Anime Meta-Review


About AMR


By Date




This page is a dumping ground for site info, FAQ's, and any other stuff like that. Since it's not directly related to anime it's not really that interesting.


Well, not really, since I don't frequently get asked questions about the site. Then again a couple of people have asked me questions that are sort of interesting. So, on the assumption that others might think the same thing, i'll mention them here.

  1. Why do you have so many partial reviews? Why not just wait untill you've seen the whole series?

    Well, there's two reasons. The main one is that, being in Australia I simply don't have the option in a lot of cases. Stuff that is `common' or `commercial' or America is often pretty rare. Often i'll be able to find a couple of tapes, but not the complete series. Still, in most cases if/when I find more tapes i'll revise the review. Indeed i'll often re-watch what i've seen prior to that. In fact this page began mostly for me to keep track of what i'd seen over these long gaps before I could find more tapes.

    The other reason is that I consider a partial opinion to still be valid and potentially useful. This is on the basis that I explicitly state how much of the series i've seen, so that I am not pretending the review is valid for any more than that. And also that if I see more that invalidates the review I will re-write it (The current record being Battle Athletes Victory at about 6 revisions). On the other hand if you're considering purchasing or ordering a title, then even an incomplete review might help avoid expensive mistakes. And after all, how many poor episodes should a fan sit through in the hope it might get better later?

  2. I'd prefer a site with fewer reviews, but those reviews that do exist be longer and better than yours

    Well, I don't consider numbers more important than the quality of the review...but I can't help myself when confronted by a new title. Although part of the reason for this is originally the site was just notes to myself, then just a really basic response to the experience, and only very recently attempting full size reviews. So if you still think my recent reviews are poor, well, sorry...they're the best I can do at the moment. As for my older reviews, they'll be updated when I get the chance to re-watch the material.

    Have to admit though, this question really bugged me for days after it was asked. Trying to provide a free service and then getting negative criticism really sucks. The `positive' version of this question is, "wow, your new reviews are much better than your old ones" or "It's good that your reviews are getting longer".

  3. Do you own all the video's you review? How big is your collection?

    Sorry to disappoint people, but my own collection of anime is actually pretty pathetic. I collect the experience of having seen an anime rather than the physical material itself. Likewise if I spent time re-watching my favourite anime it would subtract from my energy for going out and hunting for new titles. And, fortunately, there are people who put as much effort into actually hunting out anime tapes as I put into reviewing. So it would be more correct to consider me a specialized form of parasite on the efforts of these people rather than a collector in my own right.

    I do have a fairly decent manga collection however, and when I spend money it's generally on manga. Sadly the amount of manga released is actually fairly pitiful, so this doesn't take up too much of my time.

    As for anime merchandise, that's really easy. I own a single piece of anime merchandise, a skuld poster, to hang at work. The reason being that she's the most technically oriented anime character I could think of, as well as having the correct `engineer' mentality. I don't even really understand the urge to collect anime merchandise, although i'm sometimes impressed by the amount of effort people put into it.

  4. Who the hell is that on the front page? and why?

    That man is Captain Kiichi Goto (or Gotoh) of Police Special Vehicles Division 2, responsible for handling mecha based crimes in Tokyo. The anime series being known as Patlabor, which is a great series. He's also known as `razorblade' Goto for being sharp, in fact it is rumored that he's so `sharp' that he worried his superiors enough to be exiled to special vehicles 2. The fact that he's also willing to bend rules in order to make things come out `right', and adopt non-standard police procedures when needed, being another part of the reason. In person he seems relaxed and somewhat lazy, but few doubt his abilities.

    Why did I select him for this page? well, Patlabor is one of my favorite series. It's got great, but subtle, character based drama in a realistic and complex world. It also has a lot of mature characters which is a nice feature. He also represents a couple of cool things as an anime character. The first thing is he's not an anime babe (did you notice?), there's enough of them on anime pages as it is. The second is that he's a mature and smart character, his existence proving that anime is not restricted to kids. And, finally, in his own way he's a subtle anti-hero, and I like the fact that anime has such people (Tylor being another candidate).

    Oh yeah, and the image is taken from the Viz release of the Patlabor manga...although they only ever released two volumes (grr). It's been modified and touched up (mostly by Ticti) using GIMP on linux.

  5. What the hell is wrong with your counter?

    Have you ever wondered what the ego of a web page owner looks like? well, that's what a counter is. Sure, in some cases it's also about how much money you make but I can assure you that's not an issue here nor will it become so. It actually has no meaning, or value, other than to make a page creator know that someone actually visits the page. Given this, and the fact that the new counter I got can count in any digits, I couldn't resist finding some Japanese digits to use. That also means it can be an ego thing without being about bragging....or at least not bragging too much.

    If you do want to know more you'll find the counter I am using here.

    The digit strip, digits 0 to 9, I am using is this one
    counter digits

    The actual value of the count at the moment is

    What am I actually counting? well, for the first 20,000 hits on the page I was counting how many people visited the main page. Recently I found where the logs for the web-server live and got to have a look at them. It seems that the vast majority of people never visit my main page, coming in by search engines or off one of the index pages. As a result I put a web-bug (fancy term for a 1 pixel by 1 pixel transparent gif) on each page. In theory your brower should cache it so each visitor should only get counted once. Indeed if you visit the page several times in the same browser session you should only get counted once. However some browsers seem to trigger it multiple times at the moment. So that it actually counts something in between number of visitors and number of hits. Perhaps i'll try to get it more specific one day, but it's not really important.

    From 50K onwards I tried something different, my visitor count being sufficiently inflated to salve my ego. On the premise that some browsers intentionally re-trigger the transparent pixel (since they know it is linked to a cgi script) i've drawn an actual web-bug to put at the bottom of each page. Now that it is a real image it should only be triggered when there is no matching image in the browser cache. In other words definitely no more than once per visit and probably even less than that. Once again this is only of interest to the ego's of web site owners.

  6. Don't you realise the history of title X?

    No, probably not. This is partly because I'm too lazy to do exhaustive research on every title I watch but mostly because I don't believe I should know. If the title depends on an external connection, say for example your knowledge of the game or manga it originated from, then this is a weakness as an anime. I take the view that an anime, which you buy as an independant product, must stand or fall alone. I don't even really focus on directors or studios unless the similarity can be determined purely from the material.

    This is also the safest position to take. It assumes that the reader does not have detailed knowledge of the precursor. If you, as the reader, do have that knowledge then your interest in the title will be probably be determined more by how much you liked the source. If you want to check if the anime respects canon, or reflects the series well, or depicts the characters and stories you wanted to see from the source, then fan-pages for that series will serve you better. The only question I am interested in is whether it is a good anime.

  7. Are you related to the Meta Anime Review Project?

    No, I have no connection with that page although it does link to many of my reviews, which is fine as it is a very useful resources. If you haven't checked it out then I can certainly recommend it. It's somewhat of a shame the names are so similar. The pedant within me also can't help but point out the name is inaccurate, a meta-review would have to review a review and linking doesn't actually do that.

The on-line Ego

This is (fairly obviously) an amateur site. But the net itself pays me back in kudos and ego support. As such, for no reason whatsoever, I'll collect some of these plaudits here.

Another anime fanboy who knows nothing about the appeal of shoujo manga.
Legend of Basara Page

The fellow seems a bit humorless, however.
- MIT anime club

The best site on the net for explicit anime meta review around!
- A really confused porn site.

As good as doing a personal website of Anime reviews may be, I hate to inform you that people who have access to your web page, have internet access, and therefore have access to every other website that house anime reviews.
- Mistah J explains why there's no point in bothering.

speaking of reviews, I suggest NOT linking/copying your page to other people's reviews, even with copyright, I dont see much logic in duplicating reviews. I suggest writing your own, perhaps creating a review board by you, and possibly others who write their own opinions....
- Urd recommending I write my own reviews... thanks so much.

- Local company CrazyPerson expresses its support.

Why I like Anime

This was my original list of why I though animation was worth being interested in. I'll give it in full here, then mention a realization I had, and finally links to any other attempts to answer the same question.

  • Are written for a variety of age ranges. While there certainly is stuff designed for kids, a great deal of material is specifically targeted at more mature audiences (including a sizable amount of material definitely targeted as not for kids). Also the age targets are not as narrow as most western animation.
  • The range of topics covered is immense. As an example there is an anime and manga title called `Blackjack' about a unlicensed, but brilliant, mercenary surgeon. This includes a fair amount of medical jargon and discussion and scenes of operations. In Japan (translation acts as a filter, sometimes to our advantage) there is an even wider spread.
  • The stories can be focused and quite complex. They often derive influence from many other sources and will refer to events outside of the material, such as politics or mythology. There is a tradition, in the better material, to actually consider the `realism' of even a fantasy plot.
  • One of the strengths of animation is that `reality' is not the default. It takes roughly as much effort to animate something completely invented, it may even be easier. The world can be cheaply and efficiently remodeled, in its entirety and full scale, to the dramatic needs of the creator.
  • The stories generally feature interesting and complex characters. This can be considered to be derived from the existence of shoujo (girls) comics, which emphasise character exploration and interaction. Many anime are almost entirely character pieces.
  • The stories often allow the characters to grow. This may be because the frequent derivation from manga, or the focus on short series rather than movies, or perhaps something peculiarly Japanese. It is wonderful to watch a character grow and change, learn and lose, discover their powers and limitations and their ties to others.
  • Many stories have humor built into their foundations. This can range from out and out comedy and farce to subtle satire and humor. Supposedly there is a lot of material for pun's in japanese, but that tends to be lost in translation. This humor is often skillfully woven into the story, so that even the most serious of movies will occasionally have lighter moments.
  • And the final, most important, point. At least some of the material is produced by skilled and intelligent practictioners of story-telling and dramatic visualisation. This material carries a quality which uses the strengths of animation to produced something of self-evident value.

Since that I time I have come to realise that the above are some reasons why the stories of anime are often strong. This is an incredibly important factor in why I think anime is valuable but it is not the whole answer. The real reason is that anime is completely focused. This is a quality unique to animation, and sufficiently valuable to justify the field.

In live movies, and to an extent in computer generated movies, there is a great deal of noise. These are items, perhaps complexity of surface, of background or of actor motion that are incidental to the telling of the story. As an example consider a couple walking along a beach, in either live action or computer animation the sea is likely to be the most complex and visually interesting element. If it is is a crowd scene then there will be a large number of other visual influences which frame the focus of the story.

In an anime the surroundings can, and must, be abstracted. Thus we are closer to the realm of a visual art which attempts to capture the essence of a scene rather than slavishly imitate reality. The sea need only be indicated unless it is important, the crowd can become just a frame rather than objects in their own right. Likewise the timing and motion of the `actor' is always perfectly synchronized to the story. A real actor may blink, make many body motions, make many expressions, but an anime actor is under the complete control of the creator. In manga only the most important scene's, motions and expressions are given and anime also attempts to follow this guide.

This combines and enhances the fact that every object is subservient to the creators vision. Each person, place and object is fully invented, and thus can act as an addition to the central story. In effect the entire universe can be designed to carry one story, theme or even scene. This is simply not possible in live action, and is actually (suprisingly) reduced in computer animation. Even the laws of physics are subservient to the needs of the story.

To my mind this is why anime is powerful, it can often be the purest expression of the intents of the creator, bound neither by reality or the restrictions of other less flexibile expressive media's.

This interpretation also goes some way towards explaining why manga may be even more powerful than anime, with the exception of those focusing on action or effect. Although, to be honest, the martial arts in the Ranma manga, being highly focused, are often superior to most anime combats.

Of course a side effect of this is that the creator has great expressive power, limited by the skill of the creators and controlled by their sense of spirit. The power of anime that can produce epic adventure, moving romance or other scenes of great power can also render perversity, decay and destruction with equal power. While these are elements of the real world, and vital to many stories of value, it seems worthwhile to make sure that the creators of an anime actually have a spirit you wish to share in.

Musings in a Cinema

These are just some thoughts I had after seeing a (the only) screening of Princess Mononoke in Melbourne. This being the disney dub the tape hadn't had that much use. And while the theatre was `art-house', ie. technically inadequate, it was interesting to watch. I was familiar with the movie, from VHS fansubs, before I saw it which caused a certain train of logic.

It's not likely to be a very popular chain of thought though...but lets do it anyway. The first thought I had is that, by and large, cinematic anime is a very strange beast. It may be more obvious with the naturalistic Mononoke-hime, but in general a cinematic screening shows the best and worst of anime.

The best comes from the fact that anime, as described in the previous section, can present images and scenes of unparalled power. It can give concrete expression to a very close approximation of the artists internal conception. It does this by allowing original creation and complete control of artistic focus.

The disadvantage, most obvious in a cinema, is that nothing comes for free. With a real life scene and real life actors there is a wealth of detail, probably attractive and interesting, that is captured at no cost. In addition there is no substantial difference in the level of detail between the focus and the surroundings. This is not true of anime.

Thus watching Mononoke-hime in a cinema made me even more aware of the visual abstractions it used. Of repeated sequences in the background, and of the static nature of a lot of the scenery. Mind you, I probably wouldn't have noticed it that much if some other facts had not been in place. The first was that I was trying to show off anime to some people, which always makes you ultra-critical of the material. This was enhanced in that I had seen the material several times, and had high expectations for my first cinematic screening. It may also have happened because, in the small theatre, I was very close to the screen.

The point of this is that it is worth considering that a cinematic screening is not inherently superior to a television viewing. The softer focus and lower resolution of television may actually favor many anime titles, and provide a different but equally valid experience. This is different from the live action experience, and may help to explain why some anime seems less impressive than we feel it should be on the big screen. In essence a cinema screening will amplify both the strengths and the weaknesses of the anime medium.

Mind you, attempting to do sweeping natural vistas, as in Mononoke-hime is probably about as difficult a challenge as you get. More modern environments, such as streetscapes and spaceships, probably work much better. However even in these conditions you'll still see things like crowd scenes or complex environments that demonstrate this intrinsic mix of strength and weakness.

This led to considering whether the dreaded disney did things better. This comes from me being really upset when I located a copy of Totoro (one of my favorite Ghibli films) and the response was, "it's not as good as disney". On reflection I have to admit that he is probably right, but this simple statement hides some important reasons why anime is a hobby I consider so worthwhile.

First there is the question of raw quality. Disney has fine technical animators and buckets of money. Far more than Ghibli could ever dream of possessing. I think it's fairly trivial to prove that they also have a taste for borrowing stories, targeting markets and vapid music but that's not the point. On technical merits they probably are better than Ghibli, and Ghibli is fairly close to the apex of Japanese cinematic animation.

However invert the argument. Consider how much anime could be produced if the budget for a Disney movie were converted into anime. And not just ghibli stuff either, all the other TV and OAV titles. The Excel Saga's, Trigun's and Cowboy Be-bop's. And also count in the money required for a whole bunch of experiments that didn't succeed. The volume and variability of anime is something disney has no answer for. This is especially true given that their budgets require them to focus on the most mainstream demographic.

Thus I would argue that it is probably impossible to be an american animation fan. The high quality, but infrequent, release of a tiny number of titles simply means that there is little to be interested in. There simply isn't enough happening to sustain the interest of a fan. Meanwhile it has raised the bar to such an extent that more specialist (read interesting) animation almost certainly withers or survives only in niche's (hey, i'm a Daria fan).

In other words most Japanese animation probably is technically inferior to the disney product. And we are very lucky this is the case. I am happy to support the concept that an anime should have sufficient production to meet the creators vision, and that any more is excessive. This might help explain the difference placed on such things as exact lip-syncing and miscellaneous body motion between anime and western animation.

This might also help explain the difference in outlook between anime fan's and disney over the Mononoke-hime release. To disney one assumes it is an animated feature film that should make the same amount of money as the others. To an anime fan it is a film with value that should make a reasonable profit. Thus the commercialisation of Mononoke-hime was probably a commercial failure and success at the same time.

Finally I would also like to mention the question of style. I think, though I have little interest in doing so, that disney is very careful not to be as ambitious as Mononoke-Hime, even with the budget it commands. Mononoke-Hime tried to suggest real people and real forest in the animation, which in some ways made the weaknesses of anime clearer. This is because the real world has a lot of complex but unimportant movement and visual effects that are really difficult to animate flawlessly regardless of the budget.

This led me to consider that one of the important things about disney is that they don't try anything like this. The jungle of Tarzan (disney borrowing another story) looked and felt like some complex piece of play equipment rather than a jungle. People and animals were `cartoonized' and then, having been simplified, marvellously animated. And the style of these beautiful but artificial constructs was that of most other disney films.

So in essence I have to admit that disney animation has more flash and more technical quality than most anime. However I am delighted by anime's diversity, possibility of experimentation and willingness to take risks on things that they know are going to be very hard to animate. In this argument, which I have seen many variants of, there are two winners. But I know which victory I consider the most important.

The 4 levels of Erotic Anime

Most review sites (the sensible ones) don't review erotic anime. And you can avoid a lot of complexity on this basis. The fact that humans are sexual creatures means that erotica is common, and popular, in any media complex enough to support it. And the fact that it has power and an attraction is undeniable. But as thinking beings, wanting to do what is `right', there's the recognition that some limits on the expression of human desires and lusts are needed.

Anime has a very bad case of this. On the first part most serious anime fans want the power of their medium to be respected and popular. And the attention and distraction that hentai (perverted animation) creates detracts from this aim. In addition animation is intrinsically expressive and without limits. No `real' people are harmed in the making and animated characters never refuse their roles. Anime can depict a realistic vision of whatever the creator has on his mind. And too many creators want to play out their base urges, to shock, or to make money from stimulating these feelings in others.

After thinking about this for some time, and trying to formulate my position, I realised that there are many different kinds of erotic material in anime. And even that using the world hentai (perverted) for all of them was a poor distinction. I found that if I split the types out, I could more clearly describe a response to them. And it is this determination I will using in deciding what is worth reviewing.

And please don't ascribe this to prudery. What I review and what I watch are *not* the same thing. Furthermore what I watch, and my own feelings on why I watch it, are relevant only to me.

Erotic by Biology

The first level is the most primitive form. It relies on the fact that the graphic depiction of the sexual act has an erotic power. I suspect a lot of porn movies are also stuck at this level, the vast majority of low-budget anime erotica is as well. In other words there doesn't need to be skill in character, story or even representation...just enough to make the viewer aware that he is watching the depiction of sex.

Strangely enough I suspect that a lot of these products make up for their lack of depth by parody. In other words by depicting the act of sex between characters recognisable from other sources they can provide a sense of relevance without any work on their own part. This also makes it easier to sell. I know there's at least one evangelion parody that demonstrates this...but there's surely lots more. Likewise a lot of hentai doujinshi (while rare in the west) probably relies on this as well.

There is no point in reviewing this sort of thing. It has no depth or even content. It even has very little to distinguish one piece from another. In fact it's not even that it shouldn't be reviewed it's that it can't be reviewed. At least not without a very specialised set of reviewing techniques, which would require a specialist page. Note that material I watch, but decline to review, lives here.

Erotic by Perversion (Hentai)

The second level is the first level of mental erotica. Thus it is the most mentally primitive form. It gains it's power both from the representation of the physical act but also from it's extension. Thus alternative forms of sexual contact, rape, bondage, cruelty or master-slave type stuff exists in this domain. Likewise anime only instances such as tentacles, or exploding partners, are also in this domain. It recognises that a sexual relationship can take many forms. And because many of these forms are `nasty', taboo or perverse there is a certain power to the effect.

In effect, because it includes a `mental' component it is much wider in range, and even power, than the simple biological act. In some ways it reflects that humanities base dreams and inner repression of sexuality provides a much more complex, and erotic, field to draw from. It's also more varied, which is probably good when you want to make money from selling hentai. This field has probably grown by virtue of Japan's strange censorship laws and the competitiveness of the field to `go one step further'.

There are strong ethical reasons for not reviewing this material. While it may have an attraction or power it is not what anime fans, such as myself, want to champion. Indeed, it could be argued that these are lusts that should be left to sleep, rather than titilated in order to sell more product. This is also the category that deserves the title hentai, and from now on I intend to use it in that manner. If nothing else the desire to stop people from profiting out of producing such anime is a powerful incentive.

There is one exception to this decision. Material that is famous or popular is probably worth reviewing. This is both as a warning to those `intrigued' by the title. It also serves to balance those who endlessly use hentai (almost always Urotsukidoji) as evidence that anime itself is evil.

Note also that this would mean that material does not have to be explicit to be hentai. Hentai would instead mean the act of tittilation by playing on perverse sexuality...even if the actual act is not depicted. Thus I can now classify a lot of Go-Nagai material as being hentai.

Also note that a lot of this material uses `humor', as if to make it clear that they're `just kidding'. This lets them display the elements they want but pass off the experience as being only `amusement'. Let's be honest, none of these have much to offer in the way of comedy. This is almost entirely a smokescreen, a way to make the product more palatable and acceptable without actually toning down the content.

Erotic by Story (Erotica)

This is the next level of mental erotica. In this it is recognised that an awful lot of erotic power is gained from the thought, rather than the depiction of the sexual act. And it does not require demons or tentacles to make it carry power. The fact that believable characters have arrived at a sexual situation, as part of a story, can have an awful lot of power. And this is an element of human existence that does not need to be feared or placed under a taboo.

The best example is a rather well known adaption of a shoujo manga by a popular shounen studio. I'll risk a spoiler because I want to make the point clearly, but feel free to skip this paragraph. In Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou (Karekano) the two lead characters, after about 16 episodes, feel ready to have sex with each other. There's nothing terribly explicit about the encounter, it's not perverse, but it's got a lot of erotic potential. It's erotica by story, as much erotic in the viewers mind and emotions as it actually is in the anime.

While this is pretty rare, especially done so well, I will gladly review this sort of material. It's a bit embarassing, but it's a part of life and a reminder of the power of anime. Even a more explicit example, such as "First Loves", still meets my approval. No rape, no tentacles and the focus is as much on the characters as the depiction of sex.

Erotic by Imagination

There's also erotic content even when sex is not an issue. Whenever males and females are depicted, or viewers watch animated depictions of members of the opposite sex, there is erotic potential. Why else are there so many bishounen, attractive anime babes and fan-service.

This form of erotica is so deeply inter-twined with life it's only mentioned for completeness. It certainly has no bearing on my review decisions. It does mean that those who try to totally seperate anime and sexuality are in for a tough time.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:51 WST 2009