Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mushi-shi

First, I'd like to say Netflix is being stupid because all anime on Netflix Watch Instantly is now in Japanese so anyone wanting to watch anime goodness on Netflix Watch Instantly has to read subtitles.  Also, Sgt. Frog is no longer streamable for some reason beyond my own.  But all is not lost, there's plenty of sites where you can stream all anime ever made for free.

This post is going to be about the best anime show ever; Mushi-shi!
As always, I will try and refrain from giving too much story and detail away about the anime show, only giving a synopsis.  Mushi-shi is a very ambiguous show in short.  The main character's name is Ginko, no last name, and he is what is called a mushi master.  To describe a mushi master, I must first describe mushi.  Mushi in Japanese means insect and in Mushi-shi these beings, in their nature and existence, as a whole are not articulated in great depth, though the individual "species", if you will, are described in depth.  The best characteristic I have found to describe all mushi are spirit animals.  They dwell in an alternate world that coexists with ours, and their behavior is more instinctual than sentient.  Mushi come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors, some fly, some crawl, some swim, some are parasitic, some are symbiotic, and some are just there.  There are very few mushi that can actually 
talk, in fact I can only think of one.  Now as for mushi masters, they are the equivalent of pest control, exclusively for mushi.  They go around exterminating mushi that are infesting or bothering other citizens.  Ginko on the other hand has a different approach.  His angle on mushi is that if possible, there are better alternatives to killing mushi, however that is not always the case.

Mushi-shi is a very unique show in that it breaks most themes almost always associated with anime such as it does not have martial arts action (even in anime shows that are not categorized as "action anime" there will most often be a few fight scenes), the story is not based around a life of a highschooler, there's no D-cups, it does not contain perverted humor, there is only one main character, and the main character is actually not the focus of the story.  Mushi-shi is primarily all story, each episode having its own disconnected plot; that being said it is very slow paced.  Another thing that is outstanding about Mushi-shi is its soundtrack produced by Toshio Masuda, a musical genius in my opinion.  There are only two, very minor, things that I have to pick on the show.  One is that the art style does not show much facial differences between characters or gender.  The other is that sometimes there is too much narration and that the episode would've been better if instead of saying all of what happened, it actually showed what happened.  But that's really all I can say is faulty about Mushi-shi.

One last thing worth mentioning about the show is that it can be very dark and disturbing.  The best example I can find of this is the episode the Cotton Changeling.  The episode describes a mushi that infects the fetus of a pregnant women and turns it into a green mass, which when birthed slithers away, finds a safe place to nest, and then creates extensions which are like probes.
They survey the area and update the main body of its living environment.  This is the one mushi that can talk, for the extensions take the form of what would've been the human mother's children.  They imitate to their best ability a human child but the mushi can learn at an accelerated rate compared to the normal human child, so premature speech, fine motor, and gross motor skills take place.

As with most awesome anime shows, I have yet to read any of the manga, knowing that the manga books will be double awesome compared to the show.  There's also a Mushi-shi movie, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, the same man who directed Akira.  A very interesting change in style compared to the other movies he's directed.  I own the Mushi-shi movie and it's very good but at some points the story is a little too slow with no development in the plot.

Mushi-shi has stood out in my mind as the greatest anime show of all time, I highly recommend it to anyone who is an anime fan.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Soul Eater

Soul Eater is the second action anime series I got into.  When I first watched it I saw many similarities between it and Bleach: there are demons that were once normal human souls, there are specially trained people who deal with said demons, and their weapons have unique individualized powers that talk.  On the other hand there are plenty of differences between the two shows that give each of them their own flavor, both of which I enjoy.  Some differences are that in Soul Eater the art style is very alternative, and that the weapons used to destroy demons (who are partnered with weapon masters called meisters) are actually people themselves.  Also, in Soul Eater there are no clear cut levels of power or "spiritual pressure" as it is called in Bleach.  The individuals in Soul Eater are ranked in power not just by what spells they can cast or what forms their weapons can take, but more by all their assigned missions they have completed.

In the world of Soul Eater there are demons called kishins that were once ordinary humans that then, in a thirst for greater power, purposefully ate other human souls.  There are also what are called witches, it never really describes whether the women became witches or were born witches, and they are generally feared even more than kishins.  At one point in time the world was overrun by witches and kishins and that's when Lord Death created the Death Weapon Meister Academy, or DWMA for short. The DWMA is a school where meisters and weapons are trained to fight against the likes of kishins and witches. Our main characters are Maka Albarn the meister and Soul Evans the scythe;
Death the Kid and his two pistols who occasionally transform into cannons, Patty and Liz Thompson;
and finally Black Star and his chain scythe Tsubaki Nakatsukasa;

Maka Albarn is the main focus of the show though Death the Kid, Patty, Liz, Black Star, and Tsubaki are the star pupils of the school.  It isn't very clear that Maka is the main character until the end of the series where she has a battle with the kishin Asura, the biggest baddest kishin of them all.

Soul Eater, once upon a time, was my favorite anime series but that quickly changed toward the end of the series.  As with many T.V. shows, anime or not, the writers try to end the story with some meaning that is supposed to make the audience think.  The writers bring in this notion of the awesome power of fear as they introduce the kishin Asura who is supposedly afraid of everything or otherwise considered a panophobe.  What struck me as odd was that Asura only portrayed this kind of mentality only half the time.  One moment he would be screaming at the sight of teenage meisters and weapons and the next he would be fighting Lord Death with a perfectly straight face.  He even once took time to explain his fear to Lord Death amidst battle and how the most ultimate fear was the fear of pain because it was some sort of primal instinct or whatever.  It felt like the whole meaning or rather purpose of Asura was unnecessary, although if the story had remained consistent with his character without all the babbling of the profoundness of fear, that would've made the all of his face time a hell of a lot better.  The worst thing about the Soul Eater series was the ending.  The last episode consists of about four different climaxes back to back, needless to say one was enough.  I know Maka was supposed to be the hero of the story but in one scene Death the Kid maximizes his power into Liz and Patty, turning them into cannons once again but with a whole new twist never scene before.  Death the Kid throughout the series is a neat freak, he needs everything to be symmetrical, and if you noticed he has three white stripes going only halfway across his hair.  He complains almost nonstop about how horrible his white stripes are and how he can't remove them with any hair products.  Well, in the battle with Asura, he manages to extend all three white stripes completely around his head enabling him maximum charge for his cannons.  It was the geekiest Soul Eater moment ever!  If the series ended right there with Death the Kid blasting the hell out of Asura, that would've been the best ending ever.  But unfortunately the cannons did absolutely nothing against Asura.  That was the first climax of the four, the third is when Maka transfers all of her power into Soul in order to make him bigger and badder than ever.  What Maka made Soul become was a Genie Hunter, a special scythe that was supposed to vanquish all evil it touched.  That also does absolutely nothing as Asura started spewing some crap about how he wasn't truly evil because fear itself was not evil.  The next climax did not include Soul as Maka was undergoing scythe blades shooting out of her skin, meaning she herself was not only a meister but also a weapon and she then did some awesome one on one fighting with Asura, swinging her bladed arms and whatnot.  I would have been satisfied if the series ended there with Maka cutting Asura to bits but there was one more climax that was fit in.  It was the stupidest of them all.  Her blades disappeared, Soul was immobile, but she had one last thing on her person to finish off Asura.  Her fists.  Maka screamed, after another boring talk about fear from Asura, "The word is bravery!" and punched Asura square in the face.  He blew up.  I hate that episode with all my heart.  The worst anime I have ever seen is the last episode of Soul Eater.

There's much more to the story of Soul Eater but I don't want to spoil too much in case any of you who haven't seen the show want to watch.  The whole thing is amazing until the last episode.

Last thing I need to mention, (this actually has nothing to do with anime) my friend Spencer and I had a long debate about whether or not Spock from Star Trek: the Original Series is in fact arrogant.  We both wrote essays describing our differing points of view, here's the link to my essay; Is Spock Arrogant? which argues Spock is not arrogant, and here's Spencer's; Star Trek which argues Spock is arrogant.  Please check out both essays and feel free to leave a comment describing your opinion of the matter.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bleach


Bleach is one of my favorite anime shows.  It was the second action anime series I had ever watched right after Pokemon, but with a very different feel.  The idea of Bleach is that when someone dies their spirit roams the world of the living until they are collected by what is called a soul reaper (I've seen soul reaper be translated as Death God in some other versions) who's job is to transfer as many souls as they can to the Soul Society and to cleanse as many tainted souls as they can.  The Soul Society is supposed to be a kind of safe haven but that is not always the case.  However, if the human soul is left behind, they will eventually transform into a phantasm called a hollow.  A hollow is a demon consumed by sorrows who can only find happiness in eating other human souls.  This introduces the idea that in this world of Bleach there is such a thing as spiritual death.  Even in the Soul Society human souls age, though at an exceedingly slow rate.

The story of Bleach itself revolves around one young punk named Ichigo Kurosaki who has a gift that is to see ghosts.  He occasionally assists in what he thinks is helping a ghost pass on but in actuality he has no power to do so.  That all changes when he is visited by a soul reaper named Rukia Kuchiki who teaches him about hollows and soul reapers and the Soul Society pointing out that his gift to see the dead is exceptional.  Unexpectedly the two are attacked by a hollow (speak of the devil) who renders Rukia Kuchiki immobile.  With no other alternative, Rukia tells Ichigo that she can transfer some of her soul reaper powers into his soul thus enabling him to cleanse hollows.  What cleansing a hollow means is that since a hollow is a mutated form of a once human soul a soul reaper has the power to revert a hollow to its original human form by swinging his or her zanpakuto (fancy name for sword).  During the process of transferring soul reaper powers, which should've given the hollow enough time to swing his massive arm at Ichigo and Rukia at least ONCE (I guess he was just being polite), Ichigo accidentally absorbs almost all of Rukia's soul reaper powers.  The story then unfolds to be about a totally cool dude (Ichigo) kicking ass continually and growing in power at an exponential rate, making all other high ranking soul reapers with super powers and notorious hollows stare at him with their mouths agape.

Bleach is amazing and I highly recommend watching it but as with everything, it's not perfect.  The show has its fair share of cheesiness with lots of unnecessary gasping and grunting.  It also has a lot of talking during fight scenes.  There is just as much talking as there is of swinging swords in all the fight scenes.  It's almost as if they talk each other into submission.  And whenever someone's talking during combat, no one ever thinks to take advantage of the situation and attack.  Another thing that is odd is that many of the spells the soul reapers use have long, seemingly nonsensical, chants that hold no importance to the story.  On top of that, whenever someone wants to use a spell they always yell the chant.  In general, actually, all the characters use raised voices for no real reason.  I can usually ignore all of that and still enjoy the show but then the writers decided to add something entirely new that felt like a slap in the face for me.  In the fourth season of Bleach, vampires were introduced, but of course they weren't called vampires, they were called bounts.  They felt like a combination of a soul reaper and a hollow because they sucked human souls (through the neck) but they also had what were called dolls which depending on the particular bount have different powers.  The dolls were a complete copy of the zanpakutos which also, depending on the particular soul reaper, have different powers.  What I mean by powers is that one zanpakuto or doll could shoot fire or water, stuff like that.  I checked the manga series and there was not one single mention of bounts so the writers of the show must've thought for some reason that it would be a great thing to add vampires.  When the fifth season came out what literally came next were hollows that were wielding zanpakutos.  I have serious beef with the show, but seasons one through three are phenomenal.

The manga series has its own problems, though they appear to me as miniscule compared to what crap I've seen on the show.  The manga series seems to move a little too fast and with way too many things going on at once.  I realize that such things happened in the T.V. show but I never felt overwhelmed.  Timing is much clearer in a T.V. show than in a graphic novel because in a graphic novel you move at your own pace.  Also, the blood in the manga series is very unrealistic.  It sprays everywhere, even when it's just a little cut.  The blood issue doesn't occur until about volume eighteen or nineteen, so for a good while the blood spray was fine.  The blood spray is my biggest criticism for the manga series but it pales in comparison to those stupid worthless vampires in the show.

As I wrap this post up, I'd like to recognize Hayao Miyazaki as being one of the greatest anime film directors to ever live as he is resigning from Studio Ghibli and going into retirement.  The last film he directed is The Wind Rises, no information on the release date of the movie in US theaters is currently available.  The movie is about the designer for the Zero fighter plane, Jiro Horikoshi.  I'm so looking forward to seeing that movie.