Anime Corner: Granblue Fantasy: The Animation Review

Blog Granblue Fantasy Review Title

Really? We’re ending on a beach episode?

What’s the Story?

In a world where the islands float in the skies, a young man, Gran, dreams of setting sail out into the wide blue yonder to follow in his father’s footsteps and maybe even discover the fabled island of the Astrals. When a girl drops out of the sky it’s the beginning of an adventure (isn’t that always the way), teaming up with a knight on the run, a helmsman who only wants to fly one ship and a pushy little magic user, Gran sets off. Along the way he’ll battle ancient monsters, the evil empire of…evilness and unresolved plot threads! Let’s go!

The Review

If I was to look at this anime analytically I’d have to say that it’s characters are fairly one-dimensional, its plot ranges from predictable to generic and it’s pretty much just an advert for some mobile game I’m never going to play. So I should probably dislike or at the very least be apathetic towards this series. In actual fact, I love it. This show hits a cord with me. It feels like an old-fashioned adventure, which it pretty much is. Yeah there’s lots of elements you’ve seen elsewhere, sky ships, mysterious characters who help out the main heroes, saying something ominous and then disappear until their next meeting and girls that fall out of the sky (Is it just me or does that happen a lot in animes like this? I can think of a couple of examples just off the top of my head). Despite all of that though, this series just goes to prove that it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it.

The characters, though they don’t have very much depth and tend to stick to their archetypes, are all charming and I really feel for them. I mean when Gran was trying to convince Lyria that she wasn’t the monster the Empire thought her to be and then everybody else turned up to stand by her, I was tearing up. I like these people. I care about these people and I want to see them be happy, I want to see them go on wacky adventures and laugh and joke together. The characters feel honest and genuine, yes this anime was most likely conceived as a way to boost sales for the game, but you never get that feeling watching the show. This is just a group of people having adventures and I love that.

I’d be happy if the show was just that, but there is more to this. For one, the show is absolutely gorgeous. A lot of the characters drawings have this slight roughness to the line work that makes it feel like they’ve just been drawn and they move so fluidity. Seriously there are some outstanding action scenes, I don’t have the words to properly describe how good a lot of this looks (I should probably stick in some sort of meme about sending in a poet, but in all honesty I think the poet would struggle too). Also I really like the amount of detail in this show from the characters to the world around them. I mean, sure, some of those costumes are just ridiculous, but I admire the detail in them and animating that couldn’t have been an easy thing.

The show does have some problems, outside of the ones I mentioned. The main one being that this is clearly only the beginning of the story. It’s 12 episodes (I’ll come that 13th episode in a minute). There are a tonne of plot threads unresolved, including the mysterious Rosetta, who is she and what’s she up to, same goes that armoured black knight and the girl similar to Lyria. Heck episode 12 adds a new character to the roster with seeds being sown for his back story (that we’ll never get to because there’s no more episodes). I mean at the very least the series goes out with a certain bang, with a huge battle and while there are a lot of new characters thrown at us (I’m assuming these are the other characters who we’d get to know if the story carried on, or we played the game). It has a suitably epic feel to it and we do get some pay off on the bit of character development Lyria received in the previous couple of episode. Sure it’s annoying that we’ll probably never get answers to a lot of questions, but I’m just happy to spend time with these guys.

Speaking of that, on to Episode 13, which in all honesty I have never seen an episode like it in any other series. It’s the only episode of the series where I could feel the ad executives willing me to buy the game and that made it rather off putting. I’ve never played the game, but from this last episode I take it that when you play you get the choice of either playing as a male or female character. So, instead of the final episode working as a capstone to the series so far, to reflect on what came before and maybe make some promises about what’s to come, no instead we get the series recap, but with the female version of Gram instead. Not only does this mean that the last episode is confusing as hell as it starts back the beginning with an entirely different character, with no explanation whatsoever, but it also means that the episode is part recap, part beach episode. Also, who the hell ends on a beach episode, they’re the filler, the bit of fun crammed full of way too much fanservice before we move on to something better, except there’s nothing to move on to because this is the last episode! Honestly I do not understand this last episode, why would I want this after spending the previous 12 episodes getting to know and root for a completely different character? Episode 13 is entirely pointless and I’d just skip it altogether.

The Verdict

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation is a fun series. Sure it’s not deep or meaningful, it’s not even that original, but it doesn’t need to be. This series is an adventure and that’s all it ever has to be, fun times with likeable characters. The animation is great, the world is vast and beautifully designed and the characters are all people I enjoy spending time with. This show knows what it is and never really tries to break away from that, and it shouldn’t. Outside of Episode 13, I’d definitely recommend this. Set sail for an adventure!

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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.

First Impressions Summer 2017 part 2

And we’re back! On with the First Impressions!

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A boy wakes up in a strange land. He sees a white-haired girl who calls him brother. He meets a cat in a trench coat you tells him of the dream world. There are witches, women and girls lost in the dream and unable to wake up. They control the dream, often towards violent ends, and only our main character (I’m not calling him a hero) is capable of waking the witches up.

I’ll give this show some credit, it’s very dream-like, it that it flits from one random thing to the next with very little rhythm or reason. That’s also one of this show’s biggest flaws. We’re just thrown into this show with no grounding or build up, just a bunch of one-off stories about various girls, yet we’re not really given much cause or chance to care for them. Half the time they’re the bad guys! Then we have our main character, he’s one of those emotionless ‘I can do anything if only I could be bothered’ types and really he just annoys me on a cellular level. I mean the mystery of why all this is happening could have interested me, if our main character gave one iota of concern about it instead of just wanting to go back to bed. If he doesn’t care, why should I? (All that being said Episode 3 is beautiful and our main character actually emotes! It’s also exactly what I needed after the bloodbath of Episode 2. Talk about tonal whiplash. If the previous 2 episodes where like Episode 3, I’d stick around.)

Chronos Ruler

There are monsters known as Horologues that prey upon those who wish for their time to turn back, whether to undo a mistake or just see a loved one one more time, these monsters feed on that desire, devouring that person’s time until there’s nothing left. Yet there are those who fight against the Horologues, such as Victo and Kiri who have the power to either slow down or speed up time. Protecting the innocent isn’t their only desire though, Victo is slowly being eaten away at by a wound given to him by a Horologue and every time he uses his power more of his memories are lost as well as his body slowly deaging. Can Victo get his time back?

I like the ideas at play in this series, the powers based around controlling time are a good idea that admittedly tend to get used as your basic shonen bizarre powers. I also like the relationship between Victo and Kiri, I mean the reveal that he’s… (SPOILERS!) Kiri’s father came as a surprise and could be really good if given the right exploration, though so far it’s mostly played for laughs. That tends to be the problem I’m having with this series so far, intriguing ideas, which either nothing is done with or it’s just completely straight with no new twist. The series is kind of a hot mess, the pacing is all over the place and while the ideas are there they’re just not used to their fullest potential. It doesn’t help that the series leaps from one major revelation to the next before the last one has even sunk in properly. Seriously, let your plot points build and breathe. Hoping this one sorts itself out and becomes as good as it could be, though at least the jazz ost is nice to listen to for now.

Magical Circle Guru-Guru

The Demon King has risen and a hero is required to defeat him. Unfortunately Nike doesn’t much fancy being a hero, but his hero-mad parents have other ideas, forcing him on to a quest. Joining up with Kukuri, a shy girl with mysterious magic powers, Nike sets out to save the world. Retro RPG style!

Watching this series is a joy I didn’t know I was in need of. You know, that feeling when you find something you didn’t even realise you were missing until you find it. Now I’m not much of a gamer, but one of the first games I ever played (alongside Pokemon Red) was Legend of Zelda and this series brings such a wave of nostalgia over me I can’t help but love it. It’s sweet, charming and also incredibly funny. I love the simple little designs and that fact that the characters are drawn as kids as opposed to the chiseled teens and young adults we normally get. It gives the series a sense of innocence and fun. Also despite the simple character models, the animation is pretty darn good when it needs to be. This feels like the start of an adventure.

Classroom of the Elite

There is a school that has an astonishing success rate of its graduates making it into business and college, but things at this elite school are not what they first seem. At the start of the year students are given points to use as money to buy whatever they want from around the campus, which comes complete with shops, restaurants and cafés. What they’re not told is that the points they get are based on their performance and after a month of goofing around Class D find themselves suddenly cash strapped. The fight it on as the various classmates, and the rest of the school, scramble to gain points by any means necessary. Then there’s Ayanokoji who gives off the appearance of an unemotional and bored teen but underneath all of that is a lot of cunning and some impressive physical abilities, but why exactly is he so set on getting the whole class to survive this experience?

I like this series, outside of looking absolutely gorgeous at times, it’s really interesting. The premise has got its hooks in me and although I’ve complained about emotionless main characters before there is a solution to them. To get me to invest in a character you either need to make me emotionally connected to them, by feeling empathy, or you can take this show’s route and just make them interesting. There’s so many mysteries surrounding Ayanokoji and who exactly he is, it’s also pretty fun to watch him try to bend the system around to get what he wants, even if we’re not really sure why he wants to the class to stick together. I want to know more about him damn it! That being said episodes 2 and 3 are pretty big indications that none of these characters are quite what they first appear to be. There are couple of things that could prove to be issues later on, the series so far has a pretty slow pace (definitely watch up to episode 3 at least to give it a fair hearing) and I’m not sure about all the quotes popping up at the start of episodes, they’re interesting, but it’s setting off my pretentious radar and I fear at some point this show is going to get on its soapbox and start preaching. Well, I’m interested for now at least.

Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight

Find a certain website at the stroke of midnight and you can summon Hell Girl, who will take the soul of any one person you name straight to hell, the catch being that you will also go to hell when you eventually die (which in all honesty is the part that would put me off). What follows are the stories of those desperate, enraged or just plain mad enough to give it a go, but just who is the strange girl who questions the sanity of all this (personally I’m on her side).

Never taken part in the Hell Girl franchise before (assuming it’s a franchise due to the fourth in the title and the fact that everybody acts like I should know all these characters already, I mean it’s either a franchise or some pretty poor character introductions). Anyway, it’s pretty interesting, good animation for the most part, well told and some powerful story-telling. It’s dark as all Hell and while, yeah, I lean towards the wild and fun side of anime (and any kind of story really) I don’t mind indulging in some darkness. Heck, Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica are two of my favourite anime. I think what’s impressed me most with this series is that each story is so different to one another, you’d think they’d be stuck doing the same kind of story over and over again, but each episode has come at things from a different angle and shows no sign of running out of ideas. Though, admittedly, this is the first anime I’ve watched on Crunchyroll that asked me to log in to prove I was over 18, which may be a hint to how dark this is and will continuing being.

The Reflection

3 years ago strange lights appeared in the sky, an event that came to be known as the Reflection. No one quite knows what it was, but many people died during it while others were mutated. Now some of these “Reflected” are turning to super-villainy, angry at the world for hating and fearing them (and this is in no way like the X-Men, just ignore the guy with the big red X on his head that looks kind of like one of Cyclops’ recent costumes and the guy with the beard in the armoured suit that definitely isn’t Iron Man). But where there are villains, there will always be heroes. And so Japan has a go at doing an American comic.

Now I have to admit it was the mention of Stan Lee’s name that drew me to this series and it goes have some potential. Story wise it’s kind of taking it’s time, but I like what I’ve seen of our heroes so far, there’s the mysterious and laid back X-on who can copy people’s powers when he touches them, I-Guy a one-hit wonder who finally gets a shot at the limelight again thanks to his armoured suit and has a tendency to play said one-hit wonder while he fights and then there’s the reporter lady who can teleport. I like them and the show does have some funny lines, such as I-Guy’s response to the question “You’ll continue to protect New York, right?” “Sorry, I live in LA.” The problem however is that I’m having issues with the production. For one the animation is heavy stylised, going for a minimalist approach with lots of heavy black lines which would look cool on a comic page, but I get the feeling it’s going to put some people off, it’s almost putting me off. Everything feels oddly muted in the first couple of episodes, from the dark colour palette to the action and even the sound mix in the first episode. I can’t tell whether it’s the animation or the direction, but something is wrong, at times there’s really fluid animation while at others it’s really sluggish, with people just standing in silence or punches that have no weight to them. I hope this show can sort itself out, ‘cause this could be 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 Summer 2017 part 1

And so another season of anime begins under the sweltering sun of summer (oh wait, make that the sudden downpour of summer…and the sun again….and raining…sun…rain…make up your mind! Sigh, the British weather). Anyway, let’s take a look at this season’s offerings.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu

Five warriors (who just happened to once have been swords because…Japan) are sent back in time to stop the mysterious Time Retrograde Army from altering the course of history. Though they are all expert swordsmen this team is newly formed. Will their clashing personalities lead to clashing swords, or can this group get their act together in time to save history?

Now I gave the last Touken Ranbu series a try and wasn’t all that impressed. I wouldn’t have known what was actually going on without reading the plot synopsis for the series (note for future writers, that’s not good), the show never gave me a reason to care for the characters and nothing really happened as far as I could tell from the episodes I remember. This series, while still suffering from similar flaws, handles things a lot better. It actually explains what’s going on, actually let’s us see the history our heroes are trying to protect and there’s lots and lots of really good action. Also it’s animated by ufotable so it looks gorgeous. Now the characters are still painted with very broad strokes, so I barely know them, I still have no idea why the bad guys are doing what they’re doing (just one line about motivation, that’s all I need) and while we get to look at history, we haven’t actually learnt much about it. I’m hoping all that will change with further episodes, but for now the visuals and action are enough to keep me watching.

Knights and Magic

A genius programmer dies and is reborn into a fantasy world plagued by giant monsters. Luckily the inhabitants of this world have giant robots to defend themselves with. Seeing the giant robots awakens some memories of his past life in the young Ernesti and now his one and only goal to build and pilot his own robot. He is still a kid though and has a long way to go before he can accomplish his dream.

Seriously, another show where the main character wakes up in a fantasy world? I suppose it’s nice that the guys’ reborn rather than just popping into existence there. There’s less of the fish out of water stuff and more of the kid just going gaga over robots and everyone giving him weird looks, which can be fun. The battles are pretty cool, but the fantasy world is kind of generic and I’m not a fan of the pacing. It has a tendency to just skip over chunks of story just to get the good bits, which it’s nice to get to the good bits but I feel like I’m never given a proper chance to get to know the characters because of it. Also can we lose the narrator? Show, don’t tell people, show don’t tell.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life

Yushi is finally taking the first steps to independence as he moves out of his uncle’s place and into his own, well that is until the dorm he was moving into burns down. Unwilling to go back to his uncle’s Yushi is desperate for a place to stay, so desperate he doesn’t think twice about taking advice from a ghost child (surely this can’t go wrong!). Now Yushi finds himself living among ghosts and despite his initial terror, it’s actually quite a calm and peaceful place. But could living among the dead actually bring Yushi to life?

This is one of those middle-of-the-road anime. It doesn’t do anything particularly terrible, but on the other hand it never rises above anything other than serviceable. The animation is bright and cheerful but never does anything eye-catching, the comedy has managed to make me chuckle once or twice, but only once or twice. The story isn’t really hitting me either, I mean the constant references to Yushi’s dead parents is starting to go from having my sympathy to verging on the annoying. I get that it’s his character motivation and it’s a big thing, but does everything single episode have to include him explaining what happened all over again? I suppose what I’m most disappointed about is the ghosts themselves. This is the show’s opportunity to get wild and creative, but it doesn’t. They’re boring and plain and way too human. It’s this show in a bottle, no creative spark, no imagination; just rather plain.

Restaurant to Another World

There is a very special door that once every seven days will appear in unusual places in far off fantastical worlds and should a brave explorer step through these doors, they will step into a magical place. That’s right, the best Japanese restaurant you’ve ever eaten at! What? What were you expecting? It takes a special kind of chef to be able to serve dragons, monsters, treasure hunters and noble dukes, though if the food tastes as good as it looks I can see why they keep coming back.

I’m hungry. Seriously it has to be a crime for food to look this good, in the fact the whole show looks great. This show is kind of like a good meal; it’s warm and comforting and leaves you with a very fulfilled feeling. It knows what it is and sticks to it, there’s nothing epic or grand about this show, it’s just a bunch of little sweet and heart-warming stories and that’s all it needs to be. Don’t come to this series if you’re after action or even a plot, but if you just need a little 20-minute break to sit down and just soak in some good atmosphere, then this is the place to be.

Fastest Finger First

Shiki is a shy and nervous kid; he likes books and doesn’t have much confidence talking to people. All that may change though when he’s roped into joining the quiz bowl team, but it’s not about just knowing the answer to the questions, first you’ve got to hit the buzzer. What starts out as reluctant hobby could lead to the greatest of Quiz Kings being crowded!

I’m not really into sport anime (and technically this counts as sport, shut up) one, I’m not into sports themselves, two, they always tend to follow pretty much the same formula. Underdog newbie gets introduced, learns the rules and turns out to have the talent to rise to top, but with many bumps along the way. It’s a simple story and admittedly it does often work, the trick is to capture that thrill, the sense of anticipation when playing the game and this anime captures that so well. Yes it’s pretty much a bunch of people buzzing in to answer questions, but there’s a palpable sense of tension to it to see who’ll get it first. I’m hoping there are few surprises along the way, but even if not so far it’s still pretty entertaining.

Saiyuki Reload Blast

Journey to the West but in…actually what the heck kind of time period is this set in? We’ve got cars and mention of credit cards yet everyone dresses like it’s the middle ages and lives in huts? What time period is this? How can those things go together? This is worse than Naruto! Anyway, where was I? Oh right, the plot. Okay so a priest, a ladies’ man, a quiet guy and a monkey head west through a fantastical land filled with demons in order to stop some evil experiments that are driving said demons crazy. That’s about it.

Now I didn’t know this was the latest in a long line of series in the Saiyuki franchise, the fifth series if what I’ve read is right. I’m pretty sure I can get by without seeing the other series, so far it’s pretty much one off stories where the gang arrive in some village, antics ensue and there’s a bloody (and I do mean bloody) battle against some demons. It’s nice and simple, so you can just enjoy the characters bouncing off of one another and the action. On the other hand I don’t doubt this series would be a lot more compelling with some prior knowledge of these characters, the opening and closing keep giving me snapshots of some harrowing events, but I have no idea what they mean or whose these characters really are. It’s fine to watch, but will probably be better if I track down the previous series first.

That’s it for this week, but I’ll be back next week with a classroom full of the odd elite and a lot of idiots, what is more of a nightmare world than a dream world and an old school adventure classic RPG style! See you then.

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

 

Anime Corner: Anonymous Noise Review

Blog Anonymous Noise Review Title

“I’ll make is so all of them can never leave” Why am I picturing this turning into some kind of hostage situation?

What’s the Story?

When Nino was little she enjoyed nothing more than singing with her neighbour Momo, even if her singing wasn’t all that good. One day though Momo left without a word. Heartbroken and anxious in a world all by herself, Nino took to singing alone at the beach in the hopes that one day her voice would reach Momo. That’s where she met Yuzu, a young songwriter, though he quickly disappeared as well. Now in high school the three shall meet again, Yuzu convincing Nino to join his band while Momo writes songs to pay for his family’s debts. Music proves to be the only thing that can cut through their tangled feelings, but will Nino’s voice reach?

The Review

These kids, honestly. Obsessive isn’t the word for our three leads, each and everyone one of them is on verge of breaking in one way or another and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine any one of them being locked up in a basement by one of the others. You’ve got Nino who’s so hung up on a past she can’t let go of, longing for the Momo she used to know. There’s Momo who really likes Nino but can’t bring himself to admit it, about the closest he comes is that he wants Nino all to himself and can’t stand her singing other people’s songs. Finally we have Yuzu who, again, is in love with Nino, but can’t bring himself to admit (though you can’t blame him when he’s competing with this idealised Momo Nino carries around) and, again, wants Nino’s voice all to himself, just to sing his songs.

None of these characters are particularly healthy (well Yuzu drinks a lot of milk), but I mean mentally and emotionally. I’m less interested in the love triangle nonsense and more in how these emotional wrecks manage to get through their day to day lives, it’s fascinating to watch. This series feels in no way realistic, it’s too full of huge coincidences and overly convenient dramatic moments, but I still believe in emotions being put on display. Much like Nino’s singing as Alice (her identity as the band’s singer), the emotions at work here feel very raw. When Alice in on stage and about to go full throttle into a song, she looks like she’s about to kill someone and the music hits you with enough force to do just that. I’m not a music aficionado and my own tastes do vary a fair bit, but I do like a good chunk of the songs in the show, though some of them did take a while to grow on me. (Noise is my favourite).

This series is a tumult of emotions, teenage angst and drama, with almost every character unable to own to their feelings, alternating between stubbornness and doubt. It’s incredibly frustrating at times, you just want to knock these people’s heads together and tell them to get it together. (Come on Yuzu! Admit your feelings before I use that guitar to bash some sense into you!). It probably doesn’t help that at times the characters can range from idiotic with their decision making all the way through to being, well jerk isn’t a strong enough word, but it’s all I’m going to use here (looking at you Momo). Despite that though, I’ve gotten invested in these characters and their dramas. I want to see how it all ends, even if I can’t exactly picture a happy ending for all concerned.

I’m not sure we’re going to get that end though, not without tracking down the source material. The series does build to a pretty pivotal point, with the big battle of the bands between Yuzu and Nino’s band and the one Momo has put together, which would work as a final note to end on, if it wasn’t for all the loose threads dangling about. We still don’t know Yuzu’s full story, though the ending suggests some progress with his mum and there’s Momo and his clearly psychotic mother (what is it with this show and mothers? I think Nino’s the only one with a sane parent). Here’s hoping for a season 2 at least.

With the animation, the series has some unique character models and though the eyes can be a bit weird with how big and circular they are, taking up so much of the head. All of the characters look a little stretched, well, except for Yuzu (Sorry Eyebrows), it takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do it’s perfectly fine. Most of the animation is fine, it has good comic timing when it comes to the various gags (yes this series isn’t just angst and drama!) though it really saves itself for the big moments when it counts. The switch to 3D during the performances is noticeable, but not all that intrusive, so it just about gets away with it.

The Verdict

Anonymous Noise is a raw beating wound of emotion, full of angst and wild coincidences to fuel it’s drama, but it’s that raw emotion that gives it its power. You feel the passion of the characters and can’t help but be sucked in. Watching Nino go from an anxious and lonely student to a rocking vocalist pulling in the crowds is a treat to watch and she deserves it after all the stumbles and falls she’s faced along the way. While I don’t think this show will be for everyone, it’s definitely worth a look. Who knows, maybe it’ll reach 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.

Anime Corner: Attack on Titan Season 2 Review

Blog Attack on Titan 2 Review Title

Well that was fun, same again in 5 years’ time?

What’s the Story?

For years humanity sat safe behind its giant walls, protected from the Titans (humanoid giants that have a taste for humans and not much else), but one day that peace was shattered along with one of the walls. On that Day young Eren swore to kill every last Titan, entering into the military and joining the Survey Corps. But as the Survey Corps learn more about the Titans it becomes apparent that the grinning giants may not be the only threat to humanity. So now the question is, just who is on humanity’s side?

The Review

Well it took them long enough to release a new season for this much hyped show, I can’t help but wonder how awesome this would have been coming out a year or two after the first season (you know before most people either gave up waiting or just read the manga). As it stands though this season is kind of exactly what we wanted after Season 1. It picks up pretty much where the last season left off and answers several hanging questions about the Titans and what’s actually going on (more so than the whole of Season 1 did anyway). Also several of the secondary characters take the spotlight and get moments to shine or develop.

I do have a slight issue with this second season that the gap between seasons is partly to blame for it. Now I can cope with the years waiting (I had to be tied up in a rubber room for part of it, but we won’t go into that) and I do have the manga if I want to find the answers to the pressing questions of the series. Where the real problem comes in is that it’s been a while and you can’t expect people to still be in the same jobs, some will either have moved on or hopefully moved up and it’s kind of obvious that that’s happened here.

There’s something missing from the animation. It still looks great and there are times when it is breath-taking, especially during some of the fights or when there’s some aerial acrobatics going on. Yet there are other times when, it’s nothing bad, the scene is clearly displaying what it’s supposed to and putting across the idea of things moving, but it’s just so plain. There’s a sense of style or dramatic missing from several scenes. The first season had this visceral, raw energy to it, when a Titan was attacking you knew it and you were as terrified as the characters. You still get that, but it’s not as sharp. This is only a minor quibble by the way, the series does great most of the time and can recapture that energy, just not all the time.

Outside of that minor issue though, the show is pretty what we were all waiting for, we get some answers about what the Titans are and several characters get the spotlight that didn’t before. Even the main characters get some further development. Of course not every question is answered and by the end there are a whole new set you’ll need answered (unless you’ve read the manga), but that’s kind of par for the course with this series. Is it annoying that we’ve only got an extra 12 episodes with some answers and not all? Oh yes, but this second season has answered a lot more questions than the first season ever did so I’m content if not happy.

Speaking of our main characters, let’s talk about them (mainly because I’m only at 600 words and the review’s kind of done). First we’ve got our loveable (okay, no so loveable) hot-headed revenge seeking teen, Eren. It’s kind of a wonder just how much he’s developed, without really changing all that much on the surface. He’s still consumed by his rage and hatred, he’ll still rush head long into danger without properly thinking about it and he’s still a little bit useless when it counts (though he does get his first Titan kill!) You can see him starting to think about things though. Instead of just going berserk in a fight, he starts using actual technique a bit more and even considers his actions once or twice. Keep this up and he might just make a rational human being out of him yet (Ha ha ha ha, like that’s going to happen).

On the swing side we get to see Mikasa deal with what happens when she’s not the unstoppable force of nature that can kill anything in an instant and instead actually fails (or at least doesn’t succeed) and that is one scary version of Mikasa. Seriously do not mess with an angry and desperate Mikasa. If Eren’s rage is like a wildfire getting out of control, then Mikasa’s is like a razor-sharp spear of ice. It’s cold and hard and will run you right through.

Armin actually gets the least bit of development, the only real thing that sticks in my mind is when he has to sacrifice something in order beat the bad guys and he picks a little bit of his humanity.

All of this plays into why I like these characters so much, they all have issues, big, steaming issues, that tends to make them emotionally unstable, but it’s fascinating to watch them struggle and fight, sometimes making bad decisions, sometimes good, but in the end that’s what humanity is all about, overcoming the odds. Attack on Titan shows the very best and the very worst of humanity by putting them into the direst situations it can come up with and I’m glad to see Season 2 carry that on.

The Verdict

Season 2 of Attack on Titan is exactly what we ordered, questions are answered, characters are developed and some even get a bit more of the spotlight. All the while delivering the same intense actions and gruesome horror that was in the first season (even if not all of the time). It’s just a shame that it took so long to get to us.

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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. 

The Infallible Fish: Moana Review

Blog Moana Review Title

Remember who you are, Simba…wait, sorry, wrong movie.

I think I may just have a new favourite Disney princess film (Sorry Tangled, oh who am I kidding, I still love you, but you’re happy to share the top stop, right?). Sorry to spoil my opinion on this film so early, but I am properly in love here, it has its flaws sure, but what it gets right, it really gets right.

For starters, this film is gorgeous. From the natural radiance of tropical islands to the high contrast of the realm of monsters, every single scene is a treat for the eyes. Every frame is filled to bursting with vibrant colour and I’m actually drooling here, sorry. Add on to that some fast and energetic animation and you have a recipe for awesome. Seriously, this film knows how to do action and weight, the best example I can think of is when Moana first tries to sail past the reef and gets hit by a series of rolling waves. You feel every hit, you feel the panic and the dread as Moana fights to free her leg and that is only the start. Moana runs and jumps and sails her way through this film and you feel all of it. Also if you’ll allow me a small animation nerd moment, oh my gods that water! Sorry, but I studied animation at university and I know how hard it is to get water right, mostly because it’s a liquid and has a tendency to go where it wants and trying to animate something random is a pain. Yet this is most realistic water I have ever seen in an animated work, it makes you just want to dive straight into it and you completely get why Moana is so obsessed with the ocean.

Let’s talk about our lead. Moana has to be the second most badass princess (sorry chief’s daughter) that Disney has ever introduced us to. Of course Mulan still rules the roost in that regard, but Moana comes close and she has a charming personality to boot! Let me put it this way, outside of Mulan, what other Disney princess can you picture slow-mo walking through an ocean split like the Red Sea, while a lava monster comes barrelling towards her from the other end? Yes that scene is as awesome as you are imagining it. Moana is an action hero without being unbelievable. She fights her way through a ship full of coconut pirates, outsmarts giant crabs and plays a deadly game of tag with the previously mentioned lava monster. And you know what? She’s terrified throughout and I appreciate that. Moana is a young girl trying to find her way, riddled with doubt and trepidation about what her heart is telling her to do. She’s not perfect, she does mess up, either getting too in over her head or letting her self-doubt get the better of her, but she finds her way through it and is better for the experience.

On to our other main character, Maui. A couple of people I know raised their eyebrows when the Rock was cast for the part, but there’s no need to worry. Honestly Dwayne Johnson is as charming as he always is and sinks right into the part. Now I don’t know about the myths surrounding this particular demi-god so I can’t make any comment on how accurate he is, but he fits the film. Speaking of the myths this film is based on, like I said I don’t know much about them, but I certainly want to now I’ve seen the film, which is how I like my films based on cultures I’m not familiar with. Anyway back to Maui, he’s a very charming and fun character, even when he’s doing stuff that should really turn you off to him, like say stealing Moana’s boat and locking her in cave. He straddles that fine line between being loveable and a jerk. He’s way too in love with himself and does what he does for the adoration of the humans, though when you learn the guy’s back story that’s kind of understandable, he’s got some world class abandonment issues.

Honestly one of the best parts of Maui is his relationship with Moana, they really bounce off of one another, whether it’s them bickering, comforting one another or just having fun. They’re both people unsure of who they are in one respect or another and they make one another better, you feel the bond that grows between them. It’s a good thing that they are so good together, because the majority of the film is just the two of them together. Okay so there’s a chicken with an IQ in negative numbers and the ocean itself along as sidekicks, but neither of them talk so I’m taking this film as a two-hander for the most part.

There are other characters, Moana’s family and the villagers, but once Moana leaves the island we don’t get to see that much of them, outside of a dream sequence and a ghostly visit later on, but that’s okay, they fill their roles and move along. That’s all that’s needed. It does bring me to one of the problems with the film, the story (outside of the mythology stuff) is kind of generic. Moana dreams of leaving her village, but her father forbids it and the two are at loggerheads because of this. I mean at least they give the dad a reason for not wanting Moana to go beyond the reef so he’s not just the normal disapproving parent, but it doesn’t change the fact this story has been done before. It’s the battle between heart and head and Moana does try to please her parents, but it’s just not in her. Yeah we’ve seen this story before, but with these characters and these visuals, I honestly don’t mind, though I completely get it if it puts other people off.

Also, notice that there has been no mention of a love interest in any respect, that’s because there isn’t one! Yay, no forced romance because Moana doesn’t need one for this story, its not about her loving anyone other than her family and her village. This is about Moana finding herself and the film sticks to that, thankfully.

All in all Moana is a fantastic film with an endearing and badass young heroine. Visually it is stunning and the characters are fun, even the comedy sidekicks. Yes the story has been done before plenty of times and outside of the cool mythology stuff it doesn’t offer all that much new, but personally I can look past that for these characters and visuals. Also the songs are pretty fun too, nothing that I think will dislodge ‘Let It Go’ from the collective consciousness, but they’re all toe-tapping and fit seamlessly into the film. I am Moana! Sorry, that scene is also awesome and I couldn’t resist.

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

Anime Corner: Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2 Review

Blog Gundam Iron 2 Review Title

The iron flower that shall never wilt

What’s the Story?

The former child soldiers of Tekkadan have finally carved out a life for themselves. Now a legitimate organisation with wages and everything, they’ve finally built the home they never had, but is that enough? There are still those who look down on them, who see them as nothing more than human debris or pawns in other people’s schemes. Unfortunately they only know one way to get what they want and that is to fight, charging from one battlefield to the next in the hopes that this will be the last one. As a civil war erupts in Gjallarhorn, Earth’s peacekeeping force, Tekkadan is drawn into the conflict, though they may have picked the wrong side. Can the kids find a way to live in this world, or will the iron flower finally wilt?

The Review

The first season of Iron Blooded Orphans is not only one of favourite seasons of the franchise, but just anime in general (check out my review here), this second season though, I don’t know. There are parts that are fantastic, so many moments that are thought provoking and heart wrenching, the same great characters that we fell in love with before as well as a couple of interesting new characters. The series is just as dark and brutal as before, more so in some instances. But then there are other parts that are meandering or pointless and in some cases just downright wrong. Honestly it feels like two different writing teams wrote this series, with the good team having to deal with the utter junk the other team was forcing on them.

Now there will be plenty of spoilers ahead as I’m going to need to drag up some examples to sort out my feelings about this series, so if you want to go in blind, skip to the Verdict at the end.

We’ll start in the good camp with Mcgillis Fareed. Now it’s hard to classify Mcgillis because he’s kind of both a protagonist and antagonist at the same time. It goes with this whole series’ outlook that there are no villains, just people with different goals. I mean from certain viewpoints Tekkadan themselves can appear to be the villains, mercenaries with ties to organised crime, ruthless in battle and with a higher body count than most mortuaries. It’s a message I appreciate, but it does hurt the series. Because there’s no grand villain or major goal, the plot just kind of meanders around the place, with Tekkadan lurching from one random battle to the next. Which I guess is the point. These are child soldiers, fighting and violence is all they know, they don’t know another way to get what they want. (Spoiler!) It takes the utter destruction of Tekkadan for them to begin to move past their upbringing and become a part of a better world, though not all of them can escape the life of violence. Still would have been nice for the plot to feel a bit more cohesive during the beginning and middle sections.

Anyway, I was talking about Mcgillis. This season does a great job of letting us inside his head more. I mean season 1 kind of left his motivations a bit vague, other than Gjallarhorn’s corrupt as anything and he wants to remake it. In season 2 we get to learn how messed up a person Mcgillis is, he’s a child who was mentally, physically and sexually abused (I mentioned this season got darker in places right?) as such he believes that power alone is the only thing that will change the world. He’s also a master manipulator, using everyone around him until he can rise to the top. Honestly most of the time I don’t know whether to root for him or punch him. I kept expecting him to turn into the series’ villain, he certainly did some bad things, but he did it for a good cause, to reform Gjallarhorn. It’s just that his way wasn’t the right way, like Tekkadan he was trapped in the thinking that violence and brutality were the only answers to the world’s problems.

Okay, bad thing now. This show and women. It’s weird, sometimes it gets it right, sometimes not, but then I guess Iron Blooded Orphans has always has a weird view on women. I mean the child bride and the criminal with a harem of women, all of which are his “wives”, was iffy for me in the first season, but it managed to just edge the line, I mean there were some good female characters in there. Season 2 takes it across the line though. I’m assuming the term “women in refrigerators” is used frequent enough on the internet that it doesn’t need an in depth explanation, in short, it’s when a woman is killed off purely to effect the story of the male characters. Season 2 has one of those moments, the villains behind it even openly admit that’s why they’re doing it. I was so angry I nearly stopped watching at that point, it’s pointless, I take that back, it does have a point and that point is manipulative and a waste of a good character (doesn’t help that it happen to someone who I’d really grown to care for across the two seasons).

Then we come to Atra and this is where I get to the point where I don’t care what cultural differences there are between me and the writers, this is wrong and if anyone’s got a mind eraser gun I’ll happily borrow it so I can wipe this plot point from my memory so I can go back to liking this show. Atra is a child, and I know the majority of the cast are children and yes the wikia says she’s fourteen, but she looks about ten and she gets f***ing pregnant! Look it’s great that Mika gets a kid to carry on his legacy, but I don’t want to think about him and Atra, you know, doing it! Ugh. If she was older I could bare it, but just no… no! And I get that teenager pregnancy is a thing, doesn’t make it right and that’s clearly not what this plot point is about. There’s no examination of it, no delving into Atra’s feelings and trials, just she has a kid and is really happy about it. Ugh.

Good stuff. Think of good stuff. Yes, new characters, haven’t talked about them yet. While there are a bunch of new faces, a lot of them get the short end of the stick, with very little development or time to shine. There is one that I think is a brilliant addition to the cast, and that is Julieta. At first she wasn’t all that great, she was standoffish and cold, a pale imitation of Mika for the Gjallarhorn side, but she grew on me. Unlike Mika she wasn’t a born badass and had to work hard to gain strength, though I think the moment I really started to like her was when she was fighting Mika and came to realise that she wants power, but not at the expense of her humanity. She matured and by the end had a grudging respect for the kids of Tekkadan, but she was able to leave the violence behind and remain human.

The Verdict

The second season of Iron Blooded Orphans isn’t as good as the first. It has some great elements, the characters are just as engaging as ever and the animation is gorgeous and action-packed (the battle between Mika and the Mobile Armour stands out as a highlight just for how jaw-dropping and brutal it is). The story is thought provoking and has a real heart to it, though it will smash your heart to pieces by the end. This is a bittersweet story, with these characters and this world it couldn’t really be anything else, but the plot has a tendency to meander too much and several of the new characters never get a chance to shine. There are also several questionable elements that stop me from liking this series as much as I want to. I’m half-tempted to say to skip this, but if you can put up with the questionable stuff, the moments when this series is on point are really worth the slog to get to them. Just remember to pack the tissues.

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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.