Anime Corner: Lupin the 3rd Part 4 Review

Blog Lupin 3rd part 4 Review Title

Tonight I will take you…Lupin the 3rd

What’s the Story?

Lupin the 3rd, grandson of the famous Phantom Thief and world-renowned master thief in his own right, has an announcement to make, he’s getting married! Wedding bells aren’t the only things calling for Lupin though, with his trusty partners-in-crime Daisuke Jigen and Goemon Ishikawa, he’s got his sights set on many of Italy’s hidden treasures. Whether its palming the Mona Lisa, uncovering the secret plans of MI6 or even entering a battle of wits with the reborn Leonardo da Vinci himself, this time Lupin may have bitten off just a bit more than he can chew. Still, a good thief always has one more trick up their sleeve.

The Review

Back at the tail end of 2018 I watched Lupin the 3rd Part 5 and I fell in love (you can check out my review of the series HERE). As I said back in that review, the Lupin franchise has always been one that I’ve been interested in, I just never knew where to start after watching the Castle of Cagliostro. I had thought that Part 5 was the perfect answer to that problem, it was so good and such a perfect introduction/celebration for Lupin and all his gang, I want to recommend it to everyone. However, I have now found a flaw with this plan and that flaw is called Part 4. Now I realise this is purely down to my own stupid fault, but don’t watch Part 4 after Part 5, because you’ll do what I’ve been doing and directly compare them, in which case Part 4 will definitely come off as the lesser season.

It makes sense in a way, there are several parts of Part 4 that feel like a dry run for things in Part 5. The introduction of a new member for the Lupin gang and having them deal with over-arcing plots are probably the most noticeable examples, and the creative forces behind Part 5 clearly learned from the mistakes Part 4 made. It’s not as if Part 4 is a bad season, in fact it’s a lot of fun and I enjoyed it immensely, there’s just a couple of things I want to change. Let’s break this down though, I’ll try to avoid comparisons with Part 5 as best I can, but those thoughts are going to be in the back of head throughout this review and there’s a few things I need to get off of my chest.

Let’s start with our newest member of the Lupin gang, the master thief’s new wife, Rebecca Rosselini. I can certainly see where they were going with Rebecca’s character, but she hits the same stumbling block I’ve seen a lot characters hit when they’re introduced into a long-running franchise, namely she gets bigged up so much she starts to outshine the title character. I’m thinking in particular of the Venice-set episode with this, and I get how it happens. When characters are part of a long-running series it can be hard to find new angles to look at them through, so you introduce a new character who hasn’t been explored so much. The problem, that I’ve noticed, is that writers tend to then get so excited about their new character that they completely fall in love with them and forget about the characters the show is actually about cough Clara in Doctor Who cough (Sorry, got something caught in my throat there). Add on to that the fact that Rebecca is a spoilt rich girl with more money than she knows what to do with and she’s a hard character to invest in.

Having said all that, it’s not that Rebecca is a bad character by herself, it’s just that a lot of the time the show doesn’t know how to use her properly. I found myself enjoying the episodes when she was actually competing side by side with Lupin, like her introductory episode ‘The Wedding of Lupin III’, where she gets to play up her fun-loving thrill-seeker side and she has some good banter with Lupin. Yes she pulls one over on Lupin in the end, but it’s a pretty fair match between the two of them, which, for me at least, is what makes it fun. Then there’s my favourite Rebecca episode, which comes towards the end of the series, ‘I’m Going to Get You Lupin’, which features a fun sequence where Lupin and Rebecca have a conversation by leaving traps and calling cards for another as they break into a series of banks across the city. That’s when Rebecca’s at her best, when she’s challenging Lupin in a fair contest of constant one-upmanship, not when she’s the rich debutante who can do everything she turns her hand to so effortlessly. I come to a Lupin series for Lupin and his gang, Rebecca hasn’t earned her share of the spotlight, yet.

Enough about Rebecca though, she’s a big part of the series, but only appears in about half the episodes. The rest of the series is dedicated to standalone capers and the two over-arcing plots of Part 4. The standalone capers are a lot of fun and exactly what I came to this series for, even if I wished some of them where stretched out across multiple episodes. Some of my favourite episodes have to be ‘Welcome to the Haunted Hotel!’, ‘The End of Lupin III’, ‘Don’t Move the Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Murdering Marionette’ if you want my recommendations for this series.

That brings me to the over-arcing plot episodes and, yeah, I’m not the biggest fan of them either. I expected outlandish hijinks from a Lupin series, but I feel like the plots in Part 4 push things just a little too far. I mean Lupin vs. Leonardo da Vinci sounds like a fantastic idea and it certainly leads to some inventive and trippy imagery as Lupin wonders through other people’s dreamscapes, but, I don’t know, I was just never that invested in the story. Maybe it’s because Rebecca is a big part of the plot and she keeps being pushing into the damsel role, which is another side of her I’m not keen on. Then again we never really got to spend all that much time with da Vinci either, and, yeah, the guy was a genius, but I really doubt he could build, let alone set up all the stuff he needed to set up for the finale in just the couple of months he had. It just stretches my suspension of disbelief just that little too far. Also the less said about this series’ interpretation of MI6, the better.

The Verdict

All that being said, Lupin the 3rd Part 4 isn’t a bad series. A good chunk of it is a lot of fun, I’d definitely recommend all the episodes that I’ve mentioned in this review, but aside from that and a few other episodes, I’d probably just go straight to Part 5. They clearly learnt a lot from this season and implemented the corrections there. If you want to watch every episode of this series, that’s fine too, I’ve got this season on blu-ray and I certainly don’t regret buying it, I’m just likely to watch Part 5 more. Unfortunately Part 4 didn’t quite manage to steal my heart.

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.

Anime Corner: Fire Force Review

Blog Fire Force Review Title

Playing with fire.

What’s the Story?

The flames took everything from Shinra, both his mother and brother perished in a house fire that most people think he started, but he knows there was someone else there that night, a horned demon. Determined to find out the truth of what really happened, Shinra learns to control his pyrokinetic abilities, which have flames sprouting out of his feet like rocket propulsion, and joins the Special Fire Force Company 8. Along the way he’ll have to face those transformed by flames into walking demons, as well as the other companies and the forces of the mysterious Evangelist, but is he ready for what he’s going to learn? We’ll just have to pray. Latom.

The Review

Strap in folks, this may be a long one. I’ve not been looking forward to writing this review. Not because I don’t like Fire Force, but more because I can’t decide if I like it or not. One minute this is the most infuriating series I have ever seen, the next it’s an utterly mind-blowing masterpiece! My emotions have spun around so much I’m pretty sure I’m suffering from whiplash right now. It’s been a roller coaster to say the least and I still haven’t figured out whether it was worth it or not. Do the few bad elements outweigh all the good, or vice versa? I guess my only choice is to ramble through things and see if I can decide by the end of this post. Let’s start on the negatives and then we’ll move on to the more positive stuff, which brings me right to the fanservice. Oh joy.

Now I don’t want to get into a long-winded discussion on the pros and cons of fanservice (especially since my views on fanservice within a show have been mellowing of late and there’s already plenty of great posts about this exact subject already out there, check out Scott HERE for example), but this needs to be talked about to a degree. I was expecting there to be some fanservice in this show, the manga was written by the guy who created Soul Eater, so yeah, I didn’t exactly want it, but I was willing to accept it within reason, and at the start of the series it was okay. There were a few shower scenes and such, but the shots never lingered and, honestly, moved on pretty quickly, which while not my ideal it’s at least not as distracting or intrusive as I feared. However, then we get introduced to Tamaki and she has the worst kind of fanservice happen to her on a continual basis. Thanks to her ‘Lucky Lecher’ syndrome her clothes keep popping off at random intervals and she’s forced into compromising positions that she clearly doesn’t want to be in. It adds nothing to the story or her character, in fact it detracts from both. It would be something if Tamaki had some agency in this, but she doesn’t and she’s clearly upset whenever it happens. Is this meant to titillate me? A young woman put in awkward positions against her will? No, just no. Bad show, you go into the corner and think about what you’ve done!

It doesn’t help that the show has some genuinely interesting female characters that are starved of attention in the show. Every time Tamaki popped up I just thought about all the minutes of screen time that could have been given to Maki or Hibana, heck maybe we could even give some character development to Iris! If this was the only problem with Fire Force I could probably bare it, Tamaki isn’t in the show that much and there are plenty of episodes without even a whiff of fanservice about them, but the series has a deeper problem too. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Here’s the thing about Fire Force, it’s plot meanders, a lot. At the beginning we’re dealing with Infernals, people turned into walking fire monsters and the tragedy around that. Cool, plenty of set up for epic battles and some raw emotional drama, great. Couple of episodes later, oh no actually we’re going to forget about Infernals all together and go around investigating the other Fire Force companies. Okay, fine, I guess there’s plenty of drama we can get from that and we get to see plenty of inventive uses for pyrokinesis. However that doesn’t last either. It isn’t until the White-Clad are introduced and developed that it feels like this series finally has a proper direction, we have a clear goal and mission for once.

Enough of the negative though, because this show has an ace up its sleeve, one I can’t criticise, it’s animation and direction. Jaw-dropping is the word. The way this series contrasts light and dark, as well as its use of bright, high contrast colours turns every episode into a feast for the eyes. There’s also a real passion and vitality to the direction, even scenes of characters just standing around talking are shot in a way that makes each scene endlessly interesting. Of course then we get to the action and things go up another level entirely. I wish some of these fights were longer, but only so that I could see more of this blistering, impactful action that just makes me want to punch the air with joy. Throw on top of that some brilliant fight choreography as well as an amazing soundtrack (I haven’t stopped listening to the main theme since it found its way on to Youtube) and I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Also, allow me to finish up by talking about some of the guys, because as much as I’m in love with Maki, I’ve fallen for the guys in this series too. Arthur is a complete and total idiot, but I adore him (he had me in stitches when the gang went to recruit Vulcan) and then there’s our cool-headed hero, Shinra. I’ve noticed this trend in shonen were a couple of series have started having a more, shall we say openly intelligent protagonists? (Looking at you Midoriya and Osamu), and while Shinra has his moments of being a typical shonen protagonist, as well as being terrible at coming up with names, he also has a tendency to analyse the situation around him more before he acts. He takes the time to stop and think about his action, which is more than I can say for a lot of shonen heroes. Honestly I’ll watch this series again just to see these characters and the fight scenes again, which I guess answers my question of whether I like this series or not.

The Verdict

In the end, Fire Force is an extremely flawed series. It has some major issues with one character in particular and spends a lot of its run meandering around looking for direction, but when this show is on its game it is one of the most spectacular experiences you will ever have. The direction and animation alone are worth the price of admission, but add on to that the music and some really great characters and I think this show is worth it. Also now that the series has finally found its Big Bad I’m hoping season 2 is going to be even better (if the Nether arc at the end is anything to judge it by, then I have high hopes). If anything that I’ve mentioned puts you off, then that’s fine, but if you think you can bare with the negatives, then give this show a shot.

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.  

Anime Corner: Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! Review

Blog Average Abilities Review Title

Didn’t I Say it was About Time we Shortened the Titles of These Light Novel Adaptations?!

What’s the Story?

All her life, Mile has longed to be average, to spend her days just doing normal things with normal friends. Unfortunately for her Mile is one of those Japanese kids that have been reincarnated into a fantasy world and, more to the point, there was a bit of a clerical mix up when she crossed over. You see when Mile asked for her completely average life, she forgot to specify that she wanted an average human life and as such was reincarnated with half the power of an elder dragon! Now Mile is a hunter, working with her friends to battle everything from dragons to trouble-making soldiers, all the while searching for that perfectly ordinary life (which Mile has no chance of ever finding!)

The Review

You know, I found the perfect description for this series in the comments on Crunchyroll (looking at the comments, I know, I like to live dangerously), an isekai sitcom, because that’s exactly what this show is. Oh sure, the series has it’s heart-warming moments, but it never takes itself too seriously and, more often than not, it’s always building up to one joke or another. Most episodes centre around Mile and the gang dealing with one situation or another, such as Mile trying to pass for normal in the hunter training school, or Mile’s friends deciding to throw her a secret party and all the misunderstandings that spring from that. It’s never really laugh out loud funny, but it always manages to be warm and sweet. Add on to that all the nods and references to other anime as well as a charming cast and you get a very refreshing, if decidedly average, isekai.

A part of me feels bad for calling this show average, because while the analytical part of my brain points out that the visuals, outside of some cute character designs, are nothing special and the story is nowhere near ground-breaking, that doesn’t stop the other parts of my brain squeeing with delight whenever I get to hang out with Mile and the gang. Yes, the story never takes itself seriously enough to wring out all the potential it could from some of these situations, but my heart still aches when Reina talks about her back story, or the shock I felt when Mile came up against an opponent she can’t one shot. I care about these characters, deeply, they’re so sweet and charming and all four voice actors have amazing chemistry with one another. I would quite happily spend the rest of my days watching the antics of these four.

That being said, the charm of the main cast isn’t the only strength of this series, for one it’s an isekai that actually remembers it’s an isekai! (I’d remark on how rare this usually is, but Ascendance of a Bookworm did the exact same, which has got me wondering if people are finally putting effort back into isekai). Yes, the fact that Mile is reincarnated doesn’t play a major narrative role in the series, outside of a few parts of the final episode, but I guess I just appreciate the fact that it’s there. Also I like playing ‘Guess What Mile Is Referencing This Time’, it’s a fun game and while I admit I only got the references about half the time, the jokes around the references are still funny even if I don’t recognise the specific source. That is one thing that I wanted to see more of actually, how Mile’s otakuness is slowly spreading into this fantasy world, from getting the other girls involved in a super sentai parody, to starting the world’s first maid café and even producing figures for sale to the general public. You could really make a whole series just about that, but it never really gets that much focus, as the series has other jokes to make. I suppose that’s the other strength of this series, it doesn’t limit itself to just one joke.

Yes, the main joke of the series is that Miles wants to be average more than anything else but, between how overpowered she is and her scatterbrain tendencies, her chances of accomplishing this are the same as me finding a portal to the future behind my sofa (that is to say, zero), and yet the series doesn’t rely on this joke alone. While Mile never forgets about her goal for an average life, the jokes soon begin to transition away from that and more about just the ridiculous ideas that pop into her brain, like her ‘solution’ to dealing with an enemy that’s out of reach (it involves picking up and throwing her friends). It also helps that the same silliness soon spreads to her friends so then everyone can get in on the act. It keeps the series from ever going stale, as I could always look forward to whatever crazy otaku-inspired idea was about to come to Mile (also I just love all the reaction shots in this show).

Like any good comedy though, it knows to apply plenty of heart to its humour, which brings me back around to the characters. As I said, I care about these characters deeply, and what makes each and every laugh all the warmer is the fact that I feel like I know these characters. Sure the series never tries to dig in too deep or really blow up the bank with regards to story telling, but it doesn’t need to. It shows us just enough of the struggles to make those laughs all the sweeter when they do come back (usually a couple of minutes later). I guess, in the end, being average isn’t so bad. This series knows exactly wants to be and it just is it, it’s fun. That’s all it needs.

The Verdict

In the end, Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life isn’t a ground-breaking series, but it is an incredibly fun one. The cast are stellar, the four main voice actresses have amazing chemistry and you really feel the bond between them. I’m not sure if an isekai sitcom is a thing, but it’s the perfect descriptor for this series’ gentle humour and situational hijinks, as well as its more tender and warm moments. If you’re in the mood for a light, fluffy and occasionally heart-warming take on the isekai genre, then definitely check this series out.

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.  

Anime Corner: One Piece: Dead End Adventure Review

Blog One Piece Dead End Review Title

Yo-ho-ho, he took a bite of Gum Gum!

What’s the Story?

Strapped for cash and craving some adventure (as is always the way for our favourite fantastical pirate crew), the Straw Hat pirates learn of a secret race across the Grand Line with 300 million berries as the prize and can’t resist entering. However there’re plenty of deadly opponents between them and the goal, including giants, fishmen, the famous bounty hunter Shuraiya and worst of all is the former marine, General Gasparde. Add in to that a kid out to save his Grandpa, treacherous seas and a despicable plot to wipe out the competition and this adventure may just turn into a dead end after all. Luffy and the gang have their work cut out for them!

The Review:

Okay, an unusual place for me to start, but let’s talk about translations! Now I bought one of the One Piece movie collections in order to watch this film and while the subs on the other two films are perfectly fine, the subs for this film are pretty poor, especially when it comes to names (I mean this film is listed as ‘Adventure of Dead End’, which sounds pretty stupid). I’ve decided to go with the translations from the One Piece wiki for this review because those spellings make more sense to me (and ‘Dead End Adventure’ is a much better name), but I’ve never come across this before, at least not off an official release I mean they really couldn’t be bothered to put together a new set of subtitles for the DVD release, really? Anyway, translations aside, I really like this movie. Honestly, if you’ve never tried One Piece (and with over 90 volumes of manga and over 900 episodes of anime I can’t blame people for being scared off, or having no idea where to start), but to me this film is a pretty good sampler of the series. Sure the story isn’t really canon and you won’t learn all that much about the rich world of the series, but its got a good handle on the characters, there’s plenty of exciting action, wacky adventures and it knows where it’s heart is.

Let’s talk about heart first, starting with our favourite band of misfit pirates, the Straw Hats. What surprised me most about this film was the quiet moments with the crew and you get the sense that the people who worked on this film really know these characters. From Nami getting angry at Badger for giving up on life, to Sanji explaining to Badger that they’ve all had hard lives in their own way, but they keep living because they all believed that one day things would get better. Even Luffy’s silent rage at Gasparde, both for what he did to the other contestants in the race and just his general scumbag outlook on life, all of it is a perfect summation of the characters and while you can learn more details from the series, watching this film will give you all you need to get who these people are at their core. Also I appreciate that everyone gets a least a couple of things to do across the adventure, even if Luffy is the only one to fight a named enemy character, the crew wouldn’t have made it through the race without each of their own special abilities at one point or another, which I appreciate (it’s especially nice to see Robin doing something with her powers, which feels like such a rarity these days).

Moving on to our original characters for the film, honestly, I think this is where this film shines brightest because, Shuraiya, Badger and the old man may just be the best original supporting characters in any One Piece film, no, scratch that, the best original supporting characters in any anime film connected to a long running series. Let’s face it, anime films connected to a long running series always have a whiff of filler about them, the characters that show up in it are never going to be seen or mentioned again and are often their just to force us to care about whatever location our main characters have found themselves in. Thing is though, Shuraiya, Badger and the old man really do make me care. They’re brilliantly written characters with a great tragic back-story to tell that perfectly fits in with the film’s theme of living on despite how cruel the world can be. Shuraiya is a badass fighter and he even gets to take out Gasparde’s lieutenant in one heck of a brutal fight. Badger manages to be a kid character that isn’t completely annoying and the real emotional centre of the piece and I pretty much love the old man, especially at the end.

As for our villains, well, Gasparde is really the only one of note, but what a note he strikes. He’s menacing and threatening from the get go and completely despicable. His outlook on life and his fellow human beings had be screaming for Luffy to knock that grin off his face and it was so satisfying when he finally did (they also have a pretty brutal fight, it may just be the animation quality, but you really feel the weight of all the punches that land and boy to they look like they hurt). That does bring me to my only complaint with the film, it might just be a matter of the film having to keep itself short to fit into the run time, but you never really get a sense of the scale of the race. While I love the quieter moments in this film and the connections all the characters share, it does mean there’s very little time for the race. After the initial rush of excitement the Straw Hats only face off against one other crew and that only lasts a few minutes before we get to the big twist and then go barrelling into the final confrontation with Gasparde. It just feels like we needed a bit more action in the middle somewhere to see some of these other crews in action and that would have made the twist even more effective, but I am happy with what we got.

The Verdict:

In the end One Piece: Dead End Adventure is a simple, but still great adventure. It’s a film that really understands its characters and with some of the best original supporting characters I’ve seen in an anime film and a truly despicable villain, it knows how to get you invested. It’s a film that knows where its heart and its focus should be, even if that means the adventure of the title gets cut a little short to fit into the run time. Still if you’re looking to experience of some of those carefree pre-time skip days of One Piece, or just wondering if you want to check out the series proper, then this film is a good place to start.

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.  

Anime Corner: Endro! Review

Blog Endro Review Title

If I could turn back time!

What’s the Story?

On the island of Naral there was once a terrifying Demon Lord that sought to destroy the land, but a Hero appeared and defeated them. Yet that is not the end of the story, the Demon Lord revived, as did the Hero, their cycle of rebirth and defeat continuing 998 times. Now the Demon Lord has risen again and the latest incarnation of the Hero is a cheery girl called Yusha. Together with her friends she stormed the Demon Lord’s castle and they began their climatic battle, but something went wrong. Whisked into the past, the Demon Lord finds herself acting as teacher to the very Hero who is destined to one day defeat her, not that Mao appears overly concerned by this as she soon sinks into the laid-back adventures of Yusha and the gang.

The Review:

Endro is a show that surprised me, in more ways than one. I wasn’t expecting much going into it, yeah it looked cute and the set up sounded interesting, but I was really just expecting something a bit cheap and light, a breezy way to spend twenty minutes a week. What I got instead was this beautiful, sweet little gem of a show, full of warmth and laughter. Will it change the anime industry? No, not in the slightest, but it is far better than it has any right to be. On paper I should hate this show, I mean that interesting set up that caught my attention in the first place? Completely ignored after the first couple of episodes, that should bug me to the nth degree, but instead I found myself carried away by the silly little adventures and the poking funny at fantasy hero tropes. Then the last couple of episodes brings that plot back to the forefront and things actually get kind of emotional, fluffy as this show is, I was not expecting to be tearing up as Mao talked about how much fun she’d been having with the girls. Like I said, this series surprised me, constantly.

When I look back over this series I find it kind of amazing that we ended up where we did. When the series starts it’s very clearly a gag parody, it focuses on the daily lives of Yusha the Hero and her party, dealing with Mao’s classes and having the girls just sit around and chat, building up to a punch line. Then the series gets bored with that and starts taking the girls out into the wider world so we can get to see the more ludicrous elements of this world (a village where magic cards grow on trees, that’s all I’m saying). It’s all very light and fun, but then there are moments, beautiful moments, where the series starts to dig into its characters and tug at your heartstrings. A show that has a gag about the Hero’s party only ever getting requested to find lost cats, shouldn’t have me tearing up over a Demon Lord is all I’m saying.

What holds this series together is the laidback attitude of both the series as a whole and the characters. It has its moments were it’ll think deeply about how strange something is, only to shrug its shoulders and go ‘ah, whatever’ and move on. That should frustrate me, but instead I find it endlessly endearing. As cutesy and fluffy as this series is, I’m invested in all of its characters. It’s helped along by some really bright and colourful animation that is always nice to look at and the pastel colours perfectly suit this cheery world.

Let’s talk about my favourite characters though, Mao and the Princess. Mao is actually really interesting, being the big bad Demon Lord you’d expect her to be totally evil or at least be good with a villainous scheme, but if the beginning of the series is anything to go by then her planning skills are all kinds of lacking. She’s actually pretty quick to give up her evil ways and just sink into her role as a teacher and once we get more glimpses of her past, we can clearly see why. The role of Demon Lord was something that was preordained for Mao and it was a very lonely role to play. Mao got wrapped up in the role more than anything else and it was only once she started interacting with other people that she got what she’d actually been wanting all along, a little bit of companionship and camaraderie. It takes her a little while to figure that out, but it’s so worth it when she does.

The Princess also has some issues with regards to preordained roles. She loves the tales of the heroes of the past and is completely obsessed with not only chronicling the adventures of the Hero, but also falling in love with said Hero (you know, because that’s what all the story books say should happen, not that that’s an excuse). Even after finally meeting Yusha though, all she sees is the Hero and how things are supposed to be, but, gradually, she starts to see Yusha as Yusha and falls in love with her rather than the ideal she’s been chasing. It’s a sweet arc and plays into the series determination to take the majority of tropes regarding the typical hero fantasy and twisting them ever so slightly, often to hilarious results.

Honestly the ending to the series is the most surprising to me. As much as I’d enjoyed the series up to that point, it was incredibly fun and light-hearted and while I liked all the characters and their various adventures, I still considered it a bit of fluff with a couple of interesting concepts. Then came along the last two episodes, the penultimate episode starting with a typically laidback and cheery scenario, before things suddenly get serious and then things are getting emotional as Yusha and Mao are pushed into their fated confrontation. Yet, the series constantly keeps you on your toes. Endro will always do whatever it feels likes, not what the plot demands, and, in my opinion, that is it’s greatest strength.

The Verdict:

Endro is a sweet, funny and charming gem of a show. It always finds a way to slightly skew the direction you were expecting it to go in, often to very funny and heart-warming results. Am I overselling this one a bit too much? Probably, but I just enjoyed this series that much. The characters are all very endearing and there’s a surprising amount of emotional depth for something that looks like light fluff at first glance, especially with the series finale. This series wasn’t what I was expecting and that’s honestly why I love anime so much, it never stops surprising me.  Check this out.

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.

Anime Corner: My Hero Academia The Movie: Two Heroes Review

Blog My Hero Academia Review Title

Plus Ultra!!!

What’s the Story?

It’s summer and as a treat the number one hero All Might is taking his young protégé Izuku Midoriya along with him to visit an old friend. They arrive on I-island, a floating city that houses some of the world’s best and brightest scientists and all of their miraculous inventions. There they meet David Shield, an inventor who studied with All Might back in his rookie days and David’s genius daughter Melissa, but all is not well on I-island. As they plan an expo to show off the latest tech to the superhero world, villains invade, taking All Might hostage and locking down the whole island! It’s up to Midoriya and his fellow students from class 1A to free All Might and stop the villains, but not everything is what it seems…

The Review

You know, I’ve just realised this is actually my first time talking about My Hero Academia on this blog, which feels weird ‘cause it’s actually my second favourite shonen series of all time (One Piece is number one, but I’ll be talking more about that later in the year so stay tuned). I suppose I haven’t really talked about it because, honestly, I’ve never felt like I’ve had all that much new to say about it. My Hero Academia is a well-regarded and often praised series, both in manga and anime and I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of what is said about it, but the series has a movie now and I’m doing movies this month, so let’s talk about this. Why do I love My Hero Academia?

If you were to write out the premise of My Hero Academia on paper the series is actually pretty standard, it has a lot of the typical shonen tropes and deals with ideas that have been done before in one form or another (superheroes are a well ploughed field after all), but the genius is in the detail here. What MHA has created, in my opinion, is a world and a social structure that is endlessly interesting, the series constantly exposing new facets that just get you more and more interested and asking questions about how everything works. You add on to that characters that are incredibly likeable, some crazy and creative powers and a pace that keeps things moving without missing those big emotional moments and you’re on to a winner. Remember it’s not what you do, it’s how you do and MHA does everything with style. Midoriya is one of my favourite shonen protagonists, immensely likeable and you just can’t help but root for the kid. So, how does the movie stack up compared to that? It’s good, I love it, but I do have to admit that it’s hardly breaking the mould.

Anime movies, more specifically anime movies that are tied to an ongoing series always come with problems for me (which is why I tend to go in with lowered expectations). The biggest problem is that they’re often bound by continuity, they can’t introduce any major developments to the story or characters, because the series is going to carry on without them regardless and it’s kind of annoying when important plot points are introduced in spin off media. That also means that any locations or characters introduced are likely to never be seen again, which often gives these films a whiff of the filler. MHA Two Heroes decides to get around this problem with fanservice, and the good kind too, there’s no ogling female characters here, (that’s another reason I love this series, it treats it’s female cast with respect, it doesn’t neglect them or reduce them to only being cleavage shots and revealing outfits, I’m glaring at you Fire Force). No, instead we get a brief glimpse into the early days of All Might’s career, getting a look at some of his old costumes and how he handled himself when he was just starting out. We also get a chance to see Midoriya and All Might fighting alongside one another, which isn’t something we’ve ever truly seen in the series and it’s nice to have that moment here.

The plot for the film is fairly straightforward, heroes arrive in new location, get a bit of a look around. They go to a party, villains take over and the heroes must work their way up a tower to defeat said villains and save the island. For the most part it feels like an extended episode, though I do find it funny how the film keeps trying to come up with new ways to explain why the members of class 1A all happen to be on this island when surely it would have been simpler just to make the whole class go together, it wouldn’t actually change the plot in any significant way. I do like that the plot gives the majority of the heroes a chance to show off their stuff, and Midoriya even gets a new support item that let’s him use his full power for a bit, though of course this has to break by the end of the movie. Speaking of support items, let’s talk about David and Melissa Shield. While I doubt we’re ever going to see them again in this franchise, I think that’s a shame because they’re both likeable characters. In Melissa, Midoriya gets to meet someone who was in the same spot as him, i.e. quirkless, and has found her own way to overcome that. Maybe Midoriya would have gone down a similar path if he hadn’t met All Might. I also like the way that Melissa calls out Midoriya for apologising for not protecting her, when he should be thanking her for helping save him, we don’t do woman as damsels in this series thank you very much Midoriya.

That brings me to David and, spoiler alert for the big twist, he’s one of the bad guys, kinda, sorta. See David invented something that’s very, very dangerous, a power enhancer for All Might because he knows his powers are fading (though he doesn’t know why), and he’s hired a bunch of villains to get it back from the island security that have locked it away. Of course the villains take the power enhancer for themselves and that leads to our big climatic showdown. I like David and his fear is a nice preview of the state of society after the fall of All Might. This movie works really well as a bridge between seasons two and three of the anime.

The Verdict

All in all, My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is a fun and enjoyable film. If you’re a fan of the series definitely check this out as there’s a bunch of great moments for fans, but if you’re new to the franchise it’s probably best to go see the series first, then come back to this. The animation and music are great, the action is top notch and the majority of characters get to show off their skills all building up to an epic finale. Go beyond and be a hero!

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.  

Anime Corner: The Price of Smiles Review

Blog Price of Smiles Review Title

Death flags for everybody!

What’s the Story?

On a planet far, far away from Earth, war rages between an ancient kingdom and a militaristic empire. Princess Yuki, head of the kingdom, is slowly gaining more responsibilities and learning what it means to rule, but she doesn’t know about the war. Her advisors keep her in the dark, hoping to preserve her bright smile and optimistic nature that they all treasure so much, but the horrors of war can’t be held off for long and soon the kingdom is pitched into a desperate situation. On the other side of the conflict there’s Stella, a loyal soldier of the empire, who always smiles despite how she feels inside. Stella and Yuki are on a collision course though and no matter how long it takes them to meet, when they do, they’ll have the fate of the whole planet to decide.

The Review

I’m struggling a bit with this review. My usual way of reviewing is that I tend to watch series as they air, one episode a week, until we get to the end of the season and then I’ll type up my thoughts after watching the final episode. Normally, by that point, my brain has had twelve or so weeks to form an opinion, I know what I think works and what I think doesn’t. Every now again though, I get a series like this one, where, having just watched the final episode as I type this up, (and I realise I’m going to be posting this well after I write this. Hello people of the future! Do we have hoverboards yet, or has the world ended already? I’m betting its the latter), I can’t quite put my finger on what I think. I’ve certainly enjoyed this series, I’ve looked forward to watching it every week, but at the same time if I break this series down and analyse it there are thousands of better series out there. It’s not bad, but it’s not mind blowing either and I don’t know quite why I’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. I am waffling at this point as my brain tries to work out the answer, but let’s go through the series and maybe I’ll have come to a conclusion by the end.

From a visual stand point this is fairly middle of the road. The action is decent and fast-paced and I like the majority of the character designs (weird anime hair aside), though there are several moments were you can see the budget is stretching so that it can be saved for more important scenes. There are a lot of nice shots in this series, there are several backgrounds and stills that I’d like to take from this series and hang up on a wall. It’s just a shame that it can’t keep that level of style and direction going the whole way through, but then maybe that’s an overall problem with the series. It has moments of brilliance, a perfect scene or character interaction, but then there are other times when the series feels like its falling back on clichés or into a pattern and that robs it of the meaning its going for.

That brings me on to the story and were the majority of my gripes with this series come in. Honestly, I’ve seen this story a thousand times, two empires at war and we follow the people caught up in the middle of it, learning the horrors of war first hand. We’ve got the loyal soldiers who begin to question orders and sunny optimists confronted with the fact that not everyone is going to reach that happy ending. There’s plenty of mech battles, trying to outsmart opponents with battlefield tactics and enough death flags to kill off whole nations, the series even throws in a vaguely relevant environmental message towards the end (it’s actually not that bad an addition, though I feel it should have been brought up more in the final episode). Now there’s nothing wrong with these story elements in and of themselves, many, many great stories have been built off the back of them, but The Price of Smiles never really does anything that new or inventive with them. The potential is there, but the show never seems to use it. It doesn’t help that the series quickly falls into a pattern, going from the first character death being something shocking and gripping, to significant characters lining up to be dispatched one after the other, each with their own emotional send off and it just gets played that many times that I quickly stop caring.

Speaking about wasted potential, let’s talk about Yuki. Now, personally, the idealist having their eyes opened to the greys and moral quandaries of the real world is one of my favourite tropes, and that did look like the path Yuki was on, but she’s never allowed to fully go with it. Yuki at the beginning is a happy optimist, seeing only the best in all around her and yet there’s also signs of a keen intelligence buried underneath her childish charm. When she finally learns about the war it breaks her heart and she struggles to cope with it emotionally, making rash decisions in an attempt to keep more people alive, only for said decisions to lead to more people dying. Now the natural arc for her is for her to abandon some, if not all, of her optimism and unleash that strategic mind of hers on the Empire, closing herself off as more and more people die, but if we did that then the series couldn’t wrap up in twelve episodes with all the conflict tied up in a nice little bow, so Yuki keeps her idealism until the end and as a result feels like a character that hasn’t quite finished her journey.

At least Stella gets to complete her arc, going from someone who’s closed off, burying all her feelings and smiling through it, to someone who wears her heart on her sleeve yet still struggles with her feelings. I wish we had more of the scene of her with her mother, but aside from that Stella feels like she at least got to complete her journey. The rest of the cast are all pretty enjoyable, a lot of favourites coming from Stella’s squad, but even those on Yuki’s side had some really captivating moments, even if that moment was right before they died.

The Verdict

In the end The Price of Smiles isn’t a bad series, but it won’t blow anyone away either. The animation is decent with some nice direction in places, but the story has been done better before and often falls back on clichés and familiar patterns. The characters are all likeable and interesting and, even with my disappointment in Yuki’s arc, they are reason I think I’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have. The series has its ups and downs, but when the characters get their moments to shine, they really do shine and that was enough to carry me through some of the more mediocre patterns of this series. I do recommend it, there’s certainly worse you could be watching, but I’ll completely understand if anyone wants to give this a miss.

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.