Spring 2009 TV Cartoon Roundup: PART 4

And it goes on…

Guin Saga

Guin Saga is an anime based on a series of novels of the same name that happen to be the longest continuously running literary work by a single writer. The hero is a guy named Guin who has the head of a Leopard and the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1974. Guin has a mysterious past (as these types often do) and soon finds himself protecting a couple of whiny royal children whose royal parents were killed. No time is wasted in establishing Guin as a badass, as within seconds of his first appearance he literally karate chops an evil soldier into the ground and then proceeds to kill a bunch of other dudes with his bare hands.

Guin Saga is decidedly old school, no doubt due in part to the fact that the first novel was published in 1979. The first episode largely consists of a huge anti-hero kicking ass without a single moé character in sight. Apparently the target audience is people who remember when anime was cool. The character designs look like they were designed 15 years ago, and the two children in particular are reminiscent of Satoshi Urushihara.

It still has that ugly modern CG color palette, but the action is fast and well animated. A badass hero who isn’t a pretty boy, old school styling and dumb stupid fun make this one worth watching.

Sean

So the first thing Guin does is overhead smash a guy into the ground, burying him up to the top half of his body. Now you’d be a pretty tough sonofabitch if you just did this in any other Japtoon, but Guin takes it to the max and smashes dude all the way in. I was reading the middling reviews for the original book series on Amazon, where the reviewers seem to agree that the plot is a by-the-numbers run through a series of action scenes and little else. In this case of this adaptation, that’s actually the best thing I could have heard. How the hell is Satelight making this and the stunning Basquash at the same time? Good luck, guys.

Dave

The word on a grapevine has always been that Guin Saga and the eponymous hero are a blatant imitation of the Conan stories. It sounds like a ding, but have you actually read some of them (there’s little excuse now that the reissued anthologies are out on shelves)? Say what you will about the films starring the governor of California and Mako as a Daoist wizard, people forget the fact that Robert Howard was an excellent writer. Howard introduced a terse clarity of voice and standard of vividness that sort of made him high fantasy’s cross between Dashiell Hammett and Go Nagai. Plagiarize from the best, I say.

Mark

Ristorante Paradiso

This show is only really interesting because it’s so niche. If the reverse harem wasn’t entirely composed of old, bespectacled men, it’d just be bland fujioshi stuff to skip the same way I skip bland otaku stuff. But it is, so here we are.

A plucky and typical ladies’ manga heroine returns to her birthplace of Rome in order to get back at her typically crazy mother, who abandoned her as a child in order to get with a man who, for whatever yet-to-be-revealed reason, would never marry a divorcee. The man in question loves this woman so much that he has built her her ideal fetish restaurant: staffed completely by older gentlemen, all of whom are contractually obligated to wear glasses.

Yes, this show is specifically for girls who are into old guys. You want a tsundere old man? You got it. You want a meek, vulnerable gentleman? Maybe one who doesn’t talk at all? We got it all here, baby! There’s even a bald dude in case you’re Ohno from Genshiken.

Nicoletta’s plans of cockblocking revenge are put on hold when she catches the hots for harem prize waiter Claudio, who’s separated, emotionally vulnerable (I — I mustn’t!) and probably 45-50. Moé! And so the seeds of love for dashing, mature gentlemen are planted, and you have to assume that Nicoletta is going to learn the valuable lesson that she and her crazy, fucked-up mom are not that different in that they share a mildly unusual turn on.

This isn’t one of those things you watch because you don’t know where it’s gonna go next. It’s a chill-out show. Listen to some smooth jazz in the background, watch the passing paper-thin CG cars, maybe pre-order the upcoming “Claudio Compromised” PVC figure. Just relax, man. Don’t think it over. Gets my Badass Manly Award for the season.

Dave

It’s hoping against the odds to hope that Ristorante Paradiso rises above the stereotypes of its niche to become something different. The only thing that rose above in the second episode was Nicoletta rising above Claudio’s lap to become an attempted rapist.

Regardless, the show is captivating for its through-the-looking-glass effect on a fujoshi subculture within a subculture. Let’s be honest: the middle-aged male harem thing is amusing, but people like me are going to be watching (if they watch at all) to see if the show shifts focus towards Nicoletta’s history with her sugar daddy’d mother and running a restaurant in the city.

The character designs are nice and compatible with the wry expressions that dominate most scenes. The designs better damn well be nice considering they’re the blatant focus of the show. The show isn’t just in love with aging Italian men in glasses, though; there’s more than a little fawning over Rome itself too and that’s probably a good thing.

Mark

Eden of the East

This is the first time that noted Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex director Kenji Kamiyama has finally been handed the keys to an original, non-adapted work, so it’s natural that everybody has high expectations for him. As such, it’s for the best that the Serious, High-Quality Japanime Of The Season opens with a naked man waving a gun in front of the White House.

As usual in these season roundup things, it’s way too early to call what’s going on in the story at large, but the first episode is a simple boy-meets-girl story. If you watched or read Honey and Clover, author Chica Umino supplied the designs (and her stock “oh my god” facial expression), and it’s really hard to disconnect our heroes from that story: in particular, the main character is close to actually being Morita. It’s probably intended that I’m thinking of H&C: this show is running in its old time slot. In any case, our guy is on a mission — a mission involving White House nudity, we are left to assume — he’s had his memory wiped, and all that he’s got left is a fancy cellphone that may or may not be manipulating him. Then he meets a girl who seems to be having a quiet existential crisis, and they run off together! Of course, the beginnings of something bigger than the boy or the girl are hinted at, but for right now we seem to be sticking to them.

Production values are as high and through the roof as you’d expect from Production IG: there are no budget burning action scenes or anything like that, but we do have some very expressive, human characters here. Shockingly, D.C. looks like D.C. (they just Photoshopped up some pictures, it looks like) and, refreshingly, actual English speakers have been hired to read the English lines. This could go absolutely anywhere, but like with Shin Mazinger I’m going to go ahead and call quality on the basis of the director.

Dave

As a Westerner, I welcome any attempts by Japanese animation programs to pander to me. Western settings tend to bode well for me (Baccano!, Black Lagoon, Riding Bean), and the show makes no secret of its influences — our hero namedrops Taxi Driver and the Bourne series in the same scene. The characters so far are admittedly pretty straight-forward for this kind of story, but they’re a lot of fun to watch. My greatest fear is that this show will turn into Rideback, a show I plan to trash at length soon, where the first episode is exciting and looks great and has an interesting premise, and then the rest of the show completely blows.

And it’s kinda nice seeing H&C‘s Hagu character design re-purposed into an actual character, rather than a piece of sentient set-decoration.

Jeff

6 Comments

  1. “Howard introduced a terse clarity of voice and standard of vividness that sort of made him high fantasy’s cross between Dashiell Hammett and Go Nagai.”

    I may have to crudely scratch out some sort of MS Paint scribble visually illustrating this notion.

  2. Guin punches one of the ninja black knights so hard, the metal of the ninja’s helmet cleaves through a tree, creating huge sparks and starting a fire.

    Just throwing that out there.

  3. Love for R.E. Howard AND a snark-free look at that “cafe o’ grandads” show? So happy to have found the smart anime blog.

  4. wah: It doesn’t seem terribly surprising that Taxi Driver would be big in Japan. (I don’t think it’s just a P.I.G. thing; it appears to be Scorcese’s most recognized work in Japan.)

    This makes sense given its premise; a lonely, misanthropic 20-something with a crappy job and no clue how to treat women fixates on a sexualized 12-year-old as an icon of purity in a world he has failed to identify with, and in his desperation he eventually goes on a killing spree with delusions of being a hero of chivalry and justice.

    If that description doesn’t inspire any sort of deja vu, you probably don’t watch much anime. (Would that we all could be so innocent.)

  5. I haven’t seen THE GUIN SAGA anime as yet, but having read the novels that were translated, I hope to soon. Perhaps someone can get the rights to bring it over here?

    (Rather tired of downloading any anime eps….personal reasons….)

    The Guin Saga is a “by the numbers” story? What the hell did those idiots read? It certainly wasn’t the novels that were translated, since they were damned good AND more in the vein of CONAN. It’s also important to note that the series is the longest running novel series written by one writer; although Kurimoto passed away this year, she had written over 120 volumes of Guin’s tale, plus numerous volumes of side stories.

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