Kiss Him, Not Me Episode 4

Review:

I have to wonder at this point how long the boys are going to just allow themselves to be dragged around. No matter how cute Kae is after losing weight (an issue in and of itself), the fact that these boys will apparently put up with anything in order to stay around her is getting just a little bit old. That said, this episode probably brought out the first real sense of a friendship forming between the group of boys and with Kae. That was probably the best thing about the episode. The introduction of the obvious girl who they think is a guy worked well enough but hasn’t added anything other than a yuri element, which I guess might broaden the appeal of the show but overall it wasn’t a particularly interesting development.

Kiss Him, Not Me is available on Crunchyroll.

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Lostorage Incited WIXOSS Episode 4

Review:

Hanna is fast becoming one of my favourite characters even though at times her stilted speech pattern seems really affected and a little bit silly. Her inclusion in the story kind of balances out the tragic friendship tale brewing between Chi and Suzuko.

On that note, this week we met the Bookmaker and he is one creepy character. The fact that he isn’t a Selector and therefore not tied into the game against his will just makes him even more loathsome as he seemingly gets off on the desperation of others and while he doesn’t promise them an easy match he certainly implies that a Selector has hope when they do not. Plus, his threat to Hanna and Suzuko may have been a joke but they can’t ignore the fact that it is possible he’ll work to block them from finding matches on their own which given the time limit on their coins would be a real issue.

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As the episode title suggested this week, Chi and Suzuko reunite but it is all a little bit too late. Chi is quite clearly  a little bit broken after the emotional damage she took in episode 2.

All and all, this is a great episode and progresses the plot nicely (if by nicely you read that the writers are working very hard at stomping on any glimmers of hope a character may find). Thoroughly enjoyable though no actual information is given about what the end game might be. This is all character focussed and the game of WIXOSS remains as inscrutable as ever.

Lostorage Incited WIXOSS is available on Crunchyroll.

In Case You Missed It

Finally got to the end of the biggest week I’m going to have for a long time. No more real world commitments outside of work for awhile. They are tiring. Anyway, this week I didn’t get around to as many blogs as I would have liked but here are some posts I came across when I did have some time. As always, feel free to add links to great posts below.

Lethargic Ramblings weighed in on the subs vs dubs argument in a post called There’s Nothing Wrong with English Dubs. It’s an interesting read as it looks at personal preference while deconstructing the arguments against dubs.

Mr Flawfinder on Standing on My Neck writes a fairly interesting piece asking When Have Visual Novel Anime Ever Been Good?. I will put a language warning on this post, but it is an interesting read and constructs an interesting argument.

WeeaboOtaku shares a review of 91 Days. They give us a nice look at some of the positives and negatives of the series.

Hyper Reviews Anime has a great write up about Izetta and its strengths and some of the weaknesses that this series has had with its writing so far. It is a thoughtful reflection on the story so far and well worth having a read of.

Morgoth from Otakuness has an interesting review of the first three episodes of Flip Flappers. I liked how much thought they had given this series and its initial premise and delivery. Well worth checking out.

Atelier Emily has a post about Yuri on Ice and the use of social media. They’ve been paying a lot more attention to the end credits than I have and this post is an interesting look at the characters that’s a bit different from the thousands of other Yuri on Ice posts floating around. If you would like to further your obsession, check it out.

Another Yuri on Ice post but this one from Takuto’s Anime Cafe that looks at the difference between Eros and Agape and by default looks at the differences between the two Yuri’s.

CSRadical on Radical Rants has done a character spotlight on Ikta Solork. I really enjoyed watching Alderamin on the Sky last season and Ikta was probably the main draw so this is an interesting revisit on a character I found intriguing.

NEETaku shares a rant on The State of Anime where they raise some legitimate points about some of the trends in anime. It’s a great read and will probably make you smile even while you think about the industry and where it is going.

Lastly, Arria Cross from Fujinsei discusses “The Correct Way to Write Anime/Manga Reviews?” and as always gives us a very amusing read.

That’s it from me this week but I’m always open to suggestions.

Flip Flappers Episode 4

Review:

They really are pushing the Alice in Wonderland theme at times and the inclusion of a tea drinking scene and the design of Papika’s ‘house’ just kind of reinforced that this episode. Of course, they are also pushing all and any symbolism to do with illusion and the idea of two things being one. At least the symbolism and themes are consistent as the story is all over the place and the pace doesn’t know whether it is going full speed or just chilling by the side of the road. This episode hit us hard with the cliché of two characters being asked to live together before the opening theme had even played but then managed to breathe some life into the trope when we see Papika’s house and then the girls go on a bit of a trip (and for once not into Pure Illusion although we’ll clearly be heading there next episode). I’ve decided now that I’m definitely wanting to know where this show is going. Other than the still images we get of the school and other students from time to time as transitions, it’s pretty and vibrant and while the story is still fairly ambiguous there’s enough cohesion to enjoy going for a ride with these characters.

That said, I’m really hoping Yayaka (or whatever her name is) has a better goal than world domination.

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Girlish Number Episode 1

Overview:

Chitose Karasuma wants to be a successful voice actress (or at the very least wants to be popular) and after getting only minor roles suddenly gets offered a main part.

Review:

This is one of those oddly self-aware stories that come up from time to time where we critique an idea by showing everything that could possibly be wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with that as a set up for a show but it has been done. My issue with this is that Karasuma is desperate to be in the industry so while she’s judging the events and characters during the first episode she’s nowhere near as critical or as scathing as she might be if she was content to remain on the outside of this very odd little world of voice acting. That said, it’s certainly interesting and with a firm grounding in reality and a lot of cynicism this show is standing apart from most the others I’m following at the moment. That said, I’ll probably do periodice catch-ups rather than week to week reviews with this one.

Girlish Number is available on AnimeLab.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go Episode 4

Review:

Part two of Natsume dealing with Matoba was great but as always when Matoba gets involved we get a lot of questions without answers and I wonder just what was in the letter. Both Natori and Matoba know and Natsume is in the dark as always and given the overall theme this season of finding out about Natsume’s grandmother, I’m super curious if there is some connection. That said, even the episode itself acknowledged the similarities between this situation and a previous season’s episode and it almost felt as if dealing with the yokai was merely an excuse to bring these characters together. Plus, how foolish are the rest of the exorcists. They seem to exist only to make ridiculous exclamations and to get in the way. Not complaining overall, mind you, because it was as interesting a watch as ever and I’m glad Matoba was only wearing the suit for a meeting because it just doesn’t suit his character. But, I just felt that they could have pushed this storyline a bit further. Looking forward to the next episode.

 

Autumn 2016 Week 4

Week 4 and hasn’t this been fun? And look, Bungo Stray Dogs gave us a series final 4 weeks in. Not really, but it felt that way while watching it. Anyway, some shows have delivered and others have simply spat out another episode, but here are my thoughts on what I’m watching.

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

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I Must Keep Watching

  • March Comes in Like a Lion (Ep 3)
  • Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep 4)
  • Bungo Stray Dogs (Ep 16)
  • Yuri on Ice (Ep 4)
  • Izetta: the Last Witch (Ep 4)

March Comes In continued to deliver an interesting experience though now that we’ve gotten used to the visuals and we’ve met the core group of characters there wasn’t really anything new presented this week. As I’m not the biggest slice of life fan, even though this still has excellent quality, there is a good chance of me getting bored with it if the next couple of episodes don’t deliver a bit more meat.

While Natsume Yuujinchou Go is every bit as amazing as I wanted it to be objectively the two part episode didn’t deliver quite enough meat and overall this season it is still feeling like it is setting things up. This means most of the individual stories (because it is usually pretty episodic in nature) have felt incomplete as they all seem to be laying groundwork for something else. That’s kind of a new feel for the show as previous seasons have made the individual stories more or less independent with only a few overall connections. This isn’t a bad thing by any means but it is an adjustment to make while watching.

Bungo Stray Dogs… I hope you are not peaking early and I hope that the time jump next week doesn’t mean everything we’ve been watching is just going to get swept away. First four episodes this season were amazing. Really worried about what comes next.

Yuri on Ice really impressed me with episode 4. From an event point of view not a lot happened because we were prepping for future events. We can compare this to Izetta’s episode 4 which was doing much the same thing only Yuri on Ice did it in a much more fluid and entertaining fashion while making us love the characters more.

Izetta: The Lasst Witch gave us a fairly ordinary episode but it did finally provide some much needed explanation about how magic is going to work or not in this story and a lot of this was set up for future events. That said, next week will need to do some serious work or this one is going to drop to just on my radar rather than a must watch.

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Still On My Radar

  • Days (Ep 16)
  • Iron Blooded Orphans (Ep 28)
  • Lostorage Incited WIXOSS (Ep 3)
  • Flip Flappers (Ep 4)

Days delivered a significantly more interesting episode this week with some real tension within the team and between teams. That and Tsukamoto has finally developed something resembling a style for playing soccer. Maybe this can recover from the mid-season low and return to a must watch.

Iron Blooded Orphans has not changed. It’s just doing what it does. This week was all fight sequence and that’s okay but it isn’t going to improve my opinion of the series and it was done well enough to not damage my opinion.

Lostorage Incited WIXOSS didn’t pack quite the punch this week but did reveal the end (or what it means to disappear) to Suzuko. Overall, this series has been entertaining but without knowing the end game or being particularly invested in the card matches themselves, it isn’t going to become a must watch.

I’ve moved Flip Flappers up this week. While the story is still a little lacking in cohesion and explanations, I’ve decided there’s enough substance and enough consistency thematically in this show to make it worth the gamble and besides it’s really pretty and kind of fun to watch. If it actually manages to nail an ending I may move this up to a must watch but from an episode point of view its still a bit lacking.

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Not Dropped But Not Sold On These

  • Trickster (Ep 4)
  • Kiss Him, Not Me (Ep 3)
  • Bloodivores (Ep 4)
  • Nazotokine (Ep 4)

Trickster isn’t getting any better. It isn’t getting worse either but it is giving me no reason to care about the events. Its kind of the pleasant diversion for when you aren’t really in the mood to do anything. It isn’t bad by any means but neither is it particularly interesting and even leaving us in a cliff hanger situation didn’t really make me overly excited for next week.

Kiss Him, Not Me is about at generic as it comes while putting a reverse harem front and centre with a female who isn’t interested in any of the guys but won’t just tell them to go away. That said, I doubt I’ll drop it but neither am I particularly entertained by it.

Bloodivores continues to make what seems like it would be exciting on paper feel like a drag to watch. That said, it isn’t getting any worse and it is actually developing some plot points.

Nazotokine continues to stumble along. It is kind of just doing exactly what it started doing so you can’t really complain but it isn’t exactly compelling viewing and even the 7 minute run time is beginning to feel like a drag.

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Watching and Will Review Occasionally

  • Girlish Number (Ep 1)
  • Cheating Craft (Ep 3)

Haven’t made any progress with Girlish Number this week but will catch up sooner or later. Or maybe not. We’ll see what happens.

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Dropped

  • Nanbaka (Ep 2 – Dropped)
  • Magical Girl Raising Project (Ep 2 – Dropped)
  • Matoi the Sacred Slayer (Ep 2 – Dropped)
  • Touken Ranbu – Hanmaru (Ep 1 – Dropped)
  • To Be Hero (Ep 1 – Dropped)
  • Occult;Nine (Ep 1 – Dropped)
  • Dream Festival (Ep 1 – Dropped)

Okay, for some shows we are a third of the way in and I’m not certain that any of them are really not showing us sufficient progress for that. That said, it looks like a number of shows this Autumn are running for 23 – 25 episodes, which will make deciding what to watch next season all the harder.

What grabbed you this week?

Taboo Tattoo Series Review

Overview:

Seigi is an ordinary teenage boy in Japan (who is of course trained in martial arts) who is given a tattoo that has some mystic powers and then gets caught up in a battle between nations that may or may not have world ending consequences.

Review:

If you followed my week to week posts you probably already know my opinion on this one. While the first two episodes were generic and cliché, they didn’t really do anything too wrong but everything after that went down hill. Given I’ve already done the episode by episode break down, I am not worried about what might be a spoiler so if you haven’t watched this yet and you intend to, maybe pass on the reivew. Overall opinion is to give this one a miss.

Let’s start with the plot because this is probably a good study in how not to write a story. Firstly, let’s introduce way more characters than we actually need and ensure that they each take up screen time while we introduce their particular one note quirk (because that’s how you distinguish characters) and then let’s ensure we knock them off unceremoniously and without any reason in a battle we aren’t going to explain or justify other than these two groups are opposed. And then let’s do it again only bigger and with less purpose. And let’s splinter off one group from the two main ones just so we are clear on which characters are going to somehow survive even though they also serve no purpose.

The motivation driving the characters is weak, generic, or insane. At no point do the writers ask you to care about why the characters are doing things because the explanations are dreadful and actually make you care even less. The consistent introduction of characters who are unlikable and fairly pointless (and their pointless deaths) just disconnects you further  and you cease even trying to remember the names of the latest character/victim who has entered the scene. Trying to give us a ‘mentor’ type character mid-series was an improvement but I’m still not actually sure what his goal was or why he though Seigi (the apparent protagonist) could pull it off or why Seigi felt any sense of obligation to adopt his goal so all and all while BB (the mentor) did help improve the show nothing was going to save this ship from sinking.

The villain is equally unrelatable. Her goals make no sense (I’d even prefer the old I’m going to destroy the world because I’m evil motive over the I’m going to save the world by destroying it) and her actions make it impossible to believe that she actually thinks she’s saving anything. More importantly, why did she turn into that monster thing in the last episode. Seigi did (apparently) because the science guy made him drink something and then activated it during the battle, but given advantage it gave Seigi during the battle it made no sense for the Princess to follow. And the throw away explanation that somehow Seigi and the Princess linked because she kissed him however many episodes ago does not make sense.

And that is the problem with the plot. The logic behind it has failed horribly and completely. It doesn’t even work using narrative logic in which rules are established early in the plot (that may not make sense) but are at least consistently adhered to. This show just throws new ideas and new rules at you to justify increasingly illogical actions and powers until we are literally left with two monsters pounding each other into the ground before one of the characters runs away. The end.

I’ve touched on the character flaws already but beyond them having no sensible motivation or taking appropriate actions, they just aren’t good characters. Even if we ignore the side-note canon fodder characters the ones we are asked to care about give us little to no reason to do so.

Somewhere from the first three episodes to the last three we are asked to transition our thinking about Izzy. She starts off as the brazen person in charge who sweeps in and changes Seigi’s whole life. Then, mostly through the introduction of BB and that story, we’re somehow supposed to start seeing Izzy as a victim(?) of the tattoo’s and someone who needs to be saved. Why does there need to be someone to save? Because Seigi is apparently completely incapable of seeing bigger pictures and needs to fixate on something concrete and childhood friend girl get’s knocked off during the first major battle. If this transition in Izzy’s character had been dealt with well maybe the series could have pulled it off and some of that last episode might have made sense (maybe). However, the transition is clunky and after one flashback it is as if the writers just assume the audience have made the leap and they don’t bother trying to do any further development they just give her the new character.

The Princess is… who knows. She leers and makes speeches and occasionally kills people but in honesty I have no idea what I was supposed to think about her. Was I meant to see her side but dislike her methods? Was she supposed to be a monster? I am absolutely clueless as to what they were trying to do with that character. Which makes it really, really hard to care about events when the villain is that clouded.

Before I move on from characters I am just going to touch on Tom. He’s there from the start but is not important, interesting, and he does not develop. He exists only to ask question, scream, and occasionally carry another character. Why?

Having failed to deliver a plot that makes sense or characters who are interesting or develop in any kind of logical fashion, does Taboo Tattoo succeed at anything?

Episode 1 would have you believe that the fights will be visually impressive. Does that standard get maintained? No. Battles become increasingly messy affairs with a focus on reaction shots rather than combat and then we just shed any kind of elegance for two giant monsters flailing at each other in the final episode.

The music is forgettable but not back. I don’t know why they felt the need to play the opening theme over the final battle (maybe it was to avoid more character dialogue but who knows) given it didn’t seem to match the tone at all, but that’s the least of the show’s problems.

There are some themes touched upon that might have been interesting but the messages are buried (when they aren’t entirely contradictory) beneath poor plotting and characters.

Alright, I hated this. I don’t say that very often, because usually I find something to appreciate in a show I’ve watched all the way through. But there is just nothing. Episode 1 was okay but everything after that just got worse and worse.

Feel free to disagree but I am interested in what you thought of Taboo Tattoo if you managed to make it through.

 

Yuri on Ice Episode 4

Review:

After the show down with Yuri and Yurio (Russian Yuri’s nickname to save confusion), this week we get an episode of preparation and training for the ice-skating season. Both characters are working on their weaknesses and the continued contrast between the two remains a high point for this series rather than a detriment. We also have Yuri choosing his own music and we get some back story which further demonstrates his lack of self-confidence (in case we missed that, but at least we have some consistency in this character). We don’t get to hear the final piece but that’s probably a good thing at this stage given the competition is a long way away and there are a whole bunch of steps before that.

The inclusion of Thai in addition to the occasional English and Russian phrase was a nice add in (despite the fact that everyone predominately speaks Japanese no matter which country they are in). All and all, this episode was pretty solid and had less of those moments that broke the flow, though they are still heavy on ensuring a lot of the dialogue can be taken more than one way. It’s as beautiful as ever though much like the events in the episode, the story is in prep mode and is laying the foundation for future episodes. However, unlike some other episode 4’s this week, Yuri on Ice managed to flesh out their characters and entertain while getting across the needed information.

Yuri on Ice is available from Crunchyroll.

Friday’s Feature -On Admiring First Episodes

At four weeks into the Autumn season of anime I’m now reflecting on the choices I made about what to watch and what to pass on. A lot of these choices are made at episode 1 (even if they aren’t confirmed I really do start leaning heavily towards watching or dropping something during that first episode). This season I probably sampled more shows than ever before and I watched shows with blurbs that I would usually have never touched (To Be Hero definitely fell in this category). So this time around I decided to think about what I like and don’t like in a first episode and what are some of the major factors that will make me walk away from a show early on.

These are just my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours below.

Like most things it is easier to start with what I definitely don’t like in a first episode rather than defining what I actually do like. The main things that will see me bailing at episode 1 (or soon after) are:

  • It’s hideously ugly or the character designs creep me out to the point where I’m not paying attention to the story. This one is really subjective but it was a lot of the reason why I never got into Mob Psycho 100 (okay it isn’t ugly but its unique style is not one that really appealed to me). And to take a second swipe at To Be Hero, it fit into this category as well (though clearly they were hoping that the appearance would add to the ‘humour’ of the situation).

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  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, its pretty and bubbly and bright and excessively chirpy to boot. Sorry, I just can’t handle stories about idols and happy groups of people bouncing along to reach their dreams (reason why I didn’t even try Love Live or any thing similar).. While I don’t need my anime characters to be miserable, I’d really prefer not feeling like their smile was about to knock me out of my seat every two seconds while viewing. Dream festival definitely hit this button for me and got dropped before I even finished the first episode. Maybe it doesn’t stay this bright and bubbly throughout but it was all just too many sparkles.

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  • Moving away from the appearance of things, a first episode where nothing happens is usually enough for me to call it a day. Or rather, stuff happens but I either don’t care about it anyway or the show gives me no reason to be invested in the outcome. Touken Ranbu Hanmaru fell into this category. An episode spent semi-introducing so many characters I couldn’t remember their names before plunging into a badly choreographed fight sequence where I didn’t care if anyone was injured or who won because I’d been given no reason to and this anime hit the chopping block. Last season it was Scared Riders Xechs that I gave up on due to lack of caring about anything that happened in episode 1.

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  • The last thing that really causes me to run away from a show is absolute atrocious execution of an idea. This is probably the one that annoys me the most because you can sense that somewhere in amongst the mire of poorly delivered dialogue and frantic jumping around there just might be a brilliant story buried, but you aren’t going to find it. Occult;Nine nailed this by minute 5 and while I forced myself to sit through the remainder of the episode I already knew I was never going to continue the series (which is a shame because I’d kind of looked forward to that one). That said, I didn’t really drop anything last season because of this in the first episode so it is rare that something seems to be good but delivers it in a way that is unbearably bad from the word go. I mean, Big Order should fit into this category but episode 1 was kind of coherent compared to the rest of the series.

As I said at the beginning, it is much easier to criticise and state what I don’t like than it is to really explain what makes a good first episode. While there isn’t a magic formula or any guarantee there are some elements that will definitely encourage me to keep watching regardless of the potential flaws in a premise.

  • Wow, that opening was amazing. I was enthralled and it was great to listen to and the visuals just really had an impact. Opening themes seriously can make or break a show and while a lot of first episodes either don’t have an opening or don’t include the visuals (they play the song either at the end or over an introductory scene to avoid spoilers that may be given in their own opening) a great opening song will keep me watching something for at least half-a-season before that 1 – 2 minutes of joy becomes outweighed by the drag of the rest of the show.

Autumn has been particularly light on themes that have grabbed (with the exception of Yuri on Ice and I promise I will stop gushing about this theme eventually). Evangelion has one of the best openings ever and it was the first one I learned to sing in Japanese just by watching the show (or just the opening) over and over again. Original Sailor Moon had a truly amazing opening if you are pre-teenage girl (which I was when I watched it). Steins;Gate had the kind of opening that visually was mesmerizing and it worked so perfectly with the series. All of these shows hooked you in with their openings (although they also delivered a fairly rewarding viewing experience – though some of you may argue about Evangelion).

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  • I may not know where this is going yet, but I’m intrigued. Give me something to try to predict or guess. Give me something I need to figure out. Give me enough decent plot points that I can see that you are going to go somewhere with it and that somewhere might be great. The first episode may not be a masterpiece (after all you have to introduce characters and setting and that takes up valuable time and while you can do it in a fluid way, generally we end up with info-dumps galore and if we dropped every anime that did that I’d not have much to watch) but if somewhere in this first episode you give me enough reason to believe there is a final destination to the story, I’ll usually stick around. These are the anime that get until at least episode 3 to impress. After you’ve got your characters and a setting, have you done anything with them or are they going through the motions?

Magical Girl Raising Project wasn’t a great first episode but I kind of wanted to know what they were going to do different to other dark magical girl stories. In episode 2 the only answer I got to that was make one of them look like a witch and another a cowgirl and there ceased to be any hints of something interesting looming in the shows future. On the other hand, Flip Flappers delivered an interesting but confused first episode and didn’t explain much in episode 2 but at least kept the promise of future reveals and intrigue. Maybe it will all amount to nothing but it held my interest sufficiently to throw it over the line.

Alderamin on the Sky last season started with a ho-hum kind of opening but there was enough hope of something emerging and fortunately it did. That show just kept building on the world it had kind of half-heartedly introduced during the first episode and the characters definitely grew into their roles. It ended up being one of my favourites for the year.

Another anime that really did this was Psycho Pass. Episode 1 just got me asking so many questions. The episode was actually good in its own right, which just made the whole viewing pleasurable, but just thinking about what had happened and the implications of living in a world where you could be executed on the spot for exceeding a certain level of stress (in a highly stressful situation) and the choice that Akane made during that situation… It was just so much fun and it made me want more.

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  • This last one is obvious but has to be said: Good-quality story telling. That really should be obvious but sometimes you have to wonder. My two top picks in week 1 were Natsume Yuujinchou Go and March Comes in Like a Lion. Neither of these are going to blow you away with mad action sequences but both have a clear focus to their plot and deliver their story in a way that makes it completely immersive.

Natsume’s first episode certainly did use an info-dump as has been formula for the previous 4 seasons as Natsume narrates the circumstances that have led to him living where he is now, but after that the story unfolds organically and at a well thought out pace. In March Comes in Like a Lion we have some fairly impressive visuals and heavy reliance on symbolism to convey information but again the story unfolds at a well thought out pace and the entire episode just felt like everything had been put in exactly the right place and time.

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Okay, I’ve definitely gone on long enough so I’m going to turn it over to you. What do you admire in first episodes and what makes you go running for the hills?