There has been a slight change to my new url: awn.com/blogs/anime-beat
The Anime Beat has now migrated back to the newly redesigned Animation World Network website. Here is the new link: http://www.awn.com/blogs/the-anime-beat
Okay, my blog is being migrated back to the now redesigned Animation World Network website. So, I’m holding off on posts for a few more days. I should be up and running again this weekend. Thanks and sorry for the delay.
2009 TV Series (episodes 1-13). Director: Tsutomo Mizushima. 315 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $59.98. Distributor: Funimation.
In middle school Mihashi was the ace pitcher for the baseball team. So, why did the rest of the squad ostracize him and refuse to hone his skills? He supposedly got the job because his grandfather owned the school. Consequently, Mihashi is a paranoid, nervous wreck that thinks he sucks! The only thing left to do is enroll in a new high school, where the players don’t know how bad he really is.
But is Mihashi a bad pitcher? Or was he just lacking a team?
A former pitcher myself, I remember well long practices, curve balls, knuckle balls, and how to read a batter by where he stands in relation to home plate. And Big Windup is about thing and one thing only: baseball. From the very first episode, Mihashi and his new catcher Abe will walk you through the mechanics of America’s pastime. Everything from how to throw a forker, strike out the clean up hitter, and strategically beat a team with pitches instead of a pitcher is covered in great detail.
Needless to say, you better like baseball, if you’re going to watch Big Windup. Don’t get wrong, there is the typical coming of age story and focus on teamwork in Mihashi’s evolution, something typical of any sports flick. But, like a baseball game, it can move very slowly. The first DVD, in fact, is devoted to just one game. It’s like I’m fifteen years old again, watching an Angel’s game that ends in a score of 1-0.
Be that as it may, Big Windup gets points for just being itself. So much anime being licensed in the US seems defined by supernatural high school students charged with killing ghosts or man-eating beasts, whether it is on earth or a parallel world. So, it’s always nice to see the other side of anime that is so prevalent in Japan, that is, its reflection of the contemporary world.
2009 TV Series (episodes 1-24). Director: Tsutomo Mizushima. 600 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $69.98. Distributor: Funimation.
Watanuki isn’t your average teenage boy. Spirits have been haunting him since birth; it’s been one disruption after another. But today these meddlesome visions might have actually done some good. They’ve dragged him to the doorstep of Yuko, a mystical witch whose decadence dangerously overshadows the depths of her insight. She’ll quell Watanuki’s visions, if he works in her shop of dreams and wishes.
Yuko offers a very distinct service. But there’s always a price to pay.
Admittedly, I’m not always eager to buy what Clamp is selling. But if you’re not already a diehard fan, xxxHolic will grow on you like a melodious, teenage-angst filled song canvassing an episode of Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill. You’ll be covertly humming the chorus for days to come.
Whether Watanuki is sent to help a rain spirit, investigate the wings growing on a classmate’s back, or just attending Yuko as she helps “cure” a case of internet addiction, these supernatural vignettes are a bewitching blend of comedy and drama. After all, it’s not easy for a boy to grow up when his boss is a scantily clad, sake-loving vixen!
Charming, alluring, and definitely fun, let xxxHolic put a spell on you. You won’t be disappointed.
2009 TV Series (episodes 1-13). Director: Akira Mano. 315 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $59.98. Distributor: Funimation.
|Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino|
A quiet war still rages on the streets of Italy between the government and a terrorist group known as the FRF. The front lines of this conflict, however, are not filled with the glaring stares of brutish soldiers, but the pig-tailed cuteness of little girls. The tender remnants of former lives, these cybernetic assassins are manipulated by the Social Welfare Agency, a covert anti-terrorist and intelligence outfit. And though killers they may be, they’re still little girls in those awkward stages of growing up.
Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino is the sequel to a highly successful first season. In fact, this series received so much acclaim that it originally aired in the US on the Independent Film Channel.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Overtly an action filled drama encapsulated within the spy genre, Gunslinger Girl achieves a delicate balance of human story telling and covert bloodshed that invokes classic films like Three Days of the Condor. Viewers may be initially enticed by surgical assassination scenes, but the interaction between these child killers and their handlers, who are responsible for both their training and well being, elicits relationships disturbingly parental and bewitched.
As such, Il Teatrino continues to deliver. Focus now turns upon Triela, the oldest and most methodical of these adolescent assassins. Much to her surprise, she meets her doppelganger. Though a boy, Pinocchio, an agent of the FRF, can match her blow for blow and bullet for bullet. The result is a cybernetic ballet typified by sharp blades and memories of what it meant to be human.
I can’t get enough of this series. Put it this way. You’re truly melancholic when it’s over, when there’s no more.
|Ninja Destiny 2|
That’s right, I’m giving away free copies!
So, here’s the deal. From now until September 10th I’ll be taking simple email entries. Submit entries (with contact info) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five winners will be selected randomly and notified on September 15.
|Kaze No Stigma|
2009 TV Series (episodes 1-12). Director: Junichi Sakata. 288 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $59.98. Distributor: Funimation.
The prodigal son returns.
Kazuma was once the heir to the fire-wielding Kannagi clan. But his inability to manipulate his family’s magic was too much for an impatient father. Consequently, he was sent packing with nothing but the shirt on his back and the beginnings of a very large chip on his shoulder.
Now, with wind magic at his fingertips, Kazuma is back. And his kung fu is not only strong, but he’s intent on unleashing it. This may be a family affair, but the score will be settled, and Kazuma will take his rightful place.
Okay, I admit the trailers for Kaze No Stigma aroused my interest. I was rather looking forward to taking a look. Unfortunately, all I can come up with is predictable and mundane as my primary adjectives. There’s a lot of action, and Kazuma’s use of the wind to create force fields, electricity, and breezes shaper than a katana is visually impressive. But this series is running on too many stock anime characters.
Kazuma is the typical, nearly invincible lone wolf surrounded by mediocre talent. The Kannagi, who are determined to squash his comeback, are hollow foils in the face of his wind magic. That is, except for Ayano and her flaming sword of fire – yes, that is an intertextual nod to Krod Mandoon. This arrogant redhead is filled with nothing but hatred for Kazuma. Is it just me, or has the romance already begun?
Perhaps the problem emerges in the transition from novel series to anime. This may very well be Kaze No Stigma “light.” Word on the street is that Kazuma of the novels is content with killing members of his own family to settle a grudge. In the anime he punishes rather than kills. Clearly depth of character and story has been reduced.
Anyway, even though I was bored with volume one, I expect Kaze No Stigma to find a fan base. Its fundamental elements are familiar to the anime genre. And it’s possible I was having an off day. Maybe I’ll like volume two.
|Back to School Night|
Going down every third thursday of the month, I just started attending Tune in Tokyo events in August. Located in Little Tokyo, this is the perfect place for anime fans, gamers, cosplayers, and J-fashionistas to mingle and have fun.
This Thursday, August 20th, is Back to School Night, where school uniforms are definitely encouraged. So ladies, let’s pull out those little plaid skirts!
I’ll be there. Come by and say hi
Naruto Box Set 14
2009 TV Series (episodes 178-191). Director: Hayato Date. 350 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $49.98. Distributor: Viz Media.
Well, one might say that a shadow clone technique has been released. Naruto seems to be everywhere!
First it was my blurb from the Comic-Con. Over the next three months Naruto fans will be able to enter the world of the Shippuden chronicles through TOMY’s release of Ninja Destiny 2 (DS) and Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 (Wii). But why wait to get your Naruto fix? Viz has recently released Naruto Box Set 14. So, prior to gaming, get your anime on!
Consisting of 3 DVD’s with loads of special features, this box set veers away from the main story arc. Nope, there’s no Orochimaru here. Now don’t let the usual notion of filler episodes turn you off. Yes, they’re usually something to be avoided, like the quotidian solicitors outside my Vons. But this compilation of engaging episodes deserves the respect of all Naruto fans.
Obviously there are too many episodes to get into. Two large missions, however, consume this DVD set. First, Naruto and crew must journey to the Land of the Stars, where its people use a unique jutsu derived from a fallen meteorite. Second, our neophyte ninjas must battle a band of water-jutsu wielding assassins as they escort a group of merchants.
Comedy, drama, and kick-ass jutsu; Naruto Box Set 14 delivers everything you expect in a classic Naruto tale. But, since it steps outside the main story arc, it also delivers something unexpected. And that’s why you should pick up this DVD set.