Monday, April 16, 2012

OVA REVIEWS: Gyo, Hotarubi no Mori E


Something stinks in Okinawa where Kaori and her friends, Erika and Aki, are vacationing pre-college graduation. Before long, the ladies find themselves attacked by walking fish -- that is, fish with mechanical legs! Say what?! It's straight out of science fiction, yo! The first half of this OVA is pretty heady stuff. And by heady, I mean sick, delirious and revolting. The walking fish come marching out of the sea like some really psychotic version of a zombie apocalypse and start attacking humans. Erika, the character who fit the sexy-bitch-who's-so-gonna-die trope, gets infected and turns into this bulbous green...thing that passes gas like no tomorrow. By this time, however, Kaori is off on a plane bound for Tokyo after getting an interrupted call from her fiance, Tadayashi. Fearing for his life, Kaori goes on some half-assed attempt to save him. On her way there, she teams up with Shirakawa, a freelance photographer, who is on the trail of the scoop of his life. What follows next is horror and mayhem in the city with walking sharks and walking squids overwhelming Japan's population.

I had some misapprehensions when I downloaded this anime. I knew it's going to be weird and probably disgusting. That's the consensus I got from people who've seen it. Yet, you're reading the blog of a person who watched The Human Centipede perfectly knowing what she was in for. So yeah, I watched this anime with expectations about the sick factor. And my opinion? I wish the producers had more sense of humor. The material is pretty sick stuff, no doubt, but it's also the sort of thing that could translate well into tongue-in-cheek humor. The potential for black comedy is exponential: there's the girl whose clothes get torn off by a zombie shark, all the fart and halitosis jokes that could go into this, the tentacles, and circus freak show. My god, this is expensive! But what did they give us instead? Some idiotic attempt to turn this into a romantic drama. The art style is okay. I like this sort of style, actually. But the animation is not that good. When I saw the more gory scenes, I found myself wishing the animation was better. The voice acting is bad. Kaori's voice actress especially is not convincing. I just don't believe her. When she's trying to sound scared or devastated, she just comes out flat. By contrast, the side characters do a decent job with what little they have to work with. The characters aren't developed but that's understandable in this genre. They're all victims so they don't have much of a personality -- more cardboard figures. The music fits the themes of this anime but doesn't really stand out. There's no opening theme but there's an ending one and it's a bland opera-inspired tune. The plot is actually one of the stronger showings in Gyo but since it's pointless, it leaves you with no feelings towards the end.

All in all, this is a somewhat entertaining 70-minute OVA -- entertaining in the way maggots consuming something dead and rotten may be entertaining to a select few with iron stomachs. After you get over the stink and all the disgusting factors, it holds a certain fascination. But if you're one of those people with delicate sensibilities, STRONG CAUTION: might cause you to lose your stomach contents earlier than scheduled.

Hotarubi no Mori E

This is the story of Hotaru, a kid who gets lost in an enchanted forest one day and meets Gin, a young man who wears a mask. Gin was a human baby abadoned in the forest a long time ago. The spirits of the forest decide to let him live and in exchange, Gin can never touch another human being or he will disappear. Hotaru befriends Gin and, despite being unable to touch each other, the two of them spend entire summers together. However, as Hotaru grows older, her feelings for Gin likewise grows and evolves into something more than friendship. During Hotaru's last summer before high school, Gin invites her to a summer festival held by the spirits. He reveals that during such festivals, humans sometimes get accidentally mixed up with the spirits. The two have fun together at the fair and afterwards as they are walking away from the revelry, Gin puts his mask over Hotaru's face and kisses it. Just then, a couple of kids run by and one of them slips and almost falls down but for Gin grabbing his arm in the nick of time. The kids soon leave but Hotaru realizes that Gin is glowing. It turns out that the kid is human and Gin having touched him means his enchantment has been broken and he is going to disappear. Instead of being saddened by this, Gin smiles and Hotaru runs into his arms, laughing and crying as Gin disappears.

I read the manga version of this some time ago.  I think the manga is better, although I can't really put a finger on why it's better. It just is. Not that the anime deviates from the manga either. In fact, the anime is pretty faithful to the manga from what I can remember, and maybe that's the reason why the anime falls a little flat for me. This production is by Brains Base, the same guys who brought us Natsume Yuujin-chou and you can tell where the series inspired some of the animation for Hotarubi no Mori E. I think the manga is also done by the same author. The best thing about this anime is the music. This you don't have in the manga and Brains Base made a perfect choice with the arrangements and even the opening and ending themes.

All in all, Hotarubi no Mori E is a quiet anime with an emphasis on subtle drama. I recommend it to people who loved the Natsumi Yuujin-chou series as well as Mushishi. This is not as good as those two but it's short enough and would provide a good introduction to this particular brand of slice of life quiet anime.