Sunday, November 24, 2013

Anime review: "Genshiken Nidaime"

I have watched the original first few seasons of "Genshiken" six years ago. I forgot much of it, but I remember it was one of my favorite anime in that time. When I saw a new season is coming up, I was of course very interested and watched it as soon as I got the opportunity.

"Genshiken Nidaime" takes a year after the last part. All original cast has a role in this one, but more focus is those still in college and formally in Genshiken (Ogiue, Ohno, Sue, Kuchiki) and three new characters Hato, Yajima and Yoshitake. In the first episode it turns out that all member of the new Genshiken, except Kuchiki, are girls in love it BL (boy love), or "rotten girls"...

There is no point in going deeply in the plot of "Genshiken Nidaime" because it is not a series with real plot. "Genshiken" was always focused more on daily or school life of characters and their relationship. The difference between the previous seasons and this one is that here there is a big focus on subjects like boy love, cross-dressing and similar. "Genshiken" always touched similar topics, but not in such way. It didn't bothered me, but nor did I find it very compelling. There was a lot of talk about bullying and accepting different people.

A big focus is put on relationship between the new character Hato and Madarame, and his obsession with Kasukabe. There is a good scene and resolution between her and Madarame that I think all the old fans will like. I am sidestepping talking much about the character because there are few surprises and I don't want to reveal any spoilers.

As I said, I don't remember much about the original, but I think that visually it was even better than this one. "Genshiken Nidaime" has unattractive design and animation. Voice acting was good, but there was no other attractive music. I think the production was poor. Also, I don't remember the original having so much fanservice.

For conclusion... If you haven't watched the original "Genhiken" and you like daily life and otaku anime, you definitely need to watch it. As for "Genshiken Nidaime", it is for the fans who wants the continuity and they will find it good. But I think that even the most avid fans will find it poorer that the original.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Anime review: "Nurarihyon no Mago"

I don't know why or when I put "Nurarihyon no Mago" in my wishlist, but I have watched it last week because I felt like watching some simple shounen action anime. It turned out that I should have picked something else.

"Nurarihyon no Mago" is a typical shounen anime. Nura Rikuo is a high-school boy, proper and a do-gooder. But he is also grandson of leader of strong Nura demon clan, legendary Nurarihyon. He lives with his grandfather, mother and numerous demons from the Nura clan. Despite his inheritance, he refuses to follow his demon side and wants to live as a human, together with his friends from school, who are unaware of anything. But things are getting complicated in demon world and Rikuo's thirteenth birthday, mark of demon's majority, is coming close...

As I said, "Nurarihyon no Mago" follows typical shounen tropes. A kid who doesn't want to accept his other side, being pushed into it by circumstances and care for his friends. Also, there is a stream of gradually stronger enemies, culminating in fight against leader of another demon clan (based on tanukis).

But in realization, this anime doesn't suffice. First few episodes are very bad, too generic and childish. This is also true for the main character, who is bland. There is a predictable pattern - Rikuo is attacked, defended by his demon friends/servants until they prove to be too weak and then his alter ego appears who wins everything with no effort, paralely spattering cool sayings.

There is no concern for consistency: e.g. when a building explodes, what happens with destroyed parts? Another: one room is breaking apart, while people in the next one don't realize a thing. There are only confused explanations about relationship between demons and humans. Prior history and Rikuo's origins are totally neglected, even though missing of his father just begs for explanation. The ending is pretty dull, especially the last fight. Also, what was the point with the sword??

I don't even want to go into characters. They are tropes, with no background, no dimension and no character. They also scream and shout a lot.

I had big doubts after first three episodes whether to continue watching it. There are few good episodes in the middle, but even they are nothing to be proud of. I finished it more to confirm my opinion that this is a bad anime.

Design of characters and background is also bad, so the anime doesn't have anything commend itself on visual or audio side. That CGI train was especially irritating. There are 24 episodes.

All in all, "Nurarihyon no Mago" is one of the worst anime I have watched in a long time, and I wouldn't even recommend it to most avid shounen action fans. If you want to watch a really good shounen anime with demons, watch "Kekkaishi"!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Book review: "Perdido Street Station" by China Miéville

I have finished reading China Miéville's "Perdido Street Station" almost two weeks ago, but I had so hectic last two week that I didn't have time to blog about it. I actually read this book a long time ago once, borrowing from the library. I had a notion that I remember this book quite well so I was reluctant to buy it, but I wanted to reread it before going to next two books ("The Scar" and "Iron Council"). So I decided to buy it after all - and ended quite surprised how much actually I have forgotten!

"Perdido Street Station" is one of those books that are really hard to describe, especially their plot. Whatever I write, I will miss the point. But here is a try... "Perdido Street Station" tells a story set in very imaginative setting, the City of New Crobuzon, which includes magic, alchemy, science, science fiction, insect races, magical races, demons, spider-gods, cyborgs, artificial intelligence, flying people, oppression, horror, religion and education, among a bunch of other things. In the midst of it is Isaac, a underground scientist who, working on another project, happens to free a strange breed of gigantic moths that feed on people's conscience. Moths start to terrorize the whole City and Isaac becomes target to both the totalitarian regime the rules the City and by a drug-lord that was making money by moths, which forces him to try to catch the moths on his own...

I haven't read much books by Chine Miéville (only this one and "The City and The City"), but even I know that he is famous by his imaginativeness. And this is quite obvious here, especially in the first part. First part of the book especially, but also the book in whole is written in "look at my beautiful garden" form (I borrowed this from Jo Walton and her review of "Aristoi"), where Miéville plays and shows off his imagination. But this is a good thing because he builds a great setting - the list I mention in previous paragraph is only a part of it, notions I could describe in one word. He sometimes goes quite deep in details, like with descriptions of khepri's society, or with the handlingers. But here is also the problem of this book. Even to me, who like this kind of stuff, this wild and weird setting managed to become too tiresome on occasions. Imagination is good, but there has to be some boundaries. Luckily, this happened only few times while reading the book, so it can be forgiven.

It would take too much time to mention all great ides Miéville shows, but I have to note the Weaver and the daemons. I am really curious what more can he think of in the next two books with same setting to keep this level of freshness...

As with the setting, there is a bunch of characters in the book, but only two of them can be said to be main characters. Isaac is one, of course. He is an eccentric, a genius dropping out of college, hanging out with artist and working for the criminals. On the other hand, he is fat, clumsy, and not really someone you could look upon to. This is what makes him such a lovable and aspiring main characters. The other one is Yagharek. We don't get much from him, and I don't want to reveal spoilers, but those short intrusions with his POVs were really impressing. Miéville succeeded in giving him a very powerful voice, for all his tacitness. As I said, there is bunch of other characters, but with the exception of maybe Lin and Derkhan, they are not too important. But you can be sure that they are written in detail and flamboyant as the rest of this book.

His writing is very good. Although he can become tedious with the details, it can be forgiven. The book is violent, dark and graphic. And after finishing it, I realized that it is maybe a bit too depressing, with no happy end too much pain. Also, the book has a lot of morally questionable or rightly unfair decisions. A big example is with the sick old man in the end. The government, who is in the beginning described as comically evil, turns out to be the real villain.

Another thing I wanted to mention is my surprise with how much of this book I have forgot. When I started reading it, I had a misconception that I know it from the beginning to end, especially the plot. First I was surprised by the quantity of details I really had no recollection about. But the real surprise came when I finished two thirds of the book and realized that I have no idea how the book ends! The moth-hunting, I had no idea about it. I felt like I was reading a different version of the book, with the same beginning but a different ending. And to thing how much pride I put on my memory...

So, if you like weird books, a lot of details and imagination large as an ocean, "Perdido Street Station" is a book for you. You can think about China Miéville as a dark and gritty version of Terry Prachet, having fun on the tropes. Not a book I would recommend to exclusive fans of classical fantasy a la Tolkien.