Category Archives: review


Fist of the North Star

Iconic, violent action from the first half of the eighties. The world’s most dangerous man wanders a post-apocalyptic wasteland, exploding people or otherwise killing them in poetically-just ways by hitting their pressure points.

Fist provides silly fun with its weird one-off villains and absurd violence. But in its serious confrontations the show can also move you in its own naive way. It pays little attention to the nuclear war which ruined the world—this is just an accepted part of the premise—tying its main plot instead to the destinies of a small coterie of martial artists.

I think it was Jason Thompson who pointed out that Fist stands out among shounen action stories in having its hero be immediately and obviously more powerful than most of his opponents. The excitement in the smaller battles is often in seeing just how Kenshiro will defeat a minor villain’s gimmick, rather than in wondering whether or not he’ll win. This makes the real battles noticeably more tense: proper martial artists are rare and clearly differentiated from more humdrum opponents. You know when someone’s a threat.

While I was watching Fist, someone wondered aloud if there’re any guides to its essential episodes out there anywhere. I don’t know if there are, but yea or nay I’m not sure it’s such a good idea. True, there is filler, of sorts, which varies in quality: the ‘Elton John and his zombie army’ and ‘human cannonballs with swords’ episodes, for example, are really quite entertaining. Unusually, pretty much all the filler sits in the story’s first arc. After that most episodes contribute something, however small, to the plot. And I suspect the final chapter only reaches the heights it does because you’ve seen Ken and the other surviving characters wade through blood to get there.

That final chapter kicks in, with new narrative urgency, around the eightieth episode. It brings a new OP, which steps back a little from the excitement of its more famous predecessor and takes some time to remind us of some of the significant characters who’ve already died. Fist maintains quite a small cast, as important people tend to die, and so has little of the onwards’n’upwards feeling you get in a lot of anime which share a similar sense for absurd action. Rather, Fist‘s plot is the fatal working-out of grudges and desires which were instigated before the first episode, often before even the nuclear apocalypse. Loss becomes a dominant theme: the loss of friends, of rivals, of faculties—and at one point, the lived experience of loss as a source of power.

Ultramuscled designs are the order of the day. There are some excellently grotesque giants and mutants and super-obese villains. The show looks cheap but not awful. Stock footage is common, though it’s often intelligently laced in with new animation to keep the fights looking fresh. Characters sometimes seemingly change in size, and I would like to believe that this is to indicate their importance, threat and possession of combat momentum. Although a lot of the more excessive blood sprays are shiny rather than red, the animators didn’t hold much back in rendering the twisting, slicing, snapping, splattering and detonating of the human body. A skilled martial artist is a scary, scary thing!

I enjoyed Fist a lot. I dug all the crazy enemies and their bizarre techniques, and I bought into its story of a few deadly men clashing in a world that’s gone horribly wrong. Its simplicity pleased me. I’m too young to have been around for Fist‘s period of currency among Anglophone fans. Mostly, this was an advantage, letting me come to the show knowing only what little I’d picked up from reflexes of and allusions to it in other anime.

Not sure I’d just recommend this to just anyone who likes anime, though. If you enjoy simple, heartfelt stories with wild fighting, try it. If you’re just interested from a cultural-literacy standpoint, maybe give it a few episodes, but don’t expect it to blow you away.

Case;Irvine is Okay

Oh dear.

Uoodo coffee: suddenly less bitter.

Case;Irvine is a new VOTOMS one-shot, set in the Astragius Galaxy but otherwise unconnected to the rest of the franchise. You can come in cold and it should make sense.

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Those Uppity Mycenæans

The Mycenæans built with such large stones that their successors thought that they were giants.

The Mycenæans' successors thought that only cyclopes could have built with such large stones.

The Mazinkaiser movie (which might more accurately be called a one-hour special) reworks an earlier title, Mazinger Z vs. The Great General of Darkness. I’ve seen Mazinger Z vs.: it was made back in the seventies and it connects Mazinger Z to Great Mazinger. During its climax Tetsuya brings Great to the aid of a faltering Mazinger Z, and the ending leaves the villains only temporarily defeated. It has some enjoyable scenes — Kouji manfully struggling out to the final confrontation after giving blood, for example — but it’s a little flat, and a criminal amount of time is spent without something large and destructive on screen. Continue reading

Condensed Review: GaoGaiGar


Pros and Cons

+ refuge in audacity
– formulaic first half . . .
+ . . . but it’s a damn good formula
– made for children . . .
+ . . . but not unremittingly childish
+ Kouhei Tanaka, god-tier super robot music composer

Supplementary Remarks

+ hotbloodedness and screaming
++ a love-letter to its own genre


Mediocre-to-good. Acquired taste, unless you’re in touch with your inner child.

Did I Like It?


Condensed Review: Soukou no Strain

Blonde hair and a red mecha make Sara a bit of a Char.

Blonde hair and an unusually fast red war machine?

Pros and Cons

+ a hint of Gunbuster in the DNA
++ Frances Hodgson Burnett is spinning in her grave
+ CG mecha which manage to look good (they’re intended to seem ethereal)
– too much exposition in one place
– fanservice spike not closely tied to the plot
– music leaves something to be desired

Supplementary Remarks

-+ comedy lesbian: not sure if want
+ waiftastic Sara is waiftastic
+ hotbloodedness and screaming


Interesting if somewhat disorganised. Mediocre.

Did I Like It?


Starship Operators 1-4

I fear

I fear blue-haired women, even when they come bearing gifts.

‘Reviews. I’m really not very good at them, unless I force myself to write with inhuman brevity. If, however, criticism is, in the words of America’s greatest writer (I’m sorry, the urge to troll was irresistible), “the elucidation of works of art and the correction of taste”, I probably ought to make an effort to do some taste-correcting from time to time.’

That, at least, is what I was thinking when my eye fell on the first volume of Starship Operators, recently released here, as it lay on the periphery of my desk. The periphery of my desk is, it would seem, a dangerous place to be.

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Condensed Review: StrikerS

This review is even shorter than Caro


+ bigger budget
– budget not always well-used
+ interesting new characters
– too many characters: action and drama thin out
+ courageously different from predecessors
– fails to capitalise on courageous difference

Supplementary Tautologies

+ maternal Nanoha is maternal
++ healthy Nanoha is healthy
+++ Gundam Nanoha is Gundam


Strikers tries to spin too many plates for too long. Mediocre-to-poor.

Did I Like It?

Definitely. I cried at the end.

Armour Hunter Mellowlink

Decades of warfare destroy any sense for subtle wit.

To compensate for recently giving in to the urge to write about Kaiba, I sought out a helping of big men, big guns and big robots: Armour Hunter Mellowlink, a spin-off OVA set in the same world as Armoured Trooper VOTOMS. ATV is an unusual franchise, and one with which I’m not too familiar. Aided by some fine people (who know who they are) I’ve acquired the original VOTOMS, but I’ve only dipped my toe into it so far. My only other VOTOMS experience is the first half of the Pailsen Files (ably introduced by Hidoshi, with more structured first episode summaries from Kaioshin and at Tenka Seiha).

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Demonbane, Nanoha and the Cosmic Horrors

Memes must sometimes be reinforced.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Demonbane is not, by any stretch of the imagination, good. It’s a visual novel franchise adaption, and it tries to squeeze a great deal of information into a mere twelve episodes: the first episode feels like it’s playing at double-speed, the OP/rapid-fire clipshow is only one minute long and events frequently occur during the credits. Despite all this cramming, lots of extra plot, helpful explanation and some whole characters are cut to create an unfortunate ‘All There In The Manual‘ situation. I didn’t understand the conclusion (which was written especially for the anime in the first place) without the aid of Wikipedia.

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Manga Most Strange

Reverse Trap Hamlet
I’ve used this before, but the internet needs more reverse trap Hamlet.

I have an unsubstantiated theory that any boys who encounter Hamlet during their adolescence will become slightly obsessed with the play. It is very easy to read Hamlet as a misanthropic, withdrawn and rather ’emo’ teenager, and – though this would seem very alien to the original audience, who lacked the concept – it’s no surprise that 21st century teenagers identify with him.

You can probably detect the voice of personal experience here, though I no longer identify with Hamlet in quite that way. For a start, although his age is much-disputed, there is textual evidence for a rather older Hamlet. And withdrawn teenagers are, for the most part, boring. But the obsession itself is harder to escape; to this day, productions of the play have me reaching for my wallet with the same irrational fervour that others use for figurines. (‘Ooh, look! A 1:8 Ophelia, “distracted, playing on a lute, and her hair down, singing“!’)

And so it is that we come to Self Made Hero’s ‘Manga Shakespeare’ version of Hamlet. It’s a strange (though hardly the strangest) concept. Curiosity drove me to buy it. But is it manga? Is it Hamlet? And what’s it actually like?

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