Cheer Boys Episode 4

Review:

There’s something to be said about a show that just goes about it’s business quietly. Cheer Boys has a likeable cast of boys slowly learning the ropes of cheerleading. Some of them have personal baggage, they don’t always get along, and they sometimes don’t succeed. Otherwise, it’s just your usual never give up and keep trying anime with a power of teamwork motif thrown in because that’s what these shows do. Haru’s fear of heights has been coming for awhile so it wasn’t a particularly stark revelation and the boys watching an experienced team train and realising their current limitations was a kind of necessary next step. This show is pleasant, amusing, doesn’t fall into the so little tension it is dull category, and continues to entertain but it isn’t particularly exciting.

Cheer Boys is available on AnimeLab.

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Taboo Tattoo Episode 4

Review:

This is the show that just keeps becoming more and more generic and flat. While initially it was interesting enough, if not particularly original, it doesn’t seem to know what to do with any of the characters or ideas other than throw them at one another so that they can have various conflicts. They may eventually get onto something that may look like character development or even an interesting storyline but at the moment it is simply an us versus them deal with both sides spouting various pompous nonsense about their reasons for fighting and getting outraged when it is their comrades who’ve been hurt. And what was with the random boob grope in this episode? Did that serve any purpose?

I’d like to declare this dropped but I know I’ll probably start the next episode just to see if it can improve.

Taboo Tattoo is available on Crunchyroll.

Twin Star Exorcists Episodes 13 – 15

So, I dropped this. Really, I did. And then I was looking for a distraction to avoid doing work and thought I’d just check out one more episode and ended up watching all three of the episodes that I hadn’t seen. I don’t know if it got better or if taking a break was what I needed, or maybe it is just that this show works better in chunks than in single episodes, but I had a lot more fun with it than I remembered.

That said, there are still a lot things I don’t like about this show. So 3 episodes means 300 words, I’m sure that’s how it works.

Episode 13 finishes the fight that Benio started with that really strong guy (apparently a Basara, whatever). Rokuro and Benio combine their powers and summon a really big sword that doesn’t actually kill the thing but amuses him enough that he decided to walk away and pick up the fight once they’re stronger.

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Episode 14 you could probably pass on entirely as it is a flash back filled episode with limited new content. However, given I’d taken a few weeks away from this show I actually appreciated some of the reminders here.

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The episode 15 starts out fairly frivolously before deciding to remind us once again that exorcism is dangerous (oh, and that everyone in the higher chain of command is a complete and utter jerk).  I did however like the break from Benio and Rokuro’s love life as we instead got to watch Ryougo maybe get a life.

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The show also got a new opeing sequence and the images are definitely playing up the trauma for the characters and Benio’s companion thing is just as irritating as ever.

All things considered, not as bad as I remember it being when I decided to drop it, but still not rushing to pick this back up again. I may wait until there’s another group of episodes for me to binge watch as that definitely seems to work better for me.

Twin Star Exoricsts is available on Crunchyroll.

 

Cute High Earth Defense Club Love Episode 4

Review:

And I’m done here as well.

I really didn’t think this show had a second season in it and when the giant ball of hair monster caused the building to sprout hair I knew it was over. The thing is, Cute High was a parody of magical girls but once you’ve got the joke the show has nothing else. It isn’t satirical enough and doesn’t have enough independent identity to last beyond that joke. This episode shows that so clearly. I guess if you actually found the new villains entertaining maybe this could be working, but to be honest they just annoy me. So dropped.

Cute High Earth Defense Club Love is available on Crunchyroll.

Summer 2016 Week 4

It’s the end of week 4. This is kind of a tipping point because usually I won’t drop a show if I’ve gotten this far into it (that isn’t to say I won’t drop a show after this, but the likelihood is that I’ll just keep watching it and wondering why I didn’t drop it).

I’ve got 12 shows that I am still watching at this point with a number of shows hitting the dropped list this week. If anything else goes I may check out Amanchu or New Game, or maybe I’ll pick up something from my to watch list that I hadn’t got around to from previous seasons.

The categorised format continues this week and there’s some movement after last week.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the season below.

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I Must Keep Watching

My favourite show so far this season is definitely Alderamin on the Sky. Yes, it could still fall back on the generic fantasy tropes and go nowhere but while it isn’t going out of its way to be flash and amazing, it has some really solid character and world building in the first few episodes and even the cliché going to military school thing has worked pretty well. I’m really hoping this show succeeds for the whole season and doesn’t drop the ball but at the moment it is definitely my pick.

This week Days has moved up to the I Must Keep Watching category. I’ve been loving this show since episode 1, but the whole sports anime thing was keeping me from committing. However, endless charm from the characters has kept me smiling through ever episode so it’s time I just admit I’m hooked.

I also moved Tales of Zestiria the X up to this category this week. I definitely was not won over by this shows ‘prologue’ and the first episode, while better was still all introduction. Episode 2 improved and this third episode feels like this show is finally moving and I’m now caught up in the story. That said, I’m perfectly willing to assume that it can take another nose dive in a few episodes but for now I would be seriously put out if I missed an episode of this show.

Orange stayed exactly where it was. It is neither getting better or worse but I’m finding it just one of those easy to watch shows where events kind of roll along. The ongoing in your face foreshadowing of potential darkness keep it from falling into the too slow or going nowhere categories at this stage so I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride even while the protagonist frustrates me.

If I’m honest, The Morose Mononokean probably took the biggest dive this week in enjoyment from these titles. It wasn’t actually bad, but this episode was definitely less impressive and by the numbers from a plot point of view and I didn’t feel the same sense of wonder and interest that I did in previous episodes. Not enough to drop to the next category but definitely on notice.

D Gray Man also fell a bit this week due to my dislike of the portrayal of the Millenium Earl. I still really enjoyed watching the episode but I was definitely picking more faults this week than in the previous episodes.

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Still On My Radar

Yeah, Food Wars fell to this category. While I am still enjoying the show, if I didn’t watch anymore it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Honestly, I feel that I could just skip the rest of this tournament and pick the show up after we aren’t doing endless loops of cook offs and I’d probably enjoy it more again. But 4 episodes in a row of cooking duels and I’m feeling that this is like Asterisk War only without the cool flames.

91 Days I also moved down here mostly because while it is a well made show, I’m finding that my care factor for the revenge story is waning and it isn’t doing much else to interest me. Really, other than one revelation about who killed his family, this episode felt like pure filler and when the show was already moving slowly it really couldn’t afford to spend an entire episode wandering around the countryside.

Cheer Boys maintains it’s nice cheery self but isn’t really doing much more. If I compare it to the other sports anime I’m watching ‘Days’ I just am not as engaged with Cheer Boys. That said, it’s still pretty pleasant to watch.

And Momokuri just sat right where it was because it’s just doing more of the same. If you think Kurihara is excessively creepy you probably will drop this because the show really isn’t much more than her pursuit of Momotsuki.

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Not Dropped But Close

Hitorinoshita actually got better this week. I know, I was shocked as well. If it kept that up it would probably end up on the still on my radar rather than walking that knife’s edge of close to dropped.

Taboo Tattoo is standing on it’s last legs. I really didn’t like the episode this week and to be honest, I’m fast losing hope for this one becoming any more than an excuse to throw various dull characters into various by the numbers fight sequences.

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Dropped

  • Cute High Earth Defence Club Love (Ep 4)
  • The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi (Ep 4)
  • Sweetness and Lightning (Ep 4)
  • Danganronpa 3 (Ep 1)
  • Mob Psycho 100 (Dropped at Ep 1 – probably return to viewing later)
  • Servamp (Dropped at Ep 2 – might give it another go if I drop some others but not overly interested at the moment)
  • Rewrite (Dropped at Ep 2)
  • The Disasterous Life of Saiki K (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Ozmafia (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Scar-red Riders XechS (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Qualidea Code (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • First Love Monster (Dropped at Ep 1)

This week I added Sweetness and Lightning to the dropped list. It’s just too much cute and sweet and I just wasn’t enjoying watching it. Kind of like Flying Witch last season. There is nothing wrong with the show, I’m just not it’s audience.

Highschool Life of a Fudanshi was on the edge for awhile. I just don’t get the draw. The first episode was actually kind of amusing but since then it’s been flat and that would be fine if it was offering us something insightful or even vaguely interesting but it doesn’t seem to want to do that either. I’ve now let it drop.

And Cute High Earth Defence Club Love has finally allowed me to drop it by offering yet another episode that has nothing new to add.

Four weeks into the season; what are your thoughts?

Black Cat Series Review

Overview:

Train Heartnet is an assassin for Chronos. More importantly, he’s one of the numbers, meaning just mentioning the Black Cat kind of scares all sorts of people silly. However, his latest mission leads him to meet Saya and through meeting her he is changed. Soon Train joins up with Sven, a reasonably down on his luck Sweeper (bounty hunter of sorts), and Eve, who is some sort of weapon, and they begin working together while dealing with a whole lot of conspiracies and other world changing events.

Review:

It’s hard to know whether Black Cat is truly amazing or truly dreadful or somewhere between the two. It’s a lot of fun but there are an abundant number of flaws with this show that only become more pronounced during a rewatch. I’m going to start with the characters and then get on to the plot.

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

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

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

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

d41944927fa716c09463e71cc57d66b8So with Saya being dead for a great deal of the story, and Train having almost zero to add to characterisation within this show, who are we left with? For better or worse we are left with an entire cohort of characters (some of whom you will have forgotten even if you’ve watched the show). We have the other numbers and various other agents for Chronos. Then we have the Apostles of the Stars which is a group made by Train’s other fanboy and which ostensibly exists to wipe out Chronos but mostly just seems like a place for various crazy characters to assemble and have their hearts broken. Then we have the Sweeper alliance and all of the members therein. Plus the people they regularly fight in their work as sweepers. And those that hire them. And a waitress who seems to follow them from town to town.

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

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

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

Now onto plot.

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My problem with the plot is that it essentially has two separate storylines (either one of which would have been fine) crammed together and as a result it gets messy. Not complex. Both storylines are pretty simple, but the telling and delivery becomes overly complicated leaving both storylines feeling confusing and lacking.

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

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

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Crazy, delusional and deadly. Great combination in a villain without any real purpose other than to occasionally stir Train into actual action. Yeah, I am certain there were various motives and plot points explained but you leave the anime without remembering them, so whatever.

This plot carries through for most of the anime and works. And if that had been the only plot it would have been just fine.

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

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

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

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

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

Sweetness and Lightning Episode 4

Review:

So this show has been so adorably sweet and cute and I seriously just cannot take anymore right now. Last week an episode about apologising over a kids fight and this week a quest to feed a kid vegetables. riveting stuff, really.

I’m going to wrap this up because I won’t be continuing with this series. Sweetness and Lightning is a lovely show for an audience that is not me. Slice of life fans who like cute kids and doting parents will probably be thrilled to pieces but I’m out.

Sweetness and Lightning is available on Crunchyroll.

The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi Episode 4

Review:

And dropped.

Maybe once this whole thing is done and you watched the whole thing, it wouldn’t feel as tedious and pointless (it probably will) but this show isn’t particularly funny and it doesn’t really give you any insight into the character so there really isn’t anything left to watch this show for. While the dialogue between the two characters about relationships and whether official was better or not may have been amusing as part of another anime, as a stand-alone it just isn’t worth coming back to watch.

The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi is available on Crunchyroll.

Friday’s Feature – On Magical Girls (3/3)

Let’s wrap up this mini-series of posts (though I am definitely going to revisit the subject matter at some point because really nowhere near enough has been said). This week I want to look at exceptions within the magical girl genre and discuss the lack of an equivalent magical boy genre.

While there are a few modern exceptions, I actually want to look at a more classic ‘magical girl’ that kind of does things her own way, and that’s Sakura from Card Captor. And already I hear people saying she defines magical girl, what do you mean she’s an exception?

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True, she becomes a Card Captor after Kero recruits her to recapture the cards she let loose and it was more or less her destiny to release the cards in the first place and she fights an array of silly villains while wearing fairly ridiculous outfits using a magical wand to summon cards to fight for her, so it all seems fairly normal for the magical girl genre. However, there are a few distinctions.

Firstly, while her friends are most definitely dragged into the magical encounters Sakura has after becoming a Card Captor, with the exception of Syaoran Li, most of her friends do not have any power and don’t end up joining her back-up group. In fact, Sakura pretty much fights solo for most of the series, occasionally assisted/hindered by Li and offered moral support by her best friend Tomoyo. Furthermore, Tomoyo doesn’t end up being the victim of the week every other episode, unlike Molly (the magic free friend of Sailor Moon).

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Secondly, Sakura doesn’t transform into a magical girl. She always has her magic powers whether she’s in her school uniform or one of Tomoyo’s creations. Every single ridiculous outfit Sakura ends up in she changes into willingly (or at least because her best friend is trying to help in her own way and Sakura doesn’t want to hurt her feelings). So no magical girl outfit (and this right here could throw Card Captor’s right out of the genre entirely given how important transformation sequences are in other shows).

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Thirdly, Sakura defeats the escaped cards and then uses them to fight and capture other cards. These villains have no grand plan to take over the world. They’re magic cards that have escaped and are running wild. Mostly they aren’t working together or plotting anything. So no gloating villain sneering about how they will beat them next time. Instead, this is a fetch quest that got out of hand but serves as the background for Sakura’s growth as a human (even as her increased stash of cards makes her stronger).

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The last point I want to make is that Syaoran is both a rival and a love interest. He battles with Sakura to be the Card Captor, though eventually is forced to bow out of the fight which is when he takes on a far more traditional role. This is a refreshing role for a male character in a magical girl genre because he has his own strengths and agenda outside of saving the girl so she can save the world.

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I’d love to know your favourite exception in the magical girl genre so please share below.

Onto the lack of an equivalent magical boys genre. While there are definitely anime boys out there with magic (think Fairy Tail etc) these aren’t magical boy anime. Generally they are actions or dramas. They are fast paced and usually full of a large number of characters who the protagonists can fight with and support.

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Of course, if magical boys was a thing you would have to wonder who the audience would be? As Cute High Earth Defence shows, just putting boys in silly outfits and making them go through the motions of a magical girl anime isn’t exactly compelling viewing, and even if they played it straight it would be hard to take it seriously.

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As stated in part 2, a large part of the magical girl genre is about imparting messages about qualities that the audience should admire and work toward. These messages are already presented by male characters in shonen anime and a range of other avenues. One could almost argue that the magical girl genre exists only to fill the void that existed for strong female characters who fight villains. They used magic as a way to overcome the traditional stereotype of weaker female and then gave the protagonists admirable personality traits (even if these only developed throughout the series).

So do magical girl series still have a place for modern audiences when there are now plenty of other shows and media that present stronger females?

Definitely. This is a genre that filled a gap but also carved out its own niche and will continue to develop and grow with the modern audience. The success of shows like Madoka Magica clearly show that there is still a large market for the magical girl, even if she has evolved a bit from the shiny and sparkly days when all she had to do was spin around occasionally and wave a wand.

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That concludes this run of magical girl posts and I know I’ve barely touched the surface. Feel free to leave your comments, thoughts and suggestions below.

Orange Episode 4

Review:

I just have to say it: Naho is an idiot.

Other than that, I’m actually still really enjoying this show. It’s slow but the characters are refreshing and while it’s just one bit of teen drama after another (with a darker future for one of the teens thrown in our face at least once an episode) they aren’t being melodramatic. I’m kind of enjoying the steady pace and the relationships that are being revealed and developed.

Still, Naho is an idiot. She’s indecisive to the point of being painful and Kakeru couldn’t have been more obvious in this episode as she’s still clueless. What Kakeru finds interesting about her is a complete and utter mystery.

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.