Category Archives: Otakudom

This is an umbrella category relating to geek stuff of a J-Culture nature.

Pet Shop of Horrors

Originally Posted by Onegai:

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Comedy

Author: Matsuri Akina

Volumes: 10


Synopsis:

Count D’s pet shop in Chinatown is infamous for its stock of exotic creatures and the strange incidents involving most of its customers – many of whom end up dead. Rumours abound about the shop selling “magical” creatures and even being involved in human trafficking. But the elusive Count D never seems to be available and is always “travelling” according to his grandson who runs the shop. This, in conjunction with the fact that Chinatown is a place that local police naturally try to avoid (if not ignore completely) leaves investigators unable to dig any deeper into the mysterious affair.


Review:

The storyline is intriguing, enjoyable and well-paced. The majority of it is made up of a whole lot of smaller stories, linked together to by an ongoing plot. Each of these stories contains either a moral or philosophical message within it; sometimes even a humorously ironic one.

The character development is only a little short of first-class but because the characters themselves are rather three-dimensional to begin with, the reader can quite quickly and easily become attached to them.

As for the artwork, I really enjoyed it. Pet Shop of Horrors was a good mixture simplistic and extremely detailed art (not very common in manga), boasting some really beautiful backdrops. As for the actual layout, it’s really creative, making sure to break any hint of monotony and adding some great expressiveness to the story. If I were to summarise it, I’d say that Pet Shop of Horrors is probably the closest to the perfect fusion of eastern and western comic influences.

On top having a great storyline, good character development and really nice artwork, the manga also has a decent volume to it with forty-one chapters over ten volumes along with two bonus side-stories.

Apart from being an holistically entertaining experience, Pet Shop of Horrors has a very satisfactory ending so have no fears about being deflated at the end of the last chapter. All in all, it’s definitely worth a read since I think almost anybody would get something out of it.



Dennō Coil

Originally Posted by Onegai:

General Information:

Studio: Madhouse

Genres: Sci-fi

Episodes: 26

English Name: Denno Coil


Synopsis:

Dennou Coil centres around a group of children living in the future where the lines between the real world and virtual world have become blurred. By wearing a special set of glasses, the user is able to see a virtual recreation of their surroundings, updated in real-time, along with added virtual elements such a virtual pets, software glitches and viruses.

Yuko Okonogi (Yasako to her friends) and her family have just moved to Daikoku city and when it comes to the virtual world, Yasako is fairly naïve as she’s never really stepped beyond the realms of an average user. But all this changes when Yasako’s virtual pet dog, Densuke, goes missing and she is forced to employ the help of Fumie. Fumie immediately begins exposing Yasako to aspects of the virtual world that she was never even aware of, let-alone can comprehend, as they rescue Densuke.

To further compound matters, Yasako’s crazy grandmother, Mega-baa, recruits Yasako into her cyber detective agency. It turns out that Fumie also works for Mega-baa and that Yasako will now become Fumie’s partner.

As Yasako is exposed more and more to the side of the virtual world she never knew existed, she finds herself being sucked deeper and deeper into a conspiracy involving the manufacturer of the glasses – a conspiracy so large that it seems to drawing those around her in too.


Review:

There are obvious influences in this series like Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiment Lain to name the predominant two but this does not make Dennou Coil derivative in any way. In fact the storyline is largely original and very innovative even if it does echo a few minor similarities in theme or plot-device.

The character development was first-class. It’s a rarity in any medium these days to see or read anything where the writer takes the time to let the viewer/reader really get to know every single character including the lesser important ones. This in itself would be reason enough to watch Dennou Coil.

The artwork is definitely worth a mention here. The artists went for a more realistic look (a style not that common in anime). I’m not going to start saying one style is better than another because that would be untrue but for this series it was the perfect choice and no other art style would have worked half as well. As for the animation itself, many of the scenes were filled with lots of movement giving it a really great feel. I won’t moan about CGI use, in fact for once I’ll even go so far as to complement it because it actually worked extremely well and did not clash with the hand-drawn animation at all.

As for the soundtrack, it was satisfactory but nothing particularly note-worthy. I will say though that it went well with the atmospherics and as far as atmospherics go, Dennou Coil nailed it perfectly.

My overall impression of Dennou Coil was a very positive one. It’s clever, funny and rather philosophical all in all. This is definitely an anime that I’d highly recommend to anybody who enjoys sci-fi although I think most demographics will walk away glad that they watched it. It’s on my list of favourite anime and without a doubt worth adding to your DVD/BR collection.


Other Formats:

Light Novel: 10 Volumes

Manga: 1 Volume



Shinigami Lovers

Originally Posted by Onegai:

Genres: Romance, Fantasy

Author: Yuki Ryo

Volumes: 2


Synopsis:

Miku is a high school student with a passion for nails. She is enjoying an average day in her normal life when suddenly a car slams into her. When Miku awakens in hospital, she is visited by a Shinigami (Death God / God of Death) by the name of Sei who explains that he has come to take her to the other side. Cuffing Miku to him with a device known as Thanatos Lover, Sei whisks her away to the other world. But when they get there, it is discovered that a huge mistake was made and that Miku was not supposed to die yet. Sei returns Miku to the living world but there is a problem. The cuffs on Thanatos Lover will not unfasten until Miku’s true moment of death. Until that time, they are stuck together and must make the best of it.


Review:

The storyline is very predictable with no real plot twists or unexpected developments. There were very few chapters (14 over two volumes) and it felt to me like the story was being compressed and “rushed”. Because of this rushed pace, many of the scenes feel very unnatural and contrived. In fact the whole story has a sort of “forced” feeling about it most of the time.

The character development was weak. Even the two main protagonists came across a little two-dimensional and vague. Because I never got a chance to really “get to know” them, I felt no real connection to any of the players whatsoever.

I wasn’t too impressed by the artwork. The character art is a bit on the unoriginal side and there was little creativity with the POV (Point-Of-View). A lot of the time it felt as though there was a deliberate restriction on the number of panels used even though there was plenty of space.

The ending was rather sudden and flat which would leave any reader feeling disappointed. Although I’m the last person I’d expect to be standing by conventions, I do think that in the case of any story intended for entertainment value, there has to be a relatively dramatic or meaningful ending.

Shinigami Lovers is not a terrible story. The idea itself, while a little cliché, is not a bad one. In actuality I think the manga had potential but it occurs to me that the writer had the idea for where the story was going but not really how to get there. Had there been more fleshing out of the characters and had the events happened more smoothly instead of as abruptly as they did, I would probably have written a somewhat more positive review. Unfortunately it turned out the way it did so my advice is save this one for a really rainy day.



Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase

Originally Posted by Onegai:

General Information:

Studio: Shaft

Genres: Comedy, Fantasy, Action

Episodes: 25

OVAs: 1 (Unrelated)


Synopsis:

Kouhei is an aspiring photographer with a very special talent for photographing ghosts. This ability does not stem from higher spirituality or any affinity he shares with the other side. It’s rather the complete opposite. You see Kouhei is so spiritually dense that ghosts don’t affect him, nor does magic – or anything vaguely mystical for that matter.

Thus Kouhei finds himself on yet another paranormal assignment taking pictures in a particularly sinister old, abandoned castle. During his exploration, Kouhei meets a girl who introduces herself as Hazuki. But Hazuki is no ordinary girl; she’s a vampire princess who’s been imprisoned in the castle by her father. Kouhei, being as dense as he is, notices nothing out of the ordinary about Hazuki and is instead more interested in having her model for him than anything else. After realising that her Vampiric power has no effect on Kouhei, she is forced to resort to more blunt ways to persuade him to free her.

Once Hazuki has been liberated, she is left with nowhere to go so she decides to move in with Kouhei – in spite of his many objections.


Review:

I really loved this one. The storyline is sweet even though it can get quite silly every now and then with certain elements treading just behind the safety margin of over-the-top. If one were to really get down and analyze the underlying plot however, it’s actually a very compelling little story and by mixing it with very quirky humour, Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase retains a good balance of serious and funny.

There’s nothing worth mentioning, good or bad, about the artwork. It has a relatively generic and sometimes flat appearance but it’s tolerable. The animation’s not too great either in a lot of areas. There are a small number scenes where budget constraints on the animation become quite apparent but they are few and far between so it didn’t really bother me too much. Most people won’t even notice.

The soundtrack was reasonably good excluding the main intro theme. There is a fine line between “kawai” and just plain annoying and that opening theme came close to crossing said line.

All in all though, Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase turned out to be a really fun anime and despite its few shortcomings, it’s on my list of favourites and definitely worth watching as it should appeal to just about any anime fan in some way or another.


Other Formats:

Manga: 16 Volumes



Happiness!

Originally Posted by Onegai:

General Information:

Studio: Artland

Genres: Romantic Comedy, Fantasy

Episodes: 12

OVAs: 1


Synopsis:

Haruhi is a student in the magic section of her high school. Her entire motivation for studying magic is because when she was a kid, a young boy used magic to save her from bullies. She has since dedicated a large portion of her life to magic and searching for the boy from all those years ago that she’s subsequently fallen in love with.

When the magic section burns down in a mysterious fire, the entire magic section is forced to integrate into the normal section so that they may continue their regular academic studies unimpeded. This naturally leads to a number of issues – some comedic, others a little more dire.


Review:

The storyline is simple and very predictable. With a fairly predictable plot and very two-dimensional characters; Happiness! has little to fall back on besides its humour and the “Jun factor” (You’ll see what I mean if you watch just the first episode).

As for the artwork, it’s pretty standard and the animation is no better. Though the CGI use is quite obvious, it’s strangely not as off-putting as you’d expect. Perhaps this is because your expectations will drop rather significantly after watching just ten minutes of the first episode.

I feel there’s little or no point in mentioning the soundtrack. The opening theme does nothing for me and the closing one even less. As for the music in the show; it’s so unmemorable it leaves you wondering if there even was any.

All in all I’m sorry to say that Happiness! is a relatively bland anime. It’s predictable and generic. It does have Jun along with its funny moments which are the saving grace that make it mildly entertaining. It’s likely that the producers aimed to sell more on franchise’s existing fan-base than on the actual content of the anime itself. I won’t go so far as to start labelling it bad yet since it was marginally enjoyable. But being purely objective here, Happiness! is not an epic that makes you rush out and buy the box set. It’s more something you watch if you have nothing else at the time.


Other Formats:

Game: PC and Playstation 2

Light Novel: 3 Volumes

Manga: 1 Volume (Known of)


Brief History:

Happiness! was originally an Adult Visual Novel for PC. Following the first release, a sequel as well as a PS2 release were published. The franchise also expanded with three light novels and a manga.



Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

Originally Posted by Onegai:

General Information:

Studio: Studio Deen

Genres: Thriller, Horror, Drama, Tragedy

Episodes: 26

OVAs: 5 (Unrelated)

English Name: When the Cicadas Cry


Synopsis:

Keiichi has recently moved from the big city to the village of Hinamizawa. For the first time in his life, Keiichi is now exposed to simple country life – a life he thinks is peaceful and tranquil. However, it does not take long before things begin to fall apart at the seams and for paranoia to overcome sensibility.


Review:

If you watch it, DO NOT miss a single episode. That’s because the plot is very complicated. There are no answers or explanations given for the events taking place until the very end of the series and you’re forced to make your own deductions up until then. Not that making deductions will do most people any good since the story has been very cunningly compiled and will likely misdirect you; making you think that you were wrong about something only to discover later on that you were originally on the right track.

Aside from a brilliantly evil little storyline, the show also does take time out for a few laughs, and mundane moments. That combined with a very surreal intro theme make for a very creepy and looming atmosphere.

The artwork and animation aren’t really worth a mention but to say that the CGI waterwheel was most off-putting. Still, this hardly matters when stacked up against the very clever writing and directing along with some fairly apt character development.

Overall it’s a good series and I personally thoroughly enjoyed it but I don’t think it’s for everyone. If you like lots of action, humour and straightforward plots, then I wouldn’t recommend Higuashi no Naku Koro ni to you because it’s far more artistic than entertaining. The complicated plot is likely to give many people a migraine and some may even find it a little on the slow moving side. If you enjoyed Jigoku Shoujo then there’s an above average chance you’ll enjoy this.


Other Formats:

Game: Microsoft PC, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS

Light Novel: 4 Volumes

Manga: 30 Volumes

Live-action Films: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (2008), Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Chikai (2009)


Brief History:

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni originally started life as a dojin game back in 2002. It was well received which is likely why eight total games including one bonus disc have been released thus far. Along its journey, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has been adapted into an anime, two live-action films, a manga series and a light novel series. The anime continues in a sequel, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, of 24 episodes in length.



Kiba

Originally Posted by Onegai:

Studio(s): Aniplex, Madhouse

Genres: Fantasy, Action, Sci-Fi

Synopsis:

Zed and his friend, Noa, live in a city called Calm. Zed is somewhat of a renegade who’s constantly skipping school and getting in trouble with local law enforcement, largely due to the fact that he never had a father and his mother is mentally ill. Unlike his friend, Noa is a responsible young lad who, despite being very sickly, tries to live life to the fullest. But their lives change drastically when Zed is led through a portal by a strange, angelic creature. When Zed wakes up, he’s in a strange fantasy world called Tempura where magic is real. Zed then discovers that he’s actually a Shard Caster – a magic user with the ability to summon powerful spirits in battle. From that moment on, Zed realises his life will never be the same again.

Review:

There are few very original plot devices in the series but the storyline is still quite enjoyable once one gets into it. In terms of characters; there’s a fairly decent amount of character development along with quite a large variety of characters which does make for more interesting viewing. As far as artwork goes, it may not be dazzling but it’s nice the majority of the time (Of course when it comes to artwork, it’s a matter of personal taste in a lot of ways). Sadly, the animation itself is rather lazy. That is to say there are far too many fight scenes that consist of still images with fighting noises played along with a few jerks of the camera. The background movement itself is virtually non-existent with townsfolk seemingly frozen in a sort of limbo. While these are very common shortcomings in anime in general, in Kiba’s case it’s a little too constantly evident to pass off. As for the CGI use, I’ll admit that there were two elements that actually had to be rendered with CGI to create the desired effect. Unfortunately for Kiba the rest of the CGI elements that should have rather been hand-drawn as they tended to conflict with the rest of their surroundings. Luckily, compared with a lot of other modern anime, Kiba actually didn’t contain that many CGI elements (It is sad that I should even make a statement like that but “the times; they are a changing”). Moving onto the soundtrack now, I’d say it was somewhere between average and good. It had a few good scores and it definitely worked for the anime and created all the right atmospheres at all the right times and thus it accomplished its purpose. My overall view of Kiba is that it’s definitely worth a watch if you have it or if it’s being aired in your region but it won’t kill you if you miss it.