Anime Corner: Granbelm Review

Blog Granbelm Review Title

This is Granbelm!

What’s the Story?

1,000 years ago all magical power in the world was sealed away. Now, under the light of the full moon, candidates to become the one true mage battle it out for control of that power using giant mechanical dolls. There are those who wish to use the power for selfish reasons and those who wish to destroy the power completely, but then there’s Mangetsu, who very literally stumbles into this contest. Mangetsu believes that she has nothing special about herself and longs for that one thing that can truly be hers. Could becoming the one true mage be her special thing? There are certainly odder reasons to enter a magical death match, not many, but I’m sure there are some.

The Review

Okay, I’m just going to be upfront about this, I love this show and I mean the heart throbbing, head-over-heels kind of love, so be prepared for gushing (Honestly if it wasn’t for the existence of Given I’d be tempted to call this show my favourite series of Summer 2019, and that was a fantastic season). I don’t even know where to start with this series I love it so much. I suppose the best place would be why I think this show hit me so hard with Cupid’s arrow and it all comes down to one of my favourite anime of all time, Madoka Magica. Ever since I finished that series I’ve been searching for another dark magical girl series to fill the void, and while the subgenre has had plenty of entries over the years, none of them feel like they’re even the same species as Madoka (at least until the spinoff series came along this season).

Then this show comes along, completely out of nowhere as far as I was concerned. It starts off flashy and cool, with some exhilarating fights and lots of pretty visuals, as well as some nice characters (I really love the friendship between Mangetsu and Shingetsu, but more on that later), but the more I watched this show, the more I realised this show understood something that a lot of dark magical girl shows forget, it knows how to make things hurt. See, a lot of these shows about magical girls battling it out for their heart’s desire, or their wish or whatever are just that, battles. We watch the girls get killed off one after the other and oh isn’t it shocking, isn’t gruesome. Yeah, no, not my thing. Granbelm though, it gets that what makes a fight truly epic, what makes a scene utterly heart-wrenching, is the emotions behind it. This may be a show about magical girls in mechs firing fancy lasers at one another, but it’s also a show about these girls throwing everything into a fight, all their heart and it is something I truly adored watching.

Whether it’s Kuon battling to avenge her sister, Mangetsu going into a blind rage and activating her kill mode, or just Anna going on a psychotic rampage, this show is packed with emotion. Maybe it crosses into melodrama a few too many times, and maybe we could have spent a bit more time getting to know more about some of the characters, but I was enjoying the episodes way too much to care about that while I was watching them (that’s actually my definition of a good show, be entertaining enough to carry me away and not notice your flaws until well after I’ve finished watching it, which Granbelm did and more). Not that this series is all flashy action and big emotional moments (though there is a lot of action in this series). It knows how to do quieter scenes too, a lot of which go to Mangetsu and Shingetsu. I mentioned before that I love their friendship, and some of the quieter moments of them wandering around town are some of my favourites scenes. You really feel the bond between the two of them, which only makes the revelations towards the end of the series all the more heartbreaking.

Also I do just want to mention the score for this series, because that is fantastic as well. There’s all these big orchestral pieces and, especially towards the end of the series, I was really starting to notice them and they honestly made the last few episodes of this series feel so epic I could barely take it. I seriously need to track down this music. While we’re on the aesthetics of the series, let’s talk about the visuals as well. As I said there’s lots of action, and while the mech designs took some getting used to, the action is frantic and exhilarating from the start. A couple of times it’s a little too frantic and I lost what was going on in all the laser fire and brightly contrasting colours, but for the most part you feel the speed and weight of these mechs as they clash against one another. Admittedly sometimes a fight can go on for a bit long, you think an enemy is finally defeated and they’ll come right back at you with an even more powerful attack (seriously this happens so many times I was getting Dragonball Z flashbacks, you know, except shorter and without the constant reaction shots and talk about power levels). I never minded that though because this show so perfectly captures the epic feeling that it’s going for. Each battle feels like it means something and I’ve missed that feeling in so many other shows.

Now I started this review talking about Madoka Magica and I guess that raised the question of how this show stacks up against that one. Is this show as good as Madoka? No, not by a long mile, but it does at least feel like its in the same ballpark and that is something I have been searching for for a long time.

The Verdict

All in all, Granbelm is a fantastic series and I’d recommend it to everyone, even if I don’t think this is a show for everyone. It’s worth a watch at least. Yes, some of the fights drag on, the pacing is a bit of a mess and some of the character motivation is a bit iffy until you get to the proper explanation later down the line, but I don’t really care about any of that, because this show has me by my heart and soul. The fights feel epic and the characters are all loveable in their own ways (even the ones I love to hate). Give this one a shot because if you’re like me and it hits you in that sweet spot, you’ll have a really great time with this series.

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

Anime Corner: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Review

Blog Magical Girl Asuka Review Title

Because the best place for a magically super powered teenager is on the front lines.

What’s the Story?

After being invaded by killer cuddly monsters from another dimension (not the strangest invasion I’ve ever seen in anime it has to be said), young women from across the globe were given magical powers in an effort to fight back. Eventually the war ended, but not everyone survived and for those that did choices had to be made. Despite the war being won, the world was far from at peace, gangs and criminals are on the rise, some of them using weapons left over from those invading monsters. Some of the magical girls have joined up with the military of their home countries in an effort to fight against these criminals, but for Asuka, all she wants is to get back to a normal life, if she can even remember what that is anymore. Yet when her friends’ lives are put on the line, will Asuka return to the fight?

The Review:

I have a problem with this anime. No, scratch that, I have several hundred problems with this anime, but it’s brought to mind a particular question that I’ve had to wrestle with from time to time. Can one good thing save an anime? Usually it crops up with a mediocre series where there’s a character or storyline that I really love, but I’m not too interested in the rest, so I have to decide if I’m willing to go back to the series just for that one thing. This time though, that dilemma is dialled up to eleven. You see I love Asuka and her journey through the series, but the more I think about it, the more I hate everything else in this series. It baffles me slightly that Asuka and her trauma are dealt with so effectively by the series and yet this is the same series that is constantly cramming in intrusive fanservice, gore and more torture than I have ever had the misfortune to watch.

Let’s talk about Asuka and the core concept of this series first (because if I keep thinking about the other stuff I’m going to explode and I think I’ll save that for later). Honestly both are, without doubt, brilliant. There are so many series where we have teenage protagonists going through hell as they battle inter-dimensional aliens or parasitic clothes or whatever, but what happens after the world is saved and the end credits have rolled? Do they just go back to their ordinary lives? Is it even that easy? And I realise that stories like this have been done before, but it’s a good idea and with the rise of Dark Magical Girl genre over the past several years, it’s a story that works incredibly well.

Asuka herself is an incredibly likeable and sympathetic main character. You want her to have a normal life again and you want her to find happiness, but you can also see all the signs that she is well and truly traumatised by what she’s been through and its not going to be that easy. It’s the little things that this series does so well, the way Asuka will instantly jump into a fighting stance when she hears a loud bang or how she keeps herself in shape because that’s what she’s used to now, always being ready for the next battle. I just want to wrap her in a hug and take her to a therapist so she can process and deal with everything she’s experienced properly. It gives the series an interesting struggle as we know at some point Asuka is going to be pulled back into the fighting, because narratively we need to get some action in somehow and Asuka can hardly standby while innocent people are put in danger. Yet at the same time we know that this is just going to lead to more pain and anguish for our dear magical girl.

Now to flip over to a magical girl I’m less enamoured with, mostly because I’m f***ing terrified of her (and you know my feelings are strong for something when I start swearing, even if I am putting the asterisks in), let’s talk about Kurumi. Don’t get me wrong, what Kurumi has been through (even before the invasion of the cuddly monsters) is horrendous and it clearly broke her. She has my utmost sympathy for what she’s been through and I hope she gets the help she so desperately needs, but if she walks into the same room as me I’m emigrating to another country there and then. Kurumi is messed up with a capital M. She needs psychiatric help immediately, she should not be put on the front lines of a battle with sadistic criminals and monsters and she definitely shouldn’t be put in charge of torturing the bad guys after they’ve been defeated! Honestly the tone of this show is so messed up when it plays up Kurumi’s violent and obsessive tendencies I have no clue whether it’s trying to be ironic or if it’s genuinely trying to get a laugh (I hope to god it’s being ironic because the other option is too terrifying to contemplate). They realise they’re making the world’s most powerful serial killer here right? The minute Asuka tells Kurumi that she doesn’t think of her that way, Kurumi is going to snap and murder us all!

Let’s stay on the torture for a minute here (because that’s fun for me to think about). My biggest problem with this series is how exploitative it feels. One minute it’s shoving the girl’s butts into your faces, the next we’ve got a girl having her skin burnt off while strapped to a table. Tone, people, tone, it’s a thing, try to keep it consistent! It’s not as if torture scenes or fanservice are impossible to get right either (though with me you’re always going to have a hard sell with the former and the later it depends on how its done, but get it wrong and you’re on thin ice), but if they’re done right they can be really effective. The torture scenes in particular could really put across the horror of what Asuka is stepping back into, but they happen so often, and the cheap animation doesn’t really help. I always feel more icky than horrified. What this show needed more than anything was a really good director that could take those scenes and ramp up the horror, while also framing them in such a way that I don’t feel I need to scrub my eyeballs after watching an episode.

The Verdict:

All in all Magical Girl Spec Op Asuka is, well, I can’t call it anything other than terrible. The excessive and exploitative use of torture and sexualising its characters is enough to make me want to track down all the copies of this series across the Internet and erase them permanently. It’s not a fun watch for me, the only saving grace is Asuka and her journey as she tries to overcome her trauma. That was enough to pull me through twelve episodes, but I’m never going to watch this series again (or if I do I’m skipping straight to the scenes of Asuka and mentally erasing everything else). If you think you can stomach all the other stuff though then maybe give this a try, but I can’t recommend it in good conscience.

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

Anime Corner: Twin Angels Break Review

Blog Twin AngelReview Title

If it’s broke…well fix it, obviously.

What’s the Story?

Meguru has always wanted to be a hero and when she leaves her island home to go to school in the big city, she may just get the chance. Together with the closed off Sumire she becomes apart of the magical girl duo Twin Angel! They’ll have to learn to work together, taking advice from a talking hedgehog (as long as it’s not a manipulative bunny-cat we’re okay), battling Russian doll robots, mad geniuses and the lovesick Mary who, well, clearly can’t afford a wardrobe seeing as she has nothing to wear (I know female villains have a tendency to wear less, giving evidence to the theory that villainy is related to skin temperature, but come on, underwear and stockings a costume does not make).

The Review

I have mentioned before that I have a soft spot for Magical Girl anime and that’s probably the reason why I stuck with this show until the end. There are a few glimmers of hope, some neat ideas and plotlines, but overall this show just isn’t, well, written well enough for me to consider it to be good.

I think one of the main issues is pacing, this series has a lot of ideas and has a tendency to rush through them in order to get it all fitted in. Sometimes this can be a good thing as we’re not spending ages stuck on some cliché element, but on the other hand several events lack impact because they’re just not given the time they need. For example, the first bad guy they face, he comes across as just your typical villain of the week, but at the end of the episode we learn that this guy was one of the 4 Generals of the bad guys. A guy that was taken out in one episode, an introductory episode with very little time for an actual fight, by a couple of newbie heroes, and this guy’s a general? Yeah, not intimidated by the bad guys at all, at this rate we can finish the series by episode 4.

The odd thing though, is that sometimes the pacing works. I mean the arc in the middle with the twin idols, that’s kind of the best the show has it. I mean it still moves fast, but everything gets build up and pay off and there are some interesting moments. For one thing one of the villains works out the secret identities of Twin Angels and it’s like, wow, actual villain competency, I was not expecting that. We get to know the bad guys (the idols at least), learn their back story and actually feel some sympathy for them. We’ve got the bond forming been one of the bad guys and one of Twin Angels while their respective partners try to keep them apart. We’ve got a wedge developing between Meguru and Sumire and of course the eventual learning that their new friends are actually their enemies and what are they actually going to do about that. If this was better written, this would be really dramatic. Now the writing isn’t bad, it’s just…serviceable. It gets the job done, it gets the point across, even if it can be full of clichés and worn-out dialogue.

The tone is another odd thing about this series, half the time I had no idea whether this show was trying to be serious or parody itself. Let’s go back to the twin idols, that is a section of the series that is trying to be dramatic and heart breaking as we get towards the end of it. Yet how are we introduced to them? They’re a pair of twins who put on concerts that involves making sushi while they sing. Making sushi. While singing. Now I’ll admit I’m not all that knowledgeable or into the whole idol thing, but that’s weird right? I mean that’s something somebody came up with as a joke, right? Nobody would actually…what am I talking about, it’s Japan, of course somebody would come up with this stuff. Some of it can be funny, but it just takes me out of the show for a moment as I try and work out the heck I just saw.

Going back to the villains, let’s talk about Mary. Okay, admit it, which member of staff just wanted to draw her? Come on, I mean we’ve all drawn stuff like it, we don’t all put it in TV shows and inflict it on other people, but each to their own. That ludicrous costume aside, she is an effective villain. She’s smart, she’s manipulative and she is powerful, posing a legitimate threat to our heroes. It does bug me that her motivations boil down to reviving some guy just to meet him again, a guy who we never actually get to see. I mean he’s built up as this whole great evil thing and then he disappears in two seconds flat. The final episode is kind of a microcosm of what’s wrong with this show, it’s so fast-paced, moving from one, what’s supposed to be epic, set piece to the next with no time at all to take it in. It just leaves you sitting there, saying “Oh. That happened.”

I haven’t really spoken much about our heroes Meguru and Sumire and that’s really because there isn’t that much to say. They stick to their archetypes, Meguru is the bubbly optimist who never stops believing and will always help a friend, even if at times she’s a little too energetic and air headed. Sumire is the cool and aloof honour student who doesn’t believe in friendship and is feels better off on her own, until she learns the true value of friends. Honestly the most interesting part is when Meguru starts to slip into a depressed state at the end of the series, weighted down by some pretty serious grief, that Mary is happy to exploit. There’s also their untold back story that, again final episode, goes by the blink of an eye and you barely get a second to take it in.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from this show. I know why I’m here, I want to recapture that feeling I got when I first saw Cardcaptor Sakura (or Cardcaptors as it was called over here) or even Sailor Moon, but I can’t seem too. Maybe I’ve grown up too much, maybe this sort of show just doesn’t appeal anymore and (damn it!) I don’t want that. On the other hand this could just be a poorly executed story and nothing to do with my own personal gripes. Either way, the search continues.

The Verdict

Twin Angels Break isn’t a terrible series, but it’s nowhere near a good one either. It has it’s moments with some decent ideas and plotlines throughout, but the majority of the show is too fast paced for its own good and has a tendency to either fall back on clichés and tired dialogue or just forget what tone it’s trying to establish. You might get some enjoyment out of it, but there are better shows you could spend your time with. Hang on a minute, I just had a thought, this series is called Twin Angels Break and they mentioned a Break System. Did they ever actually explain, or even show, what that is? Damn it now there’s something else wrong with it!

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

Anime Corner: Magical Girl Raising Project Review

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Blood and guts, ‘cause that’s what we want from our magical girl shows.

What’s the Story?

Magical Girl Raising Project is a popular game that everyone seems to be playing, though there’s a rumour floating about on the Internet that some of the players actually get the chance to become real magical girls. Middle schooler Koyuki is one of these lucky girls and as someone who has been a fan of magical girls since she was little, this is a dream come true. At least, it is at first, but then Fav, the administrator in charge of the game, decides they need to cut the magical girl population in half. Let the bloodbath begin!

The Review

Urgh. That’s it, that’s the review of the series. Urgh. I can’t think of a better way to sum my feelings towards this show, I mean it started out really good, okay that’s a lie, it started out decent and then quickly buried itself and just kept digging (roughly about the time that they started getting killed off). Maybe this is my fault, maybe I expected too much. I admit that I’ve been searching for another darker-toned magical girl series ever since Madoka Magica (I need my fix dammit it!). I mean I don’t expect to find a series to match the near masterpiece of Madoka, but I’ve had a void in my life ever since I watched that show and I haven’t found anything to fill it since. I’d hoped Magical Girl Raising Project could be the show I needed, but in the end I’m just sat here feeling dejected and little bit annoyed.

I think this series’ main failing is that it just doesn’t get how to do darkness. I mean there are times when violent deaths and a bit of gore can work in a story, maybe you want to shake up the story or shock your audience, personally I prefer it if that kind of thing is left to a minimum as that means it has a bigger impact and doesn’t lose quite so much meaning. I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a market for stories about bloody death matches, I’ve enjoyed a few myself, but those series don’t just rely on violent murder after violent murder to draw me in. There are interesting characters, an enthralling plot and an examination of the dark aspects of human nature, or at least one of those things. This series though, it’s just death and blood. Each episode is pretty much there to set up the murder of one or more of the girls and an interesting series that does not make.

It would maybe help if I cared at all about any of these girls, but the series never really gives you much of a chance to. For one I think there’s just too many characters, there’s sixteen girls and twelve episodes, that means we have to lose more than one girl an episode, how do to you expect to give the audience enough time to care when they haven’t even a full twenty five minutes to get to know them? A lot of the time the closest we get to knowing the characters is the flashback sequences they normally parade in front of you right before that character gets the axe. Don’t get me wrong, some of these back stories are harrowing and I feel sympathy for what these girls have been through, but there’s no connection and they’re gone before there was even a point to care for them. We hardly ever get to see the girls in their civilian identities, so we never really get to see them as themselves, only the magical girls they’ve imagined for themselves.

This really ticks me off when we have some really interesting characters I was just dying to have explored. I mean there was La Pucelle, the only guy to become a magical girl, he was just begging to be explored. Has he ever wanted to be a girl? We know he’s a massive magical girl fan, but when he fantasised about being one was he a magical boy or a magical girl, that is some meaty character exploration right there, use it! Then we have Swim Swim the psycho serial murderer who happens to be a little girl, I really want to know what her deal is, I think it’s fairly obvious that something is wrong with her. She’s so restrained and emotionless all of the time, following Ruler’s rules like they’re some kind of gospel. Has she always thought like that? Did something happen to her? You’re fond of flashbacks anime; show us!

And do not get me started on Snow White! What the hell is the point of her character? She does nothing throughout the whole of the series, she is entirely pointless and she’s the main character! I suppose I have to give a couple of points for not going the route I was expecting, I was predicting she was either going to go crazy and kill everyone or she’d be the true magical girl she always wanted to be and find a way to end this bloodbath. None of that happened. Everyone else just died while she sat around and moped. I couldn’t quite figure out how she could do anything, I mean her power is to hear people in trouble and that’s it, but the one thing I’ll give this series is that in its latter half it had some pretty interesting battles with bizarre powers, like a girl who can swim through solid objects and another that can make holes just by touching something (that was a particularly nasty death). So how was Snow White going to fight with her power? Answer? She doesn’t! I had to laugh with the last episode, with Snow White training and learning how to fight, bearing in mind at this point that the actual fighting is over and so is the damned series! Urgh.

Lastly, another big failing for the series is just how it’s plotted out. A lot of the time it does just feels as if the whole point of this series was to kill a bunch of girls. I mean a lot of the explaining for stuff that I would regard as a major reveal is just delivered in the most boring and inept way. Want the girls to learn that they actually die if they stop being a magical girl? Have Fav just tell them. Want an explanation as to why this game became a bloodbath? Have Fav just sit down and explain it, again! I get the feeling that they want Fav to be a Kyubey-like bad guy, they wanted him to look cute but be this manipulative demonspawn that you just love to hate (and fantasise about beating with a shovel, god I hate Kyubey), but he’s just boring and lazy, only there as a construct to spout off exposition and make comments in bad taste.

The Verdict

In the end, if you’re into watching magical girls being maimed, murdered and probably something else being with m (I’m so annoyed with this series I don’t even want to waste the effort looking for the right words), then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. For me though, it was terribly written, there were too many characters and the few goods ones didn’t get anywhere near the development they deserved. The one thing I will give this series is that in the later half is does have some interesting battles and use of powers, if only they could have ended up in a better series.

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

Anime Corner: Nurse Witch Komugi-chan R Review!

Blog Komugi R Review Title

Let’s Komugication!

What’s the Story?

Activate the standardised Magical Girl Anime plot generator! Main character: Komugi, a fourteen year old girl. Quirks: Clumsy yet always energetic! Does she meet some kind of magical talking animal: Of course! What must she collect/fight: cards that turn into monsters. Rivals: Kind of, we have the Magical Maid and the Magical Sister. Ok, what else is there? Transformation sequences, hijinks and maybe a song during the big fight sequences. Check, check and check. Well I think we’ve got all the ingredients here. Wait; something extra’s gotten into the machine!

The Review

Ok, I’ve gone on about Magical Girl anime before. Thanks to Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon the genre will always have a place in my nostalgia-encrusted heart, but outside of Madoka Magica there hasn’t been one that’s really captured my heart since. I’ve tried to watch a few, but I either end up getting bored or just feeling too old for it. I started to think that perhaps it was time to give up on the genre, to leave it to my nostalgia and move on; then I started watching this anime. Don’t get me wrong this is hardly the greatest anime in existence, if I was being completely critical I think I’d struggle to call it truly good, maybe nice, nice would be a good descriptor. It doesn’t redefine its genre or bring that much new to the table, yet every single episode of this anime leaves me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. The best way I can think of to describe this anime is as joy personified.

Now, as may be apparent from the ‘What’s the Story?’ section above, the bare bones plot of this anime is actually pretty standard for a Magical Girl anime. Komugi is an energetic, if a little weird, 14 year old girl who works as an idol in her spare time. Then she happens across a talking, floating rabbit who conscripts Komugi into becoming the Magical Nurse and collecting these strange cards that turn random objects into monster (and boy are some of the monsters random).

This is where the anime’s sense of humour starts to shine through, it manages to balance playing most of the story beats fairly straight while also making fun of them at the same time. Every attack has a ridiculous name, each transformation is accompanied by a high speed explanation of exactly what is going on with a nice little reminder that the transformation only takes 0.20 seconds in real time, and there’s the little comments about strange some of this stuff is. None of this is laugh out loud funny and it’s hardly pointing out stuff that hasn’t been pointed out a hundred times before, but it still make me smile.

When it all comes down to it though, neither the Magical Girl element or the parody elements matter all that much in the end because the heart of this series lies somewhere else, in the characters. Now technically a Magical Girl anime should be about Magical Girls, but most of the time that stuff just feels like an excuse to let the writers and animators get weird and have a quick-little fight sequence at the end of the episode. You could strip the Magical Girl stuff out of this anime and it would still be as good.

What caught my attention with this anime and kept me coming back week after week was the characters and the trials of their personal lives. Now the characters are hardly ground-breaking, Komugi’s the energetic idiot always oversleeping, falling over and eating weird stuff. Kokona is the perfect student, always working hard and being nice to everyone. Tsukasa is the tomboy and older sister to everyone around her. They have enough charm and warmth to them though that you just can’t help rooting for them.

Now this anime is hardly the height of dramatic story-telling, but I couldn’t help but cheer as each of our main characters worked to overcome their own personal struggles. For Komugi it’s dealing with the fact that she’s still swimming around the bottom of the barrel of the idol world. Most of her concerts are small scale affairs outside drug stores and her roles on TV are mainly as corpses, and it’s not through lack of trying that she’s yet to have her big breakthrough. She gives everything a 100%, she just has a tendency to mess things up and even when everything goes her way it never quite works out the way she wants. Slowly but surely though we see Komugi get more and more exposure, and while she’s still not as big a star as Kokona and Tsukasa, she’s definitely on her way.

Kokona is probably the character to get the least development, which are a shame because there’s a fair bit to be explored. We’ve got the rather dark dominatrix side that takes over our sweet Kokona when she becomes the Magical Maid, which hints at a fair bit of repression on her part. There’s her parents telling her that if she’s going to be something then she has to be the best which gets swept under the rug about halfway through the series. There’s also a plot where she tries to find a gimmick for herself because she’s afraid of becoming overlooked (funny how that’s kind of true for her character), but in the end figuring out that her ‘thing’ is to just be herself and keep working hard.

Finally we come to Tsukasa, who absorbs pretty much most of the spotlight due to just how tragic her story is. Tsukasa’s idol persona is that of a tomboy, which is at odds with her real personality of a girly girl who loves stuffed animals and sweets. Tsukasa can’t let her real self show though, because she’s afraid it will upset her fans and this gets in the way of her admitting her feelings for the boy she works with, Yuto. I felt really sorry for Tsukasa as she struggled between her personal and professional selves, and it was both funny and heart-warming as she eventually let Komugi and Kokona into her private life.

The Verdict

In the end Nurse Witch Komugi R is hardly a great anime, the Magical Girl aspects of the story feel like an afterthought and the parody stuff is fun but never quite makes it to hilarious. The animation is standard, though the fluidity of the 3D during the idol dances sequences is impressive. This anime does feel special to me though. I’ve grown to love these characters as they tackle the trials of being an idol in their unique ways. I enjoyed watching their journey and every episode left me smiling. Like I said at the beginning, this anime is joy personified.

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

Anime Corner: Madoka Magica Rebellion Review

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“We pray for hope, embrace curses and protect you from the dark. We’re magical girls.”

What’s the Story?

The world has changed. When Madoka sacrificed herself to save every magical girl from their own despair, she was wiped from existence. Now though Madoka’s back to being an ordinary student, Sayaka is alive again and there’s a strange (yet familiar) creature following Mami around. What are Nightmares and where do they come from? What happened to the Wraiths? This new world is strange and yet it appears to be filled with hope, but is there despair waiting just beneath the surface?

The Review

Ok I can’t hold this in any longer. One year anniversary! Yep, I’ve been writing this blog for a year now (which is frankly amazing to me). As such, and considering that I’ve finally got my hands on a DVD copy of the film, I thought I should try tackling the movie of one of my favourite anime series (which actually continues the story!), that’s right here comes my thoughts on the 3rd Madoka Magica movie, Rebellion! (In case you couldn’t tell by the title of this post).

Just for anyone not really in the know this movie is connected to the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica, an excellent series that I highly recommend you go see (you can find some of my thoughts on the anime here in my list of favourite anime). Now after the series was completed a trilogy of films were made, with the first two films acting as a recap of the series and this third film being an actual continuation of the story. Is it any good? Does it do justice to the amazing series that came before it? Let’s find out.

The first thing I have to say about this film is that it is just so great to be in the company of these girls once more. I love each and every one of them. The five girls are both really interesting and compelling characters and the film even manages to add to their development somewhat. We get to see Sayaka get some closure on her boy issues. Kyoko gets to spend some time with Sayaka and show what great friends they would have become (and possibly more, yes I ship them). Mami gets a partner to help combat her chronic loneliness. Madoka is just her usual sweet and innocent self. Homura…well Homura has so much going on with her that I’ll save for later when I discuss the ending. This is very much Homura’s story though and it gives her a lot of development and a great exploration of her feelings for Madoka. I also really like the fact that it shows that Homura’s power isn’t perfect. Homura’s ability to stop time was never really challenged in the original series, and her it gets stopped twice, and Homura is criticised for relying on it too much, which I like. It shows that while Homura is a badass with a powerful ability, but she’s not unstoppable (her fight with Mami is also amazing).

Now how does this film hold up as a continuation of the original series? It’s great. When I first heard of this film I was really excited, and then really nervous that this would end up as either a pointless cash grab or maybe even wreck what I consider to be a great ending. Luckily my fears were unfounded. This is a great continuation. All of the characters get to progress naturally and in a logical manner down their own paths. The story is interesting and a good examination of some of the consequences of the original series’ ending. It does make you look back and realise that although the ending was good and the best possible way for that story to end, it was by no means a happy ending. Now we get to see the effect that had on the characters, especially Homura and how she can’t cope with a world without Madoka.

To my mind this movie is split into three parts. The first part is the exploration of this new world, setting up the status quo, showing us how Nightmares work and letting all the girls interact and just have fun. I like the girls just hanging out, and the Nightmares take the crazy reality-bending madness of the witch’s labyrinths and amplify it tenfold, but this part does feel a little over indulgent to me. Stuff like the cake song and the transformation sequences go on just a touch too long in my opinion. I like them, but I just think they need a couple of seconds shaving off. Even the craziness of the Nightmares can sometimes be a bit too much. There are times when there’s so much imaginary whizzing around that it’s kind of hard to tell what is going on (though this problem does stretch throughout the movie). Don’t get me wrong I like the craziness in the film, it gives the film its own unique style and atmosphere, but there are a couple of moments where I think it might have been better to rein it in a bit.

The second part of the film is my favourite though. This is Homura’s investigation into who is the witch that has trapped them all. It’s a great story as Homura goes through the suspects until she reaches the inevitable, and tragic, conclusion. This is also where the epic battle between Mami and Homura takes place, as well as Kyubey showing his true putrid colours. I love pretty much every second of this section of the film. Frankly I’d have been happy if the film had ended here, but nope, the team behind Madoka Magica decided to throw us a curveball. Ok then, no more putting it off, here are my thoughts on the rather controversial ending to Rebellion. Warning there will be spoilers in this part, so skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to know.

Now the ending has stirred up quite a lot of mixed feelings among fans, and I completely understand why. Basically, Homura becomes evil. Her love and obsession for Madoka becomes so great that she rips Madoka out of the Law of Cycles and recreates the world yet again. In all honesty, I think this is a great twist. It’s a natural progress of Homura’s character. We already know how much she loves Madoka (you don’t travel back in time repeatedly just to save anyone) and there is a very important part of the movie where Homura realises how much it hurt Madoka to exclude herself from her friends and family, even if it did save everyone. This is Homura continuing her promise to save Madoka, and to find a world where she can be happy forever. It makes sense and sets up some really great conflict for later down the line. That is the only condition I will put on this ending though, I will like it as long as there is more story to come (which at the moment I haven’t heard anything about a sequel, but I’m holding on to my hope). Admittedly this would a terrible end point from the story. Watching a character that we’ve grown to care about and cheer for, turn into an obsessed villain isn’t very satisfying, and we really need some more explanation and exploration of this new world order that Homura has set up. This film needs a sequel, whether it’s another movie or a series, it doesn’t matter as long as the series continues, and I’m definitely in favour of more good stories with these characters.

Finally, the animation and music. The animation is fantastic, of course it is, this is a film they’ve got the budge for it. Like I said sometimes the film can get a little too self-indulgent and things can get a bit hectic, but this film is always a visual marvel. Each frame is filled with so much symbolism and creativity that it’s just a wonder to watch. Now I don’t normally mention the music, but just like the series this soundtrack is fantastic and I could listen to it for days. It fits the film perfectly and I haven’t found a track I don’t like yet.

The Verdict

All in all I think this is a great movie. I love that I have a bit more time to spend with these characters. It’s a fantastic continuation of the story and an interesting exploration of the consequences of the series. The visuals are amazing, the soundtrack is joyous and the characters are loveable. Everything that made the original series one of my favourites is here. Yes the ending may be a turn off for some people, and I can completely understand why if you feel that way, but for me it’s a natural continuation of the character’s development. Now all we need is a sequel.

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I’d just like to say thank you to anyone who’s taken the time to read any of my long-winded ramblings over the past year. I’ve enjoyed writing this blog so much more than I ever would have imagined, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Let’s see if I can make it to year 2!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday (even if I am a day later today). 

Anime Corner: Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! Review

Blog Love Review Title

Love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love. There that should meet the love quota for this review. Now I can get on with the show-bashing.

What’s the Story?

Sailor Moon, but with guys. That’s basically it.

The Review

Ok, there’s something I should probably clear up before I get into the review proper. This is not a yaoi series (so untwist those panties and relax). I know there are probably a bunch of people sat terrified in a corner of the internet right now, fearful of this show with an all male cast and this amount of pink in the colour pallet (probably the same guys who spat out their dummies when Free! was first announced). So, to be clear. Yes there are copious amounts of scenes of the boys sat in a public bath. Yes it is possible to detect a romantic subtext between several characters, yet nothing is overt or acknowledged as anything more than a strong friendship. Hence, not a yaoi show. Good, I’m glad that’s cleared up, there’s no need to be scared off if you don’t like those kind of shows. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to be scared off from this show.

I really wanted to like this anime, I truly did. Now I’m not ashamed to admit that I like magical girl anime, in fact Sailor Moon was one of the first anime I ever saw as a kid. So a magical boy anime, that parodies Sailor Moon? I’m in. Unfortunately this anime just didn’t do anything for me.

I’ll start with Yumoto. This airheaded dunce is the so-called leader of the Battle Lovers. He’s quirky. He’s the kind of free thinking oddball that always approaches things from a different angle to everyone else, and always finds the answer through some twisted misshapen form of logic. He’s also as annoying as hell. Look, he’s ok at first, but as the series wears on he just grated on my nerves more and more. Though his biggest crime by far is his obsession with cuddling cute things. Look, anime, I know you’re into some weird and creepy stuff at times, but can we please remove the sexual subtext from the young boy groping a pink wombat? I don’t know about the rest of you, but bestiality is just a step too far in my book. And don’t think I’m just reading into things that aren’t there, look at the later episodes, look at that expression on the wombats face, listen to him moaning. I know exactly what they’re suggesting and my laptop is just lucky it doesn’t have an axe buried in its screen right now as a savage metaphor for them to cut that stuff out. That’s without bringing up the fact that the wombat clearly doesn’t want Yumoto’s advances, and keeps telling him to stop, but Yumoto carries on anyway. Way to make this even worse show. Way. To. Go.

The rest of the cast are really just cardboard cut-outs for fangirls (and fanboys) to squeal over. One is always talking about girls. One likes money. One is a layabout. One of them has glasses. That’s about as deep as it goes. Look I’m not going to say that Sailor Moon had deep or compelling characters (it didn’t), but I did care about the characters. The characters had heart and I wanted to spend time watching them. These guys I couldn’t give two hoots about. They give me nothing to connect to, or get invested in. That’s probably why most of this anime’s comedy falls flat on its face with me. Now comedy is a subjective thing, but in my experience it works best when you’re somehow connected to, or invested in the subject matter. Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent jokes in here, mostly the ones that poke fun at tropes from Sailor Moon. Such as the “random attack name” jokes from the first episode, or the “more better” transformation sequence from the last episode. They work because I’m invested in Sailor Moon, even saying that though the jokes hardly had me rolling on the floor with laughter.

Another major problem with the series is how repetitive it is. I know Sailor Moon was formulaic, but it made up for that with some creative monsters (hey I was like five at the time I first watched Sailor Moon, I’d never seen anything like them, and they were just creepy enough to my child brain that I really liked them), and they also knew exactly when to change up the formula before it got stale. The problem Earth Defense Club has is that it’s a comedy, and jokes get old, fast. You can’t have a repetitive nature without the joke quickly becoming stale.

I think what this series really needed was some added drama, it would certainly have helped me get invested. There’s an episode that proves this, the only episode of this series that I regard as good in fact, episode 8. It gives more focus to the characters, specifically to the friendship between En and Atsushi. It actually manages to raise a note of tension as the two bitterly argue and fall out. There’s also a decent fight against the monster with more than just the standard attacks, and it’s not just Yumoto doing all of the fighting. Yumoto even lets En and Atsushi perform the finishing move. If there were more episodes like this then I probably would have enjoyed this series, but this was just an anomaly among all of the mediocrity.

For a series that constantly goes on about love, I certainly don’t feel a lot of it from the show. In the final episode the villain is chastised for not showing any love for the subject matter, when that’s how I feel about this show. It rinses and repeats so much of itself, fills up time with unfunny jokes, I just don’t feel any passion here. It’s a real shame as I think the concept has some merit to it, it just needed better jokes, more depth to the characters, more drama and stronger story-telling (basically a better everything).

The Verdict

I really wanted to enjoy this show, I did. Unfortunately there’s not enough substance or ideas here for me to enjoy, which is a shame as this anime did have a lot of potential. If you like this show, that’s fine, enjoy. This just isn’t for me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some wombat related imagery I have to scrub out of my brain.

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