Posted on 29 June 2013 with categories: Anime Reviews, Chihayafuru



Let’s put this into a bit of perspective: generally to warrant a second season a series needs to sell well in one way or the other. Chihayafuru’s DVD sales were abysmal: it sold like, 500 copies in its first week or so. Despite being a really excellent and well-made series, people just didn’t want to bite, and I had given up on any hope for a continuation. Imagine my surprise when the manga suddenly gets really popular and a second season has been highlighted!

And guess what? The production-values still are completely top-notch. There only are a few episodes with some bad and jerky animations. Otherwise: everything is perfectly crisp, the animation manages to make every single karuta match stand out and sparkle. There still is a ton of eye candy here. Any idea how hard it is to keep up this consistency for like fifty episodes?!

I mean, Chihayafuru’s sequel is just amazing. It continues the trend that the first season set, and just continues on with it, doing so many things right. Every single episode, it doesn’t just push one character forward; it tries to do this with as many characters as possible. No episode is wasted like this, and every episode brings something new to the table. It really is amazing how the creators continue to be able to do this. They introduce quite a few new characters that have a great impact on the storylines, and nearly all of them have some sort of gimmick, yet they feel real, and very relatable. The acting was fantastic in the first season, and that didn’t let up in the second, and the second now has so much build-up and development behind it!

It’s really clear that the creators here have a very good understanding of the game of Karuta: they really manage to flesh out the game even more in this season, and show many different sides of it. A downside is that if you just look at the matches objectively, then this series is a bit predictable in the big picture, but in the small picture, it’s everything but: the creators try their hardest to make the individual karuta-matches as exciting as possible.

This season does have a bit of a downside that it’s the middle arc, so there is no beginning, nor an ending, and because of that the juiciest developments are reserved for the other parts (if they’ll ever get there), and as a result this series does have less subject material, so it can move a bit slow at times. But still this show had some of the best characters of the year.
One-Sentence Review: If this series can’t get you fired up on Karuta, then nothing will; fantastic characterization.
Suggestions:
Hikaru no Go
Nodame Cantabile
Shion no Ou

Posted on with categories: Chihayafuru

Aftermaths often are boring. But no, not with Chihayafuru! I still remember how awesome the final episode of the first season was, and this too was a delight to watch due to the characterization, even though there was no Karuta in it. This definitely was not another one of those “let’s just fill in some time to give the characters a bit of time to cool down”, this too had a purpose.

I’m surprised that they never showed the actual king here, but the alternative was also quite good as it showed how Chihaya dealt with the fact that she had a very soft bone in her finger. It’s something that most people don’t even bother with: getting surgery just to fix it. It’s an interesting way of showing Chihaya’s resolve, but there was also no way for her not to get that surgery, with her entire life revolving around Karuta. It was also interesting that they showed that scar of her.

There also was a lot of romance, and I like how this episode relied on not saying everything explicitly, but instead showing how feelings are developing. First Taichi definitely got more serious about his feelings, and that got time to flesh out. In the meantime, we have Chihaya who is locked onto footage of Arata for days upon days while writing romantic poetry about him. Yeah. The thing is, Chihaya manages to just bring a smile to my face so many times per episode. It’s incredible how well she’s fleshed out at this point.

Season 3 would be awesome. How high would I guess those chances? Well, I’d say about 30%. The manga needs to end first, and then the producers of the manga must see it viable to invest for a third time into a full fledged series. Remember that the DVD sales for this thing are really bad and that it’s a miracle that it got a second season to begin with. And dangit this show is too awesome to end right here!
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews


Storytelling is hard. You can’t have a storyline that is about a bunch of characters watching paint dry: there needs to be some storyline, some sort of conflict to make things interesting. It’s an intricate balance that you need to find. Put way too much emphasis on the conflict, and you get Valvrave the Liberator.

Valvrave is a series that likes conflict. Every episode is geared to shock twists not really uncommon in a bad soap opera. Characters yell and screwm with drama, and things quickly devolve into this train-wreck of events that favors sensation over suspense of disbelief. The plot in this show tries to adhere Murphy’s law, and when it can’t it’ll just shove in some sort of plothole or -device. Because of all of the overacting the character-development also doesn’t really work because everyone just keeps acting outrageous rather than relatable.

For a while though, it was good. This show got so ridiculous that I just kept watching for my 20 minutes of brainless action per week. If there is anything that this show is good at, it’s eliciting emotions due to how over the top the plot went, and it didn’t seem to take itself seriously either. So of course near the end, it drops all that and starts to play its own story straight. The shocks are just there to shock, rather than to entertain as it tries to take itself so seriously. And that’s where it falls apart so horribly. The characters can’t hold the plot together without the comedy, and the twists… are totally inappropriate and devolve into pointless sensationalism.

Oh yes, they’ll get people talking about it, but not in a good way. There still is a second season due this Fall Season, and in all honesty, with the hints given it can return to its ironic self, but knowing the guy who wrote this it’s just going to devolve into an even bigger trainwreck. I really need to put more thought into what series I drop and keep watching, because this… wasn’t really worth the watch. It’s an easy page-turner, but totally not good storytelling!
One-Sentence Review: As long as it doesn’t take itself seriously, this is mindless bombast and entertainment; when it does, it falls apart completely in this sensationalist trainwreck.
Suggestions:
– Mai Hime
Infinite Ryvius (an example of how to do such a storyline right)
Macross Frontier

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Hataraku Maou-Sama



Comedies in anime. Most of them are… juvenile, to say the least. Lots of show center around dumb fanservice humour, and the majority of the ones that are actually funny are so because of their characterization. Hataraku Maou-Sama set out to do something special: it tried to add a bit of intelligence to its jokes. It’s something that it couldn’t keep up for its entire run, but it’s a very interesting attempt nonetheless.

Let alone that for once we aren’t following a bunch of high schoolers, but people who are actually working. Here we have a series in which a demon lord suddenly has to adapt to the human world while being stranded there, and by far the best thing about this series is the way in which he does this. This series likes to build up its humour: with a lot of jokes, you’ll be “ah, so that’s why they did that”. The jokes in this series are really well written, and quite often they really are hilarious.

This series is a mixed bag in the character-department. It has some really fun characters on one hand (Maou and Ashiya make for a very fun and atypical comedy duo), while on the other hand other characters are bland and only annoying (Chiho), and others are sometimes great to watch, and sometimes the creators don’t really seem to know what to do with them. A lot of these problems stem from the fact that as well versed this show is on comedy, it doesn’t really know how to do proper character-development. Change in the characters is either completely predictable, or characters just make giant heel-turns as soon as they’re defeated, and a lot of characters here find it very hard to move away from their one-dimensional caricatures.

So yeah, this series’ biggest strength is its comedy. The problem is, that this isn’t really consistent. Personally, when I watch a comedy, I really want to laugh a lot. Hataraku Maou-Sama has strings of episodes that just aren’t funny enough; for me, at least. It also has one really dumb pool episode that kills a lot of fun as well. this series also may be focused on a demon king, but really: remove that and nothing much would really change in the overall storyline. This series never really uses its own symbolism well, making the overall storyline even flimsier.

As for the production-values: this show looks crisp. Very crisp, and there hardly ever is a badly drawn shot. You can really see that White fox was behind it, because their consistency is always top-notch. This show doesn’t excel in over the top eye-candy, but it still is very pretty to look at, and the soundtrack has one very good track to it that also is used at the moments that suit it best.

The question is: does the best stuff weight up to the boring parts? Well, I’d say that if you easily get annoyed by cliches, then it’s probably better to pass this one up. If you’re looking for very well done comedy, then by all means give this one a chance. Don’t expect much from the storyline, and you’ll be set.
One-Sentence Review: Clever comedy with good build-up, weighing against a bit of a dull storyline.
Suggestions:
Ben-To
Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin
Ooedo Rocket

Posted on 28 June 2013 with categories: Random Posts

Hey everyone,

I’m currently planning this last minute holiday in which I plan to visit England, and I’m thinking of going to London around July 20th or something. Are any of you in the neighbourhood around that time and would you like to meet up?

Also, there seems to be an anime convention going on around that time. Is that one worth it?

Posted on with categories: Hataraku Maou-Sama

Climaxes are difficult to write. They take a lot of preparation usually to do well, sometimes resulting in just strings of boring episodes. At this point, I stopped giving those episodes the benefit of the doubt, simply because it’s impossble to say whether or not they will pay off at the end. If the ending rocks, I’ll simply forgive the series for it, and if the ending remains merely mediocre, it just was a mediocre series to begin with. I endorse building up, the pay-off when done right is great, but it also needs to stay interesting in that process to prevent me from just dropping it.

The real climax of Hataraku Maou-Sama was actually really really good. What it did: it took all characters that were left on earth, and used them very well. Even Orba made a reappearance. Everything really flowed into each other and every character got to show off their quirks at their best. The fanservice jokes were actually good (interesting subversion of the final battle by putting the protagonist/demon king in his underpants). With this, I understand the time that was spent on establishing all these different characters, even though they seemed boring at the start (Suzuno being a big example here). In terms of comedy, and storytelling, this could not have been better. Episode 13 too was quite funny and creative, I like that.

But yeah, like expected the story wrapped up absolutely nothing. Nothing got resolved other than that that Kentucky Fried Chicken guy seems to have lost his marbles now. Yes, the sequel hook! In this case, I don’t think that that’s very wise for this series. Dragging it out even mmore would just be pointless and I already predict that there just won’t be enough material for a second season. The only way in which a sequel would work, is character-development. At the moment, Hataraku Maou-Sama’s idea of character-development is having characters pull heel-turns on their entire character once they get defeated. That definitely needs to improve if it wants to have any shot at remaining interesting.

And if there’s not going to be a sequel: then this series seriously failed to bring its themes together. In terms of its themes, episode 13 just basically repeated what this show has been yelling over and over again: Maou may be evil, but he is an employee and is bound by his duties… I failed to see any sort of conclusion. I’m going to think a bit now whether the show was clever and funny enough to warrand a recommendation…
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 25 June 2013 with categories: Shingeki no Kyojin(Attack on Titan)

I have to give props to the soundtrack guy: Hiroyuki Sawano. It’s the guy who also did the soundtrack for Ao no Exorcist and Sengoku Basara, but I think that he really delivered his best work so far with Shingeki no Kyojin. Especially this episode showed how powerful the soundtrack in this series can be: it’s epic, yet unique. The big danger with those epic coundtracks is to just throw in lots of bombast and choirs. It sounds great, but all those soundtracks start to sound the same! Here it’s not the case though.

This episode contained such a fine piece of atmosphere building. I mean, Shingeki no Kyojin is all about despair: screwing over humanity as much as possible, while not turning it into a one-sided slaughter by providing pieces of hope. Eren may have turned into that giant, but this entire episode just kept reminding us that things would’t be so easy. Heck, Eren was out-cold for the entire thing, leaving everything to the side-characters to clean things up for him. This makes him quite a unique main character: yes, he has the power fitting of a main character, but this is more and more turning into Mikasa and Armin’s story.

Seriously, a character like Armin… in normal stories he’d perhaps get one crowning moment of awesome. Here, he just keeps struggling! And that’s the beauty of this series: everyone is fighting for their lives in a way that hasn’t been done for a very long while. I’m getting flashbacks to Blue Gender, only with much better production-values and much more bombast. This season may be small, but the series that stand out really stand out here!
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on with categories: Aku no Hana

You could see that this was a calm before the storm episode, right before the conclusion of the series, but even then it was very well done. It didn’t focus on the atmosphere or disturbing psychology as much as usual, but still: the creators made it a really personal episode, centered around Nakamura.

I loved the way she just completely ignored Kazuga, but also how we finally get to have a look at her family, and how they react on her behavior. Seriously, the way her father dealt with it was really interesting: you could see he was an adult, but he had no clue how to get a grasp on his daughter, and they just grew apart like that.

The best was the ending of the episode though. It promised one heck of a final episode! Throughout the entire series, Kasuga mainly managed to show his deviant-self because Nakamura pushed him, save for the moment where he stole the underwear. Here, he finally does something out of his own again. He didn’t do it for Nakamura, he did it out of his own curiosity.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 24 June 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

The second season of Chihayafuru was the obvious middle part of the story: lacking a beginning and end. While for Chihaya herself, it may not be the most important in terms of character-development, it definitely has its parts where it can shine above the other seasons. One of the biggest ones really became apparent in the conclusion: the fact that Chihaya can step down as the main character for a bit, to allow other characters to shine.

I forgotten about it, but I love it when the main character just spends a bit of time as a spectator. A time where the matches don’t revolve around building up a match for her, but instead are important in their own way. Episodes 23 and 24 were about matches that shouldn’t have been overshadowed by Chihaya. Taichi’s advance to Class A, and the match between Arata and Shinobu. These two things have been built up for so long now. They needed to be fully put in the spotlights.

All three characters were awesome. These matches didn’t serve to particularly develop them, but rather, they highlighted their development: they showed how much they had grown to this point and how well they prepared. This also looked so well into how their karuta works, and the difference in their playstyles. The focus on Karuta was the icing on the cake, by the way: to close off the season with what a play between two of the best players looks like. It made the sport even deeper than it already was.

So, what about this hypothetical third season. Let’s suppose that it gets made. The strange thing is that the creators are building up Arata as the ultimate rival for Chihaya, and not Shinobu. When looking at the chronological events, this has to be the case if they want to end predictably: Chihaya will beat Shinobu in the Queen’s match, and she’ll then be up against Arata during the regular finals for the actual climax.

The problem with that will obviously be predictability. The creators will have to pull out all of their tricks to spice things up and pull away focus from this predictability. The first steps were made for this by giving Shinobu a cold in this episode. That was very clever, because it still is a mystery who would win in a fair match where both are at their best. Also, Suoh will need to be developed really badly there. He will probably be dethroned by Arata. The trick is to give this as much depth as possible.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 20 June 2013 with categories: Shingeki no Kyojin(Attack on Titan)

It’s probably no mistake that I love series that know their build-up; the series that really manage to prepare, and use this preparation, rather than just going into random directions. Shingeki no Kyojin showed with this episode that it really knows its build-up. The climax of this episode was amazing, and in a very different way from what you usually see.

Nearly the entire episode was about hope: trying to convince everyone in this series that the best course of action would be to send Eren to plug up the hole in Wall Maria. There were a lot of uncertainties, and so the characters had to resort to using hope: this can work. There were so many people in doubts in this episode. If it works, then this will be the first time mankind has ever won from the titans. This will turn the tide and we can actually start to fight back with Eren that way. It will be worth all of the sacrifices! And then Eren just started to smash in random walls. Oh, the despair! It was awesome.

As for the budget, this episode showed that this is really a manga adaptation: there were quite a few still frames, that looked like they came right out of the manga. And that, combined with some beautiful money-shots of Eren and Mikasa flying through the city. It’s clear that the best animator of this week’s episode worked on that city, and it’s the kind of action scene that really is unique to this anime.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

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