Keith’s Anime Reviews: Air

Air is an anime series based off of a game – a “visual novel” game, to be exact. (If you’re not familiar with this genre, think of it as a “choose your own adventure” type game.) This is, arguably, a little bit odd – but in this case, it really does work.

The story of Air is incredibly compelling – perhaps because the sense of mystery that surrounds what is actually happening.

All the characters in the show have their own story, and during the course of the series, each one is explored in turn. There’s also a bit of mystery as to which character is going to be the “important” one for the main plot, although truth be told it’s not that hard to tell.

One thing that this show does really well is to avoid explaining absolutely everything – that is, although things are resolved, they’re not always explained in great depth to the viewer – and it’s this air (if you’ll excuse the pun) of mystery that makes the show really quite lovely to watch.

On top of a great story (and a very interesting back story in the form of “Air in Summer“), this show is also absolutely beautiful to watch. The animation here is truly a joy to behold – bright and full of life.

In the end, this is a very mysterious and romantic series – so if action and adventure are the things you crave, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you enjoy a well-told story, with beautiful animation, fascinating characters, and an involved back-story, then you should definitely give Air a watch.

Keith’s Anime Reviews: Angelic Layer

Angelic Layer is a odd-duck in the land of anime – is it meant for girls, or for boys? Well, the answer might be “a bit of both,” although I hear the creators never intended it to be that way.

Angelic Layer is the story of a young girl who (almost by accident) starts playing a “game” where you control little humanoid robots and have them fight one another, and how this “game” relates to a number of important aspects of the young girl’s life (such as where her mother has gone, and her relationships with her classmates/friends/etc.).

At the beginning of this series, it seems like it has a lot of promise – there are a number of interesting characters (including my favorite, “wiggly Icchan!”) and it seems like things could get very interesting.

Unfortunately, despite some false starts here and there, things never really do get interesting. Throughout the whole series, only the main character ever gets explored in any depth, leaving the rest of the characters feeling a bit empty (since you never really learn anything about them or what motivates them). It just feels like there’s so much more potential that got cut short.

Also, this is a series which quickly devolves into a “battle of the week” style – that is, towards the end, each episode is basically one battle between the little robots, where you can pretty much guess who will win, and the episode feels like it’s been “stretched” to fit in the time-slot of a single episode (instead of compressing battles to save time and focus more on story-telling).

Whatever the reason for this (and there are several theories), the series suffers for it (in my opinion). Because of this, after watching the entire series from start to finish, I can’t give this series as high a rating as I thought it would get when I first started watching. Perhaps the maga is more interesting, but I haven’t read it so I don’t know.

Nevertheless, it is still an entertaining series – and certainly the first half is well worth watching, if for nothing else than Icchan’s antics alone! But, if you enjoy “battle of the week” style shows, or just like watching little robots beat one another up, then Angelic Layer might be just the thing for you.

Keith’s Anime Reviews: Kino’s Journey

The first time I watched an episode of Kino’s Journey, I couldn’t help thinking to myself what an “odd” show it was.

But despite this oddness – or perhaps because of it – I kept watching, and in the end I was not disappointed.

Kino’s Journey is very… introspective might be the best way to describe it. The main character, Kino, has been described as “neutral” in the sense of the classic D&D alignments – and because of that, in almost every episode, it’s not easy to say who was “good” or “bad.” This is a show that really makes you think – and not in a bad way, either.

Despite the very thoughtful nature of the show, the series itself is nicely animated, with a wonderful art style that really fits the milieu of the story.

However, due to the “deepness,” this isn’t necessarily an anime for everyone. But if you’re the sort of person who does mind doing a little introspection while watching (or just after watching) a show/movie, then Kino’s Journey is worth picking up.

Keith’s Anime Reviews: Lucky Star

Lucky Star” is sometimes billed as a sort of “second coming” of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – due to the fact that the voice actor who played the main character (Haruhi) in Haruhi Suzumiya plays the main character (Konata) in Lucky Star. (Interestingly, this is true for both the Japanese and English version.) Also, a number of other voice actors from Haruhi show up again in Lucky Star.

However, the voice actors – while quite good! – are not, in and of themselves, enough to warrant the sort of buzz that Lucky Star has generated.

Instead, it’s best to look at what makes Lucky Star good on its own merits – that is, the fact that it is an absolutely hilarious show that deliberately pokes fun at all the common “tropes” in Anime, as well as anime fans and video game geeks themselves!

In a way, Lucky Star is a sort of “meta” anime – that is, an anime that is about anime. And that is the genius of it.

If you’re not yourself an anime fan in some small way, you won’t like Lucky Star. But if you’re reading this, chances are you are a fan of Anime. Which means you will instantly “get” Lucky Star.

The animation in Lucky Star is nice and colorful, but the character designs are deliberately simplified – so although all the main characters are girls, they don’t distract from what’s being said (except where it’s funny).

Of all the anime series I’ve reviewed, Lucky Star is the one that makes me laugh the most, and it is for this reason that I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys anime and doesn’t mind a little bit of gentle teasing!

Keith’s Anime Reviews: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Ah, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. It’s hard to say anything about this series that hasn’t already been said elsewhere – this is a very well-known anime (and manga) series. It’s also rather… different… from most other series. To say that it’s “unique” would be putting it mildly!

The plot is simple on the surface (high school story) but complicated underneath (involving, of all things, time travelers, aliens, and “espers” – that is, people with ESP/psychic powers). Oh yeah, and also a girl named Haruhi Suzumiya who sometimes has bouts of melancholy – with unexpected results (to say the least).

Nevertheless, the animation is very well done and the voice acting is top-notch, so this is a series that is a pleasure to watch. This is a series that is equally likely to make you laugh, make you stop and think about the nature of life in the universe, or just make you squirm with embarrassment.

Unfortunately, the English version of this anime seems to be a bit… sporadic. Although the first season box set is available, I have yet to see anything from the 2nd season available in English thus far – and it’s been quite a while since both the 1st and even the 2nd season came out (in Japan, of course). So if you end up liking this series (as I did) you may find yourself in agony waiting for the next episode to come out on DVD.

Still, this is a lovely anime, and well worth watching – highly recommended for anyone who enjoys anime.