Monday, July 14, 2014

Young Animator Training Project 2013 (Anime Mirai 2013)

Going on another year, the Young Animator Training Project/Anime Mirai returned for another year in 2013. This year stood out, though not in an active way: Many fans may remember the second Kickstarter-funded anime, Little Witch Academia. What most fans don't remember is that it was a part of Anime Mirai 2013, along with Death Billiards, Arve Rezzle, and Ryo.

Um, yes, I can tell, thankyou.

We'll start off this review with the forerunner, Little Witch Academia, by the newly formed Studio Trigger. It starts off by showing us a world in which magic is a common thing, and children of all ages line up to attend the stage show of a witch named Shiny Chariot. Our heroine, Akko, is in the audience, and is completely enchanted by the wonders presented to her by Chariot. Flash forward about 10 years, and Akko is enrolled at Luna Nova Academy, a magic school. Having no magical background, Akko struggles alongside her classmates, but the time eventually comes for her to save the day.

It's a hard knock life.

The art style is very cutesy and unique; it seems to draw a bit of inspiration from western series (it's slightly reminiscent of Powerpuff Girls and possibly even Adventure Time). The animation is so fluid, too, really giving it this fresh quality that anime needs more of. The effects are all dazzling without going overboard. Trigger did well.

The Western influence is evident, since, while they're just as over-the-top, anime reactions aren't usually this goofy.
This anime strikes a chord for me, since it coincidentally forms parallels to a British book series turned TV Movie (and eventually TV show) from the 80's that became a major childhood favourite of mine. The Worst Witch also features a hapless protagonist enrolled at a witch academy who eventually steps up to save the day. It's a pretty common formula when you think about it, but it never gets old, as evidenced by studios continuing to use it. Despite this, though, I don't feel LWA lived up to its hype, and unfortunately left the other selections in its shadow. Given that this was Studio Trigger's second foray into the anime world, though, it was quite a strong punch.

Time for a bit a' the' RAZZLE DAZZLE~!

Next up is Death Billiards (which, honestly, would have sounded so much cooler as Death Pool), by my favourite anime studio, Madhouse. In it, a pair of men, one quite old, one rather young, wake up in a mysterious bar, and are challenged by the bartenders to compete against each other in the most important game of pool of their lives.

Old people can sometimes just be so chill about things.

The art on this one was typical Madhouse fare, which is to say it was excellent. Not a hair out of place throughout it all, and every inch of the background is done in rich, striking detail. The visual effect is stunning, the beauty against the pain and agony of the events. The animation, of course, was flawless.

You know it's Madhouse when even the Toilet is Pretty.
Although we didn't know what to expect going in, both me and my two friends who joined in to watch were delighted by this one. Madhouse certainly delivered (as they always do) with a gripping series with one hell of a plot twist. The contrast between the two main characters just makes it better, with the young man's desperate pleading standing out against the old man's sharp stoicism. Through it all, the bartenders stand there watching, not saying a word. Madhouse could easily turn this into a 12-episode series if they wanted to.

Stoic but not Emotionless.

Following DP is Arve Rezzle, which has more spellings than I care to list, but is otherwise known as Arve Rezzle - Mechanical Fairies. It was done by Zexcs, and replaced an intended short called TV Kazoku Channel Jacker, to be made by Pierrot. AR is based off the light novel of the same name, and is set in a not-so-distant future where technology has advanced to the point where humanity can send their consciousness into cyberspace via nanobots. However, due to an accidental overload on the network the media dubs "Early Rapture", thousands of human minds are lost to data. The story follows Remu Mikage in his efforts to get back his sister Shiki, and the person inhabiting Shiki's body due to the mind switch.

This one had a lot of potential, and still does.
The art style was strange....like something I've never seen, and yet something rather familiar. It was very wispy and liney, and the colours were often unexpected. The characters had a look about them unique to this show, something that suited the narrative very well. It was, actually, somewhat fairy like.

Even the backgrounds helped to give a nice visual contrast.

The concept was brilliant, if nothing else, but one would expect that since it was based off of a preexisting work rather than being made fresh. It wasn't my favourite of the bunch, but it enchanted my companions with its mystic mechanical tale. I do think, however, this has the potential to go much further if Zexcs would let it.

Yes...this short could be so much more.

Lastly, is Ryo, by Gonzo. Like Buta of the previous year, Ryo is another samurai series, this time set in the Meiji Era, and much more realistic, action-packed, and dramatic. It follows three people who each have Ryo somewhere in their name. The main character is a boy whose parents were killed in a British raid on their hometown, and eventually becomes the bodyguard of Ryoma Sakamoto and a woman named Oryo, who give him the name Ryo.

Despite the bodyguard angle, Ryoma is actually a really nice, fun-loving guy.
Realistic anime are more common than some of the other uncommon styles, but they still are infrequent enough to be striking, and Ryo is one of those. The faces, swords, ships, everything is much more seriously toned than your typical anime, affirming this OVA's position as a drama. That said, it's also very beautiful, with care and patience taken for the backgrounds, to really give it the old-world feel they were going for.

SO MUCH DORAMAAAAA

Ryo starts off in such a way to leave the viewer confused but intrigued; the ocean waves striking the side of the ship, the screaming out for answers, all send a very powerful message of vengance that has yet to come. You can feel Ryo's pain at the start, and again when closure (or lack thereof) comes at the end. Couple that with the middle, which could be easily padded out, and Ryo could make for a damn fine samurai series, which are rare enough these days, even without the quality and care given to this one.

It wasn't afraid to have a comedic moment or two, either.

Though not as wow-factor as one would expect, 2013 was still a glowing example of what this project is all about. All four studios gave it their all, and all four studios delivered something to be proud of. Whether you're into the genres displayed or not, one can't deny the good standing of these entries into the project.

Yes, Madhouse went there.

In line with 2010, getting these episodes isn't always the easiest task, and indeed I got Little Witch Academia and Ryo from [gg], Death Billiards from Deadfish Encodes, and Arve Rezzle from eraser. Exiled Destiny, Deadfish, Sabishii (Spanish), Nanikano Fansubs (Spanish), Bakari Subs (Spanish), and NanaOne (German) also did Little Witch Academia (and, weirdly enough, Commie subbed the "making of" documentary and provided the soundtrack); [gg], NanaOne, Sabishii, Final Subs (Spanish), and Lateralus Manga (Spanish) did Death Billiards; Nanikano, Rorikon Fansub League (German), and Fudo Subs (Italian) did Arve Rezzle; and Sabishii, Dac Fansubs (Arabic!) and Lateralus did Ryo.

LOOKIT DAT FACE

Little Witch Academia - 3.5-4/5
Death Billiards - 4.5/5
Arve Rezzle - 4/5
Ryo - 4/5

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