Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
  • HOME

Dated 24 October 2008: Shikabane Hime Aka disappoints

Makina does all right for a dead girl.

Since I've only watched the first three episodes, it may be too early to tell (especially for a Gainax show), but I'm not too impressed with Shikabane Hime Aka so far. To tell you the truth, it seems rather insipid. I wouldn't have started it at all were it not for the Gainax involvement, but there's nothing to suggest they had anything to do with it if you just consider the content of the show itself. In fact, the most Gainax-type part as far as I can tell is the character design for Makina.

You can't fool me, Kamika. I bet that's you in the OP.

I'll probably keep watching Shikabane Hime Aka out of general principle, but I've got no reason to prioritize it at all. This is not to say there aren't any bright spots. Horie Yui lending her talents to a mature, adult character is a pleasant departure from her typical teenager roles.

Dated 21 November 2008: Shikabane Hime will go on as long as it has to

Makina deplores your despicable taste in music.

So, there are reports Shikabane Hime: Aka will get a sequel, Shikabane Hime: Kuro, starting in January. I already knew Gainax wouldn't be handling the sequel, but I didn't know the second season would start in January. That means both seasons combined should add up to around 26 episodes. Or does it?

Makina's disguise is infallible.

Watching the first four episodes, I get shounen jive vibes that suggest a Shikabane Hime franchise could run on indefinitely like Bleach, long after my interest has waned. At least so far there hasn't been endless exposition by various characters discussing power levels, so that's good. Maybe I'll be able to make it to the end.

Makina does all right for a dead girl.

To tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure why I look forward to each new episode of Shikabane Hime. I think it's mostly because of the angela OP and partly because it stars a purple-haired character without a squeaky voice. I'm a little put off by Makina's choice of spray-and-pray submachine guns as her preferred method of dispatching the undead. I would have preferred a shovel.

19:01:50< Evirus> I figured out how Shiki keeps her apartment so clean.
19:01:50< Nakar> She never puts anything in it?
19:01:50< Nakar> She doesn't even have anything but water in her fridge
19:01:52< Evirus> I can't tell you. I'm saving the answer for a blog post.

Dated 7 January 2009: End of season review, Autumn 2008

Nodame is more than a little imperfect, but
she makes up for it by being a sweetheart

Autumn 2008 did not produce any stellar shows1, meaning there wasn't a Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, Honey & Clover, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, or the like. There wasn't even a Lovely Complex. However, it did have some very solid titles and a few shows that demonstrated mid-series potential as they resume during the Winter 2009 season.

Not fully pictured: Saki's ridiculously enormous hammer.

Final rankings for shows I watched this season follow:

Kannagi > Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter > Hyakko > Toradora! > Shikabane Hime: Aka > Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight OVA > One Outs | Dropped: Kemeko DX (4) > Kurozuka (4) > Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka (?) > Casshern Sins (1) > Mouryou no Hako (1) > Toaru Majutsu no Index (4) > Michiko to Hatchin (1) | Worse Than Cosprayers: Kiss x Sis (1) > Macademi Wasshoi (1).

Amagasa and Torako
Torako is more than a little imperfect, but
she makes up for it by tormenting people.

Two big surprises this season. First, I had dismissed Kannagi based on its pre-season description, but it proved to be the cream of the crop. Second, I wasn't expecting to still be watching Shikabane Hime at this stage. Thankfully, it has kept shounen jive (e.g., too much standing around talking about powers instead of fighting) to a minimum. By the way, I totally called that Yui Horie twist even before I finished watching episode one, just so you know.

I went 10 episodes before noticing Makina's bare ass in the OP.
Now I can't not see it. It's Shikabane Hime's FEDEX arrow.

To give you an understanding as to how much I loathe shounen jive, bear in mind I dropped To Aru Majutsu no Index after episode four despite fully supporting the Shizuka Itou character's decision to wear half a pair of jeans with her kid sister's t-shirt. I just couldn't take any more speeches about Not Thinking About Other People's Feelings or any more boasting about fine nuances of Special Techniques and Powers. Criminy.

I think I've actually seen people in L.A. dressed like this.

Many of the shows I dropped early on (for example, Casshern Sins) might actually be very good, but just didn't capture my interest. This is the same reason why I dropped Kaiba a couple seasons ago after watching no more than two episodes despite almost universal acclaim, for example.

Note 01: I'm not counting any of the Kara no Kyoukai movies as belonging to the Autumn 2008 season. Any of the films in this series would certainly qualify as stellar.

Dated 20 March 2009: Shikabane Hime is Awesome

Makina is far and away the Best Girl in Shikabane Hime.

Barring sudden reversals in the last few episodes, Shikabane Hime: Kuro is going to be my pick for the best show of this season. I'm as surprised as you. I only started watching Shikabane Hime in the first place because I will try anything by Gainax—and because of its superlovely character design, but let us set that aside for now.

Saki and Rika
Saki and Rika are both token characters, but good ones nevertheless.

I almost rejected Shikabane Hime: Aka in its infancy because it wasn't Gainax enough. From the looks of the early episodes, it was just your standard Monster of the Week action series with some silly, over-the-top fighting and a putz for a male protagonist.

I admit it's hard to take Saki seriously sometimes, though.

But I stayed with it, because there wasn't frankly much else to watch, and it thankfully did not have a whole lot of talking for a shounen show. Or at least the characters kept on fighting while they were talking and left the standing around doing nothing parts to a minimum.

Makina is serious, though. Dead serious.

Plus, Makina's voice sounds more "real" and less "anime." I fully expected her to have a much higher-pitched voice from the character design, but Makina actually sounds like her voice actress might smoke. I really like the qualities of Makina's voice, although sometimes I wish Akiyama Nana and Chiba Saeko had switched roles. The acting is not good enough in some of the early episodes to carry a lead role, although this is not a problem limited to Makina's VA. It turns out much of the voice cast consists of models and idols instead of experienced seiyuu; however, I am pleased to report the acting improves throughout the series.

Shikabane Hime also has a lot of fancy Gainax kicks.

But back to Makina. She was the real reason I kept on watching Shikabane Hime: Aka, and I'm glad I did. Once the Monster of the Week episodes in Aka end, each episode is legitimately interesting. Towards the end of the first season, Shikabane Hime wove enough mystery and suspense to ensure I would stick around for the second part: Shikabane Hime: Kuro. In fact, the end to Aka is FULLY AWESOME. Okay, technically the end to Aka is a clip show/epilogue, but getting to that point is FULLY AWESOME.

Itsuki realizes the magnitude of her mistake.

Shikabane Hime: Kuro has the difficult task of asking me to take Ouri seriously, but I am tolerant so far. It is Makina's ties to Keisei that really carry the show for me, to tell you the truth. Despite this uphill battle, Kuro has been solid. It has earned this season's number one ranking, and I expect it to remain that way if reports of Toradora! declining into overblown melodrama are accurate. I had already moved Shikabane Hime: Kuro ahead of Toradora! after the latter's episode 22, but early reports about episode 24 likely seal the deal.

Itsuki and Takamasa
Any show with gag EDs is probably willing to take risks.

With regard to endings, it is important to remember Shikabane Hime remains a Gainax show, even if only in part. Ergo, a Gainax ending is a real possibility. Quite frankly, I'm hoping for one. Shikabane Hime strikes me as the type of show that could pull it off. There are numerous little gags interspersed throughout the series to suggest it does not take itself too seriously: such as Saki's constant snacking, or the fact that every contractor priest appears to be a cretinous otaku at heart, or how none of the shikabane hime seem particularly concerned about making their 108-kill quota to go to heaven. Shikabane Hime should be able to pull off a Gainax ending at least as well as The Melody of Oblivion did. I certainly hope so. It'll be EPIC.

Don't make me get Makina to punch you in the face.
She'll do it, too, and she's damn good at it.

Oh, and if this post has convinced you to start watching Shikabane Hime, don't be an idiot and start with Kuro just because it's newer. What in Hell is wrong with people like that? Start with Aka. Shikabane Hime is one show. Splitting it up into Aka and Kuro was symbolic at best. It would be like starting VanDread with season two instead of at the beginning. In related news, if you're one of those people who watched Diebuster without seeing Gunbuster first just because Diebuster was new and shiny, choke yourself. And when you wake up, watch Gunbuster. Scheiße.

Dated 12 April 2009: I wanted to say "Deus Ex Makina" in an entry about Shikabane Hime: Kuro

Makina is all about reaction shots. And bare asses. And punches to the face.

It turns out there wasn't a Deus Ex Machina in Shikabane Hime. But it did turn out that Shikabane Hime: Kuro is the best show from the Winter 2009 season. Yes, better than Toradora! (which I ranked fifth among shows I finished that season), and even better than the fifth season of Major. Being a Gainax show (at least in part), there was always the chance the Shikabane Hime ending would zoom in from left field, so I waited until I actually watched the last episode before making this pronouncement. FUNimation's official free subtitled stream beat both fansubbing groups to Kuro 12, so I watched it there.

Makina, Minai, and Ouri
Makina, Minai, and Ouri.

Some people have called the end of Shikabane Hime: Kuro a Gainax Ending anyway, but I don't consider that accurate at all. It's a little unusual, but it's nothing like the ending to The Melody of Oblivion (which was straight FAR OUT) or the ending to Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful (which was not only FAR OUT, but also enraged many viewers), for example.

Saki is a token character, but a good one.

Really, the joke's on me, because apparently the final episode of Kuro is actually the penultimate episode. Reportedly, the real last episode will be released with the final DVD. That's something of a relief, because Shikabane Hime: Kuro episode 12 concludes with some unfinished business, leading me to believe it was a "read the manga to find out what happens" ending—a task I was fully prepared to do.

Makina quietly watches over Keisei
Makina quietly watches over Keisei.

Incidentally, none of these screencaps are from that last episode. In fact, none of them are even from Kuro. I've been re-watching Shikabane Hime: Aka because another group is releasing episodes and I wanted to see if there were meaningful differences. I'm really enjoying these earlier episodes a lot more this time around because I'm picking up a lot of the clues and foreshadowing I missed originally.

Dated 28 May 2010: The best moment in Shikabane Hime

I guess it kinda depends on how you feel about Gainax.

If I gave you any more information about the scene it would be a massive spoiler.

Dated 1 October 2011: There is no need to watch Shakugan no Shana II before watching the third season

Shana scenes suck when her hair isn't on fire.

I generally strongly discourage people from skipping seasons. Typically they do it so they can follow something shiny and new and/or watch something at the same time as their friends so they'll have something to talk about. This can lead to very poor decisions, such as watching Diebuster before watching Gunbuster, or watching Shikabane Hime: Kuro without watching Shikabane Hime: Aka. I have less of an issue with people skipping previous Mobile Suit Gundam seasons (at least for series in different continuities) since there are so damn many of them, or skipping previous Macross iterations, although I do insist on people watching the original Cho Jiku Yosai Macross; do not be tempted to lean on Do You Remember Love? instead. Good movie, but really not a substitute for the original series—not at all.

Carmel's head thingy
Carmel's head thingy had the best lines.

But while I feel it is wrong on principle to skip seasons, especially when one's reasons for doing so fall in the "shiny and new" camp, I can make an exception for Shakugan no Shana II. I watched 24 episodes of this second Shana season because I enjoyed the first season and wanted to give the upcoming third season a try. This may have been a mistake. Shana II is every bit as awful as its reputation warned me. Shana II is 24 episodes of tedium occasionally interrupted by insipid fights. It is WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS, I finished Shana II with great reluctance. It was never ever actually BAD in the way Limeiro CROSS or Macademi Wasshoi! were truly bad; it just wasn't ever compelling, or even interesting.

Kazumi has a little trouble with her jeans.

To put things into perspective, the multi-episode climactic battle at the end of Shana II kept giving me flashbacks to the Demonbane anime. Now, Demonbane is by no means good, but I have to say that it was at least more interesting than Shana II. This is especially true of the fights. I've long harped on J.C. Staff and its poor track record when it comes to animating fight scenes (excellent Azumanga Daioh snowball fight notwithstanding), but I remember even the worst Demonbane fights against the shrieking mad scientist to be more engaging than climactic season finale fight scene against the shrieking mad scientist of Shana II. And I'm not just saying that because Mr. Eroge Protagonist from the Demonbane anime had to soul kiss a book every time to make his giant robot go. Well, he didn't have to, probably. He just did. But I digress. Shakugan no Shana II is a horror, and I will be amazed if Shana III requires any foreknowledge of its preceeding season's events. Yeah, I'll still at least start Shakugan no Shana III. It's too late to turn back now. Who knows, maybe the odd-numbered seasons will be good.