Bubblegum Crisis

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The 80s were a simpler time. You had girls in mechanical suits...

From the Unwound archives. Way back in the days of my budding anime fandom, a dear friend of min pulled me aside and said he had something to show me. It was called ‘Bubblegum Crisis,’ and he was positive that I would enjoy it. Now, of course, I had my doubts as to the veracity of his claim. After all, it was kind of a ridiculously absurd name and did not really pique my interest all that much. In response, he simply told me to ignore the name and try not to judge an anime based on the title. I was too tired to put up much of a fight, and after work we ended up at his place and settled in for an afternoon of anime watching.

Yeah, I was taught a rather valuable lesson that day. Had I gone with my instincts of begging off, I would not be the same person I am today. I think, along with many other early titles I watched, Bubblegum Crisis is a staple of anime fandom. At least, it’s a staple of mine. I’m not talking about the remake from Pioneer/Geneon, either. I’m talking about the late 80s produced original, where you could tell it was all hand-drawn and not computer-assisted. along with classics like Urusei Yatsura, Macross, Yamato, Gatchaman, and many others, BGC is a must-see for any anime fan out there. It’s a common frame of reference, a point of contention between fans over what constitutes a bad dub, and if you haven’t seen it, you’re punched right out of the conversation, I guarantee you.

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gaudy yet awesome outfits, ...

What’s BGC about? Four women battle against the out-of-control creations of the Genom corporation: one driven by revenge, one driven by boredom, one driven by excitement, and one driven by loyalty. Led by Miss Sylia Stingray, the Knight Sabers band together to crusade against the injustice of androids with too much power. Underground singer Priss Asagiri, Linna Yamazaki, and police data specialist Nene Romanova round out the group, wearing Stingray-designed hardsuits and kicking some serious Boomer ass through eight episodes of OVA goodness.

Can you sense my enthusiasm? Good.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this series. It delivers action, romance, drama, and a memorable soundtrack the likes of which has never been reproduced. Every character shows a level of depth that you really only got to see in much longer series. What a story like BGC, it would take a series such as Full Metal Panic or Gundam much more than eight episodes to provide you with a clear background, and even then it took Crash to really screw the pooch. Which in a sense was an additional three episodes to the story, but you see how perfect the eight was? It really didn’t even need the full eleven, right? See?

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... and big hair.

Though… Crash had good music. What is it with all these series that are bad, but have kickass OSTs?

Not that BGC was any slouch in the OST department. Quite possibly the most recognizable set of vocal tracks in anime history belongs to this series, which includes the perennial Konya wa Hurricane and my personal favorite, Bye, Bye, My Crisis. The latter of which is just a fun song to chairdance to. Also, it took me forever to find the music in the pre-Complete Vocal Collection days. I could write a full review on the music, itself, so I’ll cut myself short here. The bottom line is, if you haven’t yet watched this series, then crawl out from underneath your rock and get thee hence!

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu (1st Season)

Editor’s Note: From the Unwound archives. To celebrate Tanabata, we’re reliving our review for the first season of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. Enjoy!

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All other religions don't matter! Only Haruhi-ism matters.

I know I need to wait until we broadcast the first episode, but I don’t think I can properly contain my being almost completely enamored with Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. I finished watching this fourteen-episode series just yesterday and all I can do is keep humming the ending theme, Hare Hare Yukai, which comes complete with a crazy dance sequence that many many people are trying to emulate on YouTube. Haruhi reminds me exactly what anime is all about, and that’s good all-around fun with a dab of drama and romance to it. This series literally has it all, from sports junkies to space opera fans and everything in between. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was skeptical beforehand, but when you hear from many many people about how awesome a series is, there’s something inside that tells you to believe them and I’m so glad I did!

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Haruhi's loyal followers.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you’re probably in need of a torrent download. Head over to Animesuki and download the torrent right now, if you haven’t yet. Go ahead. I’ll wait. (Editor’s Note: DON’T download this anime; instead buy it at your local defunct video megastore or Amazon.)

Done? No, seriously… go and grab it.

Okay, now that you’re about to embark on this riproaringly funny journey, you need to understand that not since School Rumble have I been so completely enraptured by this series. You’ll rush to your nearest SOS Brigade branch and join up! Check with Negi Springfield on the forums, because I think he’s starting a chapter up as we speak. Hell, I think I might have to sign up, myself.

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Normal time-traveler greeting.

The only problem I could even think of with the series is the fact that it’s a mere fourteen episodes! C’mon, folks… a series this good needs at least twenty-two to twenty-six installments so I’m not going crazy waiting for a second season (which rumor has it, is in the works). However, I think the beauty behind Haruhi was the order in which the episodes were broadcast. Instead of telling the story in a linear fashion, the episodes were shown out of order, starting with the eleventh and ending with the sixth. Therefore, if I wanted to, I could rewatch the whole thing in chronological order. For the new viewer, I would recommend experiencing it in the broadcast order first and then electing to do what I will be doing, which is spending more time with Haruhi in a new way. This makes the series rewatchable! And it’s like I have 28 episodes instead of just 14!

Kimi ga Nozomu Eien

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Don't be fooled by the typical love story beginning.

From the Unwound archives. This was one of those series that had been sitting on my hard drive for a while. I’m not sure how anyone else watches anime, but I tend to be a collector of digisubs. I’ll download a metric ton of anime and then get daunted by the fact that I have a metric ton of anime to watch, until one day I’ll be bored or someone pushes me to watch something. A majority of the first season was generally: “Oh, you have to watch [title X]. It’s awesome.” “Oh, yeah, I downloaded that like a month ago. Haven’t gotten around to watching it, yet.” “Why not?” “I don’t know. It’s never come up.” When Jesse said we were watching Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, I was like, “Oh, yeah, it’s on my hard drive, but I only watched the first episode and it didn’t seem like much.” He told me, “You have to watch the second episode. Trust me, man.”

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The episode where I got owned.

Holy crap. The second episode owned me.

And then the third and fourth, until the end.

Kimi ga Nozomu Eien is a story of a group of three friends. I say three, because the fourth friend is really just background noise. A lame attempt at a comedic foil that failed miserably. But anyway, the story centers around a love triangle. Two girls and a guy.

The basic recipe for Kiminozo is: Guy dates Girl. Girl’s Friend also likes Guy. Girl gets hit by a car, goes into a coma. Years later, Guy and Girl’s Friend get together. Girl wakes up. Add drama liberally and stir until angst is thick enough to be used as molasses, unable to be cut with a damned lightsaber. If you make it all the way the last episode, feel free to reach for the tissue, because you’ll need it.

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Is this considered cheating if you believe your girl will never come out of a coma?

The whole series is a mere fourteen episodes long, but they manage to pack enough angst into each episode to make you think it was twice as long. I realize that may not be appealing to some, but the fact is that each episode felt more like it was an hour than twenty-six minutes. I don’t mean to say that it dragged, but more like that there was so much going on in each one that there was no way it was that short after getting to the ending theme. I kept having to check my computer clock to make sure I didn’t accidentally hit daylight savings time or something. Needless to say, each episode had something of a hook at the end, and I was firing up the next one almost immediately. Note to self: never try to watch a gripping series as a means of falling asleep. I just won’t sleep until the series is done!

Sleep is for the weak, anyway.

Overall, Kiminozo is for anime fans who thought Kimagure Orange Road was lacking in drama or Maison Ikkoku didn’t have enough angst. Be prepared to get sucked in by the end of the second episode, and be prepared to rip your own heart out over it. I nearly did.

ToLOVEru

The romantic comedy genre in anime has been stagnant for a very long time. Although we’ve seen a few breakout hits recently with Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid and School Rumble, the rom-com genre has seen better days. In the summer of 2008, J.C. Staff, the prolific studio that brought us crazy comedy series Excel Saga and Hayate: The Combat Butler, hopes to reinvigorate the rom-com genre with the insanely popular manga series (and a title that is a pain in the ass to type), ToLOVEru. Did J.C. Staff succeed? (Spoiler Alert: No.)

I'm sure Equality Now will looooove this series.

As the name suggests, ToLOVEru’s premise is all about trouble — you see what they did there? The story revolves around Yuuki Rito (Watanabe Akeno), yet another normal Japanese high school boy and the trouble (or more like catastrofuck) that follows his otherwise mundane life. For most of his adolescent life, he has a crush on Sairenji Haruna (Yahagi Sayuri); he wants to confess his feelings for her, but whenever he musters enough courage to do so, practically everything including the kitchen sink gets in his way. Now in his second year in high school, Rito tries to confess his feelings for Haruna once more. However, on that fateful day, divine intervention struck again, when a UFO crashed between him and Haruna. If that wasn’t incredibly cliched enough, later that night, a despondent Rito was taking a comforting bath when suddenly a pair of bewbs appeared in front of him, and he accidentally grabbed them. The pair of knockers just happens to belong to the voluptuous Lala Satalin Deviluke (Haruka Tomatsu), or Lala for short. Unbeknownst to Rito, by fondling Lala’s naughty bits, he entered a marriage contract and must marry her on  some predetermined time (essentially whenever Rito is unguarded).

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And UNICEF too.

ToLOVEru tries to be all of the rom-coms in anime history, but practically ripping them all off at once, from old school series like Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, Tenchi-Muyo! to newer series such as Girls Bravo, DearS and School Rumble. There’s just too many ingredients in this anime series, all you get from watching ToLOVEru is excruciating constipation, which is trouble in itself — you see what I did there?

The only saving grace in this series are the character designs and the opening theme song. The illustrator and character designer Yabuki Kentarou, who also designed the characters for Black Cat, created a nice and rather provocative cast of female characters for the series. The band THYME performed the opening theme song for ToLOVEru, “forever we can make it”, is the only legacy the series will be remembered for. While the opening theme song is the standard pop rock you’re accustomed to on the radio, it is both appropriate and catchy enough that attempts to hook the viewer to watch the series.

Who am I kidding? This series will be banned in the near future.

Like I’ve mentioned in the radio show, ToLOVEru is probably better off as a hentai series. The entire series is essentially a bunch of individual vignettes where the hapless Rito gets into various relationship and sexual misunderstandings that eventually goes nowhere, leaving this reviewer frustrated in every possible way. Though it contains a lot of sexual innuendos and themes, ToLOVEru is ultimately juvenile; this may as well be called “Date Movie, the Anime Version.” Unless you want more cliched, mindless and unentertaining rom-coms and you couldn’t buy hentai, do not watch ToLOVEru ever.

Suzuka

From the Unwound archives. Suzuka was simply a disappointment all around. One of the most frustrating aspects of reviewing anime for this show is the fact that we cannot just turn it off after two or three episodes; no, we must sit down and take in the whole thing, be it good or bad. And this was plainly bad. At no point did it redeem itself or alter my opinion, or even give me something to point out as the only good thing about it. Suzuka was just a craptacular series from top to bottom and not even the music or subplot could save it from being labeled as ‘run, don’t walk’ away from this pile of steaming horse-dung.

OH SHI- Spoilar alart!
OH SHI- Spoilar alart!

Basically, you have yourself a kind of love story the likes of which you’ve seen many times before. A guy moves from the country to the city and upon his arrival becomes very interested in a girl he sees doing the high jump on his future school’s grounds. It’s love at first sight and so far I was buying into the premise. Until they started talking and interacting, and then it was like I was watching someone rip off three great romantic comedies all at once. Within the first episode alone, I groaned at how the writer seemed to rip whole plot elements from Kimagure Orange Road, Maison Ikkoku, and Love Hina right before my very eyes… and not even with any sense of flair. Most romantic comedies nowadays find it difficult to be original, but the fact is that most of the best series out there take an unoriginal idea and make it their own. Suzuka managed to simply adopt those concepts and executed them with all the finesse of open-heart surgery with a rusty chainsaw. I didn’t think the series could get any worse, but then the main “male” character, Yamato, apparently uses his audacious tenacity to pursue a girl, the eponymous Suzuka, in spite of the fact that she thinks he’s a complete moron and doesn’t want anything to do with him. By the way, this all takes place in a bathhouse attached to a dormitory for girls. It’s like Love Hina and Maison Ikkoku, except both of those series were actually good. Kimagure Orange Road’s comparison lies in the fact that Suzuka is like Super Madoka, only I actually liked Madoka… oh, and KOR was actually a good anime.

Seriously, don't watch this anime, unless you want your balls to shrivel up.
Seriously, don't watch this anime, unless you want your balls to shrivel up.

Twenty-five damned episodes of this bullshit! Don’t get me wrong, I like a good strong-willed female character just as much as the next guy, but this one kind of took it to an extreme and after then fourth episodes, I was like… c’mon Yamato, there are other girls out there for you to fall for. No need to waste your life trying to get this bitch to fall in love with you. I mean, for shit’s sake, man… grow some balls. By the twenty-fifth episode, I was convinced I was watching two women and not a guy and a girl… or quite possibly, Suzuka was carrying enough balls for the both of them, because Yamato had to be standing behind the door when they were passing out balls and spines. Possibly brains. And guts. I find it very difficult to like a character or even bother caring about what happens to him when in the end, I have no respect for him. It’s called piss-poor writing, or quite possibly, how to screw up a story in a hurry.

Use Suzuka if you need to forcibly extract information from someone. Do not look directly into the screen or else your soul will ache.