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Added on: 10/1/2011 14:25
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    Anime Review Roundup

    This Week I Have Mostly Been Watching Online Anime

    With a plethora of anime available legally to stream online from sites like Crunchyroll and Youtube, you'd think that I would be taking advantage of that to sample all those cool shows that just don't make it here on DVD, of which there are plenty. But it turns out that there are only 24 hours in the day, and I actually found my online viewing time dwindling in 2010. So in the spirit of New Years resolutions, (although who's ever made a resolution to waste more time?) I'm trying to squeeze in a little more online viewing into 2011.

    First of my new catches is actually an older show. Kiddy Girl-AND is the belated sequel to the veteran Gonzo series Kiddy Grade, released here by MVM way back in the mists of history. It's only recently though that Crunchyroll have gained the rights from Kadokawa to stream it online, and they are putting three episodes up every week for non-subscribers. Subscribers can watch the whole thing right now if they choose. Kiddy Grade was an appealing 'cyborg girls with guns in space 'show that laid the groundwork for countless other sci-fi mystery action shows from studio Gonzo. Kiddy Girl-AND is set several decades after with a host of new characters. The studio handling the honours this time around is Satelight, so there is a slightly altered look to the show, and of course a decade in animation advancements makes it a much more pleasing, widescreen experience.

    I have to admit though that this is my second attempt at Kiddy Girl-AND. I dropped it the first time around because it has in Ascoeur, the most annoying lead character imaginable. It also outdoes the first series on fan service. When I remind you that Kiddy Grade's first scene was a panty shot, that's really saying something. But, when Kiddy Girl-AND does reference Kiddy Grade, there are some sweet moments. I may just stick it through this time. The link to the Crunchyroll page is on the right.

    Far more pleasing is a delightful little slice of life show called Soranowoto, or Sora no Woto, or So Ra No Wo To, depending on what mood you're in. It literally means Song of the Sky, and is one of last year's shows that I am finally getting around to, after hearing a lot of positive reaction to it. It's set in a post-apocalyptic future world, decimated by war, where the survivors of humanity live in idyllic pockets. For one girl, Kanata, her dream is to be a musician. But learning an instrument isn't cheap, and it's out of the realm of the average person. The one way to learn is to join the army, and she signs up to be an army bugler. Her assignment sends her to the edges of civilisation, where she joins a unit that guards the borders against an attack that will never come, trying to maintain a walking tank (their only artillery weapon), that no one has the parts to repair anymore.

    Soranowoto is an absolute delight of a show, a heart-warming slice of life drama with charming characters, great animation, great music, and a very interesting world. It's the sort of show that you want anime companies to invest in and distribute to prove the strengths of the medium. And fortunately, it's one of the shows that Beez Entertainment has picked up for European distribution, although only in subtitled form. Regardless of that, I have put it on my wishlist. All they have to do is announce the release date. All you have to do is click the link on the right to see one of the better shows in recent years.

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    Just the one anime reviewed last week, and unsurprisingly, just the one anime released this week as well. They are one and the same of course, Blade of the Immortal: Volume 3. I didn't have too many expectations for this series when it made its UK debut a few months ago. Certainly its supernatural samurai action didn't seem all that original, although its wry modernistic approach to its characters gave it a little more in the way of originality. But as the series has progressed, it has both exceeded, and lived down to my expectations. The story may not be original, but the way that it tells it certainly is refreshing, and the characters are developed in intriguing, and rounded ways that anime usually eschews. It's far better than I expected it to be. On the other hand, it's short and it's incomplete, and it doesn't looks as if it ever will be completed in anime form. Click on the review to see which aspect matters more.

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    I finished the week with the review of a live action adaptation of a classic manga. Rampo Edogawa's Boy Detectives series introduced characters to the Japanese Zeitgeist that have never really faded over the years, and K-20 is one of them, a daring cat burglar with a penchant for disguise that served as a foe for iconic Detective Akechi. K-20: The Legend of the Black Mask, based on a couple of spin-off novels, turns that dynamic on its head, making K-20 the protagonist of the film. It's set in an alternate 1949, where WWII never happened, where Japan is still an imperialistic stratified society, and where a hapless circus entertainer has to clear his name after being framed as the masked fiend. What follows is a good old-fashioned boys' own adventure, full of action, excitement, thrills and spills. Click on the review to see just how much fun this film actually is…

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    Manga Entertainment release K-20: The Legend of the Black Mask today, on both DVD and Blu-ray. MVM release Blade of the Immortal: Volume 3 today, and they also get in on the live action experience… If disaster movies are more your thing, you may be interested in 252: Sign of Life, out today on DVD.

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