Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Mini Review: Fruits Basket

If I could describe the anime series Fruits Basket in only one word, it would be 'charming.' Utterly adorable and I'm kind of in love with it.

It takes a lot to make my cry at a fictional story, so when I say that there were some moments in Fruits Basket that made me tear up a little, that's saying a lot. It's primarily a comedy and a very funny one at that, but there are some moments that are genuinely tragic and work really well because the characters are so well developed, and you care about them.

The premise is reasonably simple. Recently orphaned high school student Tohru Honda becomes a live in housekeeper for three young men who are members of the wealthy Sohma family. Before you think something sleazy is going on, don't worry, the Sohma boys not only won't lay a hand on her, they are incapable of doing so. They are afflicted by a strange family curse that causes them to turn into one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac when they are weak or hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Hijinks ensue.

-Tohru's saintlike personality and near-constant gullibility got a bit annoying after a while, but overall she's still a well developed character whom I like. The way she deals with the loss of her mother is very well done.

-I liked the continued emphasis on Tohru's female friendships, and that said female friends were more than stereotypical cut outs. Uotani and Hanajima are well developed characters in their own right. They also provide a lot of the comedy without merely existing to be comedic foils for other characters, which is also nice to see. I love fiction that focuses on female friendship, so I really enjoyed this aspect of the series.

-The animation in this series is... not great. It's pretty cheap and there are some obvious moments where they cut corners. That being said, the artwork is very nice to look at and the expressiveness of the faces almost makes up for the cheap animation. But then again, my favourite anime is and always will be Sailor Moon. Cheap and dated animation clearly doesn't bother me that much. It's a matter of taste.

- The ending of Fruits Basket leaves a lot to be desired, and it's my understanding that this bothers a lot of fans of the series. It doesn't really resolve anything and the only answers we get bring up even more questions. It's also my understanding that these plot points get resolved in the manga, and while the anime is widely loved, the manga is regarded as a lot better. So guess what I'm reading in my spare time!

I give Fruits Basket an A-. If you're looking for something to watch while curled up on the sofa with a hot glass of milk after a stressful day, this may well be it.

Review: The Avengers

Last night I went to see the midnight premiere of The Avengers, and my opinion can be summed up in one line:

This movie is pure, concentrated awesome.

I have not read The Avengers comics (though I might do so now), but I was easily able to keep track of who everyone was and what was going on, so this is accessable to the casual viewer as well.

I've tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but if you absolutely don't want to be spoiled about anything, proceed with caution.

- What I really loved about this movie was that it's a real ensemble piece. I was worried it would be the Iron Man show and was pleasantly surprised when that did not happen. Each character has their own storylines and arcs. This works to brilliant effect in the fight scenes as each character gets plenty of moments in the spotlight. The action sequences make use of all the Avengers' unique strengths and characteristics, so the action sequences never start to feel same-y. The only one who is underused and thus we connect with the least is Hawkeye, which is a shame as he seems like a pretty interesting character and I'm going to read up on him now. Also I may now ship Hawkeye/Black Widow.

There's plenty of personality clashes particularly between the three egos of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, but there's also a lot of bonding moments too. When the Avengers step out as a team, they feel like a team and it was great to see how they worked together. This is what X-Men: The Last Stand should have been.

- Black Widow was great, proving that it is possible to have a female superhero who isn't just fanservice on screen. I've never been a huge fan of Scarlet Johansson, but she manages to give Black Widow real depth here. She's an intelligent powerhouse who kicks plenty of butt in her own right. I also liked that her story arc didn't centre on a romance, although they're clearly hinting at one.

It was also refreshing to have a female character in an action movie who isn't subject to threats of sexual violence or intimidation, which was a welcome change especially after that episode of Game of Thrones I watched yesterday.

- Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner is the heart of the film, and the Hulk provides a lot of comedy. And smashes.

- The jokes in this movie are great. From the more or less the first scene the zingers start flying. They're funny and witty without being too 'Whedonesque.' It doesn't feel like Joss simply reworked jokes from Buffy.

- The 3D doesn't add all that much apart from a few cool perspective moments. You can enjoy it just as much in 2D and save yourself some money.

- The movie is pretty thin on plot, but that's to be expected in a superhero movie and having a basic main plotline actually worked to the film's advantage in my opinion. It left more time for character interaction rather than trying to cram in tonnes of confusing twists and exposition. Joss Whedon's strengths have always been with character development rather than plots, so keeping things simple was a wise move. One criticism I do have with this is we don't learn much about Loki's army and what their agenda is, but when everything else is so good, who gives a damn.

- This is not a 'serious' superhero movie that goes above and beyond the genre like The Dark Knight. But it is a brilliant example of a comic book action flick done right, with plenty of character moments and humour among the explosions. I give The Avengers an A.

Go see it. You'll have fun.