Anime Contemplation Carefully considering the world of Anime, episode by episode.



Fractale Title

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.

Facial features were often very poorly drawn at medium to long range. Not too noticeable in this scaled down screenshot, but certainly noticeable when watching or if you look at the enlarged image.

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.

The city of Xanadu shows just how advanced the Fractale system is.

One of the satellites that supports the Fractale System.

Members of Lost Millennium, along with Clain, Phryne and Nessa.


Puella Magi Madoka Magica Summary

Kyubey - the cute critter that would really like to make a contract with you

Over the past few days, I've (unusually) had a bit of spare time. Madoka had been recommended to me by several people and the premise seemed interesting so I decided to get through it.

On the surface, Madoka seems like your typical magical girl series, with girls being granted magical powers in order to fight the forces of evil. A seemingly cute critter going by the name of Kyubey is able to grant power to those girls with magical potential in return for granting them any one single wish. In return, they must then fight witches, evil creatures that are responsible for murders and suicides. However, it's at this point that Madoka splits from a traditional magical girl plot line, ending up with something very dark and emotional.

Overall, i'm extremely impressed by Madoka. The plot kept me interested and was quite complex, with certain elements only being predictable moments before they occurred and others being completely unpredictable. The series does come to a nice well-reasoned conclusion while possibly leaving room for a second season.

The animation, while detailed and intricate, did suffer from frequent mistakes. This is however rather typical of the animation studio Shaft who, are known for their frequent mistakes. However, having seen the first episode from the BluRays, a lot of the animation has been tidied up and presumably the remaining episodes will also benefit from this. Therefore, the final BluRay/DVD animation should be of a high quality. The artwork used within the barriers of the Witches was crazy (but appropriate), another Shaft speciality.

The Opening and Ending themes where radically different. The opening, コネクト (Connect) by ClariS, was fast paced but had an element of sadness/desperation in it, especially when combined with the opening's animation. The ennding, Magia by Kalafina, fitted the darker elements of the show much better. However, both the opening and ending are good choices for setting the overall mood of the series. Background music seemed to be used somewhat sparingly, but when used, such as in fight scenes, it fitted perfectly.

While most of the characters featured where girls, this is a magical girl show. However, their personalties where quite wide ranging an each had their own unique reasoning for becoming a magical girl. The series didn't constantly follow Madoka either, often we viewed events through another character's eyes or even saw a flashback of theirs, which often helped to explain current events or revealed vital back-story.

Overall, i've found Madoka to be an excellent show. While I have watched a few magical girl series, such as Nanoha which I did enjoy quite a bit, Madoka strongly differentiates itself from the typicalities of the genre. Most magical girl series are about magical girls fighting evil monsters, and winning. Madoka on the other hand has no problems with making the magical girls loose and putting them through some extremely emotionally testing events. Another difference from the genre is that Madoka had a very strong plot that was hard to predict, rather than the straightforward fight an enemy, fight a bigger enemy plot style. All of these differences really helped enhance the show and made for a very interesting viewing experience. Madoka is definitely not an 'enjoyable' series because of it's dark nature, but it is certainly extremely interesting.

Overall, i'm giving Puella Magi Madoka Magica 4.5/5. It is certainly my favourite magical girl type of show and having now watched it I can understand why it has gained so much praise. Sales figures have recently come out for the first BluRay volume, it sold 53,000 copies in the first week and now holds the record for the most sales of a TV anime BluRay in a week (the previous record holder was Bakemonogatari with 51,000). Madoka has also gained a large Western fanbase and hopefully we'll see it's eventual licencing and release here in the West.

I would highly recommend Puella Magi Madoka Magica to any anime fan. It clearly demonstrates that just because a show falls into the magical girl genre, there's no reason not to have a complex, intricate plot and an overall dark feeling. Many thanks to Yesy for subbing up to episode 10, the translation was of a very high quality. Unfortunately, Yesy have not released episode 11 or 12 yet and I had to go with an alternative group in order to watch the finale.




Clannad Summary

Stunningly Beautiful

The presence of this summary despite the fact that i've only written about Episode 1 may confuse you, but there is a reason behind it! If you're curious as to why, read on. Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to hear my thoughts on the series.

I originally picked up Clannad a short while after finishing Angel Beats!, another story by Key - it was a fantastic story and I felt quite deeply moved by it. Therefore, picking up what is commonly acclaimed to be Key's greatest creatation seemed like a good idea. However, I soon came across the problem of an oversupply of content - so much was packed in to each episode of Clannad at first that my posts where huge - the episode 1 post was over 1000 words and took a long time to write. Consequently, I lost the motivation to write at what was quite a busy time for me and stalled Clannad, not wanting to get too far ahead before writing about it. It was only when my university's anime society announced that they would be screening it that I picked it up again. However, writing about 8 episodes at a time (as this is how many where watched at each session) was a bit much and I resigned myself to writing a summary only, and here we are.

Overall, i'm pretty impressed with Clannad. It had a solid plot, plenty of humour and very high production values. However, it does have a few shortcomings. Quite often, the plot was somewhat predictable. For example, it was obvious from the start that Tomoya would [spoiler]end up entering into a relationship with Nagisa[/spoiler]. Despite this, there where many things I could not have possibly predicted at the start or during the show itself.

From reading around, I had got the impression that Clannad was quite a sad show, in the typical style of Key stories. However, I did not find it nearly as sad as I was expecting. Certain scenes did make me feel sad, such as the end of [spoiler]Fuko's arc[/spoiler], although I was happy to see that [spoiler]she reappeared in certain later scenes - complete with intro sequence[/spoiler]! I was also expecting some more supernatural elements, such as explanation as to why Tomoyo and others where so strong.

The quality of the drawing and animation was pretty high. Backgrounds where detailed and often enhanced how a scene felt (for example, the lighting during the final scene of Episode 22, see the insert image). However, some background scenes could have benefited from additional animation rather than just being static. This is a common flaw with many anime series though.

I was somewhat disappointed that over it's entire length, Clannad did not change it's opening or ending music. I am glad however that they chose two fantastic pieces of music for the opening and ending. The opening, メグメル ~cuckool mix 2007~ (megumeru ~cuckool mix 2007~), was slow at first but became upbeat pretty quickly and the ending, だんご大家族 (dango daikazoku, Big Dumpling Family), was happy and a nice contrast after a sad episode ending. Background music was used well, however certain pieces felt overused - more variation in the background music would have been a good idea.

There was a nice range of characters within the series, they all had different backgrounds and pasts as well as different personalities. However, it did seem that females where overrepresented. This is probably due to the fact that the original game is somewhat of a dating sim aimed at males, therefore male representation is bound to be low! While they could have added additional male cast members, i'm glad didn't and remaind true to the story. So my complaint about a lack of males is more of a complaint about the original game rather than the anime.

Overall, i've really enjoyed Clannad. While it has a few flaws and isn't exactly what I was expecting, it has been a fantastic series to watch and I can understand why it is ranked as high as it is on various anime websites. I am looking forward to watching the sequel to Clannad, Clannad After Story, which as it's name implies continues the story onwards from the end of Clannad. After Story is rated even higher than the original Clannad and is apparently sadder so it should be another good watch for me. Due to the fact that Clannad isn't absolutely perfect, i've given it a rating of 4.5/5 but would highly recommend it to anyone.

For the society's screening, the US Region 1 DVDs by Sentai Filmworks where used. The translation quality was pretty good, but definitely localised rather than a raw translation. I was pleased to see that certain things had on-screen translation notes, but they often didn't appear long enough to fully read them. English-subtitled blu-rays exist, but are extremely expensive - approximately £450 compared to £35 for the US DVDs. While I own the DVDs, I will most likely watch blu-ray rips when I come around to re-watching it. Should I win the lottery though, i'll buy the blu-rays too!



Angel Beats! Summary

All Class SSS members, goodbye!

Angel Beats! has now ended unfortunately, it doesn't seem that long ago that I actually started watching it.

Before it started airing, Angel Beats was promoted extensively and was highly anticipated. This was a show that had to live up to the hype it generated, and it certainly exceeded my expectations.

Angel Beats had an excellent, if somewhat rushed storyline. I was unable to accurately predict the events of future episodes as the plot line frequently twisted and turned. Any twists where very well thought out and fitted in perfectly - they didn't just leave you utterly confused and wondering what happened. As is typical with Key stories, the plot changes your feelings almost constantly, both in individual episode and thought the series as a whole. For example, in Episode 2 you're laughing as all of the members of Class SSS fall to successive traps, but when Yuri recounts her past you suddenly feel extremely sad. If anything however, the change between happy and sad is most profound in the final episode, for obvious reasons.

Angel Beats would have been a lot better had it been a 24-26 episode series rather than a 13 episode one. Due to the short length, we miss out on much of the background of the characters, only discovering the past lives of a handful of them.

The animation within Angel Beats is without a doubt some of the best i've seen. Backgrounds where highly detailed and the animation was fluid. In addition, background animation also featured which tends to be unusual within anime series. One thing I didn't like however was the use of motion blur, if you have a high enough frame rate then you don't need to use motion blur. This made it difficult to capture screenshots of certain moments, but wasn't especially noticeable when watching the show itself.

Music featured heavily within Angel Beats due to the presence of an in-show band. While most series wouldn't be able to get away with this, the band's usage as a diversionary squad fits in the the premise of the series perfectly. The music produced by this band was outstanding. Instead of using voice actors to sing the songs, professional singers marina (for Iwasawa) and LiSA (for Yui) where used. I much preferred marina/Iwasawa's vocals, but still enjoy LiSA/Yui's songs. More information about the music of Angel Beats can be found in a separate post.

The characters where detailed and had their own little unique personality, so you are sure to have at least one favourite out of them (Kanade :3). However, again we've got the problem of not having enough episodes to fully develop each character as mentioned earlier.

Overall, i've come away with a very positive view on Angel Beats! It was a very enjoyable show and is certainly one of the best anime series I have ever watched. The only thing preventing Angel Beats from becoming my favourite anime is the short length of the series and the effect this has on character and plot development. I would highly recommend this series to anyone, it's wide range of styles and intriguing story line should suit anyone.

As a small addendum, since writing the post on the final episode, some information has surfaced in an interview with Jun Maeda which clears up some of the unknowns that the final episodes left. It is confirmed that Otonashi [spoiler]did eventually disappear and reincarnate[/spoiler] and that [spoiler]he is not 'the programmer' - the Angel Player software existed before Otonashi[/spoiler]. Yui's voice actor has also hinted that a second season will be made and that she will be the heroine! I'm not entirely sure how that will fit in as a continuation, but i'm eager to find out anyway. More information on the interview can be found here.

An additional unaired episode will also be included with the final Bluray/DVD volume which will be released in December. I suspect that this may be an episode dedicated to the new lives of the Class SSS members but i'll have to wait in order to see if my suspicions are correct or not!

Thanks to Unlimited Translation Works for subbing the entire series, they where fast, had a good quality translation and excellent video quality. They have released a batch containing all 13 episodes and are also gradually releasing the Bluray versions as the disks come out. I've enjoyed writing about this series, despite the fact it took a very long time to write each post due to the amount of stuff that happened in each episode and i'm very much looking forward to the potential second season.


A Certain Scientific Railgun Summary

Caution, risk of electric shock

A Certain Scientific Railgun has sadly come to an end, therefore I need to write my first series summary since starting this site.

I first became aware of Railgun thanks to it's opening, it had great animation and a fantastic upbeat soundtrack (only my railgun). After reading up and finding that it was a side story to A Certain Magical Index, I went and watched that first. Hence, by the time I got round to actually watching Railgun it was already in it's 9th episode. While you don't need to watch Index first in order to watch Railgun, watching it did certainly help with the characters as they had already been introduced previously.

At the start of the series the whole Kuroko-Misaka relationship thing really detracted from my enjoyment of the series, I don't mind the odd bit of yuri but doing it constantly and in a fashion that's extremely over the top just doesn't work. However, as the show went on this was decreased to a more acceptable level.

The first main arc, Level Upper, was interesting and well planned out over the 12 episodes within which it featured (that is, 1-12). The second arc had plenty of sub-arcs and it was only towards the end that you realise all of these sub-arcs are one huge arc masterminded by an insane super-villain! This arc was also interesting, however there was also a lot more filler. The occasional filler episode is fine, it's sometimes good to have a break from the main plotline and do something different, but too many episodes consisted of filler. It would have been better to see more plot and i'm sure they could have fitted some in without problem. Thought the entire series I would have also liked to see a few more fight scenes involving the use of a range of abilities. The animators did a fantastic job at animating the fight scenes, but having a few more would have made the series more enjoyable.

Background music was well used within the series, especially during fight scenes. In major fight scenes (Episodes 12 and 24) the actual fight was timed to one (or both) of the openings. As both openings where fantastic soundtracks and as the lyrics of the openings fitted the themes of the series this worked extremely well. The first ending theme (Dear My Friend -まだ見ぬ未来へ-) seems to be the weak spot here, all of the other openings and endings are fluidly animated and have a very fast, upbeat sound track.  Perhaps once they realised just how popular Railgun was they decided that investing extra resources into developing an awesome second ending was feasible.

Overall, I found Railgun extremely enjoyable and rate it 4/5. If a second series is animated I will certainly pick it up. Considering how popular Railgun has been I wouldn't be surprised if a second season was animated.

I would like to thank Ayako for subtitling the series, and Mazui for the few rare cases where Ayako took more than a few days to subtitle an episode!