Strike Witches

Strike Witches from Gonzo

I don't even know where to begin. The level of ecchi-ness in this show is off the scale. At first glance it appears that there's a bunch of girls (very young looking, though some are probably older than they're drawn, which tends to happen in these sorts of shows for...various reasons) running around in very, very short skirts. But in fact, many of them seem to be wearing shirts, and no pants at all. Although in the case of the really young girls, they appear to be wearing a sort of swim suit type thing under their school uniforms. In other words, there are an unnecessarily ridiculous amount of pantie shots during the show.

Now that that's out of the way....

A Strike Witch is a witch (they're all female, it seems) that the Britannian government uses to fight the war against the Neuroi. The witches' magical powers combined with a machine called a Striker Unit (that attaches to their legs like boots) allow them to fly and wield weapons ordinary humans cannot. But it's not all big guns and destruction (although there's plenty of that) - whenever the girls activate their magical powers, they sprout a pair of fuzzy ears and a tail.

Yoshika Miyafuji is a young witch and a powerful healer. Her scientist father disappeared some time ago after going abroad to Britannia, where he invented the Striker Unit. Major Mio Sakamoto arrives to recruit Miyafuji for the Strike Witches, but she resolutely refuses to participate in war. She would much rather serve in her family's clinic and heal people. However, soon after their meeting, Miyafuji receives a letter from her father that includes a picture of him and (a younger) Sakamoto standing next to a Striker Unit. Believing her father to have been dead, Miyafuji rushes off to find Sakamoto and insists she be allowed to travel to Britannia to look for her father, but still refuses to fight in the war (though she does express a desire to be useful on board the ship). Unfortunately, on their sea voyage to Britannia, the fleet is attacked by Neuroi units.

Watching the opening animation for the show gives you a pretty good estimation of just what sort of show this will be. The Strike Witches are shown flying around shooting down large planes with equally large weapons, their shirts flying open and their skirts blowing up to reveal pantsu and more pantsu. I don't know; perhaps their lack of pants allows them to jump into and use the Strike Unit easier? Maybe there simply isn't a realistic reason, but it certainly makes me feel a little better to think otherwise. The animation is good at least.

Miyafuji (center), Mio (left) and Perrine (I think) in the image above.

Antique Bakery

So the 2008 summer anime season is kicking off. I plan to check out several series to decide what I'll be watching this season, but to be perfectly honest, a quick over view of this season's shows didn't particularly impress anything upon me. But I like to do reviews of new series, so I'll be posting select reviews here for the next week or two (or three).

First up is Antique Bakery.

I'm not really sure what this anime's target audience is. It's shojo, but it's shonen-ai (boys love). I assume it's for pretty boy fan girls, but the animation style doesn't present the average "pretty boy" appearance (or it could be that I've seen too many Wallflower and Weiss Kreuz type shows).
I'm also having a hard time pinning down a genre, as in comedy, drama, thriller, etc. There's romance obviously, and it does have some funny elements, but there are some hints at dark pasts, some not-so-gay-friendly characters, and even some slightly creepy moments. I suppose it's a combination of several things.

So here's the run down based on the first episode.
Tachibana has decided that he wants to open a bakery. The chef that he hires is Ono, a (very much) gay fellow with "demonic charms" that cause any guy he fancies (whether they're gay or straight) to fall in love with him. The catch is that Tachibana and Ono attended high school together, and Ono confessed his love for Tachibana right before Tachibana graduated. Tachibana turned him down hard core style, saying that gay men (or at least the gay lifestyle) disgusted him, and telling Ono to die. Ono seems to have forgotten this incident, but Tachibana remembers clearly when he meets Ono again.

Ono, it seems, has not been able to keep a job longer than a year. Everywhere he goes, the employees he works with get into pretty vicious (and often bloody) fights over him, so he has to quit and find another job. Tachibana doesn't believe him, so Ono takes him out to 2-Chome, a gay bar district in Tokyo. At the end of the night he comes on to Tachibana, whom informs him of their previous encounter, and reminds Ono that Tachibana is the only man he hasn't been able to win over. Tachibana also assures Ono that there will be no problems at his bakery, as only the two of them work there.

However, we also meet Eiji Kanda, a top notch boxer. Unfortunately he has detached retinas, and can no longer fight. Tachibana's newly opened Antique Bakery seems like the place for him. Tachibana's perfect, drama free bakery will not likely remain so for very long.

The image above is a manga cover depecting (from left to right) Ono, Eiji, and Tachibana. The manga was also adapted into a live action drama in 2001, but the homosexual themes were almost non-existent. Ono is a straight man who simply has trouble with women, and he and Tachibana have no prior connections in the past. The anime on the other hand does not seem to be shying away from that particular characteristic.


Samurai Champloo disc 2

The second disc of Samurai Champloo contains two of my favorite episodes of the series. This disc also includes more starvation, more of Fuu's troubling situations, and a glimpse into Jin's dark and mysterious past.

The episodes included on the disc are: "Artistic Anarchy," "Stranger Searching," "A Risky Racket," and "The Art of Altercation."

Artistic Anarchy:
A simple episode. The gang, once again, find themselves broke and starving in a new city. They split up to find ways to make money. Apparently there's an undercover slave trafficking operation going on in the city, which a detective named Manzou is in town to uncover and disband.
Fuu encounters Ukiyo-e artist Hishikawa Moronobu (an actual historical figure of the time period), and he offers to pay her if she'll pose for a painting. Mugen meanwhile does what he does best and picks out the toughest looking guys in town, and beats them up for their cash. Jin takes a quieter route, betting his life (in servitude) against an old man's bag of money in a game of shougi (a Japanese chess game). Unfortunately, it turns out that Moronobu works with the kidnappers - his paintings serve as a sort of catalog customers use to choose the woman they want.

Stranger Searching:
Again our unlucky trio is broke and starving. Lucky for them, the Edo town they have just entered is holding an eating contest. Unluckily, it is not free, and the group must forfeit their weapons as an entrance fee. Fortunately Fuu claims that she has a bottomless stomach for free food. Unfortunately, she's up against a strange looking foreign man with an equally voracious appetite. And she looses. The winner, a Dutch man calling himself Jouji, approaches the group, sporting all their weapons, and offers to return them if they give him a tour of the city. What he doesn't tell them (among other things) is that he's being chased by the Japanese police.

A Risky Racket:
Going off of Jouji's tip, the gang sets off for Nagasaki. But, as usual, the episode starts out with a lack of funds; this time they manage to win some in a gambling game(with the help of a certain squirrel). It's immediately stolen from Fuu by a pickpocket. Mugen and Jin manage to track the pickpocket named Shinsuke to his house, but only find his sickly mother. Shinsuku meanwhile is off getting into some serious trouble, having unwittingly stolen a bag of opium. It will be hard to sell, but he desperately needs the funds to buy his mother stronger medication. Fuu, set to spy on the house for Mugen and Jin, witnesses a conversation between Shinsuke and his mother, and the next morning she goes back to the house and has a long talk with the very ill woman. But when Fuu tries to confront Shinsuke later, she gets wrapped up in his attempt to escape the thugs whose opium he stole, and becomes his hostage.

The Art of Altercation:
A very flashy and showy samurai named Nagamitsu has been hunting down other samurai who wear glasses; specifically a glasses wearing samurai named Jin. He meets our wandering trio at a restaurant, and immediately takes a liking to Fuu. He flirts with her through his flunky Shinpachi, and eventually asks her out on a date for later that evening, and leaves when one of his other men comes in saying that another glasses wearing samurai has been found. Since Jin had just pawned off his spectacles for the money for the meal, Nagamitsu ignores both the men. But a very busty woman armed with drinks does not ignore them, and indeed invites them to her house for some better wine. Mugen's eagerness sets Fuu into a fury, and she decides to meet up with Nagamitsu out of spite. Poor Fuu; she just wants a little attention. Nagamitsu decides to tell her his life story, and describes his journey to find and fight a man said to be undefeated in 1000 battles. But when he got there, the man was already dead, so now he is on a journey to find the man's killer, whom he claims is named Jin. Fuu can't believe what she's hearing, and goes home for the night, only to wake up to a hungover (and recently robbed) Mugen and Jin.


Anime Tunes (I)

From a post over at Dannychoo:
What are your favorite anime theme songs?

I love the Ghost in the Shell songs. They make up some of my favorite openings out of all the anime I've seen (I love me some Yoko Kano).
http://youtube.com/watch?v=BYbxCygS-PU (SAC's Inner Universe)
http://youtube.com/watch?v=u8a-YSRv0ro (2nd gig, Rise)

Still going crazy over Still Doll, the closing theme for Vampire Knight. Wakeshima is just so adorable, and I love her voice:

Really love the Nodame Cantabile opening and closing pieces. Can't wait for the second season.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=0a-HV2wpeBw (OP, Allegro Cantabile)

Blood + also has some fantastic songs.

Inori - Lena Park's opening for the Romeo X Juliet anime probably makes for one of my favorite openings of all time. I get chills every time I watch it, and just that opening can sometimes bring me to tears (can't wait for FUNimation to make it available in the spring so I can finally buy it) :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY7iXJyy1ys (anime opening)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px2n_LrTG_8 (Lena singing the song in English)

Tank! from Cowboy Bebop of course

This brilliant song, The Garden of Everything, from the Rahxephon movie (you can't go wrong with Yoko Kano AND Maaya Sakamoto):
Well...pretty much anything Yoko Kano's touched, honestly. And all the FLCL songs.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=GfsV6oZyFds (FLCL ending, The Pillows' Ride on Shooting Star)

Cruel Angel Thesis from Evangelion of course....

Duvet from Serial Experiments Lain:

Opening and Ending for Gunslinger Girl:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=xEMjq9VpBSE (Light Before We Land)
http://youtube.com/watch?v=p9JgMHDEKWE (dopo il sogno)

That's all I can think of right now, but that's plenty. :)
It's pretty much the only kind of music I listen to these days (along with show tunes). I don't understand anything they're saying, but I love the music and the way the language sounds.


Michael Turner

Famous comic book artist Michael Turner died late Friday night (June 27th) at the much too young age of 37 from bone cancer.

Newsarama articles here and here.

Mr. Turner is perhaps most well known for his variant cover work, particularly during Marvel's recent Civil War series. He was also the founder of Aspen Comics.