Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Misaki, a klutzy, not-overly-bright teenage girl, joined the military in the early 24th century with the ultimate goal of making it into space to learn the goals and dreams of the father she lost in an accident many years before. Ultimately her path led to the distant station Watcher's Nest, the place where her father died – and there the trouble really began. Misaki showed signs of unusual abilities and the strange interspatial beings known as Ghouls ultimately forced the residential and military portions of Watcher's Nest to abandon their position in a desperate exodus.
Something odd happened during the exodus, though. Misaki was lost, a Ghoul seemed to have tagged along, and the remnants of Watcher's Nest ended up near Earth's moon instead of their destination of Saturn. Now there are temporal problems involving Earth which also appear to involve the Ghoul. Lt. Commander Lyar Von Ertiana and Ensign Kiri, accompanied by a new version of the android Kotoko, must use Rampart Armor to descend into different time periods in Japanese history to deal with the Ghoul and hopefully correct the temporal rifts. What they discover, though, is that the missing Misaki may, in fact, be integrally involved in the whole mess.
To make any sense of the first volume of Misaki Chronices, three things about it must be understood:
1. Most of the first episode is a prequel to last year's Divergence Eve, while the rest of the series is a direct continuation of it.
2. Yes, the female characters have massive breasts (and apparently sports bras don't exist anymore in the 24th century), but that's actually beside the point.
3. Trying to sort out this whole mess of time ruptures and parallel universes will only strain your brain. Just go with the flow.
Having seen Divergence Eve first is essential to having any chance to figure out what's going on beyond the first episode, as what exactly Misaki is in this series, what she's doing, and why are all intrinsically related to what happened to her in DE. Even then it will probably take most viewers the full five episodes in this volume plus some repeat viewings to piece things together, and that's only if they avoid getting wrapped up in the nonsensical technobabble which permeates the series. The plotting doesn't help matters by flashing back piecemeal to a crucial transition scene between the two series, nor do the muddled technicalities of how things came to be the way they are or the lack of any details on the Ghoul's motives (something which was never revealed in the original series, either). What is clear is that the writer wanted to transition the story from the sci-fi drama/horror format it had in DE into more of a time travel/parallel universe excursion format. This has not looked like a positive move so far, as the storytelling feels like it has lost its edginess, but the original series also needed a few episodes to prove its worth so perhaps time will tell here, too.
As with DE, the designs for mature female characters are exclusively uber-endowed, and a few bits of nudity and panty shots are tacked on for good measure. Unlike most series featuring such characters, though, DE and Misaki Chronicales are both much more than their fan service. Give all the women normal-sized figures, or just condition yourself to ignore the bounciness, and you still have a worthwhile story. In fact, many viewers will probably find the fan service to be more of a nuisance than an enhancement. Unfortunately the DVD cover art and interior art pitch the series as being fan service-focused, a problem that also weighted down the original series.
Like its predecessor, Misaki Chronicles makes heavy use of CG artistry and animation. Space scenes, mecha, Ghouls, and Misaki's avatar are all rendered with CG, while human and android characters and most interior and Earth-based settings are drawn and animated with traditional means. While not bad, the traditional parts lack the refinement seen in sharper-looking series and the contrast between the CG and traditional parts is strong. This contrast serves well when portraying Ghouls and Misaki's avatar as otherworldly creatures but is less effective when CG mecha is integrated with traditionally-drawn backgrounds and characters. Animation of Rampart Armor sometimes has an unnatural feel about it, but otherwise the CG-only parts generally look good.
The soundtrack for Misaki Chronicles uses some of the dramatic and creepy themes heard in DE but is usually a bit lighter in tone. It is still comprised almost entirely of techno/electronica music occasionally highlighted by piano, including some numbers with a distinct hard rock flavor. The opening theme “Kiss, Kiss, Kiss” is a lively, infectious, heavily-synthesized dance number which could easily become popular in Japanese-language karaoke or at cosplay dances, while the closer “SORA” is a more typical anime theme.
The entire English vocal cast is a carry-over from the original series, with most key roles being performed by long-time ADV regulars. Performances and casting choices are generally accurate to the originals, with the only significant discrepancy being the distinct British accent that Emily Carter-Essex adds to Susanna Bleustein in the English version. The character is supposed to be British, though, so there's nothing wrong with that; it could even be looked at as an improvement. The English script also stays tight to the original, with no variations of consequence.
Extras on the first volume consist of clean opener and closer, company previews, some bonus interior art on the DVD case, and another installment of the Ani-Manga first seen in the three volumes of DE. These are just silly vignettes spun off from the main series which have nothing to do with the main plot.
Divergence Eve and Misaki Chronicles will never be mistaken for masterpieces or all-time classics in the world of anime, but both are better and more serious series than their advertising and first impression might lead you to expect. Fans of the original will definitely want to get this one to see how events play out following the cliffhanger that DE ended with, while newcomers are strongly advised to go back and see the original series before tackling this one.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Continues a story left unfinished, Heaven for fans of big-breasted anime women.
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