Lately I’ve been downloading digital fansubs at a rate of one a day over my lousy 56k modem. I’ve already covered 7 of 7; today I’ll review .hack Sign, Arcade Gamer Fubuki, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. I’m LJ-cutting to make things simpler for folks who care not for my anime reviews! And if you care not, I spit on your grave.
ObStateOfFlower: This weekend went pretty well; I relaxed and slacked and it felt RIGHT this time. Saw some great oddball movies at Josh’s place. Did taxes. Clipped fingernails. All is groovy with the world. I wouldn’t say I’m home free from my depressive swing there, but things are normalized nicely and chance for improvement is much higher. Wai! Now, reviews.
Arcade Gamer Fubuki #1
For those of us used to the copyright controlled stem cell atmosphere of the American culture (where making references to other works in dialogue is risking a copyright infringement lawsuit, and you can just FORGET about visually featuring another copyrighted work) Fubuki threw me for a loop. The anime is about a worldwide tournament of arcade gamers — the Best of Arcade Gamers (BAG Tournament) which goes beyond Super Bowl levels of hype and flashy presentation. (Matches take place with screens on the sides of ten story tall buildings.) And get this: they didn’t just make up a bunch of random games! The first episode alone features actual footage of the characters playing Crazy Climber, Columns, Out Run, and Fantasy Zone. That knocked my socks off — I was expecting some fictional clone game playing, and here we had some games I even had on my MAME box! Predominantly Sega so far, but across multiple companies — it’s not even propaganda for one particular game maker! Killer!
Okay, okay, my arcade obsession aside, the plot of the anime is also about a young girl named Fubuki who really likes arcade games (she played with her daddy in various kiddie flashbacks; a staple of sports anime) but she’s not actually very GOOD at games. Despite this, she’s close to being ranked as a national champion in the BAG tournament for one reason — get ready — THE ‘FASHION PANTY’! Yes, panty shots have gone beyond fan service and become an actual plot twist. Whenever her cute low-res 8-bit sprite stamped panties are flashed (given to her by a mythical gaming spirit), she gets mad wind ninja gaming skillz. Of course, it looks like the Fashion Pandy is a ‘magic feather’ of sorts and detrimental to her development as a gamer, and they get stolen in episode 2.
Needless to say, the series is silly as hell. It comes This Close to being a flat out nonsensical parody, too. (“Hello! We are the evil organization trying to take over the world.”) I can’t honestly call this a great animated masterpiece — the budget is low, the concept is laughable, the cliches are abundant, and the characters are at the kiddie end of the pool in terms of depth. But
for classic gamer nostalgia and a little popcorn-level entertaining fun, it works wonders.
First off: .hack has many incarnations. A game, OVAs, and a TV series. I’m not quite sure where this falls; looks like a TV series, but it’s very well animated for one. Hard to say.
It’s so nice to see animated work catching up to reality. It took this long just to acknowledge online multiplayer games in American animation (Invader Zim did an episode with that); finding cellphones, the Internet, instant messaging or any other staple of What Kids These Days Are Playin’ With is rare. That’s why .hack is especially special; it’s an anime that takes place in and around a fictional massively multiplayer online RPG called ‘The World’.
.hack Sign opens with Standard Cyberpunk Plot #34: “We’re Still Inside The Game!” Our main character, an enigmatic monochromatic sorceror who’s one part Rei Ayanami and one part Hayame from Child’s Toy, wakes up inside The World with no memory of how he got there and no way to log out. He’s actually able to feel pain when a girl slaps him and there’s weird and mysterious powers and things afoot. It becomes clear later that he’s not actually in front of a computer at all; he’s somehow moved totally into the game.
Okay, so basically, nothing new here. We’ve seen this sort of thing four hundred and fifty two thousand times before in science fiction; seems like the natural thing to do whenever there’s VR in fiction is to get someone stuck there. The MMORPG angle and excellent artwork is what makes this go beyond mundane — in the first episode alone we deal with item duping leading to game crashes, a clan of player-helpers / ops, a rant about manners on the net versus in real life (wow, the japanese are niave about that), and more. The art style puts The World as a cross between EverQuest and Phantasy Star Online; sort of an El Hazardian fashion sense with a slightly mideval bender.
I would’ve wanted more MMORPG gags, but we have time later… although I’m not sure the series really wants to dig into that. If we get people lagging, having packet loss, getting PK’ed, camping respawns and someone training a bunch of orcs through a newbie area… I’ll be a happy camper. As is I’m only fairly impressed and waiting to see where it goes. A good start, strong visuals, but we’ll see.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
This movie slid across my consciousness like teflon, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. It’s not exactly MINDLESS action, but it comes very close to being so; amazing animation, strong design, great action sequences, a story that’s basically just a device to carry us along, so on and so forth. If you like blood and swords and steampunk and such you’re in for a treat.
The movie was originally made FOR ENGLISH ACTORS — this is what makes it particularly interesting. As a result of a partnership between Japanese and American companies, the movie was developed for both markets, and the ‘original’ language chosen was English. Oddly, they still managed to compress Too Much Dialogue in Too Little Time like a Speed Racer episode… but not too often, it only pops up now and then. Everything else seems to flow very nicely without standard hackjob dubbing tricks. That’s not to say that the acting is particularly amazing — all the characters in the movie are pretty understated and quiet, which makes it easier in a lot of ways. It feels natural, I’ll leave it at that.
Storywise, well… eh… it does leave you guessing a bit, but then when the Endless Chase Sequence finally gets to its Final Destination, things fall apart. A brand new ubervillian is ushered in and dispatched in the span of about fifteen minutes. Basic tearjerker tragic anime ending that I’ve gotten totally desensitized to beyond rolling my eyes and getting annoyed.
So, if you watch it with intent to go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ and ‘KICKASS!’ you’ll be fine. Don’t expect an oscar winner here.
For comparison purposes, I’d give 7 of 7 a 9/10.
Up next: 7 of 7 #2, and ChoBits #1. Once I finish downloading it. In a day or two. Then I think I’ve run out of material I’m keen on seeing, sadly; just have to wait for the #2’s/#3’s of these series to be available, assuming the distro channel I have access to gets them