Anime Corner: My Hero Academia (Season 4 Episodes 78-88) Review

Blog MHA Season 4 Part 2 Review Title

Saving Eri Part 2!

What’s the Story?

After battling against the Shie Hassaikai, the students of U.A. finally have a chance to rest, but even though the day was saved some wounds have yet to heal. Eri, the girl who was trapped in the clutches of Overhaul, has yet to learn how to smile. What better time could there be for a school festival! As Class 1-A decide to put on a concert to lift the spirits of the other students, Bakugo and Todoroki are put to the test to earn their provisional licenses. Yet even as happier times return, there is a dark shadow growing in the distance, from the depths of the Internet comes a challenge unlike any other for U.A. That’s right! This time the greatest evil comes for U.A., a Youtuber! Does Modoriya stand a chance against the elastic might of this ‘gentle’ criminal?

The Review

And we’re back! It’s time to continue my review of My Hero Academia Season 4, are you excited? Because I am!!! (Seriously, I know I left last week’s review on a bit of a dour note, you can read it HERE, but I am pumped for this section, there’s going to be so many exclamation points I’m worried I might wear out the button on my keyboard!). I’ll let you in on a secret right here and now, I still hold to the idea that the sports festival through to the Hideout Raid arc are the best that MHA has to offer so far, but one of my favourite arcs outside of those is the School Festival arc! That’s one of the arcs that this section of the anime is adapting! Okay, now I feel like people are looking at me funny, or at the very least looking at their screens funny as they read this, the School Festival arc? Really? I know, I know, it’s basically a filler arc. The stakes are pretty much miniscule, with Midoriya having to protect the titular school festival from a villain who is the least nefarious MHA has ever produced, he’s basically an attention hog. Also Midoriya gets to practise a new move. That’s pretty much it, but I love every minute of it.

The School Festival arc just appeals to me on so many levels. On the one hand this whole second half of Season 4 feels like a return to what MHA does best. We’re got more screen time for the majority of Class 1-A, more interesting explorations of the world this series is set in and some top notch action and spectacle. It’s what I want from this series and I think binge-watching this last half of the season all at once really helped it (it’s been an interesting experiment, watching the first half of this season weekly and this half all in one go, the difference is astounding. MHA really needs to be binged, the emotional beats work best when they’re hitting you one after the other and that doesn’t happen when there’s a week’s gap between episodes).

There’s tonnes to dig through with this series, which is part of why I love it so much, but the first thing that really struck me was the idea that each generation’s quirks get stronger and stronger, and the effect that has on the kids of said generation. I’d love to see that explored more and it opens up the possibility that the world of MHA is heading towards a bigger disaster than any of us ever thought. Admittedly this season doesn’t do much with the idea, and maybe this is my foreknowledge speaking again because I know it’s important to a certain character to come, still it’s a really interesting idea to mull over and I’m surprised more superhero series haven’t thought of it before.

The second thing that struck me was Gentle’s backstory, he only ever wanted to be a hero, he only tried to help, and things went disastrously wrong. Obviously this is why things like provisional licences exist in the first place, but it was the reaction that struck me the most. People spray painting ‘trash’ on his wall, his mum screaming at him. Imagine if that had happened to Deku. What if at the very start of the series Deku’s actions trying to save Bakugo got a hero hurt? Would he have gotten the same treatment? It’s ideas like that that are the reason Gentle Criminal is one of my favourite antagonist (I can’t keep calling him a villain, he’s not) in the series so far. Not only is Gentle incredibly likable, he’s always fun when he shows up and he has a really interesting power, but, for me, he’s a dark reflection of what Midoriya could have been and I always love those types of antagonists. I love his fight with Midoriya and it’s heart-breaking when Deku has him pinned and La Brava’s there pounding her fists on Midoriya’s begging him to let him go.

Add on to that the stunning animation for the actual school festival performance, a song by Chrissy Costanza and Eri’s adorable smile and is it any wonder I love this half of the anime so much? I’ll admit there’s a bit of a drag in the middle of this half of the season, the anime is stretching two volumes worth of content (which normally takes me about an hour each to read) into four and a half hours of content, but the binge-watching helped with that. Overall I’d say the second half of My Hero Academia Season 4 is much stronger than the first, even if the stakes are lesser and the action isn’t as epic as what’s come before, the world and the characters of MHA are still some of the best in shonen. If you did watch it weekly and were disappointed, I’d recommend watching it again, but as a binge this time. Or if you don’t want to spend that kind of time, just make sure to binge-watch season 5 when that comes out.

Now, of course, there’s one last arc to talk about, the Pro Hero arc! Focussing on Endeavour and introducing Hawks! I like Hawks, Hawks is cool, he’s…he’s…he’s a murdering bastard! I’ll kill you Hawks! I will! After what you did! How could you!

Sorry, had a bit of a moment there. I’m calm now and no I’m not going to explain what that was about, spoilers! Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the Pro Hero arc! Honestly, I get the thought process behind it, it’s the season finale and you want to send everyone off on a big flashy fight, but cramming everything into two episodes? Really? I mean it’s going to make the start of Season 5 awkward as that now has to deal with all the aftermath of said fight, rather than starting fresh. Then comes the actual fight itself and surely the School Festival could have lost an episode to this the showdown between Endeavour and High-End a bit more room. I hate to be that guy, but I felt the impact of that fight so much more in the manga, admittedly because I could read it at my own pace, but then pacing is really the Achilles heel of this season isn’t it? Still the action itself is top notch MHA and, without my experiencing it in the manga first, this’ll probably be amazing to watch.

The Verdict

All in all, My Hero Academia Season 4 is definitely the weakest season so far, admittedly that’s only because the previous seasons have been so good (later half of Season 3 notwithstanding). There are clear pacing and production issues throughout the series that rub off some of the lustre and the arcs themselves aren’t the best the series has ever put out. The Shie Hassaikai arc is trying to be different and it’s not for everyone and, as much as I love it, the School Festival arc isn’t the most important or impactful story. However, I still love this series, I love it’s characters and it’s world and that it gets me to question things and really think about what it’s trying to say to me. I will continue to watch this show, I’ll just stick to binge-watching it in future.

fish stamp great

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

Anime Corner: My Hero Academia (Season 4 Episodes 64-77) Review

Blog MHA Season 4 Part 1 Review Title

Saving Eri Part 1!

What’s the Story?

Having passed the provisional license exam, Midoriya and the rest of the students of U.A. are ready to get back to training and become the best heroes they can be! To do that they’re going on work studies with professional heroes, Midoriya setting his sights on All Might’s former sidekick, Sir Nighteye. The young heroes aren’t the only ones looking to up their game though, the League of Villains think they’re ready to take the next step, that is until they meet the head of the Shie Hassaikai yakuza family. While Midoriya learns the tragic history of Sir Nighteye and All Might, the man known as ‘Overhaul’ is working on a plan, a plan that will bring hero society to its knees and all he needs is one little girl to make it all work. Operation Rescue Eri begins here!

The Review

And now for something a little bit different! I’ve talked about My Hero Academia on this blog before, primarily the two movies (you can find the reviews HERE and HERE), but I’ve yet to review an actual season of the show. Well, that all changes right now! In the past I’ve not had that much to add to the conversation about MHA, I love the series and much more articulate people than me have already said all that I could think to say about the show, until this season, Season 4. In fact, I’ve got so much to say about this show that this review is really far too long, as such I’m splitting it in two. This week I’m going to cover a few general thoughts and then dig into the first half of Season 4. The rest of the season and my final verdict will appear in a review next Friday, so buckle in folks, this is going to be a long one!

Season 4 covers roughly four arcs of the manga, the Shie Hassaikai arc, the Remedial Course arc, U.A. School Festival arc and the Pro Hero arc (the latter three arcs being comparatively small compared to the first arc). I’ll also point out that the Shie Hassaikai arc takes up the entirety of the first half of this season and you may have already spotted a problem here. It’s actually a problem that Season 3 shares, the season starts with this big climatic arc, ending in a massive battle, then moves on to arcs with lower stakes and actions. As such the seasons end with considerably less bang than their midway point, at least Season 3 did, unfortunately the Shie Hassaikai arc didn’t come with that much bang to begin with, but I’ll come back to that in a minute. Most of this comes down to the seasonal format and the adaptation being a bit too faithful. In the manga an arc with lower stakes isn’t a problem, it’s a nice little breather and the story is free to ramp up again with the next arc. Unfortunately for anime only watches, the next arc is at least three months away and in this modern age of constant consumptio, that is an incredibly long time to wait. It changes something from a nice little breather, into a frustration because why won’t it just get to the point already!

Let’s talk about the Shie Hassaikai arc though. I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of the manga longer than I’ve been watching the anime and maybe that accounts for my perspective, because I was looking forward to this arc. I really enjoyed it in the manga, it has its issues sure, but overall I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed all the new characters and Overhaul was an intimidating and interesting new villain. However I feel like the transfer of this arc from page to screen has exasperated several of its problems. For one, a lot of the focus in this arc is on Midoriya and the new characters it introduces, which isn’t a massive issue in the manga (okay, it’s a slight issue, the continual introduction of new characters is one of the main issues for MHA, but I love all the crazy powers they come with so I never really mind it). When I read it in the manga I’d just come off the last arc where I got to see the majority of class 1-A, so why not let the story experiment with something a bit different and unique for a while. Unfortunately that same sentiment doesn’t apply to the anime. People have spent months waiting for this series to return and then they find out that the majority of the characters they love are barely in it, what’s more it’s going to bring in a lot of new characters that it wants us to care deeply for? Yeah, I get some people’s frustration with this season.

Another issue with the adaptation comes from an unusual place, for me at least, the anime’s use of colour. Now Bones animates My Hero Academia with a wealth of gorgeous, bright colours, and that really fits the world of MHA. For the Shie Hassaikai arc however, I don’t feel like that works. This arc is a bit different to me, it should have a darker, grungier feel to it. We’re stepping into the dirty underbelly of the heroes’ world and the anime doesn’t really reflect that. It needs more dark shadows, scrub off some of that bright and clean exterior. Stepping into the underground labyrinth should feel like racing into Hell to me, but it doesn’t. I realise that several of the animators were taken off of the first half of this season to work on the second movie and that does show. There’s a lack of spectacle to this arc, especially when it comes to the final battle against Overhaul and that hurts this season (I mean it’s still good, this is Bones after all, but not as good as I was expecting). Also, this is the first time I’ve watched MHA weekly and that really kills the momentum of the story. I’m going to give MHA a ‘binge-watch only’ sticker from this point onwards, because that’s how I watched the first three seasons and I never noticed a problem with the pacing before. All in all the Shie Hassaikai arc comes off as a bit a disappointment compared against everything that came before it.

The weight of expectations is actually MHA’s biggest hurdle to clear. Let’s be honest here, the arcs from the Sports Festival through to All Might’s last stand are the peak of MHA. Those arcs feel like one continual story, all leading to one explosive finale. Everything since then and coming feels less…cohesive. As a manga reader I know what’s coming and, looking back, I can see how each of the arcs lays out the building blocks necessary to get to where we’re going. For example you need the Provisional License Exam, otherwise characters can’t take part in Shie Hassaikai and onwards, but going from an exam to fighting yakuza feels like a strange left turn. MHA should experiment and try new things, but the story doesn’t feel as tight as it did earlier. There are some amazing moments to come and I personally can’t wait for the current arc in the manga to be animated, but I get it if people don’t want to hang around based purely on the promise of something awesome somewhere down the line.

I feel like I’ve been doing nothing but griping during this review, but fear not, there are some positives coming. Next week I’ll take a look at the rest of Season 4 and give out my final verdict! Bring on the School Festival!

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.

First Impressions Spring 2020 Part 2

Welcome back everyone! Let’s cut the waffle and get straight to it, what juicy new anime delicacies have been on offer this week? Let’s find out!

Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 2

And we’re back to the adventures of Myne, the young bookworm who was reincarnated into the sickly body of a peasant girl. Of course Myne loves books, and I mean really loves books, but there’s one problem the world she’s been born into doesn’t have any! Well, not unless you’re a noble, which Myne definitely isn’t. Luckily last season she managed to score a position in the church so now she can read all the books she wants! Unfortunately things are never all that easy for Myne as she’s stepped into the world of the church and nobles, one that is vastly different to the life she’d already gotten used to. Can she find a way to navigate the rules of her new position, or has Myne finally bitten off more than she can chew?

Ascendance of a Bookworm is back! Ascendance of a Bookworm is back! Sorry, I’ll try to stay calm. I really, really loved the first season of Ascendance (Review HERE)and this is just more of the same show. All the great characters I fell for before are back, but with some new additions and locations. As for the new characters, they’re all interesting in their own way, giving us a glimpse into how the church works and the different mentality that people have there. It’s part of what I love so much about this series, the thought and detail that goes into the world and it’s construction. All of the church stuff makes complete sense for the world we’ve already seen and shows the different mentality between the nobles and the commoners. I’m so looking forward to more of this show.

Digimon Adventure: (2020)

Fifth grader Taichi is all set for his upcoming camping trip, but something strange is happening in Tokyo. A mysterious digital lifeform is causing havoc with the world’s computer systems, leading to Taichi’s mother and little sister, Hikari, becoming trapped on a runaway train! Desperate to find some way to help, Taichi races towards the train station, failing to notice the glowing symbol on his phone. The next thing Taichi knows he’s been transported into the Network, a representation of all the digital activity across the world. With the help of his neightbour, Koshiro, the solemn Yamato and a mysterious creature calling itself Agumon, Taichi intends to save the world! Hopefully he’ll manage it before a nuclear missile drops on Tokyo, yeah, we’re doing that.

Watching this show is really weird. Seeing characters that I know so well in familiar, yet entirely new situations, not to mention the fact that they’re clearly being animated with a significant budget this time around. It’s just…it’s weird. I’m such a big fan of the original Digimon, as you’ll probably be able to tell by my review of that very first season (HERE) that I did not so long ago. This new series is something entirely new though, and I do have to force myself to stop comparing it to the original. Yes, these are the characters I’ve known since childhood and they’re all acting as I know they should, but the situation they’re in is something different (even if it does heavily borrow elements from the War Games film in its first arc). All the old elements are here, but they’re been arranged in a new way, add on some quality animation, direction and a good soundtrack and we’re on to a really top-notch readaptation. I’m really not sure what to expect from this show, but I’m excited to see where it goes. Here’s hoping the delay won’t last too long and we can get back to this fascinating series.

Princess Connect! Re: Dive

A young man named Yuuki awakens to find he has no memory of who he is or, well, anything really. Even basic things, like what money is for or that it’s a bad idea to be dragged off by wolves, are beyond him. Luckily he has a guide in the nervous, yet loyal Kokkoro and friends in the always hungry, powerhouse Pecorine and the prickly sorceress Karyl. Together they form the ‘Gourmet Guild’, whose mission is to travel around the world, sampling all the best cuisine and ingredients. Maybe one day they’ll even get around to figuring out who Yuuki actually is, or who Karyl’s mysterious master is!

Food Wars and Konosuba have had a baby! I know, we’re all so surprised and delighted for them, they’ve kept their relationship on the quiet and, honestly, I didn’t think it would last a month, but here we are. I’m joking, but this show is just such an odd mix that it’s hard to believe it’s as good as it is. True, the plot is fairly directionless and I have no idea what it’s eventual end goal is supposed to be, but I don’t really care. The combination of the clueless Yuuki, the fidgeting Kokkoro, the bombastic Pecorine and the tsundere Karyl just light up my screen every Monday night and I don’t know how I’ve lived without them. The characters and their interactions are just so much fun. Add on some pitch perfect comic timing and some impressively pretty visuals (the animation has some shortcuts, but I’ll forgive that) and we’re on to another winner here.

Appare-Ranman!

Appare is always causing trouble, whether it’s building some insane machine that blows up five seconds later, or just breaking out of jail, there’s always something and the people around him have had enough! Charged with keeping an eye on Appare is the stalwart samurai Kosame and he has no idea the headache he’s in for. Determined to find some place where his inventions are appreciated, Appare decides he’s going to sail away on the steamboat he built, and not even Kosame tagging along is going to stop him. Of course things don’t go to plan and the next thing the pair know is that they’re in the middle of the ocean being rescued by another ship, a ship headed for America! Now with no money to their name and no way of getting home, Appare decides they’re going to build a car and enter the trans-American race! Fortune and glory awaits, along with a host of wacky contestants to compete against.

Wacky Races the anime! Seriously though, why was this never thought of before? A daring and downright insane race across a country, packed with outlandish characters and even more outlandish cars? Does it matter that the cars are way too advanced for the time period this series is set in? No. Does it matter that every character speaks perfect Japanese, when really you’d expect there to be some major language barriers? No. Does is matter that a lot of the characters are designed so stereotypically they might as well wear a sign to say where they’re from? Maybe, that really depends on you. The characters are likable and interesting enough that I’ll forgive the rather blatant design choices for some of them, but this show is not subtle in the slightest. Unfortunately the series has been delayed and we’re still very much in the setup phase before the big race, but when the show does start airing again you can bet I’ll be straight back to watching it. There’s a lot of potential with this one for a really fun ride.

Arte

Born into an aristocratic family in Florence, Italy, at the height of the Renaissance, Arte has dreams of becoming an artist. There’s only one problem, she was born a girl and according to pretty much everyone she meets, including her own mother, that is not a profession for her. Not that that’s going to stop her, Arte is obsessed with drawing, to the point where it’s the only thing she ever wants to do, and she will take on any challenge, overcome any obstacle to do it! Gender barriers be damned! Fortunately she finds a master in Leo, a surly and strict artist who is willing to take her on as an apprentice as long as she can do the work he asks of her.

This show has both surprised me and not surprised me at the same time, if that makes any sense at all. The first surprise was seeing the Universal logo popping up in front of an anime (I’m going to have to look into that later, because if major studios are going to be backing anime from now on then I’m all for it, as long as they don’t interfere with the content of said anime). The second surprise was how much I’ve enjoyed seeing Japan’s interpretation of Renaissance Italy, it’s a fairly simplified version from what I know of the period, but it’s a nice change of location (then again, that could just be due to the fact that I haven’t watched a lot of series set in Renaissance Italy). Speaking of simplified, that is a good summation of this series. The themes and messaging of this series are pretty unsubtle, but I’m always a sucker for a protagonist who tries hard and will chase their dream no matter the obstacle. Plus, she likes drawing. I like drawing. I totally get the obsession (why do you think I draw my own title cards for my reviews?). All in all, it’s a pleasant and fun series and although I’m worried about them pushing a romance between Arte and Leo (I don’t think the series needs that), I’ll continue watching.

Woodpecker Detective’s Office

Ishikawa Takuboku is a poet during the Meiji Era, one who often struggles with his finances and has a habit of sticking his nose into other people’s business. It’s this latter trait that means he often finds himself investigating crimes from across the city, all with the aid of his trusting friend Kindaichi Kyosuke. It turns out that Ishikawa is quite the detective, as are many of the famous writers and poets of this area, all of whom live in the same area. Hmm…me thinks this calls for the formation of a pretty boy detective club! Maybe the name needs a little work, something else’ll come to me I’m sure.

I had hopes for this series, not necessarily high hopes, but moderately level hopes. A nice, gentle detective series in a historical setting, a few quirky little cases and some deductive reasoning from our leads, I don’t think I was asking for much. Unfortunately, three episodes and two cases in, I don’t have nice things to same about this series. At it’s best it’s okay, it looks nice enough, nothing special, but fit for purpose and there’s a good set up for an odd couple relationship between the leads. It’s the cases that are really bugging me about this series, more specifically the resolutions. I’m going to spoil both endings here because I need to vent a little, so if you have any interest in this series please go watch it now, as for me, I’m out on this one.

Okay, everyone else staying? Spoilers in 3…2…1… the first case ends with it being revealed that Ishikawa was just making it up, he has some good reasoning behind his claims, but we never get any resolution and Ishikawa had to fake evidence to prove his point. It’s just not a satisfying conclusion. On to the second case, which spreads across episodes two and three, the build up was good and as were everyone’s little theories about what actually happened, but again, the resolution. Turns out Ishikawa was framing Kyosuke purely because he was mad at him. No, just…no. One, I now hate Ishikawa. Doesn’t matter what his feeling are, if he has a problem he should bring it up with Kyosuke (like a friend would!) not frame him for murder! Two, this is too early in this series to pull this kind of thing, we barely know these characters and, again, I now hate Ishikawa. Three, there’s no actual resolution, yeah Kyosuke is let out of jail, but all Ishikawa does is smack him on the arm. He never explains to Kyosuke that he was mad at him and Kyosuke never figures out it was Ishikawa who was sending him down the river. I did not enjoy it in the slightest.

Well, this ended on a bit of bum note didn’t it? Sorry about that, but I’m not going to review Woodpecker Detective’s Office and I needed to get that off my chest. Aside from that, I am actually really enjoying this season of anime, even with all the series that have been put on delay. Stay safe and well everyone and I’ll be back next week with regular review.

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.

First Impressions Spring 2020 Part 1

How is everyone? Staying safe? Staying well? I hope so, these are some hard and stressful times that we’re all living through at the moment, but I’m sure we’ll make it out the other side. Personally I feel like my brain is crawling up the inside of my skull and I’m not sure whether I’m going crazy or if I’ve already crossed that threshold. Luckily I’ve got a tonne of DVDs and new anime to keep me distracted from such thoughts! (At least that applies to the anime that haven’t been delayed, but there’s nothing I can do about that and it’s the right call for studios to make regardless, keeping the staff of these studios safe is way more important than my own anime addiction). Anyway, let’s crack on with my first impressions of all these shiny new anime!

Tower of God

What would you do if your deepest, dearest wish could be granted? Would you climb a tower? Even a tower filled with deadly trials designed to weed out the unworthy? For Rachel, who wants to see the stars at last, the answer is yes. For Bam, who wants nothing more than to be by Rachel’s side, the answer is yes. That is why when Rachel disappears into the tower, Bam has no qualms about following her, even though he has no idea what he’s getting himself into. There’s an entire world inside the tower, one filled with strange landscapes and even stranger people. Bam does manage to make a couple of friends, but just what is the Tower and, more importantly, who is Rachel really and will Bam find out when he finally catches up to her?

For me, Tower of God, is the shiny gem of this season’s line-up of anime. Just from the trailer alone I had high hopes for this series and, with its first three episodes it hasn’t disappointed. For one, it looks stunning. There are plenty of shows that I can point to that are better animated, but from a pure aesthetic level, this show is gold. The use of colours and the line work on the characters just make every frame pop. Add on a fantastic soundtrack and a truly fascinating world and you’re on to a winner. I have so many questions about how the world of Tower of God is set up and exists, but in a good way. We are given breadcrumbs of detail about why things are the way they are, more each episode, and it’s clear that we’ll get all the answers in time (whether the anime lasts as long as that is another question, I have no idea if the source material is still ongoing, but I’m more than happy to jump on that when the anime finishes it’s run). I’ve heard people compare this series to the Hunters Exam arc from Hunter X Hunter, and I can see why. This is such a wacky and original world I can’t help but love it. I’m so looking forward to exploring more of this world.

The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me?

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before, a Japanese man dies, suddenly, and wakes up in another world entirely. This time it’s Ichinomiya Shingo and he wakes up in the body of a young noble, Wendelin. At first he’s okay with the idea, being part of a noble family has to be a pretty cushy life, right? Well, not so much when said noble family is accurately a fairly poor noble family, kind of noble in name only. Add on the fact that Wendelin is the 8th son in the family and suddenly his prospects aren’t looking so grand. Thankfully he has a talent for magic and after meeting a wizard in the forest (it happens) he’s on his way to becoming a truly over-powered protagonist just like in every other isekai.

Cue the exasperated sigh because we’re back in generic isekai land! (Three more visits and I get a free sandwhich!). I’m making fun of this show, which isn’t totally fair. There are certainly far worse isekai out there, it’s just that 8th son doesn’t really do anything to stand out. Everything is pretty much as you’d expect from an isekai made in the past few years, our protagonist is generic and over powered. The fact that said protagonist had been reincarnated into a new body is barely mentioned and the fantasy world he inhabits is from a bulk order of European-inspired fantasy worlds. The few differences that the anime does come up are nowhere near enough to make this show memorable. I do like that we spend a bit of time with Well as a child, seeing his training and development, so he doesn’t start out as immediately OP. Then when he gets to high school (because even isekais have to take us all back to school), he’s socially awkward and ostracised for his immense power. There’s some potential there and in Well’s relationship with his master, but it’s brushed past so fast that it feels more like a footnote rather than an actual story beat. I’m just not in the mood for this one so I’ll be giving it a skip this season.

Wave, Listen to Me!

On a night out, curry shop worker Minare has one too many and begins ranting about her ex-boyfriend to a total stranger. Unfortunately for her that stranger turns out to work at a local radio station and, the next day, Minare is horrified to hear said rant being broadcast live. Now while this would normally turn into some kind of lawsuit against the station, it actually becomes a job opportunity for Minare. The station is convinced that Minare’s quick-fire rants are just the thing for a late night slot and just in time too, because Minare is on the verge of being fired from her current job (‘cause she ran out in the middle of her shift to stop broadcast of her rant, you know the more I think about it, the more I realise that broadcast is really the root of al her problems).

Watching this show is one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had. This show definitely falls into the category of ‘cultural differences’ because I don’t get half of the jokes and the ones I do get aren’t really structured like jokes as I know them. Why was Minare fighting an imaginary bear in the first episode? Why does the neighbour live in an apparently haunted apartment? Neither of these are a part of Minare’s usual flights of fancy and the rest of the show is definitely set in the real world (outside of the behaviour of that radio producer trying to get Minare onto his show). I just can’t work out what this show is doing, and yet I come away from each episode smiling. Part of it I can put down to the voice actress for Minare who gives such an enthusiastic and fast-paced performance it feels like I’ve been run over by a steamroller, it’s hard to keep up at times. Yet that is the fun of this series. Minare is such a force of nature as a character that it’s hard not to be swept up by her and when I do eventually get a joke, it’s always funny. I think this is one show what really needs to be experienced to be believed.

Listeners

Growing up in the town of Liverchester, young Echo is content with his life. Yes, he has to eek out a living digging through the scrap that remains of his hometown, scavenging what parts he can, but it’s not as if he’s suddenly going to find a young woman buried in all the debris and have his whole life change. Until he does. The young woman he comes to call Mu and she’s a Player, a special kind of person that pilot mechs to fight against the terrifying Earless. Mu has no idea who she is, or where she comes from, but together with Echo and the mech he’s been working on in his spare time, they might just have a chance of finding out. Together they set off on a journey across the world and, if only one thing is certain, it’s going to be a rockin’ time!

Watching this show is giving me flashbacks to the early 2000s, in a good way. There’s something about the character designs and aesthetic that just put me back in that time period, which isn’t the a bad time to be put in, it is when I was learning what anime actually was (and that I’d been watching it since childhood). I like this show, a lot, the story is fairly simple but we’re very clearly still in the set up phase and the characters are fun, there’s mecha and a rock ‘n’ roll vibe to the whole show, what’s not to love? One thing that is driving me slightly crazy, and maybe this is just a British slang thing, I have no idea if other countries use the word this way, but every time some calls someone a player I get the same terrible mental image. To me, and I know this is a horrible use for the word, but it’s what people say over here, a ‘player’ is some jerky dude bro guy who sleeps around a lot. It’s not the mental image I want, but it keeps popping into my head every time someone mentions a Player. I need to untangle the definition of the word in my head, but it hasn’t happened yet. That aside though, this is a great show and a lot of fun, I’m really looking forward to seeing where this one goes.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

As a small child, Catarina Claes hit her head and remembered that in a past life she used to be a young Japanese woman (all the popular kids are doing it these days)! What’s more, she recognised that a lot of her life very closely resembles an otome game she used to love playing, there’s just one problem, Catarina Claes was the villain of that game! Desperately trying to avoid either exile or death, Catarina sets about befriending the other characters she knows from the game in the hopes that it will avert any potential bad ending to her story. What she doesn’t realise is that a lot of this befriending is making her very popular with the male leads of the game, so who knows what’s going to happen once the actual protagonist turns up!

Characters make a story for me. I can put up with a weak story as long as I connect with just one or two of the characters, so when a show actually has a good story and I fall head-over-heels for a character, well, we are reaching for the heights of anime greatness as far as I’m concerned. I love Catarina, she’s this wonderful mix of self-aware and oblivious all at the same time. She obviously knows what genre she’s in and knows the triggers for her downfall in the game, so she’s on the look out for them (on a side note, I just love the little council of mini Catarina’s that are inside her head to help her sort out problems). Yet, at the same time, she’s completely unaware of all the characters falling in love with her and the general perception that everyone has of her. It’s charming in its own way. Honestly Catarina makes this series for me, I’ve really enjoyed all of her antics through her childhood and I’m so looking forward to what’s going to happen now she’s a teenager and the real game is about to begin! I can’t wait to meet the actual protagonist either and see what relationship builds there!

Sing “Yesterday” For Me

The past is a hard thing to escape from. For Rikou it’s particularly so, since he has no idea what direction he wants his life to go in and the woman he fell for in college, Shinako, has just moved back into the area to start her career as a teacher. Then there’s Haru, the quirky girl with a pet raven who admits to having a crush on Rikou for the past five years. What’s more she openly declares war on Shinako for Rikou’s affection. For Shinako’s part, there are clearly some feelings for Rikou, but she herself can’t seem to escape her own past, and the tragedy she experienced. Will this tangle of love and melancholy help any of these three find a way forward in life, or will it only mire them further into their own histories.

Melancholy is the best word I’ve got for this series so far. There’s this sense of listlessness and uncertainty that radiates off of the characters, except for our quirky girl Haru who is just this wibbly wobbly ball of contradictions at the minute that I’m desperately trying to figure out (let’s face it I’m going to continue watching this series regardless just to find out what her actual deal is). It’s not as if I don’t get where the characters are coming from, I went through the same sort of thing between leaving university and finding a job that I actually want to stay in, it just makes me curious as to where this series is actually going. Look at it this way, most shows with a love triangle at its centre has the characters umming and ahhing, moping around and not opening up about their feelings until towards the very end. This show? Three episodes in, all the characters have already declared their feelings and made it clear who they like (even if one of them is lying and just isn’t ready to admit it yet). There’s a level of honesty to the character that took me by surprise and I have no idea where this show is going next, but I’m curious to find out.

And we’ll leave it there for this week, there’s actually a lot of great shows on offer and there’s more coming, such as the return of one of my favourite anime of the past few seasons, a trip to renaissance Italy and, what was that other thing…? Oh yeah! Digimon is back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

Anime Corner: BOFURI: I Don’t Want To Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense Review

Blog Bofuri Review Title

And Lo! The Great Beast brought destruction to all, and all who heard its name did tremble. That name, is Maple!

What’s the Story?

Kaede is a novice gamer, but her friend Risa, who’s an absolute pro at gaming, has finally convinced her to buy the new VRMMO ‘New World Online’. Unfortunately Risa can’t join in straight away and Kaede is left to create her character all alone, and since she doesn’t want to get hurt she decides to pour all of her stat points into defence. In that moment a monster is born. No one realises it yet, but Kaede, now going my Maple in game, is about the change the whole landscape. Whether it’s the odd, near god-like abilities she finds or the even stranger ways she decides to use them, New World Online has just found its end boss. All hail Maple! The cutest OP monster we’ve ever seen!

The Review

I’m not even joking with that description of this series. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that at first glance I completely dismissed this series. Really? Another overly long-titled anime about some OP protagonist walking their way through a fantasy world (game or otherwise)? Has that well not become completely bone-dry by now? Apparently not, because after the first couple of episodes I started hearing good things and I finally decided to check this show out. I’ve been having a blast ever since! Bofuri is proof that it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it. This show is fun through and through, it takes a concept that has been done to death, where the only originally is what gimmick will be thrown at it next, and turns it into something creative and surprising. Maybe you came for the cute character designs, or to check out what game mechanics are employed, but you’ll stay to see what crazy idea is going to pop into Maple’s head next.

Maple herself has to be one of my favourite protagonists I’ve seen in a while. She is just joy personified, she’s having such fun coming up with all these crazy ideas and finding unique ways to combine her powers that you can’t help but share her enthusiasm. I’ll admit I gave up on games a long time ago, it was either that or cut back on anime and movies and that’s never going to happen, so games went. Watching this show though has had me itching to play New World Online (if someone isn’t already working on making a real world version of this game then you need to, right now!). I want to explore that world and see what I can up with, also I’d quite like to join her guild, Maple Tree, because it’s full of kooky and unique characters outside of Maple herself. I suppose what I love most about Maple is that despite how OP she is, I still worried for her. The series proves that while Maple may be the stoutest fortress that no mere mortal can ever conquer, she’s not invincible. She can be hurt and there are other OP players in the game or situations that can put her on the back foot (also the fact that the developers of the game purposefully nerf some of her powers when she’s getting too out of hand for them, another thing I loved this show for doing).

That’s part of what I love about this series so much, it’s not about how powerful Maple is, it’s about how she chooses to use that power. When Maple comes into a situation I’m not thinking about how powerful she is, I’m thinking about all the skills she has and trying to guess what kind of new combination she’s going to come up with to get out of things this time. It puts creativity at the forefront and I absolutely love that! The other character come up with some pretty creative abilities and strategies themselves, none of them are as outside of the box as Maple’s, but they’re fun to watch. I especially love Risa’s (Sally in game) battle against the underwater boss. I was getting some serious Legend of Zelda nostalgia vibes during that fight, and while the animation is serviceable for the most part, it knows how to step up for a big action moment.

I’m not really sure what else to talk about with this series. There are some really interesting mechanics to the technology of Bofuri, especially with how the game can compress time, which could have some amazing implications if it were real (as Lynn, the Otaku Author, talked about over on his blog). The actual world of New World Online online is decent enough, there’s some cute settings and monster designs, but they’re a little bit on the generic side. As I’ve mentioned multiple times time, the joy of this game comes from all the freedom it offers you in character build and combining skills. That’s really the core appeal of this series for me, the joy of creating, looking at a set list of rules and finding ways to apply them in new and inventive ways. If you want to see a world like that, or just want to meet an OP protagonist that is incredibly fun, then you need to check this show out.

The Verdict

In the end, BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense, rises above what you might think of it. It starts off with an overpowered protagonist and a gimmick, as so many anime do these days, but it applies them in a fun and creative way. That’s this anime in a word really, fun. Trying to guess what Maple is going to come up with next has brought me an immense amount of joy over the twelve episodes of this series and I am so looking forward to a second series! It’s title isn’t even a proper summation of the series by the end of it and I love how much it’s managed to surprise me. If you want to be surprised too, then you definitely need to be logging into this series!

fish stamp great

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

 

Anime Corner: In/Spectre Review

Blog Inspectre Review Title

The Perfect Story…for a Light Novel!

What’s the Story?

When Iwanaga Kotoko was little, the yokai asked her to become their ‘God of Wisdom’. She agreed and gained the ability to see and interact with all yokai, though she lost an eye and a leg in the process. Now Iwanaga, along with her ‘boyfriend’, Sakuragawa Kuro, who has some strange abilities of his own, travel around and help settle disputes between the various spirits that inhabit Japan. Most of the time this can be accomplished with a discussion and a bit of creative thinking, but not all problems are so easily resolved. When a particularly vicious ghost known as ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ begins attacking people it’s going to take every skill Kotoko and Kuro have to subdue the monster, but there’s something strange about this ghost. Could it, in fact, have been manufactured?

The Review

When In/Spectre first started airing I was pretty much convinced it was going to be one of my favourite shows of the season. I mean it looked to have everything, a pair of cool leading characters in Iwanaga and Kuro, a great sense of humour and some impressive visuals. Match that with some interesting dialogue and concepts and we’re surely on to a winner folks (any show that can work in the line ‘Yes, one must never underestimate a goat’ gets bonus points from me, and, no, I’m not giving that line context. Go watch the first episode for yourselves). What more could I really ask for from this show? It’s a mystery series based around the supernatural, it’s a ghost story a week, how could I not love that? Spoiler alert, I didn’t love it, in fact this may just be one of the most infuriating series that I have come across in a long while. Before we get into that though, first I just want to say, if you enjoy this series, I get it. The characters are fun, there’re some brilliant concepts at play and if that is enough to carry you through then that’s perfectly fine and I’m happy for you. Now, that being said, if this series is really beloved to you it’s probably best to move on now. I’m not sure how much I’m going to tear into this one, but either way it’s probably not going to be pretty.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where my ire comes from on this one. Is it the fault of my own expectations, or did the series lead me up the garden path only to shove me off a cliff? (Okay, that metaphor got more violent than even I was planning). As I mentioned when I started watching this series I was convinced it was going to be a mystery-of-the-week style show and the first two episodes definitely fitted into that model. Unfortunately then we get to episode 3 and the ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ saga begins. At first I was completely onboard, the mystery was unfolding at a decent pace and introducing intriguing concepts like the ‘monsters of the imagination’, but then the story went on, and on, and on and on and on and on and on. Eventually I realised this arc was going to take up the rest of the series’ run and all my hopes sank with me into my chair. What was a series of fun little mysteries turned into a non-stop session of talking heads as it crawled its way from one plot point to another. I’ve never wanted to scream at an anime so much to get a move on.

The problems with this story arc go beyond poor pacing though. There are plenty of interesting things going on in this arc, even if sometimes it takes a while to get to them. We’re told the reason behind Kuro’s strange powers, we’re introduced to ‘monsters of the imagination’ as well as have a conversation about the person behind the Steel Lady ghost. That’s without even getting into Iwanaga’s detailed breakdowns of what’s going on and how she’s going to fight back. While I’ll argue that that isn’t quite enough plot to fill 10 whole episodes, it could have been a lot more entertaining if it weren’t for the style of presentation. You might have picked up on this from my word choices, but In/Spectre has a habit of telling you information rather than showing you. So many reveals are done through conversation or as apart of a long string of dialogue, which is fine when you’re just dealing with smaller, one-off mysteries, but when you’ve got ten episodes of people talking about the same problem over and over again, it just becomes dull. If this series had been done in a different format it would be amazing, if this show were a light novel I’d probably adore it, but anime is a visual medium and you need to play into the strengths of your medium.

That brings me to the other problem with the ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ arc and, in truth, this may be the most crippling factor for the whole series, the time skip. The first two episodes set up Kuro and Iwanaga and their relationship, establishing that Iwanaga has a massive crush on Kuro and he’s really not interested. From episode three onwards, Iwanaga and Kuro are in a relationship and have been for a while (it doesn’t help that they have zero chemistry as a couple and the only truly romantic scene between them is in the very last episode of the series). I mean, what was even the point of setting them up with the unrequited crush if you’re just going to shove them into a relationship! What’s more we don’t even get to see the moment were they do make it official! From episode three onwards I lose all connection to the characters, I don’t believe that Iwanaga and Kuro are in a relationship (not until the last episode anyway) and Kuro’s backstory, which should be tragic, just makes me glaze over because we’re told it rather than experiencing it for ourselves. Everything about the ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ arc is just so mishandled and it makes me want to pull my hair out because this show had so much potential.

The Verdict

All in all, In/Spectre is a huge disappointment, to me at least. It had so much potential all right in front of it and squanders what it has on a single story arc that it chooses to tell in completely the wrong format. The ideas are interesting, the characters are fun and, on the whole it looks pretty good. Unfortunately, between the time skip and the constant talking heads, it robs a lot of the moments of the impact they really should have made. Personally, I can’t recommend this series, but there is enough here that maybe, just maybe, you’ll find something to like. Just be prepared for the ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ arc.

fish stamp watchable

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

Anime Corner: Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Review

Blog Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken Review Title

Animation is the power to create whole worlds and beyond.

What’s the Story?

Ever since she was little, Midori Asakusa has wanted to go on adventures. One rainy night she happened to come across an old anime and realised that she could make those adventures she was craving herself. Together with the money-minded Sayaka Kanamori and teen model turned character animator Tsubane Mizusaki, the three girls decide to form their own club and make anime! Unfortunately animation is not an easy business, between working inhumanly long hours, dealing with clients and other outside forces, and finding the right balance between practicality and artistic integrity, the girls have a lot to learn and overcome. Yet when they put their boundless imaginations together they can create marvels, so it shouldn’t be too tough, right?

The Review

Back when I did my first impressions of this show, I said that if I could ever have an anime as the outward representation of my soul, then it would be this one. Nine episodes later and it is still true, this show is such a love letter to animation and the creative process that I can’t help but adore it. There’re so many moments that ring true, especially with my own experiences, both as a writer and as a student of animation. When Asakusa and Mizusaki are goofing off and Kanamori has to put her foot down, literally, I’ve been in that position (I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I was one of the people goofing off, there’s just certain people that if you put me in a room with them, you’re going to bring out my more chaotic side). Heck, the Mizusaki focussed episode, where she’s studying how people move, had me flashing back to college and me and my friends walking up and down a corridor to watch one another for a class. What I’m trying to get at is that the people that made this anime know what they’re talking about and I can just feel the years of personal experience and anecdotes that have been poured into this series.

There’s a clear passion for the subject at hand and you feel that oozing through every frame. Whether it’s the way Asakusa sits up as that first anime inspires her, or the look of wonder on Mizusaki’s face as she watches her grandmother perform the simple act of throwing away some tea (honestly, I’ll try to mention Kanamori more, because she is an important part of this equation, but I’m not business minded and I just relate more to the other two). The animation, for the most part, takes on a very loose style, foregoing a lot of the clean, boldly defined lines of a lot of modern anime in favour of something altogether more fluid. These characters stretch and scramble their way across the screen and that just makes them feel all the more real without going into sakuga levels of detail. Also can I just say how much I love the design of the main characters? This is a show about high school girls putting together their own club and for once their not made overly cutesy or, I guess twee would be the appropriate word here. The girls are allowed to be just that, girls, in whatever shape they come in. It adds again to that realism, without necessitating a metric tonne of detail to be added to the characters.

Also if we’re talking about the animation, then of cause I have to mention the little imagination pieces, where the girls get carried off into whatever wild daydream they’re drifting off to this time (and can I just say how much I love the fact that it’s the characters themselves doing all the sound effects for these sequences, at least until they get their sound library anyway). In fact my only real disappointment with this series is that these daydream sequences get less and less as the series progresses, but then it makes sense. The girls are busy actually creating anime by that point, they don’t have as much time for daydreaming when you’ve got a deadline looming and Kanamori ready to come down on top of you. The daydream sequences are some of my favourite moments in the series, they look like they’ve come straight out of Asakusa’s sketchbook, which I realise is entirely the point.

I said I’d talk about Kanamori though and I guess it’s time for that. Look, I love Kanamori just as much as I do Asakusa and Mizusaki, the team wouldn’t be complete without her, I just personally identify more with the other two. If anyone has any experience running a creative company, or trying to wrangle creative-types into getting something done (good luck to you, it’s like trying to herd feral cats at times and I’m speaking as one such feral cat), I’m sure they’ll have endless sympathy for what Kanamori has to put up with and how she goes about getting things done. Having said all that, Kanamori is apart of some of my favourite scenes, practically whenever she’s squaring off against the student council or that scene in the last episode where she pulls an Uncle Buck and bursts down the door.

I don’t want to talk too much about the story itself, other than the specific examples I’ve already given. This is a series that should really be experienced, and everyone should experience it. If you’re in anyway interested in the creative process, be that anime or anything else, or you’re a creative person yourself then you definitely need to check this series out. There is so much passion and earnestness packed into the twelve episodes of this series that it just needs to be shared.

The Verdict

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a wonderful and heartfelt series. It’s packed with so much passion and experience that it’s a joy a watch and anyone who takes part in any kind of creative process, not just animation, will recognise something in this series. It’s characters feel so true and you can’t help but root for them as they take on the mammoth task of creating anime and the animation is a marvel of technique and style. If you only watch one anime this year, make it Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, you won’t regret it.

fish stamp unmissible

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