Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sukitte Ii na Yo.

Sukitte Ii na Yo. looked cute from the moment i saw it on the preview list. it had been awhile since i had seen a serious love story, which is what this looked like. While some might find teenage drama pretentious (and trust me, it can be), in some cases it can be a great subject for series, it being a window into a confusing time in everyone's life. love, romance, confusion, indescision, a lack of communication, hurt feelings, jealousy, these are all things people experience at some point in their lives, but especially around their high school years. Sukitte Ii na Yo. has all of these, topped off by warm visuals, a solid cast, and a lovely, complimentary sound track.
Nothing like a stalker to drive love along.
the main character, Mei, is a loner who manages to attract the attention of one of the most popular guys in school after she roundhouse kicks his best friend. her cold exeterior is no match for Yamato's perseverance, and the two become friends, and quickly start dating. even for Yamato, who has always had friends to support him, this whole "love" thing is pretty new and confusing, leading to the both of them taking it extra slow since neither are on stable ground here. the result is a sweet, slow-paced anime that will result in a lot of shouting at the TV, likely with utterances of 'JUST DO IT!!' or 'COME ON!!' or 'JUST KISS HIM, DAMMIT!!'
the indecisiveness was both charming and aggervating.
the series is based on an ongoing manga, which might contribute to the slow pacing, though it feels like even if the manga were finished it would take all the time in the world for this series to get moving. to some, this might be a frustrating prospect; why stretch it out over 13 episodes when you can get them together and happy in 3? for others, though, this will provide just the right touch of serious after-school type drama to tug at the heartstrings. the soundtrack pulls no punches, either; it took me over half the series and looping the song for hours just to get to a point where the ending theme didn't make me cry.
over the course of the series, Mei makes some friends whom she can really depend on, which really tugs at the heart.
while this could very easily be written off as "just another romance story" or "just another AWKWARD romance story" or "just another shojo", it has a little spark to it that made it different from other series i've seen. the only way i can really describe it outside of calling it "serious" (which in itself is descriptive; it's kind of hard to find deep anime these days) is to compare it to Kimi ni Todoke; the two series have several parallels. however, unlike Todoke, Sukitte Ii na Yo.'s heroine isn't out to make friends; her sullen personality adds another layer of melodrama to the series. combined with his semi-oblivious nature, it made for some really heartwrenching moments, when i just wanted to jump into the tv and shake both of them by the shoulders till they woke up to each others' feelings. as weird and corny as that sounds, there were enough moments like that in the series to make it worth saying.
the series touches on the emotions that run high during this time in a person's life.
in the end, though, the series ended lightly, with me being satisfied but with that nagging feeling of wanting to know more. i suppose it would be worth it to look up the manga, in that case, but even if i don't, it left me feeling cozy, so i'm happy with that. you could easily show this series to an anime club, your sibling, or your parent/guardian/grandparent. i wouldn't reccomend it for little kids, if only because there are moments of (*gasp!*) holding hands (and Mei gets tackled by a shirtless Yamato in one scene), but otherwise this series is clean, fanservice free, and manages to satiate my appetite for a plot without even really having one.
it is when they overcome the indecisiveness that the series has its memorable moments.
Sukitte Ii na Yo. is available from Commie Subs, Interrobang Subs, AraAraUfufu~, Hadena Subs, Horrible Subs, and Hi10 Anime. the series has also been licensed in North America by Sentai Filmworks.


Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt was one hell of a wild ride. affectionately referred to by a magazine as "a love letter to western animation", that is exactly what it is, i myself describing it as "powerpuff girls goes to the strip club". the style is kooky, the themes raunchy, and the dialogue rough and uncensored. and that is exactly what makes people like it. normally, something this explosive would have never made it off the cutting room floor, but somehow gainax worked their magic and created this brilliant little piece that has become much beloved both in-country and out.
you and everyone else.
to start, the characters are fun, unique, and relatable. as it is, i got me and my sister panty (her) and stocking (me) keychains because we're a bit like the two of them. P&S also happen to be some of the most un-angelic angels one could ever run across, a point never forgotten by their main antagonists, the demon sisters. then you add all the other characters into the mix, season with a little debauchery, and stir, simmering until you reach a boiling climax in more ways than one. when it came out it was fresh, edgy, and chaotic, and still is, regardless of which language you watch it in.
just a sample of the chaos within.
which brings me to my next point. the dub. for years, people have argued which is better, subs or dubs, and no one could ever reach a conclusion to the debate, it becoming as heated as the crusades. Panty and Stocking provides a great control for the experiment, it being so weird that it can't be called "western" OR "japanese". after watching the japanese voiceover when it came out, i re-watched it in english to refresh myself for this review. while i still prefer the japanese voices for the most part (helps that Stocking is played by my favourite Japanese voice actress), the english presented an interesting thing: different jokes within the same theme from the original, with different references and different nuances, meaning that if you don't watch both, you're missing out on half the fun. one may argue that the style dictates that the dub MUST be superiour, but i ask you, does that mean that Teen Titans HAS to be in japanese? Code Lyoko HAS to be in french, simply because of art style? there are plenty of Japanese references in the show, regardless of which voiceover you watch, meaning that P&S is one of the rare series that walks the line of sub and dub; it literally can go either way. (in one case, however, you may not have a choice; i'm unaware if the Blu-ray OVA was ever dubbed into english.)
there are plenty of fun references regardless of language.
the series is obviously a raunchy comedy, but not to the point where we don't care about the characters. (almost.) the later episodes take some more emotional turns as we see more character development beyond the desire for cock and sugar. relationships form, motivations explored, and bonds tested. i won't say it's enough to be called a "well-rounded show", but it was still nice of Gainax to actually think of something like that. they could have just as easily kept them as flat as the art style normally looks, but instead they went deeper with it, much deeper. (these sexual puns doing anything for you?)
Gainax really seemed to have fun with this series, using it as a chance to flex their stylistic muscles.
Panty and Stocking is everything you could want out of an adult anime without it being a porno or constant blood. it's what Family Guy is to America, only a bit swearier. the style, as i said, is quite unique, but Gainax shows their chops with the transformation sequences, proving that they don't HAVE to draw in this style, they WANT to. and why not, it's a great way to show things rather than the same old, same old. it's part of the reason that Panty and Stocking became so popular. however, popular or not, just because it looks like a kids show DOES NOT mean it is. if you couldn't tell by now, this is not the series to show to your sister/brother/little cousin/grandmother/parents/teacher/police officer/priest. just because they're angels doesn't make them cherubs. just because it looks like PPG doesn't make this sugar, spice, and everything nice. (there's plenty of sugar and plenty of spice, though.) show this to your college friends. show this to your raunchy uncle with the pet iguana. show this to your funky older sibling who will get a kick out of it and then show it to his/her friends.
there are some points in the series when a more traditional anime style shows through.
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt is available from HyperSubs, CrunchySubs, HorribleSubs, WhyNot Fansubs, ColorMeSubbed, and Kira-Fansubs. the series is licensed in North America by Funimation Entertainment.


Kamisama no Memochou (God's Notebook)

Kamisama no Memochou (otherwise known as God's Notebook or Heaven's Memo Pad) was a nice series. Nice as in aesthetically pleasing with a lovely soundtrack; the content of the series is firmly a drama, being what i call "Anime's Answer to Law and Order".
the visuals in this series are really lovely.
The series follows Fujishima Narumi, an introverted boy who moves to a new city. at first deciding to live his life the way he always did, as an insignifican "pixel on a screen", he ends up becoming wrapped up in the world of the local NEETs (Not engaged in Education, Employment, or Training), centering around the ramen shop Hanamaru and the little girl Alice, who claims to be a NEET Detective.
he goes through a lot of internal melodrama, maybe because he feels helpless at times. man up, dude.
From here, the series spins off into several arcs, involving such dramatic topics as drugs, suicide, prostitution, and mostly gangs. with the help of his newfound NEET friends and a local delinquent Yakuza group, Narumi helps solve several cases assigned to Alice, acting as his assistant in addition to working several other jobs around the series. (in fact, a running joke among the anime club i watched it with was how many titles Narumi recieved; by the end of it we were calling him "Assistant Uncle Vice-Admiral Gardening Club", and i'm not even sure if that was the whole title.) Through it all, Narumi manages to be a bit of an indecisive wimp through most of it, though he does man up at some points (adding a unique flavour to it all when he does). the other characters manage to maintain their own unique personalities, however, making them all the more likeable for it. the emotions feel real. the pain, the anger, the joy, all of it feels genuine as it unfolds in front of us.
the few times Narumi DOES go badass are rather thrilling, if only because when there's a wimp in an anime, they usually STAY a wimp.
However, that is not to say the series isn't without its flaws. there are some points where things feel a wee bit ridiculous (such as during one episode, Alice gives orders from a car packed to bursting with all her stuffed animals), and the moments of undue fanservice make the series feel a little tired, as if they were trying to "spice it up" to appeal to a wider market.

i think they're doing a bit more than "disturbing" them.
despite these problems and occasionally a common trope, i feel the series was definitely worth watching, despite other reviews of the series i've read giving it a less than favourable glance. however, in the sea of moe girls and tired archetypes (if i hear of one more "i'm in love with my little sister" type story i think i might lose it), this series stands up as a solid drama and ONLY a drama, something sorely lacking in today's anime market. it has its comedic moments, but overall the show retains a serious tone, something i had been wanting in an anime. even the way it handles its topics is solid; the subject of drugs is brought up a few times, and each time it is handled with the intensity that the subject recieves in real life. (that drugs are discussed AT ALL in the series is somewhat refreshing; perhaps the problem of illicit substances isn't as prevalent in Japan, but it's not a topic touched on very much in anime, even in more serious ones.)
NOT for kids.
overall, i had wanted to see this series when i heard about it, and i'm glad i did. though the series didn't wrap up all the loose ends (most, but not all) is a slight bit disappointing, but considering the source material is ongoing (the anime only covers the first volume or so of the light novel series), that's to be expected. despite that, the anime club enjoyed it, i enjoyed it, and anyone looking for a more serious-toned anime (including those who think anime is "nothing but kids stuff") will enjoy it. be warned that the moments of light fanservice make this series a bit above PG-13, but nothing explicit really goes on. there is also an english dub, though this is the type of series where i'm not sure making a dub was really the best move.
i can't identify half the plushies she has.
Kamisama no Memochou is available from Evetaku, Chihiro Subs, Unlimited Translation Works, Horriblesubs, Kanjouteki,, Bowling Ball Fansubs (italian), Vocamiku Fansubs (french), EvermorE Subs (spanish), ACT-Subs (Chinese), and Akatsuki Subs (german). the series has also been licensed for sale in North America by Sentail Filmworks.