Anime Corner: When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace Review

Blog Supernatural Battles Review Title

A flame of dark brilliance burns within my right hand. Let the Gates of Hell themselves swing open. Unleash! Dark and Dark! (Or, you know, something like that).

What’s the Story?

Five high schoolers get superpowers. Hijinks ensue.

The Review

Yeah, this series isn’t exactly plot heavy. Basically five kids get powers completely out of the blue. Yes, I know we meet a 6th character with powers in the first episode, and I don’t care if she’s constantly referenced and appears in the end song, she only shows up in about four episodes. So if the series isn’t going to treat her as a proper main character, neither am I (which is a shame, ‘cause I really liked her, and her second episode is really sweet and heartbreaking).

This is a comedy series, so you have to go in knowing that. Don’t expect some superpowered brawls between near god-like beings, nor are you to expect a dark study of human nature when corrupted by power. The last episode pretty much sums up this series’ approach to superpowers. Powers aren’t meant to hurt people, or even make you happy. Superpowers are cool, and that’s all they need to be. Can I just say how refreshing that idea is. There are times (only a few I admit) where I just get tired of all the drama with superpowered characters, and just wished they’d have a little more fun. That’s what this series is, pure, undiluted fun.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t any drama in this series. There is another story working in the background that works to explain where these superpowers came from, and it is criminally underused. Seriously, it adds about a dozen characters to the series that we only get to see once or twice. I want to know what was going on with them, I want to follow them and see where their story leads. And our five heroes do get mixed up in a couple of superpowered battles, though to say these generally have an unorthodox ending is to basically sum up the series. It likes to give you a typical situation, then throw its arms up and go “Nah! Just messin’ with ya!”

I’ll give episode 2 as an example. In that, one of the characters receives a letter from Andou (our lead male) and misinterprets it as a love letter. This leads to the usual hijinks, but then, at the end, Andou explains the mistake to the girl. I mean…he…she…this does not compute. A character sits another character down to explain a misunderstanding before it gets out of hand? That’s not how this is supposed to go. Surely this is meant to be some kind of running gag, or maybe the girl will turn into the stalker stereotype we see in anime. I can do nothing but applaud this fine story-telling here (it also helps that this is one of the saddest scenes in anime the autumn season).

Speaking of things to applaud with this series, the award for most jaw-drop inducing performance goes to the voice actress for Hatoko, in the episode where she calls out Andou on all his nerdy nonsense. It’s about five minutes of non-stop monologue, getting more and more out of control as she goes along. You feel the character’s buried frustrations and pain just pouring out of her like a tidal wave. It’s…it’s just, like I said, jaw-dropping to listen to. I wouldn’t be surprised if she needed an oxygen mask after performing it. If she did all of that in one take, give the girl an Oscar or something.

That just about brings me to the part of this anime that I am really not fond of. That’s the harem aspect. This is entirely a personal preference of mine. I just prefer stories with couples, where I can get invested in a relationship and watch romance blossom. I’m not so keen on stories where everyone is lusting after one character. For one, why should I get invested in relationship that may never happen? For two, I know this is a story about teens with superpowers, but really? Five nice girls and a kid all fall for the exact same otaku goofball? Sorry, I’m not buying that.

It’s not so bad in the first half of the series, it kind of plays with the angle that they’re all just friends and just care about one another in that way. That was fine. One of the girls clearly has feelings for Andou, but covers it up by constantly fighting with him. That’s ok (a little stereotypical, but ok). The little kid has a schoolgirl crush type thing on Andou. I can accept that (as long as Andou keeps pretending he doesn’t notice and keeps her as a friend only, I can live with that). A love triangle forms between Andou, the first girl and his childhood friend. Ok, we’re pushing it, but you’re going for love triangle drama, I can roll with that. Then, screw it, everyone else jumps aboard the Andou train and that’s it I’m calling time out. You’ve gone too far now series. It wouldn’t be so bad if this kept in the background, was just kind of a series of running jokes, but no, this is a main focus of what passes for plot in this show, and I’m sorry it’s just not my thing. I will gladly ship Andou and Tomoyo, but I can’t really see him with anyone else. The others girls are all nice, and while I certainly feel their affection for Andou, I don’t see anyone where that crosses over into love, in my eyes at least.

I like all of the characters. It’s not like they’re all meticulously crafted people with deep back stories and motivation. No, they’re just nice people who are funny and fulfil their roles. Andou is probably the most stand out character. One part obsessed nerd, one part Gary Sue, one part over the top idiot, but in a fun way. I don’t mean the Gary Sue in a bad way either. Ok, he’s not exactly perfect, he has a tendency to show off which usually ends in him falling flat on his face, but he just has this perfect, wholesomeness that I feel is purely there to make all the girls fall in love with him. Every time he gives one of his speeches about his ideology, you can just see all the girls blushing, and starting to swoon, and I’m still not buying it. When he’s being nerdy and over the top, he’s really funny, and it’s not like the speeches turn me off, it just reminds of the harem stuff.

The Verdict

This series is about the fun of having superpowers, yet surprisingly the superpowers take a backseat to harem drama and hijinks. If you like that kind of thing I’m sure you’ll love this series. Even if not, there is a joy to this series that is simply infectious.

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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: Akame ga Kill

Blog Akame Ga Kill Review Title

Kill the really good anime series.

What’s the Story?

Tatsumi is a bright and idealistic young man, he heads out to the Capital so that he can make a living, and save his struggling village from poverty. His naive ideals are soon shattered though, when he discovers that the Capital is overflowing with corruption. He joins Night Raid, a group of assassins, who make it their mission to punish the wicked, and who one day hope to lead a revolution that will free the Capital, and the kingdom, of this darkness forever. Unfortunately the path towards this goal is not easy, and much blood shall be spilled along the way.

The Review

Just to start, I’d like to say I really enjoyed this series, but there is one aspect of it that I think will turn some people off, and that’s the body count. Seriously, the amount of people that die in this series is astronomical. If you’re not prepared to watch characters that you care about die on a near regular basis, I’d probably suggest trying a different anime. Normally I myself don’t like an overabundance of killing in what I watch, especially when its main characters that are getting the chop, but Akame ga Kill has found some kind of magic formula. With a lot of series like that, eventually characters dying becomes just another plot twist, you become numb to a character’s pain, and there’s always the argument of, if you know they’re just going to die, why should you bother investing in the first place? Akame ga Kill somehow manages to get around that and keep you invested. Most of the deaths are genuinely sad, as the characters have a last heartfelt moment before they pass on (I have no shame in attempting that this show has had me in tears on a couple of occasions).

I think what keeps it interesting, is the fact that people never die as you expect them to. There is always a twist, or things won’t go the way you expect. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat trying to guess who, how or even if someone’s going to die this time. You get especially nervous when a character starts discussing their back story, but by the halfway point of the series, most of the characters have so many death flags on them that any one of them could die at any moment.

It helps that the characters are all really fun too. They’re not exactly deep, but they all have distinct personalities and they’re extremely likeable. They all have just enough of a back story, and enough different shades to their personality for you to invest in them quickly and easily. The thing I like most about them though, is that the characters (outside of Tatsumi at the start) are under no illusions. They are not heroes. They are simply bad people killing worse people. I like that, because a lesser series would have passed these characters off as the pure and noble heroes for us all to cheer for, but instead it admits that this is a very morally grey area.

But the series doesn’t just let us invest in the heroes, it lets us get to know our villains too, and even feel sad when they die. The villains aren’t exactly deep either, but it’s shown that they can just be as goofy as our heroes, and in some cases just as caring. Most of them are twisted psychopaths, but likeable twisted psychopaths.

There are only two characters that I feel get the short end of the stick. There’s Run who hardly ever has any focus or development. His back story is pretty much thrown in during the second to last episode just to get it out there. I know why that is though, it’s because the arc that dealt with his story was cut from the anime so that they could hit their ending within 24 episodes. And yes, the anime has an original ending. It manages to stick pretty close to the manga throughout its run, just having to rearrange a few things, and the actual ending (though not the greatest) feels like a natural and logical conclusion for the most part. It fits with what came before, and I’ve seen far worse original endings. (Besides I tend to prefer having an actual ending, than being forced to go read the manga to find out what happens next.)

The other character that gets left out of the picture too often is an odd one. It’s our title character Akame. I don’t know if other people feel the same, but I had trouble investing in Akame. She’s a perfectly fine character, and I do like her, I just don’t feel for her like I do all the other characters. Maybe it’s that her back story, though a sad one, is only ever told to us. I never felt her carrying the weight of her previous life (not until towards the end of the series anyway). Or maybe it’s that when I first saw her I was expecting this stone cold badass, and instead I got this badass who’s warm and goofy, and likes to eat a lot of meat. The show never felt that interested in her either, giving a lot more focus to all of the other characters. Honestly I felt a lot more sympathy for Akame’s sister.

Something this series excels at is mixing its goofy shonen antics with the darker subject matter. You’d think it would be really jarring, and although it is shocking, it all feels apart of the same world and show. It never takes you out of the moment. I also have to praise this series for its fight scenes. The animation is generally of a really good quality, but it hits another level once the fighting starts. You can’t help but cheer and gasp as the fights get bigger and wilder. This is all backed by a fantastic soundtrack, and once certain tracks start, you know stuff is going to hit the fan, and it never disappoints in that regard.

The Verdict

Not exactly deep or thought-provoking, but a consistently fun ride, filled with likeable characters and some fight sequences that are worthy of legend. The darker aspects of the show, and the final body count, may be off-putting for some though.

fish stamp great

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

Anime Corner: Chaika the Coffin Princess – Avenging Battle Review

Blog Chaika Review Title

Chaika ended. Miss girl with broken speech. Sad now.

What’s the Story?

Following on from season 1, we continue the adventures of the mysterious Chaika, her hired-muscle Toru and Akari, and Frederica the dragoon. They’re travelling across the country, out to gather up the remains of Chaika’s deceased father, who happened to be a very bad man. He was an all powerful wizard, and an evil emperor who trapped the country in an endless war. Finally he was overthrown, his body cut into pieces, with a different part given to each of the heroes who defeated him. Now Chaika just wants to give her dad a funeral, but the thing is she’s not the only Chaika. There are a bunch of other Chaika’s gathering up the remains for different purposes, and after the ending of series one, there are serious questions about not just who, but exactly what is Chaika?

The Review

I have to admit, I do love Chaika, both the character and the series. Chaika at first appearance looks a little weak and helpless, but she has guts and determination when it counts. It also helps that she’s damn adorable, especially with her broken speech. It’s strange, I can remember watching the very first episode and really wishing Chaika would shut up, her speech pattern really grated on my nerves. I don’t know what happened, a couple episodes later and I found the way she talks to be really endearing. I think it’s that Chaika is more than just her outward appearance and the cutesy factor. You feel her pain as she struggles to figure who she is and what exactly is her purpose. The first couple of episodes for this second series did a really good job of showing that struggle, both for the main Chaika and a few of the others we’ve gotten to know.

Chaika isn’t the only good character, I like the rest of our main cast too. Toru and Akari are our badass warriors. Toru is a bit of the everyman, who’s both cool and put upon by the crazy people in his life. He’s gone from being the bored layabout, to a man with drive and purpose, most of that centred around Chaika. Akari is both hilarious, and a little creepy. Her constant attempts to foster a romance with Toru had me falling over with laughter (I just had to keep reminding myself that they’re not actually related by blood). Frederica is the odd one out I suppose. She’s both cute, and a monstrous badass, you know she can kick everyone’s behind in a matter of minutes, but that’s kind of the problem. Because she’s so powerful, the show had to continually come up with new ways to keep her out of the action. It just gets frustrating in the end. I can’t think of a time when she’s really been allowed to show off her true power.

To be fair though, none of these characters (outside of possibly Chaika) are especially deep, but they are fun and loveable. That brings me to the side-characters. I do wish Gillette and his squad got a bit more exploration and development, but then they’re supporting characters, and we’re on the clock here, so needs must I suppose.

This series feels like an old school adventure, travelling across a magical kingdom with a bunch of likeable weirdoes as they collect some magic items for whatever reason, and the reason was really good. The mystery surrounding Emperor Gaz and Chaika was an intriguing one. That being said, this series does have some flaws. First, in regards to that mystery while the build up is good, the actual answers aren’t all that interesting. Everything turns out kind of how you expect it to, with no huge surprises, which is a real shame. I just feel a little disappointed, this series was doing so well, I was hoping for something that would blow the plot open, and make me see it in an entirely new light, but we didn’t get that.

Also, season 2 shares a problem with season 1, and that’s that the tone can take some really jarring shifts. In season 1 the series suddenly went really dark in the last few episodes (especially concerning the fate of a bunch of young girls taken from a village), and this season we got the Black Chaika turning into a tentacle monster (She will be haunting my nightmares for a long time to come). I never really understood why it had to go so dark, most of the time the series bounces along nicely with goofy antics and some great action. Like I said, it’s just jarring how the story shifts gears so quickly.

And while I’m talking about the ending of Season2 (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so just be warned that the next two paragraphs have a couple). Emperor Gaz, bit of a letdown wasn’t he. He’s built up to be this super powerful wizard, it took eight of the country’s best heroes to take him down before, he shoots down a flying castle with one bloody shot! His battle with Toru is pretty good, if a little short, and then he just gets blown away like he’s nothing. It kind of makes me wonder what the point was of him coming back in the first place. At least Chaika got to give her father his funeral, in a manner of speaking.

Actually I think that’s what’s thrown off this second season of Chaika, the pacing. The ending feels way too rushed. I’ve been checking down the back of the sofa to make sure I haven’t misplaced a few episodes. It feels like Chaika deserved at least one more episode to give the series the conclusion it deserved. And it’s not just the ending that was rushed. There are a couple of emotional beats that needed more time to breathe, if we wanted to give this ending its full impact, like the friendship between Chaika and Niva. We got the beginnings of their relationship, and we can see where it’s headed, but then we skip straight from those beginnings to the conclusion. We miss out all of the progression in the middle, and that hurts the finale. The same with Frederica’s constant pleas for Toru to become her Dragoon Cavalier. It took so long to get to the resolution of that subplot that in the end I didn’t cheer with joy, I just screamed ‘About bloody time!’. It’s a shame, but I do feel that Season 1 paced itself a lot better.

The Verdict

Despite a few flaws, such as pacing and a lack of depth to some characters, this is still an enjoyable series. An old fashioned fantasy romp that’s always fun, has a likeable cast and has some truly great animation (especially in the fight sequences).

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.

Introducing Anime Corner!

Anime_Corner_Logo

It’s a new year and so I’d like to announce a new section of the blog.

Ever since I did my first impressions of the Fall 2014 anime, I was planning on doing a kind of final impressions when those series came to an end. I’ve now decided that I’m going to create a subset within my blog to handle those reviews, thus welcome to the Anime Corner! I’m going to be doing reviews on most of the series I covered in my first impressions posts, but not all of them. I’m only reviewing series that I got all the way to the end of, so stuff like Terra Formars (which I dropped after two episodes) I won’t be reviewing as that’s not fair to the show. Who knows, maybe it got really good after I left (I doubt it, but you never know). I also won’t be reviewing the shows that are carrying on either (I’ll get to them when they end).

Every now and again I may drop in a review of anime from years gone by, this could be either a classic, a modern-day juggernaut, or maybe even something that is often overlooked. This won’t be a regular thing though, as I like to rewatch stuff before I write up my thoughts on a subject, and it takes me a lot more time to get through an entire anime, as opposed to one animated movie.

I’m going to try a different reviewing method with the Anime Corner as well, and that includes a scoring system. I’m not doing numbers though, as in all honestly, I’d just be plucking numbers out of thin air, and I have no idea what the difference between, say, a 7 and an 8 will be. I’m going to keep it simple and stick to a five-point scale. Here’s the breakdown of possible scores.

Unmissable – Stop whatever you’re doing, go watch this anime right now. This is the best of the best in my opinion, and you need to see this no matter what.

Great – Something truly wonderful. While you don’t have to drop everything to watch this, you should make sure it’s on your ‘to watch’ list for the future, otherwise you’ll be missing out.

Good- A couple of flaws, but a really enjoyable experience. Check this out if it sounds interesting to you.

Watchable – Fair to middling. It has good aspects, but some bad ones too. If it sounds like it might interest you, or you have nothing else to do. Give a couple of episodes a watch and see if you like it.

Avoid – Spare yourselves the torment, and go watch something else instead. Watching paint dry would be a better experience than this.

Anyway, that’s enough out of me for the moment. The first Anime Corner review will be posted soon.