It's been a busy few months and the release of the 5th volume of the Spice and Wolf manga almost missed me, thankfully Amazon decided to remind me of such important things and I received it, as usual, on the release date. This post has also been sitting in my Drafts folder for quite some time, so long in fact that the 6th volume has now arrived!
Volume 5 picks up where Volume 4 left off, with Lawrence being asked to repay his huge debt just after the armour prices have crashed in Ruvinheigen. Again, we've got a lovely full colour image of Holo relaxing, albeit with an unusually large apple (much to her delight?). The cover image is also fantastic, with Holo putting on quite a cunning grin. This volume also contains the [spoiler]argument scene between Lawrence and Holo[/spoiler], this was very well done in the light novel and the manga has done a fantastic job of illustrating their behaviour and expressions. As usual, the very high standards of artwork have been maintained thought this volume. Keito Koume is truly one of the best mangaka i've ever seen.
The bonus track in this volume takes a bit of an unusual turn and abandons the traditional setting of Spice and Wolf. Entitled K9-ON, it puts Holo and Nora in a band with Lawrence as their manager. I'm not making this up - go read it!
is due for release was released on the 27th of March 2012, hopefully this will conclude the Ruvinheigen arc. I'm keen to see how some of the scenes are handled.
Spice and Wolf Manage Volume 5 is available from Amazon. ISBN 9780316210324.
It was just over a year ago that I started watching Fractale and yet i've only just managed to finish it. However, that is not to say Fractale was a bad show, I unfortunately had a lot on at this time last year and have only recently had the opportunity to get past episode 2! As a quick recap, Fractale is set in a future were most people are reliant on the "Fractale System" for almost everything, from earning a living to entertainment. Clain, a young boy and the main character, is a part of the Fractale System but prefers to live outside of it. Indeed, he is a huge vintage enthusiast and the contents his room, filled with current-day technology, is evidence of that. However, his casual life takes a bit of a turn when he encounters a girl from Fractale's church and learns of how the Fractale System is in danger of collapse.
The animation in Fractale was variable. While backgrounds were often done in stunning detail, equivalent to that of a Studio Ghibli film, other things such as characters left a little bit more to be desired. While the character design was very good overall and often 'colorful', especially in Phryne and Nessa's case, this detail did not always make its way in to the animation and is quite noticeable on any mid to long range shots of characters. It wouldn't have taken much more effort to improve this and I am disappointed that it was not corrected in the blurays either. Screencaps further down this post illustrate just how beautiful the animation can be, while the screencap below shows how minor issues can bring it down.
Both the opening and ending themes were appropriate but radically different and unusually, [spoiler]relevant to the plot[/spoiler]! The opening, ハリネズミ (Harinezumi, Hedgehog) by 吾妻仁美 (Azuma Hitomi), is quite upbeat and techno, while the ending is the poem Down by the Salley Gardens, also sung by 吾妻仁美 (Azuma Hitomi), sometimes in Japanese and sometimes in English. Both the English and Japanese versions sound equally good unlike some Japanese artist's attempts to sing in English! I was somewhat disappointed by the opening animation in that it was just generated fractals rather than any actual animation, however in hindsight it is appropriate for the series and does link in to it, albeit briefly.
Background music was used infrequently and was normally quite quiet. However, when used it was appropriate and added well to the scene. This was especially apparent in any scenes involving the Temple.
Overall I have enjoyed Fractale. As a series that aired as part of the noitamina broadcast slot I expected a show that was less prone to common anime sterotypes and I was not let down in this respected. The plot seemed simple at first, but once the series got going I found myself guessing right up until the end about what direction the series may go next. In a way I am disappointed that I didn't continue writing per-episode summaries for this series now. The ending itself however was not quite what I was expected nor did it leave a huge sense of closure about some topics that were introduced late on such as [spoiler]Phryne's work at Fractale[/spoiler], Fractale would have certainly benefited from a post-Ending episode to help tie up outstanding questions. Nonetheless, you could still say that it did have a definitive ending for the the topics introduced early on, specifically the collapse of the Fractale System.
With all that considered, I am giving Fractale an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5. It has a few small flaws that could have been easily corrected but most of the other elements were outstanding and far above most other series. I would recommend Fractale to anyone looking for a decent plot-driven anime that dosen't succumb to common sterotypes.
I would like to thank UTW for subbing Fractale. The translation quality was excellent and the typesetting was also very good with the exception of the insert song in episode 9. There's a rumour that MangaUK will be releasing it in the UK and if so I will definitely be picking it up. There is also a light novel and manga series which I will be looking in to shortly, hopefully it will help answer a few questions that I have remaining.
I am a huge Spice and Wolf fan. I fell in love with the Spice and Wolf universe via the light novels and the anime only made it sweeter. While I own a lot of the novels, manga and the US DVDs/Blurays, disappointingly I do not own any character goods or merchandise. Sadly, this holds true for a lot of my favourite series, which tend to be popular among a more mature, and richer, subset of the anime fanbase and hence merchandise for these series tends to sell out extremely quickly. Holo figures are one such notable example.
Kotobukiya has re-released their Holo figure twice now and it has sold out very quickly both times. I almost came close to obtaining her at the start of this year, but the site I bought her from later informed me that she had sold out.
Recently, I discovered a new site - Plamoya. They seem to stock a lot of rarer, but still new, figures including the re-re-release of Kotobukiya's Holo. Part of the reason for this is that their prices are a bit higher, but they are also less known. I'm not going to complain though as it's allowed me to obtain a lovely figure! Plamoya dispatched Holo very quickly and packed her fairly well - the box was a standard cardboard box with some paper buffering, but Holo's box was wrapped within bubblewrap. Consequently, her box is in a perfect condition, more so than any other figure i've ever had. Unfortunately, I was charged for customs and Parcelforce here in the UK charge you the customs duty and £13.50 extra for the privilege for having customs duty charged. Anyway, enough complaining about Parcelfarce and on to the figure itself!
The figure's pose shows Holo running through a wheat field with her arms outstreched. The figure has been posed very well, although as her face looks downwards you may wish to place her at eye-level rather than below in order to see Holo properly. A great amount of attention has been placed on the hair which flows out behind her. Holo's distinctive white-tipped tail pokes out from her dress and is also modelled very well. Her outfit is a green top and dress complete with a sash. While this suits her well, I prefer the blue dress and top that you normally see her in. There are figures of Holo in that outfit, such as this one by Good Smile Company but they are very expensive - at least £250!
Holo's skirt is removable and the underside is actually tasteful unlike some Holo figures. Of course, I still think she looks much better with her skirt on. The paintwork and attention to detail is good, for example the wheat pouch's string is actual string rather than being painted on. One downside of this figure is the base. While it looks reasonably good and suits the 'scene', it is made out of plastic. Holo's legs are also quite difficult to push on to the base and I had to use a significant amount of force to get them on. While doing this, I made sure to support the base from underneath to prevent it from breaking as it is hollow.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with the figure and Plamoya, who i'm sure will be getting a lot more of my money very soon! At the time of writing, they still have Kotobukiya's Holo in stock - grab her while you still can! I also ordered one of the Spice and Wolf phone straps, despite my phone not having anywhere to attach a strap. However, I plan to hang the strap with the rest of my anime connection.
Unfortunately, my camera isn't great but i've done my best to take some pictures of my new Holo figure.
It's been a while, but Volume 4 of Spice and Wolf has finally been released. It should have been released at the start of this month (June) but all UK outlets had a delay in receiving it. I then decided it would be a good idea to pre-order from two places and cancel whichever dispatched first... but it seems that the first place who dispatched it never told me when they dispatched it and consequently i've now got two copies. I'm already planning to give the spare away to a friend, so no loss overall!
As usual, there are the 3 beautiful full colour illustrations at the front of the book. The 2nd one features Holo lying down, with Lawrence's arm resting on her, extremely adorable! The 3rd one however seems to have Holo putting on a very disinterested face in the background.
Volume 4 picks up where Volume 3 left off, with Lawrence and Holo travelling ever further in search of Holo's homeland. As they stop off in Tereo to find out more however, things are do not seem entirely normal. Indeed, the plot line of this volume takes on a much more mysterious theme. Economics does not play as much as a role as in the previous volumes, but nevertheless it is an interesting plot line with lots of witty dialogue between Lawrence and Holo. There where also many 'sweet' scenes in this volume and I'm curious to see how they've handled this in the anime series, which i'll be catching up on soon. For reference, this volume takes us covers the mid point of Season 2 until the end of Season 2.
Volume 5 is due out on the 6th of December 2011. As usual, my preorder has been submitted since long ago. Hopefully this winter the weather won't delay it's arrival.
Spice and Wolf Volume 4 is available from Amazon.
Note: Most of this post was written shortly after Volume 4 was released in July, it was only in October that I actually got around to publishing it...
Nothing much caught my attention for the Spring 2011 season, except for Dog Days. Who knows, I may end up hearing something good about another show and end up picking that up, but at the moment my only Spring 2011 show is Dog Days.
Dog Days is set in a fantasy world where wars are fought in a very unconventional way - obsticale courses. No one dies and the result is respected by both sides. Currently, the nations of Biscotti and Galette are at war with each other, and Biscotti are loosing. Therefore, Biscotti's princess, Millhiore, summons a hero to come and fight.
My first impression is that this is quite a fun, if a bit silly, show. It seems to be a bit of a cross between Utawarerumono (due to wars and animal-people), Nanoha (use of excessive magic) and Takeshi's Castle (obstacle courses). As I enjoy all three, hopefully Dog Days will be a good watch!
The opening introduces the main cast of characters and shows most of them in battle. The song is Scarlet Night, as sung by the famous Nana Mizuki, who has sung the openings for many other anime series. The song is really good and fits the opening animation well, but I can't help but think that the opening sequence itself could have tried something different rather than just showing battle scenes and short clips of each character.