Anime Corner: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Review

Blog Miss Kobayashi Review Title

Where can I get my own Dragon Maid? Now accepting applicants.

What’s the Story?

When Kobayashi opened her door the last thing she expected was to find a dragon waiting for her, let alone a dragon that wants to be her maid! Turns out one night when Kobayashi got drunk after work she happened across said dragon, and after pulling a sword out of her, said she could come and stay with her. Now Kobayashi’s rather solitary and work-orientated life has been turned upside down, having to explain human behaviour to Tohru, while also trying to stop her using her fantastic magical powers to blow stuff up. Then more dragons start turning up…

The Review

This show feels like something special, it’s not the most thought-provoking work or the most unique, heck it’s probably not the funniest, but each episode feels like a little ball of sunshine. By the time ending starts to play I’m grinning from ear to ear, and humming along a little bit, every single time. This could so easily have just been another gag anime, a series of fish out of water jokes with some bits of fanservice and cuteness here and about, but this show is more than that. This show has a heart, a big beating heart, it cares about its characters and that makes you care about them so that you’re more inclined to laugh along with them, and even cry when the times comes.

One of this show’s major strength is that it knows how to blend comedy and genuine drama that makes me want to track down the writer and make him my sensei. The show can flip from Tohru overreacting to a typical human problem with way too much too force, and firepower (seriously, never challenge a dragon to a volleyball match) straight to Tohru contemplating just how lonely she was before she met Kobayashi and wondering just how long this will last. It all feels natural too, there’s no tonal whiplash, which was honestly a surprise to me. Though this doesn’t have an over-arcing plot, it is pretty much just a slice of life, watching Kobayashi and the dragons cope with the rigors of day-to-day life, but because the characters have believable emotions, it makes them so easy to invest in. I want to see Tohru happy, content to have a found a place where she belongs, working for the woman she loves. I want to Kobayashi come out of her shell and mature into a person who isn’t always alone outside of a drinking buddy from work. I want them to be a family because Kobayashi and Tohru are good for one another.

There are other dragons in this series and each of them all bring their own unique comedy and heart to the show. Kanna is the winner of cuteness personified, seriously her child-like antics are so sugary sweet you’re likely to go into diabetic shock if you watch her too much. She also has a school friend who is so in love with her that the slightest touch or thought can set her off (I’m seriously worried about the kid, she should just open up, she keeps repressing like this and she’s likely to explode).

There’s Fafnir who’s rather gloomy and into curses and playing online games all night long (which has  got to be more entertaining than just sitting in a cave on a bed of gold). At first he’s rather in the ‘kill all humans!’ camp, but he just takes a while to warm up and in the end he finds a good human. That just leaves Lucoa who is… well she’s… she’s a… a very well developed person (and now I’m motioning with my hands and that’s not really helping). She’s mostly there for fanservice and jokes about her inappropriate choice in clothes at times, but she’s also the wise motherly type of the group. I just feel sorry for the kid she’s living with, not only is he going to grow up with some misconceptions about the proper proportions of the human body, but he’s going to be mobbed by every boy at school when they all hit puberty.

Oh wait I’m forgetting one of the dragons, Elma. Yeah, she doesn’t really do much, she doesn’t have a human to tag along with and the few bits of her character seem to be that she’s indecisive and has a big appetite. She does at least give use another look at the wider world of the dragon’s, showing us that the dragons are actually split into factions, namely Order and Chaos. There are a few titbits of information sprinkled throughout the series about the dragon’s own world and I really wish we got to have a bit more of a look. We know the humans are mostly in a medieval society, the dragons are fighting amongst themselves, or occasionally against the Gods and there’s a none intervention policy for our Earth, apparently (well I suppose they can always give us a season two to answer this stuff).

Lastly, one of the other strengths of this series, you know, aside from the characters, the comedy, the heart and the perfect blend of all of the above, is the animation. This anime is way better looking than it has any right to be. Every frame is just gorgeous with eye-popping colour and during battles it’s so quick and fluid. It perfectly captures the mood and emotion of every scene, whether that’s the gentle humour or heart-tugging feels. The action scenes are out of this world. When some of the dragons throw down or go soaring through the sky, you can feel the power of these beasts (they’d give Goku a run for his money).

The Verdict

In the end Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a sweet, charming and heartfelt little show that is beautiful in more ways than one. The character’s emotions all feel genuine which brings a real warmth and occasional sadness to the series that’s a nice complement to the series’ gentle humour. This show will have you laughing and crying and begging for more, which, really, is all we can really ask for from any series.

fish stamp unmissible

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 2017 part 2

And we’re back! No fuss, let’s just get on with this, it’s a long one.  Hey! Who asked for a series following the kids of your favourite Naruto characters? Okay not that many of you but we’re all getting one anyway!

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations

The life of shinobi has changed, the land is at peace and the ninja academy now teaches subjects other than ninjutsu (apparently), but the life of a ninja can still be an exciting and dangerous one. Young Boruto is the son of the Hokage, not that his father is ever around, often too busy with his duties to have any time for his family. In order to get attention Boruto often pulls pranks, much like his old man, and is often getting into trouble. Luckily he also happens to be quite skilled at ninjutsu, even picking up a few traits from his mother’s side of the family, which could come in handy. Something strange is going on in the village, possessing good people and forcing them to act on their worst desires, but whatever could it be?

I’m enjoying this series a lot more than I expected to, especially seeing what was happening in the manga (really? We’re back to fighting god-like beings and Boruto coming up with a new Rasengan in no time flat. You know the over-powered nonsense put me off the last few years of Naruto). Luckily this series likes to keep things low key, no one’s amazingly overpowered and there’s a sense of fun about the whole thing. It is lacking in some regards those, this series is missing the emotional core that Naruto had, I mean it’s hard for Boruto with his dad never being there, but his dad had it a lot worse and there are times when Boruto just comes across a brat, overly cocky and causing major hassle for everyone around him. If you’re just after some light-hearted little one-off adventures with Naruto and co’s kids though, this isn’t so bad. The overarching story is just a monster of the week so far, though it has potential.

Sakura Quest

You know you go to university, you get this magic piece of paper and you expect doors to just opened up before you, only to find yourself walking straight into the glass (believe me, I’ve been there, technically I’m still there). After 30 rejected job applications Koharu finally gets an offer, but she probably should have read the contract a bit better. What she thinks is a one-time job to act the princess for a rundown village out in the middle of nowhere, actually turns out to be a yearlong job. Now Koharu is stuck, along with four other girls with job dissatisfaction, but can the countryside work its charm and win over this city girl?

I’m getting serious shirobako flashbacks here, which isn’t surprising considering the guys behind this anime (and some of the character designs). I mean the story isn’t anything all that original, either the city girl moving out to the country and slowly falling for it, or the rundown town being brought back to life by an outsider. It’s the characters and the very open heart that makes this series; it’s sweet and pretty funny with the various antics of Koharu either trying to escape in the first couple of episodes or her butting heads with some less than thrilled locals. Also there’s the crazy head of the tourism board and his mad schemes. I can guess how this one will turn out, but I’m more than willing to stick around for the journey.

Clockwork Planet

A  thousand years ago the world ended, but don’t worry, apparently some magician rebuilt the place using gears and such to make it a clockwork planet! (Title drop. Also, the guy really must have been magical because I can see no other way of how you make a planet out of gears and get everyone across to it, also that would be an awesome story, prequel now!). Now nothing lasts forever and this clockwork planet looks set to finally wind down, but fate brings together three individuals. The genius clockmaker Marie, an automaton named RyuZU and a high schooler with an ear for machines called Naoto. Can these three, and Marie’s bodyguard, fend off the military and rivals to save the world? (Probably, just sayin’ it’d be a bit a downer if they didn’t.)

I’m probably going to drop this show, which is a shame because I was looking forward to it, I mean the title and idea are awesome. A whole planet made out of clockwork! Unfortunately nothing really hits the mark with me, the animation isn’t that impressive and the story is just taking forever to get going. I know there’s the threat of the city falling away, but I don’t particularly care or feel any sense of urgency about it and I should. All I can put it down to is that they haven’t properly explained this world. I’m still sat here wondering how they made it. I can’t believe in the characters if I don’t believe in the world first. The characters are pretty fun at least; all four of them have of charm and personality, even if in some cases it’s a very bizarre personality.

KADO: The Right Answer

Shindo is a highly skilled negotiator working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but he might just be on to the most difficult, and unusual, case of his career when a giant alien cube drops out of the sky straight on top of the plane he’s on. An alien has come to Japan from outside the universe, promising the human advancement and it’s Shindo’s job to negotiate on the alien’s behalf, but are things too good to be true? Just what is the right answer?

I really like this series so far, yeah it’s kinda slow and I don’t think it will everyone’s cup of tea. Most of the episodes do tend to boil down to people standing or sitting around while they talk endlessly, throwing in lots of terms that have just been made up by the author and honestly I’ll probably forget half of them. Despite all that though, I really like it. I like the characters and I just really appreciate that there are no idiots here. I mean if we went for the standard clichés we’d have some military bloke one itchy finger away from attacking the alien and triggering our downfall, but there’s none of that here. Yeah, people are wary of this alien, but they’re sensible about it, they test and probe, do all the things that people should do with an alien came by for a visit and I am so grateful for that. This is a realistic approach to what should happen if we ever make first contact, or maybe that’s being too optimistic of me.

Twin Angels Break

Meguru has always aspired to be a hero, after watching a pair of young heroines save someone, and as she moves to Tokyo she finally gets that chance. Along with the cool (except when it comes to her big brother) Sumire, she forms the Twin Angels, magical girls working with a talking hedgehog to collect energy and fight evil! But the hedgehog is hiding something, she needs the energy for a specific purpose and it ties into the two previous Twin Angels.

You know, you sit around looking for a magical girl series to fill the void (there’s only so many times I can rewatch Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura) and then two come along at once (One of them being Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cait Noir, but that’s a discussion for another day, great cartoon though, go check it out). Twin Angels Break plays the genre pretty straight, and is part of a franchise I haven’t encountered before, but it’s nice. I’ve tried to watch ordinary magical girl series before and I just couldn’t get into them, but I’m getting into this. I mean the story is fairly generic and the characters even more so, but there are elements to the story that have me intrigued. The back-story for the hedgehog and the two previous Twin Angels has my attention (so much so that I’m considering going and checking out the previous series). I also like that the story is taking its time, letting the girls stumble a bit and work to improve as they learn the ropes. We haven’t even seen the Break system that keeps being mentioned and I like that. Don’t just throw out power ups, make the characters work for them. I’m sticking around for this.

WorldEnd: What will you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?

500 years ago the world ended with the majority of the human race being wiped out. Now the earth is barren, stalked by monsters of that past age, while the surviving species live on islands up in the clouds. The last known surviving human, Willem, is recruited by the military to look after some ‘special weapons’ in a warehouse. Said warehouse turns out to be a rather nice house and the so-called ‘weapons’ are actually little girls. They’re fairies and are one of very few who can use the weapons created by the humans to battle the monsters down on the surface. Willem has already lost so much, but as he bonds with the girls, can he really stand to lose anymore? And just what exactly can he do to save them?

I really like this series, everything just sort of clicks when really it could go so badly. Here I was expecting either some cliché-ridden fanservice machine with beautiful girls fighting monsters going off the synopsis and op or an odd fantasy slice of life judging by some of the preview images. Instead though I got a really heartfelt and interesting little story. I like this world, I like these characters, it feels likes there’s just so much in it and I think the pacing helps, slowly peeling back the lid so that it can keep some mystery while still feeding us information. It also seems a lot more focused on characters and their interaction than bothering with the whole fighting monsters thing, there’s several fights that are clearly skipped over so we can focus on the characters instead, and for this series that works. Also, can I just give a round of applause for writing the kids like actual kids, they’re wild, energetic and completely up front about everything, you know, like kids are. This is one of my favourite shows of the season so far so good, so what are you waiting for? Go watch it!

Anonymous Noise

When Nino was little she was inseparable from her friend Momo, they were always holding hands and singing together. Then Momo moved away and Nino was left alone in a scary world, but found a new friend in Yuzu, a music composer, who gave Nino a song, but eventually he left as well. Now, years later, Nino, Momo and Yuzu find themselves in the same school, but will music bring them together or simply become the battleground as Momo and Yuzu fight for Nino’s affection and voice. Look out for the teen angst!

Okay I was joking about the teen angst, actually I wasn’t, but I’m only 3 episodes in and there already feels like there’s so much drama! Unrequited love, nervous disorders, jealousy and heartbreak, heck even the love triangle is turning out to be quite compelling so far. I mean I don’t know who to pick, we haven’t seen that much of Momo, but he clearly meant a lot to Nino and they really clicked, but now he’s determined to stay away from her, want to find out about that. Yet on the other hand we’ve got Yuzu, who you really have to feel for, I mean with what he’s lost and his adoration of Nino’s voice, though he can lean a bit towards the obsessive and controlling. So there’s good and bad points for both boys, all the while Nino is oblivious to all of this but not in an infuriating way, not yet at least. It also helps that the characters feel like people even being independent of one another; no one is there purely to be a love interest. I want to see where this is going and the music isn’t too shabby either.

Well that’s it for this week, catch ya next time!

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 2017 part 1

It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! Sorry, okay there actually are other anime than Attack on Titan Season 2 this season, but who cares about them, it’s here!

Attack on Titan season 2

For years humans have lived safe behind the walls, beginning to forget the titans, gigantic mindless monsters that have an appetite for humans, which lurk just beyond the stone. That was until the Colossal Titan came and smashed down one of the walls. On that day Eren vowed to kill every last titan and years later joined the Survey Corps in order to find a way to push back the titans and find the secret lurking in the basement of his former home. But there is much to learn about the titans, including the fact that some humans can transform into titans. So the question must be asked, who among the terrified humans is a secret titan and just why exactly are there titans inside the walls?

It’s back! About bloody time, it’s been what 4 years and honestly watching this series it feels like no time has passed at all. It helps that the story pretty much picks up straight where the last season left off (probably a good idea to go back and watch season 1 then) and we’ve got the epic action, the raw emotions and the sheet terror of watching a tiny human take on a massive titan knowing full well that character shields can fail at anytime. I also like the fact that several of the secondary characters are getting some of the spotlight while we wait for Eren and co to come save them. Now I have read a bit of the manga (I just couldn’t wait) and all I have to say that this arc is going to be epic, all they need to announce now is that this season is going to be more than 12 episodes as I’ve heard.

The Silver Guardian

Suigin is a part-timer caretaker at a posh school and full-time gamer, he’s recently got into the game Dungeon Century and met a cute girl who he spends all his time playing alongside. It comes as quite a shock when Suigin learns that the girl he’s been playing with in is real life Rei, the most beautiful and popular girl in school. Suigin is just happy to keep playing, admiring Rei from afar, but then its announced that the game will be discontinued. That’s about it so far, apart from a strange first episode that so far has nothing to do with the rest of the show.

I really don’t understand this series. I mean with shorter anime like this you can’t really do full stories, you need something short, sweet and fun (like Space Patrol Luluco), but if you do it the traditional way then you end up with a show where you’ve just about gotten something going and then it’s over. It would also help if there weren’t a full-length opening title eating into so much of the runtime. The Silver Guardian isn’t a bad show, the characters are likable if with no time to develop and on occasion are a little weird. I mean who takes their computer outside to play a game? Also what exactly are the mechanics of this game? How does the controls relate to what we’re seeing, that would be nice to know. I don’t think we’re going to get it because there’s just no time. 3 episodes in and it still feels like we’re stuck in the intro. Not sure about this one.

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation

Gran is a good-natured kid, always happy to help and pretty good with a sword, who happens to live on a floating island. He longs to leave his island though, to find his father who’s supposed to be waiting for him in the legendary Island of the Astrals. Then a girl falls out of the sky and an evil empire comes calling for her. Now Gran gets his wish and an adventure to go with it, yeah it’s not all that original, but who cares? Looks there’s dragons and skyships! Sign me up!

This is very much a classic fantasy. The story and a lot of its elements have been done before in one form or another by plenty of other series, but I just really like this series. It may not be new, but I like the world this series presents, I like the designs of the characters and the ships and just the general landscape. It probably helps that this series is just so gorgeous, with great action, lots of bright colours and did I mention some really lovely designs? I also kinda like the rough edge around the characters as if they’ve just been drawn, it gives a different feel and aesthetic to the whole show. There’s a sense of adventure about this series that puts a smile on my face every time I watch.

Alice and Zoroku

Sana has the power to create anything she wishes for, but what exactly should a little girl with the powers of a god wish for? When she escapes the shady research facility that has been holding her captive, she has no idea where she’s going and is pursued by people who share her abilities. Luckily there are those who want to help her and those who will guide her. Enter Zoroku, an elderly florist with a nonsense attitude, but is a good heart and a firm hand enough to control powers that could rip the world apart?  It’s an unusual story, but one worth hearing.

I really like this series; it’s a little slow but immensely interesting. I like that it breaks some common troupes with this type of story, I mean typically if you have a girl with supernatural powers escaping a facility the first person she’d run into would be some average teenage boy and no doubt high school hijinks would ensue. Here though it’s an old man and that gives us a unique dynamic. Zoroku is clearly there to guide Sana and teach her to use her power responsibly, but how is he going to deal with the fantastical and the two competing factions that both have their eyes on Sana. Its one part fantastical slice of life comedy and one part supernatural thriller and I really like that.

Tsugumomo

A tsukumogami is an object that develops a personality and spirit of its own. One day the obi that belonged to Kazuya’s mother, the same one he carries around with him wherever he goes, transforms into a blue-haired girl. This isn’t the only strange event to happen to Kazuya as all sorts of spiritual shenanigans have been going on, from being attacked by a possessed wig to getting locked in an equally possessed library. Could all of this have something to do with the dreams Kazuya has been having of late? Of memories he doesn’t remember? Whatever it means, this is clearly just the beginning.

I like this show, it has the feel of an old school shonen, similar to the recent Ushio and Tora, except not as well animated and with way more fanservice. Still the concept is interesting and so far the monsters of the week have been a little different to the usual roster of bad guys that turn up in these shows. The characters are fairly stock but they’ve got plenty of room to develop so I’m happy to see where they go. The things that are really keeping me around though is that the animation really steps up to the mark in the fight scenes and that soundtrack is just pure awesome.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor

Glenn is the new substitute teacher at the very best Imperial Magic Academy, where all the best and brightest go to learn about the forces of magic (anything else would kind of be a let down since it is a magic academy). Unfortunately Glenn isn’t really in the mood for teaching and instead just lazes around and annoys the students, until that is, a group of nasty wizards take over the school in search of one of the students. Now Glenn gets to show his stuff, including his blood-soaked past and the fact that he’s probably one of the most skilled magic-users around. He’s still kind of a jackass though.

I’m really scared of this series. I mean on the one hand I like the characters and the ideas at play, well, once you get to episode 2, episode 1 isn’t all that interesting and is really just one long joke with an unlikeable main character. Once we get to episodes 2 and 3 though, Glenn finally gets to show a few positive traits, showing off his extensive knowledge of magic and some decent (though not mind blowing) fight scenes. I really like the magic in this world, the idea that if you just ignore the textbooks and just change a phrase one way or the other, you can control the effect of a spell. What worries me is the writing. I mean it’s fairly straightforward and predictable, but the scene that raises a red flag is when one of the girls is nearly raped by a soldier. One, what the hell is that doing here? Two, get that the hell out of here! Rape should not be used just to show how evil the villains or as a bit of fanservice! It is a vile and terrible act and should always be treated as such. Gods, way to wreck a semi-decent show guys, way to go.

Right, okay, I need to go wash the bad taste out of my mouth, so we’ll continue this next week. Next time: working women, alien invasions, stupidly long titles and, oh yeah, let’s see what Naruto’s kid is up to. 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: Masamune-kun’s Revenge Review

Blog Masamune Review Title

Revenge is a dish best served convoluted!

What’s the Story?

When Masamune was a kid he had both good and bad in his life, on the one hand he was bullied for being overweight and taken advantage of because of his money. On the other hand he was stinking rich and had a girl that loved him, well, that he thought loved him. One day everything changed, the girl he thought loved him suddenly turned around, gave him the cruel name Pig’s Foot and broke his heart into tiny pieces. Masamune has spent the years since obsessing over that heartbreak, driving himself to lose weight and become a self-proclaimed handsome man. Now he’s in high school, the same high school as the girl that spurned him all those years ago, and his sights are set on revenge!

The Review

Romantic Comedies aren’t typically my thing. I may have mentioned my views on romance in my last review, but let me go into it a bit more. Whenever romance is the main focus of a series to me it often feels insipid or forced. Romance is something that should occur naturally, it can’t be created (well it can, but it shouldn’t feel like it’s been created). It’s why I prefer a romance plot to occur in the background because then it has a chance to grow organically, it often doesn’t, but it has more of a chance. You can’t always bank on comedy either, as what people find funny is a very subjective thing, so you can’t bank on that as a guarantee of goodness. What I’m getting at is that Romantic Comedies rank along sports anime in how hard they have to work to get me to care, which is pretty damn hard.

They can win me over, Toradora is one of favourite anime (check out my review here), but that comes down to the characters. I care for those guys, I laugh at their antics and sob quietly at their struggles. Why am I rambling on about this instead of reviewing the actual show? Well, I’d try to argue there’s a point to this, but it really is just me rambling on until I find a thread. Where was I? Oh yes, characters. For me the characters make this series (hey a thread!), but I don’t think they’re for everyone.

Honestly this show needs the characters, because the anime struggles in other places, namely the plot. For the one the plot is incredibly contrived, a kid who had his heartbroken years ago suddenly runs into the girl responsible and sets out to make her fall in love with him just so he can get his revenge. One, how shallow and obsessed is this guy that he’s been plotting this out since he was a kid? Get over it already, don’t waste your time on her. It’ll be hard, sure, but in the end it will be better for you. That’s before we get into the ever increasingly complex schemes, the mysterious transfer student and the lookalike pretending to be Masamune (See the girl hasn’t cottoned to the fact that our main hero is the boy she used to know, the odd thing though is that she feels rather upset about Masamune abandoning her when she was a kid, leading to her current mistrust of all men. Wait a minute; her back-story doesn’t match up with Masamune’s, what’s going on here? No idea, we hit episode 12 before they tell us. Damn it!).

It doesn’t help that the story is so clichéd and we know exactly where is going from the very start. I mean we all know Masamune will get closer to Adagaki in aid of his revenge, but without realising it will slowly fall back in love with her, until we reach the point where he can’t go through with his revenge. Then Adagaki will find out, be mad and heartbroken and Masamune will have to declare his love to win her back. It also doesn’t help that our two leads don’t have that much chemistry. I have no interest in seeing them get together, in fact they’d both probably do better finding other people.

Now, despite my problems with this anime, I still enjoyed it. As I said at the beginning, it’s the characters that get me every time and while I don’t think Masamune and Adagaki are good people, they’re interesting people (comical and overblown, but interesting). I know the characters will probably be a turnoff for some people because at times you want to hit them, Masamune especially. They’re both arrogant and haughty. Adagaki rejects boys in brutal fashion, smashing their dreams into dust (ladies, please I know some guys are utter insert five letter word here and you probably get fed up of all the pathetic attempts to hit on you, but with some of us it takes a lot of courage just to speak to you). Meanwhile Masamune is obsessed with his image, thinking that he’s so handsome and popular (and I’m not jealous in the slightest okay!).

Yes, they have reasons for the way they are and earn a little bit of sympathy from me on occasion, but the best part of this anime is when they get their comeuppance every now and again. I especially love Masamune going through the ringer. See he may be arrogant and obsessive, but he’s also a complete and utter moron. He reads these corny and clichéd romance novel, then acts them out expecting them to work, which they never do. Also every single reaction to something going wrong is an explosion of sheer panic and mad rambling that is a delight to watch. I could watch this guy suffer all day long, though it also makes me root for the guy a little. I mean he’s gone through so much, been humiliated and knocked about (sometimes deservedly) that I want him to find some light at the end, whatever that entails. Whether that’s finally realising he loves Adagaki, or just being able to move past his obsession (I prefer the later, but I have a funny feeling if this gets a second season it’ll go for the former).

The Verdict

Masamune-kun’s Revenge is a romantic comedy that I don’t think is for everyone. It all depends on whether you can get along with the characters, whether that’s laughing at their misfortune or finding a part of them to root for. The story is clichéd and convoluted beyond belief, though there is some nice animation a couple of scenes that are pretty dramatic and have some real emotion (looking at you episodes about Neko). Give Masamune a chance and if it breaks your heart I’m sure you’ll find a sensible way to get revenge.

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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: Fuuka Review

Blog Fuuka Review Title

Well, I’d better be careful how I pronounce that name.

What’s the Story?

Yuu is a bit of an introvert, he’s better at talking to people via social media then he is in person, then he meets a girl called Fuuka. She’s wild and impulsive (and a little violent considering the number of times she kicks him around). All of a sudden Yuu finds himself dragged into the spotlight and into the band Fuuka’s putting together. Can the anxious and uncertain boy overcome his flaws to take to the stage? And what about his growing feelings for Fuuka? Oh hey, look, it’s just about time for us to throw in the second girl for the love triangle. Introducing Koyuki, Yuu’s childhood friend and a rather successful singer, who also happens to be madly in love with Yuu. Not You, Yuu (Sorry, I won’t do that joke again, I promise).

The Review

I don’t really know what to do with this series, I like half of it (I don’t love it, but I like), but the other half just drains the soul out of me. Half the time I feel like I’m slipping into a coma with this series, then the good half comes back and I’m suddenly jolted awake. I’m split and I don’t know what to do about it, outside of rambling away on this here blog.

Okay, bad half first. I don’t watch a lot of romance, mainly because a lot of anime that have romance as one of their main focuses tend to follow along the same old plotlines again and again and also I’ve come to the belief that romance is best as something in the background. It should grow naturally between the characters and when said romance is front and centre that tends not to happen. The characters are in love because that’s what the plot demands, rather than what the characters want. Fuuka falls into both these problems.

Not only is the story entirely predictable, seriously you might as well paint by numbers with this. The second Koyuki enters the picture you’ve no need to guess what’s going to happen, it is inevitable and the series wasn’t exactly a bundle of surprises before that. At the very least the show moves through the clichés pretty quickly so you don’t have to suffer too long. Though it doesn’t help that I don’t really care which girl Yuu ends up with. Coming back to that whole forced romance thing, that’s what I feel happened here. Yuu’s chemistry with a girl entirely depends on which one the show wants to highlight. At first Yuu obviously has some feelings for Fuuka and that’s nice, but then Koyuki comes along and soaks up the spotlight for an obscene amount of screen time considering her name’s nowhere near the title and Yuu seems perfectly happy with her. Actually they make a cute couple. Then, oops, he’s actually in love with Fuuka, quick throw in some angsty emotional scenes!

Honestly I think Yuu could have been happy with either girl. The show never makes a solid case for why Yuu should end up with Fuuka over Koyuki (That’s not a spoiler, you all knew it was going to happen). I mean I get what they were going for, Fuuka is the one that drags Yuu out of his shell and inspires him, also the fact that Koyuki loves him more than he loves her, I get that’s what they’re going for, but those feelings never quite come across. When he’s with Koyuki, Yuu seems genuinely happy and, again, cute couple. He’s happy enough. He loves her enough. Why does that mean he can’t end up with her? Give me a good reason show; give me a good reason!

On to the good half of the show, the music and band sections. Now I’m not musically inclined, I like listening to it, but I’ve never picked up an instrument outside of a recorder back at school (there is that little part of me that wants to give it a go at some point). Don’t get me wrong the band sections aren’t any less clichéd or predictable than the romance stuff (Oh, Fuuka’s been offered a solo deal, I wonder what ever will happen?), but I get this sense of energy from the music that isn’t there in the romance. It helps that the songs are pretty decent too. The animation definitely steps it up a notch when the band is on stage performing, in fact there are a couple of episodes that half feel like concerts, which isn’t so bad. For these portions of the anime I’m invested in the characters, I want to see them succeed. Watching Yuu find his confidence and step out on to the stage is a moment to cheer for.

One of probably the best moments of the show is when the band first performs. (SPOILER ALERT!) It’s just after Koyuki blabs about having a crush on Yuu and all these fans turn up to the concert ready to mob the poor kid. Seriously, some psychopath actually throws a bottle at Yuu. It’s a pretty tense scene and oh so satisfying when Fuuka’s voice and the band’s playing shuts them all up. Why couldn’t the rest of the anime be like this?

Unfortunately for this series there isn’t much else to hold it up other than the music and the energy in the band sections. The rest of the characters and even the band themselves are pretty much non-entities outside of Yuu, Fuuka and Koyuki. I mean they have back-stories and the show tries to devote a couple of moments to them, but never in enough detail for me to really care. A lot of it is kinda vague and I just can’t find the energy to care outside of the band stuff. They could have all been interesting, if the show had been more interested in them, but no we have to sit through the boring, repetitive love triangle with our leads. It’s not like we really go into that much depth with them either.

The Verdict

In the end Fuuka is a show that half works. The plot may be mostly contrived and clichéd to the point of being a plaster cast of every other romance in existence, but the music is good and I am interested in this band and want to cheer them on. If only the romance and characters made me feel the same. As it stands Fuuka is worth a watch if you’re more into romance anime than me, who knows maybe you’ll connect where I couldn’t. This just didn’t do anything to blow me away.

fish stamp watchable

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

Anime Corner: Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Review

Blog Blue Exorcist Review Title

If the son of Satan wishes it, then so it shall be.

What’s the Story?

Teenage years can be rough, though they seem especially so for the young Rin Okumura. He’s just a nice guy who’s a little awkward, but he has a reputation for being unruly and has a tendency to let his emotions get the better of him. He’s also the son of Satan. When Satan kills Rin’s adoptive father Rin swears to be the greatest exorcist to get revenge, enrolling in a special school where he learns his baby brother is a teacher and fairly badass exorcist. Now the secrets out though, the whole exorcist community knows of Rin’s parentage. On the bright side the higher ups have been persuaded not to execute him, for now, but it’s also put some distance between him and his friends. Then a former Exorcist steals the eye of a demon and makes plans to resurrect the Impure King, it can’t really get much worse at this point can it?

The Review

I like Blue Exorcist, I’d recommend that you go watch the first season of the show (partly because you’ll need it to understand what’s going on in this second season) and the mangas pretty enjoyable too (what I’ve read of it anyway). Rin is a great character and has a compelling story, a young man struggling with his heritage and his emotions. He’s more than just the typical naïve and energetic main hero that typically turns up in these types of shows. Oh sure he goes along similar beats, the young hero who has to fight against the odds and has an awesome power that puts everyone else in the shade, but there’s a level of emotional honesty to him that you don’t get that often in Shonen stories. I mean Goku and Luffy are great and I’ll always cheer them on, but I’ll never meet anyone like them on the street. With Rin though, if you stripped out the son of Satan stuff, I could imagine bumping into him.

Blue Exorcist’s strength, in my opinion, has always been its emotions. I mean the arc that this season is based on is a heart-stomper when you think about it. Rin has always been alone to a degree, marked as an unruly kid with very few friends. He’s always been an outsider, with only his little brother and father to rely on, then he started going to the Exorcism school and finally made some friends. Now his secret’s out though and those friends are suddenly distant. Some of them are afraid of him, some are angry about being kept in the dark, others just unsure how to react. Rin has been isolated all over again, except this time his dad’s gone and his brother has problems of his own. It’s a tough time for Rin and you root for him as he struggles to rebuild bridges and scream as his emotions get the better of him yet again and risk everything.

This story is tense, it’s emotional, it’s… well it was supposed to be anyway. While there are many things this season did right, there’s one major thing it got wrong and that’s the pacing. This story feels stretched to match its twelve-episode run, there are whole episodes that breeze by and practically nothing happens. It’s frustrating because I really like this story and these characters, but the emotions just aren’t hitting me. I sat watching this with barely a reaction and that is wrong because I remember getting so wrapped up in the manga when I read this arc. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe because I already know what’s coming and I’m waiting for it that it makes it feel longer. Maybe the fact that when you read something you can put your own pace to it, yet that isn’t matching up with the pace the animators have set. Honestly I don’t know, I’d have to have a sit down with someone that hasn’t read the manga to figure this out. It felt slow to me though and that ruined the impact of the emotions.

Now if you have only seen the anime before then what I’d recommend you do is, first, go back and watch the first season because it’s been a while (and its good), second, forget about the anime original ending where Satan shows up. That does not happen in this continuity. From what I can remember this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the manga, which means it starts up pretty soon after Rin’s secret was exposed with all that pain and emotion still lingering about. That also hurt this series, because its been so long and is ignoring the anime’s ending, there’s this block where season 2 is expecting you to instantly care and remember the plight of our young heroes without any build up, because the build up was those prior to this arc. Season 2 just drops you straight in without any warning. I think what it needed (and I know the anime community will probably kill me for this) was a couple of episodes of filler to ease us back in, remind us of the characters and remind us a bit of where things now stand.

The rest of the anime is pretty much as it was before. A good soundtrack, great characters and better animation, seriously this anime is gorgeous, so fluid and really fast when it actually starts moving. The animation is better than the previous season, but then it has been a good few years so that’s to be expected. The colour pallete is a little more muted; making the whole thing feel a bit more sombre and grounded (if it a series about demons and magic can be called grounded), but then that suits the story they’re telling. This isn’t wholly Rin’s story either, the rest of the characters get things to do and arcs of their own, even if they don’t take up as much of the spotlight.

The Verdict

Well, we all asked for another season of Blue Exorcist and while it wasn’t as good as I had hoped, it was still very fun. The animation is fantastic, the characters are still the same great characters and there’s a real heart to the series. There are some pacing issues that means this series isn’t as impactful as I would have liked, but nothing’s perfect. We just make the best of the hand we’re dealt.

fish stamp good

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: Lego Batman Review

Blog Lego Batman Review Title

Quick! Stop him before he starts singing!

To quote Batman the Brave and the Bold for a second,

“Batman’s rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it’s no less valid and true to the character’s roots as the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy. And besides, those Easter Bunnies look really scary, right?!”

Legends of the Dark Mite, great episode, check it out. Also there’s no Easter Bunnies in this film, but we go get what I believe is the first animated appearance of the Condiment King, never thought that would be a thing. Anyway, while I know this review is arriving well after the horse the has bolted, but I’m here to convince any who are still avoiding this film ‘cause it’s not ‘their’ Batman. This movie is awesome and deserves its place in the cave.

Personally I was a little hesitant about this film at first. I’m okay with lighter takes on the Caped Crusader, they’re not my favourite interpretation, but I’m more than willing to see what they can bring to the table (I think the Brave and the Bold proved a lighter Dark Knight can be great). No, my fears with this film kind of boiled down to, ‘surely they can’t do it again’. I mean the Lego Movie was amazing, it was smart, funny and heart-warming by the end. Lightning can’t strike twice. Well step away from tall objects because apparently it can. The Lego Batman Movie is just as good as the Lego Movie. I don’t think there’s a single part that could have been done better, the script is brilliant, both witty and hilarious (seriously the jokes are rapid-fire in this, they just keep coming), though there’s enough weight in the personal dilemmas to pull at the heartstrings. Add to that some top-notch performances and some non-stop, fast-paced, detail-packed animation (I’m going to have to watch this film another ten times just to catch half the stuff I missed) and you’re on to a winner.

What surprises me most about this film though, is just how much it pays tribute to the history of our title character. I don’t think there’s a single era of batman that doesn’t get a nod somewhere along the line, from the black and white days, though those weird times in the 60s all the way to recent films like that recent one where he and Superman stood in the rain while Wonder Woman walked past, it’s all there. (My personal favourite has to be the Tom Hardy impersonator voicing Bane). Not to mention the wide range of villains on display, we’ve got all the classics plus the weird z-listers from the forgotten corners of Batman’s rogue’s gallery (Again, Condiment King, who’d have thought?). What I’m getting at is that the makers of this film have a clear love for Batman and that shines through throughout the film. Also we get to see part of the Bat Family, which I always appreciate (though I am disappointed the extended family didn’t make an appearance, like Nightwing or Spoiler or Batwoman or anyone else, but then I don’t think they would have fit in this film and I can’t have everything I want).

What’s the actual story though? (It’s about time I got to this part). The Joker is planning to blow up Gotham and he’s enlisted every inmate in Arkham to help him do it, but fear not citizens! For the Batman is here and he takes down all the villains to probably the most awesome Batman theme there is (Patrick Stump’s ‘Who’s The (Bat) Man’). With the clock ticking it comes down to Batman and the Joker and the Batman makes the biggest mistake of his career, he tells the Joker he’s not his worst enemy. You actually feel kind of sorry for the psychotic clown, I mean he goes to all the trouble of stealing a plane and breaking all these guys out of Arkham, just so that he can spend some time with his archenemy and he goes and says he doesn’t care. (You know thinking about the stealing and the breaking out, suddenly feeling less sorry for the clown.)

Anyway Joker gets away, but Gotham is saved and the crowds bow and worship as they should for Batman. The guy even drops by the orphanage on his way home to hang out with the kids, one of whom is called Dick Grayson (kids can be cruel. Yes I stole that joke, don’t care it’s one of my favourites). Boy, it really must be great to be Batman. Wait? It’s not? All the money and the glory don’t make up for the fact that Batman’s alone? Too afraid to start a new family ever since he tragically lost his parents? Yeah, the message and where this film is going aren’t exactly surprising, but it’s a testament to the writing that it still gets to you when they reach the emotional parts. For all the jokes and the action, you feel for these characters. Batman is a tragic character and has a wealth of pathos that he can bring to a story, even when surrounded by all this insanity and comedy, he still brings the feels.

That’s not to say the film isn’t without its surprises, I mean the clever and witty script accompanied by enough easter eggs to last a lifetime and some great animated sequences is enough to distract you from the predictable elements, but the film has to go one better and throw in some really crazy ideas. I’m not going to spoil them, but probably the best surprise this film throws at you is the Phantom Zone. For those who aren’t up on the comics the Phantom Zone is from the Superman mythos, it’s another dimension were the worst super-criminals are put away because nowhere else can hold them. Now the Joker’s plan to get back at Batman involves getting in there and let’s just say whose waiting in there is both brilliant and hilarious.

Is Lego Batman the best Batman movie ever? Nah, Dark Knight or the first Tim Burton Batman are my contenders for the best film, then again Mask of the Phantasm was really good. Damn it I can’t decide and I probably just started a flame war in the comments (well I would if more than two people read this blog. Hello readers!). Anyway, none of that matters. Sure it’s not my favourite Batman film, it is still an extraordinary one and one that I recommend not only to fans of Batman, but everyone. It’s smart, it’s funny and it’s touching in some cases. Who’s the (Bat) Man? Batman! (Sorry, I’ll never do that joke again.)

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