In the realm of darkness

Vampires, ghosts and things that go bump in the night remain a staple of anime since there’s always an audience for shows about the supernatural.

One that’s readily available on DVD is “Requiem from the Darkness.” Set in the end of the Edo period, Momosuke is a young man who wants to be a writer and travels collecting ghostly tales he hopes to include in a book called “100 Stories”.

He meets Mataichi the Karmic Enforcer, Ogin the Puppeteer and Nagamimi the Bird Caller Mataichi is a short man sporting bandages, Ogin is a beautiful woman and Nagamimi is a huge man who towers over his companions. But there is more to this group than meets the eye. The trio actually rout out those who commit crimes and thought they got away with it. Judgement is pronounced on the sinner.

Momosuke becomes entangled with the trio and sometimes get in their way to his cost.

The show’s look is unusual, almost stylized. Other characters are crudely rendered as if they don’t matter. The settings and the backgounds get the same treatment too during the series giving the impression that Momosuke is in a nightmare world. And perhaps he is.

It’s not meant to make you scream or shiver. And not all of the episodes are good but the series works for the most part. I don’t think the opening and closing songs fit the show but that’s just minor quibbling on my part.

The show deals with themes like incest, prostitution and torture. Definitely not for kids.

The demon within

You are a brilliant surgeon in a big German hospital with a great career ahead of you. Your fiancee is the hospital director’s daughter. There’s talk of you becoming the department head. Your patients love you and most of your colleagues envy you. But fate has something terrible in store for you.

In “Monster”, Dr. Kenzo Tenma’s decision to operate on a wounded boy rather than the mayor has consequences he never imagined. He loses his job, his fiancee and gets accused of murder.

SPOILER ALERT. The boy, Johan, is actually a serial killer. He survives the operation and continues killing. His victims include the hospital director and the new department head. Years later, Dr. Tenma gets blamed for their deaths along with several others. He goes on the run. Tenma searches for Johan to kill him while trying to elude authorities especially one persistent detective. Along the way, he meets the young man’s twin sister who has lost her memory and the people who “helped” in Johan’s upbringing. I won’t reveal anything more but let’s just say the Cold War created twisted men with twisted ideas.

Hands down, “Monster” is the best anime I’ve seen recently. The writing is wonderful, the characters are complex and the animation fits the tone and mood of the show. It is a psychological thriller and the mystery of Johan’s origin slowly unravels throughout the 74-episode series. Tenma the fugitive encounters decent folks, crooks with some good in them still and the truly depraved. The world in “Monster” isn’t black and white but shades of gray.

The only complaint I have is that the show keeps Tenma heroic and pure despite of what he goes through. One can almost predict his actions.

Some folks might think the show slow, boring and will say that it’s just mostly people talking. To each his own I say.

The manga is available now in the U.S but I don’t think the anime has been licensed yet.

Tripping the light craptastic

Now that “Blood +” and “Ouran High School Host Club” have ended I went in search of new anime to watch. I ran across “School Rumble” which is one of those school/romance anime.

While I wasn’t wowed by the initial six episodes, I still borrowed the rest of the series and even the two OVAs out of some misbegotten sense of responsibility that one should finish what one started.

I’m seriously convinced that I’ve been dropped on my head as a baby. Why else would I waste four days straight watching this sorry excuse for an anime that supposedly was such a big hit in Japan? The second season just ended too. I’m not stupid enough to watch a second season of this tripe.

Not only are the characters drawn like any ho-hum anime, the story is the typical convoluted love polygon in this genre. The female lead, a clueless girl named Tenma Tsukamoto loves Ooji Karasuma, a poker-faced boy with a bowl haircut. She just can’t seem to confess her affection to him.

The class delinquent is the male lead. Kenji Harima loves Tenma but misunderstandings, circumstances and other people including Tenma ruin his declarations of love. There’s an assorted cast of characters that have their own love dilemmas. Two other girls also like Harima.

But after 26 episodes there’s still no resolution on who ends up with whom. Then they drag it out to another season. I hear there’s going to be a third season.

This show needs to be put to the torch. I hate love polygons especially if they keep dragging them out. The other side stories are boring as well. The style of the animation doesn’t help pull this from the mediocre pile nor does the music. I regret spending a dime renting this. I’m such a baka (“stupid” in Japanese).