Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
The studio which brought you The Place Promised in Our Early Days here presents two new one-shots. In Coffee Samurai, swordmaster Jin Youn-Young yearned back during his samurai days to have an indestructible body of metal, and when reincarnated in modern day he discovers that he has been granted his wish – only this metal body is a coffee vending machine, one which can sprout arms, legs, and a face and assume fully human form for only brief periods of time. In this form he find himself falling in love with a young woman who essentially takes him home, though he must also still face threats from enemy ninja.
In Hoshizora Kiseki, Kozue is an astronomy-loving high school girl who has occasionally heard a mysterious voice calling out to her. Partly due to that but mostly to witness an expected meteor strike, Kozue sojourns to a remote area where she discovers a boy in a space suit and his Men in Black-styled escort, who are doing a secret experiment of their own involving the expected arrival of the meteorite. When she discovers that the boy, Gingo, has never been outside without his space suit, Kozue resolves to help him experience the wonders that the world can offer despite the interference of his escort.
CoMix Wave, Inc. (listed on the packaging as CoMix Wave Films) is a producer of mostly obscure movies, ONAs, and OVAs best-known for producing all of Makoto Shinkai's works. While Shinkai was not involved in either of these offerings, both have a similar feel to his work, which may be enough to attract attention to them even if the completely offbeat concept of the first one doesn't. Rather than release them individually, Sentai Filmworks has opted to combine them onto a single release for one low price – which is almost certainly for the best, since neither would have merited even the comparatively meager ($19.98) MSRP on its own.
The first offering, Coffee Samurai, is actually a purely Korean work rather than a true anime title, but the stylistic differences are not great enough for most anime fans to recognize the difference without looking at the credits. It takes one of the more offbeat concepts one will ever encounter in animation and milks it to the last drop, creating a half-hour of animation that is as perverse as it sounds like it should be and is occasionally very funny but fails to accomplish anything else. It takes such a low-key approach to the subject material that the action scenes of Jin Young-Young fighting against enemy swordsmen or (in one of the more demented moments) the enemy who has been reincarnated as the playground zebra come off flat. This overly low-key approach, which is fed by a soundtrack that is nonexistent for long stretches, also prevents the production from being as sweet or charming as it was probably supposed to be. Nothing really gets resolved, either; the episode seems to end simply because the time allotted to it by its production planning simply ran out. Ultimately it falls well short of fulfilling its potential.
Hoshizora Kiseki also aims to be a sweet little piece about a girl hooking up with a special boy, but it, too, suffers from being too low-key for its own good and, thus, never achieves the charm it should have, either. While the writing does explain why the boy supposedly needs to spend his life outdoors in a full space suit, the lack of any apparent consequences when he takes it off turns the whole exercise into a farce; this is one of those stories which has an improbable gimmick simply to create a source of conflict in a story which otherwise has very little. The writing does succeed in portraying Kozue as the sort of earnest, determined heroine that anime loves to cast as a protagonist, but Gingo proves entirely uninteresting; his whole “breaking out of his shell” routine has been done much better elsewhere. Here, too, a weak soundtrack hampers the production, as this one does have one but essentially uses one mediocre theme which it repeats over and over.
While neither story boast exceptional production values, they do at least look respectable. Coffee Samurai certainly takes its cues from anime on ways to minimize animation, although it does have a few nicely-executed scenes and shows considerable merit in the opening scenes from the samurai era; later scenes in modern times have more of a cartoony look to them. Hoshizora features better scenery but less refined character rendering, including eye designs on the girls that look more than a little creepy. It also makes better use of equipment (including a very detailed planetarium projector) and visual special effects. Neither has an ounce of fan service or blood, but the episodes are rated TV-14 for some violent content (mostly from Coffee Samurai).
Sentai's release of the pair does not dub either one, but the subtitles are, at least, clean. The release contains no Extras beyond some Sentai trailers. The quality of the original dub in Coffee Samurai, which is voiced entirely by Koreans, is decidedly inferior to Hoshizora's original dub.
Ultimately both stories have good concepts but fail at executing their stories to maximum benefit. They are watchable as curiosities but unlikely to inspire repeat viewings.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : C
+ Good concepts, some perverse humor in CS, certain parts of both look very sharp.
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