Over Drive – Episode 2 – Boy Meets Bicycle (Part 2)

Posted November 5, 2009 by enchantermon
Categories: Anime

Before I begin, I would like to mention something I noticed about my last entry. In it, I referred to Shinozaki with his surname first and then his given name, as is the traditional Japanese style. I then later referred to Yuki with her given name first and her surname last, as is the traditional Western style. I had decided to use the Japanese style, but I, being a born-and-bred American, was bound to make this slip, though I didn’t think I’d do it so soon, to be honest. I think I’ll go with the Western style, though, just to simplify things. After the initial introductions, however, I’ll pick one name or the other to use when referring to the characters. So our characters so far are Mikoto Shinozaki (Shinozaki) and Yuki Fukazawa (Yuki).

The previous episode leaves us with a restless Shinozaki getting up in the middle of the night and going to school to practice riding the bicycle. We see him now, sitting a few feet away, poking the front tire with a stick as if it were a sleeping bear that might jump up and swallow him whole should he approach it.

Wild animal

*poke* *poke*

Apparently, he has some sort of fear of the bicycle, since he’s even afraid to touch it. Who knows why; it’s probably just an overreaction. Anyway, he grits his teeth and wheels it out to the empty grounds.
Morning comes. Yuki calmly pedals her way to school, cheerfully announcing to herself that she’s very, very late, and seemingly not caring in the slightest, apparently a bit of a slacker in the academic department.

Yuki, abhorrently late, calmly pedals her way to class.

As she approaches the school, her bicycle hits a lump causing her to crash unceremoniously to the ground. The lump turns out to be Shinokazi’s foot; he fell asleep practicing overnight! Taking pity on him, she bandages the numerous wounds on his hands earned from continuously falling, though how she applies fifteen bandages in 20 seconds is beyond me. Of course, obsessive-boy declares to himself that he won’t shower for a little while, now that Yuki has touched him. That’s not creepy at all…

Non sequitur: At this point I noticed something odd; Yuki’s uniform shirt doesn’t tuck into her skirt. This is the first time I’ve seen a Japanese girl’s school uniform that doesn’t tuck. This is the summer uniform, so perhaps the winter uniform does, but I just found it a bit different. Of course, this presents opportunities for mild fanservice in the form of stomach shots. It could be worse, though.

It is here that Shinozaki speaks of his motivation for trying to ride the bicycle. When attempting to convince him, Yuki said that the most important thing a cyclist has is his heart (referring to his spirit, not the organ), and she said that she knew he had a good heart. When she modeled for a portrait he requested (in the previous episode), she noticed that he got incredibly focused and drawn in to what he was doing that he became unaware of everything else. This heart, she thought, could be directed towards cycling. Now, Shinozaki reveals that he wants to become the strong-hearted person that Yuki said he could be. And thus, we have character motivation. I see now that I was wrong when I assumed that he only did it because he liked Yuki; he took to heart what she told him and realized that he could use the bicycle to change himself; to become a person with a strong heart. It’s more internal motivation than anything, really. Though I’m sure he’s also doing it because he cares about how she views him.

This brings us to what has to be my favorite clip from the episode. 🙂

I’m going to try to avoid ranting, but I absolutely abhor the style of guys walking around with their underwear showing. It’s disgusting, really. As Yuki says, who really wants to see someone else’s underwear? I know I don’t. I don’t know how this came into fashion, but it really needs to go away. Now.
Considering the topic, this seems to be a perfect opportunity to take a commercial break.

That’s just ten tons of win right there. One of the comments on the video (click it to go to Youtube) even says that this trend could have come from prisoners signaling that they’re available for gay sex. If this is true, it would be the irony of the century.
Anyway, back to Over Drive.

Yuki presents Shinozaki with a much more sensible fashion option; a headband. Personally, I think it makes him look even more ridiculous, but of course, because it came from Yuki, he treasures it like it’s the Holy Grail.

Treasure

Yuki then adjusts the gears on the bike to the hardest setting so he can practice his balance without moving and leaves him to his own devices.

As noon approaches, the upperclassmen from episode 1 return, and this is where Shinozaki’s character makes its first huge leap forward. After kicking him over on the bike, Izawa, the “leader” of the three, orders him to go buy lunch. Shinozaki considers standing up to them, but backs down. As he is about to leave, Izawa notices the headband and makes a little tug at it. Without thinking, Shinozaki slaps his hand away, ordering him not to touch it. Though his heart tells him to apologize, instead what gushes past his lips are words of confidence and of courage; he refuses to be their slave any longer.
Shinozaki receives a beating for his trouble and his headband is taken from him. But now, he has made his decision to change himself, and with that comes a new resolve. He mounts the bicycle and tries to go after them, but the gears are set so tight that he can’t turn them. Yuki, having seen the punks leaving with Shinozaki’s headband, come to his rescue; she grasps the bike from behind and pushes, giving Shinozaki the start he needs. Oblivious to everything else, he powers down the street after the punks on their scooter and, amazingly, catches up to them just as they come to a hill. With a mighty cry, Shinozaki launches off the hill into the air…

Who knows how exactly it happened, though I think it calls for a little suspension of disbelief. The end result is that Shinozaki ends up spreadeagle on the ground, clutching the headband tightly in one hand, and somehow uninjured. The punks fall as well, and Izawa considers Shinozaki again, but takes off after seeing Yuki taking pictures with her phone.

The episode closes with Shinozaki expressing his interest in joining the bicycle club and becoming number one in the world, with Yuki riding by his side. He finally realized that he does have strength of his own, even though he used to think that there wasn’t anything that he could do.

So in the end, Shinozaki is pretty strange. Then again, so am I, and I feel like I can identify with him quite a bit. I didn’t think there was anything I was really good at until I discovered that I knew more about computers than I realized I did. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe that little daydream sequence about the Tour de France in the first episode wasn’t really a dream. Perhaps he really will end up out there. We shall see.

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Over Drive – Episode 1 – Boy Meets Bicycle (Part 1)

Posted October 26, 2009 by enchantermon
Categories: Anime

Kicking off this blog is a review for the first episode of an anime I began watching yesterday: Over Drive. First, some info about the title.

Over Drive began as a manga, as many anime series do, written by Yasuda Tsuyoshi. This is actually a fairly recent series, the manga beginning in November 2005 and the anime adaptation first airing in April 2007. The studio producing Over Drive’s anime counterpart is XEBEC, a company I am unfamiliar with and which makes me think of the Kebert Xela clip from Family Guy (safe for work).
I like to go into my anime blind, not knowing what to expect. Usually it works out for me. In fact, the only time it didn’t was with the series I just finished, Strawberry Panic. Oi. But still, I want the chance to fully experience the anime for myself, so I won’t be giving a synopsis of the plot, since I myself don’t really know what’s going to happen.

The episode began with a very energetic and beautifully animated opening sequence showcasing a style of anime that I had not seen before. The colors are crisp and bright as cell shading tends to produce, but it’s the eyes that stand out. They seem to be larger and rounder than those I’m used to. This is by no means bad, however; it’s done rather well. Below is the opening intro for you to check out.

Just from the opening, you can see that it’s a series about cycling; and, specifically, racing. As if to cement the idea, what follows is a short narrative about the history of the Tour de France, one of the most well-known cycling races in the world. It then segues into what could either be a dream sequence of our protagonist, Shinozaki Mikoto, or a foreshadowing; either way, Shinozaki is shown powering towards the finish line in first place in the Tour to the amazement of the awaiting reporter.
The Shinozaki in reality, however, is a pushover kid just entering high school. He quickly became the gopher for a gang of older thugs, intimidated into running off during the school’s lunch period to buy their lunch for them (with his own money).
Then there’s the girl. As the opening suggests, there is a romance  plot to be explored, and Shinozaki’s love interest wastes no time appearing on screen. Enter Yuki Fukazawa. Cyclist, old friend of Shinozaki, girlfriend of a college student, and apparently a bit of a flirt as well.

Yuki flirts with Shinozaki

Is that considered flirting?

Note to self: never tell a girl that you noticed her hair growing seven millimeters. Can you spell “obsessed”? I mean, really. Surprisingly, Yuki doesn’t run the other way upon hearing this bit of news; she just frankly mentions that Shinozaki must be interested in her and takes it in stride, seemingly enjoying the attention, possibly because she likes him as well. Then again, since she didn’t notice that he’d been sitting next to her for a whole week, maybe not. But who knows.
So there we have our first two main characters: Shinozaki, a guy who inadvertently ends up with his shirt inside-out, his tie backwards, his pants undone, and who feels he can’t do anything, and Yuki, a frank, pretty, good-natured teenage girl who sees potential in our self-pantsed hero.

Did you know that the muscles you use to pedal a bicycle are different from those used in other sports like running? I didn’t. In fact, I’m leery about taking this as truth without further research, though it’s an interesting thought. A brief foray through Google brought out the idea that the same muscles are used, but in different ways, which seems more likely. In any event, this is one of the arguments Yuki uses to convince Shinozaki to try cycling. The only problem is that he doesn’t know how to ride a bike [curious, since in the beginning of the episode he rode a scooter well enough (until he hit a bump)]. Never underestimate the power of a cute face, though. Shinozaki decides to try anyway.

I think this anime is off to a good start. It’s a nice little school life drama with dashes of romance and comedy mixed in, and definitely has my interest. The artwork of the opening and ending sequences are usually the best of a series, but even the episode artwork of Over Drive is beautiful, crisp and clean. The voice acting is pleasant; the only jarring moment was a mini-speech of Yuki’s which seemed to be poorly edited with not enough space in between sentence. But this is one little hiccup in an otherwise excellent opener. I’m definitely looking forward to more. It’s certainly a nice palette-cleanser after the shojo-ai-fest that was Strawberry Panic.

Here’s the ending sequence for your viewing pleasure. Sorry about the subtitles; this was the only video I could find.

Next: Episode 2 – Boy Meets Bicycle (Part 2). Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you? 😉

And here we go!

Posted October 26, 2009 by enchantermon
Categories: Anime

…so sayeth the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

Greetings. If you came here from MySpace or Xanga, then you probably already know the purpose of this blog, but for those who do not, I’ll explain.
Lately, I’ve been getting the urge to hone my writing skills more so than I’ve really had time for. I have a couple pieces of fiction going, but lately I haven’t been able to really get into the writing phase for a few hours at a time, so they’ve  kind of ground to a halt (for now). I also don’t blog much about my life in general, as it’s not really much to speak of most of the time. So, I’m trying something new: I’m going to begin reviewing anime.
Normally, I watch an hour of anime per day. One episode during lunch, and one during dinner. It used to be more, but I had to cut down because I was getting more and more schoolwork and finding myself with less and less time. I think that reviewing the anime I watch will be a good writing exercise for me, and hopefully it will also help me look beyond the surface of my entertainment to see what lies beneath.
I have quite a list of anime that I want to get to, but suggestions are welcome. I unfortunately have very little money to speak of, so I’m feeding my anime appetite with fansubs (Japanese episodes that have been translated and subtitled by fans) at the moment, however when I actually get a job and start budgeting, I’m going to legitimately buy everything that I’ve downloaded, whether I liked it or not, because I believe wholeheartedly in supporting the anime industry. If I actually had the money, I would buy the anime from the company on DVD or through digital distribution, and I encourage all anime fans to do the same.
So that’s what’s going to be going on here. My first review is going to be on Over Drive, and will begin in the next post. I will be sharing my thoughts on the animation, the story, the acting, and where I think the show is going. Hopefully, it’ll be a fun ride for all involved.
Finally, bear in mind that I am by no means a professional writer or reviewer; I am simply doing this for my own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of anyone else who cares to read what I have to say. As always, you should make your own judgments on everything. As LeVar Burton would say, ” . . . you don’t have to take my word for it.” Watch, read, and listen for yourself. Not just anime, but everything. One of my good friends once said that “There is little evidence of critical thinking wherever I go.” It’s unfortunately true. Don’t take everything you see and hear as Gospel truth. Go with an open mind and find out for yourself.
[/soapbox]

Okay, so that’s it for my introduction. Next post: episode 1 of Over Drive.

One more thing: if you want to follow my blog about my life in general, check out my MySpace or Xanga account. If you send me a friend request, let me know in a message or comment who you are, otherwise I’ll probably ignore it. 🙂
Cheers!

~J-Duff