Posted on 11 February 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, OVAs and Movies:

Mary's movie poster

Wooper: Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first feature film from Studio Ponoc, which spun off from Studio Ghibli in early 2015. Given Ghibli’s towering reputation, the bar was high for this inaugural flick, which recently made its way to U.S. theaters, giving Lenlo and I a chance to see it on the big screen. Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, whose previous work includes When Marie was There and The Secret World of Arrietty, selected a source novel (“The Little Broomstick”) that landed his newest film in safe, Ghibli-reminiscent territory. That choice works both for and against the movie, because while its familiar characters and motifs of magic and flight are visually arresting, many anime fans will have seen it all before. There’s hardly a single frame in this film that you couldn’t hang above your mantle, but its story never manages to generate that same impact.

Lenlo: Agreed. Mary and the Witch’s Flower managed to trick me with its Ghibli-esque style a few times. However that also means the comparisons to Ghibli are inevitable. It’s a perfect example of the limits of beautiful animation without a good story to back it up. It’s the classic “little girl finds magical land, saves it from some evil and is home in time for dinner”. I was never surprised by it and often let down. My biggest problem with it however was the criminal use of its characters. Flanagan and Great-Aunt Charlotte are underused and feel more like Director ‘Deus Ex Machina’ plot devices rather than real characters.

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Posted on 4 January 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews

In this Corner of the World (for the purpose of this review, I’ll refer it as “Corner”), is the truest slice of life drama if you ever encounter one, in that it’s a slice into an ordinary life of an ordinary girl during the War period. That speaks into the very first strength of Corner, it breathes life and it feels all too real. Suzu, our protagonist, is a normal girl who loves to draw and a bit of an airhead herself. Throughout the course of the movie, we see her grown through a passage of time, get married to a stranger in a strange town, find accustomed to the new life, new family, new hometown before the war comes in and destroys everything. Quiet, slow but melancholic and beautiful at times, Corner shines through mostly because of its restraint to go heavy-handed. They could easily go melodramatic in many moments, consider they’re dealing with war issues, one of the most brutal subject on film. Yet somehow they know that the main focus is the life of Suzu, and the terror of war ultimately is just a part of it.

Coming to Corner, I originally expected another war treatment in the veins of Graves of Fireflies or Barefoot Gen or Giovanni’s Island – a full-blown lost of innocence drama about the horrific consequences the war causes to normal citizen. I was taken by surprise by how Corner instead focuses on the ordinary life of Suzu, on her little moments of living her life, the life that she has no control over. The whole film is painted in a way that it feels like a memory, a look back to the harsh period of Japan with a tender perspective, an outlook that both bitter and sweet at the same time. In Corner, there’s no big emotional outburst in display. There’s no angsty statement to be found at the horrible injustice of war. There’s no grand decision that change the course of war. Just like in our own real life the life-changing moments happen only few times, with long in-between time we stay almost the same, Corner is more interested to focus on those in-between moments.

As Corner aims for simple approach, the character designs are decidedly simple, never stand out, which remind me greatly to the art of the old era. The cast share formal, yet natural chemistry and even her relationships with the members of her husband side, especially with her sister in law have some solid development. The tone is light-hearted and episodic – and surprisingly – good humor, but we can all feel the weight behind each fleeting moment. The light humor is what I really appreciate about this movie. As I often see it, if you can find humor even in the worst possible situation, then you can go a long way. Imagine how the father in law falls asleep in the middle of the air raid, or the members of the house nearly burst out laughing with the idea of Suzu being a spy.

In my opinion, the war section wouldn’t be that powerful without the full-of-life coming of age story about Suzu in the first half. She has a normal childhood with a small crush and some true moments of happy carefree life, she then marriages off to a guy she barely knows in a faraway land, spends her days away doing housework. Suzu is significant in a way she never stands out, or like her sister in law comments: “leading a boring life”. Yet, she is the perfect protagonist for Corner. She presents the lives of many ordinary people in that era, the lives that we can all relate to. The latter part has some quietly devastating moments but like what comes before, it becomes just a part of Suzu’s life. For me at least, I feel heartfelt how despite everything happens, Suzu and her family, and in a larger extend, the strength of normal people manage to recover and continue to live on their lives, with a smile on their faces.

In the end, I wholeheartedly recommend In this Corner of the World. Quiet, subtle, humane, true to life, and weirdly humorous and warm, Corner again is a perfect example of a work that can shake off all the flashiness to seek for something real, and simple. The result, of course, is far from “simple” and “ordinary”, the mastery that is so hard to obtain. 2016 and 2017 have been great years for anime movies and Corner stays rightly at the near top of those offerings. A marvelous achievement from studio MAPPA.

Posted on 3 January 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Houseki no Kuni

Make no mistake, Houseki no Kuni is the most ambitious anime project of the year. Not only because it’s an entirely CG project (and make a damn good use of it, mind you), or because of its narrative scope that at once strange, grand and beauty, but also in its very conception in their production phase. Unlike normal anime products, Orange studio approached the material as early as nearly 2 full years before its initial broadcasting, and the production went through many unusual phases that took much longer time for the studio to complete. This is to say it was a rough path that they decided taking on and the result showcases how much confidence they adapt the material. This season feels much more as an introduction to an epic story and at its core Houseki serves as an coming of age story to our protagonist Phos, while exploring the insecurities of those gems towards their own roles. As I compare the manga and the anime adaptation together, I still regard the manga as a more astonishing version, but by all mean it’s not a criticism against the anime. Houseki the anime approaches the source in the best way it possibly can, both highlights the unique appeal of its gems cast, striking visual metaphoring and dynamic fights sequence that make it one of the best adaptation in my eyes: both respect the core themes that make the manga stands out, at the same time is vibrant with its own personality.

Houseki is a show of pure beauty. Its world building is ethereally fresh and rich, at once strange and full of mysteries yet to explore. Houseki features the world where the three races: the Lunarians who live over the Moon, the Gems who live in land and the Admirabilis who live under the sea. Underneath that surface where we follow the Gems doing their daily patrol and fight off the invaders Lunarians, the three races are hinted to be the three basic components that form the human race: the Soul, the Bone and the Flesh, respectively. Houseki is the work that is dense with Buddhism symbols, images and philosophy. This is further underlined in the way the character designs are drawn: the Moon People are identical entities, the Gems have their lower bodies almost the same, only the Gems-reflected in their hairs are vastly different and the Snails have their own distinctive, over-designed body with clear sexual traits. Speaking of the ambiguous of gender issues, Houseki might be the only series I could give a plus (+) rating for its sensitive approach to the non-gender beings, something that is rare even in today’s standard and something that speaks further to the originality of Houseki.

In order to approach the strange beauty of the Gems and the stylish dynamic of their fights, Houseki decided to go full CG – a decision that freaked out the manga fans considering the bad track of full CG shows. The computer generated might get some time to get used to, but the more Houseki displays its visual the more it reaches its new height. The characters look gorgeous in their CG models, the CG allows Houseki to experiment with many unusual shot angles and long shot tracking that really hard to pull in a traditional hand-drawn production. The sequence where Dia runs away from Shiro, for example, stands out for all the right seasons. In addition, this CG style uses its shortcomings in computer production (its lightweight movements and somewhat awkward character actings) into an asset, making the Gems feel offbeat and whimsical – the very quality that make them charming and pleasing to watch. The physical comedy, as a result, hits the mark most of the time. But not only the CG takes all the credits here, I have to praise the 2D production as well since the characters have 2D facial features that allow many subtle facial expressions. Orange studio really makes the most out of what they have, capturing the feeling of the manga using the tools of a different medium, and they pull off beautifully.

But exploring this mysterious world and its grand cast is only one of Houseki’s many concerns. This season is all about the growth of our main character, Phos, as they breaking apart, metamorphosing, and changing themselves for better or for worse. They experient some of the sharpest character development I have seen in awhile, both physically and psychologically. The more they losing parts of their body, the more useful and mature they become, the less memory they have. At the end of the day, what’s left of the original Phos? Phos certainly carries their own magnificently with their own charm and witty remarks and a natural voice acting from the talented Tomoyo Kurosawa. Moreover, Houseki underscores the identity and the insecurity of the Gems towards the own roles. Many of the gems, from Phos, Cinnabar, Dia are all struggling with their position. Those vulnerables make them so relatable and real. All other Gems of the cast have their own quirks, but they never sell themselves short. They share great natural chemistry to each other and each of them is memorable, grounded and overall a total joy to watch.

Aside from the colorful yet memorable characters, Houseki benefits from the stunning background arts that not only stand out on its own, but they fit to the narrative seamlessly. Take note how the color of the background changes according to the Gems in spotlight – a beautiful trick that both convey the aura of said character, but also is very appropriate to show the sparkling ability of those Gems. The anime visual has a lot of symmetric shots that from what I know isn’t apparent in the manga, but it’s a welcome upgrade since the techniques reflects very well the theme of Houseki. The soundtrack is another highlight that really elevate many sequences to another level, especially during the fight scenes.

But still, Houseki is much more than beautiful visuals. What I impress the most about Houseki is how they manage the overall tones of the show. Sometimes we have silly, offbeat fluffy comedy, at times it goes full on devastating that showcase a very realistic portrayal of grief; in other minutes Houseki is thrilling with monster chase, crazy Gems and dynamic fights. Strangely, all of these moments above feel really Houseki-y. It’s the show that is full of identity. Rarely I see an anime show that feel so unlike any other shows I watch out there, and manage to be so passionate on what it does, that I can let all my complaint about the show down under the kitchen sink. Unique, strange, beautiful, devastating, ambiguous, and charming all at once, Houseki is an one-of-a-kind series, and I mean it in the best possible way.

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Fate/Apocrypha

I was quite excited for Apocrypha and in the so called year of Fate adaptations, it looked to be the crown jewel. Sadly, partly due to lacking adaption and the source lacking in areas, this anime turned out to be not quite the jewel I thought it would be. It’s hard to call this a bad anime, mainly because it lacks consistency it it’s quality. Much like it’s animation, Apocrypha goes from highs and lows, from boring mediocre scenes to scenes that range from mildly entertaining to genuinely great. Unfortunately to get the most out of it you need to read up on the mythological of the characters in it as the series itself does a very poor job of fleshing them out. Fate/Apocrypha details a war between fourteen servants with one extra servant acting as referee. As such it boasts a pretty massive cast of characters which proves to be to its detriment. There isn’t enough screen time to flesh all these characters out and sadly a lot of potential with some genuinely interesting characters gets wasted. There are a number of servants in Apocrypha that deserved better than the story they got, such as Sisgou and Mordred, the people who originally appeared to be our main protagonists. Excellent chemistry, fun master servant relationship and despite Mordred being a saberface she gives enough personality to the design that she makes it her own. And all of this is absolutely wasted when they are pushed to the wayside for their screen time to be robbed by the actual protagonist of the story.

At episode three a homunculus called Sieg is introduced and from his very introduction comes the greatest flaw of Apocrypha. Sieg is a mistake. He is a character with no personality who goes from wondering about his existence to archetypical hero. The plot of Apocrypha bends over backward to give Sieg all the screen time and plot devices he needs to steal the spotlight. he is cardboard, a literally one dimensional plank with a sign that says “Your face here” and comes with his own romance subplot that is given far too much time and effort. Sieg sucks the fun out of any scene he’s in that I honestly believe that the times I was most bored watching this show where when he was on screen. Take note that Sieg is not an annoying character nor does he have a personality that irks the viewer. The problem is that he’s nothing and steals precious screen time from servants most desperately needing development. All the characters of Apocrypha suffer due to his presence and that’s a damn shame as this story does indeed have potential. But it’s clear that while the writer set up a grand epic battle, he didn’t quite think of how he was to close it out. Some servants feel like unnecessary time wasters like Jack and Avicebron. Also while the battle starts as shades of grey with no one technically in the right, it slowly changes into a strictly black and white affair.

The music of the series is fantastic which Masaru Yokoyama succeeds in giving Fate/Apocrypha its own distinctive identity through melody. There are plenty of scenes elevated by his OST alone and I truly think they deserved a better show. Though there are some medolics which play a bit too often. The animation, while shaky and nowhere near Ufotables level, does showcase some impressive fight scenes which are exhilarating enough to push away Apocryphas problems temporarily. Ultimately Fate/Apocrypha is wasted potential that made for a mediocre anime with some patches of entertainment and some small moments of greatness. Not to be recommended as your first Fate anime and most likely more for those that are deep into the series. It is a immensely flawed series that could have been better than the sum of its parts but as it there is at least some meat here to give a Fate fan reason to check it out. Provided you keep your expectations low and do a bit of reading on the servants histories. Though if the Light novel ever gets fully translated, that’s the better alternative.

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Kino’s Journey -The Beautiful World-

One of the surprises of the year was to see the return of Kino’s Journey, a very well regarded and more unique anime among those deemed classic. Many, myself included, were very much looking forward to the return of Kino and her talking Motorrad. Though due to some factors this series doesn’t quite live up to the pedigree of its former season. One factor is that it is somewhat a mix of a remake and a sequel as some old stories from the original 2003 series are remade while other new stories make an appearance. Those fond of kIno for it’s morally ambiguous parables will find the new series to be less focused on that and more on lighthearted little tales with Kino and other protagonists. There are of course dark moments but overall this series has more of an optimistic tone when compared to the previous seasons nihilistic outlook. This could be quite a turn off for old fans but there are indeed still good stories here.

However the choice of stories and their structure in the series doesn’t appear to have been thought out well as stories appear to be chosen based more on Kino and other fan favorites getting the spotlight rather than meaningful allegories on life. Quite a pity as there are well over 200 stories and yet the ones featured here appear to be the weaker ones of a long running series. Stories are placed one after another haphazardly without considering the tone or overall structure. For example, two of the remake episodes are A Kind Land and the Country of Adults. A kind land was the previous seasons finale but is placed in the middle of the series and is followed by Kino’s Origin which would have been more beneficial to place before A Kind Land. On top of which this season decides to finish on what amounts to a joke episode which again is a odd decision that seems to misunderstand the very intent of Kino’s story. Nonetheless there are some standout stories such as the Country of Lies and In the clouds.

That said while we have a B-class selection of stories, the presentation at least does them justice. Aside from some rather awkward CGI, this season of Kino is a visual improvement over its predecessors intentional but rather dated look. I didn’t notice anything noteworthy music wise and the opening is just alright. Characters can act a bit over the top and unrealistic, which is different from the original series more monotone delivery but that can result in some more emotional moments hitting harder. As such if a another season was made with better story selection I believe it could very well match the original. Though sadly this may be the last we see of Kino for a very long time. To sum things up, this series doesn’t hold a candle to the original but it’s still a worthwhile watch.

Posted on 1 January 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Girls' Last Tour

Girls’ Last Tour falls within my favorite new trend that emerging the anime medium over the last decade: a dark moe anime. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the human race has almost extinct, our two girls wandering around the world in their kettenkrad looking for food and shelter. If it sounds a bit bleak and minimalism, rest assured that Girls’ Last Tour is at its heart a slice-of-life show about those girls having relaxing time in that world. And did I mention that those girls are real moeblobs? Their faces can go rounder and squishy, but strangely they never feel out of sync with the more realistic industrial setting. The show could be entertaining and soothing enough with just those factors, but it has more tricks under its sleeves. More often than not, Girls’ Last Tour addresses some simple philosophical issues that provides another perspective since the girls have no idea how normal society works. Moreover, while I consider the source material an already solid manga, the anime adaptation enhances this show further with a consistent visual audio production and great attention to details. It’s a beautiful and solid production all around.

I always consider a certain show a great piece of art when they know how to fuse seamlessly between two seemingly contrasting or opposite factors, because then the show can produce some unique chemistry, while at the same time balancing these extremes out – just like how yin and yang work in general. Girls’ Last Tour certainly is amongst this group. Take how the cutey designs of the girls both contrast and complement to the vast wasteland on the verge of totally destroyed. Or how despite the low-key depression of hopelessness that linger to wherever the girls go, the main theme is about how our girls find their little joy and keep moving on. I also want to stress on the small number of the living beings in contrast to the huge remains of weapons and dysfunctional machines. This show is one of the most minimalistic cast I’ve seen in anime medium, with only our two girls Chi and Yuu command the screen most of the time, and the number of people and animals they encounter along the way can be counted in two hands. For other shows it’s a recipe for disaster but in Girls’ Last Tour the girls never stay out their welcome in spite of (and I could argue because of) the vast world of nothingness. The last episode when the stream of many people appear on screen before the destruction, as a result, bring a powerful, overwhelming emotion to the table. This mastery in controlling over the general tone makes this show so relatable, sharp and grounded, despite the show is at its core a moe girls show.

Chi and Yuu make a great pair with their contrasting (again!) personality. Their chemistry is natural and sometimes the show explores the different mindset between Chi-chan who is academic but timid and Yuu who just like eating but quick to adapt. In one sequence for an instance, when arguing about the signs that give them directions to the destination, Chi argues that who would ignore signs that would help them to the destination, in which Yuu responses that it’ll be boring that way. Their difference in the way they approach life complement each other and bring the best out of each of them. Their bond and fondness to each other, in addition, is highlight through the completely comfortable in their close physicality and in the last episode that bond is further developed into satisfying payoff.

The worldbuilding of this series is another highlight, too. We get a hint of how the world come into destruction several times before, but it never at once come into a forefront. The city is displayed as an industrial, vast with multiple layers that the higher the level, the more advance the technology. Ancient people in that world had an advance in technology that now become long lost. Our girls travel that world without a proper knowledge about the remaining technology, and to a greater degree have absolutely no knowledge about how society works and many several topics regarding society like religion, war, home and death. These philosophical questions often pop up randomly, but they all serve the purpose of seeking a bit deeper about our own existence, our purpose in life and even what lifeform is itself. Ultimately, the answer to these questions are just as simple: the best way to die is to keep on living and enjoy little happiness in life.

While comparing the manga to this anime adaptation, I noticed in the manga, the sense of hopelessness is more apparent, thus make it a fair bit darker than the anime version. That’s not a jab against the anime at all, as I consider the production of Girls’ Last Tour a nearly flawless work. The shots are greatly composed, they know when to use natural sounds and when to let the score kicks in. The background art is always appropriate and striking. The direction, the editing make the show as natural as possible, and believe me it’s a goddamn hard job to pull. Girls’ Last Tour is just down right cinematic most of its time. Moreover, the voice acting work for the two girls are exceptional. Bravo White Fox for this wonderful adaptation where I can feel their love and their passion run right through every minute of the run.

While Girls’ Last Tour might provide no definitive ending to the girls’ last tour and sometimes might feel like nothing is really at stakes, I am myself surprise the whole trip never feel boring or repetitive, and Chi and Yuu’s chemistry is strong enough to carry the show. Depressing and comforting at the same time, Girls’ Last Tour is a rare show that produce its unique charms and distinctive tones, while always maintain its feet firmly on the ground. It’s the best of its slice of life dark moe genre and I certainly miss those girls and their kettenrad.

Posted on 29 December 2017 with categories: Anime Reviews, Shoukoku no Altair

It would not be an exaggeration to say that my favorite type of anime is the political-military epic. This comes partly out of my profession, I study war and politics, but also my hobby, as military and political history is something I enjoy. When it comes to anime there is a clear sub-category that can be called political-military epics that covers elements of politics and war. These shows are characterized by some commonalities. First of all direction wise, is the large cast. When your characters are introduced with subscripts for titles, you know you are in political-military epic territory. Second, there is narrator who plays a crucial role in moving the story along.

Story wise the shows can be place into a continuum anchored by the great Chinese epics. On the one side you have those stories which are closer to the thematic of the Chinese “Journey to the West”. Political and Military events provide a backdrop, but the stories essentially focus on the story of a hero within the world. On the other side are stories in which the politics and the military events are the protagonist. There is no real protagonist per se, but instead central characters through which we see the events unfurl. The literary example of this in Chinese cultures is “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. Stories that go further and relegate characters to a truly secondary role cross into thematic territory that is more in synch with the ancient Greek history, “The Peloponnesian War”. Anime wise, a recent example of the first type was “Akatsuki no Yona”. Stories in the theme of the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, including directly based on it abound in anime, with “Shouten Kouro” being the most recent example in my mind. Finally, “Legend of Galactic Heroes” stands the closest to the “Peloponnesian War”, though it is still anchored around two protagonists.

Due the central role of the politics and military events in these stories, characters are either decision makers, or people who are privy to decisions. This is what differentiates from me the political-military epic, from what I would call only military anime (in which many times the characters are not privy to decisions-for example a lot of the Gundam franchise). Thus are protagonists are ministers, princes, kings, and generals, or the people who put into effect the decisions of such personages.

The two shows I will review here both wish to tell an epic story of politics and war. The Heroic Legend of Arslan (Arslan Senki) is the creation of the author behind Legend of Galactic Heroes, Yoshiki Tanaka. Thus we have a author who has experience in telling such epic tales. The animated version I am looking at is the recent one directed by Noriyuki Abe, based on the manga interpretation by Hiromu Arakawa, of Full Metal Alchemist fame. This is quite the pedigree of creators. There was an older anime based on Tanaka’s work, which I personally liked a lot, but which did not cover much of story (which is in progress). So I was looking forward to this new interpretation. The other show is based on a manga by Kotono Kato, a historian by trade, and is their first work of note. The anime was directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi who has some solid work behind them, but nothing exceptional per se. SuperWooper reviewed the first 12 episodes, but I decided that show deserves a full review, and he kindly let me take care of it.

Before going into the particulars let me summarize my review. Both shows suffered from a number of issues that denied them the character great, let alone exceptional. But ultimately I felt that Altair promises a lot more, and was able to craft the more interesting story. This was surprising, and to be frank after watching Arslan Senki I wondered if it really was written by the same person who wrote Legend of Galactic Heroes. It is not that it is per se a bad story, but quite underwhelming especially in the crucial area of characters. So let us go a bit more into the reasons for my conclusion.

Story

Ultimately a good political-military epic tells a good story. It posits a conflict that is both expansive and epic, but something that is beyond just a mere territorial spat. In LOGH Tanaka weaved into the story a whole semester worth of political science material ranging from questions about the trajectory of history, the meaning of war, to the relative merits of democracy and enlightened autocracy. I literally use parts of it in my lectures. Altair as a show is much closer to LOGH and the “Peloponnesian War” or the “Record of Three Kingdoms” than Arslan is. The word is more expansive, with many more powers, the politics are thus richer. Both shows try to invoke uniqueness by using as the basis of their world historical cultures that are not the usual staple of anime (or even western media). In Altair our protagonists are part of an idealized Ottoman Empire, active in a world with state that are inspired by ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy, and with the antagonist being a much more aggressive version for the Holy Roman Empire. In Arslan, the titular character is a prince of Pars, a setting inspired by Sassanid Persia, facing a fanatical stand-in for European Crusaders, and surrounded by states inspired by Turkish and Hunnish tribes, and Indian medieval princes.

While both settings work to enrich their regions, I ultimately felt that Altair did a better job of showcasing its world, compared to Arslan. And this is despite its pacing issues it has (more on this later). To put it simply, I found the city -tates, empires and kingdoms of Altair much more intriguing, than those of Arslan. A lot of this might be though that Arslan in its first arc is more like a “Journey to the West” story, focusing on the travels of the protagonist and his coterie of characters. Now, Altair also does this. But here is the difference. In Altair the story of individual travel is well-meshed to the story of the politics. In Arslan it is not. Turghil Pasha in his travels not only to get companions, he crucially meets decision makers and comes to understand, and show us, the politics of his world. In Arslan, Arslan meets companions, and he learns about the world, but he learns by being told about it by said companions, rather than by experiencing it. This was crucial difference.

I also felt that despite the pacing issues of Altair, the political decisions there made sense. That was not always the case with Arslan.

The different approach to the story also meant that Altair could get way with weak characters, while in Arslan they doomed it. In Altair, you could forgive some of the characters because the characters were always enriched by the environment. The cultures of Rumeliana (the Europe of Altair) were all so unique and interesting, that they enriched characters who stood as their proxies. In Arslan that was not the case. In general I felt the story of Altair to be richer, and more intriguing, than that of Arslan. While both had an element of a coming to age story, I felt that Altair was more able to mesh it to the political and military situation. And this helped the characters. Speaking of characters,

Characters

It is unavoidable that with their massive casts, political-military anime while have a slew of underdeveloped characters. As long as those characters are given some singular trait that makes them interesting, and as long as the protagonists are fleshed out, this is not an issue. As long as characters are not caricatures, they can be forgiven a bit of thinness. This is why story and environment play such an important role. This of course cannot be forgiven with the protagonists. A good political-military anime will have multiple protagonists, shared by the two main warring factions, and even more. They will be decision makers, or close allies of decision makers. They will be essentially our eyes and ears into why things happen, and provide some investment in the politics by having their fate and beings tied to it. The problems start when the central characters are either uninteresting, or relegated to a secondary role by the other protagonists. Altair succeeds in avoiding this, while Arslan fails.

Now both Mahmud Turghil Pasha and Prince Arslan share some character traits. They are both seen as politically naïve by others, and they are both struggling to find their place in a complex world. The starting arcs of both anime are focused on their journey to maturity and wisdom. The problem is that while we can see and appreciate Turghil Pasha’s growth, Arslan’s is not as easy to learn. This is not because he does not grow. But his growth is tethered and ultimately smothered by his companions. Too much of Arslan is about Arslan asking his chief strategist Narsus (a bad character inspired for Zhuge Liang from “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”) about what to do. There is a lot of that. As a result, Arslan’s growth is always feeling as pedestrian, predicted, boring. Turghil Pasha is never completely eclipsed like that. His growth is not always predictable, and we always see it in action.

It does not help that by a large the secondary cast in Arslan is boring. Of his companions that only two I found interesting are the warrior Daryun, who is not a rich character, but he is a well done example of the warrior template, and the fun and adventurous bard Gieve. The others did not stand out. This expands to the secondary characters on the side of the heroes. Most are bland, and boring. In Altair, despite the fact that many of the secondary characters are just as “thin”, I did not find them boring. Whether Halil Pasha, Suleiman Pasha, or Kiros and Abriga, they never seemed to hold the show down. The mayors, princes, kings that populate Rumeliana are not anymore developed than the characters in Arslan, but the combination of smart focusing on a specific trait, and their close connection to their cultures makes them interesting.

The issue becomes worse for Arslan when it comes to the question of antagonist. Now it is true that neither show comes close to the almost excellent balance of characters on both sides that LOGH had. But Altair comes closer. To put it simply ad brutally, the enemy in Arslan is boring. You have the always scowling, yelling, always angry Prince Hermes. You have the scheming, scowling, perpetually frustrated Guiscard. You have the caricature coward, scowling Bodin. Indeed there is a lot of scowling and furrowing of brows, and yelling going on. And that that is it. None of these people are remotely interesting. What drives them is boring, and thus their schemes are boring. No great questions can be put forward by such characters, and thus the battle really is more like a black and white fight, despite the continuous talk by characters that this is not the case (for the sake of all that is holy, one of the secondary antagonists chose the enemy side simply because he felt it would not be fair if there is no one on the side of the guy with he himself does not consider ready to be a king!). Hell, the most interesting opponent of Arslan is his frenemy Rajendra, who is pretty much an interesting character because he has a level head on his shoulders. The more interesting questions in Arslan are always about Arslan’s plans for the future of Pars, and that is pretty much an intra-ally discussion.

On a first glance Altair could also be considered weak on the enemy front. If there is one criminal failure for Altair, is that it never invests as much as it should in the enigmatic figure of Prime Minister Louis (a characterized for Machiavelli and Richelieu). This is partly because for a long part of the anime the “antagonist” is the equally interesting Zaganos Pasha. But the show in its second course presents us with an interesting array of Imperial opponents that give us an insight into what drives the Balt-Rhein empire forward. Their motives are much better than those of Arslan’s foes, and between Turghil, Zaganos, and Louis some major questions are put forward about the nature of hegemony, pacifism, and practical politics. The contrast between the perpetually yelling Hermes and Guiscard, and the calm Zaganos and Louis (whose voice actor is great) is in a way the encapsulation of the difference between the two shows.

Direction

Both shows suffer from direction issues. In a way they suffer for exactly opposite reasons. Altair suffers from an insane pacing, which leaves one bewildered about why and how things happen. Characters enter and leave before we have a chance to understand them or their place in the story. Essentially the fact that Altair is an advertisement for the manga can be seen in the terrible pacing, which tries to cram as much material as possible into the 24 episodes. . Arslan on the other hand, has pacing that is too slow, which means we get too much Narsus, being Mr.Perfect (I dislike Narsus, don’t I?), or Hermes scowling (GGRRR GRRRR). The pacing issues in Altair ruin a bit the enjoyment of unraveling the politics behind the scenes. But at least the politics unravels. In Arslan , we go through 36 episodes to just get back were we started, Arslan and companions on a trip.

Speaking of direction, the narrator, which is a character in these shows, was a bit more useful in Altair than that in Arslan. Also despite it pacing issues, I felt Altair was able to create some set-pieces that were quite nice, more often than Arslan. That said there was only so much the direction could do with the animation the shows got.

Animation

Well to put it simply animation in both cases was not something to write home about. While there were some well animated scenes (the fight between Turghil Pasha and Rod Orm, the fights between Hermes and Daryum), in general the animation was lackluster. Massive battles are the bread and butter of these shows and neither did a good job at it. Arslan opted for using CGI graphics, and the battles ended up having a rather Total War Rome feel to them (only TWR had more model variation). Altair, perhaps wisely, eschewed that for mostly still frames and traditional animation. They both get their story across, but there is none of that wow I got from the massive battles of LOGH.

Art

While I like Arakawa’s art I felt it plain compared to that of Altair. In general the world of Altair was more colorful and varied than that of Arslan. The Turkish, and Italian Renaissance basis of the clothes showed in Altair. There were some bad choices (the naval uniforms are too much One Piece like for my taste, and the uniform of the officers of the Balt-Rhein empire too LOGH Empire style) but in general they nailed the look. In Arslan the looks are servisable, but that is about it. One of the other blog commentators said that there was something whimsical in the art of Altair, and while initially I did not like it, it came to grow on me. I believe that if Altair had the animation budget of Arslan it would had been a much more beautiful show.

Music

The Opening and Endings of Arslan and Altair were in general generic and boring. I found the second Opening of Altair the most interesting, partly due to the good direction. When it came to soundtrack, Arslan had the better one, with the track Tenchi Rai Sanka standing out and being well used in the series for memorable scenes (Sher Senani! Sher Senani!). Altair was not graced with a soundtrack that was as good. It does its job, but that is it.

Final “Feel”

Ultimately I felt that the story that Altair tried to tell was a more epic and nuanced story, in a richer world. I felt that the political principles at stake were more expansive and interesting. It is not that Arslan does not have a good question at its center (the nature of kingship). It is more that the story failed to work with it well (since Narsus, has all the answers!). To be fair, nor does Altair really do a good job fully exploring its question. Indeed it more teases it. Perhaps the biggest thing holding Altair back, is that it is an anime conceived as a advertisement for the manga, with all associated issues in pacing, characterization etc. And to be frank it does that job well. Despite my initial dislike of the manga art, I came to be interested in it. Arslan’s issue is much more fundamental. It does not know what it wants to be. Is it a story of development like “Journey to the West”, or a war and political epic like “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. This is never clear, and to be frank from some summaries I have read of the books not animated, it gets worse, with fantasy elements invading with increasing vehemence.

Thus both shows fail to reach their potential. And perhaps I ask for too much. I mean LOGH had over 150 episodes to develop a sweeping and epic tale. That would be a fair rejoinder. But not in a world with Tanya Senki (Tale of Tanya the Evil). Tanya Senki is also a political-military epic. And despite its short course of 12 episodes, tight direction gave us tale that was rich enough. Tanya proves that you can tell a good political-military epic in 12 episodes. And thus the inability of both shows to do better in double the episode length is disappointing. With that said though, I believe Altair has the promise to tell a tale worthy of LOGH down the way. Arslan less likely.

Final Scores
Characters: Altair Record of Battles: 80/100; Heroic Legend of Arslan:70/100
Plot: Altair Record of Battles:80/100; Heroic Legend of Arslan: 70/100
Art: Altair Record of Battles: 70/100 ;Heroic Legend of Arslan: 70/100
Sound-Music: Altair Record of Battles: 70/100 /Heroic Legend of Arslan: 75/100
Final:
Altair Record of Battles: 75/100
Heroic Legend of Arslan: 70/100

Posted on 28 December 2017 with categories: Anime Reviews

“How many decades have passed since our drinking contest?”
“It hasn’t been that long. It was only a few hours ago, this very night!”
That gap in time perceiving plays a significant role in Night is Short. For you see, it all depends on how our perception of the surroundings and time itself can affect our lives. In Night is Short, time runs much slower for those who enjoy life and speed itself up for those who afraid to live. Come our main protagonist, a “black-haired maiden”, an unnamed red-dress girl who keeps walking on, enjoys the night and let life lead her way. She runs through a seemingly endless night and encounters many absurd events: the wedding, the drinking contest, the bookfair, the guerrilla stage theatre and the massive cold outbreak and many random plot threads crammed in together. As a narrative line, like its protagonist, Night is Short’s never content to stay in one place for too long. It’s decided messy, full of random events with colorful, exxergarate cast and very loose animation. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to consider Night is Short as a spiritual concessor of The Tatami Galaxy, so those who already love the 2010 series will have a lot to enjoy here.

One factor you should expect, and I rather consider this as the film’s most detriment factor, is that it share the same spirits with the Tatami Galaxy. Written by the same author Tomihiko Morimi (which I happened a big fan of), and the distinctive visionary of Masaaki Yuasa (which arguably the best working anime director right now), Night is Short shares the same visual style, happens in the same universe, has the same simple character designs and even uses many of the show’s previous casts. The familiar in the look, the settings and the tone make it hard not to consider them as a companion piece, or a little brother of The Tatami Galaxy. Thankfully, Night is Short does just about enough to stand out on its own. Even without the knowledge of Morimi’s previous novels (the Tatami Galaxy, the Eccentric Family), you will able to enjoy the ride since those references never distract the flow of this hectic adventure.

As you can probably guess from the works of Morimi, this magical-realism Kyoto settings never fails to bring wonders and enjoyment. Every single setting, from the interior night bar, to the night book fair, to the river at night, have a warm, distinct feel to it that make it brimming with so much life. The magical-realism feel not only limited to the remarkable settings, however, but to the whimsy, over the top characters with exaggerated movements and the randomness, directioness of all the events crammed in together. If I have a word for it, it would be “randomness in a structured way”. Interior places that seem much bigger than their external appearances, time that is warped to be much longer than it is supposed to be. Characters who self-proclaimed as the god of whatever childish thing they can think of. Various mysterious folktales about their own cultural products. Night is Short is proud and obsessed of its own magical world, and be pretty happy to flood us with those details like a mother can’t stop praising about her child.

The animation of Night is Short, as pretty much expected from the legendary Yuasa, is distinctive and expressive. His loose animation style allows characters to be very lively with smooth animation to boost. While some might argue his style can be too much to take in, and it is certainly the case here, it fits the narrative well with a clear direction (I would argue EVERY decision he made has its merits), couple with nice shot-compositions, overwhelming use of color, and breathtaking cinematography make Night is Short a top-notch, albeit a bit for acquainted taste, production of the year. Most of the movie’s charm is hidden in visual language, as Yuasa plays around, experiments visual metaphors and symbolism in large amount of scenes. One certain visual thread that caught me completely off guard, for example, is the stage musical act. Great music aside, the various plays are displayed with a strong and keen direction that furthers blown me away on how confident Yuasa approached those scenes.

The characters, in addition, make up the most out of their screen time and they are certainly the biggest strength of Night is Short. We have 10 plus characters all running around at all times, but each of them is memorable and full-of-live, and the way they keep bumping into each other make a nice chemistry across the board. Most of them are absurd and weird, but they feel like they live in the picture, have their own hearts and run wild free all for themselves and many of them are surprisingly deeper than they initially appeared at first. But by spending too much time to flesh out such a large cast, the main protagonists, namely the Black-haired maiden and the unnamed male lead have little time to develop as much as they could. I can totally get behind the maiden since she’s the spirit of the film, but the same can’t be said to the male lead as I don’t think he deserve the attention Night is Short clearly intent him to be.

In fact, like Tatami Galaxy, viewers can find themselves overwhelming most of the time. Overwhelming by the rapid-fire dialogues, overwhelming by the hectic random adventures, overwhelming by crazy animation that keep pushing the boundary, overwhelming by excessive characters that too weird and absurd to sometimes take them seriously. But all that overwhelming feeling is the point of Night is Short. The movie is an examination of pulling out the maximum of our lives, in the spirit of our black hair maiden. The seemingly random events, the coincidental meetings with new people all point to the theme that all these things might be tied by the famous red string of fate.

All in all, Night is Short is an extraordinary mess of an experience. It’s a movie that I know I will enjoy multiple times because I love absolutely everything about it: its world, its characters, its tones, its central messages. Think of the movie as a companion piece to Tatami Galaxy (instead of comparing them together). Every single second is filled with passion and attention to details, as a result it has undeniable charms and unique imagination. Night is Short is ultimately a celebration of life, living life to the fullest. Let the night continues on forever, girl.

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

In the weeks leading up to the summer 2017 season, Ballroom e Youkoso was one of the most buzzed-about new series. Produced by the Production I.G. team responsible for the smash hit Haikyuu!!, and set to air on Amazon’s brand new Anime Strike service, the series had no shortage of promotion or hype behind it. All that remained was for the creative staff to carefully transfer Takeuchi Tomo’s manga to the small screen, and they mostly succeeded – at least, in conveying its individual images and moments. But sports anime have evolved beyond an upper limit of simple panel-by-panel adaptations, and in the end, Ballroom didn’t manage to keep pace with its contemporaries. While its characters deserve some praise, both for their designs and their personalities, the series is limited by shounen clichés, haphazard progression, and an inadequate sense of movement during dance competitions.

The show’s lead character is one Fujita Tatara, whose general listlessness is gradually transformed into passion after he accidentally discovers ballroom dance. Tatara’s timid nature stands in stark contrast to the more dominant personalities he encounters throughout the series, and the show makes good use of that difference to portray Tatara’s personal growth in tandem with his improvement as a dancer. Though he is initially intimidated by rival characters both aloof and hotheaded, he learns from and ultimately befriends them as the series goes along. His relationships with three girls, all of whom serve as his dancing partner for some length of time, are even more central to Ballroom’s formula. Tatara struggles with the traditional notion of male-dominated performances, and aims to cooperate with his partners as best he can. There might have been some interesting social commentary to be had here, but the show smothered that potential during its second half by pushing the idea that its protagonist ought to become a perfect leader, but never satisfactorily explaining what that meant or how to do it.

Despite some muddled goal-setting, Ballroom’s characters are fun to spend time with, and worth learning about in detail. The show frequently explores performance anxiety, feelings of inferiority and stagnation, and even digs into the dark personal lives of its cast once or twice. But more common than these positive tendencies are competition-interrupting flashbacks and clunky comments from nameless observers, which become more common and more frustrating the longer the show goes on. Even Tatara’s biggest rival, an unflappable genius by the name of Hyodo Kiyoharu, begins seeing into the heads of other dancers by the show’s end, describing exactly what they’re feeling and perfectly evaluating their performances as a stand-in for the writers. This may have been necessary, however, in light of the show’s most glaring issue – for a show about ballroom dance, there isn’t nearly enough dancing to be found.

Many of the show’s problems intensify in its second half, but its poor dance animation is more noticeable in the early episodes. Even with an eventual uptick in the number of prolonged choreographed sequences, however, the damage is done at the start, with plenty of panning stills, reaction shots, CG dancers, and speed lines instead of honest-to-goodness dancing. Audience members aren’t given a proper introduction to the sport in motion, so we have to fall back on snippets of verbal speculation about whose stamina is giving out, or whether Tatara has finally learned how to execute a proper hold. This robs several key scenes of the impact they deserve, though others are bolstered by Ballroom’s frequent use of visual metaphor during competitions. If you cut your teeth on sports anime from the 90’s or early 2000’s, these techniques may not be too bothersome, but fans of newer titles in the genre may find the lack of dynamic movement disappointing.

This aspect of the show does improve as the series draws to a close, but there’s a trade-off to be made. Several characters are marginalized to make room for a brash newcomer, and her transition from manga to anime is less than seamless. The series also succumbs to a shounen tradition with which most anime fans will be quite familiar, though for the sake of potential viewers I won’t get too specific. Still, Ballroom ends well, and my original affection for the show did return for the final episode, so there’s reason to hang in there if you’re already halfway done. There’s little hope for a season 2, based on the lack of remaining source material, but if you’re reading this in the future and a sequel has emerged, you may be wondering whether the original is worth your time. My advice: if you’re a fan of sports anime, sample three episodes and see how you like it. Otherwise, give this one a pass.

Posted on 27 December 2017 with categories: Anime Reviews, Inuyashiki

Do you know what the average age of an anime protagonist is? Neither do I, but I’d wager its in the upper teens. For obvious reasons, most anime focus on high school and have high school aged protagonists with similarly aged problems. Its not often that we get a good older main character, who has to deal with more adult issues such as MonsterGreat Teacher Onizuka and Rakugo. Well, this season we can add another to this list. Even with its faults, Inuyashiki‘s characters remain strong and worth watching just for them.

Lets jump in!

To start, a quick synopsis. Inuyashiki focuses on well, Inuyashiki, a middle aged salaryman who feels useless and unloved by his family. One night, he heads to the park where he and a young man named Hiro Shishigami end up in an extra terrestrial hit and run. To cover their tracks the aliens rebuild them as cyborgs! These new bodies destroy their sense of humanity, and in the ensuing weeks the two must rediscover what it means to be human! Watch as their ideals clash and Japan pays the price! Onto the review!
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CHANGE USERNAME
Lenlo
Wait Attila is an Alien and Edison is a Lion? God damnit Fate. Why are you doing this to me. I was already annoyed at your treatment of Musashi
Masky
(aliens existing in the show is good example of that missing on themes part xP)
Masky
*most successful conqueror
Masky
Honestly was just amused most conqueror of all time not being featured in the show :D But wait, whats this about aliens?
AidanAK47
Anyway the important thing to take into account is that in the Fate universe, King Arthur is a woman, Attila the Hun is an Alien, Thomas Edison is a lion and Jack the Ripper is a little girl in a dominatrix outfit. Any questions?
AidanAK47
And while you don't need to watch something to be given divine right to comment on ideas or themes, it does leave you ignorant of how that show handles those ideas and themes.
AidanAK47
As for the Historical Alexander, he wasn't given the title of King of Couquerors. Fate/Zeros interpretation of him was. As generally accurate Fates interpretation of Servents history can be, they can make changes to suit the narrative.
AidanAK47
In that Regard Alexander was doing the conquest thing before Ghengus did. Ghengus likely has some other title. Hell he may only have the title because public consciousness was is more familiar with Alexander than Ghengus.
AidanAK47
Yeah, looking it up seems the King Title lost quite a lot of meaning in the Nasuverse. Though the King Title is rather flimsy. I mean Arthur is the King of Knights cause of the Knights of the round table. Gil is king of heroes because his tale was the first Heroic myth.
Lenlo
I think Alexander was just the first one they thought of, and they couldnt retroactively give it to someone else.

That said, Broskander deserves it <3
Masky
(And no, you don't need to watch something to be given divine right to comment on ideas or themes of it.)
Masky
(just to note in case I need to note, I do tend to do at least cursory research when I make comments on stuff I don't watch)
Masky
That first part is semantics as Fate gives title "King" to historical figures who weren't kings already :D Also, you can make that argument about historical Alexander the Great? Since that seriously sounds like kind of weak reason.
AidanAK47
Also sees Rider as deserving of title of "King of Conquerors" because that which he strives to conquer most is not lands or material wealth, but the hearts of people, the toughest conquest that can be undertaken by anyone.
AidanAK47
@Masky, Ghengis Khan wasn't a king. He was a Khan.
Lenlo
Ghengis is always a Rider in my mind.
Kaiser-Eoghan
But in all seriousness, Ghengis would be an appropriate beserker servant.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Masky: I know, it feels so wrong I'm still mad I can't summon Karl Marx or Stalin.
Masky
So wait, Fate series is about historical figures with super powers, but "King of Conquerors" title isn't given to Ghengis Khan? :D Seriously? Thats just so wrong
Kaiser-Eoghan
I don't feel any point in finishing it, it feels like something that I'd just randomly drop , not because its a bad show, but because I got my fill of it.
AidanAK47
I am actually going to drop blogging it.
AidanAK47
@Sash, indeed. I have been watching it but not blogging it for the last few episodes because it just hasn't givne me anything to say. I don't think it's a bad show but I have pointed out the flaws and strengths of it already so there is truly nothing more to say on it.
Sash
I think wotakoi is starting to feel repetitive..
Kaiser-Eoghan
You are now aware Shana and Batman Ninja Harelequinn are both voiced by Rie kugimiya.
Lenlo
I did. It was... It was a thing.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Lenlo: Did you end up watching Batman ninja by the way?
Lenlo
Music is great, yeah. When the music is on point, everything goes up. Everytime the sync the fight/punches to the music I just get hyped. Like the rotating shot with Aragaki or the first fight in episode 1.
Lenlo
Ill do my best to be clearer in the future on that front. Yeah, I dont mind twists like this. Makes the inevitable Mikio fight, narratively, even better.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I feel the music does alot of the lifting.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Oh, so that was it.
Lenlo
Sorry if I never made that clear.
Lenlo
I would rather have fewer, amazing, fights than a lot of low-quality fights. This is a one cour show, the more meaning/impact they can give each fight the better.

Like Aragaki, narratively, was great. Loved it. Its just in animation/choreography that it falls flat.
Lenlo
Im disappointed with the animation of the fights. Narratively, I think they are quite good.
Kaiser-Eoghan
*disappointed with the fights in past episodes
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Lenlo: Pretty much what I said I thought of the episode. Although I was surprised how took the episodes ending, I expected you to see it as a slap in the face after being disappointed with the fights.
Lenlo
Also, @Kaiser, I thought Megalo Box did something unique this episode. I wasn't expecting Joe to *not* fight. And the Mikio/Yukiko proxy war is an interesting character motivation. Im betting Yukiko will get Joe a full citizenship, effectively getting her on his side.
Lenlo
I wish I was physically capable of watching Megalo Box without thinking of Hajime no Ippo. I really do. But everytime I watch it, it makes me want to watch Ippo again to.
Anonymous2120908
I watched some more of the Chimera family chinese anime. (Wasn't aware it was monthly released). And geez, I like the concept, the background art is very pretty and contrasts with settings that have become tired in other anime. Yet sadly the animation and script are WEAK. I haven't grasped the quality of what's expected of these types of production but I want to believe, they're trying.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Not much in the way of action in megalobox this week, but I did like the focus on Yukkiko getting a small character moment and then the big moment at episodes end .
AidanAK47
@Anon, That's some lazy ass trolling buddy. Should have stopped before the hashtags.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I'm even sort of looking forward to supposedly less respectable stuff like Goblin slayer and happy sugar life.
Vonter
Also E3 is almost here. And I can't wait. I think Nintendo will have a good show considering they're revealing the new Smash with a tournament. There's rumors of the new game by Retro Studios (Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong) and maybe they'll reveal something about how Pokemon will be on the Switch.
Vonter
Also there's always the chance of something new being discovered. Not everything needs expectations behind. Sometimes great things come out of nowhere.
Kaiser-Eoghan
So yes, there are some at least decent shows coming out.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Anon: Muh Baki, Muh Bananna fish, muh made in abyss season 2, muh Vinland.
Anonymous2119906
The rest of this year looks like shit for anime and 2019 doesn't look great either #fuckmoe #makeanimegreatagain
Anonymous2119214
@Kaiser yeah it happened in half the amount of eps this time around for steins gate 0; which i expected considering there's a lot of ground to cover
Anonymous2119106
@Supermario Something like Fate or the LOTR films are a different case. I get where you're coming from about your preference, but I'm arguing that if a large story is going to be split into 3 films, it helps that the 3 films feel cleanly cut. Infinity war, even though we know there's a second part to the story, feels like it has that cohesive narrative structure with a beginning, middle, and end
Anonymous2119106
@Super Mario yea but the marvel movies are a different situation so i don't think the comparison is as appropriate. Marvel movies are "episodic" in nature rather than a continuous narrative. The films are largely isolated stories that are happening in a similar universe that only happen to "congeal" narratively because of a few overarching details shared between films.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Lenlo: I remember when the original series suddenly shifted and got going and it was a really depressing episode.
Lenlo
Oh baby. The storm has finally come in Steins;Gate. Let the true suffering commence
SuperMario
@anon2118276: that's why I don't like LoTR trilogy. It's still a whole body chopped up in 3 parts, despite how clean the cut is. Whereas for me it works better if it was like a branch in a tree. The Marvel movies (despite my disinterest on those) are a good example of this.
Kaiser-Eoghan
While I did feel some of this weeks steins gate felt fillery, I do like see these characters interact and given the episodes conclusion, this episode acted as a calm before the storm.
Lenlo
Ill agree with you on King Kong. As for the Ralph Bakshi LotR, I have. I am still to this day impressed by the overlay of 2D art onto real/overexposed footage. It makes for shockingly fluid animation in places and has its own distinct style
Anonymous2118208
@Lenlo - Have you watched the old Ralph Bakshi adaptation of the first two books? It's uneven, but it's interesting comparing and contrasting certain decisions. As good as Peter Jackson is, I feel he makes very longwinded films, I like his version of King Kong a lot, but it is too long.
Anonymous2118276
@supermario i disagree; the point is that even though the LOTH films have cliffhanger endings, they still feel like fils. they have a defined first second and third act with well paced tension and release throughout them. They follow a storytelling macrostructure necessary for films to feel like cohesive narratives even if they are to end on a cliffhanger
Lenlo
I quite liked the individual LOTR movie just fyi
Vonter
Marvel surprisingly has kept their movies simple enough, that while you might miss details nowadays, you can tell what's happening.
Vonter
Another bad case is like with Assassin's Creed, which like Lost, just tried to tease a lot of things, then it grew tired of trying to piece them together and let the last games work more standalone, with little hints of a larger lore.
Vonter
Metroid does both, it has a standalone story and a hint to what a sequel might bring. Though that hint rarely matters by the time the new game is released.
Vonter
@SuperMario - Some videogames trilogies also do that. Gears of War and God of War had good standalone beginnings but by the second game they put cliffhanging endings. Kingdom Hearts does that and I expect 3 to also do it. Megaman Legends and Half Life had incomplete stories, which might be the worse case in regards to trying to make a continuous story.
SuperMario
It ruins the appetite
SuperMario
I actually think Lord of the Rings' trilogy is a bad example to follow. These films are meant to be viewed as a whole, so each film doesn't hold much as an individual story. I just can't digest films that have "to be continued" sign at the end. Imagine having a first course meal and then have to wait for few days for second course
Kaiser-Eoghan
On the current topic, I would be well for the production of a long running, ambitious ova series.
Anonymous2116425
then again, i don't take too much issue with these films feeling like movie-sized eps...the wait just sucks is all
Anonymous2116425
clearly the films need each other to tell the whole story, yet they can be taken for what they are in isolation as well
Anonymous2116425
I don't mind the trilogy trend at all; like Aidan said, when everything is said and done, all the films will be available to watch. I just think a stronger attempt should be made to make them feel like complete films. Something like the lord of the rings trilogy is a great example of how to do this
Kaiser-Eoghan
I am in full confidence that neither I nor Miura will survive to the end of berserk.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Of course maybe they won't have a future , think about it that way, then they'd never see it, life has that weird way of being unpredictable like that =P
Kaiser-Eoghan
You can always rewatch them just before watching the one after.
AidanAK47
Of course not. But that's the thing. The wait is only a temporary problem. Anyone in the future will have all movies ready to view.
SuperMario
So it's best to wait for another 2 years to watch Heaven's Feel? Hell NOT
AidanAK47
When all the movies come out though you can basically barrel through it like a TV series.
SuperMario
Dangit, it's me Mario
Anonymous2115918
I still don't know if I like this trilogy trend. We've had a fair bun h of those in recent years (Berserk Golden Age, Madoka, even Kizumonogatari). I guess doing it that way, they'd make much more profits, and we have higher production values, but the wait is way too long and I don't think it works as movie-format
Kaiser-Eoghan
One of the very rare times where self-awareness works.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I can be nice and say of course Ryan Reynolds+ violence, comic was funnier.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Aidan: But I'm sure if you think it over, the first deadpool was trapped in origin story mode, as an advantage, the sequel, is probably free of that.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Aidan: Deadpool 2 had John Wicks director, which at the least means something in terms of action direction.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Aidan: There was a whole run of deadpool issues called Cable and deadpool, which I suppose that pairing together gets the best out of the character.
AidanAK47
Seen Deadpool 2 tonight and I have difficultly deciding if it's better or worse than Deadpool 1. Still it's quite fun and I enjoyed it.
AidanAK47
@Anon, I feel somewhat similar in regards to Franxx. When this series finishes I won't be singing high praises for it. Yet I do feel that it's worth watching.
AidanAK47
@Lenlo, Now I get ya. Yeah I understand that. I might even feel the same if I didn't already know the story from the VN.
AidanAK47
@Amagi, The second film seems to be in cinema this year but we won't get it until it hits blu-ray.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Travlos: As I expected, I am disappointed that they have held back . And you might just be right about Castrollop/Caligula/Nero, when I originally attempted to watch the show years ago, that was the episode I stopped on.
KTravlos
Yang really is stealing the show this time. But I wanted the "Alcohol is mankind's oldest friend" rant. I need it.
KTravlos
my expectation is that they will take this to the Battle of Armistar, and then the films will cover the dual civil wars etc.
KTravlos
...CASTROP REBELLION! Why the hell sacrifice an episode to the most useless and bad part of the original! I hated that episode. Well let us see if they can give it a better twist this time around.
KTravlos
The Iserlohn arc at LGOGH:NT was ok. I liked how they presented the preparations. I like the new Murai face. The music was quite good. But they did tone the violence. I expected Walter to stab the imperial officer in the neck. They have toned down the violence a lot. And I missed Seeckts "Long live the Empire" death. That said it was not bad, and I think in general it was good adaption. But....
Anonymous2115268
for example, I think Darling in the franxx is pretty average, but that's not because i think it doesn't have cool shit in it or things that make it appealing; I just find that what the show tries to achieve is not that stupendous or worth lauding with praise. As a result, the flaws stick out that much more to me
Anonymous2115268
@Lenlo and that's pretty much how i felt. Everything is subject to criticism; hell i criticize my most favorite things in the world because i know they're not perfect. I evaluate art and media on whether what it achieves overshadows the flaws and to what degree. Which i think is the best way to approach criticism
Lenlo
I want to repeat though, Heavens Feel wasn't bad. I know some people take any criticism to mean I hated it, but I actually quite enjoyed it. I just think ill appreciate/enjoy it more once the other 2 movies are also out.
Lenlo
@Anon, you nailed it. I couldnt describe it, but what you said /feels/ right.

And Aidan, I loved Lindsay Ellis's videos on the whole Hobbit debacle. A shame, cause the original Lord of the Rings is a landmark in film for me.
Amagi
@Aidan: Do we know if the next HF movie will be finished this year?
Amagi
I love how and how often they say "Fujimi no Sugimoto" in Golden Kamuy. It's pretty hype for some reason, especially when it's said by his enemies.
Anonymous2114206
yea. heaven's feel is nothing like the situation with peter jackson's hobbit; this story needs this many movies and that large runtime. The thing with these heavens feel films that is probably bothering lenlo is that they feel like very long episodes and that particularly the first film felt like a giant prologue rather than a film with a beginning, middle, and end
AidanAK47
And just to make it clear, Heavens Feel needs at least three movies to cover the entire story. It's too big for one movie.
AidanAK47
@Lenlo, I ain't unhappy about it though. Sucks that I need to wait so long for each movie but there is higher production values as a result. Though in regards to the Hobbit I recommend watching Lindseys Eillis videos on it. As it not only talks about how it screwed the Hobbit but also how the movies screwed New Zealand.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I could never immerse myself in Tolkienistic world building.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Man, the hobbit, lord of the rings and that shit king kong film, he sold out so much , this was the man who gave me Heavenly creatures , Braindead and Feebles.
Lenlo
It is very beautiful indeed. And Aidan, that Hobbit metaphor made me weep for you. I hated what happened to the Hobbit
Anonymous2112805
other than that; HF is a very beautiful looking film; ufotable has improved with their digital compositions...holy crap
Anonymous2112805
heaven's feel seems to be embracing its more horrific elements. Aside from that, watching this film made me realize how much i prefer rin over the rest of the girls; kinda wish we got to spend a bit more time understanding Sakura's psyche in the film
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: This was part of some film fest thing, ended up missing big fish Begonia though, that Chinese animated thing =<
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: they'd invited him to introduce the flick.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: Had this really unexpected run in, in my nearest arthouse cinema, seeing some film about the Soviet space program , I bump into this eastern European guy, assume he's an audience member, awkwardly say something in Russian to him, turns out he's the Russian federation ambassador to Ireland.
AidanAK47
It's sort of the hobbit situation where they chopped one book into three. Expect here we aren't getting extra fluff to pad things out. Well there are extra scenes but they are actually relevant.
Point is that in it's orignal form there are no stopping points here were you need to wait a year to continue. It was a straight story from start to finish.
AidanAK47
Well Fate is essentially the tutorial section that introduces most of the concepts and whatnot. But even then some of the things here are explained later in Heaven's Feel. Cause yeah, not only is the Fate/Stay Night VN not supposed to be split up into three seperate things, the routes aren't supposed to be split into movies either.
Lenlo
Im only familiar with the UBW route, cause Ufotable
Lenlo
I see.
AidanAK47
@Lenlo, In a way there is. Heaven's Feel was originally meant to be experience after the Fate and UBW routes of the VN. That the thing Fate/Stay Night has struggled with. It's not meant to be split up into three like this. It's originally supposed to be three parts of a whole. Each route complementing another.
Nayrael
And so am I
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Lenlo: Its like....sometimes I actually want to be able to like something I end up not liking, knowing I am the problem and not the show.
Anonymous2110797
Spoiler alaert: anime is trash
Lenlo
I can understand that. I cant stand Clannad, so everytime I ask for a decent romance and it gets recommended I die alittle inside.
Kaiser-Eoghan
While thats very true that not everyone agreeing does make things more interesting, at the same time theres some sense of feeling left out when not understanding the appeal of something extremely well loved.
Lenlo
Also @Maskey +1. If everyone agreed with each other, it would be boring. I love hearing what other people think on stuff.
Lenlo
Also, @Kaiser, give Ippo a try. It is one of the longest running and best sports anime/manga ever made. I sincerely believe this. That said, Megalo Box isnt bad. I still enjoy it. Ive just seen boxing done better.
Lenlo
It wasnt a bad movie. It just felt like it had a lot going on. Like Gil had a 30 sec clip, I don't really understand what the ribbon monster is but I suspect its the grail, and the new Assassin pulling an Alien, while cool, came out of left field. Like, once I just accepted it and moved on it was a fun movie. It just felt like there was a base of knowledge I needed but didnt have.
Masky
Eh, its okay to not like something that someone else likes. I disagree rather often with blog writers' opinions here but I still enjoy reading their opinions
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: There was a another idolmaster show and it had mecha in it.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Based on that I think I'm getting more out of it because I've only seen a few ippo episodes so I don't have much to go on to compare.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I think thats the reason here Lenlo, comparatively to you, I have seen much less of ippo so, contrasting megalo box with it isn't something I can really do.
AidanAK47
But seriously, you can ask me on discord about anything you didn't quite get, provided it's not explained later.
AidanAK47
@Lenlo, you are just a big dumb dumb that cannot understand art.
SuperMario
... more films coming soon
SuperMario
@Lenlo: maybe wanting more is a right feeling since there will be 2
Lenlo
So just finished Heavens Feel and I was... not as impressed as Aidan. As someone who is not a big TypeMoon fan, I had a lot of trouble keeping up with what was happening. It was pretty don't get me wrong. Thats Ufotable for you. But as a cohesive story it left me wanting
SuperMario
@Kaser: I'll send down the link once it has something on it
Kaiser-Eoghan
I'll be sure to read Mario's film blog.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Likely a compliment coming from me that increasingly Cutie honey is able to one up itself constantly in ridiculousness.
Anonymous2108907
@supermario: well, i did find the Nitta interaction with his family funny... Literally convincing them with his charisma alone. But i am finally happy for Anzu. this is Sash by the way, can't change my name for some reason
Anonymous2108852
@supermario: well, i did find the Nitta interaction with his family funny... Literally convincing them with his charisma alone. But i am finally happy for Anzu
Anonymous2108852
@supermario: well, i did find the Nitta interaction with his family funny... Literally convincing them with his charisma alone. But i am finally happy for Anzu
Anonymous2108334
Nepal Trek is the trek to the roof of the world that reminds you mystic and religious rites, Yeti, fascinating adventures and explorer’s tales and mysterious places like the heaven in earth. you can choose:
Everest Base Camp Trek, ABC Trek, Langtang Trek
AidanAK47
Well shit. Franxx actually went there. I mean I suspected it but I am still surprised they actually did it.
SuperMario
@Sash: I did (a little) too, damn isn't Hinamatsuri a comedy?
Sash
Today's episode of Hinamaturi made me cry....
KTravlos
avanti o popolo
alla riscossa
Bandiera Rossa
Bandiera Rossa
Kaiser-Eoghan
I would deem myself hideously verbose.
Lenlo
Oh I understand Aidan. Wordy is a character trait we share.
AidanAK47
@Lenlo, I generally get wordy with series I am massively into.
Kaiser-Eoghan
You are now aware that Asirpa is voiced in English by Tanya AND hello kitties voice actress.
Lenlo
Golden Kamuy mangas reaction faces are amazing
Kaiser-Eoghan
Also those reaction faces come across more effectively in the manga.
Kaiser-Eoghan
And retar is best wolf .
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: Thats exactly what I mean by my comment, I realized just how more, as I said visceral the manga is, much better.
SuperMario
@Kaiser: on Golden Kamuy, the anime does a poor job translating some of the manga's greater moments and tone down the violence which I am not happy about. For example one of the soldier got his face ripped off as once by the bear, but in the anime they did it off screen
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Featured Posts

Hinamatsuri – 07 [Anzu Is a Greeter Now]

At this halfway mark, I want point out that the comedy of Hinamatsuri isn’t as sharp as the first few episodes (except for the segment including Hitomi’s classmates). There’s still absurdist sense of humor, sure, but it doesn’t make me laugh out lout or even make me chuckle. That is to say I come to […]

Legend of the Galactic Heroes Die Neue These – 7[The Capture of Iserlohn (Part 2)]

The majority of this episode was detailing the plan and execution of Yangs takeover of Iserlohn which does seem rather simplistic when you think about it. This is a point where LOGH shows its age a bit and while they tried to bump it up by throwing in a body scanner, there is still the […]

Steins;Gate 0 – 6 [Eclipse of Orbital Ordering -The Orbital Eclipse-]

Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, Steins;Gate 0 has stomped the throttle and cut the breaks. Lets skip the intro and just get right to it. Early on I thought this episode was going to be slow, we were going to focus on our characters and relax a bit. I thought it would be drama […]

Golden Kamuy – 06 [Hunter’s Soul]

Well, (animal) shit. Golden Kamuy starts slow this week and ends with a bang. This episode presents many of Golden Kamuy’s ups and downs so it’s best to dissect them one by one. For the negative part, the pacing is still off. This episode spends too much time on Sugimoto and Asirpa hunting that poor […]

Hisone no Masotan – 05 [Do You Really Think That There’s Anybody Who Likes Being Disliked?]

There’s one thing you can count on original shows, you can never know for sure what the plot is going next. Sometimes, it surprises you with its sheer originality and sometimes, it could go to weird places. HisoMaso falls into the latter this week, literally where it’s taking us to an uninhabited island for the […]

Darling in the Franxx – 17[Eden]

Indeed Franxx appears to be doubling down on a darker more serious tone though I still am wondering if it will truly follow through on this or dismiss it fast and go full on happy ending. Personally I always feel cheated when a series foreshadows dark things to come only to turn tail when it’s […]

Megalo Box – 6 [Until the Last Dog Dies]

Alright, Megalo Box was a series of highs and lows this week and I don’t want to waste time with a preamble. So this week, lets speed things up and just jump in! To start off, the big showpiece of this week is the Aragaki vs Joe fight. We will get to its place in […]

Hinamatsuri – 06 [Nitta-san Has a Dandy Dad]

This week in Anzumatsuri Hinamatsuri, the show proves once again that it does have something up its sleeves. Rarely a show does the drama effectively to the point of winning me some (manly) tears, let alone a comedy show in nature like this, but Hinamatsuri more than earned it with a nice emotional story for […]

Steins;Gate 0 – 5 [Solitude of the Astigmatism -Entangled Sheep-]

Another week another new character added to Steins;Gate 0’s roster. This time we have a new scientist lady, more lovable “English” and answers to already obvious mysteries. Lets dive in! So right off the bat there are some small things to mention. Like how Moeka clearly suspects Daru for his time travel work, or the […]

Latest Reviews

Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel – I Prestige Flower Anime Review – 90/100

We have seen an influx of Fate adaptations over the last year and sadly each has proven to be disappointing except for a cooking slice of life short series which is weirdly better than it has any right to be. This movie was the last of the Fate adaptations that I needed to see but […]

Violet Evergarden (2018 Winter) Review – 76/100

Violet Evergarden’s existence has surely been a public one. Acclaimed before everyone lick a taste of it (it was awarded for grand prize in the fifth Kyoto Animation Award’s novel category in 2014 – read, KyoAni awards), it goes without saying that Violet Evergarden is one of the most anticipated show of the sparse Winter […]

A Place Further than the Universe (Winter 2018) Review – 77/100

Cute girls doing cute things is a genre that been done to death at this point. Even within this Winter 2018 we had been overloaded with big eyes fluffy face girls doing a lot of different things of interest. It takes a standout concept or a deeper narrative to make one stand out from this […]

After the Rain (2018 Winter) Review – 89/100

I suppose that most of us, even the perministic ones, enter After the Rain (Ameagari) with some reservations. After all, the premise about a crush from an 18-year-old girl to the store manager who is nearly 30 years senior raises a lot of red flags here. Yet the show handles this tricky premise with deep […]

Kokkoku – 42.5/100

There are lots of bad anime out there, for one reason or another. Whether it be stilted animation, terrible writing or bad direction, a good portion of each season is simply not worth it. Kokkoku is not a bad anime. It is something much worse. Kokkoku is a mediocre anime. Bad ones get talked about, […]

Junji Ito Collection Anime Review – 40/100

In the realm of manga there is a man whose name is inescapable when the genre of horror is brought up. That man is Junji Ito and his work is considered legendary for its artistic detail, mastery of manga paneling and it’s outlandish imaginative concepts. Up till now his work has yet to have an […]

Yuru Camp (Winter 2018) Review – 74/100

I admit that I underestimated Yuru Camp back in its first few episodes. I took it as a standard, run-on-the-mill slice of life show and I fully expected to give it 3 episodes at max before throwing it into the deep sea of forgotten anime. But as time pass, I can certainly see many good […]

Neo Yokio – 96/100

This may be half a year overdue but I simply can’t accept that none of the writing staff of Star Crossed Anime have cover the the biggest development in anime where Netflix took a hand in producing anime in the form of Neo Yokio. Taking place in the metropolis of Neo Yokio, a mashup between […]

Devilman Crybaby – 83/100

It’s an exciting time to be an anime fan where new business models and players are making big waves within the animation industry. After debuting with the original and excellently-produced Neo Yokio, the juggernaut streaming service of Netflix has decided to revive the classic series of Devilman and gives it the full adaption treatment. By […]