Anime Corner: Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2 Review

Blog Gundam Iron 2 Review Title

The iron flower that shall never wilt

What’s the Story?

The former child soldiers of Tekkadan have finally carved out a life for themselves. Now a legitimate organisation with wages and everything, they’ve finally built the home they never had, but is that enough? There are still those who look down on them, who see them as nothing more than human debris or pawns in other people’s schemes. Unfortunately they only know one way to get what they want and that is to fight, charging from one battlefield to the next in the hopes that this will be the last one. As a civil war erupts in Gjallarhorn, Earth’s peacekeeping force, Tekkadan is drawn into the conflict, though they may have picked the wrong side. Can the kids find a way to live in this world, or will the iron flower finally wilt?

The Review

The first season of Iron Blooded Orphans is not only one of favourite seasons of the franchise, but just anime in general (check out my review here), this second season though, I don’t know. There are parts that are fantastic, so many moments that are thought provoking and heart wrenching, the same great characters that we fell in love with before as well as a couple of interesting new characters. The series is just as dark and brutal as before, more so in some instances. But then there are other parts that are meandering or pointless and in some cases just downright wrong. Honestly it feels like two different writing teams wrote this series, with the good team having to deal with the utter junk the other team was forcing on them.

Now there will be plenty of spoilers ahead as I’m going to need to drag up some examples to sort out my feelings about this series, so if you want to go in blind, skip to the Verdict at the end.

We’ll start in the good camp with Mcgillis Fareed. Now it’s hard to classify Mcgillis because he’s kind of both a protagonist and antagonist at the same time. It goes with this whole series’ outlook that there are no villains, just people with different goals. I mean from certain viewpoints Tekkadan themselves can appear to be the villains, mercenaries with ties to organised crime, ruthless in battle and with a higher body count than most mortuaries. It’s a message I appreciate, but it does hurt the series. Because there’s no grand villain or major goal, the plot just kind of meanders around the place, with Tekkadan lurching from one random battle to the next. Which I guess is the point. These are child soldiers, fighting and violence is all they know, they don’t know another way to get what they want. (Spoiler!) It takes the utter destruction of Tekkadan for them to begin to move past their upbringing and become a part of a better world, though not all of them can escape the life of violence. Still would have been nice for the plot to feel a bit more cohesive during the beginning and middle sections.

Anyway, I was talking about Mcgillis. This season does a great job of letting us inside his head more. I mean season 1 kind of left his motivations a bit vague, other than Gjallarhorn’s corrupt as anything and he wants to remake it. In season 2 we get to learn how messed up a person Mcgillis is, he’s a child who was mentally, physically and sexually abused (I mentioned this season got darker in places right?) as such he believes that power alone is the only thing that will change the world. He’s also a master manipulator, using everyone around him until he can rise to the top. Honestly most of the time I don’t know whether to root for him or punch him. I kept expecting him to turn into the series’ villain, he certainly did some bad things, but he did it for a good cause, to reform Gjallarhorn. It’s just that his way wasn’t the right way, like Tekkadan he was trapped in the thinking that violence and brutality were the only answers to the world’s problems.

Okay, bad thing now. This show and women. It’s weird, sometimes it gets it right, sometimes not, but then I guess Iron Blooded Orphans has always has a weird view on women. I mean the child bride and the criminal with a harem of women, all of which are his “wives”, was iffy for me in the first season, but it managed to just edge the line, I mean there were some good female characters in there. Season 2 takes it across the line though. I’m assuming the term “women in refrigerators” is used frequent enough on the internet that it doesn’t need an in depth explanation, in short, it’s when a woman is killed off purely to effect the story of the male characters. Season 2 has one of those moments, the villains behind it even openly admit that’s why they’re doing it. I was so angry I nearly stopped watching at that point, it’s pointless, I take that back, it does have a point and that point is manipulative and a waste of a good character (doesn’t help that it happen to someone who I’d really grown to care for across the two seasons).

Good stuff. Think of good stuff. Yes, new characters, haven’t talked about them yet. While there are a bunch of new faces, a lot of them get the short end of the stick, with very little development or time to shine. There is one that I think is a brilliant addition to the cast, and that is Julieta. At first she wasn’t all that great, she was standoffish and cold, a pale imitation of Mika for the Gjallarhorn side, but she grew on me. Unlike Mika she wasn’t a born badass and had to work hard to gain strength, though I think the moment I really started to like her was when she was fighting Mika and came to realise that she wants power, but not at the expense of her humanity. She matured and by the end had a grudging respect for the kids of Tekkadan, but she was able to leave the violence behind and remain human.

The Verdict

The second season of Iron Blooded Orphans isn’t as good as the first. It has some great elements, the characters are just as engaging as ever and the animation is gorgeous and action-packed (the battle between Mika and the Mobile Armour stands out as a highlight just for how jaw-dropping and brutal it is). The story is thought provoking and has a real heart to it, though it will smash your heart to pieces by the end. This is a bittersweet story, with these characters and this world it couldn’t really be anything else, but the plot has a tendency to meander too much and several of the new characters never get a chance to shine. There are also several questionable elements that stop me from liking this series as much as I want to. I’m half-tempted to say to skip this, but if you can put up with the questionable stuff, the moments when this series is on point are really worth the slog to get to them. Just remember to pack the tissues.

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

Anime Corner: Nanbaka Review

Blog Nanbaka Review Title

Wait, is this a comedy anime or not?

What’s the Story?

Welcome to Nanba prison, the most brightly coloured and glittery prison you will ever see, it’s also impossible to escape from. Now I know that claim has been made a thousand times before, but these guards mean it, there’s death traps galore and those guards I mentioned are superhuman monsters (Seriously, someone call Dragonball Z, see if they’re missing a couple of fighters). Of course that doesn’t stop people from trying to escape, like Jyugo, he’s always trying to escape (some say it’s the only thing he’s good at). He’s never quite made it yet, but that’s not going to stop him. In the mean time we’ve got some wacky antics with the rest of the inmates, until Jyugo’s past starts to catch up with him that is.

The Review

Okay, I think I’m going to have to tackle this review a little differently to normal. Perplexed has probably been my main emotion throughout watching this series, which has been to its advance as it’s meant I’ve stuck around just to find out what actually happens. As a marketing ploy it works, though it’s not one that I think could work all the time. This anime seems to have been a miracle mix of randomness to create something unique and ludicrous on every level. Anyway, on with the review.

This is a strange anime and not just because it tries to portray a prison as somewhere bright, colourful and, well, camp (seriously what’s with all the sparkles all over the place?). No, what really makes this anime register on the weird-o-meter is the fact that it tries to be two different things and yet by some bizarre Frankenstein-level miracle of non-science, it manages to live.

Now, like myself, you may be under the misapprehension that this is a gag anime, the first few episodes certainly give that impression. I mean they trundle along with sort little sketches and deliver a good couple of punch lines before moving on to the next. It was fun, though I have to admit that it was probably the strange setting that kept me around more than anything else, mainly to see where exactly they were taking this.

Then the New Year’s tournament rolled around and things started to change. Things started playing out like a tournament arc in a shonen anime, which was a bit odd but had decent jokes as the cast poked fun at several tropes while at the same coming up with some ludicrous challenges for the matches in the tournament. Then all of sudden this serious edge started to creep into proceedings as we approached the final match. I mean one minute they’re being silly daydreaming about what they’re going to ask for if they win, the next a prisoner is throwing fireballs and trying to kill Jyugo.

I kept waiting for the punch line and one never came. They were actually doing a death match and there was actually a sense of danger about it, mostly because I had no idea where this was going to go. I mean this is a gag anime right? (Even the announcer guard agrees with me and across the series makes a couple of good jokes around how this really doesn’t fit). This wasn’t a one off thing either. After the tournament all the episodes have this shroud of seriousness lurking around the edges, while still at the same time continuing its wacky comedy sketches. One minute they’ll making a joke about an inmate or guard, the next we have Jyugo in a cell dealing with the consequences of his actions and lamenting his dark past.

Yeah, Jyugo has a back story and it’s not just a punch line, in a comedy anime! Actually when I think about it a fair few of the characters get decent back stories, especially towards the end. I mean some of them are silly, like the ninja kidnapped by an actress and pushed into showbiz just so he could play an authentic ninja on the big screen. Then on the other hand we have the martial arts student who was sold off by his master just so that said master could save his own hide. The weirdest part? Both of them kind of get to me. These characters all started out as two-dimensional jokes and while I doubt they’ll ever have deep characterisations, I care about these guys, this anime has slowly sucked me in and made in invested in their plots.

I mean true, some of this stuff does feel like it came out of nowhere, especially Jyugo’s arc where at the start (during the comedy section) he seems like a perfectly normal protagonist. He’s appears normal, expect for the shackles around his wrists, ankles and neck and clearly his motivation is to get said shackles off (as well as find the person that put them on him). Then after the tournament arc there’s all this stuff about how Jyugo is empty inside with no desires of this own and this arc then becomes about finding himself and what he really wants (outside of getting the shackles off and finding the man who put them on him). It does feel a little out of left field, like it was only thought of after the writer decided to go for this more serious route.

This anime really shouldn’t work, and in some places it doesn’t. Sometimes the flicking between gag humour and fight scenes doesn’t work, sometimes it does. It’s hard to do drama when you’re sat there expecting a punch line. I’m not saying drama should be all serious, all the time, it certainly shouldn’t. There needs to be a balance between light and dark, but if you go too far one way then it upsets this balance, and sometimes this anime does. On the other hand this anime has me hooked, despite whatever flaws it has, I want to see exactly where it’s going (which may or may not have something to do with the fact that Season 2 ends right in the middle of a serious arc as everyone is gearing up to fight the big bad! Give me Season 3 damn it!)

The Verdict

Nanbaka is a strange mix of gag comedy and shonen action that really shouldn’t work and sometimes it doesn’t. It struggles at times to find the balance between its comedy and serious moments. It doesn’t help that some of the characters are either 2-dimensional or have back-stories that come out of nowhere. Still, when it manages to get it right then it’s a pretty decent anime. I like the characters and the plot has me intrigued, which is certainly more than I was expecting from this anime.

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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: Interviews with Monster Girls Review

Blog Monster Girls Review Title

Less interviews, more pestering the teacher if you ask me.

What’s the Story?

In a world where the likes of vampires, snow women and dullahans live normal lives among the population, Takahasi just wants to understand these “demi-humans” more. The trouble is that demis are a minority in the population and he’s struggled to find a single one. Then one day three start going to his school and even the new teacher is a succubus. What follows is a look into the daily lives of people who in legend are considered monsters, though as Takahasi is going to learn, they’re a lot more human than anything else.

The Review

Seriously does this teacher do any work outside of talking to the girls? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him teacher a class! Don’t get me wrong he’d make an excellent councillor, always thinking of the girls’ needs and offering a sympathetic ear, but do your job for crying out loud. Sorry, that’s not really what this show’s about, but it just kind of struck me and it bugged me for a little bit. Anyway, what this series is really about is looking at monster girls in a new light. This show isn’t about wacky hijinks or an overabundance of fanservice, no it’s a much more, well realistic probably isn’t the right word, maybe grounded? It looks at the likes of vampires and snow women and asks what would they be like if they really existed? The show has clearly done its homework and works its way through various legends trying to work out what could work in a grounded setting and what wouldn’t.

Here vampires don’t burst into flames in direct sunlight and they’re not afraid of crosses or garlic, though they do have heightened senses so strong smelling foods can be off putting. Also they’re sensitive to light, probably due to being closer to nocturnal predators and can overheat easily, so yeah, sleepy during the day would be best for them (though the coffin is optional). Really I take my hat off to all the thought put into this series. Someone clearly spent a long time sat down at their desk working all this stuff out and I appreciate that amount of detail in a work.

This anime is kind of like a lazy summer day; it just breezes by, taking things in its own time. There isn’t all that much drama, no action or real crisis points (nothing that lasts anyway). That can sometimes be a little bit of a problem for the show. I mean there are moments that generate drama like bullies mouthing off with the character in earshot or the vice-principle questioning Takahasi’s teaching methods, but none of them really last that long. I mean with the bullies it’s a good scene and you feel for the snow woman and her distress, and then the vampire goes to confront the bullies and they… (spoiler here folks) talk it out. Now I may have grown cynical and while I wish we lived in a world where talking really did solve everything, but seeing them openly discuss their feelings and come to an understanding in the span of ten minutes, yeah, congratulations you just smashed my suspension of disbelief.

The show deals with a lot of problems like this, it prefers to discuss and openly examine feelings and ideas and while those discussion themselves are interesting to me, they’re both nowhere near realistic and have a tendency to drain the drama out of a situation. The bit with Takahasi and the vice-principle was probably the best attempt at holding on to drama; it does last for about an episode.

That’s not to say this series is by any means bad, it’s not, it’s very good. Just don’t come to this show expecting any kind of action or drama to surround these characters. This show is just about spending time with its characters, lazing around having a laugh and possibly learning a thing or two along the way. Each of the characters is charming in their way, whether it’s the energetic vampire, the dullahan with a crush or the snow girl repressing her particular sense of humour (I do admit I didn’t get a lot of the jokes she was laughing at, but I’ll put that down to a culture thing). They’re all cute and feel like fully formed people, it’s very easy to care for them and want to see them have nothing but easy-going, happy adventures.

The only other real complaint that I have is the fact that we don’t get to see that much about the outside world. We get a little bit, we know from the police officers that the only real troublemakers out there are succubi, which is interesting, but it doesn’t show us how the other demis are fitting into society or how other countries treat them. I mean getting into that whole realism thing again, there’s really no proper prejudice in this world? I’m a great believer in humanity, but I’ll admit we’re not that good as a species. How did this world get to the state where they can so readily accept demi-humans? Did there used to be prejudice, but we moved past it? If so how? I get that this series is focussed solely on the school and that’s where the majority of it belongs, that’s what this show is about, but I just can’t help wondering about the wider world. Just a couple of sentences or scenes explaining it would tide me over.

The Verdict

Interviews with Monster Girls is a light, breezy little series, perfect for giving you the warm fuzzies. The characters are adorable and easy to care for, you can’t help but wish the best for them and there is a lot of thought put into their abilities and how they need to cope with the modern world. There is a lack of excitement and any real drama, but I don’t think that’s what this series was really going for. If you want to learn about monster girls though, this is the perfect little series to do it with.

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

Anime Corner: Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Review

Blog Chain Chronicle Review Title

Paint it Black. Paint it all Black!

What’s the Story?

The Black King and his army have come to unleash the inevitable fate of all things to the land of…of….What was this country called again? Never mind! Yes, the inevitable fate, death to all things. Yuri and his volunteer army tried to defeat the Black King, but where soundly beaten, their little sprite friend disappearing and the chain chronicle, the book that contains the history of the world, torn in half. All hope looks lost, our heroes slowly being consumed by the black, but there is still a ray of hope. A young boy named Aram who’s quick with his sword and his wits as well, but there’s more potential in the boy. Maybe this time they’ll actually win.

The Review

Now I know this anime is based off of a game (something I didn’t know before I started watching this series), but unlike most anime based off a game this doesn’t tell the story of that game. No, this actually continues the story as far as I can tell. On the one hand I appreciate that the story is continuing, but on the other it feels like I’ve been thrown into the second, possibly third season without any warning. The anime actually starts with the climatic battle against the Black King, with a cast of characters the anime clearly expects me to already know and have feelings for. I mean the characters here aren’t anything that revolutionary to start with, but they’ve got doubly hard to work because the anime doesn’t really give you a chance to get them to know, because it expects that to already be the case.

It’s a shame because I really would like to get to know some of these guys, Yuri especially. The fantasy genre is bogged down with plucky heroes from little villages who stand up against the biggest of the bads to save the land, their honest hearts earning them many companions along the way. But what if the hero fails? What if the hero starts to despair? What if all the pressures of being a hero become too much? I feel for Yuri, it can’t be easy to have the weight of the world thrust on to you and then everyone just stares expectantly.

Yuri is definitely the most interesting character to me; he has a good arc and is a guy I feel for. The rest of the characters aren’t bad, they all have cool looking designs (though I couple of the women must be freezing in those outfits) and they have likeable personalities. The problem is that there’s a lot of people to get to know here and not all that much time to get to know them. There are a couple of nice little character moments sprinkled throughout, but there’s either too little of them or they’re just plain generic and nobody else really grabs me. Yuri and Aram get the lions share of the character stuff and while I find Yuri’s side interesting, Aram’s is just basically he’s been by himself for a while and now must learn the power of friendship.

The only other characters that got to me where that knight that dedicated his whole life to one person and then lost faith when said person pushed him away (only so that he’d develop outside interests, it’s not healthy to obsess so much over one thing, hence turning evil as a result). I liked Phoena as well, true she spent a lot of her time as the love interest or the damsel, but anyone willing to risk their life to grant the heroes a couple of seconds spare gets a thumbs up in my book (even if said risking of life does require her to unbutton her top. Seriously, what the hell guys?) Phoena’s best moments come after (Spoiler Alert!) Yuri turns to the dark side, where she has some very quiet conversations dealing with her own growing hopelessness and her struggle to hold on to the few remaining rays of light. She’s someone else I feel for.

The best part of this anime is very clear though, it’s the action, which is lucky because there’s a lot of it. This anime was clearly meant as an action-packed fantasy epic as each episode our heroes are bouncing from one clash against the Black Army to the next. This does have the unfortunate effect of meaning there’s less time to get to know the vast array of characters and any plot related stuff tends to be quickly exposited that things can move on. The action is epic though. For one its nicely animated and while I can always tell when the characters switch to CG models, they don’t bother me. They stand out, but not so much that it destroys the illusion of the world and they move really nicely. The fights are really well choreographed, full of fast action and some really acrobatic moves, they’re always fun to watch. Sometimes the anime shows its game roots a little bit too much though, with the whole chain attack thing its very clear that’s some kind of game mechanic that either the animators or the writers are cramming in.

The actual world that the series is nice, if a little generic. You’ve different kingdoms such as a holy capital full of knights and warrior queens, desert tribes and guys with horns based off of feudal Japan. We never learn much about these guys and what makes their cultures unique, it’s really only their look that makes them interesting. I like the aesthetic of this world and the different areas we visit and the anime does get around to a lot of different places, at times it feels like a quick world tour. It’s definitely a place I’d be interested in seeing more of.

The Verdict

In the end Chain Chronicle is very much a popcorn series. Don’t expect to get all that invested in the characters or the story, but do be prepared for some whirlwind battles and epic clashes between good and evil. This anime isn’t the best animated, but the action is fluid and fast and knows how to make things awesome when they need to be. If you want to sit down and just enjoy a bit of fantasy that’s fast and has plenty of sword swinging and magic, well, there are worse animes you could spend your time on. Give this one a chance.

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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: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept Review

Blog ACCA Review Title

Smoking kills, though apparently it can also start a revolution.

What’s the Story?

The Kingdom of Dowa had had 99 years of peace, thanks in part to an organisation called ACCA that overseas the 13 autonomous regions that make up the country. Jean is the vice-chairman of the inspection department and it’s his job to go around the various districts to see if anything foul is afoot and there could well be. There is talk of revolution when the young prince becomes king because he’s widely held to be an idiot and plans to dismantle ACCA as soon as he takes the throne. There are also rumours about Jean, questions about how he can afford so many cigarettes and his cushy apartment and he keeps getting cigarettes from people from the various regions. Is Jean apart of the revolution, or merely a pawn in someone’s grand scheme?

The Review

If there’s one thing ACCA exceeds at with effortless charm, it’s style. This is whole show is suave and confidence; every cell of animation just oozing charisma. It’s certainly a beautiful anime and I’d argue one of the best looking animes of the past few seasons. There’s something refreshing about its character designs, a little different from the standard fare we usually get as well as having a bright, yet soft colour palette, so that it appeals without every getting too harsh. The music is also something to rave about, again there’s that sense of style and my god that opening (best opening of the season without question).

Okay, okay, enough about the visuals and the sound (though they are the best bits of this anime in my opinion). I haven’t seen that many political thrillers in anime, I’m sure there’s been plenty but I certainly haven’t been drawn to them. Sure there were series with political intrigue in them, but nothing where that was really the sole and only focus. Don’t come to this series if you want loads of action and a fast pace. If you’re imagining Jean caught in a gunfight down some dank alley or insane car chases and other stuff that goes under the ‘thriller’ heading, then move along. This isn’t an action-packed series. Actually that’s one of the show’s weaknesses. This show is slow to start. I mean at the start there’s plenty of mysteries floating around a sense of tension as we try to work out just what’s going on with the limited information we have, but then we get to middle of the anime still without learning too much and its less tension and more frustration from the plot.

I think Jean could be part of the problem. He’s a certainly a cool character, always playing the disinterested fool while all the time hiding away an incredibly sharp and observant mind. The issue is that he’s just a little too cool (yes that is a thing). I’ve heard plenty of reviews say it before and I do agree with them ‘how am I supposed to care about a character if he doesn’t care himself’. It’s a valid point, when a character shows no emotion or no passion, how is an audience meant to connect with them? Jean just about gets away with it though, because he does care, he loves his sister and his partner in crime as well as a couple of the higher ups. There are even a few moments where his little façade breaks and some genuine feelings leak out, it’s just not enough all of the time.

You kind of have to feel sorry for Jean though. You get the sense that he just wants the quiet life, to drift on through with a cigarette in his hand and yet all these different groups are vying to use him for their own purpose. At times it feels like everyone gets a say in what Jean does except for Jean himself. As we get to the latter half of the anime Jean’s unreadable personality actually becomes a true strength for the series. When the plot finally, finally, kicks into gear and we start to learn what’s going on and just what the stakes are, we have no idea what Jean is going to do. Everyone is after him to be on their side, but Jean doesn’t even give a hint of his hand, not until the end, when he gets to play the manipulator. Well, for about ten minutes until it’s reveal that he was actually do exactly what someone else wanted without knowing it. Seriously this series is just one long string of moves and counter-moves (it’s like Yu-Gi-Oh, but less predictable and without the wild hair).

One other part of the series that deserves praise is the world (or rather the kingdom) this series builds for us. We only get brief flashes of the different districts, an episode if we’re lucky, but its often enough to give us the flavour of the place. Every district is unique and has its own way of doing things, while at the same time feeling like its part of the same place, even if there as different as an arid desert where people live underground to snow-capped mountains. I wouldn’t mind another season just to explore these places a bit more, then again if the show took the time to explore these places it would slow it down even more. This is a tightly wound plot and we don’t have time for much sightseeing unfortunately.

The Verdict

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept is a great series. It’s worth a watch just for the visuals and music, but there is also a compelling political thriller at work, you just have to stick with it for a bit. Once the plot actually does start though, it’s a mangled mess of schemes and counter-schemes that our hero must navigate if he wants to stay alive. So why not come for a visit, just remember to be cautious if someone offers you a cigarette.

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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: Saga of Tanya the Evil Review

Blog Saga of Tanya Review Title

Evil is a strong word, especially in a world at war.

What’s the Story?

A few seconds before a Japanese salary man goes splat against the front of train, he is visited by a God-like being, who he dubs Being X. Being X is upset by the lack of faith in the modern world, the salary man’s own view being that it is due to a lack of desperation and conflict (he’ll come to regret those words in a second). So Being X decides to reincarnate the salary man in a world on the bring of world war (Told you). Now the salary man has been reborn as a young girl, Tanya, with an incredible amount of magic power. She wants the easy life and the only way to do that is to rise through the military ranks, going from one bloody battlefield to the next, but with her tremendous power and a cold and clinical outlook, she makes a lot of headway. If only the whole world wasn’t against her.

The Review

Just a note for the beginning, make sure you watch episode two of this anime at least. Episode one is a terrible example of what this show has to offer, it presents this series as just another story set in an alternate World War with magic powers flying around. Yes Tanya is shown as being on the dark side, sending off a couple of recruits to the rear because she knows they stand a better chance of getting blown up there, but we never really get inside her head so we can’t root for her. Episode two changes all of that, outside of giving us a not only a unique origin for Tanya, but it gives us a clear understanding of her outlook on life. Her one goal is to reach the easy life and she will do whatever it takes to climb the ladder to it, she will follow the rules, she will find the most efficient and cost-effective way to get what she wants. She’s the ultimate corporate shark and won’t let little things like morality and ethics get in her way.

Episode two also gives us a reason to root for her, because while I’ll argue that evil is too much a simplification of her character, she’s not a nice person, so why should we want her to get this easy life she so desires? Simple, you want an audience to root for a bad guy? Give them a bigger bad guy to fight. Enter God. Now, I know saying that God is the biggest bad in this show may make me out as anti-religious, which I’m not. I don’t believe in God, but I’m quite happy for other people to. You want to believe there’s an all-knowing ever-loving God up there smiling down on us, good for you, I hope you’re right, I really do. Being X isn’t that type of God though. He’s the Almighty. He’s the petulant child that manipulates and controls, he helps enflame a whole world war just to teach one person a lesson about faith! Now that’s evil.

So yeah, I’ll happily cheer on this cold-hearted psychopath as she struggles against fanatics and incompetents all so that one day she can bring Being X down a peg or two. That’s not the only reason though. I mean sure Tanya’s an underdog in this situation, trying to find the quickest way to easy street while at the same time trying to warn everyone about a pending world war, but she’s also kind of cool. For one she’s overwhelmingly powerful and that leads to some really cool and explosive battles, though thankfully the show swerves what could have been a big problem. With Tanya so powerful it never feels like she’s in danger, she can just breeze through battles without breaking a sweat (during the first half anyway, a challenger does eventually appear), but her real battle is against Being X and her massive amount of power won’t help her there.

No, Tanya has another talent and it’s one that makes her such an interesting person to watch. It’s her mind. The real tension in this comes from Tanya’s attempts to climb the military ladder and use what knowledge of history she has to her advantage. It’s like watching a chess master process information, what does she have to say to a higher up to impress them? What can she tell a rival to get them to take themselves out of the running? What is the quickest and most efficient way to her goal? Tanya manages to be smart, without ever feeling like she’s only so smart because the plot demands it or for her to be condescending with her intelligence. Mainly this is down to the fact that we see Tanya panic, see her searching for the right answer, she’s not right all the time and even when she is it might not go as expected.

I can’t believe I’m so interested and invested in the life of such a… I don’t have a word for Tanya. She does seem to care for her troops and she doesn’t like killing people, but she’ll do it if she’s told. Like all psychopaths she has a lack of empathy. It;s kind of awful, I mean this is the woman who literally wrote the book on how to bomb civilians and get away with it under international law.

I haven’t even talked about the rest of the show. The secondary characters, while not having that much depth are all really enjoyable, though Tanya’s battalion have some impressive character shields. The animation, though a little dark and muted at times (which I guess fits the world) is pretty good. Some of the aerial battles are epic. What does sometimes freak me out though are some character’s lips and mouths, they’re just oddly drawn at times, its not quite right and it’s creepy. Also, what is up with that girl’s eyes (the only other girl in the battalion), they are massive, it’s like she has saucers stuck to her head.

The Verdict

Saga of Tanya the Evil has to be the surprise hit of the last season. For a studio’s first outing, it’s certainly a winner, just as long as the watch the series past episode 1. It gives us a great character that is interesting and has an impossible task ahead of her, even if saying she’s not the nicest person is a criminal understatement. The animation also brings life to some explosive battles and enjoyable characters. Here’s hoping for a season 2!

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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: Akiba’s Trip The Animation Review

Blog Akibas Trip Review Title

And thus, the world was saved by glow sticks. Well, it had to happen at some point I suppose.

What’s the Story?

Tamotsu is a fairly average otaku, prowling the streets of Japan’s Akihabara for rare figurines and anything else that will feed his various obsessions and general fanboyishness (I know that’s not a word, but these terms have to start somewhere). His beloved Akiba could be under threat though, there’s rumours of creatures called Bugged Ones attacking people, there’s even groups of vigilantes patrolling the area to keep the people safe. One day Tamotsu encounters the Bugged Ones and is fatally wounded, but is saved by the mysterious Matome. Now Tamotsu has the power of a Bugged One, though he can’t leave Akiba (which isn’t that much of a downer for him, at least now he’s got more time to shop), but he must also defend Akiba against the Bugged One invaders (which he does complain about a bit more). Of course the only way to defeat a Bugged One is to…strip…them. Right. And, just out of curiosity, how many of these Bugged Ones happen to be girls? Right. It’s one of those shows. Let’s get on with it.

The Review

Let’s tackle the elephant head on shall we (though that’s probably not the best way to tackle an elephant, just saying in case you meet a real one). Yes, there is a tonne of fanservice in this show, when you defeat the bad guys by taking off their clothes there’s no real getting away from it. A part of me gives the show some leeway because of this, I mean my main complaint about fanservice is when it distracts from the story trying to be told, grinding everything to a halt just to shove someone’s panties in my face (I’ve considered sueing some of these shows for sexual harassment). If it’s part of the narrative I can give it a pass, even if I don’t particularly want to see it and Akiba’s Trip is a ludicrous show, the core of this show is that it’s one long series of gags with a point at the end. If they want to beat the bad guys by taking off their clothes, sure I’ll put it down with the world-saving glow sticks and the young prodigy who has apparently done and mastered everything while only being in her teens. That doesn’t mean Akiba’s Trip doesn’t occasionally cross the line into extremely unnecessary, but there are other parts of this show that I want to talk about.

I kind of admire this show, but wish it was better all the same. Quality wise the animation, the sound, the story, everything really has this, well I don’t want to say budget quality, but I can’t think of a better phrase to describe it. You get the feeling that this anime had very little budget, but they did everything they could with it. I mean just watch those scenes where the girls are performing as part of their idol group, apart from repeating the exact same shots of the exact same dance moves, the characters move like figurines, bobbing along while stuck in the same position until a guiding hand poses them in some other way. There are a couple of moments where the animation gets to shine a little, mostly in fight scenes, but that never lasts all that long. It would probably help if the characters weren’t so flat and the story anything but generic for its type.

I’m kind of being hard on this show aren’t I? Well it’s going to continue for a little longer. Now this is a comedy show and comedy is a subjective thing, but this show makes it really subjective. Each episode is a done-in-one that deals with whatever Tamotsu’s latest obsession is, whether that’s playing card games, building his own computer or even getting into amateur radio and whatever it is will find some way to feed back into the week’s plot and defeating the latest Bugged One. It’s kind of predictable, the only thing that isn’t is just how silly and over the top this will get. The only real problem with the comedy is that unless you’re into whatever the topic of the week is, you can feel like you’re an outsider peeking in. There were plenty of weeks where I was sure a joke had just gone past, but I didn’t get the reference so I didn’t find it funny. You’d also need a pretty wide range of hobbies to be into everything that this show pokes fun at. Of course when the show hits on a topic that I know about, it’s pretty damn funny.

Now I said I admired this show, so let’s get to that. Despite it’s lack of quality and clear straining against its budget, you get the sense that a lot of love and passion was put into this show. Just looking at pictures of the real Akihabara the people behind this show put a lot of effort into making their version as close to its real life counterpart as was possible, a lot of the time they might as well have just filmed on the streets. I also really like the message of this show, that yes there are dangers to an otaku life style, you can get obsessed, you can get greedy, but all that comes from a place of love. Passion is not a bad thing, even if other people don’t get what you’re so passionate about, just don’t let it get out of hand and you’re fine. Enjoy what you want to enjoy, whether that be maid cafes or arcade games. You can’t help liking what you like.

The Verdict

In the end Akiba’s Trip just about makes it to watchable. The characters are pretty flat and the production hardly wows. The story is pretty ludicrous and the show can be fun if you’re into whatever otaku obsession its poking fun at (in a loving way) that week. I do admire the message this show is trying to put across and the show does a great job of representing Akihabara (even if at times it just feels like a giant advert), but unfortunately that’s not enough for me to recommend it unless you’re really into this stuff.

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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.