[Review] Rozen Maiden Series 1 & 2 Collection

MVM, the anime distributor that got hit hard by the bad economy, has recently risen from the grave to deliver all sorts of anime goodness to the living. Among these titles, is the Rozen Maiden Series 1 & 2 Collection. With a low price tag of £29.99, this is a great deal for those who haven’t had the chance to watch the series before. For those out of the loop, Rozen Maiden follows the tale of Sakurada Jun, a young lad who shut himself away from the world, after some extreme bullying from his classmates, only to find himself in possession, or the possession of, a living doll named Shinku.

The first series loosely follows the plot of the original manga, where after meeting Shinku, Jun discovers that he has become involved in a deadly conflict between the doll and her sisters, as they all strive to earn the affection of their creator.
The series does a good job of mixing slice of life comedy with (slightly) more serious shonen action. And despite his irritating attitude, you eventually feel sympathetic of Jun’s situation. As the series progresses, you get to meet some of the most colourful characters in anime in recent years. Although some feel tacked on and unnessesary, some really do shine- Suiseiseki in particular, with her bipolar personality and the now famous quirks in the way she speaks.
In all, the first season is a unique take on the rise of the hero, in a mix of slice of life and shonen action that can entertain people of any taste.

The second season builds on this formula, rewriting the story and cast of the original to cast the illusion of a fresh experience, whilst staying true to the Rozen Maiden canon. New dolls and people enter the series, whilst others are killed off to provide a much needed sense of drama that was somewhat lacking before, upping the tone of the series to give it a much darker feel. The plot focuses more on the dolls this time around, letting Jun’s life take a backseat for the more action orientated battles between the sisters. This isn’t bad exactly, as once again it’s the dolls who steal the show and deliver the best performances.

Two new characters unique to the anime also feature also feature prominently in this season- Barasuishou who is the mysterious 7th doll who serves as the main villain, and Enju, the equally mysterious doll maker who teaches Jun the cruelty of the world of dolls, where anything less than absolute perfection is crushed into dust.

In all, Rozen Maiden is a series that anyone can enjoy. Whether it be for the emotional drama, action sequences, or even victorian fashion, there is something for everyone. Although it can feel a tad formulaic at times, the series keeps things fresh enough for you to still stay hooked. And at the low price of £29.99, you’d have to be mad to miss out on this.


[Anime Review] Durarara Part One

Durarara, this years smash hit anime by bones, hits UK shores earlier than expected in the form of sub only DVDs, split into 3 parts. The first 2 disc set contains the first 9 episodes of the series, soft subbed with the original Japanese audio track.

This series has generated a lot of hype this year, touted as the spiritual sequel to 2007′s smash hit Baccano!, sharing both the same studio and light novel author, Bones and Ryohgo Narita respectively. The show shares many similarities to it’s precursor, like a large cast of varied and believable characters and a hefty dose of the supernatural to spice things up. Also like Baccano!, the supernatural elements are an important plot device, but it’s ultimately the cast of colourful characters that are the driving force behind it.

Durarara is set in the real life location of Ikebukuro in downtown Tokyo. In this town, there are strange rumours and warnings of anonymous gangs and dangerous occupants, one urban legend stands out above the rest – the existence of a headless “Black Rider” who is said to be seen driving a jet-black motorcycle through the city streets. This world is first presented through the eyes of Ryuugamine Mikado, a country boy who has always yearned for the excitement of city life, who has moved to Tokyo at the invitation of his childhood friend Masaomi Kida. This is where the show quite cleverly takes the opportunity to bombard you with every character in the show, including a suprising cameo from Horo of Spice and Wolf fame. It’s all far too much for the viewer to bear, and captures the sense of being overwhelmed by the introduction of coming to a new city well. Luckily, the show properly introduces the cast at a more reasonable pace throughout the rest of the 8 episodes, and sets out the groundwork for the main plot of the show.

Interestingly, the main character of Durarara is the one that is seen least in the opening 8 episodes, the mysterious headless biker Celty Sturluson. It’s hard to call Celty a protagonist at all, as she only acts as an observer throughout the series, only stepping in to resolve the numerous conflicts when the heat gets too much to handle. Mikado, Kida, and Anri Sonohara, the three high schoolers at the heart of the plot would serve as much better protagonists, no matter what the Author may say. It’s very interesting to see how these characters fit in to the bigger picture of Durarara, as hints start dropping suggesting that not is all it seems between the three seemingly normal school friends.

Overall, Durarara: Part One is a great value way of getting into the series several months early of the official dub releases. It takes the formula used in Baccano!, and improves it to make it a much more accessible and enjoyable series- a mean feat considering how far the bar had already been set.

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Classic Movie Review: Macross: Do You Remember Love?

Plot Synopsis:
A.D. 2009 – The human race is in the middle of a three-way war with a race of giant humanoid aliens called the Zentraedi (male) and Meltrandi (female). After executing a space fold that sent it and part of South Atalia Island to the edge of the Solar System, the space fortress Macross is on its way back to Earth. During a small skirmish with Zentraedi forces, young pilot Hikaru Ichijo rescues idol singer Lynn Minmay and their relationship develops as they’re stranded somewhere within the ship. But shortly after returning to Macross City, Minmay is captured by the Zentraedi, and Hikaru and female officer Misa Hayase end up back on Earth – only to view the aftermath of the destruction of their civilization. Only a song discovered eons ago – along with Minmay’s voice – can determine the outcome of the war.

For those who don’t know, ‘Macross: Do You Remember Love?’ is the big screen movie version of the TV hit, ‘Super Dimensional Fortress Macross’ (known as Robotech overseas). The series has become renowned since then, for it’s visually spectacular action sequences, and deep, thoughtful plots that revolve around love and relationships. This formula has been a proven success, and has been repeated again over the years to great success, including more recent series like Macross: Frontier.

The film begins very mysteriously, with two green aliens talking in an alien language about the past exploits of the Macross. It’s nice to see a film that for once, tries to develop some sort of atmosphere before everything starts exploding, and from such a unique perspective. One of the nicer things about Macross is that unlike other mecha anime, there are no clear villains in the movie. Although we clearly are meant to feel most sympathetic and attached to the human race, you soon learn to grow to like the alien races that they’ve been fighting or for so long. Despite this, it’s still pretty hard for the viewer to like the green aliens. Crying ‘lol cultural differences’ doesn’t excuse you from nearly wiping out the human race, you know.

The love triangle in Macross is what the main body of the plot is all about though. It tells the story of how a young man is torn between two people- the famous pop star he has admired, and rescued, or an old comrade of his who he fell in love with whilst stranded on a wasteland that used to be Earth. This triangle is left open right until the films climax, and rather than feeling dragged out or like some harem, the film presents the emotion involved in a very real and engaging way, showing how a third party can put a lot of strain on any relationship. Overall, the love triangle added a level of depth to the film that had previously never been seen before, and showed the world that the mecha genre isn’t all about big robots blowing stuff up.

Don’t get me wrong though, stuff does blow up. And BOY does stuff blow up. Despite having a vintage of 25 years, the film outclasses most modern day productions in terms of animation quality. While things like fleet sequences can seem a little static at times, the amount of scope and detail that went into them is staggering. Every ship, no matter how tiny, has a high level of work put into it, and when the fleet sequence is all over and done with, everything seems very much alive. Lights blink everywhere, and plumes of smoke gush out of the jet/mech hybrids as they take off from their mothership. It’s all a feast for the eyes, and you can’t help but feel a slight pang in your heart as you realise that beautiful hand animated sequences like these are becoming a dying art.

Despite the fact it was ultimately supposed to be just another film cash-in, ‘Macross: Do You Remember Love?’ perfectly captures the heart and spirit of the original series, and in some ways surpassed it’s counterpart. Whether you love it for it’s heart warming romance or heated battles, this film has something that anyone can enjoy. A great example that anime is an artform just like any other type of animation or cinema, this classic is recommended for any lover of films or anime.