Black Cat Series Review: This is A Hot Mess of A Show

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in July 2016 and can be found here.

Review:

It’s hard to know whether Black Cat is truly amazing or truly dreadful or somewhere between the two. It’s a lot of fun but there are an abundant number of flaws with this show that only become more pronounced during a rewatch (and on rewatching again before the repost I’m more convinced than ever that it is hard to tell where this show actually lies). I’m going to start with the characters and then get on to the plot.

Train and Saya on the roof

Let’s start by looking at Train and Saya. Saya’s a sweeper and carries a gun and gives Train the very profound advice that if she doesn’t want to shoot someone she won’t. Somehow this is a revelation for Train, who other than being incredibly good at killing people and a friend to stray cats seems to have very little personality in the first few episodes. That doesn’t mean he isn’t cool. Train is very cool. The anime bends over backwards to make you feel that Train is cool. He’s an assassin. He’s the cool silent type and he has cat like characteristics. Not the nice house-cat kind. The aloof-stray-cat kind.

The relationship between Train and Saya develops super fast and ends tragically, which is essentially the catalyst for Train’s actual transformation and almost every event that occurs after this in the series (apparently Train is someone people become obsessed with on first meeting). A lot of my issues with the anime stem from the fact that I really feel Saya (given the number of flash backs she gets and given how profound her impact is supposed to be) needed to be a lot more fleshed out.

That said, Train and Saya’s relationship and the tragedy of her death is one of the better handled ideas in the show and to be honest if the anime had stuck with this initial plot line, and then had Train simply get his revenge, ultimately I’d probably have loved this show from start to finish. Instead it really feels like this sequence, while it is brought up endlessly as a motivator for Train, is merely a side-story to the overall plot. And the overall plot is messy.

Train finds Saya dying

Train as a whole isn’t such a great character. After being Mr Super Cool and aloof he goes through a moody hating the world stage before bouncing back as an absolute and complete slacker who occasionally snaps and goes homicidal. He’s all over the place and while a tragic childhood and really warped start to adulthood may account for some of his inability to cope with the world in any kind of coherent fashion it doesn’t make for fantastic viewing. It’s impossible to know whether he’s going to spring into action or simply yawn and go look for more food at any turn in the story. He regularly ditches his friends to pursue his own vendettas and he even places others at risk.

That said, I like Train as a character. He is hilarious and when in assassin mode he is ice cold. Plus, he has the characteristics of a cat which would make him kind of amazing regardless. Is Train a good or a balanced character? Absolutely not. Does he develop in a sensible manner? Not really. Is he at times completely boring due to a lack of actual personality traits? Yep.

And I haven’t changed my opinion. I still like Train but I still see him as a dreadfully unbalanced and poorly written character who is getting slung around by whatever the plot needs from him at that point in time. There’s also a lot of angst going on at times and when it puts his friends in danger it makes it really hard to see Train’s point of view.

Black Cat - Train Heartnet

So with Saya being dead for a great deal of the story, and Train having almost zero to add to characterisation within this show, who are we left with? For better or worse we are left with an entire cohort of characters (some of whom you will have forgotten even if you’ve watched the show). We have the other numbers and various other agents for Chronos. Then we have the Apostles of the Stars which is a group made by Train’s other fanboy and which ostensibly exists to wipe out Chronos but mostly just seems like a place for various crazy characters to assemble and have their hearts broken. Then we have the Sweeper alliance and all of the members therein. Plus the people they regularly fight in their work as sweepers. And those that hire them. And a waitress who seems to follow them from town to town.

However, the three other characters that really get any development are Sven, Eve and Rinslet. Rinslet is a walking cliché so we aren’t going to go any further into the professional thief who tries to charm her way through any situation. Eve is a developed weapon so has the blank and robotic personality of one to start with and takes almost everything literally. While her growth as a human is impressive throughout the series and her combative/protective relationship with Train is one of the more interesting relationships formed, Eve herself is pretty dull.

And can we mention that every female character in this show is either dull or a trope of some sort. Okay, I’ll be fair, the male characters aren’t fairing much better but seriously, just one decent female character could have really added something.

Black Cat - Train, Sven and Eve

That leaves Sven. He’s actually good at his job (though his lack of finances would not have you believe that). He’s also forced into a father role with Eve and Train both having the world knowledge and coping skills of three year olds. Of all the characters in Black Cat, Sven is probably the least dynamic as his character regularly has to portray the voice of reason, support, complaint, and deal with the every day. It also makes Sven the most interesting in terms of his characterisation. His personality isn’t a one line wrap up about being a cute girl with powers or a flamboyant guy with a sword, gun or other weapon. Sven is very human (even with the power in his eye) and during this story he faces a lot of challenges well above and beyond his abilities and while calm isn’t the best word to describe him, he is quite sensible in most of his approaches.

It’s understandable that Sven and Train regularly clash. Train is like the rebellious and lazy teenage son who doesn’t really want to listen and doesn’t think Sven knows anything. Sven on the other hand takes his responsibilities very seriously and while he didn’t actively go out of his way to pick up a stray, Eve’s attachment to Train left Sven little choice.

Now onto plot.

Black Cat - Creed

My problem with the plot is that it essentially has two separate storylines (either one of which would have been fine) crammed together and as a result it gets messy. Not complex. Both storylines are pretty simple, but the telling and delivery becomes overly complicated leaving both storylines feeling confusing and lacking (I had a very similar issue more recently with B the Beginning for much the same reason).

The main plot seems to focus on Creed and Train. I’m going to call that the main plot because it is the one introduced in the very first episode with a fight sequence followed by a flash back to how we got to the fight and it is the one that seems the primary motivator for most of the series.

Essentially, Creed is in love with Train. Don’t really know why. Apparently it is something to do with Train’s eyes, which are adorable to be sure but somehow I’m not feeling homicidal because of it. Creed becomes convinced that Saya is corrupting and ruining his Train and kills her. Which seems pretty straight forward and a nice set-up for a revenge plot except that it also turns out that Creed has a power hidden from Chronos and an entire group (The Apostles of the Stars) and after totally destroying Train emotionally, Creed somehow thinks Train is just going to come join his group.

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Crazy, delusional and deadly. Great combination in a villain without any real purpose other than to occasionally stir Train into actual action. Yeah, I am certain there were various motives and plot points explained but you leave the anime without remembering them. And this is really kind of a problem because as I mentioned with Train’s character, if this had been the focus we could have developed Train more, Creed more, and Saya’s death would have felt more purposeful. Everything would have clicked nicely together. Alas, the story wants to do more.

We still have Eve, the developed weapon and the people that want to use her and the research to… do something bad? Again, not well explained and while there are references strewn throughout the episodes to this plot, you can more or forget it while getting caught up in other events and then somehow it comes back again.

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As I said before, the plot would have been better either just telling a revenge story or telling a story about helping a bio-weapon escape. The two together just kind of end up mangled and neither is as satisfying as it might have been. I’m not actually opposed to multiple storylines mind you, just poorly delivered ones.

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So after saying all that, the question is, do I recommend watching Black Cat?

If you like anime that involve crazy weapons and powers and you don’t really care about the villains motives and you can tolerate pacing that is all over the shop and characters that sling shot through the emotional spectrum a mile-a-minute, then you will probably have a lot of fun with this anime. I really had a lot of fun with this anime. It’s definitely a case where the whole is better than any of its parts. Certainly it is flawed and it feels like it is about three different shows mooshed together at times, but there’s just a fun kind of energy running through it and there are some great moments and scenes (even if the road to them is sometimes littered with the debris of the parts that missed the mark).

And despite all my complaints about it, I own this one on DVD and I’ve rewatched it quite a lot. It is good popcorn viewing even if it doesn’t really hold up to any kind of scrutiny.

Have you seen Black Cat? If so, what did you think?


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The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar Episode 11: Unstuck

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 11

After last week’s effort things looked grim for the Wolf Clan and that continues for a fair chunk of this episode of The Master of Ragnarok. Still, in the grand tradition of protagonists, Yuto is going to somehow turn this around.

Ragnarok11c

Sometimes I wonder about Felicia’s title of bodyguard given she mostly seems to exist to ask questions and give the occasional pep-talk. This week she did momentarily draw a sword in defence of her Patriarch but was pretty quickly shot down and taken out of the fight leaving Yuto to fend for himself. Fortunately, as he says, he hasn’t been slacking on his lessons because otherwise this would have been over pretty quickly.

Ragnarok11d

Still, this episode does show us that there was a bit more to the initial plan then met the eye with reinforcements joining the fight. Then with Yuto taking to the front lines and raising the morale of his troops (even if I question the logic of them standing with their back to the enemy and cheering for seemingly as long as they did) the fight was turned in the Wolf Clans favour. That by itself would have been reasonable for an episode but the Panther Clan is not willing to accept defeat (even if Lightning Clan boy does a runner – fairly sensibly after Rune has taken a slice out of him).

The Master of Ragnarok

I think more villains need to take a page out of the book of the Panther Clan’s book though. Killing the patriarch of the Wolf Clan means victory for them regardless of whatever else happens and with Sigyn’s magic that should have been plausible. It didn’t work out because protagonist plot armour is strong, but I at least admired the attitude.

But, the episode ends with a final twist and Yuto is sent back to his time, though he has left his smart phone with Felicia which I guess means he’ll be calling her next episode and who wants to bet on him being re-summoned?

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Frankenstein Family Episode 3

Episode 3 of Frankenstein Family is quite logical in that we see Tanisu looking for help for his family and going back through his very limited contacts out in the world. It doesn’t exactly end happily, but the experience of watching him and his sister figure out their way around the city and meeting with someone and genuinely trying to explain their situation was kind of low-key entertainment.

Frankenstein3a

I would like to ask just how messed up is that tutor? She went from perfectly normal to fairly crazy in the blink of an eye and her reasoning was just silly. Okay, I could understand her not wanting to help Tanisu but why agree to meet him at all if that was all she was after?

Frankenstein3c

Anyway, this anime knows how to soften a moment. Immediately following this encounter and Tanisu’s brush with self-doubt and facing a near loss of faith in everyone, he runs into the girl from last episode and has a pretty adorable encounter. He probably didn’t even need his mind-reading sister to help him come to the conclusion that there are some decent people around.

This anime continues to be very laid back but entertaining enough to pass the time. It is still fairly forgettable, but for 15 minutes of actual episode it is doing enough.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Songs From Yuri on Ice

No surprise that between the Yuri on Ice rewatch and running various polls about the routines, music and characters on Twitter, that I decided I wanted to look at my Top 5 songs from the series. I will definitely be doing a Top 5 Yuri and Victor moment list once the rewatch is completed, though that may very well turn into a top 10 list the way I’m going because it seems like every encounter between them brings something to the table.

Wait, I wasn’t supposed to be fangirling about Yuri on Ice, I was supposed to be introducing this list. Okay, so these are my personal favourite songs from Yuri on Ice and it was very hard to narrow down because there were some truly fantastic music selections in this anime. However, I would absolutely love to know your picks so be sure to leave me a comment below.

By the way, I’m linking to YouTube so you can listen to the songs if you don’t know them.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mention: Still Alive (no idea why I like this song given we only heard it the once in the background for a skater that wasn’t overly important, but something about it grabbed my attention).

Number 5: Yeah Yeah Yeah

Yuri on Ice Episode 10

It took me forever to figure out what the name of this song was, but I remember that I thought it was absolutely perfect when they used it in the anime. Now if you don’t know, this is the song playing when we finally get to see why Victor got it into his head that he should coach Yuri. Yuri had apparently gotten very drunk and challenged Plisetsky to a dance off and all of the skaters apparently documented the occasion on their phone (though a dance off was not the only thing going on in those pictures and where the poll came from is anyone’s guess). Still, the song is incredibly catchy and perfectly fits the sequence.

Number 4: Yuri on Ice

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri on Ice

No surprise this song made the list. I’m probably more surprised it is only number 4, but there’s so many great songs in this anime I guess it isn’t that surprising. Still, this song was written to express Yuri’s relationship with skating and his career and it does indeed perfectly capture Yuri. It is a good thing this song is amazing because we hear it quite a number of times but each time it just draws you back in.

Number 3: Minami’s Boogie

Yuri on Ice Episode 5 - Minami

Okay, you have to love this one. Minami is such a great character considering his short screen time and this song perfectly captures his fun and energetic nature. It is very fun background music though it definitely makes you want to get up and move. Really fun song and it was coupled with a really fun routine. Really enjoyed this one.

Number 2: You Only Live Once

Yuri Only live once.jpg

I’ll confess, I’m an end credits skipper for almost all shows. If there’s something after the credits I’ll skip ahead and if there isn’t I’ll usually just cut the show when the credits roll. There are a few anime that manage to do something interesting in their end credits or change the music up sufficiently that I’ll stick around, but it is rare for me to like a song enough that I’ll watch the end credits every single time. Yuri on Ice and You Only Live Once succeeded right from the first episode. It is a perfect combination of the music feeling like it perfectly fits the shows and the characters and the visuals feeling like they perfectly complement the story and the characters. But just listing to this song by itself is pure joy. It really is the feeling of the show captured in one song and I love it.

Number 1: History Maker

Yuri On Ice Title

No points for picking that this was going to be my number one. I’ve made no pretence of the fact that from the very first time I heard this song I was hooked. I started Yuri on Ice expecting nothing, the opening scene was interesting enough but it was this song starting and the OP that hooked me and made this show something I would pay attention to. The rest of the first episode did a fine job reinforcing that impression, but it is amazing what a great OP will do for a show. Even now, whenever I’m feeling a little down, clicking through YouTube and finding History Maker is enough to make me smile. A friend of mine learned how to play it on the violin and played it for me one day and I was positively skipping for hours. This is a song that truly hit its mark for me and much like You Only Live Once, it perfectly captures the spirit of the show.

Okay, I’m now turning it over to you: what were your favourite songs from Yuri on Ice?


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Yuri on Ice Sheet music
Official Sheet Music Collection

Bleach Live Action Movie Review: I Loved The Anime But What About This?

Bleach Live Action

There’s always some trepidation when hearing about a live action adaptation of a beloved anime. It’s a feeling that I might try to push to the side because I want to give something a go on its own merit rather than lumping it in with predecessors that may have failed to leave much of a positive impression. But just like with video game adaptations, while there are certainly a fair share of truly dreadful ones to be found there are also adaptations that have worked and given a fairly satisfying watch. So the question becomes whether or not Bleach survived this adaptation? There’s no way I’m not comparing as I go given how much I love Bleach but hopefully you’ll join me as I look at this movie.

Review:

I’ll get to the point fairly quickly and then explain my reasoning, but I found myself incredibly engrossed in this movie while watching it. I pressed play with that same sinking feeling of trepidation, wondering if I should put it off and wait until more reviews were out and wondering if I should possibly just forget it was even available rather than risk the feeling of disappointment that would come from a poor movie. I didn’t want much from this film, but what I absolutely needed it to do was to be fun to watch.

Netflix Live Action Bleach

Bleach was my ultimate pop-corn viewing anime that swept me up in its grandiose (albeit overly stretched out and bloated) story and cast and just its sheer brazen silliness at times. In short, it seemed the kind of thing that absolutely would not translate very well to real actors because anime fans have kind of learned to cope with the hero losing more litres of blood than that human body holds and still managing to stand up whereas when it happens on screen it kind of makes you wonder what is wrong with the writer.

However, Bleach actually managed to defy my expectations in a lot of ways as I watched this live action unfold on Netflix. The characters were not attempting to copy exactly the look of the anime (or if they did they clearly gave up for practicality’s sake). As a result Ichigo and Rukia look pretty awesome in their roles (and thank-you for someone having enough sense not to put that stupid fringe down the middle of Rukia’s face). Orihime and Chad are likewise altered so that while they retain some of what makes them distinct in the anime they come across looking fairly much like the belong in the setting rather then looking like they escaped a cosplay convention. My only real disappointment with Orihime was the look of her hair-clip which seems like it is missing a few petals which kind of means they are going to have to do some modification later on with how her power works, assuming of course they go there at all (which they definitely should).

Actually, the only character who really came across poorly in appearance was Urahara. Possibly I’m just being overly critical because I really like Urahara’s look in the anime, but to be honest I found his human counterpart here to be the only character who just looked out of place and garishly cosplay like rather than a real character. Even Renji’s hair came out fairly believably (at least within the context of the movie) so I was a little disappointed with Urahara.

Netflix Bleach Live Action

Outside of their appearances, I really liked the way these characters interacted. Again, they weren’t identical to how they behaved in the anime. None of Orihime’s silliness is on display nor does she get countless scenes eating bizarre foods. Karen, Ichigo’s sister, is certainly toned down and while I appreciate the need for that from a time point of view I kind of missed the spunky anime Karen. But these changes all make sense and with the plot having a much tighter focus on Ichigo and Rukia the changes are necessary.

And that was probably my favourite part of this adaptation. Scenes from the anime were merged and pushed together or deleted entirely for the sake of having a coherent story that felt like it was well paced in the time given. We meet Ichigo and very rapidly move to his meeting with Rukia and the transfer of her power to him. However, we then rapidly move on to Ishida confronting Ichigo at school (so no Chad and bird story, no Orihime and her dead brother, and no random encountering Hollows) and we see the Hollow bait getting used. This doesn’t spark a full on fight in its own right though as they combine this conflict with a later one and we see Ichigo and Rukia being confronted by Renji.

The upshot of this is we are dealing pretty much entirely with Rukia’s transgression and need to get her power back with other events that are crucial for introducing characters for later occurring but in a way that feeds into this main plot. Anyone who has watched the anime of Bleach will know how regularly the main plot gets kind of put on hold while the characters run around and do other things or get diverted by other issues, or just how long some of those fight sequences last as you deal with each and every person involved. This movie is well aware of its time limitations and maximises what it can show us through some fairly deliberate modification of the narrative.

However, if you think I’m just going to sing the praises of this movie I’m about to turn this around. There are two points that really stop this from being the truly excellent experience it was pretty close to becoming.

The first is the ending. We get to essentially the end of the first season where Rukia returns to Soul Society and that is a great place for the movie to end. But the fight sequence against the Grand Fisher is… well I hesitate to call it bloated given compared to most of the fight scenes in the Bleach anime it is pretty succinct. Yet, we have Ichigo running from the Hollow through crowded streets (wasn’t he just in a graveyard) and fighting the Grand Fisher in a fairly public space.

Bleach Netflix Live Action

I get that partly this is because they combining events from the fight in the park in the anime where Ishida and Ichigo team up, with the Grand Fisher fight, and then they are transitioning to the fight against Renji, so there were going to need to be some fairly major adjustments to this sequence to make it work. However, it doesn’t fit with Ichigo’s character to lead a Hollow into a public space where others might be put at risk. It also shows off the CG Hollow for far too long. Its first appearance in the graveyard is pretty amazing and in short bursts it could have looked exceptional and had real impact. But, because of the length of the screen time, it ends up looking pretty cheap by the end.

I’ll also point out through the whole chase sequence I was just reminded of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the totally unnecessary dragon chase across the rooftops that ate screen time, wasn’t in the book, and totally wasn’t needed. Yes, we get your wind effects look cool and you are damaging a lot of buildings. We’re at the climax so big boom. And yet, this scene could have been so much tighter and had so much more impact.

The second complaint I’ll raise is the music. Bleach has one of the best soundtracks ever – I’m totally not biased. Every single OP is amazing – again, not biased. The fight music that accompanies Ichigo as he gets geared up to take down anything is unforgettably cool – alright, fine, I’m totally and completely biased when it comes to Bleach music. I’m not going to say the soundtrack to this movie is actually bad… it’s just kind of forgettable. There isn’t one track which just made me sit up and take notice or drew me into a scene. And that was probably my biggest disappointment about this entire movie. The music.

Right, objectively the acting isn’t amazing though it certainly isn’t dreadful. The script is fairly average with dialogue serving its purpose but not doing a lot more. I’m not entirely sure how caught up in events non-Bleach fans will be because I can only watch this film from the perspective of a major fan of the series.

But, this movie was fun to watch. At no point did I feel bored or like I was wasting my time. I didn’t have a single moment where I considered stopping it (Full Metal Alchemist on the other hand I had several moments where I wondered if I should cut my losses and move on).

Do I recommend this movie? Certainly. If you are a Bleach fan but open to necessary changes to accompany the changed format, you’ll have a great time. If you’ve never watched Bleach, this movie will give you a good taste of the plot of season 1 though I’d still recommend watching the anime. That said, if you already jumped in and watched the movie, I’d love to know what you thought of it so leave me a comment.


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Karandi James

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Bleach Original Soundtrack

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 9: To Kill A Titan

Attack on TItan Episode 9

Credit where it is due to this episode. Firstly, it reminded me that Attack on Titan is very good at making me really dislike humans. One of the things that really bugged me in season one was the absence of characters I could care about because everyone just seemed to be a truly horrible human being, and that included the huddled masses.

Attack on Titan episode 9

Well, season three gives us this episode where the military are lying to the people about running a training drill and the people get all huffy not because they are being lied to but because the people who are fighting to save their lives are inconveniencing them. Seriously, are the military sure anyone in this world is worth saving? Still, the generally despicable nature of people in this anime is part of what makes it interesting to watch when contrasted with all of those anime of fluffy and happy people who just try to make everyone smile so I’m actually pretty happy that we get this solid reminder that this anime is not about sweetness and light but about a very gritty and sour reality.

Attack on Ttian Episode 9

Secondly, thanks for the reminder that Titans are horrific. I mean, Rod Reiss’ Titan form looming at the wall is one truly disgusting image and one that isn’t going to leave me anytime soon. It has been awhile since there’s been any real repulsion or emotion at all felt toward a titan (curiosity about the still missing in action beast titan isn’t quite the same thing), so the genuinely moment of recoil when we got a look at this thing was fairly welcome.

Attack on Titan Episode 9

Thirdly, Eren. I know I’m normally all for beating up Eren and I really don’t like him as a character but it is like he’s finally turned a corner and grown up just a little bit. Whether he ruins it all by doing something utterly stupid in a couple of episodes remains to be seen but it is almost as if he’s come through the ordeal of the past 7 episodes finally seeing the world just a little bit clearer. It if sticks I might even have to look back at Eren and how that growth happened over the course of all three seasons, though I’ll wait and see if it sticks before I revise my opinion of him as a character.

Attack on Titan Episode 9

And finally, Historia. For a character that had never left much impact on me, even when they spent a lot of the second season trying to find Christa, she’s really stepped up as well this season and with both her and Eren having fairly solid character growth this is pretty much the best I’ve seen from Attack on Titan since its beginning.

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So, yeah, credit to a fairly solid episode of great moments. Still want to know why they even bother having the other soldiers standing around firing canons. It never works and the other soldiers seem woefully under-trained which makes sense but is still pretty pathetic. This episode certainly gave us enough spectacle and with the set up at the end for next week things seem to be rolling along nicely for the season so far.

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The Best and Worst Anime of Summer 2018 – Have Your Say

Just a reminder to vote for your best and worst anime of the season.

100WordAnime

Readers, you have chosen the best anime of Winter 2018 and the best anime of Spring 2018. You’ve also let everyone know what you felt the worst show of the Winter and Spring seasons were. Now it is time to once again stand up and be counted. From now until September 30 you can vote on the shows you feel are the best and worst of the Summer anime season.

The top three shows from the best of the season poll will go on to face off against other great titles from the year in my anime of the year poll whereas the worst shows will just kind of slink off into the sunset and be forgotten. As always, I ask that you vote only for shows you actually watched rather than a show you started and dropped or put on hold.

But as always, I am very much…

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Cute High Earth Defense Club Happy Kiss Series Review: Will They Just Let The Franchise End Now?

How much mileage can you get out of a parody concept of magical boys who don’t really want to save the world? Well, this franchise has asked that question again and again but if there is one thing Happy Kiss has taught me, it is that Cute High Earth Defense Club Whatever needs to just stop now.

Review:

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On watching the original Cute High Earth Defense Club series I was sceptical but ended up pleasantly surprised that despite the formulaic monster of the week approach, it actually did a pretty solid job as a magical girl parody and it gave us enough interesting dialogue and random conversations between the boys to make it worth the while. It didn’t amaze me but I had a reasonably good time with it. Then we had a sequel. Which I didn’t finish. And an OVA. Which I didn’t watch. Most recently we were introduced to Happy Kiss with a whole new group of boys and I decided, probably poorly, to give the show another go. After all, it was a comedy show I’d finished a season of. It couldn’t be that bad.

And that assessment is probably right. It isn’t that bad, but neither is it particularly good. While the first episode has flashes of those intriguingly random musing between the boys and each character in the new group could potentially be interesting, as the season progresses you will realises that this series has absolutely nothing to say. While the first season was undeniably a parody and some of the monsters were truly inconsequential it still offered up some half-decent social commentary and just some random food for thought. Happy Kiss brings nothing to the table other than the tongue in cheek apathy of the main cast and giving the audience a knowing look asking us to find it hilarious as they bemoan yet another transformation sequence.

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But even then they couldn’t commit with the final episodes seeing boys joining forces with the henchmen of the previously evil brother and willingly throwing themselves into a fight against a suddenly propped up villain that the audience has legitimately no reason to care about. So the boys didn’t even manage to be consistent in their apathy.

Actually, I do have a couple of positives. I mean, I did get through the entire season so it isn’t like it is an unwatchable steaming pile of overcooked spinach.

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Firstly, I kind of loved the song that they played every single time the boys used their final attack. Well I say final attack but generally it the only one because mostly they just kind of made stupid comments until Karl (the talking otter who is actually a prince) tells them its time to make everyone happy and then they attack. But the song is pretty infectious and it definitely got stuck in my head every single week.

The other thing I really enjoyed was that at least the main characters called the villains on the pathetic nature of their complaint. It was something I always wished the Sailor Scouts would do when someone gave in to something really petty and transformed into a monster.

Defense8d

Outside of those two things though, there isn’t a lot to love about Happy Kiss. The cast don’t develop at all, the rivalry between the Defense Club and the Student Council seems forced and doesn’t really go anywhere until near the end and then it is kind of just over, and even the two princes don’t really do much more than repeat their formulaic lines week after week.

I’d honestly say that you would be better off watching the original than this if you’ve never watched anything in the franchise. The writing is undeniably better and more amusing. I’m clearly not recommending this anime and I’m kind of hoping this is where the franchise stops but somehow I doubt it.

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Karandi James

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Cells at Work Episode 11: This Episode is Hot

Cells at Work Episode 11

Things are getting hot this week in Cells at Work as the body face dehydration and heat stroke. However, in amongst all the sweaty red blood cells and adorable platelets, how was the actual episode?

Cells at Work episode 11

I really loved this episode. It is definitely returning to the straight formula of setting up a specific issue for the episode and explaining the different steps the system takes to deal with it, but this time, much like with the pollen allergy, the body failed to overcome the issue without external help. I think it really helps the plausibility of the setting to know that sometimes the body just can’t cope with the issue on its own despite all the cells doing their jobs and working hard.

Cells at Work Episode 11

The characters this week were quite fun even if the platelets and red blood cells spent most of the time sweating and mentioning how hot it is. I also liked the cracked and barren landscape of the epidermis to represent the dehydration that was occurring because of the temperature.

Cells at Work Episode 11 - Platelets

Once again, I feel this episode really found a great balance between entertainment and education. It most definitely is walking you through the steps your body takes to regulate temperature but the cast really bring it to life and make it seem kind of fun. Plus the side story with the white blood cell fighting a germ despite the extreme conditions kept things lively and moving along. Really enjoyable watch this week.

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Cells at Work White Blood Cell Nendoroid

Yuri on Ice Guide To Episode 7

We’ve made it to Episode 7: China’s On! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event!! The Cup of China Free Skate. After episode 6 left us with Yuri as the lead contender in the competition we now get to see how that will impact on his very newly found confidence. It was a tricky episode but one that I fell in love with even on the first watch through, and once again, not just because of ‘that’ moment. How will this episode hold up on the rewatch though?

Last week I asked on Twitter what your favourite short program was. Here are the results:


Episode 7:

We start straight away with the opening and then into narration that recaps the scores from last episode. However, unlike previous episodes this narration isn’t intended to be comical, nor is it drawn out. It just quickly recaps where we are and what has happened before transitioning into a phone call between Yuri and Yuuko and her family. The expression on his face tells you everything you need to know about his current mental state and I am glad they didn’t feel the need to directly state that he was feeling pressured but allowed his expression to speak for him. One of the main criticisms I’ll level at the earlier episodes is that they regularly over-explain things and this is one time where they refrained.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Katsuki Yuri is feeling stressed

Never one to miss an opportunity for comedy though, we then have Victor’s reaction to Yuri’s current state. Yuri hasn’t slept and it shows so Victor, in a display of what is probably genuine concern, forces him back to bed and then lies on him (to stop him getting back out of bed of course). However, Victor is super impulsive and so we have Yuri, blindfolded and pinned down on a bed (wow, that sounds way more explicit than it is) crying out and asking if Victor set an alarm. The scene builds on what we know about both characters and so while the tension of Yuri’s emotional state is momentarily broken, the scenario plays true to both of them and ends up hitting its mark. Even if it sounds weird taken out of context.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Victor puts Yuri to bed.

I really do love how small details play into this story. The next scene we see of Yuri is him trying to open a water bottle, his expression frozen and hands trembling. He’s confused because he can’t open it. Anyone who has ever started cracking under pressure knows this feeling. They’ve been in this exact spot wondering why something simple isn’t working and just getting themselves into a negative feedback loop. It’s these kind of moments that really bring Yuri on Ice to life and make it really connect with viewers in a meaningful way. Also, Victor’s distance in this scene is notable as it brings us back to Yuri’s relationship with Celestino rather than the fairly close and intimate relationship they’ve had so far prior to Yuri skating. Even when Victor does close the gap by standing in front of Yuri and grabbing his shoulders, the perspective very much makes Yuri look small and powerless and as though the gap between them is massive. It doesn’t help that Victor’s words, while once again sound advice, are delivered in such a way that they aren’t going to help Yuri’s confidence any.

While a lot of the time Yuri’s family and friends in Japan feel a little added on, there are moments, like this one, where they show us that Yuri really isn’t alone. Every one of them watching the warm up on TV can see the state Yuri is in. They recognise it in the way that anyone who is close to someone as anxious as Yuri would and they are worried because they know just how hard it is to get out of that mind set once it is in full motion. It might be a brief moment, but it continues to build Yuri’s background in relationships and as a person.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri's family

I feel bad for skipping over Guang Hong in my discussion here but to be honest he’s a character who doesn’t really come back again, so while I love the story and his thoughts while he is skating, I’m going to focus in on Yuri still. Yuri knows he stuffed up his warm up, and Victor’s glib remarks that he will do it better in the performance haven’t done a thing to reach him. Watching Yuri watch Guang Hong’s performance is almost heart breaking.

In case it hasn’t become ridiculously clear, I really can emphasise with Yuri and this was a huge part of what drew me into this anime.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri shocked by Guang Hong's performance.

In stark contrast to Yuri’s emotional implosion we have Chris. He’s a seasoned veteran and one who oozes confidence in what he can do. Even though he is second last position going into the free skate, Chris knows he can come back from that and we see it in his expression during his routine. He’s genuinely enjoying the moment and being the centre of attention. While he wants to win, as all of the characters do, for Chris there’s a genuine joy in being a performer. It creates such a different tone when we see him on the ice and provides a good balance for the viewer. As we get to the finals of the Grand Prix the different mind sets of each of the characters become more apparent and each one brings a different perspective on competition. However, it probably isn’t a coincidence that Chris and Phichit that are introduced in this round as both of their personalities contrast sharply with Yuri’s uncertainty without clashing with him (Yuri Plisetsky certainly contrasts with Yuri but there we end up with more opposition and rivalry).

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 Chris

Now I’ve taken a few jabs at Victor’s inexperience as a coach and how ineffectual he has been thus far in calming Yuri, but the one thing that this episode wants us to know is that Victor is genuinely trying. He can see the problem but because he isn’t the kind of person who crumbles under pressure he doesn’t have any ability to understand what is actually going on in Yuri’s head. He has no frame of reference to work from. But the concern is real and that is part of what we all need to love about Victor even when he does seem like an air-head sometimes.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Victor taking Yuri to warm up.

One thing that is noteworthy about this round of watching the routines is the attention on the characters faces and their expressions. In some versions of the routines it is the overall movement that takes priority leading to some interesting facial expressions depending on where you pause the routine. However, like with Chris, when Phichit starts his routine we see his face and exactly the mental state he is when he takes to the ice. Where Chris had that small smile of confidence in himself, Phichit has the determination but even when he is focused there’s almost a sense that he wants to celebrate the music and just burst into a smile, something we hear in his voice when his internal monologue begins. Again, it is such a major contrast with Yuri’s mindset and it really helps establish Phichit more as a character. He isn’t just about social media, there’s a genuine competitor inside him and when he takes to the ice for the free skate we see exactly how determined he is to show everyone what he can do.

Though, once again, Yuri on Ice doesn’t hold its ground and feels the need to add in some fairly unnecessary commentary from Celestino about Phichit having more innate flair than Yuri. This is something that was already apparent from the routine and from the audience response. Celestino saying it adds nothing except perhaps making him feel smug that Yuri was the one he lost and Phichit is still his skater.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 Phichit

And again, my apologies to Leo, but his routine is nowhere near as important as what is going on in the carpark between Victor and Yuri, and the anime knows this as well. Where Phichit’s routine was mostly shown with a few cuts to the main characters, Leo’s routine is almost entirely off-screen.  So let’s focus on this moment between Victor and Yuri. This moment where Victor, totally lost as to what to do to shake Yuri out of his despair, takes entirely the wrong path. Again, looking at their body language as Victor begins to speak, they are separated by many steps, their backs to one another, the distance between these two has never been greater when they’ve been onscreen. And then Victor essentially throws ice water onto a sleeping Yuri’s face with fairly predictable results.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Victor and Yuri in the carpark

Yeah, Victor, this was a really bad idea. If I’m honest, this was the moment during my first watch that I almost fell out of love with Victor as a character. I relate too much to Yuri and just the feeling of someone saying that to me when I was in the middle of emotional turmoil, succeed or I’ll ditch you under the guise of taking responsibility, almost broke my heart in two. Rewatches have not softened the blow from this scene, however, Victor is redeemed many times over and I’ve come to love his awkward self who struggles to learn to deal with Yuri emotionally. Still think he’d have been better off keeping his mouth shut.

For an episode so fixated on faces, this sequence is brilliant in how it twists the knife into the viewer’s heart. Victor says his piece and waits. We get the long shot showing again the distance between them before the close up on Yuri’s frozen expression. Switching back to Victor, we see the first bead of sweat appear and the first hint of doubt showing in his eyes. Then tears roll down Yuri’s cheeks (using anime logic that everyone has an entire bucket of water inside their head), and Victor suddenly realises exactly what he just did but not how to fix it.

However, it does open Yuri up, albeit slightly destructively and Yuri tells Victor that all he needs to do is believe in him and stand beside him. As Georgi begins his somewhat hilarious Tales of a Sleeping Prince routine, Yuri and Victor return to the rink side by side for the first time this episode even if their expressions are still sombre and they aren’t looking at one another. I’ve mentioned this before but this relationship is what holds this anime together and elevates it to being so much more than just a story about ice-skating. At every step we see the back and forth as their relationship grows and the two bump heads, gain ground, clash, understand each other, misunderstand each other, and it all feels so incredibly authentic (if a little bit rushed given the time frame).

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri and Victor

In case the discomfort between these two after their small spat in the car park isn’t already emphasised enough in their expressions above, after a brief cut away to Georgi and his delusions of Anya returning to him, we get an image of Yuri and Victor still side by side but leaning away and looking away from another. Again, this is so different from how these two have been presented as they’ve come together in every other episode. This moment is fairly critical not just for Yuri as a skater but for their ongoing relationship both as coach and student and any foundation of a romantic relationship in the future.

Meanwhile, the sign above Yuri’s head is just kind of ironic.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri and Victor

I do however, really enjoy the sequence when Yuri prepares to take the ice as he essentially plays Victor by dropping the tissues and then touching Victor’s part, reminiscent of his actions back in episode 4. For all that Yuri might seem like the one being led along at times or weak because of his anxiety, it is scenes like this that show that Yuri has some real fortitude. Afterall, despite his severe anxiety he did rise up to get into the Grand Prix the year before without Victor. While Victor is still at a loss for what to do next, Yuri is taking charge. And this doesn’t go unnoticed by Yakov who thinks that if the student is consoling the coach Victor has a long way to go. With so much focus on Yuri’s growth and improvement, I love that this sequence turns that entirely on its head and shows Victor as the one floundering and lost and Yuri being the one to show the way.

And then the routine begins. For the first time this episode we see Yuri calm and composed. Internally, he is thinking about Victor’s failings as a coach but externally there is a real sense of control about him. Despite how busy Yuri’s thoughts seem to be, Victor notes that Yuri is smiling and Celestino remarks that he seems unusually relaxed. After an entire episode of seeing Yuri on the brink, this moment is wonderful and while Victor’s approach was still dreadful the end result is the dam of emotions Yuri had been holding back had an outlet leaving him more composed than he might otherwise have been. Having seen the routine before, we get continued cuts to the other competitors, coaches and family as we see their reactions to the Yuri that exists now. The amusement of Yuri thinking about how much of an idiot Victor is right before he executes one of his jumps is fairly priceless as is most of this routine. We’ve seen this skate before, but not like this and we’ve seen plenty of Yuri, but this is a Yuri we haven’t seen before. I think that is the strength of the repeats in this series. Rather than seeing the repeated routines as a weakness, seeing what they can bring out of each character because the emphasis is shifted each time is an absolute joy.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri on Ice

And Yuri once again shows off the theme of surprise. Midway through the routine Yuri has a sudden thought wondering how Victor would react if he changed his last quad to a flip, Victor’s signature move. While the execution isn’t brilliant, Yuri does it and blows everyone away. And so, Victor being Victor, has to surprise Yuri more and does so by literally leaping into his arms as Yuri comes toward him from the ice. And then we have ‘that’ moment. The kiss that blew up the internet. Or the not kiss for those who still want to say it is just a hug – sorry, but I don’t buy it.

I remember when I first watched episode 7. Twitter literally exploded immediately after the episode. My episode 7 review, as poorly written as it is with a typo in Yuri’s name midway along (one day I’ll edit, I swear), is still one of my highest viewed episode review posts of all times. Just as Yuri surpassed everyone’s expectations, just as Victor wanted to surprise Yuri, this moment in the show blew away all the audience expectations. Those who thought it was just going to another story about two characters who were close but their relationship was ambiguous finally realised that the relationship being constructed here was more than just yet more baiting. It was a great moment and one that was executed with perfect timing riding on the high of the routine, on Yuri overcoming his anxiety, after an episode where a rift seemed to begin to grow between the characters. All of that was just blown away in a single instant.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - The Kiss

The episode ends with Yuri gaining a silver medal but that is almost beside the point. And that is where I struggle to see this one as a sports anime. The outcome becomes almost a beside the point compared to the personal successes and growth of the characters. Still, we are now set to go to Russia for the next qualifying adventure.

And be sure to check on Twitter for this week’s poll where I ask you which routine is your favourite free skate.

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 7


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Karandi James

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