Saturday, April 04, 2015

Review on Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)

I can't believe it's been almost 5 years since my last post. That just goes to show how long I've not watched animes or should I say, watched something which I felt the urge to write something about? I guess the latter is the main reason why I've not done anything to revive this dormant blog. Besides that, I've not been following the anime releases for a long time and there aren't that many titles which interest me these days so these are also contributing factors.

Watching Shingeki no Kyojin was not planned. In fact, I knew nothing about this. I was aware that a two-part real-life movie version starring Miura Haruma is due to be shown in Japan this year but this still did not arouse my interest in seeking out this anime nor the manga. Then I happened to see this anime available to watch on demand via my new cable TV service. Out of curiousity, I gave this anime a shot to see what the hype was about.

From this point onwards, there will be spoilers so if you haven't watched this and do not wish to spoil the fun, please skip this review.

Shingeki no Kyojin started off as the debut manga of Isayama Hajime in 2009 and there have been 15 volumes released to date. The first anime series was shown from April 2013 to September 2013 while there is a second season scheduled for 2016.

The story is set in the era around the Industrial Revolution where human beings resort to building high walls to protect themselves from titans which prey on them. There are three layers of walls i.e. Wall Maria, Wall Rose and Wall Sina which form the boundaries of the areas where the humans live in. Due to the fact that they have enjoyed peace for a hundred years without any Titan attack, people have more or less let down their guard and believes that peaceful days will continue forever. However, in the Shiganshina District, there is a young boy by the name of Eren Yeager who strongly believes that there is a better world beyond the walls and wants to join the Scout Regiment which goes outside the walls to do research and eliminate the Titans so that he can finally be free to venture anywhere he wishes. His best friend Armin Arlet also has the same belief as Eren while Mikasa Ackerman who was adopted by Eren's parents after losing her parents, tries to discourage him from doing so. One ordinary day, after an argument with his mother over his aspiration to join the Scouts, Eren and Mikasa are out on the streets when the Titans suddenly break through Wall Maria and launches a massacre on the residents in Shiganshina. Horrified to see what is happening, Eren and Mikasa head home to find Eren's mother being trapped under the rubble of their crumbled home. The kids try to get her out but are unable to do so. In the face of impending danger, Eren's mother asks a guard from the Garrison Regiment to bring the children away. Just as the three of them are leaving, Eren and Mikasa witness a Titan eating his mother alive. Eren is angry at himself for being unable to save his mother and arguing with her earlier that day but knows that with his current age and situation, there is nothing he can do against the Titans to avenge his mother. Eren, Mikasa and Armin join the rest of the Shiganshina survivors to retreat behind Wall Rose and the three of them join the Cadets in the hope that they can be part of the Scouts in future.

Broadly speaking, there are three main arcs in the anime i.e. the Shiganshina attack, the Cadets training and the Scouts Regiment. The Shiganshina attack set the foundation on what we would come to know about Titans and their threat on human beings while the Cadets training describe the three main characters' coming-of-age and how they mature in the face of their first major crisis in the Trost attack. The Scouts Regiment arc offers a deeper look into the Titans and an unexpected twist in the form of the Female Titan who has a big secret. Personally, I thought that the last arc was far more interesting than the other two but without them, the anime would not have seen a good climax in the final arc. However, my biggest grouse with the story is that there are quite a lot of things which were not explained clearly e.g. why and how Eren got his Titan powers, why Annie had such a love-and-hate relationship with her father and what caused her to become the Female Titan. I have no idea if this is due to the fact that there is a second season which will provide all the answers or the detailed explanations can only be found in the manga. As such, it is probably unfair for me to say that this is an incomplete piece of work. Until I've watched the second season, I think it's a bit too premature for me to write this off completely. Having said that though, I think I would have been more satisfied if there were some questions answered rather than having a whole bunch of question marks by the end of the anime.

Despite the anime having 25 episodes, the development of the characters were quite limited, even for the leads. Of course, there was time devoted to explaining how Eren and Mikasa developed their strong bond or how Eren and Armin are good friends bound by their common interest in venturing outside the wall to seek true freedom. It would have been more interesting to see more development of the supporting characters such as Levi, Erwin or even Jean because I feel like I hardly know them other than the obvious facts presented to us. I am guessing that the manga version will probably offer more than the anime which cannot spend too much on them. It does feel at times that the focus is more on the development of events in the story so characters' emotions and thoughts tend to be overlooked.

To be honest, after watching the anime, it leaves me wondering how the real-life adaptation can do a good job especially as it is introducing some new characters not seen in the original manga and would inevitably make some changes to the storyline since the manga is still ongoing. Moreover, I find it difficult to imagine how they can achieve the same fluid effect of seeing the Scouts using the ODM against the Titans as seen in the anime. I also wonder how the Titans would look like which would probably be dependent on the CG technology used. I guess I would have been more interested and optimistic about the movies if I had not watched the anime first. Nonetheless, to look on the bright side of things, I thought the anime was an OK piece of work on the whole albeit with some flaws so it has made me somewhat interested in reading the manga. I certainly hope that Season 2 next year will provide the answers I am seeking and in the process, improve my impression I have about this anime.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Aoi Bungaku Series Episode 11 - Kumo no Ito (The Spider's Thread)

As compared to the previous stories, I was rather lost after watching Kumo no Ito by Akutagawa Ryunosuke. It wasn't because the story was too complicated. On the contrary, the story was too simple and the message was very straightforward. That made me wonder why this story deserved to be covered in the Aoi Bungaku series. After doing some research on this novel and Akutagawa himself, my interpretation and opinion of the story has somewhat changed, although I'm still not pleased with the anime version.

Prior to watching this, I've not read any of Akutagawa's works but I have heard of screen adaptations of his other works like Rashomon and Jigokuhen. It seems like Akutagawa had two distinct categories of works i.e. themes based on classics and the other being children stories. Kumo no Ito happens to be in the latter group. This is probably why the story didn't have subtle themes unlike the earlier stories in Aoi Bungaku. And that could be why, as an adult, I felt that the story was too simple. In addition, the anime left out an integral part of the story and this could have resulted partly as to why I sensed that something was missing.

The novel begins with Buddha looking into Hell through his lotus pond in Paradise and seeing lots of sinful people who are suffering there. Buddha takes notice of a man Kandata, a thief who had done evil deeds without batting an eyelid. The only good thing that Kandata did in his lifetime was to spare the life of a small spider. In view of this act of mercy, Buddha decides to give Kandata a chance to get out of Hell by dropping a spider's thread into Hell. Kandata believes that he can get out of misery by climbing up the spider's thread but is horrified to see that other sinners in Hell are also doing the same. Fearing that the spider's thread will snap, Kandata shouts at the sinners below him to get off the thread. Just then, the thread snaps and Kandata falls back into Hell. Seeing Kandata's behaviour, Buddha puts on a sad expression and leaves the lotus pond.

As you can see, the novel is based on the concept of karma in Buddhism whereby you reap what you sow. Kandata was a bad guy who thought of himself only. As a result, he was put in Hell following his death. The small act of sparing the spider's life gave him a second chance. Although Kandata made use of the chance given by Buddha, the fact that his inner self remained unchanged sealed his fate. However, the anime didn't give the full picture of the story. It began too quickly and ended in the same way as well.

In the anime, we see Kandata's evil deeds as he kills mercilessly and steals whatever he wants. He even dares to make a mockery out of the king who is out on a parade. Unexpectedly, Kandata is wounded by a child whose mother was killed by him. When Kandata tries to hide from the soldiers, he comes across a spider and decides against killing it. Soon, Kandata is caught by the solders because he is unable to run due to his injury. After Kandata is put to death, he goes through hell because of his evil deeds. Suddenly, a spider's thread descends from above and Kandata views it a chance to get out of Hell. As he climbs up the thread, Kandata sees other people also doing the same. Worried that he might lose the chance to save himself, Kandata shouts at and kicks the people below him off the thread. Suddenly, the thread snaps and Kandata falls back into Hell.

There are two major differences between the novel and the anime:

1) The novel depicts Buddha as an onlooker to Kandata's deeds while the anime dives straight into Kandata's deeds.

2) In the novel, Kandata shouts at the sinners in Hell to get off the spider's thread while in the anime, he also kicks them off it.

I'm not too concerned with the second difference because I think the anime wants to reinforce the fact that Kandata is selfish and evil by nature. It's the first point which I think has botched up the story. By potraying Buddha as the onlooker who dropped a lifeline to Kandata, this would have been a more logical way to explain why Kandata was given that spider's thread and who gave it to him. I would prefer it if the anime had adopted a retrospective approach rather than jump straight into Kandata's evil deeds. There was simply too much emphasis on showing the evil side of Kandata.

Another grouse I have would be the graphics. Coincidentally, I dislike the character and set design for this story and Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita and they happen to be from the same person. Maybe it's the fantasy nature of the story which warrants such a drawing style or it could be the manga-ka's style which I'm not used to. It's just that after watching refined graphics from some of the earlier stories, the character design and colour balance this time were really an eyesore.

I'm not entirely sure that Kumo no Ito and Jigokuhen were linked in their novel versions but you can see that there are two characters who appear in both stories i.e. the king and the artist Yoshihide. That is probably why Sakai Masato takes on the role of Yoshihide rather than Kandata who is voiced by Miyano Mamoru. No wonder Kandata sounds a lot like Yagami Light. As Sakai doesn't have much airtime, I can't really judge his performance this time.

On the whole, I'm not too pleased with Kumo no Ito so this is how I'll rank the stories now in terms of satisfaction:

1) Ningen Shikaku
2) Hashire Melos
3) Kokoro
4) Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita
5) Kumo no Ito

Now, how would Jigokuhen figure in this ranking? We'll see very soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Aoi Bungaku Series Eps 9 & 10 - Hashire Melos

It's been slightly more than two months since my last post and an alarming five months since my last review. I think I've been neglecting this blog for too long so here I am, with a new review of another story in the Aoi Bungaku series. I don't really have a fixed schedule when watching anime these days. Coupled with work commitments, it's getting difficult to write detailed reviews or synopsis as before. I'll just have to make an effort to post more regularly or else this blog will probably go to waste. I can't believe that it's been five long years since I started on this blog...

待つ身が辛いかね。待たせる身が辛いかね。 ~ Is it painful to be waiting? Or is it painful to be the one making somebody wait?

This message forms the basis of Hashire Melos which is written by Dazai Osamu. From what I remember, most of Dazai's stories are about the dark side of humans. This novel is probably one of those with a more "posititve" theme i.e. trust between friends. At the beginning of the anime, Sakai Masato's commentary did mention that this novel was written at a time when Dazai had just got married and was leading a peaceful life. Maybe that's why the mood of his works was different from those which he wrote during the last years of his life e.g. Ningen Shinkaku. According to Kazuo Dan, a friend of Dazai, Hashire Melos was probably written due an incident which happened in Atami.

Dazai was having a holiday in Atami and did not return for days. His wife was worried and asked Dan to go there and have a look. She even gave Dan some money in case he needed to pay for Dazai's bills. However, when Dazai saw Dan, he got his friend to participate in merry-making. In the end, both men used up the money which Dazai's wife had given to Dan. In order to settle the bills, Dazai persuaded Dan to stay behind in Atami as a "hostage" so that he could return to Tokyo and borrow money from another friend Ibuse Masuji. After waiting for days, Dazai did not return. Dan had to promise the hotel in Atami that he would come back to settle payment and rushed back to Tokyo to find out what had happened to Dazai. To his surprise, he saw Dazai playing shogi with Ibuse and had not even broached the subject to the latter. When questioned by Dan, Dazai said the above line which suggested he was also tormented for having to make Dan wait.

In the novel, the story is about Melos, a young man who tries to assasinate the king who kills people due to distrust in others. However, he is caught and faces the death sentence. In order to attend his younger sister's wedding, Melos asks the king to allow his friend to be a hostage while he promises to return in three days. The king doesn't expect Melos to return but Melos' friend agrees to it because he has faith in Melos. Subsequently, after overcoming many difficulties, Melos returns and saves the lives of himself and his friend.

In the anime, this story is relegated to the side in the form of an ongoing play. This is written by Takada, a scriptwriter who also does not believe in people like the king in Melos' story. He was asked to write the script for the play and is forced to come to terms with his past as a result.

Takada used to have a buddy Joushima in school and they arranged to leave their hometown for Tokyo. However, due to unforseen circumstances, Joushima fails to turn up thus causing the latter to be extremely hurt by the betrayal. 15 years on, Takada is still torn over the pain he suffered. However, when he receives news that Joushima is on his deathbed, Takada rushes back to their hometown and finally comes to terms with his past after knowing the reason for Joushima's no-show.

I like the presentation of this story. If it had been solely focused on the Melos story, that would have been a bore. By drawing parallels between Takada-Joushima and the Melos story, it is easy for the viewer to get emotionally involved and feel the pain that Takada is experiencing. In addition, we get a taste of how Joushima feels for not fulfilling the promise he made. The contrast of feelings is central to the theme: is it more painful to wait or is it more painful to let someone wait? By not over-simplifying the story to a mere replication of the novel, I think the anime version has done reasonably well to capture my attention, at the very least.

With regards to character design, this is done by Konomi Takeshi who created the Tennis no Oujisama series. Being a fan of Tenipuri, I find that the characters in Hashire Melos do resemble a mixture of those in Tenipuri. For example, Melos' body look like Akutsu Jin's but his face seems like a modified version of Shishido Ryo plus Ootori Choutarou. I'm not sure how others see it but I just get the feel that there are some similarities between both sets of characters especially the sharp chins. It doesn't bother me that much, just that I get a bit distracted trying to figure out who resembles who. I think I was more irritated to see the character design in Kokoro which had too much traces of Death Note.

It was a pleasant surprise to see some familiar names in the cast like Kiuchi Hidenobu and Takahashi Mikako who were also in Tenipuri. I like Kiuchi's potrayal of Takada very much but Takahashi may need to tone down on her kawaii-ness because it seemed terribly jarring to my ears this time. Sakai Masato did fairly well as Melos but I still like his performance in Ningen Shikaku the best, so far. I've still got two more stories in Aoi Bungaku series to watch so I'll come to a conclusion as to which of his performances was the best.

Based on the four stories I've seen so far, here is how I would rank them:
1) Ningen Shikaku
2) Hashire Melos
3) Kokoro
4) Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita

How would this ranking change after I watch the remaining stories? We'll see very soon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top 10 anime ratings ranking (4 Apr 10)

1) Sazae-san (FujiTV) 22.3%

2) Chibi Maruko-chan (FujiTV) 13.5%

3) One Piece (FujiTV) 11.9%

4) Dragonball Kai (FujiTV) 10.8%

5) Meitantei Conan (NTV) 7.0%

6) Heart Puri Kyua! (TV Asahi) 6.9%

7) Pocket Monster DP (TV Tokyo) 6.4%

8) Shin Sanjushi (NHK General) 5.7%

9) Mainichi Kaasan (TV Tokyo) 5.0%

10) Inazuma Eleven (TV Tokyo) 4.6%

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Top 10 anime ratings ranking (28 Mar 10)

1) Sazae-san Haruyasumi SP (FujiTV) 20.0%

2) One Piece (FujiTV) 12.2%

3) Dragonball Kai (FujiTV) 9.3%

4) Doraemon (TV Asahi) 9.1%

5) Crayon Shin-chan (TV Asahi) 8.8%

6) Meitantei Conan (NTV) 8.4%

7) Heart Catch Puri Kyua! (TV Asahi) 6.8%

8) Tamagocchi (TV Tokyo) / Gintama Saishukai (TV Tokyo) / Anime Osaru no George (NHK Education) 3.9%

Monday, March 29, 2010

Top 10 anime ratings ranking (21 Mar 10)

1) Sazae-san (FujiTV) 18.3%

2) Chibi Maruko-chan (FujiTV) 12.4%

3) One Piece (FujiTV) 12.1%

4) Arigatou! 30 shunen konya kagiri no Haru no Doraemon Matsuri (TV Asahi) 11.6%

5) Dragonball Kai (FujiTV) 10.5%

6) Heart Catch Puri Kyua! (TV Asahi) 8.4%

7) Meitantei Conan (NTV) 8.1%

8) Pocket Monster DP (TV Tokyo) 6.7%

9) Tamagocchi! (TV Tokyo) 5.3%

10) Noitamina Nodame Cantabile Finale (FujiTV) 4.9%

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Top 10 bestselling manga for the week ended 29 Mar 10

1) Fairy Tail Vol 20 (263,106)

2) Diamond no A Vol 20 (152,197)

3) Hajime no Ippo Vol 91 (142,210)

4) GTO SHONAN 14DAYS Vol 3 (118,472)

5) MAJOR Vol 75 (114,425)

6) ONE PIECE Vol 57 (89,114)

7) Kaiouki Vol 43 (82,367)

8) Chiwayaburu Vol 8 (72,957)

9) NARUTO Vol 50 (61,955)

10) Sutorobo Edge Vol 8 (60,715)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Top 10 anime ratings ranking (14 Mar 10)

1) Sazae-san (FujiTV) 21.8%

2) Chibi Maruko-chan (FujiTV) 14.1%

3) One Piece (FujiTV) 12.0%

4) Dragonball Kai (FujiTV) 11.1%

5) Crayon Shin-chan (TV Asahi) 10.3%

6) Doraemon (TV Asahi) 10.1%

7) Meitantei Conan (NTV) 8.5%

8) Kaidan Restaurant (TV Asahi) 8.2%

9) Heart Catch Puri Kyua! (TV Asahi) 8.1%

10) Stitch! Itazura Italian no Daibouken (TV Asahi) 6.2%

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Top 10 bestselling manga for the week ended 22 Mar 10

1) ONE PIECE Vol 57 (313,861)

2) NARUTO Vol 50 (187,592)

3) Angel Heart Vol 32 (122,424)

4) Katei Kyoushi Hitman REBORN! Vol 28 (111,140)

5) Chiwayaburu Vol 8 (92,555)

6) Bakuman Vol 7 (78,635)

7) Sutorobo Edge Vol 8 (76,372)

8) STEEL BALL RUN Vol 20 (48,238)

9) Seitoshi Seiya NEXT DIMENSION Meiou Shinwa Vol 2 (47,896)

10) Boku to Kanojo no XXX Vol 7 (45,975)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Top 10 anime ratings ranking (7 Mar 10)

1) Sazae-san (FujiTV) 23.2%

2) Chibi Maruko-chan (FujiTV) 14.8%

3) One Piece (FujiTV) 13.0%

4) Dragonball Kai (FujiTV) 12.3%

5) 30th Anniversary Doraemon Eiga Koukai Chokuzen SP! (TV Asahi) 11.8%

6) Meitantei Conan (NTV) 10.7%

7) Heart Catch Puri Kyua! (TV Asahi) 8.3%

8) Pocket Monster DP (TV Tokyo) 6.5%

9) Kaidan Restaurant (TV Asahi) 6.2%

10) Stitch! Itazura Italian no Daibouken (TV Asahi) 5.9%

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Top 10 bestselling manga for the week ended 15 Mar 2010

1) ONE PIECE Vol 57 (1,690,932)

2) NARUTO Vol 50 (736,467)

3) Katei Kyoushi Hitman REBORN! Vol 28 (309,558)

4) Bakuman Vol 7 (217,531)

5) Toriko Vol 8 (129,364)

6) STEEL BALL RUN Vol 20 (117,225)

7) Kyou, Koi wo Hajimemasu Vol 8 (101,405)

8) Tajuu Jinkaku Tantei Saiko Vol 14 (83,431)

9) Shingetsutan Tsukihime Vol 7 (68,390)

10) Kanojo wa Uso wo Aishisugiteru Vol 3 (67,511)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Top 10 bestselling manga for the week ended 8 Mar 2010

1) Soul Eater Vol 16 (212,554)

2) Meitantei Conan Vol 67 (117,994)

3) Kyou, Koi wa Hajimemasu Vol 8 (107,978)

4) Skip Beat! Vol 24 (88,404)

5) Shingetsutan Tsukihime Vol 7 (80,225)

6) Kekkaishi Vol 28 (72,194)

7) Keroro Gunsou Vol 20 (69,913)

8) Kanojo wa Uso wo Aishisugiteru Vol 3 (68,563)

9) Switch Girl!! Vol 11 (65,555)

10) Ahiru no Sora Vol 26 (64,896)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Top 10 anime ratings ranking (28 Feb 10)

1) Sazae-san (FujiTV) 18.4%

2) Chibi Maruko-chan (FujiTV) 12.9%

3) One Piece (FujiTV) 11.9%

4) Dragonball Kai (FujiTV) 9.8%

5) Heart Catch Puri Kyua! (TV Asahi) 6.3%

6) Kaidan Restaurant (TV Asahi) 6.2%

7) Pocket Monster DP (TV Tokyo) 6.1%

8) Stitch! Itazura Alien no Daibouken (TV Asahi) 6.0%

9) Meitantei Conan (NTV) 5.4%

10) Tamagocchi (TV Tokyo) 5.0%

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Top 10 bestselling manga for the week ended 1 March 10

1) Meitantei Conan Vol 67 (306,456)

2) Ahiru no Sora Vol 26 (199,789)

3) Mahou Sensei Negima! Vol 29 (148,228)

4) Kekkaishi Vol 28 (147,975)

5) Skip Beat! Vol 24 (128,674)

6) BLOODY MONDAY Season 2 Zetsubou no Hako Vol 2 (106,683)

7) Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi Vol 37 (95,666)

8) DEAR BOYS ACT 3 Vol 3 (95,209)

9) Zettai Karen Children Vol 20 (77,951)

10) Aria no Kishi Vol 19 (76,167)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Top 10 bestselling manga for the week ended 22 Feb 10

1) WORST Vol 23 (159,193)

2) BLEACH VOl 43 (135,321)

3) Amanchu! Vol 2 (82,012)

4) Hanma Baki Vol 22 (78,155)

5) 7SEEDS Vol 17 (66,042)

6) Umimachi Dairy Vol 3 (60,623)

7) Crows ZERO Vol 6 (51,962)

8) Nurari Hyon no Mago (47,297)

9) Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun Vol 4 (47,152)

10) Bboi! Vol 28 (46,039)