Saturday, January 29, 2011

Moving to wordpress.com

After four years, I've decided to move this blog to a much nicer place: wordpress.com.

Don't worry, I won't remove this blog just yet. I just wanted to let you know that for the next few months, I'm going to move content from this anime blog to the new site on wordpress.

I love the new page design. Come visit it sometime at animepicuriosity.wordpress.com.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Best anime openings for holiday insanity (part four)

In case you're wondering, I was going to publish the entire anime openings list before the new year. Then my XBOX 360 machine distracted me and I lost my focus.

This time, I'm back for good. I've written everything down before the new year, so let's start with the most disturbing one on the list:


10. Paranoia Agent opening
I'm amazed at how director Satoshi Kon took people through a mind trip with this one. All the people in this video are laughing, even when they're about to die a horrible death.

Paranoia Agent's opening is a remarkable satirical video that symbolizes how the post-modern Japanese workers and children are trying to make the best out of a hopeless environment. It visually represents of a whole range of social problems, all arising from forces that even the protagonists cannot even control.

The opening song, "Dream Island Obsessional Park," is almost as alarming to listen to. The techno drum machine, the barking choir and the synthesizer combine in a disturbing explosion of loud, polyphonic sound. The composition was designed to make people as uncomfortable as possible, to hit them with all these stunning cultural issues.

Honestly, it's almost too difficult to describe this masterpiece with all its computer enhancements and visual tricks. For the record, let's just settle this by posting it at number 10. I'm still waiting for an anime publisher to re-release this series.


9. Eureka Seven - Second opening
Unlike the Paranoia Agent video, this one gels together because it makes people feel good. This isn't any ordinary montage of characters standing in place with a heavy wind blowing across their face. This is a video that easily summarizes the beauty of wonder of this series in one-and-a-half minutes.

Everything in this opening is bursting with color and movement. From the cool surfing robots to the large headshots of the women, everything looks eclectic. The song from Home Made Kazoku is really the foundation of this entire music video. Somehow, these rappers arranged an entire rap that explains the entire philosophy of the ideal shonen anime hero. More importantly, they made this anime incredibly hip.


8. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, 2nd Gig opening
Ghost in the Shell was one of those unique action shows that somehow mixed together philosophical and political messages, without ever looking boring. The second season, however, really took the show to a whole new level with a political struggle that impacted every viewer who saw it.

The opening sequence is a powerful sequence. The shadowy montage of the main characters sets the mood for anime viewers to enter a tense world of governmental upheavals and mass destruction. Yet, the lineup of the characters against a white background is really what catches everyone's attention. The director was literally asking for us to pay attention to these tough policemen in the video who are taking a stand against political oppression.


7. Revolutionary Girl Utena
After watching all the old shoujo anime openings again, Utena is probably the only one that bowled me over. This is still one of the best displays of hand-drawn animation I've ever seen in an anime show. This one-and-a-half minute clip somehow makes single cels look like Victorian masterpieces in a twisted fantasy tale.

In the opening montage, the still shots of the girls rotate against a background of a rose, as if to show that someone was trying to spin them into a romance that is too good to be true. Then all the characters show off their bravado by making their flashiest-looking sword slash with quick, fluid animation that jumps out of the screen. By the time people reach the upside-down castle and the girls on flying horses, anyone will want to watch the show just to make sense of it all.

This is another one of those shows that still needs a re-release. Shoujo fans still love watching this series, so anime publishers should at least look into re-releasing it someday. Otherwise, the price for the entire series is going to stay at $300 on ebay.com, which isn't very enticing at all.

6. Gundam Wing, first opening
It opens with a simple montage of shots with the protagonist, Heero Yui, with his hand outstretched towards the camera. After a few measures of the thumping dance beat, the camera zooms out to show the massive Gundam robot. Once the opening title appears with the awesome old-fashioned anime cha-ching sound, robot fans know that they're in for a treat.

Sure, the teenage boy pilots look classy and sexy. However, we're really watching this to see those awesome robots blow stuff up. This sequence has tons of marvelous explosions and battle sequences to please the fans of robot fighting. The vocals from Namie Amuro sound amazing as well.

Look forward to the final part of my best anime openings list in a week or so.

Images courtesy of photobucket.com

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reassessing my future goals

I confess that I haven't kept up with this blog as often as I thought I would this year. After mom and dad bought me an XBOX 360, I stopped watching quite a few anime shows.

It really became a nexus for low budget entertainment. I can literally find anything available on the XBOX 360. The operating system in the machine is truly tailored for the 21st century. More importantly, it allows players to interact with each other online via their microphones.

So I honestly thought that I wouldn't have to worry about anime anymore. I quit my anime streaming subscription on the Anime Network, which was a crappy Internet service to begin with. I bought a gold membership for my XBOX 360 machine.

I still don't feel that full depth from a dramatic anime show in a video game. However, this machine really works like a high-class channel to socialize with all of my friends, no matter where they live in the world.

I felt really depressed last year, because I kept thinking about all the money that I didn't have. Yet, thanks to this device, I really don't feel alone anymore. I feel like I'm actually attached to something important amongst all of my best friends.

I'll start anew with a simple subscription to crunchyroll.com. They seem to offer the best quality service. I could probably find a whole slew of other anime shows to download off of various other sources, but this is a good start.

Let's have a toast for the new year of hope!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Best anime openings for Christmas insanity (part three)

I had a tough time narrowing down the next 15 entries in my favorite anime openings list. Some of the more obscure shows started to pop up in my head, so I had to reorganize the order.

Don't worry. I'm still keeping numbers 26-16. Now then, lets continue the countdown, starting at...


15. Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

I just started this series. Beck has one of the catchiest tunes I've ever heard. Once people hear it, they can't stop thinking about it. They'll hum it in their sleep. They'll sing the words.

The video is a fun montage of a road trip across the United States. It looks pretty cute too. When the main characters sing "I was born to hit in America," the cinematography reminds me of "A Hard Day's Night." The camera cycles through head shots of all the characters, as if they were going to be the next big Japanese superstars.

All 26 episodes of the series are available in a box set for only $13. It's a really entertaining series, if rock music is your type of thing.


14. Fullmetal Alchemist, fourth opening

As much as I liked all the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood intros, the fourth opening of the original series truly captures the dramatic scope of the Elric brothers' journey. I like to call this the epic standing-in-place intro, because most of the characters are just staying in one place, as the camera pans around them.

Yet, the animators make it look incredibly cool. They put in all these warm lighting effects. Sometimes the characters' hair is blowing all over the place, just to make them appear larger than life. The animators also put in all these quick panning effects on the background, to make everything look even more intense. It's a cheesy opening, but all the effects can really hook people in.

With all that said, I'd prefer to watch the remake, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It's a show that lasts over 50 episodes. It's available for only about $35 per box set on amazon.com.



13. K-On!, second opening

This is probably the flashiest intro, with special effects and computer animation all over the place. During the chorus, the camera literally rotates at 100 miles per hour around the band members.

For whatever reason, the director wanted to capture the hyper-kinetic power of cuteness in K-On with a whole bunch of insane computer animation shots. Honestly, he's overdoing it a little. However, the video is so manic that it lures anime fans right into it.

The American anime publisher for the series hasn't announced any new information, but fans should expect Bandai to release it next year. Hopefully.


12. Spice and Wolf, season one opening

Although many shoujo shows tried to capture people's attention with a wide variety of computer animation tricks, my favorite shoujo opening is from a recent series, called Spice and Wolf. For an animated music video, this is a surprisingly simple montage. It's set to one of the best songs I've ever heard.

Most of the imagery relies on the marvelous landscapes in the series. It includes old European villages and beautiful grassy meadows. If that didn't catch anyone's attention, there's quite a few interesting fan service shots of a naked wolf girl.

The season one box set is still at an expensive $60, but on Black Friday the price fell to $25 on rightstuf.com. I guess the website is keeping the price low for the holidays, because it's still at the same price. For an epic 13 episodes, this is a great bargain. Check it out.


11. Wolf's Rain opening

This intro has an 80s-style smooth jazz tune that sounds pretty stylish with Wolf's Rain. It  is still one of the best intros by the anime studio Bones, complete with flocks of black crows and towering skyscrapers.

The background images of overcast skies and heavy rain truly reflect the melancholy, murky tone of this show. Even the wolf characters' have an 80s fashion sense that really fits their tough, loose lifestyle. The main character wears a leather jacket to protect him from the changing weather. The other characters dress in black, as if they are anticipating a funeral at any time.

The Wolf's Rain perfect box set is available on amazon.com for only $33. It's probably the best Bones series that anyone will ever see.

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Best anime openings for Christmas insanity (part two)

After the Black Friday madness, it's time to continue with my list of the top 26 opening sequences for anime shows. Moving onward to number 20...

20. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, first season
This opening looks more like one of those 70s romance shows, like "That Girl" or "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The characters dress up with considerable class. Even the juxtaposition of the drawings make them look like high-end individuals. It's still a classic for me.

No moe show has stirred as much controversy as the second season of Haruhi. This show isn't an ordinary experiment in shoujo anime anymore. It is guaranteed to test your toleration for anime boredom.

Yet, this is also why it's one of the more important shows of the decade. There's no other show that will amuse you and disgust you as much as Haruhi. If you're into camera tricks and classy cinematography, get season one for $35. Season two is also available at a more expensive $49.

19. Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
Not too many of the old mecha show openings lasted the test of time. However, almost every old anime fan remembers this grand opening for "Macross."

This is another one of those really corny intros where the singer has to sing the name of the show. The epic scale of the orchestra and the electric guitars makes the show much larger than life. The hero of the series, Rick Hunter, also looks incredibly cool as the star pilot of the series.

Most of the DVDs are still available on amazon.com. You have to make sure to buy only the grey copies with the words "Super Dimensional Fortress Macross," though. This was one of the shows that was first released with a terrible English dub and none of the original Japanese audio, so make sure you find the proper version.

18. Death Note, second opening
People don't usually hear about death metal bands in Japan, so this was an excellent intro that showed off the random, schizophrenic sound of Japanese metal. It also included some of the edgiest visuals for an anime opening.

It doesn't make much sense, but it truly captures the dangerous atmosphere of "Death Note."

In case anyone is wondering, Funimation recently released the Death Note episodes in two box sets. Each part is available for only $28.

17. Hidamari Sketch x365
I didn't even consider putting "Hidamari Sketch" into the list until I saw the second opening. The show easily trumps Haruhi and "Lucky Star" with a cheery, hyper intro that captures everything that makes it so special.

This intro included everything. The characters show off their name stamped on their faces and arms. We get to see all the characters, from the weird principal to the caterpillar mascot. Panels from the comic are even flashing by at high speeds.

Sure, this intro copies the flying character sequence from Azumanga Daioh. Twice. Yet, no one can argue about how the animators neatly synchronized all the letters, numbers and character motions to match the fast music.

Seasons one and two are available on amazon.com for $36 each.


16. Xam'd - "Shut Up and Explode"
Xam'd is one of those shows that you have to watch, just because it looks cool and surreal. This opening happens to have the hardest-hitting post-punk song I've ever heard in an anime.

There's plenty of things that just look great. The giant Xam'd monsters that are destroying buildings. The unique motions of the characters to the hip music. The person who probably lured people in the most is the girl who looks like a cross between Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa. Come on, you have to watch a show just because this girl's image was inspired by two of the best Hayao Miyazaki films of all time.

Xam'd is available in two box sets. The first box is available for $37.

In another week, we'll look at numbers 15-11 on the list.

Images courtesy of photobucket.com.

DVD Review: Growing up with Friends, Food and Art

"Hidamari Sketch" is a warm, fuzzy slice-of-life that will get any fan interested in art and friendship.

Don't let the cute intro fool you--"Hidamari Sketch" is one of the best slice-of-life series with moe characters. Although the first season is only 14 episodes long, it sucks you into the everyday life of four of the kindest girls you'll ever want to live with for the rest of your life.

Unlike other moe shows, this series is more like a chronicle of an entire school year from January to December. It takes you right into a special art high school, where the four girls are learning how to perfect their craft. The girls, Yuno, Miyako, Hiro and Sae, have known each other for half a year.

Right from the start, this story strays dramatically from the typical formula of uber-cute moe. Rather than focus on the characters' adorable love for guitars or anime, the characters actually spend time talking together. They talk about a wide range of topics, such as the romance novel that Sae is usually writing.

Each character has unique traits that actually complements their friendships and their art skills. For instance, Miyako overeats and tends to joke around too often. Although she often goofs around by drawing anime-style characters, she has a knack for capturing her best friend's unusual facial expressions in a drawing.

You'll even notice how all the characters' art skills improve. Anime fans will love watching Yuno as she learns to harness her artistic talent to create beautiful, life-like drawings. They'll even enjoy all the subtle moments when Yuno sits in the bathtub, reflecting on everything happened during the day.

Yuno even learns to appreciate all her friends' humorous habits and customs. At one point, she has to borrow Miyako's "horror" alarm clock. The alarm is literally a goofy voice recording of a woman who is screaming at the top of her lungs.

Even though "Hidamari Sketch" isn't the most dramatic or most well-drawn, it has a simple visual touch that looks amazing on screen. Many of the anime textures include actual photographs. For instance, the escalator in a shopping area includes actual photographs which might have been manipulated through 3D animation magic.

Every backdrop is like a work of art. The stairs turn into abstract horizontal lines moving up or down the screen. The textures are sometimes shaded with dot patterns, rather than in different gradients. The anime even includes a photograph of the actual sculpture of Brutus, pasted into the high school classroom setting.

These are just a few of the many reasons why "Hidamari Sketch" is a huge hit in Japan. The show ran for two seasons and it is about to start its third. It's one of the only moe shows where the girls actually act like mature grown-ups. Although "K-On!" is receiving all the buzz this year for its exciting rock music, no one should ever overlook the wonderful "Hidamari Sketch."

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DVD Review: A Complicated Bundle of Love

If anyone is struggling to find a decent romance anime, there's one show that they absolutely have to watch.

Season one of "Honey and Clover" is a powerful love story that is guaranteed to keep everyone emotionally attached until the very end.

It starts off as a simple slice-of-life about a group of art college friends: three guys and two girls. The guys consist of a first-year student named Takemoto, a sixth-year slacker named Morita and a fourth-year senior named Mayama. The girls consist of a young prodigy named Hagumi and a beautiful third-year pottery student named Ayumi Yamada.

At first, the story becomes a simple snapshot of daily life for these college students. As they grow older, they become more and more romantically attached. Yet, they all have a tough time confessing their feelings for each other, because they don't want their group of friends to break apart.

Although the plot is as simple as a light romance could get, the dialogue is remarkably rich with pent-up emotion. Viewers will immediately get hooked into heartbreaking relationship between Yamada and Mayama. Yamada can't help falling in love with Mayama, even when he starts to live in the apartment of another close friend named Rika.

The dialogue may seem innocent in the first few episodes. By episode 18, though, Yamada's emotions get the best of her when she runs away in tears. The entire series is filled with many difficult situations of unrequited love. These characters must wallow through these flooding emotions, struggling to find a new meaning to their lives.


To tell the truth, I can't believe this group of buddies could ever manage to stay together for two seasons. Thankfully, they never don't really take these pressing relationships too seriously. The director, Kenichi Kasai, has an incredible knack for making every comedy sequence as epic as possible.


For example, episode eight includes an especially agonizing Twister game. It starts out as an easy game. Near the end, though, all the characters are goofily breaking their bones from playing the game. The animators execute everything in this sequence with quick slapstick timing. They manage to make everything as ridiculously painful as possible, without ever crossing the line of extreme violence.

It's a bizarre series of wacky humor with unbearable waves of moving emotion. "Honey and Clover" is probably one of the best and most realistic anime love stories ever made. The protagonists are charming. The warm visuals are soothing. The dialogue hits people where it hurts.

As painful as it is to watch, this show is more about the characters' journeys rather than their relationships. "Honey and Clover" proves that sometimes it takes a little tough love for people to grow into mature adults.

Watch the series at hulu.com.

Images courtesy of photobucket.com