Wednesday, April 20, 2016

[New][April 2016] Bungo Stray Dogs

Last Seen: Episode 2

Summary: Kicked out of his orphanage after its supplies are ravaged by a wild tiger, and on the verge of starving to death, as well as having recently ran for his life from that same Tiger in the middle of a city...Nakajima Atsushi meets some strange men. One of them, Dazai Osamu, is a suicidal man attempting to drown himself in broad daylight. The other, Kunikida Doppo, nervously stands by obsessively flipping through a notepad, and trying to keep tabs on Dazai. Both are members of the "Armed Detective Agency" said to solve incidents that even the military and police won't touch. Atsushi ends up accompanying them on their mission to eliminate the tiger that's been terrorizing the population, as they take a keen interest in noting that the Tiger is following him, even though he himself hasn't noticed it yet.

First Impression: Comedy. I have seen nothing but comedy. Even when it tried to get properly serious in the second episode, I saw through it for what it actually was. Still, it tried.

My Opinion: Well. Right now it's still just introducing its main cast, and it has several more characters and powers to make a show of based on the lineup presented in the first episode. Interestingly enough, the show enjoys taking a moment to flash on screen every characters power when they are introduced, but...only the name. I...actually kind of like this. The name implies a vague idea of what the power might do, but it still leaves it up to the viewer to try and guess what it will actually be like.
Over all, the show has a very strange feel to it. I can't really grasp what the core of the show is going to be. Certainly, there's a hefty dose of comedy, and even some...mystery? But it doesn't really seem to focus on that. Also, for all the large flashy animations attached to the powers, the actual use of them is...extremely brief. Same for the action scenes. Maybe it's just because the show is still introducing everyone, and trying to get the viewer to connect to them. For now, the show has my curiosity well in hand, despite that nothing has really stuck to me, other than how weird they're making their characters out to be, psychologically.
That's something I want to point out, the show makes a point of explicitly saying something along the lines of, "all power holders have something twisted in their minds/personalities". I think more than anything else, that got my curiosity the most, the promise of an entire main cast with psychological issues to define their characters and personalities, instead of the usual checklist of anime character tropes. But, well, it could still just become that in the end. We shall see.

[New][April 2016] Twin Star Exorcists

annnnd I hate everything about you

Last Seen: Episode 2

Summary: Monsters known as Impurities reside in Magano, a realm parallel to the present day. Exorcists purify these evil apparitions to protect the people. Rokuro Enmado is opposed to becoming an exorcist, even though he has the talent to be one, after a tragedy in his past that killed all of his friends and cost him an arm. Benio Adashino, a girl from a highly influential/rich family of exorcists, is determined to exorcise all the Kegare, or Impurities, in the world. A pledge Rokuro once believed in as well, and which inspires him to fight just once to rescue her. However, afterwards, even though he tries to continue to refuse being an exorcist, the Oracle calls a meeting of all Exorcists, and proclaims a vision that Benio and Rokuro are the path to the 'Miko', the person who will destroy all Impurities forever, coming to the world. He therefore declares them engaged to be married.

First Impression: It's...shounen. That's...about it. A bit edgier than what I typically think of in shounen, but that seems to be the rolling trend these days. More edge and blood and such.

My Opinion: Eh, it could be good. Honestly, for all that it makes out to have an edge on it, (it doesn't really try to draw attention to it, it's just something I picked up on), what with the scene where Rokuro's arm is gone and all of his friends are scattered around him, bloody and dead in a burning building... it all still feels fairly...shounen. Maybe that's just the Fox familiar who in precisely ONE scene, managed to make me utterly hate him as soon as he opened his mouth. Or the 'friend' of Rokuro's who the show clearly lines up as a potential romantic interest... Or hey, how he actually hesitated for a moment before refuting his non-exorcist vow and flaunting his overwhelming power. A brief moment of humanity before total inhumanity. For all that it seems to want you to think it has deep parts in its story or plot, it still comes off feeling shallow somehow, somewhere. Regardless, it's interesting enough that I'm going to watch it, and who knows but that it might be good in the end? For now though, I see nothing amazing or out of the ordinary to recommend it, unless you just want something flashy, a bit funny, and with a few deep emotional points, to add to your roster to fill time.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

[Ended] Myriad Colors Phantom World: Shallow to the last

we already knew that...YOU told us several episodes ago. Thanks for the recap.

Pros: Like the title says, it is colorful
-The actions okay
-Several of the abilities and phantoms are quite interesting
-The core concepts of the World setting are quite good, in my opinion

Cons: Just about everything else
-The main cast especially, but everyone in general, is archetypical(I just made that up) and trope'y.
-The plot is full of holes
-They magic handwave for several of those holes. Poorly. (yes you can skillfully handwave things away)
-The individual stories are tiresomely done before, and the only time they're interesting is scaled directly to what amount the phantoms play a role

My Opinion: This kind of show has been bugging me for a long time. Not any of the genres it tries to fit, the setting, plot, or characters none of that. I mean how I feel about the show, the kind of feeling this show invokes that others have as well. This...brooding dissatisfaction. This lack of anyone one true flaw to point at and criticize, while also lacking any one true redeeming or remarkable feature to laud about.
I'm going to take a page out of a favorite critic of mines book, from Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation series, and imbibe unto myself a new way of 'ranking' shows that I watch and cover for Evil Cat's blog. Henceforth, in the My Opinion segment I will grant a show I watch my opinion crystallized into one of these four:
Great=Because some shows, even if they are completely outside of your tastes, will display quality above and beyond the norm. Shows worthy of being praised in pieces and parts, even if you hate the general sum.
Good=For shows that are quite nice, something worth enough to pass the time, to shut your brain off and laugh, mindlessly root for screaming teenagers to beat up bad guys in flashy fights with flashy powers, to brood, but not too deeply, Et Cetera. Possessed of flaws, but not held down by them.
Bad=Because some shows are just falling apart at the seams. Errors, mistakes, poor decisions. Completely unredeemable characters or story, or just so horribly contradictory or aimless that whatever they planned to do, it never comes across or falls apart.
Mediocre=For when a show truly aspired to nothing at all. A bad show at least tried to be more than its other peers, and if nothing else, is valuable to watch for other animators, authors, or studios to learn from on what not to do, or how great plans and materials can be brought to ruin. Some shows just find a rut, and not only sit in it, but take root and fossilize in it. For where the overwhelming majority of the show is drowning in the works of yesteryear, completely unchallenged, innovated on, or at all presenting any sign of effort to even just improve what things were already doing.
This one is overwhelmingly a

Mediocre show.
That first episode is still great. I went back and watched it again, and I still like it. But the rest of it? Gag me with a spoon, seen it, done it before, done it BETTER before. The show descends from its pedestal of interesting intelligent main character, a snarky joke on fan service that I rather liked, and an absolutely (still) wonderfully interesting concept for the World and powers...
and just shuffles its feet back onto the railroad tracks of tropes and standards. Fan Service, while not frequent, is still standard fair. The Main character goes on a harem'esque collection of girls for his party, all of the characters fit into a small pool of tropes that don't see any innovation for being smashed together, and the Phantoms seem to always take a backseat when push comes to shove against the oh-so-wonderfully bland main cast. 
Hey, maybe this is spoilers, but in case none of you had noticed, lets run down a summary and see if you can spot the trope's owner eh?
Spunky Athlete.
Cripplingly Shy becomes Permanently Courageous.
A Magical Girl sequence.

Big Eater.
Big Boobs-vs-Little Boobs.
The Chew Toy [L].
Punches when Touched.

[Spoilers End]
Look, I'm not saying tropes are bad. Tropes are building blocks, you start with them, and should rise up from them. This show just stacks the blocks together into a square and calls it done. Here, let me quote myself from the Comet Lucifer end post:
"If you have no rules to restrict you and make you innovate, then you could pull a magic mc'guffin out of a hat at every turn to fix all your problems. The show does that. All the time. It's really annoying, because they could have done the exact same things, but if they hadn't just magically pulled them out of thin air, and had actually taken some time to do some setup and foreshadowing, or even just a brief explanation, it all wouldn't have left behind such a sour taste."
Literally the only thing they don't magic Mc'guffin is the remote that gives them access to the Big-Brother-Gov'ner baddies servers, and still they have to magic Mc'guffin TWO MORE THINGS from thin air to make it work. Why? Because they left it alone until the LAST episode. I'm serious. The main character pokes it a few times at random disconnected flashes in the show, but never actually makes more than that single bit of progress that throws a big foreshadow in our faces and then...quietly poofs from existence. I had serious hopes for that remote redeeming this show, and it just ended up getting beaten down by everything around it.
Finally, I want to just point out that the Main Characters great power-up at the end is a complete contradiction to everything around it, as the show portrays it. They totally could have made it legit in a good handful of ways, I'm sure, for I can think of at least two, but the way they actually explain it? As far as I understood it, it contradicted itself.
[Spoilers]They say he can recover his power(s?) by basically taking it/them from Ruru because she's some kind of early highly-connected locus of his power and memories, and has been growing with him all this time because he >summoned< her so early in his life. Bullshit. So if he had just kept his other two summons around all the time, (in fact why does he ever unsummon them), then they too wouldn't have disappeared when he had his power(s) taken? If they tried to say that she was some kind of external informational backup of all his memories because he shares them all with her, that would have made some sense. ESPECIALLY since she starts acting like Haruhiko after his power(s?) are taken. Another matter. The hell was taken from him? Solomon's Finger? The ability to draw things to seal them? The general ability to summon things? All of the above? It's implied that she takes everything. When the other people had their powers taken, most especially the one with the water staff, the act of taking unsummoned the power. So, if Haruhiko created/summoned Ruru with his power, ostensibly inspired by the old book his mother had, why wasn't she unsummoned? Her just having her personality cleaved makes no sense. How everything plays out seems to imply that all Enigma was really doing was draining some of peoples powers off the top down to a level so weak they couldn't manifest, and then Haruhiko just uses Ruru as an external battery to recharge that little bit that was left. But that's not how the rest of the context says it. If they wanted to play this out, they shouldn't have brought that stupid book in, or at the very least, made it not pertain or suggest it was the source of Ruru. If they wanted her to be an external backup/battery of his memories/abilities, then they should have pushed the idea that he was either born with her, or that shortly after his birth/gaining his ability, he randomly and unknowingly created her before he understood anything at all. It still falls under my criticism that Ruru should have been unsummoned, but at least it has a slightly more tenable reason why she might be a strong enough force unto herself to exist without Haruhikos power feeding into her. Hell, just underlining a difference like that between her and his other two summons would have been good. In general, just not saying that she was summoned by him like the other two, just she was done when he was really young, would have been better. At least then it could have at least tried to hand wave it away with, "oh she's a force unto herself because Haruhiko never really bound her to him, because he created her unintentionally, so she exists on her own power, and was just still feeding off of some of his." See? It at least is a little harder to immediately tear into than "he summoned her from a books inspiration when he was really young, so she's different."
[Spoilers End]

Impartial Opinion: Too Shallow.
That first episode? Great. Should have kept rolling like that. Instead, the show seems to reel from how amazing it just was, and decides to dial everything back five notches. If the show had tried to push the boundaries of even a handful of the wonderful potential gems they had, it would have been great.
On the risk of spoilers, here's some examples of things I think were really well done, or at least worthy of mention, but are examples of things that never really developed as much as they could have:
Connecting Reina's appetite versus fit figure to her Ability, and then also having her able to heal with her mouth. Was that scene clearly fan service? Yes. Was it still fluent with the world and story? Absolutely. I'm quite amazed they never used this healing power of hers ever again in the show. They did a good job of focusing all of her ability around her mouth, and then finding an interesting innovation for it.

Mai's ability. No. Really. This was clearly thought up as fan service, but the idea itself was really interesting. Unfortunately, Mai and Koito are the only two who never saw any kind of innovation with their abilities. Maybe because they were already stronger than the others on the starting line, but that's just making excuses. They literally never used Reina's new ability again, so clearly they had the means and precedent to at least have them develop a little bit.
Ruru's build up. No, not the character herself, nor the eventual unveiling of her...(well sort of hers?) great power, because those are respectively the-most-annoying-thing-since-I-can-remember, and the most overwhelmingly obvious reveal ever. They spent so long teasing and hinting at her being super relevant to Haruhiko, that I was lead to expect a hell of a lot more then literally the most obvious part of it being the big power itself. The actual build up though? Amazing. Mostly because every ounce of my organic matter wanted to end her.

[Spoilers End]
Now. About whether you should watch this. Sure. There is a whole bunch of really shiny gems scattered about in the show, it's just...they never really make a lovely piece of jewelry out of it. Heck, they just barely super glue all of it into a big gooey rock pile by those last two episodes. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, but I get the strong impression that I set too high of expectations, and then was let down. If you approach with moderate-to-zero expectations, this would probably be quite enjoyable.

On the whole though, I feel like so much of this was rushed, and like there really should have been not only more to ...everything, but also a slower and more intricate build up for everything. Honestly I'm not inspired enough to see if/what source material exists, but if it is out there, I get the feeling it might be better. Or the most depressing thing ever if it's exactly the same.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Myriad Colors Phantom World: Just...not going anywhere.

Last Seen: Episode 11

I waited it out to give it a chance, but really, I think I give things too much leeway a lot of the time. Certainly now that I'm spending more time around people I keep getting complimented on my patience for putting up with really stupid shit.

This show had a really promising first episode, and I still think that. It was really well laid-out and executed but...that was about it. After that, the show just gets so...un-amazing. I mean that there isn't anything particularly bad about the show, it's just there isn't anything spectacular or amazing, or even just interesting about it after that one great introduction. I suppose I kept holding out, because they keep waving these shiny things in front of the audience, promising that they may just do something amazing, but then they don't. The stupid remote, Haruhiko's ability never going anywhere, the harem'esque collection of new girls for the party...hell the general atmosphere of the show feels like a slice of life all the time, instead of what I thought it was promising with a really interesting surreal world to explore. For crying out loud, they didn't even use that really neat animation they had at the start of the episode when Haruhiko is waking up EVER again and I really thought that it had some kind of meaning about how Haruhiko perceives the world.

Hell, I think the only thing I truly enjoyed every episode was the one thing the show constantly seems to feel ashamed of, the opening sequence when Haruhiko just sits down with the audience and talks really deeply about some random piece of trivial knowledge. Ostensibly, that piece of knowledge is suppose to be relevant to that episode, but only ever so tangentially.
By all that is unholy and evil, that stupid floating elf is more annoying than any character I have ever seen yet. She constantly interrupts whenever something really intelligent is being said, even in the part of the show devoted to talking that way, evidencing that the studio behind this really was afraid we are all to stupid to pay attention if we aren't flashed a pair of tits every other minute. She contributes nothing to the story despite her constantly being around Haruhiko for no explicable reason, and she is just always doing something stupid. Having a prat-fall character in a show for comedic effect is fine, but having one that never amounts to anything but prat-falls is just annoying.

Don't get me wrong, the show's by no means completely terrible or a waste of time. In fact, it's a pretty good time killer. But that's all it is. There isn't anything deep about the show, at all. Not the characters, not the world, not the story. I'm not even sure there is a plot anymore outside that remote which gets shown maybe once every 3 episodes.

I waited till this long because I'm not sure how long this anime is running. If it's the short-season anime that I feel like it's going to be, they only have 1-2 episodes left to wrap things up. On the other hand, if this runs it out twice the current length, maybe they have some room to impress me, but I doubt it. At this point, I'm at about 90% certainty that everything about the show that I thought was really promising, was just me reading too deeply into things. The stupid fairy, that opening animation, and a few other things that I'm just going to go ahead and write-off as wastes of my time and attention.

In short? If you picked this show up because of my recommendation, I'm sorry, but really I only ever did recommend just that first episode, even in the post itself. Maybe I had my misgivings even back then...ah well, hind-sight 20/20 eh?
If you haven't picked this show up, know that there really isn't any reason for you to do so unless you just want to turn your brain off for a while, laugh, and kill some time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Utawarerumono - The False Masks: How to Defy all Plot Pacing Standards

Last Seen: Episode 17

I've seen plots move in unusual directions before, I mean, that's kind of one of the core sources of gimmicks for stories...
But I have never seen a Plot just go for a jet-speed nosedive for the heart of the story like this! This is amazing. I knew that they would eventually bring to full baring the story from the first season, once Tusukuru was mentioned, that was basically set in stone I did not expect it to be so suddenly and forcefully brought to bare. The simple way they went about this, everything they explained in this episode and how they explained it, and then the foreshadowing at the end of the episode, is just too much. I hereby give this a

Recommendation: for one of the most unrestrained breaks from industry standards I've ever seen. Never before have I seen a plot with amnesia and a loaded backstory not get drawn out tortuously slow as the amnesia character slowly picks pieces of memories out and puts them together...or for them to just immediately obtain the memories that make the backstory completely clear. 
[Aside]You may be wondering, "17 episodes in? That's super slow...", but understand that they don't feature the mains amnesia at all until this point. It's all world and character building.
[Aside end]


You cannot escape it anymore, if you really want to understand the things that are about to happen in this show, you will need the first season/series' story in its whole. Just as I said before as well, if you go to watch the first part, THOU SHALT SKIP THE FIRST EPISODE, if it begins with anything other than the Masked Man waking up. You can watch it after you finish the series, it literally is an OVA for all intents and purposes for how removed from the rest of it that it is.

Additionally, thanks to a comment in Crunchyroll, I am informed that Funimation is providing the Subtitled version on their website, and have confirmed with my own eyes. Even better, they don't have that retarded first episode, they actually start where the show is suppose to start. Which makes me wonder...if the streaming site I originally watched this on was just straight up stupid and made an actual OVA the first episode because they couldn't tell any better...
If that is the case, I apologize for raving like a lunatic about something completely false for so long.
For convenience sake, despite not knowing if Evil Cat has any particular preferences about not using links in his blog...
Funimations episodes for streaming:
Utawarerumono Season 1

A note about Funimation though: Their stream seems a little slow, so if you plan to watch several episodes at once, I recommend starting the buffer, going to get something for snakes, or doing chores or what not, and then when you come back to it fully buffered, opening the next episode to buffer as you start to watch the first.
Also, if I recall correctly, Funimation tends to lock their Dubbed episodes behind their premium wall after a handful of episodes for each Series, so I recommend just sticking with the Subtitled version.

Friday, January 15, 2016

[New][January 2016] Myriad Colors Phantom World

Summary: In the near future, monstrous creatures called “phantoms” descend upon the world when an explosion at a Biology facility releases a virus that alters humanity, making them able to see the 'Myths' and 'Legends' that had been merely that for so long. As the virus spreads through second hand exposure, people also begin to develop abilities to combat and seal the Phantoms. Haruhiko Ichijo is a student at Hosea Academy, along with Mai Kawakami, Reina Izumi, and Koito Minase. All four of them have abilities against phantoms, and are part of the schools Phantom-Hunting Club. The story follows them as they become a team in this new world of Humanity and Phantoms, for not all phantoms are of ill-intentions. 

First Impression: Very silly right out of the gate, but at the same time, practical and down-to-earth. I'm quite interested in that precious balance they've struck.

My Opinion: This was exceptionally interesting as a first episode, and as a show. I think it's the first time in a long while I've felt like the first episode gave me a solid grasp of the nature of the show. I suppose that may be in part due to the fact that the first episode is basically trying to do just that, show you the nature of the show, with little restraint, or the usual sleight of hand tricks the industry typically goes about. Like, Ichijo literally sits down and says to someone, "now, I know you probably already know this, but just to be sure *world backstory*." I think that's amazing. It has been a long time since I saw a show just unabashedly sit and explain something...and not monologue for half an episode. I'm serious, its always been pretty polarized before this, even in good shows.
This first episode never really stops to linger on any one thing for too long, it feels like it has an agenda, a checklist of things it wants to be sure you've seen from its story and world.
For instance, its style of fan service. I'm I'm super impressed with it.
If anyone has any doubts about how serious a statement that is, just search this blog for any post by me with 'fan service' in it, and you will probably find a paragraph long rant about how I think the industry is over-saturated with it.
[Aside end]
That's about all I can say about that though, "I'm super impressed with it", without being super spoiler'y. Well, okay, I can say that what is super impressive is that it doesn't break the flow of the show at all. Not even a little bit. It's so flush with the rest of the story and show that I just...I suddenly realize that's one of the primary reasons I hate fan service so much: Most of the time, the entire world slows down, bullet-time style, and zooms in, just to feature fan service, and the gravity of the whole situation seems to bend the forces of the universe in on the fan service to make it possible. It has always been just so token and tiresome to me. I still grant that the nature of how Mai uses her ability was probably(gets to the Ki of Metal scene) definitely thought up exclusively to provide Fan Service, but it still fits into the world naturally, and they don't overly linger on it like literally any other show would while it's on scene.
Meanwhile, I was getting to genuinely laugh at Phantom Worlds service. Which, I grant, probably isn't the intended effect 99% of the time, but I will give a standing ovation to anyone that fluently allows both parties to be pleased on this.

So, I give this show a Recommendation for the first episode, if nothing else, as an example of what I think fan service should be like, since we clearly aren't going anywhere in this industry without it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

[New][January 2016] Active Raid

Doesn't 'purge' usually mean...oh. Oh No.

Summary: Set in a futuristic Tokyo, after the Third Quicksand Disaster sinks Tokyo into a quagmire, the city's reconstruction efforts are carried out using high-output, reinforced exoskeletons called Willwears. But they can also be misused, and to combat the crimes involving them, the National Police Agency establishes at its Kichioji Branch the Special Public Security Fifth Division Third Mobile Assault, Eighth Unit, A.K.A.: Unit 8. 
Active Raid tells the story of “The Eighth,” a rash and careless unit of power-armored police.

First Impression: This is really good.

My Opinion: Did someone finally manage to hammer in the nail that giant robots are impractical, on all accounts? That's two exoskeleton based series at once, now. Grant, I think Bubuki could still pull the Giant Mech card, but still, the emphasis in the first episode of both that, and this show, is on more manageable and practical (sort of), exoskeleton equipment.
The story itself is also great. Well, unremarkable really, something that has been done before. But still, great, because it's a good foundation for a great plot to rise up from. Since the story is following a Police division, there's a lot of places they can go. It could just be a 'Criminal of the Week' type of show, which would be fine, or they could string an over-arching plot over it all, which would be riskier but potentially better.
The characters are so far interesting. In fact, it feels like the show went out of its way to get that adjective in this first episode, deliberately displaying several exceptional quirks from the characters in rapid succession. I'm okay with that though, because they have a very large central cast on display, what with the so far displayed two, spoken of third, active suit wearing members, and then the cluster of other command and support people. They had to cover a lot of people in a short amount of time, and I think they did alright.
All told, this show could become great, or it could just coast along at Nice and Interesting. I look forward to seeing.

[Aside]I've had an unusual splurge of motivation all of a sudden...Three posts at once? That hasn't happened since I started my job. Must be getting back into the flow of things, either that or I just require sufficiently interesting anime to motivate me. Did I mention Erased was awesome? I'm still buzzing from it. So looking forward to that one.
[Aside end]

[New][January 2016] Erased

Summary: Satoru Fujinuma is a young manga artist struggling to make a name for himself following his debut. But, that was not the only thing in his life that Satoru was feeling frustrated about…he was also living with a strange condition only he was able to experience. "REVIVAL" - A strange phenomenon where one is transferred back to the moment right before something life-threatening occurs. This continues to happen until the cause of the threat is erased. It is as if somebody is forcing Satoru to stop it from happening. Now...he has entered his biggest REVIVAL yet...

First Impression: Holy crap this is awesome.

My Opinion: I don't usually do two posts back to back like this, mostly because I just don't have the inspiration required for the second one after finishing the first, so I'll typically push the second one back at least one day so I feel better about the quality of it, even if I watched both episodes the same day. But that's right out the window this time, because by all that is good, this show looks AMAZING. I'm not talking about the visuals, I'm talking about the story.
You could not have been paid to make a more perfect contrast follow up to my last post than with this one, because it is literally everything I just finished bitching about 25 minutes ago. The entire episode is world and character building, with one kind-of-action scene that isn't very flashy, and then the end of the episode is the big reveal of what the show is going to be about.
That time is well spent, because now I'm all hyped for this show and burning because I have to wait a day for the next one. ONLY ONE DAY, and I'm burning, damnit, I'm suppose to be above this kind of crap at this point in my life.
I fully and happily provide this show with:

Zetro's Season RecommendationFor Drama.

[New][January 2016] Bubuki Buranki

Bigger Hand for Bigger Punches!

Summary: In Bubuki Buranki, Azuma Kazuki is the 'Son of the Witch', his mother having been named as the one responsible for a massive incident that occurred 10 years ago, when he was sent down to the surface from the floating island he had been living on till then. It’s been ten years since Azuma Kazuki has been in Japan where he originally fell, and upon his arrival he is taken prisoner by a group of armed men. Azuma is saved by his childhood friend, Kogane Asabuki, thanks to a living weapon she wields on her right hand, known as a Bubuki. Learning about these weapons, Azuma becomes a Bubuki wielder himself and sets out on a journey.

First Impression: I have no idea what is going on, in this show. It doesn't feel like the show was trying to leave me like that either. It just feels like everything is being really poorly explained. Where's his sister? What the heck happened to the floating island? What was going on for those 10 years? He was in Japan? Now he's back? Why?

My Opinion: I don't know what to think of this one. It took a few seconds for it to sink in that the show was using 3D animations, so I think that isn't too glaringly annoying, at least as much as it has been for previous anime using it. The story is just all over the map. I understand In Medias Res is a great way to get the action going real fast, but...could we maybe assume for just, like, 5 seconds that the community that consumes anime might have the attention span required for you to just calmly build a world in the first episode? Like you already were for the first half of this show? Do we absolutely have to have it devolve into spontaneous poorly explained flashy fighting? I was rather enjoying this shows opening half. We were pleasantly building backstory and motivations, and character personalities. Or so I thought. The second half of the show seems to draw on precisely none of it.
Having said all that, I've concluded my bitching about industry practices. The world and story, while a bit poorly presented, are at least the correct level of interesting. Despite my opening fears that this was going to go towards the Mech Anime route, it didn't, and instead things are down on the human size level, which is much better. Everything becomes far too impractical and silly when you Giant Robot size it. As it is, the technology? Magic? Both? on display here, are already on my watchlist of things likely to be poorly thought out and explained.
Don't get me wrong, they don't have to be well explained and thought out for the show to be good. I just would like to believe we can expect to get a show that is good, without part of it just being dismissed and sacrificed. I feel like it always drags a show down when they do that.
I'd like to hold onto my thoughts until the second episode, in hopes that maybe it will take a breath and explain itself better then.

[Ended] Asterisk War

Pros: Flashy Action
-A little bit of intrigue
-Decent characters
-An Interesting World

Cons: Not Enough of Anything
-What little intrigue there is isn't actually carried anywhere, especially not any of the main characters
-None of the characters end up being fleshed out without feeling a little bit rushed.
-We learn barely anything about the world except in the very beginning, and very end

My Opinion: This Show has not ended. It just barely finished one characters story arc, and said character wasn't even introduced until the last half of the show, if even that soon. None of the main characters have had any real resolution, excluding maybe Katana Girl, who was made into a central cast character at the end of her story. If this show doesn't get a second season, it's going to be entirely unremarkable. Maybe some points for moderately flashy action. They were trying to have 'The All Powerful Hero' and still have him be easy to relate to at the same time, but it honestly feels like all they got was half of each. The time limit he has never really came into effect, it only just barely kicks in at the end of some of the fights. It feels like the show was moving to have it actually become a problem, but then the series ends. So all we get is this All Powerful Hero, who we always know will win, and there's no suspense.

Impartial Opinion: If a second season comes along for this show, it might be quite impressive...on the other hand, they seemed to be hinting at just outright removing the limiter on the main character at the end, so that could easily unbalance the show completely, if they don't shift the focus more onto other characters.
The actual world seems quite interesting, but we barely get enough of it in this season, heck we don't get anything at all about the major calamity that made this world the way it is, unless you read summaries from websites.
All in all, I feel like while I did enjoy the show while it was airing, having it cut off so abruptly left a bad taste behind. I'll look forward to a second season, but without it, this show just feels half-done.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

[Ended] Comet Lucifer

Pros: For the Genre archetype it channels, it does a great job
-Story is decent, if predictable
-Characters are not shallow
-Actions pretty good

Cons: It really didn't NEED to channel the Mech genre.
-Story is very predictable, just in small segments
-Characters aren't all that deep either

My Opinion: For a long time, I thought maybe I was over-reacting, branding this as a Mech anime. It kept feeling like there was...something off about just calling it that. Of course, the show then promptly broke out in what amounted to an all out Mech war, so that went right out the window. But I never did kick that feeling of something out of place, and now that the series has concluded, I know what it was, why I kept coming back to this, where I've dropped other Mech anime, especially the last two Gundams I was aware of and started watching.

This show didn't NEED Mechs. At all. In fact, there were any number of other ways they could have everything they wanted, and left the mechs behind. The mechs just add a layer of ridiculousness to the show that gets in the way. At one point, one of the characters even refers to the whole transforming mech thing as an Exoskeleton-something-or-other. That would have been totally better than giant mechs, a human-sized or just larger than human sized exosuit. It would have made more sense too, than tiny pebbles-snake to mega-mech. I never understood why the non-human-made mechs were a thing in this show, and it was never really explained either. Clearly, that's not their original or real form, they just present that way for...reasons. Mostly to appease some marketing studios demands that fans will absolutely love it more if there's giant robots in it.
...I wish I could say they were wrong, but they're probably right.

As far as the story goes, it was predictable, in segments. No, I couldn't see how the show ended coming from the start, but I did see pretty much every major plot development coming before it got there. The show's base ideas that are presented in the story are good, and interesting, if at least only to my tastes. But the show never really capitalizes on them. I suppose that's my biggest complaint about the show, other than the apparently need to have Giant Mechs: It never really dwells on things long enough, or explains things adequately enough.
Listen, I understand that a lengthy scientific explanation puts people off, but not explaining anything at all, just makes everything cheap. If you have no rules to restrict you and make you innovate, then you could pull a magic mc'guffin out of a hat at every turn to fix all your problems. The show does that. All the time. It's really annoying, because they could have done the exact same things, but if they hadn't just magically pulled them out of thin air, and had actually taken some time to do some setup and foreshadowing, or even just a brief explanation, it all wouldn't have left behind such a sour taste.

At the end of the day, the show does it's job. It's interesting, and it doesn't just focus on the Mechs and Mech battles like you'd typically see from a Gundam franchise show. It actually has characters with some depth, some backstory and personal motivations, and the story itself isn't bad. But beyond that, everything has this sort of...shallow feeling to it. Like it could have been so much more.
Come to think of it, they even ousted the end credits for some Slideshow stuff to show story developments after the last climactic battle...
I wonder if this show got budget cut at some point. Maybe there's a manga or some light novel or such out there somewhere, that actually took its time with things. At time of writing, I haven't been bothered enough to check.
[Aside end]
I'd like to think that we can aspire to greater lengths than just 'does the job, passes the time'. I was tempted at many times to say, 'good to check out if you wanted to see what it's like when mech anime actually have decent story and characters'. But that's the wrong idea isn't it? That implies that this show was held back by featuring mechs. It could have been magic, or focused more strongly on the stone/crystal based lifeforms idea, or advanced flipping dimensional technology. Why are the Mechs so bad?
The answer is as simple as this: When you feature the mechs, you are always and inevitably tempted to just throw them into a fight whenever things get tough with the plot and story, rather than properly sitting down and thinking out a good idea. It's far too easy to just say 'fuck it, MECH FIGHT'. That's the problem with Mechs. Mech fights inevitably get boring, because they are robots. They come to the table preset with what they can use, and inevitably use it up, if not in one battle, then in the next. Which means you constantly have to think up new things to put on the mechs, and reasons for those things to make sense. All of which could have just been hand-waved away with literally magic, and you could have focused instead on character or story development and motivations.
When you put the Giant Mech in the room, it sucks all the power out of everything else that is there, because it's just too impractically huge.

Impartial Opinion: The story could have been so much more. At the end of the show, it just feels like the whole plot was suddenly put on crack to make it wrap up in time, and so many things are just completely glossed over and never explained. The characters are all basically great ideas, but never fully fleshed out enough.
All told, this entire show feels like everything is suspended in some weird limbo between two states of completely great, and incredibly mediocre.
If there is an original source to this anime, I'd recommend checking that out, because if it goes past where this ends, it may end up being pretty great. If this show itself is original, then it's a resounding meh at the end of it.
There was a lot of good build up in the show, but the ending is just...very unsatisfactory. We don't get to spend any time with the resolutions of any characters arcs or personalities. Any of them. Everyone is either dead or severely glossed over.

Which reminds me, In case anyone thought from the massively colorful and playful art style of this show that it pulls punches with violence all the People die. In sometimes very bloody ways. It's just...most of the time everyone is crammed into a massive tin suit that COMPLETELY protects them from all harm, all the time. Either that, or people actually do die in those things and they never felt like telling us about it. Maybe I missed it. Eh.

Monday, November 2, 2015

[Ended] Monster Musume

Pros: It knows what it is, and it doesn't really pretend to be anything else. It has a good deal of sensibility in it, at least for what it is.

Cons: And what it is, is harem with a lot of erotic appeal, wrapped around a nice guy trying to do the right thing, prohibited by law from doing anything sexual with any of the entourage of women that all want to sex him up.

My Opinion: As the series went on, I started to notice a trend with me. Every single time, after I had finished and closed the tab, a minute or so later, if I remembered I didn't read the ending Species Info Page, I always went back and jumped the video to it so I could read it. Once, I went back and checked four episodes at once, just to be sure I didn't miss a single one. I really enjoyed reading those, and I think that is indicative of something about the show. I can't speak for anything but the anime, but I think the amount of thought that went into the info pages shows that there's a certain minimum intelligence in the show, even if the theme is by far and large one of the most shallow you can find in anime, the harem.

At the end of the day, the status quo hasn't moved anywhere when the series ends, but the journey there was actually fun, even for someone like me who finds harem and fan service grating and irritating, which is saying something.

Certainly, the show is shallow by nature, that's just how harem goes. But I'd like to make the point that, as far as harems go, Monster Musume seems to have their shallow bar set a good deal deeper than the average, and I will happily sing its praises if I think that will help, even in the slightest, increase that trend across all anime. Nothing pisses me off more than a Checklist anime, because I feel like it's a waste of the animators time to work on something with a story and characters that a cheap pseudo-AI could have spit out a hundred carbon copies of.

 [Spoilers] Highlight to see, if you've already seen the show.
I found it particularly interesting that at one point in the show, it is basically decided on that the main character needs to pick someone to marry, and he actually agrees, but for the sake of harem proceeds to hum and um about who. Most of the time you never get to the point where the center of the harem actually realizes anything close to choosing someone, until maybe the end of the show.
[End Spoilers]

The last point I want to draw attention to, is the depth of the characters. While I grant that every single one of them has some kind of Trope pinned to their back, and they display it every chance they get for comedic effect, they are surprisingly not ruled by their tropes. Hell, the show even has really good reasons why the characters have their tropes. They outright say in one episode that a character is bad at cooking because their species is primarily carnivorous, and carnivores have 1/25 - 1/50'th the sense of taste of humans. That impressed me.

Impartial Opinion: At the end of the day, this is still a Harem. A harem with a unique theme, and as far as characters+story+world go, a great deal more depth than any other harem that I've ever heard of. I guess if someone wanted to break a friend into the Harem genre, (I won't even pretend to understand why), this is the best bet? At the very minimum, pretty much anything to do with Harem and Fan Service annoys me, but I still enjoyed this show every week.
If you're looking for, or don't mind (especially if you simply don't mind), Harem and lots of Fan Service scenes, I suppose I recommend this show. There's a refreshing amount of intelligence in this show for it's genre slot. Taken out of the context of harem, this kind of story and setting would be immensely interesting to me in a slightly more serious tone. Especially if it had as well constructed of characters.