Review: Ghost Stories

Honestly, just never let these guys make up their own dialogue. Things just get…strange.


So…Ghost Stories.  The franchise has one of the strangest trajectories of any anime I’ve ever seen.  It comes from an older book series from Toru Tsunemitsu and recapped, well, stories about ghosts.  Simple as that.  Then the franchise spun into movies.  Family friendly horror movies.  I…don’t know what they were thinking there.  Fast forward to 2000.  The series continued into an anime aimed at children and came from fairly strong pedigree under the flag of both Pierrot and Aniplex.  Both have large franchises to their name with the former producing well-known shonen demographic anime such as Naruto and Bleach and the latter producing the Full Metal Alchemist franchise.  So we have the stage set for another franchise to come in.  But it never did.  The reasoning appears lost in time but production ended after 20 episodes.  I’d hesitate a guess that there was intention for a franchise given the episodic nature but I have no proof of that.

This is where things take a turn for the weird.  Most series just die at this point but not Ghost Stories.  2005 rolls around and ADV Films, against all expectations, announces they’ll translate and release Ghost Stories.  That isn’t strange enough for this story and they basically received full artistic licence to do whatever they felt with the anime, barring a few exceptions (thanks for the link Wikipedia.  It’s a good listen.).

And with that in mind…the anime becomes a pure and raw “abridged” series.   My writing isn’t entirely clear, but abridged series are a complete parody of their original material.  All officially produced through a dub.  Experiments in this field exist previously, most famously in Samurai Pizza Cats, but I can’t think of an instance where the company licensing out basically signed off on all the changes made by the dubbing organization; most translations go the other way.

As the video link above notes, this anime became a strange mix of ad-lib dialogue, anime tropes, and black humour.  All the major voice actors received writing credit for this anime primarily because the script basically didn’t exist until recording.

The basic framework of my reviews kind of fail at covering the basic concepts for reviewing Ghost Stories and I’m only reviewing the dubbed version.  Let’s try anyways though.


The dubbed narrative retains the same framework as the original version of Ghost Stories.

Ten-year old Satsuki Miyanoshita is moving into a new town.  Her father, for whatever reason, decided to move back to the his wife’s home town.  Well, ex-wife I guess seeing as she died.  Anyways, the Satsuki and her younger brother Keiichirou meet the next door neighbour, a ten-year old boy.  He’s Hajime Aoyama and it turns out he attends the same school (and is in the same class) as Satsuki.  Due to a very strange and awkward occurrence with Satsuki’s family cat (Kaya), Satsuki, Keiichirou, Hajime, and his friend Leo end up heading into an abandoned schoolhouse before their first day of school.  There they meet an older student from the same school, Momoko Koigakubo, and the five proceed to explore the abandoned school.  That’s when they find ghosts.

Turns out Satsuki’s mother spent far too much time of her childhood fighting ghosts and trapping them in…things.  And these things are now getting destroyed as the town undergoes renovations.  But hope isn’t lost as she left behind a diary full of pretty pictures and a description of how she captured each ghost.  It’s through this book that they defeat their first enemy, Amanojaku, and capture him…in the body of Kaya.   Now it’s up to this intrepid group of five, and occasionally Amanojaku, to save the town from the other ghosts roaming the city as they are slowly awoken by the loss of whatever was holding them down.

I’m not sure how many cliches there are in that above paragraph but I’m far too lazy to count.

It’s quite obvious based on the open-ended nature of the narrative above but the entire nature of this series is entirely episodic; every adventure pretty much opens and closes within the span of 25 minutes and you know every villain (well, ghost) will appear and defeated within the same length of time.  You could view episodes 2 through 19 without any clue to proceed and not get confused in the narrative.  This gives the distinct impression that Ghost Stories originally came in as a filler based franchise: that they could produce an endless stream of Ghost Stories episodes with no conceivable end.

There’s not much else to discuss in narrative…so I’ll leave of this section for dialogue choices.

It’s pretty much like this.

The dialogue…well, like the image above describes, it’s dark humour.  It lives and dies off cross the concept of comment decency.  A good number of punch lines purely run off the idea that these are ten-year old children.  That piece of dialogue?  It’s actually in the dub and is certainly on the tamer side of things Hajime says.  Let’s put it this way: Mel Gibson had an infamous rant about Jewish people.  Greg Ayres, who voices Leo, expressed displeasure that production wrapped up a couple of weeks before the dubbing sessions ended since they could have referenced it during that last episode.

Not only is the humour dark but it targets everybody.  Racial humour, homosexual humour, sexual humour, religion…all it’s acceptable and utilized in the series.  And they cross the line on it several times.  It should go without saying that anybody offended by any type of humour probably wants out right away.  Ayres in that other link that there were some topics they weren’t touching…but those are pretty limited.  Almost everything’s a target.  This aspect begins taking over more and more as the series progresses.  The final 5 episodes don’t bother with a censor for swears and the script has a tonne of fun with that.

A lot of humour also exists from references to then current American culture; the dub occurred in the summer of 2005 and the anime will routinely show this.  The 2002 Hollywood movie Signs gets routine mention and references as does the Bush administration (US president in that time period) at the time.  You might be hard pressed to catch every joke if you are not acutely aware of American culture at the time.  Signs, for example, might be difficult to understand since not everyone is aware of the movie’s existence of the often mocked nature of the aliens in the movie.

There’s also a segment of the dialogue which exists to poke fun at Ghost Stories‘ cliche filled narrative.  Characters routinely point out similarities between ghosts they are facing and more common and well-known media pieces.  For example, they draw connections to The Ring and The Grudge several times.  This anime actually utilizes fourth wall breaking a great deal and characters routinely reference episodes (and at one point even their two-dimensional nature by claiming they are breaking the third wall).

I must also express a little softness to some general humour.  The concept of lull destruction exists and they utilize it often when the dubbing team adds in dialogue to screw around with the seriousness of a scene.  One scene has a ghost levitating up some stairs.  The original version treats is completely serious with nothing but music and sound effects.  The dub instead has the ghost shout “Wheeee!” as it climbs.  It’s absolutely unexpected but a great piece of humour and adds to the overall fun of the anime.


This is even harder to write that the above.  The characters are intentionally flat and they even reference any time a character actually changes in any way.  It goes along with the entire package of parodying the typical Saturday morning series.  Every character also plays off a specific quirk and exaggerate it to no end.  Hajime being perverted, Leo being Jewish, Keiichirou being completely dumb, and Momoko having an absolutely unshakable faith in anything Christian…the script throws them all together into some strange concoction of character iteration with humour spitting out the sides of it as they attempt to navigate the episode.  Satsuki is the closest thing there is in this anime to a “straight man”…the character others play their insanity off of to highlight their insanity.  She also has her eccentricities and limits to her own sanity but the most common jokes with regards to her either highlight the other characters’ nature or play off the shock factor of her being a ten-year old girl saying fairly…adult things.


The animation is…not good for lack of a better term.  It keeps fairly standard practice for the early 2000’s era but also utilized a lower budget than other anime and the effects are quite obvious.  I would have guessed the series as around 1996 to 1998 based on the animation alone.  The style is very consistent with mid-to-late 90’s animation in terms of shading and it uses a lot of distance shots and faces turning away from the screen in order to reduce the animation load.  It’s also quite obvious that they used a great deal of model work while animating as character end up in completely awkward positions throughout the anime.  The dub naturally lampshades this.

There are some good moments despite the above commentary.  Later episodes got higher attention to animation and there were some moments when it even exceeded my expectations for the era.  Not only do the monsters begin taking on more horror-based appearances but they become more fluid and uncanny.  This is certainly another reason to hold out for the later episodes while watching this anime…the jokes get looser and the animation better.

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

There’s very little sound.  Very little.  You got me?  I counted probably 7 or 8 pieces that they recycle throughout the anime and one of them is a simple copy of the Psycho “scare” chords.  The pieces feel very reminiscent of 90’s anime and might even remind you a bit of how other Saturday morning series utilize music.  It’s not a great mix and it wears itself thin while you walk through 20 episodes.  There’s nothing groundbreaking and honestly doesn’t assist the anime in any way.  Though it does benefit the anime a bit since the dialogue does point to the sound.

The opening is another one of those many fairly staple and cliche openings.  Grow Up by Hysterical Blue.  It’s a light pop piece which follows many traditions of younger target anime and focus on the same topics we frequent in such pieces: optimism, hope, change…simple topics and easy ones to relate to at that.

I can’t tell if it was intentional but the closing actually get better with the comedic dub.  Seriously.  It’s literally titled Sexy Sexy and it would be silly of me to not point out that the lyrics do not disappoint in the least.  I can think of few reasons for its original usage and it fits the dubbed version way better as some kind of slight shock value as a completely out-of-place piece of music.  It’s kind of catchy though and the distorted guitar chords remind me of Boney M‘s Rasputin for reasons the completely escape me.  That’s probably a good thing all things considered since it does just add to all the insanity in this song.  I wouldn’t try to dissect why this is…it makes no sense to me either.

Neither the opening nor closing use any good quality of animation.  The closing in particular shows the 90’s level of closing animation laziness and just pan slowly through a larger image.

Honestly…I can’t say anything about the subbed version of this anime; my entire reasoning for watching Ghost Stories is its parody dub.  But expect a completely different anime (not necessarily better) with the subbed version.  I’ve heard another company did a serious dub of this anime so that might be worth comparing…and I might watch this anime in a serious form some day…but the viewing I had can only be completed through the dubbed version.

The voice actors themselves are very much the standard cast for ADV translations of that era: Hilary Haag, Chris Patton, Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Luci Christian, Christine Auten…it’s very much a tour of the cast they had at the time.  The length of different voice actors for this series is immense though and it’s almost worth a tour just to see who was likely on staff in ADV at the time.  I swear all the available staff at ADV were eager to get in on the project because of the loose production style…the list of recognizable names goes on for a while.

The quality of the dub is fairly standard but shows a lot of life and enthusiasm; it’s very clear that a great deal of dialogue game through ad-lib performance and the voice actors appear to appreciate this aspect greatly.  Namely, they appear to enjoy mocking many of the tropes they as anime fans recognize through their typical assignments.  You can almost hear a small feeling of joy as they spit out a funny line they would never otherwise be allowed to say during production.  Hearing Vic Mignogna say (and I’m quoting here) “Let’s see…purple for your hair.  Can’t tell that this is a goddamn anime” is perfectly delivered and it’s very clear Mignogna really wanted to use the line.  I almost feel it’s worth the price of admission just to hear the voice actors have fun with the project.


Everything lives and dies off the dialogue.  This is the aspect ADV could adjust and therefore the entire nature of this dub works through it.  None of the original series actually mixes well and this doesn’t change in any variety for the dub.  So the dialogue happily creates jokes out of the different parts it’s given to create a humourous experience.  The original script (and therefore the animation) creates some visual jokes but most of it still comes from the updated script.

Why Watch

There’s a very clear and obvious reason you’d want to watch Ghost Stories: you want to watch humour based anime which parodies cliche anime and doesn’t take itself seriously for more than three consecutive seconds.  You also aren’t offended easily (or can tolerate jokes similar to the western animation South Park) and laugh at such humour.  Or maybe you just want to learn about 2005 American culture.

Really, that’s the only reason to watch.

Why Not Watch

It’s actually quite simple to list reasons why you wouldn’t want to watch Ghost Stories as well since the entire series is very simple in premise: you don’t like offensive humour.  Simple as that.  If you don’t like the idea that there are jokes about Jewish people, Japanese people, sexual humour…the list goes on.  Anyways, you’re probably better off skipping if you don’t like any of the above in an offensive manner to the point where its inclusion would destroy any fun experience.

Additionally, you might not want to watch if you’re the type who insists on catching each joke and aren’t entirely familiar with USA in 2005.  I’d also then recommend you never watch Airplane! in that case.

Personal Enjoyment

This anime fell up my alley quite well.  I grew up on the dubbed version of Duel Masters.  This anime straddled the line between a serious anime about cards and a parody like Ghost Stories.  I loved this series as a child and I’ve been looking for a similar series for a long time.  Ghost Stories satisfied that itch quite well.


Ghost Stories is…well…Ghost Stories.   It’s basically a series which turns it from a bog standard light hearted series into a comedy series with a very long line of black humour comments.  Each episode becomes an attempt to out-gag the last one.  It’s sometimes crude and offensive…while certainly a bit dated in the humour.  It’s a novelty, simple as that.

Overall Rating

Ghost Stories ended with a 5.10/10 on my spreadsheet.  Given I use 5 as average, this ranks as average.  But I think this is an example of where marking schemes fail; many of my categories failed to even qualify as relevant aspects of the series.  Character depth, effective plot, engaging villains…none of this is relevant when the entire series aims to make its viewers laugh. I feel it’s absolutely pointless to discuss ratings much as a results and instead just consider it for what it is: a series with fairly offensive humour that will be incredibly funny to some and less so to others for all the reasons listed previously.


Review: Boogiepop Phantom

Please, if you see this individual, just don’t run. You’ll only make yourself tired.


The Boogiepop franchise is an interesting oddity: it is a fairly large and expansive set of light novels in Japan but never really crossed the ocean or anywhere else.  The novels have sold over 2 million copies in Japan in 2000.  That’s quite a large number given the time.  In a much larger market (and I mean much larger), everything Haruhi has sold a “mere” 8 million.  I know that sounds like a lot, but when you consider the cultural impact Haruhi has, you get a sense of how important Boogiepop is to the light novel landscape.  In fact, it’s sometimes argued that the light novel trend originated from Boogiepop.

What followed was a foray of this franchise into the anime landscape.  MADHOUSE, pretty much a household producer name (Chobits, Death Note, Monster, Paranoia Agent, Trigun…they’ve got a long list of greatest hits), took it upon themselves to bring the franchise’s unique narrative style (more on this later) to the television screen.  And Boogiepop Phantom is the result.  The studio went to Takashi Watanabe for direction.  He showed success in the Slayers franchise and would later tag his name to many other projects (He became part of the Shakugan no Shana franchise as the director and Death Note as a storyboard writer).  For sound they asked the prolific Yota Tsuruoka to step in.  He also has a massive resume today.  Top billing probably goes to the Clannad franchise but you come real close to saying he’s done pretty much every anime you know.


Okay.  Let’s start off with this: you won’t fully understand much of the main story in Boogiepop Phantom without reading two light novels first: Boogiepop and Others and Boogiepop at Dawn.  The anime connects the two events and concludes the events of the former.  Instead of a traditional description of the back story, I’ll explain what happened before to a level where one can understand the events.

Nagi Kirima, a schoolgirl, grew at an abnormally fast rate and was dying as a result.  The hospital admitted her and tried to take care of her and her condition.  Shinpei Kuroda, an agent for the Towa Organization, befriended her.  He went behind the organization’s back and administered a drug to Kirima to prevent her from growing at abnormal pace.  The organization executed him soon after.

Dr. Kisugi, a resident general doctor, found remains of the Towa Organization’s drug.  She tested it on rats and found it created incredible powers in the subjects.  So she did the natural thing and tried it on herself.  Naturally, things go sideways and she becomes a composite human.  Composite humans are kind of nuts most of the time and she becomes a mass murderer, killing strong-willed girls because she was addicted to their fear.  Kirima, investigating the murders, found her and with the aid of Boogiepop, the whispered “angel of death”, killed the insane doctor.

A monster named Manticore, escaped one month ago.  It is a failed clone of a highly evolved alien, Echoes.  Echoes, sent by its race to elvaulate humans, monitored earth and could only repeat what was said to it as a way of limiting its power.  The Towa Organization captured it and tried to clone it…unsuccessfully.  That created Manticore.  Anyways, Manticore killed a normal schoolgirl named Minako Yurihara and assumed her identity.  During this time, another school student named Masami Saotome discovered this switch and, instead of killing Saotome, struck a deal with him: the two would addict students to an addictive drug named Type S which would enslave the user to the distributor of the drug.  Then Manticore would eat the individuals for substanance once the experiment concluded. Echoes the Towa Organization to find the Manticore and met Kirima, who at this point is very much aloof and on the outside of traditional society.  Saotome and Manticore, realizing they are being investigated and chased, set a trap for them.  Echoes is critically injured in the fight and, in a final attempt to get rid of the fiend, turns itself into a pillar of light.  The pillar destroys Manticore with the assistance of Boogiepop and Saotome, having fallen in love with Manticore, kills himself by jumping into the pillar.

The events of Boogiepop Phantom deal with the events arising from the pillar of light.  One month after the fight, the entire city is covered in a strong electromagnetic field and a large aurora.

This is really as far as I can describe the narrative without giving anything away.  But I can describe the narrative style.  The light novels take a vignette approach to the narrative and show you a very short story focusing on one character.  Then it’ll shift its focus in the next section.  And then another character.  And so on and so on.  Boogiepop Phantom continues this tradition; every episode follows a specific character and follows their adventure through the supernatural events that overtake this unnamed city.  Each character has their own troubles and some react more positively than others to the situation.  The grand sum of all these side stories is a greater narrative that is not directly created and a climax that is not directly built until it reveals itself to us all.

And I love every second of it.  This form of storytelling may feel a little meandering and disoriented at times but they effectively tell a narrative in a unique manner.  But why do this?  It makes the narrative even more interesting through the mystery.  This occurs in multiple regards.  First and foremost is the anime’s main narrative.  We are treated to a shot of the pillar of light mentioned above.  It knocks out all the electronics in the entire city for a second before everything restarts as if nothing happened.  That seeds the question “how is this important?”.  And this question slowly rises and creates further questions as the narrative progresses.  This pull is a major driving force of the narrative.

Second in mystery is the interrelation of each narrative.  Virtually every story connects to another.  For example, there is a creepy guy in episode 1 who seems mostly perverted.  The next episode focuses on him and what is happening to him.  There is very little waste in this regard with only a couple of episodes focused on events that will not drive questions or imply certain answers.  This seemingly tangential narrative begins pushing the viewer in certain directions and will feed the first mystery I listed above.

Also, eating bugs. That’s relevant.

Finally, each character presents their own mystery.  Each character you see is, at the core, a fairly blank slate.  A few will be recurring from the light novels but largely this is an original cast.  And after a few episodes you’ll know they all largely have deep-seeded mental issues in addition to their odd behaviour.  Part of the mystery and attraction then becomes why this character acts this way in addition to what happens to them.   In that regard, the psychology becomes a major aspect of the anime and the characters’ intentions become a major driving force.

The anime borders bleak and depressing at times.  One of the major aspects of this anime is the negative influence of the supernatural; the fallout of the pillar of light is almost entirely negative.  Many episodes end of a depressing note and one managed to break my heart completely before the first half the episode ended.

Interestingly, this bleak tone also wraps into a slight horror aspect in the anime.  Boogiepop Phantom is hard to define with genres and most oft for the horror label.  It isn’t entirely hard to see why as many character aspects are unsettling at best.  See the picture above of a guy eating a yellow spider with intense determination.  Uncertainty plays its way into many aspects and creates the same unsettling tone.  The body count seems unusually high too with some fairly messy deaths.  I’d personally describe the anime as more psychological than horror but these aspects certainly commonly attribute themselves to the horror genre.

What is probably the most impressive aspect of Boogiepop Phantom, for all the comments I’ve made above, is the ability to drive home focused messages.  The characters often face similar root issues and their inability to influence such a problem becomes a key fatal flaw.  I won’t go into much detail here but the topic of change, escapism, and loss are major discussion points of the anime.

I think one’s love for this anime can be probably described in a major aspect of the narrative: asynchronous.  Many time cards are shown to assist in the understanding of when and where each event happened.  Many find this type of non-linear narrative annoying and frustrating.  Those who do will absolutely lose their mind watching Boogiepop Phantom as the same event’s outcome reflect through the eyes of many different individuals.  Those that aren’t likely will find the anime entertaining and enjoyable.


As mentioned previously, the narrative takes a vignette form.  Virtually every episode will introduce a new character (and some with multiple introductions per episode), give them a full history, and then end their arc.  This makes it pretty much impossible for me to discuss the characters as I traditionally do.

What I will say however is that the character roster is deep, round, and varied.  One of the greatest aspects of the anime is the strong ensemble cast; motivation, characterization, and result vary greatly.  This depth and broadness plays in an incredible manner as many viewers will find their own issues reflected onto them.  I find this even more meaningful in today’s world where the topic of escapism via medium is becoming larger and larger.   In many regards, the darkest aspects of such topics will come out.  One could read it as a partial deconstruction as it reflects how these traits and supernatural events don’t mix…at all.

To some level, I suspect most viewers will find a character to attach themselves to.


One will notice the “washed out” palette right away.   The entire world is painted in brown, grey, and black to a large degree.  Many shots are night shots.  It’s not like this is just an unconscious choice either as the final episode takes this out completely and gives an episode in traditional anime colours.  The second effect will be the faded and faux projector effects to the border of the screen.  While both are intentional for reasons you’ll likely figure out later in the anime, they are very interesting effects to the animation and will make it stand out in your collection because of the dull colouring.

A major aspect that really intrigues me about Boogiepop Phantom is the fairly realistic character design in animation.  Anime has a large tradition of having characters with outrageous hairstyles and hair colour.  Boogiepop Phantom averts that nearly completely.  For the most part hair colour, hairstyle, and eye colour will reflect what one would expect in any given high school.  Few anime avert these traditional tropes this completely and will stand out for this reason as well.

Now, the above comes as both a positive and a negative though.  On the positive, it is unique.  Extremely so because anime loves utilizing unusual hair colours and styles to their largest effect.  However, I will also note that it becomes sometimes difficult to separate and distinguish characters.  On first view, I didn’t make every connection possible because I often visually identify characters…in particular, the last episode when the colour scheme becomes more vibrant.

The animation can be brutal at times.  What little combat exists is done swiftly.  Action is fast paced but short-lived.  And this isn’t even going to the horror aspect of the anime which can be very, very graphic.  One particularly gory scene has body parts of a recently killed individual.  And the body parts shift during transportBlood rarely appears in the anime but when it does it’s used to its most unsettling effect.  And common jump scares with utterly creepy characters are utilized at least once.



One complaint I’ll lob at the animation is its love of characters facing away from the camera.  Action will typically occur but in a 2000 anime, it can get distracting when characters don’t face the camera.

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

I mentioned before that the sound director, Yota Tsuruoka, has an extremely prolific career and has led major anime sound.  He makes absolutely no mistake here.  The soundtrack to Boogiepop Phantom is incredible.  I think for about 9 of the 12 episodes I have a note regarding the use of sound editing or effective background music.  It is electric or techno at its core but it is top-notch.  They punctuate scenes extremely well and will set the tone in regard to mystery, action, horror, climax, and anything in between.  I’m amazed at how many of the soundtracks made their way into my favourites.  If you’re on the border, please watch Boogiepop Phantom purely for this.  I don’t know any other anime which utilizes so many different effects and subtle shifts (such as those in conversation loudness) to such an effect.  Even the void of white noise is utilized (though given that Tsuruoka worked on Lain, this isn’t a huge shock).

The opening, Evening Showers, feels a bit out-of-place.  In fact, I think the entire opening is a bit odd as a selection since all it does is introduce the primary characters.  Though given the anime, I can kind of see why.  It still feels dated by at least 15 years from production though…so today it feels fairly old.   The closing, Mirai Seiki Maruhi Club, plays a much more integrated role and feels much more appropriate as a theme for the anime overall on most occasions.

The anime’s subs and dubs are both fairly effective.  Dubs primarily consist of a “greatest hits” of the ’90s in the primary and important characters.  Crispin Freeman, Rachel Lillis, and Lisa Ortiz all make appearances.  I have a slight preference to the sub with exception of one character (Saki Yoshizawa) but I think both are possible options.  My suggestion is probably pick whichever you like more.  A major issue in either language is the number of voice actors though…there certainly wasn’t enough of a budget to offer top billing voices for every character and some in both languages are a bit lacking.


I think mystery and psychology holds the anime together.  It pulls together character design, art choices, and music.  The pull of what’s happening in story and to each character causes you to come in.  Each of the above elements enforces that and pushes you along that direction.  The depth of the character’s perspective and horror elements keep the episode sharp and punctuated.  And you leave with a question about how each character really became what they are.

Why to Watch

Boogiepop Phantom is an anime I could recommend for many reasons.  If you love mystery, watch it.  If you want something with a little thinking involved and won’t lose its narrative novelty on first pass, watch it.  If you love psychologically interesting characters…you know what I’ll say.  What it comes down to is the fact that Boogiepop Phantom is great at what it intended.  The characters with backgrounds have unique and interesting reasons for their existence…though sometimes flimsy.  The sound editing is amazing.  Suspense and tension all work.

Let’s just leave it at this: if you liked any of the positives in the full review, watch Boogiepop Phantom.  Or, inversely, look below and if you don’t see a reason to NOT watch, watch it.  I mean, all subbed episodes are available legally on YouTube and two dubbed episodes exist.

Why Not to Watch

The problem with the “Why to Watch” section, of course, is that this also implies a quite unfortunate inverse situation…this anime isn’t good if you aren’t interested in its primary elements.  This anime, at best, has limited action.  If you want that, you’re out of luck here.  If you want something uplifting and positive on a continual basis, it isn’t going to happen.  If you want to follow a single character, this is the furthest thing from.  Heck, if you like vibrant colours, this isn’t going to happen.  If you don’t want a little background work to do first (or just read the above comment in the story section), you should move on unless you want to lose out on part of the narrative.  None of these points work out well for the anime though, again, it seems there is little focus here to begin with.

Personal Enjoyment

I think I was born to watch this anime.  It contains virtually everything I want and doesn’t have things I don’t want.  I love psychologically heavy anime.  Introducing characters every episode made a lot of fun as it let me explore more characters than most anime let me.  I’m not sure there’s a better way to describe it…the anime and I get along very well in focus.


Boogiepop Phantom is anime set out to continue its unique narrative style in animated form.  And in that regard, it does that very well.  It uses a vignette style narrative to follow a story and connect two of its light novels.  Heavy on psychology, suspense, mystery, and character mentality sharing, it emphasizes the key points of the light novels.  Viewers interested in these points will have a great experience I believe.  Conversely, having no interest in these traits will make the anime tedious at best.

Overall Rating

Boogiepop Phantom ended with 7.89/10 for me.  Given I use 5 as average, this ranks as a great anime and it currently ranks one of my favourite overall.  The single number may not reflect it but Boogiepop Phantom is one of the most interesting and unique anime I know of and highlights a major flaw in using a single value to reflect quality.

The show highly excelled in most regards but had its highest score in characters.  There is a strong and diverse cast of characters to understand and learn.  Many change within the span of a single episode to reasonable levels.  The only stat below a 7 out of 10 is music and vocals.  This again reflects a major limitation as this number entitles the incredible background music but also the voice actors who do a good but not exceptional job.

Review: Narutaru



I’m not sure I can say a lot about Narutaru before an actual review.  It’s a little known anime better known as a manga series.  Kids Station, a station which seems to do special projects more than anything else, produced the anime.  And when I mean special projects, I really do mean special.  There’s not much in their anime roster which I’d ever define as a really “normal” anime.  Their most famous work is xxxHOLIC which in itself is quite unusual.

The writers for Narutaru will point you heavily in the direction of this anime; Mohiro Kitoh of Bokurano fame created the manga while Chiaki Konaka (best known for working on Serial Experiments Lain) wrote much of the anime. I should point out to you that Bokurano is famous, or maybe infamous, for having children not act like children.  Let’s keep that in mind.

A little known composer, Susumu Ueda, created the music.  This may seem like a bit of an odd point to put in but I’ll refer back to this later.


It’s hard to discuss Narutaru‘s story without giving away details.  But let’s give it a try.  I’ll take a second to first say that Narutaru is not, and absolutely not, for children.  It’s bleak, cruel, and filled with things that will make childhood nightmares seem happy.

Our story follows a young girl named Shiina Tamai.  She’s energetic, headstrong, and a little bit of a tomboy.  She lives with her father (family relations are strained due to reasons you’ll only find out in the manga), a small company air force pilot.  She’s not the hardest working student in school.  She meets an unusual starfish creature, shown above, on a trip to her grandparents while swimming in the nearby ocean.  It doesn’t speak and makes childish motions.  It manages to save her from drowning despite this.  She names it Hoshimaru since it doesn’t speak and Shiina is still a young girl at heart.  Narutaru tells the tales of Shiina and Hoshimaru.

Shiina and Hoshimaru meet other individuals similar to them.  The humans often refer to the creatures as “shadow dragons”.  Shadow dragons are almost invincible beings.  They take missiles to the face, many gun shots, and will still keep fighting back.  The only limitation is the strength of the person they are connected to; the human feels all the suffering the shadow dragon takes.

Now, this is where the story takes its first mean twist.  This set up sounds like a great anime for kids.  It kind of sounds like Digimon or other similar “monster” franchises.  Except it’s absolutely not.  It’s really dark.  Remember before when I said that Kitoh is famous for Bokurano?  A lot of the story plays out like Bokurano if it forgot to take its medication.  Well, at least the manga.  For starters, the shadow dragons are not innocent.  It’s mentioned early that dragons “eat souls”.  And that’s generally true without getting into spoilerific details.  So we have the first strike that the monsters aren’t really heroic.

Then comes the characters.  They are mean.  And I don’t mean generic bully mean.  The anime and manga both contain scenes of human activity which I wish I could forget.  The first “villain” casually speaks of genocide on the order of 5 billion people.  He’s a young teen like most of the cast by the way.  Even the protagonists are kind of like that.  Most characters take actions that are downright terrifying.  It’s difficult to speak of without ruining the series since much of the shock value is how far each character goes but suffice to say that each of them WILL likely surprise you.  Just as a quick measuring stick, literal conspiracies work against making certain characters in the manga happy.  It’s just that type of story.

Then there’s a level of realism.  Shiina is reckless.  She’ll bite off more than she can chew.  That’s fine in a typical monster franchise.  The hero is almost always hot-blooded in that aspect.  But Narutaru isn’t your typical monster franchise.  Shiina ends up on the receiving end of an ass kicking more often than she deals them out.  She also comes into contact with the rules of momentum, inertia, and more throughout her adventures.  It’s mean and gritty in this aspect.

I will point out that Narutaru‘s story in the manga is complete.  There is an ending.  But the anime certainly doesn’t show one.  It generally faithfully replicates the first 8 or so volumes of the manga then ends.  This gives you a nice visual adaptation but also creates massive problems.  First is the sense of finality: the anime ends of a dark note and just stops.  There is no real ending and there is a strong feeling of “now what?” that stems from it.  So many mysteries are left unsolved…and it’s not like the manga itself actually answers too many on its own.  Second is the pacing that stems from this: stories, events, and entire characters appear and disappear with no seeming purpose in the anime.  Most events and characters are tied in a bow to some degree in the manga.  But since the anime ends before the most significant events occur, nothing stems from them.  We see a character, see some events, then it just drops them off the face of the earth.  And this destroys a lot of pacing and emotion in the anime.  Pacing is a major problem and the anime, at best, is scattered and disoriented until major events occur.  And you’ll remember the major events.

Another concern in the anime is the division of time.  The manga seems to decide early that it will be dark and bleak.  A little focus is put on Shiina’s life but more of it focuses on Narutaru‘s deconstruction.  You get less sense of that in the anime.  Maybe it’s the timing.  Maybe it’s the animation quality shift.  Maybe it’s just that I watched and read the anime/manga at 1-2 AM.  But I certainly felt more of a slice-of-life emotion coming from Narutaru in the anime.  And this really doesn’t help the story since it is wholeheartedly destructive and rips apart the common tropes you’ll come to expect.

That being said, the anime isn’t entirely bad.  This premise and the deconstruction of it is quite a nice treat.  I’m not sure I’d describe it as a horror anime as many do.  But it is certainly unnerving.  The anime kicks off its first major story with some horribly cruel actions…such as the aforementioned casual genocide of humanity.  And the level of creepiness just goes up from there typically.  If you’re into this type of thing like I am the actions become far more interesting than the anime really should allow for.

And I’ll even praise the anime since it does some things that the manga doesn’t.  One character, Akira Sakura, has considered suicide on more than one occasion.  The manga just brings this up quickly but the anime actively shows us a sequence of Akira considering slitting her wrists.  And this is episode 2 by the way.

No, she won't succeed.

Yeah, Narutaru is kind of screwed up like that.

This really works in the anime’s favour.  I’ve got many, many notes circled around episode 2 because of this one short sequence.  It’s extremely well done and gives the anime some memorability.  Translating genres requires adjustments to succeed and some decisions like this work in its favour.  Ultimately, Narutaru is an example of both how to and how not to translate from manga to anime.  On the plus side, we get this.  On the negative, we get a little too faithful of and adaptation since it fails to filter events which clutter the story and make it too distracted to work real well.


The main character, undoubtedly, is Shiina Tamai.  As a deconstructive work, we watch the horrible consequences of being in a work about monsters and how a Digimon or Pokemon universe would actually kind of suck.  And Shiina is a great viewpoint for all this because she is very much the quintessential hero for these works.  Often aimed at the shonen demographic, she really does portray the traits of your typical shonen hero: actively gets herself involved, is high energy, acts heroic, and jumps before she even considers the consequences.  This work well because it acquaints us to the typical conventions of the genre and set us up for a typical anime making the deconstruction much harsher and more pronounced in its action.  So this works great.

Supporting Shiina primarily is Akira Sakura.  She’s a horribly broken individual…if the above picture of her wasn’t an indication of that already.  A nervous wreck, horribly shy, and a kind girl who hasn’t been given any real fair shakes in life, Akira is a signal of the anime’s true tone.  Contrasting her with Shiina is a perfect way to see the anime’s deconstructive elements.

Unfortunately this is where the problems for the anime start.  We get a whole host of character besides these two.  And I mean a host.  Virtually all the characters from the manga are shown at the proper time.  But because the anime is only a partial translation of the manga work the characters too feel unfinished.  Many characters’ arcs end in the latter portion of the manga.  So many are introduced, given a little interesting information and screen time, then vanish into oblivion with no concept of resolution and often limited character development at best.  In the manga these characters are often quite strong.  The decision to halt the characters mid-arc is quite a drawback and creates massive problems since we’re just faced with half-painted characters living in a world where we’re supposed to see the consequences of their actions.  This element even becomes a problem for Shiina since her most significant developments occur later in the manga after she enters middle school.

The characters who actually do end up with full arcs are generally very well done though.  Each disturbing element played out to its fullest works the way it is supposed to and the characters draw you in by their seemingly uncanny actions.  The saga between Aki Honda and Hiroko Kaizuka works very well.  You really feel the tension and emotion in this segment.  I’m almost positive you’ll feel for Hiroko.  And maybe Aki.  Either way though, their segment will likely burn itself into your brain should you choose to watch this anime.  I know I’ll probably have that segment lodged in my head ‘lest I take a blow to the head.

Yeah. What this poster says…I wish.

One problem I faced, and it might not occur for everyone, is the lack of distinct names.  I continually had to remind myself who [x] was by name.  I could visually identify each character and tell you all their actions but if they just stated “Norio” for example, it would take me a bit of effort to recall who Norio was.


I’m going to rip the band-aid off quickly: the animation quality is dreadful.  I can’t find any two ways around it.

Actually, maybe I’ll go into a little bit of an explanation first: this anime appears to have suffered from low-budget.  This point is very clearly evident in the high use of pans through still frames.  Many sequences dodge their animation by drawing a single frame and just looking around it to give the illusion of action.  While each frame typically looked good this skimping out still hurts the animation quality.  There are few real heavy action sequences.  Those that exist are best described as “acceptable”.  Even here it is plainly evident money was tight since often fights consisted of an action followed by the consequence without showing how it occurred.

I will note however that the level of detail on planes is unusual.  In the manga, characters spouted extremely detailed points about aircraft…especially military aircraft.  This transfers over to the anime a little.  I’ll admit I don’t know enough to tell you whether it is accurate or not but I’ll go with the old knowledge: say something confidently enough and you’ll likely keep people attentive.  So they sound good to me either way.

Unfortunately this comes as a bit of a distraction in the anime.  The quality is done so poorly that it does detract from the rest of the qualities of Narutaru.  I found it sometimes difficult to focus on the events when the characters were facing away from me while speaking.  Granted, I could deal with it in Evangelion and I managed to get through it here.  Just be aware that if you’re the type who loves top-notch animation you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

Sound.  I would argue this is a major strength of the Narutaru anime.  In my top 10 anime openings post I openly admit I have a huge liking of the piano.  This carries over into background music…I really, really like the use of melancholic strings and dreary piano; they set the tone perfectly in the sequences where they are deployed.  There are a few pieces where the piano notes rip through everything.  Then the string instruments start and it pulls on you hard.  I earlier mentioned Susumu Ueda in my introduction.  I absolutely love the work done here…I wonder if Ueda go the credit he really deserved from Narutaru.

The opening and closing are best described as absolute traps.  I don’t mind either as they’re kind of lighter songs…the opening is very much a “bubblegum” opening between the song and the animation.  The closing is also much lighter than you’d expect of an anime of this variety.  If you’ve ever watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica, you know the drill.  It’s really kind of cruel since you know the anime is going to be dark as it’s commonly cited for the seinen demographic…yet it gives you this lovely and cutesy opening to make you feel better.

And why did you even offer the possibility that this would be the tone of the anime?

I watched this anime in both subs and dubs.  The dubbing studio didn’t do a great job…I’ll just put it this way.  They actually did hire some decent VAs for side characters (such as Lisa Ortiz and Veronica Taylor) but the main cast wasn’t great.  That being said, the Japanese voice acting team wasn’t great.  You’ll certainly recognize most of the voice actors, especially Akira Ishida, but I can’t say they really did anything special.  I will argue though that you should watch this subbed either way…probably the only way you’ll see it anyways since Central Park Media folded a while ago and nobody seems interested in redistributing Narutaru.


The main aspect of this anime that you must consider is the juxtaposition of disturbing elements to the cute characters.  The manga characters are delicately built to create an atmosphere where you’ll constantly be shocked and horrified about how dark the world will get…about how evil the evil characters are and whether or not there are really any “good” characters.  It’s a thrilling anime in this regard.  Unfortunately this synergy also becomes the undoing since the anime doesn’t actually have any conclusion or satisfactory wrap up of much more than the arc it’s on.  Longer character arcs are left unanswered unless you turn to manga.

Why to Watch

Narutaru is a franchise I’d highly recommend if you like dark deconstructions.  It is twisted and cruel about how monsters play out.  Everything you loved about owning a pet monster is twisted around.  Owning one isn’t as fun as it seems…everybody is drawn towards each other and most of these guys are mentally broken nine ways to Sunday or so insane that you’re sure the only solution is a bullet to the face.  It pulls on our concepts of humanity and gives us the typical question: what happens to people when given absolute power?  They go corrupt absolutely.  The question is just extended into unfamiliar territory with young children.

I’d also recommend it if you like something along a cosmic horror story.  It really doesn’t fit the nature so much but in the end the manga still plays on the basic fear of human triviality.  But that’s enough of that since going any further will start bringing in spoilers and I really don’t think this is a franchise you can get into if you know what’s going to happen next.  If this is for you, you might find Narutaru is a really rough diamond.

Why Not to Watch

If you want anything even remotely close to positive or cheerful, just go.  You won’t want to see Narutaru and its inevitable conclusion.  Just have a sandwich and drop the idea.  Seriously Narutaru is probably on the same order of darkness as Warhammer 40,000‘s universe.  It manages to make Bokurano look cheerful.  And that’s a feat of incredible proportions.  So again, if you’re looking for good and cheerful, don’t go here.

Additionally, the quality of animation can be a major problem if you’re not into that sort of thing.

Finally, I can’t really recommend the anime when the manga for Narutaru exists and is complete.  The final volumes of the manga provide a much expanded narrative which explores the characters further, explains the relevance of most characters, and ends the narrative…kind of.  It’s a bit difficult to explain.  End of Evangelion difficult to explain.  If you’re really interested though, I’d suggest you just read the manga.

There’s also the fact that Central Park Media suffers from existence failure.  It’s unlikely you’ll find a legal copy too easily.  Crunchyroll and other sites seem to have problems finding this anime.  There are videos on YouTube but those really flirt with the concept of legality.  I don’t mind the idea of pirating abandonware but this is a bit of a grey territory.  If you’re uncomfortable with the notion of pirating an anime which looks like it’ll never get distributed in your area again, go ahead.

Personal Enjoyment

I probably am the ideal target for this anime…I love deconstructions.  They’re typically quite interesting to watch because of how they twist tropes and conventions.  As much as this should be a ringing endorsement, I found myself really struggling with the lack of conclusion, direction, or real focus in the anime.  It left me wanting.  Though this did make me read the manga quite intensely…so there’s that.


Let’s just keep this straight…one last time: this anime is dark, mean, and cruel.  It’s a horribly cruel deconstruction of owning a monster in anime.  The characters, despite being young teens, are not nice people and you’ll find that out multiple times.  The interaction and shock of these traits will generate a dark fascination with the anime should you be into that sort of thing.  If you’re not, it’s unlikely you could bear watching the horrors shown.  And if you’re interested, please keep in mind that there is a manga which I personally believe is better since the anime suffers from many flaws in pacing and animation

Overall Rating

Narutaru’s columnended with 4.88/10 on my spreadsheet.  Given I use 5 as average, this ranks as a reasonable anime. I certainly can’t suggest this for everyone given how niche the anime is.  I’m not sure how to put it any clearer than this: if you think you’d like a dark and unusual anime and don’t mind the other flaws, give it a shot.  If not, just ignore it and move on.

The show highly excelled in its narrative elements…or should I say potential.  The narrative worked well except for any actual catharsis or explanation.  The characters were well done in the parts that were shown…stand alone, they are nothing more than seemingly arbitrary and meaningless distractions.  It lagged in virtually every other element except background music…I found it effective and lovely.

Review: Eden of the East

I cried the rain that filled the ocean wide

Catch the wheel that breaks the butterfly…


East of the Eden is one of those anime you hear about quite a bit.  Extremely popular, well-recognized, and probably has a bit of a reputation proceeding it. It’s quite interesting to see where my lines fall in comparison to those of previous viewers.

Strangely, unlike the other anime I have reviewed, there isn’t much that really stands out from the production side. Production I.G is a fairly large organization and it sticks its hands into quite a few anime though it has got some great roots in the science fiction anime.  Ghost in the Shell, in this case, is its baby.  Actually, this franchise is probably key to understanding a bit of the background of Eden of the East since Production I.G went in-house to Kenji Kaniyama, the director of many parts of Ghost in the Shell (in specific, the Stand Alone Complex pieces), to take over the same roles he had in those anime: Director, Screen Composer, Script, and Storyboard.  Basically, they wanted to tap his brain again.

But of even larger interest is the character designer, Chica Umino.  Though this is mostly because of the similarities between protagonist Akira Takizawa, and Honey and Clover‘s Shinobu Morita.  As in, it’s obvious they wanted to draw lines between the two.

Aside from that, it’s key to note the composer.  Kenji Kawai has a hugely prolific career as a composer and while I can’t say he’s my favourite composer, it’s important to in mind his vast career as I approach the music comments.


Three months before the anime begins, several missile strikes hit Japan in an event called “Careless Monday”.  It probably took place on a Monday, but that’s just a guess.  Anyways, Japan fell under attack by several missile strikes which, while dealing extreme damage to the infrastructure in the vicinity, did not actually kill anybody due to a large string of freak coincidences.  Protests and reaction sparked after the launches but quickly died down because of the real lack of leads.  In a similar stretch of time, 20,000 NEETs (“No education, employment, or training”) vanished from Japan.

Jump ahead to the first episode.  Saki Morimi is a university student pretty much set to graduate and take off into the work force.  This is a pretty big thing so her and her friends run off to USA for a little bit of time.  But she decides to abandon them fora little and visit DC.  While she’s by the White House, attempting to throw a coin into the fountain for god knows what reason, she meets Akira who at this point in time has no memories of anything, is stark naked, and is holding a gun and a cell phone.  And when I mean no memories, I mean nothing about himself; He apparently has a great recollection of Hollywood movies and is able to pinpoint even obscure films out.  Oh, and did I mention his cell phone seems to be connected to an all-powerful assistant named Juiz?  She can seemingly do anything she wants, up to and including making the Japanese Prime Minister say “Uncle” for no good reason.  Oh, and did I also mention Akira has an 8.2 billion Yen bank account for Juiz to carry out these orders with?  No?  My apologies.  I meant to get to that.

After some antics around DC, they decide to return to Japan together.  The story follows the adventures of the two as Akira attempts to restore and rediscover his past and his memories while Saki continues on in her old world and gets them and Akira to mix/integrate with each other.  The events of the past are tied in and we are left with an explanation of the world we have just witnessed.

That’s some lovely wreckage there.

The world itself and the hypothetical it poses are actually by far the most interesting part of the story.  The world they actually tell you creates a whole host of opportunities to stop and think.  The show is highly charged from a political point of view and while I’m not an expert in Japanese politics, can certainly understand and even relate to the problems that they speak of.  The topic of youth status, cultural development, and political issues rise very frequently.  A recurring question later on becomes, “If you had 10 billion Yen to change Japan, what would you do?”.  And, after transferring currency and country, this becomes a brilliant hypothetical to any nation and any individual.  From this aspect, it’s a well and extremely interesting product.

However this is also mixed in with the pacing of the show and exposition method.  It’s terrible at best.  An extremely short anime, 11 episodes, it fumbles between so many different arcs, characters, and situations that it barely gives much depth or interesting thought about any of the above.  The ending of the show is probably the most egregious as, while it answer our questions, it does it in an info-dump sort of method at the start of the episode and then leaves us with many other questions left hanging.  The movies are hardly much better and, while they do provide closure on the narrative arc, leave a lot of questions unknown.  And it’s unlikely they’ll ever be answered.

Actually, let’s take an aside to discuss the info-dumps.  This cheesed me off.  It really cheesed me off.  Maybe it’s a bit of my own idiosyncrasy though – I enjoy having to put together the intricate elements of the story itself.  For example, one of the greatest games I’ve ever played was Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.  This game basically just let you piece together some of the background yourself.  Want another example?  Look at the blog’s name.  That show probably host lecture on how to hide the story.  At any rate, the fact that the key aspects of the show presented the information in nothing more than lengthy monologues really killed the fun for me.  Especially when it came from characters who show up and begin throwing out exposition.  Hey, at least Martian Successor Nadesico had the balls to call that character “The Exposition Lady” halfway through the show.

Part of the problem is that it tries to balance two worlds: Akira’s and Saki’s.  For much of the anime, they barely interact and do mostly in the most superficial of ways.  When things begin to pick up it gets better in its narrative handling.  I wouldn’t call it stellar in this aspect, but it at least works.  But this is what creates problems.  The already short anime is split even further into a world which kind of barely moves until the last episode or two and the world which we need to explore and solve.  Not points for guessing which is which.  And when things get so short you really can’t build much of anything.

I can’t say it’s all bad in the story telling methods however.  This same brevity also works to some small part in Eden of the East‘s favour.  In the same breath that it uses to tell us it’s short and you’re likely not going to get detail on any of Akira’s world, we also realize that Akira is rushing through society.  He’s hunting answers and he tries to get them quickly.  The show might have improved if there wasn’t any focus on Saki and her friends in this realm of thought.

This next part can go either way: the humour.  The show is unrepentant part comedy.  In good times and in bad it’ll always try to turn things to the funny.  Serious action sequence?  Probably got jokes.  Story is progressing?  Let’s toss in a little humour.

Oh, and before I forget, check your thoughts of humour before preparing to watch this show.  The show has two primary levels of humour: the slapstick and the Johnny.  I mean penis.  No, seriously.  The animation team seemed to have a fascination with it.  Let me give an example: in the first episode, a police officer was asking to see Akira’s Johnny, which is to say passport.  So he subsequently drops his pants.  Cue laughter.  Honestly, this type of humour doesn’t work for me but it might for others.  It’s all well and good for kids…kind of.  They put cute and cartoonish white squiggles over the fun bits.


The anime’s main characters are undoubtedly Akira and Saki.  However, we are also introduced to at least nine other characters who you should be familiar with at some level.

This pretty much, including the fact that there is less than 4 hours to explore the world, a strong indication of the level of depth of most of these characters.  Most have at most two faces to their personality and they are rarely explored in any deep or meaningful manner.  They are instead presented as an almost monologue styled exposition.  And while I kind of amused myself with Micchon’s antics, she’s hardly a deep character.  In fact I think a huge problem with the show is the fact that most of the characters are one note.  They seemingly populate a world just for the sake of populating it.  In my review of Haibane Renmei, I considered this a flaw even though philosophical questions could be to blame.  I think the same may exist here: despite the fact that we really don’t see most characters long enough to really get to a point where we can see them develop, it’s hard on a show when we basically see them as all flat characters.

Another major issue here is the static level of the characters.  With about exception to one aspect of Saki, the entire world seems pretty consistent.  Akira never varies from his happy-go-goofy self for example.  I mean, Akira and Saki are likeable people to most, sure.  Akira is a goofy guy and Saki edges very close to your average person. But at the same time, you’d expect them to change as the world impacts them.  Akira especially.  This really does impact the viability of character strength in the show in my opinion.


The animation has two primarily aspects: the CGI and the animation itself.

The CGI is used as a lazy effect.  I get that this show had a lot of put up and needed ways to save money.  Trust me, I understand.  DC (and New York City from the movies), from what I’ve heard, have some amazingly accurate details from what I’ve heard.  Much like how Bethesda put a lot of effort into accurately portraying the landscape of DC in Fallout 3, it seems time and effort was put into it for Eden of the East.  And with this they create some pretty great looking sequences.  However, it’s also important to note that CGI really stands out in this anime.  As in, eye rollingly so.  Buildings and vehicles, even to the eye of a newcomer, will seem fairly obvious.  Anything large will be put into CGI form typically.  And, while it helps because it did let large set ups be created which high frequency, it also detracts since it is so obvious.

The animation can break further.  We actually get a very clear distinction of foregrounds and backgrounds in Eden of the East.  You can tell, very quickly, what is recycled scenery and what is changing on the foreground.  Kind of the dual-sided nature of coming into the digital era of anime I find.  And this gets a little distracting for some people.  Maybe not you, but the more I’ve watched, the more this begins to bug me. I will say that there is a production value ramp.  This is kind of expected and par for the course though and these issues fade during the more important sequences…it’s just that these cover so little time that the filler animation seems necessary.

No discussion about Eden of the East and its animation is complete though without looking at its style of animation.  It is intentionally lighthearted and drifts to remind us of its jovial nature even at the most serious of times.  Blush stickers, empty eyes, and overall typical cute anime artistic choice is pulled.

Wait, what?

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

Sound. I can’t say too much about the background music itself.  You know how airport music and elevator music is music you’re not supposed to listen to?  Well, it works the same way in East of the Eden.  The tone and mood is driven purely by visuals and dialogue.  For example, how important the sequence is can be derived and determined by whether or not Saki’s eyes are the empty white circles shown above or if they are using the more serious art for her. I will say though that Kenji Kawai made some incredible decisions when it came to songs used in-show.  In particular, the closing piece, Brenda Vaughn’s Reveal the World, is excellently placed and really sets a semi-symbolic tone to the anime.

Of course, the most famous part you’ll likely ever hear about Eden of the East is its opening.  Falling Down by Oasis.  That and the animation that goes with it are amazing.  I typically call it an arts student’s wet dream because, well, look at it.  Beautifully laid out decorations all over the place, a chaotic scattering of text, and a great song to go with it.  If you look hard enough too, it becomes a reflection of the anime in lyric and in animation.  Unfortunately, licensing issues (namely, Oasis caring about its distribution in North America as oppose to Japan and charging a boatload more for dubbing companies to distribute it) meant that this only appears on the first episode of English anime.  Please just pretend it was for all of them as the alternative opening is kind of generic and is much less interesting in its utilization.  This is where Kenji Kawai’s experience works in the show’s favour I think.

The closing, while not memorable, is catchy enough.  Though this section is turning more into a “review the opening and closing” section, I think it’s interesting to point out how nice the ending looks.  Pretty atypical work and pretty interesting to watch.

Watching this show is fine in either the dubs or subs.  Personally I didn’t notice a real difference between the two.  The only real standout for me were two VAs from the English side: Stephanie Sheh (Micchon…notice a pattern?) and J. Michael Tatum (Kazuomi Hirasawa).  Both provided voices that better suited their role…at least in my mind.  Actually, this was the first time I’ve ever recall any work dubbed by Tatum and I’m overall impressed with his ability.  Maybe I’m just getting old…

I will notify you though that English-speaking characters in the Japanese narrative are great at their jobs.  While they don’t work perfectly, it’s rare to see that perfect an understanding of importance of language being emphasized.  The characters speak effective English and those which would have unexpectedly butchered English speak with strong, though understandable, accents.  This works very well at the immersion of yourself into the show if you happen to watch the subbed version instead.


The mixture of tension and character appeal tries to drive the show primarily.  Akira is a nice guy and we want to see him succeed to some fundamental level.  Similarly, Saki has dreams and goals we can relate to and want to see her do well in life.  But the tension and events of the show make this impossible.  So the elements begin to focus on how the show disrupts and prevents that from happening.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much relation or synergy between the characters and the events themselves; it becomes more a tool of “what is forcing our lovely protagonists apart” than “what happened and how is it influencing the characters?”.

Don’t get me wrong though.  I like this angle.  It’s a fairly fresh and unique take on the dramatic elements.

Why to Watch

Eden of the East is a show almost everyone can get into.  As much as I’ve critiqued elements of the show and have disagreed with the direction taken, it’s something that you can show almost anybody and they can get interested and engaged with.  The lighthearted tone makes it something you can watch without getting too emotionally invested and it gives you characters you genuinely care for…something that seems lacking at times in other anime.  The story gives you a good mix of a little bit of everything: a little action, a little comedy, a little drama…you name it, it has it.  It also asks questions relevant to society, in particular about apathetic youth, cultural identity, and how this all impacts the world around them.

And don’t forget about the incredible opening.

Why Not to Watch

The show, while it does everything, doesn’t do well at anything either.  It has comedy, yes, but it’s really kind of restricted to penis gags and a little staple humour.  It has action, but nothing extreme.  It has story, but it handholds you through the discovery process and doesn’t really let you do too much with it.  The animations, while a nice breather from what I typically watch, have a horrible tendency to reveal the obvious background/foreground choices that were made during the animating process.  If any one of those elements were the only draw, you’ll leave a little disappointed.  If you handed this to a newcomer to anime, you may wish to treat it as hor’dourves, something that will give them a light taste of what’s to come and may even give them extreme enjoyment but nothing that will sate their appetite.

And, of course, the ending never really summarizes in a really satisfactory manner.  Again, if I may compare to Martian Successor Nadesico, that show had the balls to point it out and say that they’ll be answered “in the inevitable sequel” (which…it turns out, they weren’t).

Personal Enjoyment

I like work where I don’t get to find out what’s going on fully.  The humour really wasn’t my speed unfortunately and it may be a sign that I’m out of my element in this anime.  I actually quite enjoyed a few episodes, but those were far apart.  I think the best way for me to put this was I found the show kind of chugged along until it ended.


I find the primary thing to remember when considering East of the Eden is that it’s not a hardcore thriller, comedy, or drama anime.  It does each of the above, but doesn’t do them to such a degree that it overwhelms the rest.  It has a great philosophical question too, but doesn’t explore it to as great a degree as you may wish for.  The primary protagonists are likeable but primarily static and the secondary characters are static.  Where this show really takes off is its ability to be approachable by fans of pretty much any genre.  Then it ties itself off with a beautiful finishing of sound…especially the opening.

Overall Rating

East of the Eden has 5.62/10 on my spreadsheet.  Given I use 5 as average, this ranks as a fairly decent show and I would suggest anybody to test a few of the free episodes on Funimation’s YouTube channel in their spare time.  This may seem counter-indicative to the score, but consider the universal appeal of this show.  When given a free outlet, I’d suggest anything with that wide an appeal to give it a couple of episodes before making their decision.

The show highly excelled in its musical elements under my scores.  This and personal enjoyment as I could think long and hard about the philosophical questions raised.  However, the show’s story (in particular, depth of exploration) and characters (their static nature) kind of held the anime back in this raw score.

Review: Haibane Renmei

I like where this is heading.

Let’s see here…angels, little girls. Oh, and some really creepy scenes.


Okay, so the story of Haibane Renmei was created by Yoshitori ABe (capitalization intentional) as a dojinshi project.  That never finished though and he transferred the story and characters to Haibane Renmei.  Okay, so that’s not really all that important, but I thought it was a really cool little tidbit of information.

This is ABe’s baby.  For those unfamiliar with ABe, he was the character designer for Serial Experiments Lain, for which this blog is named.  Haibane Renmei is the first work which really let ABe take the lead, which is about the only point the above comments on his dojinshi project actually comes into play.

The director for the show is Tomozaku Tokoro.  The company that made this, Radix, loves the chemistry between Tokoro and ABe; this anime came after the two worked out NieA_7 and Serial Experiments Lain (though Tokoro wasn’t the director in that).

This show has imprints of this relationship: the art and psychological edge still exist, though to a much lower edge than they did in Lain.


The first notable point about the story is the utter lack of exposition.  ABe has mentioned this is entirely intentional to let fans write in their own background.  There is a lot of symbolism and hints of certain elements that can lead you down one path or another, the concept of a representation of Purgatory pops up a lot.  And, surprisingly, this isn’t the weirdest thing ABe has associated himself with.

Anyways, the base story takes place in a small village called Glie.  The town is very much isolated from the rest of the world, almost nobody ever entering or leaving the area.  Unique are the Haibane (approximate translation is of beings similar to angels).  Haibane are unusual beings, humanoids born from cocoons midlife.

Okay, maybe they are a -little- more than humanoid.

They have non-functional wings, making them very distinct from the local populace.  The Haibane are treated as guests in down and are donated area to live and leftover material and food to have for free, though they frequently return the favour by working in local stores.  It isn’t all fun for them though – Haibane are specifically stated to be reborn humans.  They died in their previous life and have come back with no recollection of their family, past life, or why they’re there.  And their current life is monitored strictly by a organization called the Haibane Renmei.

We primarily follow the life of the newest Haibane Rakka from her moments prior to (re)birth as she learns about, adapts to, and integrates herself into her new world and surroundings.

I have a huge love/hate relationship with the story.  Let’s start with the bad, since it dominates the front half of the story.  I’m not a slice of life type of guy.  At least, slice of life with no advancement.  As far as pacing goes, about 4 of the first 5 episodes are about as pure a nondescript slice of life as you’ll get; it’s slow, kind of monotonous and sprinkled with just enough fun and games to keep you going.  But it does go nowhere fast and, to those of us with limited time on our hands, this becomes a major stumbling block.

The second you hit episode 6 and on though, things go fast in a hurry.  I won’t bother to describe the spoiler-y details for you, but suffice to say that things don’t stay the same forever.  As soon as this starts, the aspects which made me love so many other shows kicked in: psychological aspects get represented and get represented well.  In the span of the next 8 episodes, there is almost no slowdown in this regard: we jump from issue to issue to issue.  The transitions between these short gaps are fluid and natural as we follow the progression of Rakka’s mind as she copes to the world around her.  All while building up for a climactic story without incredible amounts of the story being dedicated to it.  A climax in which it’s easy to turn beliefs of the show just for that one sequence alone.

So you kind of see the duality of the show.  You need to establish the characters first and this show presents a nice variety of characters.  But it’s also very short in length, 13 episodes, so even giving a basic understanding of each character becomes difficult to cram in without wasting screen time.  Unfortunately, Haibane Renmei got hit by this hard early and it actually had me take a one month hiatus from watching it (well, that and other projects).  But when the rubber hits the road, as the phrase goes, it just doesn’t stop.  I can compare it fairly heavily to Serial Experiments Lain in this regard, as both shows had weaker starting episodes, but got better and better as the number of episodes went on.


The characters of this show are its core.  Plain and simple. The show starts off with an ensemble cast.  We have Rakka, the newcomer, and the tall, dark, snarky, and somewhat brooding Reki as our two main protagonists.  Added to them are side characters, Hikari, Kana, Remu, and Kuu.

What really stands out about this crowd is their ability to all have unique personalities, viewpoints, and lives (for the most part).  There is an incredible amount of depth in the characters for such a short series.  While particularly present in our main two characters, it also shows up in most of the side characters who get lines and more than one appearance.  And I will use the term “most”.  This is a feat within itself.  Of course, having so many characters, like in the story department, also hurts each individual character.  Quite a few of the minor characters, while not devoid of reasonable personality, are static and to not evolve to the story.  However, whether or not this is symbolic is worth thinking about, but it stands out as a weakness in character design.  Quite a few tropes are recycled as well.  These flat characters a pretty easy to predict and easy to master their system of life, almost as if to populate a world, but not give you enough uniqueness in that mindset to distract you from the real narrative at work.

Emotionally, this show hits really hard.  The characters are built to draw people in emotionally.  You’ll invest in seeing Rakka’s point of view and how her points of view come out.  We’re exposed to so much of this that it become easy to sympathize with her thoughts, whether they make sense or not.  And, of course, with our own private viewing of her and Reki’s minds, comes so much investment that the story draws us in.  Again, I’ll explicitly point to the final episode, and maybe the 12th, as major emphasis of this.  I didn’t honestly think that I cared about the characters that much until the last couple episodes.  It’s really a pretty interesting adventure to put yourself through.


I’m going to say this about the character design: I almost always love shows where ABe has artistic influence.  It’s unique.  You look at any of his projects and, almost without a doubt, you can discern where he had wielded power.  From the beyond spiky hair on some characters to the unusual detail in the eyes to some of the minor things I just would never think about, it’s always a pleasure to see ABe touched works if not only for their characters.  Extending this beyond character design, it’s amazing to see some of the stylistic choices in his work.  There are some pretty unique scenes in this show where it’s worth a second look to just see the little things he decides to add in.

And, of course, this kind of sparked how I viewed the rest of the work.  This unique character design really drives home the fact that this show is, at its heart, character driven.  The lack of actual explained universe and the focuses of each episode aid in this, but this becomes the final factor: the characters are drawn so uniquely and play on the show in background and appearance so well that it helps propel the understanding of the show.  Personally, that’s the mark of good animating.  As with any show of its era, you’ll see a bit of cop-out.  It’s not terribly noticeable, but not an incredible piece either in this regard.  Really, the best way to describe the animation is “functional” because of the purpose it really serves.

In some cases though, it becomes absolutely stunning.  It may do more with the story side of it, but there are some beautiful sequences.  Within the first couple episodes, you get the concept of angels juxtaposed to a blood soaked baptism into the new world.  This is but one example, but it’s one of my favourites and is an incredible piece of animation to behold.  To a degree, it’s almost a piece of art to watch.

The opening and closing, I’ve found, have been fairly non-noteworthy in terms of animation.

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

Sound.  There isn’t enough good things I can say about the sound.  I don’t know how many times I circled the world “piano” in my notes about the show.  The melancholic nature of the piano pieces in this show are used to incredible effect. Maybe it’s because I used to play the instrument, maybe it’s because Ko Otani (famous for his work in Shadow of the Colossus), but it just plain works.  I’m more likely to lean on the latter explanation though as the string instruments also work very well.  And to some degree, a lack of background music and sound is used to the show’s advantage as well.  The void of nothing being around is used through use of eerie silence.  The entire soundtrack is effective in this regard and stands out as an example of less being more…that you don’t need entire orchestras to make a beautiful and effective backdrop for your show.

There is limited sung music in this show.  The opening is a simple melodic piece of dominant string instruments.  While it certainly sets the stage early, it almost begins to fade into misuse and improperly preparing its viewer as the episodes dwindle down to the end of the series.  It’s almost a show where, despite the length, you might have wanted to have two different themes.  I’m not sure this is such a huge knock on the show, but it certainly felt out-of-place by the end.

Kind of cruelly, an excellent opening piece for the end of the series is used as the ending.   Blue Flow by Heart of Air is a sorrowful, vocals dominated song.  And it hits very much what the latter episodes look at.  I remember in my earlier episodes that this seemed way out of place…but it worked well at the end.  Unfortunately, the show really has to fight its music in this regard…the selections didn’t make sense, but they had the pieces there to make a great soundtrack.

If you do plan to watch this show, watch the English dub.  It’s absolutely amazing.  I went about 3 episodes with both sub and dub listened to and the dub blows it out of the water, chases it into the air, and blows it into space.  The names for the main cast don’t really stand out.  I mean, Carrie Savage is probably the single name you’ll recognize, with Stephanie Sheh and Wendee Lee being good names, but with extremely limited and minor roles.  Despite this, it really does work so much better than the original Japanese voices.  As a bit of a background, I remember Savage most as Shima Katase from Stellvia of the Universe.  Her voice roles are very similar, but she suits Rakka extremely well in this show.  Much like how I kept circling “piano” for music notes, I have listed Carrie Savage doing an excellent job about once per episode.  She found an excellent mix of softness, emotion, and almost child-like wonder.

Side characters are selected near perfectly and ultimately trump their Japanese comparable at the job, especially in the emotional range category.  Unless it’s unnamed characters or a male character whose name will be withheld they aid in immersion, something that I can’t say about voices all too often.  Another odd choice, at least for most of the show, is Erika Weinstein as Reki.  Erika had a fairly short career as a VA.  But withhold judgment on that selection until the end of the series.  I basically had to rewrite my critique of her because of a couple monologues that she delivers perfectly in it.


The show tries to create one giant juxtaposition of the beauty and tranquility of Glie and the Haibane against the somewhat discomforting spoilered elements of the show.  I’m not sure this works terribly well.  The biggest element that goes in its favour is the excellent hybridization of the animation and the soundtrack.  The way each character faces, from the angle to the direction, in comparison to the soundtrack seem to dare you to interpret them, the same way that your teachers would (or will try to in the case of younger viewers) dare you to interpret why the curtains were blue in this line of this novel.  Whether or not it’s there, the soundtrack creates the space to interpret the animation seven ways to Sunday.  It’s quite lovely, but isn’t something that is replicated anywhere else in the show.

Why to Watch

The show is a soundtrack, animation, and psychological wonder.  These three elements are drawn forth by two well-formed, dynamic protagonists.  From this, a powerful emotional front is built and presented to its viewers.  If you want to ride such a wave, this show is an excellent starting point.  Oh, and it’s short at 13 episodes.  Oh, and the show is freely streamed by Funimation.  Though it’s only in sub for all 13 episodes.  A sample of the dub is provided, which I suggest you try out before making a decision as to buy it or not.

Why Not to Watch

The show is strictly drama/slice of life.  If you don’t like either of those elements, it’s tough to get into.  There’s no action in any sense of the word.  There’s minimal comedy.  It’s very much a show which needs you to put heart and soul on the line to really get a high level of enjoyment out of the show.  I find myself pretty detached, but was emotionally drained after the last episode.  Very few shows are capable of that for me.  If you’re wanting something light and fluffy, it’s certainly worth skipping this.

Personal Enjoyment

As mentioned before, I love ABe influenced work.  The animation is almost enough for a watch on its own.  There’s no doubt that this, my love of the psychological, and the beautiful piano were enough to keep me satisfied once the ball got rolling.  Whether or not it had a strong story or finale, it would have ranked high in my enjoyment.


Key to looking at Haibane Renmei is its characters, its sound, and its psychology.  Your primary protagonists are extremely deep and will drive the show in terms of both plot twists and drive to watch through their psychological elements, while the sound is excellent and easily keeps you in the moment.  The show builds slowly to start, but almost has the “boulder on a hill” effect where the momentum never releases until you get to the bottom.  That, combined with the art of ABe, will be its main selling points to any prospective viewer.

Overall Rating

I ended up giving Haibane Renmei 7.06/10.  Under my rating system, would be a very solid review and is a recommended watch…especially since you can watch it all legally for free.  While the scores were fairly balanced, the animation, soundtrack, and characters led the way.  Story and the opening/ending side of music were somewhat lacklustre, but this was mostly due to how I calculated these scores.  Certain elements of each component worked well, but the whole suffered because of certain style choices, such as what I feel about the appropriate choice of opening and ending.

Review: Ergo Proxy

Okay, okay.  I realize I probably shouldn’t be posting this since I had that other moe topic to talk about.  But I really want to give my review system a whirl so I know, in the future, how to use the review style.  Down the rabbit hole we go…

It's a show about gothic teens, psychology, and a whole whack of mind screw

Did you know it’s virtually impossible to get an image which won’t spoil part of the series and have it stay visible for more than a minute?


Ergo Proxy.  Those are two words you’ll never hear together.  Seriously.  These two words, if memory serves, can’t actually be used in that order to form a reasonable sentence of any type.  Why do I bring this up?  The title name came from Dai Sato.  If his name sounds familiar, he was on the script team for Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and Eureka Seven.  Ergo Proxy was the first attempt he ever had at being the chief writer.  Now, and this is highlighted by that resume, he’s not exactly known for being the most straight forward writer in the world.  When asked about why he picked the words “Ergo Proxy”, his answer was a laconic “It sounded cool”.  Basic stuff from Wikipedia aside, this really highlights where this show is heading.

There is a lot of new blood in this series.  Not only was this the first time their writer got to lead writing, their producer, Manglobe, was really new at the time.  High off their success from Samurai Champloo, they turned and decided to create a show which was available in what is effectively pay-per-view.  They were notoriously hands off with this series and the staff got away with a lot of stuff more shows wouldn’t normally be able to.  Now, I’ve always thought the more freedom you give a guy, the more likely he’ll trend to his own loves.  Sato has a love of weirdness built up.  And this ends up being no different.  While this freedom worked in their favour in terms of money munching for their animation and some really cool concepts, it also gets really unusual at times.

No.  I'm not kidding.

This is actually part of the show.


The background of the world of Ergo Proxy is part of the fun of this show.  You are told little and changing information will continually force you to reevaluate your beliefs and judgments of the characters and world.  Much like this blog’s namesake, the world is hidden from you and exposes itself at its own pace.  This is a trait that cuts both ways.  First, it’ll scare some people away.  I mean, there are people who don’t want to to think about their show just to comprehend the events.  And that makes perfect sense: anime is entertainment after all, right?  However, a show that layers itself also creates replay value in the show.  It’s a wonder to watch a show twice and view it completely differently.

What I can disclose to you though is that the characters start in a domed city, Romdeau.  The city, as defined by one of the characters, is a boring paradise.  Things don’t seem to happen too often and, as long as you follow the rules and are considered a citizen of the city, you’re safe and all your needs will be accounted for.  Human births don’t exist, something that seems to be changing in the city, where you can order children from the governing body (the Regent acting as the head of this body).  As with any “perfect city” in shows, this is going to change very fast.

Tending to the humans are autoreivs, robots effectively.  They exist to serve humans.  “Entourage” autoreivs, as their name suggests, work to serve people and follow them around during day-to-day activities.  “Companion” autoreivs look more childish.  They are there to take care of children and effective give them, again as the name suggests, a companion to play with.

And seriously, how can you not say you want one?

Unfortunately, the Autoreivs have a bit of a defect.  They suffer from a disease…a virus that spreads between Autoreivs known as the Cogito virus.  Whereas before, they’re forced to do the bidding of humans, a Cogito virus, true to name (cogito being Latin for “I think”), grants the Autoreivs the become autonomous beings and “give them souls”.  More precisely, they behave in a more human manner and develop wants, needs, and creativity.  The number of Cogito infected Autoreivs is on the rise in Romdeau and that’s where you’re dropped in…

So, what is this show about exactly?  That’s really tough to say.  One notable factor is that there is no standing genre.  Like the Haruhi Suzumiya series or Revolutionary Girl Utena, it drifts a lot.  It’ll start out very much a thriller and cyberpunk show.  This is where many people get sucked in.  This part is very exciting for almost anyone.  Then it changes into a much more speculative fiction.  Action is fleeting at best.  An active story is moved to the side for philosophy, abstract episodes, and creative exposition.  And, without warning, it’ll shift right back into thriller territory to close out the series.

That isn’t to say though that it’ll change in every aspect on whim.  One of the few unchanging factors about Ergo Proxy, however, is its bleak tone.  Aside from Pino, there is no entertainment.  There is no fun.  Comedy is fleeting at best and consists almost entirely of reacting to the aforementioned Pino’s lack of real world experience.  And I do say almost.  If you’re looking for a show which is full of bright, happy characters who just will their way through things, just keep on moving.  Additionally, the driving question of the show, “What are proxies?”, remains unchanging.  This doesn’t alter in any way or shape.  And with it, some consistency is afforded for viewers.  Almost every episode is dedicated to answering that question or furthering the story to answer that question.  This will pull you in early.

A major flaw when we deal with progression past early episodes, however, is pacing.  It is downright atrocious at times.  The first 6 or 7 episodes will be a high paced adventure.  As soon as that wraps up though, it grinds into a long sequence of slow exposition and filler episodes that, ultimately, aren’t going to be for everyone.  Unlike shorter anime, they won’t answer several questions an episode.  And when they do provide lots of answers, they’ll generally do so in an extremely abstract manner.  It’s often not straight forward in the slightest and they expect you, as a viewer, to try to read between the lines (or the unusual scenes) to figure out exactly what’s going on.

Like on a game show! Wait, what?

When it comes down to it, this is a show of deception.  It advertises itself as a show about action, of suspense, the flash of a gun, and exploration of a world.  However, it actually becomes more of a philosophical show.  What exactly is going on?  What else is being intentionally hidden from me?  Who am I watching?  By midseason, it’s very character driven in its action and tends to be so until the end of the show.  If you’re a fan of being an investigator and piecing together your own shows after the developers dump the pieces on the ground in front of you, this is great fun.  You’ll be hooked as information is slowly dripped through to you so that you can figure out exactly what’s going on.  But someone who prefers something more straight forward will get frustrated and angry after being lured in by the opening episodes since the show doesn’t handhold you nor rests to really catch you up on critical details right as you need them.  At no point is it going to intentionally be incomprehensible.  There were only specks of time where I thought “what the hell?” and those were on me since I didn’t catch a definition at the very start of the show.  However, it won’t repeat information with frequency that, if you missed it earlier, you’ll have to either turn to the internet or past episodes to fine the details you missed.


When we look at characters, the first point is that, yes, Daedalus is a guy.  Just thought I’d clear that up.

But that…is a secret.

That aside, the show focuses on a character trio.  The first is Vincent Law, who probably wins most awesome symbolic name of the year (with Vincent coming from “conquer”, vincere…so, conquer the law.  Repeat that a few times.  Let it sink in).  Anyways, he’s a meek kid on a journey to rediscover what exactly is going on.  That’s as far as I can go without spoiling stuff, but suffice to say, there’s more to him than meets the eye.  Playing secondary protagonist is Re-l Mayer.  She’s a no-nonsense, stoic investigator for Romdeau.  That being said, she’s a highly independent and dominating person who refuses to compromise her own beliefs for anything or anyone else.  Finally, Pino, a companion Autoreiv, is along for the journey.

At its heart, this show is often character driven…very much so as we get to the middle episodes.  I find defining this show’s cast is very much like defined along the same line as Neon Genesis Evangelion in the sense that the characters are heavily defined by both their assets and their flaws.  This is something I honestly really enjoy.  In some other shows, such as The Slayers, the characters are defined by their assets and personality quirks with negative characteristics either being glossed over or thrown to the side.  For example, Lina Inverse, when not in comedy mode, is a girl with great strength who’ll do the heroic thing, if not with a little bit of grumbling (yes, I’m aware there is a season entirely focused on Lina being hunted for the sheer point that she’s Lina Inverse, but that’s a comedic point to me).  Here, our characters’ traits, both good and bad, become utilized by the story.  Re-l’s extremely domineering nature, for example, becomes the point of frustration and of change more than once.  This rounded definition of character helps provide some additional depth to the characters viewed and allow for greater attachment.  A major point to note is that, unlike many shows, most characters are dynamic.  Everyone, supporting cast included, will generally react to their surroundings and events.  This is a great experience, especially if you are used to static supporting characters.  And watching through the slower episodes may not feel like an exercise in napping it because of this.  Furthering that, characters change with reasonable pace.  The total viewing time of this series is about 11 hours.  In that 11 hours, most characters change at a pace that didn’t feel rushed and felt natural for the character progression.  Actually, that’s a lie.  There is one short jump in Re-l’s personality which some have speculated on.  But, it is fairly small and pretty easy to get over.

Another boon to the series is that few characters are stereotypes played fully or simple cut and past character types.  They are all fairly unique in their own sense and this makes their interactions fairly unique as well.  I couldn’t predict how two characters would interact since I’ve never seen two characters of the same type interact before.  If you’re an experienced viewer, you may catch some, but for the most part, it’s all untreaded territory.  For any viewer, this will be a great part of the show.


I’ll admit, I love the 1995-2005 animation.  Ergo Proxy is right at the tail end of that (2006).  That being said, the animation is gorgeous.  This is a place where having near free reigns has really paid off.  Very few scenes cut graphical detail (episodes 9 and 10 are pretty odd since they do have lower than quality animation…which really feels like average quality) and there is crisp, clean, beautiful animation in nearly every scene.  As I mention elsewhere, I’ve never had a great detail for animation, but what I see is really lovely.

The opening has been well-known for its incredible quality and for good reason.  Art wise, it’s one of the best openings period.  Of note is how much is going on.  Many anime openings will use cheap cop outs like repeated seconds of characters walking with an unchanging background or a moving panel.  That is minimized in this opening.  Not only is it symbolic, but uses very little cop-out.

The closing has no animation to really consider.

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

First on the list is sound.  The background music is instantly identifiable and simple.  Much of it is industrial and serves its purposes simply and effectively.  Nothing more, nothing less.

The opening, Kiri, is notable an English speaker, but may not be as notable to someone only fluent in Japanese.  The reason for this is the band, Monoral, sings perfect English.  This is a bit of a rarity, especially since Monoral is a Japanese band.  In fact, effective English was a goal of the show as a whole, but it really catches you in the opening.  The song itself is a nice piece of alternative rock.  It helps set the tone for a show in its lyrics primarily.  The tone of the music also is very supportive of the primary type of show this is, one of slower pace, than the earlier episodes would define.

The closing is a famous Radiohead song, Paranoid Android…well, an altered version of it.  It’s a tough pick, since the song itself is excellent, but it’s chopped up fairly badly.

The voice actors in either language are effective, but do not provide additional synergy.  For example, while Karen Thompson and Liam O’Brein (Re-l and Vincent, respectively) both effectively portray their character, they do not play off each other to make a better experience.  In this case, the situation is best defined as “did their job”.


There is one way to define the synergy of Ergo Proxy: symbolism.  Everything is tied together because everything is symbolic.  Names are almost always chosen with intention.  One of the few questionable ones for is Vincent Law, but given his status a protagonist, it’s highly unlikely.  If you’re one of the people who love determining exactly how names are chosen, you could probably spend 11 hours walking through Wikipedia.  It’s a fun journey to undergo.

More generally, the incredible animation works well with the characters.  With this level of animation and unique personalities, they become extremely identifiable characters and stand out extremely effectively.  Even a character who, under typical circumstances would look average and unnoticeable, such as Daedalus, stands out in his motions, his slight movement changes, and his movements.  These two components complement each other extremely well and help continue to focus the point of the show being a very good show to watch if you’re interested in characters.

Why to Watch

Ergo Proxy is a show that, ultimately, will focus on characters and will deliver it an unorthodox manner.  It’s interesting in its approach.  Additionally, it’ll never attempt to completely confuse you and leaves details in the show enough that you’ll be able to follow it with surrounding details about the history coming out in bursts.  Love of this show is conditional on being open to new storytelling methods, to being willing to take a slow approach to characters, and not minding symbolic story.

Why Not to Watch

Anybody looking for a simple show is going to hate this right away.  The story doesn’t handhold you and it will occasionally move on ruthlessly to another component of the show which relies on you understanding the last few scenes.  There are few action scenes and many of those have little action in them.  Some even consist almost purely of blur lines.  There is little to see, little to get your heart pumping.  Also, the bleak tone will be off-putting to some viewers.

Personal Enjoyment

This type of show is right up my alley.  Confusion in story is to be expected for me and I love piecing together a show.  It’s difficult for me to really say much too bad about it, since the perceived flaws that it has, in others’ minds, are things I enjoy having.  Slowly revealed story?  Bring it on.  Meandering pace?  I’ve had worse.  Weird?  Sold!


To watch Ergo Proxy is to watch an experimental attempt at a show.  Animation is consistently lovely and its characters are written to be very unique.  They provide a very powerful force to watching the episodes.  The show kicks off with a very fast paced bang, something it doesn’t keep up for long and drops all pretenses of being action and drops you into a show full of character exploration.  The pace can be maddeningly inconsistent, but builds to a very effective conclusion, should you be into what Ergo Proxy wants to sell you.

Overall Rating

Ergo Proxy was rated 7.29/10.  This, under my rating system, would be one of fairly positive review and is a recommended watch.  It fared best in animation and character traits, while it lagged in music due to lacklustre background music.  Additionally, the story was a strong component of the series.  This is probably going to be a little controversial, since the show’s ending is fairly ambiguous and unorthodox, not really providing any perfect closure, but answering the overlying question.  To some degree, there is a “now what” feel.