Non-anime titles that I reviewed here.

The second version of the main male protagonist.

As mentioned in my previous blog entry, the long-awaited K-Drama anime adaptation Winter Sonata will finally be able to challenge the reigning ‘Anime of the Year 2009’ title holder Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. In fact, in the past I have mentioned that, as I know it, this series and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are the two titles that has the highest probability of kicking Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei off its perch. But if you read my short review of the latter above, you will see that it has failed to do so. Saddled with the romance genre handicap, can Winter Sonata do what One Outs has done; which is overcoming the handicap and scored a perfect score?

And this is the main female protagonist's younger sister.

The main female protagonist has fallen asleep in the bus right next to the main male protagonist, causing both of them to be late for school. From that incident, their relationship turns romantic but tragedy strikes after the main male protagonist died in an accident. One time jump later, the now-older main female protagonist is just about to marry her childhood friend when she sees a man that resembles the deceased main male protagonist roaming the streets of Seoul. From that point on, her engagement disintegrates, as she chased upon the impossible…

Split into three major arc, each of them separated by a time jump, the story in this series is very very good. It doesn’t deviate much from the drama version, if at all. The plot in this series definitely lies in the seinen territory, and the romance is nothing like anything seen in any of the titles mentioned here, or in any comparable J-drama/K-drama titles either. Winter Sonata is truly unique in this regard for it to have an intense overall plot with plenty of twist and turns, not to be watched by those with the faintest of hearts.

The second arc (the longest one) in particular is really great. It has quite a few stunning plot-twists and also has one of the best cliffhangers I have seen for quite some time. The first arc served as the foundation of the main storyline very well, and the final arc is even better; it has a tear-jerking subplot within it that come before the admittedly predictable ending (Seoul would have burned if the ending happened any other way). The director used plenty of flashbacks and monologues to show some unseen scenes that is supposed to have happened in the first arc too to help advance the plots in the second arc.

One of them is the main female protagonist. Can you guess which one of them is? HINT: It's the ruder one.

The only minor problem I have with the presentation of this series (that the drama version doesn’t have) is that the 30-minute format did affect story development in a negative way. A good example of this phenomenon can be seen in the pivotal episode 16, where scene transition problems is easily discernable and the plot progressed too fast and too disjointed for my liking. This happened only in the second arc though, the first and third arc doesn’t suffer from this problem. Some potential subplots are not told fully in this animated version either, such as the Happy/Unhappy dog subplot and the aftermath of the infidelity by the math professor.

Character development is good overall. There are two outstanding characters in this series, which is the main male protagonist and the main female protagonist’s childhood friend. These two really makes the second arc of this series comes alive with their strong performances. The extremely divisive main female protagonist has done well, but not as good as the two aforementioned characters above. Too bad considering that the main storyline actually revolves around her. The side characters (some of them are quite important too) also plays their supporting roles nicely, although their roles diminished when the third arc arrives.

The innocent victim of the main female protagonist's indiscretions.

Character Design:-
Characters adaptation from a real-life drama to an animation series differs depending on their gender. Male characters in this series looks better than their real-life counterparts, while the other way around is true for female characters (with only one or two exceptions). The hair colors completely mimic what you can see in the real-life version, therefore black hairs can be seen aplenty here. A positive aspect for this series.

Voice Acting:-
This anime adaptation uses the same actors/actresses that also acted in the real-life version of the drama. Therefore quality is going to be as good as it can be. There are no outstanding character(s) here though. Sometimes there are some exaggeration though when certain characters tried to become overly romantic, but this should not be a blot upon the otherwise extremely good voice-acting gigs in this series. Another positive aspect for this series.

The piano-dominated OST used also in the drama version is very good. So are the inserts and the OP/ED themes, all recycled from the drama version. The director sure doesn’t take any risks, and just used what have worked in the past. Another positive aspect for this series.

The main male protagonist has died in this scene as shown by these gizmos…

…but in the bereavement scene that comes right after his death, the same gizmos shows that the main male protagonist being healthy and stuff. One of the screw-ups by the director.

The only blip of this series. While general non-character animations is quite good in this series (inclusive of fast-paced scenes), you cannot say the same thing about the character animations. Lip-sync problems are common, where the characters’ mouth can be seen stopping/moving when the dialogue is still playing/stopped. There are some good falling snow effects though, which is pretty much understandable just by looking at the series title.

Choreography is non-existent in this kind of story. Meanwhile, the director has this weird tendency to use rapid-switching camera angles when showing static scenes. That probably will work in real-life filming but I am not really sure it does in animation. Apart from that, the directing is pretty much spotless.

9 out of 10.
Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei managed to keep the ‘Anime of the Year 2009’ title by the virtue of the fact that Winter Sonata was saddled by the romance genre handicap. Is there any 2009 anime in my queue that is better than Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei? Is the second season of Haruhi Suzumiya better than it?

Proof that love is really not fair.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/prgSo-im

One of the two best characters in this series, Sokka and the main title protagonist, Avatar.

As mentioned in the last review, this entry will be special because it is the review of all 3 seasons of Nickelodeon’s Avatar – The Last Airbender instead of the typical Japanese anime I reviewed here most of the time. Japan could learn a thing or two from this series, of which will be explained more below. Comparisons will be inevitable of course.

The main protagonist, not even trying to save his comrades.

Our hero Avatar Aang emerged from an iceberg where he was frozen for 100 years just to find out that the world is periled by the threats of the Fire Nation. Alongside the two siblings that freed him from the iceberg, he went ahead to a journey to save the world.

The story is not exactly a masterpiece, and it is safe to say that it is just a typical ‘saving the world from evil’ plot that you can see from many comparable titles, either from Japan or even America. The difference that sets this cartoon apart from others is that Nickelodeon is doing what Gainax has done to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and that will be the excellent presentation of a well-polished ‘ordinary’ storyline, aided with great pacing and character developments.

I will put my commentary about the directing here instead of the relevant section below, because the directors (it seems there are a few of them here) utilize good scripts (you should see some of the witty/humorous dialogues this cartoon has), innovative camera angles and managed to maintain good transitions between scenes. They are just some of the factors that contribute to the excellent presentation this cartoon has. With the exception of the first half of the 3rd season, this cartoon also has good pacing that allows the story to flow naturally from the start to the end. This is really apparent in the second season, which is the best from the three.

The best characters in this series, Prince Zuko and Sokka.

Characters’ development is where this cartoon really shines, especially with the major characters. Sokka and Prince Zuko are two characters that stand out from the rest, eclipsing even the main protagonist. You can see each and every character evolves from the start of the series until the end, aided by multiple development strategies used by storywriters and the directors, and this is one thing where Japan can learn from America. Not even Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann can touch this series when it comes to character developments.

For the weaknesses of this series, unlike Gainax, Nickelodeon did not really do anything to eliminate or moderate the clichés that can be associated with this genre. It (the clichés) is a double-edge sword, while it gives birth to excellent characters like Sokka and Prince Zuko, it also caused the storyline to become very predictable, filled with recycled scenes/plots that you can see being used in older but similar titles in this genre. This also affects the ending that becomes so predictable; you should be able to see what will happen even from midway of the first season.

Well, at least this cartoon does not have any emo characters here. That will always be a plus.

Our main antagonist with his followers. Also one of the best characters in this series.

Character Design:-
The character design in this cartoon is pretty decent. Influenced by Far East themes, but do not have many black hairs. This is forgivable though, because of the fantasy setting this cartoon has.

Our obligatory female companion for our world-saving hero.

Voice Acting:-
The voice acting in this cartoon is excellent, with the main protagonist, Sokka and Prince Zuko being outstanding. My complaint will be directed towards average voices for many of the female characters, which do not match their output of their male counterparts.

Our obligatory funny sidekick. Also one of the best characters in this series.

This cartoon does not really have themes, but the OST is somewhat decent though.

All world-saving heroes will need at least one pet that will help bail the hero and his companions when they are in a pinch. This is one of them. Fortunately, none of the pets speaks.

The animation in this cartoon is good even in fast-paced scenes, but I can’t help but notice that the quality seems to decrease as the series went on. It wasn’t anything serious though. For the choreography, this is the 2nd thing where Japan can learn from America for sure. The choreography in Avatar is simply out of this world, you won’t see any of the action scenes of this quality here in any of the Japanese anime out there, at least the ones that I have saw. One anime that may be similar to Avatar is Claymore, but they are not exactly close in quality. The concepts of nature elements in Avatar is simpler when compared to the nen system in Hunter X Hunter for example, but the execution is vastly superior, the action being more fluid, elaborate and very fast, plus the techniques are more realistic, intense and beautiful. And do not compare Avatar to Naruto, the difference is like heaven and hell.

My comments for the directing has already being addressed above.

No show will be complete without a recurring character that will make a complete joke of himself whenever he appears.

9 out of 10.
America needs to come with more titles like this one. More Spongebob Squarepants will also be accepted.

One of the funniest scenes in this series (early in season 2), you have to watch it to understand.Some of the entries at Peter’s Evil Overlord List apply here.

Will we get to see him in the future?

Today’s mini-review is a change from previous usual ones because this is a review of the live-action version of Initial D, featuring Jay Chou and also one of the last movies that feature Edison Chen. This is another hi-def movie, and the album for this can be found here.

Hi-def marvels allows you to see more details than ever before. Even skin pores can be easily visible.

What applies in my previous Initial D review also applies here, although it covers only the parts up to second season. Two whole seasons condensed into one and a half-hour movie, resulting in removal of some elements of the original storyline that can be mind-numbing. For example, Keisuke did not exist, Itsuki is a fat-ass drop-out, the gas station has a hot attendant and more.

Despite the alterations, the movie is still awesome. Jay Chou managed to carry the shy Takumi character very well, and I think there are times where he is overdoing it to the extent where I think Takumi has some mental disease or something. That isn’t a bad thing, just so you know. Edison Chen has little airtime, even the revamped and luckier Itsuki has more of it. And that’s the bad thing here.

Character development is obvious only for Jay Chou and his dad, with everyone else can almost be described as decorations. The ending is a mixture of the first and second season endings, with Jay Chou victorious at the end. Only that, he loses his (super hot) girlfriend unlike the manga/anime version. Whoops, is that a spoiler?

Natsumi is HOT, a far cry than that sorry excuse for a woman in the manga/anime version.

Character Design:-
This does not apply here because this is live-action movie. But Natsumi is HOT, unlike the anime/manga version. So are Edison Chen and to the lesser extent, Jay Chou.

Unlike Steamboy, dark scenes (there’s a lot of them) in this movie is actually watchable.

Voice acting:-
Also did not apply here. But the acting in general is decent I think, especially Edison Chen. The only problem you have is to believe that people in Akina speaks Cantonese instead of Japanese.

Imported from the anime version:- Censorship of plate numbers.

No m.o.v.e. tracks here, so in this aspect the anime is superior than this movie. It has a couple of good Jay Chou songs though, if Cantopop is your thing.

But in key scenes like this, the plate number is visible. I wonder why the movie company even bother doing it in the first place.

This isn’t an animation, but being a hi-def movie, the details are spectacular. The directing is not that good unfortunately. Overuse of that stuttering camera shots ruins the presentation of this movie, but camera angles in some of the racing scenes are excellent.

A shot of that famous ‘gutter’ overtaking manoeuvre.

8 out of 10.
If you are a fan and can stomach the missing/altered details, you should give this a spin. Hint: Get the hi-def version, you will like it immensely.

That cheesy scene that has been parodied by Izumi Konata is also here.