Anime Corner: Cerberus Review

Blog Cerberus Review Title

“I’m a wandering swordsman!” No, no you are not.

 

What’s the Story?

A far off continent lives in fear of the dark dragon Dagan Zot, an unstoppable creature that leaves nothing but death and destruction in its wake. Ten years ago an attempt was to seal away the dragon, but someone interfered, freeing the dragon and killing all of the sorcerer’s that tried to stop him. The only known survivor of this incident was a young boy named Hiiro, who has spent the time since training with the sword so that he might slay the evil Dagan Zot. There’s just one teenie weenie problem, Hiiro kind of sucks as a swordsman.

The Review

Disappointed is probably the best way to sum up my feelings towards Cerberus. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t have any great expectations for this series, it’s your stereotypical fantasy with a bunch of misfits traveling across varying landscapes (though admittedly there was a lot of desert), battling monsters and magic all with the end goal of obtaining the Great McGuffin and defeat the unspeakable evil. It feels a lot like the kind of fantasy I would have seen as a kid, with simple story-telling and clearly defined good and evil. That’s what kept me going through the first few episodes; unfortunately the novelty of that soon wore off.

This series has a lot of problems, but one of the main ones is how it squanders a decent idea, or drives it face first into the ground. Idea one, the villain, Nambuuko. Now I liked the villain at first, I mean evil businessmen have been done to death, but it was nice to have a villain that had a plan that went beyond “I want to rule the world!” His goal as first presented is to use the chaos and fear spread by the dark dragon to ignite a war, a war were people will be buying his weapons. It’s not deep or complex, but it makes sense, you may not agree with the plan, but you can see it working. Not to mention that Nambuuko is a good manipulator, spreading rumours and dominating the market. Of course this is all before the last couple of episodes where he turns from a villain with some intelligence into a cackling madman who wants to fuse with the dark dragon (you know, ‘cause who keeps a vaguely interesting villain when we can have a generic stereotype?).

Idea two, the hero, Hiiro. Now Hiiro was also kind of fun during the beginning, a lot time in anime you get a protagonist who has a hidden talent, so that when they’re backed into a corner they can unleash it, beat the impossible odds and show off just how awesome they really are. Hiiro acts as if he has such a hidden talent, but when the moments arrives for him to show his stuff, he falls flat on his face. As I mentioned before, Hiiro kind of sucks, which adds to the novelty of the series, you keep expecting that this time he’ll get it right, but never does. Even when he shows actual power or talent later in the series, he still sucks because he either can’t control it, or never uses it on anyone.

Hiiro’s main problem is that he never learns. He keeps insisting he’s a wandering swordsman, when every instance we have of him in a swordfight ends with him on his behind. Later on we learn that he’s actually a fairly awesome mage, does he decide to swap professions? Nope, still a swordsman. Even all the other characters agree that he’s useless with a sword in his hand, the boy can’t beat baby slimes for crying out loud! It doesn’t help that he’s so arrogant about it, constantly boasting about his skill and how he will slay Dagan Zot. He quickly goes from being a funny, oddball protagonist to one of the most infuriating characters I have ever come across.

The rest of the characters are fairly two dimensional, we’ve got the untrustworthy cat girl who is only on her own side, then there’s the streetwise orphan boy, the money-grubbing dragon person and then probably the two best characters in the anime who come out the other end still intact. There’s Giruu the half-ogre and the weirdo human doll, Saraato. Giruu really should be the protagonist here, he’s smart, dependable, a badass with a sword and one mean cook, he also has a pretty tragic back story that if given a bit more focus could have led to some decent character exploration (but why would we want that?). Giruu was the character you could always rely upon to kick butt and take names, so he was always welcome while on screen.

Saraato was just pure joy though. The human doll character isn’t a new one, but Saraato is a beam of sunshine on a rainy day. I can only really put it down to a combination of her cheery disposition and the fact that she’s clearly off in her own little world. Every weird little phrase she comes out with is both beautifully poetic, and head-scratchingly bizarre. I mean she first properly appears in the series when she steps out of a dragon’s mouth, puts her head to Hiiro’s chest and says his heart has a nice sound. My favourite little running joke is when Hiiro gives her a gold coin to buy something from the market, but no one having explained the concept of money to her, Saraato carries the coin around like it’s a treasured gift, referring to it as a shiny pebble. This girl is weird, and I love her for it.

Lastly one of the other big problems this series has is in the pacing department. Because this series is only 13 episodes it feels compressed to no end. There’s no room for any real development or building of intrigue, it’s just jumping from one event to the next without a chance to breath. Hey, Nambuuko’s found a way to merge humans and orges together to form powerful foot soldiers, who cares move along. Hey Hiiro’s actually doing some magic training, who cares move along. Hey, we just revealed that the cat girl has been selling information to the bad guys, who cares… you get the idea. This means that when we get to the final battle with Dagan Zot he goes down in the blink of an eye because there’s no time for anything else.

The Verdict

In the end, Cerberus isn’t a very good series. It doesn’t do anything terrible, but poor pacing, a lack of development and characters ranging from cardboard cutouts to infuriating jerks really hold back a series which while it was never going to good, could have been decent. The animation is fairly lackluster, but there are a couple of cool designs and there are two characters worth your passing attention. Give the first couple of episodes a watch, but it won’t get much better after that.

 

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

Anime Corner: Kiznaiver Review

Blog Kiznaiver Review Title

The Breakfast Club Anime Style!

What’s the Story?

Agata Katsuhira is unable to feel pain. This makes him feel distant from his fellow students and he struggles to understand their thoughts and feelings. A rather dodgy secret experiment may be his hope for salvation as he and six other students are kidnapped and have surgery performed on them. Now they feel one another’s pain, every bump and scratch is shared, with the hope that this will lead to them sharing feelings and thoughts as well. Is pain enough to make us understand one another though? And are friends omnipotent like soy sauce? (Sorry, I really like Nico and that line from the final episode is brilliant.)

The Review

I love anime, and this show is an example of why. When you get down to the bare bones of the series it’s a fairly simple story. This is really just an examination of friendship and seeing how different people can find a connection. It’s a well-worn trope, you take a ragtag team of misfits with varying quirks and backgrounds, throw them together and through high school hijinks they form a close-knit group that you wouldn’t think possible from the outside. Add in a couple of love triangles and some heartache and you have the recipe for a lot of school-based dramas. Only anime would come at this subject from such a bizarre angle though.

This perfect little city with the odd mascots wandering around is actually being run by a super secret cabal of researchers who believe the only way to bring about world peace is to make humans understand one another better, and they’re going to do that through pain! (Seriously, any other shows and these guys would be stood around cackling in dark shadowy rooms. Saying that I’m not convinced that they aren’t the bad guys, I mean not only do they force this experiment on to people without any form of consent, but they’ve done this before with small children!) I do give credit to the anime for at least coming up with a reason why the connection has to start with pain, apparently it’s easier to share negative feelings than positive ones (you just have to look at a good chunk of the internet to know that’s true, and yes that is kind of depressing).

It’s a wacky concept and I love it for that. Saying that, this is one of Trigger’s tamer series, there’s no huge explosion or supernatural threats, no reveal that clothes are actually parasites from outer space or having a middle schooler’s first love turning into a giant gun, but it doesn’t really need any of that. The closest we get to the usual Trigger madness is in seeing those guys in the creepy mascot costumes standing around in the background before attacking our heroes. The point of Kiznaiver is about these crazy kids and seeing if they can get their act together and form lasting friendships, even without the forced surgery. Of course we all know what’s going to happen by the end, but the fun is in getting there, in sharing the laughs and the tears and occasionally hitting one another when being stupid, after all, isn’t that what friendship is?

That brings me to the characters, who don’t exactly set the world on fire. Don’t get me wrong I like them, I did enjoy my time in their company, but there’s not exactly all that much for me to sink my teeth into. Katsuhira is our emotionless lead and it’s said lack of emotions that makes it hard to invest in him, because if he can’t dredge up an emotion why should we? It’s not until the latter half of the anime when he’s struggling to put his thoughts in order and actually try to understand the emotions of those around him, while trying to express his own, that you start to root for the guy. (I will say this though, that scream when Katsuhira meets his childhood friends again is heart-rending.) Saying all of that, Katsuhira isn’t a bad character during the first half, he’s perfectly pleasant to be around, it’s just that you have to wait for him to get interesting.

As for the other characters, most of them are fairly simple. Chidori is the girl next door unable to own up to her true feelings. Tenga is the tough guy with a heart of gold. Nico is the goofball, with a secret mature streak. Yuta is the popular ladies’ man, who’s a little self-conscious due to some body confidence issues in his past. Honoka is distant and reserved, having been hurt badly in the past and afraid of having it happen again. (On a side note, out of all the ships this series let’s set sail, Honoka and Yuta is the one for me, their scene together in the final episode where she says she wants to make him fat to stop the ‘pests’ buzzing around was just sheer perfection for me.) Then there’s Hisomu, the masochist, with this plot you can imagine that he’s a unique member of the group and also very fun to have around (I can only imagine the fun the voice actor had playing the part). Finally we have Sonozaki, Katsuhira’s childhood friend and Chidori’s main rival for his affections. Sonozaki is also a bit emotionless, but is also pretty blunt when it comes to what she’s thinking, which can be fun.

When it comes down to it, individually these characters aren’t anything special, but it’s the way they interact and bond that’s so fun to watch, and I kind of think that was the whole point of Kiznaiver.

The Verdict

In the end, while Kiznaiver is hardly a revolutionary anime, it’s still a very enjoyable one. The concept is fun, as is watching how all the characters interact with one another. There are moments that are heart-warming and moments that are heart-breaking, and considering the whole point of this anime is about getting people to feel what others feel I’d have to put that in the success column. Add on top Trigger’s usual gorgeous art style and some good animation and you’ve got an anime that’s worth connecting with.

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

Anime Corner: Flying Witch Review

Blog Flying Witch Review Title

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

What’s the Story?

Makoto is a witch moving in with relatives while she completes the last stages of her training. That’s kind of it for the plot. We follow Makoto as she deals with the everyday trails of being witch, from pickling radishes to admiring the view from atop a flying whale. It’s a world just left of ours, where the weird and ordinary sit side by side, but it’s a very beautiful world and relaxing place to stay.

The Review

I get the feeling this is going to be a shorter review than most. There isn’t a great deal to talk about with Flying Witch. It’s a very simple anime and that’s fine. It’s a slice of life anime just with added witches, and much like the countryside in which it’s set it has a gentle pace to it. There’s no overarching plot, no supernatural menace or even any major conflict. Each week it’s just a case of what interesting thing are the gang going to meet this week, whether that be a lesson on the best way to start a vegetable patch in your back garden, or following the cat around for a day, or hanging out with a fortune teller who turns into a dog person during the day (I said it was gentle, I never said it wasn’t imaginative).

Now if you’re coming into this series looking for excitement or a deep character study, move along guys, you won’t find that here. This anime is a break from that kind of stuff, after watching giant robots pulverising one another and having ancient evils resurrected its nice just to take thirty minutes each week, sink into my chair, and relax. The feel of this anime reminds me a lot of Studio Ghibli films, mostly Kiki’s Delivery Service, it feels a lot like that film’s spiritual sibling, just with less flying machines.

The characters are all pretty pleasant too. None of them are that deep or nuanced, but they’re fun people to hang around. Akane, Makoto’s older sister, is probably a favourite character and is hilarious more often than not, especially when she’s drunk (and she gets drunk a lot). She’s the most experienced witch around, but she’s so relaxed and carefree it’s sometimes hard to remember that she’s supposed to be a really good witch, it doesn’t help that she lazes around the house more than the cats.

Chinatsu is next, she’s the little kid character, who against all expectation is sweet and charming as opposed to being annoying. Some of the best moments from the first few episodes is her reaction to the weird goings on brought about by having Makoto moving in, especially compared to her big brother’s rather deadpan reactions to spirits and magical things popping (you can tell he’s used to this kind of weirdness and just goes with it nowadays). Chinatsu is probably one of the few characters to get any actual development, as she goes from hiding behind walls at the sight of messenger spirits, to running towards them and dreaming of one day becoming a witch herself.

The rest of the characters are fairly light on details, but big on personality. They may only have a few quirks to define them, but the warmth the voice actors put into them makes them all instantly likeable. This extends past our regular secondary characters out into all the magical characters that pop up. Even ones that don’t have any dialogue like the ladybugs or the personification of night all come across as people I’d like to sit down with and have a conversation.

I also really like the magic of this world. There’s nothing big or flashy, there’s barely even a cloud of smoke. Instead the magic feels very natural and low key. A few drawn symbols, mix in some ingredients and perhaps a chant or two and there you go, and it’s not as if the magic isn’t powerful. You’ve got teleportation, the obvious flying on a broom, Akane even casts one spell that accidentally turns the landscape monochrome (now you no longer need Photoshop!). There’s other spells too, like ‘Summon Ravens’ which goes about as well as you could expect, or the one that makes sweets that either make you laugh uncontrollably or cry not stop. However weird it gets, the magic feels like an extension of nature, which fits in with this world a great deal.

On an animation front, it’s nothing mind blowing, but it gets the job done. Everything has this pastel look to it that keeps things looking bright, but never too much so, cheerful is probably the best way to describe it. The designs don’t exactly break the bank, even on the more fantastical creatures, though I suppose that’s in keeping with the rest of the anime. It’s very simple and charming and all there really is to say about it.

The Verdict

All in all, the Flying Witch is a nice little breather from the manic craziness of other anime. It’s a gentle little slice of life with a dash of fantasy. It’s probably not something anyone will binge watch, but as a relaxing little break once a week it’s perfectly enjoyable. So if you fancy a change of pace and are in the mood for something light but satisfying, then pop on by to the Flying Witch, it’s worth a short stay if nothing 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. 

Anime Corner: Joker Game Review

Blog Joker Game Review Title

The name’s…the name’s…hold on; let me do a Wikipedia search I’ll find one of their names.

What’s the Story?

As the fires of World War Two are beginning to smoulder, Japan secretly establishes a spy training organisation known as D Agency. The men of this elite group are monsters, having pasted tests designed to push them beyond their physical and mental limits to earn their place in the group. They may all look quite dapper in a suit, but they’re not into flashy cars, outlandish gadgets or attractive women, these men are real spies, ready to tackle everything from bulb-headed spymasters to rival organisations. Just be glad they prefer not to kill.

The Review

This anime didn’t turn out as I was expecting it to, which is actually really appropriate for this show. From the first couple of episodes you get the impression that this is going to be about the military guy (I can’t remember his name, but then there’s only one character who’s name I can remember, but we’ll get to him), anyway, the two episodes give the impression that this is going to be the story of the military guy learning to break free from the rigid and blind faith of a soldier and embrace the more objective world of the spy. We’re supposed to see that development, getting to know the rest of the D Agency members along the way, before there’s some big showdown between the military and D Agency, where our hero will finally make his choice.

Yeah, none of that happens, I’m not even sure if the military guy shows his face after episode two. I admit I was kind of thrown for a loop when I realised that wasn’t happening. Instead we end up with an episodic series of one off spy adventures, each one featuring a new character and set in a different locale and time. Frankly if this wasn’t such a good, well-written show, this way of doing things would have seriously back fired.

Each episode can be viewed by itself with no knowledge of the surrounding ones. In this age of overarching stories and decompressed plotlines, it’s actually kind of refreshing to have 23 minutes of perfectly formed, self-contained story each week. We get action, intrigue, clever twists and some really nice animation all brought to a close in a satisfactory conclusion. I’m amazed that none of the stories feel rushed, we come in, meet the players, then leave and it’s all done. It’s not something I want all the time (I am a sucker for an overarching plot), but it is nice as a change.  Variety plays an important part in keeping things entertaining. We move from the frosty streets of Germany, to a cruise and back around to the ports of Hong Kong, so there’s always something new to keep you interested.

This episodic nature does have a few drawbacks though. The main one has to be with the characters, because we know nothing of them and spend so little time with them there’s never any way to build a connection. The characters are like mayflies, their existences are so short, flying in and out you can even get to know them. It doesn’t help that I can never tell any of them apart. They’re all young men in suits, their only real distinguishing features are small variations in hair style and eyebrow shape (there’s none of the typical anime neon green spiky hair here). Now from a narrative standpoint this makes sense, these guys are spies, proper spies, standing out is the last thing they want to do. From an audiences’ perspective though, I don’t want to spend ten minutes every episode trying to spot the main character, admittedly it can be fun in some cases when D Agency members unmasks themselves.

There is one character whose name I do remember though, and who I do have a connection with, and that’s Lt. Col. Yuuki. He’s the mastermind who created D Agency and he is now my ideal of a badass spy. Forget James Bond, Yuuki’s the guy to take down the bad guy. He’s not some rugged pretty boy in a tuxedo, he’s a menace with a smile and a stare that could make a youkai wet the bed. What makes him such a marvel though is just how far ahead his plans go. The man has plans within plans within plans. Trying to unravel the schemes and mysteries around Yuuki is like trying to solve ten Gordian knots all at once. I think my favourite episode has to be episode 10 where we see just how far Yuuki is willing to go to keep himself in the shadows.

The main selling point of this anime has to be that these are proper spy stories. Now I love a bit of James Bond (and I’m sorry that I keep bringing this up), but he’s more of an escapist fantasy than a spy, this is how you do spy stories. It’s about wit and guile, moves and counter-moves, letting your enemies think they’re in the lead when they’ve been dancing to your tune the whole time. That’s how a real spy should work, and that’s how these guys work with clever schemes and twisting plots, which more than make up for any flaws.

The Verdict

Joker Game didn’t play out the way I expected, and while there is a small part of me that longs to see how the creators here would have handled an ongoing plot, I’m more than happy with what I got instead. If you’re in the mood for some stand alone spy adventures there’s no better place to look at the moment. The characters can be hard to invest in due to their lack of presence and relatable characteristics, but there’s more than enough intrigue, action and clever twists to carry you through to the end of each episode. So, go on, pick a card and see if you get the joker.

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

Anime Corner: The Lost Village Review

Blog Lost Village Review Title

The Unlucky Hippopotamus? Ha, he can’t be that unlucky, he didn’t have to sit through this!

What’s the Story?

30 screaming melodramatic idiots (wow, the anger came out quicker than I was expecting on this one), anyway, 30 idiots want to escape life’s problems and so get on a bus to find a mythical village where you’re supposed to be able to live free of the outside world. They manage to track the place down, but it’s not the paradise they were expecting. There’s something out in the woods, something that makes sounds like a bear, but no one can agree on what it looks like and it doesn’t want them to leave. (Which, frankly, I’m all for, please, keep the ravaging morons locked up in one place where I never have to see them again.)

The Review

You may have noticed that I’m a little angry with this series, and I don’t really know why. I can’t think of anything to justify the level of animosity I’m currently feeling towards this series. It’s not like I’m disappointed with the series, the signs where there from the beginning that this was going to be bad and I pretty much gave up on it by the halfway point, (I only really stuck with it out of the same fascination that stops you from looking away from a car crash). The series isn’t offensive, it’s stupid certainly, there were several times when I was banging my head against the table (though there were a few occasions when things just got so bad that I had to laugh).  All in all, I suppose what I’m feeling is just a gut reaction from having only recently finished watching the last episode as I write this. Pretty soon this feeling with fade to indifference as I consign this anime to a forgotten part of my headspace, it’s not worth my time, or anyone’s really.

Ok, review over, good job everyone, see you all next week.

Oh alright, I suppose I can stick around to dissect this clunker a bit more. I’m going to go into a few spoilers at this point to give proper examples, so if are still tempted to check this anime out you’ve been warned (also, congratulations, you’re officially a masochist, welcome to the club).

Anyway, the main issue this series has is in its execution. The premise itself isn’t too bad, a bunch of people want to leave their troubled lives behind, but find that they can’t escape their trauma and must deal with that while facing supernatural monsters in an abandoned town. First spoiler, the monsters are actually the embodiment of the character’s trauma and can only be vanquished by the character’s accepting their pain, not an original idea, but one that can work really well if done right. Unfortunately that never happens here. The first episode should be all the warning you need that the hands we’re in are rather shaky when the writers decide to introduce us to the 30 characters in the manner of an ice breaker at a corporate business retreat. Who needs to organically get to know characters, spend time with them, grow to care about them when we can just throw them at the audience with some basic trivia and get on with it (I’ve just realised, this isn’t a business retreat, it’s damn speed dating!).

It doesn’t help that there are so many characters. 30 is just too excessive, this is just a 12 episode series so it’s no surprise that by the end of it you don’t even get to know half of the cast, we don’t even learn what their traumas are. Frankly they’re lucky if I remember they exist, let alone what their names and paper-thin personalities are. It just feels like most of them are there purely to sit around and talk endlessly, seriously, the amount of scenes where the characters all just sit around in as a group is ridiculous, every damned one of them throwing in their opinion before we can move along (what’s that noise? That’s the plot grinding to a halt). Their dialogue’s either mindless chatter or just one bad idea after the next.

I get what the writers were trying to do, they wanted a big cast to argue and in fight, paranoia and hysteria taking hold so that everyone turns on one another while the monsters circle around them, but it never quite works out that way. Again the characters just stand around and talk and I find myself just screaming at the screen for someone, anyone, to show a degree of common sense or logic, or at the very least someone who’s point of view I could understand. Even among the characters who get some focus and development I can’t relate to them, they have some sad back stories, sure, but that’s not enough for me to invest. I think what this anime really needed was a machete taking to at least half its cast so the main characters could have more screen time, build that connection and ring the emotions out of the audience.

The last episode is everything that this anime deserves. As the monsters are revealed to be not the actual monsters of the piece we need a villain, and then we get one. So how does the final episode reveal her master plan? How does it transform this decent twist into a climatic final showdown? Simple, we have the villain break down crying and explain all of their reasoning within the first ten minutes before shuffling off to come back at the end to attempt a redemption. Even the monster they unleash is dealt before we hit halfway as another character comes to terms with their trauma. The rest of the episode is then left to meander about to explain things and let a couple of characters sort themselves out in a half-hearted rushed way. All these people that have been screaming and arguing with one another, unable to agree on anything, finally come to an agreement at the end for no other reason than it’s the end so they have to. Most of the characters don’t get any resolution and are just left sitting around doing nothing. It’s all a rather disappointing, half-hearted execution, which fits this series perfectly.

The Verdict

In the end, The Lost Village, really isn’t worth the time. The story, while it had potential, is butchered in the execution, there’s nothing mind blowing in the animation and the characters are, for the most part, a bunch of arguing morons. There’s not much I can think of to even attempt a recommendation, unless perhaps you like to observe failure, though I don’t think this quiet makes it to ‘so bad it’s good’ territory. I think it’d be for the best if this one remains lost guys.

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

Anime Corner: First Impressions Spring 2016

Last season had some pretty good anime on show, from Erased to Konosuba there was plenty to enjoy, though there were a few clunkers too (as some upcoming reviews will point out), but can the Spring line up match up, or possibly even surpass it? Let’s find out! (Be prepared for a long one folks.)

Ushio and Tora

The unlikely bromance between a Japanese high school boy and the demonic spirit that wants to eat him continues. When Ushio found the Beast Spear, a mystical spear forged long ago for the sole purpose of killing monsters, I bet he never imagined he’d end up fighting in so many crazy battles or becoming such good friends with the creature imprisoned by the Beast Spear, Tora. Now the biggest monster of them all, Hakumen no Mono, looks set to finally makes its comeback, but all the friends and allies Ushio and Tora have made have now forgotten them. Can Ushio get the youkai back on side in time for the final battle? And what’s with all those guys that look like Tora?

Ushio and Tora is back baby! The wait for season 2 has been killing me, though it looks like the end will soon be nigh. One part of me can’t wait for the final battle against Hakumen no Mono, but then that means no more adventures with Ushio and Tora. I have fallen head over heels for this show, I love all of the characters, I love that even apparently inconsequential characters can come back later and make a big impact. I love the gorgeous energetic animation and retro feel to all the character designs (well this is based off of a 90s manga). The writing is also pretty darn impressive, managing to turn stuff that should be cliche or groan-inducing into something genuinely dramatic and heartfelt. The whole mindwipe stuff that started of this serious should have been infuriating, a nice big reset button to stop our heroes getting too ahead in the plot, but instead its shown as a tragic turn of events and a clever plot by the villain. Episode 29 was a bit more worrying, it was mostly exposition and introduced plot developments that happened off screen. I get the sense that we’ve skipped over an arc or two to make the anime fit into however many episodes are left. I faith that the team behind Ushio and Tora can correct this though.

Space Patrol Luluco

Luluco is just your normal high school girl and that’s the way she wants to stay, unfortunately her life is anything but normal. Luluco lives in the part of town where aliens have settled into residence, but not every resident is peaceful, some of them bring SPAAAAACE crimes to the peaceful town. When Luluco’s dad is accidentally frozen (What? It happens), Luluco is forced to join Space Patrol and protect her home. It’s not all bad though. A cute transfer student happens to arrive by meteor (that also tends to happen).

I don’t tend to watch that many of the shorter anime, 7 minutes or so per show just never feels like enough to me for either plot or character development, I’m just starting to get into things and then it ends. Space Patrol Luluco feels a little bit different, I’m still sad that it’s over so quickly, but at the same time I’m satisfied with what I got. Each episode is a little pocketful of joy with the typical Trigger outrageousness, whether it be the hilarious and bizarre characters or the ridiculous action. The animation is simple but expression and packs what is becoming the typical Trigger charm.

The Lost Village

A bunch of people take a shady bus tour into the middle of nowhere. They’re goal is to find an urban legend, a village cut off from the outside world where they can all escape the world and start over. They find the village, but starting over isn’t going to be as easy as the group thought. The past isn’t so easy to forget, and there’s something out in the woods.

I can see what this anime is trying to do and on paper it all looks pretty good. You’ve got a bunch of characters out in the middle of nowhere, each of them a little weird and clearly each with some kind of tragic back story that is forcing them to run away from life. You’re got the paranoia of being surrounded by strangers and a building suspense as you wait for the bodies to start dropping, you just know that most of these people are going to end up dead. There’s something wrong though and I can’t put my finger on what it is. I can only really put it down to the execution of the story so far. So far it’s a slow burn as we set up characters and intrigue,  but there’s just too many characters (you can tell most of them are just fodder) and so far the anime hasn’t given me a single person that I want to invest in.  I don’t care about any of these people and so far I’m only really sticking around to see the order in which they get bumped off, which isn’t really a good reason to watch a show. It’ll give it bit of time though, maybe some of that story potential can shine through.

Re: ZER0 – Starting Life in Another World

Natsuki Subaru was on his way home from a convenience store when he suddenly found himself standing in a strange street. He’s been transported to another world full of magic, spirits and half-human creatures. He’s also picked up a magical ability of his own, when he dies he gets the chance to redo events. Can Subaru put this ability to use save the harem of girls he will no doubt gather and even defeat the crazy lady with a love of disembowelling?

This anime reminds me so much of Konosuba from last season, not that it’s a hilarious comedy with an obsession with boobs, but more in my reaction to it. I looked at the little blurb on Crunchyroll and groaned a little inside, Japanese boy transported to another world harem nonsense ensues, but like I said, Konosuba gave me similar reaction when I read about it and that turned into one of favourite anime of last season, so I decided to give Re a shot, and I’m so glad I did. It does try to make fun of fantasy tropes, but by far the more interesting part of this anime is the world it’s created and the story driving through it. There are plenty of mysteries to explore through the series and so far the use of the redo ability has been well handled. Subaru has gone through the same day a few times and it never got repetitive, though Subaru was a little slow to pick up on what was going on. I’m interested to see where this anime goes now that Subaru has finally cleared the first save point.

Hundred

Mysterious life forms known as Savages have pushed humanity to the brink of extinction. On a battleship a school has been set up to train its students to use ‘Hundred’ powerful weapons that can create unique battle armour which is the only way of defeating the Savages. Hayato joins up in the hopes of becoming a Slayer and mastering his Hundred. He has to deal with a bit more than a lot of studying and training though, as on his first day he ends up in a duel with the school’s student council president and his roommate Emile seems to know a lot about him already.

I actually can’t believe this anime can exist. How can any shows sustain this many clichés and stereotypes and not collapse in on itself, it’s like the writers were trying to make the most generic anime possible. You’ve got the dopey main hero who also happens to unbelievably powerful, but only when the plot demands it. You’ve got the harem of girls already starting to assemble and outfits that fit so tightly I’m surprised the characters can still breathe, there’s the little sister character, the tournament style school battles, the monsters that have come out of nowhere to almost wipe out humanity. Throw in a catgirl and a giant robot and we’ve got the complete set, wait I think there might actually already be a catgirl in the show but I don’t want to waste my time going back to check. Don’t even get me started on the fanservice (too late), the accidental boob grab is a terrible cliché and yet there appears to be a Japanese mandate to include in the beginning of every anime. Hundred looks set to fill the quota on every other shows behalf though as it’s happened that many times (it’s already gotten to the point where it’s just kind of hilarious how often it occurs). The only interesting character is Emile, considering that she’s the main love interest yet has disguised herself as a guy (I have no idea why, but it’s something different and that in itself is a godsend in this anime).

Cerberus

When he was younger Hiiro’s parents tried to seal away an evil dragon that was terrorising the three kingdoms. Something went terribly wrong though, costing the lives of Hiiro’s parents as well as thousands of wizards and soldiers. Hiiro survived and has spent the last ten years training to be a swordsman capable of avenging his parents and slaying the dragon. Now the evil dragon has finally returned. There’s only one problem, Hiiro kind of sucks as a swordsman.

I like Cerberus, I don’t think it’s a particularly good anime, but I like it. The story is kind of generic and I keep getting Dragonheart flashbacks thanks to the connection between Hiiro and the dragon (is it wrong that I keep imagining it speaking in Sean Connery’s voice?), but it does enough stuff in its own way that I’m happy to sit and watch where it all goes. Now in your average anime Hiiro would come across as a bumbling goofball until the moment arrives when he gets to show off his badass side, here in Cerberus though we keep getting to the part where Hiiro should be badass and ends up just falling flat on his face (the dude can’t even kill baby slimes for crying out loud!), throw in a love interest who’s clearly in her own private little world and an interesting villain who plans to use the fear generated by the dragon to make a killing selling his weapons (Wait, a villain with a clear and logical plan, what fresh spore of madness is this!).

Joker Game

With World War 2 looming on the horizon Lt. Col. Yuuki sets up a spy training organisation known as “D Agency”, the graduates, having passed superhuman tests and been trained in a variety of essential skills, make perfect spies. Whether it be infiltrating foreign countries or catching enemy spies at home the stakes are always high, but that’s ok, it’s not a proper game without some risk.

A historical drama mixed with a spy thriller, I really do love the variety anime gives us. I’m so really interested in how this anime it going to tackle this time period, I don’t watch a lot of stuff set in this era but the most prominent viewpoint is that of the British and Americans, it’ll be interesting to see the Japanese perspective. Add into that some well thought out mysteries and lots of little spy tricks like dust explosions and covering one eye to get used to the dark, and you get a realistic yet intriguing series. This is one I’d definitely recommend so far.

Twin Star Exorcists

Rokuro Enmado once dreamed of becoming the world’s greatest exorcist and vanquishing all of the Kegare, evil spirits that haunt a parallel world, but after a tragic event Rokuro no longer wants to be an exorcist. Enter Benio Adashino. She’s one of the strongest exorcists around and thinks a lot like Rokuro used to. Can she help Rokuro to return to his dream and become an exorcist once more, more importantly can the two of them actually get along? That last part is actually pretty important as an oracle declares that the two of them are the ‘Twin Star Exorcists’ who are destined to marry and give birth to the one who will destroy the Kegare forever.

I’m kind of on the fence about this anime, mostly because I can see it going one of two ways. It has the potential to either be an amazing action series with some great character development, or it could be a generic action series that gives up on interesting characters in favour of explosions and one annoying as hell mascot character. It could go either way at the minute. I do like our main characters. I like that Benio is a badass in her own right and clearly has a back story all her own, she’s not there to be just a love interest or to be saved. Rokuro is pretty intriguing too, I want to know more about the event that turned him away from exorcism and to see him reclaim his dream.  I’ve heard the manga’s pretty good so I’ll stick with this for a while, that mascot character is pretty annoying though.

Bungo Stray Dogs

Nakajima Atsushi has never believed in himself, kicked out of his orphanage and on the verge of starving to death his life looks set to change when he meets a man trying to drown himself. The man, Dazai, is one of the few gifted with a special ability. He works for the Armed Detective Agency, private investigators who handle crimes the police can’t, usually involving other gifted individuals. Unbeknownst to Atsushi he is also gifted, and dark forces have their eyes set on him.

There’s some tough competition this season but I think Bungo Stray Dogs is set to be my favourite new show of the season. The whole bunch of oddballs forming a team to tackle super powered crimes is nothing new, but so far this series has found just the right balance between wacky antics and cool battles. I like the characters, the powers are pretty interesting and things are going to get very dark very quickly if episode 3 is anything to go by.

Kiznaiver

How do you put a stop to war, to prejudice and hatred? Can you even put a stop to conflict or is it just too ingrained in us? Perhaps if we could all just understand one another, share our pain and feel what it is to be in someone else’s position. Well a bunch of crazy people have decided to put this theory to the test by kidnapping six teenagers and performing surgery on them without prior consent. Now the kids literally feel one another’s pain, when one is hurt, all of them are hurt. But can this lead to a genuine connection?

Another show from studio Trigger and this is a weird one. The concept alone is really a interesting one and I look to forward to seeing were they’re going to take this, then you add in some colourful animation, interesting character designs and some typical Trigger nuttiness and you have a show that has my attention. I like the characters too. They’re supposed to be stereotypes, but there’s clearly more to them than first meets the eye, also I really like the concept of a new version of the seven deadly sins. Much like the show they’re fun and interesting and I can’t wait to see where the story takes them.

Flying Witch

Makoto is a trainee witch whose only real magical talent is to fly on a broom. As a part of her training she moves out to the countryside to live with her cousins. There Makoto practices her magic and learns about her surroundings, enjoying the quiet country days. Of course that’s when a weirdo isn’t stopping by to visit.

Tranquil is properly the word for this anime. It’s not big or flashy, there’s not much in the way of drama or character development, but then I don’t think that’s the point of this anime. So far it’s just a series of skits stitched together to show how Makoto is getting on and what she’s learnt today. It’s a very quiet and reserved show, and after all the action or infuriation brought about in other shows this series this is a nice little breather. I can’t see anything majorly exciting happening here, but if you’re in the mood for something with a slower pace and a pleasant atmosphere give it a shot.

Whew. Sorry this post has gone on a bit. See you in a week for your average long-winded review.

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