Episode One-Derland | Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

Plot: The future is uncertain – whether for good or bad. But one thing is certain – Mirai hates pretty much everything, by her own admission. She’s annoyed by school, her parents, her little brother, Yuuki, and believes nothing good ever happens. The world can fall apart for all she cares. But what happens when the world literally falls apart around her head when a massive 8.0 earthquakes destroys everything around her?

Breakdown: (Note: Cards on the table, this article is actually kinda old. I finished Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 quite a while ago now (Full review will come sometime down the line). Still wanted to post this, though, in case anyone was interested. Thanks for reading~)

Hmmm……..how is it possible that I don’t hate the main character? She is one of the grumpiest most temperamental teens I’ve seen in fiction in a long time. But at the same time, she shows a likable side, and it’s not like this behavior is abnormal. She’s a teenage girl who finds herself unhappy with life. And every time she tries to get invested in something, it gets ruined in some way, but in minor ways – ways that are minor inconveniences to most people, but, to a hair-trigger teen, would seem like they’ve just destroyed everything.

For instance, she wants to buy a cute ribbon for her mom for her birthday but someone else grabs it. Even when they try to give it back to her, she just pouts about it and has a fit after. She gets into driving a little robot thing, which I assume will be reincorporated later since it was specifically designed for recovery missions in disaster zones, but someone gets all irritated at how long she’s taking, so she pouts and walks off.

There was one time where I think she was just being stupid. Her mom buys cake FOR HER OWN BIRTHDAY because I guess everyone else just forgets. She doesn’t want any cake for herself since she’s on a diet, and her mom has to go to work too, so she leaves it to everyone else, but Mirai gets all pissy because…..the cake is in wedges and isn’t round.

She actually complains to her mom about that. And then later she mocks her mom behind her back about this “Who doesn’t know birthday cakes are round?” Like, how entitled are you when you’re complaining to your mom and your friends about the SHAPE of your MOM’S birthday cake that SHE BOUGHT HERSELF. Bear in mind, she only bought this cake for them, too, considering she wasn’t going to have any.

Her family as a whole is very realistic as well. Her father is a bit of an indifferent ass. He doesn’t really give any thought to Mirai telling him that it’s his wife’s birthday. He steps on a bunch of chips on the floor left out by either Yuuki or Mirai and he really doesn’t do anything about it besides complain a little. When their mom comes home and instantly starts warming up dinner, he starts to complain about how late it is and puts the blame of his whining on the kids who hadn’t even talked about dinner up until that point.

Their mom is pretty likable. She gives Mirai chores and responsibilities, actions which are, of course, viewed through the lens of a teenager as proof of her being a relentless slave driver, and she works a lot, but she obviously cares about her family a great deal. She never seems like she’s unreasonable to me, even if she does lose her temper once.

Finally, there’s Yuuki, who is just a sweetheart. He loves all of his family, is really polite, kind and generally happy. Even when Mirai is being a complete bitch to him, he still tries to keep his head up and even cheer her up.

Back to Mirai, she’s having a bit of an existential crisis in that she has an assignment over summer break about where she sees herself in ten years, and she really doesn’t know. She has no direction and no interests besides her cell phone, which is quite typical of a teenager. Just when all of her troubles start to bubble over, the earthquake starts.

The scene with the earthquake was extremely well done, but it came so late in the episode that we didn’t get the absolute full scope of the damage, which is a fine decision as I’m certain we’ll see plenty of it later.

As an intro episode, it does a great job establishing the characters and the main conflict for the entire series. I can imagine the beats the show will take, but I won’t be so presumptuous as to assume everything will be predictable.

The art is kinda simple, though I do think the way the smiles are drawn is adorable. And the animation is extremely fluid. It really looks great.

As for the music, it’s alright. I didn’t have a strong reaction to the opening theme, but I really enjoyed the ED, and the BGM was pretty good.

Final Verdict:

Continue Yes

I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series. I’ve heard really good things about it, and it has a pretty unique premise, so I think I’m in for a good experience.


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Rail of the Star Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: Chitose Kobayashi reflects back on her life as a child in Japanese-occupied Korea as the Pacific War and World War II begin.

Breakdown: The response for this movie doesn’t seem to be very positive. At best, I’d say it’s mixed.

Obviously, there are many people saying this movie feels like it’s trying very hard to be Grave of the Fireflies or at least play like a Studio Ghibli film, which I get. However, from the get-go, you know it won’t be the largely tragic story of Grave of the Fireflies mostly because Chitose is alive and well at the start, a successful actress even, and she starts the whole flashback by confirming that her family escaped. As opposed to Grave of the Fireflies, which also works on a flashback, but is told by the perspective of a homeless and clearly dying Seita.

Even the names seem in stark contrast. Rail of the Star sounds a lot more optimistic and positive than Grave of the Fireflies.

But is it really fair to make such comparisons when this is supposedly a true story? This is an autobiographical tale of a real woman named Chitose Kobayashi. How much has been changed for dramatic effect, I don’t know. However, can you really say a movie is aiming to be a rip-off or an homage if the story is, more or less, true?

I got invested in this movie just fine. I was never fooling myself into thinking this was a Ghibli film, but it’s still compelling and interesting enough to grasp your attention for an hour and fifteen minutes. Plus there were moments where I almost teared up a little.

The problem I have with this movie is that there are moments where it is a bit melodramatic and yet, at the same time, the movie doesn’t do enough to have heavy dramatic impact. For instance, the scene where Chiko (Chitose’s nickname as a child) sat on a pin that was stuck in her pants really seems over the top for the situation. I mean, I get that it probably hurt a lot, a given with her insane screaming (props to her VA), but it was really so bad that another hour or so without treatment and she would’ve died? Can someone with more medical knowledge tell me if this is legitimate? Is it an infection risk kind of thing?

None of the characters really stand out at all. Chiko is a very real child reacting to everything as most children would. I don’t even mind the scene where she blows up because the new backpack she got was a plain brown color instead of the red she wanted because it’s the very tip of the iceberg of effects from the war. I’m sure, looking back, Chitose probably thinks she was being very foolish getting upset over such a thing in comparison with everything else.

The mom is nice, but typical. The dad is nice and brave, but typical. Her aunt Yohko and grandparents are nice, but typical. Are you seeing a pattern here? Probably the second character to get any sort of real character development is her nanny/maid (?) Ohana, a Korean woman who is scrounging together funds for her mother’s medicine. She is pretty close to Chiko, and she has a father who….I guess doesn’t like her. The one time we see him, he throws out her money and shuts the door in her face. No idea why.

And, that’s pretty much it. They make a big thing out of Ohana being in the audience of Chitose’s play, the framing device of the movie, but there wasn’t a big enough connection made between the two for me to care that much.

Finally, there is Miko, Chiko’s little sister and the source of the most impacting scene of the movie. Which is a shame because, outside of the default ‘she’s a kid so it’s extra awful’ bit of sadness in her part of the story, she’s also very much a typical little girl. There aren’t really any major scenes that make you connect with her. The one scene they keep going back to is a short scene where she’s asking Chiko if she can play with the paper ball she’s playing with, but Chiko won’t let her. But she leaves the ball behind when she goes to play with her friends, so Miko is finally able to play with the ball.

The ball is a major artifact throughout the rest of the movie, but since there wasn’t enough emotional connection made, it’s hard to feel that pang in your heart when it keeps reappearing.

Finally, our title namesake, the rail of the star…..also isn’t dramatic or impacting enough. One night, Chiko’s dad taught her that the North Star always points north and is well-known for helping travelers along their way. The scene in which this is taking place isn’t particularly sweet or emotionally impacting. It’s a fine scene, but it’s not terribly memorable.

When they’re escaping, she remembers what he taught her as they realize they’re lost and they follow a ‘rail of the star’ to get to the 38th parallel and get back to Japan. She also asks the stars to be brighter when she’s too scared to cross a railroad bridge in the dark. That’s about it.

They do a good job at keeping the movie grounded and even bringing some of the other elements of the war to light that most other movies like this don’t, like the plight of the Koreans who basically traded one invader for another.

The art and animation for this movie are dated and not the best, but I am still a sucker for classic-styled art and animation. Not saying much, though, because this movie isn’t terribly old coming out in ‘93. I’m older than this movie. Surprising, really, since the studio behind this is Madhouse.

The music is fine and does the job well, but some of the tracks seem to repeat too much. I’m not sure if the tracks are too similar or if they’re really playing the same song over and over, I couldn’t tell.

The voice acting, Japanese version, is really good. And serious props to Chiko’s VA for that screaming. That was some soul breaking screaming.

Bottomline: It’s a fine wartime drama, but it has a lot of problems utilizing dramatic moments and there’s not much that is horribly memorable about it. There are several parallels to Grave of the Fireflies, which might be unfortunate because I really think the movie stands fine on its own and it is supposedly a mostly true story. It’s not like it’s a huge ‘point out the rip-off moments’ movie, but it’s hard not to make comparisons.

Give it a shot if you like the genre. It does give you a few heart pangs, but don’t expect it to be an uncovered classic.

Additional Information and Notes:

Rail of the Star was directed by Toshio Hirata, who also directed Petshop of Horrors and it was produced by Madhouse. It is currently licensed in the US by ADV films.

Duration: 1h 17m

Year: 1993

Recommended Audience: The genre itself is more geared towards an older audience. Other than that, some people do die, but no one dies on screen. There’s no blood, swearing, nudity, sex etc. Really, the most they do is shove a big pin into Chiko’s rear end and there’s not even any blood in that scene either. E for everyone, preferably with a parent present, though.


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Shinigami no Ballad (Momo: The Girl God of Death) Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: An episodic anime about a pure white and kind shinigami named Momo and her cat Daniel. While their main job is to ferry souls to the afterlife, Momo also likes to help the souls that she ferries with any unresolved issues left behind in the land of the living. She also likes to help the living move on past the deaths of loved ones as well.

Breakdown: If you asked me to describe this anime in one word, the perfect fit for it would be ‘bittersweet’. Just by the description you can tell that this is a depressing anime filled with death and discussions about the impact of death on loved ones. I’ve never watched an entire anime where basically every episode made me feel like crying, but you win that award Shinigami no Ballad.

However, Momo does make light of nearly every story. The unresolved business left behind by a departed soul allows the soul to rest. The loved ones left behind are then also able to get through the death of their loved one and live their lives to the fullest with what both Momo and their lost loved one taught them.

I’m a sucker for episodic anime as I really love short stories. Unlike some other episodic anime, there’s nothing that ties together these stories besides the characters of Momo and Daniel. One character from the first episode makes a reappearance in episode five to help someone else deal with the death of a loved one, and we learn that his contact with Momo left him with the power to see ghosts that he’ll supposedly lose when he becomes an adult (because….ghosts are like fairies?), but that’s it. I really wish they had left that episode as the last one because it would’ve felt like the series came full circle in as much of a way as it could, but it’s alright.

Momo is not your average shinigami. She wears a beautiful white dress, she has long white hair and blue eyes. She holds a scythe, of course, but that’s really the only indication that she’s a shinigami. Momo is a very kindhearted individual who not only wants to help departed souls with their unresolved issues left in the land of the living, but she also likes to help the living (usually ones connected to a departed soul) live their lives to the fullest.

Momo is also a tragic character, but you only get that from the opening theme song because we don’t really learn anything of Momo’s story, unlike, in the opposite extreme, Ai from Hell Girl. I guess in some ways Momo wants to be a part of the living world, but can’t. However, she is very dedicated to her goal of helping all of the people that she can. I really liked Momo, she was a very sweet and caring character.

…But then there’s Daniel. I feel like there’s some sort of unexplained dynamic between Daniel and Momo. Momo’s character design is almost that of an angel without wings. Daniel’s seems somewhat demon based. He’s a black cat with a red collar and blood red demon-esque wings. I can only guess that Momo is meant to ferry good souls to heaven while Daniel ferries bad souls to hell, sorta like Zombie Loan. However, since they never deal with any bad souls I can’t be certain.

While Daniel does love Momo very much to the point where he basically treats her like royalty, Daniel can get a little annoying because he’s Momo’s foil. While Momo is gentle and will go to great lengths to help people, Daniel is pretty blunt and even somewhat rude, and he sometimes thinks that helping people is a waste of time. However, because of his deep respect and admiration of Momo, he’s more than willing to help her.

All of the episodes are really great. I can’t think of any episode I particularly disliked. I preferred some over others, but they were all really well-written and interesting. All of the characters involved in the stories, for the most part, were likable as well.

Art and Animation: The art was meh. Nothing really to write home about. Same with the animation.

Music: I really liked the music even if Nihon reviews said it was the worst part of the series. It may seem out of place on first hearing, but it fits pretty well with the show as you continue to listen to it. Both the OP and the ED were really good even if I think the pacing of the lyrics in the OP are a little too slow and the BG music was memorable and enjoyable.

Bottomline: If you can stand up to a little depression and a lot of talk of death, this is a pretty good series. I wish it had gone on longer and that we had gotten really anything of the story behind Momo’s drive to do what she does or her character at all. It’s also a really short series at six episodes when the series could have the potential to go on for much longer. Hell Girl got four seasons yet this only gets six episodes. However, that does also mean that it’s a fairly short watch, and well worth the time.

Additional Information and Notes: Shinigami no Ballad was based on a light novel series of the same name written by K-Ske Hasagawa, which also spawned a manga version that ran from 2005-2007. The anime version was directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, who also directed Princess Nine, Pupa and Dirty Pair Flash II and III. It was written by Reiko Yoshida, who has done screenwriting work for a massive list of titles including Kaleido Star, Digimon, D-Gray Man, Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection, and Jyu-Oh-Sei.

It was produced by the now defunct Group TAC, who also helped produce Space Battleship Yamato, Space-Time Detective Genshi-Kun (Flint the Time Detective) and Grappler Baki. They worked alongside Ginga-Ya, who also did some animation work on Angel Beats!, Five Numbers!, Terror in Resonance…..Oh and Yosuga no Sora. There is an English Dub available of this series, and it is currently licensed in North America by Maiden Japan.

Episodes: 6

Year: 2006

Recommended Audience: Well, there are obviously a lot of mentions of death and talking about death, but you actually never see a single person die on screen. I’d say the first episode is likely the saddest because that’s the only time that a character that we actually get to know while alive ends up dying during the episode. Everyone dies of either sickness, old age or car accidents, and none of the deaths are seen on screen. The final episode deals with the aspect of suicide and shows the character falling off of a bridge, but they cut away so quickly that you’re not even entirely sure she fell.

Other than that, though, no questionable content. No sex, no swearing, not even drinking. Though the heavy aspect of dealing with death might skew towards an older-ish audience. 8+?


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The Salty Anime Challenge Day 13: A Sad Anime that Made You Feel Nothing

Today’s dishonor goes to H2O: Footprints in the Sand.

This show does a lot to try and make you feel sad. One of the main characters, Hayami, is bullied so much and so harshly by all of the characters in the village, child, adult or otherwise, that it’s insane. She also has a tragic backstory ™, is an orphan (I think?) because of it, and is severely psychologically damaged by her situation.

Hirose, the main character in this dramatic harem, is blind, became blind through psychological trauma in his tragic backstory ™ in which his mother commits suicide right in front of him. He gets better but then there’s a tragic plot twist that reveals he never was better. He becomes emotionally broken and basically becomes a walking vegetable. Then he gets better. The love of his life kills herself in a manner identical to how his mother killed herself, all to….cure his…blindness….and then…he gets better….and…..she…gets…better?

Hinata has a tragic backstory ™ with her grandfather being a horrible bastard. Her life and identity aren’t even really hers – they were thrust upon her by her grandfather who basically ‘killed’ her off in order to have her take the place of the person who really died.

Otoha has a tragic backstory ™ Long story short –

Even people not in the H2O circle (Hinata, Hayami (interchangeable Hirose) and Otoha, get it?) have tragic backstories like Yui whose grandfather died because Hayami’s family refused to give him medical treatment because Yui’s family was poor.

….Did I mention this is based off of an H-game? That’s probably important. Who wants to try to get turned on while wading through a sea of tragedy and horrible circumstances? There are no hentai scenes or anything close here, so you’re just left with an overly dramatic harem anime that is unabashedly sad.

Thing is, even though I enjoyed most of the show well enough, barring the last three episodes, I never felt sad. There were a couple decent heartwarming moments, but sad? No. Not once.

I don’t know if I was just numb to it very quickly or if they were obviously doing their best to make everything as tragic as possible from the get-go while still having an unrealistically happy ending where damn near everything is fixed so I just felt like….Have you ever seen something that is obviously overly dramatic and sad to the point where your reaction is more ‘wow, what the hell?’ than it is sadness?

It’s hard for me to have a legitimately sad response to all of this soap-opera-esque tragedy. And it just snowballs as the series goes concludes until the snowball gets hit by a train.

Read my original review for the full stupid insanity of the last three episode of the series, but trust me, it’s just sad event after sad event.

And I still don’t feel remotely sad. If anything, I got pretty angry and confused as the series ended simply because I couldn’t believe the stupidity of it all.

Sad, however, no. They’re just trying way too hard.

Hell Girl Episode 16: A Night Among Traveling Entertainers Review

Hell Girl Ep 16

Plot: Yumi is a performer in Happy Circus, but she is viciously beaten regularly by the ringmaster. Yumi manages to contact Hell Girl, wishing for vengeance. Hajime, following a tip from Tsugumi’s vision, goes to the circus and tries to save them. Will he finally save someone from hell?

Breakdown: A brief moment to go over some more questions as to how Hell Girl works.

Is there a time limit to using the doll? Can someone just sit on their hands for months or even years deciding if they want to use the doll? I believe the longest I’ve seen someone go is around a week.

I only ask because Hone Onna and Ren are, again, masquerading as workers in the place where the client works for the sake of keeping an eye on them, which is just something they keep deciding to do for no reason.

In the beginning, they didn’t really appear until the ending torture. Now they’re jammed into the episode all the time, watching from the shadows. I’m not complaining about them being here, I just don’t understand why they are.

I don’t know if Ai started instructing them to do this even when there’s nothing to investigate (and, even then, it’s not necessary) when Hajime started coming on the scene, but, what, do they just keep their jobs until whenever the client decides to pull the string?

Is there a one or three client at a time rule? I know Hone Onna and Ren can also turn into dolls, but surely there are a lot of vengeful people in the world, or at least Japan, who would use Hell Girl. Do the other clients have to wait until a case is done to free up a space? I believe either in this season or Two Mirrors we have two dolls out at once, but that’s all I remember about it.

What about people without Internet access? Surely there are many tormented people out there who desperately wish vengeance, but don’t have access to a computer or Internet. I know Ai has changed her messaging system to keep up with the times, but still. The client in this episode looks like she is kept in a mostly empty room. If her boss didn’t have a laptop, she’d be screwed.

Back to business at hand, today’s episode centers on the client, Yumi – a performer in the circus who is frequently abused and locked up. Tsugumi gets a vision about it, but the only useful information she gets from it is that the client was in a room with a circus poster on the wall.

Hajime and Tsugumi head to the circus and enjoy the show, wondering who the client is. They see a female performer do a disappearing act, she stumbles a bit and…I guess that’s a good enough reason for Hajime to believe that she’s the client. *shrug*

He also somehow figures out that she’s being abused from the knife thrower throwing a knife at a moth when they talk about a feuding couple with the wife cheating on her husband with another circus performer? *bigger shrug* The knife thrower isn’t even the one doing the abuse, by the way.

The only useful information Tsugumi saw in that vision was the poster, so how he’s connecting dots that aren’t even in the same time zone is beyond me.

Ren, in disguise, leads him to where the female performer is and….*sigh* He bluntly tells this young girl, no older than 13, I’d say, to come with him, vehement in the belief that she’s the client.

She fights him off, not understanding what he’s talking about, so he decides to tell her that he’ll take her somewhere safe and tries to grab her. And by that I mean he does grab her by the shoulders and won’t release her even though she’s screaming for him to stop and let her go.

It’s only when Ren walks in on them that he finally lets her go. If Ren wasn’t aware of what Hajime was doing, anyone walking in on this, especially from the back, would think he’s trying to rape her. Hajime would have a hard time trying to save Hell Girl clients while he’s in prison.

Seriously, what the hell was Hajime thinking? He’s being unreasonably stupid today. He’s making huge leaps in logic from little hints he’s seeing, and now he’s just man-handling anyone he thinks might have used the service, no matter if they’re little girls. Hajime was being way too pushy with the last client too, but at least he had tons of evidence that pointed to Mina being the client and knew the reason why she called Hell Girl. He may have yelled a lecture in her face, but at least he didn’t grab Mina and try to kidnap her.

Not like he’s being intelligent in any manner lately. He leaves Tsugumi, his seven year old daughter, alone without any supervision on a regular basis, which is bad enough, but today he decides to leave her alone by the car for hours near a damn circus. I cannot see anything dangerous about that.

Is Hajime going insane from all of the failings he’s had in trying to save Hell Girl clients? That’s the only way I can justify this behavior.

Later, Tsugumi has another vision – this time of the girl being whipped by the ringmaster. I don’t know why, but Tsugumi is blushing while having the vision. Hajime realizes that he was both right and wrong before. He was right to believe the performer was the client and that the ringmaster was the target, but there were actually two performers; Yuki, the girl he met before who seems to be pampered, and Yumi, who is kept locked up and savagely beaten regularly, particularly when she messes up during a show.

As you can tell, Yuki and Yumi are twin sisters, which is how they pull off the disappear and reappear act. Yumi was the one who reappeared and stumbled, causing her to get beaten again.

Hajime finds Yumi, but he’s too late. Yumi has already pulled the string. Hajime tries to get the ringmaster to flee….not sure why he thinks that would help. I’d think it would be obvious that you can’t hide from her, but far be it from me to let him try. He does the same thing to the ringmaster as he did to Yuki, grabbing him by the shoulders and demanding he come with him. You’re being a little obnoxious today, Hajime.

Also, the deed has been done. This guy is human garbage. You can’t save Yumi’s soul now. Just let him go.

In a surprising and very sad scene, we get a flashback of Yumi and Yuki as kids. They used to be very close, doing nearly everything together. They joined the circus (or were adopted into it? It’s not very clear) and Yuki was always a little better than Yumi, earning the constant praise of the ringmaster while Yumi would get punished for every mistake.

Eventually, it got to the point where Yuki would take delight in her sister’s anguish, and she would sabotage her equipment so she would keep screwing up and get beaten. As time went on, Yumi was relegated to staying in what was essentially a cage. She would get worse and worse beatings every time she messed up.

Yumi sings a song to herself while curled up on the floor. Ai, in a rare show of emotion and sympathy, appears before Yumi and brushes away her tears before leaving to do her job.

In a surprising twist, as the ringmaster and Hajime fight, Yuki gets sucked through the mirror, revealing that it was actually her and not the ringmaster that she had targeted.

During the torture, Yuki reveals that she hated her sister because she is always treated like half a person with her around. Yuki never gets the glory all to herself, so she believed Yumi deserved everything she got…..Wow….bitch.

I don’t even get it. Yeah, given the order of their trick, Yumi got to take the final bow, but if it was bothering her that much, why not change it to have Yumi be the first part of the trick? Yuki was getting all the attention from nearly the instant they joined the circus. This girl is a crazy selfish bitch.

Ai, can we get a two-for-one deal here? Because despite the harpy queen here needing a ride in your boat, that ringbastard needs to go too.

After Yuki gets sent to hell, we get an early episode-esque wipe because now it’s like Yuki never existed and Yumi is being spoiled by the ringmaster.

All in all, this episode was surprisingly a lot better and much sadder than I ever anticipated. Truthfully, this just looked like filler from the preview, but I was nearly crying at Yumi’s situation.

While the target definitely deserved to hell, it’s been a while since I’ve felt so bad for the client. This might be the worst I’ve felt for a client, to be honest. Yumi is clearly very emotionally damaged by all of this abuse. She spends a lot of time in a daze, singing to herself, and doesn’t even take notice of Ai when she enters the room and touches her cheek. The fact that she’s now also damned to hell is just heartbreaking.

While I’m more than happy Yuki got her just desserts, I’m a bit mad that the ringleader didn’t get any comeuppance for what he did. Yuki’s petty sabotage wouldn’t have meant much if the ringmaster didn’t respond to all of the failings with neglect and abuse.

The twist this time actually got me. While I pretty much figured out the twin thing before they revealed it, the fact that the target was her sister threw me for a loop. During one of the flashback shots, we see that Yumi had watched Yuki sabotage her unicycle once. She was well aware that her sister was screwing her over and enjoying her pain, but realized that no one would believe her if she told anyone because Yuki was the perfect golden child.

It’s not just the ringmaster either. It’s obvious several other people in the circus, maybe even the entire troupe, knew about the treatment Yumi was getting, yet they turned a blind eye to it. It’s infuriating.

The first part of the episode is what hurts it the most. Hajime’s actions are ridiculous, and it just seems like a clump of bad writing.

Rating: 8.5/10

Next Episode…

….Previous Episode

Hell Girl Episode 13: Purgatory Girl Review

Hell Girl Ep 13

Plot: How long has Hell Girl been around, and what’s it like when one of her previous clients finally passes on of natural causes and has to uphold their end of the bargain? A man named Fukumoto sheds some light on this as his candle starts to burn out.

Breakdown: The most interesting episodes of Hell Girl are usually ones that break the formulaic structure, and this story is no exception. It is the best episode of Hell Girl so far, even if there is no target or punishment today.

Instead we get a fifty year old case of a man named Fukumoto.

Hajime is actually doing stuff today as Tsugumi’s visions lead him to a book store which carries a story called Purgatory Girl. The story is incredibly similar to how Hell Girl currently works.

A man had a beautiful wife, but one day another man named O raped her. His wife was distraught and in constant agony, and she eventually decided to take her own life. Filled with anger, the man calls upon Puragtory Girl, who avenges grievances. O mysteriously disappears soon after.

This story reflects the real tale of Fukumoto, an esteemed artist and writer. He was close friends with another writer named Okochi. Fukumoto came home one day and found that Okochi was taking advantage of his wife. Soon after, his wife committed suicide.

Some time before this happened, Okochi told Fukumoto about the Hell Correspondence, which, at that time, was an ad in the classifieds. The ad was blank to those who held no grievance, so Fukumoto could never see it, but when this happened, he was suddenly able to see the writing. He called upon Hell Girl, and Okochi got his punishment. Meanwhile, Fukumoto has been living with the burden of his curse mark for several decades, and his candle is nearing its end point.

He suggests maybe Hell Girl wanted Hajime to find him and learn of this before his passing, which explains why Tsugumi got the vision.

One of the hanging questions left at the end of most Hell Girl episodes is ‘What happens now?’ in regards to the clients. You usually get a small glimpse of their current path after the string has been pulled at the end of the episodes, but most of these clients are very young and viewpoints can change drastically over the course of a lifetime.

Fukumoto shows this much when he explains that he took many paths after he gained his curse mark. He threw himself into work, he tried to devote himself to religion and even became heavily invested in volunteering, but none of it alleviated the weight on his chest from the curse mark.

He eventually resigns himself to holing up in his apartment drawing and painting many pictures of Ai, culminating in his masterwork, which is a mural of several images of Ai. The only thing he has to look forward to at this point in his life is seeing her again.

Another very interesting aspect of this episode is Ai’s role. We’ve seen Ai display some very minor signs of emotion throughout some episodes, but this is the first where she may actively be trying to convey emotions however way she can.

While Ai isn’t in much of this episode, it is implied that she actively wanted Hajime to know of Fukumoto’s story and purposefully lead him to his location through Tsugumi. She also seems like she wants to have a heart to heart with Fukumoto in the boat, but pulls herself back. The biggest display of her emotion is through Fukumoto’s mural, which starts crying when he finally finishes it. Ai is somehow crying for Fukumoto through this painting, which is the last thing he sees before his candle burns out.

While we don’t actually get to see Ai herself crying, this scene is very powerful because it confirms that she does have a great deal of sympathy for some of her clients. She even chooses to sit down in the boat and face him as he gets ferried to Hell instead of looking ahead and rowing the boat like she normally does. She obviously wants to offer as much comfort as she’s allowed to before he gets to Hell.

Rating: 9.5/10 – The first half’s a little slow, but this is a fantastic episode. It answers a lot of questions, broke the mold a little and had a great story that wove Hajime and Tsugumi into the mix without seeming incredibly forced or unnecessary.

Next Episode…

…Previous Episode

Flowers of Evil (Manhwa) Review

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Rating: 8/10

Plot: Seh-Joon and Seh-Wah are extremely close twins. So close, in fact, that they’ve developed a bit of a romantic relationship. When their closeness catches the attention of their classmates and people start suspecting that they are more than close siblings, Seh-Joon panics and essentially cuts off all physical and emotional closeness with his sister. Devastated, Seh-wah tries her best to get him back, but Seh-Joon will have none of it and tells her to find other friends or a boyfriend to focus her attention on. While Seh-Wah is not interested in the least to be with anyone besides her brother, she finds herself slowly getting closer to their old childhood friend, Sung-Chan, who has renamed himself to Gi-Hoon. But the fire of this love is far from snuffed out, and everyone’s set to burn in the flames.

Breakdown: I swear I didn’t plan a damn near back-to-back incest feature in here.

This is a highly praised and rated manhwa from Lee Hyeon-Sook, but I gotta admit, as much as I got into following this series, I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as most people seemed to.

I know this series is called ‘Flowers of Evil’, but there is a significant lack of people you end up truly caring about. Everyone in this series is seemingly an asswad at some point in time or just as a whole. Oddly, the most unlikable character through much of the series, Seh-Wah, and her creepy dependence on her brother and simultaneous cold demeanor towards others, ended up growing the most in her learning to let go of Seh-Joon, though not entirely, as time went on. I can’t say I grew to fully like her, especially since she kept flip flopping between moving on and clinging to every bit of affection Seh-Joon threw out, but she was one of the higher ones on the list.

Sung-Chan comes off as creepy several times over the course of the series, though some of his creepier actions are more understandable when his story is explored near the end.

Even Seh-Wah and Seh-Joon’s father has a moment where you think he’s a complete douche. The story doesn’t make it clear, but he may have let a small boy die or purposely killed him for the sake of giving one of his organs to his kid.

Seh-Joon is the one who comes off the worst here, and as time goes on you can pretty much tell that it’s supposed to be that way. However, like Seh-Wah, it becomes incredibly irritating when he flip-flops back and forth between pushing Seh-Wah away, almost cruelly in some instances, and reeling her back in again.

For example, he invites his girlfriend over so they can make out in front of Seh-Wah and seemingly bring her into his room to have sex and when Seh-Wah has a massive mental breakdown at this, he shoos his girlfriend away. Essentially, he used her to mock Seh-Wah and push her away even more even though Seh-Wah, at this point, was already breaking away and moving on with Sung-Chan.

While I get that he’s just jealous, it’s also very annoying when he gets pissed at Seh-Wah for so much as being slight friends with Sung-Chan when he picks up a new girlfriend immediately after cutting Seh-Wah almost entirely out of his life.

Another weak part of this series is that, despite being built around the strong love the two have for each other, we never really learn why Seh-Joon and Seh-Wah love each other so much. Basically, Seh-Wah just says and acts like she’s hung on everything Seh-Joon has said and done throughout their lives while Seh-Joon might be so close to her because he fell in love with her shortly after she fell ill as a child. Their interests are never well-explored except Seh-Wah has a love of horror movies and literature and both are pretty stone-faced and overall expressionless throughout much of the series. It keeps telling you that they’re in love, and they say pretty things to each other while showing physical affection, but we never get a good understanding as to what it is about the other that they love so much.

Sung-Chan brought up a very good point that Seh-Wah is likely confusing sibling possessiveness for romantic love, and Seh-Joon is probably doing the same considering that this seems to have started after Seh-Wah fell ill. His fear of losing her may have culminated in a possessiveness and protectiveness of her that he himself is confusing for romantic love or has mutated that way.

Seh-Wah offers a theory to Seh-Joon and states that some people believe male-female fraternal twins are the spirits of lovers reincarnated. She expresses this as a beautiful and romantic theory, but Seh-Joon points out the very obvious downside of this as lovers being unable to be together in their next life since it’s taboo for siblings to be romantically involved.

Oddly, the two other pairings in this series were more interesting in regards to connection and development than Seh-Wah and Seh-Joon. After he cuts Seh-Wah off, Seh-Joon hooks up with a girl who has been vying for his affections for some time, Su-In. At first, they seem to legitimately care about each other, even seemingly hooking up a little before the whole ‘Incest is icky!?’ revelation Seh-Joon has, and he does try to get her back when he goes too far in his frustration with his relationship to her affecting his relationship to Seh-Wah, but there are several aspects of it that show signs of a relationship that would never work.

Su-In seems to be at Seh-Joon’s beck and call, even allowing her grades to drop significantly due to how much attention she’s putting on her relationship. I don’t know entirely why. She really seems like a sensible girl yet she’s letting herself be yo-yo’d by Seh-Joon and is also trying to monopolize her own attention by being with him as much as possible. Really seems like she was being set up to be one of those cautionary tales of smart girls who have a bright future then throw it away for some guy.

While she does seem to really care for him, his caring for her seems lukewarm at best throughout the series to the point where it becomes obvious that the whole thing is just meant to be a barrier between him and Seh-Wah. He treats her like a tool several times and I was almost disgusted that he tried to get her back after slipping up and venting on her like that. Yeah, I’m sure any girl would love to take back a guy who described sleeping with her as ‘sickening’ and something he’d never want to do again.

The other relationship at focus here is Sung-Chan and Seh-Wah. At first, Seh-Wah really doesn’t give a crap in a can about Sung-Chan, even forgetting that they used to be childhood friends. Slowly but surely, Sung-Chan is able to crack through Seh-Wah’s hard outer shell and catch some glimpses of her human side.

Likewise, this relationship helped Seh-Wah grow as a person and break away from her reliance on her brother. While Seh-Joon’s actions were still bothering her throughout the entirety of the book, she was able to deal with it better as she grew closer to Sung-Chan. I really liked their relationship and wished that the story had gone the way of the twins actually learning to let go of their attraction and attachment to each other while finding love elsewhere.

Now, one could argue that this isn’t really a story of love but of obsession and possessiveness masquerading as love, as we explored before. However, while that is definitely a factor, there is still some stock to Seh-Joon legitimately being in love with Seh-Wah.

He greatly fears them being unable to be together at all if anyone saw them being romantic with each other, which is why he starts this whole separation thing to begin with. He still keeps tabs on Seh-Wah and protects her from a distance, but completely bars them from even being a little close. And yes, it apparently took him until he was 16 to realize that being in a romantic relationship with your sister is not socially acceptable and is a religious taboo. Also, he’s Catholic, so we get the weight of his sins being the forefront here several times.

Another pointing to Seh-Joon’s legit love of Seh-Wah is when Seh-Wah tells him the story of a boy who was loved by all and one day he fell in love with a woman. The woman couldn’t betray her husband, so she left the boy. The question left by the story is whether it’s preferable to be loved by all or by one. Seh-Joon says his answer is simple, he’d be loved by one. However, he states that would be impossible. It’s implied that he believes this to be impossible because the only one he truly loves is Seh-Wah and they could never really be together.

Also, there’s more indication that maybe Seh-Wah wasn’t in love with Seh-Joon anymore by the end or maybe at all when she seeks out help from Sung-Chan in her time of need instead of looking to Seh-Joon like she normally would.

Now for some ending spoilers.

While you could say it was a complete accident that Seh-Wah died at the end, I feel like that’s a bit too easy. Of all people, why would Seh-Joon be the one to forget that Seh-Wah needs to take medication on a daily basis? Medication that keeps her alive? Seh-Wah had a heart condition when she was a child and she needed a heart transplant. However, the transplant gets attacked by her immune system if left unchecked, so she takes medication to combat it. Seh-Joon took her to live in the woods with no medication for several days, maybe weeks, and didn’t think to even try to get some?

Keep in mind, the reason that Seh-Joon was so attached to Seh-Wah was because he was traumatized by her illness as a child. Thinking she might die at any moment and being physically separated for months at a time, he became insanely protective and possessive of her. You’d think that would be the best reminder ever that she needs to be diligent with her medication. And hell, he takes similar medication because he also had that same heart condition, albeit much milder.

I almost want to say that he planned this and wanted Seh-Wah to die so he could kill himself and they’d live together forever in the afterlife, but I also have to take into consideration that Seh-Wah herself never said a damn thing about her meds either. So I guess I just have to chalk this whole thing up to bad writing.

It’s especially weird when Seh-Joon says her passing was God’s way of punishing them for sleeping together and giving into their forbidden love. She never would’ve died had they just taken some medicine from home before leaving. Their parents were probably at work when they decided to run away, so they had plenty of time to get that life saving medication from home. Hell, their dad is a doctor so he probably had a big stash of those handy. This whole thing is dumb.

That being said, I do like how they wrapped up Sung-Chan and Seh-Wah’s story. Like I said, she reached out to him in her time of need, which, ironically enough, was her feeling trapped and scared by Seh-Joon whisking her away to their grandparents old house for who knows how long. She tried to text him but he couldn’t answer because he was in a coma after Seh-Joon tried to beat him to death with a rock. When he saw that Seh-Wah’s last actions were trying to reach out to him one more time, it proved to him that she may have been thinking of him over Seh-Joon, though Sung-Chan could, sadly, do nothing to help her.

Seh-Joon killing himself at the end was probably the only way to go with that, and it is realistic considering how obsessed he was with Seh-Wah and how much pain he was in when they were apart. Though I do find it odd that Seh-Joon was never arrested for nearly murdering Sung-Chan. At the very least, he conceded something to Sung-Chan in the end by giving him Seh-Wah’s phone.

End of ending spoilers.

I suppose the last thing I really have to address is the actual aspect of the incest angle. I’ve seen several manga and anime with incest being one of the main points of the plot, because it’s just a thing apparently, with the most infuriating, to date anyway, being the recently reviewed Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wa Suru. Like this manhwa, that anime had a very possessive and creepy male sibling struggling to restrain his feelings for the sake of maintaining an illusion of normalcy and avoid the harsh stigma of social judgment.

Unlike this series, however, the sister in that situation seemed forced into the romance. Like this series, it could be that she tricked herself into believing she had a romantic love for her brother when it was being confused for sibling possessiveness. However, Seh-Wah seems a lot more willing in this relationship than Iku was.

Unlike this series, BwInKwS shoved religious imagery down our throats and basically screamed in our ears that incest was taboo. There are religious discussions in this manhwa, but the family is catholic and they don’t shove imagery in our faces to make a SUBTLE statement, they just show how this conflict within Seh-Joon is affecting him on a spiritual level.

To make a long story short, The Flowers of Evil is definitely the best rendition of an incest story that I’ve seen so far, and it does a lot of things right that BwInKwS did horribly wrong. But does it deserve the incredibly high praise its received?

Bottomline: In the end, this was one of those series that I left with a bit of unease. I didn’t really know how I felt about it. On one hand, there are a lot of overly dramatic and annoying parts to this series with almost every character being an asshole in some way. On the other hand, the story admittedly drew me in and I never once felt bored while reading. The characters came to life for me, even if the leads tend to seem constantly emotionless while also being overly dramatic at the same time, and the art was very beautiful at many points, even if some frontal shots seemed odd with how the noses basically disappear.

The story did get into a slight rut of ‘I hate everything, I love Seh-Joon, but he’s being an ass to me!’ ‘I’m Seh-Joon and I’m going to keep being an ass to Seh-Wah’ (insert Sung-Chan/Seh-Wah relationship development here) but it stayed steady, told the story it wanted to tell and ended up wrapping nearly every storyline pretty cleanly.

While I don’t think it deserves the perfect scores across the board that it seems to get, it’s a pretty good manhwa with a good length for this type of story and I’d gladly recommend that people give it a go.

Additional Information and Notes:

Flowers of Evil was written and illustrated by Lee Hyeon-Sook and it was published by Daewon C.I.

Volumes: 7

Year: 2006-2008

Recommended Audience: Incest angles a plenty, depending on how much that bothers you. Some nudity, but everything graphic is ‘painted away’. IE Sailor Moon-esque boobs with no nipples. A few sex scenes, but all tastefully done with no graphic shots. Several instances of violence, two of which being particularly brutal and slightly graphic. Adult themes. 14+

AniManga Clash! Air(Manga) vs. Air TV

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Plot: Yukito is a drifter on a mission to find ‘the girl with wings’ from the story his mother used to tell him as a child. While on this journey, he stops in a town and meets a girl named Misuzu. He’s initially put off by her energy and child-like optimism, but after she offers him a place to stay and some food, the two slowly develop a friendship.

However, Yukito quickly realizes that Misuzu suffers from a strange condition. She is plagued by unusual dreams and cannot get close to anyone without bursting out uncontrollably into tears. They each have a place in this story of the girl with wings, but can they do anything to change the tragic ending?

Breakdown: Ah, Air. I’m breathing it right now. Also it’s the name of a visual novel, manga, anime and anime movie.

In chronological order, the visual novel came first, then the manga, then the TV series and finally the movie. This does kinda create a kink in my setup of AniManga Clash. Afterall, I think one major reason people have a big bias toward manga is because manga is usually the first product or ‘original’. And as we all know from the comments section on Youtube, being first makes you better than everyone else.

I’ve never played the visual novel, but I did watch the TV series a few years ago and just recently read the manga. So how do they match up against each other?

Round One: Art – The art for the anime…..is awful. The scenery is lovely and the animation is great, but my god the faces. I think this is how everyone who hates anime’s style sees anime. Gigantic eyes, tiny itty bitty dot noses and mouths that are both way too small and scrunched together too much with the eyes and nose. It’s like they’re old-timey cartoons and just got an anvil dropped on their heads. Also, the proportions for the characters’ bodies just look wrong. They all look very thin with large heads.

I can’t really blame them too much for that because the visual novel art is just as bad.

As opposed to the manga’s art which, while still not being mind-blowingly fantastic is still eons above the anime’s. The faces look much more normal, the details are more fine, and the proportions are a lot better.

Let’s get some visual comparisons, shall we?

 

 

 

Winner: Manga

Round Two: CharacterizationI believe this is about even between the two, at least for the main three characters of Yukito, Misuzu and Haruko. The manga may have a slight advantage with the friendship between Yukito and Misuzu, but it’s balanced out by the fact that I believe the anime does the relationship between Haruko and Misuzu better.

When it comes to the other main girls, Kano, Minagi and Michiru, the manga just barely touches upon them while the anime goes in depth into each of their stories. They suddenly decided to dump a good chunk of Minagi and Michiru’s backstory on us in the manga, but they didn’t resolve it all. It’s like a car crash of exposition. And pretty much forget about Kano in the manga, she gets no focus whatsoever.

The anime, deciding to do its best to cram all three paths from the visual novel into the anime, thoroughly characterized all of the girls and even more characters.

The question is, can I really count that against the manga when it clearly just wanted to focus on the Misuzu and Yukito story? I kind of can, yes.

I honestly wouldn’t have if not for the fact that they mushed in Minagi’s story or at least some of it in the final part of the book, leaving you somewhat confused and unsatisfied in her characterization. Is this advertising to go out and play the visual novel or did they just want fanservice for the Minagi fans? I like Minagi a lot too, but I just found that final chapter pointless if they weren’t going to go all the way and include Kano’s story (abridged if need be) as well.

Winner: Anime

Round Three: StoryLike I mentioned before, the anime delves deep into all three paths from the visual novel while the manga only focuses on the Misuzu and Yukito aspect. Since manga is praised for having more content than the anime counterparts usually have, I think it’s only fair to give the same props to the anime for doing the same. So the anime’s starting off with an advantage here.

However, I do have to note that the fact that having all three of the stories are in the anime is actually a bit of a negative. Like I mentioned in my review of Air TV, it felt a bit overwhelming to give nearly every character a screwed up home life or some sort of supernatural occurrence causing them to suffer or some mental issue to deal with. I appreciate trying to give everyone their shot in the limelight, but it does start to weigh on you.

Now, focusing on purely the Yukito and Misuzu story, I think both versions did a great job with it. Both stories are exactly the same, but the manga did answer a few more questions and made the situation with Yukito and the crow both less and more confusing and jarring.

You’re lead to believe Yukito turned into a crow from the very second he made his wish in the anime, yet in the manga he pretty much disappears and we don’t see the crow until much later. Misuzu is the one who tells us that the crow is Yukito, but it’s left ambiguous as to if it’s really him or not. The bird never speaks or has inner monologue in the manga like it does in the anime so it’s still a bit confusing, especially when the crow shows up in a side story near the end when Yukito is still around.

Misuzu’s death is not shown in the manga, and it’s only slightly implied that she died if she even did die in the manga. If she did, I feel a bit robbed. Her death and Haruko’s scene afterward was almost as heartbreaking as the scene on the beach. I guess a mostly-implied-as-happy ending is fine too, and it does make sense given Yukito’s wish, but that ending really resonated with me and I just feel weird seeing it play out so differently.

Yukito’s pain and his connection with the story is not as highlighted in the anime as it is in the manga. I don’t even remember him ever being in pain in the anime.

Finally, the true backstory behind why Misuzu and Yukito suffer because of this story and these dreams is explained in the anime, albeit a bit confusingly, and in the manga…..they don’t explain anything. We get quick shots of Misuzu’s dreams, she explains some of them a bit to us, but other than that we really get nothing, which makes the story pretty confusing in hindsight.

Yes, Yukito telling us the story his mother told him does explain in a prophecy type of way why this is happening, but it doesn’t explain why this is happening. Moreso it doesn’t explain why the story itself exists. The story tells of a girl whom we’re meant to assume existed. She had wings and flew in the sky, but she was constantly sad. Misuzu is apparently this girl, even though she doesn’t have wings, and her pain is caused by growing invisible wings.

Okay….why? If you never played the visual novel or watched the anime you’d really be wondering why this is happening. Why is she growing wings? What is actually happening in these dreams? Why is she the reincarnated girl in the sky? Why is whatever this is seemingly killing her? What’s the cause of Yukito’s pain? Why does Misuzu cry uncontrollably when she gets close to someone? How is Yukito’s puppet magic, and why can it seemingly grant one wish? Why did Yukito turn into a crow when he made that one wish?

Okay, those last three are questions I have for both the anime and manga, but still. It doesn’t explain what’s going on to make all of this happen very well, it just tells you a story Yukito’s mother used to tell him and asks you to roll with it.

Winner: Anime

Final tally:

What the anime does better

More exploration on the other characters, possibly slightly more exploration on the main three of Yukito, Misuzu and Haruko.

More story to explore the other three routes from the visual novel.

More exploration on the backstory behind the girl with wings.

What the manga does better

Much better character art.

Slightly more details on the story of Misuzu and Yukito to make things less confusing.

Some of the characterization between Yukito and Misuzu is a bit better handled.

winner-anime-banner

Wow, I didn’t think I’d find an anime winner on my first try out with this series, but yup. It was a close call, but I just think the anime had more to offer in both quantity and quality. The manga definitely wins in the art department and has some of its own specific benefits in storytelling, but overall the anime is just a more fulfilling experience to me.

The Bride of Deimos Review

Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: Based on a manga of the same name, The Bride of Deimos is a one-shot OVA chronicling one story of the manga – the story of a brother and sister who grow beautiful and rare orchids out in the middle of nowhere. However, anyone who visits their house seems to vanish suspiciously. What is the secret of this orchid house?

Breakdown: This rating is meant for people who view this as a standalone OVA, which, if you haven’t read the manga, you will. This OVA feels like it’s one episode out of the middle of a longer show. Since it’s portraying one story from a semi-long manga, that makes sense. Because of this, however, you’re left feeling very confused.

The basic idea is that a woman named Minako has been chosen by the demon, Deimos, to be the new vessel for his dying lover. However, she has to agree to the process before the transfer can start, and she refuses to do so. This really doesn’t have any bearing on the story at hand, though.

The actual story is that her friend, Hisamatsu, is a bit of a flower enthusiast who brings her to a flower competition. He points out that it’s pointless to enter in these competitions because a woman simply named Tohko always wins and never shows up. In this particular contest, she has presented a Blue Lady Orchid, said to be nearly impossible to grow.

Enamored by her work, Hisamatsu goes off to speak with Tohko and is never heard from again. Minako goes off to Tohko’s house to investigate. Despite Tohko’s brother’s insistence that no one has been to the house in years, Minako spots Hisamatsu’s notebook on the ground and decides to get a police escort and come back later.

The rest of the episode unravels the mystery around Tohko and her brother, Kaname, as well as what happened to Hisamatsu.

I would say this is a mystery as a whole, but it’s really not. We know the instant we see Tohko and Kaname that they must’ve done something with Hisamatsu, most likely killed him. The only question is why and what’s the story behind these two? That is plenty to hold one episode out of a full fledged series, and even a short OVA, but the fact that it draws attention to the fact that there’s a main plot of which this story has nothing to do with makes it feel unsatisfying in the end.

Art and Animation: The art is reminiscent of Vampire Hunter D without so much pointyness. It’s okay, and the animation is fair.

Music: The music is dated, but okay.

Voice Acting: Japanese – Very good, but sometimes a little boring in their performances.

Bottomline: I will admit that the story is creepy and very interesting, though there are some confusing aspects and plot holes, but the problem is that it feels like an episode you’d find in the middle of an anime. It gives off an episodic show feeling, doesn’t resolve anything in the main plot, introduces characters and plotlines like you’re already meant to know them and just seems unsatisfactory. I know this was probably meant as a promotional OVA for the manga or something, but why not start at the beginning instead of slapping us in the middle?

If you have intent to read the manga or already have, then this might be a good and short watch for you. However, if you don’t intend on reading the manga, prepare to be unsatisfied in regards to the main plot.

Additional Information and Notes: The Bride of Deimos was based on a manga written by Etsuko Ikeda and illustrated by Yuko Ashibe.

The OVA was animated by Madhouse and directed by Rintaro, who also directed Galaxy Express 999, The Dagger of Kamui, Reign: The Conqueror and Metropolis. There is currently no English dub available.

Runtime: 30 Minutes

Year: 1988

Recommended Audience: No nudity, no sex, no real gore, but several people are Robin Hooded to death. Scary imagery?…….10+

Ef: A Tale of Melodies Review

Plot: An extension to the series, Ef: A Tale of Memories, Melodies is a look into the lives of two couples, Yuu Himura and Yuko Amamiya, and Mizuki Hayama and Shuichi Kuze. Melodies is seen as darker and more tragic than Memories, but there is light within the darkness.

Rating: 9/10

Breakdown: It really breaks my heart that there aren’t more episodes of the Ef series….This has to be my favorite romantic drama anime ever. The biggest problem I had with Memories was that, despite having a wonderful pairing and story with Renji and Chihiro, the love square with Hirono, Miyako, Kei and Kyousuke was annoying and dragged the show down. Luckily, there’s none of that bull in this series.

It is a lot darker than Memories, though, dealing with rape (perhaps pedophilia depending on the ages of the characters when it started) self-harm, suicide, mental instability, abuse, impending death of a main character and more. However, that’s not to say that it’s a total depression-fest. There are plenty of romantic, funny and light-hearted moments to brighten things up. And yes, we also get semi-frequent cameos from the Memories characters. However, you might not be as familiar with these characters, even though they were in Memories, so let me bring you up to speed.

Yuu Himura:
Yuu’s role in Memories was probably the most significant out of the Melodies main cast. He is Chihiro’s caretaker through Memories and frequently spoke with Renji about his relationship to Chihiro.

In Melodies, most of his story takes place in the past as we learn of his backstory and his connection with the mysterious girl, Yuko. Yuu’s a bit of a rough character, but he has plenty of likable traits.

Yuko Amamiya: Yuko’s role in Memories is mysterious. She frequently popped in and out of the story to give advice to the characters when they needed to talk. Throughout Memories you don’t know who or what she really is, nor why she is speaking with these kids.

In Melodies we learn that she used to go to the same orphanage as Yuu and always wanted to refer to him as her big brother. They go several years without seeing each other, but then suddenly meet again in high school where Yuko seems to have picked right back up with her affection for him. Yuko’s story gets incredibly dark and you can somewhat predict what’s going to happen to her if you pay close attention, but she’s a bright and hopeful character for the most part.

Shuichi Kuze: Kuze is a violinist and a good friend to Yuko, Yuu and Nagi in high school. He eventually becomes a famous violinist, but gives it up due to a severe illness that has little in terms of hope for survival. Throughout Memories, he’s mostly comic relief. He’s a womanizer who has a thing for girls in costumes.

In Melodies, however, his stance drastically changes. His illness and thoughts of his impending death make him into a dark almost cold character. He creates a relationship with Renji’s cousin, Mizuki.

Mizuki Hayama: Mizuki’s role in Memories was rather small. She is Renji’s cousin and a good friend of Kei’s. She mostly just plays the part of a best friend through the series and is shown to be a big fan of Hirono’s manga.

In Melodies, she develops a relationship with Kuze. Despite the age difference, they get along rather well and eventually fall in love. However, Kuze’s illness and his change of outlook due to his impending fate greatly impacts their relationship. She is eventually shown to have a link to Yuu and Yuko’s past. Mizuki is a lot more likable in Melodies than she is in memories, which is basically the polar opposite of the way Kuze’s character went.

Nagi Hirono: Nagi’s role in Memories was really small. She’s Hirono’s older sister and a fellow artist just like her little brother.

In Melodies, her role is also not entirely significant. She’s a good friend to Yuu, Yuko and Kuze and used to be in love with Yuu. She mostly has a mentor role in Melodies, however there is one plot point with her that has a decent impact. Nagi’s a cool character.

What of the Memories Crew?

I really thought at the beginning that Melodies would build more on the lives of the main characters from Memories, but their stories really were ended in Memories, so it’s understandable that they don’t have a big role in this series. We do learn some interesting things about them, though, and there are a few plot points that get revealed about them.

WARNING: I’M GOING TO BE SPOILING SOMEWHAT SIGNIFICANT PLOT POINTS HERE. NOTHING TOO MAJOR, ESPECIALLY SINCE THEY’RE SIDE CHARACTERS IN THIS SERIES, BUT JUST IN CASE.

Chihiro: Chihiro has gone to Australia with Renji, his family and Yuu. In fact, a lot of Melodies takes place in Australia. Chihiro is still in love with Renji and eventually gives a key to the school roof to Mizuki as a good luck charm.

The major plot point about Chihiro, other than the one with Kei, is that it’s revealed that she was the granddaughter of Yuu and Yuko’s landlord. However, the one thing that really bugs me is that we never learn why Yuu became Chihiro’s caretaker after her accident. It was a passing mention that Kei and Chihiro were the granddaughters of their landlord, yet somehow that jumped to being close enough to take care of her after her accident. Also, it seems that Chihiro’s memory, while still continuously getting lost, is improving.

Renji: Renji has gone to Australia with his family and Mizuki. Not much develops with Renji in Melodies. All we know is that Renji still loves Chihiro.

Kei: I complained about Kei and her relationship with Chihiro in Memories. I said it seemed cold that Kei decided to spend her time obsessing over Hiro and acting like a jealous bitch than taking care of or spending time with Chihiro, especially since she was essentially the cause of Chihiro’s accident.

Well, in Melodies this is actually addressed. She wasn’t staying away from Chihiro because she wanted to – they were being kept apart by their family and Yuu. Every time that they’d see each other, they’d burst out crying while Kei would blame herself for what happened to Chihiro, and they’d have a constant back and forth about the guilt.

Since Chihiro forgets everything after 13 hours, they’d keep going through that day after day when they saw each other. As a result, their family separated them and they contacted each other by phone only. In Melodies, since they’ve gotten their lives together, Kei travels to Australia and they do the same thing again, only this time they both realize that the guilt is in the past and that they need to move to the future. Kei’s also eons more likable here since she has a new guy now and she’s not frothing at the mouth over Hiro. She also gives her key to Mizuki as a good luck charm.

Hiro: Hiro probably has the second to least amount of screentime in Melodies. That’s not very surprising, to be honest. He was dull in Memories, he’s duller in Melodies. About 99% of Hiro’s scenes just show him for a few seconds as he’s working on his manga. That’s about it.

Miyako: Miyako’s role is even smaller. She hardly appears at all. She’s shown to actually not be living with Hiro, but she does visit him every day.

Kyousuke: His role in Melodies is also incredibly small, but it is confirmed that Kei and Kyousuke are dating now. Despite never kissing on screen, there is a sketch of Kyousuke kissing her on the cheek in the last ending credits.

END OF SPOILERS

These two series, especially Melodies, were treats to sit through. I wish all romantic drama anime that I watch were this good. Usually they’re too boggled down in fanservice or stupidity.

If there’s anything bad that I can say about this series, it’s that the first few episodes are a bit slow. Also, the darker tone might try on people’s nerves. Don’t worry. It has a fairly happy ending. 🙂

Voice acting:
English – The voices are great, but I have some issues. First, it only happens in one or two episodes, but Yuu’s kid voice sounds too much like an adult emulating a child. In addition, Yuko sounds so weird in the final episode. She sounds so much different than she does in the rest of the series. I have no clue what happened there. Other than that, the voices are fitting and the acting is great. Oh yeah and, if it matters to you, they still say -chan, -san, -kun etc. in the English dub. It doesn’t bother me as much anymore, but still.

Music: The music had to grow on me, but indeed it did. In fact, I’d say I like this soundtrack better than Memories‘, which isn’t entirely surprising considering its namesake. The opener sounds a lot like the opener to Memories, but I like it a little more. However, it does have weird lyrics in broken Engrish. The weirdest line being “I wish I could see your insides.” I’m guessing that’s supposed to be metaphoric (ya know, like the person wants to see your soul or something) but it really sounds like something a serial killer would say.

Art: The art and animation are even better than in Memories. Some of artsy shots may get on people’s nerves and the design on the eyes seems off to me, but I found it beautiful.

Bottomline: If you liked Memories, you’ll love Melodies. If you like romantic dramas, check it out too. There are many likable characters (There was only one character that I despised, but you’re supposed to hate him.) wonderful music, great art and animation, wonderful story and nice mixture of dark drama with hope and happiness. I honestly can’t find much to say that’s bad about it.

Additional Information and Notes: Ef: A Tale of Melodies was based on adult visual novel games called Ef: The First Tale and Ef: The Latter Tale. The games are combined with several different different stories taken from different characters’ perspectives and their own specific stories that are separated into chapters.

Melodies is comprised of the prologues of both games and Chapter 4 from The Latter Tale.

Melodies is produced by Shaft, producers of other notably stylized series such as the Monogatari franchise, Dance in the Vampire Bund, the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei franchise and Madoka Magica.

The series was directed by Shin Onuma who is also the directing force behind C3, Bakemonogatari, Princess Tutu, Pani Poni Dash! and Silent Mobius.

Episodes: 12

Year: 2008

Recommended Audience: Surprisingly, even though this series deals with the older characters from Memories, there’s no sex scenes or real nudity. Which is odd, seeing as how there are two sex scenes (albeit brief and non-graphic) in Memories and all of them were underage. There is some nudity, but it’s nonsexual and it’s only because Nagi has this weird thing about painting her portrait while nude in the art room. You don’t see much, though. There’s no real fanservice, no swearing, however the very heavy themes are enough to deter younger audiences. Around episode, err 6 or 7 is where it really hits the fan. 15 or 16+