Anime Corner: SK8 the Infinity Review

Sk8 is Gr8!

What’s the Story?

Reki loves skateboards, he loves making them and he loves competing in the top-secret, no-holds-barred downhill race known as ‘S’. Unfortunately while he’s got the spirit, he’s lacking in some of the skills. That’s when he meets new transfer student, Langa, a snowboarder since he was a little kid, he’s looking for something to give him the same thrill when there’s no snow around. Could skateboarding be the answer? With Reki’s enthusiasm and board building skills combined with Langa’s natural talent could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? Not if the mysterious Adam has anything to say about it, he’s got his eyes on Langa and is convinced he’s the only one who can be a match for me. Trouble is, he’s right.

The Review

I like enthusiastic people. Maybe I’m weird, but I find joy in other people’s enjoyment, even if I don’t particularly care about the subject they’re enjoying so much. Take skateboarding for example, I’m a child of the 90s so it’s ingrained in me that skaters are ‘cool’, but my experience with the sport is limited to about an hour’s play on one Tony Hawks game back in the day. I have more interest in a detailed history of the shoelace than I do skateboarding, which is to say absolutely none. Yet, here comes Reki, our adorable puppy dog of a protagonist whose sheer love of skateboarding is so infectious I can’t help but care. He’s invested, so I’m invested. Throw in a host of colourful characters and some physics-defying races and we’re in for a wild ride here folks.

Fun is the name of the game with this series, both narratively and meta-texturally. It’s a show about the joy of skateboarding and the rule of cool is very much in effect. Part of me wonders why this series didn’t come out in the 90s, because it fits that decade so much. If you’re after a gritty and realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be a skateboarder, well you’ll just have to look somewhere else. This is a show were physics are a mere suggestion and the rules aren’t just broken, they’re pulverised. One of the main antagonist’s popular moves is to pick up his skateboard, mid-race, and smack the other guy in the face with it. It’s that kinda show and if you’re willing to go along with it you’ll have as much fun as all the characters involved.

Each race featured in the series is thrilling and had me cheering along. Part of this comes from the fact that the series chooses to focus on a core group of skaters, each with their own distinct styles and ways of skating. One relies on technology, while another uses dirty tricks and yet another one uses their clear excess of muscles to pull off some crazy moves. It’s fun to see all these different personalities clash and bounce off of one another, though, for me, the two best boys of this series have to be our leads, Reki and Langa. I’ve already talked about how infectious Reki’s enthusiasm can be, but then there’s Langa whose quiet, innocent joy at discovering skateboarding for the first time is equally infectious. They make for a great pair and really bounce off of one another well. Reki’s experience and fanboy knowledge of skateboarding, coupled up with Langa’s air-headed naivety and natural skill really compliment and complete one another. There’s a reason their third-act split takes up several episodes of the series to resolve.

Let’s talk about that split though, because it’s probably the most interesting aspect of the plot of this series. Maybe I read too much shonen, but I’m used to the enthusiastic hero-type being completely OP in their chosen area, but that’s not the case here. Reki loves skateboarding, but he’s not the most gifted skater and the series makes it clear that no amount of guts and determination is going to make up for that gap in skill. Even when he takes on the series antagonist, Adam, it’s very clear that he stands no chance at all, and Adam wasn’t even going all out against him. This gap between desire and talent has a palpable effect on Reki and he starts to turn away from his friends, because he doesn’t feel like he can measure up against them. It’s a really meaty issue that I wish got explored in more series, and it’s really well handled here. Of course Reki finds his way back to skateboarding, but even then the series doesn’t backtrack. Reki has to find value in his own skating without measuring it against other people. Besides, as the series likes to reiterate towards the end, skateboarding is fun and it doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

The Verdict

In the end, SK8 the Infinity is a blast from beginning to end. It’s impossible not to get sucked in my the enthusiasm of these dopey guys who just like to pull an ollie, or whatever skateboarding jargon you want to thrown in. Fun and the rule of cool is the game as these colourful characters participate in physics-defying races and blatant rule breaking. There’s also a meaty exploration of the effects when a person’s desire doesn’t quite match up with their talent, which is well handled. If you’re looking for a fun time then I can’t recommend a series more than this, and anyone who says otherwise can run a Beef with me right now! Skateboarding is fun!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies moved to a Starter Town? Review

Suppose everything was for Lloyd-kun?

What’s the Story?

Lloyd has had the same dream ever since he was a little kid, he wants to be a soldier like the hero he read about in a story book oh so long ago. Unfortunately he’s considered the weakest in his whole village and isn’t convinced that he can make the cut, but he’s determined to at least try and so moves to the capital. What Lloyd doesn’t realise is that his village is the mythical Kunlun, whose inhabitants are famed the world over for being able to take on Demon Lords and the like. So while Lloyd may be the weakest in his village, he’s actually a god-tier monster compared to everyone else. Not that he’ll ever notice.

The Review

Sometimes it’s the little things that make an anime. I mean I’m not the hardest viewer to please, give me some likeable characters, a fun world and hints at a progressing story and I’ll generally be a happy camper. That’s precisely what this show gave me and I left each and every episode grinning from ear to ear. It’s a pretty simple show, it’s characters all fit into one archetype or another somewhere along the line and the fantasy world is best described as generic, but I found this show endlessly endearing. Maybe it’s the sheer shining innocence of our protagonist, Lloyd, but I couldn’t help myself cheering him on and there were even moments where I felt *gasp* worried for out pure-hearted protagonist (mostly whenever Selen or Alka where around, but we’ll get on to the harem in a minute). It’s the little things that make this show, so let’s go through some of them.

Since I’ve already mentioned the star of the show, let’s start with Lloyd. He fits pretty snugly into the mould of overpowered protagonists that have been so prevalent in the last few years. He also comes complete with his own harem of characters that adore him, heck even some of the villains are doing what they do for Lloyd’s sake, in their own twisted way. Everyone loves the guy and it’s not hard to see why, he’s so pure and innocent that you just want to protect him. As I said I worried for him whenever Selen and Alka where around, which was often, just because of how aggressively interested they were in Lloyd. If it wasn’t for his literal superpowers he’d be in real trouble. None of that is what makes Lloyd interesting as a protagonist though, no that’s his lack of confidence.

Ninety percent of the time the fact that Lloyd is so oblivious to his talents is played off as joke, and it’s a pretty fun joke as long as you enjoy all the over-the-top reactions that come with it (which I do). However, there’s that other ten percent of the time when it actually manages to wring some drama out of this set up. Lloyd earnestly believes that he’s just not good enough and that fact alone makes me want to put my arm around the kid and point out all the amazing things he can do. It also makes those moments when he tries despite those feelings all the more powerful. Yes, Lloyd is going to punch any opponent he comes across into the sun eventually (though there are actually a couple of opponents that give Lloyd a challenge), but his struggle is not physical it’s in believing in himself. That’s a powerful sentiment and I can’t help but root for the kid to finally recognise how much he can actually do, but we’ll have to see if we get a second season for that kind of thing.

There is one other area that I really have to talk about with regard to this series, and that’s the plot progression. Most comedies I’ve seen with OP protagonists are happy to rest on the same old jokes over and over again, and while this show certainly relies on its running gags to a degree, it also has a continual sense of moving forward. Even though we don’t really get to meet our trio of antagonists until later on in the series, the breadcrumbs of their involvement are there from the start. Each arc pushes us a little closer to figuring out what it is their after and we learn a little bit more about the world at large. None of it is earth-shatteringly original, but it’s a lot more than I expecting and it all fits into this ridiculously loveable world. The season finale does actually feel like a finale of sorts, with several arcs coming together and the stakes rising higher than ever before. My only real compliant is that the actual confrontation with the villains is a little lacking. They do escape at the end, so clearly there’s more story here to be told, I guess I’ll just have to hope for a season 2 for that to happen.

The Verdict

In end, this show (no, I’m not typing out that title any more, could it get any longer?) isn’t going to change the world or inspire anyone with it’s originality, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a simple, generic little show with archetypal characters and standard fantasy tropes, but it does that very well. Lloyd is the definition of pure and with his self-confidence issues I can’t help but root for him and it’s easy to see why so many characters are drawn to him. The over-the-top reactions that this show likes to use for its comedy may not be for everyone, but it’s a bright and fun world and I hope to return to it at some point in the future.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Jujutsu Kaisen Review

Boogie Woogie, the greatest power in anime.

What’s the Story?

Yuji Itadori used to be a normal high schooler. Then, one day, his friends came under attack by curses and everything changed. In order to save them Itadori swallowed a cursed finger and shared his body with a curse called Sukuna. This may have been a very bad decision. There are jujutsu sorcerers in this world, who protect it from curses and most of them believe Itadori should have been killed right then and there, but one offered him a choice instead. Now Itadori has a chance to do some good and train to become a jujutsu sorcerer himself. Of course those other sorcerers still want him dead and they’re not the only problem. There are curses out there that want to sway Sukuna to their cause, that being to completely dominated the human race. Can Itadori survive long enough to finish his training and is it possible for a curse to do some good?

The Review

I like shonen action series. I know that will come as a great shock to absolutely no one, but then again, maybe it will. I don’t really talk about them that much on this blog do I? I’ve never talked about my thoughts on Bleach, Naruto got mentioned all of once back in the early days and, while I covered some of the One Piece movies, I’ve made it pretty clear I take issue with a large chunk of the anime adaptation. My Hero Academia is probably the series with the most representation on here and even then I skipped covering the first three season because I didn’t have that much to add to the discourse. I used to have this rule on the blog that I’d cover the first season of a show and then only talk about the sequels if I thought I had something new to add, which I often didn’t (I have since rethought that idea as you may have noticed by the increased number of sequel reviews I’ve been writing lately). This is a first season so it automatically gets a pass to the review stage, but do I have anything new to add to the discussion? Let’s find out!

Jujutsu Kaisen is good. Round of applause. Thank you, thank you, I know you all come here for such startling insights. Being serious though, I do think this is a really good show. It doesn’t do anything really mould-breaking or inventive, but what it does do it does with an air of confidence and skill that you can’t help but admire it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it. You could have the most staggeringly original idea in the history of the universe, but if you don’t know how to tell that story no one is going to give it a second glance. However, if you take a tried and tested formula and you apply it correctly people are going to get on board. Throw in a really likeable cast, some good humour and top notch action and you’re really on to a winner. I have no doubt that this show will blow me away at some point, shonen series often get better and better over time, but for now this is just a really good show that does what it does and does it really well.

Let’s break things down a little further though, because Jujutsu Kaisen has some elements that really sell it. For one, there’s the animation. Mappa is very much a studio on the rise at the minute, with a number of high profile shows under their belt, in fact it’s a testament that this show has come out as continually gorgeous as it has while they’ve been working on those other shows. The fight sequences are jaw-droppingly good, fluid, kinetic and packing one heck of a punch, honestly they’re worth the price of admission alone. It’s just the kind of spectacle a series like this needs to capture an audience. This is also aided by the pacing, which really makes it feel like things are continually moving forward, without ever feeling like you’re missing out on anything. It’s pretty much the perfect speed for a series like this.

Of course this series isn’t just all spectacle, we’ve also got our loveable cast of characters. I’ll give Jujutsu Kaisen this, it’s already added in a large number of characters into it’s story and I love most of them, well expect for the ones that I’m clearly supposed to hate. Focussing in on just our main trio and, while they all fit comfortably into their archetypes, there’s enough charisma and depth to make each one feel like a fully fleshed-out person. I do have a major soft spot for Itadori, he may be the naive, good-down-to-his-toes, physical powerhouse protagonist, but I like that this series isn’t afraid to show him struggling. I mean emotionally, physically he can beat up most opponents good and proper, but sometimes the morally grey job of a sorcerer weighs on him and I like that that kind of struggle is acknowledged. Then there’s Nobara Kugisaki, my vote for best shonen female character of the century and I will fight anyone who tries to argue otherwise, and Megumi Fushiguro, the effortlessly cool rival character who I can’t help but cheer for. Overall a really solid set of leads.

The Verdict

In the end, Jujutsu Kaisen is a really solid show. It knows what it’s doing and it does it well. The spectacle of the animation and action is enough to catch your attention, but you’ll stay for the characters and the world its building up around them. I have no doubt that in some future season this series is going to blow my socks off, but for now it’s laid out a really rock-steady foundation and I can’t wait to see what gets built upon it. Plus Kugisaki is as awesome as she is scary and one of the best female shonen characters in a long while, and we need more of them. Also that first ED is amazing still.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Justice Society: World War II

We live in a society…a justice society.

What’s the Story?

Barry Allen, aka the Flash, is just trying to have a nice, normal picnic with his girlfriend in Metropolis, of course he’s a superhero and that doesn’t last long. One minute he’s teaming up with Superman and fighting Brainiac, the next he’s in World War 2, punching Nazis alongside heroes he’s never heard of. Those heroes would be Wonder Woman, the Flash (Jay Garrick), Hawkman, Black Canary and Hourman, the Justice Society of America, a secret team of super-powered beings sent by the US to combat the Nazis menace in Europe. Their current mission is to find someone who can decode a secret message that will tell them Hitler’s next big plan, while Barry tries to work out how he’s going to get home. Not everything is as it seems though and the Justice Society are in for a lot more than they bargained for. This is war after all and not everyone is going to make it out alive.

The Review:

And we’re back to the DC Universe animated movies! It feels like it’s been an age since I reviewed one of these films, even though I looked at Wonder Woman Bloodlines just last year (you can check out the review HERE). Part of that is down to my general lack of enthusiasm for these films lately. While I’ve enjoyed the majority of the ones I’ve seen, I have to admit that barring a few stand outs (like Death of Superman and Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), none of them really hold a candle to DC’s early output of animated films. That might just be changing though. The DC Universe animated movies have undergone a bit of a revamp, there’s a new animation style, a reboot of the universe and, going by this one, a level of care and attention that’s been missing from these films for a while now. Justice Society: World War II isn’t a film that’s going to change the world, and clearly someone was watching the first live action Wonder Woman movie before penning the script, but it’s a great, fun romp that shows a lot of promise for the future.

Before we get to that though, first let’s talk about that new animation style. I have to admit that when I first saw the trailers for this film it took me a while to get used to the new look. I’ve never watched Archer, but that’s exactly what this style reminds me of, the strong outlines combined with the characters designs really give this film a unique look (not counting the previous Superman movie which also uses this style, but I haven’t watched that film, yet). The film looks good throughout, though when it comes to the action sequences that ramps up to spectacular. The action, of which there is a lot, is fast, fluid and full of impact, leading to one heart-pumping sequence after another, especially towards the end of the movie when all the stops get pulled out. Black Canary gets some particularly gorgeous sequences showing off her powers.

Speaking of the characters, let’s talk about them. Part of what surprised me most about this film being released is that there’s some obscure heroes in this roster. The Justice Society isn’t a superhero team that’s made it’s way into popular consciousness yet, despite getting a couple of appearances on TV (They had a two-parter in Smallville and are a big part of the current Stargirl show). I mean, yeah, there’s Wonder Woman, Flash and Superman to draw people in, but, be honest, how many of you have actually heard of Hourman before?

The film does a good job of introducing all of its characters and giving them a few moments in the spotlight, even if it never goes that in depth with any of them. You might not understand the whole of Hawkman’s deal, but through the writing and the terrific voice acting you’ll get a sense of his personality and what he’s like. Which is all you need for this one film. It’s the little quiet moments I love the most, whether it’s Jay and Hourman acknowledging the fact that it’s usually them that has something go wrong with their powers, or Black Canary worrying about how our Flash (Barry) has no idea who they are when he’s meant to be from the future. It humanises all the characters and that makes me care when they dive into the next action sequence.

As for the story, it’s a fun action romp as I said. Most of it is an excuse to get to the next action sequence and, as I mentioned before, there’s a lot of parallels to the first live action Wonder Woman movie. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing Wonder Woman in a World War, jumping around a village while fighting German soldiers, some plot specific things later on and the fact that Stana Katic is clearly doing a Gal Gadot impression, it just rings a lot of bells for me. Putting that to one side though, there’s a lot of fun elements to this film and a fair few surprise appearances by characters I was not expecting to see (Fair warning, if you buy the physical DVD or Blu ray, don’t look at the back cover as that will give one of the surprises away).

There’s also a twist I didn’t see coming and, while I don’t think it was strictly necessary, it’s a fun wrinkle in the adventure. The last thing I’ll say is that, while this is a standalone film and you can easily watch it independent of anything else, there’s also a real sense of laying the groundwork for something here. I mean outside of planting the idea in Barry’s head about some sort of Justice Club for Superheroes, there’s a few plot points that could, and I think will, come back in a later films. It’s got me excited about these films again and if they want to take the approach of standalone films that gradually build towards something than I am all for it!

The Verdict:

In the end, Justice Society: World War II, is a great deal of fun. It’s not going to the change the world or break any moulds, but it’s an exhilarating thrill ride, with a fair number of surprising twists and spotlighting a few characters that could really use it. Plus you get to see Wonder Woman and the Flash punching Nazis and who doesn’t love stuff like that? There is a lot of action in this film, all of it great, but the film also takes the time to give us quieter moments between the characters to humanise them and let us get to know them. This could really be the start of something wonderful and I am all for it. If you haven’t checked this out then make sure you do!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World Season 2 Review

Let’s do this one more time!

What’s the Story?

Having brought down the White Whale and dismantled the schemes of the Sin Archbishop of Sloth, Subaru was finally riding high again. He even got a lap pillow from Emilia! Of course nothing good can last too long for our eternally-dying protagonist and tragedy strikes again when Rem is attacked and wiped from everyone’s memory except for Subaru. What’s more Subaru has already reached the next save point so he can’t use Return by Death to solve this. Adding to his problems, the villagers have yet to return from the Sanctuary and when he and Emilia arrive they learn that the only way to free everyone is to pass the trails of the late Witch of Greed. Can Subaru confront his past, overcome yet another of the Great Mabeasts and bring the machinations of Roswaal crashing down around him? This time he’s going to need something more than Return by Death to get out of this one!

The Review

Do you have one of those shows that you love, despite the inescapable feeling that there’s a lot of stuff you’re just not getting (think Christopher Nolan films or any season of Line of Duty). That’s me and Re:Zero, at least on a first watch through. You can check out my review of the first season HERE, but suffice to say that I had a blast with it. The journey of Subaru, from the psychological toll of his many deaths, to the very shattering of his ego and his eventual attempts to rebuild himself, was compelling and I ate up every moment of it. The second season is no less fascinating, packed full of so many reveals and bits of character back story and world-building lore, it’s too much to take in all at once and, yeah, that’s a problem. As much as I love this series, I do have to acknowledge it’s flaws and that’s a big one.

Re:Zero has always been a very talky series, with vast amounts of exposition and a really roundabout way of saying things. Often the mentality of this show is that a paragraph of too much detail is far better than a single concise sentence and, that’s just bad writing. Add on the fact that, at times, the lore and finer details of this world can really be impenetrable and the show is no way interested in holding your hand, and it’s a wonder I enjoy this series as much as I do. Watching this show week to week can be a nightmare at times. I’ve got to retain all the mountain of details I learned about in the week’s prior, plus comb through all the stuff from the current episode and make space in my brain for the week’s still to come. At times I’ve felt like Sisyphus continually pushing that boulder up a hill only for it constantly slip out of my grasp. I’d be tempted to recommend just bingeing this series all in one go, but I’m worried that would make your head explode, on the first watch at least. Re:Zero is really a series that needs to be watched multiple times to be fully enjoyed, and while I don’t have a problem with that I get why some people might and that’s perfectly fine.

All of that does make this series sound pretty bad, doesn’t it? It certainly makes it hard to recommend, but I still find myself enjoying each and every episode so why is that? The only thing I can really put it down to is the characters, while a lot of them may suffer from verbal diarrhoea, I’m still invested in them and their journeys. I want to know more about Subura and his past, to see what made him the way he is, I want to see what’s so terrible about Emilia’s history and Otto’s story has turned him into the surprise Best Boy of the year. You’ll find all of that in season 2 and each and every answer is worth it. It helps that while I may not always understand what some characters are saying, I can always at least understand them emotionally. I may not know why they care so much about something, but I get that they do care and when an epic moment hits, especially towards the end of the season, it truly feels epic. This series knows how to work the feels and make you care and, really, that’s it’s greatest strength.

I am still really looking forward to season 3, because while this season answers a great number of questions (even if I’ll get the detail on my second watch through), there’s still so much that we don’t know about this world. Plus, the most important thing of all, we need to get Rem back! She got side-lined in the first episode and she’s still in a coma by the final episode and we can’t have that! Here’s hoping getting that sorted is the first task of the next season, now that we’ve got Emilia’s past and Roswaal’s motivations sorted out.

The Verdict

In the end, Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World can be a really hard series to recommend. It is overly wordy and the lore and plot can be impenetrable without multiple viewings, and yet I still get so much joy out of watching this show. I’m invested in these characters journeys and I care about what they care about, even if sometimes it takes a while for me to understand why. They have a world that is packed full of mysteries and intrigue and when something epic happens you can bet it’ll feel as epic as possible. I’m eager for a season 3, but I understand if people feel like it’s time to get off this ride. As for me, I’ll probably be buckled in until the finish.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Dorohedoro Review

Lost in chaos, well that’s certainly one way to describe this series.

What’s the Story?

Humans live in the Hole, a dismal cityscape warped by magic. The people do their best to eke out a living, but its hard when sorcerers keep popping over from their own dimension and using the humans to practise their magic on. Take Caiman for example, he has no idea who he is or where he comes from, but his biggest problem is probably the fact that some sorcerer turned his head into a lizard’s. Now, along with his best friend Nikaido, he’s made it his mission to hunt down the sorcerer that cast a spell on him and get his real face back! Of course there are a lot of sorcerers out there and plenty of other strange and macabre things both in the Hole and in the sorcerer’s own world. Still, if Caiman has to bite every sorcerer he meets and question them about what the man in his mouth said to them, well, that’s just what he’s going to do.

The Review

Sometimes I just have to marvel at anime. I mean there are many, many reasons why I’ve been watching it for the majority of my life now, but one of the main ones is the sheer breadth and creativity of its stories. Where else am I going to come across a show that opens with a man with a lizard head biting down some other dude’s head, only for another head to work its way up the lizard man’s throat and start talking. I’m pretty sure that’s how all this started, either that or someone slipped something really powerful into my drink when I wasn’t looking. All that’s to say is, this show is really weird and I kinda love it for that. I knew nothing about dorohedoro going into it, other than I remembered people talking about it online and it featured a man with a lizard head as one of the main characters. I’m still not entirely sure I understand all of it, but I feel like I’ve taken a walk through a very unusual creator’s brain.

It’s hard to know where to start with this series, not only is the world it presents to us mind-bendingly bizarre at times, but its also structured in a slightly odd way. The majority of the episodes are split up into smaller segments (though this isn’t always indicated, so part of this might just be down to some weird pacing), kind of like a Slice of Life series. What makes this an odd choice though is that this definitely isn’t a Slice of Life series, there’s a clear overarching plot and a drive towards answering a central mystery, all very much NOT like a Slice of Life. There are a few moments where we just follow the characters through their daily lives, but not enough for me to class this show in that genre.

For the most part this is fine. Each segment either further develops the world or gives us another piece towards solving that central mystery of who exactly is Caiman, but there are other moments where it creates some really odd pacing to events. Several episodes reach a point that feels like a natural conclusion and then it just keeps going into another little story. I can’t help but feel that a few more breaks in the story would resolve this issue, one clear example that springs to mind is the scene where Caiman is in the hospital after regrowing his head. The very next scene he’s popping into Nikaido’s shop like nothing happened, now through context clues and dialogue we can work out he just escaped the hospital, but a break between these two scenes would have really helped establish the passage of time (unless of course Caiman just teleported from the hospital to Nikaido’s shop, which I wasn’t aware was one of his powers).

Going back to that mystery element for a second, I do enjoy the way this series lays out the mystery of who Caiman is and slowly builds towards answering it. There may be many detours along the way (many, many detours), but it knows just when to return to that question and offer up another tantalising piece to the puzzle. If you’re hoping for a resolution though, I’ll warn you now, better get down on your knees and start praying for a season 2. Season 1 leaves us with a lot of important clues and I can make a strong educated guess as to who Caiman really is, but how that ties into everything else we know is another question all together. Hopefully there’s some source material for this series I can check out because I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep until I know the final answer.

I feel like I’ve been nitpicking this series for the past couple of paragraphs, but I have really enjoyed watching this show. The characters are all quirky and likeable in their own ways, except for En who I’d very much like to punch. I do really like the fact that we get to see things from both the humans and the sorcerer’s points of views and that, while everyone may not be the nicest person, most of them have their reasons for what they do. The world is fascinating and beautifully constructed, it may make me tilt my head every other episode, but that just makes me want to find out more about how it works. If you don’t mind a walk on the weird side and aren’t averse to the sight of blood, or 3D character models, then definitely check this out! Wait, why are mushrooms suddenly growing out of me?! En!

The Verdict

In the end, Dorohedoro is a bizarre, and often bloody, walk through a macabre wonderland. Filled with a cast of quirky, yet endearing characters on both sides of its conflict and a world that is endlessly fascinating, it’s a joy to delve into. There are some pacing issues throughout the series and the central mystery is far from resolved, but these feel like minor quibbles when the rest is so good. Here’s hoping for a season 2! I’ll end with a simple question, what did the man in my mouth say to you?

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: The Promised Neverland (Season 2) Review

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What’s the Story?

Having escaped the Grace Field House, Emma, Ray and the rest of the children now have to contend with the dangers and wonders of the outside world. Can they possibly survive in a world full of demons? A world were their only source of information is a pen and the few clues left behind by William Minerva? It won’t be easy, given they’ve got a whole world order to fight against, but who knows, maybe it’ll be exceptionally easy. Maybe everything Emma puts her mind to will come to pass with frighteningly little difficultly. Staging a revolution, enemies turning to staunch allies at the drop of a hat and whatever other obstacles remain quickly disappearing. No, that couldn’t be right, that would tank the whole series. Wouldn’t it?

The Review

I adored the first season of The Promised Neverland. You can read my review of it HERE, but in summary it is a staggeringly well put together show, a perfect puzzle box that continually kept me at the edge of my seat. I’ll still thoroughly recommend it, heck, I even shelled out for the collector’s edition blu ray just so I could own it (and it arrived just in time for me to watch it and remind myself that I actually enjoyed this series at one point in time). If you enjoyed the first season, leave it at that. Treat episode twelve as the final episode and make up your own ending from there. You could of course go read the manga, I’ve heard the next couple of arcs after where the first series left off are actually pretty good, but I haven’t read them so I can’t vouch for that. Whatever you do, do not watch season 2, not unless you want to experience the soul crushing disappointment and rage-inducing frustrations that I just have. If you want to leave this review at this point I don’t mind, from here on out begins the flaying of season 2.

I’m not going to act like continuing the story of The Promised Neverland was ever going to be easy. The ending of season 1 so irrevocably changed the dynamic of the series it’s hard to know where you go from there. We’ve transitioned from this closed off, claustrophobic environment to a wide open world that we know so little about, and somewhere in that the series loses part of that essential spark that made it so great. The first problem to hit season 2 is it’s lack of direction. From the outset of season 1 we had a clear objective for our characters to follow, they had to come up with a way to escape Grace Field House and they did. Season 2, well the end goal is finding a way to the human world, once the characters learn that that exists. The problem is that ‘Reach the Human World’ is a very vague and nebulous goal. We don’t know enough about this world and its rules to clearly establish what our characters can and cannot do. As such the series meanders around for its first few episodes.

It doesn’t help that the looming danger that was so ever-present in the first season has been removed. The kids still aren’t safe, but that danger is now nameless, there’s no central antagonist constantly looking over our heroes’ shoulders, creating that sense of dread in us viewers. Another factor is that the kids don’t actually do anything to face the danger that they do come across. In the first season (and I’m sorry to keep bringing up this comparison, but the two seasons are like night and day and that really is the coffin in which this season is buried), the characters are always thinking, always trying out plans, getting knocked back and coming up with something else. Here, what do they do? Most of the time they’ll run away, either that or Emma will give an impassioned speech about what it is she wants to do. There’s no challenge, where’re all those brilliant, devious little geniuses that I got to know in the first season? When they accomplish something in this season I don’t marvel at how clever they’ve been, I roll my eyes at the plot, yet again, bending over backwards to make things easy for them. It feels like the fangs have been removed from this season for whatever reason.

That brings me to the final nail in the coffin for this season, and that’s the pacing. It really just boggles my mind to think about it, once the show finishes it’s meandering after the first couple of episodes it just suddenly puts its foot to the accelerator and doesn’t let up from there. We get a time skip, reintroduction of characters, sudden heel-turns, back stories are crammed in and a revolution is begun (don’t even get me started on that ending montage. I nearly blacked out with rage once I realised what was going to happen). It’s as if there was some kind of edict from on high that this season also had to be the final season and if someone did make that decision I want to meet them, so I can strangle them with my bare hands! Every plot twist, every moment that if given enough time and development could have been a juicy bit of drama is instead bulldozed over in a mad rush to get to the ending, logic and reason be damned! It’s a sad end for a series that felt so methodically and carefully plotted in its first season.

The Verdict

I don’t know what happened to The Promised Neverland. I’d be really interested in hearing about the behind the scenes on this season, but that wouldn’t change the fact that this show is a pale shadow of its former self. What once was a carefully plotted puzzle, with a continual sense of dread and purpose has become a meandering, rushed toothless mess. The plot twisted itself into knots to get where it needs to go, foregoing logic, reason and, worst of all, character in order to reach its dictated endpoint. Don’t watch this season, leave after the first and let’s all pretend this never happened. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to watch the first season again to remind myself what good anime is again.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Great Pretender Review

Oh yes, I’m the Great Pretender.

What’s the Story?

Makoto considers himself one of, if not the, best scam artists in Japan, but this big fish is about to realise how small his pond really is. When he tries to con what he believes is an ignorant tourist, Makoto soon finds himself whisked away overseas to Los Angeles in an attempt to deceive a drug-dealing movie producer. Laurent, the tourist, is an exceptional con artist and he and his gang spend their time coming up with elaborate cons to rob crooks and wrongdoers of their ill-gotten gains. Laurent thinks Makoto has some talent, but if he doesn’t keep his wits about him Makoto could soon find himself on the wrong end of a bullet and not everything is what it seems. Sometimes the greatest cons are the ones we tell ourselves.

The Review

I’m a sucker for a good heist story, and that’s exactly what the Great Pretender is. Alright, technically it’s four distinct heists (five if we’re counting the one in the flashback episodes), but I was genuinely surprised by how much from the earlier episodes actually returns for the finale. Heists generally have a fairly simple formula, even if we’re talking about conning people out of money as opposed to breaking into somewhere to just take it. First we gather the team, set out the rules and the end goal, then we execute the plan, usually with something going wrong partway through. At that point it’s a scramble to come up with a new plan on the fly, or maybe that was all part of the plan all along. If executed correctly, it’s a shockingly engaging and effective source of drama. It’s like a well performed magic trick or a good detective mystery, except instead of trying to work out who committed the crime, you’re trying to figure out how they’ll pull it off. Thankfully Great Pretender knows how to execute this formula to near-perfection and in different ways for each caper to keep things from getting stale.

Of course all of this is presented in a fictional world where con men and scammers are a little bit glamorous and cool, as opposed to reality where they’re very much the dregs of society. No, you don’t have to worry about rooting for any bad guys here, Laurent and his team are very much on the side of the angels, no matter what they claim themselves. Their targets are the worst of the worst, usually having earned their vast wealth through some ill-gotten means so why not go a bit ‘Robin Hood’ on them and give them a taste of their own medicine for once. There’s a cathartic element to a lot of the capers, and not all of that comes from just taking the bad guy’s money. All the heists, in one way or another, tie into the back stories of our loveable rogues and give us some deeper insight into how they ended up as they are. It adds weight to the action and there are some impressively, and emotionally, told stories thanks to that.

That brings me to our lead, Makoto, who while being a talented con artist really isn’t cut out for this life style. A lot of his reactions, and overreactions, to the predicaments he finds himself in are fun to watch, even more so as he does his best to scrap his way out of them. The more you learn about his back story though, the more sympathy you have for the guy, there’s a clear struggle between the kind of person he’s pretending to be and the one he truly is underneath it all. Yet you can always count on the guy to follow his morale compass when it gets right down to the wire and that’s what makes him so easy to root for. If I had one gripe, it’s about the amount of times he gets duped by Laurent and co. Every new heist the team have to drag him back into the conning game and by the end of the series it makes sense why they’re doing it, but I can’t help but feel sorry for him. Just leave him alone for a bit guys!

Lastly I’d be remiss in talking about this series without mentioning the sheer amount of style this show oozes. This show looks great, from the character designs to the wide variety of locales it takes place in. That was one thing that really impressed me with this series, just how global is. We go to Los Angeles, Singapore, London and so many more places and it really gives this series a sense of scale that I rarely see in anime outside of fantasy and sci-fi series. Add on the impressive use of colour and the dynamic action of the animation and you have an excellently put together series. Throw in a really good soundtrack with some great insert songs and you’ve got this show wrapped up in a neat little bow. There’s a reason everyone was talking about this show when it eventually got out of Netflix jail.

The Verdict

In the end, Great Pretender, is a flashy, stylish, globe-trotting adventure with fun characters and oodles of excitement. It knows just when to raise the stakes, when to give you a glimpse of its hands and, most importantly, when to pull the rug out from under you. I don’t think this is an anime that will ever change the world, but it’s a heck of a blast and expertly put together. It looks great, it sounds great and there’s a lot of heart under it’s confident grin. If you missed this series for whatever reason, check it out!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: I’m Standing on a Million Lives Review

I’m Standing on a Million Isekai.

What’s the Story?

Yusuke Yotsuya is an aloof 14-year-old who hates the city and tends to approach everything from a cold, logical point of view. One day he finds himself pulled into a game-like alternate world by people from the future, now he must take part in a series of challenges designed to prevent a terrible fate. In a world where even killing a single goblin proves to be a significant challenge, can Yusuke protect his comrades and make sure they all make it home? More to the point can Yusuke look past his cold outlook and learn the true meaning behind a human life? Judging by the title it might take a while.

The Review

Setting the tone is an important aspect of story-telling that I sometimes feel gets overlooked. This is purely speaking from my own experiences of consuming other people’s stories and creating my own, but if you get the tone wrong for your story you’ll only pay for it later. The tone helps to set your audience’s expectations and lays the foundation both for your world and whatever it is your story is trying to say. If you’re telling a horror story you want to bring in a sense of something spooky and eerie, for a comedy you’d probably want to be light-hearted and energetic, if it’s an adventure try being bombastic, you get the idea. I bring all this up because the tone of this series is so badly mangled I really have no idea what this show was trying to do.

Part of me wants to blame my own preconceptions with this series, to tell myself that I’m just mad because it didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to. The rest of me, however, wants to put the blame squarely on this series for leading me up the garden path in the first place. I’ve had my ups and downs with the isekai genre over the years, but I’m always on the lookout for series that approach things a little differently and on first impressions that’s what this show appeared to be. My initial read on Yusuke as a character was that he was a bit of a psychopath. The way he kept going on about hating the city and the cold, logical he went about things, often attributing no value to people’s lives. I thought, okay, he’s clearly got some sort of tragic back story that the show is setting up and over the course of the series he’ll be put in situations that will teach him to value human lives. Okay, I’m in.

The very next episode Yusuke is suddenly transformed into generic protagonist! That bloodthirsty zeal he showed while mowing down goblins to raise his rank has completely vanished and he’s getting on with the girls he’s been teamed up with. I’d put this down to just me misreading the guy, but the show keeps trying to play up the fact that Yusuke is a cold-hearted bastard before reverting him back to a decent enough guy. If you’re going to go for that kind of story then just go for it, you can’t go halves with that type of character. What makes it even more laughable is that the series ends with Yusuke going off on this big rant about how people have no value  and he doesn’t care and, yeah, I don’t buy it. The way you’ve been acting for the previous twelve episodes in no way backs that up, so you’re either lying to yourself or the people on this show don’t know how to write consistent characters.

If the series bothered set to a consistent tone then I might be able to get a grip on what it’s even trying to do, but that ping-pongs around as much Yusuke’s characterisation. One minute we’re burning a religious zealot alive, the next we’re starting an episode with a five minute magical girl parody because that makes perfect sense. In a better show maybe that could work, but this show doesn’t have either the visuals or the writing to be able to pull that kind of gear change off. A lot of the characters are fairly one note and while the world has some potential it’s not enough to distract from the deficiencies on display. It would be something if the series at least had some interesting visuals, but all in all the series’ animation is fairly standard for this kind of production. The more I think about this series the more I wonder how I even made it through twelve episodes.

The Verdict

I’m Standing on a Million Lives is a fairly disappointing series. There are worse anime out there, but one note characters and standard visuals are only the staring point for a series that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. The main characters veers between generic and psychotic and the humour sometimes makes it feel like a parody, which is odd in a series where, again, we see a man burnt alive! If you want to check this series out I won’t stop you, but there are much better series to spend your time on out there. Go find one of them instead.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

First Impressions Spring 2021 part 2

And we’re back! No preamble, on with the first impressions!

Mars Red

It’s 1923, and as warfare has changed in this new century Japan has a plan to make sure it comes out on top, vampires! Code Zero, the first ever Japanese vampire unit has been formed, but it’s not military might they’re concerned with, not yet at any rate. No, the bigger problem has to be the sudden rise in vampires in Japan. Can this ragtag team of vampires put a stop to the swell of murders and infections before the streets of Japan are clogged with bodies, and what about this mysterious Ascra? Where is that coming from? It’ll be a difficult job, but you know what they say, takes a vampire to catch a vampire!

This show caught me completely by surprise, though I feel like I’ve been saying that about most shows this season. I don’t know what I was expecting from a period piece centred around a unit of vampires, but I’ve already got this show pinned as one of my favourites of the season (and there’s some really stiff competition this season). There’s just something so cinematic about this show, and it’s more than just the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, and the more reserved colour palette. This show isn’t afraid to let it’s characters and scenes just breath. When the action hits it’s really good, but there’s not actually all that much action, hardly any in fact. Most of each episode is just made up of character’s talking to one another, either setting up something for a dramatic turn later on, or just to let the characters discuss life and their perspective on it. It’s just captivating, there’s no other word for this series, it’s got me by the collar and won’t let go. I can’t wait for the next episode!

Blue Reflection Ray

Optimistic Hiori just can’t turn away from anyone in need, even if it means jumping in head first without a second’s thought. Ruka, on the other hand, is awkward and doesn’t really know how to interact with people or express herself. They’re two people who couldn’t be any more opposite, but when they both find strange rings their fates become more entwined than either of them could ever imagine. Now they’re magical girls, known as Reflectors, and they’ll fight to protect people’s feeling and heal hearts. Of course that’s if those other Reflectors don’t get in their way.

A lot of shows have surprised me this season, so I suppose it’s about time that I found a show that does exactly what I was expecting it to. Admittedly magical girl series all have a fairly well-trodden formula, girl finds magical artefact/chosen by furry companion, transforms and fights bad guys/collects thing. Throw in the energetic, super-happy protagonist and their shy/awkward counterpoint and the first three episodes of this series all play out exactly as you’re imaging they do right now. There is the chance that this series can add in some fun wrinkles down the line, but so far this is all comfortingly familiar. In fact, the only aspect that makes this series stand out so far is the visuals, with an unusual art style for the fights and character designs that take me right back to the old days of Clamp (though not as elongated). Speaking of the characters, can someone explain to me why that red tinge has been applied to all of them? It looks like everyone is suffering from a really bad cold. There’s just enough here to keep me interested and I’ve always had a soft spot for magical girls, so I’ll stick with this one a bit longer.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years And Maxed Out My Level

After dying of overwork, a Japanese woman is reincarnated as an immortal witch with one singular goal, to live as quiet and relaxing a life as possible! For the first 300 years it all goes perfectly according to plan, she goes out and kills a few slimes a day to earn enough to get by and generally does things at her own pace. But killing all those slimes adds up and, without even realising it, she’s suddenly one of the most powerful humans in existence, a fact that soon gets around. Now she has to content with dragons and demons coming to challenge her, and the spirits of all those dead slimes seeking revenge! Of course it’ll all work out, but things are definitely going to be a bit more lively from here on out.

I…I don’t know what to say about this series. Much like Blue Reflection Ray, the first three episodes of this series played out exactly as I expected them to. Main character dies, we’re introduced to this isekai’s quirk and then a series of characters turn up at her door, initially to pick a fight, but quickly deciding to move in and slotting into their designated comedy role. It’s all fairly by the numbers and there’s nothing really that bad, but nothing that’s holding my attention either. Unlike with Blue Reflection Ray, I don’t have a soft spot for isekai outside of specific series like Digimon, so there’s no hook to hold me in. The character’s are fine, the animation is fit for purpose and that’s all. I’m sure other people will enjoy this series and power to them, I was kinda hoping this would be my chill out anime of the season, but there’s just not enough here. I’m moving on from this one.

86 Eighty-Six

Called ‘Juggernauts’, these unmanned combat drones are the main fighting force of the Republic of San Magnolia in their constant battle against the ‘Legion’ of the Empire of Giad. Of course this is a lie. The Juggernauts are not unmanned, they’re piloted by people, people the Republic have deemed not to be ‘human’. Anyone who doesn’t live up to the ‘ideals’ of the Republic, blue hair, blue eyes, is marked as an Eighty-sixer and forced to fight in this hopeless war. One such fighter is Shin, captain of the Spearhead Squadron, a veteran squad with an impressive survival rate, but the Eighty-sixers can only survive for so long and their last day may be soon approaching.

If this show appeared in any other season I’d probably be hailing it as my favourite, hands down. Unfortunately it’s got to contend with the likes of Megalobox, Mars Red and Vivy, but none of that takes away from the fact that this is truly a great show. It’s got a compelling set up, characters I’m immediately invested in and a bad guy I want to see torn down so bad I’m ready to grab my axe and hack into them myself. The Republic of San Magnolia is such a despicable institution I’m quite happy to label whoever’s in charge as pure evil. To take a group of people and say they’re not human, purely because you don’t like the look of them, then to throw them in death machines and have them fight for you? Yeah, no, that’s pure evil. I can’t wait for them to get torn down. At the same time I completely emphasise with Lena, the Republican controller of the Spearhead Squadron. I’m a white dude, I get being apart of the privileged majority, seeing what’s wrong in the world and not having a single clue on how to change things to make it right. I’m really interested to see what answer this series is going to come up with. Definitely check this out if you haven’t already.

Shadows House

Emilico is a living doll. She feels and hurts and gets hungry like a real person might, but she was made to serve the noble family that live in the Shadows House. They are a mysterious, faceless clan plagued by a bizarre sickness that means they are constantly covered in soot, though they can expel a lot more dependent on their emotional states. The living dolls are their servants and their faces to both the outside world and to other members of the family. Emilico is enjoying her life so far, getting to know the house and the family, but is there something more sinister going on?

And once more we reach the ‘Only in Anime’ category, where a show’s premise is so left field the only thing I can do is hold up my hands and say, ‘only in anime’. I mean, only anime could we get this bizarre set up of a gothic slice of life show with clumsy yet energetic girl playing servant to a bunch of walking, talking silhouettes. It’s such a mad idea and I’m so excited to see where it’s going, even if I’m incredibly worried for Emilico. Don’t fret over trivial things my foot, that’s exactly what she should be doing because they’re so obviously not trivial. Just who are the Shadows family and what is this soot? Also I’m not the only one not buying this ‘Living Doll’ explanation either, right? There’s so many things raising red flags every episode has me on the edge of my seat, even if nothing truly terrible has happened yet and we’re still just in the exposition stages. I can’t wait to see where this is going.

To Your Eternity

It began as an orb, cast unto Earth with no thoughts, no feelings, not even a concept of self. All it knew to do was change its form and that it could come back to life after death. For many years it was just a rock, but then it became a wolf and, finally, it met a human. It was a happy time, at least in part, but that soon came to its tragic end. Now it is a human, journeying the world, with no real plan or goal other than to see the world and experience new things. It will meet many other people along it’s journey and maybe it will learn a thing or two, but it will also have to say goodbye time and again.

This show is designed to make me cry isn’t it? I can feel it trying with each and every episode and I have no doubt that it’ll succeed in the end and I’ll be annoyed when it does. There’s a fine art to manipulating your audiences’ feelings and it’s best if you do it without them realising that you’re doing it. Unfortunately ‘To Your Eternity’ has been pretty blatant so far, but that doesn’t stop it from being good. It’s a slow burn series, our main character has only just learnt to say ‘thank you’ after three episodes, but I can’t deny it’s well made. I particularly love the animation for whenever our main characters transforms or comes back to life. There’s something really visceral about the animation that just draws me in. There hasn’t been too much world-building so far, just a case of ‘here’s a place and here’s some people’, but it’s got enough of my interest to keep me watching. I’ve already bought some tissues.

That’s it for the first impressions. Back to regular reviews next week and I’ve got a couple more shows to talk about before we get into last season’s series. 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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.