Tag Archives: bandai visual

Review: .Hack//Sign (2002) Anime | My Reviews 20 DEC 2013

hack sign anime 1In the year 2005, a computer virus called ‘Pluto Kiss’ completely shut down and restricted the global internet network of the world. In 2007, after extensive rescinding of the network, the CC Company created and released an online fantasy network game called ‘The World’. With about 2 million players world wide, the game took the world by storm. This is the story of ‘.Hack//Sign’.

Inside a cold, dark cavern, a mysterious boy regains consciousness. Dressed like a wizard, carrying a strange looking staff, the boy slowly surveys his surroundings. The boy can’t remember much, but he knows his name – ‘Tsukasa’.

As he teleports through various places in ‘The World’, he comes to realise that something has happened to him. Something has made it impossible for him to log out of the game. Even stranger, it’s as if he has become part of the game. His senses have become attuned to ‘The World’. He now feels pain inside ‘The World’.

Returning to the cave, he comes across a ghost image of a strange cat character. He remembers a name. ‘Maho’. But the image fades, leaving a magical tablet behind. Touching the tablet, a voice declares: ‘I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. I need you, just like you need me. Let’s walk together. So long as we walk together, I will protect you.’ With that cryptic message the tablet disappears.

And so the mystery surrounding the boy who is unable to log out of the system begins.

.Hack//Sign is an interesting anime to watch. When it starts, it disguises itself as a standard sword and sorcery show in the unique setting of a game environment. However you quickly realise that this is not the case. It is more of a mystery and drama than an action title. It also deals heaviily with human relations and motivations.

The story revolves around a girl who has lead a very rough life. Her mother died when she was young, and her father is abusive towards her. Her mind gets trapped in her only escape from reality, the online game known as ‘The World’. The story deals with how she opens finally learns to open up to other people as more and more people get involved with her character, the boy named Tsukasa. Central to the mystery is the plot by which she is unable to log her consciousness out of the system, leaving her body and mind in a vegetable state out in the real world. The power behind this tragedy appears to be some malicious code left behind from the original game fragment.

However, the story never deals with real life events. Rather, every facet of the story is told through the game. Everything is manifested as players and characters taking part in this marvellous RPG world.

The animation of .Hack//Sign is simply superb. The backgrounds are more like fantasy artwork than landscapes. The colours are sumptious to look at, and the environments are all breathtaking spectacles. The characters are all beautifully designed and rendered, and their animation is very fluidly done. The action sequences are well handled, and the camera shots are well thought out.

The musical score is hauntingly beautiful, with a number of melodic tracks laid down. See-Saw perform all the vocal tracks. All lyrics are in English which is relatively strange for an anime title. The show has a particulary powerful opening theme.

Overall, this anime is well worth the watch. It is very well written and enacted. The ideas presented come across as original and all the characters are well rounded and presented. If any complaint, the only thing would be that the pace of the anime feels at time very slow. The episodes don’t grab you to watch the next one as soon as possible. Another weak point that could be pointed out is the ending to the series. It is a very open ended end to the show, leaving one with many questions unanswered. However, this doesn’t necessarily have to be faulted, as it was written with a sequel in mind. If you are looking for a thought-provoking anime, the you will enjoy .Hack//Sign.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in June 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.hack//Sign

Review: .Hack//Liminality (2002) Anime | My Reviews 13 DEC 2013

hack liminality anime 1Something is happening inside ‘The World’, the online network game that took the world by storm in 2007. In Japan alone, at least six cases have been reported in which players all of a sudden dropped down into a deep coma. The attempts at reviving these fallen players have all failed. While their vital signs appear stable, their minds remain locked behind in ‘The World’.

The most recent case happened at Ishikawa Prefectural Kanazawa Sogo High School. Two people taking part in an experiment involving the playing of ‘The World’, collapsed during the game. Tomonari Kasumi and Minase Mai both slipped into deep comas. However, Mai managed to awaken from this state, the first person yet to do so.

Enter Junichiro Tokuoka, the Japanese Version Director for ‘The World’. Two years ago, he cut off ties to the CC Company, producers of ‘The World’. He knows that something has gone wrong with the game. And he intends to find out just what is going on inside ‘The World’. As he travels, getting closer to the truth, he enlists the aid of some unlikely allies. Minase Mai, Aihara Yuki, Tohno Kyoko, the mysterious hacker Helba and her liason, Kuro no Bito all join Tokuoka in his fight against the CC Company.

These people try to unravel the mystery surrounding the game, the theories of Emma Wielent and the actions of the prototype fragment programmer. And even if they are successful at finding the source of the problem, will it be within their power to set ‘The World’ right again?

The .Hack//Liminality OVA was released in conjunction with the release of the .Hack games in Japan. Something has gone wrong in ‘The World’, causing a lot of problems in both the real world and the game itself. The playstation game investigates the problem from within the gamespace, whilst the OVA investigates the problem from a real world perspective. You can watch the OVA as a stand alone story, but it makes even more sense if you watch it in conjuction with the playing of the game.

.Hack//Liminality is surprisingly well done, considering that it was released as a freebie with the game. The animation, soundtrack and story are all top class.

As I mentioned, the complete story is told from two viewpoints. However, enough details are given during the OVA that you can follow what is going on just by watching the OVA. Whilst the time/information skips between episodes are sometimes noticeable, it is understandable because these missing issues are dealt with within the actual game. The first three episodes introduce the four main characters in the OVA and serve to set up the story. The final episode then serves up the action as the four try to solve the problem of ‘The World’.

The animation is smoothly done and the characters and backgrounds are well designed. The colours are sumptious, and really stand out during the outside scenes of episode three.

The soundtrack and voice acting are all of a high standard. See-Saw perform the potent opening and closing tracks for the OVA.

Overall, I thought that this production is really well put together. I like the idea of telling a story from two perspectives. However, if you only have access to the OVA, the I believe you are missing a little bit. Nevertheless, the quality and story of the OVA make it worth your while to give it a look. However, the story will only really make much sense to those who have watched both the .Hack//Sign and .Hack//Legend of the Twilight Bracelet television series, which serve to introduce the marvelous game and characters that make up ‘The World’. If you are a fan of the .Hack franchise, I would recommend this OVA to you.

hack liminality anime 2

(Historical Note: This was written back in May 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.hack//Liminality

Review: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1998) Anime | My Reviews 01 DEC 2013

jin roh the wolf brigade anime 1Ten years after the great defeat, the Japan emerges from the chaos created by the Nazi occupation. The necessary reorganisation, known as the Age of Growth resulted in the isolation of the country. But it also resulted in many social problems. Unemployment increased drastically. Urban overpopulation led to more criminal activity. Most importantly, it led to the rise of anti-government groups, that the police were unable to control. These groups caused much social unrest. To avoid bringing in the army and to restrain the ambitions of the police, the government chose a third option. An armed force with special powers, based entirely in Tokyo: The Metropolitan Security Police or MSP. Mobile and heavily armed, this third force imposes itself as the guardians of public order.

But the situation changes radically and the opposition parties are soon outlawed. These parties fade away and are reborn as part of the rebel group known as ‘The Sect’. The Sect allied with the Panzer Corps to oppose the MSP. They turned the city into fire and blood and angered the general public. So as the population dreamed of prosperity, the Panzer Corps and The Sect become more and more isolated. The Panzer Corps fights on without respite, but the mission of the warriors is slowly coming to an end. They are on the verge of fulfilling their ultimate objective.

A peaceful protest march becomes violent after members of The Sect detonate explosives amongst the police forces. The MSP receives the order to move in, and a squad is dispatched to the sewers to hunt the escaping Sect terrorists down.

Fuse Kazuki is one of the top members of the elite counterterrorist unit of the MSP. As he chases down The Sect members in the sewers, he comes face to face with one of their fleeing operatives, a young girl known as Agawa Nanami, codenamed ‘Short Hair’. However, as he stands before her, something inside him tells him not to fire. But as fear grips the young girl, she takes matters into her own hands – and detonates the bomb she was carrying.

Haunted by the images of her death, Kazuki seeks to learn more about the girl. In his investigations he discovers her older sister, Kei. Can these two people reach out to each other and heal the other’s wounds?

Meanwhile, a plot is hatching against the MSP. As the players in the higher echelons of the country’s security forces play their political games, alliances shift and treaties are made and broken. It would seem that the MSP’s Panzer Corps’ days are numbered.

And to achieve this, a scapegoat is needed. An officer who may have already been broken. Fuse Kazuki. But rumour has it that another force moves within the MSP. A secretive group, watching their own and protecting themselves. The Wolf Brigade.

Who knows whom these animals are, hiding amongst men? The only thing for sure is once a wolf, always a wolf.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is a powerful film written by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. Jin-Roh’s setting is Tokyo-not the Tokyo of the future, but of an alternate past. Jin-Roh presents a Japan that lost a different Second World War-not to America, but to Nazi Germany. Now, more than ten years after the defeat, the occupation troops have left, but their legacy is Jin-Roh’s twilight-zone city where the domestic terrorism of ‘The Sect’ plays out in everyday bombings and street battles against the counterterrorist Capital Police-and their elite armoured, helmeted, and red-goggled Special Unit.

The story revolves around Kazuki Fuse, a top member of the elite Panzer Corps unit of the MSP. After witnessing the suicide of a young Sect member, Kazuki becomes plagued by visions of her and her death. Not understanding why he didn’t take action, Kazuki seeks to learn more about the young terrorist he failed to kill himself. Kazuki is a special-forces operative who kills in the name of the law. Like Kusanagi of Ghost in the Shell, he doubts the worth of his humanity. But unlike Kusanagi, Fuse is yet a man of flesh and blood, and he still remains human enough to feel cold-to be frightened-and to seek, with quiet desperation, to be absolved.

The movie Jin-Roh is about those in society who are predators among prey. But these ‘beasts’ never bother to change their shape; like Red Riding Hood’s wolf, they merely drape themselves with human clothes that do not even disguise the eyes, teeth and claws of a killer. Society rightly fears them. In Jin-Roh the Capital Police are themselves hunted – marked for elimination as a force by their own government, and by a public eager to forget the past and look the other way from the present. So what is it then, writer Oshii asks, that draws the human ever closer – when she can see that the wolf hides nothing?

The characters of Kazuki and Kei are fascinating and complex and they are well suited to the backdrop painted by Jin-Roh’s dark vision of the past. The rest of the supporting characters on the other hand fail to be given much story time, meaning that they remain pretty much 2-dimensional and seemingly without much purpose.

The animation for the movie is sumptuous, with beautifully detailed backgrounds and a rich palette of gloomy colours and textures. The characters and foregrounds are painstakingly detailed and the animation is smooth and flowing. The action sequences are intense and very well handled.

Likewise, the voice-acting for the show is top-notch and the film is complemented by a beautiful and haunting soundtrack. In fact, the entire sound production for the movie is of a particularly high standard.

Overall, this is a movie of very high quality and should not be missed, especially by fans of one of the masters of anime, Mamoru Oshii. However having said that, the story is pretty convoluted and takes a lot of attention to watch it and get the most out of it. This is not a simple film and won’t make for good pop-corn mindless fodder. Only serious movie-watchers should apply.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in September 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jin-Roh:_The_Wolf_Brigade

Review: You’re Under Arrest! (1994) Anime | My Reviews 07 NOV 2013

you're under arrest anime ovaIt’s her first day of work, and Tsujimoto Natsumi is already late – and sitting stuck behind a railway crossing is definitely not helping things. But taking that reckless shortcut on her little scooter might not have been the best idea either as Bokuto Precinct’s officer Kobayakawa Miyuki is soon hot on this miscreant’s tail.

But what these two don’t know is that they are about to become partners of the Bokuto Precinct Traffic Department. Ace driver Miyuki and daredevil biker Natsumi are Bokuto Precinct’s finest officers. No traffic offender escapes their grasp and together with their friends and colleagues Miyuki and Natsumi strive to make the streets of Tokyo a safer place for all.

Traffic offenders beware: You are under arrest!

You Are Under Arrest! focuses on the friendship that develops between two female partners serving in the Bokuto Precinct Traffic Department. The stories attempt to mix a little bit of drama, romance, action and a feel-good vibe to produce a fresh OVA. This it does. However, it certainly doesn’t produce an exciting OVA.

The four episodes making up the OVA are self-contained stories and don’t actually link up to make a storyline. It is more like a mini-series than one tale. Still, the stories are well told and carry a certain warmth to them. Although a little bit of action is present, the situations come across as really forced, so no real tension ever builds up. Instead, more attention is paid to the humour and characterisation of the characters, leading to a nice feeling of depth for all the story’s players. The OVA really does focus on the friendship that developes between Miyuki and Natsumi.

The animation for the OVA is not bad at all. Very clean lines and great attention to detail on the motor vehicles. The animation has a very strong resemblance to that used in “Ah My Goddess!”.

The dubbed version of the OVA is okay. The voices aren’t overly irritating, but as usual, the series is far superior in its native Japanese. The music for the title is nothing spectacular, and holds very little to get excited about.

All in all, people looking for action and adventure should probably stay clear of this one. This is a story for you and your girlfriend to sit down and watch together.

you're under arrest anime ova screenshot

(Historical Note: Wow. My writing was pretty horrible back then, wasn’t it – the above review was written way back in March 2004! And from the looks of it, I really wasn’t the target market for this particular OVA in the first place…)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27re_Under_Arrest!_(manga)

Review: Iria: Zeiram the Animation (1994) Anime | My Reviews 14 MAR 2013

Zeiram – the most dangerous life form in the universe. Evil. Ruthless. Invulnerable. Unstoppable.

The Tedan Tippedai Corporation secretly planned to import Zeiram to Myce as a secret bio-weapon. But things went wrong aboard the transport vessel, leading to the release of this monster.

Iria, a young apprentice hunter, formed part of the mission to try and rescue the crew of the ship. But their mission failed, and in the process, Zeiram butchered her brother. However, Iria did manage to uncover information that she shouldn’t have – information certain parties would rather have silenced.

Now Iria must expose this silent conspiracy before more innocent people are massacred by this monster. Together with her mysterious benefactor and sidekick Kei, the deadly Iria seeks to avenge her brother’s death.

But how do you stop the unstoppable?

1994 saw a six part OVA from director Amino Tetsuro and production house Bandai Visual, hit the retail shelves. Iria: Zeiram the Animation is a tight story revolving around the concept of revenge, conspiracy and vengeance. The main character is a reckless and dominant woman, acting tougher than the boys in a man’s world. However, Iria isn’t about man bashing and instead focuses solely on the plot of the story. The invulnerable beast known as Zeiram provides the perfect foil for Iria, forcing her to come back again and again to face her fears and try to stop the unstoppable, even after all the pain it has caused her.

The characters are well designed and pretty well rounded off. We have the tough as nails heroine, Iria, the calculating Bob, the cowardly and money-grabbing Fujikuro, the little spunky kid Kei and Komimasa, as well as the unstoppable evil, Zeiram. Actually, Iria and Zeiram are probably the best characters of the series, though this isn’t that surprising as the series pretty much focuses on these two.

The animation on Iria is very good, especially for its 1994 release tag. The characters are fluidly animated and packed with detail. The mecha, buildings and weaponry all carry a brilliant sense of design, kind of mixing an Arabic/Moroccan type of design with modern technology ideas. Just the numerous types of explosives are enough to show off the wonderful amount of detail put into the design of the show.

Although the music doesn’t really do much to add to the show’s enjoyability, it isn’t the worst out there. The voices are pretty good, especially Iria’s. Kei’s voice is particularly good, because the show tries not to reveal the fact that *spoiler* until the fifth episode.

Overall, Iria is a polished production. It has a tight storyline, a good cast of characters and great, detailed animation. However, it somehow fails to move one on an emotional basis. This could just be the view of a jaded anime watcher, but Iria failed to extract much emotional commitment from me. Still, it is an enjoyable watch and is a nice short OVA to begin with. Perfect for introducing people to the realm of anime.

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(Note: this review was originally written back in December 2003!)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iria:_Zeiram_the_Animation