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

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

What’s the Story?

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

The Review

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: The God of High School Review

And they fight and they fight and they fight and they fight and they fight and they fight…

What’s the Story?

The ‘God of High School’, a special martial arts tournament to determine the strongest high schooler of all. The grand prize? Whatever the winner wishes for. Any and all fighting styles are allowed, even weapons if there’s something you want to use, all the organises ask is that the contestants give it their all. For Jin Mori, he doesn’t care about the prize or the rules, all he wants to do is fight some strong opponents, and boy is he. You see this tournament isn’t just about finding the ‘strongest high schooler’, the stage has been set for a literal battle of the Gods. With unimaginable powers and everyone fighting over their heart’s desires there’s only way to find out who’s got what it takes…fight!

The Review

Bust out the popcorn, turn up the volume and bask in the glory of one gorgeously animated fight scene after another. Seriously this anime has some amazing fight sequences that will have sakuga nerds drooling. Lighting fast, well choreographed and with a sense of impact that just comes through the screen, if you like your series packed with action then you’ll find a lot to love here. If, however, you prefer your series with deep character work or a compelling narrative, well then I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere. The God of High School is a series with its foot stamped down firmly on the accelerator, to the detriment of every aspect of the show. What should be meaningful moments or emotional scenes fly by in a second, the pace stopping only long enough to deliver relevant plot information and get to the next fight scene.

I have no idea what the source material for this series is like, but I can’t help the feeling that the team behind this show had a certain end point in mind and they wanted to get there regardless of the consequences. So much happens in this series and every single second of it just feels completely meaningless. We’ve got literal Gods and legendary figures duking it out in the arena and outside of how flashy the fights are animated, I couldn’t care one single iota about what happens. How do you make such an exciting concept so boring, you know without being named Michael Bay? It doesn’t help that power ups and moments of character growth happen almost at random, bursting into a scene without any setup or explanation whatsoever. One minute we’re having a crazy wedding episode, the next we’re all dark and serious as someone is almost beaten to death (and that takes place in the same episode!)

The characters all feel like they’ve been spat out by some generic Shonen character generator. We’ve got our goofy, simpleton protagonist who only cares about fighting and filling his stomach. We’ve got the rival, the girl, even the irredeemable villain who just happens to have a tragic back story but then you remember he’s an actual monster and stop caring. I don’t even particularly care when said villain gets punched in the face, which is a crime against shonen battle series. I don’t even really believe in the friendship between the three main protagonists, the series tries to justify it but a lot of time it feels like they’re only together because the plot says so.

I have no doubt that there could be a really great, exciting story here, if only the story and characters were given enough time to actually establish themselves and let moments just breathe. As it is, the only real reason to watch this series if for the fight sequences and they are great, don’t mistake me on that, but that’s the only thing holding this series together. I feel like I’m being overly harsh, I’m not mad that I spent thirteen episodes with this series, it’s been fun in it’s way. It’s like junk food, on a technical level you know it’s not really all that good for you, but it feels nice in the moment and along as you don’t eat only junk food, what’s really the harm? That’s really this series, if you just want to indulge yourself, switch off your brain and enjoy. Just make sure you find something better for your brain afterwards.

The Verdict

In the end, The God of High School, is a popcorn thriller. It’s packed full of some blistering action sequences that are worth the price of admittance by themselves, but that’s all you’re paying for. Character and story take a back seat to action, with developments, both character-based and in the fights themselves, often coming out of nowhere with little set up. The character are little more than generic cardboard cutouts with barely any motivation outside of the fact that the plot says so. It’s worth watching for the fights, but don’t expect much more out of it.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Infallible Fish Reviews: Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones

“It’s a flying beastie!”

What’s the Story?

The Doctor and his friends, Ben, Polly and Jamie land at Gatwick airport, right in the middle of a runway! Immediately on the run from airport security, the gang soon find themselves stumbling into a sinister plot when Polly witnesses a man being murdered by a strange weapon. Something is happening at Chameleon Tours and it may just be connected to the recent rash of missing teenagers. As the Doctor tries to convince the Commandant of the seriousness of the threat he’s facing, he finds some of his friends suddenly don’t recognise him and there’s very few people he can trust. The Faceless Ones are here and it won’t be long before they get exactly what they want.

The Review:

I debated for a long time whether I was going to review this story or the animated recreation of Shada for this theme month. On the one hand I have this unwritten rule that this blog is purely for reviews of animated projects, tag posts and shameless plugging not withstanding. I don’t review live action stuff here and Shada does use live action footage as part of its reconstruction. On the other hand Shada is so much the better story, I mean it’s Douglas Adams writing Doctor Who , what more could you want from this world? Look, it’s not that The Faceless Ones is a bad story, all told it’s decidedly decent, it’s just overly long with a rushed, confusing ending. There is a small part of me that wonders if my real problem with this story is just that I seem to be the only one who doesn’t like it. Every review I’ve ever seen of this story is fairly positive, no one is shouting from the rooftops about it or anything, but people do seem to like it. That’s really why I’ve decided to review this story, I just need to get this stuff off my chest so bear with me.

Let’s start with some positives. The first few episodes of the story are surprisingly effective, the mystery of what exactly is happening with Chameleon Tours builds a great deal of tension. Also you’ve got to remember that stories set in the present day were a rare thing back in the early days of Doctor Who. Prior to this there was only the very first episode and The War Machines (where the Doctor took on Skynet 20 years before The Terminater came into being). Seeing alien body snatchers on the loose in a well-known public place would have been quiet the frightening story in the 60s. Unfortunately this plot has been done rather a lot since then and that does blunt it’s impact somewhat for a modern viewer.

Getting back to positives, let’s talk about the Doctor. The wandering Time Lord does get plenty of great moments throughout, whether it’s arguing with the close-minded Commandant, outwitting the Chameleons or just keeping ahead of the authorities, the Doctor is on top form. As for his companions, Jamie gets some highlight moments. Not only showing off the great performance chemistry that Frazer Hines and Patrick Troughton share, but also demonstrating that he can easily take charge when his character is left to his own devices. There’s a reason Jamie is one of the best companions in classic Who and these episodes are a good example of why. Jamie is forever loyal and brave, with his own kind of intelligence on clear display.

Unfortunately the same level of attention isn’t given to the Doctor’s other companions, Ben and Polly. What makes this doubly sad is the fact that this also happens to be their last story and they disappear halfway through only to turn back up for the final few minutes of the last episode. I know why it happened, the contract for Ben’s actor was coming to an end and the higher ups didn’t want to renew it (after all they’d been struggling with three companions in the TARDIS, a lesson I wish the current production would have paid attention to). Polly’s actress wanted to show solidarity and she left too. At least we got a goodbye scene filmed, which is more than some companions got when their contracts ran out midway through a story. Dodo famously left off screen in the aforementioned War Machines.

Let’s get to the real problems of this story though, it really shouldn’t be six episodes long, that’s just too much. The mystery of Chameleon Tours has some good build up in the first few episodes, but the tension it manages to build starts to wear thin as it drags and drags on. It doesn’t help that the number of locations in the story is limited, the amount of times someone decides to go back to the Chameleon Tours warehouse is extraordinary, every five seconds it feels like someone is suggesting they go back to it. Just look around and get what you need, stop going there and coming back over and over again! When we get to the later half and see the reveal of the Chameleon’s space station I should be excited, instead I’m too zoned out because I’m just so done with this story.

The final nail in the coffin comes with the conclusion of the story, so spoilers ahead. First we’ve got the explanation of why the Chameleons are doing this and, okay I’ve watched this story three times now and I still don’t understand it. There was some sort of explosion and this robbed them of their faces and all memories of who they were. So they steal the appearances and identities of young people. Err…okay so they now no longer look like mouldy cabbages, but how exactly does that solve their problem? They still have no idea who they were or what happened, stealing other people’s memories and faces doesn’t change that in anyway. In fact it creates a new problem in that their lives are in immediate danger the second someone interferes with their body-snatching equipment. Also they chose to hide their victims in the airport car park, did they really think no one was going to notice dozens of parked cars with bodies inside? Eventually someone is going to notice that and I remind you that if someone interferes with the equipment on the bodies they all die!

The Verdict:

In the end The Faceless Ones is a pretty frustrating story for me. It starts off well and the Doctor and Jamie get some good moments, but the story is overly long and the conclusion is not only rushed, it’s confusing. The animation is of the same quality as the previous The Macra Terror, if not slightly more refined and there’s the usual eerie soundscape that comes with classic Doctor Who. I won’t personally recommend this story, but there are plenty of people who do like and I can kind of see why so feel free to check it out. Maybe then someone can explain that ending to me.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Midnights Occult Civil Servants Review

Because if anyone is going to make a deal with demons it’s going to be the Government! (Hey, my first ever political joke on the blog, I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed).

What’s the Story?

When Miyako Arata joins the Shinjuku Ward Office, he’s expecting a run of the mill office job, but he really should have given the job description more than a passing glance because it turns out his new role is a lot more ‘supernatural’ than he was banking on. See Japan, and the world in general, has a large population of spirits and non-human beings called Anothers, each with their own ways and customs and its up to the various Ward Offices to keep these beings under control. A job that isn’t made any easier by the fact that no human can understand what an Another says, well, except for one. See Arata has a special ability, he’s inherited the ‘Ears of Sand’ from a distance ancestor and he can communicate with Anothers, an ability that will both help and hinder him in his new job.  

The Review

Midnight Occult Civil Servants is a series that really should have been tailor made for me, we’ve got a procedural series that has characters typically dealing with a case of the week and it explores different spirits and myths. Heck just the fact that this series pulls from mythology that I’d never expect an anime to, such as Aztec and Ukrainian, is a huge bonus. I do love it when I series doesn’t just rely on the same old supernatural beings all the time, werewolves, vampires and so on and you won’t find a single one of them here, well, not in the typical form anyway. I want to love this series, and don’t get me wrong I hugely enjoyed this series, but it never quite crossed the threshold into love. I think my main problem is that this series feels like it’s stuck between two versions of itself and it can’t quite decide what it wants to do. Then again it could just be that what the show wants to do is clashing with what I want it to do, that’s an option, but let’s break this down and see which it is.

For starters, this series is very low key, so if you’re expecting drama and action on a massive scale, then you’d better either lower your expectations or look elsewhere (this is a series about civil servants after all). A lot of the time the employees of the Ward Office are dealing with one spirit or another, trying to work out what their deal is before it all comes to some nicely tied up ending. There’s never any real sense of danger or tension as the Anothers hardly ever come across as threatening and the characters just spend a good chunk of time wandering around and talking. All of which sounds really boring, but it actually works for this series. As I said I like the variety of the Anothers in this show and I get a great deal of fun out of seeing the characters either working out how to deal with them or just interacting with them. And it’s not as if things never feel dangerous, whenever the series does a two-part story they always manage to end the middle cliff hanger on a moment where you think ‘Oh, this is actually getting serious now’.

The trouble is that a lot of the multi-part episodes tend to end unsatisfactorily. How events play out all makes sense and it builds off of what has already been set up, but a lot of the resolutions feel too easy. It never feels like there’s much of a lasting impact, even though there is, but things in the Ward Office quickly get back to normal as if nothing happened, which makes me ask what was the point of building up the tension in the first place. It’s not like this show doesn’t have the potential for drama, but it never quite plays it up as much as it should. Take the Anothers for example, a lot of Arata’s co-workers describe them as natural disasters and talk about how they can’t possibly be understood, yet every Another we meet acts in such a human way it’s hard to see how Arata is the only one able to work this all out? If the series really wanted us to buy into this view of Anothers then it really needed to play up the otherworldliness of them. There are a couple of times where it does manage it, but not all the time and that would have added so much weight to when Arata did butt heads with his co-workers, or when they warned him about being overly sympathetic with Anothers.

I feel like I’m being way too harsh on this series because, as I said, I really did enjoy it from beginning to end, I just can’t help thinking about what it could have been. In my opinion, this series needed to really go one of two ways to really make an impact. It either needed to keep things entirely low key, remove any tension around Anothers and just have the characters dealing with a new spirit of the week as they tried to solve cases based around them. Or, it needed to go full throttle with the drama, make the Anothers something completely unknowable to anyone but Arata, don’t just say it, show it, have the characters argue over situations and really make the threats something truly difficult to overcome (actually the first proper encounter with Kohaku is probably the best example of this as things get really tense towards the resolution with an army of zombies threatening multiple employees and Arata and the gang faced with a difficult choice). As it stands Midnight Occult Civil Servants is sat in the middle and while I enjoyed it, I’m not sure how long I’m going to remember it for.

The Verdict

Midnight Occult Civil Servants is an enjoyable series, but I don’t think it’s going to stick in the memory for long. The characters are all likeable and the mysteries and spirits involved are all interesting and pulled from sources I wasn’t expecting, but the show never really puts them to any great use. The low-key adventures are fun, but the series never manages to make complete use of the natural drama and tension on hand so that a lot of story resolutions feel unearned, though that’s too harsh a way of putting it. I do like the series and it’s worth a watch, even if only once. If you’re after meeting some more unique spirits and so on, then give this a chance.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Wise Man’s Grandchild Review

And you thought your protagonist was overpowered.

What’s the Story?

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before, a Japanese man is hit by a car (seriously, Japan, look at your traffic laws, you’re losing too many citizens to incidents like this!) and is reborn in another world! Found by the old and wise Merlin, this newborn hero is named Shin and raised in the ways of magic and combat. Unfortunately Merlin forgets to teach Shin anything about the outside world, or restraint for that matter, as such, when he turns 15, Shin had very little idea about what is waiting for him, or the fact that his adopted grandfather is a hero of the land! Heading out to see the world, Shin enrols in a magic school where hijinks will naturally ensue, but there are dark forces at work near the schools, humans who have become demons! Not that any of them will present a challenge to Shin, but it’s nice of them to try.

The Review:

Are you after tense battles, high-stakes drama and characters so deep and rich that you will weep with both envy and sympathy? Well then you’d better look elsewhere ‘cause you ain’t finding that here, not a chance. I kid, of course, actually, no I don’t, I’m completely serious with what I just said, but that’s not a bad thing. Wise Man’s Grandchild is in no way a series that you should take seriously, and the series itself knows that. Oh it has plenty of potential for drama and it raises several interesting question, but wait five seconds and the series will get bored with that and move on to all the characters just being cute and funny with one another, and the series works perfectly fine like that. It’s basically a slice of life for the super powered with occasional flashy light shows whenever a battle takes place.

I don’t want to rag on this series too much because, honestly, that would feel like I was kicking a puppy. This series is adorable. Shin is actually one of the better isekai protagonists I’ve seen in a while, he’s overpowered like you wouldn’t believe, but he’s so sweet and loveable and occasionally stupid. You could make a series just out of his reaction shots and people reacting to him and I’d happily watch that. I like the concept that Shin doesn’t know much about the outside world so he doesn’t quite realise when he’s said or done something completely outlandish and doesn’t quite get why everyone is so shocked. Another point in the win column with regards to Shin, and the series in genera,l is that this series never turns into a harem. Oh there’s certainly the potential for it at the start of the series, with Shin rescuing two girls and all the girls in his class, but Shin only has eyes for Sicily. It’s nice that we only get one romantic relationship to focus on and, yes, it actually does become a relationship, they talk about their feelings and everything! Another point for the win!

It’s little things like that that endear this show to me. Another is that I like how it’s continually brought up that Shin’s immense power and all the god-mode gear that he gears could completely destabilise the power structure of the world as it stands. Nothing is every really done about it, but it’s a nice excuse to explain away why this auto-healing gear isn’t handed out to everyone and we see how much tougher a demonoid becomes when he gets his hands on some of Shin’s gear towards the end of the series, I mean characters almost break a sweat fighting him! And that’s something else as well, Shin isn’t the only overpowered character in the series, sure he’s the most overpowered, but all of his classmates get taught by him and end up with god-level powers themselves compared to everyone else. I do like the fact that the powers get spread around a bit and that means that it doesn’t always have to be Shin leaping in to save the day, against an end boss, sure, but against regular demonoids, which are still meant to be a big threat, the class can handle it by themselves.

Let’s talk about our terrifying villains for a moment, I do wish the series spent more time with them (I believe there’s meant to be a season 2 so I can hold on to some hope for the future at least). Schtrom, our big bad of the series, has a compelling back story and it’s nice to see a villain who has a clear goal and sets out to achieve it, it’s just a shame that, one, we only learn this after he’s accomplished his goal and, two, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Shin. The series just starts to build up towards a bigger confrontation between Shin and Schtrom, especially now that our bad guy needs something to do, but that’s only in the last few episodes and if we don’t get that second season then this was all kind of pointless. The rest of the demonoids basically boil down to thugs who are too powerful for regular troops and it gives the class a chance to show off.

It does make me wonder why the series even needed villains, since they have so little point other than as a looming threat that we know with never actually be a threat. The series is far more interested in just having its cast of characters hang out and banter and those are by far the best moments of the series. Seriously, this should have just stuck to being a slice of life.

The Verdict:

In the end, Wise Man’s Granchild, is a harmless series. It’s fluff, but enjoyable fluff, fluff that seeks out to make your day as pleasant as possible. Yes it falls into the majority of the isekai tropes, but there are enough points where it swerves those tropes or presents an interesting enough idea that it endears itself to me. If you’re after action or drama then you’re better off looking elsewhere, but if you’re okay with watching a bunch of overpowered kids goof around and have fun with one another and their powers, then this is a perfectly fine watch.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu Review

Blog Hitoribocchi Review Title

Aru-Aru Beam!

What’s the Story?

Hitori Bocchi is an incredibly shy girl, so shy in fact that she struggles to talk to anyone but her very best firend. Unfortunately for Bocchi, her best friend won’t be attending the same middle school as her and, clearly worried, her friend makes a deal with her. Unless Boxxhi makes friends with every member of her class by graduation, she’ll never be friends with her again. Now, you may be thinking that this is an incredibly extreme measure to take, but you have yet to understand the true, crippling awkwardness of Bocchi, frankly I’m amazed she functions as a person, but we’ll save that for the review, speaking of which…

The Review

I really like this show, I’ll say that upfront. It’s a sugary ball of delight that never failed to brighten my day whenever I watched an episode, and yet, as I sit here and let my brain get all analytical I have to admit that the show was okay at best. The show is a cute and charming bit of fluff, it’s nice and while nice is a perfectly good word its never going to set the world on fire. There’s nothing really that new here, there is an army of school anime set around a group of friends being cute and getting up to various antics, but the comedy is never zany enough and only occasionally manages to blow out the cute-o-meter. Honestly a lot of what this show does has been done before and better in plenty of places, it doesn’t help that the show this has a ridiculous premise and a status quo that shall remain forever etched into the Rock of Eternity itself.

Let’s talk about that premise, and the utter stupidity of it. So, you have a friend, they’re socially awkward to the point that it’s a wonder they haven’t locked themselves in their house and barricaded the windows (I’ll get to Bocchi in a minute), and you’re concerned that your friend is going to struggle at a new school by herself. What do you do? Why of course you threaten to never be friends with her again unless she makes twenty-nine other friends within a three year time period! Because forcing someone to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable is the best way to solve a problem, naturally (speaking as someone who constantly feels socially awkward and has to make a conscious effort to talk to people sometimes, I will admit that there are times when someone needs to drag me out of my comfort zone for my own good, but it’s far better to know that I have the support of a good friend along the way. You don’t threaten your friends into doing things!). Anyway, this whole premise is utter nonsense and purely there to give Bocchi an arbitrary goal to reach by the end of the season, which she never will because the twelve episodes only cover her first year and she’s nowhere near her target by the end, as if that surprises anybody.

Let’s talk about Bocchi and, while she’s…fine, she also happens to be the least interesting character in the series. At first she’s pretty funny, her social awkwardness is stretched to completely unbelievable proportions, but she’s kind of adorable as she comes up with convoluted plans to make friends, ties herself in knots completely misunderstanding situations and just digging herself in deeper and deeper. The trouble is she’s pretty much a one-joke character and once she’s run through the various forms that her awkwardness takes all that’s left for her to do is just to go through the cycle again and again. There are moments were you think she’s made a small, incremental change, but then she faints as soon as she makes a new friend and you realise, no, Bocchi hasn’t changed at all, at least not in any significant way. The clearest example of this comes with the very last episode of the series, the series began with Bocchi trying to give her introduction to the class on the first day and instead throwing. The epilogue of the last episode has Bocchi on the first day of her second year as she’s about to give her introduction and what does she do? Yep, she throws up. Nothing really changes and that’s what holds back the comedy the most with this series.

Okay, I’ve been tearing into this series pretty deeply and all the while my heart has been quailing because I do genuinely enjoy this series. Despite all its problems, I have an incredible amount of fun watching this show and that comes almost entirely down to the characters, well, the characters besides Bocchi. If you can’t get into the characters of this series then there’s really no chance for you, but if you can, as I did, you’ll find such a warm, sweet and enchanting series. I love these people, from the lethargic Nako-chan who is often mistaken for some kind of thug (especially by the hopeless teacher), to the ever-unfortunate Aru or Sotoka who wants to be a ninja. They’re all odd in their own ways, but never completely off the wall and while they’re hardly very deep characters, they each have their sweeter moments and I just love the way they banter with one another. Seriously, Nako and Aru need their own show, I love those two together. Heck, the friends even make Bocchi more interesting as she’s often at her best when she’s getting involved with their antics rather than just going through her joke again.

The Verdict

In the end, Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu is a fun little show, but that does depend on whether you can invest yourself in the characters that fill this series. Without them the jokes and the bright visuals just aren’t enough to carry the show. It doesn’t help that our lead only has a few jokes to herself that she quickly runs into the ground and the central premise is nonsense of the highest order. If you can connect with these characters then maybe you’ll be like me and laugh and smile all the way to the end. Have an Extra-Special-Aru-Aru-Do-Your-Best Beam on the house!

fish stamp watchable

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Listeners Review

Blog Listeners Review Title

Music Reference!

What’s the Story?

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

The Review

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

Words.

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

fish stamp watchable

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: In/Spectre Review

Blog Inspectre Review Title

The Perfect Story…for a Light Novel!

What’s the Story?

When Iwanaga Kotoko was little, the yokai asked her to become their ‘God of Wisdom’. She agreed and gained the ability to see and interact with all yokai, though she lost an eye and a leg in the process. Now Iwanaga, along with her ‘boyfriend’, Sakuragawa Kuro, who has some strange abilities of his own, travel around and help settle disputes between the various spirits that inhabit Japan. Most of the time this can be accomplished with a discussion and a bit of creative thinking, but not all problems are so easily resolved. When a particularly vicious ghost known as ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ begins attacking people it’s going to take every skill Kotoko and Kuro have to subdue the monster, but there’s something strange about this ghost. Could it, in fact, have been manufactured?

The Review

When In/Spectre first started airing I was pretty much convinced it was going to be one of my favourite shows of the season. I mean it looked to have everything, a pair of cool leading characters in Iwanaga and Kuro, a great sense of humour and some impressive visuals. Match that with some interesting dialogue and concepts and we’re surely on to a winner folks (any show that can work in the line ‘Yes, one must never underestimate a goat’ gets bonus points from me, and, no, I’m not giving that line context. Go watch the first episode for yourselves). What more could I really ask for from this show? It’s a mystery series based around the supernatural, it’s a ghost story a week, how could I not love that? Spoiler alert, I didn’t love it, in fact this may just be one of the most infuriating series that I have come across in a long while. Before we get into that though, first I just want to say, if you enjoy this series, I get it. The characters are fun, there’re some brilliant concepts at play and if that is enough to carry you through then that’s perfectly fine and I’m happy for you. Now, that being said, if this series is really beloved to you it’s probably best to move on now. I’m not sure how much I’m going to tear into this one, but either way it’s probably not going to be pretty.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where my ire comes from on this one. Is it the fault of my own expectations, or did the series lead me up the garden path only to shove me off a cliff? (Okay, that metaphor got more violent than even I was planning). As I mentioned when I started watching this series I was convinced it was going to be a mystery-of-the-week style show and the first two episodes definitely fitted into that model. Unfortunately then we get to episode 3 and the ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ saga begins. At first I was completely onboard, the mystery was unfolding at a decent pace and introducing intriguing concepts like the ‘monsters of the imagination’, but then the story went on, and on, and on and on and on and on and on. Eventually I realised this arc was going to take up the rest of the series’ run and all my hopes sank with me into my chair. What was a series of fun little mysteries turned into a non-stop session of talking heads as it crawled its way from one plot point to another. I’ve never wanted to scream at an anime so much to get a move on.

The problems with this story arc go beyond poor pacing though. There are plenty of interesting things going on in this arc, even if sometimes it takes a while to get to them. We’re told the reason behind Kuro’s strange powers, we’re introduced to ‘monsters of the imagination’ as well as have a conversation about the person behind the Steel Lady ghost. That’s without even getting into Iwanaga’s detailed breakdowns of what’s going on and how she’s going to fight back. While I’ll argue that that isn’t quite enough plot to fill 10 whole episodes, it could have been a lot more entertaining if it weren’t for the style of presentation. You might have picked up on this from my word choices, but In/Spectre has a habit of telling you information rather than showing you. So many reveals are done through conversation or as apart of a long string of dialogue, which is fine when you’re just dealing with smaller, one-off mysteries, but when you’ve got ten episodes of people talking about the same problem over and over again, it just becomes dull. If this series had been done in a different format it would be amazing, if this show were a light novel I’d probably adore it, but anime is a visual medium and you need to play into the strengths of your medium.

That brings me to the other problem with the ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ arc and, in truth, this may be the most crippling factor for the whole series, the time skip. The first two episodes set up Kuro and Iwanaga and their relationship, establishing that Iwanaga has a massive crush on Kuro and he’s really not interested. From episode three onwards, Iwanaga and Kuro are in a relationship and have been for a while (it doesn’t help that they have zero chemistry as a couple and the only truly romantic scene between them is in the very last episode of the series). I mean, what was even the point of setting them up with the unrequited crush if you’re just going to shove them into a relationship! What’s more we don’t even get to see the moment were they do make it official! From episode three onwards I lose all connection to the characters, I don’t believe that Iwanaga and Kuro are in a relationship (not until the last episode anyway) and Kuro’s backstory, which should be tragic, just makes me glaze over because we’re told it rather than experiencing it for ourselves. Everything about the ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ arc is just so mishandled and it makes me want to pull my hair out because this show had so much potential.

The Verdict

All in all, In/Spectre is a huge disappointment, to me at least. It had so much potential all right in front of it and squanders what it has on a single story arc that it chooses to tell in completely the wrong format. The ideas are interesting, the characters are fun and, on the whole it looks pretty good. Unfortunately, between the time skip and the constant talking heads, it robs a lot of the moments of the impact they really should have made. Personally, I can’t recommend this series, but there is enough here that maybe, just maybe, you’ll find something to like. Just be prepared for the ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ arc.

fish stamp watchable

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

Anime Corner: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review

Blog Demon Slayer Review Title

Who ya gonna call?

What’s the Story?

Tanjiro is a kind-hearted, well-meaning boy, whose life is torn to shreds when he returns home to find his family slaughtered by demons. To make matters worse his sister, Nezuko, has been transformed into a demon herself. Vowing to become a ‘Demon Slayer’, a secretive group of sword-wielders who specialise in hunting down and killing demons, Tanjiro swears he will find a way to turn his sister human again and stop anyone else from going through what he has. Though his determination is strong, Tanjiro does not quite recognise the mountainous goal he has set for himself and the many enemies in his path, some among the Demon Slayers themselves.

The Review

Demon Slayer is a series that I really wanted to love, and on paper I should have, everything was pretty much laid out for me to adore this series. It has a great set up for a truly emotional and dramatic story, with Tanjiro not only facing off against bloodthirsty demons, but also dealing with the loss of his family and the fact that his sister is now one of said bloodthirsty demons. Tanjiro himself is a really likeable protagonist, so honest and earnest you can’t help but root for the kid as he trains and trains and nearly gets himself killed. Then you’ve got the fact that ufotable is the studio behind the animation for this series, and while I haven’t loved every series they’ve done, you can always count on them to provide some amazing visuals for a show. In fact, this may be the best-looking series I’ve seen ufotable put out to date. Not only does this series have some of the most electric, jaw-dropping fights I’ve ever seen in a shonen series, but that level of quality is spread throughout the show. Even the quieter, more low-key moments maintain the fluidity of movement and if the scene is mostly static then you’ll at least have a gorgeous backdrop to look at. From a visual standpoint I have no complaints; this series is fantastic.

However, that brings me back to the original point, I don’t love this show as much as I wanted to. Somewhere along the line this show lost me and while there were enough amazing visuals to keep me watching until the end, I never fully reengaged with the story. I’d like to claim that it was the introduction of Zenitsu and Inosuke where this show went off the rails, but honestly they were merely a fatal blow to a series that was already waning (way to mix my metaphors!). Don’t get me wrong, Zenitsu and Inosuke are as annoying as hell, I don’t think I’ve had this bad a reaction to a couple of side characters since…ever. Every time they appeared on screen they grated on my nerves and, yeah, they calmed down over time and Zenitsu is a complete badass when he’s fighting, however a couple of minutes of awesome doesn’t make up for his personality. They’re both just so loud and obnoxious, I couldn’t take it, but there is a character I was even more annoyed with, Nezuko.

Okay, let me rephrase, I’m annoyed with how the show decided to use Nezuko, by which I mean the show didn’t use her at all! One of my biggest bugbears with any series I watch, or read or that I have any contact with whatsoever, is wasted potential, especially when that potential is essentially gift-wrapped for the creators. You’ve got Nezuko, a young girl who witnesses her precious family being slaughtered before her eyes before she’s turned into a demon. Not only that, but she battles against her hunger to the point where she manages to not only stop trying to eat her only surviving brother, but manages to defend him! She should be an amazing character, through her we can learn what its like to be a demon, to see their internal struggle and what do we get instead? Nothing! Oh sure, Nezuko is cute and all, but that just means she gets relegated to being the mascot character for the majority of the series. Yet the show isn’t satisfied with that, it has to start taking away Nezuko’s agency as well as its questionable as to whether she doesn’t kill by choice, or because she was hypnotised into seeing all humans as her family! Ugh. We don’t even know if Nezuko actually wants to become human again, because Tanjiro never asks her, mostly because she barely utters a single word across twenty-six goddamned episodes!

Am I being too harsh on this series? Maybe. Probably. Definitely. This is a good series and I get why people would like this and I would recommend it, but it just pushes my buttons in all the wrong ways. There are characters that drive me right up the wall, true, but I did watch the so all the way to the end, mostly for the action and the visuals and the music, and Tanjiro. The only other complaint I have about the series is the pacing. At the beginning of the series it’s perfect, it blazing through the usual shonen tropes like training arcs and power upgrades with a speed that never feels rushed, but never lingers more than it has to on a particular plot point. At some point though the pacing started to slow into more the typical shonen pacing with fights spread out across multiple episodes and plot development in inches rather than miles. Still the show is fun, there’s a lot of great action, a real, dark creepy atmosphere that spreads throughout the series and a lot of the villains are either terrifying or at the very least have some really creepy designs.

The Verdict

In the end, Demon Slayer is a good series. It has its narrative problems, from pacing that goes from great to typical, as well as some really annoying side characters and a lot of wasted potential with other characters. However, the action and the visuals of this series are some of the best I’ve seen put on screen and the lead is a really charming guy that’s easy to root for. If you’re after something with some fantastic animation, or something with a darker atmosphere that knows how to use shadows and creepy visuals, then check this series out.

fish stamp watchable

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

 

 

Anime Corner: Digimon the Movie Review

blog Digimon Movie review title

Going Digital One Last Time!

What’s the Story?

Years ago Tai and Kari had a mysterious egg come out of their dad’s computer late one night. This egg hatched into a Digimon and as they bonded with their new friend, they had no idea that this was only the beginning of their greater destiny and lifelong connection to the Digital World. Years later, Tai and the gang are growing up and starting to drift apart, but they need to reunite fast as a virus Digimon has taken over the Internet and is causing havoc, though things are about to go from bad to worse as the Digimon gets its hands on a couple of missiles. Years later still, with the original gang older now, new Digidestined have stepped in to take their place and on a trip to America they come across a kid called Willis who has a very dangerous stalker.

The Review

And at last we are here, the big one, the grand finale, the end of the long, well-trodden road, or, to put it another way, I’ve been writing this blog for five whole years!!! Cue the lights, set off the fireworks, unleash the dancers and pass out the celebratory Colas. Okay, I actually don’t have the budget for any of that, in fact all I can afford is one party popper, which you can’t see because I write these reviews, not record them. Just use your imagination. Anyway I do find it crazy that I’ve been writing this blog for five years now, I certainly never thought about it going on this long. I’ve talked about this before but I started this blog as a confidence builder for my own voice and writing and in that regard it has worked wonders, while I struggle to read some of the earliest posts on this site, that is a testament to how far I feel I’ve come. I am a much better writer than I was five years ago and part of that is down to this blog. So, to anyone who has liked, commented or even just read any of my past reviews you have my heartfelt thanks and I hope you continue to enjoy what I do here. I will keep trying to make myself a better writer and I’ve yet to run out of things to talk about regarding anime and other animated properties, so expect the reviews to keep coming for a while yet.

Enough patting myself on the back though, because it’s time for the pain. At the start of this year I started a look back at a franchise I’ve loved since childhood, Digimon, and while I loved rewatching the original series, I was disappointed by the recent Digimon Adventure Tri films (though they had a few good moments), but now we’re here, the Digimon Movie and I sit here in both anticipation and dread. See the Digimon Movie is, as far as I’m aware, a special case when it comes to feature films for anime franchises over here in the West. Digimon was popular, not as popular as Pokemon unfortunately, but popular enough to gets its own film released in cinemas. Thing is though, Digimon doesn’t have a regular style movie as Western audiences would think of it (by which I mean something of feature length, around 90 minutes). The majority of Digimon movies last between half an hour to an hour in length, so they’re more big budget OVAs than anything else. So, what did Fox Kids do? Did they work with animators in Japan to create a unique, specifically crafted film for Western audiences to show just how much care and understanding they had for the Digimon franchise?

…….

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

No, no, they didn’t do that. Instead they took three of the films, cut them up and stitched them together as some Frankenstein monstrosity and shoved it into cinemas to make a quick cash grab. Welcome to the treatment of anime in the 90s/Early 2000s!

We start off on a terrible note, quite literally, with the Digi Rap. I call it a rap, someone is clearly trying to rap while sticking ‘Digi’ in front of every other word. It’s as terrifying as it sounds, but you want to know the worst part? It’s an earworm, it worms its way into your brain and you’ll find yourself humming it late one night, only to then go sit in a corner with your shame. It does fit the feel of the film though, cheap, poorly put together and just thrown out there and left to die. That’s not even the greatest crime of this film though, you want to know what is? I’m going to tell you anyway. It’s Kari, or as she shall henceforth be known, the never-ending constantly spewing exposition machine because she will not shut up! In an effort to make this shambling patchwork mess of a film in any way cohesive, the geniuses behind this film decided to have her narrate almost every single thing that happens. Between her and the soundtrack there’s hardly ever any quiet moments in this film and it ruins a lot of what should be tense or awesome scenes.

Of course there’s some things even this movie can’t ruin, such as a dinosaur fighting a giant parrot. That is the one thing in this film’s favour, it is utterly gorgeous, the animation is directed by Mamoru Hosoda (yes, Mamoru ‘Girl-Who-Leaped-Through-Time’ Hosoda, that guy) and Shigeyasu Yamauchi respectively and though its rushed and chopped up in places it is so good to see Digimon animated with a budget. I wish we could get a whole series animated like this. My favourite section of the film is the second section, based on the film ‘Our War Game!’. Even the version in this film manages to capture some of the sense of scale and excitement of the original, it even has some funny lines, as well as some stupid ones (I still don’t get the three bean joke, though the exasperated phone operator always makes me laugh). There’s some great action, plenty of tension, we get to see Ominmon for the first time and there’s some really fun character moments (Tai X Sora is canon, I accept nothing else!).

That brings me to the soundtrack, I should call this film out on this because the songs only have the most tangential connection to the scenes they’re played over and are often jarring, but I can’t help but love it. The soundtrack is the late 90s distilled down to its purest form and it hits me right in the nostalgia centres of my brain. That’s my real problem with this film, I hate it on a conceptual level, but there are parts of it I just adore. The best way I’ve found to watch this film is to just watch it with the sound down while the soundtrack loops in the background. I suppose that’s what this film represents to me, even when something’s bad, even when we’re dredging through the dark ages of anime, when shows were butchered and mistranslated for the sake of profit and making them ‘acceptable’ to Western audiences, there’s still good to be found. No matter what you do, you can’t completely erase the uniqueness and creativity of anime. There is always good to be found, you’ve just got to look for it sometimes.

The same applies to Digimon, I love this franchise and as the years have gone on I’ve only come to love it more and more. Yes the dub is stuffed full of corny jokes and songs that are tonally inappropriate to the scenes, yes the animation is cheap and the story has no right to be as good as it for something that was meant just to sell toys, even when they make poor decisions or get lost in convoluted plots, I love this franchise and will never stop seeing the good in it. I think we’ll wrap this up here, thank you again to whoever’s read this post and any of the other reviews I’ve put out over these five years. Y’all are amazing and I love ya, here’s to another five years! Hit it DJ!

All right Ready to go? I’m ready. Ready? Let’s go.
The digi-valution is up and runin’
did you see, did you hear, did ya know it was comin’?
Our digi-destiny starts today, let me hear you say

Digimon. Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions
Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

When digi win, the digi-vice in hand, its a digi dynamic force in digi land
When the digi past and digi present collide time to digi-phy

Digimon. Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions
Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

The digi world is digi safe, and now will meet its digi fate,
Good digimon to protect what’s right, we’ll have to digi-phy

Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions!

 

fish stamp watchable

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