My Hero Academia Season 2 Series Review: Shining the Light on Heroes and Villains

Overview:

There’s no denying that season 1 of this show made me sit up and take notice when I picked it up mid-season after reading many positive reviews. The second season continues Midoriya’s journey (as well as the rest of the students’ journies) to becoming a hero.

Earlier I covered some of the ideas in this series in Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea.

Review:

With the exception of Bleach (which even I’ll admit isn’t all that great when you break down the story) I’ve never been much for straight shonen action shows. I can’t stand the shouting, the long drawn out fight, the pointless arcs where a villain is built up to be beaten down, the random hero power ups, and all the other silliness that tends to infect those kinds of shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action story, I just prefer something a little less aimed at teenage males. Surprisingly, My Hero Academia kind of has all of the qualities of a shonen story that usually annoy me and yet, much like Bleach before it, instead of turning me away it kind of manages to draw me in a little bit more with every ridiculous fight sequence.

Hero25h

The first season was utterly charming and just plain fun to watch, and season 2, despite launching into firstly a tournament arc, and then a training/power up sequence, before going into an exam sequence (all of which should have killed any fun or momentum for me) managed to not alone maintain that sense of fun, it also fleshed out a very real and meaningful dialogue around the nature of heroes and villains. All of this while characters continued to grow and develop and come to a greater understanding of themselves.

Hero29b

Now, there is nothing new to be found in My Hero Academia. We have seen each of these characters before and asking the question of what makes a hero is pretty much story-telling from cave-man days. So it isn’t the novel content that is keeping me fixated. It is all about the delivery.

Hero34b

This world and these characters are bright and larger than life. Their actions, their ideals, their emotions, everything is heightened unapologetically and then dropped into a world is becoming more and more real with every point we learn about it. While we don’t have Quirks in the real world (or at least not that I’ve noticed), there is something extremely relatable about this social media, popularity focused society that has taken a noble calling (being a hero) and made it a vocation. One that is highly sought due to monetary rewards and social recognition. All of this makes for a very grand and highly energetic narrative even when not a lot is actually happening with the main characters. I’m pretty sure these students could make catching a bus entertaining at this point.

Hero36a

Part of this is because of the sheer number of characters and their diverse personalities. While some of the less important classmates are still pretty one-note, a lot of these characters have had their moment in the spot light and have started to become far more interesting as the series has progressed. My Hero Academia is very big on giving characters clear motivations for their behaviours and attitudes and ensuring the audience understands these. That way, when a character begins to change or grow, or even just acts out of character, it is immediately apparent and the impact is even greater because we’ve understood why that trait was significant in the first place.

Hero25f

It also helps that the characters are just fun to spend time with. Even Bakugo, the overly angry and shouty one, is always great fun on the screen. If he could learn to focus some of that rage he could be a truly awesome asset in the future, though at the moment he’s more of comic relief and occasional bringer of tension to an otherwise fairly happy group of kids.

Hero25i

This season saw Todoroki and Uraraka both gain ground as characters. Each had a number of moments to shine throughout the series and learned from their own actions and the actions of others to progress toward their goals. Seeing the these two characters finding their way and seeing how that changed their relationships with other characters in the story, felt very rewarding. Both kind of gained ground in terms of being my favourite characters from this show by mid-season.

Hero19c

However, the real spot-light this season needs to go on All Might and Midoriya’s relationship. If growth along a journey was the theme for the season, Midoriya truly personified this as he fought hard to gain control of his ability and also really considered why he wanted to become a hero. Early in the season he loses a fight in the tournament to Todoroki, not necessarily because he couldn’t win (although arguably at the time he couldn’t) but because he needed to help Todoroki. Midoriya chose a tournament loss to ensure a greater victory, helping a friend. And that more or less defined who he was. But, there are greater dangers coming and All Might is trying to prepare Midoriya for those. We see the greatest change in Midoriya, spurred on by Bakugo, when he actually strikes All Might during the exam. Season 1 Midoriya couldn’t have even tried to strike All Might. This transition from idolising All Might, to working to surpass him as a symbol of justice, is just another step on the road for Midoriya though for the audience, there’s the added tension of kind of suspecting All Might’s time is more limited than Midoriya knows. All Might is definitely holding back from telling Midoriya everything so that is one puzzle piece we’ll all be waiting for in the next season.

Hero30b

Turning our attention to the villains, we see the Hero Killer rise up during this season and his impact on both the narrative and the characters is enormous. Even other villains are launched into renewed vigour because of the Hero Killer’s actions. For me, this part of the season was by far the strongest and most interesting. Mostly because the rest of the season focused on the growth of the future heroes but didn’t really give them a real world challenge to face. Though, the final episode this season leaves little doubt as to where the story is going.

Hero37b

To begin bringing things to a close, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the openings this season. They worked and they definitely grew on me after several episodes, but initially I was kind of underwhelmed by them. Also, some of the fights in both the tournament and the exam arcs just felt like they were there for the sake of completion rather than for adding anything into the story. But these are minor complaints when considering the season as a whole.

Hero28a

Season 2 gave me more of what I loved about season 1, and continued to grow both the world and characters in an  immensely satisfying manner. While I would have liked a little bit more from the narrative as we seem to be moving very slowly forward, this is a minor nit-pick to what is a fun series to get into.

I’d love to know your thoughts on My Hero Academia so be sure to leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Advertisements

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War Episode 3: Points for the Episode Title

Review with spoilers:

I’ve made it fairly clear that so far Zodiac War hasn’t exactly been amazing viewing and this week isn’t an exception. That said, I actually enjoyed this episode significantly more than episode 1 or 2 because the Chicken was actually kind of a fun character: you know, before they inevitably cut down the one character we’ve actually learned about during the episode.

Juni3a

This show has clearly set its formula in stone with giving us glimpses of a character’s past and the messed up life they have had, as well as their internal thoughts about the other characters and the fight, before terminating their life in a gory and what seems to be an attempt at surprising twist at the end of an episode though given it has now been repeated three times that leaves something to be desired.

Juni3c

However, the Chicken had far more personality and was far more interesting to learn about than either the Boar or the Dog, though no better at making me sympathetic for the ending we all kind of saw coming. If we get another plus out of this episode it is that the Boar is finished for good and isn’t a walking zombie boar anymore.

Juni3d

Although, as the post title suggests, this episode has a pretty fun title though ultimately that gives away not only the death of the Chicken (though I guess that was kind of inevitable) but also the one who will strike the blow:

Cutting a Chicken with a Beef Cleaver

Clever? Yes. Leaving any room for any kind of surprise in the episode? Not really.

And once again we learn nothing of why the zodiac’s are fighting or who is in charge of setting up this match or even what they actually achieve if they win. I was pretty sure I was going to drop this show this week but then I kind of liked the episode despite having issues with the overall story (or lack of overall story other than ‘kill each other’). Still, looking at the good points of this show (it looks great, the character designs are interesting if a little crazy at times, there is definitely potential for the story, and well it is hard to really stuff up a battle royal too much) I’m probably keeping this on my watch list and maybe it will grow on me.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Land of the Lustrous Episode 1: A Visual Feast

Overview:

In the distant future, a new immortal and genderless life form called Gems populate the Earth. The 28 Gems must fight against the Moon Dwellers, who attack them regularly to abduct them and to turn them into decorations. Each Gem is assigned a role, such as a fighter or a medic.

Being only 300 years old, Phosphophyllite is the youngest of the Gems and has no assignment yet. He wants to help to fight the Moon Dwellers, but is too weak and brittle for battle. One day the master of Gems, Kongou (Adamantine), assigns him the task of creating a natural history encyclopedia.

– from MAL

Review:

From the very beginning this episode is both beautiful and interesting. The premise is odd enough that it draws you in and as the episode progresses small details about the world and the characters are introduced. Never too many that you feel you are being subjected to an information dump, but a steady trickle of ideas that mean that by the end of this first episode it feels like enough has been stated to get the story started.

Lustrous1b

While not much is known about any particular character at this point, the few we have met have been given definite personality traits that will hopefully flesh out with time. The shared desire to have a purpose in life kind of permeates all the interactions but never feels particularly heavy handed at this stage.

Lustrous1c

However, where the show shines is in its visuals. While the CG may not work for everyone and the characters move oddly at times, given they are anthropomorphized gems it actually really works and the world we’ve been introduced to is beautiful. Fight sequences are stunning and the entire thing just feels well thought out from a visual point of view.

Lustrous1d

Really glad I got to check out this episode and looking forward to the next one.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Friday’s Feature: Characters To Make the Horror Real

This was not my intended post for this week however having started two shows that both seem intent on killing off their cast members in spectacularly gruesome and unrealistic fashions for the entertainment of the viewers this season the importance of the characters in making these sorts of stories anything more than visual spectacle has been thoroughly on my mind. This month my features are all focussing on horror and so far I have looked at visuals and the unnamed victims so if you missed either of those posts be sure to check them out.

Starting with a non-anime example I want to look at a movie from my teens, Scream. Scream is not complicated. It is self-aware of its derivative nature, to the point of having the characters openly list the rules and requirements of a horror film even as they themselves go through the motions of being in a horror film. There isn’t a single character in the film you can point to and claim they are unique or particularly interesting as it is an ensemble cast of horror tropes and they work beautifully together to craft a story that actually makes you want the designated heroine of the story to survive and leaves you feeling happy when the killer is ingloriously shot down before getting his final jump scare.

Scream-1-Cast

This is where we as an audience need to understand that these trope like characters serve a valuable narrative purpose and their most important role is to get the audience to react to them. You are supposed to be suspicious of this one, disgusted by that one, roll your eyes at her, and feel sympathy even as you want that one to stand up for herself. It is manipulative viewing and evokes the same emotional response in more or less any other decent teen horror but it is a formula that works.

When you throw competent people into a horror/thriller kind of story the struggle becomes giving them an opponent they can’t easily defeat. This is seen quite clearly in Predator. Here we have tough, trained soldiers who don’t come off as inept as soon as things go awry. They are just severely outclassed by an alien. All except Arnold but I think most of us suspected that he could beat off an alien hunter even before watching this movie.

And that kind of brings us to King’s Game and Juni Taisen: Zodiac War. King’s Game lands squarely in the high school students being terrorised by unknown forces and freaking out whereas Juni Taisen has trained warriors who have walked into and signed up for a death match (for reasons still unknown). Both shows have their flaws and strengths but in terms of the characters drawing me into the story, King’s Game is kind of winning even if the story doesn’t seem as strong (okay, it is rubbish but no one ever claimed horror was a genre filled with examples of brilliant writing – there’s some and we do appreciate it when it exists, but basically we’ll take what we can get) and the presentation has been far rougher. So what is actually going on here?

For me the issue squarely comes down to how the characters are reacting to the horror of their situation.

King1e

King’s Game may suffer from pacing issues, character over-reactions and general poor writing, but the kids are scared. Inexplicable multiple deaths in a single night have them gathering in a panicked mob willing to lurch toward any potential solution. They want to stop the horror and they want out of the situation. That makes the horror feel real to me as a member of the audience. What is happening is actually a threat and one that is causing these characters to freak out. It makes me wonder what I would be feeling in their shoes or wondering if their idiotic actions might be justified even as I roll my eyes at mob-mentality. So far very few of these characters are anything more than a name (when I remember it) and a type (if they’ve even had a line of dialogue) but as a class of teenagers they excel at grounding the horror into something that becomes relatable and therefore something I am more likely to invest in emotionally.

King2c

Episode two was not good. There is no way around that as a reviewer. It was not a good episode by any measure. Yet, there was this one moment where a character is forced with a choice of not following the King’s Order and dying, or of texting ‘die’ to someone and have them die. She knows the game is real now. She knows it won’t just be a joke  to text someone that single word. The look on her face, even through questionable animation and visuals, is one that brings the horror of that choice straight to the audience. What would you do? Do you die or do you sentence a classmate to death? Does it make it okay if you choose someone that the others don’t like? This is the best part of these sorts of horror stories, these small moments that drive the emotions home. Admittedly, King’s Game is hiding these small moments under a pile of mud and other unpleasant oozing substances and there’s a reason quite a few people have dropped the show.

Juni1c

Juni Taisen however hasn’t had one of these moments. In the first two episodes we’ve met characters who are arrogant, cool, confident or disinterested. They aren’t shocked or scared by their situation and they don’t feel like they are in over their head. In fact, a lot of them just seem bored by the situation, or gleefully and unpleasantly excited by the prospect of killing. Even Boar’s surprise death lacked impact other than a momentary shock because she didn’t see it coming, had no time to feel helpless or pathetic for failing. There was no moment for the audience to empathise with her plight and even though she was in over her head the audience never had a moment to feel that way.

The fact that the Zodiac Warriors aren’t helpless teenagers isn’t a deal breaker in terms of making that emotional connection. Even trained soldiers can feel helpless or cornered and it is brilliant when done well because you can’t criticise the character for being useless. You know they are strong but the enemy is stronger or has managed to get the upper hand. This actually works impressively well when done well, but so far Juni Taisen seems fairly determined not to really allow the audience that connection that would make these deaths anything more than spectacle.

Juni2a

Moving to the second episode and we meet the Dog. He’s as arrogant and self-assured as the Boar, possibly more so, and once again he never once sees his death coming. It is over in an instant. If I was to map out my emotional responses during the second episode it would be mostly a flat line  as we go through rounds of exposition, introductions, waiting around, and then a quick blip when the inevitable death occurred before returning to base.

King2d

So while I’ll admit fairly readily that  Juni Taisen is far superior to King’s Game in terms of its animation quality, so far from an emotional point of view and from just wanting the horror to actually connect, King’s Game has been winning out for me. I know others have a different opinion and that’s what makes discussing these shows so much fun. It has been great reading about how others have taken to these two shows (or not). Neither show is particularly great yet in terms of narrative as there’s still a lot of unknowns and a lot of potential for both to fall pretty flat. The thing is though, when you set up your story with the understanding that the characters exist mostly to die, if the audience doesn’t care about these characters that makes it pretty hard to care about anything else.

Before finishing, I just want to touch on the other ‘horror’ I started this season: Evil or Live. I use quotations for a reason on that horror because other than the fact that it is listed as such, I so far haven’t seen any evidence of it being a horror (unless you count the writing as being horrific and maybe that does scare you). While the characters are horrible and in a horrendous situation, the show is far more teen drama than horror. A very dark teen drama where rape is a possibility and vomiting in someone’s mouth is potentially supposed to be a comedic moment (possibly?). Maybe it will later shift things up a gear but all things considered, I somehow doubt it is going to hit the mark if you look at it being a horror.

Okay, handing over to you and your thoughts on characters in horror and whether they can make or break your enjoyment of a horror story.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

200 Word Anime: Black Clover Episode 3

The third week of the Autumn anime season and  Weekend Otaku and I are sharing our thoughts on the third episode of Black Clover. If you missed it last week, here is our post on episode 2.

Black3b

Karandi’s Review:

I really don’t want to harp on about Asta’s voice and yet as I reflect on this episode the one thing that stands out to me is just how annoying it is. Over and over again he shrieks out repetitive dialogue for no apparent purpose and the inflection he puts on so many words is at best described as ear grating. This wouldn’t be a problem in a minor character, but Asta’s continuous screen presence with barely a minute between lines means that the audience suffers an ongoing assault by that voice.

Otherwise this is pretty standard train and prepare for the upcoming exam. Meanwhile everyone is still pretty much tearing Asta’s chances down (logical maybe, except this is shounen so there is really no way that he won’t eventually succeed even if he did fail the exam there would be some weird event after and he’ll get to move forward). This show has now had three episodes and while it is passable, it is really not going out of its way to impress.

Black3a

Weekend Otaku’s Review:

When I saw the intro to this episode I thought the show was getting into something epic until I realized it was a sort-of flashback. If that’s what Asta imagined the Wizard King to be like, I can’t blame him for being enthusiastic. In any case, that sort of sequence might have served better for the series intro rather than the protracted start of a journey that this episode offered. While not a whole lot is actually happening, that’s not necessarily making the series bad. It’s kind of similar to how Hunter X Hunter started, but where that series had some charming characters to start off with (and some actual motivation for Gon), this one has a protagonist that really challenges viewer enjoyment.
I don’t know if Gakuto Kajiwara is to blame for the assault we’re getting on our ears each week or the directors for having him deliver that same annoying scream over and over, but just like Karandi (and I’m sure all of you as well) I’m having a really hard time putting Asta’s yelling aside and trying to focus on the rest of the episode. As for his character, I can see what they’re trying to do through his conversations about how someone’s station in life shouldn’t limit them. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s been a bit on the nose so far and there’s little else to garner any investment in him.
Thanks Weekend and just a reminder, if you missed our review of The Ancient Magus’ Bride episode 2 you should hop on over to WeekendOtaku’s site and check it out.

Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Sengoku Night Blood Episode 3: Sake, Herbs, Bees and an Attack

Review:

If the goal here is to walk through a loosely based on actual history historical setting where the cast have been replaced by pretty boy vampires and werewolves than this episode accomplishes its goal wonderfully. If there was an intention of actually helping us learn anything about these characters (other than the name of the person they are supposed to be) or to progress some sort of plot than this episode comes up short.

Sengoku3a

That isn’t to say this isn’t still kind of fun. The vampire group meet with the werewolf group and drink sake before a contrived fetch quest sends the girl into the woods to look for herbs where she conveniently and for no apparent purpose steps on a bee hive. Seriously, they do nothing with that other than scene transition. Why even include it?

Sengoku3c

We do however see that every single guy is going to fall for the girl regardless of her seeming lack of personality. So yes, plenty to criticise, but this still works from a switch your brain off and enjoy the pretty visuals kind of  perspective and there is still the possibility of the plot going somewhere as they do have a few scenes that indicate more is going on than drinking and flirting.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Overview:

The follow up to the cult classic sensation that was the original Blade Runner. Time has passed and a new generation of replicants that are programmed to obey are now being used. Some of these hunt down and retire the older generation models.

Review:

I’m actually going to preface this by pointing out I actually thought this was a pretty good  movie (far better than I expected when a Blade Runner sequel was announced – and far better than many other science fiction films). The reason this preface is necessary is I’m going to pretty much tear it apart for a bit and it might seem like I’m completely against this film.

Unless you have been living completely offline it is more or less impossible to have missed the hype around the return of Blade Runner to the big screen. It has been a long, long time, as evidence by Harrison Ford’s revival of Deckard, but time has passed even in the movie universe so the real question becomes, whether lightning can strike twice for the franchise?

It seems really unfair but this movie is going to be judged against its predecessor. To put it in context, the SAO movie was not a good movie by any objective standard but for fans of SAO it hit the spot nicely and got them excited for the upcoming new series. If I were to compare Blade Runner 2049 to SAO Ordinal Scale there wouldn’t be any contest. Blade Runner is the far superior movie. And yet, I left the cinema with a wrinkle in my brow and counting off points and counterpoints on my fingers and really wondered if I had enjoyed what I had just watched. I said on Twitter my feelings were mixed and even after thinking and rethinking I’m still feeling that I genuinely don’t know about this movie.

Blade5

 

What it comes down to is that Blade Runner 2049 has all the aesthetic sense of Blade Runner but for me failed to raise any issue or idea of note. I don’t finish the movie questioning the nature of my existence or of anything. I finish the movie wondering if Jared Leto’s character actually served any purpose and just how many wall references (both verbal and visual) I’d just been hit with. Because everything in this movie is a blunt weapon with no subtlety in either delivery or meaning and that makes this movie an entirely different beast to the original where any line of dialogue could be taken several ways and the final speech by the antagonist to Deckard could have you lost in thought for hours.

To give a concrete example there’s a holographic girl who plays the lead replicant’s girlfriend and at one point in the movie they decide they have to erase her from the home system and she’s going to be fully portable. However, as K/Joe points out, doing so means if the portable stick gets broken she’ll be gone for good. To which she responds “Just like a real girl.” This is only one of many Pinocchio references mind you and basically less than two scenes later the stick gets shattered (for no narrative purpose other than to prove that bat-shit crazy replicant is in fact crazy and evil) and then hologram girl is never mentioned again or given another instant of thought. Now, possibly her ‘death’ could have been a character catalyst for the protagonist of the story. It could have been a touching moment to have the audience reflect on the ephemeral nature of life or whether hologram girl counts as being alive. Instead, she’s a computer who blips and is gone and forgotten leaving us to wonder if maybe in a director’s cut somewhere she actually served a purpose other than screen time and a sex scene that was vaguely disturbing given it involved two replicants and a hologram.

Blade4

The music is also incredibly dense and continuous. Points for the soundtrack reflecting the original film and managing to be oppressive and create a fairly continuous feeling of dread, but essentially your ears will be assailed with atonal drones and whines meanwhile every mechanical object will clunk, groan and bang and the end result is your teeth will clench and you will wonder if you remember what silence sounds like. And then you will get silence. One single scene comes along where all the music stops and we hear almost nothing and the absence is incredibly powerful because of the assault you’ve previously experienced. Once that scene is done, you’ll return to the continuous music and sound and you will miss the silence all the more. It is actually hard to say whether this is a positive point for the movie or not. It is incredibly affective. The immersion this soundtrack creates in the experience of the film is nothing short of brilliant. However, it is also an incredibly uncomfortable experience and afterwards it takes a fair while for your ears to recover from the experience.

From a visual point of view they got what made Blade Runner what it was. Things have changed but time has passed and the changes are really logical (reinforced by the short films released to show the progression of events between the films). It looks every bit as gorgeous and as immersive as the first film (okay, more so because special effects have come a long way) and it also captured the visual feel of the first film which was kind of necessary for this sequel to have any kind of success.

But…

Blade3

Like a fan fiction work, this film peppers itself with scenes and moments that add nothing to this narrative and exist either as links to the work it is emulating or to show an understanding of the world which is great but not an understanding of pacing or story telling. The opening shot of the eye is a clear throw back to the first film (as is the water element in the final fight) and yet neither really serve a place in this film. The eye is particularly problematic given it was such an iconic and necessary symbol and idea in the first film and the opening sequence grew out from this shot whereas in this film we see the eye then some power stations and we just kind of move on and never again care about close ups of pupils given in this film they don’t use the same test or technology so the eye and all that it represented (windows to the soul and all) serves no purpose. Likewise the scene of the machines dumping rubbish in the wasteland. Great, the world is filled in and there’s a lot of details, but this adds unnecessary time to an already overly long film and contributes nothing to the movie. It is like the additional scenes in the original Star Wars movies. More there because they can rather than there for any purpose.

I haven’t really gotten into the characters and the story and that is because they work. They fit the world, the story is a fair enough continuation of the world and its events (even if Deckard’s inclusion was more one of pandering to fans than actually necessary for the narrative). What it isn’t, is something exceptional with characters who you will remember well after the film. Sure Deckard comes back but this isn’t the Deckard of the first film who left such a strong impression. And no-one comes close to Rutger Hauer’s impressive and awe-inspiring performance from the first film.

Blade6

However, we have ended up with a second Blade Runner movie. It is a pretty good movie and makes some great choices in sound and visuals with a functional story and characters. Could it thematically have been more powerful? Definitely. Could the characters have been more memorable and had more impressive dialogue? Absolutely. Am I nit-picking just because I can? Yes, yes I am.

But here’s the thing. If I go to a Sword Art Online movie I go in expecting it to kind of be rubbish and I get something that is kind of rubbish but fun and I walk out happy. Blade Runner is a title in the science fiction world where love it or hate it, there’s certain expectations built around it. Any sequel was going to be measured against those expectations. For me it fell short, but wasn’t a crushing disappointment. It did well enough but if only it had been better.

Alright, over to you. If you’ve seen the film what are your thoughts?


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.without t

avatar

Just Because Episode 1: Just Life

Overview:

At the end of the second semester of third year of high school, four students are prepared for graduation and feel the ending to their high school life. But that changes a little with the arrival of a transfer student.

– From MAL

Review:

Normally this is the kind of show I kind of hesitate to start because no matter how good it is I just know I’m going to end up wondering what the point of it is. Fortunately for me, it seems like most of the characters in this show are in search of a point or have accepted that mostly there isn’t one as they go about their frantic activities as their school lives wrap up.

Because1a

So instant relatability. We also don’t just follow one person through an entire day at school but rather move fairly fluidly from group to group with multiple individual problems, dilemas and ideas being introduced. While that makes it more or less impossible to remember all the character names after one episode, it gave a sense of forward motion that I usually don’t get from these kinds of stories and I greatly appreciated it.

Because1c

Because1d

All and all, these characters have the potential to be charming enough, and there’s certainly enough possibilities for future events that could come up from the set up. While there isn’t anything new from a narrative point of view, I really did like the execution and pacing of this episode and am kind of keen to see more at the moment.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Girls’ Last Tour Episode 1: Deceptively Charming

Okay, I kind of decided to give HiDive a go given it has a couple of series from last season I want to watch and this season it picked up a few titles I wanted to try. Not sure if I’m keeping the subscription long term but we’ll see how it goes.

Overview:

Civilization is dead, but Chito and Yuuri are still alive. So they hop aboard their beloved Kettenkrad motorbike and aimlessly wander the ruins of the world they once knew. Day after hopeless day, they look for their next meal and fuel for their ride. But as long as the two are together, even an existence as bleak as theirs has a ray or two of sunshine in it, whether they’re sucking down their fill of soup or hunting for machine parts to tinker with. For two girls in a world full of nothing, the experiences, and feelings the two share give them something to live for.

– From MAL

Review:

I’m not big on slice of life, but slice of life post apocolyptic style had a certain appeal and so I’m kind of glad I got to check this out. The first episode, while bringing you face to face with the horror of civilisation being dead, is utterly and completely charming.

GLT1b

This is kind of helped along by the two leads who are adorable and their interactions, while fairly sparse considering they are the only two characters we see, are fairly grounded and yet both sweet and revealing. At times the themes seem to hijack the dialogue with some heavy handed anti-war statements but all and all, this is a pretty solid first episode.

GLT1c

I’m looking forward to watching a bit more with these characters.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Series Review: Why Details Are Important

Overview:

Some group want to change history and the characters we follow want to stop them. And the characters we follow happen to be the spirit of swords brought to life by a sage from the future who can sense time distortions.

Review:

I kind of covered a lot of my issues with this show in my feature a few weeks ago where I asked what went wrong with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu?

I stand by that question now that the series has ended. Because, it seems like this show has what it needs to be truly great and yet what we have instead is a shallow dive into a story the audience never actually gets to experience and characters who really don’t progress beyond a name, a fighting style, and a single note personality. It is telling that after 13 episodes of this I’m still not actually sure of all the character names and had to resort to looking them up and even then when looking at a character list it took me a moment to remember what some of the characters had even done in the show.

Touken9a

Part of this is definitely because this is a game adaptation and there is certainly some expectation from the anime that viewers are at least passingly familiar with these characters already. But I haven’t played the game and even if I had, source material does not excuse sloppy characterisation (or none as the case may be) in the anime. The same might be true for the lack of plot development but again, even if the answers can be found elsewhere, that doesn’t make watching the anime any better.

Touken1c

Basically what is lacking from this anime are the details. We don’t know anything about any of the characters other than these two (Horikawa and Kanesada) used to work together serving the same master who died. That’s the one character plot that is developed and kind of resolved by the last episode. Still, given neither one of those characters has any personality beyond loyal to their master and mopey as they question their purpose, it isn’t exactly a draw to the show nor when we finally get the end of this sub-plot does it provide satisfaction. The heroes of this story are trying to stop events from changing so it is more or less obvious what the end of this story will be.

The other characters we get the names of and occasional references to their former lives and masters, but none of this information goes anywhere or leads to anything. It barely connects to the overall plot with the exception Mutsunokami when we meet his former master. And what is the overall plot?

Touken5a

Well, just in case we forget the swords mention it every other breath. They are going to protect history. They’ll stop history from changing. Why history is being targeted and by whom is something apparently the audience doesn’t need to know. I mean, yes, we are told the Time Retrograde Army are responsible, but who are they? No names, no discernible characters, no motive other than change history. No idea how many there are so basically they just spawn as many as they want in each occasion going so ridiculous as to have 1000 of them show up in the final episode only to do nothing but charge blindly forward and be mowed down by a significantly smaller force that previously struggled with groups of 10 or 20. Minor plot issue but whatever.

Touken11d

It seems like this anime wanted to focus on Horikawa but didn’t want to leave out the other characters. So instead of getting a focused story revolving around Horikawa growing into his role in the second unit we kind of flit all over the place as we introduce a late addition to the second unit, then the entire first unit, and the we’ll finally get back to Horikawa but by that stage we haven’t really grown attached to him because he practically disappeared mid-season.

Touken3a

However, this anime looks amazing and the sound is pretty impressive. Even when there is no tension to be found in a battle, if you close your eyes and just listen, it sounds super dramatic. But even mundane sounds like the leaves, the characters walking, gusts of wind, it all just very impressively done. If only even some of that attention to detail had gone into characters or plot (and I don’t mean the overdone character designs, I mean their personalities).

Touken12c

While this show isn’t by any means unwatchable, there’s just not a lot of point. You won’t learn anything about the overall conflict or what the end game for either side might be. You won’t learn all that much about the characters and what you do learn could have been covered in about two episodes. Visually impressive fight sequences aside, there’s just not enough reason to bother with this show.

If you watched Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar