Archive for the ‘Media Review in English’ Category

Divergence Eve – Anime Review by Bryan Neef

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Let’s get it over with.  Divergence Eve is fan service and easily dismissed as a video to watch for the plot, much like an infamous American magazine was “read for its articles.”

The above is only half right.  Divergence Eve has fan service, but considering other, less obvious examples, it’s actually tame.  And, surprisingly it has a plot.  The plot is both homage to, and a minor rip off of Neon Genesis Evangelion.  It is also a spiritual predecessor to Knights of Sidonia, which I reviewed last year.

Mankind has discovered a way to traverse the galaxy without the traditional tropes of hyperspace and worm holes.  At least it’s not called hyperspace or worm holes.  Instead, humans can tunnel into another universe and come out at their destination by effectively creating mini Big Bangs.  The story builds upon this technique and uses it’s mechanics throughout the series.

As with any good sci-fi story, the explorers found something on the other side.  Now, the interesting thing about this “other side,” is the series isn’t clear if it’s the other universe, or the planet and outpost called Watcher’s Nest.  This is, I think, a good thing.  It builds the suspense, and it does it very well.

The main character in Divergence Eve is Misaki Kureha, the daughter of one of the explorers of Watcher’s Nest.  He and his expedition were lost eleven years prior.  And it wasn’t the first expedition.  And there are hints that certain people knew, and/or expected what happened.

To a lesser extent, the series follows her squad of cadet pilots and their encounters with the denizens of Watcher’s Nest, called Ghouls.  And the squad follows the trope of “only people with special talents are recruited.”  Only, this trope has a twist, and it isn’t the body types, or the uniforms (the aforementioned fan service.)

In the first episode, we find out quickly that Misaki isn’t just a normal person.  She really is something more.  And this is where the series shines.  We, the audience, know she’s special.  Most of the characters don’t.  But even in knowing she’s special, we aren’t told how, or why, for nearly ten episodes of the thirteen episode series.

Those in the series who know, follow the trope of a secret organization called SEELE…sorry, wrong series.  I believe the secret organization is Alchemy, but there are a lot of names thrown out.  Both during the main story time and the flashbacks that show what has led up to the current time, reference a pseudo-governmental agency.  And the flashbacks are another, great technique Divergence Eve uses to move the story on.  And they do it well.

As the series progresses, the citizens and crew of Watcher’s Nest encounter Ghouls.  Some more frequently than others.  The command crew keeps vital information secret from Misaki and her friends, as well as the public at large.  And the super secret Alchemy keep more secrets from everyone.  The audience learns as the crew does what the Ghouls are, and the secrets Alchemy is trying to keep buried, and bring out.  And those secrets are a major force in the show.

And without revealing too much, what Misaki learns about herself, her father, Watcher’s Nest, and the Ghoul causes her great distress.  She sees her friends killed or mind wiped.  She sees the citizens being lied to, supposedly to protect them.  And as she is about to learn more about her father, her informant is killed.  She finally learns what her role is in Alchemy’s plan.  All of this gives her the resolve of Shinji Ikari!  Sorry, wrong series again.  After everything she learns, she has the resolve to do more to protect the people of Watcher’s Nest.

Shockingly, the series, more accurately, the first series, ends on a very depressing, yet hopeful note.  Misaki returns from the brink of insanity, or worse, and tries to stop the mad scientist, an Alchemy agent, behind the events in Watcher’s Nest and, possibly, her life, but it appears to be too late.  But with what she learns at this juncture, she is able to set in motion a plan to fix things.  And that fix is, apparently, in the second series, The Misaki Chronicles, which I will be watching and reviewing soon.

As I’ve mentioned, the plot execution has been very good.  It builds and maintains the suspense better than many other programs.  It has its light moments, which are less frequent as the series progresses.  It doesn’t have the same smoothness as Knights of Sidonia or Evangelion.  In some places, the pacing is too fast, and others it’s too slow.  The slowness is more to point out the important parts, drawing attention to plot points in a heavy handed manner.  But it can be forgiven, since it doesn’t appear to have the same production quality of many of its contemporaries.

From the production stand point, the blend of CGI and traditional cells were, at best, rushed.  Computers animated the ships, battle suits, and the Ghoul.  In the docking bays, the ship CGI was appropriate.  Even some of the flying sequences were decent.  However, shows released at the same time, that I’ve watched, such as Sakura Taisen, Angel Heart, and Galaxy Express 999 TV had smoother CGI sequences.  Even Lensman, released in the mid-80’s had better CGI than the 2003 Divergence Eve.  But, as I said, the production of Divergence Eve seems rushed.

For the most part, the acting was decent.  Being an AD Vision release, their stock actors did their best, even with fake British accents, considering how much they were releasing at the time.  To me, there seemed to be too many scenes where the emotional turmoil presented wasn’t necessary, too strong and fast, or not enough.  Taken in context, it matches a rushed project on both sides of the Pacific.

Overall, I think Divergence Eve did more right than wrong.  I would recommend it for the story, and fan service (which, while more tame than others, really wasn’t necessary here.)  The execution of the story may leave viewers wanting, but that comes with the glut of anime produced before the anime market crashed a couple of years later.


Knights of Sidonia (Anime Version) Review Bryan Neef

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

[The Carlock Book Cafe is happy to welcome Bryan Neef, a hard-core anime fan from Normal, IL.  This is his first anime review.  He will write more reviews for us.   He is a great local resource of Japanese media products.  You will find his bio and business cards at bottom of the review.  Chizuko]

Knights of Sidonia (Manga) by Tsutomu Nihei; This review is about its Anime version

Knights of Sidonia (Manga) by Tsutomu Nihei; This review is about its Anime version

At its core, Knights of Sidonia is a thriller, skillfully woven with character development and action.  The story revolves around the enigma of who Tanikaze Nagate is.  He is the last, unmodified human on the colony ship Sidonia.  The others who populate Sidonia have been genetically modified to increase their chances of survival after a disastrous event two hundred years prior.

The set up to the series is that Earth has been destroyed by a race called the Gauna for reasons unknown.  Now, several hundred years later, Sidonia is again encountering the Gauna.  At the same time, Nagate is recovered from the deepest levels of the ship, where he was cared for by his now deceased grandfather, a hero from years past.

While in hiding, Nagate was taught how to pilot the ships used by Knights.  He is found to be extremely good at piloting and is quickly pushed into the Knight’s academy, by his guardian, Kobayashi Kanchou, the leader of Sidonia and a member of the Council of Immortals, where he slowly makes friends and quickly makes rivals.  He is even given the chance to pilot a coveted mech from a previous era.  Perhaps even the one his grandfather piloted.

As skilled as Nagate and his fellow Knights are, they don’t win every encounter.  Many of his fellow Knights fall to the Gauna.  Some out right, while others are “taken in” by the Gauna.  This leads the audience to wonder how much is known about the enemy, especially with hints from the Captain, her trusted aides, and the Council.

The writing is top notch, with solid character development.  The pacing is well done.  Fast, hard action is tempered with introspective and humorous moments.  These are even more poignant as the harshness of survival and war unfold.  The so-called disposable characters have meaningful contributions to the plot and story, even after their final appearance.


Throughout the series, the audience uncovers, with the characters, a rich, secret history of Sidonia and tantalizing hints about the Gauna.  Nagate’s own abilities are slowly revealed, raising questions about his grandfather, the Council of Immortals, his guardian, major events that are part of the backstory, the Gauna, and the people of Sidonia.  As with many tales, one affects another.  And as each mystery is revealed, a new one takes its place, leading the audience to want more.

The art is very well done, seamlessly mixing computer animation with traditional cell backgrounds.  A newer trend in animation is obvious, but also subtle:  computer colored characters.  This technique is not distracting, and in many ways, enhances the atmosphere of the series.  For the most part, the music matches the story, from the opening anthem to the closing credits.  The acting is, on a whole, some of the best I’ve seen/heard in a long time.  The English edition is worth listening to, even though it isn’t quite as dynamic as the Japanese cast, but that’s probably due more to how American animation is recorded rather than the talent selected.

Season one ends with a genuine desire for more.  And Season two opens with a sucker punch that wasn’t expected, even with its blatantness.  That’s a true credit to the writers.  Season one is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Netflix.  Season two is available on Netflix.

Bryan Neef


I’m the owner and operator of Phantom Studios, an on-line pop culture store, and the founder and co-president of the Normal Society of Anime.  I’m a life-long animation fan with a particular love of anime.

My first introduction to anime, though I didn’t recognize it as such, was in the late 70’s with King Kong and Hercules.  From there, I’ve enjoyed the classic Speed Racer series and Starblazers in the early 80’s.  From there, it grew.  My love for manga started with Lone Wolf and Cub and Dagger of Kamui in the late 80’s.

In the mid 90’s, I started both Phantom Studios and the Normal Society of Anime, sharing my interests with others.  I’m also working with the Normal Public Library’s Manga and Anime Club (MAC) with programming suggestions and reviews.  I’ve also joined their adult version, both as a member and as a coordinator

I enjoy both the translated and untranslated versions of anime and manga.  Being predominately an English speaker, I get more out of the translated works, but I enjoy the linguistic flow and performances of the actors in the anime and the uncensored images and intent from the manga.