The Summer 2003 Anime Preview Guide

by Zac Bertschy and Rebecca Bundy, Apr 15th 2003

Welcome to Anime News Network's Summer 2003 anime preview guide! We've rooted through the latest that Japanese TV has to offer during the sweatiest months of the year, and laid down the final judgment on what's hot, and what's not.

Apologies to Joel Hodgson.


D.N.Angel

Synopsis:
Daisuke has a problem. His parents conduct bizarre occult rituals, this creepy guy at school seems to have a thing for him, and the love of his life barely knows he exists! To top it off, he's the reincarnation of the legendary angelic thief, Dark. On his 14th birthday, Dark manifests himself and makes things infinitely more complicated for poor old Daisuke!

He Said:
Based on a particularly melodramatic and cheesy manga series, D.N.Angel surprised me. The show, albeit packed to the brim with plot points, is a solid action drama series with an interesting and unique premise. The animation is absolutely stellar; a lot of money was dumped in to this series. There are gorgeous CG shots and full, fluid and consistent character animation. The music is outstanding as well. The show has the unfortunate and weighty task of explaining a rather complicated setup in the span of 23 minutes, and given the sheer amount of material, they did a pretty good job getting it all in there. Towards the end of the episode, where plot points are still happening over the closing credits, it hits overkill, but it's okay, since the show ends right then. If they keep this pacing up, D.N.Angel will be a bit much to handle. Fortunately, it seems as though things slow down. This show has a lot of potential, and could become a beloved fan favorite, if it plays its cards right.

She Said:
What season is complete without at least one show having winged characters? D.N.Angel is a story about Daisuki, a considerate boy who happens to be cursed with a second personality upon his 14th birthday. The beautiful animation is the first thing that stands out about this series, with backgrounds and music to set the scenes perfectly. Daisuki and Hiwatari, a boy at his school who seems to know about Daisuki's secret, are the only two characters who stand out as interesting. Daisuki's mother and grandfather alternate between serious witches and goofy guardians, something that gets a little annoying after a while. The two female classmates of Daisuki's are generic at best, especially Risa who could only fall in love with a 'tall, dark stranger with a secret'. Is this really the best they could do to explain why Risa instantly falls in love with Daisuki's alternate side, the “Great Phantom Thief” Dark? Aside from the slightly obnoxious secondary characters, D.N.Angel has a lot of potential as Dark's origin and the relationships between Daisuki and his classmates are explored.


E’s Otherwise

Synopsis:
The Ashurum organization has been working for years with the super-powered “nouryoku-sha”, psychics with amazing abilities. Rooting them out wherever they pop up, the organization takes out dangerous criminals by using the “nouryoku-sha”'s powers. Kai, someone considered to have amazing ability, joins the organization and within a year is making leaps and bounds beyond the other agents; but why did they really hire him? Is there more to Kai's story?

He Said:
One of the few “mature” shows this season, E’s Otherwise is like X (1999)-Men. Basically taking those two series and sticking them in a blender, E’s Otherwise, while stylish and entertaining, fails to excite. The main character is a tad on the bland side; he doesn't seem to have very much motivation for doing anything, except that this mysterious organization that's taken him in is ordering him around suddenly and bringing out his latent psychokinetic powers. The whole place has this “Xavier's School for the Gifted” feel, complete with spunky girl, love interest, bitchy girl, and all the other stereotypes we've come to expect from teams of super-powered teenagers. There's angst, drama, screaming, fighting, and all sorts of potential relationship issues. The ingredients for a successful show are here, they just aren't quite coming together. It's marred a little by generic character designs, complete with embarrassing costumes ripped from the pages of both X and X-Men. The animation, while well done, is a little static; there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of fluid movement on behalf of the characters and there are a lot of slow pans across stills. If you're a big fan of telekinetic angst, E’s Otherwise will probably excite you. Otherwise, just watch X again.

She Said:
E’s Otherwise is a pretty decent show that focuses on a group of nouryoku-sha (humans with special abilities) who are being trained by a government run organization called Ashurum. Kai, the main character and resident nouryoku-sha, loves his sister dearly and works for Ashurum to repay them for the medical care they give his sister. Kai's the only character so far that's received decent development, caring not only for his sister but the lives of the other nouryoku-sha who are being used by the guerilla soldiers in the city. These high morals will likely come in conflict with the shady ways of Ashurum, and the first episodes casts enough doubt on Ashurum's true goal to make a viewer wonder if the real enemies are the guerilla soldiers. The animation for the show isn't anything to write home about, but it certainly isn't bad, and though the music isn't anything spectacular, E’s Otherwise will likely become a worthwhile show.


The World of Narue

Synopsis:
Kazuto was your average schoolkid, until he started taking an interest in Narue, a schoolgirl who loudly proclaims she's an alien. When he' attacked by a dangerous alien masquerading as an adorable puppy dog, Narue shows up in the nick of time with a baseball bat and takes the perilous pooch out of commission; will Kazuto's life ever be the same, especially now that Narue has revealed herself to be a REAL alien?!

He Said:
Arr, matey! There be another scurvy Magical Girlfriend show off the port bow! Seriously, haven't we had enough of these? The World of Narue is nowhere near as bad as some of the other mahou kanojo shows that have been released in the last five years, but the scripting is embarrassingly awkward. There's no setup. The main character simply appears on screen and BAM! He has a magical girlfriend and a new, hilarious situation where aliens will be fought and panties will be bared. The animation is passable, the music is forgettable, and a legion of Japanese fanboys are already drooling of the Asuka-lookalike, Narue, who has no real personality to speak of aside from being cursed with the “generic spunky” attitude that seems to accompany all magical girlfriends (unless they get the “mindless servant” attitude, which is arguably worse.) There isn't anything particularly wrong with The World of Narue, except that it's totally cookie-cutter, embarrassingly cliché, and utterly uninteresting. If you like magical girlfriends, you'll like this show. If not, run. Run away, and never return!

She said:
The World of Narue is your basic guy meets girl story. Did I forget to mention that the girl is an alien who saves the guy from another alien who pretended to be a cute puppy? This time the audience is in for a treat since the first episode is filled with panty-shot angles and an entire scene in the girls' locker room!
Aside from this, there is nothing redeeming about this show. The music, animation, and character designs are simple and lack creativity. The relationship between Nanase and Kazuto, while cute, will probably fall back onto overused concerns of first kisses and dates that are interrupted by aliens attacking. If you want a ‘girl is really an alien’ show, watch Furi Kuri instead.


Last Exile

Synopsis:
In a country where airships dominate the skies, two hapless couriers in a specialized transit plane, called a “Vanship”, are caught inexplicably between two warring countries. The atrocity of war, the hypocrisy of the nation-state and the conscious of these two couriers are explored in this highly political action series.

He Said:
Sometimes I feel like I'm the only anime fan in the world who isn't obsessed with old aircraft and military vehicles. Gonzo certainly seems to be, given that they dumped a ton of money into Last Exile, a kind of love letter to airplane fanatics. Like an unbalanced version of Miyazaki's Porco Rosso (a film unabashedly in love with flight but balanced the beauty shots of old airplanes with an exciting and entertaining storyline), Last Exile pretends to be about the characters, but really, it's about the aircraft. There are only so many interesting ways to shoot Industrial Revolution-era airships, and Last Exile seems to use just about all of them in the first episode. The plotline has potential, but is poorly executed here. There's a lot of political mumbo jumbo that's never fully explained and people shouting orders to eachother. The writers seem to have crafted a deep and involving world, but instead of explaining that world, they simply start telling stories within it, leaving the audience in the dark. That having been said, Last Exile is a high water mark for television animation. The animation is here is, hands down, the best I've ever seen in a TV series. The music is beautiful as well and complements the lush (if somewhat repetitive) visuals. It's worth seeing once, just to marvel at how far TV animation has come, but unfortunately, if you don't get off on watching airships float around, there isn't a whole lot here to like.

She Said:
Gonzo's latest work is a slight disappointment, considering how beautiful the animation is. Last Exile is art in motion, from the backgrounds and character designs to the incredible use of lighting and animation. The costumes and airships fit older designs, with soldiers in French Revolution-like uniforms firing from battleships similar to blimps in design. Everything related to visual effects are stunning and perfect examples of how animation is art.
For all the eye-candy offered, very little is explained and the first episode is nothing more than a rushed attempt to put the audience in the middle of the battles. We know very little about the world they're a part of or the characters in general. The music is a hodgepodge of sounds that end up sounding awkward when put together. This mix between good and bad makes it hard to give this show a good review, but everyone should definitely see this show just to enjoy the visual display.


Stellvia of the Universe

Synopsis:
Stellvia is a prestigious intergalactic school, dedicated to training Earth's best and brightest young men and women. They train to become fighter pilots and research the strange green gas that now shrouds our blue planet thanks to a supernova explosion that happened a little too close to home. A bevy of new friends and experiences await; hopefully, she can use her own inner strength to overcome the trials ahead.

He Said:
Let's pretend for a moment that Stellvia of the Universe isn't intended to reel in every drooling lolicom creepo from here to Zimbabwe and that it's actually supposed to be serious science fiction. On that front, Stellvia fails. It's like Intergalactic Harry Potter; kids are shipped out to the school, they learn all about space stuff and grow in the process. Yawn. The show is not helped by the lack of any particularly interesting characters. Every girl is totally lolicommed-out, complete with “innocent and shy” personalities (except the “spunky” girls). That having been said, where Stellvia really offends is in its execution. The girls are all around 12 years old; they don't look old enough to be learning algebra yet, let alone old enough to pilot complicated space fighters. I realize “little girls in space” shows (like Stratos 4) are all the rage right now, but that doesn't make them good or watchable. The shows seem to bank on the fact that the character designs are designed directly to appeal to the lolicom crowd, and therefore the writing, pacing and even art direction are all sorely lacking. Stellvia of the Universe doesn't try to be an interesting show, and that's the root of the problem here. There's a very specific type of person who will enjoy this, and chances are, it isn't you. Avoid.

She Said:
Stellvia of the Universe is a barely mediocre show that tries to be cute and spunky but only produces bland and annoying. The first few minutes of the show rush through a lot of background history, then zip ahead 250 years and throw the viewers into the ‘present’. The main character Shima has dreams of seeing the sky beyond the green gas that surrounds Earth, has hair that's reminiscent of Usagi from Sailor Moon, and is delightfully dense and naïve. She meets up with Ayaka, another character that has been blessed with the ability to look 7 years younger than she really is. Throw in a reference to Ayaka being Peter Pan and Shima as Wendy as they approach Neverneverland (the space ship Stellvia) and you've got the perfect show for many hentai doujinshi writers out there. If fantasizing about the two main characters isn't your idea of fun, then you'll want to find something else. This show tries too hard to be a female version of Candidate for Goddess, and the only thing that piqued my interest in the show was a momentary shot of one character with a ninja mask on. Ninjas in space, anyone?


Demon Detective Loki Ragnarok

Synopsis:
Loki, and his assistant, are occult detectives that the desperately hexed, vexed and otherwise perplexed turn to when ghosts and demons show themselves. Loki's cases range from benign to bloodcurdlingly complex; it's Detective Conan, with a few buckets of blood and bone-chilling horror!

He Said:
While the detective genre has certainly been tried and retired, every so often a show comes along that tries it a wee bit differently and manages to pump something out that's a little more entertaining than your average Kindaicihi Case Files or Master Keaton. Like last season's Spiral: The Bond of Deduction, Loki Ragnarok attempts to fuse the horror genre with the detective genre, a'la Yami no Matsuei. While missing the charm and depth of that particular series, Ragnarok is still a decent attempt to bring zest and life to an otherwise stale idea. It isn't completely successful; the show may or may not stick to the “solve the case in the last five minutes” formula that so many others seem to cling to. If it avoids this pitfall, then we're in for something special. The show is endlessly stylish and features many unique, noir-ish (the genre, not the anime) lighting effects that add heaps of mood and character to the series. The main characters are talkative and interesting, and the show has some genuinely creepy stuff in it. I've always been spooked by talking and moving marionettes with no puppeteers (like that episode of Vampire Princess Miyu that still has me turning my nightlight on to this day), and this episode features a cackling dummy that sent a real chill down my spine. If they can maintain this level of quality, then Loki Ragnarok will be one of the few shining stars in an otherwise barren galaxy of anime this summer.

She Said:
Ragnarok is your basic mystery/horror anime show. It's hard to tell if this show is going to be good or bad, since the first episode introduced characters and solved the ‘mystery of the day’. Based on the first episode alone, though, the show lacks any sort of plot or character motivation, unless you count Mayura's reckless pursuit to search out strange things and gain glory from them. I don't. I was actually hoping that the doll would do something to her so that we wouldn't be stuck with that character past the first episode. Anyone who decides to keep a glowing laughing doll around deserves to die. The show does have a few things going for it. The music is nice, especially the opening song. Loki could possibly become an interesting character, especially when you consider his name and the opening, but the first episode leaves you wondering if the past 25 minutes was wasted or not.


Scrapped Princess

Synopsis:
Pacifica is the “toxin that will end the world”, according to an ancient prophecy handed down through the ages. When she turns 16, she's destined to bring an end to the realm she lives in; naturally everyone wants to get rid of her. Can her brother, a stalwart warrior, save her from an entire civilization bent on ending her life? Can he handle the responsibility of protecting that which may eventually destroy him?

He Said:
Another gem amidst a desert of mediocrity, Scrapped Princess is a bright spot this season. The character designs are somewhat reminiscent of Rune Soldier Louie, as is the humor. They keep the fanservice to a relatively low level. The music is pretty good, and so is the animation, thus far; the show is highly entertaining. What's not to like? Well, there are unfortunate incest overtones between the lead characters, and while it isn't as pronounced as it is in .hack://Legend of Twilight Bracelet, the flirting that occurs between the siblings is somewhat disturbing and distracting. Otherwise, the fight scenes are cool and the show doesn't seem to take itself too seriously. Since this is the only new fantasy show available this season, fans of the genre are kinda stuck with it; thankfully, it's a worth your time.

She Said:
In need of fantasy, jammed pack with warriors, sorcerers, and princesses who are destined to destroy the world? Scrapped Princess has it all. This anime is nice because it treats certain issues realistically. Not everyone who's close to you can be trusted, and the world can be a nasty place when everyone believes in a prophecy that may or may not be true. The anime mixes in a comic side as well. It was funny to watch Pacifica's sister interrupt an older sorcerer's long-winded spell with her own short spell.
The characters, good and bad, are quickly developed so that you aren't left to speculate on character motivations. The costumes are very nice, minus the constant use of giant shoulder-pads, and will probably become popular among cosplayers. The animation and backgrounds are clean, and the show overall is worth watching.


Air Master

Synopsis:
Maki is a master fighter, feared by all on the street fighting circuit. People come from all around to travel her, the infamous “Air Master”. Until now, she was fighting only for herself; but now that she's got some new friends to protect, there's way more at stake!

He Said:
I would rather have jars of boiling hot acid poured into my eyes than watch another episode of Air Master. I'd do anything, ANYTHING to reclaim the 23 minutes I wasted watching this unbelievably horrible garbage. Like a fanserviced-out Fist of the North Star, this show is nothing but muscled people kicking eachother and running around and shouting poorly-written dialogue. Air Master starts out with panty shots of the butt-kicking Amazonian title character, and then proceeds to introduce a character with gigantic breasts that the other females grab at every possible opportunity, an annoying brat girl whose voice could shatter every window in the Notre Dame cathedral, and a bevy of poorly-designed street fighters who attack the so-called “Air Master” at every turn. Insulting, boring, and downright stupid, Air Master could only have been worse if Go Nagai were involved. Then again, I'm not sure he wasn't. The production values on this thing don't matter. There is nothing to recommend in this show. Stay away; I'm warning you.

She Said:
“It's only half over?!” That's what Zac and I said, in unison, when the eye-catch played for Air Master. The show focuses on Renge, an ex-gymnast who's famous as a street fighter. She joins up with a group of four girls who accept her into their group even after they learn that she's a fighter. But who am I kidding by making this show sound halfway decent? The show is about an overly tall female, her group of annoying friends, fighting, and bouncing breasts. In fact, the closing focuses on all of these girls running. Nothing else, just them running and bouncing. It's sad that a show with a strong female character reduced itself to breasts and panty shots, instead of making a potentially strong show with characters that females could look up to. I don't understand what the producers of this show were thinking when they made this utterly horrible show.


Ninja Scroll TV

Synopsis:
More bloody, demon-killing adventures with the legendary warrior Jubei. This time, the Yokai have bandied under a dangerous and powerful leader, who has ordered them to destroy a nearby Ninja village. Jubei happens across this village in his travels and pairs up with Shigure, the village's leader, a strong young female. When the yokai attack, Shigure's entire village is destroyed, and she vows revenge; good thing Jubei's on her side!

He Said:
Like everyone else who's ever had a passing interest in anime, the original Ninja Scroll was one of the first anime films I saw. I didn't really like it at the time; it seemed to be violent just for the sake of being violent. It caught on with millions of Americans, though, and to this day, it stands next to Akira as the anime most people mention if you ask them whether or not they've ever seen any. Ninja Scroll TV, then, was sort of a given. They knew this thing would sell in the US, so here it is. I'm happy to say that the series is not a letdown in any capacity. The animation, by Studio MADHOUSE is absolutely gorgeous and is rivaled only Gonzo's Last Exile for beauty and fluidity. The storyline is exactly what you'd expect, minus a bit of the gore and nudity (well, okay, not so much on the gore, but they did tone down the nudity). Those two elements seem to have been toned down, and the show now has a more focused plot. The female character, Shigure, is very interesting to watch and is a well-written female lead, something most anime series don't have. The demons, much as they were in the original film, are a total freak show. They look like they're designed to be sliced apart by Jubei's katana; lots of shining, bulging skin and disgusting features. There's plenty of combat and traditional Japanese music and ninjas and all the stuff you'd expect from this show. There are a few unintentionally (perhaps intentionally) hilarious scenes, like when the entire Ninja village whips off their peasant clothes to reveal ninja attire and start chucking throwing stars at the invading demons. I wasn't expecting to like Ninja Scroll TV, but I was pleasantly surprised. They've streamlined the formula down to what makes it worth watching, and have re-written the characters to make them vastly more interesting. Don't miss out on this one, even if you didn't care for the film version.


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