Animation BL-BZ
Black Bullet
A virus turns people into monsters. Teams of two find the infected ones and destroy the monsters. But the teams are discriminated against because the virus that gives them superhuman abilities is the same one that, unchecked, produces the monsters. Good animation very well voiced superb writing. It moves very fast and keeps you on your toes. All the way around a very good series. A major sub plot involves bigotry and even violence from the public at large targeting the very people who are saving their lives. You get a lot of back story on the characters. It makes for a very deep well-done story.

Black Lagoon
This is Cowboy Bebop for the 21st century. Set in the present day, the principles run a shipping and delivery company between Japan and Thailand using an old PT boat. The show is exceedingly violent, obscene, profane, and blasphemous. Everyone is a criminal, no one tells the truth. Mobs, gangs, nazis, sociopaths, the church, and governments all struggle to screw each other over in a city crawling with psychopath killers for hire. It is cynical, darkly funny in places and disturbing in others. The story is grounded in real events like the Viet Nam war, Chauchesku in Rumania, the Russians in Afghanistan, the drug war, and such. Normally I do not like stories this violent and obscene, but Black Lagoon is so well done that I could not help it. The characters are well developed and have depth and history.

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Tral
A 5 episode OVA follow up to the series. All the same characters and more of the same obscene, violent psychopathic goodness. This time the principal is Roberta, a meek housemaid of a Venezuelan political family that we saw in the series. She goes to war with the US military after a black-ops strike kills her employer. They end up in Roanapur and soon the Americans, FARC, Triads, Russians, Sicilians and the Black Lagoon team are hunting Roberta, most to kill her, the latter to bring her back to Venezuela at the request of the young son of the slain leader. Roberta on the other hand is bent on killing everyone, the Americans and anyone in her way. The body count is staggering but it’s fun.

A high school kid becomes sensitive to spirits of the dead. Against his will he becomes a Soul Reaper. Despite what it sounds like, Soul Reapers are the good guys. They help souls of those that die but get stuck on earth to pass over to the other side. They also battle Hollows. Hollows are nasty supernatural creatures that consume souls that get stuck. They are demons, though I do not think the show calls them that. The show is about him coming to terms with his ability, and destiny as a Soul Reaper and how he helps his friends and their lost loved ones. The writing is fairly sensitive and the graphics are quite good. I also liked that the main character is a 15 year old guy. Too many series are stuck using 8 to12 year olds as the main characters. Unfortunately as the series approaches its climax it becomes more Naruto or DragonBall like; there is more focus on fights and standing around talking rather than on progressing the story. What I do not get is the title. Bleach? Why not call the series Soul Reaper, or Night Blade, or Hollow Hunter. Something that has anything to do with the series.

Interesting premise. An attack by a horrible monster awakens something in a youg girl. She discovers that her life is a lie. A lot of anti-American message in this; the monsters were created by the American military and are deployed wherever US forces go to spread fear. Her father was part of a group trying to fight back and the group engineered the girl to fight the monsters.

The daughter of the shrine priest fights daemons in an isolated town in Japan. Quite psychological, the daemons keep hinting there’s more going on, talking about humans breaking the covenant, and suggesting she isn’t who she thinks she is. It seems like an allegory about a young girl coming of age. In every battle she gets covered in blood, both the daemons and her own. There are a number of apparent plot holes but don’t worry, they are explained in the end and it all makes sense. The series gets more and more psychological, very Freudian and Oedipal. Unfortunately, while they could have tied everything up in a moving philosophical finale they lost their nerve. The end is a particularly dark and gruesome cynical splatter flick that leaves the door open to a sequel. They were close to a very good series but lost it, literally in the last episode. I suppose that there may be a second series but after the end to this series I haven’t looked for it.

Blue Submarine No. 6
The final stages of an apocalyptic war between humans and humanoid creatures created from animals by a mad scientist. An allegorical story full of symbolism with good animation and a good plot. What keeps it from being a great series is its length. Four episodes is just not enough to fully explore the situation. If they had done a standard 26 or even 13 they could have explored each type of creature, the relationships and sympathies. All this is hinted at but with four episodes the treatment is at best superficial. Because of that I cannot rate the series higher. Pity.

Among humans there are Beastmen. They are people with animal DNA that are able to change from animal to human form. They are discriminated against by regular humans and have retreated to Anima City, a place just for them. Michiru finds herself in Anima city and tries to figure out who she is and how to live. There is intrigue, and surprises. Decent writing, and they give some suggestion of deeper messages. Overall a somewhat better than average series.

This is a strange one. A very strange one. A guy with a huge blond afro that talks like a Jive Dude from a black exploitation film of the 1970s and a girl named Beauty that dislikes him intensely but follows him around, fights against a government entity and other bad guys. Sometimes helped by sometimes fighting against a talking star named Don Patch and using the power of his huge nose hairs. The plots are utterly unfathomable and include huge digressions, transgender references, and ideas copied from other shows. I am not sure if they are trying to do this as a complete farce, but the writing is not good enough. Maybe they wanted to do a Japanese version of Johnny Bravo, but they made it too serious. Possibly they were trying to do a serious drama, but it is all too absurd. I just can not figure it out.

Bob’s Burgers
There’s a lot of buzz about Bob’s Burgers. How real it was. How it hit the mark. How it was so GOOD. So I finally broke down and found a few episodes online. (My cable selection doesn’t carry it.) I watched them. Yes it is very realistic. Most people’s lives are boring and this show captured that. The parents are clueless. the kids are witty, on a little kid level, but not very bright. People are irrational. I simply don’t see what the buzz was all about. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just is, and I have better things to do with my time than to watch tapioca pudding.

BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defence

A girl who has not played video games goes into an immersive online DnD/Rogue-like game. She maxes out her defence, that plus some luck she ends up effectively as a walking tank. Nothing can hurt her even though she’s not quick, and she does very well. Though the premise is she maxed her defence she gets massive offensive abilities too. Essentially she ends up a god that can’t be beaten. There were a bunch of potentially very interesting plot possibilities that they missed. Pretty animation, average writing. A very weak, anticlimactic end.

The Boondocks
Based on the cartoon strip by the same name this is the story of two little kids that live with their grandfather in the suburbs. They are black and nearly everyone else is white. Huey, the older brother is a black militant that does not trust anyone or anything in the white world. Riley, the younger brother, wants to be a gangster and be seen as dangerous. But at heart really is not able to pull it off. There is a lot of rough language, ugly stereotypes, and such. The result was quite funny at first, even for this middle aged white guy. The white people are not portrayed in a good light but then there are a number of ugly images of black people as well so it is a wash. After a while though it got tiresome, pedantic and preachy.

Boukyaku No Senritsu (Melody of Oblivion)
There was a war between humans and monsters. The monsters won but they rule from the shadows. People go about their lives and try to ignore the atrocities the monsters commit. Some even join the Monster Union believing it’s for the overall good. There are a few Meros Warriors that fight the monsters. Average to sub average animation, music, and writing.. A forgettable effort unless you catch the subtext. The war was WWII, the Monsters are western capitalism, the Monster Union is the government/corporate hegemony that rules much of the world. A great premise that tries to say some significant things, it’s just too bad they couldn’t pull it off better. Near the end they seem to have completely lost interest. The writing becomes nearly unintelligible with symbolic scenes that make no sense, offensively sexist images of women literally being treated like cows, and filler cut scenes repeated over and over. Then, even considering the mediocrity leading up to it the finale is still a disappointment.

Bounen No Xamdou
One of the best tales ever of the stupidity and insanity of war, and the men that wage war. A story of wars fought with monsters as weapons that destroy towns, cities, and people in the name of saving towns, cities, and people from monsters. A story of people trying to survive however they can. A story of intolerance and acceptance, indifference and kindness, bigotry and respect, of faith and betrayal, of love and longing. The series has superb animation, music, and writing. It’s top notch in every way. The story is complex and every time I thought I knew what was going to happen there was a twist that was unexpected but not awkward or trite. From the subtle opening credits to the end this is a fantastic piece of work. But then, I’ve started to realize that BONES produces works on the same level as Studio Ghibli. Yes, they are that good. Bounen No Xamdou is that good.

Brother Bear (Movie)
(Disney) A native american youth is changed into a bear while out on a hunting trip. He spends the movie trying to reclaim his real human form and interacting with the animals of the forest, with whom he can now talk. He learns to see the nature in a new light. A little heavy on the message but the other animals, especially the two moose are fun.

Bugs Life (Movie)
(Pixar) A variation on the ant and grasshopper fable. This time the grasshoppers are extorting food from the ants. Flick, an unusually smart inventor ant has to find some tough ants to drive off the grasshoppers. He gets Circus bugs by mistake and they have to improvise. Good wins in the end and in the mean time the story is interesting, if a bit heavy in places.

Burn the Witch
The London we’re familiar with is where most of the people who die are killed by dragons. Invisible dragons. There is another London an invisible London where dragons and magic are easy to see. It is in this back London where teams of magic users, witches if you will, try to keep the dragons under control. This is a story about these Dragon hunters. Nicely done, good animation, decent writing, overall a nice series. Only three episodes so it’s a bit short, but that’s OK they told the story they wanted to.

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
I expected very little from this show, figuring it was just a marketing tool spun off from the Toy Story films. I was very pleasantly surprised. The series happens in a Universe where Buzz actually does work for Star Command. He has a nemesis, Zurg and a crew of young cadets, Booster, the clumsy fat kid, XR, the geeky techy kid, he is a robot, and Mira Nova, the only girl. Mira has mysterious powers, but to little boys, girls are kind of strange and mysterious creatures. The characters are written with an understanding of the dynamics of a prepubescent bunch of kids. The show is surprisingly amusing.

By the Grace of the Gods
A guy dies suddenly and the gods reincarnate him in a world of magic and monsters. A familiar trope, but in this case, just not one done very well. The thing is he’s too good. He trains slimes to do his bidding and is fantastic at it. The first people he encounters are members of the Duke’s family and they take him in. He seems to be able to solve any problem with his magic and trained slimes. Everyone is effusive in their praise of everything he does. He starts a business, and it is a huge success. There is no real peril, no risk, no tension. It’s all too easy. It’s like playing a dungeon crawler in God Mode. It kinda gets boring after a while. I’d think this was one of those happy animated shows for very small children, but there are some dark themes in flashbacks to his former life. No, from the animation, to the voice work, to the writing, it’s just not very well done.

© 2020 Douglas Aalseth Productions