Anime Corner: Lostorage Incited WIXOSS Review

Blog Lostorage WIXOSS Review Title

Here we go again.

What’s the Story?

When Suzuko returns to the town where she grew up, she’s actually looking forward to it, for one she finally has a chance to catch up with her childhood friend Chinatsu who hasn’t been responding to her letters. Things don’t exactly go as planned though, Chinatsu moved house years ago and Suzuko struggles to make new friends and her father is never home. Suzuko buys a deck of WIXOSS cards that appear to be all the rage in the hopes of making friends. Instead Suzuko is chosen as a Selector, one of a only a few players that have talking avatar card, called an LRIG, and battle it out amongst one another to have a wish granted regarding their memories. The downside though, is that if you lose, you lose everything, bye bye memories and your whole personality. That’s not the worse of it for poor Suzuko though, you see Chinatsu is a Selector as well and she’s not exactly as Suzuko remembers her.

The Review

And we’re back! After the defeat of Mayu in the previous seasons I bet you thought it was safe to get your WIXOSS cards out again (though seriously, these series are terrible adverts for the game, not only do I have no idea how to play the game after three seasons, but they also advertise that if you play, something horrible could happen to you!). Now I started watching this series before I watched the previous series, though after a couple of episodes I did go back and binge watch both Selector Infected and Selector Spread (something I was planning on doing anyway, but it was a nice incentive) and I can safely report that you don’t need to watch the previous two seasons to enjoy this. New city, new cast, new cards (what we see of them), there is a little bit of crossover, but that really just amounts to one episode explaining how we got from the events of Selector Spread to Lostorage Incited, which the continuity nerd in me does appreciate but it does leave it rather late in the anime to explain that sort of thing. It probably gets the balance about right, there’s not too much continuity to scare off or confuse newbies, but there is something for the fans to dig their teeth into, it’s just that this series has so little connection to the previous entries in the franchise that when this suddenly lands on you it feels a little out of the blue.

From a story front Lostorage is very similar to Selector Infected, but not so much that it feels like one is ripping off the other. We’ve got the main protagonist who’s a bit awkward and struggles to make friends, but when she puts her mind to it is practically a genius at the card game. We’ve got the fact that the card game is pretty much background noise so we can have some flashy fights to better symbolise the conflicts between characters and put pressure on them. We’ve got the raging psychopaths, the heartbreak and the sheer unrelenting darkness bearing down on characters until they smash into pieces. A lot of the pieces feel the same they’re just put in a different order or shaken up a little, though I have to say that the fact they’re playing for memories this time around instead of wishes is a good thing. It gives the series something different to talk about and there’s some good ideas floating around. Though not all of the changes for this series are as good.

Maybe I should treat this as its own thing and not compare it to the previous seasons, but that’s all my brain keeps doing. The animation is the first thing I come to, it just doesn’t pack the same punch as the previous seasons and I think that’s mostly down to the colour. Lostorage Incited has a very muted colour palette; it’s all soft colours and sunset pastel whereas the old animation was much brighter and flashier. There are a couple of bits, especially during the battles towards the end where the animators get to show there stuff a bit more, but I was never really blown away.

Another disadvantage this series has is in the character department, don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with the characters, but, again, the previous series had a good helping of crazy people I could cheer on, but in this one the characters are all so normal and relatable. I mean the characters are all understandably upset about having to fight to protect their memories and also taking memories from other people by defeating them. There’s only one character I’d regard as truly crazy and while the guy is a total sadist and he does have his enjoyable moments, he is also entirely creepy (seriously, did we need so many sexual innuendos directed at teenage girls by the clearly older man?).

The main character is a bit of a letdown as well, though I think Suzuko suffers from the same problem as the series, which is it takes her a while to find her footing. She just comes across as so meek and naïve, her reluctance to battle is understandable, especially after she learns what’s at stake, but it just drags on for so long. She has no drive and her constant attempts to run away only make her more and more frustrating to watch. Her character gets a major boost once she actually decides to fight and starts learning the game more seriously, I mean I would have loved for this character to turn up sooner, she actually becomes a little bit of a badass during the last few episodes.

That does bring me to the best character, Chinatsu. From the start she captures your attention, the perfect student and daughter who starts to turn to the dark side when the pressures of life get a bit too much for her. You see Chinatsu tries to be perfect in an attempt to live up to Suzuko’s memory of her, an idea that Chinatsu starts to see as a chain holding her down. It’s some great drama and gets really tense as she meets up with Suzuko, you just want Chinatsu to realise the truth, that she’s misidentifying the problem, it’s not her memories of Suzuko that’s the problem but the pressure she’s putting on herself. She needs to find a way to vent and come to terms with her life, to look to the future, without throwing everything away and becoming the evil queen. Great character.

The Verdict

Lostorage Incited WIXOSS stumbles a lot at the beginning, but it does eventually find its footing. The story, once it gets going, has some good ideas at play dealing with people’s memories being at risk and how this season chooses to follow on from the previous seasons (though the 2 previous seasons are by no means mandatory watching to enjoy this). There are some really dark moments, but it culminates in a heartfelt, if bittersweet ending. Chinatsu is the most consistently interesting character, though the others are all enjoyable if not as crazy as I’d like. If you’re a fan of the previous seasons, this is pretty good, just not as good, but still enjoyable. If this your first experience with WIXOSS, then I think you’ll enjoy it, then you can check out the previous seasons, so win-win.

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

Anime Corner: Trickster (Episodes 1 – 12) Review

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Well, I certainly feel tricked.

What’s the Story?

In the not too distant future a group of young men and their mysterious (and rather lazy) leader Akechi have formed their own detective club and tackle everything from finding missing pets to dealing with the evil machinations of the mastermind Twenty Faces. Things take a turn for the weird when one of the members, Hanasaki comes across Kobayashi, a boy with an impenetrable force field that will tear apart anything threatening that gets too close to him. Kobayashi longs for death, while Hanasaki is a thrill seeker and loves life. Can these two teach one another a thing or two, or will the plans of Twenty Faces tear them apart?

Okay, didn’t really know where to put this, but I reviewed this series after episode 12 because I thought that was the end of the series (though that could have been wishful thinking on my part), turns out it’s a 24 episode series. I really don’t want to watch the rest of the series, a part of me thinks I should give the rest of the series a chance, but at the same time my complaints are still valid and no amount of miracles is really going to improve this series. This is just to let you guys know this review covers the first 12 episodes, the ones after may improve, but that’s your risk to take. On with the review!

The Review

I don’t really know where this anime went wrong, but it definitely did. I enjoyed the first couple of episodes, I liked the idea of Hanasaki trying to drag Kobayashi into the world and teach him that life was worth living, and I really felt for Kobayashi and wanted him to get over his death wish. The cases they were solving weren’t exactly mind blowing and because they had to be squeezed into twenty minutes they did tend to feel a bit rushed and as if they were only there to have something nice in the background rather than it being important. The world is also seriously underdeveloped, I mean I’m pretty sure the only reason this is set in the near future is because they wanted to have robot drones and a bit of advanced technology because it never really affects the plot. The way life works here is pretty much how life works in the modern day, so what’s the point of it? If you’re going to set something in the future it gives you a wide array of opportunities, use them!

Okay I realise even though I was meant to be praising the first few episode I kind of came out with complaints, but I still sort of enjoyed it. I got a good feeling out of the episodes, I liked the characters and I liked where it was going, it was never going to be a great anime, but it could have been decent. Then we started the slow decent into, well, what can only be properly described with several proper swear words that I don’t want to write down. Kobayashi was the first to go, which is a shame because I liked the guy and it quickly went from me wanting him to find the joy in life to wishing he’d hurry up and get his wish and die. Yeah, that character got assassinated. I felt sorry for the guy, anyone who is so sick of life they want to die, I will feel sorry for, the world is full of so much wonder and joy no one should feel its better for them to go than stay. The trouble with Kobayashi is that my sympathy evaporates for the guy when he starts acting like a jackass 24/7. This tsundere elements are way too overblown and way too antagonistic, he never has anything nice to say and goes through the show being cold and, frankly, inhuman. He doesn’t seem to care about anything, so why should I care about him?

Then we get Hanasaki, who is the true marker of this series’ downfall. At one point he was fun, full of energy, a tad annoying, but good-natured and helpful even if he doesn’t think things through, then the angst set in. Seriously he became such a miserable character, always crying and whingeing and shouting, and this degrading into this character has a direct parallel with the fun slowly being leeched out of the show. I just wanted him to do something, to have a spark of the old Hanasaki about him, but nope, the old Hanasaki was dead and gone and we were left with this depressing person in his place. This show became a chore to watch this, I didn’t care about any of the characters or what was going on, I just wanted to get to the end of it.

After destroying Hanasaki and Kobayashi the series didn’t really have much to fall back on. I mean the lead detective Akechi was pretty intolerable at times; I get what they were going for the whole aloof detective who plays the fool but has this tragic past and has all these plans working about in the background. The trouble is that in his aloofness he can tend to come off as a jerk at times, especially as we get further into the series. He gives orders that are just going to antagonise people and that certain characters are just going to misinterpret. They’re trying to make it all dramatic, but its not drama when the situation is contrived and stupid. This whole mess could be sorted out by Akechi explaining himself for two minutes, but we can’t have that because then everyone wouldn’t hate one another.

There isn’t much else to the series. The world is underdeveloped, the mysteries aren’t attention grabbing, the animation is fairly standard, though there are a couple of good songs on the soundtrack. The rest of the characters kind of faded into the background, the guy in the wheelchair is a little interesting, but then I can’t remember his name so he didn’t make all that much impact on me. The villain, he’s generic. I don’t how many times I’ve seen the villain who torments the hero because its there twisted way of showing their love, but its getting a little boring, especially here because they don’t add anything new to it. He’s just a masked villain who outsmarts the good guys at every turn (impossibly so at times) and makes creepy speeches. Also, where the hell did Kobayashi get his powers from? No one explained that!

The Verdict

Trickster was never a series destined for greatness, but I had hoped it was destined for somewhere other than the avoid pile. Unfortunately the few good characters were thoroughly assassinated and whatever story potential was there was left by the wayside as all the fun was sucked out of the series. The rest of the characters and the paper-thin world just weren’t enough to hold up the withered husk that remained. I’m sad now and I have to go watch something good.

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

Anime Corner: Izetta: The Last Witch Review

Blog Izetta Review Title

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s a tank being thrown by girl riding an artillery gun! Duck!

What’s the Story?

In a world not too dissimilar to our own (seriously, the names are like just a couple of letters off), a conflict mirroring our own World War 2 is going on, the country of Germania is ever expanding and has currently set its sights on the neighbouring country of Eylstadt. Now Eylstadt is only a small country and doesn’t stand a chance against the might of the Germanian war machine and the other countries are too tied up in their own battles to intervene. When Princess Fine is captured by the Germanians though, she happens across a childhood friend, a witch named Izetta. Together the two escape and Izetta decides to fight for Fine’s country. What will magic do to a war were technology is at the forefront and Germania certainly won’t sit back as the balance of power is so dramatically shifted.

The Review

I do think this series has some great ideas. I mean from a visual front this anime is wonderful, watching a young witch flying amongst tanks and against fighter planes is a treat for the eyes, then you get said witch throwing around buildings and trailing torpedoes behind herself and that cool factor goes up even higher. I mean for nothing else other than the awesome fight sequences I’d recommend watching the final episode, watching a magic duel with trains cars flying around like whips and someone throwing the Eiffel tower, it definitely registers on the awesome meter.

I also really like the attention to the detail this anime has and the world it builds. It is pretty much a carbon copy of our world, just with new characters taking the place of famous figures and, yeah, the names are laughably similar but that’s something you just have to roll with (though you could have put a bit more effort in guys). I like how the military strategists use propaganda as its own weapon, just as it was used during wartimes and the new reels looked quite authentic. If a witch did turn up in World War 2, I can imagine the first handful of episode of this series being pretty much how things would turn out. I also like the fact that the fairy tale of the original White Witch who came to help Eylstadt in its time of need turns out to have a darker truth behind it, as most fairy tales do and the hints that things might not end so rosy for Izetta. The parallels with the atomic bomb were an interesting talking point, I like that Fine is aghast at the monster she’s unleashed by bring magic into warfare.

What I’m trying to get at is that Izetta, the series, has a lot of good and interesting ideas, I just wish the rest of the series would properly use or develop them. The novelty of seeing Izetta, the witch, flying over trenches and throwing spears and torpedoes at tanks and ships is all well and good, but it starts to wane over time and the series doesn’t really have anything to replace that with. I mean there’s talk of the Germanians developing weapons to combat the witch, but the most prominent piece of technology we see is just a plane that can actually keep up with Izetta. After that things quickly devolve into a fairly clichéd plot with the Germanians getting their own witch. I mean you can pretty much exactly where are heading as soon as mention is made of their being another witch and its just really disappointing that this smart and inventive story about magic taking on more modern warfare runs out of steam like this.

There are still a couple of good moments after the we gets past the set up (roughly around where they’re releasing the first propaganda about Izetta), I do really like the episode about the darker ending to the White Witch’s fairy tale, Izetta’s torpedo run against the ship is exciting to watch and as I said before the last episode gets a thumbs up due to the sheer craziness of the magic duel between Izetta and Germania’s witch. The rest of it, well it’s not bad, but none of it really wows me. I think this series could have done with being longer, just give it a bit more time to explore this world, I mean nothing feels rushed, but I do feel like there’s a gap in the middle, I mean we have the start of Izetta fighting in the war and then Germania’s witch turns up and the series because less about the World War 2 stuff. I would have liked to see more of Germania trying to come up with ways to counter Izetta before they dragged out their own witch.

Probably the biggest failing of this series though is the characters. I think a lot of this anime could have been saved if the characters hadn’t been so… flat. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, they’re not bad characters, except for the guys that are meant to be bad like the bad guys, but again, none of them wow me. Everyone has a role and they fulfil that role in the story perfectly fine, but they never do anything other than meet expectations. Izetta is the awkward and shy girl with the badass power and pure heart. Fine is the noble and good-intentioned leader of her people who will always do the right thing. The rest, well, I can’t name names because I honestly don’t remember any of them, I mean there was that soldier girl who got a couple of laughs and that shady guy who did bad things for a good cause, they stood out a bit from the background, but again, they never blew me away. The final episode did show some promise, what with the comeuppance of the shady guy that was well done and Fine shone a light as she got teary-eyed over Izetta.

On a last note the animation and music for this series are fantastic. The animation has a real sense of speed and flow, during some of the more fast-paced actions scenes you really feel Izetta flying around and all of it is really bright and colourful. The music has this real mystical quality, and there are some really beautiful songs that kick in when they’re needed.

The Verdict

All in all Izetta is certainly a good looking anime, it was some interesting ideas that lead to some great visuals and the animation and music are both equally as good, so at the very least the visual spectacle is worth the admission, unfortunately after a strong start the story soon peters out into something predictable and the flat characters can’t do a thing to save it until the very last episode. If you’re interested, give it a shot, but be prepared for the magic to fade.

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

Anime Corner: Flip Flappers Review

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It’s like an onion, it has layers and I love love love it!

What’s the Story?

Cocona is a model student who in reality is just drifting through life, like a boat caught in the current, she’s hesitant to make any decisions and doesn’t really know who she is. All that changes when she meets a strange girl called Papika, taking her hand and dragging her off into a world of adventure, whether she likes it or not. Together the pair travel the bizarre dimension known as Pure Illusion, searching for gems and having fun along the way, as well as learning a thing or two about one another. Nobody ever said self-discovery was easy though as there are dark forces both within and without Pure Illusion.

The Review

I don’t really know where to begin with Flip Flappers. I feel like I could spend hours dissecting this series and still only scratch the surface of its myriad of themes, symbolism and storytelling techniques. I’d probably have to write an essay to properly explore and examine this show piece by piece, which isn’t something I feel I can do right here and now (for one I’d have to watch the series a dozen or so more times to make sure that I caught everything, which isn’t a bad thing and I’m planning on re-watching it anyway). Instead I’m going to do what I normally do and ramble on for a bit and try to convince you to watch it, which shouldn’t be too hard. If I had a good video editor, and didn’t mind getting on the bad side of copyright law, I would just post several videos of the utterly astounding animation this series has to offer and that should convince you.

Seriously this show is gorgeous. The animation is fast and fluid, but also brimming with eye-catching colours and striking visuals, I cannot put into words how gorgeous this show is, every scene is a treat for one reason or another. It’s more than that though as this anime also gets what it means to be a visual medium, I know this is animation and being a visual product is kind of obvious, but the amount of anime I see where they forget the old rule “show, don’t tell” can be mind boggling. Flip Flappers gets it though. Flip Flappers much prefers to show you things, whether that be wild and imaginative worlds or hiding its meaning behind a veil of symbolism, you have to watch this show (again, kind of obvious with it being a visual thing) and you have to keep your eyes peeled at all times. There are so many little hints and meanings buried throughout this show that I’m sure I’ve missed half of them (one of the reasons I’m going to be rewatching this show when I get the chance).

The leaning towards visual story telling does have its downsides though. Sometimes the story of Flip Flappers can feel a bit obtuse, if you miss a plot point or don’t pick on a visual cue, the show will not wait for you. There were a couple of times where I’ve stared at the screen in confusion or had to go back a bit to work out what I missed, this show wants your attention and you’d better give it (though to be fair even in the few moments were I was confused I could always just sit back and enjoy the pretty pictures).

Luckily the story is layered so that you can enjoy it on multiple levels depending on what mood your in, on the surface it’s a wacky adventure visiting mad worlds, one episode your in a Studio Ghibli film on acid, the next you have a mix of Mad Max, Fist of the North Star and Sailor Moon all in one episode. Each episode brings a new world and a new set of influences to the animation and the story. Just beneath the surface though there is more than wild imaginations to this series (though I would be perfectly happy with this series if that were the case). When it boils down to it this is a story about self-discovery. We follow Cocona as she learns to take hold of her life and get a sense of agency for herself (this is a good example of visual storytelling as at the beginning we have Cocona clutching on to Papika for dear life, her eyes clamped shut as they fly around on Papika’s hover board, mirrored against the ending where they’re back on the hover board but this time Cocona has her eyes wide open and her arms lovingly around Papika).

While a lot of the series is focussed on Cocona, with the worlds of Pure Illusion reflecting her own self back at her and revealing different sides of her, Pure Illusion itself also gives us a look into the surrounding characters. Each world is a representation of someone’s self, or at least one of their selves, it’s fascinating to walk through someone else’s mindscape, you just have to work out who the mindscape belongs to. I also like the fact that the anime acknowledges that people have different sides to themselves, there is no one true self, that is something you decide for yourself. No, people are complex and often contradictory and this anime shows that, whether giving Cocona an army of wildly different Papika’s to pick between or the fact that our final boss is in fact the darkest aspect of one of the characters.

I could sit and go on about this show for hours, but I should have convinced you to watch this show by now (or at least I hope I have), so enjoy this series the way it was meant to be enjoyed, go and watch it! There is so much in this anime, from the visuals to the influences to the exploration of a person’s self, I’m pretty certain there’s at least something for everyone.

The Verdict

Flip Flappers is a beautiful series in more ways than one, from the masterful visual storytelling to the exploration of characters, even just in terms of sheer imagination this anime stands above so many others. Back in my first impressions I described this series as weird and wonderful and while I think this series can’t really be summed up properly, that’s as close as I’m going to get. Flip Flapping!

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

Anime Corner: Magical Girl Raising Project Review

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Blood and guts, ‘cause that’s what we want from our magical girl shows.

What’s the Story?

Magical Girl Raising Project is a popular game that everyone seems to be playing, though there’s a rumour floating about on the Internet that some of the players actually get the chance to become real magical girls. Middle schooler Koyuki is one of these lucky girls and as someone who has been a fan of magical girls since she was little, this is a dream come true. At least, it is at first, but then Fav, the administrator in charge of the game, decides they need to cut the magical girl population in half. Let the bloodbath begin!

The Review

Urgh. That’s it, that’s the review of the series. Urgh. I can’t think of a better way to sum my feelings towards this show, I mean it started out really good, okay that’s a lie, it started out decent and then quickly buried itself and just kept digging (roughly about the time that they started getting killed off). Maybe this is my fault, maybe I expected too much. I admit that I’ve been searching for another darker-toned magical girl series ever since Madoka Magica (I need my fix dammit it!). I mean I don’t expect to find a series to match the near masterpiece of Madoka, but I’ve had a void in my life ever since I watched that show and I haven’t found anything to fill it since. I’d hoped Magical Girl Raising Project could be the show I needed, but in the end I’m just sat here feeling dejected and little bit annoyed.

I think this series’ main failing is that it just doesn’t get how to do darkness. I mean there are times when violent deaths and a bit of gore can work in a story, maybe you want to shake up the story or shock your audience, personally I prefer it if that kind of thing is left to a minimum as that means it has a bigger impact and doesn’t lose quite so much meaning. I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a market for stories about bloody death matches, I’ve enjoyed a few myself, but those series don’t just rely on violent murder after violent murder to draw me in. There are interesting characters, an enthralling plot and an examination of the dark aspects of human nature, or at least one of those things. This series though, it’s just death and blood. Each episode is pretty much there to set up the murder of one or more of the girls and an interesting series that does not make.

It would maybe help if I cared at all about any of these girls, but the series never really gives you much of a chance to. For one I think there’s just too many characters, there’s sixteen girls and twelve episodes, that means we have to lose more than one girl an episode, how do to you expect to give the audience enough time to care when they haven’t even a full twenty five minutes to get to know them? A lot of the time the closest we get to knowing the characters is the flashback sequences they normally parade in front of you right before that character gets the axe. Don’t get me wrong, some of these back stories are harrowing and I feel sympathy for what these girls have been through, but there’s no connection and they’re gone before there was even a point to care for them. We hardly ever get to see the girls in their civilian identities, so we never really get to see them as themselves, only the magical girls they’ve imagined for themselves.

This really ticks me off when we have some really interesting characters I was just dying to have explored. I mean there was La Pucelle, the only guy to become a magical girl, he was just begging to be explored. Has he ever wanted to be a girl? We know he’s a massive magical girl fan, but when he fantasised about being one was he a magical boy or a magical girl, that is some meaty character exploration right there, use it! Then we have Swim Swim the psycho serial murderer who happens to be a little girl, I really want to know what her deal is, I think it’s fairly obvious that something is wrong with her. She’s so restrained and emotionless all of the time, following Ruler’s rules like they’re some kind of gospel. Has she always thought like that? Did something happen to her? You’re fond of flashbacks anime; show us!

And do not get me started on Snow White! What the hell is the point of her character? She does nothing throughout the whole of the series, she is entirely pointless and she’s the main character! I suppose I have to give a couple of points for not going the route I was expecting, I was predicting she was either going to go crazy and kill everyone or she’d be the true magical girl she always wanted to be and find a way to end this bloodbath. None of that happened. Everyone else just died while she sat around and moped. I couldn’t quite figure out how she could do anything, I mean her power is to hear people in trouble and that’s it, but the one thing I’ll give this series is that in its latter half it had some pretty interesting battles with bizarre powers, like a girl who can swim through solid objects and another that can make holes just by touching something (that was a particularly nasty death). So how was Snow White going to fight with her power? Answer? She doesn’t! I had to laugh with the last episode, with Snow White training and learning how to fight, bearing in mind at this point that the actual fighting is over and so is the damned series! Urgh.

Lastly, another big failing for the series is just how it’s plotted out. A lot of the time it does just feels as if the whole point of this series was to kill a bunch of girls. I mean a lot of the explaining for stuff that I would regard as a major reveal is just delivered in the most boring and inept way. Want the girls to learn that they actually die if they stop being a magical girl? Have Fav just tell them. Want an explanation as to why this game became a bloodbath? Have Fav just sit down and explain it, again! I get the feeling that they want Fav to be a Kyubey-like bad guy, they wanted him to look cute but be this manipulative demonspawn that you just love to hate (and fantasise about beating with a shovel, god I hate Kyubey), but he’s just boring and lazy, only there as a construct to spout off exposition and make comments in bad taste.

The Verdict

In the end, if you’re into watching magical girls being maimed, murdered and probably something else being with m (I’m so annoyed with this series I don’t even want to waste the effort looking for the right words), then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. For me though, it was terribly written, there were too many characters and the few goods ones didn’t get anywhere near the development they deserved. The one thing I will give this series is that in the later half is does have some interesting battles and use of powers, if only they could have ended up in a better series.

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

Anime Corner: Bungo Stray Dogs Review

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The eye of the tiger, and the legs and the fists.

What’s the Story?

Kicked out of his orphanage and on the verge of starving to death, young Atsushi has a run in with the suicidal Detective Dazai, but you see Dazai is no ordinary detective (you know, outside of being suicidal). He’s a member of the Armed Detective Agency, a group of super powered individuals who deal with cases the police and military can’t handle, usually involving other powered individuals. Once Atsushi learns he too has super powers he ends up joining the Agency, at first its all wacky hijinks and bizarre powers, but soon Atsushi is pulled into an escalating conflict as different powered groups vie for control of him.

The Review

Bungo Stray Dogs is an odd series, it’s both it’s own weird little thing while at the same time following along certain story paths that have been done before. I mean once the series finds its footing and starts to take shape you can tell a lot of the structure, you can see who’s going to end up fighting who and how the various character arcs are going to be resolved, you just don’t know the specifics. That’s where Bungo Stray Dogs shines the most though, while this kind of plot has been done better elsewhere, the sheer bizarreness and inventiveness of the characters and their power is worth the price of admission.

I seriously love the characters in this series, the majority of them have a screw loose and some of the weirdest powers I’ve ever seen. I mean we have a doctor who can heal any injury, as long as said injury is near-fatal, there’s a guy in season 2 who can trap people in the books he’s written (talk about drawing your audience in) and, my favourite, a guy who can solve any crime just by putting on a pair of glasses (except he’s not actually super powered, he just thinks he is and no one has the heart to tell him otherwise). That’s without even getting to the lemon bombs and the creepy doll that drives people crazy. Add into this that all of the characters are full of personality and energy, they’re a bunch of hyperactive lunatics at times and always fun to be around. Individually they’re all a great laugh, but when you get them in a room together that’s when the sparks start to fly, I love how all these guys bounce off of one another and it’s where a lot of the humour of the series comes from.

Tonally the series is a bit all over the place. I mean at the start of the series we get Dazai’s constant jokes about the ways he wants to commit suicide, which is all kinds of ‘I don’t whether to laugh or be concerned’, but then you’ll have the characters laughing and joking with one another and the next minute we’ll have Atsushi flashbacking to how he was beaten in the orphanage and told he was utterly worthless. Yeah, the show strikes this weird tone, trying to be both light and dark at the same time and never quite getting either one right (at the start anyway). It doesn’t help that for a lot of season 1 the plot meanders about all over the place, giving us random cases as a way to get to know the members of the Agency one by one, it’s enjoyable, but not exactly mind blowing.

As we start to move towards the tail end of season 1 and throughout all of season 2 things improve a great deal, more serious storylines take over as the Agency, the Port Mafia and later on the Guild start to clash (there’s also that wonderful flashback arc at the beginning of season 2 which is without question the best the series has to offer, seriously check those episodes out if nothing else). It probably helps that the jokes are cut back at this point and the humour is just left to the character interactions and Dazai being his wonderful mischievous trickster self. Also season 2 is where the action takes a serious shot of adrenaline. I don’t think there isn’t a week that goes by without something awesome happening, especially as we get into the conflict with the Guild.

Let’s talk a little bit about our main character, Atsushi, like the series he takes a while to get going, but once he finds his footing he’s pretty great. At the start he’s mostly the straight man for Dazai and a few of the other weirdoes in the Agency, he can’t control his powers to save his life and I’ve already mentioned his rather dark past with the orphanage and that is his main driving force. Atsushi has no confidence in himself; mostly because he’s never been told he’s anything other than useless, and while it does take a long while for him to start to gain some confidence (possibly a little too long), when he does start to see his own worth, it’s a powerful moment.

My favourite character though has to be Dazai, yeah the suicide jokes are a bit weird for me to wrap my head around, but he’s always entertaining, purposefully teasing the other members of the Agency and bringing out a laugh. As the series goes on though we start to see the deeper shades to Dazai, such as the fact that he’s a master manipulator and that his past might be a lot more bloodstained than you expect. As you get to know him, you can’t help but wonder what exactly is going on behind that carefree smile. The flashback arc at the beginning of season 2 (seriously, go watch it), gives us a glimpse of the Dazai of the past and showing us that he makes a pretty effective bad guy.

The Verdict

In the end, Bungo Stray Dogs is an unusual anime. It does take a little while to get going, but it’s definitely worth the effort to stick with, the characters are fun and lively and the best of the humour comes from their personalities bouncing off of one another. The powers are creative and while the plot may struggle to find its tone at the start, once it settles in it does lead to some great character development and some exciting battles as more powered people come into play. The animation is also above the standard and has some truly gorgeous moments when the action demands it. Hopefully we will get that third season that was teased with the last episode.

fish stamp good

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

First Impressions: Autumn 2016 part 2

And we’re back! On with the first impressions!

Sound! Euphonium 2

My favourite school band anime is back! Which thinking about it isn’t too hard since this is the only school band anime that I’ve watched, though it’s still one of my favourite anime in recent years. This time around the band are making preparations for the Kansai competition, but could trouble be stirring when a student who dropped out of the club last year wants to rejoin? It seems the shadow of the incident from the previous year, where a bunch of students walked out because some people weren’t taking it seriously, is still hanging over the group and with new band members coming to foreground what drama will the club have to overcome this time?

Everything that made the last series so great is back, that gorgeous animation, the music, the characters I’ve come to love and all their interactions and relationships. I am interested in these new characters, though I just hope it doesn’t push existing characters to the sidelines. I’m glad we’re getting more of Asuka as I’ve been wanting to know what her deal is ever since the first season started and Kumiko and Reina are officially the cutest couple in existence (I shall ship them ‘til I die!). On a side note, I don’t care how much the show tries to convince Yuko is a good person I ain’t buying it, after the crap see pulled last season there’s no coming back.

Bungo Stray Dogs 2

The super powered members of the Armed Detective Agency are back, kind of. We’re taking a trip into Dazai’s past as we see what it was like when he was a member of Port Mafia and deals with the disappearance of another of their members. With a mysterious group called Mimic striking against the Port Mafia and questions being raised about just where the missing member’s loyalties lie it looks like dark times are ahead. Back in the present things aren’t any rosier though as a three-way battle for survival is kicking off between the Agency, the Port Mafia and the Guild! Will anyone survive? We’ll just have to wait and see.

This second season started in a weird place, but I’m kind of glad of it. The humour is more turned down and the action, drama and seriousness are turned up to eleven, couple that with an interesting mystery and conflict and I’m hooked. It’s different from the last season, but I cope with that for something this good. I like seeing this younger and darker Dazai, I mean he’s still the goofball I know and love (even if he is toned down a little) but there’s definitely something a lot more threatening and dangerous about this version from the past. I even like the new characters and wouldn’t mind a series getting to know them. Back in the present things pick up pretty much where they left off and the anime doesn’t waste anytime in getting to the conflict. I can’t wait to see the powers of the Guild and how this is all going to work out.

Flip Flappers

Cocona is a model honour student, cautious of change and struggling to find her path in life, but all that changes when she meets a mysterious girl called Papika. Together the two of them travel to bizarre and wondrous worlds and realities that are apart of something called Pure Illusion to collect strange gems. They’re not the only ones after the gems though. What are these gems and, more to the point, what is Pure Illusion? I hope the series is going to tell us at some point, but for now I’m just enjoying the visual feast that this anime is.

I really love this anime. A Studio Ghibli film on acid is the best way I have of describing it, each episode so far has presented us with a strange new reality that a different mash up of art styles, genres and influences. You never quite know what you’re going to get. True the actual plot is fairly vague at the moment, we don’t know much about anyone outside of our leads and we know even less about what’s actually going on. There are hints at something bigger, but so far no real clue as to what they mean or where they’re going to lead, well, outside of something equally wacky and gorgeous. This series is worth watching just for the animation and artistic style alone, but if it can ace the story as well then I think we have a winner here folks. Weird and wonderful, just the way I like my anime.

Drifters

Moments from death famous historical figures find themselves before a strange man working at his desk. The next thing they know they wake up in a fantastic land with no clue of where they are or what they’re meant to do. They are the Drifters and unbeknownst to them they have become involved in a battle to the death between other famous historical figures. Let the bloodshed begin.

Be prepared for violence and blood, lots and lots of blood. This is definitely one for my inner man-child, there is action galore here and it is gloriously animated, the story so far is a bit thin on the ground as basically we’ve just met some of the characters and watched them kill things, though to be fair I don’t think the story is going to be much more than that. I will warn you not to come to this series expecting anything near an accurate representation of the historical figures involved, Joan of Arc is a pyromaniac for an example and sometimes the humour can be a bit strange as it whiplashes between the dark and violent scenes and the characters being goofy. Still, as an action romp it’s fun.

Lostorage incited WIXOSS

Suzuko has just moved back to the town where she grew up and is hoping to meet her childhood friend Chinatsu. Before that though she gets involved with the WIXOSS card game and is chosen as a Selector. Now she must battle with other Selectors with her memories on the line and if she loses all together then she’ll be reduced to blank slate. What Suzuko doesn’t know is that Chinatsu has been chosen as a Selector as well. What will happen when the two friends come face to face as opponents?

I never got around to watching the two previous seasons of WIXOSS, though they did catch my interest and I’m sure I’ll get round to them eventually, for now I’ll dip my toe into this series since it looks to have a completely new story and characters to the previous seasons. It should be perfect for newbies like me, that’s the theory anyway. I do like the concept of the story and I think it could lead to some really dramatic and harrowing moments, but for the moment I’m just not all that invested. The characters are fine but nothings given me an emotional gut punch yet to get me to care. Everything just feels a little too constructed, like everything is being made to go down this route rather than a tragic twist of fate, the characters need to do a bit more to convince me to care. It probably doesn’t help that I have no idea what’s going on during the fight scenes. I hope the card game itself was explained a lot better in those other seasons because here it’s just kind of there, it’s a bunch of people shouting out stuff and some flashy effects and I don’t really know whether what’s happening is good or bad. I’ll stick with it for now though.

And that’s that for now. Next week we’re back to the regular anime reviews!

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