Gosick

(Now that the semester is winding down, I’m going to try to get back into regularly writing. I’ve marathoned a few series so that seems like a good place to start.)

27906Nestled in the European Alps, “Gosick” follows the tale of superstitions, folk tales, and legends surrounding the country of Sabure, and it’s foreign exchange student, Kazuya Kujou. Alienated for his strange appearance, dark eyes and hair, he happens across “the golden fairy of the library”, Victorique. Victorique de Blois, the daughter of a powerful Sabure nobleman, and the half-sister of one of Sabure’s most noteworthy (and fake) detectives, spends her days in solitude, reading and handily solving the mysteries her older brother can’t wrap his head around. Little does she know the weight of history that has been placed on her shoulders through the deviousness of her unloving father.

With Kujou in tow, Victorique makes easy work of many of Sabure’s legendary myths, including a fantastic tale of a runaway African turned queen’s alchemist. While also retracing her dark past, she comes to the forefront of a new war that’s set to overshadow the Great War, the ashes of which Europe is just beginning to rise from. With help of friends, faculty, and Victorique’s ever watchful mother, Kujou rescues Victorique from her dismal fate, only to be torn away by new tides of war.

preview03124b38ad1acb9e5e1a73cf9bb90256A continually progressive plot set in a very superstitious country, Gosick manages to blend clean logic with impressive character sets to cut through mystery and lay truth bare. No back-handed scheme is too much for these two who defy prophets’ visions and historical epics in search for one another. I may sound like I’m gushing or being emphatic, but Gosick really does weave an intriguing story that was a joy to experience. No spoilers, but the final episode left me speechless and very satisfied with this series.

Coupled with visual detail I wish was the standard, Gosick is a series I wish I’d watched earlier.
Final rating: 9.3
If anything, and this may sound greedy, Gosick needs more stories, maybe not with Victorique or Kujou, but the rest of the cast surely has more to tell.
(In retrospect, this is just the sin of a greedy fan. Even though the series has a solid ending, I enjoy the ride so much that I dare suggest augmenting it for more content. How selfish…)

Guilty Crown OVA: Lost Christmas

Bundled with the PC game “Guilty Crown Lost Christmas” comes an animated short, an OVA to the original series following new protagonists Scrooge and Carol, a few years prior to Shu’s crowning with the Void Genome. In their timeline, Scrooge is on the run as the GHQ, along with our 2nd favorite mad scientist, Segai, rush to contain and preserve the secret of the Apocalypse Virus from the general public. First things first…oh how I’ve missed Bios in the background, good bit of nostalgia when those tones hit my ears. But also, as far as characters go, I think more than a few people will say Scrooge seems like a much better protagonist as he seems to understand how to fight and look awesome doing so.

To Shu’s credit, in his time as king, the GHQ had fully developed Endleaves, though Scrooge more than handily defeated a pre-fab model that Segai so elegantly dropped on someone’s house…now and then, the GHQ are the epitome of style and grace on the battlefield…Speaking of Segai, ever wonder what happened to his eye? Well, I won’t spoil, because I can’t, though I imagine the game will explain these virus crystal monster-things. One of which dropped down on Scrooge thanks to (who I’m guessing is) a Daath agent.

Scrooge, as well as being a certified badass, is accompanied by the cute tag-along Carol. Much like how Inori was Shu’s sword (literal sword, thanks to her void), Carol gives Scrooge a super-charged chainsaw/long sword, perfect for cutting down endleaves. Unfortunately, the virus monster seemed to be able to disengage Carol’s void. Shu would’ve most likely been screwed, as it seems he never discovered pulling voids from animals, like Scrooge was able to do. But the dog had some genome experimentation, which might’ve allowed it to carry a void…if only until drawn, and then it kinda crystalized with the Apocalypse Virus and died…

Overall, an interesting 15 minute special that I’d wish there was more of. I mean, Scrooge seems like a really good protagonist, and I know a lot of people want a Guilty Crown with a better main character (hence names like “Shoe”). This OVA makes me kinda want the game, which I’d probably get if I were more into PC games. At the very least it’s a nice, short piece for people who actually enjoyed Guilty Crown and can appreciate a little expansion.

Guilty Crown OVA Lost Christmas – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket

Another 0 (OVA): I’ve Missed Mei…

In for a bit of a treat this week with the release of the Winter 2012‘s horror series’, Another, prologue episode. Recounting Mei’s friendship with her once lost twin, Misaki, just a short period of time prior to her entry into the third year class and the subsequent horrors we saw in the main series, Another 0 shows Mei in a new light compared to her usually stoic nature. Lighthearted outings with her sister, separated at birth, and the closeness they shared that turned dark the night Mei began to see the color of death upon her. After more than one near death experience, Mei’s fears come to fruition as Misaki collapses, later finding out she has leukemia. Sadly, Misaki wasn’t meant to recover, but it did lead to Mei’s chance encounter with Kouichi, one night in the basement of the hospital, as Mei goes to deliver her final gift to her now forever lost twin sister.

Breaking away from the horror trend of the main story, Another 0 really showcases the art style and background of the series. In the words of Misaki, even the most run down things seemed “cute”, or at least well designed and crafted from an animation and design standpoint. I still get goosebumps when I get to see Mei’s faux eye, it’s always so perfectly lit and seems to have a depth beyond what is physically there. I also thought it was cute that Misaki wore an eyepatch too for part of the episode.

The character dynamic between Mei and Misaki was very interesting, it really showed the subtleties of two sisters who hadn’t lived together. And I always love it when twins, although in this case visually dissimilar enough to tell apart, have personal mannerisms that differentiate them, and I like it even more when these mannerisms make me like one more than the other. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t dislike Misaki, but I adore Mei, especially so when she was smiling and happy. The emotional connection Mei had with her twin before she died also explains some of Mei’s behavior seen at the beginning of the series back in December. Her quiet despair and seeming loneliness make more sense and are more recognizable now that these traumatic events have been shown. Or maybe it’s just me that found this whole prologue to be an enlightening look at what may have caused Mei to just accept her fate as the “extra” student.

I’m glad this episode 0 was released, after all the events of the main story this extra look into the events beforehand shows a more in-depth look into Mei’s backstory that really couldn’t be shown in the main series. A lot of the mystery surround her and the class would’ve been ruined (or at least diluted) if the whole backstory and once-lost twin had been shown as a part of an early episode. Now, seeing this OVA lets one look back at the main series with an additional piece of understanding and appreciation for the character depth that was prevalent through the whole thing.

Another – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket

Gundam AGE 28: A Bromance Crashes to Earth

Is this the end of a star-crossed bromance? Now that Romary has stolen away Asemu and their kid seems to be the 3rd generation (and arc) in the Gundam AGE saga, whatever’s in store for Earth and Vagan seems to have gotten a lot more interesting. Following a climatic battle above the Earth, Vagan forces have scattered and hidden themselves on the Earth’s surface. A year later, as Flit prepares to expose the Prime Minister of the Federation of his corruption, Vagan forces move to eliminate loose lips, as Asemu and Romary begin their lives together and Zeheart gets put on ice for the battle to come.

Gundam AGE continues to prove it’s not the in-depth series its counterparts were. Merely touching on a planet-wide scandal full of corruption of the international government’s most prominent officials, apparently the lackluster characters are much too important to even give Grudek his due for uncovering the whole scandal. I can’t help but feel like this was just a power grab for Flit to continue seeking his vengeance against Vagan. Even though he was a two-faced traitor, the Prime Minister had one thing right, Flit is absolutely blind to possible negotiations with the Vagan leaders, who seek reparations for the Federation abandoning them when the Mars Settlement project failed. Now it seems Asemu is being dragged down to his father’s level with his desire to fight the Vagan to “protect” the ones he loves, apparently abandoning Zeheart (I’m not allowing this bromance to die).

The next episode appears to showcase the newest Asuno pilot, biggest question on my mind is whether or not she’ll be an X-Rounder (I pray she won’t, I’d much rather see the “Super Pilots” win out over X-Rounders). With the battlefield on Earth’s surface raging, should I expect the Vagan resistance to spread, or will Vagan forces be put in a hard fight trying to occupy a planet? If my hunch is correct (and I hope it isn’t), Flit will have more control over the Earth sphere thanks to his “purge” of the Federation government following the Prime Minister’s arrest. Maybe not outright, but you have to remember, he already essentially controlled Federation forces beforehand. On the upside, there’s the new Gundam AGE-3 to look forward to.

Gundam AGE: Sleepless in Solon City

Back with episodes 24 through 26 of series Gundam AGE. Getting 3 episodes behind shows how much I care for Gundam AGE at this point….(/sarcasm), but, in all honesty. I’m getting more and more into it, but less so when Flit is involved. Asemu needs to stop trying to live in his dad’s shadow and realize X-Rounders are almost 100% douche bags. I mostly return each week to see Asemu and Zeheart’s interstellar guy love (in case you hadn’t noticed).

After pushing back a Vagan attack on the Big Ring and uncovering a conspiracy in Solon City to supply Vagan forces with precious materials from within the Federation, Asemu is still upset that he can’t compete with the X-Rounders like his father, Zeheart, and seemingly everyone in a Vagan suit. To clear his head, Asemu strolls around the city to have some stand-and-stare-at-stuff-and-think time…but Zeheart makes a heart-warming reunion. Or so I wish, Zeheart tries to force Asemu into leaving the battefield, so they can both “remain themselves”. When Romary joins the lover’s quarrel, it gets more heated as Asemu pulls the gun around onto Zeheart, who takes Romary’s distraction, mounts his suit, and makes a hasty exit.

Not willing to let his bromanitc counterpart get away so easily, Asemu joins the other Diva mobile suits in giving chase to the fleeing Vagan. Soon, even Flit has joined the battle when 4 more Vagan suits appear. Though Zeheart gets away, a valuable piece of hardware was recovered thanks to Flit (oww…owww…that hurt to say). Along with the unspecified advanced technology within the Vagan suit cockpit, our heroes come across a Vagan-built helmet that can amplifies one’s X-Rounder abilities using magnetic waves targeted at your X-Region. Asemu must has…so he takes it. And experiences for the first time the advantages of sorta seeing into the future. But as the battle ends, effects of the helmet begint to take their toll. Now the Federation prepares for another Vagan attack, this time on the colony Nortrum, in an attempt to procure a forward operating base in their future invasion of the Earth sphere.

With the Gundam AGE-2’s new “Double Bullet” modification, nameless Vagan soliders fall left and right. But Flit’s old rival, Desil is on the hunt for blood, as he throws away Vagan lives by taking control of their suits and using them in his fight against Asemu, trying to draw out Flit. Woolf sacrifices himself to save Asemu, which puts him in (an apparently anit-X-Rounder) rage mode, finishing the job Flit apparently couldn’t handle nearly 30 years ago. Coupled with the Federation’s new photon-emission beam and the Vagan’s strange shield thing that blocked the super powerful-looking photon beam, this is by no means a one-sided fight.

Now with both Grudek and Woolf dead, does this mean Flit is the only “respectable” adult from the first arc left? I’m suddenly losing hope for the Federation’s leadership. But the action is remaining intense, as well as the romance. Aside from Asemu and Zeheart, Obright and Arisa are about to tie the knot (which I thought was a sweet little side event), and I’m starting to think Desil and Flit were competing with Asemu and Zeheart for bromance air time…

I’m also pleased that a new AGE-wear isn’t immediately useless. The “Double Bullet” seems to have an enormous power output, with a bit more finess, Asemu could become the deadliest pilot on the battlefield. If I hadn’t heard “X-Rounders” first, I would’ve thought a name like “Super Pilot” would be beyond stupid…but, strangely, I’m all for this title. Super Pilot for the win!

Until next time,
– BeldenOtaku

Black Rock Shooter: Final Review

Back with the 4th final review of the Winter 2012 season, Black Rock Shooter. This series adaptation of the OVA goes more in-depth into the mysterious world of the Black Rock Shooter. Acting as an alternate to the high school girl, Mato, BRS locks into battle with the alternates of other girls Mato encounters in her life, such as Yomi (Dead Master), Yuu (Strength), and Saya-chan sensei (Black Gold Saw). Ultimately leading up to Mato’s confrontation with her powerful alternate, Black Rock Shooter, in an attempt to save the girls who have become disconnected with their emotions after their alternates were killed by BRS in the other worlds.

After being stunned with quality animation in the OVA, it’s a bit of a let down to see the slight dip in quality, but overall, this series still ranks high in quality relative to other series. For the same reasons (cost, mostly) I was also disappointed that it was only eight episodes. A full cour would’ve allowed for more awesome-tastic fighting, would it not? The plot was well suited for eight episodes, so it’s not such a big deal. The BRS series certainly gave more of a glimpse into the mysterious world that operates so near to Mato’s own world than the OVA did. And to see Mato come into conflict with Black Rock Shooter herself was a treat in and of itself.

Though I would’ve liked to get more information on BRS, I think that if too much is explained, she loses of her mystique and intrique. This seems like a good place to leave off…for now. Final rating:….9.1 I don’t really have any complaints, this is a good addition to the OVA and the style of the show is really cool (thinking of making a cosplay using BRS’s general design, actually). Though, like I said, more episodes=more awesome fight scenes (in my mind, anyway), and I wish Koha-sempai could’ve had an alternate so her emotional part would’ve been involved with the others.

Until next time,
– BeldenOtaku

Guilty Crown: Final Review

Back with the first final review of the Winter 2012 season, Guilty Crown. What started back in Fall 2011 was a series that turned out to have more melodrama from the fans than the show itself. Many people dropped Guilty Crown before even hitting the double digits, some who continued watching did so only to continue making jokes or quip about its unoriginality/slow (or stupid) plot/horrible cliche twists/something else that I don’t care about.

Guilty Crown follows the story of a high schooler, Shu, as he gets pulled into an epic adventure 10 years after “Lost Christmas”, a tragic event that caused a mass outbreak of the Apocalypse Virus and prompted the national takeover by the GHQ of Japan. He reluctantly joins a counter-government organization to use his “King’s Power” (the ability to a pull a “void”, an object or tool that takes shape and power from its owners heart and personality, from anyone after making eye-contact) to fight the oppressive GHQ and their Anti-bodies military force. Shu slowly grows stronger in his power but is plagued by his own personal shortcomings through most of the first 15 episodes. Despite making good strides in personal strength, he still finds himself breaking down in moments of crisis. While also shining brighter when he’s able to collect himself and save the ones he cares most for.

He ultimately has to face off with a GHQ that’s gone rouge under the control of Shu’s adopted mother’s brother, Keido, as it declares war on the world by using it’s satellite weapon, Leukocyte, to hold Japan hostage as once friend, Gai, and Shu’s on-and-off dead sister/stalker, Mana, try to recreate the world using the Apocalypse Virus. With the help of friends and a final leap in courage and personal strength, Shu is able to save humanity from the devious desires of his insane sister and the king of butthurt, Keido. (Gai was secretly on Shu’s side all along but knew that stopping Mana wasn’t as simple as keeping her from activating the Apocalypse Virus on the world scale).

From a plot perspective, Guilty Crown is impossibly complex. By “impossibly”, I mean that I can’t really delve into and explain all the details. Mostly because I’m sure there are more than a few subtleties that I’ve missed, and also because it’d ultimately give away the ending for those who haven’t watched yet. Although it had a few slower episodes, I can’t really say Guilty Crown had any fillers, which is a plus for me. Every episode either expanded the plot or gave character development. As far as premise, Shu’s “King Power” and the setting, albeit separately aren’t too unique, were very well placed and both had it’s own characteristic impacts on the story.

The cast was rather well-rounded, from the despondent, shy (in the beginning) Shu, overzealous, energetic Souta, the always cool, brilliant Gai, and cute, smart Tsugumi to the bats*** crazy Kenji, obsessed, mysophobic Daryl, and the real man Dan, Dan the Man. Cast members bounced and played off of each other every step of the way. Hare, the calm voice of support for the group later in the series, was probably the character I most hated to see die, but her character left a present mark on the remainder of the series. Even the quieter or less seen characters had their own impact, as Rowan gave Daryl his last, parting words to be nicer to people.

Now to the part I’m most happy about, the audio. If for nothing else, Guilty Crown should be picked up just for the epicness that is the background music. All of it, βίoς, Euterpe, Hill of Sorrow, it’s all so well played into the series that every scene just seemed to double in pants-p***ing awesomeness whenever the music rolled. (I want that robot in the picture from “Hill of Sorrow” by the way) Best example is the last episode, where it seemed to have dropping every last song from the soundtrack (which made me very happy because it was well done). Supercell and Hiroyuki Sawano did a great job with the audio, as expected.

The animation and visuals were of high quality throughout most of the series, thought  the animation seemed to slip a bit leading up to the last episode, but this probably more a result of cost-limits than anything else. The final episode was fully and brilliantly animated, despite the previous few dropping off somewhat. The visuals were what originally drew me to Guilty Crown, and the visuals sold me on the ending. That and the audio are the two irrevocable tenants of Guilty Crown in my opinion.

Now, time for the rating. Reminder: I grade on a scale similar to an academic grade. If it doesn’t “fail”, it gets 6.0 or higher. Any higher shows much I liked it or how well it was, and any lower shows how much I disliked it or how poor I think it was.

Guilty Crown: better than average plot with sometimes lackluster points, a truly developmental character set, good visuals, great music…. 8.2.
As mentioned, the animation slipped a bit, but the biggest problem (for me, mind you) was that Shu’s personal growths didn’t make as big of strides as I would’ve liked (for more on developmental characters, I recommend Yumeka’s post “Why Guilty Crown Isn’t That Bad“, and Yumeka, that scene in episode 21 made me cry, so, at the very least, you’re not alone.)

Rewatch value…maybe not immediate, but probably higher than most of the series I’ve watched, because once the story has started, I’ll want to finish it. (Notice how I never brought up Inori? It’s because I neither love nor hate her, she’s a bit manipulative, but has her moments. I guess I’m indifferent towards her.)

Until next time,
– BeldenOtaku