Introducing One Piece-cember!

It’s that time of year again! December is finally upon us and, as anyone who’s followed me for more than a year will know, this is when I get indulgent (well, more indulgent). In the past I’ve dedicated this month to several franchises/series I love, looking at the likes of Scooby-Doo, Batman and Spider-Man, but this year I feel like keeping things in the animesphere. So, draw up your pirate flags, gather your crew and, if you’ve happened to eat any strange fruits of late, stay out of the water, ’cause we’re headed for One Piece!

20 years ago the very first episode of the One Piece anime aired in Japan, and though it was a few years later that I first saw that same episode (even if 4Kids had taken a hatchet to it), I’ve been a fan ever since. Luffy burst his way into my life and him and the rest of the Straw Hats have never left. Now I know One Piece isn’t perfect, it’s picked up its fair share of problems over two decades and it is an absolutely mammoth series to try and get into (one of it’s main problems). Yet, when the series is on its A-game it is a titan of emotional and intricate storytelling. The world-building alone is something to marvel at, with so many characters and locations and detail to weave between them all, this is the epitome of a living breathing world. Add on to that characters that I adore and root for, as well as a whole bunch of wild, madcap adventures across the high seas and is it any wonder I fell in love with this series?

So, with all that in mind, I’m going to be looking at four films from the One Piece catalogue and they are as follows,

6th December – One Piece: Dead End Adventure

13th December – One Piece: The Cursed Holy Sword

20th December – One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island

27th December – One Piece: Strong World

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this as much as I’m going to, so step aboard and let’s set sail for adventure!

 

 

Anime Corner: Endro! Review

Blog Endro Review Title

If I could turn back time!

What’s the Story?

On the island of Naral there was once a terrifying Demon Lord that sought to destroy the land, but a Hero appeared and defeated them. Yet that is not the end of the story, the Demon Lord revived, as did the Hero, their cycle of rebirth and defeat continuing 998 times. Now the Demon Lord has risen again and the latest incarnation of the Hero is a cheery girl called Yusha. Together with her friends she stormed the Demon Lord’s castle and they began their climatic battle, but something went wrong. Whisked into the past, the Demon Lord finds herself acting as teacher to the very Hero who is destined to one day defeat her, not that Mao appears overly concerned by this as she soon sinks into the laid-back adventures of Yusha and the gang.

The Review:

Endro is a show that surprised me, in more ways than one. I wasn’t expecting much going into it, yeah it looked cute and the set up sounded interesting, but I was really just expecting something a bit cheap and light, a breezy way to spend twenty minutes a week. What I got instead was this beautiful, sweet little gem of a show, full of warmth and laughter. Will it change the anime industry? No, not in the slightest, but it is far better than it has any right to be. On paper I should hate this show, I mean that interesting set up that caught my attention in the first place? Completely ignored after the first couple of episodes, that should bug me to the nth degree, but instead I found myself carried away by the silly little adventures and the poking funny at fantasy hero tropes. Then the last couple of episodes brings that plot back to the forefront and things actually get kind of emotional, fluffy as this show is, I was not expecting to be tearing up as Mao talked about how much fun she’d been having with the girls. Like I said, this series surprised me, constantly.

When I look back over this series I find it kind of amazing that we ended up where we did. When the series starts it’s very clearly a gag parody, it focuses on the daily lives of Yusha the Hero and her party, dealing with Mao’s classes and having the girls just sit around and chat, building up to a punch line. Then the series gets bored with that and starts taking the girls out into the wider world so we can get to see the more ludicrous elements of this world (a village where magic cards grow on trees, that’s all I’m saying). It’s all very light and fun, but then there are moments, beautiful moments, where the series starts to dig into its characters and tug at your heartstrings. A show that has a gag about the Hero’s party only ever getting requested to find lost cats, shouldn’t have me tearing up over a Demon Lord is all I’m saying.

What holds this series together is the laidback attitude of both the series as a whole and the characters. It has its moments were it’ll think deeply about how strange something is, only to shrug its shoulders and go ‘ah, whatever’ and move on. That should frustrate me, but instead I find it endlessly endearing. As cutesy and fluffy as this series is, I’m invested in all of its characters. It’s helped along by some really bright and colourful animation that is always nice to look at and the pastel colours perfectly suit this cheery world.

Let’s talk about my favourite characters though, Mao and the Princess. Mao is actually really interesting, being the big bad Demon Lord you’d expect her to be totally evil or at least be good with a villainous scheme, but if the beginning of the series is anything to go by then her planning skills are all kinds of lacking. She’s actually pretty quick to give up her evil ways and just sink into her role as a teacher and once we get more glimpses of her past, we can clearly see why. The role of Demon Lord was something that was preordained for Mao and it was a very lonely role to play. Mao got wrapped up in the role more than anything else and it was only once she started interacting with other people that she got what she’d actually been wanting all along, a little bit of companionship and camaraderie. It takes her a little while to figure that out, but it’s so worth it when she does.

The Princess also has some issues with regards to preordained roles. She loves the tales of the heroes of the past and is completely obsessed with not only chronicling the adventures of the Hero, but also falling in love with said Hero (you know, because that’s what all the story books say should happen, not that that’s an excuse). Even after finally meeting Yusha though, all she sees is the Hero and how things are supposed to be, but, gradually, she starts to see Yusha as Yusha and falls in love with her rather than the ideal she’s been chasing. It’s a sweet arc and plays into the series determination to take the majority of tropes regarding the typical hero fantasy and twisting them ever so slightly, often to hilarious results.

Honestly the ending to the series is the most surprising to me. As much as I’d enjoyed the series up to that point, it was incredibly fun and light-hearted and while I liked all the characters and their various adventures, I still considered it a bit of fluff with a couple of interesting concepts. Then came along the last two episodes, the penultimate episode starting with a typically laidback and cheery scenario, before things suddenly get serious and then things are getting emotional as Yusha and Mao are pushed into their fated confrontation. Yet, the series constantly keeps you on your toes. Endro will always do whatever it feels likes, not what the plot demands, and, in my opinion, that is it’s greatest strength.

The Verdict:

Endro is a sweet, funny and charming gem of a show. It always finds a way to slightly skew the direction you were expecting it to go in, often to very funny and heart-warming results. Am I overselling this one a bit too much? Probably, but I just enjoyed this series that much. The characters are all very endearing and there’s a surprising amount of emotional depth for something that looks like light fluff at first glance, especially with the series finale. This series wasn’t what I was expecting and that’s honestly why I love anime so much, it never stops surprising me.  Check this out.

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.

Anime Corner: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Review

Blog Magical Girl Asuka Review Title

Because the best place for a magically super powered teenager is on the front lines.

What’s the Story?

After being invaded by killer cuddly monsters from another dimension (not the strangest invasion I’ve ever seen in anime it has to be said), young women from across the globe were given magical powers in an effort to fight back. Eventually the war ended, but not everyone survived and for those that did choices had to be made. Despite the war being won, the world was far from at peace, gangs and criminals are on the rise, some of them using weapons left over from those invading monsters. Some of the magical girls have joined up with the military of their home countries in an effort to fight against these criminals, but for Asuka, all she wants is to get back to a normal life, if she can even remember what that is anymore. Yet when her friends’ lives are put on the line, will Asuka return to the fight?

The Review:

I have a problem with this anime. No, scratch that, I have several hundred problems with this anime, but it’s brought to mind a particular question that I’ve had to wrestle with from time to time. Can one good thing save an anime? Usually it crops up with a mediocre series where there’s a character or storyline that I really love, but I’m not too interested in the rest, so I have to decide if I’m willing to go back to the series just for that one thing. This time though, that dilemma is dialled up to eleven. You see I love Asuka and her journey through the series, but the more I think about it, the more I hate everything else in this series. It baffles me slightly that Asuka and her trauma are dealt with so effectively by the series and yet this is the same series that is constantly cramming in intrusive fanservice, gore and more torture than I have ever had the misfortune to watch.

Let’s talk about Asuka and the core concept of this series first (because if I keep thinking about the other stuff I’m going to explode and I think I’ll save that for later). Honestly both are, without doubt, brilliant. There are so many series where we have teenage protagonists going through hell as they battle inter-dimensional aliens or parasitic clothes or whatever, but what happens after the world is saved and the end credits have rolled? Do they just go back to their ordinary lives? Is it even that easy? And I realise that stories like this have been done before, but it’s a good idea and with the rise of Dark Magical Girl genre over the past several years, it’s a story that works incredibly well.

Asuka herself is an incredibly likeable and sympathetic main character. You want her to have a normal life again and you want her to find happiness, but you can also see all the signs that she is well and truly traumatised by what she’s been through and its not going to be that easy. It’s the little things that this series does so well, the way Asuka will instantly jump into a fighting stance when she hears a loud bang or how she keeps herself in shape because that’s what she’s used to now, always being ready for the next battle. I just want to wrap her in a hug and take her to a therapist so she can process and deal with everything she’s experienced properly. It gives the series an interesting struggle as we know at some point Asuka is going to be pulled back into the fighting, because narratively we need to get some action in somehow and Asuka can hardly standby while innocent people are put in danger. Yet at the same time we know that this is just going to lead to more pain and anguish for our dear magical girl.

Now to flip over to a magical girl I’m less enamoured with, mostly because I’m f***ing terrified of her (and you know my feelings are strong for something when I start swearing, even if I am putting the asterisks in), let’s talk about Kurumi. Don’t get me wrong, what Kurumi has been through (even before the invasion of the cuddly monsters) is horrendous and it clearly broke her. She has my utmost sympathy for what she’s been through and I hope she gets the help she so desperately needs, but if she walks into the same room as me I’m emigrating to another country there and then. Kurumi is messed up with a capital M. She needs psychiatric help immediately, she should not be put on the front lines of a battle with sadistic criminals and monsters and she definitely shouldn’t be put in charge of torturing the bad guys after they’ve been defeated! Honestly the tone of this show is so messed up when it plays up Kurumi’s violent and obsessive tendencies I have no clue whether it’s trying to be ironic or if it’s genuinely trying to get a laugh (I hope to god it’s being ironic because the other option is too terrifying to contemplate). They realise they’re making the world’s most powerful serial killer here right? The minute Asuka tells Kurumi that she doesn’t think of her that way, Kurumi is going to snap and murder us all!

Let’s stay on the torture for a minute here (because that’s fun for me to think about). My biggest problem with this series is how exploitative it feels. One minute it’s shoving the girl’s butts into your faces, the next we’ve got a girl having her skin burnt off while strapped to a table. Tone, people, tone, it’s a thing, try to keep it consistent! It’s not as if torture scenes or fanservice are impossible to get right either (though with me you’re always going to have a hard sell with the former and the later it depends on how its done, but get it wrong and you’re on thin ice), but if they’re done right they can be really effective. The torture scenes in particular could really put across the horror of what Asuka is stepping back into, but they happen so often, and the cheap animation doesn’t really help. I always feel more icky than horrified. What this show needed more than anything was a really good director that could take those scenes and ramp up the horror, while also framing them in such a way that I don’t feel I need to scrub my eyeballs after watching an episode.

The Verdict:

All in all Magical Girl Spec Op Asuka is, well, I can’t call it anything other than terrible. The excessive and exploitative use of torture and sexualising its characters is enough to make me want to track down all the copies of this series across the Internet and erase them permanently. It’s not a fun watch for me, the only saving grace is Asuka and her journey as she tries to overcome her trauma. That was enough to pull me through twelve episodes, but I’m never going to watch this series again (or if I do I’m skipping straight to the scenes of Asuka and mentally erasing everything else). If you think you can stomach all the other stuff though then maybe give this a try, but I can’t recommend it in good conscience.

fish stamp avoid

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

Anime Corner: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review

Blog Demon Slayer Review Title

Who ya gonna call?

What’s the Story?

Tanjiro is a kind-hearted, well-meaning boy, whose life is torn to shreds when he returns home to find his family slaughtered by demons. To make matters worse his sister, Nezuko, has been transformed into a demon herself. Vowing to become a ‘Demon Slayer’, a secretive group of sword-wielders who specialise in hunting down and killing demons, Tanjiro swears he will find a way to turn his sister human again and stop anyone else from going through what he has. Though his determination is strong, Tanjiro does not quite recognise the mountainous goal he has set for himself and the many enemies in his path, some among the Demon Slayers themselves.

The Review

Demon Slayer is a series that I really wanted to love, and on paper I should have, everything was pretty much laid out for me to adore this series. It has a great set up for a truly emotional and dramatic story, with Tanjiro not only facing off against bloodthirsty demons, but also dealing with the loss of his family and the fact that his sister is now one of said bloodthirsty demons. Tanjiro himself is a really likeable protagonist, so honest and earnest you can’t help but root for the kid as he trains and trains and nearly gets himself killed. Then you’ve got the fact that ufotable is the studio behind the animation for this series, and while I haven’t loved every series they’ve done, you can always count on them to provide some amazing visuals for a show. In fact, this may be the best-looking series I’ve seen ufotable put out to date. Not only does this series have some of the most electric, jaw-dropping fights I’ve ever seen in a shonen series, but that level of quality is spread throughout the show. Even the quieter, more low-key moments maintain the fluidity of movement and if the scene is mostly static then you’ll at least have a gorgeous backdrop to look at. From a visual standpoint I have no complaints; this series is fantastic.

However, that brings me back to the original point, I don’t love this show as much as I wanted to. Somewhere along the line this show lost me and while there were enough amazing visuals to keep me watching until the end, I never fully reengaged with the story. I’d like to claim that it was the introduction of Zenitsu and Inosuke where this show went off the rails, but honestly they were merely a fatal blow to a series that was already waning (way to mix my metaphors!). Don’t get me wrong, Zenitsu and Inosuke are as annoying as hell, I don’t think I’ve had this bad a reaction to a couple of side characters since…ever. Every time they appeared on screen they grated on my nerves and, yeah, they calmed down over time and Zenitsu is a complete badass when he’s fighting, however a couple of minutes of awesome doesn’t make up for his personality. They’re both just so loud and obnoxious, I couldn’t take it, but there is a character I was even more annoyed with, Nezuko.

Okay, let me rephrase, I’m annoyed with how the show decided to use Nezuko, by which I mean the show didn’t use her at all! One of my biggest bugbears with any series I watch, or read or that I have any contact with whatsoever, is wasted potential, especially when that potential is essentially gift-wrapped for the creators. You’ve got Nezuko, a young girl who witnesses her precious family being slaughtered before her eyes before she’s turned into a demon. Not only that, but she battles against her hunger to the point where she manages to not only stop trying to eat her only surviving brother, but manages to defend him! She should be an amazing character, through her we can learn what its like to be a demon, to see their internal struggle and what do we get instead? Nothing! Oh sure, Nezuko is cute and all, but that just means she gets relegated to being the mascot character for the majority of the series. Yet the show isn’t satisfied with that, it has to start taking away Nezuko’s agency as well as its questionable as to whether she doesn’t kill by choice, or because she was hypnotised into seeing all humans as her family! Ugh. We don’t even know if Nezuko actually wants to become human again, because Tanjiro never asks her, mostly because she barely utters a single word across twenty-six goddamned episodes!

Am I being too harsh on this series? Maybe. Probably. Definitely. This is a good series and I get why people would like this and I would recommend it, but it just pushes my buttons in all the wrong ways. There are characters that drive me right up the wall, true, but I did watch the so all the way to the end, mostly for the action and the visuals and the music, and Tanjiro. The only other complaint I have about the series is the pacing. At the beginning of the series it’s perfect, it blazing through the usual shonen tropes like training arcs and power upgrades with a speed that never feels rushed, but never lingers more than it has to on a particular plot point. At some point though the pacing started to slow into more the typical shonen pacing with fights spread out across multiple episodes and plot development in inches rather than miles. Still the show is fun, there’s a lot of great action, a real, dark creepy atmosphere that spreads throughout the series and a lot of the villains are either terrifying or at the very least have some really creepy designs.

The Verdict

In the end, Demon Slayer is a good series. It has its narrative problems, from pacing that goes from great to typical, as well as some really annoying side characters and a lot of wasted potential with other characters. However, the action and the visuals of this series are some of the best I’ve seen put on screen and the lead is a really charming guy that’s easy to root for. If you’re after something with some fantastic animation, or something with a darker atmosphere that knows how to use shadows and creepy visuals, then check this series out.

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.  

 

 

First Impressions Autumn 2019 Part 2

And we’re back! No preamble, let’s get straight into this and get on with the first impressions!

Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun

Iruma is a total pushover, he’ll agree to do anything you ask as long as you say ‘please’. Obviously this makes his life difficult, but it’s not helped by the fact that he has the world’s worst parents, who are so completely lazy and useless that they get Iruma to do everything for them. Well, that is until they sell Iruma to a demon! Seriously, Worst. Parents. Ever! Luckily for Iruma the demon that he’s been sold to is actually fairly harmless and just wants to experience being a doting grandfather. He showers Iruma with love and presents, he even enrols him in Demon School, a school where if any of the students find out that he’s a human they’ll devour him in seconds, it’s even in their school song. You know what, I’ve changed my mind about how harmless this demon is.

I think this series may just be the surprise of the season for me. I really wasn’t expecting much out of this show, between the bright contrasting colours and how unsubtle this series is (the moment all the students started singing about killing humans while Iruma was stood there was a particular highlight), I judged this series to be fairly childish and simplistic, which isn’t a bad thing, but it didn’t exactly raise my hopes. But then, somewhere towards the end of the first episode, I realised something. I was actually having a lot of fun, Iruma is such a sweet kid and you can’t help but root for him as he tries to survive school and there are several points were the series manages to pull out a joke that I didn’t see coming. The series is just bursting with energy, it’s often completely over-the-top and ridiculous without ever breaking the internal logic that the series has set up. I’ve really grown to love the characters in this series I’m looking forward to spending the next season with them. Make sure to check this one out.

Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia

Humanity is facing extinction! When the Chaldea Security Organisation built its facility high in the mountains, it did so with one purpose, to watch over the safety of humanity’s future, but then something changed. Suddenly humanity’s future no longer existed and seven singularities appeared, points in history that have been warped to create a bleak outcome. Now Fujimaru, the last master of Chaldea, and Mash, a demi-servant with an unbreakable shield, travel into the past to correct the course of history and return hope to humanity’s future. With six singularities completed, it’s now down to the seventh and final one which will take them to ancient Mesopotamia and a city ruled by Gilgamesh.

This is yet another show that I was really looking forward to. I’ve had my ups and downs with the fate franchise over the years, but I did enjoy the Fate/Grand Order First Order movie that was released a few years back (I’ve never reviewed it so here’s a quick summary, it’s a fun little adventure, bit too much exposition and there’s no real conclusion to events and while I like the characters and the fights are cool, it definitely felt like one big ad for the game, which I’ve never played). Going into this series I really didn’t know what to expect and I’d say you definitely either need to have played the game or at least watched the First Order film to get a grounding in the characters and the set up because this show jumps straight into it’s story, and it’s an interesting story. For starters Babylonia is a great locale and I’m having a great deal of fun looking around the place, add on to that the usual collection of legendary heroes for us to get to know and a chance to see a wiser and calmer Gilgamesh and there’s plenty here for me to love. The action is pretty fantastic too.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next life?!

Mile is a totally normal 12-year-old girl! Honestly, she’s super completely average and in no way special in the slightest, please believe her! Okay, fine, she’s not the least bit average, see Mile is one of those kids who made their way to a fantasy world after passing away in Japan (seriously has anyone checked Japan for any kind of dimensional instability? This keeps happening!). Since she was a bit of an honour student in her past life, Mile’s one and only wish is to be average in her next life. Unfortunately, as with every monkey’s paw, she should have phrased her request a little more specifically. What Mile meant was to be average for a human, but what is she is is average for the world, which basically means she’s half as strong as a dragon! Join Mile and her friends as she searches for her perfectly quiet and ordinary life, and fail miserably each and every time.

Okay, own up to it, who started putting effort into isekai series again? I mean between this and Asendance of a Bookworm it feels like the genre has been given a much-needed breath of fresh air. I wasn’t expecting anything from this series, but between Mile’s myriad of worried expressions, the many references and parody elements as well as the bond that’s formed between the four main girls, this series is so much fun! I mean all the standard tropes are here, Mile is the super overpowered protagonist that can breeze through any danger, and yet this feels fresh because Mile is trying so hard not to breeze through things. She so desperately wants to be average, even though we all know it is way too late for that, and we’re just waiting to see how Mile will mess up her own plans this time. Add on to that the fact that Mile actually uses her knowledge of her past life, and not just to comment on all the tropes at play, but she’s actually bringing otaku culture to this fantasy world, which I love! It’s just so much fun, I’m definitely sticking with this one.

Food Wars! The Fourth Plate

The battle for the Totsuki Academy is well underway! Having made a clean sweep of the first round of the Team Shokugeki, the rebels are feeling pretty good about themselves, but the Elite Ten are the top of the totem for a reason. There’re plenty of fierce battles ahead, but if Soma and the rebels don’t succeed then the whole of the culinary world will be forced to adopt Azami Nakiri’s rigid and set way of cooking. Cooking doesn’t get any more dramatic than this!

And it’s back! It feels strange to say, but out of all the sequels I’m watching this season, this is the one I was looking forward to the most. I have this weird relationship with Food Wars, when I first started watching it it was fun, but nothing really all that special, and yet, with each episode I watch of this series I just get more and more invested. After watching three seasons of this show I feel like I should have ‘Team Soma’ tattoo across my back and be waving a flag every time I watch an episode. It helps that this current arc is what I’ve been dying to see from the start, Soma and the gang vs. the Elite Ten in a knockout battle and we even get Erina participating instead of standing on the sidelines all the time! Well, at least she’s going to be participating at some point. My only real fear with this season is something that I noticed in the last one, the battles seem to be ending too quickly, we’re skipping over the actual cooking and just going straight to the judges’ decision a lot of time. I liked the cooking, partly because you get some really good food animation, but it also helps to build the tension for the climax. I hoped they don’t rush this arc, but I guess we’ll see.

No Guns Life

Extended, people who have been enhanced with cybernetics, giving them everything from superhuman strength to perfect marksmanship. Originally they were created as soldiers for a war, but the war is over and those who survived must find a new way to live. One such man is Juzo Inui, a man with a gun for his head! When’s he’s asked to protect a kidnapped kid, he finds himself battling the very mega corporation that not only runs the city, but actually built him, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their property back.

Another show that actually came as a bit of a surprise, I didn’t know anything about this series before the season started, but I’m so glad I found it. It combines several things that I love, from a hard-boiled detective to a grimy cyberpunk setting with some typical anime creativity like a main protagonist with a gun for a head. There are plenty of cool designs in this series, and I do also love a cyborg, but I’ve really grown to love Juzo as well. At first he looks like the typical stoic, manly main protagonist, and he certainly has plenty of cool and badass moments, but you spent five minutes and you realise he’s a bit of a goofball. Nothing over the top, but he’s easily flustered and panics about rusting or not getting his favourite brand of cigarettes. I like that and while we haven’t seen all that much of the other characters so far, I like them too, though the less Tetsuro takes over people without their permission, the better.

And that’s it for the first impressions this season. There’s a bunch of other shows I want to be watching, but I can’t get access to them yet. Damn it Amazon give me Psycho-Pass! Sorry, back next week with the regular reviews.

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

 

 

 

 

First Impressions Autumn 2019 Part 1

The leaves are changing colour, the nights are drawing in and, is that a chill creeping up your spine? Yes, autumn is well and truly here! And we all know what that means, Halloween! Okay, technically that was last night and the lunatics outside are already prepping for Bonfire night, but we’re not here to talk about that. Last season was a bumper crop of great shows, even if some of them never lived up to the promise of their first few episodes, there was still plenty to celebrate and reviews will be coming eventually. This season there’s not as many new shows that immediately grabbed my attention, but there are plenty of sequels and the odd gems that I’ve found, so let’s get this show on the road.

Ahiru no Sora

Sora Kurumatani loves basketball, and I mean he really loves it! From wearing the shoes inherited from his mother, to practising a thousand times a day, Sora’s energy and enthusiasm is unstoppable, which is a good thing because in basketball terms he’s a pipsqueak. A lack of height isn’t the only problem that Sora is facing though, the basketball team at his new school is full of delinquents! None of whom are the least bit interested in basketball. Can Sora’s love for the sport turn this team of layabouts into a team with a chance of winning a tournament? Well, if they don’t beat up the other teams first, then, yeah, maybe.

And our sports anime for the season is here! I’ll admit I only started watching this show because I played Basketball at secondary school, only in P.E. lessons mind so I was just goofing around, but, as a non-sporty person, Basketball is a sport I could get into. With that being said, Ahiru no Sora is a decidedly average show, it’s not bad, but it’s not blowing me away either. So far it’s sticking to the standard tropes of a sports anime with the added joke that most of the team are stereotypical thugs and get into fights with rival schools and generally try to act tough and mean. It gets a few laughs, but it also makes it hard for me to care about much of the team outside of Sora and Momoharu. Sora’s enthusiasm for the sport is infectious and Momoharu has a decent bit of backstory where we learn he gave up the sport because no matter how hard he tried and hoped, he just didn’t think he was any good at it, and, yeah, I’ve been at that point before so I sympathise. Threatening to drop a kid’s shoes into an incinerator I sympathise with less, but it is nice to see Momoharu regain his drive for the sport. I’d say give it a couple of episodes as I am slowly becoming more and more invested in this show.

Ascendance of a Bookworm

Motosu Urano was a college student obsessed with books, and I do mean obsessed. It was her belief that she could do anything as long as she had books, a belief that is put to the test when she one day wakes up in the body of the five year old Main. Now not only does she have a new father, mother and big sister to get to know, but she has to get used to living in a medieval society, a society where books are a rarity and reserved only for the rich. Whatever will Main do? Well, once she’s done complaining, she’s just going to have to learn how to make her own books!

This was one of the few new shows I was looking forward to coming into this season and, so far, it hasn’t disappointed. Yes, Main can be a bit of an acquired taste at times, especially during the first couple of episodes. She’s single-mindedly obsessed with books to point that nothing else matters, not this new world she’s woken up in, or the fact that she’s replaced some poor family’s ill daughter (not helped by the fact that I’m pretty sure the real Main is dead now, there’s a cheery thought for the day). No, books are all that matter and all her complaints and little tantrums can sometimes veer towards the annoying, but what makes me okay with them is I see how Main is going to develop, she’s already coming to realisation that she’ll never get her old life back and has to come to accept her new family, as well as being a bit more considerate and making gifts to show her appreciation. If Main keeps along this path then this series could be a really good, sweet little slice of medieval life.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These

Thanks to Yang, the Free Planets Alliance manage to avoid a total defeat at the hands of the Galactic Empire and make it back to their own corner of space with at least a handful of ships still intact. That doesn’t mean the fighting’s over though, far from it. With the sudden death of the Emperor, the Galactic Empire is facing civil war and Reinhard will have to take on the nobles if he wants to keep the position he’s worked so hard for. Yang, meanwhile, has to deal with rebellion within the Alliance as the Empire sows the seeds of decent in order to keep them busy. Whichever way you look at it, these galactic heroes still have a long way to go.

This is one of the shows I was waiting for, I really enjoyed the first season (you can check out my review of it HERE), and in all honesty not much has changed. The visuals are as good as ever, from the sweeping vistas of space to the vast fleets and gorgeous locales and backdrops. In fact, my only real complaint is with a couple of character designs, and while 99% are great, there’s the odd couple that I’m sure are just colour swaps of already established characters. Of course the best part of this show is all the political manoeuvring and strategic battles and they’re back with a vengeance. I do wish there were a few less scenes where the narrator just sums up what’s happened in between major events and let us actually see a bit more of it, but each and every episode has left me pumped for more. If you enjoyed the first season, you definitely need to be watching this and if you haven’t, then you need to go check it out.

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation Season 2

Take off into the skies once more with Gran, Lyria and the rest of the crew of the Grandcypher! There’re more floating islands to explore, more primal beasts to meet and plenty of adventures to be had, so it’s business as usual really. After solving one problem with a rampaging primal beasts on an out of the way island, the crew are shocked to learn that the Empire wants to make peace with them. Just what are they up and what does this have to do with Katalina’s childhood friend from the days when she was training to be a knight? Nothing is what it seems, but then would you expect anything else? Let the second season set sail!

Another second season and another show I’ve been really looking forward to, seriously it’s like the season of sequels or something. If you’re interested in my thoughts on Granblue’s first season, then you can check out my review HERE, and, again, my thoughts remain pretty much the same. I really like this cast of characters, yes they’re not all that complex or deep and their adventures are fairly predictable, but I love the way this crew interacts with one another. You feel the bond between them and I just have so much fun following along behind them. The whole show has that old-school adventure feel that I love so much and I can’t wait for more episodes. If you enjoyed the last season, you should definitely be checking this out as it’s really more of the same, and if you didn’t enjoy the last season (which I get) then there’s plenty of other good stuff around this season. Personally I’m loving this and I’m definitely riding along all the way to the end.

My Hero Academia Season 4

Having passed the provisional license exam, Midoriya and the rest of the students of U.A. are ready to get back to training and become the best heroes they can be! To do that they’re going on work studies with professional heroes, Midoriya setting his sights on Sir Nighteye, All Might’s former sidekick. The young heroes aren’t the only ones looking to up their game though, the League of Villains is taught a lesson when they meet the head of a Yakuza family, a man who goes by the alias Overhaul. Overhaul and his gang may prove to be an even bigger threat than the League though, you see Overhaul has a plan, a plan that revolves around a little girl…

My Hero Academia is back! I’ll keep this short because, well, this is the fourth season of this show, you should know whether you like it or not by now. Personally I love it, My Hero Academia is my second favourite shonen series of all time and while this season has gotten off to a slow start, I’m a manga reader so I know exactly what’s coming and I couldn’t be more excited! There’s so much I wish I could talk about, but that would be spoiling things so I won’t. Just be ready for some brilliant action sequences, great character moments and a whole lot of heart, like every other season of My Hero Academia. Be warned though, this arc is going to get dark and I mean that…poor Eri. Sorry, I said no spoilers didn’t I? Anyway! It’s gonna be a wild ride, you know, once we get past the slow introductory lull that a lot of MHA arcs have. Hang in there anime-only watchers!

And we’ll leave it there for today, back next week when I’ll be enrolling in a demon school, taking on the culinary world in the most dramatic way possible and going on a trip to ancient Babylonia for a battle amongst gods. 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: Digimon the Movie Review

blog Digimon Movie review title

Going Digital One Last Time!

What’s the Story?

Years ago Tai and Kari had a mysterious egg come out of their dad’s computer late one night. This egg hatched into a Digimon and as they bonded with their new friend, they had no idea that this was only the beginning of their greater destiny and lifelong connection to the Digital World. Years later, Tai and the gang are growing up and starting to drift apart, but they need to reunite fast as a virus Digimon has taken over the Internet and is causing havoc, though things are about to go from bad to worse as the Digimon gets its hands on a couple of missiles. Years later still, with the original gang older now, new Digidestined have stepped in to take their place and on a trip to America they come across a kid called Willis who has a very dangerous stalker.

The Review

And at last we are here, the big one, the grand finale, the end of the long, well-trodden road, or, to put it another way, I’ve been writing this blog for five whole years!!! Cue the lights, set off the fireworks, unleash the dancers and pass out the celebratory Colas. Okay, I actually don’t have the budget for any of that, in fact all I can afford is one party popper, which you can’t see because I write these reviews, not record them. Just use your imagination. Anyway I do find it crazy that I’ve been writing this blog for five years now, I certainly never thought about it going on this long. I’ve talked about this before but I started this blog as a confidence builder for my own voice and writing and in that regard it has worked wonders, while I struggle to read some of the earliest posts on this site, that is a testament to how far I feel I’ve come. I am a much better writer than I was five years ago and part of that is down to this blog. So, to anyone who has liked, commented or even just read any of my past reviews you have my heartfelt thanks and I hope you continue to enjoy what I do here. I will keep trying to make myself a better writer and I’ve yet to run out of things to talk about regarding anime and other animated properties, so expect the reviews to keep coming for a while yet.

Enough patting myself on the back though, because it’s time for the pain. At the start of this year I started a look back at a franchise I’ve loved since childhood, Digimon, and while I loved rewatching the original series, I was disappointed by the recent Digimon Adventure Tri films (though they had a few good moments), but now we’re here, the Digimon Movie and I sit here in both anticipation and dread. See the Digimon Movie is, as far as I’m aware, a special case when it comes to feature films for anime franchises over here in the West. Digimon was popular, not as popular as Pokemon unfortunately, but popular enough to gets its own film released in cinemas. Thing is though, Digimon doesn’t have a regular style movie as Western audiences would think of it (by which I mean something of feature length, around 90 minutes). The majority of Digimon movies last between half an hour to an hour in length, so they’re more big budget OVAs than anything else. So, what did Fox Kids do? Did they work with animators in Japan to create a unique, specifically crafted film for Western audiences to show just how much care and understanding they had for the Digimon franchise?

…….

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

No, no, they didn’t do that. Instead they took three of the films, cut them up and stitched them together as some Frankenstein monstrosity and shoved it into cinemas to make a quick cash grab. Welcome to the treatment of anime in the 90s/Early 2000s!

We start off on a terrible note, quite literally, with the Digi Rap. I call it a rap, someone is clearly trying to rap while sticking ‘Digi’ in front of every other word. It’s as terrifying as it sounds, but you want to know the worst part? It’s an earworm, it worms its way into your brain and you’ll find yourself humming it late one night, only to then go sit in a corner with your shame. It does fit the feel of the film though, cheap, poorly put together and just thrown out there and left to die. That’s not even the greatest crime of this film though, you want to know what is? I’m going to tell you anyway. It’s Kari, or as she shall henceforth be known, the never-ending constantly spewing exposition machine because she will not shut up! In an effort to make this shambling patchwork mess of a film in any way cohesive, the geniuses behind this film decided to have her narrate almost every single thing that happens. Between her and the soundtrack there’s hardly ever any quiet moments in this film and it ruins a lot of what should be tense or awesome scenes.

Of course there’s some things even this movie can’t ruin, such as a dinosaur fighting a giant parrot. That is the one thing in this film’s favour, it is utterly gorgeous, the animation is directed by Mamoru Hosoda (yes, Mamoru ‘Girl-Who-Leaped-Through-Time’ Hosoda, that guy) and Shigeyasu Yamauchi respectively and though its rushed and chopped up in places it is so good to see Digimon animated with a budget. I wish we could get a whole series animated like this. My favourite section of the film is the second section, based on the film ‘Our War Game!’. Even the version in this film manages to capture some of the sense of scale and excitement of the original, it even has some funny lines, as well as some stupid ones (I still don’t get the three bean joke, though the exasperated phone operator always makes me laugh). There’s some great action, plenty of tension, we get to see Ominmon for the first time and there’s some really fun character moments (Tai X Sora is canon, I accept nothing else!).

That brings me to the soundtrack, I should call this film out on this because the songs only have the most tangential connection to the scenes they’re played over and are often jarring, but I can’t help but love it. The soundtrack is the late 90s distilled down to its purest form and it hits me right in the nostalgia centres of my brain. That’s my real problem with this film, I hate it on a conceptual level, but there are parts of it I just adore. The best way I’ve found to watch this film is to just watch it with the sound down while the soundtrack loops in the background. I suppose that’s what this film represents to me, even when something’s bad, even when we’re dredging through the dark ages of anime, when shows were butchered and mistranslated for the sake of profit and making them ‘acceptable’ to Western audiences, there’s still good to be found. No matter what you do, you can’t completely erase the uniqueness and creativity of anime. There is always good to be found, you’ve just got to look for it sometimes.

The same applies to Digimon, I love this franchise and as the years have gone on I’ve only come to love it more and more. Yes the dub is stuffed full of corny jokes and songs that are tonally inappropriate to the scenes, yes the animation is cheap and the story has no right to be as good as it for something that was meant just to sell toys, even when they make poor decisions or get lost in convoluted plots, I love this franchise and will never stop seeing the good in it. I think we’ll wrap this up here, thank you again to whoever’s read this post and any of the other reviews I’ve put out over these five years. Y’all are amazing and I love ya, here’s to another five years! Hit it DJ!

All right Ready to go? I’m ready. Ready? Let’s go.
The digi-valution is up and runin’
did you see, did you hear, did ya know it was comin’?
Our digi-destiny starts today, let me hear you say

Digimon. Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions
Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

When digi win, the digi-vice in hand, its a digi dynamic force in digi land
When the digi past and digi present collide time to digi-phy

Digimon. Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions
Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

The digi world is digi safe, and now will meet its digi fate,
Good digimon to protect what’s right, we’ll have to digi-phy

Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions!

 

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.