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Comix Wave’s TO is far from perfect, but at least it’s not broken

In a previous blog entry, I gave Comix Wave a little guff for the hideous-looking Asylum Session, which I couldn’t even bear to watch. TO is another computer animated production from Comix Wave that is thankfully far more watchable. It looks pretty decent with well-realized character modeling and good cell-shading effects. Although the animation isn’t impeccable, TO’s main downfall is it’s dull, paint-by-numbers narrative.

TO is comprised of two 45 minute OVAs that have no connection aside from taking place in the same timeline. The plots aren’t even that similar, except that they are both easy to telegraph from the start (although there’s a decent twist at the end of the first episode, Elliptical Orbit). The second episode, Symbiotic Planet, goes so far as to incorporate the tried-and-true story of star-crossed lovers with a plot about planet colonization, topped off with an incredibly convenient climax.

I’m all for old-school sci-fi but TO’s science is never terribly interesting and noticeably inconsistent. It’s one thing to see action heroes jumping through windows on earth, but seeing someone jump through the window of a ship that is intended to protect its inhabitants from the vacuum of space is a little too hokey. Arguably the bigger problem is the lack of characterization. I found myself mildly curious about the history between the main protagonists of Elliptical Orbit but I couldn’t have cared less about the relationship of the main characters in Symbiotic Planet.

Getting back to the animation, pretty much all the inanimate objects are well rendered and detailed, such as the metallic hallways of The Flying Dutchman and the foliage on a soon-to-be-colonized planet. I liked the expression lines on some of the more aged character’s faces but the actual facial expressions and body animations are fairly stiff and unconvincing. Conversations and interactions frequently feel like they’re being portrayed by puppets. Even veteran voice actors such as Akio Ohtsuka are unable to overcome these shortcomings and sound a little distanced from what’s happening on screen as a result. I kind of liked the music, though; fairly standard orchestral compositions are heard throughout but the techno-heavy theme that plays during the opening titles is rather catchy.

Japan has a long way to go with it’s computer animation. Despite being produced in 2009, TO doesn’t feel like an improvement over past efforts. In fact TO might be less visually engaging than the 2007 movie Vexille, which shares the same director and animation studio. I’m a fan of traditional-style animation first and foremost but any type of animation still needs an engaging narrative to back it up, and this title doesn’t have it. In the end TO is competently directed and not badly executed, but it’s dull and wholly forgettable.

11 Responses to “Comix Wave’s TO is far from perfect, but at least it’s not broken”

  1. Ghostwriter Says:

    You know,I once saw a little bit of “Vexille.” Not enough whether to say it was good or bad,but to say I saw it. But I once read on another website that the Japanese have an interest in American pop culture. I’d have loved to hear some jokes about their American viewers on “Bleach.” One could have gone with some of their most recent episodes:
    Kon (angrilly):Why do I have be in this outfit?!
    Keisuke:It could be worse. I could dress you up as a bat and have you drive around this town in a bat-shaped car. Or I could have you in a costume with a big red “S” on your chest and have you fly around with a jetpack. What do you think about that?
    Kon:No thanks.

    Of course,there are obvious references to Superman and Batman in that joke but here’s another one they could have done:

    Keisuke:Come on out,Kon.
    Kon (screaming from behind a door):No!!! I look ridiculous in this outfit! I’m not coming out!!
    Keisuke:But your fans are expecting you,especially the ones in America.
    Kon:Why? So they can laugh at me?
    Keisuke:C’mon. It’ll be fun. This isn’t the first time they’ve seen a hero in tights. Besides,the Americans themselves have had strange ideas for series before. One was a bunch of alien cat-people fighting a mummified sorcerer.
    Kon:I don’t care! I’m not coming out!
    In case you missed it,a reference to “Thundercats.” Also,I’m a fan of tradition animation myself,and hope to more of it.

  2. Ghostwriter Says:

    A few random thoughts:

    1.Last Saturday night,I saw an episode of “Durarara.” Near the end,I noticed a blond woman who seemed to have an Italian accent going around just asking people to write down what their lost object was. I’m thinking to myself sometime after the end of this episode,”If this woman were in America,she’d be running her own private investigation agency,not standing around asking people for the names of their lost objects.” If you do a search on Wikipedia for naturalized citizens of the United States,you’d see over two thousand people on that list,compared to sixty-one on Japan’s list of naturalized citizens. Kind of makes you think,doesn’t it?
    2.I recently read somewhere that “Apocalypse Zero,”the manga and anime that’s been universally loathed by all the manga and anime critics in this country is going to have a sequel. Yes,you heard me right. For some impossible to understand reason,there’s a manga in the works called “Exosteel Zero.” Why? I can’t see the reason,other than to disgust people further. I don’t want to even imagine what the sequel’s going to be like.

  3. Chainclaw Says:

    There is often no logic behind what shows get sequals and which ones don’t. Masterpieces like “Daphne in the Brilliant Blue”, “Ruin Explorers”, and “Rune Soldier” leave us waiting in the dust, while a plotless borderline Hentai like “Agent Aika” gets not one, but two sequals! (Agent Aika R16, and Agent Aika Zero)

    That just blows my mind on so many levels. Did we really need a sequal to Agent Aika? Let alone one that comes out ten years later? They even timed it so “Agent Aika R16″ was released on the exact day of the ten year aniversery of the original series. Um…okay, was the release of the Agent Aika series such a great occation that its ten year release date needed to be celebrated?

    To make a sequal to a series like that while so many others leave us stranded while still in their prime feels downright offensive.

  4. Ghostwriter Says:

    There’s something I found in the latest issue of “Otaku USA” that I want you guys to know about. It’s called “The Manga Guide to Relativity.” It’s basically a bizarre guide through the Theory of Relativity as related by Albert Einstein. I was thinking of something.
    I wondered what it would be like if there was something called “The Manga Guide to American History.” Can you guys imagine what that would be like? Personally,it’s something I’d like to see just see how a Japanese manga artist would handle something like that. It would probably be extremely weird,but interesting,nonetheless. What do you guys think?

  5. Ghostwriter Says:

    A few random thoughts:

    1.I read a review about “Night Raid 1931″ on Anime News Network. It was interesting. The review said that World War II isn’t something the Japanese are eager to talk about. I don’t blame them because the Second World War didn’t exactly show Japan at it’s best. In fact,it was at it’s worst. A faked railroad incident that sparked the whole thing,The Rape of Nanking,Pearl Harbor,numerous atrocities all over the Pacific,etc. I even heard of one episode that caused so much controversy in Japan that it was only shown on the DVD. It wasn’t even broadcast. After Pearl Harbor,many Americans thought that what happened in places like Nanking,Shanghai,and numerous other places in Asia might be brought to places like Los Angeles,San Francisco,or Honolulu. I’m not saying that the internment of Japanese-Americans was a good idea but seeing what was going on at the time,I think I can see why they thought it was necessary.
    2.There was another interesting column by Jason Thompson on his “House of a 1000 Manga” thing last week. It was on a manga called “Eagle.” by Kaiji Kawaguchi. It was about the first Japanese-American ever to run for President of the United States. The thing that caught my attention was when Mr. Thompson recounted a speech by Kawaguchi’s fictional Presidential candidate that in real life would doom his campaign. Not only did he attack Vietnam veterans in his speech but he also said that he would close U.S. base overseas and hand off America’s defense to the U.N. Kawaguchi doesn’t understand that both the left and right in America would be against that. Not only that but he seems forget that there are Vietnamese,Korean,Cambodian,and other Asian-Americans that might object to something like that. What do you think?

  6. Chainclaw Says:

    It should be noted that 1931 is well before World War 2, as well as before Japan’s invasion of China. But that does look like an interesting series. Could be worth a look when it comes out.

  7. Ghostwriter Says:

    A few more random thoughts:

    1.I’ve been to the Funimation website a few times trying to see if the “Rosario + Vampire” English dubs were available yet. Sadly,they haven’t released them yet. Are they unsure of the quality of the English dubs or the overall quality of the series? Or are they afraid of getting a bad review of the series? Did the earthquake and tsunami in Japan cause any problems? I’d really like to know.
    2.On a similar note,I was surprised that Funimation got “Rosario + Vampire” in the first place.I thought that Viz Media would get it seeing that they’ve release the manga here. I wonder what they would have done with it?
    3.I’ve heard about a series called “Heroman.” It’s set in America and it’s about a boy that uses a robot to fend off an alien invasion. I hope someone decides to bring that to this country. I’d really like to see it. There are also a couple of anime that are set in America that I’d want to see brought over here. One is called “Sci-Fi Harry.” It’s about a teenager that has psychic powers. It was supposed to have been brought over here but the company that was supposed to do the dubbing went out of business before they could do it. Another anime is called “Legendz.” It’s along a similar vein as “Pokemon.” It’s based on a manga of the same name but it was changed from Japan to New York. I wonder why these two anime have yet to see the light of day in this country?

  8. Matt Says:

    1. FUNimation is a busy company with a lot on it’s plate. It’s unlikely that they’re worried about what people will think of the dub and the earthquake/tsunami certainly isn’t causing any delay; the company just has other titles to produce ahead of Rosario.

    2. Viz doesn’t always release the anime versions of it’s manga titles. Sometimes they do but it’s actually more common for other companies to release the anime version.

    3. Heroman is a collaborative effort with Marvel Comic’s Stan Lee, so rest assured it will make it’s way over here. Wikipedia says Lee and one of the Japanese producers are working on a North American broadcast.

  9. Ghostwriter Says:

    A couple more thoughts:

    1.Thanks for telling me that “Heroman” might get released over here. I’d be happy to see that series in English. You know,I read on a review on Anime.com that a number of Japanese are interested in American culture and anime like “Heroman” are manifestations of that interest. It’s a little like me attempting to write stories based on anime. Now,I wish that there were companies that would bring “Sci-Fi Harry” and “Legendz” to this country so that they can be dubbed into English.
    2.Matt,this thought is directed at you. What do you and Akemi think of a show called “Kappa Mikey?” It’s an American show about an aspiring actor named Mikey Simon that ends up on a Japanese TV show called “LilyMu.” One of the big tricks of the show was that Mikey and some of the other American characters are drawn in the American-style of animation while the Japanese characters are drawn anime-style. The show parodies both American and Japanese shows. I wonder what you guys think of it?

  10. Matt Says:

    I like Kappa Mikey personally, it’s very silly but harmless and amusing. One nice touch to the show is the voice actors in it have worked in anime as well. I can’t tell you what Akemi thinks of it, though; we’ve never even met.

  11. Ghostwriter Says:

    Oops! Wrong guy! I should’ve said Marc. Same question as in my comments above Matt’s.