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Say "I Love You"
Years ago, I watched anime via fansubs of unlicensed stuff, so I tended to keep up with what was coming out each season. As time passed and I had more going on in my life, a lot of that fell by the wayside and my watching of new anime series became more sporadic. That's one reason most of my reviews the last couple of years have been of manga and light novels, or of older anime series. However, these days more companies are simulcasting anime series for US viewers while they are airing in Japan. It's much easier to watch these new shows through Hulu or Crunchyroll than the old bit torrent downloads of yesteryear, even with the annoyances of Hulu I've noted before.
One series that's part of the spring season in Japan is RDG: Red Data Girl, which is being simulcast by Funimation on Hulu as of this week. The show is based on a series of fantasy novels by Noriko Ogiwara and focuses on a middle school girl named Izumiko, who lives in a shrine and is the frequent subject of bullying at school. Izumiko is a very shy, quiet, and self-conscious girl who wants to change. One morning, to try to take that first step towards changing, she cuts off her bangs which certainly gets noticed by all of those around her.
The first episode is primarily set up, introducing us to Izumiko and showing us how her life is. While it seems somewhat slow, I think it gives us a ton of information in a much more subtle way than some other series might. For example, the way people react to Izumiko's bangs is a very telling example of both her nature and how those around her view her. We also quickly get the idea that she's one of those people who can't be around electronics at all. Her new cell phone is already broken and she usually has one of her two friends do her computer searches for her in exchange for her writing the report. In school, we very quickly realized that she only has maybe two friends and that most of her other classmates either ignore her completely or enjoy teasing her. And as we are watching her day, it's clear she does not live a normal life but no one really talks about it directly and view may not end up noticing it until after the episode is done and you're thinking back on it.
But Izumiko wants to change, hence the bang cutting, and we get more subtle hints of that throughout the episode. The more telling it, that leads to more of the set up of the situation is when the snide remarks the classmate lead her to try doing her own Internet searching. Somehow she's able to see her father through the computer and talk with them a bit, but then when she realizes that's not something she should've been able to do because there's no video camera whatever it blows the power in the entire computer lab.
Soon after this she meets Miyuki, a boy about her age who hates her on-site calling her an "ugly hick." He seems no happier to meet him than she is, but it's clear he has no choice in the matter. Izumiko knows nothing of the situation, but no one will explain either, other than to say she is destined "to be protected" and be Yuki is one of those destined to protect her whether either of them likes it or not.
The animation itself is, in my humble opinion, absolutely gorgeous. The backgrounds are purely sumptuous and you can as well pause and stare at them for a while. The amount of detail in some of the smallest things, like a sacred rope as you take a quick look at a the shrine, is just wonderful. The music for the opening and ending theme were nice and seemed to fit Izumiko's hesitant nature quite well, though I was disappointed that Funimation did not subtitle either theme.
Having only seen one episode, I'm intrigued. Both the opening scene and some of the hints given throughout the episode seemed to indicate that were gonna get some drama and possibly some action as the series progresses. So I'm looking forward with the next episode comes out, to see where things go from here.
Long time readers may remember that back in 2006 when it was announced that the Full Moon o Sagashite anime series was licensed, I was just a bit happy, despite the long release schedule. In particular, with the awesome manga release they did, I was pretty hopeful that Full Moon's anime would get a great release here. The more cynical members of then now defunct AnimeOnDVD forums speculated that Viz was setting it up to fail due to the plan to release it across 13 volumes with quarterly releases. There was also grumbling about Viz's anime division having no real desire to do shojo releases, despite their manga division kicking ass at it. Still, I remained hopeful.
Fast forward seven years later, and of course any fan of the series knows the cynical group had it right. Viz released half of the series, i.e. 28 episodes, across 7 volumes before announcing releases were being dropped in 2008 due to "low sales potential". Viz's release of the anime was not hideous, though it was typical of their releases - no subtitling of the opening or ending themes, but they did sub the songs during the episodes, which was nice. Still, it sucked. I could no longer look forward to having the series in my DVD collection, and sadly resigned myself to being unable to watch it again (as of course I will not deal with bootlegs or fansubs of unlicensed material).
Full Moon has always been one of my favorite series, maybe not top 10, but a good solid series. I've shown my sweetie a lot of series in our three plus years together, and I really wanted to show him this one. That's when, quite by accident, I discovered that in 2011, Viz rescued the series from its archive hell by releasing the episodes online, for FREE! All 52 episodes are now available for streaming via Hulu. This is great in that it meant I could show my boyfriend this great series, but oh, the less than fun experience of doing so is how we come, by somewhat lengthy intro, to my review of watching Full Moon via Hulu.
Of course, for watching anime together, I'd rather have it up on my TV, but you can't watch Hulu via anything other than a computer without a Plus membership. So I signed up for the trial because yes, I really wanted to watch it at last. The first night we tried to watch episodes, it was via my Wii, the only internet capable device I have connected to the TV. Got the Hulu Plus channel installed and the sign up done, so grab a drink and let's go.
The first episode starts...well, after the first THREE ads. Even with paid Hulu you get ads, not even fewer ads but the same number as an unregistered user. Ugh. Still, I'd heard about this already so I was mostly just mildly annoyed and it wasn't a deterrent to watching. Yay, cue opening and then cue a two minute buffer. Really, it buffered enough to play all those ads without a single hiccup, but the actual show wasn't? And it needed that much buffer for a 24 minute episode? I started getting annoyed then. Even after all that buffering, the video occasionally hiccupped a bit, but we were not to be deterred!
And happily, Hulu streams subtitled episodes, so that was a plus, even if they were barely readable. For reason, the episodes that come through things like the Wii are a bit different than the ones you see in the browser. For example, when played through the Wii, Viz's logo is in the lower right corner, placing it directly under many of subtitles. Also, the subtitles were a different font and white that stretched across more of the frame on the Wii, resulting it them being hard to read. While viewing it in the browser, they are yellow, a cleaner font, properly wrap before getting too far to the edge. Viz's logo is also on the left and more translucent. I don't know if this is an issue with Viz, with Hulu, or with doing Hulu via the Wii, but it didn't leave us happy at all.
Anyway, we got through the first episode and my honey said sure on more. While watching the second episode, the frame froze all together and we just had a black screen. We figured it was buffering, again, so we waited....and waited...and waited. At five minutes, we decided to just try going back out and reloading the episode, and that's when I discovered it had in fact crashed my Wii, locking the whole system down. I had to do a button reset to reload it. After that, we were able to finish the episode, after another 2-3 minute buffer, then we gave up on Hulu Plus and the Wii.
We've been watching the subsequent episodes via my laptop, with it on the coffee table between us, pulled up close so we can see the subtitles. It is nowhere near as nice as it would be watching the DVDs on my wall-mounted 40" TV, nor is the sound as awesome as it would be with real speakers versus my laptop's pretty basic set up (it can play music, but oh does it sound so much flatter versus my desktop's speakers). I've been strongly tempted to just rent the DVDs for the episodes available that way. We're up through 18 on watching, so we'd get to enjoy 10 via DVD before having to back to the laptop set up at least.
Anyway, beyond those issues, the only quibbles I've had with the streaming episodes is that the ending and opening are not subtitles (par for the course) and for some odd reason the actual episode titles are not displayed on the title screens for the first 14 episodes, neither in English nor the original Japanese. On episode 15 the English version begins appearing. The free aspect is a bonus, but if I could watch it ad free and getting the same quality we get with the laptop, I'd have gladly kept the Hulu Plus option or even just paid for this specific show.
Viz had made no signs that they will ever release the series to DVD, not even as a value box set or something, despite it being clear they had already subtitled all of the episodes. I think of all of this, that is the most disappointing, to the point that during one of their recent "what do you want us to license surveys", I gave them a shonen title and commented somewhat heatedly (though politely) about their anime divisions shoddy treatment of shojo and their female fans and how I hope they never license another shojo title unless they will truly commit to giving it a full and proper release. Maybe one day far in the future they will let the license lap and someone will pop in to rescue it, but that seems even less likely than Viz actually giving it a DVD release.
Rating for the Show Itself: B+
Rating for the Experience of Watching via Hulu Plus: D-
Rating for the Experience of Watching via Hulu Plus: C+
Beast Master is a short two-volume shōjo manga series written by Kyousuke Motomi. It was originally released in Japan in 2007, and then released in the USA by Viz Media in 2009. In this romantic comedy, Yuiko is an animal lover who has one little problem: she gets so excited around animals that she smothers them with affection and terrifies them, even her own pet. This is how she meets Leo, a new boy in town who rescues her frightened cat from a tree. The next day she sees him again, when he transfers into her class at school.
She soon learns that Leo has a couple of issues of his own. First he has wild looking eyes that terrify everybody around him, except Yuiko. The bigger problem though is that if he or someone he cares about is threatened, he goes into a wild animal like berserk state attacking anyone around him. In a way, Yuiko finally found one animal that isn't scared of her and he just happens to be in the form of a somewhat cute and naïve boy.
Being a romantic comedy where you have a boy who seems to be half wild animal, you're gonna get some silly situations as well as a few tense and dramatic ones. On the whole, the story is fairly predictable. I mean by the end of the first chapter you kind of have an idea where to go and that's okay. The execution is still enjoyable to read.
I think the story could have benefited from having a third volume, to expand on a subplot that happens near the end of the first volume. Still we can get the complete story of Yuiko and Leo which is of course the focus of series. Motomi does a great job drawing some while facial expressions on her characters, especially Leo in berserk mode, and all of the characters are fairly distinct and easy to identify.
Both volumes include bonus short stories, space which again could have been used to expand the main story. Still, both stories are cute and interesting tales, particularly the one in the second volume which has a fun supernatural twist to it. With only two volumes, picking the series up is not going to cost a lot of money and I found it entertaining enough to justify having picked them up at Half-Price Books. I probably would not have paid full price for them, but that's for you to decide.
Kaname Itsuki's single titled shonen-ai title Lost Boys is a boy's love twist on the Peter Pan tale. It opens with a young man named Mizuki being surprised at his window by a flying boy named Air. The impish Air deems him a "father" and whisks him off to Neverland to play that role for his group of lost boys. Mizuki is less than happy about the entire situation, and wants only to go home.
On the whole, Lost Boys is a fun tale that has a lot of fun with the basics of Peter Pan, while twisting them around for an entirely male cast. The role of the Tinkerbell-type very is taken on by the very male Reux who still has same sort of unrequited affection for his master that Tinkerbell had for Peter. While Mizuki is certainly a grumpier version of "Wendy", he isn't entirely unredeemable especially when faced with the adorable younger lost boys who were desperate for a father. Though he clearly has issues with his own father, Mizuki does not make a horrible one despite what you might think. Of course it is a shonen-ai title, so central to the entire story is the growing relationship between Mizuki and Air, who often acts somewhat immature and without worries yet has his own pains to deal with.
The art the volume is very good. Air is drawn with a great mix of youthful innocence and older persona, while Mizuki's design is clearly that of an older character yet one who still is on the adage of his youthful days. The lost boys look appropriately young and innocent, and all of the characters are easily distinguished. On the whole the plot is fairly simple and moves along quickly, though it did manage to have a few nice little surprises that I wasn't expecting and the Pirates are rather hilarious. I would've liked a little more development around the backgrounds of the lost boys, and maybe how Air came to be their leader but it's still a good solid work.