Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Anime Review - Yosuga no Sora

Babe #1 is really rather buxom
Now, I’m not the kind of girl adverse to watching the occasional hentai title or forcing my fiancé to watch trashy ecchi with me. However, when a number of friends heralded the currently airing Yosuga no Sora as “porn”, I knew it was my civic duty to watch and review such a spectacle. Not knowing quite what to expect from comments such as “vagina towel”, I have to admit to being somewhat taken aback by the fearless use of typically soft core action.

The story revolves around siblings Haru and Sora who are returning to a town they spent much of their childhood in many years ago following the death their parents. Tragedy has affected the mind and body of the younger sibling and she has become reliant on the emotional support offered by her brother. Throw into the mix a selection of female groupies with problems of their own, and you have the same recipe as for many trashy harem romance shows. Well, it would be except for the fact that this is based on a multi-route visual novel that features numerous explicit scenes.

Loli and incest fans rejoice, for you have not been forgotten

On first viewing, I was confused; Haru spends the first 4 episodes romancing a girl, getting into her yukata and panties and then suddenly he is having naked time with another female. Why wasn’t girl one jealous or angry? Was it a dream? After figuring out that Yosuga no Sora’s origins would have had numerous (literal) happy endings, it seems logical to assume that the anime clumsily tries to incorporate every possible shag partner for the protagonist. Cobbled together as four completely unrelated arcs, there are numerous crossover scenes that are seen in each of the individual tales that will probably leave many newer viewers completely befuddled. Even the final arc left many questions in its wake: was the lake sequence a dream, or was it a cop-out from the “bad” VN climax?

It’s a shame really that the story takes a second role to the bonking and boobs featured within Yosuga no Sora, as it could actually have been quite enjoyable. Instead, the writers’ obsession with Nao-chan’s perpetually bouncing chest takes away from the tale of siblings trying to come to terms with the tragic loss of their parents. This could have been a successful hentai series, or even a touching romance; what it is instead is a dreadful mess that will irritate fans of either genre.

Nogisaka was taken aback by Haru's attraction to the bunny.
By far the strongest aspect of the series, the animation is tirelessly sexy. The characters look gorgeous, especially Sora and the way her impossibly long hair move. My only issue, as mentioned above, is the obsession with breasts. Be they big or small, neither is neglected and much screen time is dedicated to each of the girls jiggling mammary mountains. If you are a fan of women with a larger cup size and a defiance of gravity, then this will probably cater to your tastes. Other than this, it is obvious that a significant portion of the budget has been spent on making the visuals look stunning – a shame more couldn’t have been spent on decent writers.

Featuring a strong vocal cast, the seiyuu for Yosuga no Sora are unfortunately encumbered with a horrendous script. The females attempt a sterling job at describing in painstaking detail exactly what they are doing. Cries of “Oh, Haru, your penis is inside me” or the timeless “no, don’t touch me there!”, this is most likely taken straight from the original material.

She tripped and fell, honest
Making up for this travesty, the opening track and incidental music are both beautiful. Featuring fluttering piano strokes and sweeping violin melodies, every indication is given that this show really should have been something other than a half-assed hentai. The closing segment strangely features two sets of closing credits. The first is a touching lullaby that again indicates a heartbreaking romance. The second is much more upbeat and fun, betraying a comical side that never really happened.

Haru's cold hands were frequently a problem in the bedroom.
With personalities as two-dimensional as their visual design, character development is only bestowed on the focus of each arc and even then it is forgotten about as the next four episodes roll by. Haru, as the centre of the harem is unexplainably popular. Maybe it’s because of natural instincts kicking in with the girls who want new DNA in the breeding pool of their town, or perhaps he has a gigantic penis with a reputation that precedes him. However, from where I was sitting, he came across as a bit of a wet blanket that pandered to the whims of his sister far too easily. Sora herself is a self-centred brat who is far too used to getting her own way and is not afraid to all-out tantrum should her demands fail. The relationship between these two was far too questionable for my tastes, especially in the final arc and neither had any traits I could identify with or even care about.

Love interest #1, Nogisaka is the cliché uppity, wealthy bitch that has her softer side exposed by the persistent male (in more way than one). The whistle-stop switch to love interest #2 sees the infinitely bubbly and frequently irritating Akira take the centre stage. Bouncing into the lead (literally) then comes the proportionately challenged Nao, who could have been likeable was it not for her obvious shoehorning into the typical meganekko character. The remaining cast are used crudely as plot devices, and so their attributes have been simplified to nothing but “flirtatious clown” and “class president”.

Yes, Yosuga no Sora is pretty bad, but it certainly didn’t evoke the utter hatred from me that is being shown by many other anime fans. Fans of the VN may enjoy the anime as a recap; however this will most likely be a disappointment for all others as the structure does not translate well. Stick to Kanon  for a heart-wrenching tale or Koi Kaze for more emotive incest as this show ultimately fails to live up to its promise on so many levels.
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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Weekly Anime Recommendation - 28th December 2010 - Training with Hinako (Isshoni Training)

Airbags: Deployed
It's that time of year again when that cash cow, Hinako, is milked for all she is worth. This time, it's Bathtime with Hinako and she's brought along her new loli friend, Hiyako for the ride. So, this weeks recommendations is going back to the beginning for Training with Hinako. I know there are a lot of haters for this franchise, but see past the impossibly large breasts that have no regard for gravity, and you may actually find something amusing in what is somewhat of a ground-breaking show.

Even the stuffed animals seem to be staring at her crotch
So, why do I think people will enjoy this? Well, anyone with a sense of humour will realise that this is not a serious attempt at kickstarting the otaku community into joining the gym; Hinako's scanty outfits and impossibly buoyant boobs are testament to that. Instead, it is half an hour of a buxom girl bouncing around on the screen under the pretence of "demonstrating exercise techniques". Yeah, sure. We believe you.

This is also my preferred outfit to wear at the gym
As the show goes on, the number of clothes decreases, and our brave young heroine is soon down to some delectable underwear, still performing push-ups, tirelessly burning through sit-ups and always counting the viewer to help keep an even stroke with her relentless rhythm. It may be nothing but cheap fanservice, but Sleeping with Hinako has a well deserved reputation that precedes its momentous mammaries. Watch it and make up your own mind about one of the most comedic shows to have rattled the PC brigades cages recently.
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Monday, 27 December 2010

Anime Signatures - 27th December (Random Bag)

At first, I thought "why don't I make some sigs for the shows I have reviewed?". It soon became apparent by either the significant lack of material to work with or the number of fan-made images that this would be harder to complete than first thought. So instead, I asked for a couple of requests in #ISSUP, and then twinned this with creating signatures with some of my favourite shows from over the years. I hope you enjoy the outcome!

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Saturday, 25 December 2010

Anime Review - Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Meet Panty and her.... panties.
Breaking my usual rule of “I will not watch currently airing anime”, the mixed reactions and screenshots from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt caused enough furore to give me reason to at least give it a shot. Even after watching 13 episodes, I’m still not sure myself if I enjoyed it or merely tolerated a very off-the-wall show.

Even a cute girl on the toilet is not taboo for this title.

Based around the exploits of two fallen angels who have been tasked with dispatching the evil ghosts that inhabit Daten city, Panty/Stocking is a melee of parody, perversion and the pretty bizarre. Now, was this a more traditional kind of Japanese animation, it would be extremely predictable. Luckily, there is nothing remotely standard about this show and the gags flow fast and freely. Panty, rather than spending her time dispatching of evil, is too busy sexing guys in a private mission to conquer one-thousand bed partners. On the other hand, Stocking is an introverted emo who is obsessed with sweet treats – not the behaviour of a typical cherub. But somehow it works; the antics of the girls become more amusing as the series progresses, and the short episodic nature keeps each ten minute story feeling fresh.

Yup, it's not a comical typo.

However, this show is definitely not for the more reserved viewer. For example, one episode sees the Normandy landings from World War II re-enacted by sperm that are fighting against the fearsome tissue. Twin this with jokes of bondage, anal penetration, nose picking, giant shit monsters and you soon realise why Funimation will NOT be picking up this title. That said, the dark humour that pays homage to many, many American movie productions is what kept me coming back for more. Well, that and the unique hilarity of Panty removing her delicates to transform them into a demon slaying gun.

Sure, it’s not big and it’s not clever, but Gainax have certainly produced something unique that will appeal to a certain niche of the western world. Look past the Powerpuff Girl exterior, and enjoy the unbridled humour that resides within, because I don’t think there will be another show that dares to break the boundaries quite as wildly as Panty/Stocking. I can only hope the teasing promise of a second season comes to fruition, as the final two episodes built up a fantastic climax that needs coaxing to a glorious release.

Yes, it's Blossom, Bubbles and GIR!
For me, the strongest draw of Panty/Stocking is the crazy looking animation. Looking as if they are primarily borrowed from Invader Zim, the characters have a bold outline which is filled with many a zany colour - even the little dog Chuck is reminiscent of a deformed GIR. Later episodes see a reverent salute to Ren and Stimpy, whilst cult anime characters also find themselves subtly drawn into the mix. The ostentatious use of western styled visuals are grounded when the transformation of Panty and Stocking occurs in a more eastern style; their once angular and quirky brattish faces flesh out into stunningly beautiful women, and maybe this is a backhanded snub by the Japanese towards the “lesser” American styles. Either way, the show has fun with the subject matter and is definitely a unique addition from the land of the rising sun.

And when she was good, she was very, very good...
Grinding my teeth every time the opening track played, the simplistically annoying lyrics somehow worm their way into your brain and will strike at the most inopportune moments. Sitting in an important business meeting, and rather than crunching facts and figures, my grey matter is instead broadcasting “Panty, Stocking, Panty, Panty, Stocking”. Luckily, although still not a good tune, the closing melody does not stimulate the same repetitive effects. Instead, a bizarrely chosen ballad serenades you as chibi characters dance across the screen.  However, the most surprising element of the soundtrack is the incidental music; fitting perfectly with the widely varied themes featured throughout the show, I often found myself turning up the volume to enjoy the electro-beat pumping in the background.

....And when she was bad, she was still damned hot.
I don’t like Panty: she’s too obnoxious and uncouth. I don’t like Stocking: she’s a temperamental emo who irritates me for some reason. And yet, I strangely find myself drawn to the pair‘s interesting dynamic that sees them constant bickering and in trouble. Maybe I needed an elder sister to fully understand the reasons why Panty feels the need to broadcast her sexual conquests to her brunette sibling. Or perhaps a younger brat in the family would have helped me to appreciate Stockings’ self-absorbed behaviour. Either way, I may not have empathised with the girls, but I can’t deny that their personalities coupled with their antics are certainly hilarious.

Transformers parody + sex toy joke = win
Also worthy of a title role, Garterbelt is “the main man” and a priest with a ‘fro. Trying to keep the fallen angels in check, the man of the cloth seems to have numerous issues of his own that see him trying to seduce the geeky Briefs. Well, his flavour of seduction usually involves a toilet and Vaseline, but each to their own. Frequently playing the dark-half to the flamboyant sisters are a straight-edge pair of demons, creatively named Scanty and Kneesocks. The competition between the four girls drives the plot in some of the best episodes in the series because of both their comical similarities and superficial differences.

Fighting for truth, justice and sexy lingerie!
As I said above, the jury is still out on Panty/Stocking, even if I did have a lot of fun watching it. I don’t think the 13 episodes would be easy to marathon, but the weekly giggle interspersed with my usual anime routine let me enjoy a break from the dramatically bleak and painfully moe. Perhaps this is a two fingered salute to those westerners who wish they were Japanese, but boy is this an entertaining attempt at trolling that could well be the title of 2010.
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Saturday, 18 December 2010

Anime Signatures - 18th December (Winter Warmers)

It's been a week of numerous Christmas parties and the consumption of much alcohol has been involved. But this has also meant little time to look at my blog, and so things have been a little slow moving this week. However, the dumping of a significant amount of snow over the UK has disrupted plans to go visit family over this festive period, so I hope to have time to watch and review some tasty ecchi!

So, without further ado, please enjoy the next batch of signatures to help bring warmth in a time of a big chill!

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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Weekly Anime Recommendation - 15th December 2010 - Maria+Holic

Yup, that's a dude. Desperately sexy, but still a dude...
Something I have never really understood before is the unique fanboy love for traps. That is beautiful boys who dress as gorgeous females. I have seen numerous real-life transvestites, and their entertainment may be over the top, but is a lot of fun. A recent trip to Thailand gave me more perspective on just what it is that makes certain ecchi perverts go weak at the knee. Many of the infamous lady-boys are gorgeous, there is no other way to say it, and they also hold some kind of forbidden promise. So, what does this have to do with my weekly recommendation? Only the sexiest trap on this planet - Mariya.

The opening credits are visually stunning - the
graphics aren't bad either.

The story revolves around the new girl Kanako at Ame no Kisaki, a highly regarded institution for young ladies. Her first encounter is with a playful blonde named Mariya, who soon reveals a very dark and extremely humorous side. Instantly falling in love with this stranger, Kanako becomes the centre of comic relief throughout the show with her sensuous feelings towards other women. Twin this with her allergy to men, and the plot is reasonably predictable.

Definitely deserving of more screentime,
Matsurika is a lot of fun.
With visuals and an offbeat plot similar to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Maria+Holic is probably regularly overlooked because of its gender-bending central protagonist. Pulling no punches, the perversion used is often cliché, especially the numerous nosebleeds, but this is definitely a show for a more mature fan who enjoys character development alongside their boobies. The comedy is the darkest shade of black imaginable, especially the excessively violent Matsurika. Sporting a kickass soundtrack, this is definitely a series that will surprise many and delight even more.
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Monday, 13 December 2010

Anime Review - Strike Witches TV

Wind resistance was of no concern to Charlotte..

In my time as a reviewer, I have taken much sick pleasure in making my friend Therik watch numerous certain titles because of his “natural aversion to all things underage”. So, when he suggested I watch Strike Witches, my moe-toddler radar started flashing in alarm, especially after regular screenshots furnished by ISSUP’s (International Society of Something Umm.... Perverted) resident lolicon.

One of the many perfectly crafted derrières.

Telling the story of a military arm called the “Strike Witches”, the narrative follows a group of young girls who are the last bastion of hope against a black invading ship called the Neuroi. Donning some interesting leg braces that allow them to fly, the girls take to the air using various guns and magic to destroy the waves of enemies. What this brief synopsis doesn’t explain is that this show should be codenamed “NoPants”; this show is a cacophony a various panty shots from the first episode, and literally no angle is taboo.
Turn your head - you'll soon realise what this is.
Maybe I’ve been a little more critical of the story because I am currently watching Zipang, a show firmly rooted in World War 2. The fantastical twist applied by Strike Witches is the polar opposite to what turns into a very serious and gritty drama. That said it is this lighter hearted, jovial approach to war that makes the story work. Although the attack strategy may involve the same pattern of distract the enemy, locate its core then go in for the kill, the rotation of the team with different players showing their strengths and weaknesses keeps each battle feeling fresh.

Mmmm.... squishy....
Devising various excuses to place the innocent Miyafuji and her co-witches in numerous precarious perverted situations, the fantasy action takes a back seat to boob groping and up-skirt flashes (well, it would be if they were wearing something on their bottom half). And that is pretty much all there is to the “story”. Well, that and a chance to give each of the girls a background that helps garner viewer empathy with their situation. If anything, this mild development is predictable, but it makes the witches stand out as a likeable character in their own right.
Definitely opting for the full Brazilian when on duty. 
A welcome break comes during episode seven, entitled “Nice and Breezy”. Each of the girls finds themselves as the victim of a panty snatcher, only to rectify their commando situation by “borrowing” a pair of cotton briefs from a friend. Those easily offended need to find the censored version, as the DVD cut shows much more than a casual viewer may have bargained for.

Rocket legs mean no pants!
I should really have known, but where there is money to be made from otaku perverts, it can be reinvested in impressive graphics and gorgeous CG. Impressive looking naval vessels sweep past seamlessly as the adorable looking girls jet past the decks before casting phenomenal magical barriers to protect themselves from the attacking Neuroi. The stars of the show are also satisfyingly sexy and varied; Sakamoto’s character design oozes seduction whilst keeping an appropriate level of military morals and the adorable Sanya is delicate and beautiful. What really makes the entire cast stand out is the appearance of ears and a tail during spell-casting or times of embarrassment – a definite pandering to the horny fan-base.

Cute AND deadly.
As you would expect from this kind of title, the opening and closing tracks are cutesy, upbeat J-pop tracks that feature the cast bopping about happily on screen. Whilst not to my personal taste, I have been assured by the lolicon-brigade that this is “the shit” and I should be appreciative of such musical nectar. I remain unconvinced. The vocal cast also sees some top stars wheeled out for the occasion; Saeko Chiba brings a gruff side to Sakamoto, whilst Ami Koshimizu gives Charlotte enough attitude to rival her breast size. The entire seiyuu list matches the stereotyped look of their assigned character, making the whole experience just that little bit more immersive.

As the main protagonist, Miyafuji is occasionally annoying, frequently loveable and always unpredictable. Initially made out to be a naive, boyish country bumpkin, her developing obsession with breasts is rather amusing. The grin that spreads across her face as she finds herself nuzzling against a heavenly pair of mammary mountains is contagious and often turns out to be a highlight of each episode. Acting like a magnifying glass, she brings out and emphasises the good qualities in each of her co-stars, overall giving the cast an extra bit of va-va-voom.

Night-time pants!
Perrine is a typical tsundere who is grumpy towards most people but shows a definite soft side towards their leader Sakamoto. Those who love the quieter, innocent loli-types need look no further than the adorable pairing of Sanya and Eila. For those with tastes tending towards something more vivaciously bouncy, Charlotte most definitely fits the bill. As you can probably tell by their names, the girls are based on famous pilots from the era; however the fun spin on the series does not require an everyday otaku to be a historical expert to enjoy the show.

And finally... one of the many camel-toes!
The story may not break any boundaries and the characters may not be unique, but there is something charming about Strike Witches that will keep you coming back for more. Though not emotionally or mentally challenging in any way, shape or form, it is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, especially the seventh episode with someone who blushes very easily. I will certainly be looking out for the two OVA and the second season for the franchise and hope it is as impressive as this bundle of fun.
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