Thursday, October 28, 2010

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: Halloween Havoc!!

Well, well, it's been a year to the day since I started recommending monthly free/low-cost anime available on the web, starting off with manglobe's obscure macabre comedy TRIP TREK.  Being that it's October and close to Halloween--as it was then--I figure it would only be proper to recommend a few "scary" anime this time, too.

**Most of these shows, besides being free, are aimed at older teen to mature audiences, unsurprisingly, so viewer discretion is advised.  And due to that, some sites may require you to register, which is often free, as well.  I'm so not responsible for any nightmares, either, regardless the cause.**

[FUNimation Videos, Hulu]

Quite the good action tale with monstrous figures with a hankering for innards getting sliced every-which-way by silver-haired ladies with big swords.  One of the best fantasy anime in recent memory, with fine production values by Madhouse (some inconsistencies with faces, but the designs from the original manga aren't that simple to draw for animation) and a rollicking, but still appropriate, score by Masanori Takumi (Witchblade, Genshiken, Koi Kaze).  Though only eps. 1-13 are currently available at the time of this writing, subbed-only, it has, personally, perhaps the finest collection of female vocal performances in a single anime.  Some genuinely intense moments, likable characters, and an involving story make Claymore a great and enjoyable watch.

Red Garden
[FUNimation Videos, Hulu]

Definitely not your typical horror show--or typical-looking anime, for that manner.  Fujijun (original) and Kumi Ishii's (animation) character design work help accentuate GONZO's 2006 anime from many others, regardless of genre.  With its vivid style and pastel colors, the realistic flourishes in its characters and New York City setting, an elegant score by Akira Senju (Victory Gundam, Princess Arete, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), and a slice-of-life focus, Red Garden would seem as far away from being a horror show as you might expect…until you toss in the fact that the five girls are all dead and must survive by killing possessed men in business suits who act (and attack) like rabid dogs.  By all accounts, a high-school drama+suspense mystery+survival+horror+part-time musical (!) show with abnormal character designs and frothing white-collars whimpering like hurt mutts when they get a bat to the sternum should fall on its face and fall hard--but it doesn't.

Rather, Red Garden is one of GONZO's best and one of the most original shows around.  A sense of mystery abounds and you get a sense right off the bat (heh, heh) what the girls are going through.  And as a "slice-of-life" horror series, where you are taken through their lives and shown how they are coping with their dilemma and its impact on them, sometimes the tension in their daytime drama can be just as intense as their nighttime battles-to-the-death.  Despite how outrageous certain aspects may be, everything just fits well together, and a big thanks to that goes to the lean in realism that the show employs in its visuals, giving it a more grounded, and believable, feel.  Sure, something like the crazy dog-men may be hard to swallow at times (and just plain funny), but it can certainly be a blast to watch for the sheer sight of it all, plus things can definitely get heated and tense.  Red Garden does not shy away from violence and blood, and the opening scene alone is effectively creepy.  While your mileage may vary with the show as a whole and it could probably be defined more as "intense" and dramatic than "scary", it's hard to find another show like it in the horror genre so different and distinctive.

But honestly, it's harder to find which is more frightening: the rabid men-in-suits, or the out-of-nowhere singing that occurs in the early episodes?

(First seven episodes, dubbed, available.  Don't really like the dub, which is serviceable, but tries to hard to drive the "American" attitude of it in the script and acting (which was already there in the original).  Strangely enough, the Japanese cast felt more authentic and convincing in their performances. Go figure.)

Pet Shop of Horrors
[Anime Network]

Never saw it, and not to be confused with the American classic, Little Shop of Horrors, either, but it is well-regarded.  Looks interesting and is something different, plus it was produced by Madhouse, written by Giant Robo's Yasuhiro Imagawa and features character designs by Rintaro (Metropolis, Space Pirate Captain Harlock director) and Hisashi Abe (Chobits, Gunslinger Girl).  Doubt there will be any singing in this one, anyway…

(Available to only those who register, which is free.)

Corpse Princess (Shikabane Hime)
[FUNimation Videos, YouTube, Hulu]

GAINAX's (just?) first horror-based series, and recently released on DVD, at that.  Nothing like a girl with machine guns mowing down creepy creatures of the night…

M.D. Geist

Nothing scary about this one, but it is a horror to watch… :P

Boogiepop Phantom

Nozomi Ent. may have only put the first two episodes of the ever-so-good Boogiepop Phantom up, but its still worth giving the twisty tale a shot.  One of those turn-of-the-decade moody, thickly-plotted works with tons of atmosphere that will wrestle your mind to the ground (thank you, post-Evangelion era…)--but one of the few that actually comes together in a smoother, clearer manner than its ilk towards the end.

"Wait, where's Highschool of the Dead?!", you're probably asking.  Simply put, it finished not that long ago and I thought that it would have been too easy a pick to make, so I didn't feel like posting about it here (oh, but look, I already did…).  There are a few others I skipped too, such as Ghost Hound, Soul Eater, Vampire Knight, and even Mushi-Shi, which is sometimes classified as a "horror" anime, somehow.  Of course, I didn't mention Dance in the Vampire Bund, either.  Don't want to get arrested, now… ;)

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