January 2008


     It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged on the Minami-ke series, after finishing the first series which I really enjoyed I was slightly disappointed that it looked like no group was going to pick up the second series. Well, I originally watched the first two episodes of Okawari raw and I was going to review the animation quality and so forth but my Japanese language skills weren’t good enough to actually give a proper review of the content, being able to order food and ask for directions in a foreign language is one thing but it’s quite another thing to accurately review the full content of a show, but to my surprise and my pleasure a couple of groups picked up the series, so here’s my review of Minami-ke: Okawari 1.

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     This episode begins with the Minami sisters and Takeru sitting around acting very bored, and it’s just after the New Year, a while later Makoto and Touma show up but in normal clothes and Kana won’t let them in until Makoto become Mako-chan, so a while later they show up with him dressed as a girl again. Then while they are all sitting around Haruka comes out of her room dressed in a cat suit, she didn’t know that guests had arrived, so she was very embarrassed.

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     Later Chiaki get nervous about a misplaced notebook, and then everyone eats a meal together. Just as Kana and Chiaki are about to fight out of boredom Takeru returns from a store, the girls want to go on a trip, so they head off in his van for a trip to a onsen (hot spring). At the hot spring Touma and Mako-chan wonder about what side of the bath to use and Takeru asks Fujioka what’s his relationship with Kana. Then the 5? girls head out for a walk to a find a spring and they end up finding a waterfall instead, upon returning to the onsen Mako-chan doesn’t want Touma to leave him alone because she/he can’t use the women’s side without being busted. Later Makoto decides to use the men’s side and Touma the girl’s side and Fujioka walks in on Mako-chan and he gets confused thinking he entered the girl’s side, so he then walks in on Touma, while Fujioka’s waiting Touma to check if the other side is clear she tells Makoto to act like a random guy in the guy’s bath, but before that happens Fujioka opens the door to the girls side thinking that it might be coed just as a naked Kana is leaving, he sees her naked and she turns around and goes back to the onsen confused about want she thinks of feels, Fujioka is left wondering how this happened to him, well he finally got a look but I don’t think he wanted it to happen that way. Well that’s all for this episode below are some screen shots.

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     irst of all I have to say that there is definitely a difference between the first anime series and the new series, I think that the first series had better animation quality and better backgrounds. But I feel that the funny vibe I liked so much in the first series can still be found in the second series. The second series is not a new retelling of Minami-ke but a continuation of the original story. In the original series the first several episodes featured the relationship between the three sisters before introducing additional characters to the mix, but in the first episode of this series several of the supporting characters were present right away. One difference is that in this episode you saw more of Takeru that did in the entire last series. 

     One thing that I did notice is that this episode had more fan service than the entire last series did but that might just be because this episode featured a onsen visit but who can argue against more Haruka and Kana fan service. Oh, by the way what the hell is the deal with that ending animation with Kana doing that weird but shaking walk?  Again I’d like to apologise about the blogging delay I’ve been following with great interest certain events occurring on the Internet over the past week or so, all I can say about this is that their cause is righteous and just, rock on.  

After looking over the search engine terms leading people to my blog I have decided to occasionally, every two weeks or so to post some pictures of my favorite Japanese/Asian idols.

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My first idol I’ll post some pictures of is Yuko Ogura she was born on November 1, 1983 in Mobara, Chiba, Japan. She began modeling and appearing in commercials at age 17, and now at age 24 she is one of the most popular idols in Japan she has appeared in over 60 idol videos, and has made more than 28 photo books. Her vital statistics are:

H-162cm, B-80cm, W-56cm, H-83cm

Below are some pictures from one of her first photobooks, age 18, enjoy.

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     This episode begins with Rahzel thinking back to the question Alzeid asked her about being betrayed and how she had to answer no, just then she finds a lost boy at a town fair, so she takes it on herself to have her and the crew look after him until they find his parents. After returning the boy to his mother, she treats Rahzel and Alzeid to the circus performance where they find Baroqueheat in the lead clown role, later he tells her that he did juggling and so forth a few years ago. Later the female circus magician uses the boy for her disappearing sword illusion, the only problem is that after the show the boy really disappears, and no one can find him. Later Rahzel tells the guys she was happy that they were out just having a good time together, and then she sneaks out of their room because she felt something suspicious about the circus. At the circus she gets attacked by a clown and defeats him, after that she confronts the magical who shows her where the  missing child is, the woman is building a “child” out of parts of kidnapped children. The woman has the circus clowns attack Rahzel, using her magic Rahzel defeats them but they begin to keep getting up like her magic has no effect on them.

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     At the last minute, Alzeid and Baroqueheat show up to help her, and they chew her out for taking independent action. After fighting the clowns for a while they discover that their not human but just dolls being controlled by someone else. The group thinks it is the circus magician woman but she tells them it’s not her but her “child” and she orders her child to protect her mother. The “child” tries to force the three to attack each other, but at the last minute it stops trying to force them to attack each other. The “child” then kills her mother with her own hands, Alzeid tells Rahzel that the “child” just followed the literal orders of her mother. After the woman is dead Alzeid takes his gun out and walks towards the “child” while Baroqueheat covers Rahzel’s eyes and ears, telling her she doesn’t have to watch if she doesn’t want to. She breaks free from Baroqueheat and runs towards the child saying she doesn’t know what to think or what the right answer is, and all she can see the “child” as, is a crying child, but before she gets there Alzeid kills the “child”. Rahzel is depressed for along time until Alzeid and Baroqueheat finally convince her to get up so the can go outside and play. Well that’s all for this episode, below are some screen shots.

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     Well this episode continues with the one adventure per episode format, so far all of Hatenkou Yuugi has been pretty light adventure viewing, all of the resolutions until this episode have been neat and clean. In the first episode they convince the ghost to move on, and in the next episode they take down the corrupt prison and warden, but the end of this episode is not neat and clean. The poor little boy that Rahzel returned to his mother was killed and his body parts used for the “child”, so there is no bringing him back, and as Baroqueheat and Alzeid tell Rahzel that “child” is a monster and never should have been born. I think that Rahzel understands that the “child” was too dangerous to leave alive, but this was the first time Rahzel has faced a situation where there was no good answer. Also, I feel that this is probably the first time that Rahzel has seen someone killed right in front of her. Oh, by the way my title come from a recent UK medical study that found that children don’t like/fear clowns when they are having a hospital stay (sorry Bozo).  

     This is the second movie from the Kino no Tabi (Kino’s Journey) anime series, for various reasons this series has always been in my top 25 all time favorite anime series, so when news of a second movie was announced I was overjoyed.

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     The movie begins in typical Kino fashion with Kino and Hermes (a motorrad, a talking motorcycle) getting ready to enter another country, Kino has her usual wait and see attitude, and Hermes is usually downbeat and questioning. Kino has a steadfast rule about visiting different countries, never stay more than three days  As Kino and Hermes begin to explore the new country, Hermes urges Kino to leave this country and go some where else. As Kino begins to look around the place they are being watched by remote video surveillance. A while later they see a city covered by dome and they go to the entrance and ask a figure on a video feed to visit the city for three days, they are granted admission after they undergo a complete cleaning. Everything that Kino owns is cleaned, and they make Hermes look like new, fixed her gear and even fill up her gas tank. Kino and Hermes begin to explore the city, everything seems clean and perfect, almost too perfect to Kino.

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     Later that day while Kino and Hermes are in their hotel room they get a request from the hotel’s owner asking if they could visit their sick daughter and tell her some stories of their travels. Kino and Hermes agree to the request and go to visit her the next day, so at the hospital Kino and Hermes tell the girl stories of their travels over lunch. Before visiting the girl they learn that everyone in this country has a certain chance of developing a disease that has no cure or real treatment, but every one’s working on a cure, and they also learn that certain selective groups of people get to live outside the city in reclamation villages. Later when the girl’s parents are away she relates to them a story about a boy she meet and how she wants to get better so she can go and meet him again, he now lives outside the city in a village, and then she gives Kino something she wants them to give to the boy because they can only exchange letters and nothing more.

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     So, Kino and Hermes leave the city to take the gift to the boy, when they get to the reclamation village they find it barren and then they are meet by a military guy who takes Kino into a underground complex. When they get to the control room (post office) Kino asks the guy to deliver the gift to the boy but he says he can’t because he died six months age, Kino’s asks the guy if he’s been the one sending the girl the letters and he says yes and that he should have stopped writing her when he died or written her and told her to stop writing him. The guard then tells Kino the  whole secret of this country, in order to stop the illness from affecting it’s citizens they had to begin human testing so they began kidnapping families that had few relatives and they use them as involuntary human test subjects telling the rest of the citizens that they instead are living a happy and productive life outside the dome (remember the film the Island, you want to go to the island), while all the time their in a lab under the city being experimented on. Kino tells him the gift is his by all rights and says she’ll be leaving now, as Kino turns to leave the solider attacks her from behind. They fight in the control room and and in the end Kino kills the guard, and the girl receives one last letter from the boy telling her he hopes she gets better soon so they can meet in the village.  later we see Kino and Hermes and heading down the road again when Hermes asks Kino what kind of country do you want to see next? and Kino replies, one where everyone is happy. That’s all for this movie, below are some screen shots.

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     You can’t really call this a movie, but since Kino no Tabi Country of Disease showed in movie theaters I guess that it’s technically a movie, but in all other respects this is another episode in the Kino no Tabi anime series. The original anime series lasted 13 episodes with a 12 minute special, and the 30 minute movie called Kino on Tabi Life Goes On, but for many fans this was too short of a run to cover all the interesting aspects of Kino’s world. So the production company has graced the Kino fans with another 30 minute anime fix, and a nice fix it was. All the qualities I loved in the original series is here in the movie, for those new to the series, Kino no Tabi is a travel tale where Kino travels from country to country never stopping for more that 3 days in any one country. Kino takes in the lives and cultures of many countries, she is never very judgemental about the places she visits, but one of the only themes you really get is that Kino wishes for all the people she meets is that they should be happy.

     One of the continuing themes of the Kino series is the world is not beautiful vs. life is beautiful, and yes that’s here in this movie too, the world is definitely not beautiful for those chosen to be involuntary medical test subjects but life is still beautiful as shown in the energy and vigor that the young girl shows in her wanting to get well so she can meet the boy she’s attracted to.  Really that’s whats the whole Kino to Tabi series is all about, this series always contrasted how cold, cruel and brutal the world can be versus how beautiful life can be in it’s small personal moments. Well if you haven’t seen the whole Kino to Tabi series do yourself a favor and buy or rent the DVD box set and pull a 13 episode viewing marathon. 

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     This episode picks up with our trio under going what looks like questioning in a newsreel type format about their relationships to each other, and then we are told that this episode will be broad-casted from jail. Rahzel and Alzeid are walking through a strange town looking for Baroqueheat when a young boy runs into Rahzel, he tells her he’s fleeing the police but Alzeid and Rahzel aren’t interested until he tells them he needs to get revenge for his father’s death before he’s killed. In jail the kid tells them that his father was executed in jail for some small offence, and the warden wouldn’t even give the kid the reason why, basically he doesn’t even care. A while later Baroqueheat ends up with them in jail because he got into a fight and got arrested too, but I really don’t think he could be caught unless he wanted to be. He tells them that the prison makes a lot of money by accepting prisoners from all over but if they don’t make room for more, pretty soon it would fill up and they couldn’t make more money so they kill the prisoners to make room. After hearing the kids story Alzeid asks him if he’ll accept his help, and the kid says yes, so very quickly Alzeid and the others escape the jail cell.

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     They make their way through many traps and obstacles and end up inside a large, dark, and stinky chamber that turns out the be where they keep the bodies of the murdered/executed prisoners. Then they are told by the warden that the prisoners fight each other and only the last one standing get to leave, but he’ll make them fight all the other prisoner combined, Alzeid thinks it’s a waste of time, Baroqueheat thinks it will be fun, and Rahzel just thinks it will be interesting. The three of them overpower everyone else pretty quickly, after that the warden tells them that if they kill the kid he’ll let them go, all three of them refuse and they decide to teach him a lesson instead. Rahzel uses her magic to bring the warden out of his perch and down to the floor, the boy tells the warden that he going to kill him even though Baroqueheat and Alzeid are surrounded by the warden’s men, the boy’s very nervous so Rahzel forces him into a situation where he’ll have to kill the warden at close range, and tells him if he kills the warden his men will kill her friends and then she’ll have to kill him for causing her friends death, and then she be quickly killed after that. She teaches him a lesson about the cyclic nature of killing and revenge, he chooses not to kill, but the warden decides to try and kill the kid anyway, so Baroqueheat and Alzeid who were watching the whole situation quickly overpower the warden’s men and decide to inflict a lot of physical punishment on the warden and basically destroy the prison. Later Rahzel tries to convince Alzeid not to waste his time or life going after his own vengeance,  but he tells her to mind her own business, but not in a mean way. That’s all for this episode, below are some screen shots.

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     This episode continues with theme of an ongoing adventure, the group seems to be moving from adventure to adventure. Rahzel continues to be upbeat and spunky, Alzeid continues to be dour and downcast, and Baroqueheat continues to be in search for a good time and some action. Rahzel tries to convince Alzeid to give up his quest for revenge, and Alzeid tries to tell Rahzel that she’s never been betrayed or seen the need for revenge so she should mind her own business. What I find really funny is that every time Rahzel talks about passion and so forth, Baroqueheat knows that she’s very young and has probably never been in love or had a lover so he teases her by telling her things like “I’ll set your body on fire, or I’ll set you a blaze”, very cute. Well I guess Rahzel can afford to be a little naive when she’s traveling with two guys that single handily demolish a prison by themselves.

     The Hatenkou Yuugi anime is based on a manga of the same name, Hatenkou Yuugi has been published in Japan since November of 1999 to present day. The Hatenkou Yuugi manga is published in the USA by Tokyopop under the name Dazzle, currently Tokyopop has released 8 out of the 10 volumes available in Japan. I have read only the first volume of Dazzle so I’ll only review the anime based on it’s content only and not compare it to the manga.

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     The anime starts out with the main female lead, Rahzel, a 14 year old girl talking with her father, he asks her if going on a journey and training ones self might be good, she says yes and the next thing she knows is she’s been kicked out of the house to begin her journey. While sitting on a bench Rahzel decides to be cheerful about the situation, but she thinks it would be nice to have a traveling partner. She spots a good looking guy who happens to be holding a gun on someone and her interruption allows the guy to escape, the gunman’s name is Alzeid, so she decides on the spot that he’ll be her traveling companion and that she’ll make his life more interesting and exciting.

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      Rahzel learns quite quickly that traveling can be very expensive so they need to get jobs where they can earn money quickly. Alzeid normally earns his money by “liberating” it from others by force or by cheating at gambling, while Rahzel feels that money needs to be earned the old fashioned way by earning it. So they end up taking a job to exorcise a ghost from some nearby woods, at first Rahzel thinks this will be easy but Alzeid isn’t so sure. After they meet the ghost they find out that she won’t leave quietly until she meets her lost love, so Rahzel thinks that if they can find her lost love she’ll depart quietly. They eventually find out that the person that hired them was the ghosts lost love and that he never really intended to return her love, but they still agree to finish the job.

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     Later Rahzel is about to be attacked by men send by her employer, but their stopped by an acquaintance of Alzeid who gives her a lot of back ground information on her traveling companion. So, later Rahzel and Alzeid confront the ghost and Alzeid tells her to handle it by herself, Rahzel who’s a magic user battles the ghost but in the end she convinces the ghost that an unfaithful and lying guy isn’t worth all the trouble and grief. At last, the ghost confront her lost love and scares the hell out of him, then she leaves for the other side. At the end of the episode Rahzel, Alzeid and his old friend kind of form a traveling group and they move on towards the next adventure. That’s all for this episode, below are some screen shots.

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     Initially I didn’t have much interest in the Hatenkou Yuugi anime, but after watching the first episode I feel that this show can fill a need I have for a certain type of anime. While I love to watch anime filled with complex stories and complex characters I also have a need to watch an occasional anime series that I’ll classify as good, fun, lite entertainment, I’m not talking about a dumbed down anime, I’m talking about an anime that I can relax to after a hard day’s work that doesn’t require a lot of brain power to enjoy. This anime is basically a buddy travel tale where two or more differing personality types come together for fun and adventure, each of the travel partners learns or gains something from the others and in the end they are better people after traveling with each other, think of anime like Inu Yasha and Samurai Shampoo.

     Rahzel, the female lead is a energetic and spunky girl, but she is inexperienced in the ways of the world which Alzeid figures out right away, she tends to make statements and pronouncements about things like love and betrayal without ever have experienced them, in her travels with the group she will mature greatly. Alzeid is a young man consumed by the need to take revenge for the murder of his parents, he views the world with a cold and cynical nature, his relationship with Rahzel will eventually help him regain some of the joys of life. Alzeid’s friend Baroqueheat is a playful, fun loving,  and flirty kind of guy, he seems like the kind of guy that’s just hanging out with the others for the pure fun of it, and when he hears Rahzel talk about love and passion he knows she’s never experienced it so he teases her about it telling her things like her can light her body on fire, in the end Rahzel’s passion and Alzeid’s seriousness will temper his personality. Overall I think that Hatenkou Yuugi will be a very fun series to watch.

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     This episode picks up with Kyou, Ryou and Nagisa stopping by Kotomi’s house on their way to school, Tomoya’s still there working on the yard and they ask Tomoya if they should skip school to help him out, he tells them no, but it’s the thought that counts. After school they return to help Tomoya with the yard work, and cheerfully continue the helping him. Tomoya works through the night to get it done, in the morning he sits down and starts reading Kotomi’s book but falls asleep, and he dreams of his youth and his friendship with Kotomi.

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     After telling her he would attend her birthday party and bring friends with him he gets embarrassed because he couldn’t get anyone else to come so he skips her party, and then out of guilt he goes to her house to see her and finds her burning he father’s papers and the fire spreading throughout the study. He tries to put out the fire but it keeps spreading, then the “bad men” show up and they put out the fire, Tomoya goes home and tries to visit Kotomi later on, but he never sees her again and his memories of her fades like a dream.

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     When Tomoya wakes up Kotomi is waiting for him and she tells him that she’s always waited for the boy she liked to come for her, a tearful Tomoya tells her that he’s come for her and he takes her hand and leads her out of the house. The next day at school, Tomoya, Nagisa, Kyou and Ryou are waiting for Kotomi at the school’s gate where they greet her warmly. Later in the afternoon they are going to celebrate her birthday in the theater club’s room where Kotomi’s godfather “the bad man” gives her a briefcase that belonged to her father. At first she is afraid to open it but with the encouragement of her friends she opens it and finds the large stuffed bear that she wanted for her birthday gift. Then he tells Kotomi that she never burned the other copy of her parents’ paper because there never was a second copy, all she burned was a catalog of stuffed animals, then he tells her that they discarded their paper and placed the stuffed bear inside the briefcase along with a note telling her that they loved her and that the world is still beautiful even if includes sadness and pain. Then Kotomi has a flood of memories about her parents and a vision of her parents telling her that they love her and she should enjoy life and make friends. Later on everyone meets at Kotomi’s house for a real birthday party where she’ll get the repaired violin and spend time with all her new friends. That’s all for this episode, below are some screen shots.

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     This episode of Clannad for all practical purposes finishes of the Kotomi storyline nicely and with Key’s usual emotional weight. Kotomi was a girl trapped in the past by the crushing weight of grief and a need to atone for lashing out as a child in act of sadness and anger. Kotomi was frozen at the same emotional and social level as she was at on the day her parents died ten year earlier. And what causes the lifting of these great weights and the breaking of the chains binding Kotomi to the past? Well, this is where the title of this episode comes into play “theory of everything”, as far as I’m concerned Key’s “theory of everything” is love and compassion.

     In the Clannad universe, love, compassion and friendship are the greatest powers in the world, these powers can transcend the boundaries of space, time, and reality to effect all those coming in contact with it. Also in this world the power of love also increases with each person it touches, as it touches one person it gathers strength and  intensity before moving on to touch the next person. But one thing I’ve always liked about the other Key titles including this series is that they always stress that’s it’s always better to move on, to move forward, to move towards the future, staying in the past leads to stagnatation and nothingness. 

     In many current anime, such as in the movies of Makoto Shinkai the characters express a longing and a need to connect with the emotions and feelings of the past, while these anime are great in their own right they feel almost sad and depressing in nature because they don’t offer the main characters the hope of a break from the past and a path to a happy future. In Key’s anime, characters like Kotomi are able to finally close the door to the past and move on towards a more hopeful future, while her past may be filled with sadness and pain you get the feeling that in end her future happiness will taste all the sweeter.

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