Category: Anime Series

Neon Genesis Evangelion. Just the mention of the series is sure to prompt a massive debate between anime fans. The only anime series to garner more critical attention and scholarly analysis is the universally loved Cowboy Bebop, and Neon Genesis Evangelion is equally likely to prompt fans to call it the greatest anime of all time as it for it to cause its detractors to name it an over-rated, pretentious, and muddled mess. I’ve only watched about half of the series in the past so I don’t have a stake in this debate though my initial impression of the show was that it was one of the most starkly psychological and character-driven anime series that I had ever watched. Studio Gainax is responsible for two of the anime series I’ve reviewed so far, FLCL and Gurren Lagann. Those series are marked as the happier and angst free alternatives to the depression and alienation driven stories of Neon Genesis Evangelion (which was made at the height of creator Hideaki Anno’s own personal battle with depression). While the dark and dismal tone that propels much of the action of NGE is potentially not for everyone, for people that are searching for an intelligent and well-written alternative to your average shonen fighting program, NGE should be right up your alley as it manages to deconstruct every aspect of the mecha subgenre of anime (at least until it became the trope codifier of mecha shows) and crafts a remarkable cast of characters that feel more alive and memorable than nearly every other anime out there.

The basic premise of Neon Genesis Evangelion is a near future Earth where a cataclysmic event known as the “Second Impact” (which hasn’t really been explained yet) wiped out a large amount of the Earth’s population and caused drastic climate change and upheaval. Earth has slowly started to recover, and in the city of New Tokyo-3, the U.N. funded agency known as NERV has been tasked with protecting what remains of humanity from a mysterious alien force that has been attacking over the years. Known as Angels, these eldritch abominations can’t be stopped by conventional weapons and only the top secret robots known as Evangelion (or EVAs for short) can defeat them. 14 year old Shinji Ikari is called to Tokyo-3 by his father, the head of the Evangelion project (and a man Shinji hasn’t spoken to in years), to pilot one of the EVA units and fight off the alien forces invading Earth. Shinji isn’t a trained soldier. On the contrary, he’s just a kid (and an emotionally scarred one at that). When tasked with the defense of humanity, Shinji breaks down and refuses his call to arms. Only when he realizes that the alternative is another 14 year old, a girl so physically broken that she can no longer walk, does Shinji step into the EVA unit. Once again, not trained in how to fight, Shinji freezes in battle and is demolished by the first Angel he encounters. After his mind completely snaps under the stress of battle, the EVA seemingly acts on its own and saves Shinji’s life (and that of everyone in Tokyo-3) by defeating the Angel.

Serving alongside Shinji in NERV (besides his estranged father) are Captain Misato Katsuragi, Doctor Ritsuko Akagi, and Rei Ayanami. Misato is Shinji’s direct superior in the EVA program and the only one who understands just how deeply broken this child is. Though Misato intentionally puts forth a ditzy and laid back demeanor, she’s a serious alcoholic and is as prone to troubled inner monologues and angst as Shinji. Recognizing the kindred spirit (in terms of pain) she has in Shinji, they quickly become room mates so that Shinji won’t have to live on his own in this town (because his father wants nothing to do with him besides using him for work). Ritsuko is one of the head scientists of NERV. She’s been given the least character development so far. As of yet, she seems to only be a cynical and cold woman. Rei is the only other EVA pilot besides Shinji. If Shinji is a scarred and emotionally fractured child, Rei is a vase that’s been thrown against the wall and completely shattered. Outside of her work as an EVA pilot, she speaks to absolutely no one at the school that she and Shinji attends and appears capable of displaying absolutely no emotion except when it comes to Shinji’s father. While Shinji’s dad cares absolutely nothing about his son, he has been willing to risk injury to protect Rei, and the only time that Rei has shown any emotion the entire series is when Shinji insulted his father and Rei proceeded to slap Shinji.

The show is absolutely rife with religious and psychological symbolism to the point that if you freeze frame any of the more important moments of an episode, you’re liable to notice at least one bit of Freudian sexual symbology or Christian iconography. In the opening credits alone, you see the Kabbalah symbol of Sephiroth (which to be fair was also heavily used in Full Metal Alchemist) and whenever the first Angel is finally defeated, you see a giant cross (on several different occasions). Shinji is accosted by the severed head of his EVA unit early on (these machines take a serious beating) and if I wasn’t supposed to see vaginal symbolism when its eye first opened, then I might need to see a shrink about reading too deeply into scenes. Sexuality is in fact one of the larger themes of the series (though it hasn’t gotten quite as apparent at this point), and the painful awkwardness of Shinji going through his own sexual awakening cna be very difficult to watch. However, the most prominent themes of these opening episodes are alienation and the psychological costs of being a child soldier. There’s an entire episode which centers around Shinji totally running away from his own responsibilities and riding around trains and buses and the countryside in total and debilitating despair. By the time Shinji fights his second Angel, he’s basically a shell of a child who does everything asked of him without question (0r any emotion) and goes absolutely bat-shit crazy on an Angel when his fight or flight instincts finally kick in. Many anime have used the “determination” aspect as a way to show a sudden increase in skill or fighting ability. NGE completely deconstructs this plot device by showing just how damaged someone becomes when they are constantly pushed to these types of breaking points.

As much as I love the show’s story to this point (it’s one of the most mature anime of all time [and by mature I mean intelligent and thoughtful]), it’s animation could have used some work. This series is notorious for the fact that by the end of the show’s run, it had completely ran out of money, and the last several episodes featured many recycled shots and long still images rather than actual animation. While the series original episodes don’t have this problem quite as obviously and the major action sequences look totally awesome (it’s great that hte show can combine psychological drama and giant robots fighting), a healthy portion of any given episode is you looking at the exact same image for around half a minute while you hear copious amounts of exposition or character development. While some of these long stills look great from an artistic perspective, it sorts of draws attention to the fact that I’m watching a cartoon rather than immersing myself in the show’s world. NGE‘s plot is better than Full Metal Alchemist ever could be (and that’s my second favorite anime that I’m dissing) but at least FMA‘s art (in Brotherhood) always had my jaw on the floor about how beautiful the show looked. The character models in NGE look good from a conventional classic anime point of view, but there’s still nothing remarkable about this show’s art like there was with later Gainax programs like FLCL or Gurren Lagann.

If you’re an anime fan and you haven’t already watched Neon Genesis Evangelion, you need to go ahead and make it a priority. This is a great and challenging program (so far). Most of the controversy surrounding the fan (and what causes the divisions between its haters and its fans) doesn’t arise til closer to the series end, and I’m nowhere near there yet. As it is, Neon Genesis Evangelion remains one of the anime series (alongside Cowboy Bebop) that doesn’t make me feel guilty about still being a bit of an otaku even though I’m 22 years old (and just two months shy of being 23. shiver…). It’s smart and entertaining. You really can’t ask for more. And ever since Gurren Lagann, well-written programs about robots fighting other giant robots/creatures/aliens feeds directly on a strange pleasure principle. The only reason why you may not appreciate this show is if you haven’t seen any of the mecha shows that came before it. This series completely eviscerates so many of the genre conventions of those programs but unwittingly became the standard bearer for all future giant mecha shows. So, if you’ve only seen the robot programs that came after, you may not realize just how influential this program really was. Regardless though, this show deserves the attention of all anime fans who still haven’t somehow discovered this seinen classic.

Final Score: A-

The vast majority of anime are based off of manga series, and it is on the rare side for an anime to be made after the manga has finished its run. Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece are incredibly long-lived anime series that are based off of manga that are still running. What happens the most during these shows is that the anime will fill the series with filler while it gives the manga time to sufficiently jump ahead of the anime. Hence, this is why Goku would take several episodes just to power up his spirit bomb or the fact that the show was on Namek for legitimately 80 episodes. However, some series take a different approach. Rather than waiting to catch up with the manga, they create an entirely new storyline for the show to follow as they eventually diverge with the manga‘s canon at some point. The original Fullmetal Alchemist took this approach and this is also the approach Soul Eater has taken as well. I only bring this up because these last couple of episodes have had a distinctly different feel from earlier episodes and I can definitely see where this is caused by different writers.

Medusa’s surrender to the DWMA was short-lived as it was simply a ploy for her to pit the DWMA versus Arachnophobia as well as to complete Stein’s madness to complete insanity. She offered the DWMA the location of the kishin Asura as well as Arachnophobia in exchange for her freedom and a promise that the DWMA would leave her alone. Crona and Marie set off to defeat Medusa anyways since they are no longer part of the school. The rest of the DWMA heads to Arachnophobia’s headquarters to finally defeat Arachne and Asura. At the last moment however, Maka decides to join with Marie and Crona since she can’t believe that Shinigami-san could ever let someone as evil as Medusa free. During the fight against Medusa, Crona sacrifices himself (although he lives) to save Maka and firmly places himself on the good guys’ team. After Marie cures Stein of his madness, Maka uses Genie Hunter again to finally defeat Medusa who leaves with the cryptic warning that they’re still not strong enough to stop Asura.

This disc had plenty of plot and besides Maka’s angst about Lord Death releasing Medusa, it was fairly devoid of filler. The closest thing it had to a filler episode was when Kid ent to a city to find the very last magic tool. However, this episode did commit what i feel is a cardinal sin of comic books/ anime. Unless you’re Gurren Lagann, and you’re entire universe is guided by the rule of awesome, please do not suddenly give your characters new powers without explaining where they came from. This is called deus ex machina, and it’s a crutch for bad writing. While we had seen Genie Hunter before, it was never explained that it could expel spirits from the body of those possessed or that it destroyed all evil it touched. Also, the way that Marie cured Stein’s madness was from the same principle. We had never seen her use a single one of her powers and she is a Death Scythe so she’s very powerful, but it would have been easier to swallow that whole sequence if we had seen her do something similar earlier in the series.

I’m kind of excited that Soul Eater is drawing to a close. School is starting up in a week, and I just don’t have time to be reviewing three TV shows at once (not counting the ones I’m reviewing as they air which makes the number six). I should finish Soul Eater and Buffy literally right after each other. And after that, I’m sticking to one show on DVD at a time. It’s all I’ll have time for. I’m trying to make up my mind about whether the next show should be Twin Peaks or Angel. I’m possibly Jossed out at the moment, so I may decide to visit the crazy mind of David Lynch. Anyways, here’s to hoping that Soul Eater closes its page with as epic an ending as humanly possible.

Disc Score: B

Alright, all of the worries I had last disc have been assuaged. The show spent nearly 7 episodes not doing anything particularly significant, but we had a pay off, as we got three episodes of an epic, large-scale battle, and then three equally good episodes exploring what’s happening at the DWMA now that the battle is over. The series is drawing to a close, and I only have one season left with 12 episodes to go. I didn’t think I could enjoy a typical shonen series as much as I have Soul Eater, although I think it’s unfair for me to call this series typical. Whatever it is, we’re entering the end-game of the series. I’m still not entirely sure what in the hell is happening anymore, but I’m firmly along for the ride, and I want to see all of these bad-ass kids save the world one last time.

This disc begins with the gang going on a dangerous mission to “Lost Island”, a once beautiful island paradise that was destroyed in magical explosion and is now a snow-covered wasteland. They are after one of the magic tools that both Arachnophobia and the DWMA are searching for. The magic tool is nestled in a magnetic field in the middle of the island that is in fact some sort of weird time warp to before the explosion. Anyone stuck in the magnetic field for more than 20 minutes is stuck in the time loop forever. The kid meisters head in against Stein’s orders to rescue Stein and Marie and fight the weird little guy named Mosquito. They fail to recover the magic tool, but Arachne doesn’t get it either. However, Medusa actually found it first. Stein has officially lost any semblance of sanity he ever had as the snake Crona sneaked into his body is completely robbing him of his sanity. Crona finally fesses up to what he did to Stein, and Death may or may not be expelling him from the DWMA. Also, the disc ended with Medusa “surrendering” to the DWMA.

All of the fights on Lost Island were bad-ass. In addition to the main three meisters being there, there were also three other meisters who served as the defensive line while Maka, Black Star, and Kid went to rescue Stein and Marie. Their cool abilities and weapons made me wish that maybe we had seen a little bit more of them through out the series. Sure, Ox is a loser but he’s kind of a bad-ass in battle. Also, last disc, the gang learned how to resonate their souls together to be even more powerful, and we finally got to see that in action with the fight against Mosquito. Soul had to work with that creepy demon that lives in his subconscious to do it, but when they were all powered up, they kicked so many different shades of ass. Kid was shooting Mosquito up like something out of a John Woo picture. Black Star was moving around faster than Bruce Lee on cocaine, and Maka and Soul upgraded witch hunter to the even more impressive genie hunter. The fight was so awesome. Also, I just really loved the touch of Soul’s creepy piano playing during the fight. It was a nice aesthetic counterpoint to the violence. I just wish the show was relying less on MacGuffins. I really hate MacGuffins.

Maybe Soul Eater doesn’t have the most original plot on the planet. That’s a completely valid point. It’s definitely a typical shonen anime in that regard. However, I feel the series distinguishes itself (besides from the art and character styles which I talk about constantly) through a healthy sense of characterization. I think about how much Black Star used to irritate the hell out of me when he first showed up, but after his big episode this disc, he’s grown on me a lot. I see why he’s so determined and gung-ho. Maka has grown up a lot too over the course of the series, but I liked her a lot at the beginning. I mean, this is no Fullmetal Alchemist but it makes no pretensions of being as such. This show is meant to be fun. It is. Therefore, it succeeds. I’m excited to see how it ends. I’ll probably read the manga since I’m at the point now where the show diverges considerably from the manga source material.

Disc Score: B+

So, I would have finished this review yesterday, but my dad and sister paid a surprise visit to Morgantown, and Nicole ended up spending the evening at my apartment (hence why I watched Take Me Home Tonight). Anywho, It wasn’t until 10 this evening that I was back here in Morgantown after driving Nicole home and back that I felt settled in enough to get started on productive things like blogging. The last two discs of Soul Eater that I reviewed, so basically almost all of Part 2, were very arc-driven and heavily serialized. There was very little in the way of filler. Most of the disc dealt with the battle underneath the DWMA and the fall-out of that fight. The first part of the series had some story stuff, but there was nearly as much (if not more) of  an emphasis on filler, which admittedly is the plague of almost all shonen anime. While this disc was about half story, it was also about half filler, and as I’m finding myself confused about what exactly is happening in the story stuff and not caring about the filler, it was difficult to really engage myself with this disc (although two fantastic episodes raised its overall score).

The last disc ended after the battle between Medusa’s forces against Stein and the main meisters and weapons of the show. The kishin Asura escaped his prison and is now spreading his madness throughout the whole world. One of the way’s that his madness manifests is that it awakens powers and evil that had lied dormant for centuries. The last episode of the disc had Maka, Soul, and Crona heading off towards the Czech Republic to battle golems. It turns out this golem houses the soul of an ancient and evil witch who has now finally manifested back to her old form. This is Arachne who is competing with Medusa and Asura for the series Big Bad at the moment. Before Stein chopped her in half, Medusa spit out part of her soul which has now attached itself to the body of a little girl, and Medusa is trying to regain her former powers. The story aspects of the disc followed the students as they try to stop Arachne’s forces from acquiring these things known as magic tools which are needed for something known as the book of Eibon. I’m not really sure what’s going on. I think the book of Eibon is some all-powerful MacGuffin, but I could be wrong. Also, Stein is losing his god-damned mind.

I was just having a ton of trouble getting into this disc. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it was. However, there were two great episodes. For one, Crona is now a student at the DWMA. We got an episode where he is forced to choose between his loyalties to his new friends and his mother Medusa, who has returned from the dead. We got a fairly tragic look at the mind-set of this incredibly damaged youth. That poor boy has more mommy issues than the kid’s in Mommy Dearest. Also, we got the third Excalibur episode of the series. Excalibur finally finds a meister who can put up with his 1000 provisions, and we finally get to see just how ridiculously powerful Excalibur is. Once again, like the other two episodes, this one was hilarious. Excalibur is such a minor character on the show, but I know anytime that he shows up that I need to prepare myself for plenty of gut-busting laughs.

The disc ended with the three meisters learning how to resonate their souls together for even more awesome power, so hopefully, there’s going to be some kick-ass fights to show just how bad-ass Maka, Death the Kid, and Black Star are when they work together. Also, I just feel like the show has been laying the pieces for what should hopefully be a more serialized story leading to battles against the Big Bad’s. There’s three floating around at the moment, so the series isn’t lacking in bad-ass enemies for the group to take on. I’m not concerned (yet) that the series is undergoing some massive dip in quality. Soul Eater is never going to be a great show. It’s just going to be a beautifully animated fun show. We’re just in a lull that I’m assuming the show will probably quickly jump out of.

Disc Score: B

So, the last time I actually reviewed a disc of Soul Eater for this blog was way back in the middle of April. I forget the exact reason why I had stopped watching it because when I stopped, the show had just started to really get interesting. I think part of it was just an internet thing as I was using my bandwidth for other purposes besides streaming movies from Netflix and then, I moved out of my apartment and back home right at the beginning of May where I couldn’t stream stuff from Netflix cause I had dial-up internet. Anyways, I’ve decided to go ahead and finish the series. I spent most of last week watching the episodes that I had seen two months ago, and then I finally caught back up and started watching the rest of Part 2 which I hadn’t seen the second half of. We definitely have some interesting stories going on and two characters are experiencing some interesting character development that should have some compelling pay-offs as the rest of the series progresses.

The last disc ended with the three main Meisters and their weapons (as well as Stein and Spirit) facing off against Medusa, Crona, and Free underneath the DWMA while Medusa attempts to awaken the kishin Asura. After tapping into the same madness plaguing Crona, Maka and Soul are able to make Crona realize he isn’t a villain and bring him over to the good guys side. After a fairly epic battle where Stein’s own inner madness is resurfacing, Stein and Spirit are able to defeat Medusa, although it is mostly for naught as she was just biding time for her minions to awaken Asura. Asura rises and has an epic fight against Lord Death, although Asura escapes and now it is just a matter of time til his madness begins to envelop the whole world. After the fight, Crona is enrolled at the DWMA and Stein is slowly losing himself to his own madness.

I have officially decided that Stein is simply the best character on the show. His general bad-assery mixed with his moral ambiguity and potential insanity just makes for compelling television. While Death the Kid and Excalibur are both awesome as well, Dr. Stein simply has layers of complexity that neither of those characters can match. Also, Crona is becoming much more interesting than the chew toy he had been previously. While I never really thought he was a bad guy (because he was just so damn pathetic), taking him to the side of the good guys will be a great chance for them to develop his powers while making me see what he would be like had Medusa not mentally tortured him his entire life. Also, Spirit isn’t nearly as annoying as he used to be either. While Maka’s father is far from my favorite character on the series, Spirit has definitely grown on me as well.

This show is never going to be as great as FLCL or Gurren Lagann or Fullmetal Alchemist, but that’s okay. This is simply a fun shonen (maybe?) anime that I can just sit back, relax, and enjoy all of the bad-ass heroics. What separates it from other anime of similar theme will always be the art and character design which remain just top notch. It’s a beautiful show that I enjoy looking at as much as following the plot. I’m glad that I’ve come back to watching Soul Eater and I’ll be bouncing back and forth between this and the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the TV that I’ll be watching that isn’t TV currently airing like Torchwood and Breaking Bad. Well, I can’t wait to see what happens now that the series Big Bad is on the loose and has the potential to wreak havoc on the whole world.

Disc Score: B+

Hoo boy. Sometimes you watch a movie or listen to an album, and it is simply  impossible to come to any conclusion other than that its creators had consumed large quantities of psychedelic drugs during the creation process. Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, Pink Floyd’s The Wall (album or movie. but especially the film), Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s RainbowRocko’s Modern Life, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (which was confirmed as being written on crazy amounts of drugs) all spring to mind. With the possible exceptions of the first opening episodes of Gurren Lagann, I’ve never really watched an anime that made me momentarily question if someone had slipped some lysergic acid diethylamide into my Dr. Pepper. I’ve never watched the anime equivalent of a David Lynch film where I simply gave up on trying to completely digest the plot and just sort of went with the flow. I never realized that was a hole in my anime needs that I was missing. I didn’t realize it, at least, until I watched Studio Gainax’s incomprehensibly bizarre (but equally awesome) FLCL (also known phonetically as “Foolly Coolly”. Only 6 episodes long on a single disc, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this series, but boy, am I glad I watched it.

Trying to explain the plot of FLCL to someone who hasn’t watched the series would be like trying to jump into the final season of Lost without having seen the rest of the series, but here goes. Basically, it’s a coming of age story centered around 6th grade boy Naota, who is going through the typical angst and turmoils of puberty. Emotionally detached and obsessed with being “mature”, Naota is engaged in an odd relationship with the girlfriend of his older brother who is away in America playing baseball. Mamima is 19 years old but romantically obsessed with Naota and is a juvenile delinquent as well as an orphan. Naota’s life gets very odd (understatement of the century) when he is run over by a woman on a vespa armed with a bass guitar (that she uses as a weapon) named Haruhara Haruko who is an alien intent on releasing an alien force being kept captive here on Earth. After Haruhara hits Naota with her guitar, giant robots begin to sprout from his head, with each robot having increasingly bizarre and epic characteristics that Naota and Haruhara then have to battle with the help of good robot, Canti (who the townspeople apparently don’t realize is a robot) which Naota can merge with. That’s probably all anyone could ever hope to understand of the plot of the show.

One of the things the series has going for it is some stellar animation but you really should never expect less from Studio Gainax (except that whole awkward period where they ran out of money on Neon Genesis Evangelion and the show started to look like shit). These are the same people that gave us Gurren Lagann which never failed to look pretty, so it looks great. It even experiments with different visual styles for its miles a minute puns that never seem to end. It went chibi, it went with styles that I don’t know the names for, it momentarily played out as a manga, and it even went South Park for a few scenes. You also get a rocking J-Rock soundtrack that accompanies practically ever action scene, along with elements that can only be descried as hallucinogenic in nature. It was just the trippiest anime that I’ve ever watched, and I mean that as the highest compliment

If you need comprehensible story-lines and satisfying logical conclusion, you can go ahead and let this one pass on by. FLCL challenges you to comprehend what is going on and then throws its head back and laughs at your utter failure. If people thought the ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion was vague, imagine that on cocaine for nearly every scene. I like that kind of thing. I appreciate the fact that there are just a lot of things in life we’ll never comprehend and I like my art to indulge the unknowability of life. This wasn’t as great as Gurren Lagann or NGE, but those are ridiculously high standards for a 6 episode series with a barely conceivable plot to meet. If you want a good, fun romp,  I give FLCL my high recommendation. It might be a niche show, but I’m part of that niche and it filled a void I never even knew existed.

Series Score: A-

Well space cowboys, we’ve come to the last leg of our journey. Our time upon the Bebop has come to a close and we must bid Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed, and Ein a most fond farewell. It was a fun trip that involved amnesiacs, mind control, truckers, blobs in refrigerators, yakuza, artificially aware satellites, and more crazy awesome than you can shake a stick at. But like the Native American in the finale said, all great journeys must eventually come to a close. And it will be time for a new one to start for me soon enough (actually as soon as my next Netflix DVD’s come in the mail and I start getting Neon Genesis Evangelion).

While I’ve written 5 other reviews for the series so far, they focused on the particular episodes that I had seen at that point. This will try to be a general synopsis of my feelings for the series so I apologize for the fact that a lot of the things I’ve said before are probably going to be repeated. Unlike many anime which are highly serialized and consecutive in their myth arc development, Cowboy Bebop is much more episodic in nature and the myth arc is developed slowly but beautifully over the series course, and much of that is simply character development and universe building. The show focuses on the antics and adventures of the crew of the spaceship Bebop. The primary protagonist is Spike Spiegel, a Cowboy, which is the show’s word for a bounty hunter. He’s joined by ex-cop and father figure Jet Black, mysterious con woman Faye Valentine, genius child prodigy Ed, and the dog Ein. Over the course of the show’s 26 episodes, you get a deeper and deeper look at their stories and the universe that they live in, and it all culminates in an absolutely beautiful series finale.

The series is science-fiction first and foremost, but it masterfully weaves a tale that incorporates all of my favorite genres of fiction. Film Noir, westerns, mafia pictures, comedy, psychological drama. And it does all of them better than most shows can do a single one. Some of the episodes of this show are my favorite episodes not just of anime but of any type of TV. Spike and Ed are two of my favorite characters in all of anime. Spike is simply one of the coolest dudes to ever be drawn on screen and Ed’s never-ending word salad is always endearing. Series big bad Vicious is also one of anime’s most compelling villains. The animation and art direction are also superb enough to match the story-telling, which is often a rare feat in a lot of anime.

One of the most memorable aspects of the series is its soundtrack. Live action or animated, no show has a better score than Cowboy Bebop. Yoko Kanno, over the course of the series 26 episode run, delivered a score that can only be described as perfect, and while it is heavily jazz-influenced, it also shows streaks in practically every genre of music, and it never failed to impress me. If you have no interest in the show, you should at least check out its superb soundtrack. The voice acting on the show is also top notch and has the finest English dub of any anime that I’ve watched. No voice actor drags the series down and it never succumbs to any of the cliches of most English anime dubs. I actually think the English dub is better than the original Japanese voice acting.

Cowboy Bebop is the greatest anime of all time. It outclasses its closest competition for me, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, by a mile. Even if you don’t like anime, you should give this one a go, especially if you were a fan of science fiction cult classic Firefly. This show has multi-demographic appeal and I recommend it whole-heartedly.


Final Score: A+


God bless whoever had the idea at Netflix to start letting people watch movies via instant streaming. While the idea has probably sucked away countless hours of my life that I could have used for more productive purposes like school or writing a novel, it has also given me the opportunity to watch countless shows and movies that I would have never had time to watch because of the nature of shipping DVD’s. Netflix recently expanded the content of its anime selection to watch instantly to a really respectable amount of content, and I just know that I’m going to lose so many hours of my life watching all of these anime that I’ve wanted to see but never had the opportunity to get into. Soul Eater really upped its game in its last 7 episodes, and I watched every single one of them practically in a row today. So, yeah, it’s becoming addicting.

The first major story arc of the show has really started to kick into gear as the ultimate plan of the Witch Medusa has finally been placed into action. Apparently, there is a kishin that has been held in basically a quarantine state underneath of the DWMA (Death Weapon Meister Acadamey). His name is Asura and he was one of Lord Death’s most trusted and powerful warriors. However, he began to crave too much power and fed on human souls and ultimately became a kishin. It is Medusa’s plan to re-awaken Asura, although I’m not really sure what her goal is after that. When Medusa instituted a plan to trap Lord Death and all of the meisters and weapons in one of the school’s towers, the show’s three main groups as well as Dr. Stein are able to escape and they delve into the bowels of the school to try and stop Medusa and her henchmen. Epic fights ensue.

As well as the incredibly plot relevant stuff, we also got two filler episodes. One was kind of boring and made me wary that this disc was going to be awful and it was about an exam the students were taking. The other was awesome and hilarious. It brought back one of my favorite supporting characters, the weapon Excalibur. He’s a supposedly incredibly powerful weapon, but he’s such a diva that no one wants to put up with all of the ridiculous demands he makes on a meister. He’s on my short list for the ensemble dark horse of the show. I spent his entire episode just cracking up. We also got some back story for Death the Kid’s weapons, Patty and Liz in one episode that brought back Crona. Also, in the very last episode I watched, Crona him/herself got some pretty important back story and it explains just why in the hell he’s so messed up which is what you would expect from Medusa’s own, mentally tortured child.

I don’t know exactly why I was able to watch all 7 of these episodes in like one day when it took me like a week and a half to watch the first 7. I think it’s probably because I finally felt for the first time in the show that it had some serious plot momentum and I kept wanting to figure out what would happen next. It generally does a pretty good job of ending episodes on cliff-hangers that make you want to immediately turn in next week (well next week if it were on tv. right now since it’s on netflix). I know considering how the very last episode ended that I definitely want to see where it goes, and if I weren’t going home to Philippi tomorrow night where we have dial up internet, I’d probably watch even more of the show.

Score in Progress: B+

Well, in the immortal words of Jim Morrison, this is the end, or almost anyways. I’ve got one disc of Cowboy Bebop to watch after this review is over. It should be coming from Netflix within the week and that means my return to the spaceship Bebop and the adventures of its inhabitants will have finally drawn to a close. It’s a bitter sweet emotion because I’ve been really loving watching this show these last couple weeks. All great things must come to an end I guess.

The first episode of the four on the disc was probably one of the weaker episodes of the series that I’ve watched so far and I was never really exactly sure what was going on. However, that’s ok because the second episode “Pierrot Le Fou” has been my second favorite episode of the series, only behind the 5th episode. It was a really cool departure from the norm for the series and the villain was quite effective, and overall the episode was just incredibly creepy. The third episode was  jet episode that almost played like something out of True Grit, and the last episode was a sort of hilarious urban western that introduced a new bounty hunter named Andy that took the cowboy thing way too far. It was really funny.

The music and art direction of the show have remained fantastic. The abandoned theme park scenes in the second episode were just amazing looking, and in the urban western episode, they did a really great job of evoking the sort of melodies and themes you’d expect from an Ennio Morricone score in a Sergio Leone film like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. When I finally finish this show, I will be moving straight into Neon Genesis Evangelion. It will be interesting going from the fun of this show to the never ending depression of that other classic. Should be interesting.

Score in Progress: A+


13 episodes in and I can safely say that Soul Eater is a more serialized program in the vein of Gurren Lagann than the more episodic nature of Cowboy Bebop. While this show has already had more filler moments in 13 episodes than Gurren Lagann had during its entire run (which was admittedly only 26 episodes), generally speaking there is an over all myth arc that each episode tries to carry forward. And while the first 7 episodes only gave me the slightest glimpse as to what that myth arc might be, after I finished the end of Part 1 of the show, I think I have a better idea where this at least initial arc is probably heading. So, yeah, there’s going to be some spoilers. Check out my first review for a spoiler free look at the show.

Basically, my last set of reviews ended with Maka and Soul getting their asses kicked by this dude (or chick, I’m not really sure) named Crona who was a meister whose weapon was living inside of his body in his blood, and the weapon is later identified as a demon sword. They were no match for Crona and were only saved by the intervention of Dr. Stein and Maka’s father, the death scythe Spirit. Crona was being controlled seemingly against his will by a witch named Medusa who I’m quickly determining is going to be the series first real Big Bad (she’s also the nurse at the school), and I’m not really sure if her motivations have been properly explained yet, other than this has something to do with the process by which a meister is turned into a kishin. Through an exposition heavy episode, we learn how exactly it is that kishin are formed, and it happens whenever a meister and/or a weapon use their powers to feed on human souls. We also got an episode devoted to better fleshing out Tsubaki’s back story, as well as a couple used to introduce some new villains to the story while still setting up Medusa as the big villain.

The art direction and general animation have remained fantastic and the story is definitely getting more interesting. Death the Kid and the mad scientist (yet still a hero) Dr. Franken Stein have emerged as my favorite characters on the series. There’s just something about Kid’s ridiculous OCD that is always entertaining, and Dr. Stein is  fun anti-hero/mentor type. The fight scenes have also improved, especially the one against the wolf/ice fighter Free in the last episode I watched. It looked pretty good. The characters have all received some power-ups of one sort or another since my last review so I guess it makes sense that the fights are getting cooler cause the ante has been upped so to speak. I’m probably going to finish the series completely unless at some point the quality just jumps off the cliff. I’ve been enjoying it so far even if it hasn’t been as good as Cowboy Bebop or Gurren Lagann.

Score in Progress: B