Tales of Zestiria the X Season 2 Episode 7

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Review:

This episode kind of feels like it’s the episode for characters we haven’t really seen since season 1 to appear for no other reason than to remind us they exist. Okay, they might serve some purpose in the overall story but if so, the connections they are drawing this episode seem tenuous. Besides, it took me a fair while to remember some of these characters from season 1.

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Cool gun. Who were you?

That said, Alisha’s father really needs someone to give him a whack across the back of the head. You’re allowing your daughter to potentially be killed for what purpose? It is quite obvious the other guy is up to no good, he doesn’t even try to hide his ambition.

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Who does her hair and make-up while she’s in jail?

While I haven’t minded this series, the weak story and lack of focus is increasingly becoming a problem. When it feels like things should be getting clearer and more focussed it actually feels like the opposite is happening and that is frustrating.

Tales of Zestiria the X is available AnimeLab.


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elDLIVE Episode 7

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Review:

Well, we are no closer to figuring out what Misuzu’s fate is going to be, but this episode does offer some interesting moments. I get the feeling Dr Love is going to be a highly entertaining addition. He isn’t afflicted with ongoing stupidity like so many of the cast have been, and he really manages to nail those one-liners.

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The final parts of the episode, while significant from a story point of view I guess, aren’t really that fun to watch. Maybe if I were younger, the whole hope and believe in yourself message here might have struck a chord but mostly I was just worried I’d roll my eyes clear out of my skull. Still, there were definitely some good moments in this episode.

elDLIVE is available on Crunchyroll.


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Kaichou wa Maid-Sama Series Review

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Overview:

Misaki is the first female student council president at a school that used to be an all boys school but is now co-ed (with a very low female student population). She’s determined to reform the school and the boys in it and to encourage more female students. However, her family are quite poor so to help out she has a part time job working in a maid cafe and she does not want anyone from the school to know her secret. She’s managed to conceal it fairly flawlessly until Usui, one of the most popular boys in school, finds out.

Review:

This one is a fairly standard story with fairly standard characters and yet still manages to be a lot of fun (as long as you don’t think too much about any of it). We’re of course going well into cliché territory with the angry girl, the mysterious prince like guy, the maid cafe, the cross dresser, the delinquents, and pretty much any other stereotype you want to throw in to the scenario, yet at least this show managed to cover them with a bit of vibrancy and energy which made you feel like they were trying rather then just marching out a by the numbers script.

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Probably the weakest part of the story is the relationship between Misaki and Usui. While they have some truly adorable moments Misaki is just far too dense and Usui is just far too perfect at everything. Plus he continuously puts up with Misaki’s violent outbursts and just keeps hanging around regardless. This creates a number of issues. Misaki is at first built up as a fairly capable and independent character but by a third of the way through we seldom see her deal with any conflict on her own. Usui (either directly or indirectly) is the one actually solving issues, supporting her, or saving the day. The fact that Misaki usually gets the last word doesn’t take away the fact that she’s essentially the damsel in distress for the vast majority of the story. Also, Usui himself is originally shown as someone being continuously confessed to but by a few episodes in this aspect kind of vanishes from the story as well. The two characters just kind of revolve around each and fall into the pattern of Misaki encounters trouble (either real or something blown way out of proportion), Usui offers to help and is refused, Misaki then either fails to solve the problem or gets stuck over working, Usui does something either in the background or overtly, problem solved.

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That isn’t to say that they aren’t fun to spend time with, but they lack depth and anything interesting about them in the beginning is kind of written out of the by the mid-way point. Fortunately the show finds new and novel ways to mess up Misaki’s view of the perfect world she’s trying to create and so at least it doesn’t get too dull or repetitive.

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I will point out that Usui is very big on contact and at times it feels like he’s really cornering Misaki. Then again, given she’s studied akido, she probably could extricate herself from most of his advances if she really wanted to. Still, you might find one or two scenes a little uncomfortable.

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The support cast are fine. The other girls and guys at school have very little in the way of distinguishing personalities (even the three idiots who end up frequenting the cafe), but they serve the purpose as a background to Misaki’s various problems. The other maids at the cafe are a little more distinct but are still decidedly one note. The students from the rival school are also one note but at least serve the purpose of making you hate them. Misaki’s family are odd and in a way that is never explained or explored which feels like wasted potential really. So fine, but fairly forgettable.

I do have issues with the opening. That song is really grating and loud. It might not be so bad for others but I really found myself reaching for the skip every time an episode started.

There isn’t much else to say. There’s some funny moments, some touching moments, and some moments that just fall flat. If you like a standard kind of rom-com with okay characters but good pace and reasonable writing you should find something to enjoy here.


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Haikyuu Episodes 14 + 15

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Review Episode 14:

Okay, I know I’m not a big fan of them doing nothing but playing volleyball for a whole episode, but when we get an episode like this where other than a very brief training sequence we have no volleyball, suddenly I realise how much better this show is when they are playing a game. That isn’t to say there weren’t some amusing interactions between characters as they go about preparations for the upcoming tournament and it good to see they are planning new strategies and aren’t just hoping Hinata being a crazy person will somehow win their way through. Probably the best part of this episode was seeing Yamaguchi actually take some initiative. I don’t know that it is going to help at the moment, but he’s been such a non-entity in this show so far that I was starting to wonder why he was even introduced. It will be nice to see him take some action.

Review Episode 15:

I kind of figured this out. The reason this show works better when they are playing is because the characters come to life once they are all on the court. While they have some good moments off the court, there is always a bit more hesitation and just less personality. Once they start playing everything just clicks and its a reasonably enjoyable experience watching the game unfold even though I’m still not really interested in the sport they are playing. While we only saw the first three points of this game, already we can see how the team have changed during their time training and I really look forward to the next episode.

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Haikyuu is available on AnimeLab.


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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Movie Review

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Overview:

Based on the games, Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft as she raids tombs? Not really. She finds a device hidden inside a clock that apparently is some big deal and some ancient cult have been trying to track down forever. What follows are a bunch of action set pieces before she kind of joins forces with them to find out what will happen when they get the fancy triangle all assembled and then some more action set pieces.

Review:

I love action films and I particularly love action films that don’t have the only female character being a damsel in distress. I also was a massive fan of the Tomb Raider games growing up (though I was not great at playing them because half the time I couldn’t figure out the difference between walls I could climb, rocks I could pull, or holes in the ground that I was about to fall down – the graphics, while awesome for the time, left much to be desired). So when this film came out in 2001 I really wanted it to be amazing.

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What I got was a reasonably decent if generic action movie, a product of its time, and while there were enough stylistic nods to the character designs of the game, the actual plot left a little bit to be desired. I did enjoy watching Tomb Raider but part of me always laments the ‘what could have been’ part of this film.

The list of concerns starts with Angelina Jolie as the titular Lara Croft. I was so excited when I saw she was going to take on this role. After seeing her performance in Girl Interrupted I was sold on the idea that Angelina could breathe life into a video game character who might be memorable but not so much for her personality (though she does deliver some good one-liners). Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened. Instead we see Angelina working very hard at looking tough or pouty and that is more or less the extent of Lara’s emotional range in this film. I get she’s meant to be a strong female character who is capable of taking on the guys but some more nuanced expressions might be nice. The closest we got was Lara laughing during a fight sequence in a way that I guess was supposed to show us just how tough she was because she could laugh while bullets flew everywhere.

Even if we accept that Angelina actually played Lara pretty much the way Lara is presented in most of the games we have the script itself. While some lines hit their mark such as Lara’s, “I’ve always found your ignorance quite amusing” others just land flat on the floor and then sit there while the characters kind of wait for the next thing to happen. “It’s a clock. It ticks. It’s wrong.” Thanks for pointing that out.

Then we have the action itself. Sometime in the late 1990’s, somehow people got it into their head that an action movie is made by coming up with a number of action scenarios with major set pieces and cool choreography, throw in some quick cuts and quirky camera angles, and then you can just kind of run them all together with some generic dialogue and call it a plot.

I’d point back to Terminator and Die Hard. These films got action right. They had an excellent core to their stories that was simple and yet drove every event that followed. Terminator, was simply “kill Sara Connor”. Right from the start, that’s what we were aiming for. Every action sequence had something to do with either achieving that goal or preventing it. Die Hard had terrorists in a building. “Stop the terrorists from killing the hostages.” It’s simple and yet gives meaning to every action scene in the film.

Tomb Raider starts with a massively over the top action sequence against a robotic adversary that is revealed at the end of the sequence to be just part of Lara’s training regime. It is a cool sequence, don’t get me wrong. But what do we learn? Do we know what the story is? Is Lara’s ability to hang upside down going to be useful later? Hey, I would even accept that somehow this film is going to be about the robot running amok. But, no. That isn’t the case.

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Instead, we go from this action sequence to some exposition about a planetary alignment (ooh) and then Lara has weird dreams which somehow lead her to find the ticking clock in her mansion (through some property destruction that seems to only exist to show how little regard Lara has for her own wealth). Follow this with a motorbike sequence (she’s awesome, she motorbikes) and so on. Admittedly, she does ride the motorbike in her mansion later for some reason. Blast out a massively overblown soundtrack and presto action movie of the early 2000’s here we are.

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Again, this doesn’t take away from any one of the action set pieces. There are some incredibly interesting enemies (if slightly unbelievable) and the setting changes so regularly you can’t possibly complain about the variety. It just makes it difficult to care about the outcome of any particular sequence when as an audience we’ve really been given no reason to care.

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Before I wrap up, I do want to touch on the ‘villain’ of the piece. While he has the right amount of slime going on with his dialogue delivery and his lines are about as good as you could expect given the rest of the dialogue, I just don’t think he ever presents enough of a threat to actually make this seem like anything more than Lara goes on a fetch quest while things get shot.

That said, I did enjoy this film. It is great like so many generic action movies for sitting back with some snacks and switching off. You’ll get a few laughs and the fight sequences are worth watching. Will you get anything more than that? Probably not.

If you watched Tomb Raider what did you think?


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Iron Blooded Orphans Episode 43

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Review:

After so many episodes of talking and set-up we finally know what this has been heading towards. The problem is, that it isn’t such an awesome reveal. In point of fact it’s pretty lame. One three hundred year old machine and Fareed thinks he can take on the world.

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I guess the only question left is with Tekkadan stick with this guy until the end or will they also fall out with him once they really his plan is bonkers? Or worse, will he actually succeed? That would be depressing.

That said, we do get a lovely and dramatic return including a line that makes no logical sense but is great for an over the top stage quote, complete with pose.

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There were a few of these moments in this episode. Mikazuki letting the wrapper fly out of his hands just as Orga says they had something in their grasp was another incredibly subtle Gundam irony. For all that the first season of Orphans did a few things we haven’t really seen in Gundam before, the latter half of that season and all of season 2 has pretty much fallen back into the traditional patterns and I’ve become increasingly less engaged with the story as we’ve gone because everything that made the characters interesting has gradually been removed.

It isn’t terrible its just increasingly not really my thing.

Iron Blooded Orphans is available on AnimeLab.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 5

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Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

There’s not a huge amount I want to say about Chapter 5. The events continue on logically from where we left off though it is unclear whether Yoon Bum’s illness is definitely caused by ingesting rat poison or whether Sangwoo had switched out the bottle contents, just like it is unclear why Sangwoo seemed to suffer no ill-effect from the meal. Though, it hardly seems to matter given what is important in this chapter is the back story we’re finally given on Sangwoo.

It’s not a complete picture or even overly detailed but the short scene we see of his father explains so much.

For all that Killing Stalking is definitely using sensationalised violence and sexual tension as a drawing card, underneath what I’m finding is that this world feels really, tragically real and the two characters are believable in their own messed up ways. While not every child who grows up a victim of domestic abuse becomes an abuser, in Sangwoo’s case his desire for emotional and physical control show clear parallels to the behaviour modelled by his father, only taken to an extreme form.

While I guess the fans who were hoping for these two to become a couple will probably appreciate the interaction toward the end of the chapter it seemed like a really bizarre time for that scene. As Yoon Bum pointed out, he smelled like vomit. And he was covered in sweat. And it wouldn’t have been difficult for Sangwoo to carry him into the bathroom prior. Also, did we hear the cries of another victim in the house during this chapter or was Yoon Bum a little delirious?

What was made clear, other than a motivating factor for Sangwoo, is that Yoon Bum is not over his fascination with Sangwoo despite everything he’s been through and that makes you wonder just what else has happened to him in his life that he is clinging so incredibly desperately to this one, deeply flawed, human being.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Use of Phones in an Anime

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We’ve all seen anime characters using their phones. Whether they are flip phones or the more recently prolific smart phones, characters do love their phones. My list today looks at 5 interesting uses of phones in anime (okay, four interesting uses and one use that just worked well with the story). These are the uses that stood out to me and felt like they were fairly integral to the story. Please feel free to add your favourite use of phones in an anime in the comments below.

For patrons, today I’m counting down 5 uses of questionable technology. Be sure to check out my patreon.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mention to Haganai for having two characters who both owned phones being completely unable to use them.

Number 5: Yuri on Ice

This is the one that I said wasn’t all that interesting but worked well with the story. All the way through Yuri on Ice the characters used their phones to update where they were, take and post pictures and video and generally stay in contact. It was nice to see these characters simply using phones as part of their everyday rather than having them as a gimmick or an add on. Plus, the camera rolls and videos stored on the characters phones were used for a fairly significant plot reveal toward the end of the series which would have seemed really lame if we hadn’t seen the characters using their phones all the way along.

Number 4: Mirai Nikki

Yes, future diary. I still don’t know why anyone would keep a diary on their phone but it is the basis for this anime that sets up a death match between diary users and each diary is given a power based on whatever the person was using the diary for. Our main character was recording everything that happened around him but not a thing about himself so his diary shows him the future for everything around him. Good thing his stalker/girlfriend was recording everything about him.

Number 3: Steins;Gate

Who wants to send a text message and change the past? Well, hopefully no-one after seeing the mess it got these characters into. It probably would have been better if they’d had a clue how they’d managed to accomplish building a time machine that could send text messages but even then they probably would have still gotten into the mess by changing world-lines and then having to essentially undo every single change.

Number 2: Noragami

Alright, the phone aspect isn’t very big in this one but I like that a god has been reduced to spraying his number all over town and that he can teleport to the person who has called him. During the first season at least this was one of the many ways this story was made to feel modern. The second season kind of loses a bit of this and that is probably to the show’s detriment.

Number 1: Eden of the East

It absolutely had to be. Phones given to a group of selected individuals with a large amount of money on it and charged with saving the country. What could possibly go wrong? I think it is the operator on the other end who is more extraordinary given pretty much any request can be answered provided they still have enough money. If it wasn’t for the deadly consequences of participation this would very much be the best phone on this list to have. Aside from the Selecao’s phones though the other characters use their phones to connect and interact. Removing the phones, Eden of the East does not work as a story.

And that’s my list this week. What do you think about phones in anime?


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Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas

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Review:

It really feels like other than Shuza, nobody in this world had ever considered any other way of fighting the black king other than Yuri. With Yuri getting taken over the sorcerers, the holy queen, and even Yuri’s friends are all kind of at odds and not really knowing what to do. Shuza on the other hand just seems to want to take over the world and to be honest I’m not sure how he’s any better than the black king (you know, other than having a personality and a bit of flair on screen).

However, this does clear the stage for Aram to step up and he does in the best way you could expect given how new he is to this whole idea of working with others. Not a lot else happens this episode but it was a solid follow up to last week.

Chain Chronicle is available on Crunchyroll.


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Interviews with Monster Girls Episode 7

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Review:

There were some good moments and some information about how society is adjusting to demis in this episode. Sprinkled in amongst some incredibly lame or dull moments. Is it really necessary for Hikari to be unable to provide a simple description of a person? Is it actually necessary for Sakie to deliver this self-aware gem that just fell completely flat in the conversation given there was really no reason for it:

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Was there any reason for the younger detective at all and his wall jumping attack? These things distracted and added nothing.

Also, the ending of this episode might be seen as sweet by some but I just found it slightly gag worthy. Yes, you two smoking men can protect all the female demis with your good intentions just because you are male. No way could they possibly sort out their own issues without you. Okay, I’m projecting my own issues into my interpretation but I just found this whole scene distasteful.

That said, let’s end on a positive. I absolutely loved Sakie’s reaction when she tried to rationalise her own feelings. They kind of nailed the execution by providing an external monologue of exactly what happens in your head when you try to rationalise something as irrational as romance.

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So, this episode didn’t do much to sell me on the show but it didn’t make me drop it so on we go to next week.

Interviews with Monster Girls is available on Crunchyroll.


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