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Anime Madness

Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac)

Why is it worth anyone's time is actually a silly question I should sometimes be asking myself. But to be blunt, this is an awesome series that really captivated me when introduced to it in the late 80's.

Among shows like G.I.Joe, Transformers, Battle of the Planets and Robotech, there was definitely a standout that touched that odd mystical whimsical child within, and Saint Saiya (known in the U.S. as Knights of the Zodiac) was that one. Borrowing heavily from Greek mythology, it is set in an earth that will be soon consumed by evil. Some children are taught the art of fighting, and are then taken to the holy land in Greece to fight for cloths, and bring their nation pride in having a saint. Although the beginning of this series contradicts itself in terms of ideals, and doesn't follow the rules it sets up when you are introduced to it, eventually it all irons out, and with an eye closed it makes a case for good imagination and meaningful friendships. Placing men as gods, and gods fighting amongst themselves to reign as supreme beings for a greater good, or evil. In the end, man's fate lies within man.

When we are introduced to Pegasus, Dragon, Andromeda, Cygnus, and the rest, they are all fighting in a tournament to win the prized possession of the Golden Cloth of Sagittarius. However, Pegasus must be coerced into fighting in this tournament by a young lady named Saori Kido (Siena). As these Saints, along with many others, battle for the golden cloth, it is surprisingly stolen from the owners. The next chapter begins in finding it and returning it, which then ends with the series jumping from one plot to the next quite quickly. Once you think you know what is going to happen next, it doesn't, and a new adventure is quickly added that lends itself to the many subplots and eventually the overall plot. It draws out like the Dragonball series.

Like many Anime, it may be confusing to you at first, but do yourself a favor. Look for a subtitled version, and don't let the poorly dubbed American version cloud your first time judgment. Catching a glimpse of it on US TV is quite disturbing, and they probably would have had a better result giving it to 12 year olds that actually cared, and maybe, just maybe, allowed for some dynamic voices instead of everyone sounding like Ash Catchem or constipated.

Saints never say "dude" or "bozo" but maybe this is what mainstream America perceives Anime to be, in which case it is a wonder why it is doing so well. Sometimes one wishes they would give some of these classics some respect, but instead it's turned into a joke. Saint Seiya has already played in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and the fandom is strong, but unfortunately its popularity is short-lived soon after it goes off the air. In the anime genre, not many can survive.



In a far future, aliens have invaded earth, but have successfully been driven back to their home world. Many years have passed and the aliens are slowly gaining momentum in their chance to regain the upper hand on Earth's battlegrounds, by being able to advance their fighter jets to match or surpass Earth's very own state of the art flying machines. Yukikaze is the best man-operated jet known to exist, and is driven in its core by artificial intelligence. While the pilot Ray and his lieutenant Jack are dealing with their own issues, the fight has called for the creation of an unmanned fighter. Now the question is, Will that turn the tides? And who are these aliens Earth has been fighting against all this time?

Considered a huge success, rivaling Ghost in the Shell in its art and animation style, Bandai announced during the San Diego Comic Con that this will be released sometime in 2004. Yukikaze's trailer is amazingly done, and full of high octane fighter jet action. It's a decent science fiction thriller about the unknown fears of A.I. and invasion from unknown forces.

Sadly, though, the real meat doesn't show until the middle of the series, dragging you along the first couple of stories with not much to look forward to other than the dogfights. Character development is a tad boring, as Jack and Ray are friends, but Jack is putting more effort into their friendship than Ray is. It is pounded in pretty bluntly and doesn't really flow, but it is understandable that they need story interactions between people. It just doesn't work well.

To the developers' credit, though, they do get better, and you get used to the story telling once you watch the next two episodes. Which is again the problem with Anime, if you can watch them all together at once or consecutively it's a really great thing to do, but Yukikaze is not one you can watch a single episode and appreciate, and you probably need a DVD or video to rewind when you missed something.

From another perspective, where you stand on the 3D anime style modeling is where this series will truly make or break it. If you like your ships to have the highest detail and a consistent look, then this is for you. But I will have to nag at the creative team for using way too many different styles of rendering. It actually is not consistent.

Some fight scenes it's really fluid, and has a truly precise hand-animated style, but then cuts to a sunset shot where the camera rotates around the Yukikaze as if it's a boring screen saver. Then the next dogfight looks obviously 3D generated, almost movie quality and not animation, then on the landing strip the black outlines are totally overdone.

The lack of consistency is as apparent in the style as in the mood, leaving you either really eating it up, or tossing it aside depending where your expectations are. I was expecting much after watching the trailer. Alas, it crashed but not necessarily burned.



Being skeptical at first I wasn't sure what to think about the Naruto series, and for good reason.

Not only does it appear as a manga in Shonen Jump, but the orange jumpsuit, blue boots, and yellow hair sure did remind me of another character with similar attributes. Finally I succumbed to pressure and checked it out, and it is not a disappointment. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that if a story is made for TV, it's usually not as thought out as it would have been in manga form. Manga (the Japanese version of US comic books) have runtimes of several years of short story telling, that usually have to be comprehensible if any given issue is the first you pick up. Hence the Japanese CRAZE in their series for repetitive intros.

Naruto is no exception, and swallows its viewers right in from the start. With some classic comedy and life lessons intertwined into an awkward world where Ninjas are a country's army, and the four Hokage's faces are modeled into the mountain like Mount Rushmore, TVs and scrolls have equal importance, and every ninja seems to wear patented toeless boots, it is hard not to let this story take you away… Did I forget to do my intro? I'll keep it short.

A nine tailed demon attacks Konoha village (Leaf Village), and the fourth Hokage (Ninja Master) saves everyone by sealing the demon in a newborn's belly, but dies performing this act, hence Naruto grows up wanting attention by the villagers. For Naruto, though, that wish may never come true since most of the villagers consider the boy to be the demon himself since it is sealed within his body. Our hero does not know this fact yet, but it doesn't stop him from aspiring to be the next Hokage anyway and become a world famous Ninja.

But first he has to complete the training, pass the academy test, and complete mission after mission in order to be recognized as a Ninja. Along the path he takes he must eventually battle Ninjas from other countries which all have abilities of their respective nations, like Water country, Sound Country and so forth. Naruto's abilities are becoming stronger, and although to many he is a bumbling idiot, he tends to bumble the right way with the help of his sensei and friends.

I don't think there is an air date for it in the United States, but it is obtainable. As Japan has only just aired episode 44 as of this writing and the manga is still going strong, it may be a while before it hits US markets, and we all hope they cast some decent voiceover actors and directors to cross it over the ocean.

Misashi Kishimoto definitely has a runaway hit, and spares no time when describing Ninja tactics in this world where as you move along. On the surface, there are interesting points about how mutant abilities or "Blood Lines" make you a better Ninja. The ultimate battles, though, occur through secret/not so secret crushes, love rivals and friends, where the comedy truly makes its mark as Naruto is an annoying guy, really, that is full of himself. His love for Sakura is rivaled for her crush on Sasuke, who doesn't care about anything but his own destiny. Ino is Sakura's rival because she has a crush on Sasuke also. Kakashi Sensei is of course the coolest instructor on the planet with a little bit of dry humor, but don't let that fool you as Kakashi's rival is all too funny, and Lee Rock's love for Sakura is of course Naruto's biggest concern. Did I mention a turtle Ninja master?

If you do catch the anime series, it is advised you know Japanese, because no one has really subtitled it well at all, and you may just have to wait for it on DVD here for you to truly appreciate it. Still, I highly recommend this title.


Mish'al Samman

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