Attempting more reviews…

First impressions are important…and I feel that many seasoned anime viewers being introduced to Black Blood Brothers would dismiss it as a poor cousin of Hellsing upon seeing the character design, and those who don’t still refer to the resemblance ad nauseum. But I gave it a go (for reasons that some of you should know) and was hooked halfway through the first episode. Call me sadistic, but witnessing the apparently genial Jirou admonish his younger brother in a manner one should not repeat at home (nor is it possible, really) was absolutely hilarious.

History, much revealed in various flashbacks, is important in BBB. 10 years prior to current events, a vampiric bloodline known as the Kowloon Children unleashed terror upon the world, revealing to humans at large the existence of vampires. After the defeat of their King in Hong Kong, a Special Zone is created (in Japan, if I’m not mistaken), where vampires and humans can live together. The titular characters, Mochidzuki Jirou and Kotarou, seek to enter into the Special Zone, but various factors make their assimilation into that society rather challenging. Complicating this mess is the first scion of the Kowloon King, who also seeks to enter the Special Zone…

BBB is based on a novel series by Azano Kohei, illustrated by Kusaka Yuuya. The anime adaptation isn’t particularly well paced – many explanations are dumped upon us in the final episodes (though certain things were guessed long before then, especially given the seiyuu) leaves the audience largely in the dark. What made the series for me however, was the humour. The acidicity that Jirou directs to those who irritate him is amplified because of the polite language that sets him apart. And of course there are the really cool characters, such as Zelman, who doesn’t involve himself except where it interests him. And mmm…the seiyuu… It would have been nice to hear Kamiyan’s take on Jirou, particularly given his Saionji in Gakuen Heaven, but Sakupyon replaces him fairly well, and this is the series this year where I absolutely love FukuJun. (As a matter of interest – take a look at which members of the cast have moved on to Code Geass. Does it say anything about the pairings? hmm…)

Jirou and Kotarou really don’t look like brothers at all – but of course, vampiric bloodlines are based upon having the same ancestry. The (fictional) vampiric legends crafted into this story are merely alluded to in the 12 episodes of the anime – and there is a wealth more to be told. If they don’t produced a second season of the anime, I will need to learn Japanese properly, whether I make it to Japan or not (fingers crossed). Screw that…there’s also Kokumono to read, so I might as well throw myself into learning it over at least the next year. With the masses of vampiric fiction that have been created, it is difficult to find out what has come from tradition and what has been added recently, particularly with the advent of computer games such as Castlevania and Vampire: The Masquerade. The concept of a ‘bloodline’, at any rate, appears to be a recent addition (try googling it – links to games are pretty much all you get), but it’s something interesting to play around with. As in these other stories, the bloodlines in BBB have different traits – Kowloon Children for example, are impervious to water, unlike Jirou himself. One of the strange things about the brothers, however, is that whilst Jirou is weakened by water and sunlight, neither affects Kotarou at all. Much mystery still surrounds their bloodline, which is why I really need to read the novels, or hope against hope for an anime continuation. I’ll give it a 7.5/10.

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The other anime I picked up in the winter/early spring season was Innocent Venus, and it’s probably worth a look if you like mecha series. However, after an exciting and interesting first half, the ending felt like a letdown. I didn’t think the reversal in the middle of the series was going to be that severe, although the hints were in the opening right from the start. It was a nice character arc in many ways…but given the allusions to Jin’s past, it might have been better if this had been a 26 episode series, thus allowing his character (and that of Jo’s) to be better fleshed out. Toraji got a lot of exposition for someone who is arguably on a lower tier, and the fact that the final confrontation wasn’t between the two of the main characters was definitely a lowpoint. On a positive note, Sana wasn’t quite as annoying as she could have been, and I can now recognise Ishikawa Hideo in certain roles (such as Ukitake in Bleach ^^). But that’s a personal enjoyment, so it’s only 5.5/10 from me.

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xxxHOLiC is yet another CLAMP series – one which I dropped upon watching the first episode back at the start of the fall season, partially because the sub was pretty poor, in my opinion anyway. But because I grew to love FukuJun’s voice with some of the recent spring series, I decided to give it another try when the an8id passed me all 24 episodes of it.

Firstly, I should note that I started reading the manga seriously shortly before subjecting myself to the anime. Comparisons were inevitable, and there were good and bad effects. Whilst I love the character designs in the manga, when animated, they just seem so much more stretched out that it became rather ridiculous. Also, if over-the-top characters are not your cup-of-tea, Watanuki is a bit of a trial. I found him amusing (his voice is *love*, so that helped); SC started rolling her eyes soon enough.

The main draw about xxxHOLiC, however, is what it’s about. Pronounced ‘holic’, the ‘x’s stand for variables, and the rest is used as in the word ‘alcoholic’ – it refers to addiction/habit etc. Various addictions are addressed in the anime (as it follows the manga): a tendency to tell lies; a propensity to use the internet 24/7 (sound familiar, anyone); a rigourous belief that one is lucky coupled with a disinclination to listen to advice.

Another draw of the series requires the viewer to have read the manga before – and up to a point recently revealed. I won’t say anything more than this: do you find Himawari mysterious? Verdict: 6.5/10. I’m happy with getting the manga, but I’m keeping episode 19 for laughs.

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After Naruto, you’d think I would have learnt my lesson about not watching the animated versions of one of those loooooong Jump series…and yes, I held off on Bleach for a very very long time once I’d dropped it upon episode 24…that was about 20 months ago now. But one of SC’s housemates, being an anime fan, passed both of us a few things, including all Bleach episodes released up to that point (about 100)…so I decided to capture and save some clips.

Long anime series drive me up the wall…the longest I can cope with nowadays are the 50 ep ones – and that just barely, depending on how interesting they are. But the first 63 episodes of Bleach, which depict the first half of the manga, are well-worth watching. The storyline ranges from predictably average to interesting – I started reading the manga when the massacred council was discovered, but currently, it’s back to fight after drawn-out fight – and I’m not even going to address the fillers (largely because I haven’t seen them), but what makes Bleach really enjoyable are the characters. Whilst the idea of shinigami have often been tackled in anime manga (mostly in shoujo series, I must admit), Kubo Tite has created some of the most interesting and varied personalities in a shounen story. I particularly love how the 11th division is just completely cracked up – but the interactions between other captains and their subordinates (Shunsui & Nanao, and Hitsugaya & Matsumoto in particular) are gold. A lot of the humour of the manga series does come through, and some parts (e.g. Ikkaku’s encounter with Ichigo) are even better ^^.

But funny characters aren’t enough to save a long series that increasingly stretches out it’s fights. The development of several characters is still holding my interest, and I hope the second half of the series will address that. First and foremost is Ichimaru Gin, the most mysterious traitor. Whilst Aizen has expressed his power-hungry aspirations, and Tousen is clearly dissatisfied with the way everyone else runs things, Gin’s motivations have never been revealed. The other mysteries are mostly from the older generation too – Urahara, Isshin, Ryuuken – and I would like to see how Hinamori’s problems are resolved. Another draw is how Kubo has been developing the relationships between various characters, but since that’s mostly in the new arc, I’ll have to leave it here. 8/10 – if you don’t watch the fillers. Up to the same point, I’d probably give the manga 8 too, but for slightly different reasons perhaps.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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