Brothers in arms

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OK OK so it’s been ages since I last posted. I’ve been on vacation (whine whine) and was out of the country too. Don’t ask where. Suffice it to say I won’t be back there.

Anyway, I’ve been watching this new anime called “Persona – trinity soul” which apparently is based on a video game. The show is set in Ayanagi City and happens 10 years after the last game. Our protagonists are three brothers who seem to lack the gene for expressing love. This trio of cold fishes are Ryo Kanzato who heads the local police department, his high school-aged brother Shin and their youngest sibling Jun. They had a sister, Yuki, who was Jun’s twin but something happened and she’s no longer with them. Ditto their parents.

I’ve only seen up to episode three and the show still hasn’t explained if Yuki died or was kidnapped or got vaporized. Since I never played the game, I’m reduced to getting my info solely from the show.

In the first episode, Ryo gets summoned to check out a submersible where the crew vanished. At the same time, his two younger brothers return home after several years of living with another relative. He doesn’t seem to relish seeing his brothers again.

There’s a mystery with a capital M going on. People are disappearing. Folks have been found dead and turned inside out. There’s a group of folks who seem to be grabbing certain young people and pulling out what looks to be their souls. Ryo keeps things from his own men much to the chagrin of one cop who thinks he’s up to something. Ryo, who is as friendly as an iceberg to his siblings and underlings, possesses some sort of power that launches a transparent giant robot thingy that saves one of the kidnapped girls and slashes some giant alien thingy that comes out of the kidnapper.

At his new high school Shin hears about “shadow extraction” and sees students doing such a feat on others. He passes out after a classmate, Takuro Sakakiba, and he managed to pull out these giant robots from each other. It seems these robot things are called Personas.

Interesting that the robots look like the models Shin possesses and even dreams about.

Little Jun is weird in his own right, He keeps a dress of his missing twin with him and behind locked doors, Ryo overhears him talking to a girl.

There’s some trouble brewing at a local karaoke bar when Shin and his classmates run into a group of young punks.

The show is interesting so far.

Star-crossed lovers

Anime isn’t restricted to shows about magical pre-teens with pink hair and cutesy sidekicks. It deals with a wide range of subject matter and uses a variety of animation styles. And yes, there are dreck shows as there are gems out there.

Since I burned out on shows featuring giant robots and spaceships as a child, I seldom watch mecha anime or anything that remotely looks mecha. But sometimes I make exceptions especially if the mecha elements do not overwhelm the entire story.

One of my favorite anime guys is Makoto Shinkai who created “Voices of a Distant Star” which every anime fan should see at least once. i-bd3e0534eec6e1d4ea7e3671fbf6f308-voices.jpg

It is the story of two young lovers separated literally by time and space. Shinkai used his Macintosh to create the anime. The character designs aren’t so hot but the story and the background are wonderful.

Cell phone messages sent between the main characters, Mikako Nagamine and Noboru Terao, play a big role in the story. Yeah, it’s a stretch to believe that a cell phone company would have such a coverage plan but let’s just go with the flow, shall we?

The two last saw each other in middle school. War breaks out between Earth and a group of aliens called Tarsians. Mikako joins the UN forces and learns to fight the Tarsians using a giant robot. Somehow she still wears the same uniform from school. Whatever. She misses Noboru and experiences these moments where you know she’s either dreaming or hallucinating.

Because Mikako is traveling light years away, she ages slower than Noboru and her messages takes years to reach him. He tries to hang on then gives in to the inevitable. He meets a girl called Wakana and it’s hinted that he goes out with her in high school. The manga version further elaborates on this relationship.

Then like a bucket of cold water, he receives a message from Mikako who we last see is in a firefight with the enemy. Lysithea, the spaceship that carries her and the others, is damaged. Her last message ends in static.

Noboru drops out of high school and joins the space armada in the hopes of reuniting with Mikako.

The manga’s ending is more satisfying since it has Mikako scanning a list of people who joined the armada and seeing Noboru’s name.

This is a tear jerker of a show and could be too much of a chick flick for some guys. But give it a try. You might like it. Then give Shinkai’s other works a look. The man knows how to tell a story.

One Wacky Gal

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Bandai will be releasing volume one of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” on May 29. I highly recommend this 14-episode series which is based on a series of novels. It’s very funny.

The heroine, Haruhi Suzumiya, is smart, athletic but easily bored. She introduces herself in her high school class as someone who only wants to deal with aliens, time travelers and folks with ESP. She forms a club at school, the SOS Brigade, and recruits – actually strong-arms – others into joining. The members include Haruhi’s sensible classmate Kyon who gets dragged into her hare-brained adventures, placid Yuki Nagato the lone member of another club whose club room Haruhi takes over and the bosomy Mikuru Asahina who becomes their mascot gal much to her distress. Itsuki Koizumi is the only one who willingly joins. Haruhi zeroes in on him because he fits the bill of “the mysterious transfer student.”

I won’t spoil the series by revealing why Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki stay in this club whose goal is to “bring more excitement to the world.” Actually the club exists to keep Haruhi from being bored. Let me put it this way. The world is a much better place if Haruhi is kept entertained. That’s how special she is.

She’s relentless in getting her own way. Watch how she uses Mikuru to snag a computer from the computer club next door. Haruhi also believes in action hence the swift kick to the head she gives the computer club president when he later issues the club a challenge.

The SOS Brigade’s contribution to the school culture fest is a movie featuring the adventures of Mikuru as a girl with super powers. Narrated and later edited by poor overworked Kyon, the film makes no sense and looks murky to boot. It’s actually a very funny send up of those anime shows about magical girls with mysterious origins.

“The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” aired last year in Japan and soon became a fan favorite. I like the show because it’s hilarious, doesn’t drag and Haruhi is such a colorful character. My favorite character is Kyon whose real name is never mentioned in the show. Kyon is the nickname his little sister gave him which everybody now uses. He often gets exasperated with Haruhi and his side comments and inner thoughts make a perfect counterpart to her energetic declarations and crazy plans.

Bandai’s Web site on the show is http://asosbrigade.com

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 grim future

Here’s something for the science fiction crowd. Geneon will release the first volume of “Ergo Proxy” on Nov. 21 which contains episodes one to four.

Geneon was promoting the show to the anime crowd this summer at the Anime Expo in Anaheim and even had a model dressed as the lead character. If you saw her, she was the one in the black-and-brown semi-leather outfit posing with a futuristic weapon.

I first heard about “Ergo Proxy” earlier this year from a friend who raved about it. So I watched the first four episodes and wasn’t interested enough to rent the rest.

The character designs and the backgrounds are done well although I don’t understand why the lead character, Re-l Mayer, wears makeup that makes her look like a raccoon. My friend insists the show is deep because it has a lot of references to the work of a famous science fiction author and a philosopher.

The story takes place in Romdeau, a future domed utopia of sorts where robots and humans live and work together. The head of the government keeps a close eye on everything and he answers to a group that is the actual power behind the throne.

But there are cracks in this society. The powers-that-be fear the awakening of something. Re-l Mayer is a detective from the Civilian Intelligence Office called in to investigate a murder. At her apartment, she is attacked by a deformed entity that is powerful. A second figure appears in the apartment and I guess saves her because our heroine survives.

The viewer is also introduced to a low-level citizen of Romdeau who gets tangled in these events and ends up outside the domed city. There is life outside Romdeau but you won’t get to see that in episodes one to four. There’s a lot of hinting in these episodes and if you don’t buy the premise of the show, you won’t stick around long enough to see what all the mystery was about.

Still dizzy from Noein

The story revolves around a twelve-year old girl named Haruka and her friend Yuu who one day meet a member of the Dragon Calvary named Karasu.

Karasu is the all around though guy with tremendous battle prowess, brave as lion, quiet as a mouse, and to top it all off, undying love for Haruka (you will find out why later).

Karasu has been sent from 15 years into the future, through time and space by the dimension of Lacryma, which is in fierce battle with the dimension Shangri-LA, to find the Dragon Torque, a powerful yet mysterious object that could save humanity.

As the story evolves more characters are introduced but not too many that you cant keep track of them all. Especially because some of them are the same person, just in a different dimension.

The real headache starts when the dimensions start to converge and the computer wiz character known as Toby attempts to explain the problem using real quantum physics lingo. Call your physics professor, get a dictionary, and be prepared to hit the rewind button more than once if you really want to get the hang of whats going on. I say if because, although it was interesting to me, it is not crucial to understand it all. All you need to know is this: one dimension alone = good, two dimensions mixing = bad, very bad.

Although the story in this series flows very nice, it isnt all perfect. My main issue is the source of Harukas power. She can travel through time almost at will by virtue of the Dragon Torque that is herself? Or is it the necklace that appears and disappears whenever she uses her power? I just dont know, and there is no explanation given.

Also I was very distracted and even annoyed by some of the characters. Yuu, for example does nothing but whine about how he cant do anything at all! It isnt until the very last episode that he finally shows some traces of courage which Karasu (who is Yuu from the future) if so full of. Some of Harukas friends I could have also done without as they do nothing to move the story along, and if the intent was comic relief, they missed their mark as well.

So, unless you want to increase your vocabulary with words youll only use while having a casual chat with Stephen Hawkins about the latest news in Theoretical Physics, I would suggest you skip this one and catch up on all those Naruto episodes you havent watched yet.