“Easy As Pie” – Antique Bakery (anime) – 7/10 Peeps

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Shoujo/Shounen-ai(?)/Slice-of-Life

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by Nozomi.

Art/Animation: I can’t say much for the OP, because it’s carboard cut-outs against a dollhouse background, but the actual series looks quite good. It’s a more airy/sketchy look to it, rather along the lines of Honey and Clover, and in light pastels, though the backgrounds are often CG and not quite as nice-looking as the characters. You do get used to it, but it is disconcerting at first. The animation is very good. Since it’s a slice-of-life series, the budget is used to make things look nice, and it works.

Summary: A high school crush, a world-class pastry chef, a former middle-weight boxing champion… and a whole lot of cake!
Ono has come a long way since the agonizing day in high school when he confessed his love to handsome Tachibana. Now, some 14 years later Ono, a world-class pastry chef and gay playboy has it all. No man can resist Ono’s charms (or his cooking skills!) but he has just found a new position under a man named Tachibana. Can this be the only man who resisted his charms, and if so, will the man who once snubbed the “magically gay” Ono get his just deserts? And how in the heck did a former middleweight boxing champion wind up as Ono’s cake boy? (DigitalMangaPublishing)

Review: This has the cutest opening I’ve seen in a while. No, seriously, check it out!

It’s sweet and adorable (instead of looking cheap, like I had worried), and serves as a fantastic intro into a series that has the iffiest premise I’ve ever come across: A man who was kidnapped and forced to eat cake as a child ends up opening a bakery to find the man. It’s terribly strange, and if this wasn’t filled with handsome men baking delicious things, I might have turned this off right then and there. Thankfully, this wasn’t as ridiculous as it seemed to be, even though there are a number of moments that are… less than realistic.

This is mainly a character-driven story, and gives the impression that it’s shounen-ai off the first episode when Keiichiro ends up asking Yusuke whether he would work for him. Yusuke comes right out and says that Keiichiro used to bully him because he was gay and that he was madly in love with Keiichiro. Keiichiro has absolutely no interest in him however, but Yusuke gives into the pleas because it gives him a chance to show off his baking skills. And because he’s such a player that he can’t work anywhere else. But the staff isn’t complete yet! Chikage, a bodyguard that’s a touch slow, ends up becoming a waiter  (and love interest of Yusuke, but that’s minor). And the cast is rounded out by Eiji, a young man that desperately wants to make sweets and ends up becoming Yusuke’s apprentice.

The majority of this show is really the everyday happenings around the bakery, from developing a new cake, to being featured on televisiton, to sending Eiji away to learn more. And these things really are a lot of fun to see. The parts where it stumbles are on Yusuke’s personal life, because it’s so absolutely full of drama that it’s ridiculous. I suppose there’s something to be said about depicting how terrible abusive relationships are, but it’s still very out of place with the rest of the show. I’m also not fond of the kidnapper sotryline. It really highlights how silly the premise is overall. But… there are parts of it that really made my day, like tracking down people meant delivering cakes in ridiculous costumes as well as being asked to do truly difficult pastries. So while it was far from perfect, at least the kidnapper arc had a number of redeeming things.

For 11 episodes, though, it was too much time wasted and a little too much drama for what really should mostly have been an upbeat show.

Overall, it was fun and a decent series. Rate higher if you’re really fond of drama involving handsome men.

Recommended: 18+. Implied sex between two men, along with some partial nudity. There’s a series of murders of little boys happening (we never see them die, but it’s impied offscreen). Someone gets stabbed, and you do see some blood.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Ristorante Paradiso (anime)

Bartender (anime or manga)

Sommelière (manga)

“Birds And The Bees” – Honey and Clover, Season 2 (anime) – 10/10 Peeps

Genre: School/Slice of Life/Romance/Drama/Josei

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by VIZ.

Art/Animation: This goes for more sketch-like art and done in pastels. It’s kind of artsy itself. Most everyone and everything looks delicate, and works in so many ways. The chibis are also incredibly cute. The animation is more than adequate as well – it looks great.

Summary: Is there life beyond art school? Yuta returns from his journey of self-discovery only to find everyone around him deep in their own struggles to shape their futures. Ayumi finds herself increasingly encluded in projects involving Takumi and Rika, and the strain is breaking her. Far away in America, Shinobu and his brother’s enless quest for money finally helps them achieve their ultimate goal, while back home Hagumi must face the devastating consequences of an accident that could change her life forever. Can the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of art ever be one and the same? (back cover of DVD set).

Review: Continuing where the first season left off, the second season finally delves into these character’s pasts and their drives in life, and brings everything to a fantastic conclusion. At the end of the first season, Yuta decides that he can’t continue on the path he’s on – no path. Lost and aimless with his life, he went on a bike ride to the farthest reaches of Japan. Seeing this play out is fascinating. It’s something that most people don’t set out to do, and is in some ways tougher than it was 100 years ago. And along the way, he finds people doing work, work that Yuta finds incredibly meaningful and fulfilling, and finally finds something that he could do for the rest of his life. In a way, it really rings true to what a lot of college students discover – that sometimes it takes actually going out and being in the world to begin finding ourselves and what we want to do. In a few episodes that span a number of months, he’s made a fantastic journey and finally figured out some of the most important things in his life.

Against that backdrop, everyone else’s life seems to be falling to pieces. Ayumi has always waited in the wings for her best friend, but another man has fallen for her. Takumi has never really been as upstanding about their relationship as he should have been, leaving her as a back-up, but finally has to make a decision on letting her go and letting her find the love that she deserves. His own relationship with Rika also comes to a head as he fully faces what it means to help deal with the heart of someone who’s deep in grief. I never felt that any one of these characters was making bad choices – I could only feel that these characters made real desicions. They’re torn by indecision and unable to really make a leap of faith with their futures.

Putting all their concerns in perspective, Hagumi is injured so badly that she might never make art again. This story could have taken the easy route of having her find something else that she could do, but no. This fully deals with Hagumi’s own past. She was trapped in a house with no escape for a long while. Art was what made life bearable. Her grandmother’s death and the freedom that her cousin gave her meant that she could truly express herself and get delight out of life… and that’s taken away in an instant, and there’s no certainty that she will ever recover enough to do it again. It really beings to light the fact that Shinobu has never been around for Hagumi when she needs it, but Yuta has been… but Hagumi’s relationship with her cousin might mean that she doesn’t make a move. I can’t say more because that would spoil it.

But when all is said and done, each step on this journey makes the story deeper and more relatable, and more beautiful. These characters never have a sure future, and nothing plays out predictably. Each episode highlights different, difficult issues that people have to face in their darkest times. It’s really one of the best anime I’ve ever seen, and really embodies the meaning of the phrase that it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that’s important. And each character has a difficult journey that’s playing out that we get to witness, and makes the entire show bittersweet.

Overall, this is an anime I can’t recommend highly enough.

Recommended: YES. 16+. Implied sex in one scene again, along with a few swears. But other than that, this is unbelievably clean, and a beautiful story to boot.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

NANA (anime and manga)

Moyashimon (anime and manga)

Nodame Cantabile (anime)

Ano Hana (anime)

Kids on the Slope (anime or manga)

Welcome to the NHK (anime or manga)

Genshiken (anime or manga)

Tatami Galaxy (anime)

“Making Life Sweeter” – Honey And Clover, Season 1 (anime) – 10/10 Peeps

Genre: School/Slice of Life/Romance/Drama/Josei

Review Status: Complete (24 Episodes/24 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by VIZ.

Art/Animation: This goes for more sketch-like art and done in pastels. It’s kind of artsy itself. Most everyone and everything looks delicate, and works in so many ways. The chibis are also incredibly cute. The animation is more than adequate as well – it looks great.

Summary: What do you get when you cross creativity with self-discovery and unrequited love? Art school! Yuta Takemoto has no idea what’s in store for his life when he enrolls at a Tokyo art college, but he finds out right away it’ll never be dull! Love triangles form as fast as friendships when both Takemoto and senior classmage Shinobu Morita fall hard for she artistic prodigy Hagumi Hanamo. And while architecture student Takumi Mayama secretly pines for an older woman, dazzling ceraicist Ayumi Yamada pines for him! Confused yet? (back cover of first DVD set)

Review: There aren’t that many Josei anime out there, which makes this a real treasure since it tops most other josei in legnth and depth. This series decides to explore growth against the backdrop of college, which a lot of people can relate to, and in a twist through the eyes of Yuta, a young man who is making his way through it all. He’s living in a run-down apartment building with several other students. He’s worried about his money, focusing on his studies, and just living life as it comes. With the injection of Hagumi into his world, things start changing little by little.

This is slice of life in the most serious of ways. The cast of characters is HUGE, from the old art teacher who’s desperately trying to get Shinobu to graduate to Takumi’s coworkers, and relationship quirks and changes happen over time. It’s astounding to see it flow so naturally and hard to pinpoint how expactly they grow, the little things that you *know* but can’t really say. Everything seems fine on the surface at the beginning between them all. Harumi doesn’t seem to be that big a deal, even if it’s made clear in the beginning that both Shinobu and Yuta have love at first sight.

And, quite frankly, there’s a lot of missteps for both of them. Shinobu has an eternal quest for money, and disappears for days -weeks – months on end with no notice. At school he’s as carefree as anything, but that also makes him a tad insensitive to the feelings and desires of others. Because we see it through Yuta’s eyes, he’s self-aware that he is more interested than normal in Hagumi, but he never makes a move himself. He’s too unsure of himself, and rather intimidated because he notices little things happening around her that build his suspicions that he’s not the only person that’s longing for her, from a wooden badge to a new pair of shoes that Harumi discovers. But when it comes down to the line, neither have the will or words to tell her that they’re in love with her, though Harumi only has eyes for Shinobu, even with Yuta by her side and an ever-constant friend.

At the same time, another love triangle brews. Takumi is in love with an older woman who lost her husband in a car accident. She didn’t go looking for love, but Takumi nonetheless fell for her. But she doesn’t think that Takumi can be with her, and even though he does his best, he is turned away. His best friend Ayumi has always been in love with him, and she doesn’t hide it very well. However, Takumi can’t love her back. It just can’t happen.

Every bit of this happens against the backdrop of school and life. Takumi graduates and finds his way into an architectural company that sends him out into the world. Ayumi graduates, but with her skills she can stick around the campus and make great works of art, establishing herself as a reliable artist and starting to make a living. Between these and the things Shinobu is becoming famous for, it’s a constant cloud reminding them that college life can’t last and that they need to figure out what they will do with their lives and why. Yuta grows more and more frustrated by his own choice, unable to figure out how he’s going to support himself with it. And Harumi grows more and more involved with her own art, but in the back of her mind she worries about her cousin and how she can ever repay him for what he’s done for her.

Overall, this is a fabulous anime. While not complete – there’s a second season to wrap things up – this is a fabulous first half that really manages to be sensitive about love and how complicated relationships can be.

Recommended: 16+. This is mostly clean – almost entirely clean – and while the handfull of swears isn’t really the big concern, the one instance of implied sex is. It’s not graphic, but you do get the strong implications.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Moyashimon (anime and manga)

Nodame Cantabile (anime)

Ano Hana (anime)

Kids on the Slope (anime or manga)

Welcome to the NHK (anime or manga)

Genshiken (anime or manga)

Tatami Galaxy (anime)

“Play Ball!” – Taisho Baseball Girls (anime) – 9/10 Peeps

“If All You See Is How I Look, You’ll Miss The Superchick Within” – “Superchick” by Superchick

Genre: Sports/Comedy/Slice-of-Life/Historical/School/Romance

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by Sentai Filmworks

Art: It’s super-cute! The girls are all fairly recognizable, which says a lot because of how large a cast it is, and it’s in bright, vibrant colors. Definitely nice to look at.

Summary: 1925 – six years since the end of the Great War, four years since women were allowed to join political associations and one year since Emperor Hirohito assumed the throne. Only thirteen years after the death of the Meiji Emperor, Japan is a nation re-inventing itself, swept by wave after wave of wars, disasters and political unrest. War looms in China, males over the age of 24 are about to receive the right to vote and a strange new type of school uniform called the “sailor suit” is being introduced. But at least the national pastime, baseball, remains bound by tradition, the exclusive realm of men and boys. Until now. When a local player arrogantly states that girls should become housewives instead of going to school, teenage firebrands Koume and Akiko respond by forming their own baseball team. It’s shocking. It’s scandalous. And yet, in a nation in which almost anything seems possible, it may just be the start of something greater than any nine girls can imagine. It’s not just a game, it’s history in the making in Taisho Baseball Girls! (Back cover of DVD case)

Review: This was one of my favorite anime that I watched over winter vacation. Taisho really succeeds at capturing an era, before the destruction of WW2 and during the years when massive social change was happening. Koume is a young girl that wants nothing but to embrace the coming era. She wants a new, modern hairstyle. She wants a sailor suit instead of a kimono. She wants things that her traditional parents would never let her have, and it bothers her to no end. Her best friend Akiko is in similar straits, but because of her fiancée’s arrogance, has latched onto one way they can show that they can be modern: Play baseball.

But this is not a time or era when you’d have a flock of girls ready to sign up! They have to beg, plead, and cajole to get even six members, and all 12? It takes half the series just to get the team together. At the same time, it doesn’t fall into a trap of being repetitive. While they’re looking for members, the girls who are interested have to learn baseball from the ground up. None of them even know how to throw the ball, and have to enlist their English teacher, Ms. Curtland (yep, she’s actually English!) to teach them. They have to create their own clubhouse, tend their own field, and fight the school administration to be able to do the most basic school activities. It’s pretty cool to see these girls so willing to put themselves on the line, because everything is against them. They are outright dismissed by other schools because the only other teams out there are boy’s teams – and many see it as silly to challenge girls. Their families definitely don’t approve when they find out. And the school wants nothing more than to shut them down.

This is never really presented in an overly dramatic way, which is really admirable. All the these things are just the Facts Of Life in this story and the girls just find ways to deal with it.

At the same time this weaves in everyday life, mainly in the form of Koume’s family and what happens when a boy she meets falls in love with her. She’s not really thinking about that at this point in her life, but she has unwittingly brought a major complication into getting her family’s support. Her friend Akiko is in an arranged marriage against her wishes. And while some of this falls back on traditional tropes, it’s another thing that is just seen as being what it is – something common in those days, nothing surprising or overly shocking. And these things do manage to come to a fairly satisfactory conclusion.

Overall, it’s a wonderful series that wraps up perfectly in 12 episodes, and definitely one that I am happy I invested in.

Recommended: The back cover rates this as PG, and I think that’s pretty accurate. The most offensive that it could get is there’s one girl that clearly has a crush on the main, and another girl that crushes on that girl, but it’s hard to say whether this is romantic or a case of girls just idolizing each other like modern girls idolize famous women. I’m fairly sure that it could go either way.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Bamboo Blade (anime or manga)

Hikaru no Go (anime or manga)

Girls Und Panzer (anime)

Chihayafuru (anime or manga)

Moshidora (anime)

Big Windup (anime)

“Jazz Hands” – Kids on the Slope (anime) – 9/10 Desks

Genre: School/Romance/Slice of Life/Historical/Josei

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, it’s licensed by Sentai and available for free viewing on Crunchyroll.

Art/Animation: Fantastic! This has some standard character designs, but the animation is top-notch. The care that they took animating all the music scenes is very evident. I even think that the fingerings and technique for the instruments is correct! Watching this is an absolute treat for the eyes.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: The beginning of summer, 1966. Because of his father’s job situation, freshman high school student Kaoru Nishimi moves by himself from Yokosuka to Kyushu to live with relatives. Until then, Kaoru was an honor roll student who tended to keep to himself, but meeting notorious bad boy Sentaro Kawabuchi starts to change him. Through his devil-may-care classmate, Kaoru learns the attractions of jazz and finds the first person he can call a “friend”. He also discovers how much fun it is to play music with a pal.  Other characters include Sentaro’s kind childhood chum, Ritsuko, who is the daughter of a record shop owner; the mysterious upperclassman, Yurika; and Brother Jun, the much-admired leader among their peers. Set against the backdrop of a seaside town with a scent of American culture, this series is a drama about young people coming into their own, crossing each other’s paths, and finding friendship, love, and music! (Official Website)

Review: What does jazz have to do with anything? At first, nothing. Kaoru, a gifted classical pianist, is living with his relatives and joining a new school. He’s been moving around for most of his life, and because of it has no interest in making friends with anybody. After all, he’d just have to leave them again. However, after a chance encounter with Sentarou, a headstrong drummer, and Ritsuko, the daughter of a local music shop owner, Kaoru is drawn into jazz, and his encounters with the people there change him forever.

As melodramatic as that sounds, that is the most basic description of this anime that I can give. There’s school competitions, love quadrangles, family squabbles, all of which play out in Kids on the Slope. The name is no mistake – they go to school on a dreaded hill that they must climb every day. They meet at the top of the hill, almost by accident. Sentarou is a bit of a delinquent and a loner, only really interacting with Ritsuko, his childhood friend. Kaoru would have left him well enough alone if he hadn’t had a passing interest in Ritsuko, and curiosity would drive him to the underground practice room (awesome speakeasy themes going on there!) where Ritsuko’s dad, a family friend, and Sentarou play their hearts out. And what do they play? Jazz.

This is really what brings Kaoru out of his shell. He’s intimidated by their playing, so different from his own classical music, and feels challenged enough to grab a record and try it for himself, practicing until he’s note-perfect. And so he joins the little underground band, and so things begin to change.

I’m both surprised and pleased that Kids on the Slope managed a decently complex plot (relationship-wise, at least) and resolved most of it in 12 episodes. I’ve seen simpler ones that could barely get over and done with in 26! Kaoru is in love with Ritsuko, while she is in love with Sentarou, while he falls for Yurika, and Yurika has the hots for Junichi. It seems like there’s no way for this to end happily, right? Wrong! Yurika is no wilting flower and lets her feelings be known, and while that leaves Sentarou in the dust, the way that this couple managed to get together was one of the most touching and romantic I’ve seen. There were no flowers, there were no melodramatics…it was simplicity in it’s purest form, and it worked.

However, that brought about a whole lot of issues characters had about their families. Sentarou is alone, even with a bajillion siblings to take care of, and that rejection hits him where it hurts. He’s not as carefree as he lets on, and this is where it starts to show. Against a background of jazz competition and tension over Ritsuko, Sentarou becomes the main player and a tragic figure in his own right.

This is where I start having issues with the show. I have no problems with the music, I have no problems with the characters, I have no problems with the plot…except when it starts winding down to the ending. Religion never really played a part in this show, though Sentarou and Ritsuko were shown to be Christian early on, and it was made to seem like it would play a bigger part. However, it’s not until the ending that we get how it plays into Sentarou’s life, and then not very satisfactorily. The same can be said for how Ristuko and Kaoru’s relationship works out. Things are really left hanging, with lots of unanswered questions. I can deal with those – often I’m far more approving than others seem to be – but here it just doesn’t work.

However, I can’t deny that for all that, I really was moved by the ending. Something about seeing them as joyful as when they were teens just brought me to tears. I have no issue about it…just about how things were left hanging in that time gap. It really is a great show, and definitely works on the strength of the characters’ relationships. They don’t feel fake or forced, and work out in a way that really does feel fairly natural and real, something that’s desperately needed in a saturation anime that is utterly teen fantasy.

Overall, this is a fantastic series that might not do everything right, but it does a lot of it great!

Recommended: 13+. At one point, Yurika asks Junichi why he didn’t have sex with her, and there is some child abuse talked about. During one performance a US sailor tells them to not play any (insert slur here) jazz – in keeping with the time it’s placed in, but could throw the unwary off. Other than that, this is a very clean series.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Beck (anime and manga)

NANA (anime and manga)

Nodame Cantabile (anime)

“A Sword In My Hand” – Fate/Zero, Season 2 (anime) – 8/10 Desks

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Drama

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed and available for free viwing on Crunchyroll.

Art/Animation: Just as fantastic as the first season.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: The Third Holy Grail War reaches its final conclusion.

Review: This started off right where Season 1 ended; a brutal battle between Castor and a few of the other servants. Covering from there to the end (and a little beyond) of the 3rd Holy Grail War, Season 2 was underwhelming and really showed TYPE-MOON’s propensity to tie properties in with each other in ways that really make it necessary to see them all in order to understand what’s going on. Let me say from the beginning: if you haven’t seen Fate/Stay Night or played the VN, then you will not understand the importance or meaning behind much of what happens and the relationships that are forged and broken within the final two episodes.

Flash-forwards give brief glimpses of important events that, for the casual viewer, will mean nothing or be outright confusing. Part of this is because it’s an origin story that’s airing after the main story. Part of this is because it’s an origin story that really does tie into the main one quite well. Or so I hear–I haven’t seen or read Fate/Stay Night myself, and that does affect how I took in the anime.

Don’t get me wrong–the first half is perfectly wonderful and understandable, full of tense moments, action, and interesting characters. Thankfully, I have more reason than this superficial issue to be less than impressed with the second half. The set-up for this was an epic battle, a daunting foe, a world in very real danger. I could recall that tension from the moment I saw the first episode of this season. Unfortunately, the ending to it was surprisingly anti-climactic. The creators realized they had to wrap things up and get to what this was all about: the decisions that shaped Kiritsugu into who he is in Fate/Stay Night.

That story is absolutely heartbreaking, bringing a lot of depth and sympathy that I really didn’t have for Kiritsugu in the first half. I had a lot of mixed emotions about him, because I certainly didn’t like him as a person but couldn’t reconcile how he came off with the strong, upright morals he had for wanting desperately to save people. The flashback episode really brought the world that they live in to life in many ways, how the magical community acts (and interacts) with those without magic, what people will do to protect themselves, and brought out a few very interesting factions within the magical community that play into the story at large. The exact events that changed him are shocking…but really work for him. He’s a very dynamic character, and seeing the seeds of his childhood catch up is interesting, and tragic in some of the most amazing ways. I really felt for him but at the same time, because he was so warped from his experiences, he remained a distant character until the end.

Fate/Zero weaves in these two episodes among the rest that go from overt action to covert double-dealing. Back-door alliances turn to betrayals as the competitors show their true colors and become even more desperate to win the Grail as the clock ticks down. Rider–my favorite character of them all–and his master are the only ones that are truly untouched by the deception, since they had no ties to any of the others to begin with, and go to meet the others on the field of battle on their own terms. Some candidates are killed off by the deaths of the Masters, others by the deaths of the Servants. Battles chip away at each other’s strength, and they then take advantage of those, and while those fights never reach the sheer intensity of the Castor fight of the first season, they are nonetheless wonderful to watch. However, halfway through this there was almost no question of who would actually be facing off against each other for the Grail when the time came.

Things don’t tie up entirely. The last two episodes were the most intense, action-wise, as the vast majority of characters were killed off, but small details–like what happened to the grail at the end, the meaning of the knife, etc–are clearly things that are important but it’s unclear why because, as mentioned earlier, they are Fate/Stay night references. It leaves off at a good point, though, and would be an easy jump to make to understand the sequel. Even though I myself am not able to really understand it, I’m sure that when I get around to being able to play the VN, it will all become clear.

Overall, for the most part this was very well-crafted, with great action, interesting characters, and a story that is fascinating. It does have its downside, but if you’re a fan of the series and are familiar with the other titles, then this will not disappoint.

Recommended: 16+. This doesn’t have the implications of absolutely brutal violence that the first season had, yet it still has the blood and death that are a hallmark of a dog-eats-dog competition. The worst is when one man’s veins bulge due to high blood pressure and he begins squirting blood from his veins. Most of it isn’t that graphic or disturbing.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Fate/Zero Season 1 (anime)

Fate/Stay Night (anime or visual novel)

Kara no Kyoukai (anime)

 

“Guns ‘n Roses” – Black Lagoon (anime) -10/10 Sunflowers

Genre: Action/Adventure

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed by Funimation in the US.

Art/Animation: Faaantasitc! The action scenes look terrific, with plenty of smooth animation great action shots to go around. Character designs are pretty standard, but they totally work since all the characters are from different backgrounds. Mixing all the different characters from what you’d usually find in a single series together make them all distinct.

Dub Vs. Sub: While normally a sub fan, the dub for this is absolutely fantastic! Both have some issues where the chosen language trips up due to the

Summary: Rokuro Okajima is meek, mundane, and metropolitan. His business trip to South East Asia turns from pleasure cruise to festival of pain when modern pirates board the ship and take him hostage. Revy, Dutch and Benny are merciless, maniacal, and mean. Together, they make up the crew of the Black Lagoon. Making a living in a city where the most villainous of villains make themselves at home isn’t without its risks, but they take on any job available to them. Smuggling guns, drugs, kidnapped children, and stolen goods is all part of a hard days work. (Funimation.com)

Review: I don’t do action shows. Usually, they involve a lot of explosions, a trite plot, one-dimentional characters, and sexy women. Black Lagoon takes the best of the action genre and takes it up to 11. No longer are the women merely sexy eyecandy – they are as badass as the men and are going to blow the brains out of any guy that dares cross that line. Every main character is as fleshed-out as you can get, with great personalities and interesting backstories. Those backstories aren’t the point of this show, though! It’s all about the adventures these guys go through that bring out the fine points of their personalities and make bonds between them.

As far as plot goes, this is filled with several one-shot or two-episode storylines that could have been utterly ridiculous in any other context, like fighting neo-nazi’s. Yeah, you got me right, at one point they’re fighting Nazis! Sometimes they’redoing retrieval on expensive goods, sometimes they’re settling accounts, sometimes they’re dealing with the local mafias and their politics, but whatever they’re doing there’s sure to be a gunfight and more than a few explosions doing it. That part is the entertainment, but each episode is sprinkled with solid character development, usually in the form of Rock and Revi’s clashing moral and societal standards. They come from two different worlds. Revi’s deliberately vague description of her childhood leaves no doubt that she was raised someplace where there was no place for innocence. Rock has an idealism about him that seems out of place in with the group’s get-what-you-can attitude, and definitely clashed with Revi’s hot-headedness and can see through it – a position that makes Revi more than a little uncomfortable, but she’s now being held to a higher set of standards.

It’s not all about them, though. Some of my favorite lines and scenes are from they’re dark and mysterious leader, Dutch. He’s a fantastic mediator between the two worlds that are clashing on his ship, making sure that they direct their anger towards each other in more productive ways and seeing to it that the business runs smoothly. Benny is the one member that seems almost like an afterthought. He’s more comedic relief than anything, only coming into the picture on certain occasions, but there’s some hints that his backstory is intrinsically tied to the mafia that they’re more often than not beholden to for work. Which brings me to the most awesome mafia on the planet! The Lagoon Company is most often doing runs for the Russian lady Balalaika, and she and her company is not to be messed with. They can (and did) take on their enemies faster than they could blink. All of them are hard-core killers and I hope to see more of them in action in the second season. Some of the assignments Lagoon Company takes on can be filled with their share of equally awesome characters, also, like the maid/assasin that is more than a match for Revi! That was some serious inventiveness; whomever wrote that gets all the cookies.

I can honestly say that I haven’t seen many action movies or shows that can match this in terms of intrigue, characterization, and sheer balls of steel. Most are content to be what they are: expensive special effects and video editing. This dares to be more.

Overall, this is a top-notch action anime, and definitely worth it.

Recommended: 18+. This has a lot of death, onscreen. Some of them are pretty brutal. There is also a decent amount of sexual innuendo, from hookers wandering the streets, to two girls in barely-there outfits (bare breats – detailed – are visible in the scene though it’s a short scene).

Other titles you might enjoy:

Sword of the Stranger (anime)

Firefly (American live-action – YES I am going there. I just finished it and think these two stand on equal grounds of awesome)

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