Posted on 31 December 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Reviews by SuperMario, Thunderbolt Fantasy

If anyone has been familiar with the first season of Thunderbolt Fantasy, you’d find yourself a lot to enjoy in this second installment. Served as a sequel, but not a direct continuation to the first, viewers don’t need the knowledge of the original in order to enjoy this ride. Thunderbolt 2 carries many trademarks that make this show such an install success since it came out: the puppetry technique makes it an unique viewing experience amongst anime fandom; the larger the life characters whose characters are the central protagonist in their own stories; the camp value of cheesy lines and back-and-forth conversations; and the somewhat unpredictableness of the plot. It serves as an entertaining and engaging ride on its own right, but to be fair, it’s pale compare to the freshness of the first season.

In this second season, we have a whole new supporting cast aside from our hero Shang Bu Huan and Gui Niao the Enigmatic Gale. The cast includes Lang Wu Yao – the ginger singer with his talking pipa, the Princess of Cruelty Xie Yinglou, the Dirty Cop Xiao Kuang Juan and the amoral monk Di Kong. While Thunderbolt proves once again it more than has its chops when it comes to make these characters as stand out as possible, for this season it falls more into straightforward side.There’s a clear line between the good guys and the bad guys, which makes a lesser impact compare to the ambiguity of good/evil in the original series. Princess Cruelty, for example, has haer redemption arc that, while still good, is the most conventional arc Thunderbolt has done so far.

The main storyline is another straightforward aspect of this season. It has a clear set of goals and well planned-out (too well indeed) goals: Shang Bu Huan wanted to get rid of his Index of Swords, unfortunately the plan fails and the enemy gets a hold of two evil swords. One thing that this season does improve is that we get a chance to see more legendary swords and their dangerous powers. These two new swords, Seven Blashphemous Deaths and the Night of Mourning, have a distinct designs and formidable powers. The former especially has quite a character for her deadly charming voice and her femme fatale personality. My favorite addition, however, is the one-wing Dragon who spits fire and talks human language.  

Speaking of characters, I’m glad to say that all the main players this season fit into this universe like a T. They’re over the top, but not simple. They’re all too proud of themselves and they bounce off with each other extremely well. Normally it’s an one-on-one conversations where these different personas clash, and most of the time it’s a treat to watch. Di Kong and Lang Wu Xao serve to be an excellent cast on its own, the former on how he’s dangerous purely because he has no evil temptation, and the latter because of his strict sense of justice. The Dirty Cop’s character is your love-to-hate type and his corruption is a bit to extreme to leave any ambiguity, and it’s a shame his character is the least relevant to the main plotline.

The visual has gotten much more flashy too. Characters doing their own “remarks” while speaking, the special effect, namely the spitfire and the blood-gushing are still something to behold. Even the way these characters run have a quirk of its own, making Thunderbolt a product that never fail to be anything less than spectacular. I think we’re in good chance for the final season that closes everything here. Witty, refreshing, never take itself seriously and always have the right amount of campiness and flashiness, puppets are here to stay.

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara, Reviews by SuperMario

In the last few years, it’s great to see P.A Works has slowly created their own studio identity, putting more original works with consistent production values. Just in 2018, they produced 4 shows (quite a good number if you ask me), 3 of them were original: Maquia, Sirius the Jaeger and Irozuku. As I said, it’s a encouraging sign to see a studio that has control of its titles, but at the moment they still haven’t reached their full potential yet. The same pitfalls between Irozuku and Sirius the Jaeger, in particular, lies in its writing. They’re unremarkable and in Irozuku’s case, drags on for too long. Irozuku is a show that has a well-realized settings, a solid theme of finding love and gorgeous production, but it’s one of the case where it has no real plot, as a result in the middle chunk it feels as if the cast just wanders around in search for the plot.

You can see that aimlessness from our main lead, Hitomi, who is colorblind, afraid to use magic and shut off her own feeling. When she’s transported back to her Grandma’s timeline, she doesn’t know what her purpose is, or what she should do. Comes the supporting cast from the Art/ Photography Club who has different personality traits, but “surprisingly” always in sync when it comes to group decision. I take it as lazy-writing since at the end of the day, none of the cast raise above their established traits. The addition of energetic Kohaku moves the show forward a bit, but she’s also bogged down by the same approach.

I normally avoid to criticize a show for “nothing happens”, but it’s exactly the case here for Irozuku. The middle portion consists mostly of the cast hang out doing their club activities that both feel random in nature and nothing has progressed whatsoever. Although they spend majority of time together, the chemistry of the cast isn’t necessary strengthened, because they repeat the same atmosphere all over again. Not all of these relationships are one-note, however. Aoi and Hitomi has some neat moments together, as they settle down their own feeling for each other. Kohaku has some solid developments too on how she takes the responsibility of bringing Hitomi safe and sound.

Irozuku is the show that mixes between magic and the normal day lives; and it’s the magic parts that are the highlights of the show. Whenever it comes to these scenes, the visual never fails to impress. Whether they’re colorful fireworks, the magic train or drawing-styles paintings or the sparks of the magic spell, everything looks gorgeous and it’s the visual alone that carries the message more than the narrative. It takes a trip to Aio’s painting with the black figure hopelessly chase the dead golden fish that tells much more about Aio’s artistic struggle than any word can convey. The same goes for Hitomi’s monochrome vision, every time it switches between color to black and white world, we see the world in her point of view and there’s always a hint of sadness carries across.

Thematically speaking, Irozuku centrals on finding your own happiness and love yourself as part of embracing and living the world. Throughout its run, Hitomi progresses from a shy little sad sack to someone who knows what she likes, from a girl who is afraid of her own magic to someone who finds the beauty in magic and the colors in her life. As it stands, I still believe Irozuku would be much stronger if it only had half of its runtime, or had a more solid middle arc. It remains a show that has clear starting and ending point, but don’t know the road the get there efficiently.

Posted on 30 December 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Reviews by AidanAK47

In the wake of many a school based light novel show this may be the small bits of fresh air was can savor out of this overdone setting. Rascal does not dream of Bunny Girl(Or by its japanese title above) is a series not about rascals or bunny girls but instead about contextualising common high school student problems with a supernatural twist. The story mainly follows a guy called Sakuto who encounters various girls afflicted by some supernatural disorder ranging from invisibility to body switching. Generally caused by some mental problem or trauma the girl is dealing with which the supernatural disorder is forcing her to face. There is some rather weak attempts to explain said phenomena with quantum physics but believe me when I say you really shouldn’t take that into account as this show basically gives up on that idea as it continues.

The series works in an arc format with each ranging from three to four episodes dealing with a certain girls story arc. However while each arc does deal with Sakuto helping girls, this does not lead to the typical situation of Sakuto building up a harem of girls infatuated with him as he helps them. Instead there is more of a focus on Sakuto building a relationship with one girl as he helps others which really does progress well as the two have fantastic chemistry. Indeed the strongest aspect of the show itself is the interactions between the characters which do have fine comedic banter but also feel more grounded and real than most shows.

The opening theme song is a massive earworm set to have you repeating it throughout the day and the ending works well as it changes based on who is the focus of that particular arc. There are some negatives in that some arcs are weaker than others and with each arc(Aka Light novel Volume) being covered in three/four episodes instead of a standard six which results in the pacing speeding up at times and lots of time jumps. As it is by the author of Sakuraso it also has a tendency to delve a little too deeply into overdramatic territory which can ruin some moments. Other than that it is a highly solid show bound to keep anyone watching with it’s episodic cliffhangers and engaging narrative. For those whom have watched the likes of Haruhi, Snafu or likewise then this would make for a good show to put next on your list.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai

It’s hard to believe that I so easily forgot that this series was written by the same person who wrote the The Pet Girl of Sakurasou but these last few episodes really gave me a solemn reminder of that. The Sakurasou series had a pendant for serious melodramatic antics and while I did appreciate the series putting forth the solid truth that hard work does not trump talent, I found the characters to be too emotionally unstable to truly care for. Bunny girl doesn’t quite fall down that far but we do have moments of rather forced dramatic reactions. I can understand Sakuto being devastated at the loss of someone he came to care for after two years but I can’t quite understand the compulsion to start screaming his head off and running around town the minute he leaves the room. I would at least think he would get out of earshot of his father and sister first.

We have two arcs to go over, that being the arc of two sisters of the main characters. Mai’s sisters arc was pretty weak as the cause behind her adolescence syndrome was blatantly obvious from the start, as was the solution. I do appreciate that the story itself goes to show that the sisters envy is pretty justified in that Mai can literally do everything that she can, only better. But more focused on the massive pressure that Mai has to deal with on a regular basis. I like the implication that the phenomena may have been caused by both sisters being envious of each other, Mai for her sisters lesser responsibility and her sister for Mai’s inherent talent. As well as the odd relationship sisters can have of not necessarily liking each other nor hating each other either. But overall the arc just felt like a small clock ticking down to when they just decide to resolve things and there was a serious lack of stakes due to how little either person cared about the situation. To Mai and Sakuto it was just another odd situation they have experienced before and everyone pretty much agreed that it would resolve itself given time. So much like Koga’s arc, the story was carried by the character interactions. But thank god this arc managed to defuse that situation of Mai not being allowed to go out with anyone by having her publicly confess to having a boyfriend and the staff backing her up. I was very worried about it being used as a plot point to split them up.

The last arc however definitely brought something interesting to the table. It started with the idea of rehabilitating Kaede so she could attend school again and I was somewhat dreading this girls inescapable arc for Kaede was certainly the weakest character of the whole show. In a show with at least fairly believable characters, Kaede was that typical anime imouto through and through who stuck out like a sore thumb sorely warning of a potential incest affection. But damn if her arc didn’t take her character and have it make a whole lot of sense. The author pulled a long con with this one and it paid off. The big reveal being that Kaede has dissociative amnesia due to her traumatic bullying she experienced and while I shake my head at the old amnesia trope at first, I found it fascinating when they established that the amnesic girl had a completely different personality from who Kaede was before. What broke down her family and wore her down was the constant expectation that she should be like the old Kaede when she simply wasn’t. Suddenly all those annoying anime quirks like her referring to herself in the third person make so much more sense and take on a more depressing angle. The big trouble of this arc wasn’t so much solving Kaedes amnesia but rather Sakuto’s moral dilemma that if his real sister comes back, then the Kaede he came to care for now will disappear. It’s a strong arc to end on and one that brings things back to the main character of the series but admitly the ending doesn’t quite give a satisfying conclusion to the series as a whole. This is remedied by the confirmation that a movie will continue the story but right now much like Made in Abyss, it feels the story just stopped rather than ended. With the particular loose end being the matter of the mysterious older Shouko though here she is used as a nice factor making Mai concerned over how she may never top Sakuto’s dependence on Shouko when he is truly lost.

As final thoughts I will say that out of everything this season, this was the show that surprised me by being better than I initially estimated and one that I looked forward to checking out each week. I would be remiss to say it was a show that blew me away as it is a very low key show with it’s premise but it is one I will remember. In a season of not much to look at and whatever standouts slowly disappointing as the continued this show was a constant good watch for me. Though reception from what I can see seems to be a bit mixed on it with some still touting it as light novel trash trying to put up pretense of being something better. I don’t really agree with that as I feel this show made more of an effort to be its own thing rather than a derivative of the ten billion light novels about faceless nobodies getting all the chicks and superpowers. At its worst it’s a Bakemongatari clone without headache inducing dialogue nor pretentious presentation and quite frankly that’s better than Bakemongatari to me.

Posted on with categories: Planetes, Throwback Thursday

Hello everyone, to another exceedingly late post on Planetes. New Years and end of season reviews have me stretched a bit thin, but the Throwback Thursday train never stops. Lets dive in!

Once again, Planetes goes for one good episode, one iffy one. The first was great, as the plot finally started to move forward and the end-game arc took shape. The second however felt largely like filler, with very little of value going on, barely expanding on the previous episode, and mostly serving to give Hachimaki time to react. Simply put, I did not enjoy the second episode, because very little of consequence happened. It felt like a setup episode, coming right on the heels of the big reveal in the first episode. That said, the first episode was not without issues either. So without further ado, let’s head into that.

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Posted on 27 December 2018 with categories: Finished Series: Comedy, Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-San

Welcome one and all to the final episode of Honda-San! It was a… well it was a rather short road to get here all things considered, so lets skip the preamble and jump right in!

I have to say, that Honda-San managed to drop its Christmas episode basically on Christmas, impresses me. It was impeccably timed and the content made all the better for it. Not only that, but the theme of closing naturally fits perfectly for the end of the season, year and holidays. All around, a good play by Honda-San here. It also managed to get a good number of laughs out of me, with the over the top reactions and good usage of foreigners. Simply put, it is an all around good episode to close on. That Honda-San managed to have its best episodes be its first and last confuses me to no end. But its better to go out with a bang than a whimper I suppose.

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Posted on 24 December 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

GRIDMAN closes off its story on a grand spectacular finale and as far as spectacular goes, it does its job nicely. Personally I’m more impressed with this show in its quiet moments so I enjoyed it more in its last 6,7 minutes. I don’t know how much relevant GRIDMAN the anime is in regard to its original live-action. I mean, what’s the deal with the kaiju girl Anoshiras II and what’s the true role of GridKnight, but taken as an individual piece this ending is both straight-forward and confusing in the same manners. The straight-forward part is how the climax goes all out with its action: we have Gridman in full form versus Alexis in full form, and we do have all these cheesy lines that I’m sure serve as a homage to its original “Here comes my special moves – Fixer Beam” “Nanii? How can you have such godsent power?” “The power of MORALITY to destroy the immorality”. It’s fun to hear these campy dialogues out loud, and it’s even more entertaining when they’re boasted by the stellar animation. While I admit that the battle never wowed me, I can sense the love from the staffs to every single details of this battles.

What slightly bugs me, however, is the narrative led up to the final showdown between Gridman and Alexis. First, the way Alexis “uses” Akane is pretty inconsistent and abrupted. Here, in a span of 10 minutes, Akane turns into a kaiju (her scream is awesome, though), gets rescued by Anti, and immediately gets swallowed again by Alexis. In terms of narrative progression, you can easily cut down the “Akane becoming kaiju” part and nothing (except for the kaiju design) is lost. The same goes for Anti where he desperately tries to save Akane (which I thought was wierd to begin with because it’s not Yuuta or Rikka, but the least of all people Anti who saves the princess) just so that moments later he gets stabbed by the villain and was thrown aside for the rest of the battle. Don’t get me wrong, I love Anti. He’s, after all, the only character who grows the most in this show, signified by his blue eye color at the end, but I can’t shake the feeling that his own narrative arc is a bit shaky and not totally well planned-out.

But then, it comes to the “afterneath” section and while most of normal shows would retreat back to the new status quo, GRIDMAN manages to do something interesting here. We have a few-minute but feel like half-an-hour long sequence (hey, I’m not complaining) of only Rikka and Akane in a room together, further showcase how GRIDMAN is at its most comfortable when it strives for minimalism. Here, in a near-empty room, Akane has her redemption and Rikka has one of the best moments of the whole episode, as she gives the card holder gift to Akane, and wish that they could always be together, at the same time tells Akane not to let that wish come true. After all, Akane needs to move on from this cyber world, and the characters created by her will stay behind and have lives of their own. It’s a neat ending, but the decision to only let Rikka says goodbye to Akane sure leaves a lot of ambiguity here, which I will get to it later.

In a surprising move (which for me is a touch of “genius”, until I learn that it’s inspired by EVA’s ending), we have a live-action closure, a girl that looks awfully like Rikka that literally wakes up after the long sleep. The searing score was the one that played softly back from the beginning of the first episode. The ending will leave a lot of speculation of what is real and what not for sure, but ultimately I don’t think it matters that much. The main narrative is clear: Akane has her redemption arc and moves on, while Gridman and the Squads return to their hyper world and Rikka, real Yuuta and Shou stay back and live on.

As a whole, while I was a bit letdown to its final stretch, I’m still impressed with how much love and attention this show has for their world-building (it has a Wes-Anderson level of details here – the kind where it relies on the rich range of surrounding objects to defy the characters) and how it translates its themes by its visual craft – it’s one of the best visual directed show, along with Revue Starlight, that I’ve seen this year. Plot-wise, looking back I’m rather curious on how this show has many faux-protagonists to the point where you can’t really say whose narrative we are supposed to follow (it’s not necessary a bad thing), we start with Yuuta as we see the world through his eyes and his amnesia, but then in the middle Rikka demands us with her emotional tones and manage to sell them successfully as a normal girl trying to go through her life, then in the final arc it’s Akane takes the central stage. Not all of these transitions work, but it never fails to be anything less than intriguing, and that is a big compliment come from me.

P/s: pure speculation: it’s no fun to not give my own take on what happened at the end, right? Here’s my own two cents: the girl who wakes up at the end is Akane (we have her *real life* uniform, the card holder and the broken Iphone, and the name Akane in the picture). But why does she look awfully like Rikka? Is Rikka the part of herself she doesn’t wish to acknowledge? That might be the case but then again, the ED hints to the fact that Rikka might be real after all. Visually, the silhouettes has Akane’s mannerism, but is there anything more than meets the eyes?

Posted on 23 December 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama, Reviews by Lenlo

Some days, I wonder what it is with America and anime about organized crime. Baccano!, 91 Days, Blood Blockade Battlefront, all set in America, all involving criminal underworlds. Today, I get to add another to that list in the form of Banana Fish. Much more grounded than the others, it’s story dates all the way back to the 80’s. The Vietnam war has recently come to a close, and Organized Crime is being forced to adapt to new times. Banana Fish takes this story and adapts it for the modern age, with smartphones and the Middle East. It attempts to touch on all these weighty subjects and conflicts, but in the end, can only manage a story about two young men, in over their heads.

Welcome to Banana Fish. Lets jump in.

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Posted on 22 December 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Hello one and all, and welcome to the Finale of Banana Fish!

Starting off, let me say, I was surprised with the ending. I will keep the spoilers to a minimum above the ‘Read More’ line, but suffice to say Banana Fish successfully tricked me. I loved it. As far as the other 28 minutes of the episode go though… well, its up in the air. First, I want to direct you to this reddit post, which goes very deep into some symbolism and the dichotomy of Banana Fish. I disagree with it in some areas, but still a good read if you care about the series. Second, to get it out of the way now before I start tearing into specifics, I enjoyed this ending. I would say it was a net positive for Banana Fish. With all of its problems in the second half, at the least we got a definitive ending. Something becoming rarer and rarer these days.

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Posted on 21 December 2018 with categories: Planetes, Throwback Thursday

Hello one and all, welcome to another week of Planetes. This time Planetes continues Hachi’s quest for the Van Braun, Tanabe holds out hope and Pilot Boi lets me down. Let’s dive in!

Net, I really enjoyed this week. Planetes is back in form. The romance was placed on the back burner in favor of another worldly theme, making the viewer ask questions. Maybe it’s just that Tanabe has gotten old, having remained a largely static character, at least when compared to Hachimaki, Claire and Hakim. Each of them have had arcs, have made major changes in their lives or had them thrust upon them. Meanwhile Tanabe is still in the exact same position, an EVA Debris Hauler. She is more of a bouncing board for other, more interesting, characters. So with them off on their own, her role is largely useless. Meanwhile Hachimaki is the most interesting he has ever been. With themes of sacrifice, giving your all and being selfish for the sake of your dreams. To be quite honest, I am loving it.

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