|09-26-2008, 10:50 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Warabi-shi, Saitama-ken, Japan
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YouTube - GrapplerJMo Anime Review Wangan Midnight
Story and Characters
At late hours, on the longest freeway stretch of Japanís Shuuto Expressway known as the Wangan that connects Tokyo and Yokohama, is home to the REAL fast and the furious. The current emperor of speed is Shima Tatsuya, a driver of a black 911 Turbo that is feared as the blackbird. However, his reign is now being challenged by high school student, Asakura Akio, a driver of a Nissan Fairlady Z S30 (which is known outside of Japan as the Datsun 240Z). But this S30 has an interesting story of its own: Prior to getting into Akioís hands, it was in a record number of accidents. Despite that, its twin turbo L28 engine that is over 600hp still stays in tact. Because of the carís features and accidents, veteran racers fear it as the Devilís Z as if it were possessed. And to make things freakier, the name of the previous owner shares the same name as our main character, and died racing on the Wangan against the Blackbird. Regardless, Akio doesnít care and feels he found the car that he was born to drive. On a side note, I did hear from the Wangan Midnight community that the story of the S30 is based on James Deanís accident and how since then, his Porsche has had some curse with whoever got parts of it or managed to rebuild it, got into accidents of their own.
Obviously, your 1st reaction so far will be youíre thinking Initial D. I donít blame anybody for doing so, but if youíre going to watch this with expectations based on Initial D, then youíre going to watch it for all the wrong reasons. The 1st portion of this series will be repetitive and slow, but itís done for the purpose to build suspense, motivate development, and establish the story. I felt that things got exciting way too much at the end and it leaves you wanting for more, but I guess thereís the manga to make you satisfied which Iím now getting into. Depending on how you get into it, it will be either hard or easy to accept, but I feel this presentation was done for the right reasons even though it will take awhile to get into this anime. Yes, consequences of that kind of story telling makes the pace slow, but it gives chances to focus and introduce other characters and their relationships which the anime is truly about.
The anime has great character exploration. I really like how the racing lifestyle and car obsession results in consequences to the normal lives of the characters and in relation to those around them. In the case of Akio, he has to repeat a year of high school because he ditches to make money for his car.
However, I felt there were some characters that had no use or contribution to the progression or establishment of the story, though they had an interesting origin and develop individually. But in the end, they seemed more like filler or side story characters, and felt the anime could have focused on other things instead. But regardless, these characters were likeable and engaging. As for the main characters, I felt their personalities were too strong and established to make any significant development throughout the course of this anime, but I think it was mostly about the relationships and interactions that were more of the central focus.
There is heavy duty tech speak, but I felt it was really easy to understand because it demonstrates the explanations hand in hand very effectively. But because the series is seriously technical, chances are you may be turned off by it because it gets really deep and I know a lot of people were turned off by this in Initial D because it was used as a riddle for foreshadowing thus made it very confusing to those not familiar with cars, but with Wangan Midnight, I felt itís presentation made it like an auto class. But the drama thanks to the back-story of the Devil Z, is odd but engagingly driven in its own right. It does create a sense of curiosity of whether or not there is something possessing the Z, but its history and its tuning has a certain aura to it that attracts the characters, thus moves the story. For the qualities I found unique, it contributes to why I give the story and characters, an 8.25/10.
Art and Animation
Well, the character designs share an obvious resemblance of Initial Dís, but simpler looking. The art design will of course look more dated since the original manga came out in 1992 and is sticking true to the original designs. Yeah, itís really nothing cutting edge, nor is it really over the top. So the awkward designs will probably turn off people, but I donít think it should really overall negate the anime as a whole. I like how Akio tends to be a white shirt and jeans kind of guy, and the way heís drawn, itís like heís an anime version of James Dean himself. Hell, heíll even wear the red jacket like he does on the cover of Rebel Without a Cause.
The races are also in CG, though it doesnít really look as cel shaded as 4th Stage, but the style accurately portrays the features of the cars, and the corresponding engine sounds. The buildings and the Wangan are also rendered in CG as if it were the PS3 or arcade game. The cars presented are also a nice flavor (I get the notion that the original manga-ka is a Nissan fan and loves the GT-R), and the racing brings a different kind of suspense such as a danger risk and the portrayal of the consequences of reckless driving. Such consequences are wrecks and even engine blowouts, which gives it a sense of limitation to the cars. Initial D has that risk factor, but I donít feel it, but I do feel it with Wangan Midnight, which makes the races more edge at your seat. Plus, I felt Initial Dís world despite praising it for itís realism, in comparison to Wangan Midnight, it way too idealistic. But the races are more one-dimensional because it mostly takes place on the Wangan, and the style of racing itself to some people doesnít feel as exciting as drifts or as innovating as gutter gripping on hairpins. But outside of the risk factor of driving at 300km/h on a public highway, the only other contributing factor to excitement is that races can be at 4 cars at once while itís not exclusive to two cars. But the fact they push it to the limit should be exciting enough for some people. Now that I think about it, why arenít their cops out there after them? I wonder if itís true according to Tokyo Drift that cops in Japan canít catch you if youíre exceeding 180 km/h. So anyway, the art and animation: an 8.5/10.
Music and Voice Acting
The voice cast is excellent though there is one big name that stands out to me that took some adjusting, and that was Miki Shiníichiro the voice of Takumi in Initial D, as the voice of Shima. Iím so used to hearing him as Takumi to a point that I really couldnít imagine him in this role. By the time I got to the end, I finally accepted him as Shima and started to appreciate his performance And I felt it was unique that they casted J-Drama actor, Oguri Shun, who was in the live action versions of GTO, Gokusen, and Hana Yori Dango as Akio. I thought he captured Akioís characteristics in a typical fashion where youíre convinced heís a unique kind of teenager and shows great variety to Oguriís acting abilities in this approach. I also liked Suhou Reiko as Reina. I thought she did great as a seiyuu by being a down to earth idol. And I was most impressed with Miyake Kentaís performance as Kitami Jun, the tuner from hell. You probably know him as Tsume from Wolfís Rain, Vetor in Sonic, and is also casted as Zangief in SFIV. Anyway, I think he brings a unique charisma and intimidation to the character where he can freak you out to a point that yeah, he tunes crazy cars, but hey itís probably worth the risk. So he swept me off my feet.
Unfortunately, there is no Eurobeat. Music isnít really that emphasized in this anime. The track youíll tend to hear is a more techno driven Eastern Indian song that sounds similar to what you hear in Ghost in the Shell. It suits that risk factor that this anime has, but gets overused and we also have extreme techno rock every now and then. The opening and the ending themes do sound like MOVEís songs, but they are more upbeat and up lifting, and not as emphatically hip hop driven, nor do they comes across as extreme as MOVE, but likable. So I give the music and voice acting, an 8.25/10
Like Initial D and some other anime I review, Wangan Midnight is for people who want to try something different, but itís still an anime that isnít for everyone whether youíre new to anime or hardcore. Granted you can say that about DBZ, Lucky Star, and EVA, but Wangan Midnight is just a different tune to truly apply that because its racing, people will jump to conclusions that itís stupid just because of what itís about. In some aspects, I think Wangan Midnight has distinguishing qualities that keeps me interested, such as the character exploration and the realism, and I love the arcade game. But hey, growing up with a father who loves cars and going to school with people who love to drag race, I could get into this anime and I had familiarity with the arcade game, Maximum Tune which should be at your local arcade. Give it a try, itís a lot of fun.
I doubt this anime is getting licensed, so you can go to your usual torrent sources to get it. But anyway, Iím giving this anime an 8.3/10, and remember: this review is a review of a work of fiction and I encourage you to please drive safely and obey traffic laws at all times, and stick to racing at your local arcade, gaming console or public circuit track.
Be sure to check out: www.youtube.com/hajimenojmo and his top 50 anime at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kngwg5N5APw
Last edited by rockenroll4life; 10-28-2008 at 05:07 PM.