First Impressions Winter 2021 Part 1

New year, new anime! 2020 is finally behind us and 2021 has made it’s triumphant debut, right? RIGHT?! Okay, maybe this year hasn’t gotten off to the kind of start we’d all been hoping for, but at least we’re making baby steps forward. We’re still in Lockdown here in the UK and while the cabin fever is setting in all over again, there are some things to keep me going. Most of them happen to be the host of new anime I’ve been eagerly awaiting this season, so let’s cut to the chase and bring on the first impressions!

Attack on Titan Final Season

The age of the Titans looks to finally be drawing to its close. For years Marley has relied upon the might of the devilish creatures to bolster its military power, but modern technology is quickly catching up. Soon a Titan might not even be a guarantee of victory. There is only one hope for the country, they must once again attack the devils of Paradis Island and reclaim the Founding Titan, but they’re not the only ones making plans. As young Eldians like Gabi and Falco train for the day when they will inherit a Titan themselves, the cycle of violence and hatred that started centuries ago is still continuing on. Is there any way to stop it, or will yet more lives be crushed beneath it’s wheel?

Well, it took us a while, but we’re finally here! The final season of Attack on Titan! Personally I’m excited. Yes, the series has switched studios and there are few things giving me pause story-wise, but overall this is still the same harrowing, gut-punching series that I’ve come to love. I mean any series that can dredge up so much palpable dread just from a couple of characters sitting in a room and talking has to be doing something right. That being said, I’m in two minds with the sudden time skip. I’m certainly enjoying seeing Marley and getting to know how things are across the sea, but it feels like a lot of our old cast have changed with no real indication as to why or how. I mean I barely recognised Eren and while I’m intrigued to find out how that came about I’d much rather have seen the development than deal with the mystery. I have no idea how this series is going to end, but then this show has presented such a bleak situation I have no idea how anyone can reach a happy ending. Still, I’ve come this far and I’m in it for the long haul now.

EX-ARM

The year is 2030 and Japan is facing an all-new kind of arms race. Technology far beyond the comprehension of humans, known as EX-ARMS, have fallen into the hands of criminals and fanatics and its up to the police to track them down before a disaster occurs. One such officer on the case is Minami Uezono, helped by her android partner, Alma, and an EX-ARM containing the brain of a high schooler, she’ll do what she has to keep Japan safe! But how did Akira Natsume’s brain end up in an EX-ARM? And was he really responsible for the devastation that swept Japan years ago?

Ugh. That’s really all I have to say about this series. I normally give series the usual three episode try before giving my first impressions, but in this case I bailed partway through episode two. I just…I just couldn’t take it any more. This show is bad, one of the worst productions I’ve seen in recent memory and it’s not even in a fun way. It literally hurts to watch this show. I hate bashing on animators, it’s a really hard profession and I take my hat off to anyone who’s willing to put themselves through the ringer for their art like that. At the same time this is a professional production and this show just doesn’t look professional. The characters are all so stiff and lifeless, that’s when they’re even animated in the same style and it doesn’t look as if two different series have been smashed together. I’d say it looks like a student film at best, but frankly that’s an insult to students. The writing isn’t much better either. Just avoid this one or if you want to see precisely how bad it is, check it out, but you’ve been warned.

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town?

Lloyd is considered the weakest person in his village, he can’t even catch one of the local rabbits! Still, it’s his dream to become a cool soldier one day, just like the hero in his favourite book, and so he sets out to the Capital to join the army. What Lloyd doesn’t quite realise is that he’s grown up around some of the most powerful people on the continent, making him far stronger than anyone in the town he’s just moved to! Not that he’s noticed, but other people certainly have!

Comedy is all about timing and that’s something this series understands very well. Whether it’s building up a punchline like Lloyd winding up to punch a moron who’s giving him a free shot, or jumping out of a wardrobe and surprising you like Marie’s teacher, this show knows what it’s doing. It also helps that this series has more than one type of joke on offer, of course there’s the main course of how oblivious Lloyd is when he never recognises his own strength, or in watching people react to his strength. However there’s also the many, many crazy people that surround Lloyd so far in his adventures, or the myriad of unusual yet effective curses that get put on Marie. I love all of these characters, Lloyd is a sweet summer child that I just want to protect, but everyone else is a lot of fun to be around. I’m also impressed at the amount of world building the series has managed to fit in so far, episode three did feel rushed to a degree, but we’ve developed back stories for several characters and built an interesting conflict. I do prefer the comedy in this series to its more serious side, but I’m more than willing to stick around for these characters.

Otherside Picnic

Moments from death, Sorawo is saved by the mysterious Toriko in the bizarre world of the Otherside. Together they decide to explore this strange and often frightening place they’ve found, where folklore and urban legends seem to come to life around them. Of course their adventures come at a cost, both of them experiencing physical changes after only their first encounter! Sorawo’s eyes are now different colours giving her the ability to see more than what it there, while Torkio’s hand is now translucent allowing her to grapple with things of the Otherside. Together they hope to earn a little money and maybe even find some clues to the whereabouts of Toriko’s friend and former mentor, but whatever they find these trips certainly don’t fit any definition of ‘picnic’ that I know of!

Seriously, I have no idea why this series is called ‘Otherside Picnic’, these adventures have been anything but! The Elevator Girl almost gave me a heart attack in episode three, I’ll tell you this if I found a portal to the Otherside I’d leave as quickly as possible and never go back! Still, that aside, I am enjoying this series. Both Toriko and Sorawo are fun protagonists, Sorawo may complain a bit much and Toriko is beyond oblivious, but I’m enjoying their friendship and watching it develop. There’s a clear arc for both of these characters, and possibly a little potential romance but maybe that’s just me hoping, they do make a cute couple! The various yokai we’ve met so far are also fun, even if we don’t learn all that much about them at least they make for some striking visuals. As I said I’m enjoying this series and I’m more than looking forward to where this takes us.

Gekidol

Five years after a mysterious event caused cities and districts around the globe to disappear, life has very much returned to normal in Tokyo. For the young Seria her only concern is her newfound love for acting ever since she saw a performance using the latest 3D holographic technology. Then when she comes across a small stage troupe called Alice in Theatre, she can’t help but join and discover she has an unusual talent for mimicking any performance she sees! Even with that skill though, she still has a lot to learn and maybe at some point they’ll even get around to addressing the giant hole in the middle of the city!

I don’t want to write off a whole genre, but maybe idol shows just aren’t for me. I hate saying that because over the years I’ve tried so many different genres that I wouldn’t have even touched a decade ago and found shows that I genuinely love and adore. I’ve yet to find an idol show though and I really thought this one was in with a chance. I mean it’s categorised as also being a sci-fi show and a good way to get me interested in something is to bolt on some sci-fi or fantasy elements. Unfortunately, this show doesn’t know how to deal with those elements. The characters are all fine, the performances are fine, and the animation is fine, but what I’m intrigued by in this show is just point-blank ignored episode after episode. A whole section of the city just up and vanished and no one addresses it outside of a teacher giving a history lesson! I can feel myself struggling to pay attention with this show so, yeah, I think I’m out on this one.

Hortensia SAGA

When one of the Dukes of Hortensia suddenly turns on the King and murders him, transforming into a werewolf in the process, the stage is set for a time of upheaval and strife. Thankfully the country’s princess managed to escape, now going by Marius and disguised as a man, he serves as squire to local Duke Alfred, who also lost his father in the attack. Together these two will stand at the centre of the coming storm, but they have more to worry about than rival states and Marius’ younger brother being in the hands of the Pope. Monsters straight out of myth have suddenly began appearing across the land with no known cause. Dark times lie ahead for Hortensia and it’ll take everything Marius and Alfred have just to survive it.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good fantasy series, heck even a half-decent one will get a thumbs up from me. Give me knights in shiny armour, some swords clashing and a helping of monsters and intrigue and I’m yours. Hortensia SAGA so far has given me all of that, even if I would qualify it more in the half-decent camp. There’s nothing particularly brilliant about this series, most of it’s elements and character are fairly well-trodden tropes, but there’s nothing really bad about it either. The good guys are chivalrous and noble, the religious leader is clearly evil and up to something and outside of a giant with spider legs I’ve not seen any overly creative monsters. What does have my attention is the whole Marius situation, partly because of the whole gender angle. I mean we were introduced to them as the princess, but since then they’ve presented as male, they’re referred to as male and generally acts like a different person. I guess I’m just hoping this gets explored at some point and isn’t just ignored up to the point where their past is revealed.

Heaven’s Design Team

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. He followed that by creating light and the oceans and the land. All that was left to make was the many varied and wondrous creatures that would inhabit the world, but, as it turns out, all this creating lark is really hard and tiring. So God decided to take the rest of the day off and subcontract his work out to a design team, Heaven’s Design Team you might say. No matter the request, no matter how vague or nonsensical, they will do their very best to meet their client’s needs, even if some of the designers have some odd foibles.

Considering this is coming out in the same season as Cells at Work 2 and Cells at Work: Code Black, part of me wants to make some comment about the rise of educational shows. Still, when educational shows are this fun and entertaining then it doesn’t really leave any room for complaint does it? While I will continually mock this series for how lazy it makes God sound (speaking as an agnostic here), I am having a lot of fun with this series. It packs a lot of information into each episode, some of which I really didn’t need to know, and presents it in an engaging and colourful way. Cells at Work does a better job of getting me invested in its characters, but I do enjoy the various personalities of the design team and how they bounce off of one another. I just wish the characters didn’t feel quite so one note, but it’s only been three episodes so far so we’ll see how that develops. If you’re after weird animal factoids and colourful animation then I can’t recommend this enough. Check it out.

And we’ll leave it there for this week. Next week, we must protect eggs with traumatised kids inside, follow one spider’s desperate struggle for survival and head to an underground skateboarding competition to learn how it’s different from snowboarding. There was something else as well wasn’t there, what was it? Oh right, The Promised Neverland is back!

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: Summer 2018 part 2

And we’re back! It’s cooled down a bit for today here in Britain (finally!) and I’ve got a lot more optimism than I had last week, so let’s see what we’ve got!

Cells at Work!

Ever wondered what was going on inside your body? Well now there’s an animated show for you! (You know, if you never saw Osmosis Jones). Follow the daily lives of a directionally challenged red blood cell, a worryingly blood-covered white blood cell and the cutest platelets you’ve ever seen. They’ll deal with all sorts of infections and viruses, but how long can this setup go on before we get sick of it?

Seriously those platelets are the cutest characters I’ve ever seen. This is a pretty good show, though nothing that will change anyone’s world. I mean the whole humanized version of what goes on inside the human body has been done before, it’s just Osmosis Jones, but with a more educational, slice of life bent rather than a buddy cop show (with terrible live action Bill Murray if we’re bringing the film into this). It’s cute and fun and I like the designs of a lot of the various cells and viruses. Each episode is pretty much a seminar on what happens to the body when it encounters various afflictions with a little bit of mild comedy and action thrown in. It’s not the funniest show or the most action packed, but for now it’s a nice breezy watch when I want to just relax for a while.

Planet With

Aliens are invading! Again! (And boy are there some strange ones, even by anime standards), but fear not for there are seven magically transforming heroes here to save the day! Then there’s Soya who leads a fairly ordinary high school life, you know, aside from the fact that he has amnesia and a giant upright-walking cat as his foster dad. His only real complaint is that he wants to eat more meat. Then his memories come back and the maid and the cat that have been looking after him reveal that they’re actually aliens, aliens that want him to fight. Is he going to fight with the heroes to protect the world? Nope. He’s fighting against them. Why? Well the answer is in his memory.

I do really like this show, even if with each episode a bit more of the bizarreness fades away. As we learn more detail about what’s going on, honestly, it feels a bit more standard anime and I hope there’s some more weirdness along the way. Saying that there’s a lot of dramatic potential in this story and I like that we’re following the 6th Ranger (though I guess that should be 8th Ranger) whose going through a revenge arc and while the heroes aren’t the bad guys, what they’re doing could lead to something very bad. I also like that there’s factions to this, there’s more than two sides to the argument and each side thinks they’re doing good or right at least. I like the character designs and as I said before the creatures or weapons or whatever they actually are are really, really weird, but that’s the kind of crazy I come to anime for, so I’m all for it. Really looking forward to where this one is going.

Holmes of Kyoto

In an antiques shop in Kyoto there is a young man who is often referred to as ‘Holmes’. He has an expert eye for detail and can instantly read people and spot a counterfeit antique from a mile away. When Aoi, a high school student, starts working part-time in the shop he finds himself solving various mysterious across the city. Who has been sending a young woman threatening letters? Who burned a couple of scrolls? Holmes and Aoi will find out!

Don’t expect much from this series. The mysteries are very light and small scale, I don’t know if a detective slice of life is a thing, but that’s what it feels like. If you like the Sherlock Holmes type of mysterious where the detective basically talks to each person involved one after the other and then sits down to explain the answer it’s fine, sometimes it can only just get it within the twenty odd minutes, but that’s fine. The characters are decent, the animation is decent, actually that’s pretty much the word for this series, decent. It doesn’t do anything horrendous, but it’s not really blowing me away either. I feel what’s going to be a big problem for this series is the lack of stakes. There’s nothing really threatening or life endangering on the line here, everything feels a bit too mundane and relaxed. Now there was a hint of a counterfeiting ring for Holmes to go up against, but that has only been one hint, in one episode and not a sign of them since. Still it’s a pleasant and breezy enough watch, though it’s probably going to more something that I have on in the background than something I actively watch.

Phantom in the Twilight

Shortly after arriving in London, Ton and her friend are robbed! Giving chase after the thief, Ton stumbles across Café Forbidden, a place that was set up by her great-grandmother! There are creatures you see, Umbra, who live in the shadows, vampires and werewolves and the like and while there are those that wish to harm people, there are others who will defend them. The staff of Café Forbidden are four such Umbra and with Ton’s own emerging magical powers they will defend London from supernatural threats, and hopefully at some point get Ton’s kidnapped friend back!

I’ll admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this show. When I first saw it I was kind of fearful. It just reeked of a reverse harem and I could see it descending into all these vampire romance clichés, but so far it’s avoided any of that. Despite how basic the set up and a lot of the character backstory is, this show knows how to have fun and to use its concept in interesting ways. For one I’m really grateful that the vampire in this series sticks to the majority of the ‘classic’ vampire powers, turning into mist, hypnotism, can’t come in unless you invite him. It feels like so long since I’ve seen that that I’m actually really grateful. Also it can use powers in interesting ways, like with the ghost. Instead of just having a floating spectre, he has no form and instead has to possess things, whether that’s a mannequin or a radio or even a mobile phone and we get some creative uses of that power. One other thing that really surprised me with this series is how much these characters have grown on me and how much I just enjoy them interacting with one another. As an example I really love the scenes outside the café between Luke and Ton, you get a great sense of warmth and friendship off of the two of them and I’m looking forward to where this series is going.

Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion

In the 13th Century the Mongolian Empire was a force to be reckoned with, rapidly expanding across the globe and seemed to be unstoppable. Then in 1274, the Empire set its sights on Japan, aiming to first conquer the small island of Tsushima before moving on to the rest of the land. With nothing but an aging general, a wholly unprepared army and several convicts sent over to help out in lieu of an actual death sentence, the small island must hold its own in a battle against one of the most deadly armies in history.

Okay, first off we have to talk about that filter; it is horrible. I get what they’re trying to do with it, they’re trying to make everything feel painted or textured to give the animation that old school feel to it, but just sticking a filter over every frame is an incredibly lazy way to do that. Heck, last season Megalobox managed to get that old cel animated feeling by just roughing up the line work. The filter just makes some of the scenes ugly, but that aside this is a pretty enjoyable show. I don’t know much about this period in Japan’s history, but the whole small island fighting back against a bigger enemy is fairly standard. So far it’s actually a pretty standard take on the plot and we haven’t really dug into many of the character so are lot of them are just coming across as stock. The series is enjoyable though, I like these characters and I want to see them survive. This is a solid show and considering the amount of below average shows (or shows that I just have zero interest in) this season, that feels like high praise.

Lord of Vermilion: The Crimson King

A strange sound rings through all of Tokyo and anything that hears it falls unconscious. When people finally start to wake up they find a red mist surrounding the city that no one can pass through and strange occurrences are rumoured to be happening, such as people disappearing and monsters turning up out of nowhere. Chihiro is the last person to wake up and his tragic, and possibly bloody, past is the least of his worries when he returns home to find his adoptive father transformed into a monster and then even weirder, though kind of expected with this being an anime, Chichiro turns out to have magic powers that lets him fight the monsters.

I’m of two minds with this series. It has a few story elements that I like (though there are some that I don’t), but what has me concerned is that I really don’t trust the writing of this show. Any show that plays the ‘I’ll explain it later, when it’s most dramatic’ card three times in the same episode so blatantly is in trouble. Doesn’t help that the episode immediately after it is pretty much an exposition dump from start to finish. All of which is a shame because there are parts of this that I really like. I like stories with factions and villains that have a reason for what they do and that believe they’re in the right, that is if they even turn out to be the villains by the end. Also I know the whole protagonist with a secret tragic past is a bit of an overplayed trope, but I think Chichiro’s morality struggle of coming to terms with having to kill people to protect others has a lot of potential. It’s just that so far the execution has been pretty substandard. This will probably turn out terribly, but I’ll hang in here to see what happens.

Attack on Titan Season 3

Eren and the gang are back! This time though its not Titans that are the problem. After the death of the pastor who knew more about the secrets of the Walls than he would say, the group becomes aware that someone within the Walls is trying to keep secrets. If the Scouts want to learn the truth to this mystery, or even survive to tomorrow, they’re going to have to take on their most deadly opponents yet, other humans! One of whom has a connection to Captain Levi’s past.

Well this series certainly came back with a bang. Full of adrenaline-fueled action and pitch-black moral quandaries as our heroes have to do terrible things if they just want to survive. I’ve really been looking forward to this series, not only because this series is always good (even if the central mystery has been stretched beyond breaking point), but because, yes, I did skip ahead and read the manga so I know what’s going to happen in this arc and that is going to be awesome (also some actual answers!). I have been really impressed with the first few episodes of this season, they’ve really hit the ground running with some big fights and some big reveals in a short space of time without any of it feeling rushed. Also yes, on paper the downgrade from fighting giant, merciless monsters to just people may sound like a bad idea, but in action it’s anything but. The manoeuvre gear on manoeuvre gear fight through the town in episode two may just be the best action scene this series has ever done.

We Rent Tsukumogami

There is a shop in old Edo that leases items to its customers. Some of these items happen to be Tsukumogami, objects that have developed a personality and spirit of their own after years of being loved and treasured by someone. With the help of these Tsukumogami the siblings that run the shop help solve mysteries in and around the town.

I’m actually really enjoying this series. It’s cute and fun. I like the personalities of the Tsukumogami and how they bounce off of one another. The mysteries while not huge, earth-shaking storylines are well done in how they present the issue and then solve it. I also like the fact that while there is a different mystery each week, there is also another mystery slowly being developed in the background as well as a progressing story. I don’t think this series will change anybody’s life, but as a something to just chill out to while watching I think this series works pretty good.

And that’s all for this season. I started off in a pretty abysmal frame of mind from what was on offer, but I’ve found some little gems and a few big ones. This season may be better than I first thought. Back to series reviews next week and we’ve got…Darling in the FRANXX…oh boy.

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

Anime Corner: Attack on Titan Season 2 Review

Blog Attack on Titan 2 Review Title

Well that was fun, same again in 5 years’ time?

What’s the Story?

For years humanity sat safe behind its giant walls, protected from the Titans (humanoid giants that have a taste for humans and not much else), but one day that peace was shattered along with one of the walls. On that Day young Eren swore to kill every last Titan, entering into the military and joining the Survey Corps. But as the Survey Corps learn more about the Titans it becomes apparent that the grinning giants may not be the only threat to humanity. So now the question is, just who is on humanity’s side?

The Review

Well it took them long enough to release a new season for this much hyped show, I can’t help but wonder how awesome this would have been coming out a year or two after the first season (you know before most people either gave up waiting or just read the manga). As it stands though this season is kind of exactly what we wanted after Season 1. It picks up pretty much where the last season left off and answers several hanging questions about the Titans and what’s actually going on (more so than the whole of Season 1 did anyway). Also several of the secondary characters take the spotlight and get moments to shine or develop.

I do have a slight issue with this second season that the gap between seasons is partly to blame for it. Now I can cope with the years waiting (I had to be tied up in a rubber room for part of it, but we won’t go into that) and I do have the manga if I want to find the answers to the pressing questions of the series. Where the real problem comes in is that it’s been a while and you can’t expect people to still be in the same jobs, some will either have moved on or hopefully moved up and it’s kind of obvious that that’s happened here.

There’s something missing from the animation. It still looks great and there are times when it is breath-taking, especially during some of the fights or when there’s some aerial acrobatics going on. Yet there are other times when, it’s nothing bad, the scene is clearly displaying what it’s supposed to and putting across the idea of things moving, but it’s just so plain. There’s a sense of style or dramatic missing from several scenes. The first season had this visceral, raw energy to it, when a Titan was attacking you knew it and you were as terrified as the characters. You still get that, but it’s not as sharp. This is only a minor quibble by the way, the series does great most of the time and can recapture that energy, just not all the time.

Outside of that minor issue though, the show is pretty what we were all waiting for, we get some answers about what the Titans are and several characters get the spotlight that didn’t before. Even the main characters get some further development. Of course not every question is answered and by the end there are a whole new set you’ll need answered (unless you’ve read the manga), but that’s kind of par for the course with this series. Is it annoying that we’ve only got an extra 12 episodes with some answers and not all? Oh yes, but this second season has answered a lot more questions than the first season ever did so I’m content if not happy.

Speaking of our main characters, let’s talk about them (mainly because I’m only at 600 words and the review’s kind of done). First we’ve got our loveable (okay, no so loveable) hot-headed revenge seeking teen, Eren. It’s kind of a wonder just how much he’s developed, without really changing all that much on the surface. He’s still consumed by his rage and hatred, he’ll still rush head long into danger without properly thinking about it and he’s still a little bit useless when it counts (though he does get his first Titan kill!) You can see him starting to think about things though. Instead of just going berserk in a fight, he starts using actual technique a bit more and even considers his actions once or twice. Keep this up and he might just make a rational human being out of him yet (Ha ha ha ha, like that’s going to happen).

On the swing side we get to see Mikasa deal with what happens when she’s not the unstoppable force of nature that can kill anything in an instant and instead actually fails (or at least doesn’t succeed) and that is one scary version of Mikasa. Seriously do not mess with an angry and desperate Mikasa. If Eren’s rage is like a wildfire getting out of control, then Mikasa’s is like a razor-sharp spear of ice. It’s cold and hard and will run you right through.

Armin actually gets the least bit of development, the only real thing that sticks in my mind is when he has to sacrifice something in order beat the bad guys and he picks a little bit of his humanity.

All of this plays into why I like these characters so much, they all have issues, big, steaming issues, that tends to make them emotionally unstable, but it’s fascinating to watch them struggle and fight, sometimes making bad decisions, sometimes good, but in the end that’s what humanity is all about, overcoming the odds. Attack on Titan shows the very best and the very worst of humanity by putting them into the direst situations it can come up with and I’m glad to see Season 2 carry that on.

The Verdict

Season 2 of Attack on Titan is exactly what we ordered, questions are answered, characters are developed and some even get a bit more of the spotlight. All the while delivering the same intense actions and gruesome horror that was in the first season (even if not all of the time). It’s just a shame that it took so long to get to us.

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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 Spring 2017 part 1

It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! Sorry, okay there actually are other anime than Attack on Titan Season 2 this season, but who cares about them, it’s here!

Attack on Titan season 2

For years humans have lived safe behind the walls, beginning to forget the titans, gigantic mindless monsters that have an appetite for humans, which lurk just beyond the stone. That was until the Colossal Titan came and smashed down one of the walls. On that day Eren vowed to kill every last titan and years later joined the Survey Corps in order to find a way to push back the titans and find the secret lurking in the basement of his former home. But there is much to learn about the titans, including the fact that some humans can transform into titans. So the question must be asked, who among the terrified humans is a secret titan and just why exactly are there titans inside the walls?

It’s back! About bloody time, it’s been what 4 years and honestly watching this series it feels like no time has passed at all. It helps that the story pretty much picks up straight where the last season left off (probably a good idea to go back and watch season 1 then) and we’ve got the epic action, the raw emotions and the sheet terror of watching a tiny human take on a massive titan knowing full well that character shields can fail at anytime. I also like the fact that several of the secondary characters are getting some of the spotlight while we wait for Eren and co to come save them. Now I have read a bit of the manga (I just couldn’t wait) and all I have to say that this arc is going to be epic, all they need to announce now is that this season is going to be more than 12 episodes as I’ve heard.

The Silver Guardian

Suigin is a part-timer caretaker at a posh school and full-time gamer, he’s recently got into the game Dungeon Century and met a cute girl who he spends all his time playing alongside. It comes as quite a shock when Suigin learns that the girl he’s been playing with in is real life Rei, the most beautiful and popular girl in school. Suigin is just happy to keep playing, admiring Rei from afar, but then its announced that the game will be discontinued. That’s about it so far, apart from a strange first episode that so far has nothing to do with the rest of the show.

I really don’t understand this series. I mean with shorter anime like this you can’t really do full stories, you need something short, sweet and fun (like Space Patrol Luluco), but if you do it the traditional way then you end up with a show where you’ve just about gotten something going and then it’s over. It would also help if there weren’t a full-length opening title eating into so much of the runtime. The Silver Guardian isn’t a bad show, the characters are likable if with no time to develop and on occasion are a little weird. I mean who takes their computer outside to play a game? Also what exactly are the mechanics of this game? How does the controls relate to what we’re seeing, that would be nice to know. I don’t think we’re going to get it because there’s just no time. 3 episodes in and it still feels like we’re stuck in the intro. Not sure about this one.

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation

Gran is a good-natured kid, always happy to help and pretty good with a sword, who happens to live on a floating island. He longs to leave his island though, to find his father who’s supposed to be waiting for him in the legendary Island of the Astrals. Then a girl falls out of the sky and an evil empire comes calling for her. Now Gran gets his wish and an adventure to go with it, yeah it’s not all that original, but who cares? Looks there’s dragons and skyships! Sign me up!

This is very much a classic fantasy. The story and a lot of its elements have been done before in one form or another by plenty of other series, but I just really like this series. It may not be new, but I like the world this series presents, I like the designs of the characters and the ships and just the general landscape. It probably helps that this series is just so gorgeous, with great action, lots of bright colours and did I mention some really lovely designs? I also kinda like the rough edge around the characters as if they’ve just been drawn, it gives a different feel and aesthetic to the whole show. There’s a sense of adventure about this series that puts a smile on my face every time I watch.

Alice and Zoroku

Sana has the power to create anything she wishes for, but what exactly should a little girl with the powers of a god wish for? When she escapes the shady research facility that has been holding her captive, she has no idea where she’s going and is pursued by people who share her abilities. Luckily there are those who want to help her and those who will guide her. Enter Zoroku, an elderly florist with a nonsense attitude, but is a good heart and a firm hand enough to control powers that could rip the world apart?  It’s an unusual story, but one worth hearing.

I really like this series; it’s a little slow but immensely interesting. I like that it breaks some common troupes with this type of story, I mean typically if you have a girl with supernatural powers escaping a facility the first person she’d run into would be some average teenage boy and no doubt high school hijinks would ensue. Here though it’s an old man and that gives us a unique dynamic. Zoroku is clearly there to guide Sana and teach her to use her power responsibly, but how is he going to deal with the fantastical and the two competing factions that both have their eyes on Sana. Its one part fantastical slice of life comedy and one part supernatural thriller and I really like that.

Tsugumomo

A tsukumogami is an object that develops a personality and spirit of its own. One day the obi that belonged to Kazuya’s mother, the same one he carries around with him wherever he goes, transforms into a blue-haired girl. This isn’t the only strange event to happen to Kazuya as all sorts of spiritual shenanigans have been going on, from being attacked by a possessed wig to getting locked in an equally possessed library. Could all of this have something to do with the dreams Kazuya has been having of late? Of memories he doesn’t remember? Whatever it means, this is clearly just the beginning.

I like this show, it has the feel of an old school shonen, similar to the recent Ushio and Tora, except not as well animated and with way more fanservice. Still the concept is interesting and so far the monsters of the week have been a little different to the usual roster of bad guys that turn up in these shows. The characters are fairly stock but they’ve got plenty of room to develop so I’m happy to see where they go. The things that are really keeping me around though is that the animation really steps up to the mark in the fight scenes and that soundtrack is just pure awesome.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor

Glenn is the new substitute teacher at the very best Imperial Magic Academy, where all the best and brightest go to learn about the forces of magic (anything else would kind of be a let down since it is a magic academy). Unfortunately Glenn isn’t really in the mood for teaching and instead just lazes around and annoys the students, until that is, a group of nasty wizards take over the school in search of one of the students. Now Glenn gets to show his stuff, including his blood-soaked past and the fact that he’s probably one of the most skilled magic-users around. He’s still kind of a jackass though.

I’m really scared of this series. I mean on the one hand I like the characters and the ideas at play, well, once you get to episode 2, episode 1 isn’t all that interesting and is really just one long joke with an unlikeable main character. Once we get to episodes 2 and 3 though, Glenn finally gets to show a few positive traits, showing off his extensive knowledge of magic and some decent (though not mind blowing) fight scenes. I really like the magic in this world, the idea that if you just ignore the textbooks and just change a phrase one way or the other, you can control the effect of a spell. What worries me is the writing. I mean it’s fairly straightforward and predictable, but the scene that raises a red flag is when one of the girls is nearly raped by a soldier. One, what the hell is that doing here? Two, get that the hell out of here! Rape should not be used just to show how evil the villains or as a bit of fanservice! It is a vile and terrible act and should always be treated as such. Gods, way to wreck a semi-decent show guys, way to go.

Right, okay, I need to go wash the bad taste out of my mouth, so we’ll continue this next week. Next time: working women, alien invasions, stupidly long titles and, oh yeah, let’s see what Naruto’s kid is up to. 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.  

Top 10 Favourite Anime

Anime Top 10 Title Card

Ok, so I’ve done my top 10 Disney films (here) and I’ve done my top 10 animated films (here), I guess it’s time for the anime list isn’t it? Anime is a huge part of my life, it always has been I guess. I’ve been watching anime since I was very little, although back then they were all just really cool cartoons to me. Pokemon, Digimon, Guyver, Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, Gundam, these are all a part of my childhood, as well as many others. The thing I love most about anime though, is the sheer diversity of it, you can really have anything. Sci-fi stories set in the far future, epic adventures in fantasy lands, comedies, tragedies, dark deconstructions, or just everyday life, there is no story you cannot tell. It also helps that anime is damn crazy sometimes, and we all need a little bit of crazy in our lives.

To be fair this list has taken me a while to put in order, there’s so many different anime that I love, but beyond that a lot of these anime speak to me in different ways, so it’s hard to qualify why one show should be put above another. I think I’ve finally got it right though.

Here are the rules for the list. This list will only contain anime that I have seen (naturally), and more importantly anime that has finished. That means for one there will be no ongoing shonen anime on this list, like One Piece and Fairy Tail. Besides, however much I love those anime I don’t love everything about them, though it’s mostly the filler arcs that I have a problem with (maybe I could do a top 10 arcs list one day?). Also this is a list of my top 10 FAVOURITE anime, this is not a ‘Best of’ list, the anime contained within and their order are entirely dictated by my heart, not my head.

Anyway, enough rambling, on with the show!

  1. Cardcaptor Sakura

One day, Sakura accidentally releases the Clow Cards (magical cards left behind by a powerful wizard) upon her unsuspecting city. Now it’s her job to collect the cards, before their simple acts of mischief end up hurting someone.

Ok, I’m going to come across as a massive saddo here, but I suppose there’s no point in hiding it. This anime is the reason I have a soft spot for magical girl anime (I’m a fan of Sailor Moon, but this show is what cemented the genre into a corner of my heart). I fell in love with Sakura when I was ten, and it’s never really gone away. She’s sweet, she’s funny, she’s brave, yet she’s a little bit clumsy and terrified of ghosts. She’s a goody two-shoes, but never boring or perfect, which I like. Her adventures were always exciting and fun for my younger self, and I still really like all of the designs for the cards she had to collect. To make me look even sadder, I will admit that I used to make my own versions of the cards to play with (hey there was a distinct lack of merchandise over here in the UK). Ok, now that I’m older I do have to admit that it’s a little repetitive and there are probably a few other flaws knocking about, but the nostalgia is too strong for me on this one.

  1. Outlaw Star

Gene Starwind and his young partner Jim run an odd job business, but soon are catapulted on a series of misadventures as they hunt for the legendary Galactic Leyline. They’ll battle magic-wielding space pirates, crazy cat girls and a mind-controlling cactus (you know, I think anime might just be weird).

If I were to describe this series in a word, it would be fun. Epic space battles, guns that shoot magic, a cast of crazy characters, and arm-wrestling spaceships, all can be found here. This is just one entertaining ride. Not that this series is brainless, it’s just storyless. The plot is merely there to get us from one adventure to the next. This series prefers to give its attention to the detail of the universe, building up a rich history and setting for our characters to explore. Our characters themselves aren’t that deep, but they’re well-defined and uncomplicated. You can work out what makes them tick after just a few minutes. It’s wild, it’s cool, it’s Outlaw Star.

  1. Digimon Tamers

Takato loves the digimon card game, but one day he discovers that he has his own real-life digimon. At first it’s fun and full of hijinks, but with more and more digimon appearing in our world, and a shadowy government organisation lurking in the background, things are about to become very dangerous indeed.

Now I love the original Digimon, but for me Season 3 is just that little bit better. It’s a more mature series, and I love the real world setting. I like how they incorporate the game and trading cards, and make it feel like this is what it would be like if Digimon were real (and who doesn’t love that idea?). It’s certainly one of the darkest series, containing some downright terrifying scenes, as well as a few heart-wrenching ones too, but never so much that it stops being fun or enjoyable. To me this is a really good sci-fi/fantasy story, while also still feeling like a Digimon series (unlike some of the later series).

  1. Attack on Titan

For years humanity has sat safely behind its three giant walls, keeping out the monstrous Titans that have a habit of devouring humans for no apparent reason. One day that peace is shattered, when a gigantic Titan appears and smashes down the first wall. Young Eren swears to join the Survey Corps and wipe out every last Titan. But what exactly are the Titans, and where do they come from?

Is this overhyped? Yeah, but you have to remember that that hype came from somewhere. This is a really good series without a doubt. Yeah the ending is really abrupt, and what we learn about the titans and where they come from amounts to about zero, but that’s what the manga (and that long promised second season) is for, which is annoying I admit. This series is exciting, dramatic and terrifying, sometimes all at once. The animation has its own unique style, both beautiful and ugly at the same time. The fights sequences are just jaw-dropping, and that soundtrack is just mind-blowing. I really like the characters too (the ones that survive anyway). They all feel like real people, full of flaws and psychosis. Most of these people are broken in some way or another, and sometimes it’s not the titans that are the greatest threat to humanity. If nothing else, this is a really great story about humanity, both at its best and at its worst.

  1. Kill la Kill

Ryuko Matoi transfers to a strange school, where the student council runs the place like its own private dictatorship, all in the aid of finding her father’s murderer. Ryuko finds a talking uniform (just go with it) and epic insanity ensues.

I love Kill la Kill, even though I probably shouldn’t. This anime has a way of bypassing the logic part of my brain and striking right at the gleeful kid inside. It’s over the top, it’s extreme, it’s gratuitous, and it is awesome! This anime hits a level that transcends fun. It’s a blitz of intense action, hilarious characters, explosions and, of course, boobs. Ok, the story is nonsense, the characters aren’t exactly deep, and that fanservice is just overwhelming, yet I still love this. All I can say is that this anime is overflowing with love, enthusiasm and pure undiluted fun. It’s infectious and I have never had so much fun watching an anime.

  1. Shirobako

An anime about making anime. How very meta. We follow the struggles of five girls as they enter into various careers in the anime industry, hoping to one day work together on the same project.

I seriously love this show. There are so many moments of just undiluted joy to be seen here. Watching our characters start out as wide-eyed young students, we follow them as they confront the harsh realities of working in the industry, yet in the end they still make it to a happy ending. This anime gives me hope. At a time in my life when I’ve been questioning where I’m going and lamenting how far from my dream I still am, this anime has shown me that if I keep pushing forward I can still make it.

  1. Cowboy Bebop

The futuristic misadventures of an easy-going bounty hunter and his odd crew, which includes an ex-cop, a femme fatale in massive debt, a computer hacker who’s as much a genius as she is crazy, and a dog.

Is a show overhyped if it’s deserving of its praise? This is one of the greats of anime, a classic that everyone deserves to watch at least once, even if you’re not all that into anime. It has a great cast of rich characters, its stories range from hilarious to heart-breaking, but for me what makes this anime so great, is its presentation. The animation is stunning, the soundtrack is beautiful and the direction is top-notch. This is simply a master class in how a visual medium should be done. Everything slots together so perfectly that you can hardly imagine one component without the others. It says so much with so few words, one of the most iconic shots has to be Spike falling through that window with flashes of his past. It’s such a simple and effect way of telling us so much, without a single word. It’s simply breath-taking.

  1. Fate Zero

The 4th Holy Grail war is upon us. Seven Masters are chosen from across the world. Each Master summons a Servant, a heroic spirit of legend such as King Arthur, brought into the modern world to do battle for the ancient wish-granting relic. Whoever wins gets their heart’s desire granted to them, but you know the old saying, be careful what you wish for.

Okay, I’ve struggled with where to put this one on the list. There are a couple of things in this anime that I have problem with (check out my review here, for more details), but when it comes down to it the stuff that is good in this anime is just too damn good. For me it’s the characters that make this show so great. Each character is fully fleshed out, with their own ideology and way of doing things and it is endlessly fascinating to watch them amble down their paths towards inevitable tragedy. I seriously cannot get enough of these guys. Add in some wonderful top quality animation, a good soundtrack and some great, if occasionally longwinded, dialogue and you have one of the greats of anime.

  1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka wants to help others and make a difference. She seemingly gets her chance when a strange creature called Kyubey offers to fulfil any wish she desires, in exchange she will become a magical girl and battle against witches that torment innocent people. As it turns out though, the life of a magical girl isn’t all that magical, and it isn’t long before wishes turn into curses.

When I first watched this show, it destroyed me. I mean that quite literally. After watching a couple of reviews on the internet recommending the show, I finally decided to give it a go. I watched the entire series in one night, mostly because I couldn’t stop watching, and by the end I was left as an emotional wreck, blubbing like a baby for a good half hour after the last episode finished. No other show has had this kind of effect on me, certainly not in recent years. I don’t really believe there’s such a thing as a perfect anime, but this comes damn close. The pacing of the story is top-notch constantly moving and twisting into something new, giving you just enough time to breathe before pulling the rug out from under you yet again. Everything is connected, and it is wonderful to rewatch the earlier episodes and see all of the hints and clues that were sat there staring you in the face. The animation itself may not be as good as some anime, but it has this wonderful artistic quality to it that just makes this such a treat for the eyes.

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)

In a world where alchemy is a thriving magic, two brothers decide to commit a great taboo and resurrect their recently deceased mother. Things go wrong though, resulting in Edward losing an arm and a leg, and Alphonse losing his body entirely. The two brothers begin a dangerous search for the philosopher’s stone, in order to get back what they’ve lost.

The original, and my favourite anime. I first saw this on the TV, back when I was only just discovering what anime was (and learning that I’d secretly been watching anime for years without my knowledge). I never saw the run in its entirety back then, I only caught random episodes and one of the first ones I saw (and my most vivid memory of the series) was that final episode. I’ll be honest I didn’t have much idea what was going on, but it all looked really cool, and the animation was amazing. What spoke to me most though was the two brothers, Alphonse and Edward, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the one another. It was truly beautiful, and watching the series all together I can safely say that the rest of the anime holds up to that moment. It has a story that never falters either in pacing or development, it even has time to spend on filler, decent filler at that which manages to add to the story (now that’s a miracle). Add in a host of great and memorable characters, some heart-wrenching drama and exhilarating action, and you have an anime that pretty much has everything I could ever want from an anime. And throughout all of that, it never loses sight of its core, the bond between the two brothers and their mission to fix one another, and that’s why this gets the number one spot.

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