Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project 2011 – The Quest for a Whimsical Experience

I associate Christmas with Terribad...franchise destroyingly bad terribad.

This is the 2nd time I’ve participated in the Reverse Thieves Secret Santa project. Last year it revolved around Christmas Eve through Boxing Day and the little matter of drinking far too much. This year I’m again reviewing all 3 I was given, but as is typical with my shopping I do it all near the end. I was given Bamboo Blade, Dennou Coil and RahXephon for the three series. I can only guess these were their personal best series that I had not yet seen. It’s a similar strategy I have employed in the 2 years (unless they mulligan and out come the terribad and disappointing shows). So here they are in one go.

International kendo incident. Check. National stereotypes for clothing. Check. Playing the Star-Spangled Banner because she's American. Check.

Bamboo Blade

This series is what would be typical of a school sports comedy. Its a story that begins with trying to find enough girls to join a kendo club to complete a bet, and it ends as a story of succession. In between there’s supposed to be some semblance of laughs, but I wasn’t feeling it.

At the center of the story is Tamaki, a small girl who also happens to be overpowered in kendo to the point of absurdity. She loses about 2 times in about the 100 bouts she has in the show, and those are just because she’s distracted by memories of her past.

The rest of the crew are largely forgettable 1-dimensional characters. There’s the second year duo of Kirino and Sayo who lay the groundwork for the club, but their schtick is never being serious about anything. The male members Yuuji and Danjuuro are a Johnny Everylead and a small wise man with a ridiculously attractive girlfriend respectively. That girl, Miyako, is also in the club and just so happens to be a yandere character who tries to use maximum power in her contests. And finally Satori, who is probably the 2nd best member, but lacks concentration.

They are managed by Kojiro, a teacher at the school who is constantly broke and desperate for food. He’s also responsible for one of the best comic set pieces in the series which brings a bit of urgency to the plot. Essentially it’s a confrontation at a grocery store that gets progressively worse for him, but he fights a losing battle on principle. That and Tamaki’s occasional forays into Blade Braver fandom at least made this watchable.

On the whole, it was a good way to kill time. It was far too serious at times, but never really light-hearted enough where a good comedy needs to be. I was actually pining for Softenni at times while watching this. Whether that reflects poorly on the reviewer or on the series is up to you.

Rating: 71.28 (302nd out of 538 at time of writing)

I must be the only one who found this disturbing

Dennou Coil

So it was on to the 2nd series to find something that seemed whimsical. I wasn’t seeing it in this series that is arguably the best unlicensed anime. However, when discussing this over Twitter, it became all about “just wait for the beard episode.”

So anyway, on to a review of Dennou Coil. If I were to sum it up, it’s a story about children having to deal with death in a world that was supposed to be made easier for them through technology.

The world of the series is all about virtualization. The environment has a layer of enhancement over it. There are virtual pets. Kids can generate crazy stuff out of thin air and the use of metatags is rampant. But beyond that, the story is still about dealing with death and growing up in a world where parents seem almost totally non-existent.

At the center of the story are 2 characters named Yuuko, the protagonist who goes by Yasako and the misunderstood girl who is called Isako by others. The former is caught up in having to grow up quickly as she chases after part of her past. On the other hand, Isako spends her time destroying the social order of the community as she tries to fix errors from her past.

That’s the thing with Dennou Coil; while it is set in the near future, almost everyone is looking into the past. Those trying to fix or improve things are viewed as enemies and the dead continue to live on in some form or another. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything as introspective as this series.

That isn’t to say it was an entirely bad experience. The “beard episode” was a bit of a let down as the evolution of civilization means firing nuclear weapons no matter what route history takes. Overall, I’d say it’s a worthwhile experience for anyone to watch this. However, I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps this show is a little overrated.

Rating: 77.7 (183rd out of 538 at time of writing)

Destined encounters always happen when one least expects

RahXephon

At the 14 episode mark, I was tempted to be creative and just write a full review then. However, someone cheekily beat me to doing that.

RahXephon was an interesting experience to watch in a good way. Actually I don’t even know if I could spoil it by writing about it episodically. So here’s the best way I can sum it up: RahXephon is an apocalyptic story with themes of isolation, putting off obvious problems and romance with mecha used as the vehicle to tell the story. There’s undoubtedly some problems with that, but it’s the best I could think of.

The comparisons to Evangelion are numerous and at about the halfway point I was thinking that it was no more than simple wish fulfillment from those who hated parts of Eva. Ayato, the character at the center of the action, seems to have much more going for him than Shinji, with artistic talent at the very least. He’s plucked from the world he had known by Haruka, who very much seems like a Misato clone at times, but is far less ambiguous in her intentions toward the lead. There’s also a shadowy organization pumping out clones of characters to add to it all.

After the halfway point, I could have mailed in a review, but that would have utterly wasted a brilliant conclusion as various plot arcs were wrapped up. While the last few episodes to enter into the realm of the surreal, it’s able to pull itself back together and finish strongly.

Rating: 86.7 (54th out of 538 at the time of writing)

So overall that was another good experience. I did wish there was something a little less serious, but maybe Black Lagoon spoiled me a bit in that regard. These were pretty decent picks. As for the person I picked for…probably best not to talk about that yet.

7 thoughts on “Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project 2011 – The Quest for a Whimsical Experience”

  1. I completely agree that Dennou Coil is over rated. I had people hype it up for me too so I expected something amazing… Bamboo Blade… ewww…. RahXephon I highly enjoyed but I have only seen it once unlike the 3+ times I have seen Eva. I have to fix this~

    1. It seems like one of those shows some people think may be good because everyone else says they are good. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything, but it lacked a middle ground between serious and silliness.

  2. I admit, Bamboo Blade was the long shot by far, but you’ve seen a lot of shit! It was hard. And let’s face it, regardless of how you feel about Dennou Coil (I’m a little sad you didn’t like it more, it’s not a favorite but I found it to be a lot of fun), it’s pretty much a Secret Santa obligation at this point.

    Glad you did like RahXephon though, it’s one of my favorites. I think the zillions of Evangelion comparisons out there are both obviously valid and overly simplistic at the same time. On one hand, yeah it’s Eva without the severe depression and with mystic Christian symbology traded for vague mesoamerican symbology… But on the other hand, it’s a really well put together story that (along with maybe Eureka 7) is one of the few anime that really took the promise of Eva and ran with it or evolved. And yeah, the conclusion was satisfyingly wrapped up without being too simple and tidy.

    1. It was a good set of shows to go through, so it wasn’t a failure by any stretch. I also don’t think I’m quite up to Shinmaru or Kadian level as a Shit Anime Veteran. On that note, I hope that by the time next year comes round that I don’t get a full basket of terribad.

      1. Haha I meant “shit” as in “stuff,” generically, sorry… wasn’t trying to rip on your taste. Your taste was similar enough to mine to be a problem, you’ve already seen a lot of what I would probably normally recommend.

        That said, someone next year really is gonna get Itsudatte My Santa.

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