Tag Archives: fantasy

Engaged to the Unidentified

Engaged to the UnidentifiedType: TV Series
Episode Count: 12
Genre: Comedy / Fantasy
Vintage: 2014

Version reviewed: Japanese, Subtitled
Date of Review: 20 Jan 2016

Grade: A-

School comedy with a twist is a tried and true formula for me, and I hit the jackpot again.

Plot Summary
It’s Kobeni’s sixteenth birthday and she couldn’t be happier. It means she’s almost an adult now, and the world is beginning to open up to her. What Kobeni wasn’t expecting to wake up to this morning was the proclamation from her mother that her grandfather has chosen a fiancé for her who will arrive later that morning. When her betrothed arrives, he has his little sister in tow, so in the span of one morning she has gone from carefree high school girl to living under the same roof as the boy she’s engaged to, along with her future sister-in-law. Sixteen wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, after all.

The Review
Simple, fun, and uncomplicated. Sometimes that’s all you need for a great show, and that’s what Engaged to the Unidentified is. The series has an under-the-radar sort of feel to it, but the production and acting are top-notch.

As with any comedy, one of the most important things is a good cast of characters, and that’s what this series has. Kobeni is your typical cheerful schoolgirl. She’s attractive, polite, gets good grades, and knows her way around the kitchen. Then there is her older sister Benio, who has an uncontrollable imouto complex and wants nothing more than for Kobeni to be the cutest little sister ever. Next is Hakuya, Kobeni’s fiancé. He is quiet and mysterious, and that’s about all Kobeni knows about him. Finally there is Hakuya’s little sister Mashiro, who steals the show. She does most of the talking for herself and her big brother, and takes it upon herself to decide if Kobeni is worthy of Hakuya. It’s a great combination of characters, and their interplay is always fun to watch.

One thing I especially liked about Engaged to the Unidentified is how the fantasy element is introduced. As the series begins, there is no indication that something out of the ordinary is going on. This isn’t like Ah! My Goddess where you know right away that Belldandy is a goddess or The World of Narue where you find out that Narue is an alien by the end of the first episode. In Engaged to the Unidentified, it takes a while for the mystery to be revealed, and I enjoyed the suspense of waiting to find out just who or what was out of the ordinary. Given the title of the series, it was clear that something was going to be different.

Like many well-rounded shows, though Engaged to the Unidentified is primarily a comedy, the story takes a dramatic turn towards the end. This gives the series a bit more weight, but it’s not overdone and is a logical extension of the story. Also not to be overlooked are the supporting characters, most of whom aren’t given much of a backstory (with one exception), but still suitably fill their roles in the series and are also fun to watch. Standouts include Kobeni’s meganekko best friend, and Benio’s classmates in the student council: a Yuki Nagato doppelgänger and a tsundere ojou-sama.

There is one omission in the resolution of the story in Engaged to the Unidentified. It doesn’t harm the story at all, but it is a bit perplexing as to why it was omitted; at the same time, I can see the case for leaving it out (which would work in a meta sort of way). I’ll leave it to you to decide, should you give the series a try (and I would say you should, if you enjoy these kinds of shows!). The comedy is clever and occasionally breaks the fourth wall. Characters and story are very easy to get into, and even the theme songs are fun.

The artwork and a brief plot summary drew me to this series, and it was a great find. If you enjoy light school comedy with a twist, check out Engaged to the Unidentified!

The Melody of Oblivion

The Melody of OblivionType: TV Series
Episode Count: 24
Genre: Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Vintage: 2004

Version reviewed: Japanese, Subtitled
Date of Review: 09 Mar 2015

Grade: B-

A series tangentially related to Utena, but unfortunately unable to reach the same heights.

Plot Summary
In the late twentieth century, a war broke out between humans and monsters. After much bloodshed and violence, it was the monsters who had won. Now in the early twenty-first century, humans are allowed to remain as long as they serve the monsters. However, a resistance movement is still alive for the humans, in the form of those known as Melos warriors. Bocca meets one of these Melos warriors in his hometown and decides to join in the cause fighting against the monsters who rule over them. Along the way, Bocca meets many people; some who will aid in his quest, and others who will try to stop him.

The Review
The Melody of Oblivion is a series I became curious about when I learned that it was cut from some of the same cloth as Revolutionary Girl Utena. Some of the creative staff is the same, and both series were produced by J.C. Staff. While there are a few minor references to Utena, Oblivion is mostly its own series. Unfortunately, while I did find it to be interesting, it seemed to lose its focus a bit towards the end.

The easiest way to describe The Melody of Oblivion is as a “road trip” series. Once Bocca sets out on his journey to fight the Monster Union, we follow him as he meets people and stays at various places finding out their stories. This remains the formula until he arrives somewhere which changes not only his path, but also the path of the series.

The visual aspect of the series is what I liked most about it. It borrows heavily from Utena’s visual style, its film in particular, with most of the backgrounds tinged with blood-red highlights. There are also some surreal elements, but unlike Utena, symbolism didn’t seem to play as much of a role in Oblivion. Character designs are also reminiscent of Utena, largely because Shinya Hasegawa was responsible for both.

The story and characters in The Melody of Oblivion hold up pretty well, for the most part. The story is fairly straightforward, and the characters have a bit of depth to them, except for a few minor supporting characters. Despite the impressive pedigree of series writer Yoji Enokido, whose portfolio includes Utena and Evangelion, The Melody of Oblivion is unable to reach the level of either of those series. To me, it’s simply a case of unrealized potential.

The Melody of Oblivion has a promising premise and certainly looks good. Unfortunately, I think it falls short of what it could have been. It’s not a bad series, but it just seems to lack something which I can’t quite put my finger on.

Kobato.

Kobato. Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 24
Genre: Fantasy / Drama
Vintage: 2009

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 24 Mar 2014

Grade: A-

Another brilliant CLAMP series.

Plot Summary
Kobato Hanato has arrived in a new city with a mission: to mend broken hearts. She must do this to fill a jar with konpeito (sugar stars) representing their healed hearts in order to fulfill her own wish. Guiding her is a stuffed toy dog named Ioryogi. As she begins her quest to heal peoples’ hearts, Kobato comes across a struggling kindergarten and meets Sayaka and Kiyokazu who run it. Kobato decides that these people especially need her help, and finds herself working alongside them, something which Kiyokazu finds more of a nuisance than a help. Ioryogi is not pleased either, as he feels that this task Kobato has taken upon herself is a distraction from her mission to fill the konpeito jar. Kobato must find a way to accomplish not only what she wants to do, but also what she needs to do.

The Review
Is Kobato the most adorable CLAMP lead to date? That’s hard to say, but she sure does everything in her power to give that impression. It’s nearly impossible to talk about Kobato. without giving the spotlight to its lead character of the same name. Kobato is a bundle of energetic adorableness with less common sense than a brick, but she pulls it off in an endearing way motivated by the desire to do good, rather than being an annoying airhead. Add to this the vocal talent of Kana Hanazawa at her cutest, and Kobato is a character who will surely melt many a viewer. Accompanying Kobato on her quest is a stuffed toy dog named Ioryogi, but don’t let his cute appearance fool you…

CLAMP also gets to display their skill at designing many elaborate and pretty outfits for Kobato to wear, and part of me thinks that Kobato. was created partially just so CLAMP could have an excuse to do just that. If they want to create a story to act as a vehicle for Kobato’s wardrobe, that’s perfectly fine by me. It helps that the story is a good one as well.

Kobato. actually is a combination of two CLAMP works: Kobato. and Wish. I have not read either of these manga yet, so I can’t say for sure just how they were integrated, but it definitely provides an incentive to read those two works now. Speaking of integrating works, Kobato. has probably the best display of crossover I have ever seen, and CLAMP is generally very clever at crossovers to begin with. I’m not going to tell you which world Kobato. shares; you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Kobato. is fun to watch, but it also has a good story filled with just the right amount of drama to give it some weight. There are a few elements to the story which could have been expanded on further, but since they involve secondary characters and the series is mostly about Kobato, this can be forgiven for the most part.

It’s been a while since I last watched a CLAMP series which was new to me, and Kobato. did not disappoint. It may not have the impact of a Cardcaptor Sakura or Magic Knight Rayearth as far as bringing new people into the CLAMP fold, but Kobato. is “lighter” CLAMP at its best.