Search This Blog

What is your current/max resolution?

Comments not personal enough? E-mail me with requests, suggestions or personal comments. No, it's not fake....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou - Review

This week's review will be on the anime "Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou" (Or "Daimaoh," for those of you used to the old transliteration). In a nutshell, This anime was a show based on the light novel that simply was produced and aired at the wrong time. What do I mean by that? If there was any show that helped indicate that the year 2010 would be a year that would push along the era of weak stories and gratuitous amounts of fan service, it would be Seikon no Qwaser. Seriously, it was released in early January of that year and simply had breast feeding scenes every other episode, and it's as if they're only following the trend of Queen's Blade that first aired almost a year before. And then once we get into the spring season of 2010, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou would only disappoint fans as it would further support the argument that anime was headed toward a deep dark, fanservice flooded road. Had it been only released perhaps 2-3 years before, this show could've ranked fairly high and been regarded as a "good" show overall. Maybe it would have also had a 26 episode budget instead of being filler until summer.

But instead it gets one cours instead of the usual 2 because it's only purpose is to stall for time. They're gonna introduce a wide array of characters, introduce the main antagonist by the... 8th or so episode and attempt to wrap it up in the last 2 episodes because episodes 9 and 10 must now about about the lame ass backstory of said recently introduced antagonist who's actually just another useless idiot (like the main characters of visual novels, except he DOESN'T get the girl, so now he's in a state of NTR rage). Christ, it's so formulaic you might as well add onto say that "it's not lupus."

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou is about a boy named Akuto Sai who is to transfer into Constant Magic Acadamy, a prestigious prepatory school that guarantees that graduates will attain a government position. His dream is to be a Grand Priest (apparently a high government position) to try and better society, but all of that crashes down on him when his aptitude test (a Yatagarasu that predicts the future of students) declares that his future occupation will be Demon King. All hell breaks loose (no pun intended) and the entire school panics as it will be educating a student whose goal in life would be to destroy them. Losing the trust of nearly around him, there are those that still seem to find themselves attached to a now reclusive Akuto. Which leads me to my next point.....

What the hell is up with the english title? "Demon King Daimao"? Really? You're going to repeat the same name except in a different language? How did that get even approved? I understand that saying Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou is a bit hard on the english tongue but what the hell happened? I understand that this title was probably included in one of those batch licenses that companies seem to be forced into doing if they actually want to license highly rated productions but at least translate the title or something.

Titles mean a lot. Whether it's books, movies, TV Shows, or animations. It helps give the audience a first impression of what to expect from the show. As stupid as it sounds, people who watch "Saw" are going to be expecting something sort of key element of the story that will involve a Saw. It sounds stupid because of how obvious it is, but WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO EXPECT WITH AN UNINFORMATIVE SHITTY TITLE?

Regardless, if you want to translate the title literally (like an idiot who's studying Japanese) it comes out to something like "The Demon King of the Most Furthest Back". Sorry, I dont' know why I'm so angry while writing this review...

My personal translation would be "The Grand Overlord in the Far Back". In this way, not much is lost in translation. In the show, Akuto's seating is in the seat at the back of the classroom which explains the title. While all Japanese school anime seem to feature fixed seating arrangements, such is less likely the case in American schools however, the multiple implications of the translated title still work. While sitting in the very back row can denote deliquency, it can also seem to imply those who are shy or anti-social. This double meaning works well for the main character and would have the audience expecting something from the show. Speaking of which, although "demon king" is the literal translation of Maou, I've always thought that Overlord worked quite well. It has a strong enough negative connotation that isn't too harsh (such as tyrant). It also makes fun

Considering the over arching story, shows like these tend to be very wide open and normally result in multiple mini arcs that then make up the series. Because of how short this show is, one would expect better/faster pacing and a need for efficiency to get main plot points out quickly but that doesn't seem to be the case. In fact, it seems hellbent on accomplishing as little as possible while attempting to introduce the large array of secondary characters. There's even a goddamned "school trip to the beach" episode which more or less guarantees a waste of budget and an entire episode for fanservice.

It's a shame too, because the cast is fairly diverse and all fairly strong alone. The main character for once isn't some loser, or a reluctant genius. He's a developed, level-headed and self-motivated character who isn't prone to random counter yelling during perverse situations and works well as a decent tsukkomi for comedic relief. The backstory and setting for the world isn't too half-assed either. The ultra-religious undertone existent within the government has been done before, but there's less emphasis on the strong religious aspect which works well to hide the cult-like society and Akuto's goals as well as his actual beliefs that are explained later.

There's also the SINGLE moment when Akuto acts sadistic and evil which counters his general personality but considering the length of the series and the actual main focus of the show, this never gets embellished and the deep infusion of technology with magic is also never explained which left me with many questions. However, as the show progresses on, Akuto's acceptance of the situation around him and his more level headed personality countering the hysteria around him is something interesting to watch. It's quick development in a short period of time but it strengthens Akuto as a good main character.

Considering that airing in 720p is almost standard now, not much can be said about the animation quality except that I'm seeing a lot of stills. It's not noticeable because many of us are used to seeing them in animation, but the very first episode is a good judge of how you'd expect the budget to be spread out. The main and secondary characters are very detailed, and their animation is extremely crisp, while most background characters will stay that way and pretend they're stuck in a landscape painting. Effects are done extremely well. While the 3D modeling needs work (as always. There's never been a case where an anime had well implemented 3D modeling except for Panty&Stocking) particle effects, bloom and general compositing is extremely fluid and nicely meshed into the animation. Actual fight scenes and the use of magic are animated quite well although explosions could use a bit more work. If you look closely enough you can see the repeated layers.

Good CG

Bad CG (Seriously, when will animators realize this looks REALLY bad when everythign else doesn't look that spotless?) The track looks great.... but the train.... just... urgh.

The humor is quite well done. Because of the dynamic range of characters, the comedic points of this show have a bit of extra flair, especially with the observational AI Korone. Not only that, the constant stabs at Akuto's actions and assumptions about the uncanny link to evil is amusing to watch. It's a bit of Schadenfreude as you laugh at Akuto's earnest attempts to establish good rapport with his classmates only for it to backfire on him and help him dig his own grave.

I'm not sure what to say about the music. It seems that since Disgaea, any other show involving Maou seem to follow suit in terms of music. Same instruments are used and similar melodies are borrowed. It's not particularly bad but it does mean that the music then becomes easily forgettable. Oh, and the opening theme is misleading. I have yet to see any part of the show get that dramatic or mindblowing....

It's not a heavy recommend from me. If there's a second season released, I would watch it to see if it improved but I simply can't deal with how much lost potential there was in this show. Regardless, this is currently streaming on hulu via Anime Network, and the DVD and Blu-ray are both out. This show IS visually appealing so the blu-ray will make a significant difference in quality over DVD.

Uh...... huh.....

Well.... Disgaea 4 is supposed to be released September 6th, but I've never seen a package take 2 weeks to get across the country.... Soooooo I guess this means I'm getting Disgaea 4 about a week before release..... Nice. I've always wanted an excuse to fall off the face of the earth for a short period of time during summer break.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control - Review

First off, let me say "Yes, that is the title of the show." I'm sure you're aware of the tentative grasp of the English language Japanese have, and evidence of such is littered throughout the internet and the country of Japan. So, do I have any idea how to translate that title into something that's understandable? Absolutely not. Nor will I even try. That is simply too much effort and considering I don't have any connections with the industry, I can't even begin to guess at what they were attempting. Funimation's official title is [C] Control - The Money and Soul of Possibility, but even that falls shy of making "perfect" sense. It's just a re-arrangement of where "control" goes and I can see why the title is named as such, but something about it still irks me.

[C] (which is how i'm going to refer to this show assuming wordpress doesn't freak out and assume it's HTML code) is about a college attending economics major named Kimimaro Yoga, who's having financial troubles as he works at a convenience store in attempt to pay the tuition. With a father who disappeared from his life at an early age and a family who can't support his studies, Kimimaro curses the circumstance he's in. It is during one of these days of self-reflection that he meets a man who brings him into the "Financial District," a place where "Entrepreneurs" invest their future (not the financial term, the ambiguous time frame term) and battle with others in an attempt to gain money. However, like in life, even gaining money in the Financial District isn't as easy as it sounds.

If there's anything that should tell you to watch this anime, it's probably that it's one of the few anime in the last couple of years or so that have involved the main character(s) being older than the overused high schoolers. We're finally getting characters that are dealing with their own lives, and trying to find out who they are and what they want in life (high school can get too superficial sometimes).

[C] is an original short 11 episoder meant to be a season filler as well as a testing ground for Tatsunoko Production (I'll explain later on). The budget is fairly solid, story works pretty well and and a as a show overall, it's a good time sink. Nothing award winning but it has a fairly good script, character designs and doesn't get too heavy.

While supposed to look like an average background character, Kimimaro does a pretty good job at looking ordinary yet unique at the same time. The color scheme is probably the saving grace and helps him from blending in too much with the background. His bright sky blue hoodie contrasts pretty well with the lonely, grayed urban backdrop of the normal world and the ultra high-tech appearing, neon flooding Financial District. His primary companion in the Financial District named Mashu is also very distinct, and problematically one of the few humanoid companions of the Entrepreneurs of the Financial District.

I dunno, but for some odd reason, every time I saw Mashu, I was reminded of Nekomusume from Gegege no Kitarou

I say problematically because this creates the "unique identity isolation effect" if that were to ever be an actual term. Because most of the companions are beast-like beings and the limited cast of main characters seem to have humanoid beings (who also have comparable traits) the art itself unintentionally (or purposefully) isolates these characters into being unique and emphasizing the main reason why they're the main characters. It's irritating to watch sometimes I 'm not one for figurative giant scrolling marquees indicating that because this trait is unique, the character is special.

We also need Johnny Depp to reprise his role as Willy Wonka...

The world where this show takes place is developed but not quite complex. There are a lot of aerial shots as well as long pans which seem to indicate that they were trying to show off the "large world" that exists within the show, and there are discussions regarding what's happening in other countries with actual English voice actors speaking proper English in an attempt to emulate foreign companies but it's simply not good enough. Development of characters are still far too shallow with the exception of the leads and a select few secondary/tertiary characters but too many of them are far too easily forgettable, which indicates a large problem especially for a show this short. There's also the discussions of morality, the value of future and ethics which seems to bolster the world a bit, but in actuality, it just creates a small "sphere of influence," if you will, around said section that's drifting along somewhere in the world with no concrete connection, especially since most of the show is spent on Kimimaro being wishy-washy. Hell, even the entity that is Kimimaro's father, who is supposed to have some sort of major influence to how Kimimaro became the way he is along with their connection to the Financial District is blurry. If anything, I'd say that's a big problem.

The production values regarding the animation are pretty well distributed.... I think.... Maybe? As I mentioned earlier, this show seems to have been a testing ground for Tatsunoko Production. What I mean by that is the show elements that take place in the Financial District (Mashu, Masakaki) switch between from being rendered in 3D or 2D. Not only that, it seems that quality assurance is inconsistent. One thing is for certain though, the battles and the rendering of the Financial District is very well done and does show off a high budget, which leads me to believe that the inconsistency with characters moving between 2D and 3D is a result of the production team testing something with the models. What's even more unusual though, is that sometimes it's hard to tell that the character is in 3D because of how well they're rendered along with high quality compositing but other times it's very noticiable as the cel-shaded model sticks out in a 2D environment. Tatsunoko isn't an unknown company (to Japanese at least). They may not be as strong as Kyoto but they have some money making cows that can help them fund production for newer shows. Seeing this kind of work from them only leads me to believe they were rushed and were trying different methods during production. I'm expecting this to be fixed into a more consistent style during DVD/Blu-Ray release, SHAFT style.

For the spring season, [C] wasn't too bad. There were a couple others that I was following simultaneously and despite all its issues [C] held up fairly well. I ended up dropping, or not even watching, a handful of shows during the spring season for different reasons but I decided to stick with this one. The development and relations between the main characters of the show were fairly well developed but there was always a feeling that something was missing, and it's a lack of depth with many other characters that have had repeat appearances. Granted it's 12 episodes and thus it's a given that it's going to be missing some content, and depth but this is too much. It's a matter where they're supposed to "show not tell" but they're keeping it too straightforward and simple at times which is keeping this show from being better. The music is too forgettable, while the OP and ED themes fit and showed off the high quality that Tatsunoko is capable of, the actual soundtrack was lackluster. The pacing I would say was pretty good overall, so if this show had gone to 15 episodes or so, it may have helped fix all the problems I mentioned (excluding the animation issues)

I watched this show through Funimation's simulcast stream. If I recall correctly, Anime News Network seems to be in some sort of partnership with Hulu. You should be able to watch the episodes there until DVD/Blu-ray media is released.