Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shonen Onmyouji vol. 1 Impression

Meet Abe no Masahiro, the grandson of Abe no Seimei, a renowned Onmyouji. An Onmyouji is civil servant in Japan, one who performs tasks that include magic and divination, in a sense a court priest. They were responsible for warding away, and sometimes fighting, evil spirits at times with the assistance of a shikigami, spiritual servant or partner. This definition is true in both the real work and also Geneon’s Shonen Onmyouji. Masahiro, much like his grandfather before him, has great potential, great power that was sealed away at an early age. See Masahiro could see spirits from a very early age so his grandfather sealed his second sight until he was older, to help him develop and also to remove the burden of seeing those a child should not. As his second sight returns Masahiro gains a partner, a shikigami named Mokkun. Mokkun is a little furry looking cat type of shikigami that trails Masahiro and watchers over him. See Mokkun can transform into Guren, a flame wielding spirit who fights at Masahiro’s side. The stage is now set, Masahiro has his sixth sense, his second eye back and it’s time to perform the duties of an Onmyouji and fulfill the promise that being Seimei’s grandson carries.

When I first started watching Shonen Onmyouji I was not sold, mainly because of Mokkun. Talking little furry side-kicks, they either work or don’t and at first Mokkun did not work for me, until the series hit episode 2. Now for the sake of ruining the series the transformation Mokkun undertakes made me pay a bit more attention to the series, and it’s a series to be enjoyed, don’t mistake that. The animation, as I’ve said before, is standard fare, easy on the eye but most definitely not groundbreaking. The character designs border on Shojo for me, but are not too bad. They are distinct without standing out in unbelievable ways. The designs portray personalities that are unique and believable, even the sprits do so. The story is also an enigma to me. On one hand you have Masahiro, just coming into his power, and the family business of being an Onmyouiji as well as dealing with his … interesting grandfather whose shadow he finds himself. On the other hand are foreign spirits come to take the potential from Masahiro. Young pupil coming into his power, strange foreign power trying to take said power. Good stuff, but why should you care, why should any anime fan want to get into Shonen Onmyouiji?

InuYasha is why. Of all the anime series I’ve truly enjoyed InuYasha is right at the top, and the adventures of Masahiro most remind me of InuYasha. Besides being set in a similar time period it’s the demons and the priestly actions of Masahiro that remind me most of InuYasha. For some reason I have a place in my heart for legend, for the mythology of a land and Shonen Onmyouiji gives me such joy. Now I cannot sit here and tell everyone to go out and buy this series, but I will tell any fan of InuYasha, or anyone who’s watched the series and wanted something a little more realistic (as realistic as you can get with demons at least), go pick up volume 1 of Shonen Onmyouiji. I truly feel you’ll enjoy this series, and if not, it’s only one DVD.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pumpkin Scissors vol. 1 Impression

Pumpkin Scissors vol. 1. An end to a war does not mean the conflict is over, and soldiers don’t just go away. Pumpkin Scissors from ADV Films proves just this point. Brought to live by studio Gonzo and AIC, directed by Katsuhito Akiyama (Guyver) and adapted from the six volume manga created by Ryoutarou Iwanaga (being published by Del Rey Manga), Pumpking Scissors follows a group of Imperial Army Intelligence officers as they seem to find trouble lurking in the form of militia and corrupt nobles in a supposed peaceful land.

A cease fire ended the Great War, waged between the Royal Empire and the Republic of Frost. An end to the war has led to corrupt royalty exploiting the poor, rampant starvation and former soldiers turned into bandits to survive. To address the issue found in the land the Imperial Army State Section III is formed, or better known as Pumpkin Scissors. Lt. Alice Malvin is in charge of this group and she plans to cut through the layers of corruption like a scissor going through a pumpkin. As she and her team of two travel the land they are confronted with bio-weapons, tanks and end up with a new member, a super soldier named Randel Oland.

Ok, so sounds pretty straightforward, another post-war anime, and that’s what I though through the first few episodes before I reached the final episode of volume 1. See the art direction in Pumpkin Scissors is very standard fare. It looks good for an TV show, better than most shows on say Cartoon Network, but it does not have the sharp looks and environments of a series like Guyver. It’s not bad, it just does not grab your attention. The same can be said for the cast of characters who look like they were taken out of Fullmetal Alchemist, right down to the uniforms. To complete my tri-fecta of negativity the story left me wanting, not more just wanting … UNTIL the final episode of volume 1. Without ruining too much of the story what hooked me on Pumpkin Scissors is the mystery, the story behind Oland’s abilities, the military secrets, technology that should not exist and how everything will unravel.

The art and design is doable, the story ramps up at the end of volume 1 and you will be left wanting to know more, which volume 2 just must deliver on. There are a lot of anime on store shelves to choose from, but I feel say in saying if you like military action and mystery take volume 1 of Pumpkin Scissors for a spin. ADV has a good series on their hands here, one that anime fans should pay attention to, cause when it comes to a good story you just can’t beat super soldiers and military conspiracy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I say Halo to Xbox 360

Sony Fanboy, yeah that pretty much describes me, or it used to. I waited in line for 15 hours to get a PlayStation 2, and bought the first PlayStation 3 I could get my hands on, 20gig version, and never looked back. Then, months later comes news of price drop, discontinuation of the 20gig version, and the introduction of an 80gig model. I was pissed. Here I am, an early adopter getting burned by Sony (thought not as bad as you iPhone folks) and getting cheezed off that Sony is more interested in rewarding newbie’s and not the loyalist like myself. I’m in Sony’s back pocket, their deals are not meant for me, they are for the ‘on the fence’ crowd, those they want to get into Sony nation.

And now I understand it from the other side. Turn-around is indeed fair play.

I say Halo to Microsoft and the Xbox 360 Halo Edition. Yes, as much as I’ve supported Sony (and will continue to do so) I am now an official 360 owner thanks to Master Chief and a special Halo edition of the 360 all my buddies are jealous about. See, these guys are early adopters for Microsoft in the same manner I was for Sony. Where I was pissed at Sony for price-drops and what I perceived as a lack of loyalty to the most loyal of customers, I am now enamored with Microsoft and my new green 360 with HDMI, headset, rechargeable controller … oh its sooooooooo nice! It’s interesting when you see the other side of an argument. The grass it not greener, just seems that way.

I’m very pleased with my 360 experience so far,and it’s pretty much consisted of my new green machine and a copy of Halo 3 (and Blue Dragon, love me some RPG action). First, now that I’ve had time with the Xbox 360 I am impressed. Putting it side-by-side with the PS3 I really don’t see too many differences. The 360 has a few great games, mostly first-party, and it really puts out a nice picture in HD. I’m not even going to attempt to get into tech specs, but for the first time I am renting, comparing games that appear on both systems to see who is putting out the better product, graphics wise that is. So far it’s a wash since the premier games on each system are exclusive, and both look great. I am bummed that there is no HDDVD player built in, to compete with the Blu-Ray, but that’s the price difference. The controller is great, really comfortable and wins out over Sony due to one thing, rumble. The recharge kit is a must have and comes with the Halo edition. I’ve heard how loud 360 can be, but no issues so far. All in all the Xbox 360 has been a good system for me, as has the PS3. It’s a tossup on which one is better. While I’m a gamer, I’m not a mega level 100 geek that notices minor pixel differences. I’m a gamer that’s looking for a fun and engaging gaming experience and right now both systems are giving me that. At this point it’s all about the games.

Speaking of games I’m playing Halo 3. Beautiful, nuff said. The gameplay is solid, to be expected of this much hyped series, and the controls are very comfortable. The story is what draws me to Halo 3, not the online play. See, I’m not too big an online gamer, but I just love a good story, and Halo 3 delivers, not just in the game but also the comics, novels … even the action figures. There is a lot to love about this franchise as testament to my buying a 360 due to this game. Now that’s a good game, one that sells a $400 system. Well, that’s my rant. I know I’ve been all over the place on this post. I really wanted to write all good and proper on my new system then review how good Halo 3 is and whatnot, but damn if I just didn’t feel like going off. Rants are good, and so is Xbox 360.

Hmmmm, I wonder if I was wrong about other things? Could the Yankees and Cowboys really not be as evil and putrid as I always thought? Nah, they both still suck.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mushi-Shi vol. 1 Impression

Earlier this year I took in some relaxation at a local Health Spa. As I sat in the waiting lounge, awaiting my herbal bath treatment I was treated to a very relaxing experience sitting there in my white robe and matching slippers. The smell of herbal tea and massage lotions and tonics filled the air was the light from outside slid through gently swaying blinds, drawn to create a just before dawn atmosphere. As the warm tea slipped past my lips and warmed not only my body but my soul I found myself completely relaxed, free from the worries of the world, ready for my treatment. Everything was serene and relaxed, the world was good.
As I sat and watch volume 1 of Mushi-Shi from FUNimation and observed the packaging it was this Spa visit which came to mind. From the opening theme, The Sore Feet Song, Mushi-Shi is an anime experience unlike any other I’ve experienced. Follow Mushi Master Ginko as he travels the land curing ailments caused by mushi. Mushi, neither good nor evil, plant or animal, they just are. Life in its purest form, always there on the edge of your vision, and visible to men like Ginko, who actually attract the various types of mushi to himself. Think of Ginko as a doctor, traveling around, curing mushi ailments and studying mushi. He collects (and trades/sales) items obtained from his experiences. Besides his unique white hair, green eyes and coat, Ginko will always be seen smoking (some drives away mushi attracted to him) and carrying a wooden box on his back, full of medicine, documents and the souvenirs. If there’s an issue with mushi Ginko will be there to solve it.

If you’re looking for an action packed, edge of your seat, good vs. bad anime, Mushi-Shi is not for you. Mushi-Shi is an experience for the senses, an anime you can think about, relax with and absorb. The travels of Ginko are very enjoyable, and stand alone very well. There is a history to be explored, and action is not completely lacking, it’s just of the man vs. mushi type … you’ll see. I do find myself wondering just where the story will go, is there going to be a ‘bad guy’ or event that drives the story, bur for now I’m just enjoying the ride. The animation does not but reinforce my relaxation analogy as thecharacters look good, but are not over drawn or super anime-ized with big eyes and bigger assets. These are some good looking characters, plain an simple, utilizing great color schemes that blend well with the settings and mood of the story. The music is there, if you take notice, which is great because no anime wants it’s music to overpower the viewer. Nothing about Mushi-Shi is overpowering, just very enthralling.

Like an Enya CD, a glass of wine and a hot bath you will feel relaxed watching Mushi-Shi, but remember, underneath this relaxation is one very good anime that only stands to get better with each new volume.