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Pumpkin Scissors

In the first of the reviews that will be coming out like a flurry the next few weeks as the 26 episodes fall series finally come to an end, I meet probably one of the most unsatisfying animes I have ever watched. Filled with amazing potential at the beginning of the show, Pumpkin Scissors does nothing but disappoint all the way till the end. Honestly, the experience of watching was like watching a man slowly being sucked into quicksand. Spoiler: There’s nothing to spoil.

Section IIIPumpkin Scissors is the tale of an army war relief unit. After a devastating war, the country is left in political and economic chaos. In order to combat the poverty and dissatisfaction within the population the army created Section III, Pumpkin Scissors. This elite section devotes it self to such tasks as: feeding the hungry, exposing drug rings, and digging up plot points that are never explored.

Don’t be fooled. This is about as dark as the show gets.Perhaps the most notable point of this anime is the obvious lack of any real plot. If you look at the synopsis I just gave, thats the whole show. Besides the episodic nature of the unit helping those in need, there is virtually nothing else in the show. This wouldn’t be so bad if that was it. But the story eventually digs up several references to the war that was never explained, an on going military cover up of.. something, an arms and development conspiracy involving the corporal, and a masked society that is apparently running the post-war underground with ties in the nobility. But besides their hinting at, absolutely nothing is explained or resolved. The seemingly wise old Captain Hunks of Section III knows something is afoot and apparently knows what it is, but whatever it is is never divulged.

Alice is hot, but she fails at being interesting.The characters in this show were also pretty boring. The Corporal is the most interesting as he comes from a mysterious Section IX and looks death in the face all the time. He also apparently was nothing but a killing machine created by R&D, which he wants to forget. He is weak minded and relies on everyone else for support in spite of the fact he is bigger and stronger than everyone else. The 2nd Lieutenant is hot, but thats about it. A noble by birth but a warrior at heart, she represents justice in the show between a corrupt aristocracy and the poor commoners. Unfortunately, she’s about as shallow a character as she is hot. She expounds long, annoying speeches which have the power to sway whoever is listening and never really develops as a character outside of that. The rest of the cast is generally inconsequential or are comic relief.

Really, the show lends itself to setting up for another season which doesn’t exist. The numerous plot threads and the lack of any resolution in any of them reminds me of the worst anime ever: Sword for Truth, only this doesn’t have any lesbian sex. To keep from being totally negative about it, Pumpkin Scissors does dwell a lot on the issue of commoners versus nobility; an issue that is brought up in several titles. If I had to take anything away from this, it is the sense of the animosity that dwells within the hearts of the Japanese people towards the traditional imperial court. Basically, luxury for them and poverty for the commoners (especially if you take into account the post-war sentiments of WWII). I could be totally wrong, but this is what i took from it.

Overall, unless there is a second season (I would have mixed feelings about this) of Pumpkin Scissors, the show was a tragic failure. Too many unresolved questions, shallow and annoying characters, episodic, the list goes on. I genuinely feel betrayed having watched this since September and having it end like it did. Because of this, Pumpkin Scissors gets a 2 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Mermaid Forest

There are rare kinds of scores in anime. Sometimes you have great anime that you want to gush about. Then you have the terrible anime you want to rant about. And then there’s a rare sight: an anime so mundane that it warrants neither praise nor condemnation. This is the case with Mermaid Forest. Spoiler: Don’t trust mermaids, ever.

Mermaid forest is a series of short stories that center around a man named Yuta. It is said that if you eat the flesh of a mermaid you gain immortality. Thus, having eaten the flesh of a mermaid, Yuta has been alive for 500 years, searching for a way to return to his humanity. In the present day, meets another immortal named Mana who is about to be eaten by mermaids since they in turn eat humans to keep their eternal youth. Yuta saves Mana and together they search the land for answers to their future.

Mana and YutaUnfortunately thats all there is to the plot. I have said before in my exposes on the last episode of Otogozoushi and all of Blood+ that the struggles of what true immortals must be going through is very interesting. If nothing else, Mermaid Forest focuses on this aspect of Yuta’s character. He hates his immortality and wants to just be human again. While he could die if his head was cut off, he wants to grow old and die peacefully. When he finds Mana he is told by a mermaid that it is impossible for him to return to normal. After the initial shock though, he seems to accept it and decide to build a future for himself and possibly Mana.

Character development is basically void in this saga. Since the only character to appear in all the episodes is Yuta and he’s been alive for 500 years already there isn’t much growth or quest he has to undertake. Most of the stories are short lived and don’t give him time to rise to any occasion or discover anything profound. Instead he mostly reminisces about the past and the hot women he never lived with as well as saving Mana from being killed/kidnapped/eaten (which she is constantly getting herself into).

Mana eating Ningyou NikuThere are two things about Mermaid Forest that I will always remember: If you find a mermaid, kill it before it kills and eats you (and try to eat it if you feel lucky) and that everyone in Japan has access to mermaid in some manner. Yuta is constantly running into people who have mermaid in a jar somewhere and are using it to gain immortality (which never works). The sheer absurdity of how many people he finds like this is overwhelming at times until you remember that he is 500 years old and we are probably only watching the highlights of his life.

Even so, the show was interesting. The fact that people year for immortality, but the one man who has it has been mourning that fact for half a millennium. The loneliness is a major theme in this show. Yuta has outlived all his friends and lovers and has only gotten close to a few people. Also, the introduction of the true legends of mermaids from Japan (and subsequently England since I went and looked it up) were a nice find. Ever since I was small I was under the impression that mermaids were good (Disney). But in fact, every culture that has a mermaid legend has them being murderous and harbingers of bad omens.

For 13 episodes, Mermaid Forest wasn’t that bad. But without a plot and no character development it wasn’t that good either. It had its moments but really it was something that was mediocre and dull. Thats why Mermaid Forest gets a score smack dab in the middle: a forgettable 2.5 out of 5 stars. I will never be able to look at Ariel the same way again.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Blood+

I had watched this show last year while it was coming out in Japan. For some reason I had stopped watching it at episode 38 and had left it hanging until this week. I’m glad I did drop it when I did because it allowed me to watch it again, beginning to end without interruption, and watch it with the knowledge of things that were going to happen while focusing on the real part of the story. As such, Blood+ truly delivered. Spoiler: Diva is insane.

Blood+ is a 50 episode series that is kinda-sorta the sequel to the Blood: The Last Vampire movie. It follows Saya, a anemic Okinawan girl who cant remember anything since a year prior, as she has her quiet life shaken by the appearance of horrible, blood sucking monsters known only as the chiropetra. Attacked by one while returning to school one night, she is met by a strange man who throws her a sword and tells her to fight. Without thinking she draws the blade and kills the beast. The remainder of the 49 episodes left is Saya’s quest to learn about her past and defeat the woman who caused chiropera in the first place: Diva.

For a vampire anime the show doesn’t actually have any vampires. It is hinted at that the chiropetra are types of vampires but nothing aside from the blood sucking is the same as a vampire. The chiropetra are probably one of the more original creatures created in an anime. They have a organized structure. The chevaliers who serve the queens have abilities and responsibilities beyond simply those who serve the pure-breads. Only two things can kill them: Saya’s blood and massive blood loss (total drainage).

The story was actually very straight forward. Saya and her adopted family along with the organization known as Red Shield fight to the end to destroy Diva and the reign of terror the chiropetra have been causing in the shadows of the world. But there was an underlying story that I think is what the actual intention of Blood+ was really all about. The real story is about the characters and their acceptance of who they are. Saya has to confront the fact that she is not a normal human being but is actually the sister of Diva. Her brother Kai has to accept that he is normal and that he is powerless when it comes to fighting for Saya’s sake. Haji has a silent but emotional battle with himself throughout the show between his loyalty to Saya’s wishes and his desire to do what’s best for her. Even Deva grows to have a little humanity by the time the show ends.

To say the least, the characters of Blood+ are what make the show so good. Saya holds great responsibilities on her shoulders despite knowing that she herself is too weak to hold them. She allows this because she knows that only her blood is enough to kill Diva and end the fight. She is elegant and beautiful while not being overbearing in either respect. She is the kind of person you fall in love with even knowing what she really is. Kai is the anchor to the rest of the show. His family is torn apart by the changes the fight is bringing and he wrestles with his own inadequateness in being able to fight as well. He vows to become the only non-changing person in the group so that Saya will have a safe harbor to call home when all is finished. The minor characters also all develop in marvelous ways. The Sif learn to trust, the Chevaliers all show their true colors, and David stops being so dense.

A few words here on Diva. One of the main reasons I watched this show again, aside from Saya being a prime example of what I would want in a woman, is the character of her twin sister Diva. Diva is perhaps the most insane character in any anime I have every watched. The things she says and does are so inhuman and un-calculated that no one can predict or comprehend her motives. She kills a man because she thinks his shoes are a pretty color. She rapes and kills people to make others despair. She tortures her own “family” of chevaliers. And through all of this she has a childlike demeanor. Her eyes are unspeakably beautiful and yet terrifying to the core. Yet once you learn her story and what was done to her by someone close to her (you learn about it in an off handed manner so pay attention) you start feeling sorry for her. By the end of the show I was torn by the wish for Diva’s defeat or the possibility that she might decide that having a sister was more important.

The subject of eternity creeps up in this anime as well. I mentioned in my review of Otogizoushi that the last episode examined what it was like for immortals to live forever and what kind of thoughts they had. Blood+ has the same thing only in more depth. Not only do Saya and Haji have to deal with the pain of living forever, but more importantly Kai and the rest have to deal with Saya’s immortality coupled with her 30 year periods of sleep after 2-3 years of activity. The end of the show was a subtle but deep cutting sentimental act on the part of Kai that I don’t think I would have the strength in me to do. I cant say here what it was, but all I can say is he is a stronger man than I.

In all honesty, the hype surrounding Blood+’s greatness is ridiculous. The hype being that after the end of the Red Shield arc (the first 32 episodes) the show suddenly fails at being good. I find this to be absurd. The 32nd episode was a huge watershed moment and the events after the year break are consistent with the impact the events had had on the characters and the character’s personalities. So say the show stopped being good is a display of ignorance of what the show was about. Yes, the action slows down a lot. Yes, the characters’ emotions take precedence in the plot. This is intentional and it is the essence of what the show is about: what it means to be a family and what it means to come to grips with one’s self.

Overall, the show was fantastic. I honestly tried, because of the hype, to find something wrong with the show (only thing I could really find was that the 4th OP sucked). However, I knew from the time of episode 30 what rating it would probably have due to the fact I didn’t want to keep watching because I knew it would make me end the show sooner. I honestly didn’t want the show to end. Even now it is hard to think about Saya to keep from getting emotional. So, it gives me great pleasure to bestow on Blood+ the second ever Tsunami.No.Anime perfect score.

Rating: ★★★★★

Soukyuu no Fafner [Dropped]

For the first time in a long time I have dropped a series willingly. I actually don’t remember the last time I did this, or if I have ever done this. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Soukyuu no Fafner was recommended to me by my roommate who, up until now, had recommended some pretty good series to me. This one though sucked balls and then threw up on them.

Oh Snap! It’s serious time!Fafner is the story of an island that has constipation. No one on this island laughs or smiles willingly unless they are female, weak, and have a crush on the mecha pilot who hates himself. Everyone is serious and those who are not serious are not in the show, or dead. I was able to get through 6 episodes before I realized that I wanted to watch every single “good guy” get shot in the face and quit watching before I went insane.

Now thats not from Eva…Is it Gendo?The plot, from what I was able to watch, is that of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Im not kidding. People accuse RahXephon of being an eva knock off, but Fafner actually is, down to even minor details. Angels, I mean, Solomon’s Prophecies show up every now and again to blow up Toky… this island. And the only way to stave them off is to raise giant barricades in the town and launch the mecha. The mecha synchs with the pilot in his plug suit and head bands and they defeat the prophecy only for another to arrive shortly there after. The commander’s son is the pilot. Later, all his classmates become pilots too (one actually looks like Kensuke) and oddly enough they are all missing a parent. There is even a girl kept locked in a secret vault in the basement of the command center. I didn’t catch her name, but I bet its Lilith.

At any rate, as I only got through 6 episodes before wanting to tear my eyes out and pee in the empty sockets, I can’t give an actuate review here. If anyone, anyone, can give me 3 good reasons why I should watch the remaining 19 episodes I will pull the series back out and watch it. Until then, it will remain a blight on an otherwise good run of anime watching.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Peace Maker Kurogane

It’s fairly rare that I get embarrassed by something I completely didn’t know and I should have. Case in point: Peace Make Kurogane. Being a history major and a Japanophile I totally should have understood what the show was about. But being relatively retarded I found out after I had watched the show that the events of the series were based on actual history. I hit my head pretty hard. Spoiler: Ikedaya Jiken and Bishis (wikipedia it).

Peace Maker Kurogane is the story of a young boy named Ichimura Tetsunosuke who wants to join the Kyoto Shinsengumi police group with his brother who is an accountant in order to become able to avenge his parents’ death. Once proven worthy by the vice-chief of the clan, Tetsu-kun must learn to live with the demands of the chiefs, the captains, and his own fears for him to gain what he most desires.

Ichimura Tesunosuke, Okita Souji, and Hijikata ToshizoThe main plot of the story is actually the biggest spoiler of them all now that I think about it. So in a sense, the funny spoiler in the intro was actually a spoiler. The plot is the story of the Ideka Inn Affair in 1864 when the Shinsengumi foil a plot by Choushu rebels who want to burn down Kyoto in order to over throw the emperor. As well known in Japan as say the Untouchables are in the U.S., the story of the Ikeda Inn and the Shinsengumi are extremely famous and so for the Japanese the plot of the show was really the back burner.

This concept threw me for a loop because for the whole time I was watching it I was wondering where the plot was. Had I known the Japanese knew the story pretty well to begin with I would have focused more on the characters in the story. But what will be will be. The historical accuracy of the show is actually pretty good. All the major players in the affair were present and their fates were shown to full detail. Of course, there were many liberties taken with the personalities of the characters and some plot elements but for the most part, the story and characters are close to history.

As a histories major (lol ¯\(º_o)/¯), I love seeing historical figures brought to life and Kurogane delivered. As the wikipedia articles on all the figures were stuffy and boring, I felt like I got to know Okita Souji and the other famous people pretty well. I know they probably were not like how they were depicted but watching how the Japanese currently view their heros of old made me feel pretty good. They haven’t yet lost the sense of honor that we here in the States have. The swordsmanship shown is also really great. No one has any special sword move that is insanely impossible. In fact, without the nutty lord saga, there is no magic or super power in the show at all. Its all just talent and hard work.

Historial BishisAt any rate, the show itself is very good. The characters all have depth that extends beyond the reach of the show (btw, while bishis without a doubt, they are not gay. Men cried and relied on eachother back then). The plot is interesting. But the best part I think is Tetsu-kun’s personal growth within the Shinsengumi and his learning to face his fears and grow without changing his core values. The group itself changes in face of a great loss in the middle of the show and shows what true loyalty to friends and relatives is all about. Tetsu’s ability to face his fears finally and the group’s maturing as a whole is really the point of the show more than the historical raid on the Inn.

Of course, the show had a few down sides. There were extraneous plot elements that didn’t really add anything to the show and took up time. The magical lord is the main one. There was no real reason for the side story other than to take up time. The second was the dangling plot thread at the end with Suzu. I don’t want to give much away since Suzu is a purely fictional character, but they left his story up in the air.

Overall, Peace Maker Kurogane is a very well made show thats historical and believable. The characters all show their humanity in differing and refreshing ways. Despite the extraneous plot points, this show earns a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆