Anime Corner: Horimiya Review

From Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, via just about everyone else.

What’s the Story?

To most who know her, Hori is the perfect student and social butterfly, however at home she’s brash and loud, with a love of horror films and spends most of her free time looking after her little brother. Miyamura, on the other hand, is seen as the gloomy loner of the class, but in private he’s a kind and gentle soul. His long hair and constant desire to stay covered up are there to hide the piercings and tattoos he gave himself when he was younger. When these two learn of one another’s other lives a connection is formed that neither of them could have imagined. Could it be that love is in the air?

The Review

I’ve said this before but I don’t typically watch a lot of romance series. I prefer romance as a subplot rather than the main focus, but there have been a couple of series over the years that made me think otherwise. When I first started watching Horimiya I was convinced this was going to be another one of those series. I got really, really invested in the blossiming romance of Hori and Miyamura, their every conversation was just the right mix of awkward and relatable. Then, much to my surprise, they actually got together! One of my common complaints against romance series is that they mostly end just as the main couple get together. We get all that build up, all the trails and struggles, then they finally declare their love for one another and the credits roll as if that’s the end of the story.

I do want to stress before I go on, I do really like Horimiya. From beginning to end I have enjoyed this series, but something weird happened about halfway through that severely dented that enjoyment and it’s what stops me from raving about this series. I’ve always thought that the time after a couple gets together would really be the most ripe for drama, all that adjusting to the new dynamic and learning more about one another’s personal foibles. Horimiya has me questioning that idea though, because once Hori and Miyamura get together they kinda become the least interesting part of the series. They’re still cute together and they have their funny moments, but it very much feels like their story is over and they’re just hanging around because they’re the title characters.  

The main problem, for me at least, comes from the fact that the series isn’t interested in exploring their new relationship past the early stages. This is despite the fact that the series clearly sets up some big issues for the two to tackle, especially on Hori’s side of things. Let’s start by talking about Hori’s jealousy issues, which get treated as a cheap joke, rather than an actual problem. I mean the jealous girlfriend is a trope and a couple of the jokes are cute, but it would have been much better if she got called out on this at least once. She’s very possessive and when you add on the fact that she forces Miyamura to do things he’s clearly not comfortable with, it becomes a problem. We all have our kinks and if Miyamura being mean to her turns Hori on, that’s fine in and of itself, but he’s clearly not happy doing it and forcing your partner to do something is not the way to build a healthy relationship. All it needed was a line or some comment, to show that this was being addressed, but again, the series just treats it like a cheap joke.

Thankfully the series has a better handle on all the other relationships it explores throughout its run. There’s a nice variety to the other characters and not all of them are involved in romantic plots. We get one love triangle, which is really well handled, but we also get to see friendships and sibling dynamics blossom. Once Hori and Miyamura start to slip into the background, these stories very much become the stars of the series, offering sweet little vignettes with the rest of the cast. To me its clear that this series is much happier with the shorter, small interactions between the characters, that’s where the dialogue very much shines. If the series stuck to these smaller stories and, loathe as I am to admit it, dragged out the central plot with Hori and Miyamura, maybe I wouldn’t be as frustrated with it at times. My gripes aside though, I did enjoy this series and I thoroughly recommend it. When this series gets it right, it really gets it right.

The Verdict

In the end, Horimiya is a very entertaining and well made series. It gets an awful lot right, from engaging characters to genuinely heartfelt moments. Unfortunately it’s not too interested in exploring its central couple beyond their initial getting together, which is frustrating. On the other hand, there are plenty of other relationships for the series to explore and not all of them are romantic. Smaller stories and interactions are were this series excels, there’s a real sense of relatability to a lot of the conversations and set ups. It’s worth a watch if nothing else, just don’t expect it to go too deep into the relationships.

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

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

Suppose everything was for Lloyd-kun?

What’s the Story?

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

The Review

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

Anime Corner: Talentless Nana Review

Serial Killer’s Got Talent!

What’s the Story?

Earth is under threat from mysterious creatures known only as the Enemies of Humanity, but plans are already in place to fight against them. Situated on a secret island is a special school tasked with training the next generation of super-powered teens! Known as the ‘Talented’, can this ragtag group learn to control their powers and save the world? They’d better learn fast because something on the island is killing students at an alarming rate! Could the Enemies of Humanity have already infiltrated the island? But who are they and what exactly is it that they’re after?

The Review

Okay, I’m just going to keep this short and sweet. I like this show, it’s a lot of fun and I’m desperately hoping there’s a second season somewhere in the future. I don’t really feel comfortable saying much more than that. The first episode of this series is heavily reliant on you making certain assumptions and then turning those assumptions on their head at the end. Honestly that’s where my enjoyment of this show comes from and I think going in blind into this show is really important to get the full impact of everything. I’ll do my best to keep the rest of this review as spoiler-free as I possibly can, but even by telling you that there’s a twist I feel like I’ve spoiled things just a little bit already. So, if you’re after my recommendation, then you have it. The show isn’t perfect and I’ll try to talk about some of the flaws of this series in the paragraphs that follow, but there are just certain elements that really appeal to me.

Let’s talk about that first episode that I mentioned, honestly I wasn’t all that impressed until we got to the twist. At first glance the series is fairly generic, you’ve got teens with superpowers and a high school setting, but nothing really stands out. There aren’t even really any clues to what’s actually going on, not until we reach that last twist when we see events from a different perspective and suddenly the whole show is cast in a new light. I’ll admit my jaw dropped when we got to it because the show had lulled me into such a false sense of security, that’s why you should really go into this show blind (and this is really my last warning on that subject. Go watch the show guys!)

After the first episode we’re suddenly into a completely different genre. No longer is this a show about super-powered teens, well, okay it is, but we’ve less of a school drama and more of a peculiar murder mystery. Each story arc is now a series of cat and mouse games between a series of different players, trying to work out people’s abilities and how they’re being put to use. Almost every episode ends with a ‘Oh crap, how are they going to get out of this one moment?!’ before we hit the end of an arc and get all the answers explained to us. That is one area I think people might take issue with this series, I’ve called it a mystery but I really doubt you’ll be able to figure it all out before the answers are given. I suppose it is possible, the show doesn’t exactly hide things from you, but it doesn’t really give you any clues either. You really just have to be in it for the ride, which I more than am and the stories always make sense when we look back and slot all the pieces into place.

Having said all that, I do feel the series is pretty clear about where it’s going. I mean it hasn’t come out and said it yet, which is why I’m hoping so much for a season 2, but I have a good idea what’s it’s got planned for the next stage of the story. There’s some really interesting character work in the last couple of episodes, peeling back the layers yet again to show us that there was even more going on that we already thought. I’m excited for where this series is headed and episode thirteen ends in such a heartbreaking spot (please tell me season 2’s been confirmed!).

Now, here’s the part of the review where I wonder just how much of a free pass I’m giving this show because I enjoy its the central gimmick as much as I do. I take such joy out of all those cat and mouse games it makes me wonder just how many flaws I’m overlooking, because there are some flaws that I’ve noticed. I mean the whole supposed premise of the show makes me scratch my head. So there are these ‘Enemies of Humanity’ running around causing trouble and the government, or whoever, decides to send all its powered people off to this remote island. Doesn’t that seem really overly complicated? Also you’d think they’d have better security, or better classes because most of these people just seem to do whatever the heck they want. I mean once you know what’s actually going on it makes a little more sense, but you have to wonder why more members of the cast aren’t poking holes in this plot. It paints a lot of them as idiots and there’s nothing they do that really dissuades that opinion across the series. All the smart characters are the really important characters, which I guess is all that matters. Still, I’m more than happy to suspend my disbelief as long as I need to to enjoy these cat and mouse games!

The Verdict

In the end, Talentless Nana, is a show that is best gone into as blind as possible. The first episode may feel a little lacklustre, but stick with it to the end and it’ll surprise you. It’s not a perfect series, there are a fair few holes that can be poked in the set up and the mysteries of each arc can’t really be fully solved until the end, but I don’t really care. I love the ride of this show, hurtling from one cliffhanger ending to the next. It’s continually engaging and with an interesting, if telegraphed, path forward. I’m really hoping for that second season!

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

Anime Corner: Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle Review

Zzz…Zzz…Zzz…Zzz…Zzz…

What’s the Story?

A good night’s sleep is really important. So when the princess of the human realm, Sya, is kidnapped by the Demon King of course her top priority is sorting out her sleeping arrangements! Whether it’s raiding the castle’s treasure chests for special items or literally cutting down demons for materials, she’ll do whatever it takes to have the perfect night’s rest! The demons really have no idea what they’ve let themselves in for, honestly, I feel sorry for them.

The Review

Sometimes I see a comedy anime and my immediate thought is, well, that joke is going to wear itself out in no time. I mean, a show about a princess trying to get a good nights rest in a demon castle? How many jokes can you really make out of a premise like that? Turns out quite a lot actually, twelve episodes worth at the very least. I initially skipped this series when it first started airing, but a couple weeks later I started hearing good things about it and so I decided to check it out. I haven’t looked back since. I love this show, it had me laughing each and every week and was one of the shows I looked forward to most during Autumn 2020 when it first aired (and there were a lot of good shows in that season). Whether it was bopping my head along to the series’ opening or sitting in anticipation of the princess’ next crazy quest, this show is an absolute blast from start to finish.

Really this is a comedy of misunderstandings, featuring an eclectic cast of people each of whom all think in their own unique ways. The demons at least get a pass on this front because, well, they’re demons, there’s nothing that says they should think along the same lines as a human. So when they get confused by human behaviour or customs I get it, they have their own quirks and tendencies that make them all lovably odd. The character that worries the me the most is the princess because, well, her thought process is so bizarre at times. I’ll state it again for the record, the central premise of this show is that the princess has been kidnapped by demons and her first concern is for her to get a better quality pillow?!

Maybe it’s her sheltered upbringing, maybe it’s the fact that most of the other human characters we meet down the line are also pretty odd, but sometimes I just don’t get this princess. And that’s what makes her so funny! It’s a two fold punch really, you’ve got the strange way that the princess twists logic followed up by her sheer resourcefulness to get stuff done. Take for example her pillow, any normal person coming across a haunted shroud would at least be hesitant, not the princess, no. She immediately identifies it as a necessary material for her upgraded pillow and proceeds to chop up them up for parts! This princess’ handicraft skills are next level, she can make anything out of anything, demon quills, teddy bear fluff, demonic tree stumps you name it!

What makes this even funnier is all the reactions of the demons trying to cope with a princess who not only doesn’t follow the rules, but doesn’t even know they exist! That’s what I mean when I say this is a comedy of misunderstandings. You’ve got the princess misunderstanding her situation, and basic logic, and the demons misunderstanding human nature and culture. They just compound one another until hilarity ensues. Now none of this would really prevent the comedy from growing stale over time, and maybe for some people it does, but what saves it for me is that it knows when to change things up. The series keeps introducing new demons and new locations, whether we’re exploring different parts of the castle, other castles or even back in the human world every once in a world. It gives us new situations to play with and with new demons added to the roster we get new personalities thrown into the mix.

The final cherry on top for me is just how loveable these characters are. Yes the princess is an oblivious force of nature and can be quite the terror to the demons around her, but she’s never mean about it. She’s just doing what she wants to do and doesn’t think things through. The demons likewise are all adorable dorks in their own way, the Demon King especially. You can really feel the bond that forms between them and the princess and they do actually manage to have some fairly deep moments later on. I just love all these characters and I would quite happily spend the rest of my days with them, how about a spinoff? ‘Sleepy Reviewer in the Demon Castle’ anyone?

The Verdict

In the end, Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, is a show that’s a lot of fun from beginning to end. With a loveable cast and one crazy misreading of a situation after another it’s packed full of laughs and people I could spend all day with. The constant editions to the cast and the changing location help to keep things feelings fresh and made this one of the surprise hits of Autumn 2020 for me. So, if you’re not feeling too sleepy yourself why not check this show out? As for me I think it’s a good time for a nap, now, where did those demon teddy bears go?

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.

Cartoon Corner: Amphibia Season 1 Review

Gotta ribbit ribbit, Jump on in it!

What’s the Story?

Anne is just a normal teen, hanging out with her friends Sasha and Marcy, until one day when said friends convince her to steal a weird box from a thrift shop. Now Anne finds herself in a strange world filled with talking amphibians and a whole host of dangers and grossness she is just not prepared for. Luckily she befriends a local family of frogs who take her in and support her as she looks for her human friends and, hopefully, a way home. Of course before that she’s got to survive one madcap adventure after another, because if the giant insects and mind-controlling mushrooms weren’t a giveaway, this place might just kill her!

The Review

Disney does isekai! I’m joking of course, though only just. This series does fit the basic definition of the anime genre, in so much that it’s about someone from our Earth transported to another world. It also amuses me that this is one of two ongoing Disney cartoons that have that same basic setup, since The Owl House is also about a teenage girl being transported to another place (but I’ve already talked about the first season of that HERE). That’s about as far as the anime influences go as the rest of this series is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from this current era of Disney cartoons. What do I mean by that? Well, Disney cartoons all have a fairly similar list of ingredients of late. We’ll have wacky characters, episodic adventures that sometimes build into a larger story arc, lessons of the week delivered with a dose of self-awareness and a little bit of a dark edge to the whole series.

It’s a formula that works, as each series that uses it proves, and like anything that can make Disney money they’re going to exploit the hell out of it! (Just on a side note, I don’t want to make every Disney cartoon sound like their all carbon copies of one another because they’re not. They share a formula, that’s all, but just because you’re following the same recipe doesn’t mean you’re going to bake the same cake. Every series creator has their own special ingredients to add, if you’ll allow me to continue the metaphor).

Enough about Disney cartoons in general though, let’s talk Amphibia. When I first signed over my soul for Disney+, Amphibia was one of the series I was looking forward to watching. It took a while for the first season to appear, but when it did I found it was…okay. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, it just didn’t blow me away like I wanted it to. There’s potential with this series though, especially with the way it ended, but I’ll get into that in a little bit. This first season is very much about setting the tone, most of which is about Anne and the Plantar family getting into wacky hijinks, usually with Anne or one of the Plantars learning some sort of lesson along the way. The ongoing plot of Anne trying to find a way home or find her friends is pushed on to the back burner. We do get a couple of glimpses of Sasha, no sign of Marcy so far, and every time Anne tries to find out about the box that brought them to Amphibia she’ll get sidetracked by some sort of deadly danger.

For the most part it works. The episodic adventures are fun, whether it’s Anne getting the Plantars hooked on one of her trashy TV shows, Sprig getting everyone locked in a library because he’s bored or Hop Pop mind-controlling the kids for a moment’s peace, there’s a lot to enjoy. The characters are all fun, each flawed in their own way, but you can feel the bond growing between them. There’s also a nice sense of continuity between the adventures, when the Plantars lose their market stand in one episode it stays lost for several episodes before they find a way to get it back. When Hop Pop tells his sweetheart how he feels, she comes back later as his girlfriend and the same goes for Sprig’s love life.

That’s not what has me really excited this series though, it’s good, certainly, but there’s a couple of things that could push this series into great in the future. My favourite character so far, despite her limited appearances, is Sasha. I’m just fascinated by the relationship she has with Anne and the level of nuance to it. I mean on the one hand, yeah, she is a bully basically coercing Anne into doing whatever she wants. She clearly thinks that she knows best and is a skilled manipulator, easily able to wrap anyone she wants around her little finger. On the other hand, she does seem to care for Anne, she defends her from bullies, and is willing to let Anne go at the end of the series to save her. All that being said, the moment when Anne stands up to Sasha is the first truly epic moment of the series and I’m hoping they’ll be plenty more as I go into season 2 and onwards.

The Verdict

In the end, Amphibia is a fun series and worth checking out, even if I suspect it’s best is yet to come. Season 1 feels very much like a tone setter, letting us get to know the characters and giving us a sense of the world before things get crazier down the line. The conclusion of the series shows a lot of potential, especially in the dynamic between Anne and Sasha, something that I hope will be explored more in future seasons (not to mention we still haven’t seen a hair of what happened to Marcy yet). Give it a chance and hop onboard for this trip to another world.

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

Anime Corner: The Misfit of Demon King Academy Review

Ha! You thought just because you killed the Demon King he’d die? You fool!

What’s the Story?

Two Thousand years ago, Anos Voldigoad was the reviled tyranical Demon King, despised by all but his own subjects. Yet all that changed when he proposed a plan to the human hero Kanon, to split the world into four realms, one for humans, demons, spirits and gods each, all in the hope that when he is eventually reincarnated there will finally be peace. Yet, as Anos is finally reincarnated, he finds the world is not quite as he envisioned it. For one his name has been lost to history and an imposter stands in his place. Even the demons who once served him no longer remember him. Can Anos uncover what has happened to the world and set it back on the path towards peace? Of course he can! He’s our one and only Demon King!

The Review

Stupidly good, that is really the best description I can offer for this series. I mean there were points in this series that should have had the writer in me screaming in frustration, but was I? No, I was clapping and cheering on Anos with the rest of the characters. A couple of times I was even on the verge of joining Anos’ fan union with their songs. Yes, the main character has his own cheering squad that burst into song whenever its a climatic fight, what good power fantasy doesn’t? There’s a point in the series, I won’t say when, where our main character’s source is shattered. Now it’s very clearly established earlier in the series that when someone’s source is destroyed that’s it, they’re gone forever. No resurrection spells will work, there’s no possible come back, nothing. Yet what happens five minutes later? Anos resurrections himself and proceeds to laugh in the bad guy’s face for thinking he was dead. I mean, how can you even be that brazen? I’d call it lazy writing but I’m fairly certain that it’s completely intentional because Anos is a character with god mode switched on 24/7 and he is glorious because of it.  

I know I’ve complained about overpowered protagonists before and, nine times out of ten, they are just utterly boring to me, but this show goes to prove that it’s not what you do, but how you do it. Anos is so ridiculously overpowered that it’s actually hilarious. All the time these stuck up snobs come in bragging about how powerful they are and they challenge Anos, only to end up bleeding on the floor ten seconds later. Then Anos resurrects them and does something really nasty to them. It’s a complete power fantasy and, yeah, I admit it there is something cathartic about seeing close-minded idiots having their backsides handed to them time and again, but that’s not really what makes this series so special. You can find that sort of thing in any power fantasy, so let’s breakdown the Misfit of Demon King Academy’s guide to writing an overpowered character.

Step one, give your character something they can’t just punch away. This was really the point that caught my attention in the first place because at the centre of this series is a mystery, why has Anos’ name been changed in the history books and to what end? Who is this imposter that has taken his title and what exactly are they up to? It’s a great set up, as it means Anos has to play detective, overwhelming power is only really useful when you have a target to aim that power at. Admittedly most of the time Anos is sending off other people to investigate for him and come back with little bits of plot info, but it’s something at least. What really surprised me was that the series even gives us an answer by it’s final episode (no ‘go read the light novel’ ending here. I know, shocking isn’t it?). I mean I’m pretty sure that the answer will completely fall down if we give it any scrutiny whatsoever, but on the surface it works and answers all the relevant questions.

Step two, overpowered, I’ll show you overpowered. I used the word earlier and it really fits this series, brazen. Anos isn’t just overpowered, he is completely overpowered and the series isn’t shy about showing that off. There’s a point early on where Anos takes on the God of Time and beats him without even breaking a sweat, that’s the kind of power we’re talking about. You’re never going to get any kind of tension out of a fight with Anos, you know he’s going to win before the fight even starts. So instead this series pulls it’s entertainment from the fact that it’s going to be completely crazy with Anos’ powers. You want him to warp reality, bend time round his little finger and generally stick two fingers up at the rules of causality? He’ll do it. Each fight gets bigger and bigger, using crazier and crazier techniques until you just have to start laughing because it can’t get any more overpowered than that and yet it finds a way.

Step three, who needs one overpowered character when we can have several! In tandem with the continually raising stakes, we also have a supporting cast who are all ridiculously strong, making mincemeat out of whatever low-grade minion dare stand in Anos’ way. It stops Anos’ displays, I won’t call them fights because they’re really not, from hogging the limelight entirely and ever getting monotonous. Add on to that Anos’ fan club who, as I mentioned earlier, burst into song at appropriate points and you have a recipe for a series that is incredibly stupid and yet so much fun at the same time.

The Verdict

The Misfit of Demon King Academy is, at times, incredibly stupid, poorly written and completely over the top, and it is glorious because of it. I can’t in good conscious call this the greatest series ever, but it is just so much fun, whether it’s seeing Anos pull out another impossible win from his backside, watching some smug villain get his comeuppance or just joining in with the fan union’s songs, there’s so much to enjoy here. This is a series that definitely needs to be experienced to be believed, so do yourself a favourite and check this out!

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

Anime Corner: Deca-Dence Review

Deca-Dence. Decadence. Get it? (It took me an embarrassingly long time to)

What’s the Story?

Humanity has been brought to the edge of extinction by mysterious creatures known as Gadoll. Now what’s left of the human race cling to life in the moving fortress of Deca-Dence, protected by the Gears, fierce warriors who have made it their mission to fight the Gadoll threat. For Natsume, joining the Gears is her dream and she’ll see it through even if everyone else tells her it’s impossible, which they do. Luckily she meets Kaburagi, a former Gear, now an armour repairman, who takes an interest in her plight. Not all is what it seems though. There’s more to Kaburagi than meets the eye, as there is to the Gadoll and even Deca-Dence itself. The world is a lie and it shall not suffer a bug to live.

The Review

Not for the first time I find myself sat in front of my laptop, having just watched the final episode of a series and trying, desperately, to put all my thoughts into words. Today that series is Deca-Dence and the only words that are coming to me at the minute are ‘it’s complicated’. Deca-Dence is a series that I wanted to love. I did in fact love the first couple of episodes and there are several points throughout this series where I felt myself standing on the precipice of really falling for this show, but I just couldn’t take that final step. There’s always been that one corner of mind reminding of the bits that just aren’t clicking together, and so I find myself in the state that I am. Stupid brain, this is why I can’t have nice things!

This show had so much potential, with just a couple of tweaks I thing it could have been one of the greats, or at least one of my personal greats. As it stands, even without those tweaks there’s still a lot to enjoy. It’s well animated, has some great action sequences, fun characters and a really interesting story, which I’ll get to in a minute. Natsume and Kaburagi are great protagonists. You can’t help but cheer on Natsume as everyone tells her again and again to give up and she just point blank refuses. Not that it’s all just a simple matter of willpower overcoming all, Natsume has a lot to learn if she’s going to take on Gadoll and there are moments where she breaks and her resolve cracks. All good bits of character development and it works to endear Natsume to us. Kaburagi gets the role of the jaded mentor and while that’s just as well-worn an archetype as the plucky rookie, seeing him reignite his lust for life through his interactions with Natsume is a joy to see. All in all, I do recommend this series, it’s worth checking out. There’s just a few things I wished it didn’t do, or at least did differently.

Okay, I’ve held off on this for long enough, let’s finally get to what my issues with this series are, but to do that I’m going to have to talk spoilers for a second. Normally I try to keep these reviews as spoiler-free as possible unless there’s a specific plot point or character aspect that I really need to talk about, even then I try to keep it vague. Here though my issues are connected to a pretty big plot revelation that comes early in the series, if you’ve watched the show you already know what I’m going to talk about. So, this is your last warning, there be spoilers ahead!

I have a bone to pick with the cybrogs. The reveal comes pretty early on (part of me wants to argue that it’s too early) that most of the Gears are actually human-shaped avatars being used by a bunch of cyborgs. Said cyborgs treat the whole of Deca-Dence and humanity’s battle for survival like it’s just a big game, because to them it is. Now, on the whole, I have no issues whatsoever with this plot point. It raises several fascinating questions that are slowly answered across the series and gives the show a wealth of ideas to chew on. What’s more there’s now an added sense of dread to certain events as you see Natsume and her friends risking their live for what is essentially a bit of frivolous entertainment. I mean, have you ever been concerned when an NPC bites it in a game, are you even wondering what’s happening to them while you play?

Where the problem comes in, for me at least, is that Deca-Dence tries to have its cake and eat it too. We get this shocking revelation and we see the cyborg’s side of things from Kaburagi’s point of view, but we’re also still getting Natsume’s dystopian future story at the same time. Both plot lines are great by themselves, but together it feels like the two stories are fighting for the space. I just about get settled into one storyline when suddenly we switch over to the other one and I have to get settled all over again. It doesn’t help that the cyborgs have such a drastically different look to the humans, so much that they really look like they belong in different series. It’s jarring to say the least and while the plotlines do start to properly merge within the last couple of episodes, by then it’s too late. If you love this series, if none of this was a problem for you then I completely get it, and I’m really envious of you, but for me it was the nail in the coffin of this series.

The Verdict

In the end, Deca-Dence is a series that I so wanted to love, but one narrative decision and one aesthetic choice was enough to stop me in my tracks. If you love Deca-Dence then I can completely see why, and again I’m really envious of you, it’s a very good series with plenty of action, fun characters and some really great moments. It’s just that the narrative never quite decides what it wants to be, and as it tries to support two opposing story threads it ends up fumbling them both. Still, it’s worth a watch so if you’re even slightly interested then I’d recommend giving this a shot.

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

Anime Corner: BNA: Brand New Animal Review

Howling like a wolf!

What’s the Story?

Throughout history there has been another race that has walked alongside humans, the Beastmen. Able to change form between their more animalistic appearance and something indistinguishable from human, they’ve often been met with fear and suspicion. Something that has only gotten worse over the centuries as the human population has grown and spread across the world. There are very few places left where a Beastman can feel safe, but one of those places is Anima City, established 10 years ago as a haven for all Beastmen. To Michiru Kagemori this is great news, see she was born a human but woke up the other day to discover that she’d transformed into a Beastman! What is the cause of Michiru’s sudden transformation and will she ever get used to the crazy life of a Beastman? She’ll have to learn fast as dark clouds are gathering over Anima city and it’s tenth anniversary may also be it’s last…

The Review

I’m a big fan of Studio Trigger, you just have to tell me that they were involved in a show to get me excited. Sure some of their shows I’m probably never going to watch again (When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace, Darling in the Franxx), but others I keep coming back to again and again (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia). I just love their whole aesthetic, from the character designs to the energy and bombast they typically inject into their shows, it’s my jam. So, in the great scale of Trigger shows, where does BNA fall? Probably somewhere in the middle. BNA is a good show, I want to be clear about that, I had a tremendous amount of fun watching this show and I’ll probably watch it again at some point in the future. However, it has some pretty big flaws that stop it from reaching it’s truest potential, ‘cause I think this show could have been amazing. I mean with the world as it is at the minute an allegory about race and coming to understand others should be really meaningful right now.

Let’s start with the positives though, the show looks great. The character designs and animation are up to Trigger’s usual standard, though I really like the colour pallet that they chose for this show. Some of the scenes, especially with elements of the soundtrack just gave off this 80s vibe that was entrancing. Add on a stellar OP and ED and this series was a delight to both listen to and to watch. I also really love all of Michiru’s transformation sequences, whether it’s taking flight or jumping around with feline grace, they’re some of my favourite moments in the whole series. It probably helps that Michiru is such a likeable character and I can’t help but root for her.

Let’s get to the real issue of this series though, it should have been two cours long. Twelve episodes is just not enough to fit all of these character and this world into, and I’m not saying that just because I want to spend more time here (it’s part of the reason sure, but not the entirety of it). By the time we hit that final episode, it just feels like there’s so much more left to be said. There are several conflicts that feel wholly unsolved, or rushed to their climax and it’s incredibly frustrating. Let’s take Michiru and Nazuna as our first example. Their relationship is complicated to say the least, they’re clearly both in awe of one another without realising that the other feels exactly the same. Nazuna, for her part, honestly comes across as a bit jealous of Michiru and her carefree ‘let’s just do it’ attitude, though she’s right to call Michiru out for rushing into things without thinking. Maybe Nazuna was a bit lonely in her personal life and her desire to be an idol comes from a need for approval and acceptance, more than just one person can give her. I have no idea if that’s the case or not, that’s just my read on her because the show never gives up much detail on Michiru and Nazuna’s lives prior to the series starting.

For Michiru’s part she just wants her best friend back and to put things back exactly as they were, but events keep driving them apart. The problem is we never get a true boiling point between the characters. They have arguments, sure, and moments where it looks like every thing’s about to take a turn for the worse, but it never truly does. Michiru will always go back to Nazuna and eventually they return to being friends and Nazuna proves her friend’s faith in her. It’s lacking the oomph that it needs, that ‘darkest before the dawn’ moment to make the resolution truly cathartic. As it is it’s just…fine, nothing more, nothing less, which is disappointing especially from a studio like Trigger. Even looking at other relationships, like Nazuna and Boris, there’s a lack of development that robs the plot line’s resolution of it’s punch. I mean what exactly is the power dynamic between Nazuna and Boris? One episode he’s got his hand around her throat, telling her to be beautiful, the next he’s acting like a kicked puppy when Nazuna calls him creepy. This relationship needs exploring and if we’d had a few more episodes we could have! Don’t even get me started on that last minute reveal about our Big Bad either because that came right out of nowhere.

I can see it all in my head, an episode to explore Michiru and Nazuna’s relationship in the past, an episode exploring Nazuna and Boris’ dynamic, a couple of wacky adventures for Michiru to practise a bit more with her transforming abilities, an episode dedicated to our main villain, maybe a couple showing Ogami questioning his prejudice about humans, maybe he meets a nice human besides Michiru for a change. This show could have been amazing, but as I said at the start, I still had a good time watching this. The characters and world are fun and there’s plenty to keep me entertained, even if I can see some of it’s wasted potential.

The Verdict

In the end, BNA:Brand New Animal is a good show that could have been great. It’s packed with fun characters, an intriguing world, Trigger’s usual standard of animation and a great soundtrack. It’s faults are really in its pacing and trying to do much with not enough time, but there are much worse problems for a show to have. So if you’re interested in a walk on the wild side and don’t mind a bit of missed potential, then check this show out. It’s more than worth it.

Yes, I’m finally back to anime reviews and will be for the next few weeks at least. Happy New Year everyone, bring on 2021!

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

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Frozen 2

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from. All he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

And he did! For 6 glorious years he gushed over the exquisite and bemoaned the dull and infuriating. He tried genres he’d previously shied away from, found new favourites, made friends, and celebrated classics and unsung greats alike. Yet there was a foe waiting for him on his 6th anniversary. The first foe. The Frozen Foe. It is time to close the circle. It is time to review…

Water has memory, apparently.

What’s the Story?

Everything is just perfect in Arendelle. Since the end of their last adventure, Queen Elsa and Anna have an unbreakable bond, Kristoff is so in love he has marriage on his mind and everyone is just so content and happy, what could possibly change that? How about the strange voices that have been calling to Elsa? Or the four nature spirits that have spent years locked away behind mists, only for Elsa to unleashed them on an unsuspecting Arendelle. To save their home, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven will have to travel beyond the mists and into an enchanted forest. There they will learn the truth of the sister’s heritage and face a potentially destructive choice for their kingdom. Nothing lasts forever and autumn is the season of change…

The Review

I’m 6 years old! Okay, I’m not, I’m five times that age now (physically at least, mentally I’m still in my late teens), but I’ve been writing this little blog o’mine for six whole years and that surprises me more than anyone else. I never really had a plan for this blog, a few stray ideas like the backstory for my character that you saw at the top of this post, but that was it really. I just needed some place to talk about what I wanted to talk about, plus it’s done wonders for my writing and my confidence in my own voice. Honestly I’ve had a blast writing this blog these past six years and I hope to have a blast writing it for the next six years and beyond. If you’ve read even one of my posts, then you have my heartfelt thanks, I hope you’ve enjoyed what I do here and will continue to enjoy it going into the future. Enough preamble though, let’s get down to business. October 31st 2014, I wrote my very first review for the, at the time, latest Disney animated film, Frozen (which you can check out HERE if you’re curious). I had mixed feelings about the film at best and really those feelings were the catalyst for this whole blog. It took me a long time to come to terms with my disappoint in the first film, most of which was really the fault of my own overhyping and expectations clashing with what the film actually was, plus a few minor complaints.

I was nervous coming into this sequel, I mean Disney does not have the best track record with sequels to begin with. Then the first trailer hit and my hype rose to the ceiling. It was so dark and moody, showed a perfectly executed scene and promised exactly what I wanted from the first film. Elsa using her powers in an action sequence for more than five seconds! Hints at where Elsa’s powers come from! Anna wielding a sword like the knight she truly is! Then the film released and the reviews were…middling, which brought my hype right back down and, honestly, that was probably for the best. So what did I think of the film? It’s…okay. It’s not terrible by any stretch, it’s also not going to break into my top 10 Disney films any time soon. It’s just…okay and that’s fine. I did enjoy watching the film, but I can also see its problems pretty clearly and why it didn’t resonate with people as much as the original did.

I think there’s a fair argument to be made that Frozen 2 does improve on its predecessor in some areas, just not all. As the trailer promised, Frozen 2 gave me several things that I’d been crying out for in the original. Elsa is the shining star of this film, she’s throwing her ice powers around like a total badass, taking on all comers, and honestly her fights with the different spirits are probably my favourite parts of the film. The animation is top notch, as I expect from Disney, I mean the whole reason I sold my soul to this company was on the understanding that they consistently produce work from animators and creators at the top of their craft. The textures and the colours are just superb in this film, I mean just watch that cascade of water at the end of the film it is just outstanding from a technical standpoint. Part of my disappointment in the original was from the animation, honestly I think Tangled looked better (yes I’m a Tangled fanboy). The autumnal landscapes of Frozen 2 add that little extra bit of colour that the original was lacking, plus six years of technological development.

Where the original Frozen beats Frozen 2 though, and this is by far the more important area, is in its story. Frozen had a very clear story. Elsa has ice powers, which she is afraid of. She loses control of her powers and runs away, Anna must then travel up the North Mountain to find her sister and help her gain control over herself and her powers. The story is a single straight line, with every element and character playing into that story. Frozen 2 is much more muddled. Everyone has their own separate storyline and they barely intersect at all. Kristoff keeps trying to propose to Anna, and keeps messing it up (also Anna is paying him no attention at all and I think that’s something they need to work on before the idea of marriage comes up). Honestly it’s a one-note joke that has been done better elsewhere, even by Disney cough Rescuers Down Under cough. Olaf has nothing to do whatsoever expect for make bad jokes and it quickly takes him from loveable doofus to the annoying comic relief we all feared he’d be in the first film. Anna’s story is good in concept. After fighting so hard to reconnect with her sister she’d desperate to keep a hold of her, so much so that it’s consuming her and that is a fascinating development for the character. Unfortunately the storyline just doesn’t get the time it needs to develop and the resolution is kinda lacking.

Elsa’s story is the primary focus of this film, delving into where her powers came from, her family history and, really, Elsa discovering who she truly is. That storyline is very well done, the whole ‘Show Yourself’ sequence is probably my highlight of the film, it’s one of the few times where the film actually got an emotional response out of me. That smile as Elsa sings with her mother, truly, finally, understanding who she is was just magnificent. Back to the problem though, because none of the other characters are actually really needed for this plot. Elsa is the only necessary character, potentially Anna as she tries to hold Elsa back, but all the other characters are just kind of there. Honestly it does make me wish that this film was just Anna and Elsa. If it was me I’d just have them encountering wild spirits and dealing with the dangers of the forest, all the while paralleling the first film. This time, instead of chasing after her sister, Anna has to learn to let Elsa go and discover things for herself, and that that doesn’t mean they’ll never see one another again, far from it. It would also mean that we wouldn’t have to include random tribe and random soldiers that are also just kind of there.

I mean, if you do want to introduce this tribe into the lore of the series, as well as these spirits and mythology, as well as giving everyone something to do you’re going to need more than a film’s run time to do it. We really need to get to know these people and this locale if you expect the audience to care and there’s just not enough time or focus to do that here. Maybe if you had like a series worth of episodes you could do it. Nah, that’s silly. I mean what Disney film would get a series expanding its mythology and developing it’s characters. Cough Tangled the Series cough Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure cough. Sorry, I swore I wouldn’t compare this film to Tangled, no, I’ve got a review specifically for that franchise later in the month!

The Verdict

In the end, Frozen 2 is a decent film. If you’re an Elsa fan you’ll probably love this as she is the shining star, leaping into the action and finding herself while also finally explaining exactly where her powers come from. If you’re a fan of anyone else however, I’d suggest going back to the first film. The animation is spectacular and more than up to Disney’s usual standard and the songs are all enjoyable. It’s a fun film, treat it as such and you should have a good time, but this is not the start of yet another Disney renaissance (that honour still belongs to Tangled and I will fight anyone who says otherwise).

Thank you again to my wonderful readers, I hope you enjoyed this and will continue to enjoy my work here. Next week we’re back to anime as I have my first impressions of the current season, but after that we’re getting back on the Disney train for the rest of the month as there’s a couple of series I just have to talk about!

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

Anime Corner: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress Review

Are you Human, or are you Kabane? Neither! I’m a Reviewer!

What’s the Story?

Fear reigns in Japan. Hordes of remorseless undead, known as Kabane, have overrun the country and the only safe havens left for humanity are the ‘stations’, huge walled cities, and the armoured trains that run between them. However the walls and armour aren’t always enough to keep the Kabane out, as steamsmith Ikoma is about to find out. When his home is attacked, Ikoma doesn’t run, in fact he’s been waiting for this as it’s a perfect chance to test out the ‘piercing gun’ he’s been working on. It’s pretty effective too, killing one Kabane, unfortunately Ikoma gets bitten during the fight and while he manages to stop the infection reaching his brain, he’s no longer human. Now he’s a Kabaneri, a human with the body of a Kabane, and along with fellow Kabaneri, Mumei, he’ll have to fight to survive, because Kabane aren’t the only monsters out there.

The Review:

Samurai! Steampunk feudal Japan! Armoured battle trains! Zombies! If at least one of these things doesn’t capture your attention then I’m afraid there really is no hope for you. I kid, but aside from the zombies there is so much in the premise of this show that had me jumping up and down with excitement, right up until I realised I didn’t have access to the streaming service this series originally aired on. That…that was a pretty hard pill to swallow, but Kabaneri eventually made it’s way to Crunchyroll where I could finally partake of all the steampunk samurai goodness. So, was it worth the wait? Eh, kinda. Don’t get me wrong, Kabaneri is a good series, I had a lot of fun watching this. There’s plenty of high-energy action, some fantastic fight choreography and a really interesting set up for a world here, but, somehow, the series never quite blew me away the way I wanted it to. Maybe it was weight of my expectations that did this or, maybe I just didn’t come at this series from the right angle. Actually let’s start there, because if I’m going to talk about Kabaneri then I need to mention one other series, Attack on Titan.

Now, I know people have called Kabaneri an Attack on Titan clone plenty of times before (I remember a lot of clickbaity titles to that effect when the show was airing all the way back in 2016), but I don’t feel that’s fair. I can certainly see why people would draw that conclusion, both series were made by the same studio with a near identical staff working on them, the music certainly always made me think of Attack on Titan, but aside from that comparisons are mostly skin deep. Yes, humanity is living inside walled cities to protect them from monsters on the other side. Yes, we have a main character that swears to destroy all of said monsters and often makes loud, angry speeches to such effect. Here’s where the differences come in though, Attack on Titan is a dark, traumatic and often bleak look at the very worst aspects of humanity and a near-constant struggle to survive. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is a popcorn action thriller. When a Titan shows up you wet yourself and find somewhere to hide. When the Kabane show up you cheer because it means either Ikoma or Mumei are about to kick some undead backside.

Kabaneri isn’t a dumb series by any regard, but it is far more interested in setting up its characters and getting to the next action set piece, rather than any deep musings on the nature of humanity. There are certainly themes of paranoia and fear on full display, showing some of the stupid things that people can do when they’re scared, but it never digs in too deeply. Yes, when people are afraid they can be utterly terrible to one another, but I feel that if this series was really interested in that topic it would have dug more into Biba’s back story and given us more than a few lines of dialogue and some quick flashbacks to explain his deal. As it is, the fear and paranoia are there mostly to set up conflict between the various players and give our characters some glorious moments were they overcome that fear.

The action in this series is fantastic, always fast and fluid (even if a few of the big zombie attacks are reduced to a few still frames to save the budget), when it counts, this show knows how to impress visually. However, it’s not as if this series is wall-to-wall action, the series does take it’s time to let scenes breath and have characters talk to one another. We never learn all that much about the characters, but we learn just enough to care and, although the majority of the main cast make it through unscathed, when someone is killed off, it’s incredibly effective. That being said, there are parts of this world that are best not to think too hard about, like how the hell they managed to build all these giant walls and railroads with the Kabane out there. Or, and this was a big one fro me, how Ikoma can go from screaming about how life is sacred and how you shouldn’t kill, to Mr. Judge, Jury and Executioner for the bad guys in the final few episodes, that kind of character change really needed more development.

Again, I did really enjoy watching this series, but I feel you need to come at it with the right headspace. Sometimes all I ask for from a series is some cool action, likeable characters (for the most part) and an interesting setting, and that’s exactly what Kabaneri gives me. It’s just the right mix of action, fun and cool concepts. If I want to watch something with a bit more meat to it, I can always pop in my Attack on Titan DVD, but when I’m in the mood for a fun ride, watching some exciting acrobatics and zombie fights, well, then I’ll be reaching for this one.

The Verdict:

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is not a deep show on any level, but it’s a fun ride. The action is fantastic, the characters, for the most part, are engaging and the visual style and music make this a very enjoyable watch. Yes, you can find weightier and deeper series elsewhere, but if you’re in the mood for some frantic battles against zombie hordes, as well as a chance to see a steampunk feudal Japan, then I’d recommend giving this series a watch. This is one train I’ll happily get on again and again.

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

Next week it’s time to celebrate as this little blog turns six! But a cold wind blows across the blogosphere. There’s a review I’ve been meaning to do since last year, an old foe is calling to me. Let’s close the circle. Next week…

Where the North Wind Meets the Sea.