Founded by former Sunrise members who had sworn off the dango, Studio BONES will celebrate its ninth anniversary this year, but in that time, what has it brought us? A quick glance at the studio’s catalogue certainly reveals some strong contenders, but should we assume that everything they touch turns to gold? The only way to find out is to take a closer look at their work.
From the start, RahXephon was accused of being a poor man’s Evangelion (who hasn’t seen the obligatory “Eva vs. RahXephon” thread on numerous anime forums?), but despite the superficial similarities, anyone who made it at least halfway through the series had to admit that there were plenty of differences as well. Although it was perhaps a little confusing and convoluted in its attempts to mix high-concept sci-fi with an extensive cast, RahXephon remains one of those series that keeps you glued to the screen even during those points where you aren’t entirely clear what’s going on. Even the recap movie redeemed itself by adding some new footage and putting a fresh spin on this tale of mecha, romance, time warps and aliens.
Memorable moment: the flashback episode with the mud doll.
Before watching Wolf’s Rain, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure if I’d like it- after all, thirty episodes of “is it Paradise?”, “Well, it’s not the end of the series yet, so it can’t be” did not sound too enthralling. Fortunately, I couldn’t resist the DVD volume one plus artbox, CD and plushie combination, and once I actually got to see the series for myself, I was hooked. I’ll admit that from an objective viewpoint it isn’t perfect (I’m not going to get into those four recap episodes), but nonetheless when watching it, I’m utterly drawn in by this compelling and sometimes heart-wrenching tale. It’s one of the few series that just leaves grinning stupidly at the screen because I’m enjoying it so much.
Memorable moment: The weakened ‘Grandpa’ being hitched to a sled.
Even though my true hope was for a pure fantasy series rather than one with the almost inevitable sci-fi elements, Scrapped Princess was still an enjoyable experience. With its likable cast, nice character designs and solid story, it may not live up to its full potential, but it is still very good.
Memorable moment: Raquel unleashing her magic.
Here is where I have to make a confession- even though I do feel that FMA is a good series, I’m just not inclined to as wholeheartedly sing its praises as practically everyone else. Discounting its slow start, the bulk of the series is solid enough, but it suffers from one major failing- a tendency to poorly mix the flippant and the serious. All too often the series would present some dramatic revelation that should have tugged at the heartstrings, only to ruin the moment by veering off into comedy; if not for this unfortunate tendency, I would rate it much more highly.
Memorable moment: Realising the origin of the Chimera in episode eight.
Kurau Phantom Memory
An unfairly neglected series that wallowed in ADV licensing limbo for over two years before finally being scheduled for release this April, Kurau has inevitably been overlooked by many through no fault of its own. The ultimate evolution of animated sci-fi, Kurau takes everything that was good about Texhnolyze, Zettai Shounen and Stand Alone Complex, and makes it even better; it may look like a simple story about two girls running away from evil researchers, but give it a chance and it will prove to be much more.
Memorable moment: The fate of the unpaired Rynax in episode sixteen.
Ouran High School Host Club
Having proven itself largely adept at more serious material, BONES ventured into comedy in 2006, with the animated version of a ‘reverse harem’ style series about a poor girl attending a school of wealthy student. Although it did sometimes skirt the realms of the tediously repetitive and over-the-top, Ouran’s sheer enthusiasm carried it through even the weaker moments and ensured that the bulk of the series was nothing less than entertaining.
Memorable moment: The carriage chase in the finale.
CLAMP’s venture into the shounen action formula was interesting if a little too fast-paced for its own good in manga form, but when it came to turning it into an anime, the producers took it a little too far in the other direction. By the time five volumes had been stretched across twenty-six episodes, even additional content and character development couldn’t disguise the fact that the pacing was now irritatingly slow in places. With this in mind, even the refreshing reliance on female characters and a lack of the more annoying shounen clichés could make Angelic Layer entirely successful.
Jyu Oh Sei
Although the lush jungle setting briefly made it look promising, Jyu Oh Sei ended up going from weakness to weakness with each passing episode. At first, it was merely a generic and mediocre tale with dislikeable characters and a predictable plot, but unfortunately, worse was in store once the finale rolled around. A painful mixture of pointless plot revelations and cliché action elements, the conclusion was so poor that it not only left a bitter taste in the mouth, but it made the bulk of the series look as excellent as Mushishi in comparison.
To be fair, I only watched one episode of this, so maybe it does improve later on, but after experiencing twenty-five minutes of all-male bathhouse scenes, incomprehensible plot and giant monsters that looked disturbingly like penises, there seemed little point in continuing.
Even on closer inspection, BONES seems worthy of their reputation, but as with most things, they are far from infallible. Given what they’ve already delivered, it isn’t unreasonable to have high expectations for their upcoming works, but it would still be unwise to expect every single thing they produce to hit the mark.