Daphne in the Brilliant Blue Vol. 1: Initiation
The trailer sold me on giving this series a try: a stripper anime, or so the opening seems to say, with clothing being ripped off of well-toned female bodies left, right and center. Happily, Daphne is a fanservice anime that is well aware of its genre, but it does offer a good story to back up the sexy looks.
The series opens with fifteen year old Maia competing in an entrance exam for Ocean Agency, the UN equivalent in a world where the ice caps have melted, leaving the world looking and feeling like Australia or Hawaii. In a bizarre quirk and in spite of her high scores, Maia fails. Since she had planned her whole life around entering Ocean Agency and embarking on a stunning career, Maia finds herself at a loss, to say it mildly. Kicked out of her house, jobless and poor, she wanders the streets, looking for work and a place to live. Maia stumbles across the Nereids, a bounty hunter/oddjob agency, and ends up joining the group, whose uniform seems to be glued-on scraps of a bikini. Only naturally, we have the standard leader character, the brains, the brawn, the long-suffering manager and the naive and clumsy newbie -- Maia!
If you enjoy light comedy and fanservice, then you'll love this series! The world is believable and fun, and the animation is bright, solid and clear. Though the characters are stock in their roles, they are enjoyable in their crazy antics, so give Daphne in the Brilliant Blue one more chance, please? --JC
Dokkoida!? Vol. 3: The Lost Action Hero
I'll admit it; Dokkoida!? really didn't sound like a series for me, but it did sound like a perfect fit for Matt, as he is an utter comic book geek. As I am always on the lookout for anime that we can watch together over dinner, and Dokkoida?! fit the bill perfectly.
Two companies vie for the power suit contract with the Galaxy Federation Police. The Emerald Company presents the ultra-cool and sexy Neruloid Girl, while Toys of the World gives us Dokkoida... who is not as sexy or smooth, looking more like a robot in a diaper than a suave superhero. Using Earth as a testing ground, several class A space super-villains are released to push the power suit candidates to the limit. If they manage to reveal the true identities of our two superheroes in the making, they will get a full pardon. Only naturally, this goal is only pursued haphazardly, as the villains are having too much fun living on Earth as their alter egos. Since this is a parody comedy, all of the players, heroes and villains, are living under one roof in order to save money at an apartment complex called Cosmos House. Hilarity ensues as no one can figure out each other's identity, despite how similar the characters are to their more ordinary alter egos. They even become friends, despite being on opposite sides.
In this final volume, Suzuo (Dokkoida), Asuka (Neruloid Girl), and the rest of Cosmos House's inhabitants must cope with the cancellation of the power suit program. Suzuo and Asuka's memories of the summer are erased, while the villains and Tanpopo, Dokkoida's handler, return to space. However, the Osabaki M5 police drones, selected in place of the power suits, turn on the Galaxy Federation at the command of a would-be tyrant! Now only Dokkoida can save the day! Can Suzuo regain his memories in order to transform one last time?
The ending did feel a little forced, as I would have loved to have another season of Dokkoida?!, as I feel that there was so much more that this series could have done without feeling stretched out. I highly recommend this series. I greatly enjoyed Geneon's dub, which really captured the feel of the Japanese subtitles in terms of their general goofiness. The dub gave me a similar experience as when watching with subtitles, except the jokes and products focused on American comic books, food and pop culture. Pick up this rather short, but very entertaining series today! --JC
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. 5
The long string of stand alone episodes finally ends, but not before Aramaki takes center stage. Volume 5 offers three more stand alone episodes and one complex episode along with the usual top of the line animation and music.
The first episode involves Aramaki in London attending a conference. While there he stops by to see an old friend, but they end up being taken hostage. Aramaki gets to show off his intellect in what ends up being a very exciting episode as they fight to survive. In the next episode Aramaki goes to the funeral of an old comrade and finds out about some suspicious behavior from his former comrades son. Later in the episode Section 9 is asked to protect the Chinese foreign minister while he’s in Japan. Things really start to take a turn as it seems the two events are related and cause one of the most thrilling endings of the series. Next we get to see Section 9 trying to get to the bottom of a string of supposed mass kidnappings when one of the people kidnapped is the daughter of a prominent politician. Lastly the closure on this volume gets the complex episodes started off with a bang. Togusa wants to look deeper into the laughing man case. His work turns up some leads and points him to a NGO called the Sunflower Society; however things start to get dangerous.
This is a volume that Ghost in the Shell fans will love and they will really appreciate seeing Aramaki showing off what he can do. The problem is that it took the series a while to get back to the complex episodes so the pacing can turn some people off who were sticking around for the laughing man. Hopefully everyone stayed with it because this volume offers up four great episodes and an incredible start to the closing complex episodes. --JL
Magical Meow Meow Taruto Vol.1: A Magic Cat
Magical Meow Meow Taruto mixes two niche anime genres, cat-girls and magical girl, together, making this one of the few magical cat-girl shows out there. The only other one that comes to mind is Digi Charat, so fans of this elusive genre now have another series they can follow.
Taruto is a young kitten with a slight crush on her master, Iori. Her love is forever one-sided as Iori only hears her meowed declarations of love as pleas for food or attention. Despite this, she tries to help him out whenever she can with her magical powers, which in typical anime fashion end up making things worse then they where to start with. Taruto’s powers soon get the interest of others who are looking for the mythical feline princess of Ganache, the last suriving member of the magical royal family. Could Taruto, despite her clumsiness and naiveté, be the princess?
Though the answer seems obvious, the disc doesn’t delve too deeply into that plot point. At only three episodes, it doesn’t delve too much into anything. Just as I was really starting to get into the show, the disc ended. I guess it’s good for the anime that it left me wanting more, but another episode or two would have been nice.
From the first three episodes, Magical Meow Meow Taruto looks to be a really cute shows. The animation is bright and shiny, though otherwise not anything special. The character designs are cute and distinctive, especially for the feline part of the cast. The cats are shown as small people with cat ears and tail. Their personality is reflected in how they look, so expressive designs are important here.
If you like cat-girls, then you probably already own this. If you are looking for a cute anime that has comedy and magic, then you could try wrose then Magical Meow Meow Taruto. --SF
Paranoia Agent Vol. 3: Serial Psychosis
The saga of Shonen Bat continues, but not in a way many people would expect it to. The story takes a break from the characters and scenarios previously explored by the series, and deals with others that have been subjected to Shonen Bat's wrath. This really isn't a very satisfying twist to the series, and this disc was mostly boring, aside from the last episode.
Volume 3 starts off with a trio of what seems to be internet friends meeting to commit suicide together. When these attempts consistently fail, they turn to finding Shonen Bat. When they do, however, they do not get what they bargained for. The next episode focuses on how much the legend of Shonen Bat has spread, relying on the gossip of housewives to tell its stories. This episode definitely has one of the most unexpected twists thus far in the series, but it was absolutely boring. The third and best episode of the volume focuses on a stressed out animation studio working on a Maromi anime. The studio's staff is murdered one by one, and it really does get more and more suspenseful over time.
Aside from content that is sub-par for the series, Paranoia Agent continues to have outstanding production values. At $29.98 with three episodes and barely any extras to speak of, this volume is ridiculously overpriced, but I suppose it's still a solid purchase for fans of the series. --CI
Samurai Champloo Vol. 2
Volume 2 of Samurai Champloo doesn't really mess with the format established by the first volume, but it does delve into some much more original, fairly-ridiculous scenarios. However, this is not to say that it is as good as the first volume was. The great animation and top-notch soundtrack continues, but the storylines here were simply not as good as past ones in the series.
The first two episodes on the disc are fairly normal Samurai Champloo fare, focusing on the trio's lack of cash and food, and their subsequent attempts to get both. The third episode, however, is where it gets weird. After participating in an eating contest, the trio attempts to get their lost items back from the winner, who turns out to be a European docked at a nearby port. And this is not just any European, it is indeed a gay European who has come to Japan, which in his mind is "the land of man-love." It's pretty safe to say that this was by far the weirdest, and worst, episode of the series so far. Volume 2's last episode thankfully gets the momentum going again, and it actually has a bit of Jin's history in it. That aside, it is absolutely hilarious! I won't go into the plot too much, but it involves beatboxing and quite a few hip-hop culture jokes.
Although losing some of the awesomeness the previous volume presented us with, Volume 2 is still a worthy purchase that further establishes Samurai Champloo as a great anime. Geneon has also included interviews with the music composers in the insert, an added bonus to a DVD with already solid value. I also must mention how beautiful the artwork on the case is. It's safe to say that it is the best box art I have seen in a long time (except for maybe Vol. 1). --CI