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.

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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: 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.

Anime Corner: Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel 1. Presage Flower Review

Blog Heavens Feel 1 Review Title

Let’s do this, one last time.

What’s the Story?

Ten years after a disastrous fire erupted in Fuyuki City, the Holy Grail War has begun again. Seven Mages have been called to summon seven Servants, the spirits of heroes of legend, and now they will do battle for the all-powerful wish granting relic, the Holy Grail. Shirou Emiya has no interest in wishes, other than his own wish to become a Hero of Justice, but when he learns that the last Holy Grail War caused the fire he was lucky enough to survive as a child, he feels compelled to act. Trouble is Shirou is a pretty inept Mage and is in no way prepared for the bloodbath that is to follow, especially when an old childhood friend turns out to be a competing Master. Meanwhile something strange is making moves in the background, turning the war towards a dark outcome and what’s going on with Sakura, the girl who not so secretly loves Shirou?

The Review

The fate franchise, by this point, is a massive, complex beast, just asking someone where to start can get you several different answers (though for my money Fate/Zero is your best bet), and I’ve come to the conclusion that my favourite entries in the series are always going to be the offshoots, the prequel and the alternate universe stuff. The series that ufotable did before this film, Unlimited Blade Works, had an amazing start, before face planting in the second half. Having said all that though, Heaven’s Feel is the storyline I’ve been waiting for and, from what I know of it (I’ve done my best to avoid details of what actually happens over the years so I can appreciate this properly), this may be the one for me. This time we might get an exploration of the Rin and Sakura relationship, not to mention Shirou and Illya might have a proper conversation for once to talk about their family stuff. Heck, Shirou might even get an ending that doesn’t involve him carrying on being a self-sacrificing martyr with only the woman he loves to keep him sane (gods I hated that resolution to UBW).

Let’s talk about the film though, firstly, if you’re new to fate franchise, turn back around right now. Don’t watch this film until you’ve watched Unlimited Blade Works at least, and you’ll probably want to watch Fate/Zero if you want to get absolutely everything, but that plays into the unique nature of Fate/stay night. For those that don’t know, Fate/stay night was originally a visual novel with three distinct routes to play through the game, the routes use the same characters and locations across the same span of time, but the stories diverge at certain points to fill in new bits of back story and lore, so that while each route’s story is its own, they build on top of one another to form a complete whole. While I find that way of story telling fascinating, it does create problems in the adaptation department. Adapting one route is more than enough to fill an entire series, but adapting only one route is only giving you part of the story and if you then choose to go on and adapt another route, you’re going to be stuck rehashing several things at the beginning of the story before you hit the point were the story diverges.

That’s the problem this film faces and it never manages to quite overcome it. It does its best and, honestly, gets off to a really good start. The opening of this movie begins a year and a half before the typical events of Fate/stay night, we get to see the devolving friendship of Shirou and Shinji and how Shirou and Sakura came to know one another. It’s a good look into relationships that we know of, but haven’t really gotten the focus in past iterations of the story. Then we come to the problems, the film chooses to skip over a lot of the events from the beginning Fate/stay night (since they’ve already been animated in Unlimited Blade Works), only animating a few scenes that we need to see again or that lead into changes. Even then a lot of the early scenes cover ground we’ve seen before and the new scenes lack the emotional impact because unless you already know these characters you’re never really given a chance to invest in them.

It’s annoying because there’s a lot of stuff in this film that is really cool and interesting. The animation is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the action sequences are some of the best I’ve ever seen (the fate franchise has never looked this good before, ever). We get conversations I’ve been looking forward to for ages, but there’s no build up to them. There aren’t that many scenes of daily life and we skip over several big events and the characters reactions to them. Those have all been animated in Unlimited Blade Works, but for this story, as you watch it, it feels like your skipping steps and just bouncing from one random scene to the next. It becomes a patchwork narrative and it just doesn’t work because the story hasn’t had time to properly build up to those big moments to really make you feel, and while I enjoyed them, I didn’t enjoy them as much as I should have. The connective tissue of the story is missing. Hopefully the next film will feel more complete since by the time this film ends it’s well and truly separated from all the other versions so we won’t have to skip past anything next time.

The Verdict

In the end Fate/stay night Heaven’s Fell 1. Presage Flower is a film for fans, but it’s what it sets up that has me more excited than anything that happens in the film. The animation is beautiful, the fate franchise has never looked so good and the fights are electric, but when it comes to the characters there’s too much missing from the journey the characters go on. I understand why they did it, that stuff has been animated elsewhere, but without it the bigger moments in this film just don’t have the same impact. We’ll see how the next film turns out, when that eventually gets released in the UK.

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 Adventure Tri: Loss Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 4 Review Title

Izzy, he knows his tea, all tea, apparently.

What’s the Story?

The Digidestined have returned to the Digital World, but while everything may look like it once did, that doesn’t mean that things are the same. For one their partners have no memory of them or their past adventures and, while the Digidestined do their best to reconnect, there are darker machinations at work. The infection, the distortions and even the reboot have been part of a wider plan, and as the architectures of this scheme finally step into the light, the Digidestined find themselves in a desperate situation.

The Review

That was better, I won’t say it was exactly good, but it was a lot better than the last outing for this film franchise. For one we’re finally starting to get some answers and if you’ll permit me a moment to geek out, the original Digidestined! I’d completely forgotten they were a thing since they’re pretty much a one off reference in the first series, not only that, but their partners become the Sovereigns! Honestly I nearly died from the first five minutes of this film and it makes me cry that it managed so much world building and excitement and sheer nostalgic glee than the rest of the film put together.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the pacing that is killing this series more than anything else. For something that has ‘Adventure’ in the title, there is precious little of that. We’re back in the Digital World, we get to see all the old favourite locales and we’ve even got a couple of Dark Masters dropping by for a fight and what do the cast of this film spend most of their time doing? Sitting around and talking! Don’t get me wrong the original Adventure had plenty of sitting around and talking, but it all felt relevant and kept the sense of apprehension, because these were kids who were lost with no idea where they were or how they were going to fix it. They talked to find a solution to their problems and that kept the story moving forward. Here when the characters have a conversation it all feels far too relaxed. Yes, the characters know more of their situation now and they all chose to come to the Digital world, but they have no way to get back or communicate with the real world. There should be more of a sense of urgency here and there just isn’t. I swear you could take away half this film’s running time and you wouldn’t miss a thing.

In fact it’s only the last act of the film were things really pick up because the villains have finally started doing something (half the fight is spent watching digivolutions cycles, but I’ll complain about that later). Still, it is a positive. We now know more about the villains and what their eventual end goals are, we even get a sense of the greater conflict in the Digital World, though I’m still not entirely sure how exactly Meicoomon fits into everything. I get part of it, she’s still infected and that will somehow lead to her destroying the Digital World and separating humans from Digimon, forever, somehow. Okay so we still need some more explanations on that front, but I guess I’m glad we’re just getting a better idea of what everyone is after here.

Speaking of things to be glad about, Meiko, I mean she’s still kind of boring, but if we can get more of the assertive Meiko and less awkward Meiko then I may just end up accepting her as part of the gang, which honestly sounds harsher than I mean it to. She’s still in the non-character area for me, but she’s slowly edging her way out of it, if we get a few more character moments with her I think she’ll be fine, though that brings up the pacing again. With how low key and relaxed this series, you’d think we’d spend that time on some decent character moments and while Matt gets a nice little moment admitting that everyone’s putting a bit too much pressure on Tai, and Sora gets some good moments dealing with her partner not remembering her and not wanting anything to do with her, but that’s all, moments. Honestly I feel like more time should have been spent on that for all the Digidestined, if you’re not going to ramp up the plot to get us excited, at least ramp up the emotions.

I said I enjoyed this more than last time, right? I think that’s another problem with this series, it’s fine at first, but the more I sit here, writing reviews, the more the think about this series, the more annoyed I get. The high school was fun for a couple of films, but now the series just feels like it’s stuttering, its not hitting me in the feels like it should. Maybe it is the budget, because this series is clearly struggling in the funding department, there’s been a lot of still shots and cheap animation in the previous installments, but we’ve hit a whole new level with this outing. So I have to ask, why is this six films again? I know it was planned out as a, what, twenty-six episode series or something like that, but they’re clearly stretching the series and the budget here. Why couldn’t this have been a trilogy? The plot would move faster, we’d have more money for epic fights and heartbreaking scenes, I just don’t get it.

One last thing to mention, I know the whole Ken running around in his Digimon Emperor get up was solved last film, but it looks like that plot thread has finally run its complete course and all I can ask is, why?! Why did Gennai disguise himself as Ken? What was the point? The Digidestined would have had exactly the same reaction to Gennai turning evil as Ken. ‘Wait, there’s our former friend, why’s he acting like a bad guy!’ ‘I don’t know, let’s send him a message and just shrug when we don’t get a reply.’ It’s not as if Gennai is trying to trick the gang because he pretty quickly drops the disguise right in front of them. So. What. Was. The. Bloody. POINT?! Ken better show up at the end of this series and tell us he’s been on holiday in Bermuda or something or I’m going to be even more annoyed.

The Verdict

All in all, I seem to have ranted more than I was expecting to with this review. There are good parts to Digimon Adventure Tri: Loss, the first five minutes expanded the world so much and I genuinely love them, also I did enjoy the moments with Tai, Matt and Sora and it was great to see all the mega digivolutions again. Those are just moments though and overall, while the story finally feels like its going somewhere, its doing it at too slow a pace for my taste. Maybe next time will be better, we live in hope.

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: Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion Review

Blog Angolmois Review Title

The Mongols are coming! The Mongols are coming!

What’s the Story?

In the 13th Century the Mongol Empire was expanding ever outward, an unstoppable war machine it turned its attention to Japan. The Mongols first target was the small island of Tsushima and they easily tore through the bulk of the soldiers there. However a group of exiles had recently landed on the island’s shores and they may just be the only hope the inhabitants of Tsushima have. The battle for survival is on! Be prepared for plenty of blood and death, and the ugliest filter you’ve ever seen.

The Review

Okay let’s start with that filter (might as well get it out of the way). It is ugly. I understand what they were going for, to give the cells a textured look so it looks like we’re watching an old tapestry. Unfortunately you can’t accomplish a bit of visual style by cheaply throwing a single filter over every single frame in the series. It’s a shame because I actually like the character designs and they play into that old school feel that the show is going for while still making each character distinct (though a fair few of the Mongols are hard to distinguish, but that could just be because they’re all wearing the same uniforms). The animation itself isn’t that bad, it’s serviceable, though there are a couple of nicely framed shots and a few good fights throughout. Honestly it feels like a lack of budget is what’s holding this show back more than anything else.

Well, I say that, but then I come to the rest of the show. Angolmois is one of those hard to review middle-of-the-road shows. It doesn’t do anything particularly bad, but then it doesn’t do anything particularly amazing either. The characters are fine (and that word is probably going to crop up a lot throughout this review), but I do think there’s just a few too many of them. I get that they needed fodder to slowly make their way through throughout the series, but I never particularly cared about any of them. Across the series you learned little bits of motivation and back-story, but never enough to get me invested. I can point out all of the characters (though their names are quickly fading), but I can say what their gimmick was. However I never felt like I really got to know them as people, which I suppose is understandable when they’re dealing with an invading force, there’s not exactly much time for sitting down and having a deep character moment, it just hampered my enjoyment of the show somewhat.

Speaking of the invading force, the Mongols are both a boon and a problem for this series. On the one hand the actual conflict and pacing of the invasion is well handled. The Mongols constantly feel like an impending threat, with overwhelming numbers and, probably my favourite part, some intelligence. It’s where this series succeeds the most. Both the Mongols and the islanders fighting against them have intelligent leaders and it’s great to see what the two sides come up with to fight one another. The Mongols have new technology like cannons and bombs, while the islanders know their home like the back of their hand, the conflict is what this show does best.

However, the Mongols suffer from the same problem as the main cast. There’s a few too many of them and we never really get to know them. A part of it is that the Mongol is made up of lots of different tribes and factions, each with their own leaders and ways of fighting, which is cool. Unfortunately it gets in the way of the Mongols having a real face, someone to represent the threat as a whole. Instead we get several generals that enter the story and suddenly leave to be replaced by someone else. There are a couple of generals that are introduced as a big deal towards the beginning of the series before vanishing completely and only making a few brief appearances towards the end. Of course it doesn’t help that the titular Angolmois hardly appears and never shares the screen with any of the main characters. It’s also partially hamstrung by the fact that this is historical fiction and while the story is mostly original, it can’t really break away that much from what happened and so certain things have to happen with the Mongols (but this mostly only applies to the ending).

I do feel like I’m being harder on this show than I should be, because I did genuinely enjoy watching it. It’s just that when I look back over the series there isn’t that much that comes jumping out at me. That’s the problem with an average show, I feel guilty about talking about its flaws so much because that doesn’t properly represent the experience of watching this show and listing the positives doesn’t feel enough to readdress the balance. For every moment where I’ve struggled to remember someone’s name or shrugged at their poetic demise, there are others where I’ve cheered for a clever plan or gasped as things just got worse and worse for the characters. If you’re interested in the Mongol invasion (though please don’t treat this as a documentary or historically accurate or anything like that) or just want to get a taste of the time period, then this is a fun show.

The Verdict

Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion is a fine series, that’s really the best word for it. The characters are fine and the conflict is interesting, it’s certainly a part of history that I didn’t know that much about (and while much of this series is purely fictional it gives you a good feel for the time period). The visuals do leave a lot to be desired and I certainly wouldn’t be able to argue if that filter put anyone off watching. If you’re interested in learning a bit the Mongol invasion, or at least getting a taster of the time period, this is a good series for that. Other than that I don’t think this series is going to live long in my memory, but I’d be open to more historical fiction shows like this in the future.

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

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 1 Review Title

The Mon are back in town!

What’s the Story?

Life has moved on for the Digidestined. Now in high school the gang are finding themselves drifting apart, torn between commitments, relationships and even just deciding on their futures it doesn’t look like our destined heroes will ever get together again. Then strange disturbances begin to plague to city, signals cutting out and machines going haywire, not to mention the sightings of a very big red bug. Soon Digimon have found their way back into the real world and the Digidestined find themselves caught up in more battles, but is fighting really the answer? Tai isn’t so sure.

The Review

When I first heard about Digimon Adventure Tri, I was excited and I mean really excited (scrap me off the ceiling and lock in a rubber room for a few hours levels of excited). Why wouldn’t I be? I adore the original Digimon Adventure (check out my review HERE) and I’m getting the chance to hang out with all my favourite characters all over again? Sign me up! Then, the trepidation set in. First it was the fact that I couldn’t actually see movies (or even the movies broken up into episodes) as they weren’t being legally streamed in my region, at least nowhere that I had access to. That meant I had to wait to see the first film and by the time I could get it on DVD a couple of things started to happen.

For starters there was the realisation that this was going to be in continuity and that meant one thing, it had to lead up to the Digimon 02 epilogue. That meant hooking Sora and Matt up and I’ve already expressed my feelings about that in my review (check it out HERE, I’m doing a lot of call backs this review, aren’t I?). I wasn’t sure I wanted to see that, I’m much happier in my little bubble with the first series and the movie, where I can pretend that the epilogue never happened. Then came another nail, opinions on the Internet weren’t exactly the most favourable towards tri. I did my best to avoid any spoilers or any detailed reviews, but the vibe I was getting wasn’t good so, in the end, I put off watching any of the tri movies (the price of the DVDs didn’t help either, but then buying physical media for anime is harder and more expensive all over the place, but that’s a topic for another time).

This being my Digital Year though, I decided I’d put things off for long enough. I had to watch tri at some point and after watching the first film what I can say is…it’s good. It didn’t exactly blow me away, but it’s a start, there’s plenty of mystery and plenty of places for the story to go. I’ve not seen any glaring warning signs yet. This first film is going for a very different feel than the original series which, after a little mental adjustment, I’m okay with. As the film is set in the real world there’s less of an adventure feel, there’s no strange and wondrous world for the gang to contend with, no peeling back the layers on the Digital World (though judging by the opening few minutes I think that’s going to change as the series goes on and we’re going to get into some deep mythology for the series, which I’m looking forward to).

Instead this first film is more focused on the kids and their relationships, as they grow older. There’s a bit of romance in the air between certain characters (I’ve never shipped Izzy and Mimi before, but I can go with it) and the triangle developing between Sora, Tai and Matt isn’t as bad as I’d dreaded it would be, mostly because Sora hasn’t decided yet, but for the moment the tension in their relationship feels natural. Actually, feeling natural is a good way to sum up a lot of the relationships in this series, the way that the gang has drifted apart is understandable. People have different responsibilities and have to juggle various portions of their life. I also really like Tai’s arc of him struggling what to do with his future and really being able to decide what action he should take. I was like that for a long time, so I get Tai’s trepidation, even if the movie ends without any real answer to Tai’s problems. The film has a more mature sense to it, the characters dealing with relatable problems and a fair few quiet, contemplative scenes. That being said the whole Tai and Matt butting heads was starting to get on my nerves by the end of the run time since the argument pretty much went in circles and the movies doesn’t offer up a solution so it feels like we haven’t really gotten anywhere.

I definitely enjoyed this film, I like seeing these characters again and seeing what they’d gotten up, but I also have to admit that it hasn’t really blown me away. The plot doesn’t really accomplish much, the whole film just set up. We catch up with the characters, have Digimon return to the real world, have a couple of fights, introduce a secretive government organisation that knows about the Digimon, Tai and Matt have an argument and we get a new Digidestined at the end. That’s pretty much it. There’s definitely plenty to explore in future films, I want to know more about this government group and these ‘infected’ Digimon. Also some mention of the 02 Digidestined would be nice since I’m assuming they died in the beginning (what else am I supposed to take away from the red backgrounds and their silhouettes falling to the ground?), not that anyone in the film cares, no one even mentions them. I find that both hilarious and tragic.

The Verdict

Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion is very much the start of something, rather than a film in its own right. It’s nice to see some of favourite characters again and to have animation with at least a modicum of a budget behind it. It introduces a lot of things that have potential for the future, relationship tension, secretive government organisations and hints at the deeper mythos of Digimon. The film is taking the series down a more mature route and I think it’ll be good to see the characters I grew up with finally grow up themselves. I’m hopeful for the next instalment, but we’ll see how that pans out in a month’s time.

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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.