First Impressions: Nisekoi Episode 1

I am a huge fan of Naoshi Komi’s Nisekoi romantic comedy manga and have been reading it since the international release of the Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine. Of course, I was absolutely ecstatic when an anime adaptation was announced – especially as it was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (which I absolutely love!) and it was premièring a mere eight days before my birthday. With each new tidbit of news, my excitement would increase ten-fold until the day when the anime would finally begin and now that it has, I may as well give some of my thoughts regarding its first episode:

For those of you who don’t know, the story of Nisekoi revolves around Raku Ichijo who is the son of a yakuza boss – except he doesn’t want to take over the “family business”, he wants to study hard and become a salaryman (which is apparently the Japanese dream). Raku treasures a locket he wears around his neck, which was given to him by a girl he made a promise with ten years ago – that he would take the lock and she the key, then when they reunite they will open the locket and get married. While on his way to school one day, Raku has a run-in with Chitoge Kirisaki, who is in a hurry – in fact, a more apt description of the “run-in” would be that she jumped over a wall and kneed him in the face. The two already got off to a rough start, but even Chitoge transferring into Raku’s class was nothing compared to the revelation that she is the daughter of a rival mafia syndicate and to avoid a war between the two families, the two will have to pretend to be lovers for three years!

This first episode basically sets that scenario up, slowly introducing the viewer to both Raku and Chitoge and emphasising their interactions together before the big bomb-shell is revealed at the end. From their first meeting it is clear that these two simply do not get along (in fact, Chitoge hit Raku in the face after he called he compared her to a primate) and the negative reactions when one is made to help the other is mutual. The fact that we get to know the pair before the bombshell is dropped on them really adds to the absolute hilarity of the situation, as we can already see how mismatched they are!

I love the way the anime opens with the original “Zawsze in Love” scene, showing it with a flickering border and dialogue written across the screen as if it were a silent movie, with the only colour coming the nearby scenery, such as the glowing orange sky and green grass.

Nisekoi 1

The presentation of this scene was simply marvellous, although perhaps it might have been better if it was all in black and white, with only the lock in colour?

After that brief introduction, the episode opens up with Raku Ichijo in a dark room preparing a meal in a wonderfully choreographed scene that is given an unusual atmosphere from the prominent green lighting. Honestly, I do have to question the choice of lighting as really…who would want to cook in the dark?

The animation for this series is absolutely stunning – which should come as no surprise from SHAFT, whose recent shows are done no real justice unless viewed on blu-ray. As with Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Mitakihara Middle School, the school in Nisekoi is given a unique and impressive design. In fact, the episode as a whole features such a high quality of animation that it’s already set the bar pretty high for the year and it’s only January!

The school interior has a striking and unique design, but how many schools have the budget to look that fancy?

The school interior has a striking and unique design, but how many schools have the budget to look that fancy?

The first episode stays extremely close to the opening chapter of the original manga with only a few deviations (the scene where the pair are asked to take over of the school’s animals is cut drastically short compared to the manga, but the scene was hardly important in the grand schemes of things. There was one line that was cut short that really shouldn’t have been though: when Raku flips out at Chitoge, in the manga he says “I did it, I yelled at a girl. I really, didn’t act like a man” while in the anime, it’s cut short to simply say “I did it, I yelled at a girl” which really mixes up the signals and could give the wrong intention to those unfamiliar with the series and Raku as a character.

Nisekoi 6

Character designer Nobuhiro Sugiyama does an excellent job with adapting Naoshi Komi’s original character designs for animation, including the large array of facial expressions seen in the manga!

As a fan of the manga, I was worried about whether the voices I imagine in my head would match those chosen in the animation, but I am extremely happy to say that the voice cast for the Nisekoi anime is easily one of its greatest strengths. Kōki Uchiyama is the perfect Raku, being able to show his emotive range with such precision that it sounds incredibly natural. Nao Toyama may sound a bit too perky at first to be Chitoge, but the way she can quickly change into the more hot-headed “barbarian” (as Raku calls her) shows a similar familiarity with the character that suits Chitoge perfectly. The most stand-out though, has to be Kana Hanazawa as Onodera. Onodera’s character may not be as multi-layered as Raku and Chitoge, but Kana’s resume of past characters make her a perfect fit for Onodera’s more timid demeanour. Even Yūki Kaji’s brief appearance as Shū Maiko in this episode shows the playful wit of the character in a tone deep enough to make his more wiser words later in the series not feel out of place. Whoever was in charge of selecting the cast needs to be paid more money for such a fantastic job!

My only complaint would be that at times, I think Shinbo has forgotten that isn’t directing Puella Magi Madoka Magica as often, scenes are very oddly coloured, with some of them as if they were meant to be a witch’s labyrinth and whoever designed the animation for the opening theme really pressed the “invert colour” option too many times.

There is one thing that does make me think though – in the series’ opening theme, the characters Tsumugi and Tachibana are obscured, shown only as silhouettes. I can understand Tachibana to an extent because of the role she plays, but Tsugumi doesn’t really play any significance in the story and there’s also the fact that both characters have already been revealed, with footage of them shown at JUMP Festa (seriously, way to spoil the surprise!). At least this implies that the series is possibly going to last for more than a single season though, with the first half of the series establishing the Raku-Chitoge-Onodera love triangle and the other characters being introduced just before the second half of the series, or if it is to only be 12/13 episodes long (which would be a huge shame), they’ll simply be uncovered upon being introduced.

To be honest, the first time I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after watching the episode for the first time due to the classic SHAFT weird designs (a part of me still wonders if maybe AIC Build who animated Oreimo might have been a better choice for animating the series), but on a rewatch I absolutely loved it. The year has only just begun and Nisekoi certainly has raised some high standards for the rest of 2014!

9/10

If you want to read the original manga, Viz Media is serialising it at the same time as the Japanese release with the Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine, if you wish to explore the romantic comedy from the very start, the full volumes have been available digitally for a while now and the first volume will be available in print from next week (so expect a review of that!).

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Review: Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (hopefully free from M. Bison’s brainwashing!)

When I first started Tsundere Britannica, I stated that my intention was to write reviews and features of anime, manga and video games. So I decided that there was only one logical option for the first ever review – something that mixed those areas together! While I was at the London MCM Comic Con back in May, I picked up a copy of Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie on blu-ray, which had recently been re-released by Kazé (and distributed by Manga Entertainment). I feel bad that I hadn’t seen this movie until this latest release, as I have seen many refer to it as one of the best game-to-film adaptations so far and certainly, the best Street Fighter movie adaptation. I think the reason is most likely because, I was only two years old when this film first came out and admittedly, the first Street Fighter game I played was Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition for the Nintendo 3DS.  However, the other day I managed to fix that blunder, as I finally had a chance to watch the movie and I thought, as it’s an anime movie based on a video game, it was the perfect fit to get things going.

Street Fighter II

Title: Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

Distributor: Manga Entertainment UK, on behalf of Kazé.

Format: Blu-ray Movie (Run Time: 71 Minutes).

Languages: Japanese with English Subtitles (Original), English, French.

Year of Release: 2013 (Original Release: 1994).

Certificate Rating: 15

Usually, I am the kind of person who likes to watch films where I can emotionally invest in the characters to the point that I am reduced to both a sobbing mess on the floor, as well as a grinning idiot (depending on the series). However desirable complex characters and story lines are though, there is always a need for something more light – and I don’t mean that in the fluffy, inoffensive K-ON! sense, I mean it in the “Doesn’t have too much to think about, but just sit back and enjoy the ride” sense that many action films have. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is a lot like a typical action movie in that sense – and that’s not a bad thing at all.

The story of Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is centred around M. Bison, the head of a terrorist organisation called “Shadaloo”. M. Bison and Shadaloo plan on seeking out individuals they deem to be strong and brainwash them into carrying out terrorist activities – such as when, in an opening scene, MI6 agent Cammy is brainwashed into breaking the neck of the UK’s Minister of Justice. For the majority of the film though, M. Bison’s attention is focused on Ryu, a man known for defeating Muay Thai Champion-turned Shadaloo henchman Sagat in a fight.

I saw the story centres on M. Bison as opposed to a main good character like Ryu, because as you’d expect from a threat as huge as M. Bison, there are numerous people out for his head. Part of the story focuses on Ryu and his travels across the world and Ryu’s former training partner Ken Masters, who is now a legitimate fighter, as the two often think back to their time training together, despite the distances now between them. The other part of the story focuses on Interpol Agent Chun-Li, who is investigating Shadaloo and eventually gains the co-operation of the initially reluctant Captain Guile of the U.S. Military. As you can expect, with Chun-Li and Guile chasing after M. Bison and M. Bison chasing after Ryu, their paths do eventually collide.

What I found notable about this movie, where two of the central characters – Chun-Li and M. Bison. Ryu is more of a plot device than a character in that the film revolves around him, yet he doesn’t really say or do much. Ken is in an ultimate bromance with Ryu, being miles away and years later, still thinking of him. Guile is your typical blond-haired, American action hero and while every character from the game makes an appearance, the majority of them only appear very briefly. M. Bison however, has to be one of the most intimidating villains I have encountered in film – like the majority of the characters, he is beefy. However, M. Bison’s posture and the way how he always looks tense when he walks brings about a feeling that he is always on guard, ready to strike at any time. M. Bison’s vocal performances in both the Japanese and the English versions give him a powerful sense of authority too, which all adds together to be make a very overpowering, intimidating antagonist.

In regards to Chun-Li, the First Lady of Fighting Games, I felt that her character was the most three dimensional of all the characters in this film. She has a strict, no-nonsense attitude when it comes to work – even criticising Guile for putting his personal want to avenge his friend over his duty to capture M. Bison, despite her father having been killed by M. Bison. However, she also shows a playful, mischievous side, when she easily proves her skills to Guile when persuading him to co-operate with her and again at the end of the film (which I won’t mention due to spoilers, but it does result in a little playful rough-housing from Guile). Being the first female character in a fighting game, I imagine that it was essential to paint Chin-Li as a competent fighter and not a damsel in distress. If that was indeed the intention, then her fight scene with Vega got that point across perfectly. Her fight with Vega was probably my favourite in the entire film – it was savage and unpredictable. As soon as Guile realised something was amiss, he charged over to Chun-Li, obviously expecting to have to burst the door down and save her – except by the time he arrived, the fight was over. It was fortunate that Guile arrived when he did, but the fact that Chun-Li managed to win the fight by herself, then have Guile bursting in…was a pretty good slap in the face for people who might have held that image of women only being damsels-in-distress in films like these.

Can we also talk about how unlucky that one girl in Calcutta is in the movie? First Ryu knocks over the water she bought for her ill mum (which was changed to “milk” in the dub. I guess it’s because it didn’t really look like water) and then she got knocked over in the street and had to go to hospital.

It’s hard to really talk about this film in terms of story, because what there is merely act as threads connecting the numerous muscular characters character to duke it out. It’s a good thing then, that the choreography of the fights is really well done. The moves and combos characters can use in the games are quite cleverly copied into fight scenes in a way that seems entirely natural, instead of the director thinking “Okay, they need to use [Move] from the game!” (which is probably how it went).  In terms of picture quality, you would expect that a blu-ray would look really nice. This movie is almost 20 years old, yet at times it looks no different than recent productions in terms of colour, brightness and sharpness.

Initially, I watched this film in Japanese with subtitles, but I did watch the English dub afterwards. For reference, I hear that there was a dub made in the 1990s that featured a lot of profanity – the English audio track on this release is not that track (which is odd, because all of the blood and nudity is intact with a 15 certificate. So I guess this isn’t really an “uncensored” release is it?). Personally, I prefer the original Japanese – the script feels more natural and the while the dub script is mostly faithful, there are a few one-liners that made me cringe. Also,  it feels weird to hear someone as intimidating looking as M. Bison say things like “beat the crap out of” (although the dub does win credit for pointing out that Guile’s hair looks like a brush).

In terms of extras, this release from Kazé has none – the menu is simply whether you want to watch the film in Japanese with locked subtitles, English, or select individual Chapters. However, it is presented in a red blu-ray case instead of the standard blue, which is a nice touch. I’m not really sure what extras they could have included though, other than trailers of Kazé’s other upcoming releases (which are featured after selecting the language option – I thought forced ads was left behind when we moved on from VHS?!).

Anyways, I think I have said just about as much as I could about this release, but before I leave things to Brit-tan, let me just explain her rating scale:

Baka! is given to pieces rated between 0-4. Avoid these.

I-it’s not like I like you or anything… is given for pieces rated between 5-7. They’re good, worth a watch, but not really amazing.

Sugoi! means that not even Brit-tan can contain her excitement for it and is for things rated between 8-10.

Anyway, onto Brit-tan:

I-it's not like I want to r-review this or anything...

I-it’s not like I like you or anything…

But then, I did catch Brit-tan like this later on:

HNI_0005

Brit-tan and I sat down and agreed that Kazé’s blu-ray release of Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie deserves a 7/10. What did you personally think of this movie and this release?