Anime Corner: My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission Review

A real hero never gives up! Even when they’re bleeding out to the point of actually dying.

What’s the Story?

When a cult of quirk-hating terrorists release a gas that causes people’s abilities to spiral dangerously out of control, the world’s heroes mobilise. The head of the cult is nowhere to be found though, and there’s bombs set to release more gas all around the world. If there’s any hope of saving this day they’re going to need every hero they can, including the students of U.A.. Unfortunately Deku’s been accused of mass murder and is on the run from the police. Can he, Todoroki and Bakugo figure what’s going on, track down the cult’s leader and save the whole hero society? It’s a tough ask, but if anyone can they can. Mission start!

The Review:

My Hero Academia’s third film! Okay, maybe having a third film released isn’t all that ground-breaking for a shonen series (especially when you compare it other series like One Piece and Dragon Ball and their vast catalogue of films). Still, having three films for a series that are all consistently good (spoiler warning for my thoughts on this film) is something that’s worth praising. You can read my reviews of the previous two movies HERE and HERE, but let’s focus on this film for now. I really had a good time with this movie, it’s funny, it’s endearing and incredibly dramatic when it wants to be, much like the show at it’s best. It’s also fairly kind to newcomers as well, obviously it helps if you’ve seen some the show or have read the manga, but the film’s central plot is fairly independent. I saw this film with a friend of mine who has never watched/read a single second of MHA and he followed what was happening perfectly fine, he just questioned who a lot of the characters were.

Let’s talk about that story for a second, because while this film captures the spirit of MHA, it also presents us with something entirely different from the series. Gone are the familiar settings of U.A. and most of Class 1-A are reduced to cameo appearances at best. In their place we have a more global event with a couple of new heroes (though there’s a lot less international heroes in this film that I thought there were going to be) and the stakes are some of the highest we’ve seen. Deku has to spend most of the film on the run from the police and when we hit the climax its down to Deku, Todoroki and Bakugo alone to save all of hero society. Also, I’ll just say this now, this film gets bloody in the final battles. The amount of times people get stabbed or shot, it’s a wonder they don’t all bleed out by the time the end credits roll. It’s a little ridiculous, but it certainly adds to how dire things feel in this film.

Not that this is all doom and gloom, there’s plenty of breath-taking action sequences peppered throughout to keep things lively. I have to take my hat off to whichever animators worked on the swooping camera work of the mid-air fights, of which there are several, there’s a real sense of frenzy and chaos without ever making things hard to follow for the audience, which is a true skill. Throw in some good humour at the start and a middle that slows down to properly develop the emotional beats and this film really has pitch perfect pacing.

Speaking of the emotional beats, let’s talk about Rody. When I think about it all the MHA films have really good film-only protagonists for Deku and co to hang out with, but I think Rody might just be my favourite. He’s a fully fleshed out character with a compelling back story and a clear character arc, he’s also effortlessly charming and quick-witted enough to give Deku a run for his money. Yes his arc is fairly obvious, of course the cynical character will have his heart melted by the pure ball of sunshine that is Deku, but seeing him struggle on despite the worst of things towards the end of the film is a real hero moment. Also he has a really…let’s say unique power and that damn bird of his had me tearing up by the end of the film.

That brings me to the villains of this film and, honestly, I’m kinda split on them. On the one hand they’re a really great concept for a group of villains, people who see quirks as a problem to be gotten rid of and willing to go to murderous lengths to achieve that. I’m honestly surprised a group like them hasn’t turned up in the series at any point, though of course I know the Quirk Doomsday Theory has been brought up by the series several times in the manga, and that idea in itself is a really meaty one. The basic idea is that as quirks combine down the generations and grow stronger they’re going to reach a point where they can no longer be controlled and the world will end. It’s a startling idea, one that the series hasn’t provided an answer to, outside of the fact that it’s just a theory and hasn’t been outright proven it will happen yet.

The problem with the villains is that, cool ideas aside, we never really get to know any of them. We only get the full details on what’s driving the main villain as he monologues about his past while he fights Deku…at the end of the film. That’s a bit too little, too late for my taste. There’s a wide variety of hench people working for said main villain and some of them have really fun and creative powers, but there’s no real depth to any of them. The only one I truly care about and wanted to get to know more was the archer lady and she doesn’t make it to the end of the film. Oh, did I mention this film has a hell of a body count? Well, it does start off with the villains gassing an entire city. I probably should have mentioned that earlier.

The Verdict:

In the end, My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission is another solid entry in this series’ film catalogue. It maintains the spirit of the series while expanding the franchise out into new horizons, giving us new locations and characters and raising the stakes to a truly dire situation. The villains are the only real let down, having a great concept but none of them being fleshed out enough to make an impact. The action and the characters more than make up for this though and I thoroughly recommend seeing this if you can. Plus ultra!

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: Hellboy Animated: Blood & Iron

Son of a….!

What’s the Story?

In 1939, a young Professor Broom (Bruttenholm) confronted and defeated Erzesbet Ondrushko, a vampire rumoured to bathe in the blood of young women to retain her beauty. Now, all signs point towards someone trying to bring her back. When the agents of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence) are invited to inspect a haunted house, Professor Broom brings along Hellboy, Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien just to be sure. The resurrection of a vengeful vampire is the least of their worries though, as dark forces have been watching the titular Hellboy and they are very disappointed by what they see. Having to contend with ghosts, werewolves, harpies and an ancient Goddess inhabiting an iron maiden, the agents are in for one rough night, and not everyone will live to see the dawn.

The Review

You know, each and every year I’m surprised to reach another anniversary post and yet I keep coming up with things I want to talk about, much like the subject of today’s review. It’s the 7th anniversary of this little blog of mine and, as is tradition around here, I’m going to spend it talking about a franchise/film that I have strong feelings for. Honestly I’ve been meaning to talk about this particular franchise for a while now, ever since I started this blog in fact, and since I spent the first half of this year rereading my collection of the graphic novels, now feels like the right time. I don’t know why I’m trying to treat this like a big reveal, you’ve all read the title and seen the artwork, today we’re talking about the world-renowned paranormal investigator, Hellboy.

I have vague recollections of seeing Hellboy comics and merchandise in different places when I was a kid, but it wasn’t until the first Guillermo Del Toro film that I properly took notice. I’ve been buying said comics on and off ever since and, if you have even the slightest interest in this franchise, I thoroughly recommend them. Not only is Mike Mignola’s art a masterclass in colour, shadows and composition, but the titular hero is just such a likeable and compelling character. Throw in all the legends, myths and folklore that Hellboy often finds himself combating and its almost as if this series was made for me. There is such a deep lore to the series and a starkly different feel than you get from the Del Toro films (though I do enjoy both of those films quite a lot).

On to the subject though, what is Hellboy Animated? The idea for an animated Hellboy series has been floating around for a long time, and really if Invinicible can get its own cartoon, why not Hellboy? Sadly such a series has yet to materialise, but with the relative success of the first Hellboy film there was enough interest to green light two animated features (A third film was in development, but much like the Del Toro films this franchise doesn’t seem to be able to reach that far). As such we got Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron, both with Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones returning to voice their respective characters. Blood and Iron even has the late great John Hurt returning to play Professor Broom. Sword of Storms is a decent film, it’s really just a collection of things that happen with Hellboy interacting with various yokai and creatures of Japanese mythology. Check it out if the mood takes you.

That brings me, finally, to today’s review. Blood and Iron is my favourite of the animated films and, in some respects, it’s my favourite Hellboy film. It is a direct-to-DVD film so it’s resources are limited, but you can feel there’s a great deal of passion behind this project. Not only from the voice talent, because, come on, Ron Perlman was born to play Hellboy, but the direction, even the use of colour, they’re pulling out all the stops they can. Add on to that the fact that, to me, this is the film that feels the most like the comics and is it any wonder I love it so much? This film is loosely based on the second Hellboy mini-series, ‘Wake the Devil’, it even climaxes with Hellboy squaring off against Hecate, Greek Goddess of Magic and Queen of the Witches. Some of Hecate’s dialogue is even pulled directly from the comic. The only things really missing are the revived Nazis, Rasputin’s ghost floating about the place and we’re facing off against a different vampire, but this is meant to be a stand alone film and that stuff would require some context so I can see why they cut it.

Direct pulls from the comics aside, what makes this film feel so much like the series is the way the characters interact. Hellboy is a much more subdued and mature character, he’s a working class joe who does his job with a sarcastic, dry wit. He has a lot of care and respect for his father, Professor Broom and Liz is back in the little sister role as opposed to being the love interest. One of my favourite scenes has to be the first briefing, where they’re all just sat around in armchairs bantering. Liz is trying to remember where they found this pastry place while on a mission, Hellboy is complaining about the quality of the donuts and the boss is wondering whether they should spring for a conference table. None of this Men-in-Black super secret organisation stuff, they’re government employees, working with hardly any budget and just trying to do the best they can.

If you’re looking for Gothic Horror, then look no further than this film. Erzsebet is a great antagonist, and while we don’t get to see much of her in the present day, outside of her horrific resurrected appearance, she more than makes up for it in the flashbacks. Peppered throughout this film are flashbacks to the first time that Professor Broom encountered Erzsebet and it really plays up that Hammer Horror vibe. Interestingly enough the flashbacks are played in reverse order, we start with Broom confronting and defeating Erzsebet and then back track to get to know the players in this tragedy a little better. Each one is perfectly placed to give us a new kernel of information and I do have to admire the writing and direction of them. It’s not a gory film, but there is plenty of death, blood and even a little torture so maybe keep the little kids away from this one.

Lastly, I want to talk about the use of colour in this film. Most of this film is saturated in different shades of blue, since the story plays out mostly at night and it adds to the mood of the film. It also helps our big red hero stand out even more. Green, however, is mostly used for anything that the film depicts as evil, Erzsebet wears a green dress, magic, Hecate and her servants are all coloured or surrounded by green. It helps to keep the film visually interesting. There’s even a scene where, as Hellboy’s fight with a werewolf is reaching its peak, the whole room suddenly becomes coloured red to show that intensity, before dying back down to blue once the fight is over. As I said before, the people working on this film really pulled out all the stops they could and they weren’t afraid to experiment or try things out, for which I can only commend this film. I do wish there were more Hellboy animated films, I have no doubt that I would have loved Shadow of the Claw as much as I did this one, but that will just have to be relegated to whatever dimension is lucky enough to hold all of the unmade Hellboy films. Maybe someday we’ll get that Hellboy animated series.

The Verdict

In the end, Hellboy Animated: Blood & Iron is exactly the kind of Hellboy film I want. It’s dark, gothic and has a clear understanding of the world and characters. You can feel the passion that all involved put into this film and it’s a crime that they weren’t allowed to make more. It is only a Direct-to-DVD film, so it’s budget does show in places, but the skill in the writing, direction and inventive use of colour more than make up for any weaknesses. If you like Hellboy, or even think you might like Hellboy, then check this out. There was a Blu ray release a little while ago. Oh, and read the comics too!

On a final note, I just want to thank everyone who’s managed to make it this far and for putting up with my long-winded, rambling reviews. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did putting it together. And thank you to everyone who’s viewed, liked and commented on one of my posts in these past seven years, here’s to the next few!

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: Shadows House Review

If this show has taught me anything it’s that it’s important to question ‘trivial’ things.

What’s the Story?

High atop a cliff sits the mansion of the noble Shadows family, a mysterious clan whose bodies are constantly covered in soot. They are served by living dolls, very human-like creations that serve both as the cleaners of the mansion and the ‘face’ of their appointed master. Emilico is one such doll and, honestly, she couldn’t be happier. She loves her master, Kate, and can’t help but be curious about all the wonderful things she comes across, whether that’s another part of the mansion or the other dolls and their masters. Of course living dolls aren’t suppose to concern themselves with trivial matters, such as why their masters produce soot in the first place, or why a doll should get hungry and feel pain. Whatever the answers, I’m sure it’s absolutely nothing to worry about!

The Review:

Gothic can be defined as, of or relating to a style of fiction characterised by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious or violent incidents (definition courtesy of www.merriam-webster.com). At the time of writing this review, I can’t think of a single anime that better exemplifies that definition than this one. Oh sure there are plenty of anime that borrow the gothic aesthetic to add a bit of flair and style to proceedings (most of which I love), but there’s none that feel as gothic as Shadows House (if you can think of another series that’s as gothic as this one, please let me know in the comments). From the imposing mansion constantly surrounded by mist to the ever-present questions about just what is going on, this series is gothic down to its bones. Honestly all we’re really missing is a few grisly murders, but the way this series is going I’ve no doubt things are going to end up that way eventually (when we get a sequel. We are getting a sequel right?!)

Okay, before this just turns into me gushing about how much I love gothic stuff, let’s break this series down and really dig into it. To my mind, Shadows House has three very clear arcs, one of which I definitely feel is the weakest, but we’ll come to that in a little bit. The arcs, as I called them, are the Pre-Debut, the Debut and then, finally, the Children’s Wing. The Pre-Debut is very much what hooked me into this show and is probably the most gothic portion of the series.

It almost plays out like a slice-of-life with Emilico waking up in the Shadows House and going about her daily duties. Each episode she’s either introduced to a new concept or learning about another part of her duties. It would all be really sweet and innocence if it wasn’t for the pervading sense that something was very, very wrong here. It does a wonderful job of establishing the atmosphere of the show and letting you soak in it, all the while making ground rules of this place clear and introducing key characters. Honestly, I’d have been happy if this series remained in this phase for its entire run, but it’s probably for the best that it moved on to the next phase.

The Debut switches things up. Now that the basics have been laid out the series changes from a slice-of-life to a puzzle-based adventure. Instead of wondering about all these nebulous questions about what’s really going on, the characters are given more immediate challenges to face. Here the focus narrows in on a specific set of characters, both dolls and their masters, as we explore how they face difficult choices and begin to bond with one another. It’s a great deal of fun seeing how each doll thinks their way through problems and the relationships they build between one another. Also, I’m a sucker for a puzzle so seeing all the solutions that people come up with was a lot of fun too.

That brings me to the end of the Debut, where I think the series makes it’s only real misstep. The end of the Debut is where we get our answers to what’s really going on and I can’t help but feel like it takes some of the wind out of the series’ sails. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that we did eventually get the answers, you can’t keep stringing along your audience forever, but there had to be a better way to do it. The series just stops dead to dump all the answers into your lap, when surely the series would have been better off drip feeding them to us a bit at a time. I said you can’t string your audience along forever, but that doesn’t mean you have to give them everything all at once.

For me, this really hurts the final arc of the series, the Children’s Wing, which is definitely the weakest arc of the series. It was bad enough that my enthusiasm had dipped thanks to having the answers I’d been craving, but for this arc we move to a new location and we barely get any exploration of it. Prior to this the series had been so good at letting you get to know a new area, but here all that’s ignored in favour of setting up a quick bit of drama with our series antagonist. It doesn’t help that this arc gets the least amount of episodes dedicated to it, so it can’t quite build up the atmosphere it needs.

The Verdict:

In the end, Shadows House is a great gothic series, even if my enthusiasm for it had deflated somewhat by the final episode. The first half of the series does a fantastic job of building up this sense of dread and laying out all these mysteries to hook you in. You will get the answers eventually, even if I’m not a fan of the way they’re given to us, but by then you should have fallen for this series’ cast of sweet and charming characters. Throw in some great visuals and an atmospheric soundtrack (including a great op and ed) and you’re really on to something. When the second season releases I’ll be one of the first in line to see it.

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: Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun Season 2 Review

Bad Boy Iruma is Best Boy!

What’s the Story?

Iruma is the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet and, right now, he’s living his best life. He’s got a Grandfather that adores him, friends that cherish him and even a couple of ladies with their eye on him. For a kid whose no-good parents sold him to a demon and is now living in the netherworld, he’s doing pretty good for himself. Of course that doesn’t stop life from presenting challenges, from personality switches to a prison break at a theme park, life in the netherworld is never dull for long and Iruma’s going to need more than a winning smile and good vibes to survive this. The demon king’s throne has been empty for a while now, but for how much longer?

The Review:

Sequels are hard. It’s one of the unwritten rules of life that, the majority of the time, sequels are never quite as good as their original. I can think of a fair few exceptions to this rule off the top of my head, Terminator 2 and a chunk of the MCU films immediately spring to mind, but on the whole we all subconsciously agree that sequels are to be feared. It’s weird when you think about it, surely if you’ve worked out the magic formula to make the original a success then all you need to do is repeat the process for the sequel, but it rarely works that way. To be a good sequel, at least to me, you have to perfect the balancing act of not only recapturing the magic of the first one, but also adding in something new and continuing the story in a natural way.

I adored the first season of Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, (you can read my review of it HERE) it surprised and charmed me until I was well and truly in love. So when the second season finally started airing I was a volatile mix of excited and scared. Would this new season stand up to the now high standards I have for this series? Would the characters still be the charming goof balls I remember? Will Clara still be Best Girl forever and ever? The answer’s yes to all of the above, though Clara does get some stiff competition from Ameri this season, but we’ll talk more about that in a minute. Season 2 gave me everything that I wanted from a sequel plus a whole bunch of stuff I never knew I needed. More of Clara and her family singing? Check. More of these characters and this world? Check. Iruma turning into a bad boy? Okay, this one I had no idea how much I would enjoy it, but it’s now my favourite arc.

This second season perfectly gets that balancing act that I was talking about before. It knows it’s audience and it knows what types of jokes and scenes worked last time, so it gives you more of that, but it also takes the time to expand and grow its cast and world. We see  more of the netherworld, we spend some time in the Student Council offices, in our character’s homes and while they’re on summer vacation we get to see a couple of theme parks. All the while we’re getting details added to the lore and history. Then there’s the characters and while I still can’t remember the names of Iruma’s classmates, I can now at least tell you their special abilities, which is progress. Congratulations guys, you’ve stepped up from background characters to secondary characters, and some pretty fun ones at that.

Speaking of characters though, we need to talk about Iruma for a second. There’s no real major change to his character, well outside of a certain arc I’m going to talk about in a minute, but there’s a definite sense of progress. Iruma is and always will be an eternal ball of gentle sunshine, but he’s gradually developing into the Demon King we all know he’s going to be by the time this series ends. He’s steadily becoming more adept at magic, but more than that he’s slowly forming his own ideology. In the first season he discovered that working towards a goal was fun and rewarding, and that’s why he started trying to raise his rank. This season he’s realised that he’s having a ton of fun with all his new friends and he wants to protect that, he wants everyone to be happy. Unfortunately not everyone else thinks that way and Iruma is going to have to get stronger to protect what he wants. It’s added a personal reason on to his goal and, yeah, that demon throne is beckoning.

Couple of last things to talk about, let’s start with that arc I keep hyping. Now the end of the first season teased us with this ‘edgy’ bad boy Iruma, but I had no idea he was going to be so much fun. I just want to hug regular Iruma, but I’d march into an impossible battle for bad boy Iruma. What makes it so fascinating is that Iruma’s personality doesn’t really change all that drastically, he’s still the same kind-hearted, supportive best boy, it’s just that his confidence has been dialled up to eleven, without giving him an ego to match.

Finally let’s discus the Clara/Ameri situation because the ships they are a sailing. I’d never thought about Clara and Iruma in a romantic way, but I can see why someone would ship them and this season certainly gives plenty of fodder in that regard. For my money though, I’m shipping Iruma and Ameri, I mean they actually go on a date together (which was hilarious) and Ameri has made it her goal to be with Iruma now. It’s always fun to see the ever-cool and badass Ameri flustered and panicking with the best of them. Also the jokes with her dad always have me laughing, the one referencing the Ring might be my favourite.

The Verdict:

In the end, Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun season 2 does what all good sequels should. It keeps a hold of what made the first season so endearing and funny, while also allowing the story to progress and the characters to grow. We get to know more of the characters, explore new locations and settings and there’s a definite sense that this is all heading somewhere. Season 3 has already been announced and I’m very excited by that tease they showed at the end of this one. I can’t wait for more!

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: Akudama Drive Review

Note to self: If you want the easy life, never try to return someone’s dropped change.

What’s the Story?

Many years ago a great civil war ravaged the country of Japan, leaving it fractured between two regions, Kansai and Kanto. Kanto is said to be a paradise where everyone gets exactly what they want thanks to their advanced technology. Kansai on the other hand is filled with those who would break the law, known as Akudama. When one ordinary citizen runs into an Akudama, she has no idea that her entire world is about to be turned upside down. She’s just been drafted into one of the greatest heists in history, one that will see her breaking into some of the most secure locations in Kansai and even exposing the truth behind Kanto itself. Nothing will be the same again, and all because of one cat and a 500 yen coin.  

The Review:

Some shows you just know you’re not meant to take seriously. Part way through episode one we have one character swinging around the city on their bike like they’re Spider-Man, so we at least know logic and physics don’t apply here. The ‘Rule of Cool’ is very much in effect with this series and that’s no bad thing. In fact, this series is an expert at doing what it does and what it does is being effortlessly cool and badass. Dynamic visuals, a killer soundtrack and cathartic characters arcs make this series a blast from start to finish and I am very much in love with it. It’s not all that deep and the characters very much stick to their archetypes, we don’t even learn their names beyond their roles, Swindler, Brawler, Doctor and so on.

Then again, does a series need to be deep to be great? Don’t get me wrong if every single series out there decided to just be all show and no substance, then I’d have something to complain about, but they’re not. There’s plenty of cerebral shows out there and as long as we treat our viewing habits like maintaining a healthy diet, then a little bit of junk food every now and again can’t do any harm (just as long as it’s not the only thing we eat). All that being said it’s not as if Akudama Drive has nothing to say for itself, it has some clear themes of self-determination, questions about the true nature of justice and how it’s the victors that write the rule books. None of which is all that original, but it’s something and it helps add a little bit of weight to character actions to give them the punch they need.

Let’s talk about the characters for a moment (and for once I don’t have to stop and quickly check character’s names, because I’m really bad with names guys). As I said we don’t learn their names beyond their job role and, outside of Courier, we never really get any kind of exploration of their pasts. A few of them explain their particular philosophies on life, but that’s all we get and, honestly, that’s as much as we need. The characters have enough personality and bombast to make up for any deficiencies they might have elsewhere and while their arcs are simplistic and predictable, they’re also incredibly cathartic. Every character gets exactly what they deserve, especially the Doctor who had me jumping up and down when she got her just deserts. There’s a line Swindler has towards the end of the series about screaming ‘Serves you right.’ into the face of the world and that’s exactly what this feels like. Whether it’s a tragic passing, a heroic last stand or a comeuppance that’s been a long time coming, this show makes sure that every ending feels right and there’s a lot of endings.

That’s one thing I should probably warn you about, this series has a heck of body count and gets really bloody in places. If you watch on Funimation’s site like I did the worst of it is covered by black bars, but this is not a series for the squeamish. One of the characters is called Cutthroat, so I guess it’s not too much of a surprise, still I’d avoid getting attached to too many people.

Let’s round this out by talking about the visuals for a bit. There are shows that look better and have more fluid animation, but when this show wants to put something dynamic and striking up on the screen it pulls out all the stops. We’re presented with a neon-soaked cyberpunk future, where holographic images and traditional Japanese-inspired architecture blend together. Throw in the numerous action set pieces, some crazy locales and even some blimps and you have a feast for the eyes. As I said, I love this series and while I realise it’s not going to have the same impact for everyone, I really don’t want this series to fade into the history books.

The Verdict:

Akudama Drive is a roller coaster thrill ride. It looks great and you’ll quickly find yourself cheering on the majority of the characters, even if it’s not all that deep or original. Everyone gets exactly what they deserve in this series, whether that’s good or bad, but there’s a cathartic punch to events that means you’ll most likely leave this series feeling satisfied even if you’re not as in love with it as I currently am. So let’s give this series what it deserves, for those that have seen it, let’s remember it fondly, and for those who haven’t yet, go check it 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: SK8 the Infinity Review

Sk8 is Gr8!

What’s the Story?

Reki loves skateboards, he loves making them and he loves competing in the top-secret, no-holds-barred downhill race known as ‘S’. Unfortunately while he’s got the spirit, he’s lacking in some of the skills. That’s when he meets new transfer student, Langa, a snowboarder since he was a little kid, he’s looking for something to give him the same thrill when there’s no snow around. Could skateboarding be the answer? With Reki’s enthusiasm and board building skills combined with Langa’s natural talent could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? Not if the mysterious Adam has anything to say about it, he’s got his eyes on Langa and is convinced he’s the only one who can be a match for me. Trouble is, he’s right.

The Review

I like enthusiastic people. Maybe I’m weird, but I find joy in other people’s enjoyment, even if I don’t particularly care about the subject they’re enjoying so much. Take skateboarding for example, I’m a child of the 90s so it’s ingrained in me that skaters are ‘cool’, but my experience with the sport is limited to about an hour’s play on one Tony Hawks game back in the day. I have more interest in a detailed history of the shoelace than I do skateboarding, which is to say absolutely none. Yet, here comes Reki, our adorable puppy dog of a protagonist whose sheer love of skateboarding is so infectious I can’t help but care. He’s invested, so I’m invested. Throw in a host of colourful characters and some physics-defying races and we’re in for a wild ride here folks.

Fun is the name of the game with this series, both narratively and meta-texturally. It’s a show about the joy of skateboarding and the rule of cool is very much in effect. Part of me wonders why this series didn’t come out in the 90s, because it fits that decade so much. If you’re after a gritty and realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be a skateboarder, well you’ll just have to look somewhere else. This is a show were physics are a mere suggestion and the rules aren’t just broken, they’re pulverised. One of the main antagonist’s popular moves is to pick up his skateboard, mid-race, and smack the other guy in the face with it. It’s that kinda show and if you’re willing to go along with it you’ll have as much fun as all the characters involved.

Each race featured in the series is thrilling and had me cheering along. Part of this comes from the fact that the series chooses to focus on a core group of skaters, each with their own distinct styles and ways of skating. One relies on technology, while another uses dirty tricks and yet another one uses their clear excess of muscles to pull off some crazy moves. It’s fun to see all these different personalities clash and bounce off of one another, though, for me, the two best boys of this series have to be our leads, Reki and Langa. I’ve already talked about how infectious Reki’s enthusiasm can be, but then there’s Langa whose quiet, innocent joy at discovering skateboarding for the first time is equally infectious. They make for a great pair and really bounce off of one another well. Reki’s experience and fanboy knowledge of skateboarding, coupled up with Langa’s air-headed naivety and natural skill really compliment and complete one another. There’s a reason their third-act split takes up several episodes of the series to resolve.

Let’s talk about that split though, because it’s probably the most interesting aspect of the plot of this series. Maybe I read too much shonen, but I’m used to the enthusiastic hero-type being completely OP in their chosen area, but that’s not the case here. Reki loves skateboarding, but he’s not the most gifted skater and the series makes it clear that no amount of guts and determination is going to make up for that gap in skill. Even when he takes on the series antagonist, Adam, it’s very clear that he stands no chance at all, and Adam wasn’t even going all out against him. This gap between desire and talent has a palpable effect on Reki and he starts to turn away from his friends, because he doesn’t feel like he can measure up against them. It’s a really meaty issue that I wish got explored in more series, and it’s really well handled here. Of course Reki finds his way back to skateboarding, but even then the series doesn’t backtrack. Reki has to find value in his own skating without measuring it against other people. Besides, as the series likes to reiterate towards the end, skateboarding is fun and it doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

The Verdict

In the end, SK8 the Infinity is a blast from beginning to end. It’s impossible not to get sucked in my the enthusiasm of these dopey guys who just like to pull an ollie, or whatever skateboarding jargon you want to thrown in. Fun and the rule of cool is the game as these colourful characters participate in physics-defying races and blatant rule breaking. There’s also a meaty exploration of the effects when a person’s desire doesn’t quite match up with their talent, which is well handled. If you’re looking for a fun time then I can’t recommend a series more than this, and anyone who says otherwise can run a Beef with me right now! Skateboarding is fun!

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: Jujutsu Kaisen Review

Boogie Woogie, the greatest power in anime.

What’s the Story?

Yuji Itadori used to be a normal high schooler. Then, one day, his friends came under attack by curses and everything changed. In order to save them Itadori swallowed a cursed finger and shared his body with a curse called Sukuna. This may have been a very bad decision. There are jujutsu sorcerers in this world, who protect it from curses and most of them believe Itadori should have been killed right then and there, but one offered him a choice instead. Now Itadori has a chance to do some good and train to become a jujutsu sorcerer himself. Of course those other sorcerers still want him dead and they’re not the only problem. There are curses out there that want to sway Sukuna to their cause, that being to completely dominated the human race. Can Itadori survive long enough to finish his training and is it possible for a curse to do some good?

The Review

I like shonen action series. I know that will come as a great shock to absolutely no one, but then again, maybe it will. I don’t really talk about them that much on this blog do I? I’ve never talked about my thoughts on Bleach, Naruto got mentioned all of once back in the early days and, while I covered some of the One Piece movies, I’ve made it pretty clear I take issue with a large chunk of the anime adaptation. My Hero Academia is probably the series with the most representation on here and even then I skipped covering the first three season because I didn’t have that much to add to the discourse. I used to have this rule on the blog that I’d cover the first season of a show and then only talk about the sequels if I thought I had something new to add, which I often didn’t (I have since rethought that idea as you may have noticed by the increased number of sequel reviews I’ve been writing lately). This is a first season so it automatically gets a pass to the review stage, but do I have anything new to add to the discussion? Let’s find out!

Jujutsu Kaisen is good. Round of applause. Thank you, thank you, I know you all come here for such startling insights. Being serious though, I do think this is a really good show. It doesn’t do anything really mould-breaking or inventive, but what it does do it does with an air of confidence and skill that you can’t help but admire it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it. You could have the most staggeringly original idea in the history of the universe, but if you don’t know how to tell that story no one is going to give it a second glance. However, if you take a tried and tested formula and you apply it correctly people are going to get on board. Throw in a really likeable cast, some good humour and top notch action and you’re really on to a winner. I have no doubt that this show will blow me away at some point, shonen series often get better and better over time, but for now this is just a really good show that does what it does and does it really well.

Let’s break things down a little further though, because Jujutsu Kaisen has some elements that really sell it. For one, there’s the animation. Mappa is very much a studio on the rise at the minute, with a number of high profile shows under their belt, in fact it’s a testament that this show has come out as continually gorgeous as it has while they’ve been working on those other shows. The fight sequences are jaw-droppingly good, fluid, kinetic and packing one heck of a punch, honestly they’re worth the price of admission alone. It’s just the kind of spectacle a series like this needs to capture an audience. This is also aided by the pacing, which really makes it feel like things are continually moving forward, without ever feeling like you’re missing out on anything. It’s pretty much the perfect speed for a series like this.

Of course this series isn’t just all spectacle, we’ve also got our loveable cast of characters. I’ll give Jujutsu Kaisen this, it’s already added in a large number of characters into it’s story and I love most of them, well expect for the ones that I’m clearly supposed to hate. Focussing in on just our main trio and, while they all fit comfortably into their archetypes, there’s enough charisma and depth to make each one feel like a fully fleshed-out person. I do have a major soft spot for Itadori, he may be the naive, good-down-to-his-toes, physical powerhouse protagonist, but I like that this series isn’t afraid to show him struggling. I mean emotionally, physically he can beat up most opponents good and proper, but sometimes the morally grey job of a sorcerer weighs on him and I like that that kind of struggle is acknowledged. Then there’s Nobara Kugisaki, my vote for best shonen female character of the century and I will fight anyone who tries to argue otherwise, and Megumi Fushiguro, the effortlessly cool rival character who I can’t help but cheer for. Overall a really solid set of leads.

The Verdict

In the end, Jujutsu Kaisen is a really solid show. It knows what it’s doing and it does it well. The spectacle of the animation and action is enough to catch your attention, but you’ll stay for the characters and the world its building up around them. I have no doubt that in some future season this series is going to blow my socks off, but for now it’s laid out a really rock-steady foundation and I can’t wait to see what gets built upon it. Plus Kugisaki is as awesome as she is scary and one of the best female shonen characters in a long while, and we need more of them. Also that first ED is amazing still.

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: Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World Season 2 Review

Let’s do this one more time!

What’s the Story?

Having brought down the White Whale and dismantled the schemes of the Sin Archbishop of Sloth, Subaru was finally riding high again. He even got a lap pillow from Emilia! Of course nothing good can last too long for our eternally-dying protagonist and tragedy strikes again when Rem is attacked and wiped from everyone’s memory except for Subaru. What’s more Subaru has already reached the next save point so he can’t use Return by Death to solve this. Adding to his problems, the villagers have yet to return from the Sanctuary and when he and Emilia arrive they learn that the only way to free everyone is to pass the trails of the late Witch of Greed. Can Subaru confront his past, overcome yet another of the Great Mabeasts and bring the machinations of Roswaal crashing down around him? This time he’s going to need something more than Return by Death to get out of this one!

The Review

Do you have one of those shows that you love, despite the inescapable feeling that there’s a lot of stuff you’re just not getting (think Christopher Nolan films or any season of Line of Duty). That’s me and Re:Zero, at least on a first watch through. You can check out my review of the first season HERE, but suffice to say that I had a blast with it. The journey of Subaru, from the psychological toll of his many deaths, to the very shattering of his ego and his eventual attempts to rebuild himself, was compelling and I ate up every moment of it. The second season is no less fascinating, packed full of so many reveals and bits of character back story and world-building lore, it’s too much to take in all at once and, yeah, that’s a problem. As much as I love this series, I do have to acknowledge it’s flaws and that’s a big one.

Re:Zero has always been a very talky series, with vast amounts of exposition and a really roundabout way of saying things. Often the mentality of this show is that a paragraph of too much detail is far better than a single concise sentence and, that’s just bad writing. Add on the fact that, at times, the lore and finer details of this world can really be impenetrable and the show is no way interested in holding your hand, and it’s a wonder I enjoy this series as much as I do. Watching this show week to week can be a nightmare at times. I’ve got to retain all the mountain of details I learned about in the week’s prior, plus comb through all the stuff from the current episode and make space in my brain for the week’s still to come. At times I’ve felt like Sisyphus continually pushing that boulder up a hill only for it constantly slip out of my grasp. I’d be tempted to recommend just bingeing this series all in one go, but I’m worried that would make your head explode, on the first watch at least. Re:Zero is really a series that needs to be watched multiple times to be fully enjoyed, and while I don’t have a problem with that I get why some people might and that’s perfectly fine.

All of that does make this series sound pretty bad, doesn’t it? It certainly makes it hard to recommend, but I still find myself enjoying each and every episode so why is that? The only thing I can really put it down to is the characters, while a lot of them may suffer from verbal diarrhoea, I’m still invested in them and their journeys. I want to know more about Subura and his past, to see what made him the way he is, I want to see what’s so terrible about Emilia’s history and Otto’s story has turned him into the surprise Best Boy of the year. You’ll find all of that in season 2 and each and every answer is worth it. It helps that while I may not always understand what some characters are saying, I can always at least understand them emotionally. I may not know why they care so much about something, but I get that they do care and when an epic moment hits, especially towards the end of the season, it truly feels epic. This series knows how to work the feels and make you care and, really, that’s it’s greatest strength.

I am still really looking forward to season 3, because while this season answers a great number of questions (even if I’ll get the detail on my second watch through), there’s still so much that we don’t know about this world. Plus, the most important thing of all, we need to get Rem back! She got side-lined in the first episode and she’s still in a coma by the final episode and we can’t have that! Here’s hoping getting that sorted is the first task of the next season, now that we’ve got Emilia’s past and Roswaal’s motivations sorted out.

The Verdict

In the end, Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World can be a really hard series to recommend. It is overly wordy and the lore and plot can be impenetrable without multiple viewings, and yet I still get so much joy out of watching this show. I’m invested in these characters journeys and I care about what they care about, even if sometimes it takes a while for me to understand why. They have a world that is packed full of mysteries and intrigue and when something epic happens you can bet it’ll feel as epic as possible. I’m eager for a season 3, but I understand if people feel like it’s time to get off this ride. As for me, I’ll probably be buckled in until the finish.

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: Dorohedoro Review

Lost in chaos, well that’s certainly one way to describe this series.

What’s the Story?

Humans live in the Hole, a dismal cityscape warped by magic. The people do their best to eke out a living, but its hard when sorcerers keep popping over from their own dimension and using the humans to practise their magic on. Take Caiman for example, he has no idea who he is or where he comes from, but his biggest problem is probably the fact that some sorcerer turned his head into a lizard’s. Now, along with his best friend Nikaido, he’s made it his mission to hunt down the sorcerer that cast a spell on him and get his real face back! Of course there are a lot of sorcerers out there and plenty of other strange and macabre things both in the Hole and in the sorcerer’s own world. Still, if Caiman has to bite every sorcerer he meets and question them about what the man in his mouth said to them, well, that’s just what he’s going to do.

The Review

Sometimes I just have to marvel at anime. I mean there are many, many reasons why I’ve been watching it for the majority of my life now, but one of the main ones is the sheer breadth and creativity of its stories. Where else am I going to come across a show that opens with a man with a lizard head biting down some other dude’s head, only for another head to work its way up the lizard man’s throat and start talking. I’m pretty sure that’s how all this started, either that or someone slipped something really powerful into my drink when I wasn’t looking. All that’s to say is, this show is really weird and I kinda love it for that. I knew nothing about dorohedoro going into it, other than I remembered people talking about it online and it featured a man with a lizard head as one of the main characters. I’m still not entirely sure I understand all of it, but I feel like I’ve taken a walk through a very unusual creator’s brain.

It’s hard to know where to start with this series, not only is the world it presents to us mind-bendingly bizarre at times, but its also structured in a slightly odd way. The majority of the episodes are split up into smaller segments (though this isn’t always indicated, so part of this might just be down to some weird pacing), kind of like a Slice of Life series. What makes this an odd choice though is that this definitely isn’t a Slice of Life series, there’s a clear overarching plot and a drive towards answering a central mystery, all very much NOT like a Slice of Life. There are a few moments where we just follow the characters through their daily lives, but not enough for me to class this show in that genre.

For the most part this is fine. Each segment either further develops the world or gives us another piece towards solving that central mystery of who exactly is Caiman, but there are other moments where it creates some really odd pacing to events. Several episodes reach a point that feels like a natural conclusion and then it just keeps going into another little story. I can’t help but feel that a few more breaks in the story would resolve this issue, one clear example that springs to mind is the scene where Caiman is in the hospital after regrowing his head. The very next scene he’s popping into Nikaido’s shop like nothing happened, now through context clues and dialogue we can work out he just escaped the hospital, but a break between these two scenes would have really helped establish the passage of time (unless of course Caiman just teleported from the hospital to Nikaido’s shop, which I wasn’t aware was one of his powers).

Going back to that mystery element for a second, I do enjoy the way this series lays out the mystery of who Caiman is and slowly builds towards answering it. There may be many detours along the way (many, many detours), but it knows just when to return to that question and offer up another tantalising piece to the puzzle. If you’re hoping for a resolution though, I’ll warn you now, better get down on your knees and start praying for a season 2. Season 1 leaves us with a lot of important clues and I can make a strong educated guess as to who Caiman really is, but how that ties into everything else we know is another question all together. Hopefully there’s some source material for this series I can check out because I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep until I know the final answer.

I feel like I’ve been nitpicking this series for the past couple of paragraphs, but I have really enjoyed watching this show. The characters are all quirky and likeable in their own ways, except for En who I’d very much like to punch. I do really like the fact that we get to see things from both the humans and the sorcerer’s points of views and that, while everyone may not be the nicest person, most of them have their reasons for what they do. The world is fascinating and beautifully constructed, it may make me tilt my head every other episode, but that just makes me want to find out more about how it works. If you don’t mind a walk on the weird side and aren’t averse to the sight of blood, or 3D character models, then definitely check this out! Wait, why are mushrooms suddenly growing out of me?! En!

The Verdict

In the end, Dorohedoro is a bizarre, and often bloody, walk through a macabre wonderland. Filled with a cast of quirky, yet endearing characters on both sides of its conflict and a world that is endlessly fascinating, it’s a joy to delve into. There are some pacing issues throughout the series and the central mystery is far from resolved, but these feel like minor quibbles when the rest is so good. Here’s hoping for a season 2! I’ll end with a simple question, what did the man in my mouth say to you?

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: Great Pretender Review

Oh yes, I’m the Great Pretender.

What’s the Story?

Makoto considers himself one of, if not the, best scam artists in Japan, but this big fish is about to realise how small his pond really is. When he tries to con what he believes is an ignorant tourist, Makoto soon finds himself whisked away overseas to Los Angeles in an attempt to deceive a drug-dealing movie producer. Laurent, the tourist, is an exceptional con artist and he and his gang spend their time coming up with elaborate cons to rob crooks and wrongdoers of their ill-gotten gains. Laurent thinks Makoto has some talent, but if he doesn’t keep his wits about him Makoto could soon find himself on the wrong end of a bullet and not everything is what it seems. Sometimes the greatest cons are the ones we tell ourselves.

The Review

I’m a sucker for a good heist story, and that’s exactly what the Great Pretender is. Alright, technically it’s four distinct heists (five if we’re counting the one in the flashback episodes), but I was genuinely surprised by how much from the earlier episodes actually returns for the finale. Heists generally have a fairly simple formula, even if we’re talking about conning people out of money as opposed to breaking into somewhere to just take it. First we gather the team, set out the rules and the end goal, then we execute the plan, usually with something going wrong partway through. At that point it’s a scramble to come up with a new plan on the fly, or maybe that was all part of the plan all along. If executed correctly, it’s a shockingly engaging and effective source of drama. It’s like a well performed magic trick or a good detective mystery, except instead of trying to work out who committed the crime, you’re trying to figure out how they’ll pull it off. Thankfully Great Pretender knows how to execute this formula to near-perfection and in different ways for each caper to keep things from getting stale.

Of course all of this is presented in a fictional world where con men and scammers are a little bit glamorous and cool, as opposed to reality where they’re very much the dregs of society. No, you don’t have to worry about rooting for any bad guys here, Laurent and his team are very much on the side of the angels, no matter what they claim themselves. Their targets are the worst of the worst, usually having earned their vast wealth through some ill-gotten means so why not go a bit ‘Robin Hood’ on them and give them a taste of their own medicine for once. There’s a cathartic element to a lot of the capers, and not all of that comes from just taking the bad guy’s money. All the heists, in one way or another, tie into the back stories of our loveable rogues and give us some deeper insight into how they ended up as they are. It adds weight to the action and there are some impressively, and emotionally, told stories thanks to that.

That brings me to our lead, Makoto, who while being a talented con artist really isn’t cut out for this life style. A lot of his reactions, and overreactions, to the predicaments he finds himself in are fun to watch, even more so as he does his best to scrap his way out of them. The more you learn about his back story though, the more sympathy you have for the guy, there’s a clear struggle between the kind of person he’s pretending to be and the one he truly is underneath it all. Yet you can always count on the guy to follow his morale compass when it gets right down to the wire and that’s what makes him so easy to root for. If I had one gripe, it’s about the amount of times he gets duped by Laurent and co. Every new heist the team have to drag him back into the conning game and by the end of the series it makes sense why they’re doing it, but I can’t help but feel sorry for him. Just leave him alone for a bit guys!

Lastly I’d be remiss in talking about this series without mentioning the sheer amount of style this show oozes. This show looks great, from the character designs to the wide variety of locales it takes place in. That was one thing that really impressed me with this series, just how global is. We go to Los Angeles, Singapore, London and so many more places and it really gives this series a sense of scale that I rarely see in anime outside of fantasy and sci-fi series. Add on the impressive use of colour and the dynamic action of the animation and you have an excellently put together series. Throw in a really good soundtrack with some great insert songs and you’ve got this show wrapped up in a neat little bow. There’s a reason everyone was talking about this show when it eventually got out of Netflix jail.

The Verdict

In the end, Great Pretender, is a flashy, stylish, globe-trotting adventure with fun characters and oodles of excitement. It knows just when to raise the stakes, when to give you a glimpse of its hands and, most importantly, when to pull the rug out from under you. I don’t think this is an anime that will ever change the world, but it’s a heck of a blast and expertly put together. It looks great, it sounds great and there’s a lot of heart under it’s confident grin. If you missed this series for whatever reason, check it 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.