Seraphim Call

By bluemist on October 15th, 2009

Seraphim Call

11 girls, 11 stories, 12 episodes. Seraphim Call takes you to a journey throughout the city of Neo-Acropolis, seeing many ways of life and love through the experiences of these 11 girls.

In almost the same way as Sentimental Journey, Seraphim Call is a series of 11 separate stories for 11 different characters, with the final episode only bringing them together by way of being subtle acquaintances living in the same city. You can say this is just an amusing anthology of separate anime girl stories. On the other hand, I can see some splashes of genius in this otherwise old anime. It is as if this anime was set up as an experimental testbed. Each episode has a radically different writing and directing style. Episode 2, for example, is entirely shot from one camera angle. Episode 4 employs rapid scene-jumping from one timeline to another. Episode 5-6 are essentially mirrors of each other giving a different viewpoint. Episode 10 shows manga panels brought to life. Finally, episode 11 has a surreal feeling where only one character is actually onscreen. The rest, while relatively normal by comparison, have quite good stories in itself. Some of them though have unusual twists at the end which spoil the otherwise good run.

These characters were made and drawn by Aoi Nanase. She is quite popular for her bishoujo drawing style. Seraphim Call, along with the rush of dating sims during the late 90’s, may have instigated the early wave of bishoujo fandom. Seraphim Call was actually serialized and featured in G’s Magazine before it went anime. Maybe this was one of the early historic templates on how to make a multimedia bishoujo franchise. What followed it after all (Sister Princess, Happy Lesson, Futakoi, Strawberry Panic) had similar approaches of having around 12 girls in the roster, along with having multiple media forms like illustrations, short stories, manga, music and video. Seraphim Call may have followed a similar approach at the height of its popularity back then, but as it’s quite old and rare to find the only remaining memorials would be the anime and this fansite which catalogs the various media related to the franchise.

It’s certainly an interesting old piece, although I liked the set of girls in Sentimental Journey a tad better. Sad enough, all these characters are locked forever in their respective one-shot episodes. Same way as in the anime mentioned, each episode in Seraphim Call is so very appealing and interesting on its own, you’d regret the recent anime for losing the quality of old ones like these. I don’t have an idea of what kind of trend this was, or if there are other similar anime I haven’t discovered yet. One thing is these two are produced by Sunrise, so I wonder if they have more of this kind. It strikes me with a strong aura of nostalgia, when animation wasn’t done digitally yet animated well enough to immerse and entertain a tad better (sometimes) than the current animes of today. Seraphim Call is yet another example of a wonderfully old anime, and I certainly hope I could journey into the past for more old gems.

Episode_1:_Kurimoto_Yukina
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– Yukina is a high-school girl who is also a renowned inventor.
– She is extremely scared of guys.
– The city has a terrorist threat of bombs going off, and Yukina is the only one who can diffuse it.
– The authorities try to seek for her help, but she refuses because of her phobia, to the point of actually fainting asleep.
– Despite this, she went to the scene hiding herself inside a robot.
– The police want to confirm her identity, so she said only the chief may look. All others were ordered not to.
– But when the chief remarked that she’s cute, the other police went to peek. Her phobia returned and she fainted again.
– She woke up to the sound of her best friend, and successfully defused the bomb in the nick of time. Then she faints again in front of the inspector.
– She apologized for all the trouble by making a robot of herself to go say sorry to the authorities.

Episode_2:_Teramoto_Tanpopo
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– This episode is entirely shot from the viewpoint of Tanpopo’s new doll, Margarine.
– Tanpopo loves dolls, and oddly, always talks to them as if they were friends.
– We see her day schooling by distance learning through the computer, drawing with crayons and telling stories to her dolls.
– After gym class which is actually outside, Tanpopo talks to her dolls about her best friend Chihiro’s secret crush.
– Chihiro visits Tanpopo. Tanpopo introduces Chihiro to her new dolls.
– Chihiro thinks Tanpopo is too childish, and she should stop talking to her dolls and making fantasy stories.
– It turned into a petty fight, and Chihiro went away. Tanpopo cries, wondering why her friends can’t talk to dolls anymore.
– Chihiro apologizes later by voice mail, saying that Tanpopo should never change. Tanpopo is happy again.
– Err… the next day, the police discovered that the viewpoint from Margarine’s eye is actually a hidden camera by stalkers.

Episode_3:_Ose_Chinami
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– Chinami likes baking as a hobby. Her best friend Noriko says she’ll get fat from trying all the cakes she makes.
– Chinami’s father and mother are divorced. Chinami and her two younger siblings live with the father. The mother still meets them sometimes.
– The father talks to Chinami why she doesn’t want to go abroad anymore. She wanted to go to France to study pastry making.
– Chinami now wants to find work she can do at home, so she can also look over the house duties. Her father is busy with his work, and it may be harder for them without Chinami around.
– Dining at a restaurant with her mother, Chinami discovered that one of the chefs in the restaurant is her mother’s new boyfriend.
– Noriko talks to the mother about Chinami worrying too much over family and not thinking about her goals. Noriko wants her friend to succeed in baking and have a cake shop someday.
– That’s also why the mother revealed about her fiance. The father lectured Chinami similarly about how families are supposed to support each other’s happiness even if they go their separate ways.
– Chinami challenged the chef in making a cake. The mother will taste and determine which is more delicious.
– With her defeat, Chinami was able to redecide to go to France for her goals.

Episode_4:_Kusunoki_Hatsumi
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– This episode jumps very frequently in different timelines in the story.
– Hatsumi had always been boyish and athletic all her life. She starts to wonder why she isn’t feminine.
– One day she met an interesting girl named Miyabi. Miyabi is an artist, and she wants to draw Hatsumi to reveal her inner beauty.
– Hatsumi rejects the offer because she’ll be posing nude.
– Miyabi believes Hatsumi has an angel deep inside of her. Hatsumi is herself troubled about her personality.
– Miyabi oddly starts to stalk her, writing a big “Hatsumi is beautiful” text on school grounds and following her on her track runs.
– Miyabi applies for a job to coach Hatsumi at the school, and it is revealed that she was also a varsity sprinter in the past.
– To set things straight, Hatsumi challenged Miyabi to a swimming match. Miyabi lost, and so she finally agreed to model for the painting.
– Well… the finished product actually turned out to be an abstract painting rather than a portrait.

Episode_5:_Murasame_Shion
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– Shion is the stronger-willed of the Murasame twins. She always protects her twin sister Sakura. Sakura loves her sister.
– One day, a love letter was addressed to the Murasame residence from an admirer. The first name was burnt off though so they don’t know who it’s for.
– Having a staunt personality, Shion shrugs the love letter off, thinking negatively about things. Sakura argues with her about it, taking a more optimistic approach.
– Shion wants to know more about how Sakura really thinks, and so she uses a certain virtual simulation device to enter Sakura’s personality virtually.
– We are now projected into a series of scenes where the sisters are talking. It is unclear which is real and which is virtual. There was even a knife and stabbing sequence.
– The point though is Shion discovers that Sakura is envious about her intelligence, and thinks she doesn’t compare.
– Also, Sakura fears that Shion might leave her if she accepts the admirer.
– Nevertheless, they agree that the simulation device and the letter only sent them astray, and decided to get rid of those.
– Finally, Sakura and Shion tests if they were in the real world… by kissing each other!

Episode_6:_Murasame_Sakura
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– Shion is the more introverted of the Murasame twins. She always looks over her twin sister Shion as her guidance. Shion loves her sister.
– One day, a love letter was addressed to the Murasame residence from an admirer. The first name was burnt off though so they don’t know who it’s for.
– Having a staunt personality, Shion shrugs the love letter off, thinking negatively about things. Sakura argues with her about it, taking a more optimistic approach.
– Sakura wants to know more about how Shion really thinks, and so she (also) uses a certain virtual simulation device to enter Shion’s personality virtually.
– We are now projected into a series of scenes where the sisters are talking. It is unclear which is real and which is virtual. There was even a knife and stabbing sequence.
– The point though is Sakura discovers that Shion is envious about her attractiveness, and thinks she doesn’t compare.
– Also, Shion fears that Sakura might leave her if she accepts the admirer.
– Nevertheless, they agree that the simulation device and the letter only sent them astray, and decided to get rid of those.
– Finally, Sakura and Shion tests if they were in the real world… by kissing each other!
– It is revealed that the stabbing actually happened with Shion injured in the hands, and that the admirer was actually addressing the love letter to… the Murasame twins’ mother!

Episode_7:_Hiragi_Saeno
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– Saeno is an English teacher, who actually reveals to three of her students that she likes Mathematics very much.
– One day, Saeno along with the students visit a nearby library to visit Professor Rosencrantz, who actually passed away 5 years ago.
– Saeno admired Rosencrantz’s expertise in the past, but she worries that he seems to waste his time on proving a “theory” that a square can be drawn the same size as a circle.
– The theory seems impossible to solve because of the number pi, which is “assumed” to be infinite.
– 10 years ago, Rosencrantz discovered a secret hallway at school, with mathematical equations pertaining to try to prove the theory, and found a pi book with all the decimal digits that have been discovered so far.
– Rosencrantz discovered that the pi book’s owner was a little girl… who was actually revealed to be a young Saeno herself in an alternate past reality. She was the one continuing the equations.
– Simply put, the secret hallway projects a time and reality paradox.
– Present-day Saeno went to the hallway, and met the Rosencrantz from 5 years ago, continuing the calculations to solve for more pi digits.
– Rosencrantz said that the world, and life itself, may be an endless calculation, and thinking of it that way, no mathematical quest is a waste of time.
– To further the research, Saeno went back in time to give the updated pi book to the young Saeno. This way, the solution for the theory progresses as each cycle of the time paradox happens.

Episode_8:_Rindoh_Ayaka
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– Ayaka is a rich and spoiled girl who just bought an expensive giant robot lizard as a pet.
– Her father wants to teach her the value of money, and convinces her to get a part-time job.
– Ayaka did get a part-time job as helper of a ramen shop.
– But then some trouble breaks loose in the city, so she neglects her ramen delivery job and went into her secret job as a superhero!
– Along with 4 other members (disguised normally as the Rindoh mansion helpers) and their robot mechas, they chase some jewel thieves!
– During the chase, her dad gets injured, and her pet lizard caught one of the thieves.
– Her pet lizard also helped deliver the ramen… late delivery though.

Episode_9:_Kurenai_Kasumi
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– “Kasumi” is a person who has become a urban myth/legend of sorts, with girls idolizing her and her various stories of being a strong woman.
– Most all of these stories are just hearsay, and that it accidentally started from what she did at a park fountain, which had then become a good luck ritual for girls.
– An idol news reporter, Lulu, is a rabid fan of the Kasumi legend, and follows it with much dedication as she reports.
– The real Kasumi though is actually the cameraman of the crew with her identity not revealed. Kasumi starts commenting negatively about the legend, and Lulu always confronts her.
– They continue filming reports. Kasumi herself would star as the legend Kasumi in some re-enactments with people who allegedly talked to Kasumi and were enlightened.
– Kasumi asks why Lulu hasn’t been going to school. It is revealed that Lulu is running away from a broken heart when her crush liked someone else.
– Lulu thinks she can improve herself with the legend Kasumi as her model, and is angry at Kasumi for always picking on the legend.
– Lulu re-enacts a dangerous motorcycle stunt done by Kasumi. She pushed herself too much, and so Kasumi jumped to save her.
– Kasumi reveals herself to Lulu. Kasumi quit being a legend trying to match up to people’s expectations, and is trying to find her real self. She told Lulu to be her best the way she is.

Episode_10:_Matsumoto_Kurumi
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– Kurumi is a mangaka under a male pen name publishing her new manga called “Real Blue”, which is about a setting of a boy and a girl living together.
– Kurumi’s best friend thinks that she is living like the characters in Real Blue, because a guy called Satoshi suddenly moved temporarily in to her home.
– Satoshi and Kurumi don’t talk much though, and her experience with him isn’t like the manga she writes at all.
– Satoshi aspires to be a photographer. His father takes pictures to depict reality, but he believes otherwise, and that people sees a picture in different ways and interpretations.
– She is starting to struggle with her manga work, with her friend and even Satoshi saying that the manga is shallow and cliched.
– Kurumi starts to take the manga in complicated situations, similar to what Satoshi said about interpretations. Still, it’s not the way she wants it to go.
– Satoshi is about to move away again to live with his own father.
– Before he leaves, Satoshi tells that he changed his beliefs as a photographer. What’s important is the fact that he took the picture, and though people see the picture differently, each interpretation is real.
– Kurumi succeeded in giving an appropriate ending for her manga.

Episode_11:_Tachibana_Urara
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– This episode is animated with Urara as the sole character in an opera-like setting. Other characters do not show or speak up onscreen.
– Urara has a complex for her late father, and she wants to be a city architect like him. He doesn’t have interest in other boys. Her mother is quite weak.
– Her mother and her friends tease her for being close to a certain boy, but she repeatedly denies liking him.
– Nevertheless, Urara and the guy go frequently to movies and are quite close together. He plays the piano and Urara frequently listens.
– One day, while they’re watching a movie, the boy confesses to Urara.
– Urara was unable to answer him even when he called over the cellphone. Also, she doesn’t seem to care even though another girl wants to date the boy.
– The boy left for Austria.
– Urara’s mother fainted due to sickness, and so she was confined in the hospital. Her mother had to move outside the city for cleaner air.
– Urara experienced a dream sequence with her father. The father says that her problems are just part of growing up, and assures that everything will be alright.
– It is implied that Urara has moved on from her father-complex.

Episode_12:_Sacred_Night_of_the_Seraphim
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– This episode combines all 11 heroines together for a city event in which their faces are shown up to the moon to show that beautiful angels live in their city.

Aoi Hana

By bluemist on October 11th, 2009

Aoi Hana

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I love slice-of-life series because it takes me into a leisurely pace without much heavy or sad emotions to worry about. Aoi Hana is one example of an anime that just walks you softly into a realistic world where love, while complicated at times, is just that… love. I would want to pace this review similarly slow as well, because this may be the first time I have actually dealt with girls love (yuri) as a topic. I am on the opposite sex of course, and so our tendencies to like yuri things may be a bit sexual by nature. Fortunately… and a bit unfortunately, this anime isn’t anything like that at all. It is a female-oriented show designed for a unique female-oriented feeling, and therefore I need quite a bit of my shoujo-loving power for this one. Well okay, the anime may not be that deep to warrant any discussion about yuri actually, but I hope I can convey my interest in this series as lightly as possible.
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Saki

By bluemist on October 3rd, 2009

Saki

There’s a certain way of feeling in my watching of anime that I dub as the “shounen feel”. It’s a bit hard to explain, but you kinda feel this whenever you are hooked into a certain shounen anime so much that you just had to watch that next episode or read the next manga chapter. In some cases, this feeling will hook you into the anime even though you don’t know much about the actual subject matter at hand. One of my personal best examples of this oddity would be the anime Hikaru no Go. From the start until the very end of the anime, even with the bonus video lessons they show, I learned and knew JACK about Igo as a board game. Yet, I regard that as one of the best shounen anime I have seen. Similarly, Saki brings me into the world of mahjong. While mahjong is a bit easier to understand, I still had problems keeping up. Yet, despite the lack of mahjong knowledge and my hate towards useless fanservice, Saki keeps the shounen feel strong.
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Hatsukoi Limited

By bluemist on June 28th, 2009

Hatsukoi Limited

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Let me just say this up front. I can’t believe myself. How could I consider Hatsukoi Limited, a stereotypical, fanservice-laden, straightforward series with one-dimensional characters and simplistic plot as one of the best romance animes ever made? This anime panders to the male audience. The girls are of different but typical flavors of hawtness. The guys have their loser qualities just the way it should be in this genre. All of them entangled in a Web 2.0 style relationship chart, which is really the only complex thing in this show. Everything about this spelled “shallow”. “Dumbed down”. “Bland”. “Generic”. Yet with all this negativity… I love this show! I love this anime with an almost guilty, embarassing passion! So to anyone still not intimidated by all the bad things I said about this anime so far, please read on. Let’s try to discover why the hell Hatsukoi Limited is freaking awesome. Let me say that again: Hatsukoi Limited is FREAKING AWESOME!

We begin with a not-so-limited number of boys and girls in middle and high school, the oh-so-typical setting for multiple “first loves” to bloom. And bloom they did, as each episode focuses on one or two girls with their first experiences at this simple, yet confusing feeling called love. If you have any kind of fetish in your 2D girl fandom, they probably have it in this show. We have a cute girl who’s dangerously strong despite the looks. The optimal cool beauty who’s quite a newbie in the love department. The worst (best?) onii-chan complex in any anime ever. The big-bust swimming girl who actually doesn’t like being well-endowed. The cool beauty #2 tennis superstar. The all-systems-completely-normal girl that had the best episode in the anime. And finally, my personal favorite, the ultimate rendition of tsundere. These seven girls are paired with no less than nine guys – the kind yankee, the normal guy, the semi-normal guy, the ero-kappa, the siscon, the anti-siscon, the tennis guy, the swimming guy, and the alpha painter guy. Along with side characters, this provides probably a very confusing relationship chart considering it’s just a 12-episode anime. After a few episodes though, you would eventually get a hold of these characters, simply because they are… er… simple.

The attitudes of each character are so strongly-typed that they seem to give every single cliche in the harem book a run for its money. The girls, they are hot. The guys, most of them are losers in their own domains. How does Hatsukoi Limited succeed then, being the complete encyclopedia of what is right and wrong about harem anime? My answer may be as confusing as “first love” itself! The anime merely “clicked” on me. I read the manga beforehand and I really didn’t think it were anything special. But then the anime came and had this awesome presentation, all elements laid in perfect symphony with each other. The animation, the music, the story pace, all very entertaining. Everytime I watch a single episode, it feels like an event. For many weeks, it had been my Sunday show, getting and watching the raws first before watching the same episode AGAIN with the subs. I would make worthless Twitter posts about how awesome the episode is even if I can’t describe it well within the character limit. In this time when I treat most anime as an “I can always watch an episode later” afterthought, Hatsukoi Limited is the single anime which I just HAVE to watch as immediate as possible. This is indeed, love at first sight.

In Hatsukoi Limited, romance is unlimited. From a simple blush to the heartful embrace, everything is endearing. There is always something innocent and pure about a “first love”, and this series just expresses that in every example that it makes. The way each character learns about love is what made this anime go deeper than its otherwise generic exterior. The development goes beyond the one-dimensional phase of these characters, with them asking each other and even themselves about love. How would I react to a love confession? How could I confess to a childhood friend? How should I serve onii-chan today (this is a joke)? How can I get over my complex and please my love? How can I hold her hand? How can I show him my affections? Why is my love so shallow? Why am I holding on despite her loving someone else? Why me? How can I be a better person? How can I be true to my feelings?

These questions, while simple, feels real. It’s actually the way we deal with emotions in our own lives. When you add these thoughts and self-reflections into the equation, all that shallow and bland exterior goes away. Hatsukoi Limited is a show where you really shouldn’t judge it from its cover. This is not just about fanservice or about unreal situations to fuel any otaku’s wish fulfillments. It’s a show about love, in a simple and complex way, when it is your first time at it.

I highly commend the animators at J.C. Staff for this. This is essentially the spiritual predecessor to any excellent romantic comedy anime that they have made, particularly Kimikiss ~pure rouge~. The feel of that series is here, the same “kilig moments” (sweet romantic moments), camera panning cinematography styles, and to how exceptional the music blends with the current scene. They have modified an otherwise normal manga into a highly coherent piece, mixing up multiple storylines to make it less confusing, and even changing some events slightly. I feel rather bad about the original manga actually, because with that complex relationship chart, the series is clearly gunning for a long serialization. But the series was unfortunately cut short due to some reason, and so the ending feels kinda rushed. The anime ended more or less the same way, but the modifications made it completely tolerable. In fact, they made it superior to the original source itself. It’s rare that an anime can go beyond its source material, but somehow with Kimikiss (with its typical bishoujo game roots) and now Hatsukoi Limited, they pulled it off. J.C. Staff is having hit after hit in this genre for quite a while, I should enjoy more of their works.

What else can I say? I really hope I had convinced you to watch this show if you haven’t already. I would admit, part of my excitement about this anime is my own version of overhype, but what’s wrong about that? One of the girls in the series just nailed that point. If you’re in love, you are in love. That’s it. No ifs, no buts. And as one of the songs in the anime goes, it’s just something you feel, and the feeling won’t stop. You want the whole world to know about it, before it fades away hidden within the many other anime people are more likely to watch than this. To me, Hatsukoi Limited is an instant classic. Highly recommended. I hope you feel the same way.

Hitohira

By bluemist on May 17th, 2009

Hitohira
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Once in a while these things pop up, a slice-of-life anime gem that most of us may have skipped in favor of other more hyped series running in the same season. Hitohira had absolutely nothing going for it. High-school setting about a drama club, zzzzz. Didn’t hook me up that much from the get-go. But what I was about to experience is something special. It may not have the greatest story in the world, but it is a story well told, by very lovable and relatable characters.
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Canvas 2 ~Niji-iro no Sketch~

By bluemist on March 17th, 2009

Canvas 2

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In a cookie-cutter world of bishoujo anime, sometimes there are a few series that surprise and amaze me, one of which is Canvas 2. I actually watched this during a recent vacation trip of mine, and it never failed me at all during the boring bus rides. Canvas 2 is a witty, smart, and effective romantic comedy that tries to humanize the usual bishoujo romance and add not only an artistic element (focusing on art and drawings), but also real-life concerns and decision-making.
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