perfect score

Anime titles that managed to wring out a 10 out of 10 rating from me.

The main male protagonist.

Today’s post is for my review of an excellent 2006 anime, titled Welcome to the NHK (has nothing related to that TV station). This anime has a  great chance to topple Chocotto Sister off the throne of being the best 2006 anime I have watched, so read on to find out whether this anime has really done so or not.

The absolute sum of the relationship between the three main characters in this anime.

Our main male protagonist is a hikikomori, one who are paranoid, perverted and has a very fertile imagination. He then meets the main female protagonist, who offered him a way out from his hikikomori ways via counseling. Meanwhile, his junior from the high school is prodding him to make a dating simulation game together and he also meets with a couple of other characters from his high school years.

Just like Urusei Yatsura, this anime is powered by the immense character strength of the main male protagonist. He is not as good as Moroboshi Ataru is, but he is not far behind. His complex relationships with the main female protagonist and also his junior is one of the major essence of this anime. Plus, his overworked imagination is a plot device that helps him immensely at advancing the storyline (more of the story later) and also helps in character developments. Speaking about character developments, this anime has done very well in this aspect, especially for the three major characters shown in the screenshot below. And of course, the main male protagonist is the best character of them all, but his sidekick, which is his junior from high school, is not that bad either.

The three idiots that falls prey to a dubious MLM scheme.

Unlike Urusei Yatsura, this anime actually has a good story behind it. The story starts slow for the first one-third of the anime, but the pace picks up after that. Storyline development is perfect, with seamless transitions between the major story arcs. There are some references to video games/anime/idols here and there, but not as many as the ones in Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. There are also plenty of humor in this anime, but personally I do not think that they are any good, therefore depriving this anime a potential positive point. The story  essentially belongs to the slice-of-life genre, with some romance of course. I personally likes the arc that contains the chain of events that precedes the final departure of the main male protagonist’s junior back to his hometown to take over the family farm, because that arc is simply magnificent. The junior has to make many important decisions that will affect his future, and he took every success and failure in his stride. That arc, I contend, is just as good as the first arc in Clannad. At that point, I have already decided that this anime will take over from Chocotto Sister and become the best 2006 anime I have watched, but alas, the fatal flaw of  this anime suddenly surfaced.

The fatal flaw I mentioned is the ending story arc, which is too predictable and cliché-laden. Coming off after such an excellent arc that is mentioned above, the ending suddenly seems very mediocre. And this applies even when I think that the plot in the last arc is simply the natural extension of the story behind the relationship between the two main protagonists. I don’t really mind the suicide plot device actually, but using the main male protagonist’s senior from the literature club as a catalyst of the arc seems out of place. In hindsight, while the ending is not the worst I have ever seen, coming off right after the best arc in the anime is really an unfortunate event.

The main male protagonist and his high school junior sidekick, in happy and sad times. IMHO, their relationship is more significant than the one between the main male protagonist and the main female protagonist.

Character Design:-
Character designs in this anime is good, with plenty of black hairs around. The ones who doesn’t have it obviously has dyed their hair (or just being old or something). I have a feeling that they (the designs) are realistic, but it isn’t at the same time. Definitely a positive point for this anime.

I would!

Voice acting:-
Voice acting in this anime are done very well, and that is what should happen in this dialogue-heavy anime. The three major characters have done very well, with the junior sidekick and the main female protagonist standing out from the rest (of the admittedly small cast). Also a positive point of this anime.

The OST in this anime is good and has plenty of decent insert songs. But only the 2nd OP theme is good.

A parody of a quite famous MMORPG…

…which takes place at the region where I live in! IIRC, there are no medieval castles anywhere near my house, as portrayed in the game though.

The animation quality in this anime is good, even in fast-paced scenes. Choreography in this anime is almost non-existent. The directing is flawless, with the exception of the execution of the ending arc.

A powerful plot twist that happened in that MMORPG arc, the one that even I have failed to anticipate. Have to be seen to be believed.

10 out of 10,
but Chocotto Sister will still hold on to the ‘Anime of the Year 2006’ title for the time being. The next three anime titles that I will watch are the ones aired this year; after all, 2009 is drawing to a close.

Tissues, a prop that our main male protagonist used a lot in this anime.

Our confused main protagonist.

My second review in 2 days (may be the last for quite some time) is for another series in my back-log, titled Bounen no Xamdou. This 2008 title is the biggest challenge for the current Anime of the Year 2008 incumbent Wolf and Spice, but it failed just a teeny-weeny bit short. This is a unique anime in its own right, which may actually put off some viewers that has certain expectations normal for the genre this anime is in. Still, while breaking some of my pre-conceptions I have when loading the first episode, this anime is actually very, very good.

In a modern fictional setting, the world where this anime is set is in a war between the northern and southern part of the world. Our main male protagonist that lives in an island in the southern territory, is late going to school when suddenly a suicide bomber blew the bus he is in. As if in cue, the northern army suddenly decided to attack the island too using some kind of mysterious monsters that destroyed everything in its path. During the explosion, our hero managed to gain an ability to change into Xam’d, a being with supernatural powers, and he went on to kick some northern monsters’ asses.

The very expansive storyline  in this anime is excellent and it flows smoothly as the series went on, but what prevents this anime from taking the Anime of the Year 2008 title from Wolf and Spice is the fact that the pacing of the storyline is slower than I would like it to be. You may wonder why an insignificant factor like pacing affects that decision (and yes, pacing is usually just one of many criterias I used in this section when doing a review) but that has something to do with several unique factors that has truly defined this series.

The first factor that really make this anime unique (and has truly caught me off-guard) is the lack of action in this anime. In fact, the main male protagonist only fully transform into his Xam’d form three times; at the start of the anime, at the ending and once in the middle of the series. Plus, with the anime’s setting within a world engulfed in war, there are relatively few moments where you can actually see those war battles;  like in the start and the ending of the anime, and other places like the hidden Tessik village. Instead, this anime focused more upon multiple angle story arcs, whether it concerned the main male protagonist flying around in a postal ship, or the ones that involved his parents and love interest back at his island homeland etc.

This means that compared to other titles in the same genre (for example, Speed Grapher where the main protagonist also get a supernatural power after a certain incident), Bounen no Xamdou is predominantly dialogue-heavy and has slice-of-life genre tendencies. Thus, without the usual intensity that accompanied titles of this genre, the laid-back pacing of this anime is a major drawback for it. This anime would have benefited from a faster flow of the storyline (which may cause episode numbers to decrease if the story is not retrofitted) and probably more intensity within the presentation. The aforementioned Speed Grapher is a good example where fast pacing can really be beneficial.

The second factor that makes this anime unique is its unorthodox character development strategies. Taking the main protagonist as an example, after he went aboard the postal ship at the start of the anime, he doesn’t really follows conventional genre traditions and tried to master that new power/ability of his, but instead the anime focused more upon his relationships with the crew of the ship and also with his love interest Haru via correspondence. Well, the lack of opponents he has to face may contribute to that. For other characters such as Haru, Nakiami, the island army commander (which I consider to be the best character in the series) and the ship captain, they also have their own personalized character development strategies that you have to see by yourself by watching the anime. Nevertheless, those diverse strategies has a common similarity in them, which is the higher dependence upon the storyline for character developments. This is not always a good thing because it means that character developments will have to depend on the quality of the storyline, but in this case, it pays off handsomely.

The ending is excellent, and using the last episode to tie up all the loose ends and telling the audience what has happened to all the characters in the series is a very good move. It (the ending) is just as good as the one in Wolf and Spice, probably even better.

Character Design:-
Not your typical shounen character design, but more seinen-like like the ones you can see in Nodame Cantabile series. Black hair is quite common even in this fictional setting, with the main male protagonist, his father and the island army commander (amongst others) having them in spades. Definitely a positive point of this anime.

Voice acting:-
The voice acting in this anime are uneven at best. The main male protagonist are ordinary, and so are many others. But the airship captain, the main protagonist’s mother and also the island army commander voice actors/actresses has done an excellent job behind those microphones. Could have been better, especially in light of this dialogue-heavy anime.

This anime has very good OST and also OP theme. There’s nothing to say about the ED theme. BTW, I am watching the 2008 version ripped (and poorly subtitled by Fabulous fansub group – damn you distracting hardsub that cannot be turned off) from PlayStation Network, not the version aired on TV this year that has different OP and ED themes.

The animation quality in this high-definition series is decent, but not as good as the second season of Gundam 00 reviewed previously. Choreography for whatever little action scenes this anime has are done well, especially the one at the end of the series. Directing is also very well done, except for the pacing problem mentioned above.

10 out of 10,
but Wolf and Spice is still the best anime in 2008. If I were to pretend that this anime was aired in 2009, could have easily taken Anime of the Year 2009 title.

One of the things you don't want happening to you if you are a virile young man.

Consistency is not the virtue of this anime.

After the 2 Urusei Yatsura reviews that really takes a lot of my anime-viewing time (is it 3 months?), I should be able to make more frequent postings from now on. For starters, today I will review another anime that I have watched during my elementary school years, Super Dimension Fortress Macross (just like Genesis Climber Mospeada). This is the first of many Macross reviews that will come, as it seems that you need to watch everything from the start if I were to watch Macross Frontier later on.

English in this anime seems to up to par with mine, or is it?

A mysterious but highly-advanced giant spacecraft crashed onto Earth, and it takes Earthlings 9 years to restore it, naming it Macross in the process. During its maiden flight, an alien force called the Zentradi stormed the party and attacked the spaceship. Left with no other choice, the captain of Macross decided to enter hyperspace but this caused them to be diverted towards Pluto's orbit. From there on, the crew of Macross has to fight their way through wave after wave of Zentradi's space fleet in their bid to return to Earth.

Let me get into the strong major positive point of this anime first. The story in this anime is excellent, better than many mecha anime I have watched before. If I were to make comparisons, Macross is better than any Gundams I have watched (Wing, the two SEEDs and 00), Mospeada, Heroic Age and can easily match the story in Neon Genesis Evangelion. It has some problems with scene transitions and story presentation (these will be commented below), but overall the story expanded and flows very nicely in a good pace. Unlike the titles mentioned above, this anime also has within it a great romantic sub-plot involving the main male protagonist and two other major female characters. This sub-plot helps negates the negative effect brought by the time-jump plot device that happened in the last third of the series. The ending is decent, although probably it can be expanded into 2 or 3 episodes instead of just one.

Character development is also where this anime has done very well, with the main male protagonist being the best characters in this series. Unlike many other mecha anime out there, the main male protagonist is being conveyed as a normal mecha pilot in a normal mecha instead of a God-like one like in Heroic Age or SEED (not going berserk ala Shinji Ikari is also a big plus). One of the negatives in this anime is that some of the actions performed by him, especially in the early parts of the series, are unbelievable even with suspension of disbelief. Examples include saving a girl free-falling in mid-air and also being able to re-enter Macross with his Earth-only propeller plane in deep space near Pluto orbit. The latter is truly jaw-dropping, as it bends the law of physics beyond what is acceptable even in a Japanese mecha anime (I would have accepted it if he is a superhuman, but he is not). And the less said about the hero's attempt to pull a tuna into Macross from deep space without a spacesuit and oxygen supplies, the better it is for this anime.

With unbelievable actions come unbelievable scenes and events, which is another drawback for this anime. For example, it is really astounding that the space vacuum and intolerable hostilities of Pluto's orbit did not instantly kills the refugees that were transported (or folded) with Macross. Somehow, I do not really think the bomb shelter they were in was designed to withstand vacuum and air pressure from within the shelter. Some of the scenes are also bizarrely constructed; for example, when the Vermillion team punched a hole on the alien spaceship as the genius glass-wearing pilot throws out Britai (episode 10), they did not use the same hole to escape, opting to create another hole instead (and they were captured for this utter stupidity). For all the outrageous scenes before this, it is strange that they did not use the same hole regardless of the dangers.

What did people do in a Rest Rant?

Character Design:-
The character design in this anime is not bad, although it can be better because Urusei Yatsura that has been reviewed here before this have it better. Lack of black hair can be forgiven in the setting this anime is in, and for its time, mecha designs is good.

This Zentradi guy is hilarious!

Voice Acting:-
Meanwhile, the voice acting in this anime is excellent, with Lynn Minmay and Misa Hayase being the best of them all. Definitely a positive point of this anime.

And they can be perverted too! Just look at the Zentradi guy at the background! Hahahaha!

The OST is excellent but only the nostalgic ED theme is of any good. The ED theme really takes me back to my forever-lost youth, watching this anime dubbed in Malay.

You have to watch this fighting scene to realize how awful choreography in this anime is.

Even with a 5.5 million yen budget per episode (as claimed in ANN), the animation quality is awful. Urusei Yatsura that was aired in the same period has better animation. Strangely, this awfulness only happened in slow-paced animation, not the fast ones such in action scenes. Choreography is best described as below average, applies to mecha battles or real-life ones (see above screenshot). Space battles is nowhere as good as, let's say, in Legend of Galactic Heroes.

The directing is definitely the major weakness of this anime. Many of my comments about unbelievable scenes/events applies here, but what really takes the cake is presentation of key events. A glaring example that makes me go WTF is the destruction of Earth by the Zentradi in episode 23 or so, which happened in less than a minute and with so little fanfare, the significance of the event was massively downplayed.

Only in Japanese anime you can see how an ISBN entry can become a telemetry signal.

10 out of 10,
despite the numerous weaknesses I have listed above. The story is really that good, nearly matching Stellvia of the Universe in terms of impact. Macross Plus, Macross 7, Macross Dynamite and finally Macross Frontier should complete my Macross journey, although do not be surprised if you see other anime titles being reviewed between them.

A tuna from outer space. The way the main male protagonist obtains it is unbelievable.