Weekly Round-Up: Better late than never edition


Apologies for the sudden and unannounced hiatus; I know many of you will have experienced unpleasant withdrawal symptoms due to a lack of your daily Azure Flame, but I must assure you that this period has been equally painful for me as well. Due to a recent bout of gale force winds, some local power lines were damaged, and 2pm Thursday saw me thrust into a world not unlike the hell of Anton’s farming days. With the blackout extending as far as the local church, all I could do was sleep, listen to my mp3 player and read Kare Kano until the time came to depart for the weekend to a land of electricity but no internet access.

Anyway, if this has been posted, then obviously all is well again, and so I will try to catch up on missed posts and resume normal service.

I realise that I have inadvertently missed out on some chapters of the Higurashi manga, and that the download links for them have long since expired- due to this problem, reading and reviewing the Watanagashi and Tatarigoroshi arcssh is stalled for now.

Reviewed this week: Corda 6, Death Note 13, Kanon 15, Nodame 1, Red Garden 13, ROTK 38, SaiMono 25

…and in manga: .hack//GU+ 5, .hack//XXXX 1, Erementar Gerad 23, Gunslinger Girl 20-22, Higurashi Onikakushi 3, Nanoha StrikerS 3, Meine Liebe 6, Tsubasa 139-40

ANIME

La Corda d’Oro 6: As if a magical violin wasn’t unfair enough, Tsuchiura gets entered into the concours from the second round onwards (since he’s a normal student and a genuine piano prodigy, do we even need Kahoko to compete at all?). Before that arc gets underway, however, it’s time for the obligatory ‘training arc at supporting characters villa’ episodes; a fact which turns me off somewhat as I feel I have seen enough such episodes over the last few months to last me a lifetime. I have to admit that my initial passion for Corda is starting to cool a little under the weight of the increasing angst and predictability, but I have begun considering whether or not to give it the parody treatment.

Death Note 13: With Misa fully in the game now, things are getting interesting, but unfortunately those overly theatrical moments won’t go away- did we really need to see Light hug Misa in slow motion x3 like a Hong Kong action flick? Misa’s personality also seems different to the impression I’d got from the manga; I’d envisioned her to be a lot more confident and forceful than her anime personality.

Kanon 15: After what seems like an interminable journey, Mai’s arc finally comes to an end in this episode, with the defeat of the last few monsters and Yuuichi’s discovery of the truth through a convenient flashback. Key’s girls have always had special powers, but I can’t help feeling that giving Mai the ability to revive the dead (along with creating translucent CG monsters) was pushing it just a little too far. Even the drama of the moment in which she defeats a monster by jumping off the school roof is offset by a rather cheesy follow-up in which a fragment of power declares “you can call me hope” and saves Mai’s life after her attempted suicide.

On the plus side, I did enjoy the background music for this episode, and the field that Mai and Yuuichi played in was an especially nice setting that I’ll probably use for a banner or wallpaper in the future. I’m also appreciative of the fact that KyoAni is giving a more complete story than Toei did; it’s just a shame that that means the pace is excruciatingly slow and that more flaws in the plot are exposed.

*NEW* Nodame Cantabile 1: I’m not sure what to make of Nodame right now; I was expecting “Honey and Clover with music”, but what I got was just a little too off-kilter to be entirely satisfying. The first episode introduces us to Chiaki, a would-be conductor who is stuck in piano school due to his fear of travelling overseas to Europe, and Nodame, a female pianist with innate talent but a seeming inability to look after herself. Unfortunately, right now I’m having a hard time connecting with either character (the fart jokes don’t help); despite my high hopes, I have learned once again how dangerous it is to approach a series with any significant degree of optimism.

Red Garden 13: Today on Red Garden- angst, angst and, just for a change, some more angst. During the day, Rachel is in the middle of relationship issues, Kate is trapped between HARD YURI and evil Hervé, Rose is pathetic, and Claire is quite thankfully offscreen. Night time sees all four girls come together to beat up even more men, enabling Kate to learn the Float special ability, whilst Rose still hasn’t progressed beyond Cry; I can hardly blame Rachel for being annoyed with her when I want to slap her as well. All in all, a generally dull episode with only minimal reasons to continue with the series; apart from all my other complaints about the series, the Romeo and Juliet passage in the ED only highlights how pathetic and misplaced its attempts to be ‘arty’ are.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 38: What Dynasty Warriors player can forget that FMV of Zhao Yun cradling Liu Bei’s son even as he bravely ran from the enemy? What novel reader cannot recall Liu Bei’s wife throwing herself down a well so that Zhao Yun would save only the child, only for Liu Bei to dash his son to the ground because his beloved general risked his life? In case you hadn’t guessed, this is the point where that scene gains its animated form, although the part about the well and the baby being thrown to the ground are omitted in the interests of Liu Bei’s Justice. Nonetheless, this is one of the instantly recognisable events from the era, and it also provides a few chuckles towards the end; one of the better episodes from the latter part of the series.

Saiunkoku Monogatari 25: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must once again enthuse over how much I love SaiMono. This episode was just what I want from anime- twenty-five minutes that can simultaneously be parodied and adored. Soujun may have some serious issues with wood (it is, after all, less generic and more highly paid than he is), but Sakujun is deliciously evil- much as I want Shuurei to succeed, it is interesting to see her in the hands of a master manipulator. This episode sees the various parties arrive at their appointed destination in Kinka, but their troubles are far from over when it turns out that the Sa clan may still be one step ahead. As always, the next episode is needed immediately.

MANGA

.hack//GU+ 5: It had to happen eventually; no main character can go for long without gaining the destined power needed to effortlessly defeat even the toughest of opponents. Unable to win on his bishie good looks alone (even real world Endrance seems rather good looking), Endrance is forced to stand and watch along with all the other named characters as Haseo summons his avatar forth. In another few months, I should be able to see what happens next.

.hack//XXXX 1: At long last, the retelling of the first .hack games can begin, albeit with fewer grunties than I’d like. This chapter covers the Data Draining or Orca, before skipping ahead to Kite, BlackRose and Mistral battling Skeith- albeit with a new twist at the end that ensures this most definitely won’t be the same story we played in the games. I guess there’s life in the old World yet.

Erementar Gerad/Elemental Gelade 23: Both the fight between Rowen and Grayarts and the journey to the next continent come to an end in this chapter, with the promise that the plot can properly move on to the next arc (which, sadly, is the Viro arc). A generally laid back and not particularly outstanding instalment.

Gunslinger Girl 20-22: After the long drought, Gunslinger Girl is beginning to trickle through, with these three chapters taking us through to the end of volume four. Whilst by no means bad, chapter twenty is the weakest of the three, showcasing a mission for Rico and briefly introducing a new cyborg, Beatrice. Next up are a pair of chapters that delve more deeply into the lives of the fratello and the pasts of the handlers- first Giuseppe and Henrietta, and then Hilshire and Triela. Gunslinger Girl always knows how to interweave character drama with action scenes, and these chapters are no exception- I can’t wait for more.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Onikakushi 3: A long chapter that concludes the first Onikakushi volume whilst only covering up to the second episode of the anime, Oni 3 sees Keiichi drawn further into the mystery of Hinamizawa. As always, the manga goes into more depth than the anime, and so whilst I’m a little turned off of the Higurashi franchise overall, this was a fairly enjoyable chapter.

*DROPPED* Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS 3: I think my enthusiasm for this series can be summarised by the fact that I had this on my hard drive for weeks and it took until now to remember to read it. After ploughing through a mediocre setup with equally uninspiring artwork (which for some reason is drawn in dark blue and white instead of black and white), I can’t be bothered with this series any more. The Nanoha anime may not be great, but at least it has colour and movement.

Meine Liebe 6: Unlike the anime, the Meine Liebe manga is closer to the original game, featuring one girl and the five bishounen of her reverse harem. This episode sees our lead boost her relationship score with Orphe after running into the Strahl (minus Lui) during the summer vacation. It’s not as good as the anime, nor, in fact, particularly good at all, but it’s interesting to follow familiar characters along an alternate path.

Tsubasa Chronicle 139-40: The mystery of Infinity World has ever so slightly been revealed; if Sakura and the others can win the grand prize at human chess, Yuuko will grant their wish to restore X world. Unfortunately, Sakura’s usefulness is coming to an end, when she hesitates in a crucial battle, Syaoran-real is forced to step up and be heroic. Just as I was despairing of the plot going anywhere, however, 140 takes a detour into Fye’s life, with King Ashura finally awakening; if CLAMP are finally ready to play this card, does that mean Tsubasa might actually come to an end one day?