The premise of Level E is that aliens live on Earth hidden among the general populace and hundreds of aliens species come and go every year without the majority of humans noticing. A high school kid moves alone to a rural Tokyo town to play baseball and finds in his new apartment an alien who turns out to be a prince of a faraway planet called Dogura. The main plot line of the show is about this prince and why he’s here along with side stories about the other aliens on Earth.
Sounds interesting doesn’t it, but it lacks substance and episode are mixed in quality. Starts off ok and didn’t really grab me until the last 3 episodes which wrap up the story. I felt very little compelling for most of the series with one note characters and mediocre side stories. The overall concept is decent but it didn’t play out to potential in terms of being a comedy and supernatural mystery. The main problem is that the characters are not interesting, we don’t get much time to learn about any of them and the main character, the prince, is just a jerk with no-one else to counter balance him.
Episode 11 was the best as it played out like a good Haruhi episode where a group of people are trapped in a supernatural situation and are trying to figure out what to do. Episodes 12 and 13 conclude the series and I would just recommend just watching the first couple episode and skipping to the last 3, you won’t really miss much. All episodes are streaming on Crunchy Roll if you want to watch Level E.
The Sky Crawlers is a 2008 movie from enigmatic director Maroru Oshii who is famous for directing the Patlabor movies, Uresei Yatsura TV series and most notably the Ghost in the Shell movies. He is a much lauded director whose directing style is much more subdued, primarily relying on visuals and character design to covey his message. He isn’t a director whose every work is a masterpiece but he is capable of putting out a classic every so often, unfortunately The Sky Crawlers isn’t one of them. The concept is interesting enough as it is set in an alternate history where war is privatised and played out for entertainment. But it is a long fairly uneventful movie, while beautifully animated movie there is very little going on to universally recommend it to anyone.
The movie starts off (in a typical Oshii way) with an impressive CG action scene of a dogfight with a very high level of detail put in the mechanics and design of the planes. Once it’s over the opening credits roll among the clouds and ends in a peaceful landing of a plane piloted by the main character Yuichi Kannami. Yuichi is a new arrival at small airfield replacing a pilot who died in mysterious circumstances as he was not killed up in the air. The movie is about the mystery of this and Yuichi’s connection to past events.
The events in the movie play out with a familiar but uncanny mood to it as things are slightly off. It is evocatively quiet most of times which give you the time to scan the screen and examine the visuals. You definitely need to watch the movie with a different mindset and get into the deeper underlying themes that Oshii is trying to convey. Yuichi and the rest of the participant pilots in the war are all children. They are not normal children because they don’t age, they stay the same age and usually only die if killed in battle. They are genetically engineered and are referred to as Kildren and their only purpose in life is to fight this war controlled by adults as a spectacle for TV. They have the freedom to do whatever they want in their down time but they are just so different from everyone else. There’s a big revelation that serves as the climax of the film but if you want to enjoy the film you have to let your mind mull over the philosophical themes and implications of the film.
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
“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.
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.
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.
Episode Summary: Separated from the group Takashi and Busujima head to Takagi’s house, they find it too tough on foot so they go to the bike shop we saw in the previous episode. Instead of taking a bike they find a ground/water vehicle in the garage. To draw the attention of the zombies so that they can sneak to Takagi’s house they drive the vehicle into a pond and make it go in circles. Next we have the awesome part of they episode (it’s funny that there always seems to be only just one) where we see some cute zombie children and Busujima completely freezes. Takashi saves her by blasting the kids away and then they take refuge in a nearby shrine. Here we learn a bit about Busujima’s past where she reveals she was attacked by a drunk while walking home from school but instead of just running away she plays along so that she could turn on him and beat him down with her training sword. They spend the night in the shrine and the next day they reach Takagi’s mansion.
Comment: This show is just so ridiculous, they creators fully know what they are doing. It is definitely not meant to be taken seriously which I probably should’ve been aware of from episode 1. They don’t seem to be going into further depth explaining the zombies and I don’t really know what the overall plot is going to be other than that the survivors are trying to reconnect with their families. I’m having fun watching it in the way that people like to watching bad movies and I’m pretty sure the creators know this too.
Episode starts on airforce one where the US president has been bitten and facing death doesn’t choose to enter the code to release the nukes. It seems the logical option as it doesn’t seem like the zombie outbreak was maliciously created by any government.
Cut back to our group of survivors who cross the river on the hummer and decide to drive to Takagi’s house which is the closest. They run into more zombies but this time they get cornered with the road blocked off by a wire mesh designed to prevent zombies from getting through. They are saved by Takagi’s mom who is a firefighter but are now separated from Busujima and Takashi.
Summary: On this episode a father and daughter seek refuge from the zombies and knock on a house with lights on. The family in the home fearing for their survival kill the man (by homemade spear) leaving his daughter alone. Hirano sees this situation from the balcony of the apartment and despite warnings to not make any noise snipes off zombies to protect the girl. Takagi goes to save the girl on his bike and we get some cool bike vs zombie action. Hirano supports Takagi sniping zombies in the way while the rest of the group prepare to leave the apartment on the hummer. Takagi while saving the girl fires of his gun alerting the horde of zombies to him. The girls and Hirano come to the rescue in the hummer and they get the hell out of there.
Impression: Based on the episodes so far I don’t have expectations that this show will be any good in comparison to the other shows going on right now. I could be spending my time watching better shows but it’s too late from a blogging perspective. It’s just mindless zombie action with some interesting aspects and that is probably just what the creators were going for.
High School of the Dead Episode 6: In the Dead of the Night
Summary: Not much to say about this episode, our group of high school survivors are taking a break in an apartment of a special forces agent who is a friend of Miss Marikawa. On the news we find out that 2 million are dead so far in Japan, with victims expected to double over the next few days (seems low since the population of Japan is over 100 million). The cool part of the episode is seeing how the cops handle the barrier at the nearby bridge. The cops are fending off zombies with handguns at first but are then authorised to use whatever force necessary and use a bulldozer to take down the zombies. The awesome violent moment of the episode is a mother holding her child who is infected, the child turns into a zombie and bites her mother.