Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son)

Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) | Hourou Musuko | Wandering Son | Hourou Musuko review | Wandering Son review
Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son)

Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) is an eleven episode Drama/Slice of Life anime based off the manga by Takako Shimura and published by Enterbrain. The anime is from AIC Classic and premiered in Japan in January 14th of this year and is currently finishing it's run.

Shuichi Nitori is a young, effeminate boy who has just entered middle school. Yoshino Takasuki is a tall, boyish girl in the same class. Both of them have know each other since elementary school, and became fast friends when they learned of each others desire to be the opposite gender. Nitori tends to cross dress while he's around town or at home, while Takasuki has short hair and begins to wear more boys clothes. Both children begin taking the first steps toward who they truly desire to be.

When it comes to the look of the anime, it looks as if you're watching a moving color pencil drawing in a sketch book. There is a lot of white, making the other colors rather faded. It's certainly a rare look for an anime, considering what I have seen before. I don't really know any other anime that have this same look so it's a good change of pace when it comes to the look and animation. At the same time, however, although the look is unique it's really hard to focus on what's really taking [place with so much white and faded colors.

The story itself takes a little bit to get into and really understand, and can even be a bit confusing some times. This series starts on the first day of middle school which, if you have read the manga, is wrong. The manga starts with our main characters in elementary school. So, this means, there will be some parts you don't quite understand at first. Unless you have read the manga then you'll get lost after ten minutes of the first episode. Don't worry too much though, parts of the series do get explained with dialogue and few flashbacks. Also, the story can be a little slow at times; making it seem like forever before something really major happens. This isn't a real bad thing, considering this is a slice of life anime, but it can sometimes be agonizing wondering when the story will really get going.

The characters, from what I've seen, are fairly well developed. The two main characters, Nitori and Takasuki show more development then the other characters, however there is one other character that has some development involved. Saori Chiba, a classmate, has a decent amount of development. She has has a crush on Nitori for a long time, yet she is the person who encourages him to cross dress. Kind of a conflicting situation within herself. The one character that kind of bugs me is Makoto Ariga, another boy in the class who wants to be a girl. I didn't even know that he wanted to be a girl too till I read something online, and THEN I saw it on the show. This character is just not defined clearly in the first couple episodes. He does become more developed later on when he ends up taking on the major role in the class's gender bender play.

The main theme of this anime, as I stated before, is gender identity. This is certainly a topic you almost never see come up on TV these days, let alone an anime series! Sure, maybe there's bits of messaging in some shows, but never has a show been completely been about gender identity (at least from what I've seen). The way Wandering Son portrays this theme is rather well done. It not only shows how the two main characters deal with finding their own place and becoming who they are, but it shows how other people are effected as well. For example, Nitori's older sister beats him whenever she catches him cross dressing. Then there's Chiba's love for Nitori, the boy. This anime breaks down barriers and starts to show us what the life of a transgender person is like, especially a child's life.

In the end, Hourou Musuko is a groundbreaking and unique anime from beginning to end; from story to style and animation. It brings to light, a modern day issue and brings it back to it's origins of childhood when a person believes they are someone else; because that's when most transgender people begin to think that way. It tells the story if the individual as well as those around them, showing the torment as well as the triumph they feel once they get to be who they are. So, again, I'm going to ask this question of all of you:

"What are little girls really made of?"
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paranoia Agent (English Dub)

He attacks you when you're alone, when you're most vulnerable, and emotionally cornered. There's no way to escape him, and he can't be caught. When you see his golden roller blades and hear his bent golden bat in the distance you know he's coming. You can run, but there's no way you can hide from him. He is.... Lil Slugger.

Paranoia Agent is an original anime from the late, great, Satoshi Kon. This mystery/Psychological/Horror is thirteen episodes long and originally aired in 2004. It was produced by Madhouse Studios and was licensed by Geneon, though they went under a few years ago, and Paranoia Agent has yet to be relicensed. So, if you ever want to watch it, you're only chance is used DVD's or online streaming sites.

Tuukiko Sagi, a shy character designer who created the immensely popular pink dog Maromi, finds herself under pressure to repeat her success. As she walks home that night, she is attacked by an elementary school boy on inline skates. Two police detectives, Keiichi Ikari and Mitsuhiro Maniwa, are assigned to the case. They suspect that Tsukiko is lying about the attack, until they receive word of a second victim. Soon the attacker, dubbed Lil Slugger, is blamed for a series of street assaults in Tokyo. None of the victims can recall the boy's face and only three distinct details are left in their memories: golden inline skates, a baseball cap, and the weapon: a bent golden baseball bat. Ikari and Maniwa set out to track down the perpetrator and out an end to his crimes, but it's not going to be easy.

First off, I am going to mention this. I first saw this series in 2004 on Adult Swim, when I was about thirteen/fourteen years old. After watching the first episode, I couldn't fall asleep for days because I had evil visions of Lil Slugger in my head. So, I never finished the show. I finally watched it all the way through last year with some friends and I completely fell in love with it! It's funny how your idea of something can change after watching it again.

The look of the series is almost flawless. The animation is good and the scenes are put well together. The only real complaint I have is some of the distorted faces some of the characters make. It doesn't seem to look very well with the intentional look and style of the series. The story itself is almost flawless as well. For the first six or seven episodes, it revolves around six people and their attacks: Tsukiko Sagi, Akio Kawazu, Yuichi Taira, Harumi Chono, Taeko Hirukawa, and Makoto Kozuka. If you have seen this series before then you already know why I didn't mention Shogo Ushiyama and Masami Hirukawa. For those who haven't, well, I'm not planning on spoiling it too much for you.

As far as voice acting goes, it's pretty much flawless. You find the English voice actors matched with characters extremely well, and it's rare for someone to find a bad role. In other words, you have a harder time picking a favorite character based on the voice. Sam Riegal (Fate/Stay Night, Prince of Tennis) as Lil Slugger/Makoto Kozuka is the right amount of creepy/silly needed for the two, very different, roles. Mostly certainly credit goes to Carrie Savage for her role as Maromi (Vampire Knight, Baccano!). It's cute and adorable mixed with just the right amount of creepy, making this a very odd stuffed toy that could probably kill you in your sleep.

One of the genre's in this series is Psychological, so where does that really come in? To put it simply, it's human coping skills. People are backed into little emotional corners due to personal problems in each victim's life. For instance, Tsukiko Sagi is stuck due to the amounting pressure to repeat her success after Maromi became super popular. She ended up as a victim of stress and paranoia, and, as a result, so appears Lil Slugger. There's real way to explain it without really spoiling it, so I'll just go ahead and say it. Lil Slugger isn't a real person. It's just something that was created to put blame on instead of claiming blame for your own actions. Again, coping skills. The question then becomes this, where did Lil Slugger really come from?

Now I said that this series is almost flawless.... Almost. Back to what I said about the story. It's good for the first six or seven episodes, and then, to an extent, it kind of goes downhill. For a few episodes, it's all just fillers. One of them is about three people who met online trying to commit suicide together, another about all the workers for the Maromi TV show getting killed off, and last about some gossiping women telling stories about Lil Slugger. It would be fine if these stories weren't right in a row, one right after the other. I can understand some time needs to go by to help develop the main characters in the show, like the detectives and Tsukiko Sagi, but three fillers is kind of overdoing it a bit. Granted, the are fun to watch. After Episode 10, the real story kind of kicks back in with Detective Ikari's wife Misae. Once that episode goes through, the story finally reaches it's climax and slowly comes down to it's end result of everything going back to normal.... For everyone but Maniwa any way.

In the end, Paranoia Agent is almost completely flawless in every angle. From story, to animation, to it's characters; this anime is certainly one that will get you to start thinking about what's real and what really isn't. Or, if not that, give you nightmares of Lil Slugger for a few days.

Here's the first ten minutes of the first episode if you are interested in watching:
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