“Lying Eyes” – Lying Mii-kun And Broken Maa-chan: Precious Lies (manga) – 10/10 Peeps

Mangaka: Hitoma Iruma (Story), Satou Atsuki (Art)

Genre: Mystery/Psychological/Romance

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: No, this manga is unlicensed in the U.S.

Art: This is very much a modern manga, with clean lines, good shading, and solid detail when needed on the characters and background.

Summary: The setting is a rural city in which a kidnapping and a series of murders are happening simultaneously, where there was also a kidnapping 8 years ago. The victims, the compulsive liar “Mii-kun” (the narrator), and “Maa-chan” (Misono Mayu) reunite and start living together, despite of the fact that the kidnapped children were in Mayu’s apartment… (MAL.net)

Review: If you can’t tell by the title, this is all about lies. The lies we tell others, the lies we tell ourselves, all the lies that we can fill our lives with. This is told via an unreliable narrator, so not only do the characters lie (and lie, and lie some more), but each chapter reveals how we assume things about how stories work and shows us how wrong we can be about what’s happening. It’s a brilliantly executed idea, letting the story reveal in bits and pieces what’s really happening and never letting on about it from the beginning.

The characters are as engaging as the method of storytelling. This revolves around two missing children. Who took them? Why? It turns out that there’s a whole lot of trauma and terror behind the events. The names of the characters should also be major hints of what’s happening – Maa-chan is broken by a horrific past. It’s no secret that the police have their eyes on her because of it. Mii-kun ends up her accomplice, lying to protect her and himself. Lies are a powerful force in this story and often drive their motives and actions. The lies they tell also end up revealing a lot about them (doubly surprising since lies are usually meant to hide things) and what is going on between these two.

This is a story I would happily pay someone to translate the light novels for. This manages a compelling story about two characters that are broken, twisted human beings, driven to actions by forces that were beyond their control and in some ways are still unable to stop. Top that off with managing to upset the normal form for storytelling in a clever – nay, ingenious – way that connects with the title, and I’ve found a winner!

Overall, this is a manga that I can’t help but recommend!

Recommended: 16+. This deals with some very, very harsh themes. Child abuse and murder are the order of the day. There’s nothing particularly gruesome shown, but the implication is more than enough. There’s also a good deal of blood shown even if the outright violence is avoided as much as possible.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Liar Game (manga)

Kimi no Knife (manga)

“Crime And Genius Detectives” – Young Miss Holmes (manga) – 8/10 Desks

Mangaka: Kaoru Shintani

Genre: Mystery/Historical/Shoujo

Review Status: Incomplete (2 Volumes/7 volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this series is licensed in the US.

Art: The character designs look like a throwback to the 90’s, but with less detail in the backgrounds and simpler line art. I’m fond of how the girls look, but the men? They just look strange and emaciated. It has a strange effect on the overall appearance. Overall I’m okay with it, but it could be better.

Summary: Christie Holmes is a prodigy. At ten years old, she’s as familiar with the sciences and classics as any older student at Cambridge or Oxford. And her fascility with logic is reminiscent of her uncle., the eminent Sherlock Holmes himself. So, what’s a brilliant yhoung girl to do when her parents are away in India, leaving her behind in the care of maids and servants? Why, solve mysteries, of course. Along with her giant hound Nelson, Christie’s implacable curiosity leads her from one dangerous adventure to another, often joining forces with her Uncle Sherlock and Doctor Watson on their famed investigations. Christie may look pint-sized, bet her clever mind is never to be underestimated! (back cover of first volume)

Review: Young Miss Holmes is a very interesting title. It’s one of the critic’s darlings, a new manga that is just as much fanfiction as it is a geniune story in it’s own right. Why fanfiction? Well, this takes a character that never existed (several, really, when accounting for the fact that to make Christie the niece of Sherlock, the give Sherlock a younger sister) and inserts her into a well-established story, including inserting her into a few of Holmes’ actual cases! This might tick off original fans of the Holmes series, but if you can handle a little bit of creative license then this is a decently entertaining series.

I really don’t think the series hit its stride until the third case she was on. The first had virtually no detective work on Christie’s part; She was really only in the story for the ride as her uncle spouted off what happened and how they were going to recover the jewel. One of my peeves about manga is that I much prefer the show-don’t-tell approach for stories since this is a visual medium. If I want to read a book, I’ll read a book. It’s also the least exciting or interesting mystery of them all, with Christie merely sitting in a chair to fool the criminal. It just wasn’t a good start at all.

The second case was better than that – putting her into the infamous Redheaded League case – and the third was even better than that! Not only did we start getting a solid look into Christie’s life, but the case is far more interesting and better set-up. It felt far more like aHolmes story, with an actual investigation and look at the facts and scene of the crime. And the revelation is very similar to how the Homes stories are! I was very impressed with the ingeniuty the mangaka showed with it. Not only that, but it really started to showcase Christie as her own character and not just a side commentator. or a brat shoehorned in just for the heck of it. She’s looking for approval from an uncle that she admires more than anyone else in the world, and is dealing with a case of absentee parentism, which wasn’t that unusual back in the day (wow, an actual historical reason to get the parents out of the picture instead of just having them gone! So great!). In their place is a bevy of servants that need to reign in a precocious girl that could outsmart them all in a heartbeat. One woman who’s sent in as her tutor has to find ingenius ways of teaching her social niceties while her charge dives headfirst into soling mysteries. I also love the two maidservants that are Christie’s main… well, lackeys, for lack fo a better word. One is a down-home girl that can weild a whip but is less than refined, while the other is a fairly religious and proper maidservant… that isn’t afriad to whip out a gun if Christie is in any danger. They provide a fairly standard but amusing duo and comedic relief to the series.

As fun as the story got in the third case, the standards fell just a little more in the 4th. Unfortunately, this was a crossover with the manga Dance in the Vampire Bund, which means that this mystery had a geniunely supernatural element to it which I wasn’t ecstatic about. I thought the mystery and characters involved were just fascinating – seeing Christie inadvertantly make a friend was so adorable! – but since this is supposed to be Sherlock Holmes, I could have done without this extra element to attract those of the other series. Knowing the content of the other series, I also don’t feel compelled to read it, either. Whatever my feelings on this are, though, it was still a far sight better than the initial two chapters, so I feel that this will continue to be a good read in later volumes.

Overall, it seems to be off to a rocky start, but since it’s getting better and better as the story goes on I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Recommended: 10+. If you think your kid can handle Muder, She Wrote, then they can handle the content in here. There are two scenes of dead bodies: you don’t get close-ups on them or the wounds. you just see enough blood to show that they’re dead.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Sherlock Hound (anime)

“Come Fly With Me” – Hatoful Boyfriend (Visual Novel) – 10/10 Desks

Come live in my heart, and pay no rent. ~Samuel Lover

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Romance/School/Mystery/Horror

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, it’s licensed and available for download here. It does cost $5.

Art/Animation: The art looks great! While it’s mostly pictures of various birds, their human pics looks great and very professional, and the backgrounds are wonderfully rendered. The various transitions are done great – perfectly timed, appropriate for the situation – and all in all, I really have absolutely no complaints in this department.

Summary: You’re a new student – the human representative – at St. Pigeonation, a prestigious school for birds. You attend classes, fall in love with your fellow students, and as you unlock more options in the game, discover there’s more to the school and students than meets the eye.

Review: This is defintiely one of the most unique VNs I’ve come across. I mean, a dating sim with pigeons? How does that even work?! Shockingly enough, it does, and rather well. One thing that helped were the character pics that showed up – I liked having the human equivalent up there on screen to make is ever-so-slightly less odd. I mean, interspecies romance is more than a little strange, even in VNs. But somehow, this makes it work – all the characters are pretty unique and interesting (well, okay, they fill otome game stereotypes, but the various interactions and the interesting scenarios make it more memorable).

I’m fond of all the characters, from the wacky Okosan to the debonair Yuuya. And yes – each and every character you encounter has a possible romantic ending! Though for one character, it won’t be with you. Not all the character ends are available at the beginning; You need to play through the five classmates and teacher before you get more options. Just make sure you go through all the credits! When you get to the ending picture, it will load in your gallery and count as another step to unlocking the next part.

What really is the driving force in Hatoful Boyfriend is the plot. The more character endings you do, the more clues you get that the school isn’t all that it seems to be. Strange plots and sinister characters abound. Murder is the order of the day in some of them… and not always that of strangers. The unlockable chapters are the ones that can get outright freaky, but the highlight of it all is the BBL stage! That is where things are taken out of your character’s POV and you play as one of the other characters, and the whole secrecy and story behind the school comes out. It’s both awesome, terrifying, and one of the best stories I’ve played in VNs! Two thumbs up all the way! It was entirely unexpcted but a fantastic ending to a great game. And bittersweet, to boot. I thought just the right tone and dialogue really made this storyline.

Overall, it’s a strange premise, but a wonderfully great play.

Recommended: Uh, we’re going to go with 16+. While you never *see* any of the terrible, gruesome things described, it can be pretty bad. Your character can be (is) killed in a few options. And you have t go through them to get to the BBL ending.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Honestly, this is so unique I just can’t put anything here. It’s a great VN! Check it out!

“Ribbon In My Hair” – Ribbon of Green (Visual Novel) – 9/10 Sunflowers

The death of a friend is equivalent to the loss of a limb. ~ German Proverb

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is fre for download on Ren’Py

Art/Animation: The art looks very good. The colors are deep and vibrant, and the character art is some of the best I’ve seen in a free VN.

Summary: A friend meets you in the park about a very serious matter. But she has a secret about why she’s so urgent about helping you.

Review: As short as this is, I have to admit this is one of the better visual novels I’ve played. It’s story is simple: a girl is trying to get her friend out of her depression and goingback to school. There’s an underlying desperation in her actions, and a background behind it all that is never really explored. The background isn’t that important, though. What is important is whether she succeeds at helping her friend. There are two endings to this: you either get out of the depression or you don’t. Either way, there’s a whole lot of tragedy in what she’s trying to do, and if you reach the good ending, it’s bittersweet.

The dialogue is very good, and I was completely drawn in to these characters. I’ve been depressed, myself, and know the funk that comes with being down. I have also been on the other end, coaching another out of it and providing a shoulder when needed. Cmbining that with solid story development, I can’t help but really like this, and am definitely will be playing it again! Both endings really got me, and I am hard to impress like that. I usually favor one ending over another, but both of them ended up being fairly satisfying.

Overall, this is a great short visual novel, and a lovely story about a friend trying to save another from going down her path.

Recommended: 14+. There is suicide, even if it’s only mentioned.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Ano Hana (anime)

“Another Side Of Me” – Perfect Blue (anime) – 10/10 Hotsprings

Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal. ~Bishop Robert South

Genre: Psychological/Horror/Thriller/Mystery

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: This has typical Satoshi Kon character designs, which means it’s more realistic art than

Dub Vs. Sub: I only watched the sub.

Summary: Pop singer Mima Kirigoe looks forward to a bright new career when she quits her chart-topping trio to become an actress. When she lands a role in a sexually-charged murder mystery, Mima’s life begins to fall apart.  Reality and hallucinations merge into a terrifying world where innocence is lost and dreams become nightmares.

Quickly decending into a dangerous state of paranoid delusions, Mima watches as Internet sites appear describing every intimate detail of her life.  She is helpless and afraid as her associates are threatened and killed by a mysterious stalker. (Rightstuf.com)

Review: Self-doubt is common when we make big decisions, and that becomes the lynchpin for this mystery: Mima’s self-doubt about her career and whether she’s doing the right thing. She’s making a big change from pop idol to tv star, and that means she needs to start from scratch. Her music won’t help her, she’s going it alone, and even one of her agents has big doubts about this career move.

Seeing things begin to spiral out of control is one of the best parts about this. Strange faxes and an unusual internet page give her the inklings that something’s wrong, but it isn’t until a letter bomb goes off that she realizes that things are taking a turn for the worse. This slightly dates itself in how it handles the internet  – she doesn’t know how to use one or really how to access a computer – but even with small things like that, it still makes for an interesting story. As in many of Satoshi Kon’s later works, imagination and reality begin to blend into a mind-bending mess, and it’s glorious to behold.

She gains a split-personality, a reflection of herself that wants nothing more than to return to the stage, and goes off happily on her own to do so. The question is whether it was just her imagination, or whether she herself is showing up at events to perform. And then it gets worse, with a series of murders taking down everyone associated with her tv career. She can no longer tell if she’s the one who did them or not, especially when she’s cornered and thought she left her assailent alive… but he’s disappeared. Mima is confused and scared and utterly sympathizeable. She has virtually no one to turn to since she’s living alone in the big city. Her isolation makes a great backdrop as she comes to think that she’s behind everything…. and the realization of what’s going on all the more terrifying.

The revelation probably shouldn’t have been as interesting as it was, but there were few clues and the psychosis that was happening on screen really made it hard to really discern what was reall happening. At the same time, i really drove home how unsure Mima was of herself and how that played into how she was seeing the world. I was impressed with how it was presented and can tell what influenced later works like Paprika. The very ending, though, manages to bring her to a cautious acceptance of what was happening and how comfortable she was with herself, though it’s obvious she’ll have a long way to go after.

Overall, this is one of the best thrillers I’ve seen, very engaging and interesting.

Recommended: 18+. There is murder, some of the deaths onscreen. Thankfully the most gorey parts are offscreen. The amount of blood isn’t over-the-top. There is a rape scene depicted (she shoots it for her new job, it’s not actually rape), but you do see her bare breasts. There is also some partial-to-full nudity when she’s manipulated into taking off her clothes for an unscrupulous photographer – her former singing group decides not to warn her about this. It doesn’t devolve into sex, but several of the photos are very revealing.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Monster (anime and manga)

Paranoia Agent (anime)

Millennium Actress (anime)

“A Spirit, A Soul” – Ghost Hound (anime) – 8/10 Pencils

I figure I basically am a ghost. I think we all are. ~John Astin

Genre: Spiritual/Supernatural/Psychological/Mystery

Review Status: Complete (22 Episodes/22 Episodes)

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

Art/Animation: The character designs are fairly typical for around this time, with bug eyes and small facial features, making them look flat and young. This uses a dark and subdued palatte for almost all the scenes, though, which fits with the general tone. The CG is pretty obvious and not very well-integrated in most places, but the scenes it’s in are very effective nonetheless. The animation is pretty average, but that’s okay- it’s not an action title.

Dub Vs Sub: The dub isn’t half-bad. I was more impressed the longer I listened. For an anime that depends so much on medical terminology and spiritual explanations, this is remarkably accurate to the subs and gets all the information across very clearly and in a way that can easily be understood. The VAs chosen also managed to fit their roles very well. The sub is also very good.

Summary: When he was three, Taro Komori and his sister were kidnapped, but the kidnapper was run over and killed before the ransom could be delivered. The police eventually found Taro, but not before his sister had died. Eleven years later, Taro still has nightmares of the events surrounding the kidnapping and is haunted by a tall, featureless specter. Now, Taro searches for answers in the Hidden Realm, but something sinister is brewing there. The spirits are restless and a malevolent ghost is appearing with increasing frequency. In the “real” world, an out of favor religious cult is finding dozens of new converts, especially among the high ranking politicians. And just what the scientists at Dai Nippon Bio are up to is a question in need of an answer. Can Taro and his friends find the answers they need in time to save their friends and families? (back of dvd cover)

Review: How does someone deal with severe trauma at a young age? Taro really hasn’t, in a way. His mother is caught in a world where his sister is perpetually mourned, his father hasn’t considered who would inherite the sake brewery they owned, and he is plagued by nightmares of what happened. The only thing that has really moved on is that he’s gotten older. His life is the dream-like aftermath of a terrible incident… except for something very peculiar. What he’s unwilling to really tell his psychiatrist is that his dreams don’t only consist of his sister – there’s a art of him that flies. He can see anything, go anywhere in town, and no one can see him. Except for a young girl that takes notice.

Two stories start building at that point. One is the story of the girl and her strange abilities and the ties that she might have to the spirits of the mountain. The other is that of Taro and two classmates that come together, bonded in ways that they’re all unaware of, who realize that what’s happening to them is something that signals something bigger is coming and don’t know what it is or how to stop it.

One of his friends at first seems like nothing more than an obnoxious transfer student who doesn’t know how to keep his nose out of things that aren’t any of his business. He digs into Taro’s little secret – about both his sister and his astral projection – and decides for the heck of it he’ll try to becme friends with the school delinquent, who’s father is rumored to have been involved in Taro and his sister’s kidnapping and his sister’s subsequent death. All three are the most unlikely friends, but it works. Makoto feels a sense of guilt because of his father’s susicious actions and suicide, as well as feeling ostracized from this only living family since his aunt is the priestess of a cult. Nakajima is holding closely his own secret guilt as well. Their interest in Taro’s strange ability and the realization they have it as well lead them to explore the spiritual world around them and to try and discover the roots of what’s eating at the town around them.

Things aren’t good there, with strange spirits creating havoc (closely connected with what Nakajima’s father is involved in). Their investigations lead into a grand consiracy of all this leads to leads on why Taro and his sister were really kidnapped, what the horrible things at the new biotech company are really about, and what the cult really is about. All in all, it’s a vast conspiracy, with family disputes and struggles blending in with the spiritual turmoil that’s changing things.

What makes things doubly interesting is that each episode is titles with a psychology term that actualy ties in with the theme of the episode and what would be considered the ‘preview’ section is given over to various explanations and theories with in psychology. And really, psychology and how the mind works factors into this very strongly. They are all looking for their own identities, and want others to take notice. If I had to give a theme for this anime, it would be ‘identity’.

This really runs with it, and does it amazingly well up until the end of the series. The last three episodes start to take it beyond the realm of belief, without firm explanations for several phenomena, and ends quite anticlimactically. Most of the important plot threads were wrapped up, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from scratching my head at others. But it was brought to a conclusion, and the very ending was really rather sweet. For a story that was first concieved of in 1987, this was pulled off very memorably. I have no idea why it took 20 years to be created and aired, but it was very worthwhile!

Overall, while not all the questions were answered and without any real climax, this is definitely an intriguing look at people, memory, the mind, and what it means to be yourself.

Recommended: 16+. This has some disturbing imagery, from seeing the body of a dead girl, to seeing her ‘awaken’, to strange spirits that are menacing. Taro’s family owns a sake brewery, so there is some discussion about that.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Kaiba (anime)

Serial Experiments Lain (anime)

Dennou Coil (anime)

Hell Girl (anime)

“Extra! Extra!” – Another (anime) – 4/10 Sunbeams

Human history is the sad result of each one looking out for himself. ~Julio Cortazar

Genre: Supernatural/Mystery/Horror/School

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed by Sentai Filmworks and is currently available for viewing on Crunchyroll.

Art/Animation: This looks pretty darn good. The colors are vibrant and the dark tones are used appropriately. It’s never too dark to see what’s happening onscreen. And the animation is very fluid, for the most part. I can think of one scene or two where it falls below-par, but overall it’s very smooth and well-done.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub at this point.

Summary: That class in the school held a secret that nobody must speak of…Spring, 1998. When Kouichi Sakakibara (15) transfers to Yomiyama North Middle School, he senses something out of place in the atmosphere of a class that seems to be afraid of something. Kouichi is drawn to a mysterious girl, Mei Misaki, and tries to make contact with her, only to find more mysteries. As he does, the class is stricken by a disaster that nobody could have imagined! Just what is going on in this “world”? (Crunchyroll.com)

Review: Another has been a small phenomena in the anime community, a true supernatural mystery not unlike Ghost Hunt, but managing to be far more brutal in execution (sorry, bad pun!) than that show ever was. For me, this show started out on a pretty high note, with a boy who’s been hospitalized and has no memory of having lived in the town before, while his classmates come and visit. There’s something that they’re not telling him, but what could it be?

From there on, it goes downhill. This works far better as a survival anime than a mystery one. It’s really not that difficult to figure out who’s going to die; the first three people even have a little ‘tell’ for it. There was only one character death I was genuinely surprised by. This anime made it by purely on how brutal the deaths were. The moment I stopped focusing on that, it was a matter of figuring out who the person was through the clues presented in each episode. And believe me, they are there from the beginning, but it’s easy to be distracted by the red herrings that the characters keep focusing on and throwing out. Even I got sidetracked one or twice, but then something popped up that got me back on track.

The grand finale was pretty inevitable, from the very announcement of the class trip. Unfortunately, that last episode was so bad that it actually had me laughing. A lot of these deaths are supposed to be horrible and shocking, but instead it seemed like a terrible parody of movies like Final Destination. I don’t care if it makes me a terrible person, but I was laughing during it. When the boodbath is over things got resolved pretty quickly and rather unsatisfactorily. The amnesia that was implied in the first episode ends up being a convenient Deus Ex Machina in order to let this mystery play out.

The characters make this far more tolerable. While there are a good amount of stereotypes, they’re pushed to the limits of changing by the events that are going on. That’s where this show really works; seeing all the characters being driven to paranoia and near-insanity by the stress of the deaths and finding a way out. As logical and foregone as that ending was, it was still fascinating to see their psyche’s breaking.

One of the main characters did drive me up the wall, though. At first this character seemed to be perfectly sympathetic. However, the complete inaction – indeed, complete indifference – to the suffering of this character’s classmates once the key to ending the deaths was discovered made me hate her with a vengeance. Who’s more guilty of a murder – the person who commits it or the person who does nothing to stop it? That’s pretty key in whether you’ll be okay with this character overall. Since it’s a main character, that will probably effect how you feel about the rest of the anime.

This still will be a good anime for those who aren’t as quick to pick up on the keys to telling who’s going to die. There are enough wrong leads and mistakes made by the characters that those who aren’t watching closely will be genuinely surprised, and the deaths will only enhance that effect. It doesn’t change how unlikeable one of the mains is, or how Deus Ex Machina the amnesia turns out to be, but it will affect what you decide to rate it.

Overall, poor characterization and a virtually nonexistant mystery make this a sad excuse for an anime.

Recommended: 16+. This has some very brutal deaths, from people being impaled and stabbed and thrown out a window. You do see the deaths and they are somewhat graphic. It’s mostly blood and no gore, but still horrific.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (anime and manga)

Shiki (anime and manga)

Jigoku Shoujo (anime)

Paranoia Agent (anime)

Arisa (manga)

“The Time Is Ours” – The Hour of the Mice (manga) – 8/10 Snowballs


Mangaka: Kei Toume

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Psychological/Seinen

Review Status: Complete (4 Volume/4 Volumes)

Licensed: This manga is not licensed in the US.

Art: While the art does have some distinct manga-style characteristics, this tones it down to a more realistic level, much like Satoshi Kon or Naoki Urasawa’s work does. There is some great symbolic work in some of the scenes (we never see the faces of parents, for instance).

Summary: Maki Takano and his three best friends Ryo, Natsume and Mei are students at a private academy for highly gifted children. Like all the other students of this isolated and heavily guarded school, they have never seen the outside world since they were brought to the school at the young age of three.

When a new female student named Kiriko Hinatsu arrives, Maki has the strange feeling that he has met her before. However, he seems to be the only person who can remember the girl. When he confronts her with his discovery, Kiriko reveals the unbelievable truth about their existence: The school they have been living at all this time is actually an experimental facility and all the students are but guinea pigs who are being used for sophisticated neurological experiments.

Maki now has to decide: Will he continue his false but sheltered life or will he help Kiriko escape even if that means putting himself and his mental health at risk? (Kotonoha)

Review: The name, Hour of the Mice, will probably give you the impression that this is about mice, or that it’s a frantic escape story. Neither is correct. This is about mice, in the form of students that are experimental subjects, and it is about their escape into a new world, but this is more than the sum of its parts. Taken apart, this manga is fairly shallow and predictable. Kiriko is at the school right from the start, throwing the initial story’s vaguely uneasy tone into one of mystery. The students that follow her down the proverbial rabbit hole are characters that lack any particular depth, filling roles that were assigned them from the beginning, from Mei, the wishy-washy and clingy one, to Maki, the one who goes headstrong into the unknown. They play out these parts as could be expected, in a story that is predictable to a certain point.

It’s the plot that brings out what this story is really about- people. People and the past. These characters play out these themes in an emotionally-charged drama. Everything else is just mere trappings for showing how the past always affects us, how humans can be overcome by it, how weak we are when things truly must change- and how hard that change can be.

Hour of the Mice doesn’t do it this at once. This paces things so that the buildup of suspense is slow, with small things giving way to the bigger things that are going on. The next thing to happen might be obvious, but how it happens isn’t. The ties between characters and events seem obvious in hindsight, are occasionally obvious from the beginning, but the changes in them and the growth (or lack thereof) are often not. There are no grand revelations about life or anything like that, and I appreciated being able to draw my own conclusions from it.

Overall, this is something that might make you think about your own past, and it’s a good read for it.

Recommended: 13+. This deals a lot with drugs: the abuse of pharmaceuticals, the creation of illegal ones, etc. There is implied murder, and one character attempts suicide. There’s no gore, just a natural death, and the image of bandages on the wrist.

Other titles you might enjoy:

After School Nightmare (manga)

Arisa (manga)

Tokarev no Ayaui Shiro (manga)

“Frozen In Time” – Frozen Essence (VN) – 8/10 Black Cats

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates. ~Thomas Szasz

Genre: Mystery/Romance/Fantasy/Action/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: It’s licensed and free for download at http://games.renpy.org/

Art/Animation: Not too shabby! The art is clean, vibrant, and nice to look at. There’s a large variety of character designs and nice backgrounds. It’s not as professional-looking as it could be, but there’s very little to complain about. This being a VN, there’s really no animation to speak of, but the transitions are very nice. My only issue was with the ‘slap’ effect- it was far too often and in some inappropriate places for the story. I was quite annoyed by it by the end.

Voice Acting: There are no voices in this, just the dialogue and background music.

Summary: You play a girl that has been trapped for 1000 years, but is suddenly released from her prison of ice. When she wakes, she has no memory of what happened or who she is. With three guardians and an oracle that make it their business to protect her, she tries to discover who she is and what happened so long ago…

Review: This is a full-on VN, with many endings and an interesting storyline. The thing is that when you have more than one path to follow, you not only need to make the beginning interesting (and it is), you need to make each and every potential path have something to draw you in. This VN has them. With 14 different endings, you need them! There are so many choices that affect what is going to happen to you. There are certain things you need to do to get certain paths, and the variety of choices and events that happen based on them and when you choose them is astonishing!

Each path involves you getting close to another character. Each path has unique things revealed about the story, and you will learn about the pasts of those around you as you get their paths. Getting the paths in the first place can be an… interesting experience. Some are far easier than others. Some require some smart thinking for your choices. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell which path your choice will lead to. But regardless of the path you choose, you will discover more about the circumstances surrounding your identity.

Each person you choose for your path is well-developed. Some are great guys. Some… not so much. You can’t tell who is and isn’t until you’ve pursued their paths. It fleshes them out in terrific ways, and they’re all quite different and unique to each other. Their paths are as varied as the characters. Some of the good ends are downright gloomy, while the bad ends can get dark. There are some good ends that I wasn’t entirely fond of, to be honest, because they seemed as dark as the bad ones in their own way. That’s okay, and the variety of paths means that I am okay with that. There’s always another one to check out.

Overall, despite some of the issues with transitions, and the occasional repetitiveness of gameplay at certain points, this is one of the best free VNs out there- definitely worth playing.

13+. There is some mentions of being grabbed inappropriately and some rude comments, there is also the risk of death/imprisonment/etc for you and for other characters.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle (manga)
Hanasakeru Seishounen (anime)
Ouran Host Club (anime and manga)
Fuushigi Yugi (anime and manga)
Ayashi no Ceres (anime and manga)

“The Art of Life” – Gallery Fake (anime) – 9/10 Pumpkin Pies

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Genre: Mystery/Seinen

Review Status: Complete (37 Episodes/37 Episodes)
Licensed: No, this anime is not licensed in the US

Quite good. The color palette made me think that it was a little older than it is, but the animation is excellent, and the art can be breathtaking at times, especially when special attention is paid to the paintings that are featured.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub.

Summary: Reiji Fujita is the proprietor of Gallery Fake, a gallery that specializes in fakes and fraudulent art. However, he’s no ordinary dealer and scalawag- he genuinely loves art, and will do what he can to get his art to those who will enjoy it. As a former worker at the Met, he knows his stuff, and shows it off. With a girl that’s in love with him and a rival curator that would like to shut him down, life is always exciting for him!

Review: Art class is dreaded by many- and I’m not talking about the ones where you actually get to paint and draw. How exciting can a class covering the history and importance of certain works be? This is the anime world’s response to this- very exciting. This manages to weave human drama with the artwork, giving them importance that would otherwise be overlooked and ignored, and mixes it with a touch of adventure and drama. It helps that this has one of the catchiest, classiest openings I’ve heard in a while- an immediate hook for me!

At first, Reiji comes off as a smooth operator. He has little compunction in holding a gun and shooting if necessary, and knows a dozen tips and tricks in order to get what he wants. When he’s going for a piece of art, he is at his finest, knowing exactly what he’s looking for and able to tell the best from the rest. The rest of the time… maaaybe not so much! He’s thrown off-guard and kept on his toes by his young assistant Sara, who also happens to be in love with him.

The further into the anime you get, the more of their relationship is revealed, and the more you root for them to get together. The recurring characters that show up are also interesting in their own right. There’s the jewel thief with a passion for unusual art, and the curator that both respects Fujita’s knowledge and skill but is frustrated by his dabble in illegal activities. Her respect and fondness for him grows over time into a good friendship.

These characters get into all sorts of trouble and events. There’s action, from having to restore a painting during a plane hijacking, a kidnapping of the descendent of a famous subject of a portrait, a race to prevent an art theft, and even the discovery of a lost city in the Amazon. There’s the human drama, from a painting that reveals the love of a father for his estranged and grieving daughter, to the restoration painter that desperately needs to save an inheritance, and even touches on Fujita’s family’s past. There are even episodes that are just fun, like the one about a mechanical crab.

All the while, little bits of information about paintings and painters are sprinkled in. It gives it a feeling of authenticity, and never feels truly boring. I think my own appreciation of art was deepened because it’s given in such a way that it’s hard not to find merit in the paintings and painters they present.

Overall, except for some blatant and terrible emotional manipulation in one episode, this is a fabulous anime.

Recommended: 15+. There only one f-bomb dropped during an episode that features Vietnam and the Vietnam war (due to how this is depicted, it might be wise to watch this away from any relatives with sensitivities to the war) with barely any minor swears during the rest of it. There is some violence- one man gets shot in the arm, a girl is kidnapped, and in the war episode, there are people depicted being attacked and some bodies are shown. Discretion is used in these shots, so no one is actually seen killed, but there are shots of people that are close to photographs taken during that period. Someone gets stabbed in the back, and you see his back covered in blood.

There is one shot of a woman in a bathtub- I didn’t realize what was happening until later in the episode, but apparently she is masturbating, Everything is covered, though, and it’s not obvious. In another episode, the same woman has sex with a boarder, and this is depicted briefly though not pornographically or blatantly. It also seems that she has some sort of S&M relationship with her butler, who’s in love with her. There is one scene of fanservice where Fujita looks at a woman’s bikini-clad behind, and the camera does zoom in on it. Two scenes depict couples in bed together, completely covered by the sheets.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Bartender (anime and manga)
Master Keaton (anime)
Detective Conan (anime and manga)

Previous Older Entries