Recent Viewing: Kids on the Slope


I recently finished up Kids on the Slope from Sentai Filmworks and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy), spanning 13 episodes. The story revolves around the main character, Kaoru, who moves to a new school and becomes friends with the class tough guy, Sentaro. The two of them find a common bond in music and start playing jazz together.

Sentaro’s childhood friend, Ritsuko, hangs out  with the boys as well. The three characters have their moments of friendship, heartbreak and misunderstandings. Surrounding these Kaoru, Sentaro and Ritsuko is an enjoyable cast of characters and family.

The story of Kids on the Slope is a solid mix of relationships, music and family. The story doesn’t feel repetitive, recycled or formulaic as some anime in this genre does, this may be due to the musical element which adds an additional layer to the story or a great blend of side characters to come in and provide depth to the 3 main characters.

Admittedly, the reason I picked up this title was mostly the name attached, Shinichiro Watanabe. All of this works to this point have been some of the best series I have watched.  The second reason, I heard the animation of the series was great and it delivered. If you didn’t check out the tailer I posted above, go check it out and look at the animation, especially when the characters are playing their musical instruments, Sentaro’s hands look great.

Kids on the Slope is one of the better anime titles I have watched recently, that has a strong story and great art style.

Recent Viewing: Tsuritama

When I was traveling in Japan last summer, I came a cross an advertisement for the show Tsuritama. The cardboard characters, with fishing gear in hand, were the first fishing characters I really recalled. Of course there was characters in shows, but not a show entirely about fishing. So I put the show on my radar and Sentai Filmworks released it in the US. It took me some time to get around to watching all 13 episodes, but I made it through the show. Check out the trailer and review below.


First off, I must admit that when I was growing up I fished a ton, almost every day in the summer since I lived about a half mile from the river in the city I would ride my bike and take my fishing pole and gear. So I was really interested in seeing a fishing series and had to watch it.


(*cut out advertisement in Japan)

The premise of Tsuritama centers around Yuki, a new student at Enoshima and an alien friend he makes named Haru. The first half of the series focuses on character development (like most shows, of course), but Yuki also starts to develop his fishing skills. The show follows a little bit of a formula in which one of the characters doesn’t know much of a certain topic, in this case fishing, so the audience learns some things with the character.

The later half of the series (which runs 13 episodes) fleshes out the underlying plot of the story. Overall I felt the series was a fun and entertaining series. Nothing groundbreaking, I can’t imagine anyone calling this a must-watch series, but if you want a unique title, give Tsuritama a shot. The education of fishing throughout the series isn’t super realistic or too advanced that it could be a turn off.

The music for Tsuritama is light hearted and fun, it matches the art style of the show. The backgrounds are a little untraditional. Most anime backgrounds are designed to look traditionally painted, with brushstrokes and all, or more recently, 3D backgrounds. Tsuritama employs backgrounds that appear as if they are cel shaded, so the same style as the characters are typically done. It was a unique style that I haven’t really seen before, so I enjoyed it very much.

If you are an Evangelion fan, the voice actresses of Asuka and Misato are used for a couple characters in Tsuritama. I always enjoy hearing familiar voices and trying to trace who they are. There is even a cute animal sidekick in the show, Tapioca the duck.

Here is a little more on Tsuritama from Anime News Network.

Recent Viewing: Penguin Drum Season 2

I am a few days late on my review of Penguindrum Season 2, but when I sat down to write about it, I realized I needed a few more days to gather my thoughts. My initial reaction to the series was that I thought it was great, but at the same time there were so many layers to it, that I realized I couldn’t write a full on review of it without watching it a few more times to peel back each layers. I also instantly felt that I needed to do a research paper on the whole series because I felt that there was so many thing they were trying to say.

Let’s start with explaining the basic premise of the story. There is a sister, Himari, and her two brothers, Shoma and Kanba. Himari is terminally ill and one day while at the aquarium, Himari dies. Himari wears a Penguin hat that brings her back to life, but in order for her to continue living, Kanba and Shoma must find the “penguin drum”. Along their way of searching for the penguin drum they come across several interesting characters, Mr Tabuki, Natsume, Ringo and more.

You can read my review of the first half of Penguindrum here. Season 2 wrapped up the series and this review is going to be more along the lines of the whole series. Overall, season 1 was a mix of comedy, character backstories and hints of a larger plot that came to fruition. Towards the ending of Season 1, we received glimpses of a new character and potential story paths, but we could see how some of the characters were going to start having intersecting story arcs.

Season 2 starts to expand on these storylines and we learn more about what the Penguindrum is. At the same time we start to see a dark side of some of some of the characters and even darker areas of their backstories. I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone because I highly suggest for people to check this series out. I personally felt the series was written to make you view it several times, which are the types of series I enjoy. I give the show high ratings based on that. I reserved the right to change my opinion after a few more viewings so I can determine if I can make sense of potential arcs.

Season 2 saw a more direct influence of terrorism as an element, which coincides with an actual terrorist attack that took place in Tokyo. This angle of inspiration or creator statement, is one that really interests me. I am thinking next year, I might research this topic further.

There is also possible directions in Japanese society and in particular, homelessness and possibly homeless children. There are sprinkles of a fate vs destiny debate as well. With so many paths and influences towards characters actions, it is hard to write a non spoiler review of the series. That isn’t even touching on the purpose of the penguins as in the series as well.

I highly suggested the series to a friend and he read episode summaries before watching the series. He told me after he marathoned the show, he regretted reading the summaries. The episode summaries do not do the show justice. The best comparison I have heard in regards to Penguindrum, is the show is like a scenic train ride. It takes you from point A to point B, but along the way you see so much interesting stuff that you can’t explore at the time and makes you need to revisit it several times. Once you are through the show, you are no longer distracted from an entertainment stand point, and you can start to focus on things that escaped you the first viewing.

I will touch on the series again at a later date, once I am able to view it a couple more times. I hope you give it a watch 🙂 Penguindrum is licensed by Sentai Filmworks in the U.S.

Recent Viewing Flowers of Evil

It’s been a little while since I have reviewed anything I watched and with all of the craziness of the last couple months. I never heard of Flowers of Evil until a friend told me to check out the first episode since it had an interesting art style and he wasn’t sure why it looked the way it did. So I checked it out and I loved seeing the rotoscoping technique in action so I wanted to check it out on a weekly basis, but was so busy I ended up marathoning it a week or so ago.

First off, this has been probably one of the most debated series I have ever seen in recent memory. In the anime fandom world, it seems to be a title you hate or you love for various reasons. Flowers of Evil was produced by Zexcs, and is licensed in the US by Sentai Filmworks.

The first reason is the art style, the rotoscoping technique isn’t for everyone. There are films that use similar techniques that I hated, A Scanner Darkly for one. While it employs a slightly different visual, it is using the same technique.


Here is a screenshot of the style of Flowers of Evil.

imagesFlowers of Evil uses less shading when compared to A Scanner Darkly, which is why I think it appeals to me more. The rotoscoping allows for them to get some really great details in the close up facial expressions.

While the characters are rotoscoped, the backgrounds are very beautifully painted. There were times in the series, that I was in awe over some of the painted backgrounds. And if you watch the series, there is a beautiful sequence in episode 7 that is artwork. Several amazing sequences of animation that are some of the best things I have seen in a long time. I wish I could post up just that sequence, it was that good.

If you aren’t turned off by the artwork, the story itself is very unique and is not something for everyone. The story revolves around the main character Kasuga, who likes one of the popular girls in school. Also getting involved in this story is the “creepy” girl in the class, Nakamura, who sees a way to start to manipulate Kasuga for her amusement and other motivations.

The first season is 13 episodes, and showcases the growing escalation between the three characters relationships towards one another. While part of Kasuga wants a normal relationship with the girl Saeki, Kasuga also reveals a potential darkside which likes Nakamura. All of this is set in a small town and not a giant city like Tokyo which adds to some of the characters motivations.

The music in the series is great. The ending theme is rather creepy, while the opening theme seems a little ironic with its tone and also artwork. This was a series that I would watch one episode and feel like I needed to watch the other right away. I am not sure if the series will get a season 2, but if not I will be buying the manga to finish up. If you have seen Flowers of Evil feel free to comment below and let me know what you thought. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can view it on Crunchyroll.

Recent Viewing: Mardock Scramble Vol 1 & 2

I recently watched the first 2 Mardock Scramble DVDs, there is a third one coming out at some point but volume 2 came out kind of recently so I felt the need to let you know about the first 2 and if it is worth your time. The third and final volume is slated to come out this fall.  First off, Mardock Scramble is a little graphic so if that’s not your cup of tea, don’t watch the trailers.


Mardock Scramble was released in the fall of 2010 from Sentai Filmworks. Again, I promise I am not biased against other distributor it just so happened the last few titles I ordered were all from them. Anyways, it was animated by a studio called GoHands, which I have never heard of. After looking into them a bit I discovered that they were founded in 2008, so they are a recently formed studio. I will for sure be looking into more of their work.

Mardock Scramble is a darker series, with several scenes that can get a bit graphic to people that are sensitive to that. The first disk didn’t have any special features, but after the initial release I believe there was a directors cut added. The second disk has a directors cut as an extra.

The story is set in a darker setting with very interesting settings. Visually the film reminds me a bit of the film Red Line where in scenes the shadows are black. There are also nice contrasting color glows from lights since the film was digitally colored. From a visual standpoint, I tend to like darker series with the high contrasting glows.

The first film starts off with a montage of very interesting camera effects. A handheld camera feel with some motion lines that one could do in post create a tense situation which is exactly what they should be going for given the situation in which our main female character is in danger. We also have several shots with distorted camera lenses which create very interesting compositions and could be a metaphor of the lies of the character, have to find out in the final installment.

Another use of some CGI features are the futuristic ad spaces. Whether they are floating or rotating around a parking garage post of instance, such items would be easily interchangeable in a program like C4D or After Effects. Appearance-wise they appear as almost any other anime’s holographic ad spaces.

The environments are pretty detailed and really help sell the gritty world they are in. There are even such details in scenes where the characters are in a car and you can see the sound waves from the radio displayed on the radio face, similar to an equalizer.

On the topic of cars, the cars are of course done in CGI and are very good looking. It is awesome to compare them to the cars from the first season of Initial D and see how far they have come in about ten years. The car chase scene is one of my favorite scenes in of the first installment.

In the second installment, they maintain a lot of the same art direction. They use film treatments and distorted camera views to build up past events of the series and character flashbacks. At the start of the installment we have a resolution to the ending of the first disk. After that we are taken to an area with some very lavish backgrounds. I think it is easy to overlook the gains in background painting in the new age of anime. With all of the incorporation of 3D and compositing techniques it is easy to overlook a well painted background.

There are effects of the character doing math and breaking down advanced formulas etc. There are some nice lighting effects and lens flares as well. It is a longer scene that is fun to watch and to think of how they created such effects.

The last half of the show revolves around a bit of a casino/gambling plot which has some very interesting screen cuts and effects. I can tell that the creators were inspired by the film 21 with Kevin Spacey and even the casino scene in the Hangover

Recent Viewing: Someday’s Dreamers

Over the last two weeks I watched Someday’s Dreamers. Someday’s Dreamers is a property released by Sentai Filmworks, and the series was animated by JC staff and Viewworks in 2003. I decided to watch the series, based off of last week’s post, about animation in real life. In Someday’s Dreamers, they use several known areas such as Shibuya Crossing and also the Tokyo Tower.

The story focused around a girl who was going to begin an apprenticeship to become a certified mage. Its a pretty short series, only lasting 12 episodes, there is a second season/storyline that I didn’t view at this time.

The story itself isn’t anything revolutionary nor do I feel that it has much replay value as well. It is a short series with not a whole lot of character development. There are really only 4 or 5 characters in the series and really only two characters show depth at the conclusion of the 12 episodes.

From a production standpoint, Someday’s Dreamers falls into the years of growing experimentation in CGI in anime, early 2000’s. At this time, CGI was used mostly for environments, effects and sometimes robot characters, which move rather awkwardly and stiff. The characters are all hand drawn with environments being painted as well. The use of 3D is used in 2 major areas, the starting of the series and the final couple episodes.

In the first episode the cars in the Shibuya Crossing are 3D, at this stage its pretty obvious they are b/c of their robotic movement in the way they are controlled by the character Yume. We see 3D again towards the end of the series when one of the mages loses control of their power and twists the Tokyo Tower. In my opinion, these are some of the best animated shots in the series.

Some of the characters magic effects also see the use of some CGI effects. One of the characters, when using magic, has a snowflake particle system that appears. When Yume uses a certain level of magic, their is a CGI dolphin that is rendered in a blue wireframe. The mages all have rings, so the mages can be tracked and monitored. With these rings, there are more effects that appear as if they are flat layers from a program like after effects and just rotated in 3D space to give them a skewed appearance.

I’d suggest Someday’s Dreamers if you are into magic series, or if you like viewing transitional 3D titles from the early to mid 2000’s or if you want to check out what I have been watching recently.


Recent Viewing- Loups Garous

I recently picked up a copy of Loups Garous from Sentai Filmworks that was animated by Production I.G. (Check out a clip of the film above). Loups Garous is pretty much your typical futuristic story with someone controlling a “system”. Based from a storyline perspective, it doesn’t really provide anything new and exciting. People have IDs that allow for you to be tracked and control your house, tv, etc. (basically a smart phone on steroids).

The conflict of the story revolves around the fact that someone is taking kids that lose their IDs. Since the world is constantly under surveillance, if you lose your ID the system can not track you and technically you don’t exist.

If you enjoy futuristic stories, conspiracy, and groups of people looking for ways to beat “the system” this is a decent title. If you enjoy UI design as well, there are many in this film with all of the touch screens and tracking. The film does have a pretty good sound track with a few catchy songs.

From an animation perspective it follows the current trend in Japanese animation. The characters are all hand drawn yet with other elements done in CGI. For instance, a futuristic city needs robots patrolling the streets, these robots are done in 3D. Also, since music has a part in the story, there are 3D animated characters that are on TVs and screens. Since these characters don’t exist in the real world, they animate them in a different visual.

There are many other areas in which they composite some really nice shots. Water has subtle waves that look really good and add a lot to the shot that have water in them. There are also various settings that are used created in 3D. While there isn’t really anything special about these things since there have been titles using these techniques for years, they are well done.

One things that kinda surprised me about Loups Garous is the art style in relation to the story. As you can see from the clip above, the characters are designed to look like a younger audience film. However, the story is darker than what the style would lead you to believe.

Overall Loups Garous was a decent anime film to check out. While it didn’t provide anything new or ground-breaking it did do the genre and animation well, which is just as important. New production update due out Monday.