Archive for the ‘Anime & Manga Reviews’ Category

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R.O.D. Review

February 15, 2011

 

ROD Anome Review by Jon

 

Ever since Cowboy Bebop there have been countless anime that rely on the “rule of cool” to win over audiences, favoring spectacle over plot. However, few anime do this better than R.O.D OVA. It is a stylish, exhilarating, and action-packed superpowered romp with some of the most creative fights in an anime. Of course, the plot is pretty ludicrous, but this does little to diminish the shows enjoyability.

Yomiko Readman is a substitute teacher and devoted bookworm, who spends most of her income on books. She also is an agent for the British Library special operations, with the physics defying ability to manipulate paper (which she can use to block bullets and cut through metal). After someone attempts to steal her newly purchased book, Yomiko is informed by the Library that the book is part of a sinister plot. She is then assigned the mission of retreiving the other volumes before the I-gen, superpowered reincarnations of historical figures. She is accompanied by fellow agents Nancy Makahari (a.k.a Miss Deep) who can phase through objects, and Drake Anderson.

Despite how rediculous the summery above sounds, the plot actually has quite a bit going for it. While it is quite silly, it has a superhero novelty to it. It is a fun action adventure that leaves a lot of room for cool fights, which it has no shortage of. It also leaves enough room for some plot twists and character developement. Considering it is only three episodes long, this OVA uses its time quite well and delivers an overall rewarding experience.

All of the characters here are a delight to watch. Yomiko is the cutest bookworm you will ever see. Naive and somewhat inept when it comes to anything other than books, she is the most pure hearted of the lot. Despite her apperance, she is resourceful and quite good in a fight. Nancy on the other hand, comes off as an experienced woman with a few skeletons in her closet. At first she wants to keep her relationship with Yomiko strictly professional, however befriends her later. Yomiko and Nancy’s friendship is the highpoint of the OVA’s character development and depth. The rest of the characters mostly serve as plot devices, however, none come off as uninteresting. From the egotistical reincarnation of Otto Lilienthal to Joker, the calm director of the Library, all the characters have distictive personalities. Of course, this is not where the series really shines.

Where this anime does shine brightest is its technical merits. The character designs and backgrounds here are incredible. Each character is distinctive and unmistakable, especially the adorable Yomiko and volumptuous Nancy. Likewise, the backgrounds are marvelously detailed and feel like real locations, it’s almost a shame that they are not further explored. The animation is just as spectacular, doing justice to the characters superpowers in eye-popping fights. The music doesn’t differ too much from other action adentures, however, it is still well composed and and used effectively.

The R.O.D OVA is an explosive experience. Its visuals are mind-blowing, even putting more recent anime to shame. It has a very likable cast of characters, both heroes and villians; and a good, if incredibly far-fetched, plot. While it does not have much in terms of depth, you’ll be hardpressed to find a more enteraining anime. Watch it.

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Big Windup! Review

September 26, 2010

Sports anime has always been a hard sell in the United States. You can blame it on nerds not liking sports and jocks being “way too cool” to watch those silly Japanese cartoons. Either way, FUNImation took a huge risk when it decided to release 2007’s A-1 Pictures’ baseball anime, Big Windup! Sadly, that risk didn’t pay off to the point that FUNImation will not even attempt to release Big Windup! on DVD, therefore this review is only for the first season.

Big Windup! is one of the uneven sports shows out there. The story revolves around Ren Mihashi, the ace pitcher at his old middle school. It was rumored around the team that the only reason Mihashi attained the position was due to favoritism because his grandfather owned the school. Because of this, the allegedly better pitcher, Kanou was benched and Mihashi’s entire team despised him and refused to work with him to the point that they lost all their games in middle school. Due to this, Mihashi had low self-esteem and decided to not pick up baseball in high school. Despite trying to avoid baseball, he is recruited by the baseball team’s coach, the voluptuous coach Momoe and with the help of his catcher, Abe they plan to take the baseball team as far as they can.

Most of the show revolves not on baseball, but rather the character interactions. It’s quite heartwarming to see everyone on the team (in an extremely romanticized manner) cheer on Mihashi as he tries to gain confidence as a pitcher. The reason why I called this show uneven is the fact that the show takes place throughout two games (one of which is a scrimmage). The show starts off quite strong and ends up becoming dull after the first game. This can seriously irk some, especially because the setting can become very trite after two or three episodes. A lot of the series takes place inside of Abe and Mihashi’s head and if you do not like Mihashi’s timid personality and Abe’s tolerance for it you will not like this show, at all.

Another reason one might not like the show is for its subtle but yet obvious yaoi tones. The relationship between Abe and Mihashi is very seme-uke and can irritate the plethora of its male audience. An example of this would be Mihashi’s constant inner monologues of how he can not pitch without Abe and he wouldn’t be anything without him. Despite these small preferences, the show is an extremely cute romanticized version of what being in a sports team. Despite there being little to no plot, the character interaction between the characters’ and Mihashi’s slow but progressing self-esteem make this show worth it.

The artwork in this show is very clean and refined. Although the color in the show is a bit dull, the animation is very fluid and everyone moves in a realistic manner. The character designs are from Takahiko Yoshida who draws his characters reminiscent of his prior work on Honey and Clover, pink blush and all. The score for this anime is not very prominent and doesn’t add much. However, both opening and ending songs are perfect for the anime and the endings specifically add a sense of relief after watching an episode.  The English dub is quite good, but I however stuck with the subs based on preference. The dub is perfectly serviceable, but it suffers from actors I’m used to hearing every other dub.

Big Windup! is a show that deserves more credit. If you can get over the whiny character and the slight yaoi tones, this show makes a great anime to watch when you have some spare time. It isn’t a must watch show of the decade, but it is an anime that keeps you entertained even if it gets a bit dull in the later half, and that’s something you just can’t say about much anime nowadays. You can probably find cheap copies of Big Windup!  on Amazon and it comes with the awesome OVA Basic of Basics that’s almost better than the entire show.

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Gantz Anime Review

September 25, 2010

Brutal, Brutal Shit


I have finally found someone with brains who is willing to review anime and possibly manga for this site, Lonely Sunset. His name is Jon, and this dude pretty much has the same tastes as I do (except for Kimi ni Todoke), and getting his opinion on an anime might just be the same as mine. This is his first review and it’s about the Ichiro Itano adaptation of the manga, Gantz.

It is not easy to find an anime that keeps you on edge. Something that in which no character seems safe, and nothing is certain. Gantz is one such anime, an relentless monster-busting gorefeast. It takes no prisoners, and even the central characters do not seem safe from harm. However, what Gantz has in intensity and shock, it lacks on plot and theme.

Gantz follows high school student Kei Kurono. Kei is a rather selfish teen who’s only goal in life is to get laid, going on record as one of the horniest anime characters of all time. However, this goal goes unmet, as Kei and childhood friend, Masaru Kato, die saving a homeless man from an incoming train. Unexpectedly, they end up in an apartment room with others who have died, including naked girl Kei Kishimoto, and and a sphere referred to as Gantz. The sphere opens up, revealing racks of black suits and weapons. They are informed that they have been given a second chance at life, but with a catch. They must hunt and kill aliens when called apon by Gantz.

Gantz actually has quite a few things going for it. It has a very interesting premise, and an edgy feel. As mentioned before, this is a very violent series. Heads explode, limbs get cut off, people get torn to pieces, and all is shown on screen. Throw in some domestic violence and nudity, and what you have is something not for the sensitive or faint of heart. These elements make Gantz a relentless, gritty urban supernatural thriller.

The visuals in Gantz are a strong point. Character designs are reminiscent of people you see in everyday. Business men, gangsters, and other people look as they would in real life, nothing stylized, safe for the gantz suits. The gantz suits actually compliment Kei and company’s character designs well, though they look silly on some characters. The aliens are some of the strangest looking creatures you will see, and of course, the gore is well detailed. The background art is also good, giving the feel of a real city. The music does a fine job of setting the tone for the series , and the opening theme perfectly captures the grittiness on the show. On the technical side, Gantz is solid, if only the same could be said for the writing.

The biggest problem with Gantz is definitely the way its themes are handled. It is clear that Gantz wants to say something about society and human behavior, but the message is muddled. In the world this series paints, people are mean-spirited to the point of being unbelievable. There is almost no one willing to help their fellow man, only looking out for themselves. While there is certainly some truth to what Gantz shows about human beings, it comes across as more nihilistic than truthful.

Most of the characters in this series are not very likable, most are quite despicable. Kei is one of the most unlikable leads around, he’s selfish, lecherous, and has little to no decency. He does manage to somewhat redeem himself near the end of the series, as he begins to look out for others, though not enough to redeem him completely. Kato proves to be much more likable, if for no other reason than he is the voice of morality in a show that would otherwise be completely devoid of it. He’s back story, which is of a violent relationship between Kato, his younger brother, and abusive aunt, also gains him some sympathy points. Rounding out the main cast is Kei Kishimoto who, despite being in an interesting situation due to a failed suicide attempt, is the least interesting and explored of the three. The rest of the consists of a collection of thugs and psychopaths, and innocent, well-meaning victims of society, all of whom will obviously die.

The pacing of this series is another problem. Scenes seem to drag on and on at times. The scenes in the Gantz apartment, in which the new recruits try to figure out what happened to them while the veterans try to explain the situation, are interesting at first but eventually become quite tedious. Just as grating is how long it takes characters to make decisions, even in the mists of battle. Entire scenes are devoted to characters making decisions instead of getting anything done, and it grows tiresome after a while. The plot is stretched thin over 26 episodes and lacks a proper conclusion, making Gantz less than a rewarding experience.

If you are simply looking for a thrillingly violent series with strong technical merits, than Gantz is certainly worth checking out. It has an intensity and willingness to show extreme violence that most anime do not come close to. However, if you also seek a well plotted, rewarding experience, there are much better titles that do the same.

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Now That the World Cup Is Over, Watch This Anime!

July 11, 2010

Hungry Heart Wild Striker Review

Soccer is one of the most played sports around the world. It’s only natural that a soccer anime would exist. But in a world of Captain Tsubasas and Whistles , it seems that several anime fly under the radar like the anime I’ll be reviewing today, Hungry Heart Wild Striker. A very male-oriented shonen anime with a strange name.

HHWS stars Kano Kyosuke, a teenager soccer player who transfers to Jyoyo Orange high school (they’re always transfer students). Kyosuke’s passion for soccer begins to dwindle due to always being compared to his professional soccer player brother, Kano Seisuke. Eventually Kyosuke is pressured into being the girls’ soccer team coach and playing on the boys’ soccer team by the team manager, Mori. He is joined by three foreign cocky freshmen, Brazilian Rodrigo del Franco and Swedish Sakai Jefferson. The three try to play a game against the seniors of the high school in an attempt to take the positions of the regulars. Eventually Kyosuke meets his possible love interest, Miki Tsujiwaki and there is a very weak and “accidental romantic situations”occur.

Like almost all sports anime, HHWS isn’t about the sport itself, but rather the character relationships, drama and problems that occur. Issues that anime like Eyeshield 21 completely skipped over such as injuries are the focal point of certain episodes and bring in a sense of reality. It makes the characters seem much more human. Actual conflicts

between teammates, recruiting of new members, seniors graduating, recruitment from the pros, you know ACTUAL things that happen in real sports. There are several “weakisodes that revolve around the romantic relationship between Kyosuke and Miki where nothing actually happens. This is a show that I marathoned, but once I got to episodes that revolved around the romance, I stopped watching because they were complete buzz kills. For every weak episode came an amazing episode where you were wondering what was going to happen. Another strong point of the show is the idea that the main characters don’t always win. This is a lesson that Western animation has completely abandoned because it’s assumed that the character is always correct (this an issue that I had with the American release of Astro Boy where Astro was portrayed as someone who knew everything). The moral behind this anime could be explained as easily as “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up”. A shonen moral that our modern day shonen just doesn’t teach anymore.

The characters of the series are the archetypes you would typically see in an anime. You get the “hothead” who charges into everything, the rival, the ladies man, the leader, etc. I have the idea that it’s not how generic your show is, it’s how you do it. If you manage to make these archetypes interact with each other in an interesting manner, it’s not generic. I have to point out that if you’re a male who’s invested in the show, chances are Miki is going to get under your skin. Her Chi-Chi from Dragon Ball Z attitude managed to piss me off more than once. Although she means well, her character is quite irritating. There is huge character development in the show within all the characters. Kyosuke goes from becoming an irritating bastard with a huge ego to a hardworking, humble character.

As far as animation and artwork go, you will find some interesting designs. The animation is what you would expect from the early 2000’s and it looks pretty shoddy at times. The music for HHWS becomes extremely repetitive, especially after 52 episodes. The first opening is the only really good song in the whole series. It feels as if they had a budget for only six songs because they are constantly replayed, and often in inappropriate moments. The first opening song is amazing but becomes overplayed when a big goal is about to be scored, or when something dramatic has occurred. The second opening and ending are completely terrible. They don’t reflect what the show is about at all and dwell too much on love, rather than the hot-blooded feel of the show. I believe the music is an issue that isn’t very major, but it could become increasingly annoying in the long run.

Overall, this is one of the best shonen sports series out there. If you don’t mind some slightly dated animation, repetitive music, and weak romance, this is an amazing show to pass the time with. Despite being 52 episodes and being adapted from a five volume manga, the pace is slow moving, yet engaging. This one gets a high recommendation from me as being an interesting show where the characters don’t have any sexual tension between them (I’m looking at you Big Windup!). I really wish this series would have been released stateside, but that’s never, ever going to happen after Big Windup! tanked. Luckily, there are some pretty decent fansubs floating around and there’s a boxset for those of us that can speak or read Spanish!

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The Most Beautiful Animaton in the World

May 21, 2010

Kamichu! Review

 

 

It’s a sad thing when series that are so good just get lost in so much garbage that gets released in the American anime market. Here we have a show with so little flaws, with its only flaw is of no fault of its own: it’s not an anime for everybody. It’s a short, slice-of-life, light romance anime that is just as beautiful to look at as it is to listen to.

Based on the opening paragraph you would assume this is a show along the same veins as Golgo 13 or someother bizarre, male power fantasy show that you would see in this blog. That isn’t the case today though. An anime like Kamichu comes along ever so rarely where it blends the common traits of a moe show and slice-of-life and blends them perfectly together as I’ve never seen it before. The show’s premise is as generic as one would assume a show about a girl who wakes up and realizes she’s become a god. She gets all the perks of being a god, like seeing other ghosts and gods and being able to grant wishes. However, this show isn’t about a girl trying to hide her identity, as a matter of fact the whole world knows she’s a god. The best part is everyone is nonchalant about her new powers. Although people try to get her to grant wishes for her, no one sees her as a creep with supernatural powers like most anime shows do.

            There are several episodes of Kamichu where the main protagonist, Yurie simply hangs out with her friends and tries to get the attention of a boy she likes named Kenji. I think it’s simply amazing how the subtle touch of a god being able to grant wishes isn’t able to grant her own of trying to get the boy to like her. Although Kamichu does not have a linear plot, it has a subtle layer of romance and certain tone to the entire series. There is one episode that completely comes out of nowhere that just disturbs the feeling of the entire show. Episode four (“Earth’s Crisis”) deals with the Prime Minister of Japan hiring Yurie to communicate with an alien from outer space. There are several scenes of people in this episode just being completely despicable and trying to get innocent Yurie involved in this severe torture of a harmless alien trying to get back home, just so that the Prime Minister would have value to the President of the United States. After this episode, the rarities return once more in episode eight (Wild Times), but they don’t ruin the feeling the show had until that point.

            When it comes to characters and character development, this show just shines. Yurie is a simple minded girl who still has that air of an innocent child about her. She has little to no moral flaws, but I believe that to be her one flaw. She’s too perfect. I believe that in a world full of panty shots and maids, it’s actually quite nice to have a character that goes back to the days of slow moving anime like To Heart. Yurie’s love interest, Kenji is your typical oblivious love interest, much like Karasuma from School Rumble. He’s quite an interesting character in the form that he’s just a quiet painter who is not bothered by big things like his club only having one member. The other cast of characters just make the show much more loveable. The Yurie entourage is content and always cheering their friend on when she’s getting down. It’s just a heartwarming series that perfectly balances out all of the Golgo 13’s in my life.

One of the main reasons I picked up this show was because of the rumored “amazing animation and artwork”. It’s quite possible one of the best animated TV series of the decade. I’ve heard people call it “Studio Ghibli makes a moe show” and that’s just about right. Throughout the entire production, there are very few scenes where the quality drops, but the animation remains consistent. The backgrounds make it appear as if everything is moving at one time, and the world is constantly moving, not just with what’s going on screen. As far as artwork goes, the character designs are extremely cute. The music for this series is just beautiful. There slow moving classical music just adds a sense of relaxation to the series that was just meant to relax you and take you to a simpler time when eating an ice cream was a past time. I’m a proud owner of the OST and with 22 songs from the series to listen to, I’m never bored. The dub to Kamichu! is amazing as well. It’s one of those instances where the squeakyish little girl voice doesn’t sound fake. The Japanese track is good as well, it just so happens that if there is a good dub and a good Japanese track, I tend to go for the English dub.

Overall, this series is beautiful. It is a must see show, and it’s only real flaw is that it’s not for everybody. If you’re the type of person that didn’t enjoy shows like Aria, this show probably wouldn’t be for you. Regardless on your stance on moe (and believe me, this show is moe), this is just a must see. Despite all of the action, you will have the same effect of guns being shot during love confessions that you saw coming a mile away. Even the rewatchability factor in this series is high. It’s tender, relaxing shows like this that make anime what it is as a medium. We could all yell we watch anime because it’s mature storytelling until you’re blue in the face, but we all see that you’re talking about shows like Naruto or Bleach. It’s shows like this that take a certain type of sophistication and maturity to enjoy.

Just watch the opening and tell me it doesn’t make you wanna watch it:

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Anime For Your Mom.

April 6, 2010

Human Crossing Review

 

Here’s a riddle. What’s an anime without fan service, chibis, colored hair, comedy, mystical weapons and cat girls? Not Human Crossing. What is an anime with stern old Japanese society with people having midlife crisis? Human Crossing.

There isn’t a plot line to Human Crossing (Human Scramble). It’s a series of short stories of normal people living, Japan. These stories vary from a boxer trying to fix his strained relationship with his mom to a woman being reunited with her deadbeat father, to the girl in a juvie camp who’s trying to change her ways. Most of these vignettes deal mainly with issues you would find in any society, but mainly Japan. These stories, are often mature, and dwell on the fact that this could be happening to anyone in real life. The problem is the stories are too real. There’s no sense of comedy or climactic drama to these episodes. In reality, the only unreal thing that happens in Human Crossing is the fact that everything goes well for the protagonists in the end. In reality, things would not go right for a person trying to get their child back from their deceased boyfriend’s parents.  If you’re a person who prefers a comedic storyline or a sturdy plot, this is not for you. There are several bad and good episodes to this show. You could pretty much skip most of the episodes and watch episodes 1, 5, and 13 and not missed anything in the other episodes. These are the episodes that really brought in emotion and ended on a realistic note.

  The art really is sub par. None of the animation stands out at all. At certain points the art looks the same. I swear some of the characters are reused. I could spot some characters being in other stories because of their character designs. Everyone looks like someone that you could see walking down the street, and while that adds a certain charm to the series, in reality it gets repetitive. You could blame this on the budget. More mature series like this tend to get a smaller budget due to its smaller audience.

 The sound isn’t terrible, but there is hardly any BGM at all. During the low points I would have expected maybe something more…sad? During the high points maybe something….at all?! It seems like the studio really cheaped out with this anime and didn’t even bother to license or make music for the show. The ending and opening intros are great and managed to capture my attention. The very moving song by Nana Katase along with a backdrop of Tokyo really got to me and really made me feel for a minute. I read the back of the DVD’s and Ocean Studios made the dubbing. I swear I heard Vegeta somewhere in this anime. The dubs aren’t terrible, but nothing special that stands out to me which is just as bad. This is an anime you should really just turn on the subs and watch it. I really wonder what went through Geneon’s mind when they decided to dub a show with almost no appeal.

 The characters are where it largely varies. Some characters are completely forced, while some characters come off as completely natural. If it’s something like “The Watershed” then we’re talking about massive character emotions where you get a chance to feel for the characters, rather than just watching them. If we’re talking “City” it’s a yawn and a pass for the characters. The show heavily relies on the fact that you can feel empathy for people without knowing their complete back story. You have 25 minutes for character development, and not much else. You get to see characters deal with their problems in a sound way without the use of violence and such. Some would argue that this is considered boring, but this is the very definition of “totally not kids’ stuff” as Monica Rial would say. Whenever you ask your average anime fan why they watch anime they will typically respond with “anime has mature storylines that American cartoons don’t have”. Those same people will turn around and watch anime like Bleach and Kampfer and call that “mature”. Well I say fuck that, if you’re going to use that as a reason why Japanese cartoons are superior, you might as well watch a show like Human Crossing. It’s a show with a meaning and a moral behind it, and should really be more valued as a series.

            Despite all of the negative points that I made about this series, this is a series you should definitely watch. If this show would have had more seasoned directors instead of directors who had never worked on anything before (and didn’t work on anything ever again). I actually showed this to my mom and she actually enjoyed it. I think you should really wait on this show if you’re still young (like I am) or are still enjoying series like Code Geass and Naruto as quality entertainment.

 This show is hard to find but you can still buy the entire brick from righstuf. It is worth exactly 20 dollars and no more (including shipping).

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Show this to a Christian you love!

April 2, 2010

Demon Lord Dante Review

Recently people have been arguing whether Go Nagai (Getter Robo, Mazinger Z ) can only make giant robots shows. For the most part, they’re right, he can’t do anything other than robot shows well when shows like Kekko Kamen were created under his name. That does not mean that Go Nagai can not create shows that are entertaining as hell like Demon Lord Dante.

Look at 'em all cozy in between that demon!

            The plotline to Demon Lord Dante starts off with a bunch of crazy cultists who try to revive the titular Dante. The protagonist of this series, Ryo begins to have several weird nightmares involving sacrificing. Later on, the cultists decide to take his useless, damsel in distress of a sister, Saori as a sacrificial lamb. After a few pointless events, Ryo gets possessed by Dante and can turn into an odd demonic creature at will. From then on, the series just takes a Go Nagai twist. Incest, sacrifice, violence, anything you’ve ever known about Go Nagai happens. One of the most interesting points in the series is introduced when the first of appearance of GOD occurs. It turns out GOD is an evil, evil dude and hates everyone in humanity. What is it with Nagai and God that they just can’t get along? In one of the Getter Robo installments, one of the robots beats the heck outta God. The thing about Demon Lord Dante, is you can’t take this seriously. Honestly you can add an exclamation point after every sentence when you explain what Demon Lord Dante is about. This series really isn’t for religious nuts, and it really would be boring to those who don’t care for Nagai. It’s a relatively boring anime unless you see it in the mindset of a comedy and not a horror.

The artwork and character designs of DLD look like stock Nagai character designs. The main character, Ryo looks exactly like Koji Kabuto from Mazinger Z. As far as the supporting cast, there really is no one of interest to stand out. The main point of the series would be the demons. Most of the demons are not terrifying, but they do leave an impression. The eerie eyes, big mouths, large wings and huge height tend to make the series pretty creepy. Add in the fact that they’re fighting God and you’ll for sure need to go to church this Sunday (ff you’re an immoral Catholic like me).

 The soundtrack to this is almost nonexistent. I don’t recall any of the songs adding anything good or bad to the series. The only notable part is the song by Tomozaku Seki which confidently tells you to “RELEASE YOUR MIND” which is what you should do to watch this. The dub is extremely flat and it sounds like everyone has become fatigued of being in the studio. I really can’t speak for the Japanese track since I spot checked it because the dub added a certain spice to it for being so bland.

 As far as characters go, they all do ridiculous things to move the plot along. Ryo is a character that you would be

Nagai created the idea of banging your little STEP sister being A-OKAY long before those moe pedos!

screaming “don’t go there!” because of his stupid decisions. Saori, Ryo’s sister as I stated before is just a useless character who is only meant to be sacrificed and kidnapped. She becomes so useless that her father actually sacrifices her. That’s right folks, before long before Shou Tucker of Fullmetal Alchemist fame, this man betrayed his daughter.

Overall, this is a series meant for Go Nagai fans who can understand what this is and Mexicans like myself. No, that is not racist, it just so happens that this show has a cult following in Mexico. The horror is weak, the character designs are stock, and the story is ridiculous. There’s a reason why the director Mitsutaka Noshitani never got work as a head director again. That doesn’t mean this show is throwaway. It’s still decently entertaining when you show this to a very religious person who would accuse you of blasphemy for showing them Demon Lord Dante.