Sailor Moon, Episodes 1-4

I think one could easily write about Viz streaming the original Sailor Moon again with just four paragraphs of the word “SQUEE” and have that be a perfectly serviceable review, but having enjoyed watching the first few episodes of the series, I thought I would write about it a little bit. I’ve read some (but not all) of the Sailor Moon manga. I encountered the franchise first in the old Tokyopop editions, but I haven’t watched the anime that extensively before. I probably caught a few episodes of the dub when it was on TV before, and I’m quite fond of Tuxedo Mask animated gifs.


I haven’t watched the anime in order in subtitle format at all before, so I was quite happy that it was now available. The first four episodes firmly establish the character of Usagi/Sailor Moon, who starts out as a clumsy crybaby, and then becomes a clumsy crybaby with magical girl powers thanks to the intervention of the magical talking cat Luna. The clumsy girl who turns out to have extraordinary abilities is a very typical character type in both anime and manga, but Usagi manages to be a very appealing example of the type due to her inability to study for school, her devotion for naps, and her single-minded devotion to taking the easy path whenever possible. The first few episodes of the series follow the story elements of the manga fairly closely, as Usagi investigates the evil forces that seek to destroy the balance of the universe by capturing human energy through costume jewelry. Seriously the villains of Sailor Moon might have hit on something by appealing to the weak aspects of human nature, but they are surprisingly ineffective. Also, the balance of the universe often seems to be centered on struggles that take place very near Usagi’s neighborhood.

One thing that I enjoyed much more than I thought I would were the musical cues in the series. It is hilarious that whenever Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask makes an appearance, he brings with him the distant sound of castanets. I was also amused by the fact that Usagi’s crying sometimes acts like a sonic weapon. The first four episodes were fun to watch, but I find myself growing a bit impatient for the appearances of the other Sailor Guardians. Just as in the manga, there are references here and there to Sailor V, and I’m hoping that Mars and Mercury will show up very soon. I have a subscription to Hulu, so that’s where I’ve been watching Sailor Moon, but you can also watch it for free on Viz’s Neon Alley. I feel like Viz has kicked off the summer season by giving everyone a huge present, and I know I’m going to be looking forward to Mondays when new episodes are released!

Escaflowne Eps 1-4


It was a funny coincidence that I decided that I would embark on a rewatch of The Vision of Escaflowne and finished the first disc the day before Funimation announced that they’d acquired rights to make this classic anime available again. I haven’t watched a ton of anime, but Escaflowne is by far my favorite series. Every two years or so I decide to watch it again, and I’m generally fine with just watching a show once or twice. This show really rewards those who see it multiple times, as the characterization, setting, and storyline are so rich and complex, I often feel like I find something new to appreciate with each viewing. I’ll see if I can work through my old Bandai DVDs by the time the new edition from Funimation comes out, and feel free to dig out your copies of Escaflowne and join me in a rewatch in anticipation of what Funimation decides to do with the rerelease.

Hitomi the heroine of the show is sympathetic without being cloying. She’s a bit of a jock, as she’s dedicated to her track team. Hitomi also indulges in a bit of mysticism as she’s her school’s resident tarot card reader. She has a goofy crush on the captain of the boys’ track team at her school, and she spends plenty of time with her best friend awkwardly blushing and obsessing about him. Hitomi starts seeing visions as she’s running of destruction, giant metal monsters, and a young boy fighting. Her visions become true as Van Fanel appears on the high school track, pursued by a dragon. Hitomi and her friends narrowly escape while Van kills the dragon, but Hitomi and Van are carried off to to his world Gaea, where Earth appears as a second moon in the sky.


Van is the reluctant prince of the country Fanelia, a place with a strong martial arts tradition, a missing older prince (this is significant), and a hazardous habit of sending out future rulers to slay dragons as a rite of passage. Van has a habit of initially addressing Hitomi by yelling “Hey Girl!” (and not in a Ryan Gosling sort of way) but he seems to call her by her first name whenever she’s in danger. Van seems to be doing the best he can in a role he doesn’t want, but he’s affected by violence and doesn’t particularly want to fight even though he can be good at it.

The world of Gaea is an interesting place. It is quasi-medieval, but people have ancient mecha called Guymelefs. There’s a bit of a steampunk and mystical vibe to the technology shown on Gaea, as you see cogs and gears snap into position, and the mecha seem to have the creaky joints of old machines. In addition to humans, there are humanoid animals that live on Gaea as well, with the most prominent being Van’s catgirl Merle. There’s trouble for Fanelia as the Zaibach Empire has cloaking technology for their mecha (like the Romulans!), and an insane military captain in the form of the androgynous and dangerously emotionally unstable Dilandau. Fanelia is razed to the ground and Van is suddenly a prince without a country. He manages to escape with Hitomi and his country’s greatest treasure – the Escaflowne Guymelef.


As Van and Hitomi try to figure out what to do, they fall in with Allen Shezar, whose talents as a swordsman are rivaled only by the puffiness of his sleeves. Alan is a Knight of the country Asturia, and he leads a somewhat piratical crew aboard the airship The Crusade. Hitomi promptly develops a crush on Allen, while Merle jealously guards Van’s attention. One of the things I enjoy about this series is that the world seems so rich, and there is plenty to think about between viewings. What were Allen’s adventures aboard his airship? How did Van and Merle develop a close bond? The world of Escaflowne just seems to exist in a special place where there’s space to ponder the history and relationships between the characters going beyond just the animated episodes.

The show was developed in 1996, but despite the limitations of animation at the time, it doesn’t feel all that dated. The rich setting combined with the strong orchestral and vocal score give the series an epic feel. The theme of the horrors of war and violence is established early, as the fighting provoked by the Zaibach Empire is portrayed as devastating, not glamorous. Even though I’ve probably seen Escaflowne already 5 or 6 times, it sill seemed fresh and interesting when I watched it again, which is the mark of a series that is just timeless. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of my old DVDs now and finding out more about the new edition of this series coming soon.

Hanasakeru Seishonen Eps 5-12

I’ve continued on with watching Hanasakeru Seishonen, and as one would expect from an anime adaptation of a Natsumi Itsuki series, it grows more more complex as the series progresses. The first four episodes seemed like an engaging and slightly quirky reverse harem scenario, with all the wealthy industrialists and leopard reincarnation talk going on, but after watching a good chunk of the series I can now see why someone would describe Hanasakeru Seishonen as being mostly about politics.

The political aspects of the series are introduced along with Prince Rumaty, who is second in line to the throne for Raginei, a vaguely Asian/Middle Eastern country with a penchant for sun worship. Rumaty is as arrogant as you might expect a prince to be, but he soon finds himself charmed by Kajika despite himself. Their friendship is cemented when they have to go on the run together after a failed assassination attempt on the prince’s life. They end up spending some quality time playing cards with the local mafia before returning to the Burnsworth compound. It soon becomes clear that Kajika’s family has ties to the country of Raginei that go beyond her father’s business interests. There’s an extended flashback that details the adventures of Rumaty’s grandfather on his first visit to America, where he meets Kajika’s grandparents. Just when the series might be getting a little bogged down by all of the cross general angst and political machinations, there’s a break when Kajika returns to Japan and visits her friend Yui. Everyone that Kajika knows abruptly converges on Yui’s house, and the family’s reaction to Eugene and Li-Ren adds a welcome element of humor.

While Hanasakeru Seishonen might not have the almost operatic levels of craziness of the manga series by Itsuki that I’ve sampled, there’s still something enjoyable about the way the story slowly unfolds, with the different characters, flashbacks, and world building all combining to create a series that’s much more intelligent than you’d expect from a reverse harem series. Itsuki always seems to make some of the cliches and story conventions of manga much more interesting than they have a right to be and it is nice to see that this pattern continues in the Hanasakeru Seishonen anime.

Hanasakeru Seishonen – Helping me through Demon Sacred withdrawal

One of the unfinished series from Tokyopop that I’ll miss the most is Demon Sacred. It had a total commitment to shoujo insanity, and I’m sad that I won’t be able to see the end of this story about trans-dimensional unicorns, teen idol doppelganger demons, and reverse aging teens. Michelle pointed out to me that Crunchyroll is streaming Hanasakeru Seishonen, an anime based on another Natsumi Itsuki manga. After watching the first few episodes, it seems like Hanasakeru Seishonen isn’t quite as crazy as Demon Sacred (I’m not sure what could be) but the reverse harem scenario and off the wall plot elements will serve as compensation for the lack of new Itsuki manga in my life.

I’ve only watched the first four episodes of this thirty-nine episode series, so I’m sure there are some long-running plot elements that haven’t been introduced yet. But I thought I’d give a brief overview of the series for other manga fans that might be experiencing Demon Sacred withdrawal. Kajika is a mysterious girl who has spent most of her childhood on an isolated tropical island. The first episode of Hanasakeru Seishonen shows her enrolling in a normal Japanese high school and starting to blend in with her classmates. The focus on Japanese high school life is quickly diverted as Kajika’s incredibly rich father orders her to return to him in order to play a “marriage game” where she has to somehow identify, woo, and decide who she wants to marry among the three potential son-in-laws he has picked out. Along for the journey are Kajika’s baby-faced bodyguard Toranosuke and her companion Lee-Leng, who just happens to be the heir of a rich Chinese family. While the set-up appears to be a straightforward game of mystery date, Itsuki has a way of making things more interesting than you might expect from what initially seems to be a simple reverse harem scenario.

The first candidate for Kajika’s affections is Eugene Volkan, a man with unique coloring that reminds Kajika of her long-lost leopard companion Mustafa. Kajika decides that Eugene is carrying Mustafa’s spirit and immediately is drawn to him. Little does she know that the Volkan family has a complicated history involving insanity, artificial insemination, and suicide. Eugene himself is a stone cold womanizer who seems to set up a parade of woman who fall in love with him and then decide to kill themselves when he doesn’t return their affections. Kajika immediately latches onto Eugene and starts telling him stories about his previous life as a leopard. Lee-Leng is supposed to be overseeing Kajika’s progress in the “marriage game” and he views Eugene as an entirely unsuitable candidate, I suspect because he secretly wants to marry her himself.

There was plenty of drama in the first four episodes of Hanasakeru Seishonen. While it didn’t feature the endless parade of delightfully improbable plot elements that I found fascinating in the Demon Sacred manga, I’m expecting that the story will grow more and more complex, as Itsuki tends to touch on different areas when building her characters’ worlds. I’ll be watching the next few episodes, because I figure in a series as long as this it will grow more complex and interesting as it progresses.

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Cross Game

Today’s Saturday morning cartoon is Cross Game. I love the manga, and the anime looks like it did a great job translating Adachi’s character designs and blend of drama and baseball action into animated format. I’ve only watched the first couple episodes so far on the Viz anime site.