Archive for October, 2009

Maria Holic – Simply brilliant, a great fun Yuri anime series

maria-holic1Maria Holic is simply brilliant just a great fun anime that I love. Maria Holic is like watching Maria Sama ga Miteru on crack, just like watching the Prince of Tennis chibi episodes really. The story is about Kanako, who transfers into her mother’s old school to find her one true love. Her mother and father meet there as a student and her teacher because well this is an all girls Catholic school. This really is no problem for Kanako as she is a Yuri fan girl with a man allergy and wants to meet the perfect girl. She is unique in this way because for the first time we get a female character every bit as ecchi as the average male character, nose bleeding, watching the girls change, dreaming about their swimsuits, looking up their skirts and basically taking on all the stereotypes you expect from a teenage boy in an all girl environment. Kanako is soon running wild fantasizing about all her new friends and in particular one she thinks may be the one, the most popular girl in school, Mariya. But as fate would have it the one is in fact a cross dressing sadist, pretty perfect girl on the outside and twisted manipulative vindictive boy on the inside and only Kanako knows his secret.  So Kanako is stuck between her perfect Yuri dream life and keeping Mariya’s secret identity. If Kanako exposes Mariya then Mariya will expose the fact that Kanako is a lesbian who is secretly perving on her mates and fellow class mates.

It is refreshing to see a Yuri anime that is a little more obvious and risqué about the subject. As a Yuri fan I would have looked into this anime anyway and as a bishonen fan having a cross dressing sadist as a main character is just perfect for me. But Maria Holic really is more original than most series of its genre. We finally get a girl who is a pervert, no more sweet innocent little flowers with their first loves. Kanako has no shame about being a lesbian and spends every episode in a puddle of blood because she allows her fantasies and inner monologues to get so out of control she works herself into a fit at the slightest provocation.Mariya is great, his switches between male and female are wonderful plus his equally evil maid sidekick make them a perfect evil pair. Obviously each episode is full of ridiculousness don’t expect any overwhelming story ark or challenging plot about sexuality this anime is pure entertainment.

Each episode is made up of segments about random school and dorm life and the interactions of the characters. It has all you character types so it reminds you of a dating sim where a crazy Yuri fan is the main character. The character designs are really nice all the girls are attractive, although I’m not so fond of their noses, especially the student council president. She is an attractive girl but suffers from disappearing nose syndrome. One of the interesting aspects of the series is the mixing of animation styles depending on the mood of the scene or what’s going on in Kanako’s head. It switches from girly shoujo style to uber girly old school shoujo style for some of Kanako’s fantasies or a very shonen masculine style for when Kanako is in full Yuri girl with a mission mode. It works well the juxtapositions of styles and if you have followed shoujo manga you’ll recognise the more 70’s style of series like Candy Candy and the work of Keiko Takemiya. Also there are the references to series such as Maria Sama and Utena which is to be expected. One of the other best things about this anime is the opening, Hanaji by Yu Kobayashi is just one of those great tunes that reflects the series perfectly and is a fun tune. The opening sequence is great and I love the facial expressions and the way it perfectly represent the theme, tone and style of the anime. So I highly recommend this anime it is just pure fun!

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Rookies – delinquent japanese youth, friendship, hope and the love of Baseball

ROOKIES1Rookies has to be one of my all time favourite J-Doramas. It is a classic story line for a Japanese drama, new confident teacher with goals of making his students realize their dreams comes to a school that has a problem class (think Gokusen). The problems in the class are the dissatisfied and delinquent youths that make up the remaining members of the schools Baseball team. 6 months ago the team got into a fight with another team over the result of their game and the whole team has been given a 1 year ban from competing in the baseball championships, bringing a end to their dream of going to the Koshien high school baseball tournament. The seniors (sempais) have moved on, the underclassman don’t want to join the team because of their violent reputation so the remaining members have become more of a gang of thugs. No longer able to play the sport they love and the only reason they came to school taken from them they now skip class to hang out in their club room. When their not smoking, gambling and brining girls over, they are getting into fights and disrespecting everyone. Enters Koichi Kawato our new teacher with a past who also happens to be exceptionally strong both mentally and physically. He believes in passion and achieving your dreams and likes to shout out his highly motivational speeches, I have no idea how he has a voice left, trying to bring morals and ambitions back to the Futakotamagawa high school baseball team.

As with this type of drama his passion and optimism starts to get through to some of the students who begin to think maybe it’s not too late to give up on their dreams as their ban is coming to an end. The baseball team is made up of some exceptional players with real talent going to waste as they use it to bully and fight. We all know where this drama is heading, Kawato brings the teams together, realizing and releasing their potential. Each member struggles with the idea of moving on from the past and turning to a new life and working towards their dreams. They play baseball, they fight they win, they lose, they fight, they cry, they fight; they face obstacles, media attention, prejudices and learn that violence isn’t the way. They grow as people and realize how much Kawato has done for them and how much they owe him. They become reformed delinquents with respect and passion but not before facing each challenge.

Its great viewing you laugh and cry with them, I have a great soft spot for ‘triumph over adversity’ stories and a real interest in dissatisfied youth culture in Japan and this series ticks all the boxes. It really builds up the tension and the drama, putting this team through every hurdle and unfairity life throws at them. It also has many light hearted and funny moments to keep you smiling and a fun score. The best thing about the scoring is the ‘here comes some bad guys’ type music that accompanies our boys walking slow motion towards a camera looking angry and unapproachable, its great. But the determination feels real you are right their with them hoping they succeed and grabbing the side of the sofa hoping they make it, equally as frustrated by all the people who underestimate them and try and get in their way.
This was a very popular drama and has to be said has some attractive stars, Sato Takeru is good eye candy but the winning vote has to be the fact that my all time favourite J-Idol Shirota Yu is a lead characters. He plays the most violent and quick to fight member of the team, terrified of the team changing and growing and no longer staying together he rather beat his mates and Kawato to a bloody pulp than move on. He has the longest and toughest journey but also is desperate to protect his friends even if they don’t understand his feelings. Shirota yu plays his character wonderfully and well is just plan gorgeous. I did love this drama and originally was drawn to it because of Shirota Yu but it completely won me over and I felt for all the characters. Even if my favourite idol had not been in it I would have loved this drama it had so much passion and kept me entertained desperate to know how it was all going to turn out. All I can say is can’t wait for the movie, hopefully can import my copy when it comes out in Japan at Christmas!

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Torchwood Children of the Earth – a critic and a fan’s review

children of earthOk I have two different opinions of this show as it really separated me as a critic and as a fan. So there will be two quite different reviews the first one as a critic that end with a bit BUT as the fan girl in me has her say.

If you take this drama on its own as a piece of event television then it’s absolutely brilliant. I was in all a great mini series and I did love it. It had a great story, it was well acted, great action, suspense and tension, and it was well paced, edited and scored. Every episode had me glued to the screen and every cliff-hanger had me wishing the next day away so I could see what happened. It was a much more mature take on the Torchwood universe with a much stronger, more developed and intense story to tell. The acting was great from all the cast and the range of emotion within it were brilliant. From the first episode that showed us how our team have grown together how there relationships have changed and evolved. It was great to see Jack and Ianto out and open about their relationship and the most amazing moment to have Ianto say, “its not men it’s just him”. This is a view I love when it comes to love, the idea that its not what sex a person is, its not about being gay or straight its just about love and Ianto was in love with Jack, jack the person he is now. It was a great big leap forward for a mainstream highly successful and publicised show to have that wonderful moment about love transcending gender issues. I am very pleased with the evolution of Gwen she has matured a lot and has truly rooted her heart, she loves Rhys and Jack is her best friend. I was surprised with some of Jacks death scenes they really found new ways to give him some of the most painful and horrific deaths, not to mention amazing makeup when bringing him back from the belly bomb, that was amazingly done. I loved seeing Jacks dark side but inner sadness being explored and then finally coming to terms with what he has to do to save the world. I though Ianto’s death scene was beautiful and so heart breaking, he loves Jack with everything he’s got and although jack didn’t say it back I think that makes sense for Jack character. However Jacks desperate please, his begging to have everything taken back so Ianto will survive, to the very last minute before his own death begging Ianto not to leave him was so powerful. How can you doubt Jacks feelings for Ianto when he himself can’t believe Ianto will leave him?

Torchwood

I was also pleased that we never really fully saw the 456 they where clouded in mystery which was good you don’t want to see a big Doctor Who villain you want to keep the fear going a little longer. The scene were our government sells us it was brilliant the idea that they would go to war with their own people to save them. Discussing how to achieve the 10% really addressing the issue with the seriousness and focus of government. It was well played out and although you hated them for their choices I like the fact that they really did try and think about the choices and what was best for the country in terms of continuing the human race. It was an intelligent and harsh truth and they all acted it so well. When finally the revelation about what the children were being used for came it was one of the biggest and best shocks. They didn’t go with any of the obvious like they need them to survive no the truth of the matter was so horrific in light of the sacrifices the government where going to make to get them the children. I loved the idea that the aliens were simply junkies, there was no intelligent thought behind there actions, this was not a desperate act to continue to survive they just liked the high they got off feeding off the children. The vomiting and thrashing about was all because they were on a huge come down and needed another fix and their drug of choice was earth’s children. What a brilliant and harsh topic just a wonderful plot twist. By the final episode Jack has been so crushed that he has become a cold and distant man, in that light without Ianto’s death he wouldn’t have been the cold and desperate person he needed to be to sacrifice his own grandchild. That was another great twist but it was very painful and you could see Jacks last bit of humanity as well as any love he had left for humanity and Earth die alone with his Grandson. It was a big move to kill a child and something only Jack could have done now that he has started to distance himself from humanity. Poor jack was left so hurt and broken by the end that it makes sense for him to want to escape this planet. He has lost everything after Ianto his grandson was his last link to this world and what it meant to be human, as he said himself about Gwen “I cant look at her anymore” so it make sense that he cant stay for her she has her own life and cannot offer him anything to make him stay. It was a heart breaking ending to a very well done series, and here it comes the BUT….

I am and I am very proud to be a fan girl which is why this series has confused me greatly. My head tells me I loved it but my Heart tells me I hated it. It is very strange to love and hate something at the same time but Torchwood has done just that. CoE doesn’t seem to fit so well with the rest of the Torchwood universe there’s a lot left unresolved and I think it went too far with the death and darkness and destruction of our hero’s soul. I am not sure how another series can be made after all there’s no SUV, Hub, Gwen’s having a baby (she cant really return to Torchwood with a kid at home), Ianto is dead and Jack is so destroyed he’s run away from the Earth. Does that mean an entire new cast if the show returns it wont be the same without Jack and Ianto or in fact the wonderful word of Janto. There are all these little plot holes I cant seem to fill, if the Hub is destroyed so is the rift machine so why isn’t it spitting out aliens by the truck load. Cardiff should being going crazy no the rift is unprotected and free to do as it pleases. Also how much of the Hub got destroyed, what about the archives and the morgue is it safe to assume that Gray is dead or will he wake up now that the power keeping him in status is gone and be after revenge, if not a bit confused, on Jack. What about other characters isn’t Sarah Jane still about with her super computer wouldn’t they have tried to get in touch with Jack and also Captain John Hart is still roaming about the Earth somewhere, what does he make of all this does he know Jacks left. I have two other big problems with the series and I’m saving the obvious for last. The other problem is what I always thought was the plot of Torchwood. “The 21st century is when everything changes and Torchwood is ready” um is it me or did CoE forget this. I mean for a start it wasn’t said at the beginning of any episodes so are we meant to believe this threat, the 456 are what’s responsible for changing everything. If so how come Jack didn’t know this, he keeps saying it will all change and their ready but they certainly were ready for the 456. So let’s assume Jack doesn’t know what the actual event that changes everything is, how would he know that Torchwood is ready. In fragments we get Jack coming back to the Hub after new years to dead colleges and the man responsible for there deaths telling us he’s seen what’s coming and its so horrific he kills everyone and himself. So did he see the 456, I know they were awful but really would you kill yourself because aliens are coming for your children or would you use that information to tell someone. Maybe before he died he could have said “jack you know when you gave 12 children away in 1965, well its going to come back and bite you in the arse so maybe we should try and find away to not repeat that mistake”. I mean if he knew what was going to happen maybe inform UNIT, the government, Jack and well started working on detecting their arrival or prevention or something it didn’t quite fit.

Now the final big hit in the face is of course the death of Ianto, I mean did they really have to come on talk about a punch in the gut to all us Janto fans. I was rather mad about this part of the story the fan girl in me has been angry ever since. This really is the biggest mistake in TV history I’m so angry with my fandom I have to shout to as many people as will listen. How could they kill Ianto, him and Jack being together was my favourite thing about the show and this has just broke my heart but worse than that I am full of hate and anger. I loved watching their relationship develop and having it be there for all to see. I am just so angry, does RTD understand what he’s done, and does he realize how much the fans are going to hate him. They have ruined Torchwood without Ianto and Jack/Ianto it’s just not the same show I fell in love with. For the first time ever we had a hero in a gay relationship saving the world a first and a landmark for slash fandom and they repay us fans by ruining our biggest love. I don’t want a season 4 not without Janto. I hate RTD and I feel they have betrayed slash fans as well as gay fans and killed a great fandom. I was so full of hope for having a gay couple not stuck in stereotypes, it was about love plain and simple and it meant a lot to us fans for once it wasn’t us reading what we wanted into the scenes we had real proof that a relationship was growing and then it was there for us all to see and it was amazing. But as soon as it was given it was taken away. I feel like slash fans have just moved back 10 paces and gay fans have been put back into the closet. I’m not sure another show will be brave enough to have this kind of relationship in it and it’s a great loss. I loved Ianto’s character and a show without him seems impossible. I don’t think I could watch a series 4 without him even if they did somehow manage to get Jack back. By the end of the series Jack was left so heart broken and desolate and that’s not what I wanted to see, I think as a fan from the beginning in went too far and was no longer the show I loved. I liked it better when it was 13 episodes and it was fun and free. I will surly miss this fandom and as a long term fan I just wish there had been some consideration to how we would have felt about what they ended up doing to characters we loved so much.

Links:

Official BBC site http://www.bbc.co.uk/torchwood/

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