Anime Corner: Warlords of Sigrdrifa Review

Welcome to Tateyama Base!

What’s the Story?

When mysterious pillars suddenly appear all around the world, humanity finds itself on the brink of extinction. Conventional weapons are useless and it’s only through an act of god, namely the Norse god Odin, that the human race stands any chance. Odin has given power to a select few young female pilots, known as the Valkyries, giving them the ability to fight back against the pillars. For Claudia, the favourite ‘daughter’ of Odin, that power is as much a curse as it is salvation, seeing as everyone she flies with ends up dead. Now she’s being transferred to Japan, and while Tateyama Base is unlike any other she’s ever been stationed at before, she wonders how long it will be before her curse catches up with her. It might be sooner than she thinks, Ragnarok is coming and the last stand of humanity starts here!

The Review

Part of me wants to say that this show is better than it had any right to be, but that’s really only based on my own preconceptions. I mean I saw the thumbnail on Funimation’s site and thought it was just a Cute Girls Doing Military Things type of show, it’ll be a bit of fluff with the occasional plane zooming by, I told myself. How wrong I was. The girls are certainly cute and they do do military things, but there’s a surprising amount of depth and seriousness to proceedings. For one I was surprised by how little fanservice there is in this series, there are spots of it certainly, a couple of instances of impractical attire for piloting a plane, but not as much as I was expecting. There’s also the beach episode which honestly gets points for how absurd it gets, but it also loses points for dragging out the joke with the support pilots way too long (then again I got bored with their shtick a couple of episodes in and they’re the only real complaint I have about this series).

I first realised this show was doing something more than I’d originally expected when one of the backup pilots actually died, and the whole scene was handled with a surprising amount of gravitas. I mean, for starters, you don’t normally see a lot of death in cute and fluffy shows and maybe I’m just jaded but aren’t background characters usually cannon fodder in these types of shows? Yet this show somehow made me care about this character I’d never met before, everything from the music to the mood and the interactions were just perfect. You felt the impact on all the characters and it was a stark reminder that when this shows says it’s about fighting the end of humanity, it means it. This wasn’t the only death either, this series has a startlingly high body count and all of them are really well done and feel earned, to me at least.

Now I don’t want to give the impression that this series is all grim and gritty. It has its moments where the characters struggle and deal with the events of the series, but there are also plenty of moments where they just relax and have fun. The air base has a really carefree, fun atmosphere to it. Part of that comes from a couple of the character’s personalities as they’re just these really infectiously cheerful or oddball people and I enjoy the way they all interact. The main four girls all have great chemistry together and it’s a joy to watch their distinct personalities bounce off of one another. You feel the friendship that grows between them and they end up as this really tight knit group, supporting one another in their weaker moments and poking fun at one another when they need to. It makes some of the moments towards the end of the series really impactful.

That brings me to the show’s most interesting character, Odin. I’ve seen plenty of interpretations of the god from Norse mythology and, honestly, this is a really intriguing one, especially in anime. I mean I thought all those references to Norse myths was just window-dressing, as it often is in anime, but no, this show goes has something interesting to say. Don’t get me wrong, it’s in no way accurate to the mythology, but taken on its own it’s a really fun twist on the character. Odin is the all-knowing manipulator, rigging the dice and playing his games until he gets the result he wants. When you find out what he’s really been doing this whole time, and what’s motivating him, it makes so much sense for this version of him! I’m impressed the show used the mythology in that way, but I won’t say any more because you should really check it out for yourselves.

All that leaves to talk about is the action and on that front the show finally does as was I was expecting it to. There are some crazy designs for the enemies the girls fight, but nothing too far outside of the geometric shapes and bizarre creatures I’ve seen before in these types of shows. The actual fights are really good though, lots of fact-paced zooming around and aerial acrobatics. Obviously if you’re looking for realistic plane movement I’d suggest looking elsewhere, I’m no expert, but I don’t think any real plane is as fast or as manoeuvrable as these, which is kind of the point. They are magically enhanced planes after all. Still, the air battles are a lot of fun to watch, especially when more and more pilots join in the action and they’re going up against swarms of enemies.

The Verdict

All in all, Warlords of Sigrdrifa, is a lot of fun and a prime example of what can happen when you take your characters and story somewhat seriously. It has its goofier moments, but it also knows when to play things straight and to make sure that characters show the weight of what’s just happened. The characters are all delightful and you feel the bond between them, and the Norse mythology elements get used in a much more interesting way than I was expecting. That’s this show in a nutshell, surpassing my expectations and zooming off to new heights. If you missed this show for whatever reason then you’ve done yourself a disservice. Go back and watch it now!

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: Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World Review

Okay, there’s coincidence and there’s being fate’s favourite ship! How do these two keep running into one another?!

What’s the Story?

For a hundred years the Empire and the Nebulis Sovereignty have been at war, one choosing to put its faith in advanced technology while the other makes use of powerful Astral Spirits. The reasons behind their long-held conflict has been lost to history and there is very little chance of any peaceful resolution, but perhaps that could be about to change. When master swordsman Iska is tasked with capturing one of the Sovereignty’s most powerful astral mages, the fearsome ‘Ice Calamity Witch’, it begins a series of encounters that could change the fate of the world forever. Could love be about to bloom on this bitter battlefield?

The Review

This show, and no I’m not going to type out that name again until I get to the verdict, is just okay. It’s not really bad, but it’s not good either. The characters are all fine and likeable enough, some of the designs are a bit overcomplicated, but they’re all fit for their purpose as specified by the plot. The action and story move at a steady pace, some of the actions scenes are actually quite engaging though it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening at times. The setting does have a lot of potential, I mean you’ve got two empires who’ve been fighting for a century and characters trying to find a resolution, while taking on opponents both from within and without. I’d say the story should write itself, but it clearly doesn’t.

What kills my interest in this series is the amount of coincidences and contrivances necessary to make it all work. I mean the central conceit of the story is that these two people wanting to find a peaceful resolution happen to meet and fall in love. Which, okay fair enough, plenty of stories rely on nonsense like that, I can suspend my disbelief and allow it. Where that suspension gets stretched to its absolute limit is when these two just keep running into one another! At first it was just funny, oh, they’ve bumped into one another, how cute. Oh, now they’re going to the same theatre and just happened to sit next to one another. Ha ha. Wait, now they’re going to a restaurant and they end up at the same one, sitting at the same table, ordering the same meal!

That’s only one example from one episode. In a later episode we have a problem where the Captain of Iska’s gets an Astral Spirit and they need to hide that fact when, by sheer coincidence, they’re sent on a mission that requires them to where patches that make it look like they have Astral Spirits! How can one group of people be so lucky? At this point they should invest in lottery tickets because there’s high odds they’ll win. And again, this is just two examples, there are dozens upon dozens more that I can choose from.

Maybe this is all a problem of adaptation. I know nothing about the light novel series this anime is based on (I’m assuming it’s based on a light novel series with a title like that), but this series is clearly split up into sections. I can see where one books ends and another begins and maybe if all these coincidences were separated by months in publication rather than appearing week after week. it wouldn’t bug me as much. Then again bug is the wrong word, because bug implies that these events in some way annoyed me. They didn’t, they did something worse, they took me right out of the story and stopped me believing in the fiction this story was trying to present.

At that point there was no real hope for this show, for me at least. It doesn’t matter how likeable your characters are, how many fast-paced sword fights or flashy magic attacks you throw at the screen, if I can’t believe in those characters or the world around them then what’s the point? It also doesn’t help that this story has clearly only gone through its prologue phase (the last story arc is literally called ‘Beginning’) with so many things set up for future stories. I don’t know how I would have adapted this series, but someone in the screen-writing department really needed to put more thought into that process. There’s a reason series don’t just move between mediums without even a single change.

The Verdict

In the end, Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World, is an okay show. I may have severe problems with the sheet amount of coincidence and contrivance packed into its plot, but it’s not a bad show. The characters are likeable enough, there’s potential in the world and some of the action is quite good, when you can make out what’s happening, but that doesn’t make up for it’s problems. It doesn’t sink the show either. This one sits squarely in the middle of the road, so if you want to check it out then feel free, but personally I think there’s much better shows you can be spending your time on.

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: Moriarty the Patriot Review

The Crime Consultant will see you now.

What’s the Story?

It’s the late 19th century and the British Empire is at the height of its power, though that power is not spread equally among its people. The nobility of the Upper Class hold all the sway and often look down upon the poor Working Class that make up the rest of the population. They think they can get away with anything, but a man walks through the thick London fog to show them otherwise. If you’re frustrated, if you’re a victim of those who call themselves your betters, why not seek out the Crime Consultant? With a mind as sharp as Sherlock Holmes and a dozen fiendish schemes to put into motion, William James Moriarty is here to cleanse the British Empire and bring the Upper Class down to their knees.

The Review

Every villain is the hero of their story, but how do you make sure that your audience roots for even the most morally dubious protagonist? Well, in the case of Moriarty the Patriot, you give him an even bigger evil to fight and, in Victorian England, what greater evil is there than the Upper Class? I kid, of course, this series takes a very skewed view of the ‘social elite’ depicting the majority of them as murdering lunatics able to get away with whatever they want. This isn’t a new depiction of people in power, looking at anime alone I could list a hundred series off the top of my head that have similar portrayals of nobility. It makes for some fairly one-note villains and a very black and white depiction of the time period.

The evils of the Upper Class in this series is just an excuse, a mechanic to make us root for Moriarty and his band of murderous allies. We all love an underdog and, generally, hate people who abuse their power so why wouldn’t we side with the person fighting to avenge the little guy, even if he’s resorting to murder to do it. The crimes are so outrageous and over the top that there’s this sense of catharsis when Moriarty finally dishes out the just deserts, and he looks so damn cool doing it. Now, I’ll never condone murder as the solution to, well, anything, but Moriarty is just so charming and charismatic it’s hard not to get pulled into his orbit. Of course it helps that this series just oozes style and atmosphere, making every frame of it a joy to watch. From the heavy shadows and smog-filled streets of London to the bright and sunny English countryside, every location and venue in this story looks great, even if it’s completely idealised. Add on some fantastic music to accompany the series and we’ve got ticks in pretty much every box.

Of course this being a Sherlock Holmes spin off, I also have to judge this series as a mystery and I think there too it also gains itself another tick in the box. Most of the cases presented in this first season (or first half of the season depending on how you look at it) are fairly simple, the majority of them having only a single episode to state their cases in, but they all work. Each case, or murder, is engagingly told and its fun to catch glimpses of all the different pieces before Moriarty, or another character I’ll get to in a minute, sits back and puts them all together for us. You get a real sense of Moriarty’s intelligence and his observational skills, there wasn’t often that I thought he was pulling an answer out of thin air. It’s more like watching a master craftsman slowly work on a piece, before stepping back to reveal the finished article. It’s just a shame he doesn’t have a proper match for his intellect until we get to that other character.

Speaking of which, what good is Moriarty without the perpetual thorn in his side, Sherlock Holmes? Part of me thinks some people are going to be upset by the change that comes over this series about halfway through, but personally it just gave me more reasons to watch this show. If all you’re after from this series is to see Moriarty murdering people then it’s probably best to stop at episode 7, because that’s where we introduce the illustrious Mr. Holmes and after that this show is his (it’s also where the cases move to two-parters which I greatly enjoyed). Now it’s not as if Moriarty disappears from the series, but the dynamic shifts with the introduction of Holmes and to me that’s really interesting. This series’ interpretation of their dynamic is with Moriarty as the grand puppet master, using Holmes to help him expose the crimes of all the rotten nobles he’s targeting. Not that this version of Holmes would mind all that much if he knew, he might argue against the method but he really just wants a puzzle to solve.

I do really like this version of Holmes, Watson and Mrs. Hudson. Honestly I wouldn’t mind a series with just them solving cases. There’s a great deal of chemistry between them all and Holmes himself is even more fun than Moriarty, for me at least. I’m interested to see where this story is going to go next in it’s second season, especially considering that ending tease. Are we going to get adaptations of classic stories, is Holmes going to stay at the forefront or will Moriarty step back up to centre stage for more than an episode? Time will tell, but either way I’m really looking forward to it.

The Verdict

In the end, Moriarty the Patriot is a fantastic series that I wholeheartedly recommend. From the expertly crafted tone to the atmospheric visuals and great music there’s a lot to love with this series, not least of which being it’s two leads, Moriarty and Holmes. If you’re after seeing the Sherlock story from a slightly different perspective, or maybe you just want to see a good story with a villain as the protagonist, then check this out. It’s elementary! (Oh come on, I had to say it at some point!)

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: Talentless Nana Review

Serial Killer’s Got Talent!

What’s the Story?

Earth is under threat from mysterious creatures known only as the Enemies of Humanity, but plans are already in place to fight against them. Situated on a secret island is a special school tasked with training the next generation of super-powered teens! Known as the ‘Talented’, can this ragtag group learn to control their powers and save the world? They’d better learn fast because something on the island is killing students at an alarming rate! Could the Enemies of Humanity have already infiltrated the island? But who are they and what exactly is it that they’re after?

The Review

Okay, I’m just going to keep this short and sweet. I like this show, it’s a lot of fun and I’m desperately hoping there’s a second season somewhere in the future. I don’t really feel comfortable saying much more than that. The first episode of this series is heavily reliant on you making certain assumptions and then turning those assumptions on their head at the end. Honestly that’s where my enjoyment of this show comes from and I think going in blind into this show is really important to get the full impact of everything. I’ll do my best to keep the rest of this review as spoiler-free as I possibly can, but even by telling you that there’s a twist I feel like I’ve spoiled things just a little bit already. So, if you’re after my recommendation, then you have it. The show isn’t perfect and I’ll try to talk about some of the flaws of this series in the paragraphs that follow, but there are just certain elements that really appeal to me.

Let’s talk about that first episode that I mentioned, honestly I wasn’t all that impressed until we got to the twist. At first glance the series is fairly generic, you’ve got teens with superpowers and a high school setting, but nothing really stands out. There aren’t even really any clues to what’s actually going on, not until we reach that last twist when we see events from a different perspective and suddenly the whole show is cast in a new light. I’ll admit my jaw dropped when we got to it because the show had lulled me into such a false sense of security, that’s why you should really go into this show blind (and this is really my last warning on that subject. Go watch the show guys!)

After the first episode we’re suddenly into a completely different genre. No longer is this a show about super-powered teens, well, okay it is, but we’ve less of a school drama and more of a peculiar murder mystery. Each story arc is now a series of cat and mouse games between a series of different players, trying to work out people’s abilities and how they’re being put to use. Almost every episode ends with a ‘Oh crap, how are they going to get out of this one moment?!’ before we hit the end of an arc and get all the answers explained to us. That is one area I think people might take issue with this series, I’ve called it a mystery but I really doubt you’ll be able to figure it all out before the answers are given. I suppose it is possible, the show doesn’t exactly hide things from you, but it doesn’t really give you any clues either. You really just have to be in it for the ride, which I more than am and the stories always make sense when we look back and slot all the pieces into place.

Having said all that, I do feel the series is pretty clear about where it’s going. I mean it hasn’t come out and said it yet, which is why I’m hoping so much for a season 2, but I have a good idea what’s it’s got planned for the next stage of the story. There’s some really interesting character work in the last couple of episodes, peeling back the layers yet again to show us that there was even more going on that we already thought. I’m excited for where this series is headed and episode thirteen ends in such a heartbreaking spot (please tell me season 2’s been confirmed!).

Now, here’s the part of the review where I wonder just how much of a free pass I’m giving this show because I enjoy its the central gimmick as much as I do. I take such joy out of all those cat and mouse games it makes me wonder just how many flaws I’m overlooking, because there are some flaws that I’ve noticed. I mean the whole supposed premise of the show makes me scratch my head. So there are these ‘Enemies of Humanity’ running around causing trouble and the government, or whoever, decides to send all its powered people off to this remote island. Doesn’t that seem really overly complicated? Also you’d think they’d have better security, or better classes because most of these people just seem to do whatever the heck they want. I mean once you know what’s actually going on it makes a little more sense, but you have to wonder why more members of the cast aren’t poking holes in this plot. It paints a lot of them as idiots and there’s nothing they do that really dissuades that opinion across the series. All the smart characters are the really important characters, which I guess is all that matters. Still, I’m more than happy to suspend my disbelief as long as I need to to enjoy these cat and mouse games!

The Verdict

In the end, Talentless Nana, is a show that is best gone into as blind as possible. The first episode may feel a little lacklustre, but stick with it to the end and it’ll surprise you. It’s not a perfect series, there are a fair few holes that can be poked in the set up and the mysteries of each arc can’t really be fully solved until the end, but I don’t really care. I love the ride of this show, hurtling from one cliffhanger ending to the next. It’s continually engaging and with an interesting, if telegraphed, path forward. I’m really hoping for that second season!

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: The Gymnastics Samurai Review

Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks?!

What’s the Story?

Jotaro Aragaki was once the pinnacle of gymnastics in Japan. Now he’s older, fighting the physical strain of his training and facing retirement square in the face. Maybe it’s time though, the next generation of gymnasts are swiftly on the rise and they’re only pulling further ahead of anything he can do. With one chance encounter though, Jotaro decides he’s not done yet, far from it. With his adoring daughter, Rei, and their new live-in ninja, Leo, cheering him on how can he possibly fail? The road ahead may be difficult and it may take everything he’s got to walk down it, but there’s a reason they call him ‘Samurai’.

The Review

Some stories can only be told by a particular culture. Don’t get me wrong, anyone in the world can tell a story about an ageing sports personality taking one last shot at glory, but would they include ninjas and talking birds of mysterious origin? I think not! I need an ‘Only in Japan’ label for some of the anime I watch because only from Japan would you get a heart-warming drama about gymnastics that also features a runaway ballet dancer disguising himself as a ninja and everyone just going along with it. And, no, I’m not going to drop the ninja thing! The analytical part of my brain wants to argue that things like Leo disguising himself as a ninja is just a distraction, they’re superfluous to the plot outside of bringing in certain iconography. Yet every time it tries the rest of my brain just yells at it to shut up because Leo is cool and we won’t have a word said against him. Indeed.

I got sucked into this series hard. I know next to nothing about gymnastics and I’m not in any way, shape or form interested in it outside of how to apply it to fight scenes. This show made me care though. Watching Jotaro struggle to get back into fighting shape, seeing the realisation dawn on him as he finally gets what people have been trying to tell him for so long, I was rooting for him every step of the way.

You have to love Jotaro, even though at times he’s made me want to pull my hair out. He’s one of those loveable idiots who are just singularly focused, not because they don’t care about other things, but because they’ve found the thing that makes them truly happy and they just want to go out and do it. Yes, sometimes he misses social cues and it takes a while for things to filter through his thick skull but I can’t help but get wrapped up in his quiet enthusiasm. He doesn’t shout or scream or make a big show of what he’s doing, he just keeps doing what he likes until he’s satisfied and I find that admirable, though obviously he’d be nothing without his support structure.

It’s the characters that make this show so let’s talk about some of the others. We’ll start with Rei and she really is the most adorable daughter. She’s supportive, somewhat obsessed with ninjas, likes acting out roles from films and sometimes she can be a bit oblivious too. I like that she has her own quirks because it stops her being too saccharin and sweet. My favourite moment of hers might just be the episode where she learns to not to keep bottling things up and just blow her lid every once in a while, whether at her dunce of a father or her school friends. It was an important moment for her, also the moment when it finally clicks in her head that, yeah, she wants to be an actress when she grows up.

That brings me to Leo, ah Leo, how do I love thee, let me count the ways. Leo is a lot of fun from the moment he turns up. Yes it takes a moment to parse the fact that he’s claiming to be a ninja and everyone is just so accepting of that, so much so that he moves in with Jotaro without anyone really questioning it. Leo is a gentle soul though, always there to help out and you can kind of understand why this eclectic bunch of people would just let him be. It’d be tempting to wonder if Leo is some new form of the ‘mainc pixie girl’ trope (manic pixie boy? No, manic pixie ninja!) but Leo isn’t just there to help everyone else out of their funks, he’s got his own funk to get out of and by the end of the series it’s Jotaro’s turn to be the inspiration. Seeing the look of awe on Leo’s face as he watches Jotaro perform was worth all the build up.

In the end this is a series about an odd bunch of people helping one another out, in their own unique ways. Not that the show skimps on the sports side of the drama, it’s just that the focus is on Jotaro, his training and his eventual performance rather than any competition. We do get glimpses of other gymnasts and their performances, though the only one with any substantial screen time is the character that slots into the ‘rival’ role, even if Jotaro doesn’t see him that way. The only thing I’ll say about the performances themselves is that while a lot of them are really well animated, there are quite a few times when the characters are swapped out for 3D models and while, I get it, it is noticeable and that brings things down a notch for me.

The Verdict

All in all, the Gymnastics Samurai is a lot of fun. It features an eccentric but loveable cast, heartfelt drama and lots of spins and flips, what more could you ask for from a gymnastics drama? I’ve fallen for each and every one of these characters, but watching Jotaro build himself back up and prove that he’s still the samurai of the gymnastics world has been a special pleasure. This show isn’t going to change the world, but I thoroughly recommend it. Indeed.

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: Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle Review

Zzz…Zzz…Zzz…Zzz…Zzz…

What’s the Story?

A good night’s sleep is really important. So when the princess of the human realm, Sya, is kidnapped by the Demon King of course her top priority is sorting out her sleeping arrangements! Whether it’s raiding the castle’s treasure chests for special items or literally cutting down demons for materials, she’ll do whatever it takes to have the perfect night’s rest! The demons really have no idea what they’ve let themselves in for, honestly, I feel sorry for them.

The Review

Sometimes I see a comedy anime and my immediate thought is, well, that joke is going to wear itself out in no time. I mean, a show about a princess trying to get a good nights rest in a demon castle? How many jokes can you really make out of a premise like that? Turns out quite a lot actually, twelve episodes worth at the very least. I initially skipped this series when it first started airing, but a couple weeks later I started hearing good things about it and so I decided to check it out. I haven’t looked back since. I love this show, it had me laughing each and every week and was one of the shows I looked forward to most during Autumn 2020 when it first aired (and there were a lot of good shows in that season). Whether it was bopping my head along to the series’ opening or sitting in anticipation of the princess’ next crazy quest, this show is an absolute blast from start to finish.

Really this is a comedy of misunderstandings, featuring an eclectic cast of people each of whom all think in their own unique ways. The demons at least get a pass on this front because, well, they’re demons, there’s nothing that says they should think along the same lines as a human. So when they get confused by human behaviour or customs I get it, they have their own quirks and tendencies that make them all lovably odd. The character that worries the me the most is the princess because, well, her thought process is so bizarre at times. I’ll state it again for the record, the central premise of this show is that the princess has been kidnapped by demons and her first concern is for her to get a better quality pillow?!

Maybe it’s her sheltered upbringing, maybe it’s the fact that most of the other human characters we meet down the line are also pretty odd, but sometimes I just don’t get this princess. And that’s what makes her so funny! It’s a two fold punch really, you’ve got the strange way that the princess twists logic followed up by her sheer resourcefulness to get stuff done. Take for example her pillow, any normal person coming across a haunted shroud would at least be hesitant, not the princess, no. She immediately identifies it as a necessary material for her upgraded pillow and proceeds to chop up them up for parts! This princess’ handicraft skills are next level, she can make anything out of anything, demon quills, teddy bear fluff, demonic tree stumps you name it!

What makes this even funnier is all the reactions of the demons trying to cope with a princess who not only doesn’t follow the rules, but doesn’t even know they exist! That’s what I mean when I say this is a comedy of misunderstandings. You’ve got the princess misunderstanding her situation, and basic logic, and the demons misunderstanding human nature and culture. They just compound one another until hilarity ensues. Now none of this would really prevent the comedy from growing stale over time, and maybe for some people it does, but what saves it for me is that it knows when to change things up. The series keeps introducing new demons and new locations, whether we’re exploring different parts of the castle, other castles or even back in the human world every once in a world. It gives us new situations to play with and with new demons added to the roster we get new personalities thrown into the mix.

The final cherry on top for me is just how loveable these characters are. Yes the princess is an oblivious force of nature and can be quite the terror to the demons around her, but she’s never mean about it. She’s just doing what she wants to do and doesn’t think things through. The demons likewise are all adorable dorks in their own way, the Demon King especially. You can really feel the bond that forms between them and the princess and they do actually manage to have some fairly deep moments later on. I just love all these characters and I would quite happily spend the rest of my days with them, how about a spinoff? ‘Sleepy Reviewer in the Demon Castle’ anyone?

The Verdict

In the end, Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, is a show that’s a lot of fun from beginning to end. With a loveable cast and one crazy misreading of a situation after another it’s packed full of laughs and people I could spend all day with. The constant editions to the cast and the changing location help to keep things feelings fresh and made this one of the surprise hits of Autumn 2020 for me. So, if you’re not feeling too sleepy yourself why not check this show out? As for me I think it’s a good time for a nap, now, where did those demon teddy bears go?

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: Golden Kamuy Season 3 Review

Hinna! Hinna! Hinna! Hinna!

What’s the Story?

On the trail of Asirpa, Sugimoto and the members of the 7th Division head to Karafuto, north of Japan. There they’ll have to battle the bitter cold, bare-chested Russians and one vicious wolverine. That’s before they even catch up with Asirpa and have to deal with her uncle and everyone else who is trying to unlock the secret of the lost gold. Will the key to the puzzle finally be found? Will Asirpa learn more of who her father really was? Sugimoto doesn’t care, he only wants to get Asirpa back and he’ll take on all challengers to do it. He doesn’t have to worry, he is the Immortal Sugimoto after all!

The Review

Golden Kamuy is back and it’s better than ever! Okay, I’m going to try to reign the hype train in on this one, but you should know that I love this show and having just finished the final episode of the third season I may just love it more than I ever have before. If you want to check out my review of the first two seasons then click HERE, but the summarised version is that, as I’ve already said, I love this show. It’s such a perfect mix of, well, everything. Comedy, action, suspense, drama, it’s even a compelling historical piece and cooking show to boot and it balances all of these aspects perfectly. One minute your in the middle of a heart-stopping showdown between two equally ruthless snipers, the next your laughing your head off at one of the countless dick jokes that the series has to offer.

This third season picks up right where the second left off, with Asirpa travelling with her uncle and Sugimoto doing his best to follow and eventually catch up with her. For me this season improves things in one important area, and that’s the number of important characters directly involved in events. My only real gripe about the first two seasons, outside of the CGI bears which thankfully don’t make an appearance here, is that this show has a massive cast. Don’t get me wrong I love each and every one of these lunatics, but sometimes it’s hard to keep track of everyone. Each character has their own rich back story and goals and it’s a lot to keep in my head (then again that’s only really a problem while watching it weekly, I imagine binging this show will easily solve this problem).

This season though is much simpler, we have two groups with two succinct goals. Asirpa’s group is out to learn more about her dad in the hopes of uncovering the secret to cracking the code to the gold, while Sugimoto’s group obviously wants to get Asirpa back. We do get development on a lot of character’s back stories and plenty of new characters added to the mix, but this streamlined narrative was so much easy easier to keep in my head. Also, as I mentioned there are no terrible CGI bears so the visuals were a vast improvement on the whole.

The action is also top notch this season, the previously mentioned sniper battle being a particular highlight, though I also enjoyed the bare-knuckled, bare-chested fight against the Russians. Some of the fights do get really brutal though, not that there weren’t brutal fights in the last two seasons, but some of the confrontations this time around were particularly wince-inducing. I don’t know how some of these people are still alive, but I’m so glad that they are. We also get a lot of new locations this season as the groups move towards and eventually through Russia, giving us access to a lot of new cultures and settings to explore. Add on some solid comedy moments and you’ve got the triumvirate of good entertainment, action, comedy and education!

I don’t really know what else to say, I love this series and this season gave me everything that I wanted. It’s so good to see Asirpa and Sugimoto back together again and, while I did complain about the large cast, I have missed a lot of them and I’ll be glad to see them again. Bring on season 4!

The Verdict

Golden Kamuy season 3 is another sterling season in a stellar series. If you haven’t already checked out this show out then I urge you to, right now. Make sure to start at season one otherwise you’ll really get lost and, please, look past the CGI bear this show has so much to offer beyond that. I love this show, as I’ve already said a thousand times. I love these characters and learning more about them and the world they live in and I can’t wait to learn even more. Good food, good company and plenty of action and intrigue, what more could you ask for from a series?

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: Patlabor: The Movie Review

Police with mechs, do I really need to say anything else?

What’s the Story?

In the near future, of 1999, a new technology has revolutionised construction, the Labor. These mechanical giants allow for building on a scale previously unheard of, such as the Babylon project which hopes to reclaim land from Tokyo Bay for the ever crowded city. Of course with every new technology there are those that would use it for ill and so the police set up the Special Vehicle Section 2 who, with their Patlabors (Patrol Labors), fight these new cases of crime.

The suicide of a leading Labor programmer leads the officers of SVU division 2 into a potentially devastating case. Something is driving Labors crazy, setting them loose to rampage across the city, but what is the cause? What’s more with a typhoon due to hit Japan the potential for disaster is at an all time high. Is this all the mad revenge of a twisted man, or a final warning before things go too far?

The Review:

Patlabor is one of those franchises where I wish I could get hold of more of the content. As it stands I’ve managed to get my hands on the first two movies and the early days OVA series. I know there’s a TV series out there somewhere, but I’ve yet to track down a copy in the UK and this is an older series to begin with so my hopes have been steadily dwindling on that front. It’s kinda infuriating because Patlabor has such an amazingly simple concept, what if we had a mecha series where said mechs weren’t just weapons of war, but used as they potentially could be in real life (you know, if we had that kind of technology). The Labors of Patlabor are primarily used for construction, obviously the ones we follow are the ones used by the police and there are some military ones hanging around, but that’s not what the bulk of Labors were made for. There’s a depth and a realism to the world that this franchise creates that I just adore, not that the series is always serious, sometimes its just plain goofy and I love that side of it too (seriously check out the early days OVA series, the Godzilla parody is worth it alone, but there are some really great episodes in that series, especially the last three).

Enough talk about the franchise as a whole though, let’s get on to the subject of today’s review, the first movie. Honestly out of what I have seen of the Patlabor franchise this film is my favourite. It’s got an interesting plot, some gorgeously animated sequences and on the whole it’s just a lot of fun. My only real gripe with it is that it’s probably not the best place to start with Patlabor. I mean this film was the first thing I saw of the franchise, but I appreciate it a lot better after having watched the early days OVA series (which I’ll just plug again, go see it!). You see the film doesn’t really spend a lot of time introducing you to its characters or delving too deeply into who they all are. The characters are just there, doing what they do. Noah fusses over her Labor, which she calls Alphonse. Asuma takes the lead on the investigation, while also blowing his lid at several points and being a jerk to Noah on occasion. Ota is as gun crazy as ever. Then there’s Captain Goto, the puppet master, always one step ahead and manipulating everyone to do what he wants. Goto’s my favourite character.

The focus for this film is more on it’s plot and themes. It’s quite a ponderous film, but then it was directed by Mamoru Oshii, yes that one, so that should give you some idea of what you’re in for. There are several long, almost silent shots of Tokyo as well as scenes of characters quietly philosophising and yet the film never once lost my attention. Between some of the more gorgeous shots and animation sequences, as well as some fun character interactions, it’s hard not to be engaged with this film, but I also enjoy the ideas it’s playing around with. The central question of which is how much progress is too much? And in our rush to get the next new, shiny thing, are we leaving something important behind? You could apply that to this film itself, this is ‘old-school’ 80s cell animation after all. No matter where you stand on the debate between older anime and more modern productions, you have to admit that cell animation has a certain quality to it that is missing from anything since the 2000s. Not to rag on digital animation techniques, for me the majority of what we get today is better looking, but it’s also nice to take a break from the clean, bright colours and appreciate something a bit more textured every once in a while. Plus there’s all those great old school mechanical designs to look at.

Back to the film though, it’s not entirely all talk and philosophy. There’s plenty of great mecha-on-mecha action, but all of that action is grouped at either the start or the climax of the film. The rest is about the mystery of rampaging labors and police work. Asuma gets the lions’ share of things to do, which makes sense since he has a personal connection involved in this case and his job is supposed to be about strategy and directing the others so it makes sense for him to puzzle things out. Goto gets some great moments manipulating Asuma into working on the case in the first place and Noah gets a couple of moments, including a pretty badass one towards the end. Everyone else is pretty much relegated to the background unfortunately, but again characters aren’t really the focus here. The mystery itself is well-paced and always engaging, with the threat escalating as Division 2 realise the full scope of the problem. As I said, out of the OVA series and the two films I’ve seen, this is my favourite and one I keep coming back to. It’s also my favourite Mamoru Oshii work, you know just to get all the Ghost in the Shell fans angry at me.

The Verdict:

In the end, while I don’t think Patlabor: The Movie is the best gateway into this franchise, it’s certainly the best of the franchise (out of what I’ve seen). A smart, atmospheric mystery paired with fun characters, gorgeously designed mecha and some top notch animation. If you feel like taking a step back in time to watch an older anime film, then I thoroughly recommend this. Also if you want to check out some of Mamoru Oshii’s work before Ghost in the Shell or watch a mecha story where the protagonists aren’t sullen teenagers forced to fight in a war (not that those aren’t great in their own right) then check this out!

Also if you want some more mecha action, make sure to check out Mechanical Anime Reviews this month for Mecha March!

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: Hilda Season 2 Review

Hilda and the Expanding World!

What’s the Story?

By now Hilda has gotten used to living in the walled city of Trolberg. She may still miss living out in the wild sometimes, but with her friends by her side she’s discovered that there’s more than enough adventures to be found within the walls. From krakens to immortal Vikings, the hidden library of the witches to the return of the Tide Mice, what more could a wild-at-heart girl ask for? Of course not everything is sunny in Trolberg, Hilda is keeping these little adventures a secret from her mum and that’s causing some tension at home. Then there’s the efforts of the Safety Patrol that generally do more harm than good around the city. Also, is it me, or are those trolls getting closer to the walls?

The Review

Hilda’s back! I really loved the first season of this cosy, utterly charming little show, as anyone who read my review of it will be able to tell you (you can read it for yourselves HERE). So, how does the second season stack up? Well, it’s more of the same and that’s exactly what I wanted! This series is like settling down with a warm cup of tea after coming in from a wintry day, possibly with a cucumber sandwich or two. It’s effortlessly captivating, from the superb visuals and animation to the heart-warming characters and inventive situations and creature designs. I could spend the rest of the my days running around the streets of Trolberg, going on adventures with Hilda and the gang, but before I turn this into another non-stop gush let’s talk about what this series does different to the first.

In my review of the first season I talked about how the story kept evolving, and that is true of this second season too, more so in fact. For starters a lot of the elements and characters of the first season return and are further explored and developed. Want to know what happened to those Tide Mice? Want to see more of the witch librarian and see more how magic works in this world? That’s all here and more. It really makes the world of the series feel like a living breathing place, actions have consequences and one adventure will have a knock-on effect on another down the line. It’s also nice that Frida and David get to meet characters that they didn’t run into last season, but the rest of the cast did.

That brings me to the biggest development this season, and the closest this series has gotten to an over-arching plot, Ahlberg. New head of the Safety Patrol, he’s keen to be seen as the hero of the town and his vanity and various schemes often cause problems throughout the season. From antagonising the local wildlife to interfering with forces that only make things worse, it’s almost as if Hilda has a recurring antagonist at last. I say almost because the majority of the time Ahlberg is treated as a joke and dismissed, a fearful idiot who just doesn’t know what he’s doing and never gets any real comeuppance. For those looking for his comeuppance I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer. There’s no real resolution to the problems he’s causing by the season’s end and, since the Mountain King story hasn’t been adapted yet, I’m assuming all that’s going into season 3. (Having read the Mountain King comic though I can’t wait to see it animated!) The most we get for now is the deputy starting to see Ahlberg for the egomaniac he really is.

Ahlberg isn’t the only problem for Hilda this season though, there’s the continual rising tension between her and her mother. It’s typical kids show stuff really, kid goes out on these wild, fantastical adventures and doesn’t tell their parents what they’ve been up to, leading to arguments when they’re finally caught out. Where Hilda is different though it that it goes to great lengths to show both sides of the argument. Hilda’s mum is genuinely worried about Hilda, after all she knows about some of the stuff that’s out there and she knows how headstrong Hilda can be. Hilda on the other hand just wants to roam and enjoy herself, and in her head she’s not telling her mum about this stuff because she doesn’t want her to worry. Of course she doesn’t realise that by not telling her stuff she’s actually making her mum worry more. You can feel the love between these two and the moments where they get to show that, as well as going on little adventures together, are just magical.

There are also quiet a few tearjerker moments in this season, for me personally the ones that really got me where the time travel episode and the Twig episode. The Twig episode I was expecting to get to me and it did, but the time travel one managed to get me to care more about a couple of ancillary characters in twenty minutes than some shows have managed in twenty episodes.

On a final note, I can’t end this review without once more mentioning how good this show looks. The character designs are just perfect, simple and yet endlessly-endearing and really creative when it comes to the various creatures that pop up throughout the series. I really love the use of colour in this show’s visuals, especially when paired up with the changes in lighting or when anything is glowing. There’s a warmth that just oozes off of the screen and pretty much every episode has at least a dozen frames that I want to decorate my walls with. As I said in my previous review, this show is just beautiful in multiple senses of the word.

The Verdict

If you enjoyed the first season of Hilda, then you’re definitely going to enjoy this one too. It’s more of the same, but what else could you really ask for from this show? It’s sweet, it’s heart-warming and oh so very close to being perfect. The animation, character decision and sound design are all top notch and the world and characters continue to evolve in natural ways. Fair warning, the series does end on a cliffhanger and there’s clearly more to come so we’ve all got to await that elusive season 3, which I’m more than happy to wait for. The best things are worth the wait.

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 the Movie Review

He said it! He FINALLY said it!

What’s the Story?

It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. That’s how the saying goes, but Akihiko isn’t so sure it’s true. He loved Ugetsu and then he lost him, but even after all this time he can’t seem to let go. Then there’s Haruki, so clearly in love with Akihiko and yet he can’t bring himself to say it, but there’s something there, right? Amidst all this tangle of feelings and unspoken truths, the guy’s band is starting to get some attention. They’ve made it through to the final stage of a competition and Mafuyu wants to write a new song. Can they get ready for the contest and have a new song ready in time, or will love be the spanner in the works? Mafuyu’s got something to say and just like before, he’s going to express it through music.

The Review

Given was one of my favourite anime of 2019, if not the whole decade (I really should have put together a list of my top 10 series from 2010-2020, ah well, maybe some other time). It’s a series that took me completely by surprise, normally I prefer my romance as a subplot to something else, but here it’s the main course and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was completely won over by the charming characters, gentle atmosphere and the odd subversion of typical romantic cliches (if you want more details you can check out my review of the first season HERE). So, all that being said, how does the movie stack up? It’s very good. It doesn’t quite make it to the unmissable stamp like the series did, but it’s still an incredibly solid film and if you’ve seen the series then you should definitely be checking this out. My complaints are minor at best and down to personal taste more than anything else.

Let’s start with probably my biggest complaint, there’s a shocking lack of Mafuyu and Uenoyama in this film. They are there, they have a couple of scenes together, Mafuyu gets some scenes interacting with others and then he gets to sing at the end, that’s about it. This is not their film, which upsets me because those two are just adorable together and I love every minute that they’re on screen together. Fair is fair though, there are other characters in this series and they deserve some of the spotlight, so why not hand over the movie to them. If you’ve skipped the story section of this review, for whatever reason, this film belongs to Akihiko, Haruki and Ugetsu, picking up on the plot threads that were left dangling at the end of the series and exploring their tangled mess of a love triangle.

That disappointment at the lack of Mafuyu and Uenoyama aside, this is an engaging love story. You feel the frustration, hurt and longing that makes up all three of the lead characters, each of them struggling to either move on from or towards a relationship. There are some wonderfully awkward moments and gentle bits of humour that I love this series for, but there are also some really intense, emotionally-charged scenes. Honestly this is a lot more what I was expecting from a romance series, with characters unable to bring themselves to talk about their feelings openly and occasionally getting lost in misunderstandings. That’s probably what docks this movie another point as one of the aspects I loved so much about the series was when it subverted common romance tropes. Still, that doesn’t make the tropes bad and they’re certainly well done, I felt everything this movie wanted me to feel. I mean I was tearing up by the time those last couple of scenes were playing and I practically jumped out of my seat when Akihiko stumbled his way into his confession.

One last thing to talk about, if you’ve looking for a big blockbuster of a film, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. The series was a very gentle, low key affair and, some of the more intense scenes aside, the movie follows suit. If anything it feels like three or four episodes of the series crammed into an hour’s slot. If you’re after something explosive and ‘big budget’, well that’s just not the kind of story this is. For every time the dial gets turned up to eleven, it’s often followed by a more calming, sweet and funny scene, which is how I prefer this series. On the visual front the movie looks just slightly better than the series, which adds to that feeling that this is a few extra episodes bolted together, not that that’s a bad thing. Honestly I prefer this film that way, I will always be down for more episodes of this series in whatever form they choose to arrive and now the stage has been set for the story to continue in whatever direction it wants. Give me a season 2 already!

The Verdict

All in all, Given the movie is a great continuation of the series I loved so much. By the end we’ve tied up a few plot threads that had been left dangling, gotten to know some of the characters a lot better and set the stage for stories to come. The romance may be a bit more tropey that it was in the series and there’s a shocking lack of Mafuyu and Uenoyama for my liking, but it’s fair that other people get the spotlight for a while. It’s a sweet, engaging and often funny love story, which is what the Given series always excels at. If you haven’t seen the series, check that out first, if you have then what are you waiting for? Check this out if you haven’t already!

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.