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Review: Shakugan no Shana

Yuji Sakai, a high school student, expected his very normal life to last forever. However, this expectation is quickly shattered one day while on his way home.

The world suddenly freezes in time, leaving Yuji to watch in horror as blue flames engulf the people around him. Soon a monster resembling a large doll appears and begins sucking the flames into its mouth, until it notices Yuji. Surprised with Yuji's insusceptibility to the time-stop (fuzetsu), it jumps with glee.

Just as the monster prepares to consume Yuji, a sword-wielding girl in black attire with flaming red eyes and hair that burns like embers appears, swiftly and confidently destroys the monster, before noticing Yuji moving freely. The girl calls herself a "Flame Haze" who hunts the "Denizens of the Crimson Realm" and the "Rinne" they send to do their bidding. When Yuji notices a blue flame in his chest, the Flame Haze tells him that the "real" Yuji died some time ago, and that he is a "Torch", a temporary replacement for erased humans. Torches take on the forms of those erased persons, but after a period of time, they will vanish from existence and the memories of the living. Unfazed by his apparent death, Yuji befriends the strange girl and names her "Shana" after her sword. The reason Yuji was able to move in the fuzetsu is that he is not a normal Torch, but instead a special kind called a "Mystes": he has a treasure inside him, known as a "Hougu", a device possessing special abilities of sorts, and an extremely powerful and valuable one at that. The hougo inside Yuji allows him to remain in existence rather than fading away like other torches. Shana resolves to protect Yuji from the Denizens, who would use the treasure to disrupt the balance of the world, and Yuji decides to join Shana in her fight.

Shana's fight is actually a long-standing struggle between the Lords and Denizens of Guze. The Denizens steal Power of Existence, the energy that forms the basis of the world, from living people and utilize it for their own selfish ambitions. Some Lords inhabit humans creating Flame Hazes in an attempt to retain balance by hunting renegades from Guze. Flame Hazes create Torches in place of the consumed to save the world the disruption of many existences being lost at once, allowing the Torches to gradually burn out over the course of time.

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Review: Tactics

Loosely set in Japan during the Taisho period, Tactics is the story of Kantarou Ichinomiya, a young man with the ability to see youkai and other mythical beasts. When he was a child, this ability resulted in him being ostracized by human company, and he turned to youkai for friendship instead. The youkai tell him that in order to be stronger, he must find the oni-eating tengu, the strongest of all youkai. The young Kantarou then vows to himself to find this tengu and name him 'Haruka'. By naming a youkai, a human becomes its master and the name contract is only broken if the master sets the youkai free. As Kantarou grows up, his interest in youkai leads him to a career as a folklorist and a part-time exorcist or 'youkai exterminator', with the ultimate goal of helping youkai.

The story begins when an assignment leads Kantarou to a rural shrine up in a mountain where he discovers a shrine to a fox god (tenko) which is actually the seal of the oni-eating tengu. By calling upon Haruka's name, Kantarou breaks the seal and finally meets the youkai of his dreams, who turns out to look like a very handsome young man with black wings. Together, Kantarou and Haruka go through many adventures and gradually grow closer to one another.

The story in both the manga and the anime follows a monster of the day format. Both the manga and the anime have been categorized by fans as shounen ai or boys' love due to Kantarou and Haruka's implied sexual attraction to each other, but this does not seem like a suitable categorization as neither of them openly express their affections physically or verbally, and they both display brief attractions to women.

As the past Haruka struggles with slowly comes back to him, his relationship with his master starts to crack. The tengu yearns to learn everything he had forgotten, especially the identity of the person who had sealed him within the huge rock boulders. This is the point where Minamoto Raiko and his group of soldiers come in. Together with another formidable demon, Raiko and his attendants plot many plans to try to force Kantarou to cancel the name contract or make Haruka awaken his real powers, so they would be able to capture Haruka and present him to "that person", whose identity is unknown. If the name contract is not canceled or if the master dies, Haruka's power would forever be restrained and he would not be able to be used by the antagonists.

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Review: Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket follows the life of high-school student Tohru Honda, who was recently orphaned when her mother, Kyoko Honda, died in a car accident. After that, Tohru lived with her grandfather, but when his house needs remodeling, Tohru resorts to living in a tent in a forest and holds down a job to support herself. Despite suffering many hardships, Tohru remains optimistic.

One day, Tohru comes upon a house in the forest that is the home of her classmate Yuki Sohma and his older relative Shigure Sohma. When the Sohmas discover that Tohru is living in a tent, they are quite surprised by her inner strength. The entire area is Sohma property, and Tohru asks to be allowed to stay in her tent (affectionately dubbed "her castle"). Feeling sorry for her and desperate to end their bachelor days of filthy living conditions, the Sohmas offer her their spare room in exchange for cooking and housework. After a landslide buries her tent, including her mother's picture and school clothes, she has no option but to accept. Soon after she moves in, Kyo Sohma comes to challenge Yuki.

Tohru soon discovers the Sohma family's secret, and the reason why Yuki is so private and secretive at school: thirteen members of the family are possessed by the 12 animal spirits of the Chinese Zodiac (jyūnishi in Japanese) plus the spirit of the cat who was, according to legend, left out of the Zodiac. They transform into animals when hugged by the opposite sex or when put under a great deal of emotional or physical stress (such as being sick). When she promises to keep their secret, the Sohmas allow Tohru to keep her memories rather than hypnotically erasing them, a fate that had previously befallen anyone not "Inside" the Sohma family who had discovered the secret.

The story follows the lives of Tohru and the Sohma family, as they deal with each other and a society where neither quite fits in, as well as the feared Akito Sohma, head of the Sohma family. Soon, after living with the Sohma family she began to like, then love, all of the Sohmas, and sets out to break the zodiac curse.

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Date: 05/10/08

Review: Ah! My Goddess (Anime & Manga)

The manga tells the story of college freshman Keiichi Morisato, who, because of his pure heart, has been chosen by Yggdrasil, Heaven's computer system, to receive a single wish. The "angelic" goddess Belldandy is sent down to Earth to ask for his wish, and tells him that he can theoretically wish for anything that he wants, from becoming a billionaire to destroying the world in an instant. Keiichi thinks that this entire meeting is a prank set up by his senpais. Keiichi, thinking the entire set up is a joke, wishes Belldandy to stay with him forever, under the condition that the offer is valid. Ironically, he does not fully comprehend the outcome of his wish, and is stunned on realizing that Belldandy will now be living with him. The manga/anime follows their relationship as they become closer to each other.

The varying anime series feature the main characters and are based on the same basic plotline as the original manga, but each has taken a unique interpretation on this concept — described below — and, as such, should be considered separate canons. The only exception to this is the more recent TV series, which follows the plot of the manga closely.

Being a mechanical otaku[1] himself, Fujishima frequently bases whole chapters, or even story arcs, around mechanics, focusing especially on motorcycle mechanics. Most notably, readers discover that Keiichi Morisato is a member of his college's motor vehicle club, which is always under threat of being put out of commission by a rival motor club. There are also several story arcs related to racing found earlier in the manga; the concept of racing is also a significant plot device in each of the anime canons. Both Keiichi and Belldandy are exceptionally gifted at racing (Keiichi because of natural ability and Belldandy because of her ability to "talk" with the machines). Most of the other main characters have exhibited some degree of skill in racing and/or mechanics, making the idea of mechanics a significant device for character development and growth.

Ah! My Goddess (Manga)

The manga was first published in 1988 as a spin-off of the manga You're Under Arrest (逮捕しちゃうぞ, Taiho Shichauzo). Fujishima had added a four-panel gag strip to a version You're Under Arrest in which the main characters prayed to a goddess.[2] The gag became very popular, and Fujishima liked the look of his drawings of the goddess so much that he began drawing a full-fledged manga based around her. Ah! My Goddess was published in the Japanese publisher Kodansha's monthly Afternoon magazine, where it was very warmly received — it has been a staple of Afternoon ever since. A complete collection of the manga published to date would run over 200 chapters (over thirty-four collected volumes). There have been twenty-eight volumes of the manga published in the US so far (as of April 2008), and publisher Dark Horse Comics is now reprinting unflipped versions of the earlier graphic novels in order to spark new interest in the series.
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Review: Fushigi Yūgi

Junior high school student Miaka Yūki is under a lot of pressure to pass the entrance exam for the competitive Jonan Academy. Her best friend, Yui Hongo, agrees to apply for the same school so that they can go together. While at the library one day, Miaka and Yui come into contact with a strange book there, known as The Universe of the Four Gods. As a result of reading this book, they are then transported into the novel's universe.

The series describes the various trials that the two teenagers face, both quest-driven and personal. Miaka would discover that her greatest enemy would lie in her own best friend, Yui, due to a series of events set in motion. Feeling betrayed, the two oppose one another as priestesses, bringing together their own respective warriors and vying for the chance to be granted three wishes by the gods whom they hope to summon.
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Review: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

On August 10, 2010, a.t.b., the Holy Empire of Britannia overpowered Japanese forces and conquered the country with their robotic weapons, the Knightmare Frames, in less than a month. In the aftermath of Britannia's invasion, Japan lost its freedom and rights and was renamed Area 11. The Japanese people, renamed as "Elevens", were forced to survive in ghettos, while Britannians lived in first-class settlements. Rebel elements persisted, however, as pockets of Japanese organizations who struggled against the Empire for the independence of Japan.

After his father, the Emperor of Britannia, didn't prevent the assassination of his mother, an attack which also left his sister crippled, the young prince named Lelouch vowed to destroy Britannia. Seven years later, living in Area 11, he encounters a mysterious girl who gives him the power of Geass. With it, he finally has the power that he needs to defeat Britannia and fulfill his two wishes: to seek revenge for his mother and to construct a world in which his beloved sister can live happily.
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Review: Gakuen Alice

Gakuen Alice is the story of a 10-year old girl, Mikan Sakura, who is devastated when her best friend, Hotaru Imai, transfers to a special school for "genius" kids in Tokyo. After hearing horrible rumors of what happens in the Academy, Mikan runs away from home to seek out her dear friend, and finds that the school Hotaru transferred to, Gakuen Alice, is specifically for children who each have a special power called an "Alice". To Mikan's surprise, a teacher at Gakuen Alice, Narumi, discovers that she too has a unique Alice, leading to her admission into the school.

The story is primarily focused on Mikan and her experiences at the Academy, from the everyday bore of classes and exams, to the unexpected clashes with the Anti-Alice Organization (AAO). Despite her initial view of the so-called greatness of the school, Mikan slowly finds out that beneath the grand facade of the Academy lies a never ending stream of lies and deception.

Also, Mikan meets a boy named Natsume, whom she initially hates from the very start of the story, but would eventually start to like. And in turn he begins to form an interest in her. Natsume has the Alice of fire and is in the Dangerous Ablity class. Natsume hates the Academy and is forced to do it's dirty work. Narumi thinks that Mikan holds the key to save Natsume and change the academy.

Along with the many friends she comes to make, including Natsume's best friend, Ruka Nogi, and the class representative, Yū Tobita a.k.a. Iinchō, Mikan comes to love the Academy and its teachers despite the truth that is built upon half-truths and lies. The story is primarily showing how if you believe in something it will happen and in the case of Mikan she changes the harsh world of the Academy for the better.
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Review: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED

The confrontation between the Earth Alliance (Naturals) and ZAFT (Coordinators), which originated in economic friction, reached a stalemate. Ultimately, the two sides opted for the last resort of diplomacy - in other words, they went to war. Our story begins roughly a year later. Heliopolis, a resource satellite belonging to a neutral nation, is suddenly attacked by a Zaft mobile suit force. Their goal is to seize the Atlantic Alliance's newest Gundam mobile suits, which the Alliance has produced here amid total secrecy. The raid is successful, and Zaft captures four of the Gundams. Kira Yamato, a student at an industrial college, is drawn into the conflict when he is reunited with his old friend Athlan Zala. Tragically, Kira finds that his comrade Athrun and the other Coordinators are now his enemies. For patriotism's sake, Athrun sets out to defeat Kira. One against four... the battle of the Gundams begins!
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Review: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny

C.E. 73. 2 years have gone by since the war ended. Gilbert Dullindal leads ZAFT after the death of Patrick Zala. An Orb-born Coordinator, Shin Asuka, becomes the newest topgun of ZAFT after Athrun's departure. His eyes reflects sorrow perhaps because he is lonely and lost his family. He himself represents the "War's Tragedy". Why did he join ZAFT and try to enter the battefield? Revenge? A mission? No one knows. Meanwhile, Athrun is part of Orb and right beside Cagalli. He worries both about the heavy burden of protecting Cagalli and the feeling to do something about the world.
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Review: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Eternity

C.E. 77. 4 years have past unknowingly after Kira Yamato and his companions defeated the ambitions of Gilbert Dullindal. Representative Athuran Zala of the international coalition, [ETERNITY]- an organisation bridging the Naturals and Coordinators and even to various countries in the world - busy fighting against rebel terrorists groups attempting to overthrow the new world order, together with his friend Kira, who fought in the last great war, pasts each and every day working effortlessly for the peace of the world. At that time, a rebel figure, Asutea Rainhato lead a mysterious yet powerful group to annihilate the Naturals, known as [EBIRU MEA] (EVIl MEA?).
To counter this threat, Athrun sent Mwu, Yzak and Deakka to lead the army of Eternity. However, there is a traitor under the control of Asutea Rainhato - Geren Mageniasu, and his subordinates: Viru Ryumieru, Sakura Erusenu, and Orin Girufato. The battle came under control because of the 4 gundams piloted by them.
Amidst these, the ace of Eternity, Kei Minato, piloting [SPLASHER GUNDAM], Aishia Selinu, piloting [GARNET GUNDAM], and Leon Vizunado, piloting [CELSIUS GUNDAM] obstructed his way. The new sword shall begin it's descent.
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Hatsukoi Limited

The manga features a series of short stories based on about a dozen students and their classmates and relatives. So far, every chapter seems to revolve around a different set of characters, effectively making use of the entire cast (as well as newly introduced characters). These stories are entertwined and eventually lead to a main story involving most of the main cast.
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Review of +Anima


+Anima is a lighthearted manga with 10 volumes by Mukai Natsume. It's set in a World where +Anima, people with animal characteristics, like batwings or fishtails, exist. However, because of their special power, +Anima are in the most part of time hated and feared, even if they aren't evil by nature. The manga tells about the boy Cooro, a +Anima with crow wings, and his adventures in the search for new friends and other people like him .

As +Anima doesn't have an actuall big plot, every chapter containing a little story/adventure, it looses a little credit in the story rating, but the feeling of the manga really adds up to it. If you like cute, heart warming histories, I'm sure you'll enjoy, as it's impossible not to crack a smile in every volume.
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Review of 07-Ghost

Teito Klein is an orphan and ex-slave, training at the Empire's military academy. Other students don't talk to him because this, and his only friend is Mikage, a boy that is exactly his opposite. At the day of his exam to become a 'begleiter', he start to remember some memories from his past... Attacking the staff and tunning away from the academy with all the 'begleiters' at his foot, he ends at the church of the Empire, where he discovers a legend about seven ghosts who sealed the wicked shinigamis called Verloren. And it seems that those are after him too...

07-Ghost is a kind of manga I've never seen before. From the lots of action, powers, and story, it seems like a shounen manga, but it's centered more around the characters and their feelings, just as a shoujo. It even has a bit of *gasp* boy's love. So it's not for everyone, though who loves a bit of everything will like.
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Review of A.I. Love You

In this initial title fromAkamatsu-sensei, we have basically his version of Ah! My Goddess. Basically you have the nice nerd Hitoshi who's rejected by the hot babe, but has this really cool computer program (named Number 30) to be his girlfriend. Through a freak electrical accident, the program "comes to life" and Number 30 now has the body of a teenaged girl. Now Hitoshi has a hot girlfriend, who uses her computer skills to get herself into Hitoshi's high school. Further, she's given the name Saati.

Saati starts off like Belldandy from AMG but ends up like Naru from Akamatsu-sensei's second manga title, Love Hina. Saati and Hitoshi are soon joined by Program 20 who takes the name Toni (read Urd from Ah! My Goddess) and later by Program 40. who takes on the role of a younger brother/sister, depending on if the character says the word "boy" or "girl."

The stories are rather episodic in nature and rather than Hitoshi and Saati make progress in their relationship, they go backward. Hitoshi turns from a nice guy to a huge sex-obsessed pervert. Saati goes from sweet and innocent to violent prude. That the two have feelings for each other is clear throughout the series, but having already read Love Hina and other such titles, I got bored with the non-confessions.

The story did get somewhat interesting when Cindy, a rich American teen actress, is introduced and becomes a rival for Saati. However, once Hitoshi makes his choice in volume 7, volume 8 of the manga just isn't as interesting, even with the introduction of Hitoshi's sister and a final powerful villian (whom Akamatsu-sensei seems to have revived in a new form for Negima!).


Bottom line: I do think it is worth the time for fans of Love Hina and Negima! to know where Akamatsu-sensei got his start. So for that reason, it is worth a read but I don't consider it a title worth keeping on the bookshelf.
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Review of Trinity Blood

For centuries we have seen films, read books, and heard stories about the eternal struggle between vampires and humans. Trinity Blood not only reprises this ancient conflict, but incorporates a new twist. Expanding upon the genus of vampire, we are introduced to Crusniks, a new species which drinks the blood of vampires. Add in the customary mysterious organization that’s trying to destroy the tentative peace that exists between the vampires and humans, and you have the basic description of Trinity Blood, in a nut shell. If only it would have stayed there…

Trinity Blood starts out as mostly any series would, with a bunch of standalone and two-part episodes designed to introduce all the main characters and the major plotlines. Accordingly, one can usually forgive the first few episodes for being rather bland, as they have so much of the story and characters to establish. However, Trinity Blood runs into a whole mess of problems here, the most important being neither its story nor its characters are that appealing.

Focusing on Abel Nightroad, who’s a member of the Vatican’s special task force AX, the story revolves around his mysterious past and the trials and missions of his life. His kind and aloof exterior (ala Vash) hides his frightening Crusnik power, which he has to activate using varying percentages of nanomachines (a la Alucard). Accompanying him, more or less, is Esther Blanchett, a not so innocent girl who gets swept up into the fray due to her hate for vampires and association with a failed assassination plan. The rest of those on the Vatican’s side include the 15 year old Pope Alessandro XVIII, his right hand advisor Catherina Sforza, leader of the AX, and all the various members thereof. They mostly comprise your standard gambit of characters, including a machine man with a heart named Tres Iqus, the knowledgeable and crafty Professor, and the cocky as well as brash Leon Garcia. On the Methuslah side there are only a few characters that stay around for very long, the main one being Ion Fortuna. He’s a young vampire noble, who succeeds at being one of those characters that’s constantly a pain in the ass. Always doing the opposite of what he’s told and thus screwing everything up. Finally, the main force behind the Order of Rosenkreuz is Dietrich von Lohengrin, also known as puppet master, along with an unknown individual who’s pulling his strings. He doesn’t show up till near the end of the series though.

Once the setup episodes are past, the main plotlines are tackled. Now, the story isn’t really about the battle between the Vatican and the Methuslah Empire, which are at peace during the show. The real conflict is between those vampires who are upset with the peace that exists, since it puts them on an even footing with their livestock. Thus, the Order of Rosenkreuz is trying to do something that will either start a war between the two, or at least cause tremendous damage to/exterminate the humans. This, sadly, can’t escape from the same problems that plagued the initial episodes. Almost nothing in Trinity Blood is original; it has all been done before, and done better. The characters are often incredibly annoying, in both their actions and their personalities. Abel is a carbon copy of Vash from Tri-Gun and Alucard from Hellsing. His mannerisms when he isn’t fighting are exactly the same as Vash, he has the same vow not to kill, and he looks just like him. When he transforms into his Crusnik form he has to release a certain percent of his power and he changes into a complete badass, or in essence he becomes Alucard. On one hand it’s hilarious, and on the other it’s appalling. Then there’s the 15 year old Pope XVIII. Who in their right mind would believe that a 15 year old kid would be elected pope? Well, we’re supposed to. That he was chosen above everyone, hell, anyone else is beyond comprehension and boggles the mind. He’s weak, unassertive, a crybaby, and hopeless all bundled into the perfect candidate for pope. The only reason to have the pope as a child is to have an avenue for continual disagreements between various other powers in the Vatican, since they are the ones really in control. All of whom, oddly enough, are not children. I could go on, but I’d rather continue on to happier things, like the technical aspects, rather than dwell any longer in an area which should give you an idea of the problems, but hardly encompasses all of them.

Now, while I can’t say the animation really got tested as much as it should have (blame the five second fight scenes), it’s nothing to sneeze at. A Gonzo production, they used 2D and 3D blending, along with some wondrous background art, to a more than pleasurable effect. Some scenes are a little choppy, like when they try to make the vampires look like they are moving really fast by having them constantly teleport to a slightly distant position in rapid succession. Needless to say, it doesn’t look very good. Aside from that and a few other areas, the pros outweigh the cons. Character designs, on the other hand, are uninspired, which they try to make up for with crazy hair and outlandish outfits that often look ridiculous. The soundtrack, composed mostly by Eguchi Takahito, is remarkable, featuring a number of powerful songs, some beautiful singing and, most importantly, it really fits the mood of the scenes. I’m more partial to the opening Dress (Trinity Blood Mix) than the closing Broken Wing, but both are enjoyable.

Where the animation and soundtrack succeed, both language tracks fail. They both suffer from substandard writing, which makes much of the dialogue fall under either the stupid, ridiculous, or repetitive umbrella. On top of this, some character personalities are so irritating that their voice actors never had a chance. Actual voice acting quality, sans script failures, is fair enough for most characters, except for two in the English dub which really didn’t do it for me. The first is Pope Alessandro XVIII, voiced by Greg Ayres and the second is Ion Fortuna, voiced by Aaron Dismuke. Both had very whinny, grating voices that often made me want to put my head through a wall. Especially when Ion/Aaron started yelling…

Once you get past Trinity Blood’s facade of quality animation and a beautiful musical score, you are left with a pile of inane, cliché, and lackluster substance. While the sum of its parts are passable as a tolerable series, taken individually the stupidity that lies within is palpable.
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