When the original Fate/stay night anime came out in 2006 I watched a couple of episodes and quickly dropped it. It didn’t seem very compelling and since it was from Studio DEEN it didn’t look very good.
Then Ufotable came out with a prequel called Fate/Zero in 2011-12. I found this much more interesting: dark but thrilling.
Now Ufotable has completed a remake of the original series called Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] (Crunchyroll.) This has a somewhat different storyline from the Studio DEEN version. (The Ufortable version apparently gives us the “True Ending” from the original visual novel.)
In terms of pure storytelling craftsmanship I think that Fate/Zero is superior to FsnUBW. However taken together they tell a pretty compelling story. Fate/Zero was a classical tragedy. FsnUBW is a bit more upbeat–perhaps not everyone’s idea of a happy ending, but maybe we could call it an “optimal ending.”
So I can give this series a qualified recommendation. I enjoyed it but it’s definitely not for everyone.
Rin-ne a.k.a. Kyoukai no Rinne (Crunchyroll) is a somewhat old-fashioned but very funny new anime series from one of the greatest living old masters of manga.
Rumiko Takahashi was the first woman to succeed in the hotly competitive world of shounen manga without using a male pseudonym. She was responsible for 4 previous popular long-running anime series: Urusei Yatsura (1981-86), Maison Ikkoku (1986-88), Ranma ½ (1989-92) and Inuyasha (2000-04, 2009-10).
If you’re familiar with Rumiko Takahashi’s earlier work, the main point I want to emphasize is that this is not like Inuyasha. Rin-ne is closer in spirit to her earlier farces Urusei Yatsura and Ranma ½.
I’ve seen quite a few shoujo romantic comedies but never one like My Love Story!! (Ore Monogatari!!) (Crunchyroll.)
Takeo Gouda, the protagonist, is a big, dumb, homely lunk with a heart of gold. He’s huge and scary-looking, not to mention socially clueless, so people tend to shy away from him. However those who know him know that he is decent, loyal and goodhearted.
(OK, this is Japan so he’s probably 5’11”. But let’s play along with it.)
I was surprised that Kamisama Kiss 2 (Hulu) ended without resolving the story of Akura-Ou. In fact it left him pretty much where he started at the beginning of the season, though perhaps influenced just a little bit by Nanami. It’s almost as if they were counting on having another season to wrap it up. (For a mainstream shoujo anime without a daytime TV distribution deal that seems like a long shot.)
But the ending feels quite satisfactory in its own way. It takes us on a trip back through time to show us Nanami as a little girl, growing up with an irresponsible father and a dying mother who extracted a final promise from her to “never depend on a man.”
Maria the Virgin Witch (Hulu) was a series that regularly exceeded my expectations but I was somewhat disappointed by the ending. When an anime is based on an ongoing manga the ending is often a problem. Usually they just try to find an appropriate stopping point. Sometimes this works well and sometimes it doesn’t.
An alternative is for the anime production staff to come up with their own ending, different from the manga. That seems to be what was done here. This is problematic, especially with high-quality source material. The better written the original source is, the less likely it is that the studio screenwriters will be able to come up with something that lives up to its standards.
Death Parade (Hulu) deserves a lot of praise. The writing is sharp and insightful. The production values are excellent. At the beginning I was afraid that it might turn into a formulaic “villain of the week goes to hell” series. It turned out to be much more sophisticated than that.
Still this won’t appeal to everyone. Much of it is rather dark. To me it feels brilliant but a bit cold. The ending is bittersweet, not truly upbeat. Given the subject matter this is probably the best that can be expected.
Yona of the Dawn (Crunchyroll) had as good an ending as we could have reasonably hoped for. Since this is based on an ongoing manga, and has apparently been following it pretty faithfully, there was no chance that it would end with the heroine fulfilling her quest. Instead this turns out to have been the story of how a naive young girl becomes a hero, and how she decides what her quest is. Viewed in those terms it seems quite satisfactory.
This has been a high-quality show with great production values and smart writing that constantly surprised me. It has an unusual mix of romantic fantasy and hard-headed realism that I somehow find very appealing.
I was interested to see what Kenneth Branagh, a director best known for his acclaimed Shakespeare adaptations, would do with Cinderella (IMDB). There have been innumerable adaptations of this story…and I wouldn’t say that this one is the best. (I particularly like 1998’s Ever After (IMDB)).
But Branagh was hired to do a live-action, non-musical remake of Disney’s 1950 animated Cinderella (IMDB) and he probably did as good a job as anyone could have done within those constraints. The movie looks great and adds some nice touches to the original Disney story.
I particularly like the way that the new version fleshes out the character of the Prince (Richard Madden) including his relationship with his father (Derek Jacobi.) The other roles are, as might be expected, pretty one-dimensional, but Cate Blanchett at least manages to make the Evil Stepmother seem believable.
The scenery and special effects look great, as one would expect. Whatever Disney’s faults, they can at least be counted on to deliver first-rate CGI. (As opposed to the cut-rate washed-out crap that we sometimes get from other studios.) It’s easy to shrug this off, but it really takes a lot of talent, money and effort to make these effects look seamless. I have to give credit where it is due.
I wouldn’t say that this is a great classic but it is a entertaining diversion.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (IMDB) is, of course, a sequel to the 2012 hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. And the title seems appropriate: compared to the original this is definitely “second best.”
Still it’s not too bad. It has an extremely talented cast and if you enjoyed the original there’s a pretty good chance that you will enjoy the sequel, though maybe not quite as much. It just doesn’t have the same level of energy and originality as the first movie.
The story picks up a few months after the first movie. Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tina Desai) are planning their wedding, but Sonny seems to only have time for his business plans. The hotel has become such a success as a makeshift retirement community that it is full up, and Sonny has decided to expand by buying a vacant hotel and fixing it up. But he needs a financial backer, so he and Muriel (Maggie Smith) fly off to America, hoping to affiliate with an American chain.