Friday 19 March 2010

Anime REVIEW: Saint Knight's Tale

The Tenchi Muyo franchise will always hold a special place in my heart. Aside from the obvious Pokemon/Digimon/Dragonball Z I watched as a child, it was the first anime series I watched entirely and gained a significant love for. So after many years since the last instalment of canon OVA series Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki and only the less than impressive spin off series Sasami Magical Girls Club (reviewed earlier in this blog) to fill the void in that time, it’s nice to see a new iteration in the franchise that’s canon at long last, even if it doesn’t involve any of the characters from the series.

Saint Knight’s Tale (or Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari if you prefer) takes place 15 years after the events of OVA 3 of Ryo-Ohki, and centers around Kenshi Masaki, half brother to Tenchi Masaki (the child of Rea, whom Noboyuki married at the end of OVA 3). Kenshi is somehow transported to the magical world of Geminar, and is deceived by a mysterious organization to participate in an attempt to assassinate Lashara Aasu XXVIII, the young princess of the Shitoreiyu Empire. After failing this attempt and being captured Lasara and her servants take pity on Kenshi and offer him aid. Disguised as Lashara's servant, Kenshi moves with her to the "Holy Land", a virtually impregnable fortress that serves as an academy to train Seikijin (humanoid mecha style weapons. Think EVAs, but less ugly) pilots selected from around the world. However, the same organization who deceived Kenshi is secretly working behind the shadows inside the academy, and a wide scale conflict which will engulf the entire world of Geminar is about to begin.

If you were to watch the series and not realise it was related to Tenchi Muyo, I wouldn’t blame you. Episode 1 throws the viewer in straight at the deep end, with Kenshi having already arrived in Geminar and under control of the series antagonists. No mention is made of his mysterious arrival there until much later in the episode, and glimpses of Kenshi’s home world are not shown until several episodes later, finally adding some relation to the Tenchi Muyo series, even if very briefly.

This is not the only problem with the series, as most of the characters seem to have carbon copy personalities of the Tenchi Muyo cast (switched around of course – but they’re all still there), making it seem like something we’ve all seen before, only better. If you thought Tenchi was overpowered, Kenshi takes this to extreme – in both physical attributes and Seikijin piloting skills. The female characters aren’t particularly memorable either, with the most of my laughs going to the money hungry Lashara, who I’ve deemed the most likeable character of the series.

Much like earlier spin off series Tenchi Muyo! GXP the sex factor is highly overplayed, and since Saint Knight’s Tale is an OVA series, it’s painfully apparent that they could get away with much more. From the female Seikijin pilots to wearing barely anything to a whole episode dedicated to Kenshi’s “massage skills”, this takes Tenchi Muyo!’s ecchi factor to new levels. And do you know what the biggest problem with this is? It just isn’t funny. While GXP had some wonderful comedy moments with the rather forward Amane (and later Ryoko) in contrast with the more reserved Kiriko, Saint Knight’s Tale just feels like it’s trying too hard for the sake of pleasing its male audience.

This isn’t to say Saint Knight’s Tale is a COMPLETE failure. Its animation is fluid and beautiful, with some great character designs (the Seikijin are especially impressive). The latter episodes are also a step up from the earlier ones in terms of plot and characterisation, it’s just a shame you have to sit through eight or nine 45-minute episodes to get there. And finally, what little it does relate back to Tenchi Muyo does also raise some interesting questions as to what to expect from OVA 4 (should it ever be made).

If Saint Knight’s Tale was a standalone series, MAYBE I’d rank it a little higher, but then it would get lost among the other (better) magical/mecha animes that are out there. Its position as a canon Tenchi spin off is what brought the series to my attention, and as a spin off it just misses the mark. Not as badly as Sasami did admittedly, but GXP still vastly superior to this, and that was the one creator Masaki Kajishima was unhappy with. Most curious…

N.B: Currently I have only watched 10 out of 13 episodes of the series. Episodes 11 and 12 are yet to be dubbed, and 13 isn’t out yet. This entry will be updated as soon as the episodes are available. And maybe, just maybe it’ll go up in my estimations following it.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Summer Wars vs Digimon - A side by side look...

Okay so I've recently watched Summer Wars, the latest film from the creators of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Whilst watching the film I began to notice alot of similarities with a certain other popular movie it shares a director with. As the similarities became more and more blatent, I felt that some comparison was in order, so I've taken the liberty of making some screencap comparisons. So how do you feel about Summer Wars? A great film full of homages or a film wholly lacking originality? While I personally felt Summer Wars was an enjoyable film, its repuation for me was certainly smeared by the latter.

Still, I'll let you all decide for yourselves...

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Kotobukiya Gurren Lagann Plain Model series King Kittan

Following on from last week's Dayakkaiser review, here we have a look at another one of Kotobukiya's Gurren Lagann model kits. This time its the almighty gunmen of the eldest of the Black siblings and one time leader of the Dai-Gurren dan Kittan, the fearsome King Kittan!

Again like the Dayakkaiser its a very simple snap together model kit that can be achieved in 6 easy steps, so not particuarly challenging. However unlike with the Dayakkaiser where you could probably get away with not painting the kit due to the sheer amount of black detailing on the King Kittan painting is a necessity. I painted the parts before I put the kit together, so I'll have to borrow someone else's picture of an unpainted kit just to illustrate my point (and that can be found here). The weapons you could get away with not painting but if you have to do so much of the body you may as well go the extra mile and make them look good too. Thankfully the painting proved to be far easier to do than it did on the Dayakkaiser so what seems like a daunting task isn't too hard after all. Additionally, if your kit is anything like mine you will need to glue the eyes in because mine just wouldn't stay still.

Once again articulation isn't much - ball joints in the legs, arms and feet. However it is possible to add Revoltech joints to the arms of the figure so I'm going to give that a try to see if I can't give the figure a little more personality (its also pretty in scale with Revoltech Gurren!).

As one of the few (but not only, but the figurine version is MUCH smaller I believe) methods to get a King Kittan this model really is a must have to fans, as its one of the best mecha of one of the best characters in the series (both who are rather underrated). It's also basically a robot version of the 'Peanut Butter Jelly Time' banana, making it doubly awesome for the lulz too!

Monday 1 March 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Kotobukiya Gurren Lagann Plain Model series Dayakkaiser

This won't be a lengthy review since there's not really a lot to say about this model kit, but it was definitely worth mentioning since its nice to see a company giving some of the lower tier gunmen some love (a King Kittan is also available in this series, and this is probably the only way to actually own a Dayakkaiser in any shape or form).

Anyway moving on, the trust personal gunman of Dayakka and then later Kiyoh and Yoko is immortalized in the form of a snap together model kit! The kit of made of very few parts and is put together in only 7 easy to follow steps, so the building is a walk in the park to beginners and experienced model builders alike. While the kit doesn't NEED painting, if you wish to give the gunman full detail you will require blue paint (which can be bought in a set of gunmen paints, but buying Citadel's "Enchanted Blue" from your nearest Games Workshop is exactly the same and is MUCH cheaper) for the arms and cannon, and also black and red for the extra detail. My paint skills are hardly the best, and I made a few mistakes but after a few hours and a lot of paint remover I had my Dayakkaiser in a presentable fashion and ready for action!

Articulation-wise there's not much to say since its a model kit and not an action figure, but the arms, legs and feet are all attached by ball joints so its not completely static. If you're a fan of Gurren Lagann and have been looking for some of the less popular mechs, then this is definitely for you since, as I stated earlier, its probably your only way to own a Dayakkaiser. And for such a reasonable price (I paid £9 inc. shipping from Japan for mine) you really can't go wrong!