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Anime reviews

A few months back The Escapist had a contest for an anime reviewer. I thought I would jump on it and try it, but I don’t think I was selected. Here are my reviews for Ouran High School Host Club and Gurren Lagan for your pleasure.

Ouran Host Club:
I am not a completely masculine dude and I find myself watching plenty of Soujo anime in my spare time between mainlining Gundams (the older ones) and ultra-violent stuff. Ouran High School Host Club was recommended to me by an Australian friend who’s into this stuff more than I am (he wears Salior Fukus to cons).

The first thing that hits me when watching this series are the character designs reminding me of something CLAMP would do. While the entire cast of characters doesn’t fall under the bishonen category just about every group including that is represented. Haruhi Fujioka is a girl mistaken for a guy who racks up a massive debt breaking something and must work to repay that debt. While it’s obviously been done in other series (He is my Master comes to mind), the use of a cross dresser as the lead is it’s point of originality. For characters there’s the prince, the badass, the silent, the incest twins and the shotacon but the characters are surprisingly well rounded for being a stereotype. As a turn off to me the shonen-ai theme seems to run thick with characters constantly fawning over each other and themselves to the point it gets rather bland by episode three. With the exception of Haruhi the entire female cast feels incredibly flat; as most end up as one episode girls without real stories and feel like they’re all the same girl with a different head. In fact only one girl has a different shape and she appears for a total of ten seconds. On the other hand while this does fall under the category of reverse harem it doesn’t take the traditional role of focusing on the relationship between the main character (Haruhi) with the other characters and instead it focuses on the characters themselves and not just the character and the lead.

That being said the humor that the series sells itself on is rather stable and sudden. Even when situations get serious at times a quick comedy jab at the wrong time keeps you from thinking about the drama too much. While characters seem to fit a common mold for this sort of thing they writers seem to find new and interesting ways to make them funny. Unfortunately towards the second half of the series the jokes begin to stop being funny. This isn’t because it’s reusing the old jokes since it doesn’t, the new humor just falls off as not being as creative. That being said most of the drama in the series is totally forgettable with most story arcs only consisting of one episode.

The overuse of roses as a backdrop whenever someone is bragging does get quite old but characters look alive. However, animation does seem to have some corners cut when characters get farther away from the “camera”. Otherwise, it’s solid, bright and colorful and characters close up seem exceptionally detailed.

I should probably make a quick mention that since I don’t know Japanese and hate reading subtitles I watch it dubbed unless absolutely necessary. In the case of this series generally the voice actors work. I’ve heard a number of complaints about how Vic Mignogna is the dealbreaker for the series but that’s not the case. Even at 48 years old and well over 6′ tall he does his best work with the eccentric types. I will say that Mitsukuni (Luci Christian) is probably a little too feminine and Haruhi (Caitlin Glass) isn’t deep enough for the roles they have but you get used to it and it fits well. The rest of the cast is quite pleasing. Music is nicely varied between pop, light rock and instrumental backgrounds featuring a Victorian theme. Weirdly the opening and closing songs are redone for the English release but unlike previous attempts at this (say Sailor Moon) this one is actually worth it’s own salt to the effect I didn’t even know it wasn’t the original tune until it was pointed out at me.

Comes with Actor Commentaries, Outtakes (thirty-three minutes of ’em), clean opening and closing with samples from the Manga by VIZ media. Unfortunately the Manga samples are a little hard to read when in standard definition format that comes on a DVD.

Bottom line:
Generally entertaining for the first half of the series then begins to lose some of it’s charm. It’s worth checking out to enjoy yourself, though you might find yourself bored by the time the ending hits.

Gurren Lagann Short Review:
When I heard Gainax put out another anime that was hailed as the next big thing I was immediately skeptical knowing my .500 average with me liking whatever they put out. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is their latest offering prompting me to take a second look at my average. Let me do the run-down for you. It’s your standard Super Robot anime but we’ve upgraded to digital animation and bigger…um…eyes. But all the classic themes and characters are accounted for, disillusioned main character, eccentric support fellow, the bleeding heart, the princess love interest, the suspiciously feminine male engineer and a complete disregard for every law of physics and chemistry. Is the series good though? Well I think it’s great. There are a few minor complaints but in general the pacing for the series is incredibly good building up from small time nobodies to the saviors of the universe. On that note, character development is very good with characters being very intuitive and being very intelligent about their environment and the situations they are in. Generally very entertaining with points of comedy brilliance and an absolutely spectacular climax it is definitely worth a watch.