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Posts Tagged ‘First Impressions’

Pictured above: Shinichi, Ran, Sonoko, Eri, and Kogoro

Well the full title is Detective Conan: Challenge Letter to Shinichi Kudo.  Initially I wasn’t going to check out this drama series.  Some shows are better left to their anime/manga counterparts and rarely can they translate well to live action.  Detective Conan is a show that can translate well to live action, but in the way it’s been handled in previous specials wasn’t done well.  So I was skeptical about watching this new live action drama but eventually I caved in an watched the first episode.  (For anyone who was planning on checking this show out later on, I’d advise you read no further due to spoilers.)

 

Right off the bat I have to say I was hooked.  It starts off with a dark screen with minimal lighting.  You hear people talking but you have no idea what’s going on.  Slowly lights start turning on in the room revealing that Shinichi, Ran, and Kogoro are trapped in a white square room and Shinichi and Ran are handcuffed to one another.  They don’t know how they got there or why they’re there.  They just know they need to find away out.  Shinichi finds a note on the wall from what I can only assume is some sort of stalker and when he turns around there’s a platform on the floor with a sort of computer in it.  On the screen it shows a date which corresponds to a case that was solved on that day.  It’s then when the episode goes into flashback mode and we’re shown the case that Shinichi had to solve.

 

The case opens with a man and a woman making out in an apartment.  The woman (Momoko Aida) breaks off the kiss saying that she can’t do this anymore and she tells the man (Yuuhei Tsubouchi) that he can take his camera back.  She’s feeling guilty for having an affair with her sister’s husband and she doesn’t want the relationship to go any further.  Yuuhei is noticeably angered by this, possibly believing that Momoko had another man.  He questions her on this, but she denies that she does.  But he doesn’t believe her.  He takes to empty grocery bags that were lying on the counter, comes up behind Momoko, and strangles her.  While she’s lying on the floor, he ransacks the apartment to cover up his crime and leaves to meet with his assistant.

 

He and his assistant (Kousuke Kishi) were suppose to meet with Momoko for a photoshoot so playing like nothing happened, Yuuhei goes back to the apartment with him.  Momoko isn’t answering the door and they realize that the door is open.  As they open the door, they see a flash and scream.  Meanwhile, Ran and Shinichi are a few floors below the apartment at a nail salon.  Ran’s getting her nails done and Shinichi’s…just there to carry her bags.  After hearing the scream, Shinichi and Ran run upstairs where they find Kousuke and Yuuhei on the ground with head injuries.  When he asks what happens they say that a robber came out the door and attacked them with what they perceived to be some sort of pipe or tire iron.  They’re also worried about Momoko since she’s inside the apartment.  When they find her, Shinichi announces that she’s dead and thus the investigation begins.

 

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the series.  The way it opened took me by shock and I just needed to know what was going to happen next.  Or why they were trapped in this room.  While the formula for telling a story solely through flashbacks can get a little annoying, I think it works for this show.  You already know the set up.  You know that there’s a device in the middle of the room that won’t allow for them to pass unless they put in a codeword that pertains to the case.  You just don’t know what the case is.  And the audience can have a little fun trying to figure out what the codeword is supposed to be as well.

 

The part I was most worried about was how they were going to treat the characters.  Detective Conan’s been around for 15+ years (counting the manga) so the characters are very well established.  We know their personalities fairly well.  I believe the actors do a very good job of portraying their respective characters.  Ran is obviously not that difficult to portray.  Aside from her “strong” streak, she’s a fairly typical “damsel in distress” type.  I’m afraid most women can pull off that character since it’s a rather stereotypical one.  I have to say my favorite character is Kogoro.  While he’s not my favorite in the series (those would be Conan and Heiji), Takanori Jinnai does a near perfect job of portraying him in both attitude and looks.

 

I think I’m more apt to call this drama a more grown up version of Detective Conan.  While it retains the same spirit and characters as its source material (okay I realize that the source material for this series is a book but the material for the book was the manga/anime), you can feel that this isn’t really for children.  And it shows a bit more in the next few episodes.

 

So far I only have two problems with it.  First, this one’s strictly about the episode itself but the motive for murder seemed amazingly weak to me.  There’s been a couple manga and anime related cases where betrayal in the relationship lead to the demise of either the man or woman involved.  But usually there’s something there that drives that person to the point of wanting to kill the other.  Either one partner is very manipulative and controlling, or there’s blackmail involved.  Here there was nothing.  The woman just wanted to break off the relationship because she admitted that she was feeling guilty about cheating with her sister’s husband.  She told him the exact reason that she wanted to break it off.  For him to invent this other reasoning in his head and pretend like she didn’t tell him the reason she wanted to break it off was unnecessary.  And second, I’m very confused about when this is taking place.  While it’s said that this drama is taking place before all the events that transpire in Detective Conan, the one thing that throws me off is Kogoro.  There’s no hint that he believed he was this great detective before he started becoming famous.  And there’s no hint that anyone even knew who he was aside from close friends and previous co-workers.  In fact you get a glimpse of Kogoro’s life before becoming a household name.  He was just a drunkard who sat at home, watched Yoko-chan on TV, and slept most of the day while Ran handled most of the household chores.  And while he’s still a drunkard, at least he gets work.  The show almost mixes these things together.  It takes place before the events of the manga/anime because Shinichi’s the main character, but Kogoro is still a well known and respected detective.  I suppose you could argue that he always felt he was superior to Shinichi due to age and experience so that’s why in the series he addresses himself as the great detective Kogoro Mouri.  But even then he was never that cocky about it even before the series start.  And even then he didn’t seem to be involved with too many cases until Conan joined his family.  It’s a little bit of a nitpick but something that bothered me about the series regardless.

 

Either way, the series is off to a great start.  Nice story and set up.  It hooks you quickly and that’s something that’s rare with movies and TV shows.  I love the suspense.  The characters are true to form.  And I particularly love how they work the main theme song of Detective Conan into the series.  If you’re a fan of Detective Conan, I suggest you check it out and see if you like it.  Even if you don’t know about Detective Conan and you just like crime dramas or mystery shows, I recommend it.  You don’t need to really know any back story on the particular characters.  It’s a separate case on it’s own and you’ll get a good idea for how each character relates to one another fairly quickly.  So far I’m giving this show two thumbs up and can’t wait to watch more.

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Now this isn’t going to be a full series review as Nekogami Yaoyorozu is a relatively new series.  Anime wise.  The manga’s been around since 2007 but I’m only reviewing the anime here.  Crunchyroll so far has two episodes up but without a premium membership to the site, you can only watch the first one.  So here’s a basic rundown of the show.

 

Nekogami Yaoyorozu is about a young cat goddess named Mayu who is banished the realm of deities called Takamagahara.  The series picks up as four years after this point in time and Mayu is currently living in an antique shop.  She’s been stripped of most of her abilities as a deity as well.

 

This show is a comedy and stylistically it feels like yet another cutesy, Lucky Star type series.  So if you like a show like that, you might be interested in Nekogami Yaoyorozu.  The comedic style also runs similarly to Lucky Star.  It feels slightly sporadic and silly and very little of what’s going on makes much sense.  I love comedy, but my personal choice of comedy usually isn’t the Lucky Star brand of works.  While it’s cute, there usually isn’t much substance.  So it’s a good thing to watch if you’re in a down mood or had a stressful day.  It’s a type of show where you don’t have to think much about what’s going on.  Just accept that you probably won’t understand all the scenarios and you should be fine.

 

The one thing that stuck out to me as interesting were the various gods presented and the relationship between them.  You’ve got Mayu, a cat goddess, and her fiance who’s another cat goddess (Sasana).  Yes.  Cat goddess…their parents apparently arranged for their marriage without checking the gender of each others child.  It’s a relatively quirky moment in the series.  Not a “laugh out loud” moment, but definitely one you’ll at least chuckle at (and possibly face-palm as well…because both children were clearly female and it’s weird that the fathers would set them up without knowing the other child was also female).  The god of harvest, Gonta (a fox god), the granddaughter of the god of darkness, Meiko, and the goddess of poverty, Shamo.  And the one who has to put up with the insanity between all of them is Yuzu.  Now I claim the relationships between all the characters are interesting for a few reasons.  The “romantic” relationships are fairly funny but the way they relate to each other as deities is just fun.  The rest of the deities act as protectors over this town and so when Shamo (goddess of poverty) shows up, they feel that their sole duty is to throw her out of town.  There are many rumors that surround her about her abilities such as she can make a stock market crash just by passing by it, or by being in your presence she can cause you to feel lethargic or to lose track of your money or possessions.  And it’s even rumored that she was the cause behind the Great Depression.  So when the other gods confront her they can only think of fighting and getting rid of her.  All in all this leads to an adorable scene where Shamo shows the level of authority she has.  She even has the other gods and goddesses bowing to her.  Though she sounds stern at first she then reveals that she’s actually proud of the work that they’re doing and that she’ll leave the town…only to then decide to stay because she wants to beat the video game she’s playing.

 

This series is definitely adorable and the comedy isn’t the funniest, but it has it’s moments.  If cute and quirky is something you like in a series, you’ll most likely enjoy this one.

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(Stop here if you don’t want anything to be spoiled!  Because these series have been out for years now, I will write up full descriptions on both episodes and compare and contrast them.  If you dislike/hate spoilers, I recommend that you stop here.)

 

Mahou Sentai Magiranger Episode 1 Description:

 

The episode opens up with a little girl with her mother buying a balloon.  As they leave the shop and begin walking down the street, the girl bumps into a man and her balloon goes flying up into the air.  The man apologizes to the girl and tries to figure out what he can do to get her balloon back.  In the meantime, humans are being spied upon by strange creatures that are living in a hellish underground land.  These creatures are plotting to take control of/destroy the earth (as most evil creatures do).

 

Cut to a scene of a family at home.  Two brothers, two sisters and their mother.  They have a third brother, but he had said that he was leaving early for soccer practice.  They’re all sitting around eating and chatting when one of the sisters (Houka) asks her mother (Miyuki) if she believes in magic.  Miyuki smiles and denies believing in “such childish things”.  Houka then asks her sister (Urara) if she can turn on the TV.  A newscast is on and the journalist is frantically reporting about how there is a man climbing high up on a flagpole.  The family scoff at this man before they realize that this man is their brother (Kai).  It turns out he’s just trying to get the balloon back for the little girl.  After a short brush with danger, Kai’s two older brothers (Tsubasa and Makito) drag him away from the cameras for him to be scolded about how reckless he was being.
While the family walks home a strange light circle (think a more detailed version of the transmutation circles in FullMetal Alchemist) opens up on the ground and a large beast appears from it.  The siblings are clearly shocked while the mother utters a soft “Well I knew this day would come…”.  They all run for it, except Miyuki who faces the beast head on.  She takes out a device (the MagiPhone) and says an incantation and transforms into a magical warrior.  With the power of ice/snow, she defeats this beast while her children watch on, eyes wide and mouth agape.

 

Well when they get back to their home, she tells her children that she’s a magician and she was bestowed with powers from the Heavenly Saints.  Her children have magic abilities as well and to aid her in this war against evil, she bestows four of her five children with different outfits (matching their respective elements) and MagiPhones to give them the power to transform into the Mahou Sentai (Magic Task Force/Squadron) Magiranger.  They’re sent out on their first mission when Miyuki feels a dark presence nearby.  The four who have been given magical abilities go off on their mission while the fifth, Kai, argues with his mother about why he did not recieve a MagiPhone.  She recalls his recklessness earlier in the day and says that he did not display the maturity enough to be a Magiranger just yet.  Once he learns the difference between recklessness and courage, then he will receive magic.  Angered, Kai storms out the door.

 

Cut again to the four other siblings in the forest facing down with a group of evil creatures.  Knowing what they have to do, the repeat the same incantation that they hear their mother using earlier in the day and transform in to the Magirangers.  They fight the creatures and defeat them in large groups using their respective abilities.  Meanwhile, Kai is watching on from behind a tree, in awe of the abilities that his brothers and sisters have been given.  But in front of him a stronger power emerges.  Dark Magic Knight Wolzard appears in front of him, stares him down for a few seconds (sending fear through Kai’s heart) then heading towards the Magirangers.  Wolzard attacks them and injures them.  Kai wants to save them but is too frightened to move.  As Wolzard begins to strike his sword at the Magirangers, Kai gains the courage to intercept the attack by kicking a can at him to distract him.  Kai then runs in front of the Magirangers and tries to protect him.  This redirects Wolzard’s rage at him and Wolzard strikes his sword down at Kai.  Before the sword can make contact, a bright light and object appear in front of the sword’s path and protects Kai from it.  It’s a MagiPhone and Kai uses it to transform into MagiRed.  With the power of fire, he’s able to defeat the drones that Wolzard summons.  With the drones defeated, Wolzard summons his dark horse Barikion and transforms into WolKentarous, a giant centaur creature.  The Magirangers stare upwards at WolKentaurous, wondering how to defeat it.

 

Power Rangers Mystic Force Episode 1 Description:

 

The episode opens with a view of a dark battlefield and a narrator relaying the story of the past to the audience.  A story of a war between good and evil and the battle so save the earth from this evil influence that was trying to enter the earth.  The warriors of the past, the Power Rangers Mystic Force, sacrificed themselves to seal off the evil influence underground.  And thus, the earth was saved, but humanity never knew of this close brush with danger that they almost had, nor do they know of the danger which is to come…

 

In the present day, a boy on a motorcycle almost arrives at the town he’s supposed to go to.  He’s staring off in the distance and grins and continues on his way.  Cut to a couple of teens working together at some sort of shop.  Having fun, and cleaning up the shop when all of a sudden an earthquake hits.  Each person goes for shelter and cover from falling items.  In a short matter of time the earthquake is over with, but it seems this earthquake has some sort of effect on the magical barrier that keeps evil sealed off from the rest of the world.  It causes a crack that releases evil back into the universe.  One creature is seen spying on the human race and reports that the human world is everything they imagined and more.

 

After the earthquake, all the teens continue doing what they want to do.  Either eating, listening to music or goofing off, when they see an old man asking for help.  He claims that his friend has been taken by a creature into the woods.  None of the people in the town want to help him.  They all look at him with cold expressions when finally one person chimes in that he’ll help.  It’s the boy who was on the motorcycle (Nick).  As he’s new to the town, they assume that he doesn’t know about all the rumors about the forest, but he does.  He just doesn’t believe in them like the other people do.  He just sees that there’s an old man who needs help finding his friend and wants to offer his help.  Eventually one girl (Vida) offers her help and another boy (Charlie) enthusiastically offers his help.  They’re about to enter the forest when a car drives up.  In the car are Vida’s sister, Madison, and another boy (Xander).  They decide they’re going to go with them as well.  So the five of them enter the forest and pass through some sort of barrier.  Only one of them seems to notice it.  The old man that was with them mutters “So now there’s five…” and his body is enveloped in this white light.

 

The five teens keep walking only to realize that they’ve lost the old man.  Instead they run into a person that’s cloaked in black and seems menacing.  They flee from this person only to be attacked by some other creatures.  The person in black saves them from the creatures by conjuring brooms that fly them away from danger.  The brooms drop them near a large tree and the person in black appears before them again.  This time they duck inside the mouth of a dragon-looking root and the mouth closes.  They turn around to realize they’re inside some sort of secret base.  The person in black finally takes off their cloak to show that she’s a beautiful woman clad in white.  She explains that this is some sort of alternate dimension to the human world and they were brought there because they were chose to be the Power Rangers Mystic Force.  The Mystic Force is needed to battle an ancient evil that was unsealed via the earthquake in the human world.  The only one who believes her is Charlie, who’s into magical things.

 

The woman who introduces herself as Udonna gives the teens magic wands and tells them to keep them on them at all times.  Then a sorcerer in training, Claire, walks in and she’s a bit of a klutz.  Her spells fail and she trips over herself and is bumbling, but she happily greets the teens as a new evil appears in the land.  Udonna tells the teens not to leave there until she gets back.  Of course they don’t listen to her.  Not only do they leave, but they leave the wands inside the base.  Udonna figured that they would leave, and when they leave they see that a village is destroyed.  A group of weaker evil monsters appear before them.  Udonna tells them to take out their wands, but they tell her that they left them in the base.  Udonna has no choice but to transform to into her ranger form and fight off the stronger of the beasts.  She tells the others that they still have magic within them.  They just have to believe that magic is real.  Charlie is gung ho for this and completely believes magic is real.  In this instant, electricity appears and defeats the creatures in front of him.  He excitedly relays to his friends that all they have to do is believe in magic and they’ll have the power to defeat the creatures.  Each of them believe and they use their respective elemental abilities to defeat the creatures.  Nick however tries to believe in magic, but it just doesn’t work for him.

 

Udonna defeats the last and strongest of the creatures and commends the teens for their help.  Charlie, Xander, Vida and Madison all agree to be Power Rangers, but Nick refuses.  Sad to see him refuse, Udonna has no choice but to let him leave.  She calls Claire (who’s turned herself into a ewe via a spell gone wrong) to show him back through the forest.  As their backs are turned, watching Nick leave with Claire, Udonna and the rest of the teens are attacked from behind by Koragg the Knight Wolf and this is where the episode cuts off.

 

Compare and Contrast:

 

The first thing I noticed…the one thing I could actually look past was the fact that Mystic Force caters heavily towards those who are into the stereotypes of witchcraft/magic.  The brooms, magic wands, and mystical lands.  There is a strong distinction between what is real worldly and what is from this mystical land.  While that distinction exists in Magiranger (the MagiPhones are from the Heavenly Saints), the gap is a lot smaller.  Looking at a preview for a future episode, I did notice the phones in Mystic Force as well, so via my usual curiosity I sought out information on the phones in relation to Mystic Force and learned that the wands are later transformed into phones.  Which is interesting.

 

In terms of Magiranger, the series seems more down to earth.  It’s family centered.  Where the mother is passing down her power from herself to her children.  And there is a family bond there.  The characters in Mystic Force are predominantly either unknown to one another or they’re just friends.  The only family element comes from the sisters Madison and Vida.

 

Magic is also used differently between the series.  In Magiranger, courage is the fuel that makes magic work and Kai cannot use magic because he does not fight with courage initially.  Rather he fights with recklessness that he mistakes for courage.  Once he learns what true courage is, his abilities are fueled and he is able to transform into MagiRed.  Whereas in Mystic Force, magic can only be used once the user fully believes in magic.  Nick claims he believes in magic, though his inability to use magic proves that he does not believe in magic.  I can only assume that eventually he believes in magic wholeheartedly and is able to help defend the other teens.

 

But the main thing that sticks out to me between the two series is the pacing of the episodes.  Magiranger gets right in there and hastily explains the back story a little bit.  It goes from the family being a regular family to all of a sudden being attacked by a creature and Miyuki revealing that she has been bestowed with powers from the Heavenly Saints and her children have magical abilities as well.  And the children all mystically know how to use these abilities before being taught anything.  In Mystic Force, we are introduced to the past battle and are told that this evil power existed in the past and previous tried to take over earth.  But were sealed away.  This gives the audience a basic idea of where the series is going an allows for a steadier pacing.

 

So which series comes out on top so far?  Surprisingly Mystic Force.  While the dialogue in Magiranger was ten times more manageable, I can’t over look the fact that I was hit over the head so quickly with all this information.  Some easily digestible, some not so much.  The characters in Mystic Force might be over the top and a bit cheesy as is the dialogue, but the pacing of the episode was steady and even.  I wasn’t hit quickly with too much information in a short period of time.  Plus the narrated introduction did wonders for setting up the story.  So far, story wise Power Rangers Mystic Force comes out on top.

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I have friends that like this series and this seemed like something that would be right up my alley for shows to watch.  It has animal transformation which is a subject that I’ve found fascinating since childhood.  So I figured that I would give the series a shot.

 

So I watched episodes one and two.  And these two episodes, while they were adorable, had major flaws that I could particularly overlook.  One of my pet peeves in a series is when major plot points aren’t fully discussed head on.  And a major plot point in this series is the creation of the Mew Mews.  You have two high school students (Ryou Shirogane and Keiichiro Akasaka) who somehow spearhead this large plan to infuse specific people with the DNA of endangered animals.  Now before I really get into this any further, let me say that parts of these things are explained readily.  Like the necessity of the Mew Mews, why it is that Ichigo was infused with the DNA of the Iriomote Cat, and what needs to be done to save the world.  But who are Ryou and Keiichiro?  Other than two high school students.  Why are high schoolers in charge of such important power and information about aliens?  And what is it about the DNA of the Ichigo and the other Mew Mews that makes the prime targets for having their DNA infused with animal DNA?  Also why are aliens on the earth?

 

My guess is that all of these things will be explained later on in the series.  Which I can accept.  Sometimes it is better to hold off on an explanation because perhaps it aids in the plot somehow.  The do explain what the aliens are and what it is that they do.  Just not how the aliens got their or how long they’ve been there.  It seems to me that this is something that’s important and should have at the least been touched upon mildly in the first episode.  And the detail about Ryou and Keiichiro is admittedly a nit-pick.  High schoolers are typically the major players in most anime series.  Taking upon jobs that no regular high school student could ever take on.  And being a scientist and holder of some secret knowledge about aliens is something that you will not see high school students doing.

 

Will I continue watching this series?  Yes.  These are just my initial impressions of the series and it would in no way be a fair assessment of the series to just leave it with the first two episodes.

 

(Admittedly while I was typing this I looked up information on some of the characters and did learn the answers to some of these questions, thus potentially ruining some surprises in the series for me.  But I’ll continue to look on the series and will assess it fairly after watching the other 50 episodes.)

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