Durarara!! Review (TV Series)

Animation ProductionBrain’s Base

DirectorTakahiro Omori

Durarara, one of the biggest new anime of 2010, is an action mystery set in the Tokyo city of Ikebukuro where a mysterious headless motocycle rider is heard blazing through the streets. The 24 episode show has two different arcs, the first half is a mystery surrounding the Dullahan (a celtic myth of a headless knight riding a horse with their head under an arm) who is looking to find her missing head. The second half is a tale of gang warfare in the fictionalized Ikebukuro with the same cast of characters who aren’t what they seem when initially introduced.

Brain’s Base has produced few shows that interest me, but when combined with Omori they have an excellent track record. Together they put out the unique crime tale Bacano! which is a personal favourite of mine as well as other well received shows such as Natsume Yujin-Cho and most recently Kuragehime. He was also, strangely enough, the director of Koi Kaze which seemed to be well liked by fans of the genre but that genre is incest romance, definitely not a show I had any interest in. Anyway the point is that anything Omori does is well made and tries to do something interesting.

One of Baccano’s strong points was its action scenes, this carries on to Durarara which has some interesting and unconventional action moments. Some of the characters have supernatural powers and the way they fight are much more than the typical brawl. Another strong point of Omori’s works are the characters and in Durarara the strong points are the side characters ranging from the Celty the Dullahan, a black market doctor, a super human bartender, an information dealer and even a friendly russian sushi chef. However some might say that the main characters, who are a bunch of high school kids, are dull but as things progress their characters get more interesting.

Another positive point is the music which is appropriate in adding to the atmosphere of the scenes and didn’t seem repetitive. The animation is also sharp and fluid completing the whole package.

Durarara is an excellent show that deserves to do well in the the upcoming US DVD release (25th January). There are so few anime (2 or 3 a year) that appeal to my sort of tastes and I’m just glad this was made and was actually done well.

Rating – A

Genre – Action, Supernatural, Mystery Length – 24 Episode series Year – 2010

Eden of the East Movie II: Paradise Lost Review

Director – Kenji Kamiyama

Animation Production – Production I.G

“If someone gave you 10 billion yen and told you to improve this country, how would you use it?”

The second and final movie concludes the series of events that started in the TV series as the game the characters are participating in finally ends. I have to say I’m not entirely sure what to think of this series now that it is concluded. The movie focuses much more on political and societal problems related to Japan and I just don’t have the context to fully understand what’s going on. Someday I would like to revisit the series again with some greater background on the problems Japan has been facing for the past 20+ years.

So what happens in the movie? Akira finally gets his memories back from his childhood and learns about his American connection. Eden of the East is under investigation for the links to Akira who is portrayed as a terrorist in the media. And the game finally comes to a sudden end in a rather anti climatic fashion. Basically Akira broadcasts to every cellphone in the world a final message, he rallies the NEET’s to a new purpose and urges the older generation to give up some control and put more faith in the youth of Japan.

One thing that I have always liked about Eden of the East is their approach to technology. In the movie they use a fictional program called Airship which is a VOIP application for mobile devices that makes secure phone calls. It’s a lot like Skype on mobile devices which only just enabled VOIP calls over data connections. The augmented reality image searching stuff that was introduced in the TV series is still a cool idea and something that we could see very soon in reality.

It wasn’t a terrible conclusion to the series but it didn’t wow me either, however there is no reason you shouldn’t watch this movie if you have watched the TV series and the first movie.

Rating – B +

Year – 2010 Length – 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Genre – Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Time of Eve Review (Movie/ONA)

Director – Yasuhiro Yoshiura

Animation Production – Studio Rikka

Time of Eve is a movie compilation of the 6 episode ONA, original net animation, which originally aired online at Yahoo Japan (Crunchyroll in the US). It was done by Studio Rikka, a small animation studio that specialises in science fiction stories and directed by the head of the studio Yasuhiro Yoshiura. Yasuhiro is relatively young, 30 years old, and like past Studio Rikka works his handles a bit of everything. He is the director, script writer and an animator and one of the few young upcoming talents of the industry. Go watch it on crunchyroll to support more original work like this as the movie hasn’t yet been release on DVD/Bluray outside of Japan.

The premise of Time of Eve is in the near future androids are commonplace and humankind are faced with the problem of the increasing complexity of these androids. The androids are there to serve humans and are bound by three laws:

  • First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harmed.
  • Second Law: A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
  • Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first and second law.

These are Asimov’s three laws of robotics and for the society in Time of Eve it has served them well without incident. However the androids are complex to the point that underneath their robotic nature they have human like emotions and personalities. The story of Time of Eve surrounds this premise. The main character is a high school kid, Rikuo, who is noticing strange movements in the log of his family’s android, Sammy. Going to the coordinates of the strange place his android is visiting he and his friend Masaki find a café which has a rule that there is no discrimination between human and robot. Androids normally have a red ring around their head but this café is in a grey zone where this disappears and androids can act human.

Time of Eve is about the relationships between androids and humans and the fact that most humans in this world treat androids like trash. It is not cool to treat them as human and is actively discouraged by the android ethics committee. This ethics committee is not so much an official government organisation but a professional society whose goal is to limit society’s dependence on robots. On the other hand there is an android promotion committee who have been secretly testing new advance forms of androids with more complex jobs and human qualities.

If I have to compare this show it would be like the more philosophical parts of Ghost in the Shell but instead of a military focus it is more about the aspect of androids becoming more human. It is about what androids might act like when not being ordered around and the problems they would face if they wanted to act like humans. Every science fiction story is a metaphor for something and here it is discrimination and slavery.

This is definitely not an action packed show and is basically just a series of conversations. The animation is of a very high quality and includes what I always like to see when watching SF shows, an interesting depiction of a future that is not too far off. Those who have read a lot of science fiction novels will get a kick out of seeing a fully realised world filled with androids that is not on the verge of war.

Rating – A- (Highly Recommended)

Genre – Science Fiction Length – 106 Minutes Year – 2010

Halo Legends Review

A compilation of 7 loosely related shorts in the Halo universe by 8 different directors and 6 studios. Like other US and Japan collaborations, such as the Animatrix, Halo Legends aims to tell the definitive back story of Halo universe (overseen by 343 Industries Frank O’Connor) as well as depicting different aspects of the covenant and human conflict.

The breakdown of director and animation studio is:

  • Origins (2 parts) directed by Hideki Futamura and animation production by Studio 4C.
  • The Duel directed by Hiroshi Yamazaki and animation production by Production I.G.
  • Homecoming directed by Koji Sawai and animation production by Bee Train.
  • Prototype directed by Yasushi Muraki and Tomoki Kyoda and animation production by Bones.
  • Odd One Out directed by Daisuke Nishio and animation production by Toei Animation.
  • The Babysitter directed by Toshiyuki Kanno and animation production by Studio 4C.
  • The Package directed by Shinji Aramaki and animation production by Casio Entertainment.

There is a wide range of different animation styles which on the most part are reflective of the studio that produced the short. For example the one done by Toei is in in that simple bright animation style that is reminiscent of Dragon Ball while Studio 4C in “The Babysitter” use their highly detailed realistic style (or in Origins their abstract style). Some of the shorts have a Japanese take on Halo such as in “The Duel” where the Covenant are basically depicted as Samurai but on the most part it sticks to the familiar Halo we know from the games. There is also quite a lot of focus on female spartans while Master Chief only prominently stars in the last short “The Package”.

Out of the 7 my favourite is “The Babysitter” produced by Studio 4C which involves an assasination of a covenant prophet by a Spartan and a small ODST group. This short was around 20 minutes and was paced very well with a complete self contained story. As mentioned before the animation in this is very detailed, especially the architecture of the ruins and looks to be the one with the highest budget.

Out of the directors there are 2 high profile director in Daisuke Nishio and Shinji Aramaki. Daisuke Nishio directed the Dragon Ball series and his short is the only light hearted one and involves a clumsy spartan named 1337. Shinji Aramaki, director of Appleseed, does the only 3D animated short with a studio that hasn’t done anything else of note in anime. Both of these are alright but typical of their style and the anime cliche they popularised.

Overall not much here unless you are a story obsessed Halo fan, there are some decent action scenes but nothing comes close to the CG in the Halo games or amazing commercials for the game. As a Japanese animation fan it is interesting to see how each studio adapted their animation styles but I would say only Studio 4C (in “The Babysitter” not “Origins”) does a good enough of a job that is must see.

Rating – B –

Genre – Action, Science Fiction Length – 120 Minutes Year – 2010

High School of the Dead Review

Animation ProductionMadhouse Studios

Director Tetsuro Araki

On the surface High School of the Dead (H.O.T.D.) seems like it has everything going for it, production by Madhouse and directed by the director of the Death Note TV series. It has zombies, which have been all the rage for at least the last 5 years, and at least in the first episode seemed like it would take a more serious approach to the subject. But dig deeper you will find an amalgamation of fan service, Japanese high school antics, violence and typical bs anime plot. Granted it is done with some competence but don’t expect anything more, this show is entirely alright for just some occasional interesting action set pieces involving zombies.

The show is structured on group of high school students who group together to escape their zombie infected school and aim to find out if each of their families are okay. It looks like they plan to do a lot more than 12 episodes as we only get to one family in this season. The show ends up focusing quite a lot on romance and the situations they encounter as they find a way to travel back to their homes. While watching the first few episodes I was excited about how the Japanese would tackle the idea of zombies. Aspects such as what attracts them and what people and authorities might do to protect themselves were explored but not that much. One particular aspect I though was cool was the barricading of bridges and using a bulldozer to clear zombies on them.

What this show does do quite well, is that at least once an episode there is an genuinely awesome action moment usually involving some interesting zombies. Some of my favourites are the children zombies, which Hollywood is conscious of always excluding, and zombies with weird attire such as the motorcycle helmet zombie. There are also quite a few vehicular action moments that are typical but fun to watch regardless. It is probably not enough to recommend people to watch the show but there is always a time and situation for these type of shows. The epilogue of the season ends with the crew in front of a shopping mall, so we know what to expect for the next season of H.O.T.D.

Rating – C+

Genre – Action, Drama, Horror Length – 12 Episode series Year – 2010

Adapted from manga


High School of the Dead Episode 11

Episode 11 Dead Storm Rising

Summary: A more moody episode with tensions reaching their peak and some questions answered. Mr Shido is back and is initially let into the mansion compound. We learn Shido’s father was politician who left his mother who then commited suicide. For some reason Shido then left home to be a teacher. The tension between Rei and Mr Shido is explained, Shido’s father is having trouble with Rei’s police chief father and calls Shido to make Rei fail a grade.

At the end of the episode we cut to US nuclear submarine as they are given orders to launch the nuke. Russia and Usa are firing MIRV’s at each other and it looks like the world is heading into armageddon. A MIRV if you don’t know is a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle with carries multiple nukes on a single ballistic missile.

High School of the Dead Episode 10

Episode 10 The Dead’s House Rules

Summary: While they are now safe at Saeko’s large mansion the group are frustrated being part of a larger group who treat them as kids and don’t give them any responsibilities. Saeko is mad at her family for only protecting themselves and not coming for her. Saeko’s father is the head of an important family and leads with a strong sense of traditional honour.