Record of Grancrest War Series Review: Run While You Still Can

Record of Grancrest War is a fantasy series that doesn’t seem to understand that cohesion is an absolute must when building a fantasy world. However, that’s just the start of this anime’s problems.

Review:

I really love fantasy. There’s just something really great about stepping away from this world for awhile and losing yourself in another world with characters who are struggling to overcome overblown evil and to find their way in their world. That means, even when early indicators are that a story might not hold up, I tend to hold on and hope. In many cases that leaves me feeling a little burned.

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Record of Grancrest War isn’t actually a case of me feeling burned. I’d honestly be lying if I said I didn’t quite enjoy that frustrating twenty minutes of viewing each week even as I wrote ever snarkier episode reviews about it. It isn’t so bad that it is good, nor is it actually good. There’s just something about it that remained appealing and kept reigniting my optimism that maybe this anime might pull itself together even as it failed to capitalise on anything time after time.

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While that means I don’t have regrets about watching it; it also pretty much means I will never put myself through a rewatch of this anime nor would I actually recommend it to someone unless they were equally desperate for a fantasy and weren’t too concerned about the quality of the story being told.

So let’s look at the show in greater detail.

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Essentially this story bites off a lot more than it can chew. It starts off with a wedding that is essentially interrupted by chaos appearing and killing both the father of the groom and bride, apparently stopping the continent from being united and plunging it into war. It’s a fairly dramatic back drop for a story, but we’ll not get back to this particular plot line for a fair while so just leave that in the back of your mind.

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We jump to Theo and Silua, who from the OP are apparently the main characters but be prepared for these two to just disappear from the story for episodes at a time and regularly not be even half as interesting as anyone in the support cast. Admittedly, there are some adorable Theo and Siluca moments and by the climax Theo is the speech making protagonist that I kind of hoped he would become, but realistically these two kind of bring the show down right from the start by not being interesting enough to shape the story around.

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Instead we keep going off on little side quests about following other characters and their plights. Villar and Milza eat up a lot screen time in the first half of the series being a far more interesting hero character and antagonist. And Marrine and Alexis eat a substantial portion of the second half, being the couple who didn’t get married in the beginning and end up leading opposite factions in the war (at least Marrine does as Alexis is more of an artist than a fighter). Throw in some werewolf maids, an assassin, a warrior, other Lords and Mages, and even a Vampire King who will apparently be super important in the final episode even though we know nothing about him, and the story is cluttered, unfocused, and bloated.

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None of this is the end of the world for a story if it manages to link its ideas together, but Grancrest just kind of reels from event to event, jumping time and space with little care for its audience. You never get a sense of the world as characters literally move between cities and islands and cross half a continent without any real indicator of how long that took. The world as a result feels like a series of hubs rather than an actual world.

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The story also keeps forgetting that the whole point was to end the age of chaos. It gets back to it in the climax but you can go episodes without anyone mentioning chaos. And the chaos beasts that are such a big deal in episode one just vanish for nearly half the series. You can’t help but feel you are being told chaos is a big deal just so the climax makes sense but there’s no evidence to support that for the bulk of the series. Mostly because the series focuses almost exclusively on fighting between the Lords and acquiring lands and crests.

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Theo’s crest makes pretty lights. Not sure if it does anything else, but look, pretty.

And this is where things get really dodgy on the world building side. The crests don’t ever make sense. What one Lords crest does isn’t the same as another and the discrepancies are given no explanation. Even the titular ‘Grancrest’ itself has no explanation other than it will end chaos. Great, what does it do? And you’ll still ask that question at the end. Because while it does end chaos, the how and the why are without even a quick explainer.

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I guess I can’t get through this review without mentioning the visuals. Even in episode one the animation isn’t great. While you can ignore it and enjoy the episode, it isn’t exactly something you would praise. However there are countless moments in episodes where the animation is just outright bad and distracting. And while in a more compelling story they might get away with this, in a show where the story makes little sense, the characters aren’t really winning us over, and the world building has failed, poor animation just takes things a step too far and it becomes quite painful to watch in some instances. Blending poor animation with poor CG also doesn’t help the situation (ask Irina about the water).

Then we have this overly dramatic soundtrack that would work perfectly for a game or a competent anime of this nature, and yet here just feels like it is desperately trying to prop up the thin outline of a narrative and it fails.

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There we have it. Nothing really to recommend here and yet it isn’t unwatchable. I can complain all I like, and I certainly did in the episode reviews, but I kept going back to it and watching. Realistically, after the half-way point I didn’t even want to drop it because I actually did want to see if Theo would become the Emperor and save the world, even if the process involved to get him there made no sense.

If you put yourself through this anime, I’d love to know your thoughts.


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 Record of Grancrest War
Record of Grancrest War


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Karandi James

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Cells at Work Episode 2: The Adventures of a Directionally Challenged Red-Blood Cell Continue

While this episode did nothing to alleviate my worry that perhaps the subject matter here isn’t going to entertain for an entire season, it was a pretty solid follow up with some laughs, some action, and some truly adorable platelets.

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As the second episode of this odd little show rolls around I really have to smile at just how much love and energy has gone into transforming a gimmicky concept of anthropomorphic blood cells into something that is genuinely entertaining to watch and filled with so many moments that just hit their mark. Whether it is the ditzy red-blood cell getting lost again, the excessive caution and cuteness of the platelets, the white blood cells’ extreme violence against germs, or even the explosive rupture of the scrape in this second episode, every part of this has been well crafted to suit the intended purpose.

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The anime remained true to its set up in the first episode and we follow AE3803 (the red-blood cell) on another delivery. As she is guided by her senpai we learn about the cells and different areas that they encounter. Perhaps one complaint might be the sheer amount of text on the screen at a few points given we get an explanation in written form and then they put subtitles on the narration which is more or less telling us the exact same thing. However, this show doesn’t forget it is meant to be entertaining and once the abrasion appears and the action kicks in while the show doesn’t abandon a pretence of being educational, it certainly makes sure people don’t walk away bored.

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With an OP and ED that are also spot on for the subject matter and its striking colour scheme, Cells at Work is definitely one of the stand out anime this season. Again, not entirely convinced it is a concept that can work for a whole season but I’m certainly on board to find out at this point.

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Karandi James

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Angels of Death Episode 2: When It Feels Like You Are Watching A Play Through Rather Than An Anime

While the first episode of Angels of Death was intriguing in its atmosphere, episode 2 kind of just walks us through a level with mediocre results.

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Continuing on directly from the end of episode 1, episode 2 ends with Zack refusing to kill Rachel because of the bored look on her face but promises to kill her if she can show him a better look. Then changes his mind and promises to do so if she helps him leave the building (though apparently he entered it voluntarily because he was told he could kill people). It is all a bit convoluted and unexplained and the mysterious announcements have kind of disappeared and in exchange we have Rachel finding notes from an unnamed giggler who won’t show up until the end of the episode.

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What this means is we spend most of this episode listening to Rachel make some sort of observation about the world, Zack react, usually over the top angrily with a snarl in his voice, Rachel calmly explain something, and then they go to look at the next thing. It’s all very much like watching someone play a really dull point and click adventure and all of the tension and atmosphere that was kind of promised in episode one has evaporated entirely. Which of course isn’t helped along by Zack who rotates between dumb, loud and violent, or suspicious depending on which roll of the dive the writers decided to go with for his next reaction.

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We even get a ‘cut scene’ style sequence when he goes on a rampage destroying the grave stones. I’m sure someone thought that music and laughter gave it some kind of edgy tone but mostly it was just a cringe worthy sequence in amongst what was a pretty boring episode.

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Karandi James

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In Case You Missed It

Celebrate the end of another week and a new beginning as we move firmly into the Summer Anime season. As always, I’ve found so many really great posts over the last week and below are some links to a few that really caught my eye, however I’d love for you to share a link if there’s a post you want to give a shout out to.

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Mythos from the Backloggers shared a bit of a personal post about the importance of seeing our homes in media. He looked specifically at Fallout and its depiction of West Virginia and it was a really great post to read. Okay, not anime related, but I love the Fallout games and this was such a well written post that I just had to have it on the list this week.

Mistress of Yaoi tells us that Banana Fish isn’t Yaoi but it is still Awesome in a post that looks at the first episode, some of the reaction to it, and also recommends a manga for those who are looking for something similar to read. A great post to check out if you are curious at all about the anime.

AhNeeMeh looks at some anime titles that have been either mistranslated or changed when translated into English. I really enjoy reading posts where I also learn a little, or am pushed to actually use some of my Japanese and so I found this post interesting because usually I don’t try to translate Japanese titles but some of these it should have been obvious that the English wasn’t right if I’d thought about it.

Umai Yomu Anime Blog has a review of season 2 of Nanatsu no Taizai (or the Seven Deadly Sins). While I watched season 1, I wasn’t really feeling a return to these characters but I’ve enjoyed reading some of the reviews around the episodes and now that its done I’m enjoying reading how people feel about it overall. Maybe one day I’ll get around to watching it, but in the meantime if you want to know what it is all about and how this season is different from season 1, this is a great review to check out.

Yuri Nation looks at Ikuno from Darling in the Franxx and why she isn’t a tragedy but a hero. With all the controversy around Darling in the Franxx it is sometimes easy to overlook some of the things that went well in the series, and this post looks at Ikuno’s character in a fairly positive way, highlighting one of the reasonably successful character arcs in the story as well as how a gay character has been represented.

A Piece of Anime has a review of Darling in the Franxx that looks at the show’s early successes and then some of the ways it unravelled toward the end. Through this they look at the themes the anime initially seemed to be developing and the way these were handled, or not handled, as the show progresses. For those who have avoided Franxx drama this review might be a bit spoilery but it will give you an overall impression of what the show does and doesn’t do.

Jon Spencer does a retrospective on the WIXOSS franchise giving a brief overview of each of the four seasons. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows Jon that he’s a fan of the series and now that Lostorage Conflated Wixoss has essentially wrapped up all plausible loose ends, it is a great time for reflection on the series as a whole.

Irina muses on what makes a good review and generated a lot of blogger discussion. This is something that all anime reviewers should have a read of and the comments and get involved in the discussion. A nice reflection post to generate community conversation that allows everyone to think about their practice. Thanks Irina.

Over on BlazTavern, Tanteikid wrote a response to a post I wrote awhile ago asking the question of what happens when you get tired of anime (or rather why I don’t think that will happen). I really enjoyed reading someone else’s perspective on this and it was a great post to come across this week.

Otaku, She Wrote has a really brilliant analysis of the second episode of Banana Fish out this week. Okay, spoiler heavy if you haven’t watched the episode but a really detailed breakdown of what happened in the episode and the symbolism used in each scene and sequence. A really great post to check out this week if you are watching Banana Fish.

Pick of the Week

Frog-Kun gets into the inherent problem behind the conceit of one person coming in to a historical or fantasy setting and fixing it in their post ‘How a Not So Realit Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom on Privilege and Hubris‘. It is an interesting post to read as it clearly identifies an issue with the basic premise of all such stories, yet I think most of us were already aware that modern knowledge or not, we aren’t going to save a kingdom (just look at the world we live in the problems we’ve created as a society and do very little to fix to know that the average person is not exactly enlightened even if we understand a little bit more about the world). I really enjoyed this post as it is so clear in its explanation and arguments and it is something worth thinking about both in literature and in the real world.

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And that was my week, in case you missed it.


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Karandi James

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How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 2: Fan-Service and Boobs in Fantasy Land

I’m thinking that anyone who finds fan-service and boob gropes a major problem are going to have already ditched this show from consideration and I can’t say I blame them. That said, does this anime offer anything else?

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Seriously, it is kind of accepted that fan service moments are going to permeate these kinds of stories, particularly with a set-up as blatant as summoned demon lord enslaves his summoners (who happen to be a cute cat chick and an elf with gravity defying breasts), and yet I can’t help but wonder if the beginning and end of this episode couldn’t have ended up scrapped on the editing floor without discernibly changing the episode. The entire pre-credits sequence was the usual trope of boy wakes up, realises he’s still in fantasy land, and then wonders what his hand is touching. Oh, it’s the elf’s breast. And then instead of moving his hand he proceeds to grope her blaming his hand for having a mind of its own. And then he realises his right hand is on the cat girl’s breast. It all ends with cat girl losing her temper and probably hitting him before we begin the credits.

While I get there is an audience for this kind of sequence, the majority of people I know who watch anime tolerate this kind of nonsense rather than enjoy it. And even those people who watch a show for the more ecchi moments would surely want something presented better than this? The final sequence in the show goes back to boob grabbing with the elf girl straddling the demon lord for whatever reason and then the cat girl coming in and claiming she’s aware her boobs are small before she once again probably pummels them. It is lazy fan-service at best and it is when this anime is at its weakest.

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In between these two sequences we get a mixed bag of an episode with the part registering at the adventurer’s guild and taking on a quest. There’s some lighter moments like when Diablo tries to play down the elf’s fear of a blood seal and then proceeds to slice his own thumb open leading to copious blood spray (wait, I was meant to be covering light moments), and then the magic mirror works quite well. Even the absence of fast travel or teleportation leaving Diablo to declare the game ‘BS’ was kind of amusing before we got a reasonably decent fight sequence considering how overpowered Diablo is (meaning, there’s really no opposition and just a one sided defeat with some extremely unfair magical attacks).  It isn’t great by any means, but it is actually kind of fun.

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The question most viewers will have to ask themselves is whether or not the excessive fan-service is a plus or a minus and whether they enjoy it or are willing to tolerate it for what seems like it will be a fairly average kind of show. For me, I’m probably sticking with this one but I’m not expecting it to exactly rank high on my list of anime from this year. And if the fan-service ends up increasing from this point, I will probably drop because the elf on the bed at the end of this episode is kind of my limit. And if you are looking for screencaps of the fan-service, I’m probably not going to be much help because I’m not taking those.

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Karandi James

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Visualist x 100!! – My Hero Academia Season Three: Episode 14

Season 3 may not have started with a bang but it took us where we needed to go and All Might is now officially retired. So as we move into the second cour with a new opening and a new direction, what does My Hero Academia have to offer us in episode 14? Kapodaco and I share our thoughts on this latest instalment.

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Karandi:

This is an episode that starts out feeling like a lot of exposition and talking heads, but by the end brings itself together in a meaningful enough way that it works. Once again though, this is an episode that will work much better in a marathon viewing session rather than as an individual episode as there’s a lot of standing around and talking and the kids once again working on their powers.

What does sell the episode, is Midoriya. All Might calls him out on the blatant imitation we’ve seen from him so far and gets him thinking about alternatives. Admittedly, for someone who has seemed to be as observant and cluey as Midoriya it takes him a long time to actually get the hint and it actually comes from an outside source before he finally figures it out, but it is an important character moment for him (much like when he did his internship and finally learnt ‘full cowling’.

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It is also good to see Iida, Midoriya, and Uraraka back together as it has been awhile since the three friends have actually just been able to be in the same sequence together without the rest of the group. It hadn’t actually really sunk in until this episode, but despite how close these three became in season one and some of the moments shared in season two, this season has had little of this grouping at all as the focus of the show has been elsewhere.

We do also get to see All Might moving firmly into the role of mentor and teacher now that his hero days are done. The transition is a little awkward for him, as you would expect, but small details like the book in his pocket, make it all kind of endearing.

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I definitely liked this episode more than the last one, I think it was an important transition point for the series and the characters and where they are going (I didn’t even mention that Bakugou is now more effective at blowing things up), but at the same time I still feel this anime is better when the stakes are real and it deals with real world consequences and this episode was kind of devoid of both so while there was fun to be had I still kind of feel like this is an intermission while I wait for things to get going again.

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Kapodaco:

I feel like I’m back in 2017, ‘cause this episode gave me serious season one vibes. Kids training on ultimate moves (something I feel should’ve been done earlier), kooky antics with Iida, Ochaco, and Midoriya, and Bakugo blowing stuff up! Again! Even the tone of the episode felt that way; not too serious, but enough to feel as though hero progress is being made from a number of students.

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But am I the only one who literally thought, first thing after Midoriya said “My arms are kind of ticking time-bombs right now,” “Why not just use your legs?” They try and make it into some big reveal at the end that Midoriya had never considered that alters his fighting style towards a different direction—which I get for the sake of distinguishing himself from All Might—but it’s so stupid. Why would you not immediately think “Can’t use my arms much. Let’s use my legs!” Midoriya saying “It was so simple I never considered it” is not an excuse. It’s really dumb.

That is, however, my biggest complaint of the episode, which seems pretty trivial to other criticisms I’ve had of this season’s run. I enjoyed the focus back to genuine development of powers, and there were certain things that were shown that would be interesting to see in future combat. Such as Tokoyami’s new ability to surround himself with his shadow for close-range combat. That’s pretty neat! Wonder if he could use that at night considering what occurred to him in the first six episodes. And of course, Bakugo’s already thought up seven-hundred ways to blow things up.

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For me, the highlight of this episode was Hatsume, despite the fact that the jokes attributed to her appearance (ahhhh, boobs and fondling) weren’t funny at all. I was actually kind of fascinated with her in the second season when she was “fighting” with Iida, so it’s exciting to know that we may see more of just what the hell is wrong with her. People don’t just get that self-absorbed and oblivious by nature (Right?). I wanna see some chance of development for her. That, and it’d be really cool to see if she could adequately improve the efficiency and sleekness of the heroes’ quirks/uniforms.

A solid episode, though not riveting. It was more a blast from the past, as it felt like these kids hadn’t been involved in a training session in forever. While still technically a downtime episode, it did introduce a number of things to look forward to for me. We’ll see how it goes going forward.

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Thanks for reading and be sure to check out Kapodaco’s blog next week when we review episode 15.

Summer 2018 Week 1

We’re starting the taste test for the season and so far I am extremely excited to be getting into some new shows. While I have no idea yet what I’m going to keep on my watch list or not, new seasons always come with new potential and just the thrill of knowing that something great might happen. That said, Summer so far is a little light on things I’m interested in trying. We’ll see how it goes once all the shows are out.

As always, I’d love to know what you have tried and what you’ve liked so far so be sure to leave me a comment below.

What I watched

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams (Episode 1)

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The heroine is called to a fantasy world (the Kingdom of Dreams) to awaken the princes and fight the evil dream eaters. It’s all very fairy tale like and the logic only works provided you just kind of nod and go with it, but if you happen to like that kind of thing it is decent. I guess I’ll see how it develops as there are some potentially interesting points.

Angels of Death (Episode 1)

Angel1eWaking up in a basement of a hospital without a memory is creepy enough without pleasant announcements telling you that the girl on the bottom floor is now going to be a sacrifice. This one has potential but outside of the setting has yet to really impress. It will be interesting to see how it develops over the next couple of episodes.

Banana Fish (Episode 1 – Not Reviewed)

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While there is plenty of room for this to go wrong, the first episode introduced us to a fairly intriguing world and some interesting characters. While the overall plot is still a little unclear, I’m actually pretty excited about this one. Unfortunately, due to where it is streaming, I won’t be reviewing.

Cells at Work (Episode 1)

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Okay, this first episode is flat out adorable. There’s no other way to explain it. The characters are cute and so earnest in their work, and at no point does it ever feel to slow paced or too silly. I did not know that watching blood cells could be this fun, and hopefully this anime know how to keep going like this because more would definitely be appreciated.

GeGeGe no Kitaro (Episode 15)

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GeGeGe No Kitaro is pretty consistent at what it delivers and while it isn’t amazing, it isn’t bad, particularly if you happen to like episodic yokai stories. Admittedly, the last couple of episodes have been pretty ordinary, but there’s still some fun to be had here. Hopefully they continue to find ways to make this set up interesting.

Holmes of Kyoto (Episode 1)

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Holmes of Kyoto has had a pretty unspectacular start but if you are after something low-key and you happen to be into antiques, this might suit you. Then again, I’m still kind of hoping the promised mystery aspect of the show actually appears given episode 1 was kind of devoid of anything even vaguely mysterious.

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord (Episode 1)

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I can’t help it. I like isekai stories. Even ones that start with a summoning gone wrong and two girls being enslaved by a fake demon lord. We’ll see if this one manages to do anything to distinguish it from the mass of other sub-par to average isekai stories out there, though so far it has managed to be at least average and there’s some potential for entertaining developments.

Island (Episode 2)

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Island might turn out be amazing or terrible and it will more or less be impossible to know until more is revealed. There’s all the usual ideas to set up a bit of a mystery but so far the execution has been relatively average. Also, the more cliche moments are very cringey. That said, it is intriguing and I’m kind of hopeful.

Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi (Episode 15 – Reviewed for Patrons)

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Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi remains pretty average though episode 14 was half-consumed by recap and episode 15 gave us a scene change in order to repeat a story-line so these last two episodes weren’t great. Still, average is a pretty good description of this anime and it remains pleasant and watchable while not great.

Phantom in the Twilight (Episode 1)

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I’m definitely on the fence with this one. I really quite enjoy stories with a supernatural focus, but I’m not entirely sure either the protagonist or the premise is really going to work out here. I could be wrong as there is definitely potential in the concept here but I’m very much going to wait and see.

Steins;Gate 0 (Episode 13)

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Steins;Gate 0 continues to not exactly be what I would like and to be honest it is playing out much like I would expect of a prequel/spin-off series. I’m just not that invested in what is happening. That isn’t aided by the fairly flat dialogue and what seems to be an ongoing lack of a clear focus. It isn’t bad, but a lot of what I like about it is sheer nostalgia.

Episode of the Week

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I’m pretty sure the first episode of Cells at Work is not the best episode that aired last week, but it was definitely the most surprisingly fun. I really enjoyed watching these two characters at work and I am looking forward to what they do next.

Character of the Week

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So far Rachel from Angels of Death hasn’t seemed to be quite so clueless as other protagonists might be. She hasn’t denied reality or stubbornly insisted things will be fine. We’ll see if she manages to maintain this as things go on.

Dropped or On Hold

  • Hanebado (Episode 1)
  • Harukana Receive (Episode 1)
  • Planet With (Episode 1)
  • The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar (Episode 1)
  • The Thousand Muskateers (Episode 1)

If you want to join in the conversation on Twitter be sure to follow along: Summer Anime 2018


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Karandi James

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Inquiring Minds Want To Know #25

A reminder, that if you would like to be involved, just answer the very simple survey here and I’ll consider your question for inclusion in this series of posts. You don’t have to answer the second question but if you leave your name and link I will link to your blog when I respond.

Question: How long does it take you to write reviews? Do you plan the content and/or structure ahead, or do you just “let it flow”?  From TSOG

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This question I need to split into two parts because episode reviews and whole series reviews are two different things.

Episode Reviews:

My episode reviews are incredibly reactionary. They are relatively short and mostly end up being drafted within twenty minutes of my first watch through the episode. However, as I do not post the same day – usually, the current My Hero Academia series is my shortest turn around yet – I have given myself time.

And in that time I rewrite, rephrase, remove rants, remove unnecessary details, sometimes go and rewatch the episode, and basically make sure the review says what I want it to say.

However, the let it flow approach is probably the most apt. Despite all the editing and rewrites, I tend to stay relatively true to the initial reactionary writings unless it is actually completely incomprehensible. But I find that is the best way to capture the true mood or spirit of the episode.

Series Reviews:

This is a whole other ball game and again split into two parts. Series reviews that I am writing immediately after a season has ended are much easier as I have all my notes and episode reviews to rely on as well as a myriad of screen caps to look back through. I usually write these reviews about a week after the final episode airs and then schedule it out whenever my next blank space in my review line up is (so could be several weeks later). These reviews are pretty straight forward and mostly I just let them flow.

There are times when I get stuck. Yuri on Ice was such a time and then I fell back on a plus/minus format because I couldn’t write a review. It just kept becoming this gushy love letter and a fan-girl squeal fest.

Still, these reviews are simply approached by noting the main points I came back to time and again while episode reviewing, figuring out what my main point is and whether I enjoyed watching the show or not, and ensuring that I’m being fair to the show because sometimes I don’t like things just because I don’t like them and there’s actually nothing wrong with the show itself (Tsuki ga Kirei). Same for sometimes when I like something just because I do and there’s nothing particularly good about the show (King’s Game).

Being fair doesn’t mean I don’t express my opinion, I just try to balance it with evidence and I do look for positives that other people might find in the anime even if I didn’t enjoy it as well as looking at the obvious flaws of something I quite enjoyed.

Reviews of older anime are usually even more planned out. I’m usually not in a position to fully rewatch these, though sometimes I plan a rewatch so I can review a particular title. These reviews are usually very planned out and I spend time reading through the episode synopses, reminding myself of key scenes, considering the character points I want to raise, and trying to figure out how much I can say before I just cross into blatant spoiler territory.

As to how long it takes to write a review… that entirely depends. Initial drafting of a 500 word review (give or take) usually only takes about ten minutes as long as I have a plan and have thought about what I’m going to say, no comment about how long that process might take sometimes. But then there are a lot of rewrites with full series reviews. Generally speaking, I’ll rewrite it two or three times in its entirety and certain sections may end up with up to five rewrites before I feel it is reasonable.

I’m just going to be thankful that I type fast so as long as I have a solid idea in mind, writing it out doesn’t take too long. It is getting the ideas together and then making sure I’m happy with how I’ve expressed it that takes all the time.

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I’d love to know from the rest of the community – what is your approach to reviews?


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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episodes 1 + 2: Fairy Tale Logic At Work

There’s something kind of fun about reliving a fairy tale even if it isn’t exactly thrilling. 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams is more of less what happens when you blend an otome game with a book of childhood fairy tales.

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Our heroine has no name and is only referred to at the Princess. She’s been summoned from another world (clearly ours) to awaken the sleeping princes. The only twist on this generic set up is apparently she was originally from the Kingdom of Dreams and was banished and they’ve simply brought her back. That would be a neat twist if she had any memory of it, but she does not and so we just have a fairly clueless girl getting dragged into a fantasy setting where she simply prays so that the Princes in the party can have a power up to defeat the dream eaters. Honestly, the heroine annoyed me to no end in this and the basic set up more or less assures us that she will do nothing of note throughout the series other than become the damsel in distress and occasionally show signs of grim determination to encourage those who follow her.

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The two ‘princes’ we meet in the first episode are a nice contrasting pair, though repeated dialogue is already wearing thin and we’re only two episodes in. We could definitely play a drinking game that every time Kiel says ‘probably’ we should take a drink and every-time Avi threatens to stab him we should take a drink and by the mid-way point of episode two I’m pretty sure even the most hardened drinkers might be falling off their chairs. The prince/princes introduced in episode 2 seem kind of interesting and I guess we’ll find out what’s going on with them in the next episode but given the title, I’m guessing we’re going to end up meeting a lot of guys as the story goes on (and why does every kingdom have a prince but there’s only one princess).

Navi, the ‘butler’ is also already a little on the annoying side and his repeated joke is to speak and surprise the other characters so that they exclaim that the stuffed animal spoke so that he can deny being a stuffed animal. Hilarious.

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The visuals go from being breathtakingly beautiful when they focus a lot of attention on a particular scene (such as the Princess using her magic) to being truly ugly when they seem to have taken a short cut with the animation. Characters running and sometimes talking look particularly hideous at times and some backgrounds are less complete than others.

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Despite all of that, if you enjoyed basic fairy tales as a kid, this is pretty much like walking through an extended fairy tale. Honestly, you could pick it apart really easily or you can just settle back and enjoy the ride. While the quality isn’t great, it isn’t unwatchable and I was kind of in the mood for it so despite all my complaints above I’m going to keep watching for a bit.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: The Power of Clichés, Archetypes, and Being Predictable

We all know about anime clichés, archetypes and tropes and we’ve all kind of come to accept that there are certain characters and events that we’re going to run into again and again. However, for some people, the existence of clichés and archetype characters who don’t break the mould are enough for them to scorn a show and turn away from it. They label it unoriginal or boring and might claim it offers nothing. And yet there are a lot of good reasons for stories not to go off script or venture into new waters.

That isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be nice occasionally for things to be changed up a bit or presented in a new way, nor is it excusing the lazy use of clichés for laughs in exchange for actually writing a story or considering the purpose of the characters but it does mean that just because something is entirely cliché does not mean it is bad just because it is. I think we need to consider the context and the execution (as well as which cliché it is because there are some clichés that individuals will accept more readily than others) before making up our minds.

It is kind of timely to visit this topic with so many new shows starting for the season. It is inevitable that first episodes will be riddled with clichés. And for those who consider that a death sentence on a story that is something you will have to accept.

Why?

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First episodes need to get their point across, set up what their tone is going to be, introduce characters and give the audience some impression of who they are, as well as do some basic world-building. And they need to grab the audience’s attention so there are going to be some bells and whistles thrown in. All of this in some twenty minutes. It is a lot to ask and while some shows put off some of these attributes for later episodes and choose to either focus on world building, tone, or characters rather than all of them in one episode, with the short attention span of viewers these days that’s a pretty risky move. That’s where clichés and archetypes come in.

Archetypes are recognisable and memorable. They also cut through a lot of explanations because people already know what is on offer. In a first episode a female character might come across as the ‘manic pixie girl’ and a male character might be ‘generic self-insert isekai protagonist’ but it instantly establishes where this character is starting and the tone the audience can expect. Depending on which character archetypes we have on display the audience can begin making predictions about the kind of narrative path we’re about to walk and what is on offer. They may have seen it before, but they haven’t seen this version, so as long as the quality of how things are being executed is there, or there is some reason to believe that things are going to get shaken up in future episodes, there’s no reason to dismiss something just because it seems like it might be similar to about a thousand other stories.

Cliche events and actions such as first meetings, finding a secret power, some sort of misunderstanding, and so on serve much the same purpose in these first episodes. They may not be terribly original but as long as they are presented with integrity, that isn’t a huge problem. The issue isn’t from the archetypes and clichés themselves, the issue comes from the lazy way these are sometimes rolled out.

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If we take a look at the current anime season on offer we might look at something like How Not To Summon a Demon Lord and begin with the take down criticism of it being horrendously unoriginal, derivative, and the same as about a million other stories. And certainly it isn’t exactly ground breaking as we’ve seen a player trapped in his in game character that is some sort of demon in Overlord, we’ve seen transported to another world about a million times, and a world based on a game fairly recently in Death March to a Parallel World Rhapsody. We’ve certainly seen ordinary socially awkward guy instantly surrounded by bunch of girls of various types who for whatever reason all end up in love with him (more times than I can count).

The set up is incredibly generic, and then the events in the first episode are incredibly cliche. We have more fan-service moments then I’d care to recount right at the moment, an obnoxious jerk who wants to teach the protagonist a lesson and consequently gets beaten down, and the cute girl who eats a lot. Then the main character who is so incredibly recognisable as a gamer with no social skills or ability to talk to other people without assuming some sort of in game role (No Game No Life and about a million others).

All of this might be enough reason for some anime viewers to pass on this show entirely and I’ve certainly seen a fair number of reviewers who have thrown all isekai offerings this season into a basket and if that basket had been more than just metaphorical they’d have set it on fire (much the same to how I feel about idol anime really). However, not all isekai anime are created equal and while episode 1 of How Not To Summon A Demon Lord certainly didn’t blow my socks off, it did a decent job of setting up a potential story of interest with characters that have most definitely started out as cookie cutter archetypes that we’ve seen before but they all have growth potential.

This is where it gets tricky. The anime now has a short window of time to convert viewers like me from ‘maybe’ into definitely following the show. While generic cliches and archetypes work well enough in first episodes to establish ideas, if the show doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to do anything more than walk the well tread path of other stories, or worse, it has established the characters and then it leaves them exactly where they are, then the show becomes utterly deserving of the criticism of being unoriginal, derivative and not worth the time. But a first episode isn’t enough to make that judgement.

Though episode 2’s opening act with Diablo waking up with his hands on the boobs of both of his female companions probably indicates where this show sees character development.

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While comparing first episodes I’m really looking at How Not To Summon a Demon Lord or The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar to add to this season’s watch list (but not both because even I draw the line on isekai at some point). At the moment How Not To Summon a Demon Lord is slightly edging out The Master of Ragnarok for the simple reason that I had more fun with the first episode and the potential story set up looks like it will have a better pay off. Also, cool explosion (sorry, deep down I’m six years old and I know it) and the reference was cool even though I never watched the anime being referenced (memes do wonders for filling in context sometimes). The Master of Ragnarok didn’t get an immediate skip though because despite the overly harem qualities, the overt sex jokes, and every other poor generic idea this genre likes to throw at us, it does have the slight intrigue of not being another world but potential the past earth and the protagonist isn’t just arriving, he’s already there and established. It gives it just enough points of interest to earn a second episode consideration despite all the flaws with the first episode.

Regardless of which isekai I end up watching, the point that clichés and archetypes aren’t all bad can be made pretty clearly through an anime that also aired recently, Cells at Work. Outside of the concept that the characters are all anthropomorphic cells doing jobs within the body, there’s really nothing particularly original about the first episode. While AE3803 might be a truly adorable red blood cell, she’s your stereotypical naive and shy girl on her first day at work. She’s confused, she gets lost, after a chance encounter with a guy who saves her she literally clings on to him as he shows her around before he saves her again. If we took out the fact that they are blood cells, it is pretty much the script of any romantic comedy anywhere or even an action flick (actually, take out first day on the job and we’ve more or less got Temple of Doom working here).

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Yet most viewers would agree that Cells at Work presents itself in such a way that it feels original, fresh and entertaining. The change in setting and the clever way that is integrated into plot and character development allows them to execute a fairly ordinary and familiar story in a way that people appreciated and enjoyed. Something isekai stories might start doing if every ‘other world’ wasn’t generic fantasy land type B (why are no other worlds ever technologically advanced or just completely different from anything we’re familiar with – pseudo-medieval settings have been done to death, move on).

As a reviewer, I’m not above calling something cliche or generic, but at the same time, that isn’t reason enough for me to condemn a story and stop watching. As a fantasy/horror/action/sci-fi fan (in movies) I am well used to seeing very familiar characters and plots time and time again. What I want isn’t something that reinvents the wheel or revolutionises story telling; what I want is a quality story with a purpose and passion behind it that lends integrity to the work. Though that also might be asking too much sometimes and maybe I should just stick to wanting to be entertained for twenty minutes because that is something I’m more likely to achieve.

Alright, over to the readers. What do you think about the use of generic plots, tropes, cliches and archetypes and what do you think about the start of the Summer anime season? Be sure to leave me a comment letting me know.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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