Daphne in the Brilliant Blue Vol. 3: Getaway
As far as fanservice anime goes, Daphne in the Brilliant Blue is very generic. Tiny bikini work clothes? Check. The five basic female types (naive, aggressive, quiet, geeky and sexy)? Check. This four episode volume brings us more comedic action from the girls of Nereids, but we do get a new overall plot introduced through Maia's amnesia. Yes, if fifteen-year-old Maia didn't have enough problems already as a penniless orphan, now it is revealed that she has no memory of her childhood or of her parents. Somehow, she feels a sense of familiarity in the resort city of Siberia City, even though her parents were not rich people, nor did they take vacations. Hmmm... Sounds like someone has a hidden past. Additionally, we learn that Maia's grandfather's last word to her before he died was "Daphne.Ē One day, we might actually learn what the title of this series means.
Another element that adds depth to an otherwise wishy-washy anime is that we learn a little about Maia's futuristic world, specifically how the great cities of Earth came to be in the last episode in this volume. It's nice to see that there is an actual back story for Daphne in the Brilliant Blue.
This series is definitely not a masterpiece of animation or storytelling, but it does deliver what it promises in terms of a cute story with scantily-clad girls fighting crime, and that puts it above a lot of second-tier titles. --JC
The Melody of Oblivion Vol. 2
There are plenty of examples where weird can equal really good, such as FLCL or Requiem from the Darkness. However, when a show is needlessly weird and it isnít good, perhaps this is a hint of things to come. In volume two of Melody of Oblivion, our somewhat lackluster hero Bocca is able to ďresolveĒ the problem from the previous volume, and he comes across a new town with another really weird problem. We learn that not everyone wants the Warriors of Melos to help, and that sometimes, they would rather just be left alone. In this new town, there is another human who is a member of the monster union and is helping them out so that they can gain what they want. You also have a giant robot mouse, a river filled with childrenís tears, and a boy with his hand stuck in a dam, just standing there. The show does try to spice things up a bit by introducing a new character.
Melody of Oblivion has lost all of the feel of the first episode, and it now just has a dark, creepy atmosphere to it, which works for the show, except when they try to throw in some out-of-place fanservice. It does have a good soundtrack to accompany the mood of the show, but the generic character designs and hit or miss backgrounds are still there. After finishing this volume, Iím left scratching my head, wondering what the director was thinking with some of the characters and concepts in this show. Somehow, the story does manage to roll along enough to keep the interest of the viewer, but you certainly wonít be calling this show one of the great releases of the year. --JL
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: The Empty Battlefield
If you are a Gundam fan, then you've probably heard tell of how the first Gundam Seed movie, The Empty Battlefield is not on par with the TV series. Why is that? After all, the basic story is the same: the movie is about a teenage Coordinator named Kira Yamato who is forced to go into battle against ZAFT, where he later finds his childhood best friend, Athrun on the battlefield. This is all very comforting for a Gundam fan, but a first-time viewer may find the movie full of unintelligible jargon, such as Berserkers and Coordinators.
So why do most Gundam fans find The Empty Battlefield disappointing? It's not that the movie has no plot; on the contrary, it has too much -- the producer tried to squeeze twp dozen episodes into a ninety-five minute film. Everything is rushed, leaving no time for a proper introduction to anyone except Kira, because his face appears on screen the most. Other characters appear to have a two minute spotlight limit before they are transported elsewhere, either into battle or to get themselves killed. Because these characters are not given enough airtime, it is difficult to feel any great sympathy for them when and if they die. Therefore, the movie would have done better had the producer decided to slash off certain cut-and-paste scenes from several episodes, as well as deleting some side characters, so that the movie would have been less confusing for first-time viewers.
Gundam Seed: The Empty Battlefield does have some good features. The style of animation in the movie is almost identical to the TV series, and the music varies, anywhere from the usual orchestral to hypno. The DVD has a metallic cover, as well as "new footage created exclusively for this special release!" So if you are a collector who enjoys DVDs with shiny covers, The Empty Battlefield may be for you! --SH
Saiyuki Reload Vol. 3
Happily, since the Chinese novel Journey into the West has been adapted so frequently in anime, you can pick up Saiyuki at any point. Priest Genjo Sanzo, magic user Cho Hakkai, pretty bad boy fighter Sha Gojyo, and the ever-hungry monkey boy Son Goku are on a quest to India in order to restore the negative energy imbalance in the land of Shangri-La. Apparently, someone decided to try to resurrect an ancient demon, and now all of the demons are going crazy and attacking humans. The demons also want the holy scriptures that Sanzo carries, so the party gets attacked in every single episode. However, you don't really need to know the overall plot, as all of the episodes on this volume are self-contained adventures as the party travels along. In the first episode, the party stays in a fortress city and teaches the leader a lesson about being bound by nonsensical rules in a book. The second episode has the party staying at a bath house, and Goku believing that Sanzo has become a demon. The last two episodes have Goku teaching and learning a lesson, respectively.
This volume contains four episodes, four animated shorts, the usual assortment of extras from Geneon, and a plastic pencil board insert of Goku in action. The animation is smooth, but is nothing revolutionary. The J-Pop opening and ending songs are entirely disconnected from the anime, seeming to be nothing more than a marketing tie-in strategy. The character designs of Sanzo and Gojyo are quite pretty, and I can see why this series has such a following among the ladies. Story-wise, this volume of Saiyuki Reloaded is very boring; this is the equivalent of a family sit-com on network television at 5:00 PM, with its predictability and cheap laughs. However, be aware that the dub and sub versions are in no way alike. The English dub adds vulgar language that seems rather inappropriate and out of character in such a relatively tame series. I have a personal dislike for the mixture of ancient and modern culture in the Saiyuki series, so if you're a historical purist, you might want to stay away. Otherwise, this is not a bad series for a rainy and brain-numbing day. --JC
Yugo The Negotiator Vol.1
Yugo the Negotiator is an interesting show, but with only three episodes on the disc, itís hard to make any big assumptions on it. Yugo is a Japanese freelance negotiator who is hired to go to Pakistan and negotiate the release of a Japanese business man being held by anti-government rebels. Most of the first episode is Yugo preparing for the trip, meeting contacts and getting information, but once he actually gets to Pakistan, the show really gets going.
All of the ads that Iíve seen for this show have played up the fights and explosions, but thatís really not the focus of the series, or at least, not in the first three episodes. Instead, itís more about Yugo using his brain, words, and occasionally, his fists to get the job done. The showís setting is exotic (whatís the last anime you watched that was set in Pakistan?), but it is also very detailed in its depiction of the foreign country that it takes place in. The animation is good, though itís a little bleached. Maybe that is just to make it seem more desert-like.
Three episodes really arenít enough for an introduction to a series. The slew of extras on the disc are interesting, and the English dub is great, but I really would have liked another episode or two, especially since the last episode ends on a cliffhanger. --SF