Anime Corner: Tower of God Review

Blog Tower of God Review Title

The End of the Beginning!

What’s the Story?

What do you desire? For Rachel it’s to see the stars from the very top of the tower. For Bam it’s to follow Rachel wherever she goes. Of course they are not the only ones who seek to climb the tower, for it is promised that at the top everything will be yours. Be it knowledge or power, you can have it all and become a literal god if you so wish it. That’s a hard thing to resist, even for the many varied and quirky inhabitants of the tower. However the way up the tower is no easy path, there are many challenges and tests along the way, as well as countless dangers. Only the lucky and the formidable will survive, but Bam is willing to brave it all for Rachel. Of course there’s also the question of whether Rachel wants Bam along in the first place…

The Review

This is, without question, my favourite anime of the past season. I know the pickings were a little slim, mostly due to the pandemic shutting down the majority of shows, but I’m confident that I’d be saying the same thing even if those other shows had aired. Heck, if this show had come out in any of the past few seasons I’d be saying the exact same thing (though it would have some more stiff competition). Tower of God is exactly the kind of fantasy that I love, creatively unusual, grand in scope and packed to the brim with intriguing concepts. My brain is bubbling over with theories and questions, so much so that it’s in literal agony to know the answers and I both love and hate that feeling (is that weird?). Genuinely my brain is having a wrestling match with itself trying to decide between jumping straight into the webtoon to find out what happens next, or whether I torture myself and wait for season 2 (There had better be a season 2 otherwise someone’s getting a visit from a scary version of me!).

All I want to do is gush about this show, but at the same time I don’t want to over hype it too much. This is not the next One Piece, but it does have the potential to become it, or something like it at least (and for those that don’t know, I’m a massive One Piece fan so understand how big a compliment that is). I haven’t read the webtoon, yet, but I can already tell that this show has the making of a grand, sprawling epic that is meticulously planned. Having said that, these first thirteen episodes are very much the prologue to that epic and while thirteen episodes might be a bit much for a prologue it also feels necessary. I can see breadcrumbs being laid down, the foundations set for character development to come, all the while delivering an engaging and fun story to keep us entertained in the meantime. There’s very much the sense that we’re just scratching the surface here with the characters and the world, especially with the likes of Bam and Rachel.

Let’s talk about Bam and Rachel for a second. Admittedly I have no idea where their characters are actually headed in the grand scheme of things, but the ending of this first season (please be just the first, please!) does give a good indication of where they’re going, which is something I can’t wait to see. Again there’s that feeling of barely scratching the surface with these two, we know hardly anything about them. Bam himself is an enigma wrapped in a mystery, oh sure he comes across as the naïve, optimistic special one, but we have no idea where he comes from or what exactly makes him so special. I mean he doesn’t either, but there’s so much we just don’t know yet. The one constant he has is his devotion to Rachel, which is entirely understandable. She is literally the first person he ever met, the only person he ever knew before coming to the tower. Of course he imprints on her like a baby chick. He’s like someone who’s been locked in a dark room all his life and then someone finally opens the door. His dedication to Rachel is unhealthy and he needs to learn to develop his own wants and ideals outside of Rachel, something I can see in his future character arc.

Honestly though Rachel may be the most interesting character for me at the moment. Again we actually know very little about her, like where she comes from or what makes her so obsessed with climbing the tower. I mean, we know why she wants to climb the tower, the real reason, but what lead her to think that way? Why does she have this obsession and where exactly is it going to take her now that we’ve seen how far she’s willing to go for it? Honestly it’s questions like that that I’m desperate to know the answer to most of all. I might even climb an impossible, reality-warping tower packed full of monsters and horrendous tests to find out the answers. I don’t want it to sound like we don’t learn anything about Rachel, or Bam for that matter, we get a good sense of their characters as they are now and they’re entertaining as they are now, I’m just really intrigued by where they’ve already been and, more importantly, where they’re going next. I haven’t even gotten into all the other fun and interesting characters of this series, because we have so much more than just Bam and Rachel. All the character have great designs and their personalities just shine, from the ones you love to hate, Paracule, to those I will worship forever, Endorsi, and even my second favourite, Khun. I don’t have room to discuss them all here, so I’ll save that for another time.

I also haven’t even talked about the visuals and the sound yet either. I love this series’ use of colour, every scene pops on the screen, even the ones that are in a dark and dingy locale. There’s a real spectrum of bold colours used throughout, really setting the mood of each scene, and when that’s paired up with the great character designs, well, this show is a feast for the eyes. Throw on top from good action, compelling drama and a soundtrack I can best describe as epic and you’re literally hitting all the right notes for me. Again, I don’t want to overhype, but I can’t help up gush at the same time. There’s so much potential with this show and I can’t help but feel we’re all in for a wild ride, which I am more than looking forward to.

The Verdict

In the end (or should that be the beginning?), Tower of God is a series bursting with potential. Thirteen episodes in and it feels like we’ve only just taken the first step, which may put some people off, but for me it’s the promise of a great adventure to come. With a world brimming with fun, interesting characters, mysteries around every corner and a presentation that looks, and sounds, this good? How could I not be excited? A lot of people compared this series to the Hunters Exam arc from Hunter X Hunter when it first started airing and that comparison holds up for me, and knowing how good that show got, I can’t wait to see what Tower of God does. We’re just taken the first step, but the tower is before us and I, for one, am more than willing to climb 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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Listeners Review

Blog Listeners Review Title

Music Reference!

What’s the Story?

Young Echo lives in Liverchester, a town for the junked and forgotten, and he’s completely okay with that. He’s a nobody and doesn’t expect to ever get anything out of life, well, there is one thing that he’s dreamed about since he was a kid. Once, when he was little, he saw the legendary ‘Player’ Jimi Stonefree in his last performance, battling against the mysterious and terrifying Earless. If Echo could have one thing in his life he’d like to meet Jimi again and when he meets an amnesiac girl with a hole in her back, he might just get the chance. The girl is Mu, and she’s a ‘Player’ too, that hole in her back allowing her to pilot a mecha that Echo has spent his spare time repairing. Together Mu and Echo will travel across the countries, meeting other, strange, Players and battling against the Earless. Will they manage to track down Jimi and find out who Mu really is? Will they be able to uncover the origins of the Earless themselves? The answer is, as it always was, in the music.

The Review

Right. Review. Words. Sentences. Descriptions of my feelings towards the show outlined above. I can do this.

Words.

Okay, I’m just going to hold my hands up here, I’m struggling to write this review. It’s not like Listeners has any particularly difficult subject matter that I feel uncomfortable talking about, nor is it’s narrative all that complex. Music is good. Don’t judge people based on their differences. That pretty much sums it up. No, what makes Listeners so difficult for me to talk about is just that it’s…okay, at best. I don’t want to bash the show because I have genuinely enjoyed watching it week to week, but at the same time this is hardly a series that will set the world on fire. There’s nothing that the show does particularly wrong, the characters are fun, there’s some interesting designs both for the people and the mecha and the soundtrack is fit for purpose (though for a show that celebrates music so much I’m surprised this series doesn’t have a better OST). It’s just that I don’t think I’m going to remember much about this show in a month’s time, which feels really harsh.

As I said, I have enjoyed watching this show week after week, our protagonists, Echo and Mu, have a great chemistry, Mu being the more outgoing, go-getter type while Echo is more shy and awkward. It’s always fun to see them bounce off of one another, but it’s hardly a new twist on character archetypes, in fact they feel fairly stock as characters. Again I feel like I’m being mean when I don’t want to. I’ll reiterate, Echo and Mu are fun characters and I’ve enjoyed spending time with them, the show just doesn’t do anything that interesting with them. Well, there is an interesting development with Mu towards the end of the series that had a lot of potential, but once all the cards are on the table the show does exactly what you think it’s going to do with the set up. As for the other characters, they all fall into a similar trap. Some of them have great designs and there are a couple of interesting conversations towards the end of the series, but it never feels like we truly get to know these people. The only character I really connected with outside of Echo and Mu was Nir and I suspect that was only because she got a good couple of episodes dedicated to her.

Now that I think about, maybe this show tries to do too much with too little time. There are plenty of series that can fit a twelve episode run perfectly, but I don’t think Listeners is one of them, not with all the places it wants to visit and all the music references it wants to cram in. The series starts with a location-of-the-week format, each week Echo and Mu turning up in some new place themed around a particular artist or group, which is fine, but it is a lot to cram into one episode. Later on in the series they do settle into one location for a few episodes to build up the conflict for the finale, which is better though we don’t see that many sides of the place. I just don’t feel all that connected to this world. For all that we see of it I don’t particularly care about anyone or anything in it. I can’t escape the feeling that if the series just had another cour of episodes we could have spent more time exploring the world and building up the mystery of the Earless and who Mu really is. That way when we start getting to the actual answers I’d be invested in finding those things out. As it is my reaction was just kind of a shrug and an ‘Oh, okay’.

I don’t know, there’s plenty of other series that have had me truly invested in their worlds after twelve episodes, but there’s something that Listeners is missing to make it that finale stretch. I feel like I’m being harsh again. Maybe if the series pulled back on the music references a bit, it would make the world feel more real and a bit less like a nest of easter eggs for music fans. Don’t get me wrong the vast abundance of music references were fun, but I am fairly musically challenged (outside of my own eclectic taste) so while I could tell that something was being referenced, I didn’t always know what a lot of the time. I wish I could be more positive about this show, it was fun following Mu and Echo on their journey, but in the end the world and characters just don’t feel developed enough to be anything other than a bit of fluff.

The Verdict

All in all, Listeners is a fun series and that’s about it. If you’re after cool mecha action, deep world building and character development, well, I’m afraid you’ll have to move along. However, if you want to take part in a music-themed world tour and play a game of ‘Guess the Reference!’ each week, then this is a fine way to fill your time. This show won’t change the world, and while I do like the idea of a mecha series based around music, this show has neither the soundtrack nor the action to back that idea up. It’s fun and that’s about it. Check it out if you want, but I’m not sure I can recommend it, unfortunately.

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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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Maquia – When the Promised Flower Blooms Review

Blog Maquia Review Title

Mums don’t cry! But I do! Pass me the tissues.

What’s the Story?

Secluded away from the eyes of the world, the Iorph live out their long lives in peace and tranquillity, weaving the history of the ages into magnificent tapestries that only they can read. All that changes though when humans arrive, hoping to take the Iorph’s longevity for themselves. For Maquia, a young Iorph, it means the end of one life and the beginning of another. She escapes the attack and finds herself in the outside world for the first time ever, and when she discovers a crying baby, clasped in the arms of his dead mother, she can’t help but feel a connection. Deciding to raise the child herself, Maquia is going to learn what it means to be a mother, and that there can be joy even amidst the sorrow of parting ways.

The Review

This film is the directional debut of scriptwriter Mari Okada, and it should tell you something that I’m actually paying attention to the creative team behind this film. Mari Okada has written a lot of series that I’ve heard very good things about, even if I haven’t gotten around to watching them myself. From Anohana to Anthem of the Heart and O Maiden in Your Savage Season, she has quite the portfolio of work (she also wrote scripts for Hanasaku Iroha, a series that I actually own, but haven’t watched yet and is it me or are those blu rays glaring at me from their place on the shelf? I’ll watch you I swear!). I knew all of this going into this film so I was ready to be impressed, but I also tempered that with the knowledge hype often kills films for me. So, does this film meet expectations? Well…YEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

From a visual standpoint alone this film is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The colours are so crisp and clear, whether its rustling fields or the mirror-like shine of lakes and rivers, I just want to take each frame of this film and hang them up on my wall. Add on to that the gorgeous landscapes and intricate cities that we visit throughout the story and this film is a feast for the eyes. I want to shake the hands of the designers and background artists, everything from the creatures to the costumes and the characters are beautiful, that’s really the best word for this film, beautiful, in so many meanings of the word. Of course just being pretty doesn’t make a great film and since I brought up the director, let’s talk about direction.

Honestly it does astound me that this is Mari Okada’s first directorial role because she makes it look so effortless. For a film that has to cover several years, taking us from Maquia finding and naming Ariel, her raising him until their eventual separation and then reunion in his adult years. That is a lot of time to cover and in a film that’s under two hours it could easily feel like you’ve skipped over important chunks of the story. Fortunately that isn’t the case here and while there are time skips and things we don’t see, we see everything we need to and all the characters have a logical and natural progression throughout the film. You can tell how each character arrives at where they do and that is down to the skill of the writing and directing (both credits belonging to Mari Okada).

That brings me to the action, and for a film whose focus is on the quieter, more emotional moments, when the action does kick in it does it with gusto. The two scenes that stick in my mind are the dragon’s rampage at the start of the film and the big invasion at the end, both of which are put forward with confidence and style. It did have me question if this really is Mari Okada’s debut, maybe she did a few sly directing jobs under another name before, because these scenes are pretty much flawless. The action is fast and fluid, worthy of any big budget fantasy epic. It makes me want to see how Miss Okada would handle an action series, as well as wanting plenty more fantasy works from her. One of my favourite things about this film is its world, it feels so fully realised, every aspect of it has a reason behind it or some effect on the rest of the world that just makes the place feel whole. I want to spend more time in this world exploring it, and while a sequel probably isn’t on the cards I can’t help hoping for one, or at least for this to be made into a twenty-plus episode series.

That brings me to the story itself and, all told, its fairly simple story, which is for the best really. It’s hard to do a super complex story in a world that we have no prior experience with, introducing so many concepts and characters, and bringing everything to a satisfying conclusion all in under two hours. If you tried you’d be walking a fine line between it being complex and being complicated, which is best avoided. Plus this story is very much about the feels. You feel the bond between Maquia and Ariel from the moment they meet and through all their ups and downs and, yeah, I cried by the end I’m not ashamed to admit that. I think what I love most though is that all the major characters get their own little arcs, even what appears to be a throwaway character from the beginning returns later to pay off her story before the end credits role. We spend just enough time with each character to get to know them and care about where they end up, and that’s talent.

The Verdict

In the end, Maquia – When the Promised Flower Blooms is a wonderful film. It’s beautiful in so many meanings of the word, from the gorgeous visuals to some superb writing and directing. Every character feels like their own person, in a world that feels fully thought-through, I just want to spend more time here with these people, but if this film teaches anything it’s that nothing lasts forever and that’s not entirely sad. I wholeheartedly recommend this film, if you haven’t seen it already, heck, even if you have it’s worth more than one rewatch.

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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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace Note Review

Blog Lord El Melloi Review Title

Welcome to Fate Lore 101, now please turn to page 10,003 of your textbooks.

What’s the Story?

Waver Velvet once fought side by side with the King of Conquerors, Iskandar, during the Fourth Holy Grail War. Now it’s ten years later and a fair few things have changed for our favourite mage, he now bears the title of Lord El-Melloi II and teaches in the Clock Tower, where all the most powerful and prominent families in magedom go to learn their craft. He even has his own apprentice in Gray, a girl who bears a striking resemblance to a certain knight of legend. However, things aren’t all rosy for the new Lord El-Melloi, not only is he up to his eyeballs in debt, but he often finds himself wrapped up in all the magical and mystical mysteries that surround the Clock Tower and the mages within.

The Review

I’m just going to say this upfront, don’t watch this series if you’re not a fan of the Fate series. Then again I consider myself a fairly big Fate fan (I don’t love every series that comes out, but those that I do I generally love with all my heart and soul) and even I had a hard time with this series. This is definitely a series made for hardcore fans by hardcore fans, there’s so many references and characters from other works that it was a challenge to keep up with them all, and I’m pretty sure I missed a load (it doesn’t help that my experience with the Fate franchise is limited to only the stuff that’s been animated so if this is a character’s first time in animation, then I ain’t going to recognise them). It was great seeing the ones I recognised though, especially when some of them got paired up in fun ways. The series also has plenty of interesting new characters that I want to learn more about, like Gray.

Another stumbling block for this series though is just the utter denseness of fate lore and magic. In fairness that’s a problem a lot of the Fate franchises struggles with, there’s just so much information and detail to this universe that I feel like I need to take a five-year course just to grasp the basics of it all. Fortunately a lot of series can avoid having to deal with this by focusing on the epic battles between Heroic Spirits and introducing some non-mage or novice mage characters. Unfortunately that’s not something this series can do. There’s no Holy Grail War here, no Heroic Spirits (well, not really), and the focus is squarely on the mages and the Clock Tower. A lot of the mysteries are based around the magic system of fate and to call it complicated is like calling Game of Thrones a light read. I’m sure if I spent a few hours digging through the various wikis I’d find out all I needed to about magic in Fate, but I’m lazy and a TV show should not require reading material to accompany it. This does work against several of the mysteries in the series because without an understanding of how the magic in this world works, you’ve no chance of working out what the answer is before Waver (I mean you have no chance anyway, but you might be able to pick up on a few things).

Let’s talk about the mysteries in this series though and I think that’s going to be something else that puts people off. The style of mystery this series chooses to go for is the one where our genius detective (Waver) is the only one that gets to put everything together. You’ll see the clues, you’ll be given the suspects, but you’ll never work out the answer until Waver tells you because he’ll be holding on to that one vital piece of information you needed to put it all together, but you don’t get it because you’re not the genius detective. It can be frustrating, and while I generally prefer a mystery that you have a chance of solving alongside the lead detective, I don’t mind these kind of puzzle piece mysteries, as long as in the end I can see how all the pieces fit together. Having said that, I don’t find the majority of these mysteries all that engaging. Between the lack of understanding with the magic and so many references being thrown at the screen, everything just feels so dense and I can’t quite get through it.

All of this being said, I can’t think of many people who I’d recommend this series to it’s market feels very niche, but who is it’s market? Well, Fate/Zero fans for one. If you want to see what happened to Waver after the Holy Grail War, then I will definitely recommend this series. Waver is the best thing about this series, seeing how he’s matured and what he’s had to deal with in the aftermath of his actions in Fate/Zero. I also love his arc throughout the series, seeing how he’s still haunted by the events of Fate/Zero and his slow path to finding peace with that and a way forward. Honestly the ending of this series, with his little dream chat with Iskandar, almost had me in tears.

The Verdict

All in all, Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace Note (seriously, can we go back to shorter titles for these series?) is a show for die-hard Fate fans, especially fans of Waver Velvet. The lore and the magic is just way too dense for the uninitiated to get through, so if you want to watch this series, then I recommend either watching a few of the other series first, or reading the whole of the Fate wiki. For those die-hard fans though, seeing how Waver has matured and continues to grow is a joy. Add not to that some interesting new characters like Gray and a whole host of cameos from across the franchise and this series is a treat, if only for the fans.

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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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Given Review

Blog Given Review Title

Oh just kiss already!

What’s the Story?

Uenoyama wants nothing more than to crash in his favourite napping spot, he’s become rather listless of late, losing interest in everything, including his music. All that changes though when he meets Mafuyu, a quiet young man sitting in his spot, clutching a guitar. Mafuyu doesn’t know anything about music or instruments, so he’s amazed when Uenoyama fixes the broken string of his guitar like it’s nothing and immediately begs Uenoyama to teach him how to play. Though initially reluctant, Uenoyama eventually caves and soon finds his passion for music returning, along with certain new feelings. But who does the guitar that Mafuyu always carries belongs to and will Uenoyama ever be able to work out his own feelings or will he just collapse into a puddle of awkward?

The Review

I don’t really watch a lot of BL (Boys’ Love for those that don’t know) series. Nothing against the genre, but it’s the same as any other romance for me, unless there’s a plot that grabs my attention I’m not all that interested. I prefer my romance as a subplot to some other genre or story, but this series is a prime example of why you shouldn’t let genre biases dictate what you watch, because this show is in the running for my favourite anime of last year. Admittedly what first drew me to the series was the music, because I always enjoy series about bands (despite how musically inept I am, or maybe because of it. A man can dream dammit!), but what I stayed for was the characters and the quiet charm of this series.

This series really knows how to just let a scene sit and breath. There’re so many scenes of a character just sitting there and thinking without any kind of narration and just a nice, gentle track playing in the background. All of which sounds really boring on paper, but this series knows how to sell it. The whole show is laced with feelings of melancholy and peace, intertwining and battling against one another as the characters struggle with their feelings and their trauma. Seriously, if you want to know how to use quiet in a scene, watch this series. The quiet also has the effect of amplifying the louder moments to perfection. I got chills when Mafuyu finally sang on stage, to be fair the whole series had been building up to that point and the final release was just something special. I was completely with the crowd in the series with their blown away expressions.

Speaking of Mafuyu, and the rest of the band. I have to admit that I’m in love with each and every one of them. This series is really at its best when it has all four bandmates on screen together, I love their odd little discussions and the way they bounce off of one another. I really just want to go get some barbeque with these guys and hang out for a few hours. Of course the characters are just as good individually, each one of them overflowing with personality and charm. I especially love Uenoyama’s many reactions throughout the series, the best Uenoyama is a frustrated Uenoyama! Also I like the way the relationship builds between Uenoyama and Mafuyu, starting off with neither of them noticing (well, Uenoyama doesn’t notice) before things finally kick into gear and it just leaves me with the warm fuzzies. I got sucked in hard into this romance.

Something else I really love about this series is that is manages to swerve a lot of romance clichés as it tells its story. Of course Uenoyama and Mafuyu’s relationship is full of stumbling blocks as the pair come to terms with their feelings, but that doesn’t mean the series has to fall back on the old tropes to add drama, in fact there are points were the series deliberately deflates the drama once its used it to rise the tension a bit.

(Next paragraph has a couple of minor spoilers, if you want to avoid them skip to the paragraph after it.)

Couple of examples, one, there’s a girl who crushing on Uenoyama, not that he’s noticed, but she’s obviously jealous of how close he is to Mafuyu and after hearing about Mafuyu’s past relationship she decides to tell Uenoyama. Now I was spitting feathers at this point (even though I’ve never understood that expression), but immediately afterwards the girl realises what a world class word for a female dog she’s being and instantly rolls it back. Good. Example two, Uenoyama realises that Mafuyu loves him back and he’s overjoyed, until he remembers a conversation from six months ago about how relationships between bandmates never end well. Does this mean he pretends to hide his feeling for Mafuyu? Do they try to date in secret from their bandmates? No, they go round to their houses and talk to them! What’s this? Conversation and communication in a love story? What fresh spore of madness is this?!

This series doesn’t need to be big or loud to get its point across. It doesn’t need melodrama or the angst dial turned up to eleven, it can get by perfectly well with a few quiet moments and some contemplative scenes, saving the real feels for when they’ll have the biggest impact. In the right circumstances a whisper can be so much louder than a shout, and this series is the epitome of that.

The Verdict

All in all, Given is a fantastic series and one of my favourites of last year (which considering some of the shows we got last year, that’s quite the achievement). It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s sweet and, yes, it’s heartbreaking in a few places. This is a series that really knows how to use quiet and mood to their best effect, building up the feels for the moments when the show wants to hit you squarely in the heart. I really love all four main characters and, honestly, just want to spend more time with them. If you skipped this series then you missed out, so go correct that right now and watch this show!

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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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Somali and the Forest Spirit Review

Blog Somali and the Forest Spirit Review Title

This review really should have come out on Father’s Day.

What’s the Story?

Humanity has ended, mostly. Driven to the brink of extinction after starting a devastating war, now the survivors are little more than food for the many other creatures that populate the world. Such is the life that young Somali find herself with, that is until she comes across a forest guardian, a golem. Nearing the end of his life cycle, the golem takes it upon himself to escort Somali on a perilous journey across the world in the hopes of finding more humans, before his time runs out…

The Review

I’m really not sure how to feel about this series. I definitely enjoyed watching it, it has a gorgeous use of colour and backgrounds, the designs of the characters are all really interesting and, let’s be honest, this show was designed to hit you in the feels. Maybe that’s the problem though, I did tear up at certain moments throughout the show, but that’s all they were, moments. No matter what dark subject matter the show brushed up against, no mater how tear jerking the situation was, I never felt like any of the characters were truly in danger and knew they’d make it out the other side, somehow. I never believed that the show had any intention of ever harming Somali because, well, she’s so cute and precocious that the Internet would be in uproar if anyone so much as touched her. There’re plenty of shows that take cute characters and apply the pressure to make its audience squirm (Made in Abyss jumps to mind), and its fairly obvious a few episodes in that that isn’t the kind of series Somali and the Forest Spirit is interested in being.

Somali and the Forest Spirit is a more gentle and simple series, it’s about the places and the people that Somali and Golem meet along their journey. There’s an air of quiet melancholy and spots of tranquil happiness peppered throughout the story. Despite the time constraints that Golem is under to get Somali to a human settlement, things are often taken at their own pace, admiring the surroundings. All of which is perfectly fine and I can see a great many people enjoying this series exactly for those reasons. For me though, I can’t help but feel that there’s something missing. Going back to the idea that I never felt Somali was in any danger, it’s not that I wanted the series to be like that, but it needs something and I can’t quite put my finger on. However adorable Somali is, and she is adorable and exactly the kind of slightly wild, adventurous kids I usually like in stories, a part of me doesn’t care, when it normally would. Same goes for Golem, he is immensely cool and watching his emotional growth as he comes to terms with his feelings for Somali was wonderful to watch, but at the end of episode, I was hardly in a rush to get to the next one.

Maybe it’s the simplicity of the stories and the world that are the detriment to this show. Now, a simple story is often a good idea, the last thing you want is for your audience to be confused over what’s going on or why people are doing things. Keep it simple is a rule, but not too simple and I think that’s the line Somali and the Forest Spirit has crossed. The design of places and people are often really cool, but I very rarely get a true sense of the culture of the places Somali and Golem visit. No matter what the locals look like, they often act like any other generic fantasy village. Maybe that’s the point it was going for, no matter what the people look like we’re all the same. It ties in nicely with one of the central themes of the series, that treating people differently based purely on how they look is extremely wrong, and while I think this series is a bit unsubtle with that message, given what’s going on in the world at the minute, yeah, a little unsubtly feels called for.

For me, this series had two options to really get me to care about Somali and Golem, it either needed to make the danger to Somali viscerally real, or it needed to create a rich and deep world for me to get lost in. Unfortunately the series wanted to play it safe for the most part, if you love this series I get it and I’m really, really glad for you. This show just never grabbed me. As I said, this show did make me tear up on occasion, but that was more for the ideas at play, like a father knowing he’s going to die soon even though he promised his daughter he’d stay forever, rather than the fact that it’s Somali and Golem going through this. This show is good, it’s well designed, well acted and looks gorgeous in places, but am I going to remember it in another month’s time? I’m not sure.

The Verdict

In the end, Somali and the Forest Spirit, is a well-executed show. It has some really good design work, a lot of the backgrounds and the uses of colour are really gorgeous. The story is emotionally effective and I can see a lot of people balling their eyes out at this show, but for me it just plays it a little too simple and safe. If you’re after a gentle wander through a slightly strange land with some feels along the way than check this series out. If you’re after something a little more hard-hitting though, then I’d suggest you journey somewhere else.

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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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Cartoon Corner: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Review

Blog She Ra and the Princesses of Power Review Title

Ooh. Are we messing with Adora?

What’s the Story?

Raised by the Horde since she was a baby, Adora has been taught to fear the evil princesses of Etheria and to serve her lord, Hordak. However, when she sneaks out with her best friend Catra and comes across a magical sword in the woods (it happens), she discovers that she has an even greater destiny. Realising that it’s actually the Horde that are evil, Adora joins the princesses and their rebellion, putting her at odds with Catra, who remains with the Horde. Transforming into the mighty She-Ra, Adora battles to free her home and protect her new friends, but not everything is as it seems. There is more to Etheria than first meets the eye, just what was the plan of the First Ones and what did they do to this planet? Why did the previous She-Ra, Mara, turn against them and what is Hordak searching for out in deep space? The answers will test Adora and her friends to their limits and bring them into conflict with a near immortal evil.

The Review

It’s true what they say, you don’t know what you’re missing until it’s gone. I’ve enjoyed watching every season of She-Ra (you can check out my review of the first season HERE), and the show has gone from strength to strength with each new season. I’ve laughed, cheered and even cried a little bit as I’ve followed this show and it’s characters, but I guess I’m only just now realising how much I’m going to miss this show. I’m writing this review about a week after watching the very last episode, which is unusual for me. Normally I start a review the moment I finish watching something to make sure all my thoughts are fresh in my mind, but in this case I wasn’t planning on reviewing She-Ra again. I’d said most of what I wanted to in my first review and far better reviewers than me have gone on to breakdown the themes and developments in later seasons. Yet, as I sit here listening to the ‘Drunk Adora’ video for the millionth time, I just can’t get this final season out of my head so let’s talk about it.

First, before we get into the final season let’s overview all the others. I’ve already given my thoughts on the first season, but for those who don’t want read the whole thing the basics are that it’s a good set up. It introduces the characters and there are some good gags, but by far the best aspect of this season is the electric chemistry of Adora and Catra as former friends, now bitter enemies. Season 2 is more of the same, there is a really funny episode where the princesses each give their plans for raiding a Horde base and each one takes on a new animation style. This is also the season were I really started to fall for Scorpia and she is one of the best characters in the whole series, I will accept no arguments on this (then again the Horde characters are often my favourite in this show). Also Glimmer gets some impressive uses of her teleporting power in fights, which I wasn’t expecting.

Season 3 is where this show really starts to up its game though. We get a deeper look into the lore and back story of Etheria, learn a bit about the previous She-Ra, Mara, and get our first hints that the First Ones weren’t all that great. Also the Entrapta and Hordak ship begins to sail in this season and I am all for that, they have some great scenes together. Also one of my very favourite scenes comes in the season finale when Adora decks Catra, which was a necessary character moment for the both of them, more on this in a bit. Season 4 I won’t go into much detail, but this was my favourite season, it ups the stakes considerably, takes the character arcs into some dark, though necessary, places and ends with things being as bad as they could possibly be, but still with some hope.

Looking back over the series, it’s pretty clear that outside of all the goofy jokes and flashy princess powers, this is a show about abuse and the domino effect of passing that abuse on to others. Hordak sought the admiration and attention of Horde Prime and when he didn’t get it he took it out on Shadow Weaver. Shadow Weaver wanted to impress Horde Prime and when she didn’t, she took it out on Catra. Catra then takes out her frustration and anger on Adora and, when she’s not around, Scorpia. It’s one toxic relationship after another until someone just finally says ‘no’ and walks away. That’s what Adora does in the very first season, she leaves the abusive Horde and finds friends and a place that accepts her and let her be her.

Of course Adora is still damaged inside and I’m kinda ashamed it took me as long as it did to recognise that Adora has a self-sacrificing streak a mile wide. She takes responsibility and blame for every little thing, even when it has nothing to do with her. She will give everything of herself to fix someone else’s mistake or protect them or even just to get their approval, cutting herself off from the love and friends that she needs to properly heal. Slight spoilers, that’s why one of my favourite moments comes in the third season. Catra is putting the blame for everything on Adora until she finally stands up for herself, saying, ‘You made your choice, now live with it!’ and proceeds to punch Catra square in the face. I cheered so hard at that moment, because it was Adora taking the first step to sorting herself out.

Catra on the other hand is more the self-destructive type. She’s so terrified of being abandoned that she will push people away from her and if they don’t immediately leave then she will keep pushing and pushing until they do. Everyone always leaves her because she makes them leave and it takes for things to truly spiral out of control for her to even to begin to recognise this about herself. And after all the hurt she’s caused, the people she’s almost killed and the friendships she’s broken, can she ever really be truly redeemed? Well, that brings us to season 5 doesn’t it?

Season 5 is by far the best season of She-Ra, it brings a natural conclusion to every character’s arc, whether it’s affirming ships like Sea Hawk and Mermista (I got oddly emotional about these two in the last couple of episodes, you’ll have to watch the show to see why) or having former enemies like Entrapta face up to the people their actions have hurt in previous seasons. Also, slight side note, Spinnerella and Netossa may just be my favourite characters this season, next to Wrong Hordak of course. I mean they’ve been in previous season, but they were little more than background characters as far as I was concerned. This season they really come to the forefront and while Spinnerella gets to show how much of a devastating badass she can be, Netossa gets a truly heart-wrenching arc. She really grew on me and I wish she was in more of the earlier seasons looking back.

All that being said though, the biggest arc of season 5 has to be Catra’s redemption and I am so thankful to say that it is expertly handled. A lot of redemption arcs don’t pay off until the very end of a season, with the former villain doing one heroic act and then suddenly all is good and everyone’s friends! That doesn’t happen here. Catra’s heroic act comes in episode 3 of 13 and the rest of the season is spent with Catra apologising to people she’s hurt and trying to stop herself falling back into old patterns of behaviour. It was a joy to watch and really well handled and preformed, because redemption is not just a one and done thing. People can change, but when you’ve acted a certain way for so long, it’s hard to change your behaviour. You have to constantly catch yourself and try to be better, which Catra does. It’s great to see and, yeah, last spoiler (though I’ve already put this in the title card), seeing her open up about her feelings to Adora and Adora sharing those feelings was a heart-melting moment for me. Also points for a full on screen kiss and not just leaving it hinted at or until the very last scene, looking at you Korra.

The Verdict

All in all, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a great show. The first two seasons are nowhere near as good as it gets and while I hate being that guy, just bare with it until the third season at least to get to the good stuff. It has a wealth of great and fascinating characters, all of whom are fun in their own ways, from the mechanical madness of Entrapta to the adorable dumbass Adora and the ‘catty’ behaviour of Catra (sorry, couldn’t resist that one). Chances are you’ll find at least one person to love in this series. The story continues to escalate with each season and the final fifth one manages to tie up all the arcs in a satisfying way. Definitely worth giving it a go.

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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 or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

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.

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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 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.

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!

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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.