Anime Corner: Laid-Back Camp Review

Blog Laid Back Camp Review Title

Secret Society BLANKET will cover the world!

What’s the Story?

Rin is a solo-camper and likes it that way. There’s nothing that she enjoys more than spending time in the great outdoors with only her hand-me down camping gear and the winter chill in the air. Then she meets Nadeshiko, a hyperactive girl who has fallen down due to exhaustion. Rin helps Nadeshiko recover and introduces her to the joys of camping. But now that Nadeshiko has the camping bug, can she convince Rin to give group camping a go?

The Review

Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh. That’s been my reaction after each episode of this show, a long contented sigh. If you’re looking for action, excitement or even a hint of drama then move along because you’re not going to find that here. Relaxed is the order of the day, which I suppose should be obvious considering the title of this show, and all in all I’ve really enjoyed this show, a lot more than I thought I would. I mean I’m not an outdoors person, camping has never interested me in the past, I’m very much a housebound soul. I enjoy nothing more than getting into my nice warm, cosy house and nesting in front of my laptop. If I want the outside world, well, that’s what the window is for. However, this series has got me curious and while I realise that this anime is an incredibly romanticised version of camping, after watching this I wouldn’t mind giving it a go.

The anime gets so many things just right, but let’s start with the characters. Now the story of cute girls doing cute things is an often-repeated trope and one that I don’t think will be leaving us anytime soon. It works a lot of the time, but I feel that these characters are a slight cut above the average. Each one of them is adorable, though I will admit a lot of my feelings come from just how much I adore the central pair of Nadeshiko and Rin. They really work well together and you feel the friendship blossoming between them. Nadeshiko is a hyperactive puppy of a character and an utter joy to be around, her excitement is infectious, even if it does make her seem like a bit of an airhead at times. Rin on the other hand is quiet and serious, but what makes both characters work is that there is a touch more to their characters. Don’t get me wrong, none of the characters have that much depth, but its little touches that make them engaging.

Rin, while a bit of a loner, can have a laugh and a joke at times and she is susceptible to the lure of the cute, especially cute dogs. What I think I like most about her character though is that she’s never portrayed as an outcast and nor does she have a resistance to being around other people. She’s perfectly happy to be around and talk to other people, it’s that there are other times when she wants to be alone (which I completely get). Though the main arc of the series is to get Rin to go along on a camping trip with the whole gang, it’s not some sort of intervention to get Rin to come out of her shell, no, the girls just want to hang out together. The also does a good job balancing the pros of solo camping as well as the pros of group camping, neither one is shown as better than the other and that really surprised me. A lesser show would have been pitching the group camp like crazy and making it seem as if there was something wrong with solo camping.

That brings me to the biggest draw for this series, outside of the gentle humour, relaxed atmosphere and charming characters, and that’s the scenery. A lot of the early episodes do feel like commercials for camping sites, but that feeling disappears as the series continues. The backdrops in this show are entirely gorgeous, especially the shots of Mt. Fuji. I am entirely convinced that they just slapped a high definition photo up on the screen because if an actual background artist or artists made those shots, well, first I want to shake their hands and then I want to know what black magic they performed to make them. Some of the shots of the scenery are so realistic and gorgeous that I wanted to reach through the screen and touch them, just…wow. That’s all I got.

There’s not really much more to say about this series. The characters are sweet and funny, not exactly laugh out loud, but they had me chuckling along. The character designs are cute and the animation is bright and colourful. There’s no real plot outside of the various events as the girls learn and teach one another about camping, as I said the first few episode do feel like commercials at times, but the characters and animation were enough to pull me along until that passed.

The Verdict

Laid-Back Camp is a charming, if very idyllic look at camping. It has lots of tips and information about camping for those that are interested or new, but more than anything this is a series about cute girls being cute and I’m okay with that. There’s no drama or plot to speak of, but there’s plenty of moments that made me smile and some utterly gorgeous scenery to carry me along the journey. If you’re after a break from the more action-packed shows or just life in general this could be the series for you, so wrap yourself up in a blanket, sit back and relax.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

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Anime Corner: The Ancient Magus’ Bride Review

Blog Ancient Magus Bride Review Title

Love is a strange and beautiful magic.

What’s the Story?

Chise has spent a very long time without anything even resembling happiness. Since she was a little girl she has been neglected, abused and unloved, haunted by sights that no one else can see and with no one willing to care, at least not for long, so it isn’t surprising that she eventually tries to kill herself. She’s stopped though and is given an alternative, to sell herself into slavery, after all if she can’t find a reason for herself to live, maybe someone else can (and I’m not even going to get started on how messed up that line of thinking is). At the auction she’s bought by a mysterious sorcerer, who has an animal skull for a head, called Elias. Despite everything the two start to fall in love (which admittedly makes this one of the stranger beginnings to a love story) but do Elias and Chise make one another better or worse?

The Review

I don’t really know where to start with this anime, and I suppose that’s a good thing. I feel like this is an anime you just have to experience, no amount of words can properly sum up the essence of this show, but I suppose I should give it a go. Now for starters I’m going bring the hype train screeching to a halt for starters, because if I overhype this too much some people are going to be disappointed. Yes, I know everyone raved about this show (at least the vasy majority of people I’ve spoken to did), but if I’m honest there have been other shows that have grabbed me by the emotional jugular more *cough* A Place Farther Than The Universe *cough*. That’s purely a personal taste thing though and that’s not to say this show isn’t fantastic, because it gets so much right, from the characters to the animation to the world itself, just,you know, overhype is a dangerous thing so be careful.

Now this anime shines in a multitude of departments, but the one I think it outshines all others is in the character department. I love both Chise and Elias, they’re both beautiful, messed up, complex people and it is a joy to watch how they change across the series. I will admit that over the first few episodes I was a little worried. I mean the whole buying someone and then falling in love with that person did set off a great bring warning flare in my head, mostly because I’m of the opinion that nobody owns anybody and reducing another human being to an object is one of the worst things you can do. I just had to grit my teeth through Chise’s whole “I’m okay as long as Elias wants me” phase (I swear to god any moment I thought she was going to break into ‘As Long As He Needs Me’). Yet that phase is an essential part of Chise’s character arc, she sees no value in herself, in truth she hates herself with such bile it’s a wonder it took her so long to commit suicide. And in the end it’s all worth it as you get to see Chise grow into a stronger person, one who wants to live and one whose life isn’t defined by a single person. Heck, my favourite moments where when she was giving Elias a hard time over some of the stuff he pulls across the series.

Elias himself is, well, a mess, in a good way. He’s eternally mysterious, we never get a full explanation for what exactly he is, just a bunch of vague hints, but I guess that’s okay. Finding out who he is is not his arc for the series. Instead it’s coming to terms with his emotions, or rather any emotions at all. Though he comes across as quite a gentle and good-natured person (though he’s a badass when he needs to be) he doesn’t understand human emotions and he becomes quite possessive of Chise as she is the one that actually stirs up some feelings inside of him. This does lead Elias to do, or attempt, a few things that are hard to forgive. Then again, it’s very much like the magic in this world, he’s something mysterious and powerful, and oh so dangerous. Still I like Chise and Elias as a couple.

Now, this anime is one that squarely has its focus on the characters, if you’re after blistering action or non stop drama, then look elsewhere. This show is fluid in what it wants to be, sometimes its a slice of life show about how Elias and Chise are getting on together, other times (especially during the earlier episodes) its an anthology series with Elias and Chise coming across some new creature or bit of magic. There are moments of action and there are lots of moments of intense drama, but it’s always about the development of Chise and Elias as characters and the plot will slow down or speed up as it needs to to accommodate them, which can give the series a bit of an uneven feel at times.

That brings me to the animation, which more often than not is just jaw dropping. Whether its stunning landscapes, powerful magic or the myriad of spirits and creatures that inhabit this great big world the anime offers us, every bit of it is beautiful. I love the designs of some of the spirits and again I just want to say how much I adore the magic system in this world where magic is presented as something mysterious and dangerous, it’s wild and you’re an idiot if you think you can tame it in anyway shape or from. I love how the anime gets little details about motion and there always seems to be something going on, if not in the foreground then in the background.

The Verdict

The Ancient Magus’ Bride is beautiful in many senses of the word. The animation is stunning, the characters are stunning and it presents us with a world full of both wonder and danger. Despite all of the spirits and the spells and the curses though, this is really a story about two people who don’t necessarily make one another better, but make themselves better thanks to the other person. This is very much about characters and love and pain and if anything in this review has you even slightly curious then check this series out, you definitely won’t regret it.

fish stamp great

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

First Impressions: Spring 2018 part 2

And we’re back! On with the show!

Hinamatsuri

When a girl sealed inside a giant steel egg falls on to the head of Yakuza, it’s the start of a bizarre series of adventures (as it should be). With no idea who the girl is or where she comes from the Yakuza finds himself taking care of the girl, mostly because if he doesn’t the girl will use her psychic powers to wreck his very expensive stuff. Not much of an overarching plot as of yet, just more mishaps in the lives of Hina and Nitta and I’m perfectly fine with that.

I am really enjoying this series so far, it’s striking the right balance of weird and interesting for me, though personally the strange meeting of a yakuxa’s life with a girl with psychic powers is worth the price of admission alone. There are so many odd little touches that make me both scratch my head and laugh at the same time, like the schoolgirl who ends up working as a bartender purely by accident or the fact that people say ‘ouchie’ when being thrown around by psychic powers. At some point I would like an explanation of where Hina and her powers come from, as well as what that bizarre flash forward at the beginning of the episode one was all about, but for the minute I’m happy with this as it is.

Lostorage Conflated WIXOSS

And it begins again. The vicious card game that has no other purpose than to torment teenage girls is back and again we all must question why anyone would want to buy these cards in the first place. We’ve got returning characters from seasons past, all new cards and rules and a battle to finally end the cycle of despair once and for all! But can anyone really stop the Selector battles, or will this franchise go on forever?

I have to admit, this may be the best WIXOSS season yet. Initially I was hesitant to watch this season, I mean I’ve enjoyed the past three seasons of WIXOSS, but they’re never been my favourite anime. Then I learned characters from the first two seasons were coming back for this one and I admit that got my interest and so far the series has exceeded my expectations. I am going to have to rewatch the first 3 seasons just to remind myself more of the details, but this season is really well written and has found a good balance of reintroducing bits of continuity while at the same time progressing the story. I love all the connections that have built up, as if this was the plan all along and I already know most of the cast so the show doesn’t need to waste time getting me invested in them. There’s a different feeling to this season, on the one hand the girls know what they’re getting into this time so they’re already aware their screwed before things even start. Also this time the girls feel a lot more proactive, they’re trying to find a way to actively fight against the force that is creating these battles and I am really looking forward to where this series takes that idea.

Food Wars the Third Plate

Yukihira Soma is cook from a small family diner, attending a cooking school for the elite. Over the past school year Soma has pitted his cooking skills against the best and brightest, but now Erina’s father is in charge and has plans to only allow cooking he deems as worthy in the school. With the advancement exam coming up, Yukihira and his fellow rebels face an uphill battle to prove that their own cooking is just as good if not better than what Erina’s father wants from them. Cooking battles don’t get any more intense than this!

I have to admit I love this show more and more with each passing season, especially after the way the last cour ended! I have been dying to see what happens next for months and so far it hasn’t disappointed. All that was good about the show before is still good, the characters, the animation, pacing, though my favourite aspect of this season has to be the development of Erina. Now I’ve never really liked her in previous seasons, the only enjoyment I’ve ever gotten out of her appearances where how Yukihira drives her up the wall and waiting for that inevitable moment when Yukihira finally shows her up and gets her to admit how good his cooking is. I did fear with the introduction of her dad that Erina was just going to become a damsel, a prize for Yukihira to obtain, but no. She’s actually showing some spirit, she’s fighting back and I find myself actually caring about what happens to her.

Libra of Nil Admirari

Tsugumi’s family is having money troubles and because of this she is being forced to marry a man she doesn’t know. After an argument with her younger brother, she finds him setting fire to his bedroom with a strange book in his hands. The book was cursed and apparently it’s not the only one out there. Tsugumi learns that she has the ability to see these cursed books and becomes a valuable asset to the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Management Bureau (these guys really need a shorter name), whose job it is to deal with these books. With her marriage put on hold Tsugumi finds herself working alongside a bunch of handsome, if strange, young men (this in no way will lead to a harem *sigh*) and tracking down the cursed books.

After Code Realise I was willing to give this one a go, but so far this show is doing everything in its power to turn me off. Our lead female character is passive as anything, with her main power to be looking at things. Don’t even get me started on the evaporating marriage “Daughter you must married someone so that we can have the money to save the family! There is no other way!” “But Father now I have a magic power and must join this government organisation.” “Oh, alright then. We’ll hold off on the marriage.” Kind of makes it seem like the marriage wasn’t that important to begin with and just an excuse for the argument between Tsugumi and her brother, or a convenient bit of romance drama later in the series. Then we come to the Bureau, whose main method of finding cursed books is to, wait for this, walk around the bookshops each day and have a look. Really? That’s it? You’re a government organisation and this is your big plan to deal with books that can cause people to seriously hurt themselves! Arrrgggh! The way the plot of this show is executed is just excruciating. They don’t even explore the cursed books properly, they’re meant to be the emotions of the author at the time of writing influencing the reader, and yet all we ever see is a dark aura around the books and the reader just screaming some random things. We never learn anything about the emotional state the author was in, why they were like that, why that particular book became cursed. For something that comes from the emotions of the written word the shows demonstrates a surprising lack of an ability to convey emotions.

Caligula

Ritsu was living a normal and fulfilling high school life, until he heard a cry for help in the middle of the newest song from a popular idol. After that he gets a strange feeling, like something isn’t quite right, but it can’t put his finger on what it is. Then, at a school assembly, people suddenly turn into monsters and start attacking him. Luckily another student appears, whose arm has suddenly transformed into a giant handgun. From there things get weird (sorry, that should be weirder) as Ritsu comes across people with digital effects in place of their heads and floating little mascots. The world is not what it seems and Ritsu will have to fight to get any answers.

Okay, you definitely need to watch three episodes of this show before deciding whether to follow it or not (It takes that long just to make even a semblance of sense). However I am enjoying the series and I am going to continue watching it, if only to find out the extent of what exactly is going on. Don’t get me wrong the show has it’s flaws, it thinks it’s smarter than it actually is, at least so far, and it’s a bit all over the place when it comes to explaining what’s going on and with its pacing. We’ve only just scratched the surface of the setting and the characters though and none of that has been so bad as to put me off so far. I’m looking forward to seeing where this is going.

Golden Kamuy

Former soldier “Immortal” Sugimoto is searching for gold, but happens across the story of a group of escaped prisoners, each with a series of tattoos that when combined lead to a lost treasure. With the help of a Ainu girl, Sugimoto hopes to be the one to uncover the treasure, but not only will he have to track down and defeat the former prisoners, there are others after the treasure. Including some of the strongest and most feared soldiers in Japan at that time. Just how “Immortal” is Sugimoto? He may just be about to find out.

Cooking with the Ainu! I joke, but this show makes a pretty good survival skills tutorial, showing how to lay traps and make meals out of what you catch. Not what I was expecting from the show, but I’ll go with it. Not that cooking and survival skills are the only aspects of this show, we do also have the plot to deal with. With regards to that, so that the show has really just introduced the core concept and been introducing a wide variety of eclectic characters, all of whom I’m interested in. I also like Sugimoto as our main lead, he’s a badass, but not all the time. He can joke and panic like anybody else and has a tendency to get through situations through a mixture of clever tactics and blind luck. Asirpa is also interesting and I love learning about new cultures so having her as a window into the Ainu culture is really great.

Last Period: the journey to the end of the despair

In a world threatened by monsters known as Spirals, there are those who defend the peaceful days of ordinary people, they are the ones who call themselves Periods (for some reason). When the 8th Squad HQ is shut down due to all their treasure being stolen, Haru and his friends are the only Periods left working for them. Now they must do as many jobs as possible to rebuild the 8th Squad, but they have more than Spirals and strangely identical mayors to deal with. There’s also the shady group known as Wiseman! Though, if I’m honest I’m more concerned about the fourth wall. They keep chipping away at it as they are and the whole thing might just crumble.

I realise comedy is a subjective thing and there are probably people out there that find this show sweet and charming. I mean in the grand scheme of things it’s a relatively harmless, average show. The characters are pretty flat and don’t have much outside of their one assigned character quirk and the setting isn’t exploded or developed all that well. This anime is very much an advert and lives and dies on its humour. Unfortunately for me the humour in this show is like a shambling half-dead corpse, lurching towards its own grave (sorry for that image, but that’s the mood this show has put me in). This show’s version of comedy tends towards reference humour, meta and otherwise to the fact that this show is based on a game and general anime jokes. The joke it likes to tell is lamp shading the tropes it likes to use and how generally shody and poor the show is, now lamp shading can be funny, in moderation, but when you keep doing it over and over again the only thing I think is ‘yeah, actually they’ve got a point, this is pretty shody and poor’, which I don’t think is what they were aiming for. That’s the problem with the jokes here, they’re way too repetitive and predictable. I’m out on this one.

Well, there are actually a lot of really good shows this season, but I’ve rambled on for long enough so I’ll leave it here. Back next week for a full series review!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

First Impressions: Spring 2018 part 1

Ah Spring, a time of new life, new beginnings and a whole wave of new anime to pan through in the hopes of finding gold. We’ve got continuing classics like Cardcaptor Sakura, returning favourites like Food Wars and then there’s all the new shows out to grab your attention. Who will shine? Who will get washed away in the current? Have I take this analogy too far? Yes, probably. Let’s see what we’ve got!

GeGeGe no Kitaro (2018)

There is more to the world than you can see. In the 21st Century humanity has either forgotten or no longer believes in yokai, spirits that haunt the world. Yet when unexplainable phenomena like people suddenly turning into trees or the 50,000 strong audience of a concert disappear, they may just start to believe. There’s nothing to fear though, for if you have a yokai problem, you can leave a letter in the Yokai Post and you’ll be visited by Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro, a descendant of the Ghost Tribe here to help. That’s exactly what Mana finds when she drops a letter into the Post on a dare. Now she’s caught up in a strange and mysterious world.

I really like this show. It’s got this old school charm about it without feeling dated, also helped by some really good-looking animation. All the characters are likeable, if not all that deep, still that’s not what this series is going for, not yet at least. For the moment it’s a fun supernatural adventure with a different monster each week and I’m really liking the unusual spirits they’ve involved so far. Japan has some really interesting, and kind of bizarre, myths, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in this show. Now I do believe there have been other shows in this franchise, but I’ve never seen them and so far you don’t need to see them to enjoy this show.

Magical Girl Ore

Saki and Sakuyo are a pair of struggling idols who one day hope to be the very best, or at least on par with Sakuyo’s brother whose part of a top idol duo. However things take a turn for the bizarre when Saki returns home to find a man who looks like he belongs in the Yakuza at her front door. Turns out Saki’s mum was a magical girl, but she’s getting old and her back’s gone so now Saki is volunteered for the job. At first she’s hesitant, until Sakuyo’s brother is targeted by demons, cutesy little bears that are actually as ripped as body builders. In order to save her one true love Saki must transform, but the transformation doesn’t exactly go as she envisioned. You see Saki turns into…a man.

Now I will admit that I was quietly hopeful for this series. I mean the core concept is so weird it could work, if it took it seriously this could be a unique look at gender identity issues, but no, this is a comedy pure and simple. Unfortunately it’s not a very funny comedy, for me at least. Hey if you find this show funny power to you, but after watching three episodes I’ve only laughed once. I think it comes down to the fact that I can see most of the jokes coming, maybe not the specifics, but the style of them. I know their going to do the opposite of what you’d expect, so I expect the opposite and that’s what I get. Girl wants to transform into a beautiful woman to capture the heart of her true love? Turns into a beefed out guy. Gets a weapon that looks like it belongs in a magical girl anime? It’s nothing more than a stick. Cute mascot character? Yakuza guy. You can see the line these jokes are going down and that takes the fun out of it for me. The only time I’ve laughed was when Sakuyo worked out that due to the laws of equivalent exchange, then if she has an amble chest as a girl, then as a man she must have a considerable…ahem. That was funny, purely because of how from out of nowhere that gag was. I’d say give me more like that, but I’m giving up on this show. Magical Girl parodies have entertained me before (Nurse Witch Komugi R), but after three episodes I don’t care one iota about these characters. I’m not invested in their struggle, so why should I watch them?

Lupin the 3rd Part 5

The world’s greatest thief is back and this time he’s taking on the dark web! After stealing from the people behind an illegal drugs website Lupin finds himself at the centre of a bizarre game, where everyone with a phone or tablet is suddenly a camera following his every move. Even if he manages to escape an all-seeing adversary, there’s even more challenges ahead, like the string of world class assassins readying to take him on. Has our hero (?) finally bitten off more than he can chew?

Another anime with a retro feel and part of a long running franchise, I’d be tempted to complain, but then I kind of love this series so I won’t. Now I will admit I don’t have that much experience with the Lupin franchise, it’s one of those classic anime that is on my list, but as of this minute I haven’t gotten around to watching any of it. The only Lupin material I’ve seen before is the Studio Ghibli film and from what I understand that’s a fairly light-hearted take on the character and considering some of the content of this series after only three episodes I have to agree with that. Now I may be talking out of my behind on this, but this feels like a brilliant update for the franchise, Lupin has all the style and flare that I’ve always imagined him having, while at the same time effortlessly stepping into the modern day in a way that feels completely natural. I’m loving the mix of goofy action and clever plots. I’m really looking forward to more.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes:  Die Neue These

Thousands of years into the future and humanity has finally made it to the stars. However there is a divide between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, this naturally leads to war. As vast armies of ships battle it out in the depths of space, two soldiers make a name for themselves. Both strategic geniuses, they are destined to meet many times on the battlefield, but only one can win.

Oh look, that retro feel again. Anyone else getting a sense of déjà vu with the ‘new’ anime that’s coming out this season? Still enjoying it though so I won’t complain. I am partial to a grand space opera and while I don’t think this series is for everyone, I’m certainly happy with what we’ve got so far. After 3 episodes we’re still very much in the set up phase and I think it’s going to be the slow pacing that will be the turn off for some people with this series. I do like the fact that so far the series looks to be alternating its viewpoint characters with each episode, giving us both perspectives on this war and although the anime hasn’t done anything wildly original, I am enjoying getting to know these characters. The space battles also look like they’re going to focus more on strategy than flashy visuals and while I do like some flashy visuals I’m also a sucker for a hero that uses wit and planning to win rather than brute strength.

Dances with the Dragons

The story, right, I’m sure there was one, they certainly talk enough for there to be one. Let’s see, we’ve got a warrior-type guy who’s meant to be the big badass warrior, he also has an obsession with furniture. There’s this other guy with red hair and glasses, he’s more into flashy attacks than physical ones, even though he still carries around a pretty big sword. He’s kind of an ass and sex-mad. Err…let’s see. There’s science so advanced it looks like magic, except it never gets any kind of proper explanation so it is just basically magic. What else? There’s politics and religion and this treaty between dragon countries and human countries, although the only dragon we’ve really seen was just a big monster, we haven’t seen anything else about how they operate. Oh and there’s this serial killer lady who pops up towards the end of each episode (at least in the first three episodes). There’s talking. Lots and lots of talking.

Exposition the anime! As you can probably tell by the above paragraph I’ve kind of struggled with this anime. There are reams and reams of dialogue, stuffed full of technobable and long complicated names and I could not care one iota about any of it. There’s a reason the phrase ‘Show don’t Tell’ exists. I have no context for anything that anybody is talking about, they talk about people and places and groups without giving any visual clue as to who it is they’re talking about or even why it’s important. There’s talk of a dragon empire, but after three episodes I have yet to see a single frame of their country and from what I can gather, this is kind of important to the plot. I get the feeling this anime expects me to know this stuff going in. I mean was there a season before this? A course? A series of lectures? Am I missing something? Not that I care, I have no interest in any of the characters in the anime and that’s even when I understand what they’re talking about. It’s poorly explained, poorly executed and poorly animated in several places (yeah, notice how a lot of the fights take place in dark areas, that’s not covering up for a meagre budget in anyway). Don’t even get me started on the science as magic B.S. Yeah, if all they are is a bunch of flashy attacks with no explanation as to how they can actually happen without you waving your hand and going ‘It’s science!’, why not cut the pretence and just call it magic. Even then proper magic has rules and limitations and this series hasn’t even bothered to set that up.

Okay, I need a break after that last one. Next Time! Telekinetic girls! Twisted card games! And Food Wars is back! Yes! Yes! Finally I get to see what happened after that ending! I may be a touch overexcited about that, let’s hope it lives up to it.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Yet Another Shameless Plug

And I’ll just leave this here.

Beware of Sleeping Dragons. They dream of a world not our own… Welcome to Escafeld, a city in the northern lands of Terra. Although Terra might look like the real world in places, I assure you this is purely coincidental. This anthology is the second volume of tales from Terra’s long and varied history; from the clashing of Empires and Dragons in the Age of Dreams; the rise of technology and tyranny in the Age of Hammers; the modern mysticism of the Age of Spirits; and finally the Age of Infinity, when Terra reached out to the stars. This book is the product of the Sheffield Science-Fiction and Fantasy writers group, who organised an event for new writers as part of the Off the Shelf Festival in October 2017.

I have two stories in here so if you’re looking for a love story featuring mermaids and dragons, or the tragic tale of the many deaths of a crewman on board a starship, as well as many other weird and wonderful tales, then check this out. It can be found on Amazon here.

Anime Corner: Recovery of an MMO Junkie Review

Blog MMO Junkie Review Title

Because coincidence is the fuel of Romantic Comedy!

What’s the Story?

Morioka Moriko is a thirty-year-old single woman who has just quit her job. Tired of the outside world, she shuts herself up in her apartment and plays this new online game she’s found. At first everything is fine as far as she’s concerned, she’s made her character, Hayashi, a male character, and has fun with her guild mates. She especially gets on with fellow player Lily, a cute girl character. One day though Moriko is forced to go outside and literally bumps into a handsome young man Sakurai. The real world is slowly invading Moriko’s NEET lifestyle and from more directions than she knows. You see Sakurai is actually the person playing Lily.

The Review

I’m really glad I found this series. Now admittedly at first I wasn’t all that interested in watching this show, I’m not much of an online gamer, so that side of the story didn’t interest me, and the title was a turnoff for me. I kept imaging that this was going to turn into something about Internet addiction, more interested in decrying the online world than anything else. Lucky this show has none of that and is instead a sweet, funny and heart-warming tale of two people finding one another. I’m so glad I came back to give this show a chance.

As for the story it’s a pretty simple one, we get introduced to Moriko and Sakurai and then its basically the two of them bumbling around until they learn exactly who the other one is and that’s really all this needs to be. Both Moriko and Sakurai are really sweet and fun characters and they’re very much perfect for one another. Moriko is shy and nervous and although we’re never given too many details about what happened at her previous employment it’s pretty obvious that her self-worth has been ground into the dust. She mumbles and hides her way through life, permanently embarrassed by herself, whereas the character she plays online is energetic and fun-loving and I feel a much truer representation of Moriko if she can just shed her self-doubt.

Not that Sakurai is much better. Sure he’s holding down a job and has a social life with at least one co-worker, but when he actually has to speak to Moriko he turns into nervous gibbering mess. He doesn’t want trouble or angst, he just want to pretend to be a cute girl and spent way too much money on outfits for said character. (I’d suggest that Moriko should keep an eye on her wardrobe, but 1. she doesn’t have a wardrobe and 2. the last episode is pretty good indicator that Sakurai is more interested in dressing her in cute clothes).

Both of these characters don’t believe their good enough for the other one and that’s what makes it so frustrating as even when they do run into one another in the real world they don’t come anywhere near admitting their feelings for one another without the other characters giving them a hard shove in the right direction. That being said their nervous and embarrassed reaction is often hilarious. They have great comic timing. The rest of the characters don’t really get much development and we hardly get to see any of them in the real world. I think probably the two characters that get the most screen time outside of Moriko and Sakurai are Sakurai’s co-worker who is the most active force in getting our two leads together and the guy who works at the convenience store who is the confidant of both leads in the online world. If the character doesn’t help move the plot forward, they don’t get any attention I’m afraid.

That is another thing about the plot of this show. It moves really fast. I mean it doesn’t take long at all for one of our leads to work out who the other one is in the real world and then the build up to the big confession. Yet the series never feels like its losing anything and the you still get the sense of build up and tension as we lead to the two main characters discovering one another. It is annoying though, this series is only ten episodes long and I feel there’s so much more that could be done with it and explored, and yet that ending is just perfect. Dammit I just want more! In the end it’s not about getting away from an online life, as all of the characters genuinely enjoy their time in the game, but it’s about finding someone that makes you want to be better.

The only real downside of this show is the sheer amount of consequences necessary to pull off the plot. Moriko and Sakurai not only have to be into the same game, they have to meet one another online and then meet in the real world. I do think the show is pushing it when it reveals that Moriko and Sakurai actually knew one another in another online game years before. I tend to let it slid though because this is a romantic comedy and a lot of romantic comedies are based on huge coincidences that would never happen in real life. If you can let that slide as well, then you’ll enjoy this show too.

The Verdict

In the end Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a sweet and funny tale of two awkward and self-defeating people managing to find one another, first in an online world, then in the real one. It’s bright, colourful and cheerful, with great comic timing and a pair of leads that you’re just dying to see get together. The plot moves fast and while it doesn’t spare much time for the side character, it keeps the focus where it should. I only wish there were more episodes of this show.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

 

Anime Corner Urahara Review

Blog Urahara Review Title

Let’s get creative indeed!

What’s the Story?

Three girls have decided to run a shop together were they will sell all the cutest things. Rito is the creative of the group, coming up with drawings and designs that they can put on the things they sell. Mari fancies herself as an idol and knows all the latest fashions and popular things and Kotoko is the researcher who tends to get a little bit obsessive about anything and everything. However their happy little dream is interrupted when aliens invade! They are the Scoopers and since they have no creativity of their own they’ve decided to steal it from other places! After coming across a strange girl and her talking fried shrimp (just roll with it), the girls gain the power to transform and do battle against the Scoopers. Can the girls protect the town and make sure everything stays cute and creative? No, no they can’t, but they can give us an oddly dark and disturbing turn about halfway through the series, so there’s that.

The Review

Okay let’s just go right at this, this is not a good series. I can’t really recommend it to people and yet there were moments when I found myself genuinely enjoying myself, however brief those moments were. Despite everything there are some good themes and a decent message buried in this show, you just have to sift through a lot of candy-coloured rubbish to get to it.

Speaking of candy-coloured, let’s start with the art of the show. A lot of this series looks like someone’s doodlings. The line work is very rough, the designs for the characters and surroundings varying from really overly simplified with hardly any detail to cluttered messes were it looks like the artists just shoved everything they could into the design. Yet, the design kind of works for the show, it’s not always good to look at and some times it barely even moves, but this hodgepodge, cheap style suits the world this anime builds. It’s bright and colourful and very much about someone’s creativity just running riot. Someone has had an incredibly fun time just drawing whatever the hell they wanted, which actually ties into the main message of the show (which I’ll come back to). It’s very eye catching, I’ll give it that, whether that’ actually any good or not comes down to personal taste.

As for the characters, while I like them I don’t think they’re, well…good. A lot of the time the characters stick to their archetypes and more often than not they’re just ciphers for the show’s message. Rito likes to draw, Mari is fashion-conscious and Kotoko is a walking exposition machine. It doesn’t help that a lot of their jokes and dialogue tend to fall flat on their face. Yet, despite all of that when we get to the middle of the anime, which I tend to think of as the ‘good’ section of the series I found myself really invested. It resonated with me because what this show is about is creativity. Rito and the other girls just want to create things and have fun, but there’s pressures that come with that, chief among them being will people like your work? Also it raises several interesting questions. Are you being creative if you just copy someone? Can copying lead to creativity? How do you learn to make stuff if you don’t start by copying somebody else to learn what to do? Frankly this stuff is a deeper and more interesting than I was expecting from this series.

Watching these girls struggle between being creative and being popular is when this show is at its best, even more so when the girls turn on one another and the true, nasty side of the Scoopers is revealed. It isn’t without its problems though; one thing that always plagues this series is that a lot of it is stuck on repeat. The first half of this series is pretty much a constant cycle of the Scoopers turn up, girls transform, beat the Scoopers, rinse and repeat. Now that is fine in and of itself, this is a magical girl series and they have a particular formula. Where this falls down is the fact that the Scoopers are just so boring, their designs aren’t interesting and they never really pose much a threat (until we get to their real evil scheme). Honestly the eclectic designs of the show can only carry it for a couple of episodes at most.

One of the other symptoms of the repeat cycle is that this show will keep hammering in its questions and themes until your ears are bleeding. Though I do regard the middle section of this anime as the best, the whole thing could have been done in half the time if they just stopped repeating the dialogue again and again. There were times I wanted to bash my head into the keyboard just to make it stop, which is something a show should never aim for as an audience reaction. It gets even worse in the last few episodes of the series and they even try to make a joke out of it with the fried shrimp. I will give the series some credit though in regards to the ending, and spoilers for anyone who cares, when the girls reject the power that lets them transform, they stick with that decision. There’s no last minute transformation or deus ex machina, how they get out of the situation is one that works with everything that has been set up, so points for that. That dreadful scribble masquerading as a fried shrimp loses all those points though.

The Verdict

Urahara is not a good show. The characters are really just there to spout dialogue about the theme and message, often on repeat and while the questions it raises are interesting ones, I don’t think that’s enough. The animation is often static and messy, though it can be visually interesting in its own weird way. I can’t recommend you watch this show, but if there’s anything that catches your interest in what I’ve described, then give it a go. You might like it, you probably won’t, but that’s up to you.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.