Nimbus

Gosick #03

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2011 at 12:11 am

By Nimbus

This episode brings the conclusion of the “hare-hunting plot”. Victorique and Kujo fight for survival in the Queen Berry ship amidst many traps and red-herrings. It turns out the real enemy was the blonde guy, while the woman in the red dress was also involved in the whole thing, though she eventually helps the two kids and kills the blonde guy.

Ok. Throughout episodes 2 and 3 the series has tried to make the mysteries a little bit more thought-provoking, but still the resolution is embarrassingly predictable and bland. I saw the woman’s lies and poses the moment she appeared onscreen, and the same goes for the blonde guy. Furthermore, there’s a strong inconsistency in the woman’s behaviour: she was one of the kids who played the “hare” role in that macabre play staged by Roxanne and her acolytes, and we know by the end that she knew the blonde guy was a traitor. Well, didn’t that guy know her from the beginning too? If so, why didn’t he kill her in the first place, or the other way around? Anyway, this is just knit-picking, but it wouldn’t bother me as much is only the mystery resolution had a smarter and more unpredictable twist, which unfortunately was not the case.

The visual qualities over the last two episodes are basically on par with the first episode, and that’s saying a lot these times when a lot of budget goes into first episodes…. The animation is still good enough, and so is the background art. The music, though, is almost non-existent, or at least it was so subdued I didn’t even notice it, so I can’t telll whether it was good or bad. The song for the ED, however, is great (just in case I hadn’t pointed that out in my review for the first episode).

In all, this can become a good or even very good series provided the quality of the stories and mysteries is improved. I fear, though, that’s going to be quite unlikely. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Screenshots:

RATING:

 

(3 and a half stars: good, even slightly better than episode 1. Episode 2 was a tad better, thougn, even if slightly so. We’ll see where this gets to).

 

Gosick #01

In ANIME REVIEWS on January 20, 2011 at 10:39 am

By Nimbus

Gosick is the title of one of the 2010-2011 Winter season anime series. This season didn’t look too promising, to be honest, so there didn’t seem to be much to choose from…. However, after a brief (not to say inmediate) deliberation, I decided to give this one a try, together with Level E, Fractale and Freezing (the second season of Kimi ni todoke was a must since I’d already watched and enjoyed the first one). I’ve already watched the first episodes for all these series but Fractale, and -so far- only Freezing has been an utter disappointment for me. Level E is weird as hell, and definitely has an even more bizarre sense of comedy, but the plot-line is pretty interesting and the “mood” for the series refreshing, so I guess I’ll stick to that one and see where it gets to. And then Gosick….

Well, Gosick has some good-looking visuals, if only for the character design for Victorique, even though she may resemble perhaps too much Shinku’s design (the doll from Rozen Maiden). Then again, Shinku looked a lot like Cosette from Cossette no shouzou, so who’s complaining, anyway?

That being said, the overall visual impression for this first episode is average at best. Sure, the colours are bright and the lines clear -if a tad too gentle and blurred for my tastes- and the background art is actually fairly good (though not outstanding), but still and all I feel everything could have had a stronger and crisper aesthetic values. Fortunately the animation is quite smooth and I didn’t see any jarring CG effects, at least no tthus far. Usually Bones, the animation studios behind this sereies, has this trend of blending traditional and CG animation in quite a dexterous way (some effects in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 did startle me on occasion, nevertheless), so I guess this doesn’t come as a surpirise either.

Now, what really surprised me was the plot and story for the episode, and not in a pleasant way. The episode started off presenting the main characters, scenery and mood in a reasonable way: we meet Kujo, a Japanese boy who arrives as a transfer student at an Academy of sorts in “Saubure” (I guess that’s the romanization for Sauville or something), a fictional country in the middle of Europe, surrounded by France, Switzerland, Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. The time is 1924, if I’m not wrong. Soon after getting there Kujo meets Victorique, a mysterious girl (supposedly another student) who, for some unknown reasons, lives in the library building and doesn’t want to (or rather isn’t allowed to) get out except on rare occasions. Then a weird police inspector appears, a man by the name Grevil. This guy’s got one of the weirdest hairstyles I’ve seen in anime, and I’ve seen quite a few. Anyway, he seems to be a friend or a relative of Victorique and reluctantly asks her for help in solving a case. Ok, so far, so good. The problem comes when the inspector describes the case: an old woman’s been found dead in a locked room with a bullet in her eye. Before finding her, her maid and other servants vainly try to open the room and finally the maid produces a gun and shoots the lock open. Well, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to guess how the woman dies, don’t you? And still when the smart Victorique explains the mystery with an arrogant and self-sufficient pose to the perplexed inspector she tells exactly what I already knew right from the beginning: it must have been the maid’s gunshot that killed the woman. What’s the mystery in that? I was expecting some clever twist in a Holmes fashion. No, not here. Then Victorique takes out a cute smoking pipe and (supposedly) starts smoking. I’m sorry but I find that totally inappropiate at worst, or snobbish and ridiculous at best. Or the other way around.

The story, however, might turn out to be interesting as long as it doesn’t deviate into the episodic path. Let’s hope there’s some plot continuity here and everything grows into something bigger and more ambitious.

Screenshots:

Rating:

(3 and 1/2 stars: interesting enough to get you hooked, though the series, in all, is by no means anything great. I expect some improvements and at least a couple of twists and surprises; less than that would mean utter disappointment for me).



Anime quickies #1: .hack//SIGN

In ANIME REVIEWS on September 29, 2010 at 5:42 am

By Nimbus

Title: .hack//SIGN (original Japanese title: .hack//SIGN)

Genre: RPG, Adventure, Drama

Director: Koichi Mashimo (also directed Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Blade of the Inmortal, Noir, and, admittedly, almost all of Bee Train’s productions)

Writer: Kazunori Ito (also wrote the screenplay for the Ghost in the Shell movie, some of the Patlabor movies and series, and the Maison Ikkoku TV series, among other works)

Music: Yuki Kajiura (also wrote the music for all the other .hack installments, the second Kimagure Orange Road movie, and the Cossette no shouzou OVA, among other works)

Character designs: Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (also created the character designs for the Summer Wars and Toki wo kakeru shoujo movies, the Gunbuster OVA and, most notably, Neon Genesis Evangelion)

Studio: Bee Train (an animation studio specialized in slooooooow action shows, eg Noir, Madlax, or Phantom-Requiem for the Phantom)

Original air date: 2002-04-04 to 2002-09-25

Length: 26 episodes (25 minutes each).

(two stars out of six: boooring. What’s all the hype about this one?)

The Art: Very colourful and (relatively) detailed. The backgrounds depict typical role playing games environments, so I’m not particularly fond of them. The character designs, however, are really good, and mostly consistent throughout. To be honest, I especially liked them because they reminded me of Evangelion’s faces, not for any other particular reason. Other than that, they ALL are inexpressive, dead and cold as ice, even by anime’s standards. That’s saying something, I guess. The backgrounds are pretty but they become incredibly boring and static after a short while.

The Animation: Slow animation. Very slow. All these characters still move like robots. Hey, they’re supposed to be characters in a computer game, so I guess their movements fit within the overall concept… and yet, I’ve seen characters in actual computer games move in a much more realistic and expressive fashion than these characters do.

The music: Very good, if quite irregular. At some spots it doesn’t fit the tone (which doesn’t mean that the music itself is bad), and other times, especially in the earlier episodes, it is way too loud, making the dialogues almost impossible to be heard.

The Story: Boring as hell. Interesting if you’re into MMORPGs, I guess. Otherwise, really boring. And slow. Did I say it’s slow? The series shows us the day-to-day life within a MMORPG (“massive multiplayer online role playing game”, for those who’re not into computer games), and how one of the characters, named Tsukasa, has some problems getting out of the game. Obviously, each character is an avatar, i.e. a fictitious image that hides the real-life identity of each of the players. By the end of the series, we come to know the reason why the player behind the Tsukasa character can’t log out of the game, and by then I could only think: “Such a waste of time”.

The Ending: Ridiculously clumsy. By episode 22 things start (slowly) moving, and in ep. 26 the climax arrives: Tsukasa’s player can eventually leave the game, and we witness her final encounter with Subaru. So what? 26 episodes just for this? No explanation as to why Tsukasa was in a coma, what happened to Sora, or to the other players, or how come Tsukasa was trapped in the game when she wasn’t playing at all. Crappy ending for a crappy series.

The Highlights: Character designs are pretty solid, consistent and attractive. The music is somewhat good too. Not too shabby animation.

The Lowlights: Everything else.

Overall: I can assure you I love experimental and “artsy” pieces of film and video, but this whole thing is simply stupid. I admit I don’t like computer games (probably because I don’t like computers… I only use them because I have to), so there must be some negative bias in my review. All the philosophical psychobabble about the nature of solitude and fake relationships and friends in the virtual world is, in my opinion, a cheap excuse to hide narrative incompetence and a vacuity in the story only comparable to Tsukasa’s long vacuous stares into the void of her stupidity. If you want to learn a couple of things about being alone in the contemporary world, go watch Welcome to the NHK, or Pale Cocoon or some similar title, but not this one. So in all, I found plot holes all around, the narration and direction was slow and boring, not to mention the load of vacuous and inexpressive stares you’ll have to put up with. Only the visuals were acceptable. Tsukasa is annoying as hell, probably much more than Shinji was.

By the way, I knew Tsukasa was a girl right from episode 1. Was that all the mystery to this series? Meh….

Screens: