Anime Corner: Alice and Zoroku Review

Blog Alice and Zoroku Review Title

“I’m going to give it a good talking too.” Zoroku talking about Wonderland

What’s the Story?

Zoroku is an elderly florist, a bit grumpy, a bit set in his ways and he definitely doesn’t like anything shady. Yet when he comes across Sana, a young girl with the power to make whatever she imagines materialise in the real world, he finds himself put into a strange situation. Can Zoroku’s steady hand help to guide Sana through the strange new world she’s ended up in and to control her power as well. Or will the shadowy organisation that has kept Sana locked up all this time get their hands on her (You won’t realise it until you watch the show, but that’s a decent pun there). Personally I don’t think the bad guys stand a chance, Zoroku is the man who at one point gives a stern talking too to an entire alternate dimension. Now that’s a superpower.

The Review

Probably the best virtue of Alice and Zoroku is that it never does what you expect it to and that does mean there’s a great deal of variety to proceedings. One second this anime can be doing a sweet little slice of life anime as Sana learns about the world, the next its got women with magic powers battling like it’s a shonen anime and then we’re on to hard-hitting emotional drama as young girls learn what its like to have unlimited power and no idea how to control it. You’d think that would make this series a bit of a hodgepodge, but surprisingly it manages to sew all of this together into a cohesive hole without breaking a sweat.

I think the reason a lot of this series manages to hold together so well is because it keeps focus where it should be at all times, the characters. Yes there’s an epic fight between a maid with an endless array of weapons and a woman who can summon a multitude of giant arms (told you you’d get the hand pun), but that’s mostly background noise to the heart-warming relationship between Sana and Zoroku. It gets these people exactly right, well the main cast at least, the motivation of the lady with the giant arms is kind of one note. I mean it’s sad and all, but she’s really gone off the deep end, though I suppose that could be said of anyone who thinks it’s okay to threaten a little girl for their own desires.

Speaking of little girls, that’s exactly how Sana acts, a fact I appreciate so much and it makes sense. Sana is new to the outside world and obviously very young, but it’s just the little things, like how excited and wonderstruck she gets. One of the best examples of this comes from the final episode where Sana gets her first school backpack and is so overjoyed that she not only flying tackles Zoroku, but won’t let got of the backpack, even when she goes to bed. I mean I think I may have actually seen too many anime where teenagers get magic powers and have to deal with the problems from that (as well as battle one another), it’s nice to see what happens when little kids face similar problems and how they deal with it.

My favourite character though, by far, is Zoroku himself. He’s something we don’t often see in shows like this, he’s a rock of stability in a world of magic and wonder. He’s a steadying hand and force of calm, able to stop all these super powered children with the tone of his voice alone. He’s the adult that can be relied upon, the mentor (one who doesn’t die at a pivotal moment). Due to his influence it changes what this story is about, it’s not about the powers or the fantastical Wonderland where all of this stems from, instead it’s about a young girl coming to terms with her emotions and working out just who she is.

I’m not sure what else there is really to talk about, this is a unique and wonderful little anime that you should check out. I suppose the difference between the first and second arcs could throw some people, it did me for a little bit, but then that’s just another part of this show never doing what you expect. The first arc is pretty straightforward, with Sana coming into the real world and the fight against the shadowy laboratory that wants to take her back. It goes kind of shonen at the end and could leave you with the impression that that’s were this series is headed, but it’s not. The second arc is much more of a slower burn and, in my opinion, is the best the show has produced. It has a magical battle, of sorts, but this one is more about the emotions than actual fisticuffs (actually I don’t think a single punch is thrown in it). In it we get to see what happens when someone gets powers who doesn’t have a Zoroku in their life as well as Sana dealing with her “frazzled” feelings and showing off a just a bit of what she can do with her power. Just go watch it people.

The Verdict

Alice and Zoroku is a sweet, sometimes dark, sometimes thought-provoking and always heart-warming story of a young girl trying to find herself and learning to deal with the big wide world. It puts a different spin on several genre archetypes and approaches the subject of girls with powers in its own unique way and I love it for that. If it wasn’t for a couple of other really good shows this season I’d probably be saying this was my favourite. This anime is a dream come true.

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

Anime Corner: Twin Angels Break Review

Blog Twin AngelReview Title

If it’s broke…well fix it, obviously.

What’s the Story?

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

The Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

Anime Corner: WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? Review

Blog WorldEnd Review Title

Okay, Light Novel adaptations, we need to have a word about the word economy in your titles.

What’s the Story?

The world ended many centuries ago, the human race wiped by mysterious beasts that came out of nowhere. The beasts survive still, roaming the surface of the planet, but life goes on, various anthropomorphic species having escaped and evolved on several floating islands. They’re not entirely safe though as some of the beasts are able to make it up to the islands. The only weapons against the beasts are young girls, who are able to wield ancient swords once used by humans. Willem has just been made the caretaker of these girls. He’s the last surviving human and in the end the girls may take care of him as he much as he takes care of them.

The Review

This isn’t the series I was expecting. I mean it’s a light novel adaptation and one that’s supposed to be set around girls fighting monsters with magical swords (Gee. Haven’t seen that before), so the image I had in my head was one of lots of action and probably way too much fan service. It’s a fantasy series though, so I gave it a chance and I’m so glad I did. This series is much more interested in its characters and mythology than the fights and monsters. It plays out a bit like a slice of life mixed with a dark and tragic fantasy. This is a series about saving people and you don’t always need a magic sword for that.

We’ll start with the characters, first up is Willem. He’s a decent guy with a big heart and quick to help, though a lot of that masks a deep vein of depression, which is understandable. He’s the last human alive, everyone that he knew and loved is dead and gone and while we only get fleeting flashbacks to those people, you still feel the weight that Willem is carrying around. He’s not your typical main character and very easy to invest in emotionally, you want this guy to find some happiness and he may just do that. The Leprechauns, the girls with the magic swords, become a surrogate family for him, one that he tries to protect, just not as much as he would like.

See Willem was once a warrior and though he does have a few superpowers stored up he can’t use them without risking his already fragile life. Now while a lesser anime would have Willem save his power for some out of nowhere save at the crucial point to rescue the girls, WorldEnd is much better than that. No, we instead get to explore Willem’s frustration as he finds the boot is on the other foot, with him having to stay at home and worry while somebody else goes off to fight. That’s what this series does best, come at a familiar set up from a new, and far more emotional angle.

On the other side of the coin our female lead is Chtholly, and while she’s a badass fighter (though as I said the fights are never really the focus, they’re more background noise to the character drama) she’s more portrayed as an innocent and naïve young woman whose hoping for a little bit of happiness before she meets her inevitable end. (Have I mentioned there’s an air of depression about this series, just saying, take it as a warning. Happy Endings not guaranteed). Now while the whole “I must make myself good wife materiel for Williem” section of the plot does make me shake my head profusely, I kind of give it a pass because I like so much of the rest of the series, and Willem and Chtholly make a cute couple. She also has a bunch of other things to deal with, such as strange visions filled with nonsense rhythms and a red haired little girl, as well as losing her memory bit by bit. The series doesn’t shy away from exploring the emotions of these situates either, giving Chtholly plenty of opportunities to work through her feelings and probably one of my favourite scenes is a certain moonlit conversation with one of the other girls.

Speaking of the other girls, though a lot of them tend to fall into archetypes and common tropes, they never stop feeling like proper characters. The kids act like kids and the other girls all get their moments to shine, either in a fight or an emotional scene. Nephren, for me, definitely wins the award for most Badass Female this season. Throughout the series she’s been fairly cute and funny, always on the lookout for Willem and Chtholly, but for me her biggest moment is in the last couple of episodes. The relentless way she takes on wave after wave of never-ending enemies, pushing herself well beyond her limits, it’s the kind of stuff epic poems should be written about. I know this series isn’t about the action, but the final episode certainly gives us a host of epics moments accompanied by some gorgeous animation and the ever-beautiful soundtrack comes in in full force. This series is worth watching for the final episode alone (even if it is frustratingly open-ended).

Another strength this series has is its mythology. There’s clearly a great deal of work that has gone into the history and lots of little details that give you a better idea of the wider world out there. The series is pretty good with its mysteries too, even if at sometimes it can get distracted by its slice of life hijinks, but for the most part it does a good job of moving forward. It gives you hint after hint, slowly peeling back the veil to reveal what actually happened to the humans in the past and how that relates to the situation in the present. I won’t spoil it as that would take some of the fun out of it, but it has some interesting ideas on old concepts, which as I said, is what this anime is very good at.

The Verdict

WorldEnd (Not writing out the full title again) is a surprising little gem, less concerned with fights and more interested in its characters and mythology (and not a trace of fanservice baring a couple of scenes!). The series is a heartfelt and often heart-breaking story, filled with epic moments both emotional, and towards the end, action-packed. I can’t promise a happy ending for all involved and while it’s not perfect, it is a good story. So go watch it, I’ll get the tissues.

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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: KADO: The Right Answer Review

Blog Kado Review Title

The right answer? Wait, but I didn’t revise!

What’s the Story?

One day a giant cube drops out of the sky and swallows a plane. Run for your lives it’s the attack of the geometric shapes! No, no, it’s actually humanity’s first ever contact with an alien being (strange, the aliens usually go for the US. Giant Monsters, now they go for Japan). The alien’s name is Yaha-kui zaShunina (yeah, not going to spell that out fully again, let alone try and pronounce it), he comes from a reality beyond our own, bearing gifts of unimaginable power, such as brand new power source that will never run out and a way for humans to never have to truly sleep again. ZaShunina offers to help the world towards what he calls the right answer, but just what is the “right answer”?

The Review

Now this series felt like something different from the start. There is a vast wealth of sci-fi anime and to split it down further hard sci-fi, which I think is where I’d plump Kado. Hard sci-fi, for those that don’t know, is the area of science fiction where the story tries to be more scientifically accurate, there’s less of the multi-headed aliens and planets made of cheese, unless there’s a very good reason for it. There can still be crazy stuff, but it has a tendency to be based somewhere in fact or on an as yet unproven scientific theory, it’s where you get into the nitty gritty detail of how your universe works.

Now while I really doubt some of the technobabble in this series is based on anything and some of the theories its story is developed from have no grounding in actual science, yet the series acts like it is. It does take a very scientific approach to its world and mythology though, having explanations for most things and trying to explain it’s various concepts with a good amount of detail (on occasion we go into the technobable, but that’s okay, it’s sci-fi I expect shows to at least meet the minimum quota).

Admittedly I’m not much of a hard sci-fi guy, I tend to like the ideas, but a lot of the detail goes over my head unless I want to spend a month digging through the internet to find out more (And usually I get distracted about five minutes in by an article on Batman or some random anime). With my sci-fi I prefer the fantastical and the crazy, but I think Kado just about walks the line between that and hard sci-fi, enough for me to be both interested and entertained at the same time. The series moves at a very slow pace, letting events pass in their own time, there’s no big action scenes or anything like that (not until we get to the end anyway). The majority of it is just people talking, discussing ideas, explaining concepts and philosophising a little bit and it’s a testament to this series that that never really gets boring, not for me anyway.

There are some interesting questions thrown about too, how much progress is too much? How fast should progress be? What does it mean to be human? Not exactly original questions, but they’ll always be important in my opinion. It helps that while the series clearly has an answer to these questions and on occasion can hammer you a bit with them, for most part it leaves the answer up to you. There are two sides to the arguments and the series gives a hearing to both. All the characters have reasons for what they do and what they believe, even if they’re not all explained to you up front. You’ve got to wait for the answer and do a bit of the working out yourself.

One point that I really appreciate about this series is that it avoids several clichés. Normally when an alien pops down for a visits there always has to be some over-eager military guy with his finger always an inch from the button to blow everything to pieces. You just know that it’ll get to point were the humans and aliens can come to an understanding, then Mr. military hits the button and everything is ruined, I am so bored with seeing that plot. Luckily Kado goes nowhere near it. Sure, there are people concerned about the alien, but nobody does anything stupid. Everyone is very calm and rational and approaches the situation with the caution and seriousness it deserves. It may be a bit naïve of me to think, or maybe I’ve just seen too many alien invasion movies, but I hope that if we ever do meet alien life, we react in a similar way to the people in this series.

Speaking of zaShunina, I do like his design. Yes he’s a humanoid, but that makes sense considering he’s trying to win over the humans, but he still acts like an alien. I love the way his arms just float around completely disconnected from the rest of him. It’s freaky, but a cool idea. I also like how he slowly becomes more human across the series and his clearly unrequited feelings for Shindo were kind of touching in the end. (Spoiler!) I was disappointed by the ending of the series where he basically devolves into clichéd villain of the piece that I was hoping we were going to avoid. At least they gave him a decent explanation for what he’s doing and he never quite reached the mad cackling stage. It’s just less than I wanted. Also the way they finally defeat him comes right the hell out of nowhere, though it is funny to see zaShunina get kicked around so much.

Lastly this series shines in two other areas, the soundtrack is gorgeous, ethereal and beautiful on so many levels, I could listen to it for hours. The visuals are also stunning, there are some jaw-dropping images in this series, from the birth of the universe itself to zaShunina walking among a field of lifeless copies of Shindo. There are so many scenes that are just, wow. Also the 2D and 3D animation blends together really well, neither one is all that jarring, though it is handled a little oddly. I get why the did it. Sometimes they need the 2D so that the characters can emote better, the 3D is actually pretty good at moving and emoting, but the 2D is just a step above. On the other hand the 3D is needed for some of those outrageous scenes that it would either be really difficult or just too time-consuming to draw. What I don’t understand is that sometimes the characters are 2D animation and sometimes they’re 3D animation. Both work and look really great, but why keep switching? Especially when you’re doing it multiple times in an episodes. It’s not too jarring, but I can’t work it out. Unless the show is trying to make some distinction between when humans are being real and when they’re being drawn in by the stuff zaShunina brought, I don’t know, I’d have to watch the series again to figure it out.

The Verdict

Kado: The Right Answer is a slow burn, a really slow burn, more content to sit down and talk about its ideas and philosophise a bit. There’s no big action or idiot character to mess thing up, every character feels realistic (except maybe the child prodigy, she’s definitely an anime character) and has reasons for what they do. If any of that is your kind of thing, then you should enjoy this series, the visual and soundtrack alone are worth the price of admission. The ending is a bit of a let down with the plot leaning a bit too much on standard tropes and a plot twist that comes out of nowhere, but the ride to get there is fun. Kado may not be the right answer, but it’s a fun one.

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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: Granblue Fantasy: The Animation Review

Blog Granblue Fantasy Review Title

Really? We’re ending on a beach episode?

What’s the Story?

In a world where the islands float in the skies, a young man, Gran, dreams of setting sail out into the wide blue yonder to follow in his father’s footsteps and maybe even discover the fabled island of the Astrals. When a girl drops out of the sky it’s the beginning of an adventure (isn’t that always the way), teaming up with a knight on the run, a helmsman who only wants to fly one ship and a pushy little magic user, Gran sets off. Along the way he’ll battle ancient monsters, the evil empire of…evilness and unresolved plot threads! Let’s go!

The Review

If I was to look at this anime analytically I’d have to say that it’s characters are fairly one-dimensional, its plot ranges from predictable to generic and it’s pretty much just an advert for some mobile game I’m never going to play. So I should probably dislike or at the very least be apathetic towards this series. In actual fact, I love it. This show hits a cord with me. It feels like an old-fashioned adventure, which it pretty much is. Yeah there’s lots of elements you’ve seen elsewhere, sky ships, mysterious characters who help out the main heroes, saying something ominous and then disappear until their next meeting and girls that fall out of the sky (Is it just me or does that happen a lot in animes like this? I can think of a couple of examples just off the top of my head). Despite all of that though, this series just goes to prove that it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it.

The characters, though they don’t have very much depth and tend to stick to their archetypes, are all charming and I really feel for them. I mean when Gran was trying to convince Lyria that she wasn’t the monster the Empire thought her to be and then everybody else turned up to stand by her, I was tearing up. I like these people. I care about these people and I want to see them be happy, I want to see them go on wacky adventures and laugh and joke together. The characters feel honest and genuine, yes this anime was most likely conceived as a way to boost sales for the game, but you never get that feeling watching the show. This is just a group of people having adventures and I love that.

I’d be happy if the show was just that, but there is more to this. For one, the show is absolutely gorgeous. A lot of the characters drawings have this slight roughness to the line work that makes it feel like they’ve just been drawn and they move so fluidity. Seriously there are some outstanding action scenes, I don’t have the words to properly describe how good a lot of this looks (I should probably stick in some sort of meme about sending in a poet, but in all honesty I think the poet would struggle too). Also I really like the amount of detail in this show from the characters to the world around them. I mean, sure, some of those costumes are just ridiculous, but I admire the detail in them and animating that couldn’t have been an easy thing.

The show does have some problems, outside of the ones I mentioned. The main one being that this is clearly only the beginning of the story. It’s 12 episodes (I’ll come that 13th episode in a minute). There are a tonne of plot threads unresolved, including the mysterious Rosetta, who is she and what’s she up to, same goes that armoured black knight and the girl similar to Lyria. Heck episode 12 adds a new character to the roster with seeds being sown for his back story (that we’ll never get to because there’s no more episodes). I mean at the very least the series goes out with a certain bang, with a huge battle and while there are a lot of new characters thrown at us (I’m assuming these are the other characters who we’d get to know if the story carried on, or we played the game). It has a suitably epic feel to it and we do get some pay off on the bit of character development Lyria received in the previous couple of episode. Sure it’s annoying that we’ll probably never get answers to a lot of questions, but I’m just happy to spend time with these guys.

Speaking of that, on to Episode 13, which in all honesty I have never seen an episode like it in any other series. It’s the only episode of the series where I could feel the ad executives willing me to buy the game and that made it rather off putting. I’ve never played the game, but from this last episode I take it that when you play you get the choice of either playing as a male or female character. So, instead of the final episode working as a capstone to the series so far, to reflect on what came before and maybe make some promises about what’s to come, no instead we get the series recap, but with the female version of Gram instead. Not only does this mean that the last episode is confusing as hell as it starts back the beginning with an entirely different character, with no explanation whatsoever, but it also means that the episode is part recap, part beach episode. Also, who the hell ends on a beach episode, they’re the filler, the bit of fun crammed full of way too much fanservice before we move on to something better, except there’s nothing to move on to because this is the last episode! Honestly I do not understand this last episode, why would I want this after spending the previous 12 episodes getting to know and root for a completely different character? Episode 13 is entirely pointless and I’d just skip it altogether.

The Verdict

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation is a fun series. Sure it’s not deep or meaningful, it’s not even that original, but it doesn’t need to be. This series is an adventure and that’s all it ever has to be, fun times with likeable characters. The animation is great, the world is vast and beautifully designed and the characters are all people I enjoy spending time with. This show knows what it is and never really tries to break away from that, and it shouldn’t. Outside of Episode 13, I’d definitely recommend this. Set sail for an adventure!

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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: Anonymous Noise Review

Blog Anonymous Noise Review Title

“I’ll make is so all of them can never leave” Why am I picturing this turning into some kind of hostage situation?

What’s the Story?

When Nino was little she enjoyed nothing more than singing with her neighbour Momo, even if her singing wasn’t all that good. One day though Momo left without a word. Heartbroken and anxious in a world all by herself, Nino took to singing alone at the beach in the hopes that one day her voice would reach Momo. That’s where she met Yuzu, a young songwriter, though he quickly disappeared as well. Now in high school the three shall meet again, Yuzu convincing Nino to join his band while Momo writes songs to pay for his family’s debts. Music proves to be the only thing that can cut through their tangled feelings, but will Nino’s voice reach?

The Review

These kids, honestly. Obsessive isn’t the word for our three leads, each and everyone one of them is on verge of breaking in one way or another and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine any one of them being locked up in a basement by one of the others. You’ve got Nino who’s so hung up on a past she can’t let go of, longing for the Momo she used to know. There’s Momo who really likes Nino but can’t bring himself to admit it, about the closest he comes is that he wants Nino all to himself and can’t stand her singing other people’s songs. Finally we have Yuzu who, again, is in love with Nino, but can’t bring himself to admit (though you can’t blame him when he’s competing with this idealised Momo Nino carries around) and, again, wants Nino’s voice all to himself, just to sing his songs.

None of these characters are particularly healthy (well Yuzu drinks a lot of milk), but I mean mentally and emotionally. I’m less interested in the love triangle nonsense and more in how these emotional wrecks manage to get through their day to day lives, it’s fascinating to watch. This series feels in no way realistic, it’s too full of huge coincidences and overly convenient dramatic moments, but I still believe in emotions being put on display. Much like Nino’s singing as Alice (her identity as the band’s singer), the emotions at work here feel very raw. When Alice in on stage and about to go full throttle into a song, she looks like she’s about to kill someone and the music hits you with enough force to do just that. I’m not a music aficionado and my own tastes do vary a fair bit, but I do like a good chunk of the songs in the show, though some of them did take a while to grow on me. (Noise is my favourite).

This series is a tumult of emotions, teenage angst and drama, with almost every character unable to own to their feelings, alternating between stubbornness and doubt. It’s incredibly frustrating at times, you just want to knock these people’s heads together and tell them to get it together. (Come on Yuzu! Admit your feelings before I use that guitar to bash some sense into you!). It probably doesn’t help that at times the characters can range from idiotic with their decision making all the way through to being, well jerk isn’t a strong enough word, but it’s all I’m going to use here (looking at you Momo). Despite that though, I’ve gotten invested in these characters and their dramas. I want to see how it all ends, even if I can’t exactly picture a happy ending for all concerned.

I’m not sure we’re going to get that end though, not without tracking down the source material. The series does build to a pretty pivotal point, with the big battle of the bands between Yuzu and Nino’s band and the one Momo has put together, which would work as a final note to end on, if it wasn’t for all the loose threads dangling about. We still don’t know Yuzu’s full story, though the ending suggests some progress with his mum and there’s Momo and his clearly psychotic mother (what is it with this show and mothers? I think Nino’s the only one with a sane parent). Here’s hoping for a season 2 at least.

With the animation, the series has some unique character models and though the eyes can be a bit weird with how big and circular they are, taking up so much of the head. All of the characters look a little stretched, well, except for Yuzu (Sorry Eyebrows), it takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do it’s perfectly fine. Most of the animation is fine, it has good comic timing when it comes to the various gags (yes this series isn’t just angst and drama!) though it really saves itself for the big moments when it counts. The switch to 3D during the performances is noticeable, but not all that intrusive, so it just about gets away with it.

The Verdict

Anonymous Noise is a raw beating wound of emotion, full of angst and wild coincidences to fuel it’s drama, but it’s that raw emotion that gives it its power. You feel the passion of the characters and can’t help but be sucked in. Watching Nino go from an anxious and lonely student to a rocking vocalist pulling in the crowds is a treat to watch and she deserves it after all the stumbles and falls she’s faced along the way. While I don’t think this show will be for everyone, it’s definitely worth a look. Who knows, maybe it’ll reach you.

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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: Attack on Titan Season 2 Review

Blog Attack on Titan 2 Review Title

Well that was fun, same again in 5 years’ time?

What’s the Story?

For years humanity sat safe behind its giant walls, protected from the Titans (humanoid giants that have a taste for humans and not much else), but one day that peace was shattered along with one of the walls. On that Day young Eren swore to kill every last Titan, entering into the military and joining the Survey Corps. But as the Survey Corps learn more about the Titans it becomes apparent that the grinning giants may not be the only threat to humanity. So now the question is, just who is on humanity’s side?

The Review

Well it took them long enough to release a new season for this much hyped show, I can’t help but wonder how awesome this would have been coming out a year or two after the first season (you know before most people either gave up waiting or just read the manga). As it stands though this season is kind of exactly what we wanted after Season 1. It picks up pretty much where the last season left off and answers several hanging questions about the Titans and what’s actually going on (more so than the whole of Season 1 did anyway). Also several of the secondary characters take the spotlight and get moments to shine or develop.

I do have a slight issue with this second season that the gap between seasons is partly to blame for it. Now I can cope with the years waiting (I had to be tied up in a rubber room for part of it, but we won’t go into that) and I do have the manga if I want to find the answers to the pressing questions of the series. Where the real problem comes in is that it’s been a while and you can’t expect people to still be in the same jobs, some will either have moved on or hopefully moved up and it’s kind of obvious that that’s happened here.

There’s something missing from the animation. It still looks great and there are times when it is breath-taking, especially during some of the fights or when there’s some aerial acrobatics going on. Yet there are other times when, it’s nothing bad, the scene is clearly displaying what it’s supposed to and putting across the idea of things moving, but it’s just so plain. There’s a sense of style or dramatic missing from several scenes. The first season had this visceral, raw energy to it, when a Titan was attacking you knew it and you were as terrified as the characters. You still get that, but it’s not as sharp. This is only a minor quibble by the way, the series does great most of the time and can recapture that energy, just not all the time.

Outside of that minor issue though, the show is pretty what we were all waiting for, we get some answers about what the Titans are and several characters get the spotlight that didn’t before. Even the main characters get some further development. Of course not every question is answered and by the end there are a whole new set you’ll need answered (unless you’ve read the manga), but that’s kind of par for the course with this series. Is it annoying that we’ve only got an extra 12 episodes with some answers and not all? Oh yes, but this second season has answered a lot more questions than the first season ever did so I’m content if not happy.

Speaking of our main characters, let’s talk about them (mainly because I’m only at 600 words and the review’s kind of done). First we’ve got our loveable (okay, no so loveable) hot-headed revenge seeking teen, Eren. It’s kind of a wonder just how much he’s developed, without really changing all that much on the surface. He’s still consumed by his rage and hatred, he’ll still rush head long into danger without properly thinking about it and he’s still a little bit useless when it counts (though he does get his first Titan kill!) You can see him starting to think about things though. Instead of just going berserk in a fight, he starts using actual technique a bit more and even considers his actions once or twice. Keep this up and he might just make a rational human being out of him yet (Ha ha ha ha, like that’s going to happen).

On the swing side we get to see Mikasa deal with what happens when she’s not the unstoppable force of nature that can kill anything in an instant and instead actually fails (or at least doesn’t succeed) and that is one scary version of Mikasa. Seriously do not mess with an angry and desperate Mikasa. If Eren’s rage is like a wildfire getting out of control, then Mikasa’s is like a razor-sharp spear of ice. It’s cold and hard and will run you right through.

Armin actually gets the least bit of development, the only real thing that sticks in my mind is when he has to sacrifice something in order beat the bad guys and he picks a little bit of his humanity.

All of this plays into why I like these characters so much, they all have issues, big, steaming issues, that tends to make them emotionally unstable, but it’s fascinating to watch them struggle and fight, sometimes making bad decisions, sometimes good, but in the end that’s what humanity is all about, overcoming the odds. Attack on Titan shows the very best and the very worst of humanity by putting them into the direst situations it can come up with and I’m glad to see Season 2 carry that on.

The Verdict

Season 2 of Attack on Titan is exactly what we ordered, questions are answered, characters are developed and some even get a bit more of the spotlight. All the while delivering the same intense actions and gruesome horror that was in the first season (even if not all of the time). It’s just a shame that it took so long to get to us.

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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. 

First Impressions Spring 2017 part 1

It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! Sorry, okay there actually are other anime than Attack on Titan Season 2 this season, but who cares about them, it’s here!

Attack on Titan season 2

For years humans have lived safe behind the walls, beginning to forget the titans, gigantic mindless monsters that have an appetite for humans, which lurk just beyond the stone. That was until the Colossal Titan came and smashed down one of the walls. On that day Eren vowed to kill every last titan and years later joined the Survey Corps in order to find a way to push back the titans and find the secret lurking in the basement of his former home. But there is much to learn about the titans, including the fact that some humans can transform into titans. So the question must be asked, who among the terrified humans is a secret titan and just why exactly are there titans inside the walls?

It’s back! About bloody time, it’s been what 4 years and honestly watching this series it feels like no time has passed at all. It helps that the story pretty much picks up straight where the last season left off (probably a good idea to go back and watch season 1 then) and we’ve got the epic action, the raw emotions and the sheet terror of watching a tiny human take on a massive titan knowing full well that character shields can fail at anytime. I also like the fact that several of the secondary characters are getting some of the spotlight while we wait for Eren and co to come save them. Now I have read a bit of the manga (I just couldn’t wait) and all I have to say that this arc is going to be epic, all they need to announce now is that this season is going to be more than 12 episodes as I’ve heard.

The Silver Guardian

Suigin is a part-timer caretaker at a posh school and full-time gamer, he’s recently got into the game Dungeon Century and met a cute girl who he spends all his time playing alongside. It comes as quite a shock when Suigin learns that the girl he’s been playing with in is real life Rei, the most beautiful and popular girl in school. Suigin is just happy to keep playing, admiring Rei from afar, but then its announced that the game will be discontinued. That’s about it so far, apart from a strange first episode that so far has nothing to do with the rest of the show.

I really don’t understand this series. I mean with shorter anime like this you can’t really do full stories, you need something short, sweet and fun (like Space Patrol Luluco), but if you do it the traditional way then you end up with a show where you’ve just about gotten something going and then it’s over. It would also help if there weren’t a full-length opening title eating into so much of the runtime. The Silver Guardian isn’t a bad show, the characters are likable if with no time to develop and on occasion are a little weird. I mean who takes their computer outside to play a game? Also what exactly are the mechanics of this game? How does the controls relate to what we’re seeing, that would be nice to know. I don’t think we’re going to get it because there’s just no time. 3 episodes in and it still feels like we’re stuck in the intro. Not sure about this one.

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation

Gran is a good-natured kid, always happy to help and pretty good with a sword, who happens to live on a floating island. He longs to leave his island though, to find his father who’s supposed to be waiting for him in the legendary Island of the Astrals. Then a girl falls out of the sky and an evil empire comes calling for her. Now Gran gets his wish and an adventure to go with it, yeah it’s not all that original, but who cares? Looks there’s dragons and skyships! Sign me up!

This is very much a classic fantasy. The story and a lot of its elements have been done before in one form or another by plenty of other series, but I just really like this series. It may not be new, but I like the world this series presents, I like the designs of the characters and the ships and just the general landscape. It probably helps that this series is just so gorgeous, with great action, lots of bright colours and did I mention some really lovely designs? I also kinda like the rough edge around the characters as if they’ve just been drawn, it gives a different feel and aesthetic to the whole show. There’s a sense of adventure about this series that puts a smile on my face every time I watch.

Alice and Zoroku

Sana has the power to create anything she wishes for, but what exactly should a little girl with the powers of a god wish for? When she escapes the shady research facility that has been holding her captive, she has no idea where she’s going and is pursued by people who share her abilities. Luckily there are those who want to help her and those who will guide her. Enter Zoroku, an elderly florist with a nonsense attitude, but is a good heart and a firm hand enough to control powers that could rip the world apart?  It’s an unusual story, but one worth hearing.

I really like this series; it’s a little slow but immensely interesting. I like that it breaks some common troupes with this type of story, I mean typically if you have a girl with supernatural powers escaping a facility the first person she’d run into would be some average teenage boy and no doubt high school hijinks would ensue. Here though it’s an old man and that gives us a unique dynamic. Zoroku is clearly there to guide Sana and teach her to use her power responsibly, but how is he going to deal with the fantastical and the two competing factions that both have their eyes on Sana. Its one part fantastical slice of life comedy and one part supernatural thriller and I really like that.

Tsugumomo

A tsukumogami is an object that develops a personality and spirit of its own. One day the obi that belonged to Kazuya’s mother, the same one he carries around with him wherever he goes, transforms into a blue-haired girl. This isn’t the only strange event to happen to Kazuya as all sorts of spiritual shenanigans have been going on, from being attacked by a possessed wig to getting locked in an equally possessed library. Could all of this have something to do with the dreams Kazuya has been having of late? Of memories he doesn’t remember? Whatever it means, this is clearly just the beginning.

I like this show, it has the feel of an old school shonen, similar to the recent Ushio and Tora, except not as well animated and with way more fanservice. Still the concept is interesting and so far the monsters of the week have been a little different to the usual roster of bad guys that turn up in these shows. The characters are fairly stock but they’ve got plenty of room to develop so I’m happy to see where they go. The things that are really keeping me around though is that the animation really steps up to the mark in the fight scenes and that soundtrack is just pure awesome.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor

Glenn is the new substitute teacher at the very best Imperial Magic Academy, where all the best and brightest go to learn about the forces of magic (anything else would kind of be a let down since it is a magic academy). Unfortunately Glenn isn’t really in the mood for teaching and instead just lazes around and annoys the students, until that is, a group of nasty wizards take over the school in search of one of the students. Now Glenn gets to show his stuff, including his blood-soaked past and the fact that he’s probably one of the most skilled magic-users around. He’s still kind of a jackass though.

I’m really scared of this series. I mean on the one hand I like the characters and the ideas at play, well, once you get to episode 2, episode 1 isn’t all that interesting and is really just one long joke with an unlikeable main character. Once we get to episodes 2 and 3 though, Glenn finally gets to show a few positive traits, showing off his extensive knowledge of magic and some decent (though not mind blowing) fight scenes. I really like the magic in this world, the idea that if you just ignore the textbooks and just change a phrase one way or the other, you can control the effect of a spell. What worries me is the writing. I mean it’s fairly straightforward and predictable, but the scene that raises a red flag is when one of the girls is nearly raped by a soldier. One, what the hell is that doing here? Two, get that the hell out of here! Rape should not be used just to show how evil the villains or as a bit of fanservice! It is a vile and terrible act and should always be treated as such. Gods, way to wreck a semi-decent show guys, way to go.

Right, okay, I need to go wash the bad taste out of my mouth, so we’ll continue this next week. Next time: working women, alien invasions, stupidly long titles and, oh yeah, let’s see what Naruto’s kid is up to. See you then!

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