A sweet look at teenage Godhood

There are days when I need a break from angsty dramas, supernatural shows and action series. Granted I thrive on those kinds of anime but even I have a limit!

When I’m in this mode, I like to watch anime that is simple, soothing and slow-paced which would explain why I followed the series, “Kamichu” this year. I actually finished watching the final four episodes last night. It works for me because I simply accepted the premise – a middle school student realizes one day that she is now a god but doesn’t know what her powers are. Her two friends try to help her out. And the seaside town accepts her as a god who happens to still be attending middle school. Go figure.

Bear in mind “Kamichu” relies on viewers knowing something about Shintoism which is Japan’s national religion. In Shintoism, there are numerous spirits called “kami” which in English is usually translated to mean “god”. Those shrines you often see on anime are where worshippers go to pay their respects to a Shinto god.

This unlikely new god is a small teen by the name of Yurie Hitotsubashi who has a huge crush on the sole member of the calligraphy club – a somewhat dense boy called Kenji Ninomiya. The episode where she finally tells him she likes him and nervously holds out a box of handmade Valentine’s Day chocolates while the whole town roots for her is so sweet, ya gotta see it.

The series shows Yurie learning the ropes of her new status by attending the annual conference of gods where she goes through an orientation, getting assistants who funnel requests she can choose to grant and meeting people like the Prime Minister who needs her to deal with an alien stranded in Japan. He’s one of the few devious people in the show.

Most of the folks and spirits living in Yurie’s sleepy town are nice. The resident Shinto god at the local shrine who nurses a passion for singing even gives Yurie pointers. But she had to find him first since he ran away from the shrine for several days

I know some of my guy pals secretly watch “Strawberry Marshmallow” so I recommend this show to them.

Demons Begone!

A relative asked this week when I’ll stop watching anime. My answer? When I’m dead, lady. When I’m dead.

Stumbled onto another show this season which I think I’ll be following. “Shounen Onmyouji” is the tale of Abe no Masahiro, the 13-year-old grandson of the famous Onmyouji, Abe no Seimei. I don’t know much about onmyoujis except they sort of act like sorcerers/astrologers/exorcists to me. Yeah yeah, I looked them up online and I still don’t quite understand the idea of it.

Abe no Seimei did live during the Heian Period in Japan and lots of legends and stories feature him. It’s been said he was the offspring of a human father and a Fox Spirit mother.

In this anime, he’s elderly and grooming his grandson to be his successor via manipulation, guilt and notes meant to drive the kid into a fury. Masahiro has potential but he’s young and most of the spirit summons that aid his grandfather don’t think much of him as the heir. Masahiro himself doesn’t like being referred to as “Seimei’s grandson” which is what a spirit summon named Guren/Touda keeps calling him.

Seimei sealed the boy’s spiritual power at a young age so Masahiro couldn’t see spirits until a devious ploy by grandad allows him access to his powers again. Guren first appears to Masahiro as a rabbit-like creature with long claws, red eyes and weird red tufts around the neck. The kid nicknames him Mokkun which is short for Mononoke-kun. As Guren/Touda, he appears as a shirtless man with a necklace who can hurl fire at enemies. He’s not the love interest, I assure you. So back off, you rabid fangirls!

Masahiro has this crush on Princess Akiko, the daughter of the Minister of Left. She attracts spirits and demons so Seimei puts a barrier around her room and gives her charms.

The animation isn’t that exceptional but the storyline seems interesting so far. And I like the rabbit Mokkun a lot, more so than his human form. I’ve seen up to episode eight and I’m not bored yet.

Things that go bump in the night

Payday! I went into my teenage mode and ran to the anime store where I plunked down cold hard cash to get the latest volume of “D.Grayman”, return tapes then borrow more tapes and DVDs. Lunch? What’s lunch?

I borrowed episodes 7 to 9 of “Death Note” again because I didn’t have enough time last night to watch it. So sorry fellow geeks. The tape is staying with me until Tuesday. Muwahahaha! Muwaha – (coughs and laughs some more)

Anyway, I found a new series and more importantly, it is the supernatural kind. I just love those. In “Ghost Hunt”, high school student Mai Taniyama meets ghost hunter Kazuya Shibuya when he is hired by the principal to investigate an old campus building that has spawned its share of ghostly tales. The principal also hired a shrine maiden, a monk, a famous TV medium and an exorcist from Australia. The school must have some budget.

Shibuya owns Shibuya Psychic Research and uses cameras, heat sensors and other gadgets in his work. He knows he is handsome and smart plus he doesn’t hesitate to point out other people’s shortcomings. Mai nicknames him “Naru” or “Naru-chan” because she thinks he’s a narcissist. Yeah, but our gal has a major crush on Mr. Egotistical Ghost Hunter.

By the end of episode three, Shibuya solves the mystery and shows the viewer he’s not really that unfeeling. Mai also ends up working for him part-time.

The creepy-sounding opening music sets the tone for the show. I’ve only seen three episodes and I think I’ll stick around to see the rest of the series. “Ghost Hunt” isn’t a scary show and Shibuya is about as friendly as an iceberg but I like Mai and I’ve always been a sucker for shows about things that go bump in the night.

Losing one’s cool in LA

I don’t like driving to LA and I especially loathe driving in downtown LA. The one-way streets, the seeming never-ending constructions, drivers who won’t let you change lanes, the parking and the traffic! So I usually take the Metrolink if and when I need to be there.

However, I missed the train by five minutes and the next one wouldn’t arrive until an hour and a half after my appointment. So I drove instead. I should have just called it a day.

The only silver lining to my day was finding parking in Little Tokyo where I later hoped to scout around for new and interesting Pocky and Pretz flavors. I found something called Pretz Salad and an unnamed flavor that had a chicken cartoon on the box. I assumed it was chicken-flavored but I haven’t eaten it yet. The Salad Pretz tasted like a seasoned crouton. Or at least it did as I tensely gripped my steering wheel on the slow drive home.

I had never been so happy to see suburbia. I cheered up considerably after I watched the latest episodes of “Death Note” and “D. Grayman.” I’m beginning to actually like the latter and the episode involving the singing doll was so sad, I had to sniffle. Tissue break!

Anyway, the second season of Hell Girl called “Jigoku Shoujo Futakamori” wasn’t too shabby. Ai’s crew gets a little more air time and the first three episodes were solid. The people who got hauled off to hell deserved it.

Latched onto a new series called “Kekkaishi.” Actually I heard about this from another blogger and was elated when I saw fansubs on the show. The character designs aren’t that great though. The hero looked cuter as a child.

In a nutshell, two families who claim to be the rightful heir to a man who was a famous monster killer are still continuing the family business today. The son and the daughter of each house work at night eliminating the monsters that get attracted to the school campus. The grounds used to belong to a family who attracted monsters/spirits.

So far, it’s entertaining although the humor can be corny at times. And anything that prevents me from reliving my recent trip to LA is welcome fare right now.

The anime teen: saving the world and getting the cute guy

In anime, it’s a given that only a teen can save the world when it’s about to get wiped off the universe. The task usually falls to the most angst-filled or most ordinary teen at the local junior high school. The gender depends on the target audience of the show. Once you get past this convention, just relax and enjoy the series. Unless of course the show stinks.

“Stellvia” relies on this convention. It’s a high school/science fiction anime with a slight mecha flavor to it. Translation: A bunch of teens attending a program at a space station save the world and the two lead characters use a giant robot to do it.

It is 2356 and the sky is no longer blue but green. The reason for the color change? In 2167, a super nova caused an electromagnetic shockwave that nearly destroyed the Earth. The survivors and their descendants have been preparing since then for the second shockwave expected to hit the planet. There’s a subplot involving some alien life forms and their attempts to attack or help humans.

Our heroine is Shima Katase who is a whiz at programming but a dunce at piloting space ships. Her piloting skills improves a great deal later on. We meet her as she is leaving home to enroll at the space program at Stellvia Foundation, one of the floating space stations. She acquires a best friend who christens her “Shipon”.

“Stellvia” isn’t a bad show. The episode where Shima gets to play a ball game using a space ship was nice. Most of the characters are likeable and the CGI is nothing to sneeze at. The only character that got on my nerves was the heroine and not because of her hairstyle which look like two meatballs got stuck on either side of her head.

The problem with Shima is she doubts herself too much and she’s a crybaby. I want so much to shake her and yell: Stop crying. Just stop it! Even one of her friends slaps some sense into her.

Shima and another classmate, Kouta Otoyama, fall in love. His admission that he likes her is followed by a cute kissing scene. The only thing it lacked was a puppy frolicking in the background.

Kouta is the other lead character but we don’t really get to know too much about him. He’s a C student and he has an older sister who runs an observatory. But he’s a special pilot because he’s the only one who can see beyond a certain level in space. Or something to that effect. The graphics for the program that allows him and Shima to do that look like some kid’s game though.

Shima also has this ability but not at Kouta’s level. This sets up some angst-filled moments and yes, more crying on her part. Sigh.

To me, “Stellvia” is like any high school anime out there except it’s set in space and the kids are dealing with a major problem rather than just who to take to the dance. If you have time to look it over, feel free to do so. It’s available on DVDs.

The bonds of brotherhood

What price would you pay to get back someone you love? How far would you go to atone for a mistake?

In “Full Metal Alchemist”, Edward and Alphonse Elric lost their mother when they were still children but they have a plan to bring her back. The brothers live in a country where people use the powers of alchemy in their everyday lives. The Elrics are geniuses when it comes to alchemy where one could transmute things. The concept of equivalent exchange was drilled into them at an early age: Humans cannot gain something without losing something of equal value.

They do a human transmutation but Edward loses a leg in the process. Poor Alphonse loses his body and only the quick thinking of his brother saves his soul. Edward gives up his right arm but manages to affix his sibling’s soul to a suit of armor.

Edward gets fitted with mechanical limbs or automail. A state alchemist named Roy Mustang drops by because of their letters about their long missing father. He plants a seed in their minds when he suggests they apply to become state alchemists. Edward decides to do so but disuades Alphonse so that only he would have to serve as a dog of the military. They learn about the Philosopher’s Stone which they believe can restore Edward’s limbs and Alphonse’s body. Their search for the red stone would test the brothers and pit them against foes both tragic and comic.

I have never read the manga of FMA and have only seen the 51-episode anime and the movie, “Conqueror of Shambala” which is a sequel of sorts to the series. Despite its ending, I consider “Full Metal Alchemist” one of the best series ever created. It makes you think, the characters are complex people and the storyline is amazing. I loved many of the characters and was shocked that one of my favorites was killed. (I won’t say who so as not to spoil the story for y’all.)

Throughout the series, you don’t doubt that the brothers love each other. Sure they have a childhood gal pal, their old teacher and meet new friends. But when the foundation of their world crumbles, all they have is each other. And the Elrics know that. I highly recommend this series.

I wish I could say the same for the movie which I loathed. The movie tied up several loose ends from the TV show but I don’t think it does the series any justice. I didn’t like how some of the main players in the anime were given short shrift here, I thought the villain was one-dimensional and I couldn’t care less about the new characters.

Anyway, skip the movie and just watch the series. You won’t regret it.