WARNING: This review contains some mild spoilers.
I quite like this anime. The story -- an Ordinary High School boy finds out he's the key to a great battle between rival ninja clans -- isn't particularly original, but it becomes quickly obvious that the show isn't really about that. Rather, it's about the slowly evolving relationship between our main character, Miharu, and Yoite, another young man of an opposing ninja clan who is slowly dying -- and desperately wants something from Miharu.
The relationship between these two kindred spirits is fascinating, as we begin to slowly understand how alike their struggles with happiness and apathy are. How healthy this relationship is, is always in doubt, and trying to come to terms with just how they feel about one another and how this affects both them and the people around them is one of the joys of watching this series.
These two characters are trying to figure things out right along with the viewer, which leads to quite a bit of side-switching and motives and actions that aren't always readily clear. This is interesting at first, though it does get tiresome after a while; however, it dovetails nicely with the series' message that no one is truly good or bad, or trustworthy, and that you can't rely on others to make your decisions for you.
This also reflects in the moral complexity of the various other characters on the show. Very few people in this series are all good or all bad; most of them are quite human, and as such are always surprising you. You come to really care about these people, because they seem so real; and even the ones who are at first unsympathetic or annoying slowly endear themselves to you (though I hated Kotarou right to the end).
The series is at its strongest when it takes advantage of all of the complex characters. When the series, especially towards the end, focuses more exclusively on the relationship between Miharu and Yoite, it becomes bogged down in a repititious cycle of storylines we've already seen. Though the relationship between the two is fascinating, it isn't quite fascinating enough to sustain the entire series by itself, which is exactly what it tries to do for a while. Needles to say, this part is the weakest of the series.
The strongest parts are a raid on a school towards the middle, and the ending, which manages to be completely awesome right up until an unfortunate deus ex machina that leaves the final few episodes to again mostly be about the relationship between Miharu and Yoite. Still, the ending packs a punch, and is certainly satisfying in the way it manages to tie several different plot threads together.
It would be a shame if I didn't mention the remarkable animation -- the background is, I believe, gorgeous watercolors, and the character designs are dynamic (if a tad unoriginal). The characters are a little lanky, but still look great, especially when they spring into action.
In short this is a very good series that at times sinks under the weight of its own fantastic characters -- if everyone around Miharu and Yoite wasn't so interesting, we wouldn't notice they're absence; of course, these are some great characters, which means that we do. By and large, however, this is a great and interesting series, well worth your time.
Brief Review (might do a more detailed one later):
As you might expect, the anime's basic premise sounds like any other "power-up" anime. However, this turns out to be far from the truth; but not necessarily in a good way...
This anime is more about the relationships and forced drama between 5 or 6 characters. However, nothing is explained very well, and you suddenly have a main character who is basically in love with some phychopath killer for some poorly flushed out reason. I can't tell you why, because this anime is so unclear and vague.
I guess this anime has some orginality to it. It is sometimes hard to predict whats going to happen next, but I feel like that is more because you can't figure out what the hell is actually going on.
I like the character designs, and I'm happy that the characters feel much more human then in most anime in this genre. They have flaws, and few are completely good or evil.
My biggest problem with this anime is clarity. Maybe I'm just not into the whole subtle drama thing, but I was having trouble following everything that was going on. Looking for some scrolls? Kid has some wierd powers that he needs to control but no one explains how or why or wtf?
So the biggest problem is that nothing is explained, and everything is so random. People have said it is hard to figure out what is going to happen next. Yes that is true, but only because Nabari no Ou is so damn random, it just pulls whatever ideas and plot elements out of thin air to meet is purpose.
Another disappointing point is that the rommance stuff got a little wierd. Are they gay or not? Whats up with no guys trying to get with the hot ass sword swinging blond that no one seems to care about?
Lastly, and most disappointing for me was that I expected the main character's powers to slowly awaken, and him slowly to gain control over them. At episode 17, there has been no growth there, and 2 examples of him using his powers. I wasn't looking for some bleach/dbz powerup anime, but I wanted a little something...
Sum it up:
I tried so hard to like this anime. I think this is obvious that I got to episode 17 without dropping it. However, I just couldn't handle it anymore. The episodes 13-15ish were the only episodes I found decent (involving the assult on the school) but it took a turn for the worse very soon after, and I couldn't handle it anymore
So much potential... shot.
If your into boy love or what not, maybe.
If your into buckets of nonsensical and confusing plot, maybe.
If you just want to see some average characterization, maybe.
Thats about all I can recommend this for.
Grows on You
While it;s admittedly much more kiddish and light-hearted than I care for my enime to be, after about three episodes, I accepted the fact that I was a fan. This may sound weird, but it's almost as if you can feel the friendship bond shared between the characters, and as a result, begin to relate to them more and more.
At first glance, the story seemed like some garbled ninja-fantasy misadventure that I'd usually shun away in a heartbeat. The whole "hidden chosen one" scenario is a tired plot device that I could do without. However, the juxtaposition of the jitsu world and the world of common civilians was both intriguing and hilarous. Although at times it did feel a bit like waiting for Velma to pin the culprit on an episode of Scooby Doo.
The humorously-developed characters really save the show. There's not one character in this show that I couldn't form an opinion of...that says plenty.
I absolutely love the plot! It's not predictable, it's original, and intriguing! It pulled at my heart strings, and I cried over this. I don't know what else to say about it, other than excellent~!
The animation was great in my opinion. The movements flowed very well, and art was original. Definitely good animation in comparison to others I've seen... o.O
The voice acting was good. I admit, I have very poor judgment when it comes to Japanese voice acting, but I personally loved the voices of the characters~! ^^ As for the opening and ending theme: the opening theme is decent, but nothing memorable, accept when he says "I don't care" in English. o.o For some reason I could get that out of my head. xD The first ending theme, I liked a lot, the second one, gave me a headache for some reason...but I think that's just me. ^^;;
I love the characters! They all had very distinct personalities, and for once none of them annoyed me...even a little! Miharu is very loveable, because although he is very careless at first, you see a much better, adorable, side to him as the series continues. ^^ Yoite was somewhat hard for me to understand, and I wish they would've revealed a bit more of his past, but all in all, I loved Yoite almost as much as Miharu...almost. xD I found Koichi very interesting, Tobari...okay, maybe he annoyed me a tad, but barely. >w< I just don't understand why he was so stubborn. I really liked Raimei, because she almost seemed full of herself in a way. And Fuuma is definitely worth mentioning, because he was definitely a very...interesting character. xD Very humorous in my opinion.
A very very very good anime that I think almost anyone would love! Despite what some people may say, there is no yaoi. Yes, you can think of it as yaoi if you want to, but really, guys can be friends too. I've seen guys hug each other and announce they're in a "Bromance", and even so, they're not homosexual. So really, it isn't yaoi, unless you want it to be. ^^; If that makes sense...just saying, anyways...WATCH IT.
Story: I acutally really liked parts of the stories. I thought it had some interesting potential and concept. However, it became vague with a lot of gaps. There were random flashbacks that weren't fully explained. People's pasts weren't fleshed out enough either. I liked the ninja aspect of it but I became confused at times. In addition, the resolution for the climax felt anticlimatic and I did enjoy the ending as bittersweet as it was. All in all, I enjoyed watching the series. It had laughs, action, comedy and drama.
Animation: I enjoyed the animation for the most part. The character designs were bright and the movements were pretty fluid. However, sometimes, the backgrounds would have a watercolored/pastel feel to them while the characters were clear cut. It match which made it look strange at times. The characters are incredibly lanky though.
Sound: I loved the opening and ending themes. There were not only catchy but the lyrics fit incredibly well with the series. However, the soundtrack itself was lackluster. There was only one I particularly liked. Everything else either just fit or hindered the scene. The intermission piece would usually kill the mood as well. I greatly enjoyed the seiyuus. I do love Rie Kugamiya and the rest of the cast.
Characters: Like the plot, I would have liked them to be fleshed out a bit more. I do find them very enjoyable and easy to like. I like that the relationships are complex and give a different view on people. Also, I really liked the bond between Yoite and Miharu. I didn't see it as boy love but more as them being kindred spirits. However, I would have liked to see more of their past and development instead of the bits and pieces that they showed. I felt like they jumped around a lot.
Overall: It was very entertaining and not too hard to sit down and watch a few episodes at a time. I like the very ending and the bast but I was confused a lot throughout the way. However if you're looking for a pretty decent ninja series, Nabari No Ou is your friend. Not amazing but definitely likable.