Home / Film / Anime Round Up: June 2012

Anime Round Up: June 2012

Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 9
Director: Hayato Date
Released by Manga Entertainment 4 June 2012 on DVD

Another month of anime and yet another release from the ever present, hyper active ninja Naruto this time with Naruto Shippuden box set number 9. Spanning two discs and unsurprisingly continuing on from where box set 8 left off in the ‘three tailed beast’ arc, with unfortunately more of the dreaded filler material long term fans of anime will know what a hit and mostly miss affair can be.

Guren (a minion of Orichimaru, Naruto’s big bad guy) battles to prevent the ninjas of the leaf village, lead by Kakashi and Naruto, from sealing the power of the legendary three tailed beast, in a plot that is not a good entry point, since this is now the ninth box set of the second volume of Naruto’s story.

By now fans will know what to expect from Naruto and if you want more of the usual mix of high energy battling and threatening speeches then you’ll want to jump on it straight away, but if you’re curious about Naruto I would recommend purchasing Naruto (non Shippuden) box set 1 also available from the fine folks at Manga. (4 out of 5).

Words > Jason Potter

Hetalia Axis Powers: Paint it White!
Studio: Studio Imagin
Released by Manga Entertainment 18 June 2012 on DVD

Hetalia Axis Powers is arguably Japan’s most uncomfortable attempt to portray foreign cultures since the 1980 superhero show Battle Fever J. And yet, from its humble origins as a webcomic it has become a bestselling manga series, an anime adaptation spanning five seasons and a multicultural phenomenon. Its satirical personification of Earth’s nations as hapless bishonen (pretty boys) is a strangely original concept that can simultaneously educate the xenophobic and make even Prussia marketable. Paint It White, the series’ first feature length outing, is by no means theatrical in terms of length, budget or scope, but it is spot on slapstick comedy that’s ironically effective at welcoming new viewers to the show’s global antics.

The Earth finds itself engulfed by terrible new evil the Pict; grey-white faceless aliens who can make anything and everything as bland and featureless as themselves. As their de-individuation engulfs the planet, the situation forces the eight main characters of the series to ally against a threat that’s beyond their world. Not long after they realize their military might is useless, they must explore their diverse cultural… skills to find an alternative solution to the invasion.

You’d think with such a heterozygous foe there could have been some hard hitting satire about the place multiculturalism has on the world, especially in a series where stereotypes become character traits, but no. Though diversity becomes their saviour in the finale, Hetalia reverts to its tried and tested approach of wacky antics atop a spread thin-layer of expectations from the various countries. That’s fine, it’s still full of laugh out loud gags, some of which aren’t even digs at the fellow nations. As a feature length plot the film barely scrapes 80 minutes, and a lot of its running time is recycled footage from the TV show. These short segments are great, capturing the original sense of a webcomic instalment, but unless you know their relevance they mostly derail and confuse.

Out of the two language tracks the clear winner is the dub. The actors engage with their accents brilliantly and ad-lib much of the dialogue for extra cultural insensitivity, but aside from Japan’s Engrish and one or two Nazi references against Germany it never gets insulting. To feel the extent of the American voice actor’s involvement check out the fantastic commentary and gag reel.

Hardcore fans of Hetalia: Axis Powers not used to lapping up everything the franchise has to offer may not see much appeal here aside from a thinly plotted new story punctuated with a weak best of reel, but newcomers and casual lovers of the political sitcom will greatly enjoy this slice of manic military escapades. (3.5 out of 5)

Words > Graham Ashton

Spice and Wolf: Season One Collection
Released by Manga Entertainment 18 June 2012 on DVD

Little did we all know, as the TV adaptation of Game of Thrones is redefining the fantasy genre in the west with blood, sex and politics, a franchise from Japan has been doing the same thing, only with economics. This is Spice and Wolf, a romance tale with an eye for good business, who’s original light novel incarnation by Isuna Hasekura sold way over 2 million copies. The first anime series has finally been brought to the UK via Manga Entertainment, and demonstrates that its bite easily justifies the bark.

Set in an indeterminate time period in an unnamed European country heavily controlled by the church, a travelling pedlar named Kraft Lawrence stops at a village whose inhabitants pray to the pagan wolf goddess Holo for a bountiful harvest. After doing business, Lawrence finds said hallowed wolf in his carriage, but rather than a gargantuan beast she’s taken the form of a beautiful young woman. She convinces the merchant not only of her true identity, but also to take her to the Northern lands from whence she came. Along the way, Lawrence’s experience as a salesman and Holo’s centuries of observing human behaviour makes them a formidable pair against business ventures, villains and betrayals.

It’s hard to find fault with these twelve episodes. Even episodes featuring little plot development have intricate business dealings that make it fiercely engaging; some of the best moments are watching Lawrence and Holo bargain with and bullshit other merchants. It’s also integrated into the series’ chemistry and sexual tension (something not easy to accomplish within animation) e.g. a conversation on the relationship between two key characters is presented as a business opportunity, and resurfaces later in a more dire fashion. There are similar symbolic moments scattered throughout, and studio Imagin have fully utilized the visual medium to enhance the original story. There is fanservice a plenty, but a nice touch is the wolf ears and tails often used for titillation actually have purpose, giving Holo the ability to detect lies or subtle noises.

The animation, whilst sometimes too flat for its action scenes, is gorgeous too look at, and the pacing of individual scenes really lets you appreciate it. The dub, whilst occasionally reading like a gaia online role play adapted into a script, features some terrific performances by the main cast. The strength of the series can be demonstrated by the fact that it’s derailing seventh episode, originally un-aired and included as a bonus, is still mightily enjoyable.

Spice and Wolf is a refreshing series that not only changes the game for future fantasy series but also for anime romances. It’s a shame we had to wait so long to get it in our claws, but I’m already smelling the scent of the second series with great anticipation. (4.5 out of 5)  

Words > Graham Ashton

Angel Beats: Complete Collection
Released by Manga Entertainment 25 June 2012 on DVD & BR

A man awakens with no memory to find a girl pointing a gun at him – typical night out or new anime show? It is of course a new anime show named Angel Beats!

The girl in question’s name is Yuri Nakamura (who bears a striking resemblance to Haruhi Suzumiya, it must be noted) leader of the Shinda Sekai Sensen and she informs our hero that he has died and crossed over into a war torn afterlife reserved for students who are unfulfilled in life and still have an attachment to the living world. You can feel pain and even die in this world, however you will reawaken with no injuries. Yuri has literally declared war on the god who destined for her to have an unreasonable life, and on the other side of the battle is Tenshi, the chairman of the student council of the afterlife.

The life of any show is its characters and fortunately Angel Beats! comes through in this regard with some great characters (such as TK) however the show runs for only 13 episodes and there isn’t enough time to fully develop the supporting cast that are on hand.

Not that it’s a bad show by any means Angel Beats! Is a more unique anime than it initially appears on the surface with decent characters. It’s just a shame more time could not be spent on getting to know them. (4 out of 5).

Words > Jason Potter

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