Oh So Mysterious! The Mystery Blogger Award!

mystery-blogger

Well Curtis, aka ospreyshire, nominated me for this oh so mysterious award and all I can say is thank you! Check out his post HERE. Honestly it surprises me every time I get tagged into one of these, which is quickly followed by blind panic as I realise I don’t have the structure of a review to hide behind! But wait, there are rules! Yes! Structure! So, what do I have to do?

1. Put the award logo/image on your blog

2. List the rules

3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog

4. Mention Okoto Enigma, the creator of the award and provide a link as well

5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself

6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people

7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)

9. Share a link to your best post(s)

First, ospreyshire‘s questions for me:

1. Where would you like to visit that you’ve never been to before?

Honestly I’m not much of a traveller, but I’ve had it on my mind for a while that at some point I would like to go…outside. Okay joking, aside there are plenty of countries I’d like to visit, but I suppose my top pick would be Japan. The only things really holding me back are, one, I’d have to sit down and actually learn Japanese rather than picking up random phrases from anime and, two, I’d need to find someone to go with me. I hate going places by myself, it’s just not as fun. I realise these are only excuses covering up my own laziness, but that’s why I’m not much of a traveller. One day I’ll do it, one day.

2. What is one movie, TV show, and/or book that you can’t stand, but everyone else likes?

You’re going to make me say it? Fine, the Harry Potter books. Saying I can’t stand them is a bit much, but I definitely have a grudge against the series that stopped me from getting into it. See I was a massive Pokemon fanatic when I was younger, and I mean colossal, yet every fandom has its day and the next big thing to come along was Harry Potter. Everyone kept going on about how good it was, but I wasn’t ready to let Pokemon go and the Potter books never really grabbed me. I know that sounds really petty and it is, I did force myself to watch all the films and they were okay. The third film is probably the closest I came to enjoying myself. At some point I’ll try reading the books again and see if I can get into them now.

3. If you could invent a language, what would you call it and how would you teach it to the world?

What I would call it would depend on what the language is. Is it a composite of other languages, is it something completely alien, is it spoken or delivered in some other manner? How I would teach it would probably be the same way I’d come up with it, I’d include it in a book. I do love language and how it’s used and while I have yet to invent an entire language for a story I’ve come up with plenty of different ways for people to communicate. For example in one short story I introduced a gelatinous species that communicated by twisting their bodies into different shapes, or in sci-fi stories I try to come up with slang or naming conventions that I think could take root in the future.

4. What is one interest or hobby that you never thought you would get into?

This is a recent hobby I’ve picked up, but I’ve recently gotten into role-playing. I’ve always wanted to join a group and give it a try, but I guess I’ve never been in the right place at the right time to find people to play with. That changed a few months back and while it’s still early in the campaign and I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m having a lot of fun.

5. How do you want to improve as a person?

I want to conquer my more self-conscious and worrywart nature, more than I already have. I’m a lot more confident and open than I used to be, but I still retreat into my comfort zone too readily. I want to take a few more risks, challenge myself a bit, maybe travel someplace. I’m getting there, slowly, but I’m getting there.

3 things about myself:

  1. Born and raised in Sheffield, United Kingdom. As the saying goes, Yorkshire born, Yorkshire bred, Strong in the arm, Thick in the…. ahem, finish that one for yourselves.
  2. I’m a member of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Group, I’ve had several short stories published in their anthologies, most notably the ‘Ages of Escafeld’ anthologies which you can find on Amazon.
  3. At the minute I’m working on a mecha sci-fi dystopia novel, where my cynical heroine, Rosette, must enter a highly dangerous competition where pilots battle it out in fully armoured mechs for fame and fortune. Rosette’s only goal is to survive and provide for her family, something increasingly difficult in a world on the edge of war.

Nominations:

I hereby nominate (apologises if anyone has already been picked):

terranceacrow

Edy

Pinkie

Scott

Arthifis

Irina

The AniMessenger

magicconan14 (Aria)

Karandi

Dewbond

My Questions:

  1. What one show do you absolutely love, but nobody else ever talks about it or has even heard of it?
  2. If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
  3. If you could visit any place, in any time period, what would it be?
  4. Which would you choose, worldwide fame and fortune, or relative obscurity and a small but dedicated fanbase?
  5. What is the question? (This is the weird question or is it?)

My Best Posts:

I’m really bad at appreciating my own stuff, I have a tendency to just pick out all the flaws, but these are the ones I’m most proud of at the moment,

The Promised Neverland – I was surprised by the response this one got, I worked hard to keep it as spoiler-free as possible and somehow managed it.

Put a Tune to it: Western Songs for Anime – This was a lot of fun to do, the songs came to me pretty quickly and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island – I’m a huge One Piece fan and I haven’t really had enough of a chance to talk about the series on here and it was great to talk about one of my favourite films.

That’s it for this post, I’ll be back in a few days with another one.

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

Challenge Accepted! Give it A Light Novel Title Challenge!

I have to give it to Dewbond over at Shallow Dives in Anime, they really know how to come up with a fun challenge and of course thanks to Irina for tagging me in! But just what is this obviously self-explanatory challenge? Well, by this point I’m pretty sure the entire Internet has made fun of light novels and their tendency to have really long titles that are basically summaries of the plot. Honestly I get it, to a degree. There’s so many books that I could buy, sometimes I just want to know a little bit about what’s going to happen inside just to convince myself that this is what I should spent my money on. So why not insert the elevator pitch for the book in place of the title, it’ll at least grab my attention, it’s a pain to type out when I’m reviewing, but at least you have my attention.

Anyway, on to the challenge, let’s find out what happens when we pass several series with perfectly good short titles through the light novel filter, but first! The rules:

  • Choose up to five anime, manga or visual novel series that have a short title
    • Light novels that have shorter titles (Date A Live for example) are also allowed.
  • Give these series a new title based on those classic overly long Light Novels we love!
  • If someone has already picked a series you wanted. It’s OK! Let’s see your own take on the title!
  • Link back to the original post so I can read people’s suggestions, I’d love to read everyone’s ideas. (it’s right here)
  • Include Give it a Light Novel title in your tags so everyone including myself can find them all easily.
  • Nominate around 1-6 bloggers. I nominate (apologises if people have already been tagged):
  • Tiger
  • Inskidee
  • Merlin
  • Moyatori
  • Als Manga Blog

On to my titles and fair warning, I had such fun with this I may have thrown in a couple of extra options for some series, here we go!

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 

That Time an Evil Bunny Cat Tried to Trick Me into Signing His Contract

One Piece

Didn’t I Say I Was Going to Become King of the Pirates, Even if I Am Made of Rubber

Fullmetal Alchemist

My Brother Wanted to Use Alchemy to Bring Our Mother Back from the Dead, Now I’m a Suit of Armour!

OR

WARNING! Misusing Alchemy Can Cost You an Arm and a Leg!

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Kill la Kill

My Sailor Suit Talks to Me and is Helping Me to Avenge My Father’s Murder

OR

My Name is Ryuko Matoi, You Killed My Father, Prepare to Die!

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The Devil is a Part-Timer!

I Used to be a Demonic Overlord, Now I Work in a McDonalds Rip-off

And we’ll leave it there, for now, I had a lot of fun coming up with these and I hope you did too. Feel free to join in if you have your own ideas. There’s going to be a couple of other tag posts throughout the coming week so I’ll 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.

All images belong to their respective owners.

Anime Corner: Dragon Ball Super: Broly Review

Blog Dragon Ball Broly Review Title

I am the Hype!

What’s the Story?

Many years ago on the planet Vegeta, before it was blown to smithereens by the cruel Frieza, there was a child born with extraordinary power, Broly. Fearing the child’s immense strength King Vegeta had him exiled to a desolate world and that should have been the end of the story, except Broly’s father, Paragus, followed him into his exile. Now, after years of hellish training, Paragus has trained Broly to be a wild, near unstoppable force, something that Frieza is delighted to hear. Meanwhile, on Earth, Goku and Prince Vegeta have been training ever since the Tournament of Power, preparing themselves for their next challenge. When Frieza shows up with Broly though, he may be too much for even the two mighty Saiyans to handle. Looks like someone’s going to need a miracle, oh hey the dragon balls!

The Review

I suppose I should say that this review is better late than never because, yeah, it took me a while to get to this film. It wasn’t that I was put off by it’s reputation or anything, every review I’ve ever read or listened to regarding this film has been glowing (and this one will be no different), but I’ve found myself in a weird place regarding Dragon Ball over the past few years. I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z, back before I even knew what anime was, and I loved it. As the years have gone on though I became more and more afraid of returning to Dragon Ball. Was my enjoyment just pure nostalgia? Dragon Ball was never the greatest in the story telling department and the Z era can pretty much be summed up as ‘and then they fought’.

Dragon Ball Super didn’t help. I gave up on that series very early on as I just wasn’t finding it interesting. I went back and watched a few key moments when the series was almost over and they were fun, but not enough to compel to go back and watch the whole series. I’d pretty much decided that Dragon Ball was just something I’d leave to my nostalgia, but then I found DBZA (again better late than never). The abridged series masterfully put together by Team Four Star reminded me of something that I’d forgotten somewhere along the way, the reason I fell in love with this franchise in the first place, the characters. I love these guys, from the world’s most dangerous idiot Goku to the actually really well developed Vegeta and all the side characters that barely get any screen time, these are all childhood friends to me. So, yeah, with that in mind I finally dragged myself out of the house and went and bought this film and you know what? I should have done it sooner!

This will surprise no one that has already seen this film, but it really is amazing. If Super had been half as interesting as this film then I’d have been glued to my screen week after week. What amazes me more than anything else is how much of a character film this is. I actually felt really sorry for Broly, something that I never did when I watched the original Broly movie (eons ago). Seeing the kind-hearted brute react to just the slightest bit of compassion and his growing friendship with Cheelai and Lemo really tugged at the heartstrings, so much so that I didn’t know whether to cheer or cry when the big fight comes towards the end of the movie.

That’s another shocking thing about this film, how little fighting there actually is. The majority of the first half of this film is taken up by actual story, we get to see planet Vegeta back in its heyday, seeing younger versions of our favourite heroes and villains, as well as a few characters that really should be more prominent in the series (do you think Goku even remembers having a brother anymore?). I mean we get to see Goku’s mother! Maybe it’s just me, it has been a while since I’ve seen any of the Dragon Ball films, but have we ever seen Goku’s mother in animation before? There are a few continuity changes here and there, Goku’s dad is a bigger softie than I remember and the Superman parallels are really being dialled up now, but I enjoyed seeing a bit more of Saiyan culture and what things were like on planet Vegeta (do you think we could get a prequel series set in this time line?).

All that being said, when the action finally does start, it really kicks things into high gear. The animation for this film is utterly stunning, from the vibrant colours and consistently on-model characters to the ferocious and fast-paced action sequences. Even when they switch out the 2D characters for 3D models you barely notice because everything is so frantic and explosive and yet you never lose track of what’s happening. For the animation alone I’d recommend watching this film it’s that good.

A couple of other little shout outs. The scene with Vegeta continually calling Goku an idiot was priceless, because the battle-brained moron really couldn’t get it into his head that Frieza was off doing bad things and would be back to do more bad things at some point! Speaking of Frieza, he is fantastic in this film, equal parts scheming, threatening and utterly hilarious, this is really the master villain at his very best. On a last note, don’t you just love how the dragon balls are now just being collected for stupid wishes, I mean, yeah sure, Oolong once wished for panties, but at least that was a spur of the moment thing to stop someone else getting a wish!

The Verdict

All in all, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a fantastic film. Funny, heartfelt and packed with amazing action, it’s a must see for any fan of Dragon Ball and I’d recommend it to non-fans as well. Having said that, while the eventual fight against Broly is stunning, the focus here really is on character. We get to know what makes Broly tick in a way no other film has and you really feel for the gentle giant. Add on to that a glimpse into the past and a chance to see some of our favourite characters as kids and I have no fear saying this is my favourite Dragon Ball film, period.

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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: Granbelm Review

Blog Granbelm Review Title

This is Granbelm!

What’s the Story?

1,000 years ago all magical power in the world was sealed away. Now, under the light of the full moon, candidates to become the one true mage battle it out for control of that power using giant mechanical dolls. There are those who wish to use the power for selfish reasons and those who wish to destroy the power completely, but then there’s Mangetsu, who very literally stumbles into this contest. Mangetsu believes that she has nothing special about herself and longs for that one thing that can truly be hers. Could becoming the one true mage be her special thing? There are certainly odder reasons to enter a magical death match, not many, but I’m sure there are some.

The Review

Okay, I’m just going to be upfront about this, I love this show and I mean the heart throbbing, head-over-heels kind of love, so be prepared for gushing (Honestly if it wasn’t for the existence of Given I’d be tempted to call this show my favourite series of Summer 2019, and that was a fantastic season). I don’t even know where to start with this series I love it so much. I suppose the best place would be why I think this show hit me so hard with Cupid’s arrow and it all comes down to one of my favourite anime of all time, Madoka Magica. Ever since I finished that series I’ve been searching for another dark magical girl series to fill the void, and while the subgenre has had plenty of entries over the years, none of them feel like they’re even the same species as Madoka (at least until the spinoff series came along this season).

Then this show comes along, completely out of nowhere as far as I was concerned. It starts off flashy and cool, with some exhilarating fights and lots of pretty visuals, as well as some nice characters (I really love the friendship between Mangetsu and Shingetsu, but more on that later), but the more I watched this show, the more I realised this show understood something that a lot of dark magical girl shows forget, it knows how to make things hurt. See, a lot of these shows about magical girls battling it out for their heart’s desire, or their wish or whatever are just that, battles. We watch the girls get killed off one after the other and oh isn’t it shocking, isn’t gruesome. Yeah, no, not my thing. Granbelm though, it gets that what makes a fight truly epic, what makes a scene utterly heart-wrenching, is the emotions behind it. This may be a show about magical girls in mechs firing fancy lasers at one another, but it’s also a show about these girls throwing everything into a fight, all their heart and it is something I truly adored watching.

Whether it’s Kuon battling to avenge her sister, Mangetsu going into a blind rage and activating her kill mode, or just Anna going on a psychotic rampage, this show is packed with emotion. Maybe it crosses into melodrama a few too many times, and maybe we could have spent a bit more time getting to know more about some of the characters, but I was enjoying the episodes way too much to care about that while I was watching them (that’s actually my definition of a good show, be entertaining enough to carry me away and not notice your flaws until well after I’ve finished watching it, which Granbelm did and more). Not that this series is all flashy action and big emotional moments (though there is a lot of action in this series). It knows how to do quieter scenes too, a lot of which go to Mangetsu and Shingetsu. I mentioned before that I love their friendship, and some of the quieter moments of them wandering around town are some of my favourites scenes. You really feel the bond between the two of them, which only makes the revelations towards the end of the series all the more heartbreaking.

Also I do just want to mention the score for this series, because that is fantastic as well. There’s all these big orchestral pieces and, especially towards the end of the series, I was really starting to notice them and they honestly made the last few episodes of this series feel so epic I could barely take it. I seriously need to track down this music. While we’re on the aesthetics of the series, let’s talk about the visuals as well. As I said there’s lots of action, and while the mech designs took some getting used to, the action is frantic and exhilarating from the start. A couple of times it’s a little too frantic and I lost what was going on in all the laser fire and brightly contrasting colours, but for the most part you feel the speed and weight of these mechs as they clash against one another. Admittedly sometimes a fight can go on for a bit long, you think an enemy is finally defeated and they’ll come right back at you with an even more powerful attack (seriously this happens so many times I was getting Dragonball Z flashbacks, you know, except shorter and without the constant reaction shots and talk about power levels). I never minded that though because this show so perfectly captures the epic feeling that it’s going for. Each battle feels like it means something and I’ve missed that feeling in so many other shows.

Now I started this review talking about Madoka Magica and I guess that raised the question of how this show stacks up against that one. Is this show as good as Madoka? No, not by a long mile, but it does at least feel like its in the same ballpark and that is something I have been searching for for a long time.

The Verdict

All in all, Granbelm is a fantastic series and I’d recommend it to everyone, even if I don’t think this is a show for everyone. It’s worth a watch at least. Yes, some of the fights drag on, the pacing is a bit of a mess and some of the character motivation is a bit iffy until you get to the proper explanation later down the line, but I don’t really care about any of that, because this show has me by my heart and soul. The fights feel epic and the characters are all loveable in their own ways (even the ones I love to hate). Give this one a shot because if you’re like me and it hits you in that sweet spot, you’ll have a really great time with this series.

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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: 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.