Anime Corner: Cells at Work! Review

Blog Cells at Work Review Title

Education via cuteness, I’m okay with that.

What’s the Story?

The human body is a complex and fascinating thing, made up of millions upon billions of cells, each with their own unique job to do. Follow Red Blood Cell as she tries to find her way around the intricate map of the body, somehow always managing to come across a new invading germ or disease. Fear not though because it’s the White Blood Cell’s job to deal with those, cutting down anything that might harm the body (though how he gets all that blood out of his white overalls is still a mystery). Not that anyone cares about any of this because then there are the Platelets and they’re just too cute.

The Review

Making something both educational and fun is no easy task, as I’m sure any teacher will testify (not that I’ve ever taught anybody anything, I speak only as a guy with a relatively short attention span and a tendency to daydream). Unless a subject is one that I’m already interested in I don’t have much patience for mountains of explanations and I tend to zone out (luckily there’s a lot of stuff I’m interested in otherwise this would be a problem). Luckily for this show it knows exactly how to engage me in its subject matter. When I look at this show on paper it shouldn’t really work, I mean shows about the inside of the human body have been done before and we’ve even had shows that follow the cells of the body, that’s fine. Where this show should fall down is, well the first is the tonal whiplash as on the one hand we have the ever adorable Platelets and on the other we have the White Blood Cells massacring invading germs and walking around covered in blood. Those two things should not be in the same show.

Then we move on to the characters themselves and, well, there’s not much to them. The various cells we meet across the series all have a defined character trait and stick to that for the course of the series. The closest we come to character arc is with our leading lady, Red Blood Cell, who’s arc basically consists of being a directionless newbie and turning into a directionless senior. Yet, this show manages to make me care about each and every one of its characters. Red Blood Cell may not develop all that much, but you see her tackling her problems with a single-minded determination to improve and that is something to cheer for. All the others cells are brimming with personality and make whatever their gimmick is really work to both be educational and funny.

As I said, on paper I don’t think this show should work, the tonal dissonance and lack of development would kill most other shows, but, for one, the tone is used as a great source of comedy and as for the development, well, it’s best to view this series as an anthology in my opinion. Each episode has a new situation crop up, whether that’s an invading germ or a serious medical condition, or sometimes even just a spotlight of a particular cell. Whatever the case we always have the familiar faces of Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell on hand to guide us through whatever this week’s problem is.

Where this series excels is in the fact that it can perfectly balance its comedy and drama, deftly switching between the bizarre behaviour of some of the cells and the more dramatic situations like a life threatening disease. The plotting is pretty top notch too, managing to introduce a problem and resolve it in just over twenty minutes. When the situation is dire you can’t help but feel tense, heck this series made me feel sorry for cancer cells, if you needed any proof that this show knows who to work the feels, that’s it right there.

As for the animation is it’s often bright and colourful with some really nice character designs. The Platelets are cuteness personified and some of the germs look genuinely threatening. I like that there’s such a wide variety of designs, even if a fair few of them get repeated quite a lot. There isn’t much call for any major action sequences in the show, but it’s perfectly good for what it has to do. Also there are plenty of well directed shots and when that’s combined with the pacing, that’s why this show is so good at balancing its mood.

I don’t really know what else to say about this series, if you have even a passing interest in the human body then check this show out. It delivers its story in an extremely informative way, without ever feeling like it’s bogging you down in exposition. Every situation is represented in a memorable, if sometimes bizarre way (sneezes are rockets that blast germs out through the nose), so that you’re sure to remember what you’re being taught, which is surely the point of education. Heck I’ve learnt about so many different cells that I never even knew existed before, like Killer T cells and the like.

The Verdict

Cells at Work is a very entertaining and informative series. If you’re after character development or a rich ongoing story then look elsewhere. What this series excels at is short, yet effective stories, each one tackling a new situation or specific cell. It knows how to get you invested in a story in a short amount of time and rarely disappoints when it comes to a satisfactory resolution. Be prepared to impress your friends with knowledge of cells they’ll never have heard of before. This is definitely one series that’s worth giving a check up.

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

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Anime Corner: Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion Review

Blog Angolmois Review Title

The Mongols are coming! The Mongols are coming!

What’s the Story?

In the 13th Century the Mongol Empire was expanding ever outward, an unstoppable war machine it turned its attention to Japan. The Mongols first target was the small island of Tsushima and they easily tore through the bulk of the soldiers there. However a group of exiles had recently landed on the island’s shores and they may just be the only hope the inhabitants of Tsushima have. The battle for survival is on! Be prepared for plenty of blood and death, and the ugliest filter you’ve ever seen.

The Review

Okay let’s start with that filter (might as well get it out of the way). It is ugly. I understand what they were going for, to give the cells a textured look so it looks like we’re watching an old tapestry. Unfortunately you can’t accomplish a bit of visual style by cheaply throwing a single filter over every single frame in the series. It’s a shame because I actually like the character designs and they play into that old school feel that the show is going for while still making each character distinct (though a fair few of the Mongols are hard to distinguish, but that could just be because they’re all wearing the same uniforms). The animation itself isn’t that bad, it’s serviceable, though there are a couple of nicely framed shots and a few good fights throughout. Honestly it feels like a lack of budget is what’s holding this show back more than anything else.

Well, I say that, but then I come to the rest of the show. Angolmois is one of those hard to review middle-of-the-road shows. It doesn’t do anything particularly bad, but then it doesn’t do anything particularly amazing either. The characters are fine (and that word is probably going to crop up a lot throughout this review), but I do think there’s just a few too many of them. I get that they needed fodder to slowly make their way through throughout the series, but I never particularly cared about any of them. Across the series you learned little bits of motivation and back-story, but never enough to get me invested. I can point out all of the characters (though their names are quickly fading), but I can say what their gimmick was. However I never felt like I really got to know them as people, which I suppose is understandable when they’re dealing with an invading force, there’s not exactly much time for sitting down and having a deep character moment, it just hampered my enjoyment of the show somewhat.

Speaking of the invading force, the Mongols are both a boon and a problem for this series. On the one hand the actual conflict and pacing of the invasion is well handled. The Mongols constantly feel like an impending threat, with overwhelming numbers and, probably my favourite part, some intelligence. It’s where this series succeeds the most. Both the Mongols and the islanders fighting against them have intelligent leaders and it’s great to see what the two sides come up with to fight one another. The Mongols have new technology like cannons and bombs, while the islanders know their home like the back of their hand, the conflict is what this show does best.

However, the Mongols suffer from the same problem as the main cast. There’s a few too many of them and we never really get to know them. A part of it is that the Mongol is made up of lots of different tribes and factions, each with their own leaders and ways of fighting, which is cool. Unfortunately it gets in the way of the Mongols having a real face, someone to represent the threat as a whole. Instead we get several generals that enter the story and suddenly leave to be replaced by someone else. There are a couple of generals that are introduced as a big deal towards the beginning of the series before vanishing completely and only making a few brief appearances towards the end. Of course it doesn’t help that the titular Angolmois hardly appears and never shares the screen with any of the main characters. It’s also partially hamstrung by the fact that this is historical fiction and while the story is mostly original, it can’t really break away that much from what happened and so certain things have to happen with the Mongols (but this mostly only applies to the ending).

I do feel like I’m being harder on this show than I should be, because I did genuinely enjoy watching it. It’s just that when I look back over the series there isn’t that much that comes jumping out at me. That’s the problem with an average show, I feel guilty about talking about its flaws so much because that doesn’t properly represent the experience of watching this show and listing the positives doesn’t feel enough to readdress the balance. For every moment where I’ve struggled to remember someone’s name or shrugged at their poetic demise, there are others where I’ve cheered for a clever plan or gasped as things just got worse and worse for the characters. If you’re interested in the Mongol invasion (though please don’t treat this as a documentary or historically accurate or anything like that) or just want to get a taste of the time period, then this is a fun show.

The Verdict

Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion is a fine series, that’s really the best word for it. The characters are fine and the conflict is interesting, it’s certainly a part of history that I didn’t know that much about (and while much of this series is purely fictional it gives you a good feel for the time period). The visuals do leave a lot to be desired and I certainly wouldn’t be able to argue if that filter put anyone off watching. If you’re interested in learning a bit the Mongol invasion, or at least getting a taster of the time period, this is a good series for that. Other than that I don’t think this series is going to live long in my memory, but I’d be open to more historical fiction shows like this in the future.

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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: Digimon Adventure Tri: Determination Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 2 Review Title

Leomon, the Sean Bean of the Digital World.

What’s the Story?

With Tai and Matt still at loggerheads and a new digidestined to welcome, the gang decide to take a trip to a spa. While they manage to integrate their newest member, the boys are still avoiding their problems and they’re not the only ones. Joe is torn between his studies and his role as a digidestined, meanwhile Mimi makes a rash decision that only leads to the public becoming more afraid of Digimon. The digidestined feel like they’re falling apart and the infected Digimon keep on coming, as well as an old friend in an even older costume. Oh, and Leomon shows up too, so who wants to bet on when he’s going to die this time?

The Review

The subtitle for this film feels wrong, it shouldn’t be ‘Determination’, it should be ‘Growing’ because that’s what’s happening to the characters throughout. This second film in the tri series takes a more low key approach, there’s less digimon attacks and more daily life, heck we even squeeze a hot spring trip and a school festival into this outing and, surprisingly, I enjoyed it more than the last film. I’m already invested in these characters and it’s great to see them maturing. Yes watching giant dinosaurs and flower people throw down is exciting, but I’m interested in seeing how these characters struggle with their choices and what their eventual conclusions are going to be. Besides both the hot springs and the festival were really fun, I like to see these characters bounce off of one another (and I’m definitely starting to ship Izzy and Mimi. Honestly you never used to be able to get him away from a computer, now you just show him a picture of Mimi in a cheerleader’s outfit and he’s off).

Speaking of Mimi, she is my favourite character this film and, honestly, she’s gone up several levels in my estimation. That speech she gave to Meiko about never bottling anything up not only perfectly fits her character, but it’s also a prime example of what Mimi does best (as well as being some advice that everyone could do with listening to once in while, myself included). There’s a reason Mimi got the crest of sincerity. This whole film felt designed to give me a deeper understanding of Mimi, which I appreciate as she’s never really been my favourite Digidestined. Here she’s rash to act, but she’s doing it from a good place, it just goes wrong and backfires on her terribly. I’m going to have to watch Adventure again, but I can’t really remember a moment when Mimi ever truly doubted herself and in this film we do get to see that and yet she comes out of the other side. Yes Mimi tends to act before she thinks and sometimes she says and does things without taking into account other people’s feelings, but she’s so open and honest with her feelings that you can’t help but do the same in return. I like that when the girls are whispering about Mimi in class, she looks straight at them and tells them to ‘don’t talk about me behind my back’, which again perfectly encapsulates her. If you’re going to say something to Mimi, say it to her face, ‘cause that’s what she’ll do with you.

Joe on the other hand gets less resolution to his arc from this film and the last, but then I feel that’s the point of his arc. Joe is torn between helping his friends and being a digidestined, and getting on with his studies and his life. He wants to grow up, but he’s caught at a crossroads and no matter how much he questions himself, he just can’t come to a satisfactory answer, but that’s the point. We all struggle with who we are and what we want to do with our lives, heck it’s probably one of the most common questions explored in any young adult media and sometimes there isn’t an easy answer. Sometimes we’re just who we are. People are messy and complicated and contradictory and we have to come to terms with that and Joe is on that path, even if he is putting way too much pressure on himself while he does it. I love both Joe and Mimi in this film, they are without a doubt the best parts of this film and if the other films in the series take a similar look at the other digidestined, then I am really going to love these films.

That aside though, there isn’t really much plot to this film. Oh there’s mystery messages and prophecies and I really am getting curious about those government agents, I like them both, but I want to know what their deal is. This is a very light film, it’s more focussed on the emotions than giving us any concrete plot progression. Infected digimon turn up, but outside of Mimi’s mistake and the climax, they’re just background noise. The rest of the digidestined are also relegated to the sidelines, though they get some cute interactions. The digimon themselves get their own little comedy act going and you realise that they are all just really big kids and it’s a lot of fun to see their antics and listen to their quick-fire banter.

That about brings me to the point where I’m going to have to pull up the plot of this film and that mostly comes down to the climax. Firstly, Ken, is nobody going to ask why he’s suddenly dressed as the Digimon Emperor again or where he’s been? For that matter is nobody going to mention the other 02 digidestined? I mean we see Imperialdramon and you kind of need both Ken and Davis to get him, he is a digivolution of a fusion. Anybody? No? No, okay. Next, the mega digivolutions. While it is great to see the mega levels of Palmon and Gomamon, I can’t help feel its kind of crammed into the ending, but then that’s the whole climax. Rushed. Ken shows up, battle starts, Gomamon and Palmon digivolve and then they digvolve again and then again. It feels like this should be a more momentous occasion, but it’s not. Also if the climax was a bit better paced we might get some time to question Ken, no, I’m not letting that go.

The Verdict

All in all, Digmon Adventure Tri: Determination was an improvement over the first film, if still flawed. There’s less of a focus on action and setting up, and more on the growth of our favourite characters and I am perfectly happy with that. If we could get a less rushed climax, that would be great, as well as some answers about Ken and the infected Digimon, that would be great too. Then again, with the ‘shock’ ending of this one it looks like the plot is kicking back in so maybe I’ll get my wish next time. I wonder what mega digivolutions we’ll get next time?

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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.  

Infallible Fish Reviews: Reign of the Supermen Review

Blog Reign of the Supermen Review Title

Superman Lives!

You know, it feels good to get excited for DC’s original animated films again. Heck, it feels good to be excited about all their movies, but we’ll stick to their animated stuff for now. Reign of the Supermen is the DC Universe’s latest offering and is a follow on to The Death of Superman (you can read my review of that film HERE). Can Reign stand in the same spot as its predecessor? Can it climb to the same highs that had me calling Death one of my favourite DC films in recent memory? No, not a chance, but it gives it a darn good try and I appreciate that. Considering the storyline and all the elements that this film had to juggle, this could have ended a lot worse than it actually did and I had a lot of fun with this film. It’s still going on my list of favourite DC animated films, just nowhere near as high as The Death of Superman.

Let’s break this down though and the best place I can think to start with is the story, so what is it? The film starts six months after The Death of Superman (and you should really watch that film before watching this one) and while a lot of people are still mourning Superman, as well as the ‘missing’ Clark Kent, life goes on. Also four new ‘Supermen’ have turned up to try and fill the void left by the Big Blue Boy Scott. We’ve got Superboy, a genetic clone of Superman, and others, that while strong is also way too cocky and with a bit of an ego problem (not surprising when you consider who his other ‘dad’ is). Next is Steel, an ordinary man who wears a robotic suit with a rocket-propelled hammer (I don’t care what anyone says, ever since I saw Alita rocket propelled hammers are the coolest weapons in existence to me). Then there’s the Eradicator, a strange being with all the power of Superman, but who’s a little overzealous when it comes to dispensing justice, let’s just say ‘resistant’ needs adding to his dictionary. Finally we have Cyborg Superman, a man who claims to be Superman and he certainly says all the right things, but he’s not all that he seems.

That brings me to this films biggest problem – it has too many characters. Don’t get me wrong, it does the absolute best it can with the run time it has, but this film really needed to be two hours or something to pack in the story arcs for each of these characters. You get the sense of who these people are, but you never really get to know them. Take Steel for example, I can tell you that he’s a good man, trying to live up to the legacy of a man he admired, but I feel like I’ve just read a character summary and don’t really know what makes him tick. Why did he decide to build his suit? Did he just come up with the idea, or has been working on it for a while? Does his boss know he’s probably using STAR labs equipment and materials to build his super suit? Did he learn to shut the bathroom window to stop people sneaking into his lair? I don’t know. I have similar issues with the Eradicator. He’s there to protect Kal-El and anything Kryptonian, okay, why is he going after Luthor and Intergang then? Why does he feel the need to get involved at all? Surely he should just standby in the Fortress, but no. I could understand him going after Superboy, seeing as he’s a clone and Kryptonians have a dodgy history there, but that’s never brought up.

Let’s talk about Superboy, him and Cyborg Superman are the two Super-Replacements we get to know best. Their arcs are squeezed in amongst all the other characters and action scenes, but we at least get a sense of who these people are. I like Superboy’s arc, starting out as a cocky little gremlin but slowly having that knocked out of him over the course of the film, he’s a good kid deep down, he just needs to let go of his arrogance and I like that it’s Lois that recognises that. As for Cyborg Superman, I can’t really talk about him without going into spoilers and the fact that a lot of his core motivation is saved up for the reveal of who, and what, he really is, but he makes for a great end boss. His motivations are understandable, if completely crazy.

Let’s talk about the other characters though. Lex is a little too petulant for my tastes, but everyone else does well with the brief bits their given. The Justice League scenes are still my favourite as I love the banter and the sense of camaraderie I get from them. However it’s Lois that steals the show for me. I wish more time was given to her investigation into the ‘Supermen’ and her interviewing them, or just a couple more scenes of her dealing with or pushing aside her grief. Her scene with Wonder Woman is another favourite of mine. I think it comes back to this film’s central flaw, it pushes character too much to one side in favour of plot and action. The action scenes are great, but there are a lot of them. Whereas The Death of Superman was a slow build to a final confrontation, this is more of a high-speed race as we go from one confrontation to another. Frankly I think it’s amazing that the film feels as cohesive as it does considering all the story elements, but the action and breakneck plot rob the story of the emotions it needs to really knock this story out of the park.

All in all I like Reign of the Supermen, but I don’t love it as much as it’s predecessor. It lacks the emotion and heart that the previous film had, replacing it instead with action, however good the action scenes are. That being said this is a very enjoyable film, the plot never really slows down, but it doesn’t feel rushed either. It gives you the information that it wants to give you and then moves on. The fights are epic, the banter is witty and there’s some really nicely animated sequences in here. My only wish with this film is that there was another twenty minutes or so that it could use to really dig into its story, but as it is, this is a fun film and a decent follow up to The Death of Superman.

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

Anime Corner: Golden Kamuy (Season 1 + 2) Review

Blog Golden Kamuy Review Title

Hinna! Hinna!

What’s the Story?

Having recently returned from the Russo-Japanese war, the “Immortal” Sugimoto has taken to panning for gold, all in the hopes of finding enough money to fulfil a dead comrade’s last wish. What he finds though is a strange rumour about a bunch of escaped convicts, each with a tattoo that when put together will lead to a great deal of wealth. Befriending the young Ainu, Asirpa, Sugimoto and Asirpa set out to track down the convicts and recover the lost gold. However they’re not the only ones after the treasure as several groups, each with their own agenda, are out to take the gold for themselves. Things are about to get bloody, and weird.

The Review

Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the show that has it all! Comedy, drama, bloody battles, more crazy people than we know what to do with, oh, and this is also a cooking show. On paper this show makes no sense, at least to me. There are so many genres and colliding story elements in this series that it should collapse under the weight of them all and yet somehow it manages to mix them perfectly together. This show is equal parts historical fiction, treasure hunt, cooking show, cultural exploration, military fiction, comedy, mystery and adventure. One minute we’re witnessing the fashion show of a psychopath who likes to make odd outfits out of people’s skin, the next we’re sitting down and talking about how to prepare Ainu delicacies. One of these elements should be jarring sat next to the other, at the very least it should throw the pacing of the episode off and yet in this series they fits so perfectly together. Of course we’re going to talk about fishing methods shortly after meeting a serial killer who gets aroused by the act of killing (while also finding a way to make said serial killer equal parts uncomfortable and hilarious).

The magic of this show is how it blends everything together, nothing ever outstays its welcome and just as one element of the story is starting to wear a bit thin it’ll switch track to another one. There’s always something going on, always something to have your attention and keep pulling you forward. So you have to watch that next episode. It’s an incredibly engrossing story filled with all sorts of interesting characters. Every character feels like they’re got a fully fleshed out past, each with their own desires and motivations behind whatever it is they’re doing. Any one of the characters could lead a series by themselves, but part of the joy of this series is seeing all these fully realised characters interact with one another.

That brings me to one of the few flaws with this series, the sheer amount of characters. Maybe its just a symptom of watching this show weekly, or possibly the fact that I need to rewatch season one at the time of writing this review, but there are a lot of characters and a lot of plot. There were times I felt like I needed a notepad just to jot down a couple of names and basic motivation just to remember it all. Everyone has an agenda and most of the people are connected to one another in one way or another. It’s not exactly hard to follow, but I found myself forgetting certain characters and then having to remind myself who people where talking about (not helped by the fact that I am utterly terrible at remembering names. I am so grateful the Internet exists when it comes to writing up these review just so I can remember character’s names).

As for all the other elements of the series I really do enjoy them. The period this show is set in is one that I don’t know all that much about so it’s been great exploring that and learning about the Ainu culture as well. That was another thing I knew very little about going into this series and while I have no idea how accurate this information is, from what I’ve heard it’s all pretty spot on. I get the feeling this show has a great deal of respect for the Ainu, from the way it talks about their traditions and beliefs in a educational yet engaging way. Then on the other side of things we have the convicts, and while I have no idea if they’re based on anyone I sure hope not because these people are crazy with a capital C. Each one of them is unique and memorable (even if their names escape me). Every time you think they’ve revealed the most depraved soul that they can, they ship in someone else who’s even madder. Admittedly it helps that all these criminals are funny as all hell, they’re all living in their own private fantasy worlds and it’s a testament to how this show handles its comedy that it can make you feel anything other than revulsion for these people.

Oh, right, on a last note I should probably mention the terrible CGI bears, and yeah, there’s no excusing that. The CGI in this series goes beyond bad to a whole other dimension, but the rest of the animation is spot on. I especially love the characters designs, there’s a lot more square shapes than you see a lot of modern anime and that helps this stand out even more.

The Verdict

In the end Golden Kamuy is a fantastic series that manages to blend what should be many disparate elements together into a cohesive and engaging whole. The series is populated by many, many interesting characters, each capable of carrying a series by themselves, but it’s the way they interact and clash that makes this such a compelling watch. Whether you’re looking for comedy, adventure, mystery or even a few handy survival and cooking tips this series has that for you. Here’s to Season 3!

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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 Shameless Plug volume 3

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I wrote stuff! For those that don’t know I’m a member of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s group and every year in October we hold an event where we introduce people to the open world of Escafeld, which the group has put together under the watchful eye of our architect and editor Mathew. There’s workshops and guests speakers and when its all done attendees can go off to write short stories set in the world. This is our third anthology collecting stories of that world, these ones from last year’s event and I have three stories in it!

From me there’s:

The Random Adventures of Gwuin and Shu – Where we follow Gwuin, a shoemaker’s apprentice, and a baby troll named Shu, who has a particular fondness for the pink slipper he always wears on his head, as they try to survive the mad goings on in Dragontooth Castle.

Tanami of Namakha – In which Edwin, an adventurous librarian sets out across the desert to uncover the mystery of the lost Kurat people, along the way he meets the mysterious and scarred Tanami, battles starving bandits and Sand Skitters (insects the size of horses) and learns why you don’t mess with a pair of dragons called Ragna and Rok.

and finally,

The Vicious Strain – In which our heroic Captain of the OCS Endeavour must battle against a deadly and intelligent virus spreading through his spaceship. At least that’s what he thinks.

There’s also a whole bunch of other fantastic stories by fantastic writers covering everything from the legends of the Empire, to detectives dealing with fishy goings on in Escafeld, plagues that turn people’s skin into metal and a trip to a prison planet, among others. Check it out on Amazon HERE if you’re interested. Maybe after all this time reviewing it’s time someone reviewed my stuff.

This week’s anime review will be up later today, see you then!

 

First Impressions Spring 2019 Part 2

And we’re back! On with the first impressions!

Midnight Occult Civil Servants

Miyako Arata has just got a new job as a civil servant in the Shinjuku Ward Office, but he really should have checked the employee handbook because his role isn’t quite what he was expecting. See there are creatures all around us, invisible to ordinary people, but still able to affect their daily lives. They’re called Anothers and it’s now Arata’s job to deal with them and make sure they don’t cause too much trouble. Luckily for Arata he has an ability that not even he was aware of, he can speak to and understand the Another’s, unlike his colleagues and that may just come in handy as a trickster god has just arrived in town.

I’m a sucker for a procedural series, dealing with a problem/monster of the week and I’m also a sucker for series that explore different folklores and myths so this series was pretty much made for me. I also like the fact that it’s bringing up some mythology that I haven’t encountered all that much before, I certainly wasn’t expecting someone from Aztec myth to show up, which was a nice surprise. As for the rest of the series it’s doing enough to keep me entertained, but it’s not exactly blowing me out of the water. The characters are all likeable, though fairly generic so far and that’s fine there’s still plenty of time to get to know them and there are a few hints at some back story for a few of the characters. I do like the various tools that the characters have on hand to deal with Anothers and I hope that gets expanded on. All in all I’m enjoying this and I’ll stick with it.

Namuamidabutsu! – Utena-

Taishakuten and Bonten have descended to the earthly plane to save humanity from the corruption of earthly vices! Except, when they arrive, they find there isn’t really a need to do that much saving. Yes humans have desires and if these go the wrong way they can lead to the creation and growth of vices, but it’s rare that the vices grow to the point were they’re going to cause some sort of problem. As such the Gods spend most of their time mooching around in their temple getting use to the convenience of modern life and generally getting up to sitcom-esque hijinks.

I don’t what it is, but there’s something I find inherently funny about watching a god, or heavenly spirit, or budha (or whatever the guys in this series are classed as) struggling with modern technology like washing machines and microwaves. If, however, that doesn’t sound like your short of thing, or general sitcom antics of ‘oh no, this guy misunderstood something this other guy said and now we must resolve the issue as hijnks ensue!’, then, yeah, this won’t be for you. There are hints of greater plot and the ending of episode three definitely suggested that we were finally going to get some action, but that’s not what this series is about. It’s gentle and funny, offering up low key situations, like an old guy getting jealous in an old folks home, and resolves the issue with honesty and warmth rather than a big fight and I prefer it that way. I don’t think this anime is going to change anyone’s world, but it’s a pleasant way to spend half an hour.

The Helpful Fox Senko-san

Salaryman Nakano’s work/life balance is out of whack. He’s overworked and under pressure, to the point where he barely sleeps and gets home later and later each night. His stressful life maybe be about to change though when he comes home to find a fox girl cooking him dinner. The fox is Senko and apparently one of Nakano’s ancestors did her a favour so now she’s here to look after him and take all that nasty stress away, whether that’s by cooking, cleaning or letting him fluff up her tail. Now I won’t judge Nakano, but I have put the police on speed dial, just in case.

Warm and cosy is the best way I can describe this series. It’s the perfect way to chill out after a long day, which I think is very obviously the intention of the series. Senko is cuteness personified and Nakano is very relatable, obviously he’s a bit weirded out by the situation at first, but gradually starts to enjoy himself and who doesn’t fantasise about getting home after a hard day and work and having someone just take care of everything for you (though the less scenes we get of Nakano advancing on Senko with a creepy look on his face, the better). Episode three has been my favourite so far, mostly because it gets the pair out of the apartment for a bit and pushes us more into the gentle slice of life stuff that I look for in my chill out anime. That and it also starts to expand the cast so things look promising for this series.

Wise Man’s Grandchild

A young Japanese man dies in a tragic car accident he is reborn in a new, fantastical world (like everyone else from Japan, seriously, I’m surprised there’s not a queue for getting into the next fantasy world, or maybe that’s just a British thing). Anyway, the man, now a baby, is found by the wise old Merlin, given the name Shin and raised by the wizard as his grandson. Shin quickly picks up magic in all its forms, including combat magic and making magical equipment, to a degree that is beyond anyone else. Unfortunately, while Merlin is keen to teach Shin as much magic as possible, he neglects to tell him much about the rest of the world or even how powerful he really is. It’s no surprise then that when Shin finally moves to the big city to attend a magic academy he’s in for a fair few shocks and must learn to keep his extraordinary abilities under wraps, something he is immensely terrible at.

The Isekai genre is officially back in my good books, I’ve been back to enjoying them a lot lately, even if I do still bemoan the sheer amount of them. Honestly this series has a lot of the problems of the Isekai genre, the overpowered protagonist and I can already tell that Shin’s whole past life will have precisely nothing to do with the series going forward, yet at the time of writing this I don’t care. Shin is an incredibly likeable protagonist, he’s a naïve idiot, but an enjoyable one. It’s funny to see him flustered as he deals with everyone else’s antics and how he calmly talks about killing a demon when he was ten and everyone just stares slacked-jaw. The rest of the cast are just as likable, bringing a bubbly banter that makes it easy to see why all these characters became friends so fast. What has me impressed the most though is episode three where it manages to balance the goofy antics of the cast playing off of one another with some tense and epic action in the second half.Shin is obviously never in any real danger and most of the fight boils down to flashing lights shooting across the screen, but it’s better animated than I was expecting. I also like the way that we not only see Shin take damage for a second, but the fact that he turns serious without it feeling out of character and he even takes a moment to regret and mourn at the end. He may have all the power, but it suggests things won’t be a complete breeze for him, which I appreciate.

Sarazanmai

Where do I even begin? Okay, there’s this kid, Kazuki, he cross dresses as an idol to keep his little brother happy for… some reason. There’s a gangster kid, Toi, with a lethally sharp ruler whose selling drugs and a third kid, Enta, who is seriously in love with Kazuki. All three of them end up annoying a kappa god and are transformed into Kappas themselves. They must battle desire zombies in order to turn back into humans, extracting the zombie’s desires through their… butts. There are also some singing policemen, odd behaviour and cardboard cut outs wandering around the place, the songs are catching though.

All joking about how weird this show is aside, it’s not actually that weird. There are lots of bizarre elements, certainly, but the story itself is pretty straightforward, it’s basically a magical boy show with a monster of the week and gradually peeling the veil back on the characters so that we can come to understand their motivations. After three episodes the formula is fairly well established and you’ve just got to ask yourself if you can cope with watching things getting pulled out of giant bottoms, the random song sequences and trying to work out what’s going to be flying through the sky this week. I get the sense there’s a lot of symbolism and meaning behind a lot of the visuals that I don’t yet understand (or maybe I’m giving the series too much credit and its all nonsense), that and the whole desires being stored in a special organ in the butt is apart of the kappa myth from what I’ve heard, though I haven’t really looked into that, yet. Honestly this show feels like a spiritual successor to Revolutionary Girl Utena, not that I’ve seen that show (I know, gasp, scream, horror! It’s on a very long list of anime that I need to watch at some point, a list that is constantly growing), but from the clips I’ve seen this show is packing a similar surrealist streak. That might have something to do with the fact that the guy behind Utena is one of the people behind this series, you know, maybe, just maybe.Still it’s fun and interesting and I’m curious to see what happens when the formula finally breaks in this show.

And that’s it for the first impression this season. I’ve definitely found some gems and there’s a couple of series that I’m really hopeful for, but then I always manage to find something to watch each season (there’s certainly enough anime produced that one or two things should catch my eye). Back to regular reviews next week and the march to my 5th Anniversary continues, which means it’s back to the Digimon tri movies for me, and my slow descent into madness. I’ve just suddenly realised what put me in a mood last week.

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