Monday, August 5, 2013

Diamond Daydreams

Diamond Daydreams (otherwise known as Diamond Dust Drops or Kita e in Japan) is a 13-episode anime based off a visual novel of the same name, however the anime uses a fresh set of characters. Following the visual novel format, each of the 6 girl gets 2 episodes to play out her story, with the final episode being a wrap-up of sorts. Typical of a visual novel, all the stories deal with relationships or relationship problems of some sort (though not always romantic relationships).

Considering it's a romance-based series, there are some sweet moments.
Diamond Daydreams was for me a piece of nostalgia similar to Ai Yori Aoshi or I My Me! Strawberry Eggs, in that i've had a pin-up poster from the series since i was 12 or 13. In a similar manner, i viewed this series through a set of rose-coloured glasses, and was as such disappointed. It's not BAD by any means (*coughcoughStrawberryEggscough*), but it wasn't very good, either. Because there are 6 girls to 12 episodes, the plot arcs are short, not giving us much time to develop proper attachment to any one character. The girls are fairly well-rounded, though some do fall into some tropes on occasion. 5/6 stories also mention Diamond Dust, each one having a different intpretation of what it means.

Presenting Trope #15: The Successful Career Woman!

The animation style is typical of an early 00's series, and is rather average in quality, though some weird facial expressions, weirdly shaped faces, and voice acting hitches typical of the time period show up. some sounds are also out of sync with the actions, leading one to believe this may have been a budget production. not helping this assumption is the limited range of the sound track. there are few tracks in the collection, and all are too loud for their scenes, distracting from the story. they use some traditional asian instruments (such as the shamisen), but don't vary much from this pattern. The only songs that do are the opening and ending, which are characterized by the over-perky nature (opening) and over-dramatic nature (ending) typical to early 00's romcom anime. Out of the background characters, 90% of them are just awful at times. I have said on multiple occasions that "everyone in this series is a bitch". There is little rhyme or reason to this bitchiness, either, further putting me off the story.

I should mention that's her mother slapping her.

To its credit, the ending gets a bit less insufferable after episode 8. Some of the characters are likeable and their motivations relatable. The whole series (incuding the visual novel) is also set in Hokkaido, and it's refreshing to see the northernmost island of Japan displayed as something more than just "the countryside" or "snow land". In the dubbed dialogue, a few lame puns are also thrown around, leading to a rather cheesy appeal at times. Episode 8 also has a bloopers segment at the end, and episode 13 acts as a sort of wrap-up, where all the girls cross paths in one way or another, both nice touches.

Well okay then.

Overall, the series wasn't the best by far, but it wasn't the worst. Though honestly, there are much better titles out there, and unless you are overcome by overwhelming nostalgia or have some insane need to watch as many early 00's series as possible, i'd skip this one in favour of greener pastures. There are much more deserving titles out there, anyway.


If you insist upon it, Diamond Daydreams is available from Exiled-Destiny, F-B, and E-D. The series is also available on DVD in North America from  ADV Films.

Well that's not creepy at all.


Friday, August 2, 2013

xXxHolic Season 1

xXxHolic (Pronunced "Holic") is a 37-episode, 4-OVA series originally penned by CLAMP, the genius team behind such classics as Chobits and Cardcaptor Sakura. The series follows Watanuki, a high schooler with the gift (or curse, as he sees it) to see spirits. He happens upon a mysterious shop run by the witch Yuuko, who sells wishes for the price of something equal in value. In exchange for ridding him of his mystic sight, he becomes a part-timer at the shop, running errands and cleaning up. Occasionally he is joined by his classmates, love interest Himawari and nemesis Doumeki. Over time, Watanuki grows to enjoy his life at the shop and with his friends.
Like all guys, Watanuki is prone to flights of fancy when it comes to his beloved Himawari.
The first thing you notice about Holic is the style. It is visually striking, especially compared to most other CLAMP series (the only one that looks similar that i can think of is Legal Drug). According to Wiki, it is based off Ukiyo-e prints, which isn't surprising when you look at it. Given the spiritual subject matter and ethereal overtones, it is extremely suiting. I look back on the series fondly mostly due to the beautiful, arty style not usually seen in anime. Not a single colour or line is unnecessary, nothing is out of place, which is to be expected from the masters that make up CLAMP.
With powers like these, it's no wonder Watanuki wants to be rid of them.
The series takes on a bit of the "monster-of-the-week" format, but thankfully this doesn't hinder the series in any way. On the contrary, given the basis of the story, it actually helps to see the various clients of Yuuko. Some characters become recurring, especially the various crossover characters that come about. Indeed, xXxHolic was intended to be a crossover series of sorts, with many of CLAMP's works tying into this series and this into those ones, especially Tsubasa: Resevoir Chronicle. If one pays attention, it is possible to see various artifacts from CLAMP's other series, such as Sakura Kinomoto's Star Wand or an Angelic Layer Egg. It can actually become sort of a game of "spot the reference", giving the series another layer of fun.
Some references are more obvious than others.
CLAMP seems to have a dual nature with their series; there's the light, cutesy half, with series like Cardcaptor Sakura, Chobits, and Kobato, and the dark, mysterious half, with titles such as Legal Drug, Clover, and xXxHolic. It has about it a more mature air than the ligher series in CLAMP's collection, giving the feeling that were a kid to watch it, s/he might not "get" it. This sounds a little pretentious, but as previously stated, it's an artsy piece, with some degree of complexity involved. It doesn't have any particularly coarse language or mature themes, but it still doesn't seem like the ideal series to show a kid. Adults, on the other hand, might enjoy the more realistic setting, interesting folk tales and unearthly soundtrack.
This girl is a Zashiki-warashi, a spirit of good fortune. She has a crush on Watanuki, who has a Pipe Fox spirit curled around his neck.
My one fault with this series is the proportions in the anime. The teeny heads combined with the tall figures (regardless of age or gender) makes the show look like Attack of the Noodle People. Yuuko's treatment of Watanuki can also be rough at times, but it is by far not the worst treatment i've seen of a protagonist (that award goes to Shinji of Neon Genesis Evangelion). The series can also be a bit of an enigma: filled with ghosts, but not a ghost story, mysterious, but not a mystery. It's rather hard to tie down at times, meaning some actual thought might be involved. As such, this isn't good for kids or people only into light series. However, intellectuals and older people may like this show, meaning this might be a good candidate to break older peoples' stereotypes about anime being "cartoons".
xXxHolic is available from The Pirate Bay and Anime Fans FTW, and later seasons are available subbed from BakaBT. The series has also been dubbed into english and licensed by Funimation.
Yuuko is quite a powerful witch. Means Watanuki has a very good reason for working at her shop. -w-;