Weekly Round-Up: April 13th

Exclusive footage of new Evangelion movie revealed.

This week on the Round-Up- flying horses, numerous spring series picked up, and the first casualty from the new season! Which series was dropped after only its second episode? It shouldn’t be too hard to work out, but click the more tag anyway- you know you want to.

Reviewed this week: Aria the Natural 22-3, Bokurano 1, Claymore 2, Darker than Black 1, Cazador 1, Hitohira 2, Koutetsu Sangokushi 1, Murder Princess 1, Romeo X Juliet 1, SaiMono 39, 2-1, Sakura Taisen NY 1, Seirei no Moribito 1, Winter Cicada 1

…and in manga: Gunslinger Girl 5, School Rumble 220, NHK 36, xxxHOLiC 10.5


Aria the Natural 22-3: Even as Spring 2007 gets underway, a Spring 2006 series still lingers, although when it’s something as good as Aria, it’s worth the wait. That being said, these two episodes are somewhat weaker entries into the series’ line-up; first up, we have a double story episode which sees President Aria slip through a gap in the stairs and end up in a gender reversed world, whilst back in the original world, Akatsuki’s brother relates a story about how young Akatsuki believed himself to be an artificial human and protector of justice. The gender reversal story was interesting (with poor President Aria finally finding friendship with President Hime, albeit a very male President Hime), but unfortunately it was somewhat spoiled by the VAs’ general lack of ability to sound like members of the opposite sex- and even if they couldn’t manage that, it would have been interesting to have reversed their personalities as well. The Akatsuki story fared worse, however, painting Akatsuki as a rather bizarre and annoying child, even if he does have an attractive mother.

Episode 23 is more typical Aria fare, in which a crotchety old man tries to arrange for his wife to see the Wedding to the Sea, causing the undines to attempt to help him- once again, this wasn’t bad, but it lacked some of the charm and appeal that Aria usually exudes by the bucketful. Don’t be put off by this criticism, though- Aria on a bad day is better than most shows at their best, and I’m certainly not going off the series at this stage.

*NEW* Bokurano 1: Given how much I love the Bokurano manga, it was with mixed feelings that I approached Gonzo’s adaptation (especially after learning that episode one only covered chapter one), but happily this first episode did not disappoint. It’s too early to really tell how the series is going to turn out as a whole, but aside from some slight disappointments such as Kokopelli sounding more like a dazed and fuzzy old man than the cool and detached personality I had imagined, this was a solid beginning to a series that will hopefully break the trend of Gonzo manga adaptations. Then again, with the manga still unfinished, we can guarantee that they will have to invent their own ending, which is hardly comforting.

Claymore 2: After the oddly appealing first episode, Claymore loses some steam in its second instalment, which is basically one big exposition bonanza as Raki and the viewers who didn’t look up spoilers on wikipedia learn a few of the dark secrets of the Claymores. When Clare is sent to destroy a Claymore who is about to be overtaken by her Yoma blood, Raki demonstrates yet more of the irritating naïveté that clarifies just why he should have been left behind, whilst a creepy man lurks in the background to forward the plot and provide explanations where needed.

*NEW* Darker than Black 1: Sometimes a series comes along that just immediately draws you in, and with just one episode, Darker than Black has proven to be one such series. With the blood of Wolf’s Rain pounding in its veins, and DNA injections from Kurau and Witch Hunter Robin, Darker than Black is a compelling tale of a world where the appearance of Hell’s Gate has somehow created the mysterious Contractors, humans with supernatural powers. Although it is hard to pinpoint just why, this is the kind of the episode that makes you want to immediately purchase the entire series on DVD, with everything from the OP animation to the music (which is far from Yoko Kanno’s best work, but still fits the series well) coming together right from the start.

Sometimes, there’s not enough time to do it slowly.

*NEW* El Cazador de la Bruja 1: Bee Train’s long-promised third girls with guns series is here, and this time around our HARD YURI pairing is the cheerful yet skilled bounty hunter Nadi (who’s more of a Madlax than a cold Mireille or stoic Layla) and amnesiac girl with special powers Ellis (it’s Nei, Margaret and Kirika all in one). There’s also an evil megane scientist, a masked brother of Friday Monday (Saturday Tuesday?), a detective and his attendant loli in this generally uninspiring start, which proved good for parody but as yet not so worthy in terms of actual content. Also, aside from the ‘action track’, the music has yet to ensnare me, although it is interesting to hear something a little different from Kajiura.

*DROPPED* Hitohira 2: Last week, it seemed so promising, but then I went ahead and watched the raw for episode two, and all the fears I’d had before watching episode one returned in full force. As we discover this episode, there are actually two drama clubs (or rather one drama club and one drama research society), and whichever one puts on the best play at the culture festival gets to stay, whilst the other faces dissolution. Unfortunately, from hereon it all becomes rather pedestrian, with lots of standing around and talking, and a predictably dull scene in which our lead struggles with her ever-present stage fright during an early rehearsal. I know I’ll just regret wasting my time if I continue onwards, so I may as well get out early.

*NEW* Koutetsu Sangokushi 1: Everyone’s favourite era in Chinese history is back, and this time there’s a new spin on the Three Kingdoms with this tale that sees a bishie Zhuge Liang send Lu Xun to infiltrate Wu, presumably in search of Lord’s Head Cube that Sun Ce murdered Lu’s father to obtain (Sun Ce himself dies in the first episode despite featuring prominently in the character chart. With an effeminate Sun Quan and Cao Cao, and some laughably parody-worthy action scenes, this may not be the best of series, but like a guilty pleasure, I cannot help enjoying it.

*NEW* Murder Princess 1: Bee Train attempting an action series- do my ears deceive me? Apparently not, for they have indeed provided us some action in Murder Princess, although every moment of battle is paid for by a pan across a still. Unfortunately, novel as this may seem, it also comes with a most underwhelming plot which sees a princess flee her castle after an evil scientist and his minions attack, only to end up swapping bodies with a bounty hunter who decides to slaughter everything in sight and take the country for herself. With its ugly supporting characters and messy plot, this would have already been dropped if it was a TV series, but as an OVA, it seems just about worth pursuing.

*NEW* Romeo X Juliet 1: To reiterate what everyone else has already said about RxJ, this is one series that barely needs ‘Whilliam’ Shakespeare’s original play, instead choosing to weave its own tale of the aerial city Neo Verona, where Romeo is the son of city ruler Montague and Juliet is the cross-dressing warrior of Justice who can magically hide most of her hair in order to pass as young man Odin. Despite the variations, inclusions of characters from other Shakespeare plays and even the appearance of Shakespeare himself, RxJ has actually got off to quite an enjoyable start, with the flying horses providing extra appeal.

*RENEWED* Saiunkoku Monogatari 39 [end]+s2.1: SaiMono has been an excellent series throughout, and it ends on a high note here as Shuurei enjoys a party at the archives with the other named characters. It’s a touching conclusion that reminds us of how far everyone has come since the beginning, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to put SaiMono aside just yet, as season two is already here. Kicking off with a light-hearted episode that sees Shuurei frantically try to clean up her home before Sai Rin and Yuushun come over for dinner, season two promises cleaner animation and an equally worthy story, although I would have liked the novelty of the new OP music (even so, I must know who the white-haired bishie in the video is). I must also thank Impz at this point, as his excellent summaries will prove invaluable as I make my way through the raws for season two.

*NEW* Sakura Taisen New York 1: Sakura Taisen has always been a staple in my light entertainment line-up, and so it was that I could hardly resist the latest OVA, which moves the action to New York and sees a fresh team of characters go up against an evil force that I like to call “Egypt Man”. Despite the use of ugly CG and the laughable weakness of Egypt Man, this is a surprisingly painless episode- these newcomers may not live up to the original Imperial Flower Troupe, but they can still offer twenty-four minutes of light fun.

*NEW* Seirei no Moribito 1: Sometimes setting is everything, and indeed, SnM (not to be confused with S&M) has such beautifully drawn backdrops that the rest could almost be non-existent and it would still be worth watching. Fortunately, there is more to the series than just the backdrops, however, with our lead, ‘Period Motoko’, being engaged as a bodyguard to the prince. Despite the unattractive Otogi Zoshi-esque character designs, this is a solid opening episode, which promises a standard if enjoyable series. Expect parody of this series to begin soon.

*NEW* Winter Cicada 1: Although I was initially intrigued by the Meiji setting, I was initially going to pass over this one- until I realised the HARD GAY content was perfect for a parody. The tale of a man defying the beliefs of his clan to learn English and support the admission of foreigners into the country (whilst falling in love with the guy who teaches him English), Winter Cicada isn’t particularly good when taken on its own merits, but as parody fodder, it does nicely.


Gunslinger Girl 5: I’ve often praised Gunslinger Girl before, and it’s time to do it again as they series moves into its fifth volume (I know I already covered the first chapter of this volume before, but it’s easiest here to consider the entire thing). Although the girls are still very much in evidence, the prime focuses of this volume are bomb maker Franca/Caterina and assassin Pinocchio. Both of them have clashed with the leads before, and it says something about the quality of this series that it can elevate these two from mere antagonists to fully developed characters who the reader can fully sympathise with, despite the conflict of interest this causes. A recommended read for everyone.

School Rumble 220: With Tougou well in the lead in the campaign to become class president, 2-C decides to alter Hanai’s image, causing Mikoto to see something new in him. If you think that means Mikoto x Hanai is imminent, though, there seems to be little fear of that thanks to the usual last page partial reset.

*DROPPED* Welcome to the NHK 36: I’m glad I never started buying this manga now, because all trace of what made it good has long disappeared. In this chapter, Satou goes off on another pointless and delusion rant, whilst Misaki almost sleeps with that hikikomori guy she helped (his name escapes me). There’s a continuing air of endlessness to the series, and so I’ve decided to get out now, as it really isn’t going anywhere, and it is probably only going to get more crazy and pointless from now on.

xxxHOLiC vol 10, chapter 5: Last time on xxxHOLiC, Watanuki fell out of a second floor window, but fear not, readers, for the main character’s life has unexpectedly been saved! After waking up in Yuuko’s shop, Watanuki learns that Doumeki, Himawari and Syaoran-real all paid the price to save him (exactly why Syaoran-real would want to do this beyond plot convenience is thus far unknown), with Doumeki giving up the blood needed to save him, and Himawari carrying his scars. Meanwhile, the truth about Himawari is revealed, which somewhat disappointingly turns out to be the simple fact that she brings misfortune to everyone close to her for some unknown reason.

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