Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year! 新年おめでとうございます!

Happy 2011!!! ^___^  This past year really flew by. We haven't gotten as much yuri anime as in 2009, but there are still some gems. (And fun crap.) Here are...

My Top 10 Yuri Anime of 2010:

English Releases:

5. Media Blasters' Ikki Tousen Dragon Destiny:
Because there isn't much to choose from and this craptastic, service-drenched series about well-endowed women fighting under the pretense of re-enacting the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is more fun than it should be. This season also introduces my favorite pairing.

4. Section 23's Taisho Baseball Girls Complete Collection:
I'm starting to re-watch this. Baseball normally makes my eyes glaze over, but this is a fun "We can build a winning team!" series set in the 1920's, with a strong feminist bent and a little yuri.

3. Funimation's Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne:
This is trash, but it's entertaining sci-fi trash. The yuri isn't very meaningful, but there's a lot of it.

2. Section 23's CANAAN Complete Collection:
Girls with guns! And some yuri. This show is not only a lot of fun, it's visually impressive enough to warrant a Blu Ray purchase from me.

1. RightStuf's season 4 box set of Maria Watches Over Us:
Because Marimite is one of the best shows ever ever ever and I love watching Yumi choose her petite souer even when I know who it'll be.

Airing in Japan:

5. So-Ra-No-Wo-To:
Not really yuri, but there were enough crumbs for me to list it, for whatever that's worth. lol I just enjoyed looking at the pretty scenery, listening to Kalafina's music, and piecing together the bucolic post-apocalyptic world the characters live in.

4. To Aru Kagaku no Railgun:
Kuroko's love might be one-sided, but she's a great major character in a fun sci-fi anime that ended with a bang. I'm looking forward to Funimation's DVD release.

3. Ikki Tousen Xtreme Xecutor:
For bringing the über-cool Kanu (my favorite!) and Ryuubi tantalizingly close to being a solid couple at the end. And again, for being more fun than it should be.

2. Shin Koihime Musou Otome Tairan:
Shocking, isn't it. I'm usually lukewarm towards Koihime Musou, but the one episode of the third season that focused on the one solid yuri couple (out of a number of canon yuri characters) in the show presented them as an adorable long-term married (as close as we're getting in anime without actually hearing "married" or "wife") couple. Pretty good for a seinen eroge adaptation.

1. Heartcatch Precure:
I've never really paid attention to Precure before, but I decided to check Heartcatch out after hearing the yuri buzz about it on Okazu. It's a cute, consistently entertaining show, and it makes me happy to think of a new generation of young whippersnappers enjoying Precure the way that I obsessed over Sailor Moon as a little otaku. For Tsubomi/Itsuki, Moonlight/Dark, and giving us a new shoujo series of yuri interest, I choose Heartcatch Precure. I'll review it after it ends.

Even though I didn't do a manga list, I'll name Aoi Hana as my favorite that hasn't been licensed in English from this past year and Hayate x Blade as my favorite English-licensed yuri title.

And that's it. I hope you all have a happy, healthy 2011!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Anime Review: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st Blu Ray

The Nanoha movie is a re-boot of the first season of a franchise that has been pumping out hits in Japan since the first TV series premiered in 2004. The first season is the only one that I would balk at re-watching in its entirety because the early episodes were mind-numbingly dull.

Nanoha the Movie 1st largely remedies the problems that the first season has- the slow bits are necessarily cut out and the production values are much, much better- but exacerbates the most problematic aspect of the Nanoha franchise. The utterly icky early transformation sequences for Nanoha and Fate instantly put me in a dark mood. There were other unwanted bits of service during the movie, along with some unsettling artwork in the ending credits. I never want to meet or speak to anyone who liked any of these things. (Quite the contrary, such a person would incite my desire to punch him in the face repeatedly- among other unsavory things.) It's a shame, because there is a good story to tell here. This obvious fact being established, I will discuss everything else about the movie.

The best part of the movie was definitely the development of Fate's mother Precia. The movie closely follows the events of the series- Nanoha learns about magic from Yuno, she starts collecting Jewel Seeds, and she meets Fate, who is also collecting Jewel Seeds for Precia, who wants them as part of a convoluted plan to revive her dead daughter Alicia, who Fate is unknowingly a clone of. Nanoha meeting the folks aboard the Asura, her being alienated from her friend Suzuka, the fight over the ocean, etc, etc, everything is present. However, we get a much better explanation of Precia's back story than what we've gotten before. Instead of only hearing about how much she loved Alicia and how hard she worked to revive her, how she lost her mind grasping at invisible straws, we actually see it. We also see more of Precia's old familiar Lynith, who tried to reason with Precia when she was starting to think of Fate as nothing but a tool. Even Precia's death produces some bittersweet character development. (Don't want to spoil it.) She was an abusive scumbag to Fate, but she was the most interesting thing about this movie.

The ending is still cute, with Nanoha and Fate exchanging ribbons and Fate promising to save Nanoha when she needs help. More than in the TV series, the movie pushes this scene as as puppy love.

The subtitles are good. They "sound" natural and, as far as I could tell, they're accurate. There are a few things translated differently from what the English fandom is used to (Arf is "Alf", the Time Space Admininstration Bureau is the "Dimension Administration Bureau") and the honorifics weren't left intact, but it's still a good, smooth translation. The subtitles are also white with black borders, which I prefer over yellow subs.

As a Blu Ray movie, it looks great- bright, vibrant, and crisp. The fight sequences and special effects are a treat. Nanoha has made a lot of money, and it shows here.

The LE version comes with two booklets featuring staff and seiyuu interviews and greetings, character sketches, and other little extras. (And ads for more Nanoha products.) There's an extra disc featuring trailers, the movie being promoted at the 2009 Tokyo Anime Fair, the seiyuu greeting fans on the day of the movie's premiere, a look at the recording of the movie's soundtrack, the movie's screening at Japan Expo 2010, and a Q & A with several of the seiyuu. There's so much Tamura Yukari here that even "Yukarin" fans who don't like Nanoha would probably want this. The bonus disc does not come with subtitles.

Story: Several good things, one hateful thing, not the best Nanoha storyline regardless. Take away what I don't like and it could be a B all around.
Art: B+
Overall: C+ (To the production committee for this movie and the upcoming A's movie: You have a good story to tell. Stop throwing bones to the creepy bastards in the fandom.)

I really want a StrikerS movie.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Manga Review: Hayate x Blade Omnibus Collection 1 (Volumes 1-3)

 Guts! Glory! Idiots!

Hayashiya Shizuru's Hayate x Blade is filled chock to the brim with all of these, and it is awesome.

Hayate x Blade is a strong example of genre entertainment done correctly. It has all of the bells and whistles of its tournament story-type (excluding any service involving its almost entirely female cast, which makes me want to send flowers to Hayashiya and her editor, given that this is a seinen series- imagine, gym uniforms that look like gym uniforms!) executed with a sharp eye for humor, Hayashiya's trademark screwball goofiness and eau de yuri, and a well-defined, ass-kicking panoply of characters.

Kurogane Hayate's twin sister Nagi has been accepted to the prestigious Tenchi Academy, where young women sword-fight each other in pairs (called "sisters-in-arms") to win points from each other in battles called hoshitori. Each pair is divided into two roles, the earth sword (defensive) and the heaven sword (offensive), and they need to strike the stars worn by their opponents to win the battles, gain points and, after enough wins, move up a rank. (Which means more money per win.) Nagi signed up to be a sword-bearer, but since she's been hospitalized Hayate needs to pretend to be Nagi to keep her place at Tenchi. Since Hayate isn't the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, she outs herself pretty quickly. ("I, Kurogane Hayate-sama, will never let that happen!! Never EVER!!! I'll make sure you never forget the name of Kurogane Hayate!!")

Hayate finds motivation to compete seriously in the hoshitori after the orphanage she and Nagi lived in before they were adopted, Dandelion Garden, is vandalized by a yakuza group that the orphanage's owner owes one million yen to. Hayate makes the yakuza ease off by promising to pay the loan herself, and through sheer idiocy and tenacity she partners up with Mudou Ayana, a seemingly unbeatable student who refuses to take a sister-in-arms (and as such, can't win points even though other people can win points from her) because of the incident that caused her to break up with her previous sister-in-arms and has left her guilt-ridden.

This first three volumes' worth of material (may we see many more published in English) covers Hayate and Ayana's first fight with a girl who nurses a petty grudge against Ayana, but who Ayana doesn't even remember, Hayate and Ayana's match against nine other pairs at once (Hayate set it up so they could move up the ranks more quickly, unbeknownst to Ayana), Hayate's unpaired roommate Moka fighting to save the girl who she wants as a sister-in-arms from an abusive partner (Hayate: "Moka-chan is trying to rescue her true love from an evil villain. This duel is in a week, so I'm helping her out!" Ayana: "You know, that explanation makes no sense whatsoever."), the delightful creepiness that is Isuzu finally getting the partner she wants, another girl befriending Hayate so she can manipulate her sympathy to make her willingly lose when they fight each other (and giving her "energy drinks" before earlier matches to make her fall asleep during them, to Ayana's vexation), and the first truly serious story arc that, as all good action stories do, leaves us with a cliffhanger.

This is good stuff. The jokes are actually funny (like Ayana's solution to Hayate falling asleep during a match, Hayate's reaction to Ayana's dating sims, Hayate and Ayana's stint as Famina-Kamen and Lawson-Kamen, everything about Hitsugi), the characters are a loveable group of idiots (Hayashiya even self-referentially points out her penchant for tsukkomi-boke style humor), and there is yuri subtext aplenty, as well as canon yuri, often played for comedy. You have Hayate and Ayana's roommate Jun fangirling over Ayana, Tatewaki's jealously over Shizuku and Hitsugi, Akira and Sae's butch-femme dynamic, Yukari acting like a snippy ex towards Ayana, etc. The art is good from the beginning, but the linework becomes more clean and confident as the story itself finds its stride. The physical comedy shines and the action scenes are suitably energetic, never lasting longer than they should.

As expected from Seven Seas, the translation is very good. No complaints about honorifics or cultural references being cut, or anything. There aren't any extras, although there is a preview of Inukami in the back, which I don't care about. This volume isn't physically cumbersome to read in one sitting, which is vital for a good omnibus.

Highly recommended if you like comedy or action- or both, whipped together into a delicious blend.

Story: Starts at B+, ascends to an A (In her postscript at the end, Hayashiya writes, "It'll get better soon, I promise!" It will, but it's already great.)
Art: Starts at B+, ends at A-. I love Hayashiya's comic timing. (I'm coming across as such a Hayashiya fangirl in this review.)
Overall: See Story.

Not that it really matters, but I didn't use a photo above this time because my computer isn't importing my camera's photos, for some reason. (My word processor froze and quit twice when I was finishing my final seminar paper earlier this week- it feels like technology's out to get me right now.) And I didn't make my deadline for re-posting on the 23rd. (Apologies for the late post.)

Anyway, yay Christmas! Whether you're done with finals, looking forward to taking a break from your job for an extra long weekend, or anything else, I hope you have a great holiday weekend. ^___^