Sunday, June 21, 2015

short anime reviews: Arslan Senki, Kyoukai no Rinne, Shounen Onmyouji, Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi

First revies of two animes from the current Spring 2015 season (plus an alternative version to one), then there's two older ones set in the Heian period (794 to 1185).

Arslan Senki (2015 TV version)
At first I dropped this one after I watched the first episode because I was afraid it would be too bloody. But after finishing Akatsuki no Yona I felt like something similar and so took it up again. And it is indeed rather similar. And it is indeed too bloody.

Arslan is the crown prince to the kingdom of Pars, ruled by his father, who is a great warlord, but not so much a great politician. When a neighbouring country of religious fanatics attacks, pride and treason lead to a great defeat in battle. Arslan escapes, but the kingdom falls. Together with loyal legendary warrior Daryun he tries to survive and seeks allies.

Arslan Senki is based upon a popular novel series that started back in the late 80s. So the story is already rather "old" and it seems there have been a few adaptaions already.
Similar to Akatsuki no Yona and Saiunkoku Monogatari it covers political issues as well.
I quite like the characters, especially the friendship between  Daryun and Narsus.

Well, that is to say: I like the male characters.
Like reverse harem animes tend to have their incredibly dull and stupid so-called "heroine", it seems that shounen anime has an equal inability to portray good female characters. The Queen wears unbefitting clothes that show half of her tits and there's another female character who wears such ridiculous clothing that calling her half-naked would be an understatement. I was really disappointed about that.

After episode 6 I got so sick of all the violence that I dropped it. I'm not sure I'll take it up again.

Wikipedia entry

Arslan Senki (90s OVA version)
After getting sick of the gore and tits from the 2015 version, I thought I might try the 90s version.
This series has six episodes that were produced between 1991 and 1995.

It's still occasionally bloody, but as expected it's not as gory. And the women are actually dressed. Falangies looks more beautiful in my opinion, and she has some Xena vibe going on. I think I also liked Daryuns character design a little better.

The art is very nostalgic, Art Nouveau-ish, it reminds me of The Last Unicorn a little. Pars also looks more Persian. Since it's already 20 years old, of course you shouldn't expect high-quality HD animation.

Plot-wise it's unfortunately a lot more rushed. The characters aren't introduced as well as in the newer version and I think I might not have understood what was going on if I hadn't had the more detailed explanations. Later on in the series, this really became a problem for me. The issue of slaves is hardly touched upon, which makes it more black-and-white. The humour isn't as evident and it's not as dramatic.
Suffering most from this are definitely the characters and their relationships, for example between Arslan and Daryun. And I kind of missed the banter between Daryun and Narsus compared to the 2015 version. Gieve is awesome, though.

Kyoukai no Rinne
If you see art from Kyoukai no Rinne you will probably recognize it: it's obviously Rumiko Takahashi. Takahashis Ranma ½ was my first anime, so started buying the Kyoukai no Rinne manga, too. But after 5 books, I somehow stopped. It's not bad, but it wasn't good enough to justify the money and shelf space.
When I saw there's an anime I was curious and decided to try it.

Sakura Mamiya is a high school girl who can see ghosts. It takes her no time to find out that new classmate Rinne is no ordinary boy, though she doesn't quite know what he means when he says he's somewhat a shinigami (you know, like in Bleach and Death Note) and also somewhat human. Rinne is homeless and really poor, his circumstances and background get revealed bit by bit. For some reason Sakura Mamiya gets drawn into quite a lot of his odd jobs - and that doesn't just mean giving him the money he needs for shinigami tools.

Even as an anime it is still a bit prone to getting a little dull, it's very episodic, very monster-of-the-week, but it's fine for some harmless entertainment after a long day at work.

And Rinnes cat familiar is sooo cute!

Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi
Remember Chihayafuru, the anime about the Karuta card game that's based on one hundred ancient poems? This anime is about these poems, their authors and how they came to be - in a very liberal interpretation.

It's hard to give a plot summary because the plot and the characters change in nearly every episode (though some turn up in several episodes). Some continuity is provided by narrator Fujiwara no Teika, the man who selected the hundred poems for the anthology.
Every episode is about love and romance, but this doesn't result in simple "boy meets girl" stories. The Court affairs and status have to be taken into account, there's duty, friendship, passion, loyalty, ambition, loneliness, restrictions for women. Some endings are happy, but most are not. Despite the episodic character of the series, each story is captivating and you can feel with the characters.
Of course there's also lots of poems and writing.

I was quite surprised at how unreserved some scenes were. Not in a way that there was mature content, but these people obviously had sexual affairs and sometimes were rather open about it. I'd not have expected this in a historical anime (but then again, who knows how things really were back then).
There's also a lot of strong female characters like Ono no Komachi in there - again despite the historical setting. Lots of other animes could learn a thing or two from that (*cough*Arslan Senki*cough*).

One mistake I made: I watched the episodes with too much time in between. The names are complicated, the characters don't look that different from each other, so it was really difficult to remember who was who and did what. It was just so confusing.
Here's the wikipedia entry, in case you need to look up the names of the characters, too.

The one thing that makes this anime really special: The artwork is absolutely stunning! The clothing, the landscapes and buildings, the people... It's one of the most beautiful anime I ever watched. It's hard to describe. It looks a little like paper art collages.
The songs of the opening and ending credits fit, even though they're modern. They fit the atmosphere.

This is a hidden gem - you should definitely watch it!

Shounen Onmyouji

This is an adaption of a light novel series. It is set in the Heian era and centers around Abe no Masahiro, grandson of the famous Onmyōji Abe no Seimei (who according to wikipedia really existed). Onmyōji are civil servants who are professional astrologers/magicians/diviners.
Of course it's not easy being the grandson of such a famous person and Masahiro hates being compared to his grandfather - but at the same time he tries his best to surpass him. Protecting and helping him is Tōda (or Guren), a mystical creature and member of a mighty group of servants of his grandfather called Shinshō. Tōda can transform into a cute little fox-like creature Masahiro calls Mokkun, but hides a dark secret: in the past he was mind-controlled and nearly killed his master Abe no Seimei.

I quite liked the character of Tōda, his troubles and his relationship with Masahiro (besides, he's sexy in his humanoid form and so cute in his beast form). They became such good friends.
It's a bit sad that the anime doesn't take the time to introduce the Shinshō a bit more - it seems to me some of them are interesting characters. I also wish there'd be more about Masahiros family besides his grandfather.
Instead they spend time on this "love interest" of Masahiro, one of the worst cases of a useless annoying female - she might even be worse than Orihime in Bleach.

It took me a while to finish this. It's not really that captivating. But when I felt like something with a little action and some comedy in a historical setting, this was just the right series.
One little warning though: the end is not 100% a happy ending.

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