Missed A Week, But I'm Back! Tenchi, Hyakko, Fruits Basket

Waagh! Sorry I'm late! I had a really apathetic week last week and things got kind of bad. I even had this article planned in my head and I just decided not to write it. I'm going to blame hayfever. It's a good scapegoat. In any case, no more excuses. I can do this! So here we go.

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OVA Set 3 (7 Episodes)
Animation: ****
Story: ****
Music: ***
Overall: ***

The Tenchi franchise is about as old as the hills now and the formula is pretty much the same here, just simply picking up where the first two sets of OVAs left off. Tenchi, in his house filled with hot alien girls, is suddenly visited by even more hot alien girls. What starts off as Tenchi's long lost family pouring in and telling him he's already engaged turns into a crisis that could destroy the universe. Basic Tenchi stuff and yet quite fun if you've already enjoyed everything leading up to this series as I have since it was broadcasted on Toonami.

However, I do have a few complaints. I don't talk much about the whole issue of subs and dubs and that kind of thing, but here the dub bothered me. It wasn't that the dub was bad as it was that FUNimation didn't (or couldn't) get some of the original voice actors and that was a little depressing. I had heard that they were using a different voice for Ryoko, but I figured that a sexy space pirate wouldn't be hard to recreate, and I was wrong. Not that the voice was bad, but the original voice actress who played Ryoko certainly was better. Mihoshi's voice actress was different as well, but I didn't care as much. Airhead is airhead and I've never cared much for Mihoshi anyway. One thing that did puzzle me is how they got the original voice again for Tenchi, but didn't have him do Tenchi's grandfather, Katsuhito, like he did originally. Oh well.

My other complaint actually is in the animation. Don't get me wrong, it was still good, but it wasn't the same quality and smoothness that the original OVAs had. Even if they're older, they certainly were slick and had a lot of fluid motion, whereas this third set has the standard stickiness you expect from television anime. I thought OVAs were supposed to by better in the animation department.

It's still a fun series, though. I don't know if it's ideal for someone to pick it up on its own; they do spend a lot of time referring to material brought up in the earlier series. Sure, the first episode is sort of a recap, but there's still other details you wouldn't really get unless you had watched the series from the beginning. At least we don't have to wait and buy each episode individually!

Hyakko (13 Episodes)
Animation: ****
Story: ****
Music: ****
Overall: *****


. . .

Lemme back up. When the Anime News Network was doing their Anime preview for (geez, I think it was) last fall, they didn't seem to care much for Hyakko. It was four high school girls simply being the kind of silly you'd find in anime. Yet, as I picked which series I was going to try to follow, I couldn't get it out of my mind and I decided to give it a shot.

I have since been left on the ground rolling in laughter. This series absolutely KILLS me! I don't know if it just fits in with my sense of humor or what, but I loved almost every minute of this series (I'll get to those other parts later)!! The character design is immediately striking, the character interactions are incredibly dynamic, and the music keeps everything pumping full of life and energy. Even when they toss in a few anime in-jokes, the show doesn't necessarily expect you to get them, which allows you to join in with the rest of the cast in being pleasantly baffled. Of course, when you do get it, it's just as great.

The premise is simply enough: the campus is one of those K-12 schools, but the first character you meet is Ayumi who transferred in just for high school, which becomes apparent when she gets lost five minutes into the first episode. Plagued with a timid nature, she tries to find friends but can't find the courage, so when she stumbles across Natsumi, the snooty girl, Ayumi can barely get across that she could use some help, only to learn that, despite being a student at this school since the beginning, Natsumi is lost, too. As they wander around, they come across Torako leaping out of a building as plan to not loose her own sense of direction because she and her friend Suzume are lost as well. Torako is the gung-ho reckless type (almost like a shonen anime hero) and Suzume fills the personality-of-a-alien-robot type. From here, the four girls (who are all in the same class, as it turns out) become close friends simply by happenstance and it's great to see them clash against each other over this and that. Mostly, Natsumi practicality compels her to scorn Torako for every nonsensical thing she does while Ayumi trembles in indecision and Suzume eats everything. They also seem to be the central focus as they befriend/harass the other girls in their class.

My only criticism is what happens at the end of the series. After being a rather off-the-wall comedy, it suddenly strikes a large vein of seriousness that almost seems uncharacteristic. While the series does a good job of diving fairly deep into the various characters' problems and personalities, it suddenly dives a little too deep into Torako's family life and troubles which are rather complex and dark in comparison. And the final episode is a little disorienting as it takes everything back to before the series got started. Maybe if I had read the manga, this whole thing would make more sense.

That aside, the series was a lot of fun and I would love it if some company could pick it up and bring it here. I don't care if it's just a subtitles-only complete box set a la Media Blasters (though I wouldn't turn down a dub if someone feels like it would be worthwhile), I just want this series on DVD without having to pay through the nose for an import. I really wouldn't know where to look anyways.

I may not have seen every anime comedy under the sun, but I enjoyed this and would recommend it to anyone who likes their comedy a little on the off-beat side.

Fruits Basket (23 Volumes)
Rating: ***

I reviewed the anime here on this blog before and found it to be a fun, light-hearted comedy concerning a rather frightening family. However, the anime could only go so far as the manga hadn't finished yet, so they decided to make their own ending, bringing everything to a reasonable close.

Fruits Basket is a fairly well known property by now, as it is the number shojo manga in America (or is that just TokyoPop hyping things up?). I imagine most everyone is familiar with the premise by now, and if not, I've done a decent enough job with the anime review that I don't feel like re-typing it.

In comparison to the anime, the manga starts out just as light-hearted, but then dives deep in rather serious situations and material. It spends a rather long time on each of the other zodiac members that I wouldn't really consider to be main characters, sort of like how Kare Kano got away from the main couple for some of those later graphic novels. However, to Fruits Basket's credit, it still focuses on Tohru and her interactions with the various members of the Sohma family, even if they seem tangential. In fact, as the series progresses, it seems to wax more and more philosophical, almost making it seem long-winded at times.

Toward the end, Fruits Basket remembers that shojo manga tend to have romantic parts as well, and Tohru finally decides she in love with one of the guys (I won't say who simply because I didn't think it would be him, so I'll leave it a surprise for those who haven't read it) and helps him over come his Zodiac curse.

After running for 23 volumes, we finally have the happy ending we've been waiting for all this time. Things get sorted out, negativity is replaced with smiles, and all is well. It just took a really long, roundabout way of getting there. Maybe it was just the release schedule of the volumes from TokyoPop, I don't know. However, I feel satisfied with how the series went as a whole and I don't think it as a waste of my time. (Again, their version of Cinderella for their school play is the most hilarious play-in-a-manga I've ever seen.)

Well, as I warned, things may get more complicated as I get closer to the fall semester, but I've already got a plan for next week's article: I'm almost finished with Eden Of The East (wow, what a trip) and I've got the rest of Tsubasa Reservior Chronicle handy. Also, there are a few short manga collections that I could have finished by then as well, so at least I'll have something to write about.

I wonder when One Piece will become available online again with FUNimation . . . .


Clint said...

Whoot, more promising Anime's for the downloading!!

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