Anime Corner: One Piece: Stampede Review

Blog One Piece Stampede Review Title

Snipers are there for support!

What’s the Story?

Welcome to the Pirate Fest! Master of Festivities, Buena Festa, has set up the ultimate gathering of pirates from across the Grand Line. It’s pretty much the worst of the worst all in one place to fight, drink and…enter in beauty contests (?) to their heart’s content! Of course pirates want more than a good party, there has to be some treasure involved somewhere and Festa has got his hands on something truly special, Gol D. Roger’s treasure! No, it’s not the legendary One Piece, but apparently it’s just as good and whichever pirate manages to get a hold of it will have the power to change the world! Not everything is as it seems though, Buena Festa wants more a festival, he wants to kickstart a whole new era and just what is Douglas Bullet, a former member of Roger’s crew, doing on the island? When the Navy shows up as well things quickly turn from a treasure hunt into a no holds barred battle royale for survival!

The Review

I’ll warn you now, if you’re not a fan of One Piece then this is not the film to convert you. It is a film so steeped in the lore and the length and breadth of the One Piece world that I don’t really know what someone unfamiliar with the series will get out of it (outside of some gorgeous animation and amazing fight sequences). There’s so many characters and cameos and references to things from throughout the series’ history that I’m surprised the film doesn’t collapse in on itself. As a fan of One Piece since childhood I loved it, I cheered every time a familiar character popped up, or when we got to see the Straw Hats take on new, yet familiar, opponents (Sanji vs. Smoker!). Honestly I wish we could have seen a bit more of some of these match ups (Zoro vs. Fujitora!), but that would probably require another hour being added on to the film and wreck the pacing, which thinking about it I wouldn’t have minded that much. This whole film is basically a gigantic shot of fanservice to the centre of my brain and I adore it! Which brings me to my problem. As a fan I just want to go through all the little scenes and moments that were so amazing to me and gush endlessly about them, but the more analytic part of my brain can’t help but admit, there are problems with this film.

Let’s start with the story, obviously with such a massive cast of characters taking part we can’t have the story be too complicated, things would just get messy really quickly that way. Stampede decides to avoid this problem by having the barest of bare bones plots, the entire film is basically a continually evolving fight scene. We start with the members of the Worst Generation squaring off against one another, then Bullet comes in and decimates them and anyone else who gets in his way all in the build up to the big title fight were pirates, Navy, Warlords of the Sea and revolutionaries team up to take down Bullet once and for all. There are also lots of smaller fights interspersed between the struggle against Bullet but most of those only last a few minutes. It’s an exciting and action-packed extravaganza, but more than once I caught myself wondering if this was a Dragonball film. Part of what I love so much about One Piece, outside of the characters, is that it continually manages to tell heartfelt and heart-wrenching stories and while there were moments like that in this film (I’ll get to them in a minute), I felt like I wanted more.

I can’t help but put a lot of these feelings down to the antagonists of this film, which is a common complaint I have with the majority of villains in the One Piece films. Here’s the thing, Bullet could have been one of the greatest villains in the films’ history if we were shown his back story rather than just told it. Bullet is a man who was betrayed by his friends and superiors, a man who believed that the only person he could rely on was himself. That is until he was bested by Gol D. Roger and found someone to follow, but when Roger was executed he became lost, falling back into his thinking that only his own strength mattered. It puts him at greats odds with Luffy who fights for his friends and, in my opinion, all the best shonen fights are between two sides who have opposing ideologies. However, we’re only told Bullet’s backstory and catch flashes of it in a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sequences. Imagine if the film had opened with Bullet’s capture? The man raging about the death of Roger and going into a wild frenzy, that would have gotten me so much more invested in his character than some flashback sequence to when Blackbeard broke everyone but him out of Impel Down.

Let’s talk about those heart-wrenching moments though, because those are what really make this film so special to me. As usual the majority of the Straws Hats get regulated to the background in this film, Luffy is obviously the star of the show and Zoro and Sanji get some nice fights, but the rest are only given a few moments to show of their various attacks (I was impressed by the screen time Robin got considering she usually fades into the background, but really? You set up a Crocodile vs. Robin fight and skip out on it?! Why? I want to see that!). However, the MVP for this film has to go to Usopp. Generally speaking he is one of the weakest members of the crew and it’s even pointed out in the film that he’s also a bit of a coward, but when it comes down to it you can count on your man Usopp! It ties in nicely with the ideological clash with Bullet who stomps on Usopp in seconds flat and then tells Luffy point blank to get rid of such a useless burden. Yet it’s thanks to Usopp’s surprise attack that Bullet it taken down in the end, giving Luffy the opening he needs to pummel the guy. The scenes with Usopp really tug at the heartstrings, you can see how scared and outmatched he is and yet he doesn’t give up and that final take down is such a satisfying moment thanks to Usopp. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually wish the film gave me more scenes with Usopp and less of the fanservice.

The Verdict

All in all, One Piece Stampede is a brilliant film for fans. If you love One Piece and you haven’t seen this film then what are you doing? Find a way to watch it right now! However if you’re not a One Piece fan then you’ll probably enjoy the spectacle of the vibrant and action-packed animation and the Usopp scenes might tug at your heartstrings for a bit, but I don’t know how much it’ll mean to someone who doesn’t at least have a passing recognition of all of these characters (and there are a lot of characters). Personally I loved it despite its flaws and I’ll be buying it just as soon as it comes out on DVD. I just hope it doesn’t take as long to come out as it did for it to arrive in UK cinemas.

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

 

First Impressions Winter 2020 Part 2

And we’re back, no preamble, let’s just get straight to this!

Somali and the Forest Spirit

Humanity is nearly extinct. After a devastating war with the rest of the races of the world (a war which the humans started I might add) there are very few left, in fact most inhabitants of the world can go their whole lives without seeing a single one. Then, one day, a Golem in charge of guarding a forest happens across a little human child named Somali. Not knowing what else to do, the Golem decides he will travel outside of the forest and find some humans to return Somali to, but Golem’s have a limited lifespan and the journey is very long.

I can already tell that this show is going to break my heart. There seems to be more and more of these shows about single dads looking after their kids of late, the first one that springs to mind is ‘If It’s For My Daughter I’d Even Defeat A Demon Lord’ from a couple of seasons ago. Most of them are perfectly fine, they’re all really sweet and the kids are overpoweringly cute, but I have zero parental instincts (probably due to the fact that I don’t have kids) so they never really hold my attention past the first few episodes. What makes Somali and the Forest Spirit different though, apart from the utterly gorgeous backdrops and fun characters designs, is that, to me, Somali feels like a real kid, well, realer than all the others at least. Yes, she’s cute, but she’s also a bit wild, endlessly curious and spares no thought whatsoever for the consequences of her decisions. I love this kid and I want the Golem to protect her at all costs. Add on the time limit of the Golem’s quickly approaching expiration date and I’ve got the tissues at the ready for this one.

The Case Files of Jeweler Richard

Seigi Nakata has always had a strong sense of justice, so much that when he comes across a man being harassed by some drunks he can’t help but intervene. It proves to be a fruitful act as the man is Richard, a jeweller who will soon be opening up a shop in the area. It turns out that Seigi could use a jeweller as he has a ring from his grandmother that he needs appraising. So begins the partnership of Seigi and Richard, Seigi coming to work in Richard’s shop to learn about all kinds of gemstones as well as helping Richard’s various clients with their problems.

It’s the season of mystery! At least that’s what it feels like between this, ID: Invaded, In/Spectre and, yeah, I’ll label Magia Record as a mystery as well, in part anyway. Having said that this isn’t really a high stakes mystery, in fact there’s very little mystery at all. Each episode really comes down to a character study of whoever walks into the shop that week, Seigi and Richard don’t exactly go out to investigate crimes, they are jewellers after all. Not that I’m disappointed by this, the stories so far have been very interesting, letting us get to know some intriguing characters and learning a few things about gemstones and the jewellery business along the way. I do like the way Seigi and Richard bounce off of one another, Seigi being very open and warm, while Richard has more of a detached professional air about himself. They both clearly have some sort of tragic backstory waiting to be told, but for now we’re just getting to know the customer-of-the-week, which is fine. If you’re after relaxed character stories with a bit of gem trivia on the side then check this out.

In/Spectre

When Iwanaga Kotoko was little the yokai asked her to become their ‘God of Wisdom’. They took one eye and one leg, but now Kotoko can see and interact with all yokai, solving their problems and dealing with some of the more violent apparitions that appear. She’s helped in her duties by her ‘boyfriend’, at least he is according to her, Sakuragawa Kuro. Kuro is another odd one, with the ability to heal any wound as well as being utterly terrifying to every yokai around him. Together they’re a perfect match for one another, at least that’s what Kotoko keeps telling everyone.

And my surprise star of the season goes to this show! If it wasn’t for Magia Record and Eizouken I’d be tempted to call this my favourite show of the season, it just has the right mix of everything. Great dialogue, fun characters, comedy, drama and action, add on some cool character designs and impressive animation sequences and I’d say I’m head over heels for this one. I mean really this show should be a lot more disjointed than it actually feels, the way it can switch between comedy and dark subject matter and still come across as one cohesive whole just amazes me. The tone of this show is just a wonderful thing to observe. I will admit that this series is quite a talkative one, all the episode so far have basically played out as a string of conversations between two characters with a little dusting of action inbetween, which would be a problem if I didn’t enjoy being around these characters so much. I love the way the dialogue bounces between people they’re all interesting characters so far. I’m definitely sticking with this one.

BOFURI: I Don’t Want To Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense

Kaede is new to gaming, but her friend Risa has talked her into buying the new VRMMO game ‘New World Online’. Risa can’t join in straight away though so Kaede is left to create her character by herself and since she doesn’t want to get hurt she decides to just pour all of her stat points into her defence, there’s nothing wrong with that right? Well, it turns out that Kaede has discovered the secret to invincibility! With her defence so high nothing can hurt her and she soon becomes resistant to anything like poison that could potentially hurt her. But what fun can you have in a game were there is absolutely no risk? Plenty apparently!

If you’re after a realistic interpretation of the gaming experience then please move along because you’re not going to find it here. The complete lack of anyone complaining or swearing about Kaede’s broken character build just destroyed my suspension of disbelief right there and then. Having said that, that’s not really what this show is about. This is more about the fun of gaming, of playing with friends and exploring a bold new world and that’s where this series shines. You feel the joy radiating off of Kaede and Risa as they explore the game and get into some explosive boss fights. Speaking of boss fights, Risa’s battle with the boss in episode two really impressed me, maybe it’s because I was getting serious Legend of Zelda vibes from it, but also because Risa’s character is the kind I would make for this game. I also like the fact that in episode three they’re clearly adding in elements to limit Kaede’s invincibility and show that she’s not completely OP, which felt a bit more realistic and proves some fun challenges ahead.

Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story

Have you heard the rumour? They say Magical Girls can be saved in Kamihama City! Of course that’s a lie. The city is full of witches, unusually strong witches, as well as a tiny baby Kyubey (which like all of its kind should be shot on sight), but neither of those things are the main concern for Magical Girl Iroha. She’s searching for her missing sister who, until recently, she’d forgotten had even existed. Could this have something to do with the wish that Iroha made to become a Magical Girl in the first place? A wish she can’t even remember? And why does everything tie back to Kamihama City? Whatever’s going on, this isn’t normal, even for Magical Girls.

Madoka Bleedin’ Magica! I’ve never been shy about admitting my love for the original Madoka Magica (it’s my second favourite anime of all time) and I have searched and searched for a series to fill the void left in me by that show. Who knew all I needed to do was wait for a spin off show set within the same franchise. So far Magia Record gets it right where so many other Dark Magical Girls shows have got it wrong. It’s not about Magical Girls trying to kill one another or having horrible things happen to them. It’s about a world that is supposed to be happy and fun and colourful, but there’s something wrong with it. Everything is just slightly off-centre and our dear sweet characters have to find a way to hold on to hope in a world were despair is so rampant. Magia Record captures that atmosphere perfectly and it’s a visual feast with its use of colours, direction and all the crazy witch’s labyrinths. The characters are all likeable, even if I don’t feel like I’ve really gotten to know them yet. Part of what made the original Madoka Magica so strong for me was how nearly perfect it’s plotting and pacing was. I don’t get the sense that this series is going to be the same, it feels like it’s meandering a bit at the moment with things very much still in the set up phase. Then again I could be wrong and looking back all the little breadcrumbs we’ve been given could lead to a masterpiece. Here’s hoping!

That’s it for this season, back next week with a regular review. Get ready for a STAMPEDE!

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

First Impressions Winter 2020 Part 1

Winter is upon us once more, but while the nights are long and the winds are cold there’s also a whole smorgasbord of new anime for us to snuggle up with. From a new entry in one of my favourite franchises of all time, to brand new gems for us to admire, there’s plenty to get through so let’s cut the preamble and get right to it!

Asteroid in Love

Kinohata Mira has just started high school and she can’t wait to join the astronomy club to help her fulfil a childhood promise. Unfortunately the astronomy club is suffering from a lack of members and has had to join up with the geology club to form the Earth Sciences club. It’s not exactly what Mira wanted, but she’s excited to join anyway. See when she was little she made a promise to a boy she met only once, to discover an asteroid and name it after him! Except Mira’s childhood sweetheart turns not to be a boy at all, but a girl! A girl who also wants to join the Earth Sciences club! Talk about a coincidence.

Cute girls doing cute things, that’s the name of the game here. Whether it’s hanging out at the riverside collecting rocks, starlit phone conversations or working in a bakery part-time, this anime is very much brightly coloured, cutesy fluff, and it’s very good at it. The characters are all likeable and funny, this is one of those anime where my main enjoyment comes from all the scenes where the characters just sit around talking to one another. They’ve all got good rapore with one another and their quirks and personalities bounce off of one another really well. Also their enthusiasm for their subject really comes off the screen, you can feel the love these characters have for the stars and gemstones and all the nerdy little details that come with those subjects. If you’ve after something bright and fun, check this out.

A Destructive God Sits Next to Me

Koyuki has a problem. See all he wants is a nice, quiet high schools life, but it just so happens that he sits next to a kid who is convinced he’s possessed by some destructive demon. Koyuki does his best to ignore him, but just can’t help being pulled into the strange delusions of his ‘friend’ Hanadori. That’s without even bringing up all other odd boys in Koyuki’s class, but then maybe Koyuki isn’t so normal himself.

Normally I do my best to stick to the three-episode rule, it’s the fairest way I know to give a new series a chance to grab me and show me what it’s capable of. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, there are just some shows that I know I’m not going to like well before that point. One episode was all it took for me to give up on this series. It commits one of the greatest crimes a comedy can. It’s not funny. The set up has potential we’ve got our straight man, Koyuki, constantly plagued by the absurdity and rampant imagination of Hanadori, which is a perfect comedy set up. Lots of comedy is built on the pairing of opposites, heck a lot of comedy is built on the suffering of one slightly jerky character dealing with the strange people around him (that’s like 90% of British sitcoms described right there). However, this series’ problem is that Koyuki is too much of a jerk. He’s not likeable at all, he shouts at the other kids in his class and yet stubbornly refuses to call out Hanadori when he’s annoying him. He’s just a brat with no endearing or redeeming qualities to make me root for him and yet he’s not so detestable that his suffering is all that enjoyable. The rest of the cast aren’t all that interesting either. I’m out on this one.

ID: Invaded

Have you ever wanted to see the inside of a serial killers mind? Well thanks to several breakthroughs in technology we can now do just that! What’s more we can even insert people into these mental landscapes, people like the brilliant detective Sakaido, and with his help the police might just be able to catch these killers before they commit their next crime. But what kind of man can so easily walk through the minds of deranged killers? As the old adage goes, send a maniac to catch a maniac (100 points if you get that reference).

Really I should be all over this show. I mean we’ve got a detective story exploring the inner workings of serial killers and psychopaths, throw in some great surrealist landscapes and I should adore this show, but I don’t. It’s not a bad show and I know other people are really enjoying this, but there’s just this wall that’s stopping me from connecting to the characters and the events. Admittedly detective stories always have a hard time in anime, trying to pack an effective mystery into twenty-odd minutes is hard and that does mean that a lot of the resolutions to the cases so far have felt kind of flat. Add on the lengthy discussions and explanations of the pseudo-science behind the technology at play and half the time I’m bored by this show. I want to like it though, I’ve enjoyed the subconscious landscapes of the killers and Sakaido/Narihisago is a fascinating character. Honestly the scenes where I’ve actually sat up and paid attention were all the ones with Narihigo in. I especially love his chat with the bomber in episode three, talking the man into suicide. He’s got a Hannibal Lector vibe and I think I’ll stick with this show to find out what his deal is. Maybe now that we’re past the set up phase I’ll start enjoying this one more.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Ever since she was little, Midori Asakusa, has wanted to go on an adventure and, after watching an old anime, she’d decided that that adventure is animation! Together with the money-minded and organised Sayaka Kanamori and the teen model Tsubasa Mizusaki who dreams of becoming a character animator, the three girls decide that they should form a club and make their own anime! Making anime isn’t so easy though and the girls have a long way to go, but by combining their boundless imaginations they can make wonders come to life so a feature-length film shouldn’t be so tough, should it?

What do I even say about this anime, apart from the fact that I love each and every frame of it? This show is so clearly a love letter to animation and the creative process and if I could ever have an anime as the outward representation of my soul then it would be this show. I mean I knew this show was going to be good from the moment we see Asakusa lying on the sofa in episode one. That look in her eyes while she was watching anime and I could so clearly see the thoughts going through her head, which boil down to ‘someone made this. I could make something like this’. It’s a powerful moment. So much of this anime, after only three episodes, speak true, for me at least. I mean that scene from the third episode were Kanamori is trying to have a serious meeting about the repairs to the club building and the other two just keep getting distracted and going off on tangents, leading to Kanamori putting her foot down. I’ve been at meetings with my writer’s group exactly like that (and I’ll tell you now I wasn’t the serious one in that situation). I love this show, I don’t really know what else to say but if you’re interested in the creative process or a creative yourself then you need to check this out.

And I think I’ll leave it there for this week. Next time! The tragic death of Mr. Bunny, we meet a rather pushy God of Wisdom and, oh yeah, a new addition to one of my favourite anime franchises is here!

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

Anime Corner: Fire Force Review

Blog Fire Force Review Title

Playing with fire.

What’s the Story?

The flames took everything from Shinra, both his mother and brother perished in a house fire that most people think he started, but he knows there was someone else there that night, a horned demon. Determined to find out the truth of what really happened, Shinra learns to control his pyrokinetic abilities, which have flames sprouting out of his feet like rocket propulsion, and joins the Special Fire Force Company 8. Along the way he’ll have to face those transformed by flames into walking demons, as well as the other companies and the forces of the mysterious Evangelist, but is he ready for what he’s going to learn? We’ll just have to pray. Latom.

The Review

Strap in folks, this may be a long one. I’ve not been looking forward to writing this review. Not because I don’t like Fire Force, but more because I can’t decide if I like it or not. One minute this is the most infuriating series I have ever seen, the next it’s an utterly mind-blowing masterpiece! My emotions have spun around so much I’m pretty sure I’m suffering from whiplash right now. It’s been a roller coaster to say the least and I still haven’t figured out whether it was worth it or not. Do the few bad elements outweigh all the good, or vice versa? I guess my only choice is to ramble through things and see if I can decide by the end of this post. Let’s start on the negatives and then we’ll move on to the more positive stuff, which brings me right to the fanservice. Oh joy.

Now I don’t want to get into a long-winded discussion on the pros and cons of fanservice (especially since my views on fanservice within a show have been mellowing of late and there’s already plenty of great posts about this exact subject already out there, check out Scott HERE for example), but this needs to be talked about to a degree. I was expecting there to be some fanservice in this show, the manga was written by the guy who created Soul Eater, so yeah, I didn’t exactly want it, but I was willing to accept it within reason, and at the start of the series it was okay. There were a few shower scenes and such, but the shots never lingered and, honestly, moved on pretty quickly, which while not my ideal it’s at least not as distracting or intrusive as I feared. However, then we get introduced to Tamaki and she has the worst kind of fanservice happen to her on a continual basis. Thanks to her ‘Lucky Lecher’ syndrome her clothes keep popping off at random intervals and she’s forced into compromising positions that she clearly doesn’t want to be in. It adds nothing to the story or her character, in fact it detracts from both. It would be something if Tamaki had some agency in this, but she doesn’t and she’s clearly upset whenever it happens. Is this meant to titillate me? A young woman put in awkward positions against her will? No, just no. Bad show, you go into the corner and think about what you’ve done!

It doesn’t help that the show has some genuinely interesting female characters that are starved of attention in the show. Every time Tamaki popped up I just thought about all the minutes of screen time that could have been given to Maki or Hibana, heck maybe we could even give some character development to Iris! If this was the only problem with Fire Force I could probably bare it, Tamaki isn’t in the show that much and there are plenty of episodes without even a whiff of fanservice about them, but the series has a deeper problem too. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Here’s the thing about Fire Force, it’s plot meanders, a lot. At the beginning we’re dealing with Infernals, people turned into walking fire monsters and the tragedy around that. Cool, plenty of set up for epic battles and some raw emotional drama, great. Couple of episodes later, oh no actually we’re going to forget about Infernals all together and go around investigating the other Fire Force companies. Okay, fine, I guess there’s plenty of drama we can get from that and we get to see plenty of inventive uses for pyrokinesis. However that doesn’t last either. It isn’t until the White-Clad are introduced and developed that it feels like this series finally has a proper direction, we have a clear goal and mission for once.

Enough of the negative though, because this show has an ace up its sleeve, one I can’t criticise, it’s animation and direction. Jaw-dropping is the word. The way this series contrasts light and dark, as well as its use of bright, high contrast colours turns every episode into a feast for the eyes. There’s also a real passion and vitality to the direction, even scenes of characters just standing around talking are shot in a way that makes each scene endlessly interesting. Of course then we get to the action and things go up another level entirely. I wish some of these fights were longer, but only so that I could see more of this blistering, impactful action that just makes me want to punch the air with joy. Throw on top of that some brilliant fight choreography as well as an amazing soundtrack (I haven’t stopped listening to the main theme since it found its way on to Youtube) and I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Also, allow me to finish up by talking about some of the guys, because as much as I’m in love with Maki, I’ve fallen for the guys in this series too. Arthur is a complete and total idiot, but I adore him (he had me in stitches when the gang went to recruit Vulcan) and then there’s our cool-headed hero, Shinra. I’ve noticed this trend in shonen were a couple of series have started having a more, shall we say openly intelligent protagonists? (Looking at you Midoriya and Osamu), and while Shinra has his moments of being a typical shonen protagonist, as well as being terrible at coming up with names, he also has a tendency to analyse the situation around him more before he acts. He takes the time to stop and think about his action, which is more than I can say for a lot of shonen heroes. Honestly I’ll watch this series again just to see these characters and the fight scenes again, which I guess answers my question of whether I like this series or not.

The Verdict

In the end, Fire Force is an extremely flawed series. It has some major issues with one character in particular and spends a lot of its run meandering around looking for direction, but when this show is on its game it is one of the most spectacular experiences you will ever have. The direction and animation alone are worth the price of admission, but add on to that the music and some really great characters and I think this show is worth it. Also now that the series has finally found its Big Bad I’m hoping season 2 is going to be even better (if the Nether arc at the end is anything to judge it by, then I have high hopes). If anything that I’ve mentioned puts you off, then that’s fine, but if you think you can bare with the negatives, then give this show a shot.

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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.  

It’s a Really Neat Blog Award!

I got another award! I mean…just wow, all this positive recognition is doing wonders for my low self-esteem so thank you Ospreyshire over at IridiumEyeReviews, this means a lot. Curtis runs a really great blog looking at movies, documentaries and anime that the majority of the time I’ve never heard of before, but that’s what makes it so great. His reviews are packed full of detail and trivia so make sure to check out his blog. Now he’s given me some tough questions to answer with this post, but before we get to those, let’s do the housekeeping. Here’re the rules!

The Rules

1. Display the logo.

2. Thank the bloggers for the award.

3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.

4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.

5. Ask them 7 questions.

Already done 1 and 2, so let’s get on to the questions!

  1. What is one obscure movie or anime that you know of that you wish was more popular?

At least we’re starting with an easy one (I’ve looked at the rest of the questions and I don’t hold out much hope for myself). Song of the Sea is my pick. An irish animated film from Cartoon Saloon it is an utterly outstanding film, hauntingly beautiful and sweet. It’s based on the selkie myth and features a young brother and sister who learn that the sister can turn into a seal when she puts on her coat, but when they’re shipped off to their grandmother’s house inland, they realise they need to get back home before the sister perishes. It’s a story about grief and family bonds and I think everyone should see it at least once. I don’t have words for how beautiful the animation is, just google it and you’ll see.

  1. As some people may know, I am very vocal about film plagiarism issues (Examples: Inception stealing major concepts from Paprika or The Lion King blatantly plagiarizing several characters, scenes, and plot points from Kimba the White Lion). If some movie did some cinematic thievery, what is one original film, TV series, or anime would you not want to see ripped off at all costs?

Does it count as a rip-off if it’s your own property that your copying wholesale? If so then I’d like to fence off what’s left of Disney’s animated catalogue before they get turned into ‘live action’ copies like so many already have. Look, if you enjoy Disney’s crop of live action films then power to you, I’m glad someone is getting some enjoyment out of them, but they’re really not for me. I’m biased towards animation, I know, you can just do so much with it, the breadth of imagination and scope it can bring to life is amazing. Next to the written word it’s my favourite medium.

The live action films are trying so hard to be the animated versions of themselves that I just don’t get it. I mean if they wanted to do their own thing with the stories, take things in a new direction or put a twist on things I’d be all for it (if you’re going to copy something the least you can do is put your spin on it), but that’s not what these films are trying to do. They’re so obviously trying to appeal to the nostalgia centres of people’s brains, when people can just easily go and watch the animated ones. I don’t see the point of that, but they make money so I think they’ll be around for a while yet (Sorry, I’ve gone a bit ranty here).

  1. Who is the most underrated composer in your opinion?

Ah, this is probably going to be the most difficult question for me to answer. I always feel guilty admitting this, but I always feel nervous learning about the people behind the series I love. I suppose I’m just scared that I’ll find out they’re a complete -insert swear word here- and I’ll never be able to enjoy their work again (a recent example, I can never watch an episode of Smallville again after finding out about that whole Allison Mack thing). I like to keep artists up on their pedestal where I’m free to just bask in their work and not worry about anything but how their work makes me feel. In fact the only times I really learn creator’s names is either if they come up in conversation a lot or I see their names come up time after time.

Because of this most of the names I know are all fairly well recognised, which makes me feel bad because then I think about all those who I’m not appreciating. I don’t feel confident calling anyone underrated, but at the same time I feel like I need to name someone at the very least so how about Kenichiro Suehiro? I have no idea if he’s underrated or not, but I’ve recently started to notice him. He’s done the music for Fire Force, Granbelm, Goblin Slayer and Re:Zero to name a few and while some of these series have problems the music certainly isn’t one of them.

  1. Which country would you like to see some cinema from that’s not your homeland?

India. I read the first two books in the Pandava Quartet last year (think of them like Percy Jackson, but with Hindu mythology instead of Greek) and they really piqued my interest. I’ve always been interested in other cultures and mythology, but I’ve never really looked into India before so it feels like the time to start (now I just have to find the time to actually do it!). Also I really want to see the two Baahubali films, they look amazing.

  1. What are your biggest issues with the current Hollywood scene?

Oh, where do I even start with this one? The endless need to make a franchise out of anything and everything? Trading on nostalgia so much that there’s barely a chance for anything without a pre-existing fanbase to get a chance to live? (Don’t get me wrong, I love going back to watch old favourites or to see familiar characters again, but I also like to see completely new stuff every now and again). The lack of diversity both behind and in front of the camera?

All of the above and more, Hollywood is an old creaky system that I don’t know how to fix. It’s making progress, but like all progress it moves at a glacial place, while we all just sit here and wait for it to catch up. Movies are big business and a lot of people’s blood, sweat and tears go into making them. I take my hat off to anyone who works in the industry, but there are times when I want to kick said system up the backside and get it pick up the pace a little.

  1. Finish this idea: (Name of protagonist here) would be the most interesting hero ever if…?

Ezra Bridger would be the most interesting hero ever if he fully turned to the Dark Side, even if only once. I’m slightly worried about bringing up Star Wars considering how divided the fanbase has become, but screw it I’ve started so I’ll finish. I like Star Wars Rebels, and I mean I really like it, sure it has its problems, but whenever it was dealing with the Force or Thrawn it was exactly the kind of Star Wars I love. I also really like Ezra’s arc across the series, but if there’s one area where it falters it’s in the resolution to Ezra’s flirtation with the Dark Side, in that there isn’t really one.

All through season 2 we’ve got Ezra slowly giving in to his anger, his desperation to protect his friends making him crave the power he needs to save them. His scenes with Maul were some of the best in the series, and this trend continues into the next season, with Ezra still being so very angry, but then it kind of just stops and he goes back to being a Jedi without consequence. I feel like if Ezra had just fully crossed that line, just once, to properly snap him back to his senses it would have given this phase of his character arc more resolution.

  1. Who is one non-actor that should try voice acting? What kind of role(s) would they have?

Sir David Attenborough. I’ll admit it took me a while to think of a non-actor whose voice I think would fit really well into the profession of voice acting, then a repeat of ‘Blue Planet’ came up on the TV and it was a figurative light bulb. Yes, the man, the legend, the national treasure, David Attenborough. I’m not sure how well known he is outside of the UK, but he used to be THE voice for nature documentaries (nowadays he’s getting on a bit and leaves it to the upstart youths like David Tennant). I could seriously listen to him talk or narrate for hours on end and have a couple of times in the past. I can see him in a Miyazaki film, playing the grandfatherly mentor with an environmental message.

Whew. I had to think hard about some of those answers and I’m surprised by how little were about anime, but I made it through to the other side so now it’s my turn!

Here are my nominations:

The Otaku Author

Umai Yomu Anime Blog

www.crowsworldofanime.com

100 Word Anime

I drink and watch anime

TigerAnime

Inskime

Anyone else who wants to join is also welcome to jump in, now here are the questions!

  1. What was your first ever anime (did you even know it was an anime at the time)?
  2. When you’re watching an anime, do you read the manga as well or are you anime only? Why?
  3. What series or film (anime or not) do you think deserves more attention?
  4. What one thing is guaranteed to make you watch a series no matter what?
  5. What genre of anime would you like to see more of?
  6. If you could visit any world (be it from anime or a book or someplace else) where would you like to go?
  7. What character (again from any anime, book or something else) would you most like to spend an evening with, be that going out for a drink or just chilling on the sofa with them?

Hope of all of you have as mush fun as I did and thanks again Ospreyshire!

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

 

Anime Corner: Ascendance of a Bookworm Review

Blog Ascendance of a Bookworm Review Title

Can I just say, as a fully confessed bibliophile, a world without books is the scariest thing I have ever heard of.

What’s the Story?

Motosu Urano loved books, so much so that she was confident she could deal with any situation as long as she had a book to hand. That’s a theory that is put to the test when she wakes up in a world were books are reserved for the rich and powerful, and she is currently inhabiting the body of a sickly peasant girl. With no other option available to her, Urano, now going by Myne, decides she will just have to make books of her own! Of course making books is no easy feat, especially in a medieval society where a lot of modern technology is a far off dream. Still, Myne is obsessed and with a little help from her friends and family she might just make it, after a lot trial and error.

The Review

I love fantasy. For anyone that knows me that’s about as redundant a statement as I can make. I quite literally spend my days sitting around thinking up new worlds and characters, even as I work on something else there’s a section of my brain busy building (I know no one from my workplace is going to read this, but it would probably explain all those moments where I suddenly stop and stare out the window for a few minutes). Why am I telling you this instead of getting on with reviewing the series at hand? Well, because there is nothing I love more, outside of the actual characters in a work, than a fully developed world I can immerse myself in, and that’s exactly what Ascendance of a Bookworm gives me. I’ve had my ups and downs with Isekai, but this is absolutely the best Isekai that I have seen in years, and part of that is down to the world.

Now it’s not as if Bookworm’s world is some never-before-seen marvel, it’s basically your typical medieval society with little bits of magic sprinkled throughout. What makes this world so special though is how it’s built, we’re introduced to things one piece at a time, watching as the place is carefully built around us until its ready to reveal a little bit more and move onto to the next stage. There’s just so much thought put into this world, from the written language, to the economic structure and even some of the strange flora that can be found around the place. Each is a tiny puzzle piece that fits together to make a greater whole. Maybe there’s nothing here that will reinvent the fantasy genre, but the craftsmanship and level of detail put into this world just makes me want to give a standing ovation to the original author as well as all the team that worked on this show.

A story needs more than a rich world though, what about the characters? Well, that brings me to Myne (and I’ve chosen to spell her name that way because that’s how it’s spelt in the translation of the novel on Amazon, as well as on the wiki. Crunchyroll’s subtitles say ‘Main’, but it’s pronounced Myne by the actors, so I’m going with that). Now, I can see why Myne may be a bit hard for some people to get along with at the beginning of the series. She’s often bratty and frustrated with the lack of resources around her. Add on her book obsession, which often leaves her so blinkered she outright ignores the needs and wants of those around her, including her new found family, and, yeah, Myne can be a bit hard to love at times.

That being said, I do love Myne. I excuse her more bratty moments because I see it as part of her arc for this first season. Myne’s arc, much like everything in this series, is slow and methodical, it takes some trial and error, but she does eventually start to make progress. Myne needs to recognise that she can’t just go out and do whatever she wants, she needs to rely on others to get things done and, in turn, give something back in return. Of course it helps that Myne is surrounded by such an excellent cast of kind and caring people, everyone from her doting father to the merchant’s guild help Myne not only to make progress towards her goal, but also to become a better person. By the end of the season she cares deeply for her new friends and family, even as much as she does about books, and it’s the forming of these bonds that leads to some of the best and most emotional moments in the series.

There’s one other thing that I need to talk about with this series. As much as the world and characters make this series, there’s one other element that truly helps this show to ascend. It’s an isekai that actually makes use of that fact. As I said before, I’ve had my ups and downs with this genre over the years and my most common gripe is that the whole reincarnation of the main character often becomes a footnote, forgotten and irrelevant after a couple of episodes. That isn’t the case here though, Myne’s memories of her past life are the reason for her obsession with books, not only that, but her Japanese mannerism often cause social confusion and she obviously has a wealth of knowledge and understanding that is beyond her years, which often gets her into trouble. Her reincarnation is apart of her character and it even leads to some of my favourite moments as one character in particular pieces together there’s something really odd about Myne. It takes an idea and explores it to its full effect, that’s why I love this series.

The Verdict

Ascendance of a Bookworm is a wonderful series. If you’re after big action or a breakneck pace then this isn’t the show for you, but, if you like your fantasy worlds to be immersive and well thought out then this is definitely a place you need to visit. Its characters are all sweet and charming to the nth degree, even if the lead takes some time to work out her issues. The world is so well put together and this is hands down the best isekai I’ve seen in years. I cannot wait for the second season of this show. If you love fantasy, if you love isekai, check this series out.

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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: Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! Review

Blog Average Abilities Review Title

Didn’t I Say it was About Time we Shortened the Titles of These Light Novel Adaptations?!

What’s the Story?

All her life, Mile has longed to be average, to spend her days just doing normal things with normal friends. Unfortunately for her Mile is one of those Japanese kids that have been reincarnated into a fantasy world and, more to the point, there was a bit of a clerical mix up when she crossed over. You see when Mile asked for her completely average life, she forgot to specify that she wanted an average human life and as such was reincarnated with half the power of an elder dragon! Now Mile is a hunter, working with her friends to battle everything from dragons to trouble-making soldiers, all the while searching for that perfectly ordinary life (which Mile has no chance of ever finding!)

The Review

You know, I found the perfect description for this series in the comments on Crunchyroll (looking at the comments, I know, I like to live dangerously), an isekai sitcom, because that’s exactly what this show is. Oh sure, the series has it’s heart-warming moments, but it never takes itself too seriously and, more often than not, it’s always building up to one joke or another. Most episodes centre around Mile and the gang dealing with one situation or another, such as Mile trying to pass for normal in the hunter training school, or Mile’s friends deciding to throw her a secret party and all the misunderstandings that spring from that. It’s never really laugh out loud funny, but it always manages to be warm and sweet. Add on to that all the nods and references to other anime as well as a charming cast and you get a very refreshing, if decidedly average, isekai.

A part of me feels bad for calling this show average, because while the analytical part of my brain points out that the visuals, outside of some cute character designs, are nothing special and the story is nowhere near ground-breaking, that doesn’t stop the other parts of my brain squeeing with delight whenever I get to hang out with Mile and the gang. Yes, the story never takes itself seriously enough to wring out all the potential it could from some of these situations, but my heart still aches when Reina talks about her back story, or the shock I felt when Mile came up against an opponent she can’t one shot. I care about these characters, deeply, they’re so sweet and charming and all four voice actors have amazing chemistry with one another. I would quite happily spend the rest of my days watching the antics of these four.

That being said, the charm of the main cast isn’t the only strength of this series, for one it’s an isekai that actually remembers it’s an isekai! (I’d remark on how rare this usually is, but Ascendance of a Bookworm did the exact same, which has got me wondering if people are finally putting effort back into isekai). Yes, the fact that Mile is reincarnated doesn’t play a major narrative role in the series, outside of a few parts of the final episode, but I guess I just appreciate the fact that it’s there. Also I like playing ‘Guess What Mile Is Referencing This Time’, it’s a fun game and while I admit I only got the references about half the time, the jokes around the references are still funny even if I don’t recognise the specific source. That is one thing that I wanted to see more of actually, how Mile’s otakuness is slowly spreading into this fantasy world, from getting the other girls involved in a super sentai parody, to starting the world’s first maid café and even producing figures for sale to the general public. You could really make a whole series just about that, but it never really gets that much focus, as the series has other jokes to make. I suppose that’s the other strength of this series, it doesn’t limit itself to just one joke.

Yes, the main joke of the series is that Miles wants to be average more than anything else but, between how overpowered she is and her scatterbrain tendencies, her chances of accomplishing this are the same as me finding a portal to the future behind my sofa (that is to say, zero), and yet the series doesn’t rely on this joke alone. While Mile never forgets about her goal for an average life, the jokes soon begin to transition away from that and more about just the ridiculous ideas that pop into her brain, like her ‘solution’ to dealing with an enemy that’s out of reach (it involves picking up and throwing her friends). It also helps that the same silliness soon spreads to her friends so then everyone can get in on the act. It keeps the series from ever going stale, as I could always look forward to whatever crazy otaku-inspired idea was about to come to Mile (also I just love all the reaction shots in this show).

Like any good comedy though, it knows to apply plenty of heart to its humour, which brings me back around to the characters. As I said, I care about these characters deeply, and what makes each and every laugh all the warmer is the fact that I feel like I know these characters. Sure the series never tries to dig in too deep or really blow up the bank with regards to story telling, but it doesn’t need to. It shows us just enough of the struggles to make those laughs all the sweeter when they do come back (usually a couple of minutes later). I guess, in the end, being average isn’t so bad. This series knows exactly wants to be and it just is it, it’s fun. That’s all it needs.

The Verdict

In the end, Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life isn’t a ground-breaking series, but it is an incredibly fun one. The cast are stellar, the four main voice actresses have amazing chemistry and you really feel the bond between them. I’m not sure if an isekai sitcom is a thing, but it’s the perfect descriptor for this series’ gentle humour and situational hijinks, as well as its more tender and warm moments. If you’re in the mood for a light, fluffy and occasionally heart-warming take on the isekai genre, then definitely check this series out.

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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.