Posted on 1 October 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, My Hero Academia, OVAs and Movies:, Reviews by Lenlo

Ah, the movie tie in. A right of passage for all aspiring Shounen series. Some, like One Piece have weathered it and come out Golden, while others are better forgotten (Looking at you Bleach). My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, in my opinion, is closer to former. Animated by BONES , Directed by Kenji Nagasaki and advised/concepted by the original author Horikoshi Kouhei, the film checks all of my boxes. Even going so far as to be considered cannon by the Author, tieing into both the Anime and the Manga, Two Heroes is a brilliant first dip into cinema for My Hero Academia.

Lets jump in, and be warned, there are some spoilers within!

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

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 9 March 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, OVAs and Movies:, Zaregoto Series

Zaregoto is back to its intriguing premise. This episode brings out many of the show’s best strengths. While still follow the investigation, it shifts its main focus on the characters, especially fleshing out again the relationship between Il-chan and Tomoe (to be more exact, what Il-chan thinks about his relationship with Tomoe), and the visual presentations are in overall impressive across the board. Overall this episode is a clear step up from its previous episode.

Let first start with the locked room mystery. In this episode the majority of our cast have already figured out that bit, many of them intend to hide that they know to keep the situation things from escalating. The mystery turns out to be quite simple, in that the murderer made a river of paints AFTER the earthquake, which leave all guests and host and servants a possible suspects. One other interesting development is that Akane and Kanami had met before 6 months ago. And then Akane bring up the topic of letting someone kill yourself, which make me wonder if this Kanami case is the same. So far, there is actually no motive from the cast (and by the look of it I don’t think any of them have any real motive whatsoever, maybe except for Sasaki), so what if this is some plan carried by Nanami and the killer to kill her, but for exactly what reasons? Is it because of Sasaki? Then, why capturing the head?

A good chunk of time was dedicated to explore Il-chan and Tomoe intrigued chemistry, and I believe this is where the show shines the best. One constant theme that NisiOisin keep addressing throughout his writing career is the conflicts by the main lead between two opposing thoughts of “better left alone” and “rely on others’ support”. His protagonists are always a lone-wolf, with the belief that they have to deal with their own issues in order to grow, and having friends will carry an unnecessary burden that weighed them down (a statement in which Koyomi Araragi clearly expressed in his Monogatari series). In this case though, il -chan takes care of Tomoe not out of love or kindness, but with destruction in mind. He wants her to choose him and him alone, the feeling that he’s actually special to someone. For now it’s hard to say if it’s pure dark intention from our main lead to the blue-hair girl, as we still don’t know about their relationship previously and even what Tomoe truly thinks about Il-chan but man, I’m digging this kind of ambiguous relationship.

And for me another highlight of this episode was the surreal settings right in front of Akame’s room. Shaft sure takes a lot of liberty here with its dark background, the only lights were the colorful reflection of window’s glass, and red butterflies hovering around. While I enjoy most of the conversion between our MC with Akame, and with Maki the fortune teller (she clearly knows more than what she spilled here, and her enjoyment out of tormenting Il-chan is priceless), but sadly the other genius, Yayoi the cook is really plain and ordinary right now. I would love it if the show can flesh out her more in next episode. And finally, oops, apparently our main leads don’t know about Ilia’s curse before heading to this island, so expect them to get it in the next events as well. As of now, although the show is getting better, I suspect that the monthly release really killed off the vibe it has and it’s hard to get excited for something that you have to wait too long (and then delay, really Shaft??) you just better forget it all together. For people still hanging around with it like myself, well, at least those posts will be your companions. For others, I strongly suggest you to wait for all of this come out and then watch them all at once. Will be a much more engaging experience.

And I still think the issue with the painting is his watch.

Posted on 16 February 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, OVAs and Movies:, Zaregoto Series

After nearly two months of patiently waiting (and actually forgetting that this series even existed at all), the third episode is finally out reminding us that Il-chan and Tomoe are still there and it was investigation-heavy that hardly had anytime for characters development. Anyone who is familiar with nisiOisin writing will know that his styles are heavily influenced by detective works, in particular he is fond of “perfect murder” concept (which I personally don’t find it at all appealing) – meaning that the crimes are so well-staged that it cut off all the leads to the real murderer. This episode is a textbook example of this kind of murder: locked room (sort of, anyways), many uncertain clues, and the utterly lack of motive from other characters. Akagami the host steps up to open an investigation, and all eyes are squarely on Akame, the only with no real alibi and has some kind of motive for killing the artist. But both Il-chan and Tomoe clearly see that the investigation is nothing more than a blame game and only leads to people suspecting each other. They instead provide an alternative, keep Akame in one room while waiting for Jun Aikawa (I presumed is the person he spoke at the beginning of the series) in six days to crack the murder case.

One of the most fascinating factor about this case is of course the painting on the ground. It hadn’t dry yet when the cast appeared, indicated that the murder had to happen before the earthquake, since there is no way a normal person could escape that huge chunk of paint without leaving any trace behind. But then Sasaki called her right after the earthquake and Kanami was still alive then. So what was the trick to escape the room then? Curiously the painting of Il-chan was still standing there. As I said last episode, and even as the show right out acknowledged in this episode, decapitated murder often used to swap the bodies, but since the remain cast is all there, then what is the point of chopping her head? It takes much more effort to kill, and then hide the head to somewhere safe. Remember they said that she was blind before she became a painter, and that her style is not a fixed style, right? Maybe those eyes are some legendary items (might as well be The All-seeing eyes) so the murderer wants to take those so they have to cut her head off.

I do have a theory on how Il-chan can break the case after all. He told Tomoe to take picture of the painting of his, claiming that something was off in the painting. Now remember that on that day his watch actually didn’t work, so I’d say that Kanami left some kind of clues in his clock, thus can direct us to whom might involve to this case (well, they literally took few minutes last episode to inform us about how the dinner table was set up like a clock). Let see how he pick up this details in the next few episodes.

Well, not much else really to say about this episode. This is a mystery episode through and through so besides those clues and the motive from each character, they don’t have much time to focus on anything else. NisiOisin writing is famous for its snappy dialogues and memorable characters, even when he tends to get to mystery mode in other stories, the mystery often ties directly to the psychodrama of those characters, but as far as this episode goes this episode offers none of that. This is easily their worst Zaregoto episode to date and hopefully this murder case serves as a catalyst for more characters development in the future.

Posted on 27 December 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, OVAs and Movies:, Zaregoto Series

The bomb has finally dropped as the murder everyone waiting for eventually come, but we still aren’t clear who the victim is. If there is one cliché about murders involving beheading, it’s that you can never be sure about the identity of the headless victim. The one you think is dead will return to the story near the end somehow, not only with his head intact, but with his evil grin as well. It appears for now that the body is Kanami’s, a genius painter, since the body is in her room and worn the exact outfit; in addition, based on the info I read somewhere her name is a wordplay that if you read her name in reverse it means: no head now. But it could be one of the maids. As of this moment we don’t get to know any of the maid so the main focus is still squarely on those geniuses.

One of the most important clue that we gained right now is how the table set up like a clock, with the host is at 12.00 o’clock and Tomoe is right opposite her at 6.00. We simply don’t have any clue to work with at this moment but I figure that in the future development this clue is going to be relevant. Another strange occurrent that happen on the night of the murder is the earthquake which resulted in the messy room we see at the end, or was it not? How the earthquake relevant to the murder is unclear, but for now I suspect that because the earthquake happened so randomly that the true culprit didn’t plan on this and thus left some evidences behind. Lastly, there were a mystery on this island that occurred before that caught Tomoe’s curiosity but for now we know nothing about it.

We got introduced to the last genius in this island: Yayoi the genius chief. Although she claimed that she has no natural talent, she can actually smell and sense a huge lot different tastes. Apart from having that absolute taste and absolute pitch, she appears to be the most normal out of all geniuses. Just really wonder why there is no one who commend about the foods that they eat, after all it’s Yayoi who cook all of them, right? Oh we also get to see the host Akagami, but apart from being a fulltime event manager and bragging about the new character to come, she’s just plain like a rice cake.

Not much actually happen beside all the chitchatting of course, but this episode sheds a new angle about Il chan relationship towards Tomoe. Maki (A genius fortune teller who know the past, the future, people and the world) really likes to scrub Il-chan the wrong way, but she seems to see through this guy. And because she understands his character she despites the way he’s doing things. She also digs a little too deep about his and Tomoe’s strange “friendship”. She’s something that he wishes he could’ve been and seeing her- despite all that- unhappy make him feel good. Those scenes in which he’s inside a TV-like box that Maki can see through him perfectly elevate the sense of discomfort of Il-chan towards Maki’s words. There’s still much more oil that needed to pump from their relationship of course, like what she thinks about MC and why she needs him to come to this isolated island in the first place.

Even with this once-a-month format Shaft still manages to stays behind schedule and and pushes back the next episode until January next year. As of now, things are moving so slowly and there is simply not much material to work with, but starting the next episode the plot might get a little more entertaining with the investigation now that the murder kicked in. In the mean time I might try to eat by using two pairs of chopsticks Tomoe-style, by the time the next episode begins I might have mastered that skill already.

Posted on 9 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, OVAs and Movies:, Zaregoto Series

Another NisiOisiN’s light novel series adapted by Shaft?

Count me in as I admit that Monogatari series is one of my beloved shows. Well, certainly one of the shows that I spend the most time with. I always love the writing of NisiOisiN, and I understand that many of his trademarks are not for everyone: his long, rather meaningless chatter banter; his sexual overtones and his rather oblivious main boy protagonist could easily turn readers off; but the things I love the most about his writing is that he cares for his characters, they are flawed people but they’re always growing, and his arcs have a tendency to end strong, indicate that he understands his stories well (something quite frankly I have my doubts on the majority of anime out there). Zaregoto appears to be his first writing efforts back when he was… 21 years of age and we already encounter many of his usual quirks here. Shaft adapting this anime meaning that we have a lot of impressionist backgrounds, scenes that call attention to itself and the visual switches freely depending on the mood of the scenes and most noticeable of all heaps of frantic editing. To say all that I’m not here to compare this one with Monogatari series (even if they have the same overall feeling and that male protagonist is so far another version of Araragi-kun), so I will try my best to shut any of the comparison from now on and just talk about Zaregoto. Now, let’s begin:

Zaregoto presents the many settings in which an unnamed protagonist (I, or li-chan) has to encounter and the mysteries he eventually has to resolve. This OVA will focus on the first book of the LN series, titled The Beheading Cycle: The Blue Savant and the Nonsense Bearer which take place in an isolated island, owned by the lady Akagami (who is cursed with a disease that cause people want to kill; as a result she was exiled to that island). If I have to comment on the characters of Zaregoto in this first episode, I’d say that they are completely over the top. After all, they are all geniuses to begin with. And of course, genius people all talk like their heads are in the clouds. The show followed our MC interact with each of them through a one-on-one fashion. Through his eyes, we have encountered 4 of them so far and each of them have their own voices. With this episode’s main focus is to introduce the cast members, they already add something to the overall picture. But like one of the character already addressed, what they appear so far isn’t their true self, or rather, what his current impressions about them are all wrong.

I’m rather curious on the notion of “genius” because firstly the cast members are exceptional in varying fields: one is an engineer, the others range from academic, chief, artist to fortune teller. They don’t really have anything in common except they’re extraordinary in what they do. In relation to others, they don’t really see eyes to eyes in most of things as the academic girl and the artist girl hated each other guts (and I love the irony in naming as of course the 7 chosen people among the chosen have to be named The Seven Fools, right?). Another interesting point around that notion of genius is in many instances, the blue hair girl Tomo is addressed as Blue savant. Now, in contrast to prodigy, savant is actually a developmental disability and most of people who have savant syndrome suffer brain damages. The most distinguished features between those two often are by their IQ. People who have savant syndrome has low IQ overall but they possess exceptional skills in other areas. Also, the first part of our MC talking with some strange woman is about that very theme of being genius: because they are a prodigy, they unintentionally trample others without knowing the consequences of those actions. The theme of genius is set up nicely so far so I’m eager to see how they make use of its theme in later episodes.

Shaft’s styles in this anime have been solid as expected. I actually like the wide ranges of worlds/ territories settings in Zaregoto and this setting of an isolated mansion is overall impressive. In some parts of this episode, Shaft uses panning shots to both keep the conversations as its main focus, but slowly shifts our attention to other characters. For symbolisms though, while I’m pleased to see each female characters have their own coloring (you can see for yourself in those screenshots), I’m not so sure the use of variations of chess in this episode. We know that the academic girl talks about shogi, but in the beginning scene the boy and that strange woman are sitting in a ordinary chessboard. Hmmm. Maybe our MC’s just meant to be a pawn in that chess? His clock was stopped at one time by someone and I think it could be an important detail for later episodes. Anyway, the big event (the murder) is yet to come so this episode mainly introduces the cast to us. In that vein, I’m quite satisfied with the execution of this episode. The only downside would be we have to wait for another month to catch up, but I have my fingers crossed that the wait is worth it.

Posted on 19 March 2015 with categories: OVAs and Movies:

Out of the Shin Megami Tenshi series, Persona is the one I have had the most experience with. I played persona 1,2 and 3. And most likely 4 when I manage to get my hands on it. They are very strange and unique games, quite different from your average RPG. The first game had a basic story of evil corporation screws with little girl with powers for profit, hell ensues. The second game had a more strange and interesting plot of rumors coming true no matter how ridiculous they are. Personal highlight of that game was when a rumor went around that Hitler wasn’t dead and is preparing a new army for war. And yes, you do fight Hitler. They were flawed but decent games. Persona 3 is what defined the series with its social links and simplified gameplay.

I am not here to talk about the game of course though in this case it would be hard to avoid bringing it up. This is essentially the game stripped of its gameplay and length so it does suffer from it. This story was not meant to stand on its own and you can see that clearly. The pacing is breakneck, the plot jumps forward days at a time and the characters get bare bones screen time.  But truthfully while the game was great the story did have its flaws. I for one have always found the stories in the persona series to be a bit preachy. Usually using supernatural elements as metaphors for problems possibly encountered in adolescence. For example in this movie we have a character who is suppressing his persona with a drug with grievous side effects. The way his friend addresses the matter is similar to how one who approach someone with a drug problem. Same goes with apathy syndrome, aka people who go through school life without caring to make the most of it. I even really love the symbolism of firing a gun at your head to summon a persona. A nice way of “killing” who you were to become something new.

Really the story of persona 3 is something I would label as alright. What really made it special is an element that anime can’t replicate. Its difficult to pin down but I suppose I would call it camaraderie. You spend a long time with these characters with you in the seat of an avatar and in that time you come to care for them. In doing so the story has much more impact to you. This is also something Visual novels have over anime as well. So what can I say about this movie? Well first off the animation is rather limited. During Action scenes it becomes excellent but the daily antics seem lacking in movement. I would give this a break if this was a tv series but for a hour and a half movie such a thing is inexcusable. However despite the breakneck pacing and constant time jumping the movie is quite watchable. The art is fairly pretty but it really looks like someone is a bit too fond of messing with hue with high saturation settings. Especially with the daytime scenes where the colour can just be blaring with intense brightness. Overall the whole film just looks to have too many gradient and bloom effects that it didn’t need. If they held off on the light and colour effects and just let the art speak for itself this would be a far better looking movie. Also this is a pet peeve of mine but I hate the way they removed the gunshot from the guns. It just is so disappointing in to see a character put a gun to their head and fire some pixie dust with a weak off putting clang sound. Overall If you want to know the story of Persona 3 but don’t want to spend 70 hours of your time playing it then this is probably the best condensed experience of the story of persona 3. Or if you are a fan and want to see your favourite characters and moments animated then this will deliver.

Posted on 12 August 2012 with categories: OVA Impressions, Young Animator Training Project

Nearly everyone here is probably familiar with the workoholic trope: a father works a lot, neglecting his child, and some drama is created from that. If it’s told from the perspective of the father, the main theme is guilt, if it’s told from the perspective of the child, the main theme is loneliness. Dudu the floatee is entirely dedicated to this trope, but it actually manages to be different from the norm.

What really surprised me was how much heart this short has. I mean, this was told from the perspective of the child, and it does go on with the theme of loneliness for a while…. and then her floatee comes alive, takes her into a strange world full of floatees who kidnap her father and this turns into a quest for her to save her father. Instead of the usual conclusion in which the father realizes his errors, both of them actually come to an understanding with each other: the girl understands that her father is both afraid of water and that he sometimes needs to be at work, and the father realizes that he can’t keep using his fear of water as an excuse to ignore his family life. This two-sided development is what especially impressed me here, and it turned this into a very heart-warming little episode.

Anyway, this is the entry to the Young Animator Training Project by the Answer Studio. They’re a small studio that I really like, because they don’t release often, but when they do they always go for the really imaginative anime like Flag, Otona Joshi no Anime Time and Votoms’ Pailsen Files. Dudu the floatee gives me a lot of confidence to their junior division, because it was again really well animated. This episode also was directed by the director of Otona Joshi no Anime Time by the way, and it shows: it again has this really down to earth relationship between a parent and a young child.

So, to summarize the second iteration of the Young Animator Training Project: skip Buta, but definitely check out the rest, because these are some very well done animated shorts for every age: they’re aimed at children but have enough depth for adults to enjoy. Buta was probably the only one who didn’t get this and instead is just a bit of fun for children.

Posted on 29 July 2012 with categories: OVA Impressions, Young Animator Training Project

Shiranpuri is a short with its very own artistic vision: it’s got very distinctive character-designs, rather than going with the same thing over and over again. This is the entry for the Young Animator Training Project by Shirogumi. You know, the people who are currently animating Moyashimon, and they also did Antique Bakery. These are people who definitely go for interesting and unusual premises, but Shiranpuri is very different from their usual stuff.

Here, we get a story about bullying, and more particular: about being a witness to bullying without doing anything about it. And it really was quite good. On one hand it was indeed a bit preachy, but on the other it was very realistic in how the bullied kid ended up transferring schools, in the hopes of building up a completely new life. There was some really good character-development in just 20 minutes for the three central characters, and the use of adults as bystanders was well-balanced.

What’s interesting is that this shows that Shirogumi is nowhere near dead: they’re still producing things, but at their own pace, but this short shows that they’ve acquired a couple of very good animators. There were a few scenes in which the movement was really dynamic and even the backgrounds (albeit simplistic) moved seamlessly, and they were able to draw the models right from many different angles.

Posted on 16 June 2012 with categories: OVA Impressions, Young Animator Training Project

I apologize for the lateness of this entry. But especially after seeing another batch of the Young Animator Training Project being announced for 2013, I do want to keep up with this project, because the initiators really seem to want to make this a long-term project. And unlike Buta, Wasurenagumo is really good.

In fact, after Ojii-San no Lamp it has the best storyline, it has the best animation, and it has the best characters of all the projects so far. the animation in particular is really impressive, especially considering how this comes from young animators. These people really were able to show off their skills in this episode, because the fluidity really is amazing. And not just at a few money shots, but there really are a lot of scenes that have that.

This really shows that Production IG has recruited many talented animators and inbetweeners. Now what would be really great is if they were going to make series with interesting concepts again, instead of Kuroko no Basuke, Shining Hearts and Guilty Crown. Now don’t get me wrong, my main issue is that this is Production IG we’re talking about. They are the people who once boasted some of the most original series out there, and were the people behind gems as RD, Ghost Hound, Chevalier, Seirei no Moribito, Patlabor, Otogizoshi and Ghost in the Shell. There is a big difference here, but at the very least they are still experimenting with their one-shots and movies, not to mention the balls they had with Blood-C.

In any case, about Wasurenagumo (that is a very annoying title to keep typing over and over), this episode definitely stood out in its characters. It helped that they were really well animated and brought to life, but also the writing and acting was very good. At the same time though, it was strangely creepy and disturbing in the end. Make that very disturbing.

The thing with Wasurenagumo is that at heart, it is a horror story. It just doesn’t show that until right at the end, with a completely baffling plot twist. Just… wow.

By the way, next year’s Young Animator Training Project should definitely be fun, because I am really curious to see what the junior division of the four studios that signed up looks like and what they can do. First there is the obvious Gonzo: how did they survive? Who did they recruit? Then there is Studio Trigger’s first official project (Studio Trigger is the studio founded by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and I’m really curious to see who he managed to attract). Then there is Madhouse; with so many of their best people going freelance, it’s definitely going to be interesting who will replace them. And then there is Studio Pierrot, a studio that had some of the top animators out there… ten years ago. Are their new people simply there for Naruto and Bleach, or will their new division be a breath of fresh air after how deeply that company has fallen lately.
OVA Episode Rating: 8.25/10

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Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (2019 Winter) Anime Review – 77/100

Coming to Kotobuki, there are lots of aspect that catch my attention: it’s from a famed director Tsutomu Mizushima who can turn the most trashable and genre-able concepts into something intriguing; it’s an CG show about air pilots: it has extended aerial combat set-pieces. Watching it till the end, I have to tip my hat […]

Kemurikusa (2019 Winter) Anime Review – 79/100

Kemurikusa is your very definition of an overlooked gem, one that never really gain much discussion anywhere, but one that has a distinctive style from an up-and-coming auteur who has full control of his projects. Coming to Kemurikusa, all the attention it has came from the fact that it is created by TATSUKI, a mastermind […]