Posted on 11 November 2014 with categories: Shingeki no Bahamut

Ah, the story progression that I was looking for. I finally find myself having a reason to get attached to Leone and Kaisar, because this episode devotes an entire episode to their rivalry and is just all around an improvement from last episode.

I’ve talked about how the slow pacing hurts this show, and this is one instance where taking a break from the monotony of side activities does a lot to build the story. In this episode, we follow Leone and Rita (possibly my favorite character so far) as they try to get Kaisar and Amira back, who were captured by demons in the last episode. The old rivalry between Leone and Kaisar finally come to a head, and it’s been delivered in such a satisfying manner here- the rising action was not contrived in any way and it was packed with a lot of tension. Regardless, there remains much to be worried about when talking about where this anime will end up-take Amira’s exponential “moe-ification” and the sluggish pacing, which appeared plenty of times in the last few episodes. Those will, without a doubt, stay relevant as the show moves forward.

In addition, Jeanne D’Arc and the Knights had at most 3 minutes of screen time ever since the series began, so I do think that it’s a mistake for Sato to put them on the sidelines for so long. Jeanne D’Arc is probably the only well-known historical figure in the anime, and she’s yet another character being cast off as a minor supporting character when she has so much potential.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Your Lie in April

Episodes 4 and 5 of Your Lie in April were crucial ones in terms of how the series would develop. Episode 4 was a very important episode in the series as we see Kousei reintroduce himself to the music world after his mother’s death left him unable to play the piano. How the writers would handle this situation was extremely important. I was personally worried that Kousei’s and Kaori’s performance would go too smoothly, almost belittling Kousei’s trauma. Instead, the writers took a more agreeable path than that in which encouraging signs for Kousei’s progress were mixed with frustration and familiar problems that showed that he is definitely not out of the woods yet.

After the performance, we’re left with Kaori’s sudden collapse. I was immediately worried that this was going to be an extremely cheap use of melodrama to inject some drama into the show that would ultimately be completely negligible to the series as a whole, but we learn in episode 5 that this has been a recurring issue for Kaori and will almost definitely be a very important part of Your Lie in April going forward. The rest of episode 5 showed a stronger focus on the relationships within the show with some monologues from Tsubaki and Kousei as they ponder their feelings. Episode 5 ends with Kaori pushing Kousei to enter a piano competition, which will be another important step in Kousei’s progress overcoming his trauma.

The good from these two episodes is that the pacing and production values have remained very strong. Good pacing is always nice since it feels rather rare in the medium, and especially rare in the drama/romance genres. The show also managed to beat out my worst expectations that I detailed a little bit in the above paragraphs, relating to how Kousei’s accompaniment of Kaori would go and Kaori’s collapse. As for the bad… I really wasn’t a fan of the writers hanging the botched performance over Kousei’s head. I can understand Kousei being hard on himself, even if he was pushed into the performance. I think it would be a natural reaction. I was less understanding of Kaori bringing it up at the end of episode 5. At the end of the day, I think it was merely to get him to do the piano competition, continuing to try to help him overcome his issues, but I’m still iffy on hanging that over his head to get him to do it. This is also a good time to mention the sappy lines I forgot to mention last time. They’re back in full force, particularly during the monologues. The biggest issue with these lines is that they really just suck me out of the show. Nobody talks like that.

Overall I’d say the quality has remained fairly consistent through these five episodes. Kousei’s upcoming piano competition should be the next major event and it’ll be interesting to see how the writers choose to move along the plot from where we are now. Also, of course, it’ll be interesting to see how Kaori’s health develops going forward.

Posted on 4 November 2014 with categories: Gugure! Kokkuri-San

This. This is what I was asking for, and it delivered. This episode finally starts to create a distinct voice for itself by not adding to the hodgepodge of comedic styles this show already had, opting for a slow, drawn-out humor rather than the experimentation this show seemed to be doing with these past four episodes. It’s finally good to see this show starting to show some consistency, at least in the style of comedy it’s trying to go for.

Besides that, the part about the bully in Kohina’s school was mind-numbingly dull. I don’t see the jokes about the flower working for a Westerner with no prior knowledge of the context behind Japanese flowers, so the first half of this episode was very painful to sit through. However, I wouldn’t fault this on the show by any means, and I’m sure I would have appreciated it far better than I did had I known.

Let me talk about gender-bending real quick. Often, it’s over-used as fan service of the lowest degree and is one of the worst things a writer can do without giving the proper context. In addition, the explanations given for such gender-swaps are usually so contrived and idiotic that I can’t help but wonder who these shows were supposed to pander to. Even if one has a gender-bend fetish, wouldn’t they want their material being handled with all proper respect? Just like fan service, even gender-bending stories are proper in the right context- and in this spectrum, Gugugure! Kokkuri-San handles gender-bending excellently. Not only is the reason for sex-changes perfect for this story (they’re all spirits/gods, so they’re genderless), it’s handled in such a way that the fan service is covert/almost entirely nonexistent. Chiefly, Inugami. He may only be a side character, but he remains one of the most interesting character next to Shigaraki thanks to this ability. The character interactions change dynamically with Shigaraki when Inugami turns into a female this episode, and this was easily the second highlight of this episode, which was pretty damn funny.

I really started to enjoy this episode after the first half of the episode, as Kokkuri-San and Inugami enroll in Kohina’s school under cover, allowing for more character development for Kohina whilst getting some genuinely good laughs in.The school setting this episode seems to introduce dynamicism  to the plot by expanding the scope of the character interactions- now, not only do we get to see Kohina interact with the spirits, we also get to see how Kohina, the spirits, and the classmates all mingle simultaneously.

If this show keeps going at this pace, it can finally polish itself to become a really great series, possibly better than Barakamon.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Psycho Pass 2

Episodes 3 and 4 of Pyscho Pass are difficult to talk about. This show has been extremely consistent so far. The staff have handled this sequel with an understated confidence that’s hard to dislike. I still don’t find the show to be as atmospheric as the original, and I still like the dialogue less, but the narrative continues to be engaging. I think where the narrative has really succeeded is in avoiding extraneous clutter that would detract from the major themes of the show.

However, this is both a strength and a weakness. While Psycho Pass 2 doesn’t waste time, the direct style of writing can be a bit predictable at times. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who saw the drinking scene between Aoyanagi and Ginoza as a clear death flag. And one episode later, sure enough, Aoyanagi gets turned into red pudding . This show is clearly trying to shock the viewer and I think it would do a better job at this if the plot was a little more surprising. But that’s a minor quip.

I think a bigger quip would be that if they were trying to shock the viewer with the violence in episode 4, they didn’t do a great job. The hand-to-hand combat shown in the first part of the episode was quite disturbing, and really succeeded at unnerving me. But this effect was sort of ruined with the gratuitous dominator shootout at the end, which honestly felt kind of cartoony to me.

And then there’s Mika Shimotsuki. As much as I hate to admit it, she’s really become the wild card in this series. Her ethically questionable decision-making raises some interesting questions, questions that don’t have easy answers. Chiefly, was her inaction simply malicious or does it speak to more undestandable flaws in her in character? And is her rage against Akane simply the result of a bad attitude or is her anger rooted in the trauma that was inflicted upon her in season 1? Is Mika just a testament to the failure of SYBIL to produce a healthy society? These are tough questions and I’m excited to see how they get resolved.

Posted on 31 October 2014 with categories: Shingeki no Bahamut

By now, I have a general idea of where this story is going. Our characters finally face the main villains of the story and starting next episode, I reckon that we’ll get some real story progression because frankly, the past few episodes did almost nothing to get me to care much for the characters, no matter how charming they may have been.

The problem with the show thus far, is that it uses character tropes borrowed from various Westerns to the detriment of interest on the viewer’s part. This is where the slow pacing is actually hurting character development, an ironic condition owing to the fact that we’ve come to expect slow-paced anime (like Space Brothers) to have too much emphasis on its characters, which usually bores everyone. Even with the slow pacing, Kenichi Sato decides to place fast-action in every episode, and while those scenes are very fun to watch, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. By placing action in a story that is barely progressing, you force the viewers to miss the subtle character expositions you want them to pick up. Sato is clearly much more concerned with the action over exposition, and  I’m concerned where this anime will end up . Take more time to focus on Favaro and Leone’s pasts longer than the forced-in exposition we got in this episode, because the “twist” we get in this episode was way too rushed.

I also worry that Amira might permanently devolve into a vessel for moe, because her character literally did nothing this episode besides acting “cute” and fighting. I much preferred the Amira we got in the first episode, because although that one was very generic and without nuance, she at least had intrigue built into her personality. She’s a badass demon. If you’re going to show a human side to her true form, make the audience become invested in her character with some character development rather than an abrupt shift in personality. Other than that, the only character I find interesting so far is the necromancer, because she’s pleasantly gruesome. If there are to be any highlights in this episode, they are the scenes that involve her. The voice actor does a fantastic job portraying her personality, and I look forward to seeing more of her character.

Ultimately, this episode was not a bad episode so much as it was a red flag.

Posted on 28 October 2014 with categories: Gugure! Kokkuri-San

By now, I have a general idea of how the writers are going to go forward with this show. This show continues to jump the gun without setting up a clear voice for itself while pulling off some genuinely fun comedy, creating this weird combination that is somewhat off-putting yet fairly enticing.

However, this episode has its share of very dull/odd moments, which just serves to prove my point about this show’s lack of consistency in both humor and voice. When Kokkuri-san follows Kohina to school, we’re introduced (no spoilers) to a particular character we would never expect to see in a story based around Japanese folklore- this was something one would expect out of Nichijou. While the show is self-aware and points that out itself, it doesn’t change the fact that up to this point, it did not do a single thing to lead us to believe that this show was anything like a surreal comedy. While the previous episodes certainly did contain a lot of absurd humor, it was within the confines of its limited comedic spectra and therefore had zero buildup to what we got. If they’d only played with surrealist humor from the beginning, I’m sure that I could have fully appreciated parts of this episode a lot better.

The inconsistencies aside, that scene and the other parts of the episode were pretty damn funny for what they were. They introduce us to two brand new characters this episode, and Shigaraki in particular is a welcome addition to the mix. He brings a much more believable serious tone to the show, and this episode puts much effort into his character development by putting a spin on his personality that doesn’t shy away from adding a touch of dark humor through his “philanthropist” work. I really appreciate how the writers caught me by surprise just when I began rolling my eyes- because for a moment, the show looked like it was approaching the typical “mischievous person who is actually a good person” route with the character near the middle of the show.

Outside the main highlights of the episode, it was also nice to actually get some insight into Kohina’s character besides her usual static personality by showing how she behaves in her school environment. This show doesn’t take enough time to develop Kohina’s character, which isn’t a problem as long as it makes the interpersonal relationships interesting, which it does very well: That’s where this show excels in, and it’s been solid so far solely based on that- almost to a fault, since the writers are ignoring important elements of writing and comedy.

On a tangent, it’s a bit too late to mention this, but the soundtrack is very nice to listen to and complements the show very well. The opening song is still terribly annoying to listen to, but the ending is pretty nice and an overall pleasant listen. If anything, this show has charm. They played the opening of this show as the ending song in the first episode, but oh well.

If you like chibi animal mascots and something to kill time with (because face it, every season has a day in the week with crappy anime), I reckon that this show is perfect for it so far.

 

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Your Lie in April

Your Lie in April has emerged as a bit of a nice surprise in this young season. The fairly popular noitaminA programming block has been pretty hit-and-miss of late, with some very good shows here and there but a much higher rate of complete duds compared to the block’s past. For this reason I approached Your Lie in April not so convinced that I was going to be a fan, despite a decent (though hardly groundbreaking) premise. Thankfully, through three episodes, the show has settled into a nice groove and has brought some pretty good drama and music to the table each week.

In episodes 2 and 3 of Your Lie in April we’ve gotten through character introductions and have seen beginnings of the various relationships present in the show. Our two leads, Kousei and Kaori, have gotten over their initial but shortlived hostility towards one another that stemmed from their meeting and have begun interacting on more friendly and deeper grounds. The writers didn’t waste much time in addressing Kousei’s trauma related to his piano playing and have faced it head-on in these episodes, ending with episode 3 having Kousei ready to accompany Kaori in her next performance. While there’s not much reason to believe Kousei’s over his trauma, it is refreshing that it hasn’t been dragged out as long as it could have (and as long as I was personally expecting) and that, whether things go smoothly during this performance or not, some kind of progress should be made in the next episode on this front, just as there was progress made in this latest episode. Perhaps this is one of the better aspects of Your Lie in April – there’s been consistent progress made in the story over all three episodes so far without a lot of the dragging out that plagues many stories, especially ones that touch on romance.

Not all is good in Your Lie in April, unfortunately. The main thing that sticks out to me as not being particularly well done is the comedy. While comedy is wildly subjective and difficult to critique without going to vague points, I do think the show’s comedy fails on most levels. In most comedic moments, the art style resorts to a more crude and simple style which tends to clash pretty strongly with the show’s normal highly detailed and well-done presentation. Most of the comedy also seems to be of the slapstick variety, which has never been a favorite of mine on a personal level. In episode 3 we had such moments like Kaori throwing a shoe at Kousei and giving him a heel drop at the end. Our female lead is quite the violent one. There are also a few other problems, though they aren’t very numerous and don’t detract too much from the experience. One such problem was the unnecessary “Friend A” thing thrown around so far. I immediately related it to the all-too-common character trope anime uses with lead characters who are super ordinary and live super normal lives. The thing is that Kousei isn’t that character. He’s already been through a lot as a person, he has a remarkable and outstanding talent, and, as mentioned in episode 3, he’s seen as a bit of a celebrity among musicians from his age group. I just don’t really understand where that whole “Friend A” thing came from that paints him as some forgettable background character.

Overall, Your Lie in April has been a pretty good watch through three weeks. I wouldn’t recommend it to the whole anime-watching world as of now, but I’m sure a lot of people would enjoy it so far. If you’re into drama/romance anime, then you might want to pick it up.

Posted on 23 October 2014 with categories: Akatsuki no Yona

Hak and Yona flee Soo-Won’s men, but Yona’s mental and physical condition continue to deteriorate. Yona and Hak are both haunted by memories from the past. This was easily the best episode in the series so far. Whereas the first two episodes primarily took place in the present or the future, this episode is mostly spent in the past and it’s a great choice. A lot has happened already and I was concerned that the characters might start to wear thin if the action continued unabated for another episode. Thankfully, the staff realize this, and have devoted an entire episode to fleshing out Hak and Yona.

For example, in the first two episodes, it’s implied that Hak has romantic feelings for Yona. The flashback in this episode made it abundantly clear that this is absolutely the case, and raises bigger questions about the nature of their relationship. For example, how does Hak feel about the fact that his hands are clearly tied both by duty and friendship? We also get hints at the true nature of King Il and Soo-Won’s father, suggesting that the picture might indeed be more complicated than either Yona or Hak appreciate.

As a backdrop to this, we get Yona and Hak’s travails as they flee through the woods. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. Yona’s idyllic memories of childhood are contrasted with her haggard and borderline-catatonic appearance in the present. This contrast helps reinforce how emotionally devastating all of this is for Yona. In one memorable scene, Yona is covered in leeches while bathing. She reacts feebly and is too weary to even remove them from her body. Hak is forced to do it for her. It’s a sad moment that conveys how drastically Yona has changed from the happy-go-lucky character in the first episode.

I’m really excited to see where this series goes if it continues to be this good.

Posted on 22 October 2014 with categories: Shingeki no Bahamut

Okay, so this episode didn’t focus on Leone and Amira’s adventure. Instead, it focuses on building Kaisar’s character and it does so a bit awkwardly.

This episode takes Kaisar and puts him into an overly bombastic situation in order to tell us about Kaisar’s past family problems, but it was so out of tone from the last two episodes that I didn’t care as much as the episode wanted me to do. The last two episodes added an intrepid tone to the show with Leone and Amira’s introductions, but this one tried to add a somber element that really should have been held off until later on.

In any case, this episode was a great one if I see it as the last preparation for the upcoming adventure. When Leone and Amira finally confront the main villains of the story and actually start their journey, we’ll know if this is a show worth continuing or not. However, this episode really answered the lingering questions left by the last two episodes, which I’d say is good for now.

I should also add that I like how this series has a very strong concept of foreshadowing: it doesn’t necessarily have huge cliff-hangers, but it ends every episode with the promise of major developments. The first episode promised a ton of intrigue, the second episode promised change, and now this episode is promising that next week, we’ll get to see what the villains are all about. After all, there’s no way that Satou will wait that out. Overall, this episode was definitely weaker than the last two, but it wasn’t a very big negative to my view on the series as a whole.

Posted on 20 October 2014 with categories: Gugure! Kokkuri-San

This show has a great cast, but some chinks in the armor are starting to appear in the comedy.

So far, this anime seems to lack a consistent tone, which shows through just how hit-and-miss the comedy is. It attempts to mix elements of light and dark comedy along with slice-of-life and tries to excel in all three of them, but, it feels cheap and under-delivered at times. These past three episodes were definitely good, but they suffer from some minor problems in the show’s overall comedic voice that keep it from its full potential.

I was really wondering how the creators would go forward with the show, and while the show does indeed have plenty of good laughs (especially Inugami), the inconsistency is a definite negative and a big reason for my exponentially increasing lack of interest. While comedies don’t need to concentrate so much as delivering the comedic elements well, an irresolute show like Kokkuri-San needs to find focus if it doesn’t want to devolve into a confusing mix of numerous comedic elements.

However as I stated earlier, this episode was generally funny and chock full of premium meme material. As for the acting, Kokkuri-San aside, the voices were charismatic and added a level of quirkiness to most of the cast. This show really knows how to handle its characters well; you can see the ship-worthy relationship between Inugami and Kokkuri-san continue to grow as they get to know each other better as rivals for Kohina. It was completely awesome to see Inugami’s gender-bend ability not being overused as fan service here, although I don’t know how far that’ll hold moving forward. Yes, this shows just how little faith I (along with most others) have in gender bending.

The point is, this show has problems that can easily go away once it finds a clear comedic voice for itself. Both the characters and production are excellently done, so give credit where it is due, because I remain fairly interested in this show.

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  • SuperMario
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 10:38 PM)
    @Bam: I just glanced over the lightning in a Bottle 2016 and it’s quite impressive. Grimes, Chet Faker, Hundred Waters, Jamie xx? Yay. Yoga & meditation class? Count me in!!
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 09:40 PM)
    @afgm, positive. DS2 relies too much on mobbing your character and the bosses are terribly unimaginative. DS3 has faster combat that DS1 but I still think DS1 one bosses are better and DS3 had less interesting level design than DS1. Plus DS3 also focuses a bit too much on Mobbing and referencing DS1 instead of making it’s own lore.
  • afgm
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 07:49 PM)
    @Aidan are you sure you aren’t looking back on DS1 with rose-tinted glasses?
  • Wicked
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 05:39 PM)
    Other wise I’d have recommended Life and Limit by Keiko Suenobu or maybe something like Mars. Although I don’t think Mars ages very well
  • Wicked
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 05:33 PM)
    @kaiser Shoujo don’t tend to be as twilight zone-y as Partner, plus it’s only 3 volumes. There are shoujo that deals with heavy subject matters like bullying or forbidden love, but i don’t know if that’s what the person is asking for
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 03:27 PM)
    @Wicked: That was a decent enough manga, that Partner series, I like a good dark shojo and it was well enough in that regard within what its genre/demographic could get away with and its story fit comfortably its three volume run.
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 03:14 PM)
    @K-Off, DSII was a disappointment somewhat salvaged by the DLC. DSIII is much better but still doesn’t top DSI.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 03:05 PM)
    @K-off: sorry I’m actually in your (former) neck of the woods about 50 miles north of Orange, working at a music festival called lightning in a Bottle. You’ll love Dark Souls III if you’re patient enough. So much of it is a direct homage/copy of the original that it feels like a shelved fanfic at times, but there is polish and some ingenuity behind some of the deeper nuances of the game.
  • K-Off
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 06:24 AM)
    @Bam Finally going to start DSIII this monday, I’ll have to see what’s so special about this one since I wasn’t the biggest fan of DSII.
  • K-Off
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 06:17 AM)
    Pretty pleased with my Vita so far, finished Danganronpa 2 and completed 100% of Ray Gigant this week. June looks like a pretty good month for the Vita, currently deciding whether or not I should purchase Odin Sphere or Grand Kingdom when they release. Of course I really should repair my WiiU gamepad before Mirage Sessions comes out.

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Konya wa Tsuki ga Kirei Desu ga, Toriaezu Shi ne Two chapters so far. Ah love, that sweet nectar which all seek to experience. And truly there is nothing more romantic than gathering up your courage, inviting the girl you love up to the roof, taking her by the shoulders and proclaiming with all your […]

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Langrisser Re:Incarnation Tensei video game review- 35/100 (avoid it like the plague)

To preface, I’d call this the poor man’s Fire Emblem if it wasn’t so damn expensive for its quality, not to mention so difficult to find. Here in New York City outside of lower Manhattan, there’s game stores in Brooklyn, Queens, Flatiron, and Newport, to a total count of 12 game stores in a 20 […]

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DanganRonpa 2: Goodbye Despair Video Game Review – 90/100

There may be those of you who know this series more by its anime adaption instead of it’s video games and if you haven’t watched the anime of this I highly recommend that you don’t watch it. Instead play the games which have been recently ported to Steam. The reason I say this is that […]