girls for the sake of finding suitable fusion candidates, but Yuri’s very obviously not a good fusion candidate and she’s a massive liability and hazard in battle.

This bothers me a lot because, if you want a character to be whiny, fine. If you want them to cry all the time, fine. Hell, you want them to be useless? Go for it. But 1) The character that is being given these traits should not be THE main character and 2) These traits should not make matters worse for everyone else.

Every time she was faced with even the slightest challenge, she’d just shrivel up like an old banana on a hot rooftop and wait for the Borg or her friends to save her. Even when she has to simply do menial chores, like feeding the captured aliens, she’s crying, whining and complaining.

The only reason Kumi and Kasumi stop getting irritated by her behavior is because, due to their connections to the Borgs, they suffer from empathy whenever one of them is experiencing intense emotions. Since there are obviously numerous times when Yuri is terrified beyond belief, they experience this terror and vow to protect her. Ya know, perpetuating the problem.

What’s even worse is that she never self-evaluates and criticizes herself for how she acts, which is the first step to actually bettering herself. She just blames the world, basically. Stupid classmates for making her an alien fighter. Stupid aliens for existing. Stupid Borgs for being gross, even though they’re literally creatures meant to protect her at all costs and make her happy. There are even some points where she seems to direct her irritation towards Kumi and Kasumi for either things that were completely beyond their control or for seemingly treating her poorly when they either weren’t or they were, but it was only because she was being ungodly irritating and unhelpful in life-threatening situations.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, they decided to make Kumi and Yuri romantically interested in each other, I guess. Yes, Kumi, the girl who was sick to death of protecting this useless blob of jello, and Yuri, aforementioned useless blob of jello, get so close that they’re legit romantic interests by the end, even kissing twice. They don’t focus on the romantic angle much, but it is there in black and white.

And…I don’t…understand.

I specifically don’t understand why Kumi’s feelings seem the strongest. Yuri is obviously dependent on Kumi to a pathetic degree, but there’s no question that Kumi’s feelings for Yuri are given more focus. In fact, it really seems like it’s a one-sided affair because I can’t think of any instance where they frame a scene or dialogue like Yuri sees Kumi as anything more than a big sister/parent/guardian/friend.

Again, she doesn’t develop at all over the course of the series. The same girl that Kumi screamed at for being useless to a point of endangerment is the same girl she’s developing a crush on. You can’t really control who you develop feelings for, I suppose, but this seems like a harmful co-dependent relationship.

Yuri has literally zero likable traits. Like most useless crybaby characters, you can say she’s nice but that’s about it, and, surprisingly, even that’s not all that strong. There are numerous times where she’s being grumpy or copping an attitude at someone or just being an overall downer on everything. Then there are the moments where she’s abandoning her friends in dangerous situations because she’s just too scared to do anything.

Kumi and Kasumi are more interesting as characters, and it’s really disappointing that they weren’t given the main focus. I think Kasumi in particular would have been a better focal main character because she was very interesting before the incident with the Yellow Knife and got even more interesting after the fact. I liked how, after the incident, you never truly knew if she was always acting in the best interests of her team. She nearly bounced back and forth between friend and foe.

Kumi wasn’t as interesting as Kasumi, but she would still be a better choice than Yuri, and she suffered from a very fascinating yet tragic plight after her murder…..No, I’m not kidding.

*sigh* But enough about Yuri – what of the rest of the story?

Sadly, that was also a little disappointing.

Again, they just left me wanting more, but in a different way from the cliffhanger of the OVA.

The pacing and structure of this series are out of whack. They will omit or skim through interesting parts of their universe. For example, what are the aliens, and what do they want? How has the government and society as a whole been dealing with this on a wider scale? Why are they training these kids in secret? I feel like doing such a thing is incredibly unethical and should be illegal. Why are those who are fused, such as Ms. Hisakawa, seemingly keeping their alien nature a secret from the students at the start but it just seems like something people know about and accept later on? Why is it important for humanity to give the Borg aliens what they want but also refuse other aliens the same thing?

Not only that but major events will go by way too quickly as well. It makes it difficult to really care about dark or tragic turns in the plot when they go by in a flash. I believe the OVA, while also having the same issue of not really explaining deeper details of the world much, which is really the fault of the manga, did the pacing and structure much better. Makes me all the more disappointed that the OVA series never got to continue.

You want a perfect example of how screwed up the pacing and structure are in the manga? The final two pages are literally the entire resolution to the final big conflict and then most of the main characters leaving for America and Yuri going ‘Thanks a lot.’ That’s just….it. It ends.

I figured the plot would really take off once I reached the point where the OVA left off, which was Kumi seemingly murdered and Kasumi looking like she was possessed by the Yellow Knife that attacked the school and tried to fuse with her.

It did take off, but it never really soared, ya know? There are consequences that are felt throughout the entirety of the manga, but it’s pretty much the same thing over and over. An alien attacks, wants to fuse with everyone, most likely targets Yuri in some way, save Yuri, defeat alien.

Some cool and interesting things happen, usually regarding Kumi, Kasumi or even Ms. Hisakawa, but it is the same formula over and over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you do enough with the formula, but I don’t think it really did.

The most interesting arc was the Yellow Knife incident, which was covered in the OVA. The Yellow Knives have sonic powers that allow them to knock people out, communicate and even create hallucinations. That combined with Kasumi’s plight of being trapped within the Yellow Knife and really not wanting to leave made the story very compelling and interesting. Compared to the Sunflowers, which were kinda boring, and the Gladiuses, which were really just a different form of Borgs with the same drill-cable powers, it feels like they used their best card first.

I suppose that’s why the finale brings back the Yellow Knives in spades, but it almost entirely focuses on Kumi and Yuri with the Yellow Knives being more of a backdrop or tool.

Picking up from where the OVA left off, Kumi did legitimately die. Her stomach and some of her other organs were consumed by the alien that attacked her. However, she’s basically brought back to life because they have some sort of special cell gel that regenerates their bodies, which….I thought was a bit of a bad choice. Kumi’s ‘death’ was extremely shocking in the OVA and I was itching to find out how they’d deal with such a blow, but she’s barely ‘dead’ a full chapter before she’s brought back.

Introducing an item that has such incredible regenerative powers that it can bring people back to life easily (with a Borg’s help in restoring the memories anyway) and even restore limbs puts death nearly off the table and lowers the tension significantly. They don’t even care much when their Borgs die. They just grow new ones.

The most prominent conflict that arises is the topic of fusing with the aliens. Ms. Hisakawa, who herself is a fused being, is basically training the girls to become strong enough to fuse with the aliens for…I suppose the aliens’ sake for some reason. The aliens do need humans, but it’s never made clear why the humans care about what the aliens need. The only information we get is that humans ‘have no other choice’ but to do so. However, they never explain why we don’t have a choice.

Fusing is a big commitment, obviously. You’re literally sharing your body and mind with an alien being. If you’re not strong enough, mentally and physically, many problems will arise that may result in the death of the host.

You do get some benefits from the deal. You’re never lonely, you can send the alien out to do things for you, you’re always protected by it and you might even get some cool powers of your own. For example, those fused with Borgs get cool drill-cable hair and those fused with Yellow Knives get sonic waves.

Kumi is basically forced to fuse with a Borg after she ‘dies’ but her case is much, much worse than Ms. Hisakawa’s. While the only real alien part of Ms. Hisakawa is her hair, practically all of Kumi below her neck is a Borg, or, more to the point, it’s a series of drill-cables. When she’s restored with the cell gel, it’s really creating a skin-like structure around drill-cables that are making up her body. She struggles accepting the fact that she’s not only now fused with an alien but now has such a monstrous body.

While they didn’t handle this plot point poorly, I think they’ve could have approached it a lot better. She never breaks down or really has a full-on struggle with this even though anyone else would be devastated beyond belief if they lost pretty much their entire body and had them replaced with alien drill-cables and fake skin.

She lashes out about her eaten stomach once by kicking a garbage can full of aliens, and she sadly laments that she’ll never get a husband with a body like that now, but that’s about it.

This is the main reason why Kumi would have been such a great choice as a main character. The opportunity of exploring such a struggle is unique and incredibly interesting, but it’s pretty much wasted.

It can be argued that her psychological trauma involving her physical changes manifested itself in a much stronger desire to protect Yuri from the same fate, which is indeed brought up and would explain the sudden romantic feelings for Yuri. She’s not internalizing her pain or really vocalizing how terrible she feels about it – she’s channeling it into a drive to be overprotective towards the last full human in their group.

And because she’s now a fused being, she feels a strong desire to fuse, like all of the aliens do. I suppose her fixation on fusing with Yuri and only Yuri could be a result of her intense desire to protect her. It’s not just to sate the deep feelings of loneliness she gets as a fused being now (It should be noted that even though she’s fused, Kumi doesn’t have an alien to talk to, she’s more of an alien by herself.), but also to better protect Yuri and always keep an eye on her………

…..I have no idea why I usually find myself getting analytical in a psychological manner at 3AM and after I’ve already written contradicting viewpoints on the third draft. Stupid brain.

I’ll fully accept that explanation and eat some crow on some of my earlier related complaints, but I still think it would’ve been very beneficial to see her react more strongly to the state of her body. Also, the fact that she frickin’ died is something that you’d think would be something to see a therapist about, but I guess not.

It’s a little more understandable with Kasumi because she’s more mentally influenced by the Yellow Knife with which she’s fused. Plus, her personality beforehand was perfect for fusion. She was always jazzed about alien stuff and was their most enthusiastic fighter. I can totally see her being down with fusion. My problem with Kasumi in this regard is that she’s the first of the girls to fuse – somewhat drawn to the Yellow Knife due to her loneliness since her brother is studying overseas. She seemingly fuses willingly, if not happily, because she doesn’t want to be lonely anymore, but we never meet her brother or explore their relationship in the slightest. We don’t even know his name.

Loneliness is a big topic in this series. The aliens all need relationships in order to live and thrive. They get very affected by feelings of loneliness, to the point where they can die from it, and they strongly desire connections and fusions. Kasumi’s loneliness is the crux for her fusion, but it seems wasted to not really give proper due to the reasons behind her loneliness.

Even the grand finale of Emulators centers on loneliness. Kumi is essentially dying from loneliness because she refuses to fuse with Yuri and, I guess, she feels like she might be losing Yuri because she’s “growing up” and talked to a boy for five minutes. I’m going to assume that’s just the influence of the alien blood making her too possessive. However, Kasumi can’t take Kumi’s pain and suffering anymore so she tries to guilt Yuri into fusing with Kumi.

Kasumi has Kumi and Yuri both eaten by a Yellow Knife in order to forcibly fuse them together, but Kumi doesn’t want that and begs Monami (a new alien fighter at their junior high who has fused with her Borg. Strangely, she doesn’t have drill-cable hair, she has whip-like tentacle hair) to kill her to stop the fusion. They’re able to extract Yuri and save Kumi in the nick of time, but she’s in bad shape. And by ‘bad shape’ I mean she’s basically just a head being kept alive by a Borg.

Ms. Hisakawa and Kasumi head to California to help Kumi recover…..why she needs to go all the way California for that, I don’t know. They did mention that was where the first ‘Alien party’ was founded, but they never explain what that means. Yuri can barely eek out a ‘thank you’ to Kasumi and Kumi before they leave, which is nice for all the shit they went through for her.

I suppose this ending might be symbolic, like she’s letting them go and be away from her and vice versa in Kumi’s case so they won’t be so reliant on each other, but it’s not permanent, and it’s very possible Yuri will just rely on Monami from this point on, so….I dunno. It’s not clear.

The end.

Keep in mind, that was the ending of Emulators not the main manga. The main manga ended shortly after the Sunflower incident with an implication that Yuri was turning into a Borg since her hair was stubbornly turning into spirals, but Emulators never does anything with it. She just has a few curls in her hair as a result of the Sunflower incident or her Borg trying to fuse with her, I suppose.

There was another continuation called Alien Nine Next, but I debated talking about it because it’s very….weird in relation to the other manga. Not to mention that it seems like the manga was dropped after three chapters, possibly due to financial restraints since it had to be self-published, and left off on a massive cliffhanger. It’s possible there could be continuation some day but not only has there not been an update in nearly five years but the author also hasn’t published anything else in that time span either.

The story of Next takes place 11 years after the events of the original two manga. Yuri is, inexplicably, employed at an alien pest control company run by Monami. Wrap your head around that. The girl who hated every millisecond of her life as an alien fighter, completely sucked at it and wanted nothing more to do with aliens once school was over now has a career as a professional alien fighter. And she was hired by Monami, of all people. The girl who kept criticizing Yuri’s abilities as an alien fighter and her general scatterbrained lazy behavior hired her to be an alien fighter. Is it just because they’re friends and she took pity on her because she didn’t have the ability to do any other job?

By the way, the spiraling hair I mentioned a little bit ago? It’s completely gone in Next, so I have no clue what that was even supposed to be about. If she was an alien fighter all through school and is now a professional alien fighter, one would think she’s had so much exposure to Borgs that she’d be nearly if not entirely fused with one by now.

Kumi is being sent into space on the first ever joint mission between the Borgs and the Yellow Knives to do…..Pbbbbttttt something. It’s never really made clear what the mission is. There’s some seed on the ship that’s super important, but we’re never told what it is or what it does. Joining Kumi are Borgs containing the memories and personalities of Kasumi, Ms. Hisakawa and Yuri because….again, I really don’t know. I guess just for company? Or to always have her friends with her? Maybe for extra protection, but there’s really no need for them to have their personalities if that’s the reason.

By a mere moment, Yuri misses bidding farewell to Kumi on this mission that might take decades or centuries to complete and might yield death before she even starts it (Kumi no longer ages, by the way. Looking back, that might be the reason why Kumi was so concerned when she noted Yuri was ‘growing up’ but I don’t believe so. That would imply that she realizes Yuri’s mortal in an aging sense while Kumi’s not and would one day die and leave her alone. The dialogue didn’t imply anything nearly that heavy, so I’m going to stick with the idea that she was “growing up” in a manner of becoming an adult, finding someone else to love and leaving her one day. The fact that that line was coupled with the very brief shot of Yuri befriending a guy supports that idea.) Kumi stews in the ship saying this is the one thing Yuri could have made proper effort to do right, and yeah…she’s got a point.

Granted, the reason she didn’t get there in time was because she was prepping the Borg with her memories, but considering they had to have known Kumi was planning to do this for probably months if not years, she had plenty of time to get that done beforehand. Ms. Hisakawa and Kasumi prepped their Borgs and got them in well ahead of time with no problem.

Just as a cherry on top, later, Yuri is shown being angry with Kumi because she sent her an email about her leaving instead of coming to talk with her personally. Monami argues that talking with her in person is pointless and when asked why she says ‘Occam’s Razor.’ Which….I guess she’s arguing that talking to Yuri in person wasn’t necessary because it’s adding needless complication and jibber jabber to a situation Yuri is too simple to really grasp anyway? I really don’t get how Occam’s Razor applies here otherwise. I would say it would be adding needless emotional complication, but this is the same girl who barely said ‘Thanks a lot’ before Kumi left the country for god knows how long in the original manga, so I don’t think that’s an issue.

Am I just being dumb or something? What does she mean?

Meanwhile, Kasumi is now queen of the Yellow Knives. Why? I have no goddamn clue. Yellow Knives are now littering the city just sitting on buildings willy-nilly (Keep in mind, they’re massive. About the size of a house) Kasumi is helping out with Kumi’s mission back on earth, using the Yellow Knives’ power to help communicate with her and keep tabs on what’s going on.

Something that always bothered me about this overall concept, even though I really like it, is that it feels like there should be way more people involved with this stuff, but it’s always these young girls (though they’re women in Next) and one adult. The aliens obviously pose a threat to public safety – why is there no special military, task force or scientists etc. helping with alien activity, especially in regards to fusing and sending people into space acting as ambassadors to other alien species?

Kumi lands on the Borg homeworld and, because science, Yuri’s Borg, and only Yuri’s Borg, births a body, allowing Yuri herself, a clone of her anyway, to be present with Kumi, which Kumi doesn’t appreciate. She freaks out because now she has to worry about protecting Yuri in addition to doing her mission. As she looks for supplies for Yuri, I get deja vu because Kumi complains that the first thing she has to do is take care of Yuri, as usual.

Before I continue, let me give credit where credit is due. Even though Yuri still has that Charlie Brown-esque grumpy expression plastered on her face all the time, even though she still complains and whines, even though she still needs protection at all times, she does more and shows more growth in this three chapter sequel than she ever did in the entirety the original manga.

In the first chapter, she shows a bit of determination to persevere when she’s trying to reach Kumi’s ship in time and gets knocked down by a bolt of electricity. In the second chapter, her clone recovers and protects the seed, though, admittedly, she complains while she does it and states that she’s only doing it so Kumi won’t yell at her. In the third chapter, she (her clone anyway) FINALLY actively does something of her own accord and sets off to save Kumi, but because the manga ends here we don’t get to see her actually do anything.

Their ship is attacked by Borgs and they capture Kumi. Clone!Yuri avoids capture by being in some weird very deep tank in order to retrieve the seed and protect it. By the time she surfaces, Kumi’s gone. Kasumi’s Borg merges with Yuri’s Borg to send a transmission to Kasumi about their current situation, which causes their old school’s principal, another fused being, to lose her mind, babbling about the original Borgs. She murders Kasumi on site, but that’s okay because the Yellow Knives just birth a whole slue of new Kasumis. They really don’t want death to matter in this series, do they?

The last we see of our heroes, Kumi was being held captive by the original Borgs, a newborn Kasumi clone is excited about meeting the original Borgs, clone!Yuri is floating in the expanse of space not knowing what to do and Yuri and Monami are approached by some creepy guy saying he has a job for them.

The end.

Considering the end slate for the third chapter has ‘To be continued’ written on it like the other chapters, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that the speculation is correct and this series was probably just shelved because of financial issues.

But what confused me about that is, unlike the other two manga which were very simple in their art and were published in black and white, this one is not only fully colored and more detailed, but it also has quite a bit of 3D CGI. If you were self-published and struggling financially with your publication, why would choose one of the most expensive and time-consuming methods of doing your art?

In the end, if you read Next then you’re pretty much going to be left off with the same unfulfilled feeling that the OVA leaves you with. Maybe a little less so because you have much more of the story under your belt, but still.

It’s a shame, too, because Alien Nine, in its entirety, has a lot of really cool ideas that I’d love to see explored more thoroughly. The main concept alone really drew me in. Who wouldn’t want a job at their school where you get a cool, cute and kickass Borg pal that sits on your head and fight aliens while you’re patrolling the school in rollerblades and using a lacrosse stick as a weapon? That’s AWESOME!

While I had a lot to complain about here, I still enjoyed the series for what it was worth, even if we ultimately looped back around to Cliffhanger Town in Next. If you choose to ignore Next, then the series ended in a fairly decent spot. Emulators has a better end than the first manga, but that’s only because the continuation is so seamless that I feel like Emulators isn’t even a different manga.

However, even Next, despite its drastically different feel and setting, introduced some interesting ideas and concepts that I would have liked to explore. And I am definitely into the idea of seeing Yuri be more proactive and brave. I don’t need to see her going action hero on me, but just knowing she was at least starting to head in the right direction in Next was enough to spur my interest. Then again, if it took Yuri 11 frickin’ years just to get to this point, they’d probably need to write 50 more volumes to make her enjoyable to watch.

I’m still interested to know how the world they live in works side-by-side with the aliens, the intricacies of fusion, what other types of aliens are in their world and what kinds of powers they have. There are endless possibilities and opportunities here, but I feel like it really is a case of great ideas with problematic execution.

The final aspect I’ll go over before I close out is the art. This series is praised for its cutesy shoujo style being coupled with an otherwise dark manga. The characters all have very large and round faces with giant eyes, as I mentioned in the OVA review. At least you can see the noses in the manga much better than you could in the anime. The OVA did a very good job emulating the art style otherwise. I love the designs of the Borgs. I really want a Borg hat with all my heart and soul.

The art as a whole, as I mentioned earlier, is still very simplistic and hardly ever detailed very much. It’s not much of a problem, in my opinion. I have more issues with the structure of the scenes, the pacing and flow of the story than I do with the way the art presents the scenes.

In Next, it seems Tomizawa realized his eye problem and toned it down a tad, but I can’t shake the feeling that the characters feel more artificial in Next than they do in the original manga. I don’t know if it has something to do with the CGI aspect or he changed other parts of the art besides coloring it, but it feels off. The characters tend to feel more like dolls than real people.

Bottomline: Alien Nine, OVA and manga, are far from perfect but they are very enjoyable, present many intriguing ideas and create unique worlds that are just itching to be explored. I was engaged in the story the whole way through, even if there was some repetition and a lack of truly deep impacts. The main problems lie in the messy structure, the fact that tension is greatly reduced by nearly nullifying injuries and death entirely, outside of killing aliens, the lack of thorough world-building and, of course, focusing so much on such an irritating character as the main lead.

At the very least, Yuri should have had SOME degree of character development over the course of the manga, but she really doesn’t. Not even slightly. It takes her 11 years before she even shows signs of trying not to be such a massive crybaby, and of course that’s the entry that gets shelved….

The OVA did a fantastic job adapting what they could, especially considering they fix certain issues I had with the manga. I am bummed that they never got to continue. Since we’re living in reboot city, maybe the possibility of continuing on in anime is more plausible than finishing the manga.

If you caught onto the manga after feeling a yearn for resolution from the OVA, you’ll find your closure here, at least if you don’t read Next. In my opinion, you really need to read Emulators to get proper closure as the original just kinda stops, but you will find closure. I think you should still read Next, if you ever have the opportunity, because it’s also interesting in its own right and even improves the pacing and structure issues I had with the original manga.

I do hope that the manga series continues on in the future. I’m not holding my breath, especially considering the author hasn’t written anything since the cancellation of Next, but it seems like such a waste to leave it where it is.


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Memories Episode 2: Stink Bomb Review

Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: Nobuo Tanaka has a cold that he just can’t shake. He goes to the clinic to get a shot for his illness, but nothing seems to help. Some coworkers at the pharmaceutical development company in which he works tell him of an experimental drug for colds that their associate has samples of in his office and they suggest trying one. After he takes one, he falls asleep on the couch in the break room. Hours later, Nobuo wakes up and finds everyone in the building has passed out.

After triggering the emergency accident alarm, he’s contacted by the higher ups at the company who tell him to gather the pills and some documents and meet them in Tokyo immediately.

The drug that Nobuo took was actually a secret experimental drug that they were contracted to make by the government to use as protection against biological weapons, but it seems to have counteracted badly with the shot he received earlier. While this seems like an easily fixed mistake, it’s soon discovered that the mass wave of unconsciousness is caused by a smell Nobuo is giving off, and it’s so strong that he leaves a wake of unconscious bodies wherever he goes.

They have only two options; find some way to contain his stench and bring him in alive or find some way to kill him.

Breakdown: I kept hearing about how the other two episodes of Memories were nowhere near as strong as the first entry, and this episode supports that.

I don’t know what to make of this segment, really. They don’t even tell you if the people are falling unconscious or dying. The episode is mostly comedic, especially if the music is any indication, so I’d assume they’re just passed out, but they never say one way or another.

That’s one of the reasons why this segment feels like it doesn’t have much tension. People were dying and hallucinating in the first episode. They were locked in a mysterious haunted hologram within a living pile of space debris, tormented by images of their past and warped visions of their desires, luring them into doing what a shadow of a ghost wanted them to do.

This one has people supposedly just passing out due to the stank of a guy’s chemical sweat. It’s still a crisis, and who knows when or if these people will ever wake up, but it still doesn’t have anywhere near the level of impact that the first episode had, which is weird considering the magnitude of attack with which they chose to strike down Nobuo.

It is beyond insane what they do to try to kill this one person. Granted, they can’t get near him due to the stench, which is so strong it can pierce through gas masks and ventilators, but then they have to up the ante. The stench is somehow so powerful that it even affects electronics. They either go haywire or become disabled. Snipers in the area couldn’t get a clear shot because their electronic scopes were screwing up.

Then they try even more powerful munitions like a slue of attack helicopters with missiles, ground to air missiles, tanks, machine guns, battleships, even liquid nitrogen machines, and they all fail to hit him. You’d think one would hit close enough to kill him, even if it wasn’t a direct hit, but nope. The worst he gets is a little frayed jacket and some dirt on his pants.

At a certain point, you’d think they’d realize that the smell is causing the electronic disturbances and stop attacking him with anything that relies on anything remotely electronic (they do have non-electronic sniper rifles, guys) but nope. Up until the very ending they’re using electronic devices and machines, mech suits no less, to contain him.

By the way, during this whole onslaught, Nobuo’s riding a motor scooter….Yep. It craps out near the end, but he rides it the whole way without issue, and it’s more implied that the scooter probably died from the damage it received during the attack than the stink off of Nobuo.

They also realize something else about this chemical early on, something that was told to them by the company’s higher ups – the stink gets worse and more powerful as Nobuo gets increasingly stressed and starts to sweat more. So they decide scaring the living hell out of him by confronting him with a darkened sky of attack helicopters and missiles is a great idea. Good job, guys.

No joke, this whole thing might’ve been resolved with gentle words, some kindness and care, but they’d rather blow shit up with complete disregard as to the innocent people they might be killing in droves in the process.

Also, for some strange reason, this smell prompts the spontaneous growth of plants and flowers. They never say why.

The ending is very predictable. It seems like it’s an anti-climax because Nobuo gets so panicked after being cornered by the aforementioned mechs that he causes a massive breakdown in electronics in the area. They quick cut and show that Nobuo was…killed? They find his jacket and that’s all we see. They also make it very clear that these mech suits, for no reason, have the ability to tint the helmets and mask the person inside.

Everyone’s clamoring after stopping the stink, and they bring in the American soldier in the mech suit to congratulate him. He hands over the suitcase with the sample, clears the tint from the helmet and reveals that he’s actually Nobuo and the stench is still with him, just contained in the mech. Everyone panics as Nobuo ejects himself from the mech suit and releases the stink, supposedly damning everyone in the world to coma-dom.

Not only is this ending predictable, because otherwise it would be anti-climactic and make no sense, but it also….makes no sense.

If Nobuo had a massive electronic-killing panic attack, how did the mech still work after the breakdown? How did it work with him inside it?

How did no one get a confirmed kill? They really just saw his jacket and were like ‘he ded’?

I assume his breakdown knocked out at least one of the mech guys so he could take his suit, but why did the other mech guys get away unscathed? How did they not notice one of their own wasn’t who he said he was?

How did Nobuo get all the way into the command center without alerting anyone to who he was? Why did they not force him to take the suit off before going in? Or at least clear the tint? How did Nobuo know how to use the mech suit?

Why did it never occur to him that the smell was coming from him? You can literally see the gas emanating from him.

Why did he completely ignore the advice of his grandma? She’s yelling to him from a helicopter begging him to go to the mountains instead of Tokyo and it’s like he never even considers it. Why even have that scene in there then?

All in all, this is an interesting concept, but it’s one of those movies where I can’t help but be put off by how little sense it all makes. The tone is silly but is still trying to seem like there’s a lot on the line. Nobuo’s a dumbass, but he’s not entertaining enough to be memorable. It’s just a confused movie.

Great soundtrack, though.

Additional Information and Notes: Memories – Stink Bomb was directed by Tensai Okamura, who also directed Kikaider, Wolf’s Rain and Blue Exorcist. It was written by Katsuhiro Otomo, who also did the screenplays for Metropolis and Steamboy. It was produced by Madhouse, the one segment of the movie not to be produced by Studio 4°C, and it is currently licensed in the US by Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Runtime: 37 Minutes

Year: 1995

Recommended Audience: If these people are dying, then there’s mass murder/death. Lots of ridiculous explosive violence, but no blood. 8+

Phantom Quest Corp. Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: Phantom Quest Corp is a small company, one of a kind, that deals with combating paranormal activity. Anything ranging from vampires to ghosts to demons, they do it all. Ayaka Kisaragi is the irresponsible yet powerful owner and operator of the business along with a boy named Mamoru, Nanami, a pyrokinetic yet can’t control her powers, Rokon, an exorcist, Suimei, a fortune teller, and sometimes she gets a bit of help from the local detective, Karino.

Breakdown: This is a fun series of four short stories involving confrontations with various paranormal entities. The stories and characters are usually quite funny, exciting and entertaining, but its main negative point is in its lack of any real depth with the main characters.

Ayaka is lazy, loud and somewhat out of control. She’s also a bit of a drunk, but she means well and is very serious when she needs to be. She seems to have some supernatural abilities like magic earrings that do various things, and, most prominently, a big tube of lipstick that turns into a red lightsaber.

Lipstick lightsabers….I truly love anime.

We never learn where she got these powers, though, nor why she started this company to begin with. It should also be noted that she likes to make speeches when she comes into contact with her foes like Sailor Moon.

Mamoru is the biggest mystery to me. He’s a small boy with apparently no supernatural abilities whatsoever. His role in the business seems to be finances, ensuring Ayaka wakes up on time and does her job, taking and scheduling jobs and doing research. He’s a very nice, responsible boy far beyond the maturity of Ayaka, but why and how is he here?

Ayaka can’t be his mom because he’s always calling her ‘Miss Ayaka’, he seems to live at Phantom Quest Corp’s headquarters with Ayaka – where they hell did he come from? Why did he get recruited for this? What is he to Ayaka? None of this is ever explained.

The rest of the characters get even less explanation. Their descriptions in the plot synopsis is basically all we get for information on them. Karino is Ayaka’s psuedo-love interest, but that’s all that needs adding.

That really is Phantom Quest Corp’s main issue, but it’s not really enough to keep me from enjoying it.

This is a four episode long OVA with no additional anime series. A one-shot manga came out about it, but apparently it was just a story about them heading to New York to set up more business, which means that, even if you’re very thorough in your following of this series, you won’t learn anything else about the main characters. Each episode showcases one case. None of the cases are particularly fantastic. Episode two is the closest they get, but they’re still entertaining to watch.

Art and Animation: The art is pretty good and the animation is good to great. Madhouse always does nice work.

Music: I loved the music, especially the really addictive ending theme. It’s a fairly nice changeup from most anime themes.

Voice Acting: English – There’s some pretty decent voice talent in here including but not limited to Wendee Lee (Credited as Wendee Day) and Brianne Sidall (Credited as…. Jetta E. Bumpy….Okay, you and Wendee really need to find a gentle middle ground between too obvious and too hilarious for your pseudonyms) And Steve Blum even plays a character in episode three…..a slimy pervert character, but who cares? It’s Steve Blum, enjoy him.

Bottomline: It’s by no means remarkable, but at a short four episodes and some entertaining stories and funny scenes, it’s hard not to recommend it.

Additional Information and Notes: Phantom Quest Corp. was written by Mami Watanabe, and it was directed by Koichi Chigira, who also directed Tokyo Babylon and Gatekeepers, Morio Asaka, who did directorial work on Cardcaptor Sakura, Nana, Black Lagoon and Aoi Bungaku, and Junichi Sakata, who did directorial work on Cardcaptor Sakura, Android Kikaider and Full Metal Panic.

It was produced by Madhouse and Pioneer LDC. It is currently licensed in the US under Geneon.

Episodes: 4

Year: 1994-1995

Recommended Audience: Ayaka’s sometimes nude-ish, but nothing’s ever shown. There’s some mature humor, but it’s basically innuendos. One start of a sex scene, but it happens off-screen. Some violence and blood, but nothing too graphic, and a little swearing. 8+

Amnesia OVA Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: In an unspecified reality, the employees of Meido no Hitsuji try to keep up with the competition of a local cafe by spending the week coming up with various fairs, shows and hooks to bring in customers.

Breakdown: This is one of the those OVAs meant for nothing but a little splash of post-anime humor, and it works pretty well. It’s a short one episode OVA, but it was still fun. It was nice to see the whole cast get to play off of each other for a change. They didn’t get to do that much in the anime. They have good chemistry with each other, which makes this somewhat sad because the entire time I was thinking we could’ve had more moments and fun like this in the actual series.

Ukyo even gets a fairly big part despite the fact that he’s just a regular customer and not an employee. It was nice to see him happier for a change.

The gags are fairly funny, especially when Kent tries to be a waiter and when they put on the Gentlemen of Justice show, which was basically a nod to Super Sentai complete with their respective colors and card suits playing a part.

Heroine’s role was very small THANK GOD, so that made it much more pleasant to watch too. It’s not clear what world she’s in because all of the guys seem to have a thing for her, and they all appear to realize this about the others as well because they work together to play a prank on Ukyo for getting closer to Heroine. It seems like, because of the scene at the ending, that it may be Shin’s world, the heart arc, but the guys are acting too differently and him calling her an idiot isn’t proof that he’s her boyfriend here……and I cannot believe I seriously said that.

It’s possible she’s in a different reality where she’s not dating anyone, but that doesn’t fit the anime. It’s definitely not her reality because she still has no memories.

The ending theme was different, which was to reflect the different tone. It was a nice enough song.

Bottomline: This was a short yet fun OVA that lets all of the boys shine together and have some fun which was really tragically missing from the anime.

Recommended Audience: Nothing objectionable. E for everyone.

Coicent Review

Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Shinichi is heading to a local festival where he runs into a weird white deer who steals his backpack and leads him jumping all over town. In the process, they save the life of a girl who fell from a building and has never been outside. They have a wonderful day together at the festival as the girl, nicknamed ‘Toto’ experiences many new things. However, Toto is not what she appears to be, and their problems are only beginning.

Breakdown: Coicent was the other feature coupled with Five Numbers! Unlike Five Numbers!, though, I really believe this was just long enough to tell its story properly without feeling a little disappointed. Granted, that’s not to say I don’t wish they had built on it. I really do, especially her origins, but it’s fine in a short story format.

Shinichi is a really kind and genuine person. While, at first, it seems like he just wants a cute girlfriend, you can tell he truly grew to care deeply for Toto even in the short amount of time they spent together.

Toto is a very likable and sweet girl. Her situation is sad, but she has many hopes and dreams. She can also be kickass when the occasion calls for it.

I don’t know exactly what she is, though. I believe I can go through this without spoiling everything since it was shown in the beginning, but Toto is really an….android? That’s my best guess. She controls her appearance through holograms or something like that. This just begs the question of how can this short really end up happily? Even if it does, she’s still an android, which means she’d never age and could never legitimately be with Shinichi.

But since I don’t know the specifics of her existence, I can’t be certain.

In the end, this is a really nice short romantic sci-fi comedy. Toto and Shinichi have great chemistry, the OVA has wonderful pacing, writing, music, scenery, art and animation. The animation is all done in CGI like Five Numbers!, but it seems more polished with better human animation. Though I’m fine with a short OVA, I’d love to see a longer version of a story like this.

Additional Information and Notes: Coicent was directed and written by Shuhei Morita, who also directed Tokyo Ghoul and wrote and directed Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek. It was produced by Sunrise, and it is currently licensed in English by Sentai Fimworks.

Runtime: 11 minutes.

Year: 2011

Recommended Audience: There’s some violence, but nothing graphic, no sex, nudity, swearing etc. 5+

Five Numbers! Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: Four convicts all with life sentences awaken after being drugged to find themselves in an abandoned prison. It’s a race to get out…if they can.

Breakdown: This is a one-shot OVA that came paired with another OVA called Coicent which I will be reviewing later. Right now, let’s focus on Five Numbers!

Five people, four convicts with life sentences, are stuck in an abandoned prison – no guards, no nothing. All they have is each other and a cat. There’s a woman codenamed R21 or Sting who was a gambler and possibly con artist, a man codenamed N35 or Pinch-Hitter who embezzled money and also holds a secret related to the situation, a young girl codenamed R12 or FlashTradeKiller who is a hacker who purposely caused the financial network to crumble, and a teenage boy codenamed N17 or Pokerface whose reasons for being convicted are not stated and me explaining who he is would be a spoiler.

There’s also an old man in the prison who is actually there of his own free will for also spoilery reasons codenamed Enplein or VO and his cat, Coupier. None of their real names are given and they refer to each other by their numbers which I believe are also supposed to signify their ages.

I can’t give too much away as I don’t feel this is one of those titles I want to go through beat by beat, but I will say that the premise is extremely interesting and the OVA has some very cool ideas. However, this is merely a one-shot which means there’s no real building upon these ideas, and that’s a real shame.

That’s not to say the OVA ends on a cliffhanger or anything. There are several twists thrown in that are pretty shocking, especially the one at the very end.

It’s just very disappointing that there’s not more of this. You can easily extend this premise out further into a very short OVA of like six episodes, but it’s over in one episode.

Bottomline: If you like short stories that are both interesting yet dark at the same time, you’ll probably enjoy this very much but wish there were at least a bit more to it.

Art and Animation: This anime is done entirely in CGI, which is, for the most part, fine. It’s done in that kind of way that looks like it’s only half cel-shaded and outlined, which actually works really well. The character models are decent. They look kinda video-gamey though. Also the animation for the humans is a little stiff sometimes, but overall fine.

Music: The music’s also fine. The ending’s catchy and done in Italian for whatever reason.

Additional Information and Notes: Five Numbers! was written by Dai Sato, who has done writing work on Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Wolf’s Rain. It was directed by Hiroaki Ando, CGI director of Steamboy and director of Gambo. It was produced by Sunrise and is currently licensed in the US by Sentai Filmworks.

Runtime: 25 minutes

Year: 2011

Recommended Audience: Eh, the ending is not a happy one. Though you never see anything happen on camera, it’s heavily implied that something intense is about to happen. Other than that, no gore, swearing, nudity, sex, or anything. 10+

Alien Nine Review

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Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: Aliens invaded the earth some time ago, and now schools are tasked with selecting three people from each class to be Alien Fighters. The Alien Fighters are given borgs, frog-like aliens with wings and drill-like cables that sit on their heads and act like their protectors.

Yuri Otani, the world’s biggest crybaby on the face of the planet, is selected as being one of the three Alien Fighters for her class, because I guess they just wanted to pawn the job off on her, along with Kumi, a strong independent fighter who is seen as the mature one in the group, and Kasumi, who couldn’t be more excited to have the job. While much of their job is seen as busywork, the aliens do pose a threat far greater than they’d ever imagined.

Breakdown: This is one of those shows that starts off rocky but ends up leaving you wanting so much more.

I first thought this series to be some parody of alien apocalypse anime. I mean, come on. Logistically, this makes no sense. Aliens invade, and instead of military involvement, police or anything, they assign three kids from various elementary school classes to take care of the aliens and roam around the school grounds armed with rollerblades and said borgs.

Also, they’re not allowed to kill the aliens. Well, they are allowed, but they’re strongly urged to merely tranquilize the aliens and bring them into some pen at school. The reasoning is that they’re living beings too and they should respect their lives, but when they’re the ones trying to kill you……well, they obviously don’t respect your life so….

However, when a borg senses that their master is getting too scared of the threat and believes that they will die, the borg freaks out and kills the threat. Guess who sets this action off….twice. Just guess.

Yuri is our main character, and I swear to god if you thought Shinji from Evangelion was a whiny twat, you’ve never seen Yuri. She does nothing….and I mean nothing….but whimper and cry and say she’s scared. 99.9% of her screentime is that. I’m not even kidding.

You may see her smile once or twice, but it’s that awkward smile where your brow is still furrowed and it seems like you’re fake smiling to fit in. Even when she’s not on alien duty, even before she got picked, even when she’s just having fun on summer vacation with her friends, she was a whiny little cry baby.

I give Shinji and Yuri some leeway because they’re kids who were thrown into very dangerous situations and told to fight aliens who may very well kill them and their friends. However, there’s only so far I can go with that, and Yuri crosses that line so, so, so much. Considering she was this way before she even got selected, I give her even less leeway.

What’s worse is that, by the end, she’s not much better. She watches one of her friends getting attacked and does jack about it because she’s too busy whimpering. The only reason she does whatever minute thing she does at the very end is because Kumi was quite literally holding her hand.

She’s such a detriment to the team that I really wonder why no one will let her quit or even just purposely kick her off the team. The only times she ever gets anything done is when her borg tries to protect her and sometimes kills the enemy when she gets too rattled. Give Shinji some credit, at least he fought when he had to most of the time.

I loved the hell out of Kumi because she was the only one willing to be completely blunt about how much of a crybaby Yuri is. She’s a little cold, but she lightens up by the end.

Kasumi was pretty okay in the first half, but working my nerves in the second because of how happy-peppy she is and how she constantly says “NYA!”

Miyu, Yuri’s best friend, was also a good character though she had little in terms of personality.

While this show started out seemingly lighthearted, especially considering the artwork, it gets pretty dark, particularly the final episode. I was pretty surprised by the sudden turnaround from “being an alien fighter means you get to skip homework!” to sudden alien massacre, psychological warfare and conspiracies.

I won’t spoil the ending, but it is a great advertisement to read the manga. That’s basically what this whole thing is – just a sneak peak into the manga because we learn quite literally nothing of what’s actually going on.

We don’t know who’s sending the aliens, why the teacher and principal seem to have something to do with it, why they seem to have borg-hair, why the Yellow Knife was sent, what he meant by “It was your fault” and, I’m going to give two major spoilers here, so fair warning;

At the very end, we don’t know if the Kasumi we see is actually Kasumi or something the alien made. And we see that Kumi, during the end credits no less, suddenly got attacked by something and supposedly murdered in the library. What the hell happened to her? And why was she on alien duty anyway if her borg was out of commission?

End of spoilers.

The reason I took points off was for that ending and for Yuri. She is one of the most annoying anime characters I’ve ever seen. If they made her grow some semblance of a pair near the end, it wouldn’t have been as bad, but nope.

I plan on reading the manga because I’m really interested to know what happened, so here’s hoping the manga does explain it.

Art and Animation: The art is………good, barring the faces of the people. They have huge eyes, which is usually fine, but they’re even big for anime standards. The eyes themselves also don’t look well-drawn, they’re craggy and awkward. They have small noses when seen from the front, but when you look at them from the side, no noses. Their ears are also huge. Barring that, however, the art is pretty good and the animation is very well done.

Music: The ending theme was nice, the OP was forgettable. Nothing much to say about the BGM.

Voice Acting: EnglishEveryone was great in their roles, even whiny Yuri. I will say I was distracted by Rachel Lillis, the voice of Misty from Pokemon, playing Miyu. Veronica Taylor, Ash and May from Pokemon, also plays their teacher, Megumi, but I honestly didn’t catch on that that was her. Miyu was sporting Misty’s voice clearly, however. I really only note this because I found it funny that Rachel Lillis, who plays Misty, was playing in an anime with a character named Kasumi. Kasumi is Misty’s Japanese name.

Bottomline: At four episodes, it’s definitely worth a watch, but Yuri was seriously pushing it with her whining and crying. It does end with a lot of questions left unanswered and even has a cliffhanger that basically forces you to read the manga.

Additional Information and Notes: Alien Nine was based on a manga written by Hitoshi Tamizawa, though he doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this OVA. The OVA itself was directed by Yasuhiro Irie, director of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Code:Breaker, and Jiro Fujimoto who directed some episodes of Wagnaria!!3, Samurai 7, Kaze no Stigma and The Familiar of Zero. It was written by Murai Sadayuki, who also wrote the screenplay for Steamboy, the script for Perfect Blue and even some episodes of Cowboy Bebop.

Alien Nine was produced by JC Staff, and is currently licensed in the US by Central Park Media.

Episodes: 4

Year: 2001-2002

Recommended Audience: Some dark themes, blood, blood and gore on the alien’s side (meaning pea-soup green gore and blood) a little nudity, but you don’t see anything, technically. It is full frontal, but they do the Sailor moon thing with it. No nips, no naughty bits. No sex, some swearing here and there, but no f-bombs. 14+