OAVs: Hands down, it's gotta be the fight scene in Strafe, where the Weiß bishies are out to kill each other. 'Nuff said ^_^
Glühen: It's the scene in the second to the last (or last) episode when Ken and Omi are fighting the Rosen Kreuz. One of the Rosen Kreuz guys has the power to disappear so the Weiß guys are at a disadvantage. Then Schuldich, one of the Schwarz, told Omi via telepathy, "He's coming to your left," so Omi was able to dodge the attack of the Rosen Kreuz guy. Later, Schuldich told Omi, "Don't misunderstand, we're not trying to help you. We just want to finish where we've left off." Apparently, he's intent on keeping the Weiß guys alive so the Schwarz can have their final showdown with them. The showdown did not take place though. But Schuldich was always my favorite among the Schwarz guys, followed by Crawford, their leader. The display of Schuldich's power to help save Omi, though grudging and out of selfishness, gave him plus points in my book. And he's not so bad-looking either. Oooh-la-la! Just don't pay attention to his Tom Sawyer costume. Please.
I first saw Weiß Kreuz on TV one Sunday morning, about five years ago. That time, my experience with anime was limited to Sailor Moon, other magical girl shoujo, and tame mecha anime. At the sight of four guys killing people right and left, I was disgusted at the amount of violence, and on a Sunday morning at that, when smaller kids would watch TV.
Then the following Sunday I happened on Weiß Kreuz again. This time the four guys formerly wielding weapons and killing people as if there's no tomorrow are now dressed in aprons and managing a flowershop. I was always a sucker for domesticated bishies, and these four guys are so hot.
Okay, so I got hooked.
Unlike other anime, Weiß (pronounced Weiss) Kreuz didn't start out as a manga. It's a drama on Japanese radio brainstormed by Takehito Koyasu. He's known to the shoujo community as the seiyuu of Hotohori (ooh-la-la!) in Fushigi Yuugi. Anyway, the radio drama was a hit that an artist called Kyoko Tsuchiya drew the characters, which officially became the images for the manga version. The story was written by Koyasu. The Weiß Kreuz manga later was made into a series of anime. As I haven't read the manga, I can't compare it to the anime, but some people claim that the manga is better--as always (it's rare to hear about an anime being better than the manga).
Weiß Kreuz has a total of 24 TV episodes followed by two OAVs in 1998. Recently, another set of TV series, Glühen, was released which chronicles the lives of the group and their new mission roughly two years after the original TV series.
There's Omi Tsukiyono, codenamed Bombay, and the youngest of the Weiß, although I think he's the first member among the four ever to be recruited. His weapon of specialty are projectiles like darts and crossbows. He's into computers, and in every mission that requires hacking or research in the Internet, Omi's the one who's always assigned.
Then there's Ken Hidaka, the
second youngest. Codenamed Siberian, his weapons of choice are the "bugnuks"--gloves
with claws (think Wolverine). He's also the more athletic of the members;
he used to be a football player and is fond of motorbike racing.
Finally, the apparent leader of the group is Aya Fujimiya, codenamed Abyssinian. His specialty weapon is the katana. He's probably the most stoic of the group. He rarely smiles (if at all), and he only has one thing in mind: revenge on Reiji Takatori, a powerful Japanese politician who happens to be the one who annihilated Aya's parents and made his sister comatose. Two of Aya's favorite words (from what I've noticed) are: "Takatori" and "shi-ni". In that order ^_^ Aya is reminiscent of Squall Leonhart in Final Fantasy VIII, i.e., in the mood department.
The story has the usual plot: good vs evil, murder and revenge, conspiracy and treachery...well, you get the picture. As I've mentioned earlier, the Weiß Kreuz guys are hired by a mysterious man called Persia to get rid of shady characters. He would give their missions in the basement through a video of himself facilitated by a woman who acts as Persia's personal assistant, codenamed Manx. Persia's identity remains unknown to the Weiß Kreuz guys, but they see the silhouette and hear the voice of a man in the video, though.
In the first half of the Weiß Kreuz episodes (there are a total of 24), the shady characters happen to be connected, one way or another, to Reiji Takatori. Yep, he's the man Aya has issues with. He also resembles a Mafioso lord, the boss of his own syndicate but well-respected in the Japanese government.
Each episode also highlights each Weiß Kreuz character's dark pasts, which--well, yeah--also happen to be intertwined with the Takatori family and their "henchpeople" (heck, they also have women as goons). And do they have a hot bunch of henchpeople. There's this group who calls themselves "Schwarz" ("black" in German. Notice the contrast?), composed of four hot guys who possess superhuman abilities: one is a telepath, the other a clairvoyant, another completely immune to pain, and the last the power of telekinesis. The other group of "goons" are composed of four women (such pretty goons ^_^) who call themselves Schreient. Looks like Koyasu planned on a Weiß Kreuz guy equally paired with a Schwarz and a Schreient.
If the first half of the TV series shows the Weiß Kreuz guys defeating Reiji Takatori, the second half saw another enemy. This time it's about a group of old people (two men and a woman) who call themselves Estet. These oldies are pretty much like the Schwarz in that they have superhuman abilities. They are a threat to the Weiß guys because the Estet played a part behind Reiji Takatori's reign of evil. The Estet are also after Aya's comatose sister, who apparently doesn't age even after years of sleep (Sleeping Beauty anyone?). Oh, and the Schwarz and the Schreient are still alive and are helping the Estet one way or the other.
Weiß Kreuz didn't end with the 24th episode. It also has two OAVs, titled Vertebrechen and Strafe, and are about Japanese hackers who accidentally stumbled into the American army base's computer database. This time, the creators of Weiß Kreuz made the OAVs appear like an alternate universe, you know, those what-if scenarios we think are unlikely to happen (e.g. what if Usagi and Mamoru are actually siblings and Rei and Mamoru became serious lovers?). Here, Ken and Omi are labeled traitors because they sided the hackers, and Persia gave Aya and Youji the order to finish them (Ken and Omi) off. Literally. Aya did not question the order, and Youji, though a bit of a softie, also yielded to the order. The twist is when they actually fought each other to the death with their own weapons. Yep, there's really a scene where they faced each other off and attacked each other. Believe me, it broke my heart when I watched them fight. My poor Youji...*cough, cough*...
The plot of the OAVs is similar to the TV series: there's a group of bad guys, but this time there's no Takatori, Estet or Schreint involved. I estimate the OAVs to occur sometime before the end of the TV series, but it's hard to say because there's also no mention of Aya's comatose sister here. Two of the Schwarz appeared in the end though. I'd like to think they're teasers for Weiß Kreuz Glühen.
And speaking of Glühen, it's the 13-episode installment from Koyasu. I remember jumping up and down and searching high and low in the Internet just to get a synopsis or a glimpse of pictures from the new series. Imagine my disappointment when I saw some pictures and screenshots. Youji's chin-to-shoulder-length blond hair was hacked off and he's now sporting short, curly hair. Ken looked like he hasn't had a haircut in a decade. Omi's hair looked like a wig that was haphazardly dumped on top of his head. And Aya's layered hair with the fashionably long sideburns is now pulled back in a braid that hung down the length of his back a la Rapunzel. The clothes were no better. Except for Aya's white trenchcoat, the others looked like they were created by a designer fixated on theater arts. Even Omi's wearing a neckcloth, for crying out loud. But as I was hung up on the original TV series, I decided to overlook my prejudice over the new character designs and watched all 13 episodes anyway ^_^
Glühen introduced two new Weiß Kreuz members: Sena and Kyou. At first I thought Sena is Omi, he's just as small and around Omi's age (around the TV series' time frame anyway). Kyou I've mistaken for Ken; they have the same body habitus. Turns out that Ken and Youji are somewhere in Europe infiltrating an enemy's headquarters, and that Aya, Sena, and Kyou are assigned to go undercover in Koua Academy, where a suspiciously increasing incidence of student suicide is taking place. Aya poses as a schoolteacher--don't ask me how he gets away with his Rapunzel hair inside a school. Sena and Kyou goes undercover as students. And guess where Omi is? Nah, I'll spare you the spoiler. If you've finished watching Weiß Kreuz, you'll be able to figure that out ^_^
Like Weiß Kreuz, lumps of information about the Weiß guys (this time Sena's and Kyou's) are revealed. Sena's mother committed parricide and nearly killed Sena, while Kyou's younger brother was a student of Koua Academy and one among many students who committed suicide. The plot unfolds and new enemies appear, among them a European group of killers called Rosen Kreuz (gee, they sure are fond of name games) who have preternatural powers as the Schwarz. And yep, the Schwarz also made special appearances in the last few episodes of Glühen. Nope, the Rosen Kreuz and Schwarz are not the main antagonists in Glühen, but someone--or something?--else.
Weiß Kreuz dwells on the darker side of Japanese politics, with a little sci-fi in between (an underground syndicate that has clairvoyants and telepaths?). Ordinarily, this kind of story is not to my taste; I don't particularly like seeing people killing and getting killed, but with the show having lots of hot bishies, who can resist? Besides, the Weiß guys' pasts are dangled in bits and pieces in every episode, it's hard not to watch the next episode, and the next, and the next, just to find out that the girl who often visits Omi in the flowershop happens to be Reiji Takatori's lovechild, and that Omi himself is a Takatori. There's also so many unexpected twists that it would be hard not to finish the whole 24 episodes. Who would have guessed that Youji's Asuka is none other than a member of Schreient, or that Persia also happens to be a Takatori? Am I giving too many spoilers again? ^_^
The seiyuus were spectacular, maybe because some of them are well-known from the popular Fushigi Yuugi. Besides Koyasu (a.k.a. Hotohori) as Aya, there's also Seki Tomokazu (a.k.a. Chichiri) as Ken, Miki Shinichirou (a.k.a. Mitsukake) as Youji, and Hiraku Midorikawa (a.k.a. Tamahome) as Schwarz's Schuldich. The seiyuus were also the ones who sang the themes of Weiß Kreuz themselves. I particularly love the opening theme "Velvet Underworld" played in the first half of the series, and the ending theme "Beautiful Alone." I always hear J-pop sung by girls, that to hear Japanese men sing is a new experience. And they're not so bad, either.
The artwork of Weiß Kreuz, while said to be hand-drawn, is also excellent. The guys there actually look different from each other, and not only because of the color of their hair. Their costumes (Aya's and Youji's long coats particularly) are plus points. Some people grouch that the manga Weiß Kreuz guys are hotter (there's the word again...) than the anime version; Youji is a brunette in the manga whereas in the anime he's a blond, Ken has blue-eyes in the manga while he has green eyes in the anime...the list of disparities is endless. But as I've said before, I've never read the manga, so I wasn't really wanting when I watched the anime ^_^
The OAVs meanwhile focused more on Ken than the other guys, so these are treats for the girls who adore Ken. As with Weiß Kreuz the artwork of the OAVs were well-done, and I have to mention that Aya's and Youji's coats have improved considerably: Aya's from brown-black to white, and Youji's from the white cross on the sleeves to the red cross emblazoned on the back of the coat. And, too, Koyasu had come up with a story that sets it far apart from the Weiß Kreuz TV series and deserving to be called OAVs. We certainly don't see death matches between our favorite bishies, who consider each other comrades if not siblings, everyday.
As for Glühen, I have to be honest, I was in a state of mourning over the loss of the four bishies. The change in the artwork and character designs felt like the Weiß guys have died or have metamorphosed to completely different human beings. Who the heck are these weirdos? There's gotta be a good explanation for this...and there is. Apparently, Koyasu used the Weiß images (the ones used in the TV series and in the OAVs) for Glühen without consulting Kyoko Tsuchiya (the artist who drew the originals). Tsuchiya sued. Koyasu then hired another artist and the images were redone. Ergo the weirdos calling themselves Weiß Kreuz. *Sigh* Well, the only consolation for the wardrobe and hair changes is that the seiyuus are the same, so the feel of the TV series isn't totally lost.
Despite my grousing about the artwork changes in Glühen, it's just as superb as the TV series, and I got used to the hair and costumes of our bishies. By the fifth episode, I almost forgot what they used to look like in the previous TV series.
The music in Glühen was unremarkable, but the songs were sung by the seiyuus too. I just didn't find anything comparable to "Velvet Underworld" and "Beautiful Alone."
The plot of Glühen however leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, Youji was wimpy here, and although he redeemed himself in the end, I was dissatisfied at the way he was portrayed here. The resolution of Glühen was a disappointment, too. When I finished watching the 13th episode, I was kind of depressed. The ending of the Weiß Kreuz TV series left things open-ended so it's up to the imagination of the viewers what happened next. In Glühen, it left little doubt that the Weiß guys have parted ways, and the way they parted was depressing. But I did read somewhere in the Internet that in the manga, Weiß Kreuz continued after Glühen, with only Aya and Ken remaining. Still, that didn't make me feel any better.
Glühen, on a final note, is definitely for die-hard Weiß Kreuz fans, and if you haven't watched the Weiß Kreuz TV series, or find it far too violent to your liking, then Glühen is not for you. You probably won't be able to stomach the misery.
Weiß Kreuz (OAVs and Glühen included) is one of the ultimate shounen dramas without the wizards and the aliens and the mechas. Unfortunately, its fanbase is composed of more girls than guys. The guys apparently think Weiß Kreuz has yaoi undertones (their cheesy weapons don't help), but believe me, all the Weiß guys in the anime are full-blooded males. Each of them was involved in a woman one time or the other, especially Youji (the ending of Glühen is testimony to Youji's heterosexuality). So I still wonder why some people tend to misinterpret some of the dialogues in the anime, and I even read about Youji and Ken seen as "unnaturally close", whatever that means. Oh well, everybody's entitled to their own opinion.
Weiß Kreuz is the first violent anime I've ever watched, and it introduced me to other spectacular anime that are definitely not shoujo and just as violent, if not more. It's like I was allowed a sip of vodka, found it icky, but tasted it again. Before I knew it, I was watching lots of other anime people label as for those with the "acquired taste." I think it's safe to say that Weiß Kreuz is for people with an acquired taste for violent anime. Of course, the hot bishies made me acquire the taste ^_^