Book Review: The Case of the Missing Servant: From the Files of Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Servant: From the Files of Vish Puri, Most Private Investigatorby Tarquin Hall

Disclosure: I received this book as a Firstreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.

The Case of the Missing ServantThis is the first of a series about Vish Puri, owner and operator of the Most Private Investigations office of New Dehli in India. He’s already built a successful business, and bills himself as India’s top private detective. While his bread-and-butter is investigating prospective bridegrooms in arranged marriages to determine if they’re really suitable (and one of these investigations is a major subplot), he often has more interesting/dangerous cases.

In the present instance, a reform-minded lawyer’s servant has gone missing, and the lawyer is being accused of murdering her to cover up an affair. Shortly after Vish Puri takes the case, someone tries to murder him. Can he and his agents figure out what’s really going on?

There’s lots of local color, including an extensive glossary, but how authentic the book is to the reality of India I will leave to other reviewers. The clash between ancient poverty and new money, the multiplicity of India’s religions and languages, and the endemic corruption in the legal system all play strong roles in the story.

I should note that Vish Puri is extremely quirky in addition to being exotic to American and British readers, in much the same fashion as Hercule Poirot. This may come off as excessive to some readers. Also, there are what appear to be prophetic dreams (or heavily intutive ones), which may strike some as not “fair play.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of eccentric detectives.

TV Review: The Court of Last Resort

TV Review: The Court of Last Resort

In 1948, seven lawyers, including Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the Perry Mason series, formed a group called “The Court of Last Resort.”  They investigated convictions that seemed to have irregularities, to see if the accused had actually committed the crime, much like the modern “Project Innocence.”

the Court of Last Resort

Mr. Gardner apparently thought some of the cases might make good television, and promote the work of the group, so a television series was made and aired 1957-1958.  While the episodes were based on real cases, names were changed to avoid legal problems.  Actors played the Court during episodes, but sometimes the actual lawyers would appear in a postscript.

I watched four episodes.  “The Clarence Redding Case” involved a drifter accused of “assaulting” and murdering a girl in a barn (Rape is implied, but never mentioned.)  “The Jim Thompson Case” has an ex-con mechanic accused of robbing and murdering a man who was shaving at the time.  “The John Smith Case” is another drifter,  accused of murdering a grocer in a robbery gone wrong.  And “The Mary Morales Case” involves a Mexican-American woman accused of murdering a white woman while trying to kill her own husband.

Of the cases, two suspects are proved innocent, one is proved guilty (the irregularity turned out to be a witness covering their own crime) and one did the crime, but it was manslaughter, not murder.

A common theme is suspicion of police misconduct, as the suspects are disadvantaged people that the legal system is weighted against.  It’s not always true.  Certainly the episodes show what we would now consider shocking lack of proper procedure.

The episodes are fairly staid, but the conclusions tend to be very well done emotionally.   The most affecting was the John Smith Case, when the friendless drifter with no family in the world learns that a small kindness he did 22 years ago has cleared him, and he is a free man.

TV Review: The Cases of Eddie Drake/Code 3

TV Review: The Cases of Eddie Drake/Code 3

The Cases of Eddie Drake was a private eye series broadcast on the DuMont network in 1952.  The framing device was that psychiatrist Dr. Karen Gayle (Patricia Morison) was writing a book on criminal psychology, and paid Eddie Drake (Don Haggerty) to tell her about his cases.  The two were clearly attracted to each other, but Eddie also flirted with the women in his cases.

That's a 1948 Davis D-2 Divan.  Only 17 vehicles were ever built by the company.
That’s a 1948 Davis D-2 Divan. Only 17 vehicles were ever built by the company.

“Shoot the Works” was the only episode in my DVD collection.  A casino has been robbed, with one man killed during the holdup.  The robber got away with a diamond watch belonging to a woman who was at the casino, but not with the husband who gave it to her.

Eddie is hired to buy the watch back from the thief, no questions asked.  While he attempts to arrange this, Eddie runs into the casino owner, an exiled Russian prince who asks Eddie to find a woman the prince has only seen in a peep show movie.  Things get ugly when the peep show girl turns up dead at the rendezvous point where Eddie was supposed to pick up the watch.

A visit by a police lieutenant provides the clue Eddie needs to crack the case.  Seems that there was more than one murderer.  The writing is only so-so, and the psychological angle in the framing story doesn’t come into the case at all.  The most memorable thing in the show is Eddie’s unique looking three wheeled car.

Code 3 was a 1957 series that featured fictionalized cases from the files of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.  Richard Travis played Deputy Sheriff George Barnett, who introduced and narrated each episode.  At the end of each episode, Eugene W. Biscailuz, the actual sheriff of Los Angeles County, would give a brief message.

Code 3

The opening is especially interesting from a historical perspective, showing 1950s technology such as teletypes and pneumatic tubes in use in the dispatcher’s office.  I watched four episodes.

“The Rookie Deputy” depicts a Czech immigrant going through the deputy training school.  He is having difficulty as having been in the Czech Underground during World War Two, and then fighting the Communists, he has a lot of experience the younger trainees don’t.  He wants to share this information, but comes off as arrogant, with a chip on his shoulder.  In a crisis situation, his knowledge of Hungarian proves vital, and he shows that he’s absorbed American values.

“The Sniper” starts with a man using a rifle to kill random women.  A real estate salesman comes up with the idea of using this as a cover to deal with his wife, an art gallery owner.  Interestingly, his plan seems to be not so much to kill his wife, as to force her into a dependent position–he’s been driven to jealousy by her being far more successful than he is.    His attempts to isolate his wife and exert control over her hit a snag when the sheriff’s deputies notice this crime doesn’t match the sniper’s MO.

“The Man of Many Faces” is about a forger who’s using a clever method to pass phony checks.  It turns out he’s an accountant with a terminally ill daughter, and needs the extra money for her treatments, and to pay for a Hawaiian vacation.   He’s caught out because he does tax preparations for some of the deputies, and they spot that he partially matches descriptions of the check passer (he used various simple disguises) and his handwriting looks familiar.

By the time the deputies come to arrest him, the accountant’s daughter has passed, and he gives himself up freely as there is no further reason to lie.  One of the victims of the check scheme reminds us of the financial costs of crime–it will take a lot of fifteen-cent check cashing fees to get back the eighty-six dollars he paid out.

“The Baxter Affair” takes place at the women’s county jail.   One of the women there is awaiting trial on murder (she claims she’s innocent, but it’s one of those “participated in a crime that led to death” things, even though she may not have killed the victim personally.)   She discovers that the sheriff’s office has planted a female deputy among the population, presumably to spy on her.  The woman then begins a search for the evidence she needs to spot the spy and expose her.

The varied cases give this series interest, but the acting and writing just isn’t up to Dragnet standards.  it’s worth looking at for the period piece it is.

Anime Review: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood/Battle Tendency

Anime Review: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood/Battle Tendency

This 2012 anime series was based on the first two story arcs of the manga by Hirohiko Araki.  The series as a whole deals with the bizarre adventures of the extensive Joestar family, with protagonists having repeated “Jo” sounds in their names, thus “Jojo.”

Jojo's Bizarre Adventures
Dio and Jonathan

Phantom Blood takes place during Victorian times, as Jonathan Joestar, scion of the wealthy Joestar family, gets a new adoptive brother, Dio Brando.  Dio’s abusive childhood has left him charming but utterly evil; he decides to supplant Jonathan as the Joestar heir.  Dio begins a campaign of cruelty and treachery to render Jonathan friendless and broken.

Things are complicated by a mysterious stone mask, which turns out to have the ability to turn humans into vampires.  The second half of the plot has Jonathan learning a special martial art, the “Ripple”, which simulates the effects of sunshine and can destroy vampires.

Battle Tendency picks up the story in the 1930s, with Jonathan’s grandson Joseph Joestar.   Joseph learns that there are more of the stone masks, and in the process of tracking them down, becomes embroiled in a battle against the Pillar Men.  The Pillar Men, it turns out, feed on vampires the way vampires do on humans, and are out to eliminate their one weakness so that they can rule forever.  Joseph must learn how to fully access the Ripple before it’s too late.

The Bizarre Adventure series is well-known for being over the top even by shounen fighting manga standards.  Strange powers, interesting battle poses, unusual fashion choices and clever battle strategies are all part of the charm.  The anime runs with this, often providing stylized versions of key panels from the manga, and visible sound effects.

The two protagonists provide an interesting contrast; Jonathan is an honorable Victorian gentleman who battles in an upright fashion, while Joseph is a wisecracker who uses sleight of hand and dirty tricks to win his fights.  He’s even willing to accept help from a Nazi cyborg (once the Nazi cyborg stops being on the other side, that is.)

The villains are great, too.  Dio plays the charmer in public, while plotting evil secretly (until he turns into a vampire, but still keeps being pretty charismatic.)  The Pillar Men are both amusing and terrifying, arrogant in their overwhelming power, but each with personality quirks that make them individually interesting.

As hinted above, there’s quite a bit of blood and unsettling violence in this series; Dio kills a dog in a horrific way in a very early episode.  Araki feels no compunction about killing off major, minor and incidental characters, even protagonists.  Younger and more sensitive children might find this series upsetting, parental guidance is suggested.

Currently, a new season of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is airing, featuring the third story arc, Stardust Crusaders, set in the 1980s and starring Joseph’s grandson Jotaro Kujo.

Magazine Review: Out of the Gutter #7

Magazine Review: Out of the Gutter #7 (Winter 2010)

Back in the day, the low-cost entertainment option of choice was the pulp magazine.  It contained fast, exciting stories on cruddy paper–a lowbrow art form that is still fondly remembered by some.  “Out of the Gutter” tries to be somewhat in that tradition.

Out of the Gutter #7

This is the “U.S. vs. U.K.” issue, with alternate stories from American and British authors.  They’re handily arranged by the time it takes to read them, with the shortest stories up front, interspersed with somewhat relevant quotes and bits of non-fiction.

Unfortunately, while the cover promises “pulp fiction and degenerate literature,” the stories tend much more strongly to the degenerate side of the equation.   Lots of drugs, sex (yes, including rape), strong language and of course violence, with few likable characters to be seen.  It’s kind of like pouring habañero sauce on your jalapeños; too much burn and not enough nutrition underneath.

That said, there are a couple of good stories.  “Darkness Creeps” by Stephen D. Rogers is a good snapshot of a petty bureaucrat trying to fix a town one atrocity at a time.  “Real Estate” by Benedict J. Jones is about a finger man investigating drug dealers’ deaths.  And “Pleading and Bleeding” by Charlie Wade follows two police officers tracking down a serial killer with a thing for bankers.

The non-fiction is more varied.  A comparison of infamous murderers of the U.S. and U.K.,  a remixed comic about social etiquette, and a piece suggesting that the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Paine rather than Thomas Jefferson are a sample of these.

Based on this issue, I would not recommend this magazine, but it was certainly an interesting read.

Book Review: The Why of Things

Book Review: The Why of Things: Causality in Science, Medicine, and Life by Peter Rabins

Disclaimer:  I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.

The Why of Things

The author of this book is a professor of Geriatric Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, and it started as a clinical teaching presentation.  Patients often ask “why did this happen to me?”  In attempting to answer that question, and so many more,  the overall concept of causality becomes a subject.

The book makes two presumptions for the sake of discussing the subject, first, that causality exists, and second, that time moves in only one direction.  The latter may be disprovable should the speed of light ever be broken, but at the moment, it’s a reasonable assumption.

The model of causality presented in this book has three facets:  causal models, levels and logics.  In order to correctly use this model, one must decide which part of each facet to apply to the problem at hand.  Empirical logic, for example (aka the scientific method) is often the best choice of method for looking at causality in the physical sciences, while empathic logic (a coherent narrative) might serve better to examine historical causation.

After examining each facet in detail, Mr. Rabins then demonstrates how this model can be used to examine such topics as Alzheimer’s and the problem of violence.

There are extensive references, and an index.  The only illustrations are the facets, repeated through the book with different emphases.

This is graduate-level material, and pretty thick going.  It would be useful to students in scientific, medical or history majors, as well as relevant to classes in logic or statistics.  Fiction writers, especially in the field of science fiction, may also find it useful when writing the thought processes of scientist characters.

 

Movie Review: Spider Forest (2004)

Movie Review: Spider Forest (2004)

Kang Min (Kam Woo-Sung), a line producer for a schlocky “true paranormal” television show, finds himself in a dark forest, headed for an isolated house.  Inside, he finds blood and destruction.  He sees the repeatedly stabbed body of his boss, and then finds his lover Hwang Su-yeong (Kang Kyeong-hyeon) dying and babbling about spiders.  At this point, he detects another presence in the house, presumably the killer.

A misleading scene from "Spider Forest"
A misleading scene from “Spider Forest”

Kang Min gives chase, only to be stunned with a blow to the head.  Dazed, Kang Min finds his way into a nearby highway tunnel, where he glimpses the presumed murderer again.  Before he can act on this, Kang Min is hit by an SUV.  He awakens fourteen days later in the hospital.

His acquaintance Choi, a police officer, is called in, and when Kang Min tells him about the murders, Choi is assigned to investigate.  Kang Min reveals the events that led up to that night in the woods in fragments of memory, dream and possibly hallucination.  Some of what he remembers may not be true.

This is a low-budget psychological thriller from Korea, meant to cash in on the wave of films such as Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.  As such, it’s sporadically violent and frequently bloody.  There’s also several sex scenes, and the film got an “R” rating in the United States.  It’s also mostly shot in dark and dimly-lit locations, with characters whispering their lines (thank goodness for subtitles!)

The story of the film is deliberately confusing, according to director Song Il-gong.  He started by writing a linear script that fully explained what was going on in a way that made logical sense, then cut out as much of it as possible and still have a narrative.   (There are a few deleted scenes on the DVD that fill in some of the gaps, but don’t really explain more of what’s really going on.)

Due to the darkness, whispered dialogue and jigsaw puzzle plot, this is not a movie I recommend for late night viewing.  It’s best when you’re fully alert and able to give it some concentration.  I do not recommend the film for anyone who hates jigsaw puzzle plots or mind screws.

Open Thread: Minicon 49

This past weekend, I went to Minicon 49 at the RadiShTree Hotel in Bloomington.   It’s a book-oriented science fiction convention with an older-skewing crowd, running around 500 people.  So it’s not overcrowded and a good place to talk to your once a year friends.

Art by Don Maitz, with additions by Pat  Scarramuza
Art by Don Maitz, with additions by Pat Scarramuza

This year’s theme was “Pirates and Airships” largely because the artist Guest of Honor was Don Maitz, who people who are not SF fans may know best from the Captain Morgan rum bottles.  (Fun information:  Mr. Maitz’s first draft of the Captain Morgan painting had the pirate in period-correct clothing, but he decided that the anachronistic outfit looked more “piratey.” )  Also on the Guest of Honor list were Jenny Wurtz (the Mistwraith series, and Mr. Maitz’s wife) and Catherynne M. Valente (the Fairyland series.)

Minicon 49 was listed as three and a half days, with some activities starting on Thursday, but I arrived Friday.   I attended the “Fandom or Fandoms?” panel, which discussed generational differences in how speculative fiction fandom is approached.  I stayed for the “Healthy Online Gaming: Just One More Turn” panel, which talked about online gaming addiction, how to prevent it, how to deal with it and how to spot if you have it.

Opening Ceremony (“ceremonies!”) were fun as always, with a rousing beginning,  Jenny Wurtz marching in playing the bagpipes.  I was saddened to learn that Blue Petal (a long time fannish personality who once played in a convention RPG I ran) had passed away.

After that,  I went to the “Navigating the World of Small Press Publishing” panel, with several authors and publishers discussed the joys and pitfalls of working with small presses.  One of the panelists didn’t make it as he was so busy selling his book that he lost track of time.  (Also because last minute mixups meant that panelists weren’t named in the programs.)

Late night was party time (I especially enjoyed the Helsinki Worldcon bid party) and Moneyduck.  For those of you who have not heard of the latter, Moneyduck is a game where you write a word or phrase on a piece of paper and pass it to the next person.  That person draws a picture of the words.   They then conceal the original phrase and pass it to the next person, who writes words based on the pictures.  Repeat until the paper has gone all the way around the table.

On Saturday morning, I went to the Catherynne Valente Reading, where she gave us a snippet from her upcoming Fairyland book.  Should be interesting.

That afternoon, I moderated the “Anime for Speculative Fiction Fans” panel, the recommendations from which are in an earlier post.   There was a young woman in the front row who wanted to study moderation as she will be doing that for a Hetalia panel at ConVergence; that inspired me to do a good job, and I am told it showed.

Later that afternoon,  I also participated on the “Page 117” panel.   The idea was to pick a random page from a book, in this case the hundred and seventeenth, and read it aloud.  The panelists and audience then discussed whether they’d continue reading based on that page.   As it turns out, some good books have boring 117s.  One particular volume had a page that was so over the top macho action that it set me to giggles, even more when it was revealed that the protagonist was a woman.   All my entries were from books I was donating to the freebie table; they were all gone by the end of the day, and I hope the new owners enjoy them.

I wrapped up my panels for the day with “The Year in SF”  by which was meant primarily SF books.  There’s a few I am looking forward to seeing.  The parties I spent the most time at were the Ethel Romm Meet & Greet, and the Livejournal Party.

Sunday morning, I went to the Film Room’s presentation of “Wolf Children,” an anime movie about a widow who has to raise her kids/cubs alone in a world that hates and fears wolves.  It’s a bit melancholy.  After that was done, I stopped by the end of the Janny Wurtz interview.

My main panel for the day was “Maenads, Oracles and Madwomen”, which turned out to be mostly about Baba Yaga and how she is a liminal figure.  (One of the panelists mentioned how nice it was to be around a group of people who used the word “liminal” in conversation.)  After that, it was time for the “Mega Moneyduck Reveal” event.  A roll of paper had been set up by the Consuite, and the game had been played all weekend.  What started as the phrase “silent and very fast” wound up being something about birthday cake. There were some hilarious segues.

Closing ceremonies were also fun.  Catherynne Valente mentioned that she’d been nominated for a Hugo award; we’ll see how she does.  The ceremony culminated in the usual assassination of the MnStf President, and then it was time to go home.

The book I was reading for most of the weekend was “The Why of Things”, about causality.  it sparked several interesting conversations.  I’ll have a review of it up in a few days.  I also got to see pieces of three Syfy Original Movies, which all appeared to be parodies of giant monster flicks.

Next year is Minicon 50, which will be four (exhausting) days, and the planned guests of honor are Larry Niven, Jane Yolen, Brandon Sanderson and Adam Stemple.  You might want to get your registration in early.

Anime for Speculative Fiction Fans

This last weekend at Minicon 49, I moderated a panel on “Anime for Speculative Fiction Fans.”   As is common at this sort of thing, a lot of series and films were mentioned very briefly, and not everyone had the opportunity to write them all down.  Therefore, I promised to put up a list.  I should note that this list covers a wide variety of genres and styles, so you may see things that are not to your taste.

Wolf Children
Wolf Children

In roughly alphabetical order….

  • Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero:  A story that examines what happens after teens summoned to save magical worlds are returned to Earth.  (Note: the main character is a pervert and the show is heavy on female fanservice.)
  • Akira:  Motorcycle gang members deal with psychic children in a post-World War Three Tokyo.  One of the first anime films to make it big in America, massively compressed from the groundbreaking manga.
  • Appleseed: Post-apocalyptic society building with a heavy emphasis on artificial humans so close to biological ones that the lines are blurred at best.
  • Aria: A very quiet series about gondoliers on a terraformed Mars.  The setting is heavily based on Venice.
  • Attack on Titan:  Action series about humans in a walled city battling anthropophagous giants.  Extremely violent, anyone can die, some fascinating world building.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender/The Legend of Korra: Not actually anime, but heavily influenced by it.  An alternative Earth setting with “benders”, people who can control the classic elements via martial arts training.
  • Azumanga Daioh: A slice of life series about a loose group of friends who go through high school together.  Some mild fantastic elements implied.
  • Big O:  In a city that has lost its memory, negotiator Roger Smith must resort to giant robot battles when negotiations break down.  Noted for a very dubious ending as the third season never materialized.
  • Bubblegum Crisis:  Cyberpunk series about armored vigilantes that fight Boomers, robots that have gone amok (not always by accident.)
  • Chobits:  An impoverished student in a world where personal computers are humanoid in shape, discovers an amnesiac “persocom” in the shape of a young woman lying in the garbage.  some interesting themes of humanity’s interactions with their machines and the effects of computers on society are set aside for soppy romance by the end.
  • Crying Freeman:  A mysterious criminal organization turns an innocent man into their assassin, whose body obeys orders even as his eyes fill with tears.  Quite a lot of sex in this one.
  • Dot Hack: A multimedia series of series revolving around a massive online immersive reality computer game.  Can be confusing, as important information only appears in other stories, not all of which are available in America.  Spawned a number of imitators.
  • Final Fantasy Advent Children:  An animated sequel to the fan favorite Final Fantasy VII video game, demonstrating the advances in computer animation since the game came out.  Cloud and his friends saved the world, but at great cost; can they get together for one last push to keep it saved?
  • Fruits Basket:  An orphaned girl becomes a servant to a big, screwed-up family cursed with animal transformations.  Despite their magical abilities, her compassion may be the strongest power of all.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist/Brotherhood:  There are two series based on the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, as the first one aired while the manga was still ongoing and had to come up with its own ending.  Both series revolve around brothers who practiced forbidden alchemy and paid the price.  They join the military to gain the resources they need to try and make things right.
  • Future Diary:  A young man discovers that his cell phone diary now records what he’s going to do in the future.  which would be cool if there weren’t other people with future diaries who want to kill him.  It seems the last one living will become the new god.  The standout character is Yuuno, the young woman who takes “stalker” to a whole new level.
  • Ghost in the Shell: By the same artist who brought us Appleseed, the cyberpunk tales of a special police unit that deals with cybercrime of all sorts.  The chronology can be confusing, but the themes run deep.
  • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time:  A film about a young woman who discovers the ability to leap to the past and redo events, which she promptly abuses.  But just because you’ve erased an event doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and it turns out there are, in fact, rules and a cost for time travel.
  • Iron Man: Yes, an anime series based on the Iron Man movies, and thus on the comic books.  Tony Stark goes to Japan and fights opponents based on Zodiac creatures.
  • Karneval:  A very new series about a young burglar, a mysterious albino boy, and a government agency they join for protection when a bioaugmentation organization puts them on its hit list.
  • Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya:  The title character is a young woman who longs for excitement in her life, so creates a club to seek out weirdness.  She is unaware that most of the club members are in fact the weirdness she seeks, or that she herself has a hidden power.  Hugely popular.
  • Moretsu Space Pirates: “Bodacious” space pirates in the American market due to the direct interpretation “flaming” being even less felicitous.  A young woman discovers that she is the heir to a pirate ship.  “Pirates” in this future are actually privateers, and it’s mostly for show…but then the politics start happening.  Notable for centering around a good mother/daughter relationship and female friendships without making the male supporting characters useless or invisible.
  • Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit:  A spearwoman becomes bodyguard to a prince who appears to be possessed by an evil spirit.  Things are much, much more complicated than they seem.  Notable for such things as having a heroine that’s pushing thirty, good worldbuilding (the author is an anthropology major) and not having a villain as such–everyone is trying to do the right thing, they just violently disagree on what that is.
  • Nichijou:  The ordinary life of four ordinary high school girls, one of whom happens to be a robot.  The closest genre might be “magical realism”; many strange and wonderful things happen, but it’s all part of the characters’ ordinary life.
  • Planetes: A hard science fiction series about astronauts whose job it is to clear space junk from Earth’s orbit.  Very down-to-earth (pun intended).
  • Project A-ko:  A girl with superpowers and her ditzy best friend transfer to a new school, where they meet a snobby girl with mechanical genius and a grudge against them.  Their battle is interrupted by an alien invasion.  Lots of fun.
  • Psycho Pass:  In the future, the cops have a way of detecting whether you are likely to commit a crime.  And if you detect too highly, they might act pre-emptively.  Dark.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:  A girl named Madoka is offered a wish, any one wish, in exchange for which she must become a magical girl and fight “witches.”  Her new friend Homura doesn’t want her to do this, and there are a variety approaches to the life of magical girls.  This is a deconstruction of magical girl tropes, so you may want to watch some Sailor Moon or Pretty Cure or other “standard” magical girl show first.
  • Queen’s Blade:  In a fantasy land, several women compete in a tournament to see which of them will become the next queen.   Extremely heavy on the erotic fanservice, but oddly feminist otherwise; the women have varied personalities, agendas and agency.  It’s a love/hate show.
  • Record of Lodoss War:  Essentially Dungeons and Dragons: The Anime.  On the island of Lodoss, a small band of adventurers discover that a secret hand is behind the wars that rack their lands.  There are two continuities, the direct to video version, and the television series.  the latter replaces the last third of the video version and moves on to a “next generation” plotline.
  • Robotech:  An oldie but a goodie, it took Macross and two other mecha series from Japan and edited them together into a surprisingly coherent continuity.    In what is now an alternate history, an alien craft landed on Earth, and was turned into our planet’s best defense against the aliens who had sent it.
  • Rosario + Vampire:  A “harem” series about a boy who mistakenly transfers into a school for monsters, many of whom appear to be pretty girls.  Some exciting fight scenes with the many monsters, but also much fanservice.
  • Samurai Champloo:  In a rather odd version of Meiji Restoration Japan, a samurai, a renegade swordsman, and a young woman search for “the samurai that smells like sunflowers.”  Interesting music.
  • Serial Experiments Lain:  A young woman builds her own computer, and connects to the Wired.  Government agents are not pleased by this.  Very surreal, and a mind screw.
  • Summer Wars:  A young man is dragooned into posing as his classmate’s fiance during her family reunion.  Meanwhile, a hostile program has taken over a major Internet hub.  These things turn out to be much more connected than they might look.  Very much a family movie, though the dub adds extra cursing.
  • Tiger and Bunny:  A superhero story in which the heroes are commercially sponsored and appear on a reality show.  Surprisingly much less cynical than that sounds, it’s very much a homage to American comic books.
  • Witch Hunter Robin:  Government agencies track down and capture/kill mutants known as “witches.”  Robin herself is a witch who serves humanity.  But is she really on the side of good?
  • Wolf Children:  A woman falls in love and marries a man who is also a wolf.  But he dies shortly after their second child is born, so she must raise their kids/cubs alone in a world that hates and fears wolves.
  • Yokohama Shopping District:  A very humanoid robot runs a cafe at the end of the world as we know it.  Humanity is almost gone, but our creations live on.  A very quiet story.
  • Yume Tsukai: “The Dream Master”; the main characters have the ability to pacify nightmares, turning them into restful dreams.  Which is kind of important when the nightmares can manifest in the real world.
  • Zipang:  A modern day Japanese destroyer travels through time to World War Two, and changes the course of history.  No take-backs, no reset button ending, and semi-realistic consequences, especially when the current Japanese try to interact with their historical counterparts.

Did we miss your favorite title?  Want to expand on the descriptions?  Just have some questions about anime?  Let us know in the comments!

Open Post: Top Ten as of Right Now

I’ll be away from my computer for the next little while, so let’s have a Top Ten list post!

Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.
Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.

These are the top ten content posts for the last year.

  1. Anime Review: Labyrinth of Magic
  2. Manga Review: Vagabond Volume 1
  3. Book Review: Good Advice from Bad People (really rocketed up the charts!)
  4. Manga Review: Ayako
  5. Comic Book Review: 47 Ronin
  6. Book Review: Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right
  7. Book Review: The 47 Ronin
  8. Comic Strip Review: Dick Tracy
  9. Anime Review: Kill la Kill
  10. Manga Review: A*Tomcat

The “all time” list is identical, except that Kill la Kill and A*Tomcat trade places.

What reviews have you enjoyed?  How’s life treating you?

Have a happy Easter!

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