As I continue to watch Gun X Sword I’m struck by several things. Firstly it does not get significantly less uneven in quality. Secondly, the El Dora V episode feels even by the halfway point like a weird anomaly of sincerity – although other episodes, in their own ways, hit equally weird and interesting concepts. Thirdly it is a series that has an unbelievably strong villain even before he actually does anything.
I started rewatching Gun X Sword just after beginning to play Super Robot Wars T and was seriously wondering after two episodes if it was actually as good as I remembered. I would fully understand someone, after two episodes of the series, being just about done with it because the opening absolutely does not touch the show’s real strengths. You have two episodes of character humour that might be grating without the opportunity to get to know the characters, and of incidental combat against largely irritating villains. There are flashes of interest, for sure – the moments where the mask of slacker comedy breaks and Van shows his crazed side suggest there is something more going on here, made all the clearer by the fact the setting is called The Endless Illusion. But ultimately it is a kind of badness driven by simply being ordinary when you have probably, if you have been convinced to watch Gun X Sword, entered expecting something extraordinary.
There are quite a few comedy fantasy anime in the vein of The Slayers and, unfortunately, most of them are varying degrees of quite sexist. Even The Slayers has some episodes that really don’t hold up as very good, although it also has some extremely funny episodes and some action scenes that work quite well. There are certain tropes that come through in a number of the series in this vein that, depending on execution, feel a little awkward; lots of cross-dressing, lots of jokes where the punchline is pretty much “man tries to spy on woman and gets punched” and so on. The execution varies for better or worse, but nevertheless it seems this sort of adolescent humour is a recurring theme and it’s wholly understandable that that might not appeal to people so much. Konosuba goes perhaps even further by having a masochist-fetish defender and various other more direct sex jokes.
Kamen Rider Gaim is a very different beast to the previous series in the franchise I had watched and enjoyed; perhaps the closest comparison is 2018’s Kamen Rider Build in terms of tone, storyline and general feel, with heroes on all factions trying to get ahead of each other and eventually realising this is playing into a greater threat’s hands. But even so it is quite different, and the purpose of this review is not really to compare the series directly but to talk about what makes Gaim so compelling to watch.
It is fair to say I am watching Dororo (2019) with absolutely no knowledge of the original 1969 TV anime or 1967 Osamu Tezuka manga. As a result I cannot comment on how good an adaptation it is, in any useful sense; my understanding from secondary reading is it is making some plot changes, but beyond that I do not know anything. So, that reservation in mind, would I recommend Dororo (2019)? Yes. It’s a series which has in its first three episodes generally presented a praiseworthy attention to detail, some good action and a straightforward plot which hits some generally tough moral beats with the uncompromising didacticism that I grew to like about series like Harlock SSX.
Note: This article discusses the plot details of episodes 1-3 of Dororo (2019) including the way it handles the narrative depiction of suicide in episode 3.
It has been a long time since I watched any Captain Harlock media, but the recent announcement of Super Robot Wars T, featuring Harlock SSX: My Youth in Arcadia, drove me to give the series another go. I love its aesthetic, and it is iconic enough to be notably parodied in various things (perhaps most broadly by the latter half of Goldran featuring Walter disguised as a bad parody of Harlock piloting a giant robot shark), but I did not recall particularly gelling with the original series, dated as it is, when I first watched it.
I have not seen many Kamen Rider series, least of all Showa-era ones; as a result, any frame of reference I have for discussing the franchise is limited to select individual series rather than the franchise as any kind of whole. Nevertheless, I am currently watching Kuuga, and it is proving highly enjoyable television and quite watchable without any foreknowledge or wider sense of what one can or should expect. Taken outside of its franchise, it is a series that does superhero origins and self-discovery very well, and creates a world that realistically adapts to the sudden arrival of supervillains. It manages to be dark and atmospheric without necessarily being graphically violent or exploitative, in part owing to the understated creature designs and simple, easily-read hero suit.
Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory had a very strong opening arc that, while it played with quite stock action-film scenarios, did so in a way that was a good payoff for viewers who had come to like its cast. It ended on a strong cliffhanger for the second arc’s setup, introduced a strong villain with a commanding personality and generally was pacy and thematic. The second arc goes a long way in two episodes to undermining that goodwill by taking the themes of the first and presenting them in a significantly less interesting setting and in a fashion that seems predictably reductive.
There is a formula to most Ultraman series episodes that initially seems repetitive and counter to the often weird and interesting setups; no matter what happens, there will be some kind of fight against a giant creature, because ultimately that is the franchise’s core motif. Indeed, the episodic monster-fighting nature of several entries may possibly seem different to viewers (like me) introduced to the franchise by the very interestingly continuity-driven Ultraman GEED. GEED had a shorter running time, and while it frequently had the giant fights to cap off episodes compounded with a veritable stable of heroes and forms, it told a fairly strong plot which itself tied into (in a fashion that used neat metatextual trickery) a wider cinematic universe.
Anyone keeping abreast of the latest news in anime will probably be aware that there is a new Cutie Honey series airing, and it definitely opens with a well-rounded pair of episodes that are significantly more interesting than one might expect from something so self-evidently lurid and lewd.
It’s a big, in-your-face kind of series with everything on display from the start, which I feel does a fine job of modernising the original concept without quite being so trashy as some of the OVA versions. Of course, this assessment is based only on the show’s opening episodes, amply front-loaded as they are with action and also exposition to provide a firm backstory for the hero.
There’s no shortage of foreshadowing, suggesting at least there is the intention of telling some kind of deeper story, and I think the decision to hold off on the exposition and origin story until the second episode works.