Just Because Episode 4: When You Break Through A Wall, Sometimes All You Get Is A Broken Wall

Review:

I remember when Tsuki ga Kirei was on and how many people kept saying how real and relatable it felt but I never really got that vibe. That’s probably because I’m catching it from Just Because. Watching Soma build up again to a confession is painful but the show isn’t. This is seeing the pointless and the awkward moments of high school play out with a group of teens that aren’t going to change the world, aren’t actually falling out of society, but a lot of them are just going through the motions and accepting their normalcy for what it is.

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There’s a lot to like this week as the characters all take seem to take a step and the end result is a lot of crushed toes (well, hurt feelings is probably closer to the reality). It isn’t that they have all failed. It is just that life is going one way and they tried to go another and the end result was pretty predictable.

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What I think I liked most this week was seeing Eita lose his aloof and stoic self in the face of Natsume’s blatant self-denial. It didn’t get him anywhere and Eita losing his cool is kind of like normal Eita with the minor exception being that he lets more of his hand slip than normal. Just enough that he regrets it after the fact. It will be interesting to see the fall out of this episode next week and which relationships remain in tact and which ones become strained.


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Autumn 2017 Week 4

If you missed it, my review schedule is up on my patreon site, though I will admit there is still plenty of movement going on this season. That is probably because of the sheer number of shows that have caught my interest and last season I’d have watched them just to have something kind of fun to talk about. This season however I’m probably going to end up dropping shows and putting them on my list of shows to come back to at a later date (which usually means a long time before I get to them). Still, this is where the shows currently sit on my list and hopefully they can continue to be fun. At the moment I have a lot of shows in my Must Watch and Usually Entertaining categories. I kind of know already some of them will wear thin as the season goes and they’ll start dropping down, but I’m kind of hopeful about a lot of them.

How is everyone else finding the Autumn anime season this year? Let me know in the comments below.

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Must Watch

March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 (Episode 24)

Wow. There were so many characters getting moments in this episode that when you just think about the show it feels like it should have been incredibly rushed. However, that wasn’t the case as every moment we saw has naturally built from previous moments with these characters. They are logical next steps or expansions on things we already knew and yet they give us that more complete picture. Really loved this episode and this series is making a very solid return.

Kino’s Journey (Episode 3)

Episode 3 just kind of reinforced what I liked about the previous episode and I’m kind of hooked on finding out where Kino will go next and what they will see. This show seems to be trying to avoid making any kind of statement but it raises a lot of issues and the parallels to reality work well at putting a lot of emotional weight behind seemingly simple situations. All and all, good fun so far.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Episode 3)

While I wasn’t entirely sold on some of this episode, The Ancient Magus’ Bride remains a beautiful anime to watch (both visually and emotionally). The few complaints I have about a slightly weaker story are pretty much offset by everything else this show offers. My thoughts are available on Weekend Otaku’s site where we reviewed the episode together.

Land of the Lustrous (Episode 3)

How do you make a story about anthropomorphized gem stones interesting and a truly emotional experience? Land of the Lustrous is taking a good shot at showing us exactly how to do that. The narrative is still a little bit sparse but the characters are really shining in this beautifully animated show. Well worth checking out.

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Usually Entertaining

Girls’ Last Tour (Episode 3)

This continues to be pretty good viewing. The slow pace and very little happening is off-set by the richness of the world and a slow trickle of information about the past, as well as the two very charming leads. While this one probably isn’t going to become a must watch for me, I am definitely being entertained by this.

Anime-Gataris (Episode 3)

This is just so much fun. There might be better shows and even better parodies out there, but I’m really enjoying watching this and am liking the cast more and more. Hoping this continues to build on the foundation they’ve got here and hopefully they don’t go off the rails in a few episodes.

Recovery of an MMO Junkie (Episode 4)

The transition to focusing on the characters’ real lives for the first half of episode 3 was well made and really cemented this as a series I am enjoying. The MMO parts remain weaker, but with the context being provided by their real lives even those scenes are becoming more enjoyable. So episode 4 was a little bit slower to get started with the focus back on the game for a bit, but once it got going it was a very enjoyable episode.

Just Because (Episode 3)

I really am enjoying this fairly sleepy story so far. It isn’t overly exciting and nothing much is happening (transfer student, past relationships surfacing, new relationships forming, and lots of just kind of meandering) but it has a kind of charm that keeps me smiling during the episodes. Hopefully this continues along these lines.

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Okay, I Guess

King’s Game (Episode 4)

Sensibly enough, I kind of get that the copious issues with characterisation and pacing are probably going to kill this as an enjoyable viewing experience for a wider audience. However, I like the premise of this as a horror and there are genuine moments that actually work (though the overall execution of the show needs some work if anyone was ever expected to take this seriously).

Sengoku Night Blood (Episode 4)

Continuing to be a relaxing viewing that isn’t really inspiring me to think or worry for the characters. Pretty chill experience of girl, with just enough personality that I probably shouldn’t mock her for being a blank slate but not enough to actually be a character, exploring fantasy warring states Japan complete with vampires and werewolves who all dress like characters rejected from a Final Fantasy line up. Anyway, I’m enjoying it but I’m not exactly going to sing its praises.

Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ (Episode 3)

Bring on the vampire boy with a grudge against Van. At the very least, this gave Cardia some reason to empathise with someone else and she started to actually seem more like a person in this episode because of it. Hopefully she keeps going because she may even gain a personality if this keeps up and then I will have to stop making fun of her.

Black Clover (Episode 4)

Finally this show is starting to move on a bit and this episode was the best so far. Still some issues and they are definitely running some jokes straight into the ground, but it is becoming a bit more enjoyable. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come.

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War (Episode 4)

Yep, with Chicken gone we are back to boring characters who don’t actually seem to be in a hurry to kill each other even though they have a time limit before they die naturally of ingested poison. The one story point I took from this episode is that they couldn’t refuse to join the fight though why that might be or what the true purpose is has yet to actually be revealed.

Dies Irae (Episode 2)

Definitely still setting things up but improving as we continue along. This is kind of a good sign and I hope it continues. More murder, fights and high school life in this episode and a few hints at what is going on but nothing concrete yet.

UQ Holder (Episode 4)

The second half of the episode this week really kicked things up a notch. I’m still not overly impressed, but it is harmless fun so far. Well, harmless for the audience and not so much for the immortal characters. Making your cast immortal makes it pretty hard to up the tension so we seem to be going for pain and causing emotional distress at the moment.

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They Made This?

Evil or Live (Episode 3)

Hey, first show into the They Made This category. It has the honour of having intrigued me enough that I want to know how it ends, while at the same time being more or less unwatchably bad during this third episode. Pretty much, other than the premise which is kind of interesting, this show has so far managed to butcher every other aspect and to be honest it is kind of cringe worthy.  We’ll see if it recovers later in the season or if it gets too bad and I end up dropping it.

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Tried and Dropped

My Girlfriend is Shobitch (Episode 2)

TWOCAR (Episode 1)

Taisho Mebiusline Chicchaisan (Episode 1)

Love is Like A Cocktail (Episode 1)

Konohana Kitan (Episode 1)

A Sister’s All You Need (Episode 1)

Urahara (Episode 1)


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King’s Game Episodes 3 + 4: These Kids Will Need So Much Therapy – Assuming They Live

King's Game Episode 3

Review Episode 3:

This show continues to be plagued with various problems but by far the worst aspect of it is we are watching round two of the King’s Game for Nobuaki but they keep sending us back for extended periods of time to the first game. The first game being far more interesting with a far more likeable cast. It just kind of makes the problems of the current group of students more apparent and episode 3 actually spends so much time back in the past when we jump again to the current timeline it took me a moment to remember what was even going on.

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That said, this week gave the audience some really cold moments and kind of nailed the horror of this situation. The popularity poll, various characters’ despair, the fake out with the punishment not being death and then a truly horrible punishment being specified in the conditions of the next task… It all just worked really well at making this situation seem utterly and completely horrific. With better execution this could be a truly fantastic horror story and yet it comes up wanting.

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Still, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it. This is a great example of popcorn fiction where if you don’t think too hard and aren’t after quality you can have quite a bit of fun with the viewing experience (provided of course girls splattering out of windows and images of self-immolation – not actually followed through in the reality – fit within your definition of fun viewing).

Review Episode 4:

And I remain convinced that if they had just told the story of Nobuaki’s first encounter with the King this would be a much better show. The flash back this week focused on the time a girl tried to find the King by issuing an order to herself to touch the King under the assumption that the King was in her class. That ended pretty badly but it is the kind of situation where the audience knowing how bad an idea it is makes the whole thing kind of thrilling to watch.

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Unfortunately, the present day story isn’t faring so well with Nobuaki clearly having learned nothing from his first round. He’s still making baseless assumptions and while there is nothing new about stupid characters in horror, the fact that a number of people seem to think he is a good thinker and trust his ideas really concerns me.

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The line above really bothered me. Just because a King’s Game may have been held in the village (no idea what evidence Nobuaki has for that one but hopefully we’ll find out later) doesn’t mean there is any clue as to how to stop the game. The story Nobuaki told seemed to indicate everyone died so clearly they didn’t actually find a way to stop the game so assuming there are any clues of use there is kind of insane. Not to mention, Nobuaki’s comment that it was probably the first game, indicates he has no idea. He’s just assuming because it is the oldest one he knows about.

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Still, for all the idiotic decision making and assumptions, one thing remains clear. Nobuaki is desperate not to admit he is going to fail and that people are going to die. He would rather dish out false hope and cling to any possibility than accept despair.  He’s also surrounded by characters who are so desperate for hope they will cling to his empty words though it has been interesting to see their reactions at crunch times with some thanking him for trying while others become disgusted by the hollowness of the entire situation.

So yeah, this show is still full of problems but intriguing enough and maybe when they finally get to the village they’ll start advancing the present day plot more than the previous game.


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Recovery of an MMO Junkie Episodes 3 + 4: Fantastic Transition

Review Episode 3:

Any concerns I had about this series were kind of put to rest during episode 3. It still isn’t a perfect series but for what it seems to be trying to do it is doing it very well. The entire first half of this episode deals with Sakura and Morioka in the real world and starts drawing some real world connections (besides a bump on the head) between the two.

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While this might seem a little contrived, it adds a great deal of depth to the characters and the relationship I guess we are heading toward. As an added point, the mystery of why Morioka has decided to abandon work and become an Elite NEET just becomes more intriguing given we find out she was good at her job (if unhappy).

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From this the episode then flawlessly transitions to a lighter tone as we enter the game world and see Hayashi and Lily dealing with their changing relationship made more complex by their real world identities and their general inability to deal with personal situations. While the tone is lighter (helped by the bright colours of the game world), the human drama is really well handled and the parallel between in-game and IRL relationships is nicely delivered. This show has made me very much care about these two characters so now it is just a matter of seeing whether I continue to care as the show moves on. That said, really enjoyed this third episode.

Review Episode 4:

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This episode kind of reverses last week where we spend the first half of the episode in-game and on getting loot boxes and discussing in game fashion. It kind of seems like a throw back to episode 1 and while there are some character relationships that are explored it isn’t particularly enthralling.

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However, the second half of the episode more than makes up for it as we get closer to Lily and Hayashi’s online identities colliding with their real world identities mostly due to Lily/Sakurai’s nosy and fairly pushy friend. That said, at least he kept the plot moving forward and we didn’t just spend the whole episode with Sakurai bemoaning being turned down for dinner.

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This show continues to be fairly delightful even though it isn’t going to be a masterpiece. The in-game parts where they are dealing with the game continue to be pretty weak and not overly interesting, but the in game moments where they discuss their real lives and the events going on in their real lives kind of balance that out and as long as that continues this show is going to stay pretty fun to watch.


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Death Note Series Review: Not Quite Cat and Mouse

Overview:

I seriously can’t believe I hadn’t reviewed this anime already. I was probably holding it off for a special occasion and the lead up to Halloween works for me. Plus, having watched the Netflix movie recently the anime was on my mind so I rewatched the first half of it again so now seems a good time to write this. What is it about? Light, typical high school genius, finds a notebook that claims that if you write someone’s name in it that person will die. Of course he tries it and then he thinks he can change the world by wiping out all the criminals. Enter L, the detective who is going to hunt down the killer that leaves no evidence. I examined the relationship between Light and L in a feature on conflict a fair while back but here’s the link if you are interested.

By the way, this review has spoilers. Big ones. Just warning you.

Review:

Just have to say straight out that I love Death Note. This was one of the titles that really hooked me as an adult anime viewer and is part of the reason I became such a fan of anime. That isn’t to say the series is perfect or that I don’t have issues with it, but in terms of showing me that anime could be more than magical girls or giant robots, Death Note perfectly hit the spot and made me start looking further afield for shows to watch and I haven’t really looked back since.

I’ll start with the main criticism I have of the show and then I’ll get to gushing about how amazing it is.

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The major criticism of Death Note is the story. It is incredibly juvenile when you sit back and actually look at the plot without the atmosphere and tone making it look far more sophisticated than it is. Teenage boy gets a book that can kill people and decides he wants to play god. Other teenage boy  wants to prove he’s the best detective in the world by solving the unsolvable. Fight, fight, fight (admittedly, this is a mental battle but it is on par with anything you would see in most shounen stories) and then one of the two is defeated.

And while that is pretty basic, it is incredibly rewarding to watch, only the story doesn’t finish there. They then introduce some new antagonists for the protagonist to face off against and mostly duplicate the steps from the first half, only with less enthusiasm and atmosphere, in what appears to be a desperate attempt to stretch content and not let the series rest.

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For all that Death Note is quite clever in some of the things it does, the plot is not one of them. At its core it is an incredibly obvious make the audience question what they would do in a situation type story. And once we establish that Light is not a very stable person given he rationalises the deaths of thousands fairly quickly (which could be a statement about a lack of emotional intelligence in geniuses but mostly just comes off as unhinged), it is clear that despite being the protagonist, Light is the villain of the story, responsible for far more deaths than any of the criminals he consigns to death.

There are also issues with some of the twists in the story as they attempt to make it look like excellent planning and genius skill level on behalf of Light and L, but the anime continuously falls back on coincidence to keep things moving. What if Misa hadn’t visited Light at the university when L stole her phone and then she was arrested? What if Light hadn’t just run into Naomi on her way to the police station? What if Rem hadn’t acted to keep Misa safe? There are so many moments where things happen by chance but the characters act as if they were all factored in. Though that is a problem any time a character is supposed to be a genius. Most writers aren’t so even if they try to think about what a genius might do in a situation it usually comes off pretty contrived.

So now that I’m done tearing the plot apart, why do I love this show so much?

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The challenge between Light and L is amazing. Okay, I know I said earlier it is pretty standard shounen affair with both declaring themselves to be the face of justice and becoming entirely fixated on defeating the other, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great to watch. Despite the moments where these characters seem to slip up in their thinking, it is fun watching both characters try to find the tiniest chink in the other’s armour. Their natural attraction to one another, as someone who is thinking on their level, adds and extra dimension to the challenge, and even at the silliest moment (the fist fight while hand-cuffed still annoys me) these two characters are at their best when facing one another head on.

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I also just love Light as a protagonist. He’s so much fun to pick at and analyse. Did the book and the power make him crazy or was he always that way and the book gave him opportunity? There are arguments you can make both ways and evidence for both. I particularly love the scene with Naomi as Light is genuinely forced to think on his feet to deal with an unforseen situation. This is not the overly confident, maniacal laughing Light from the latter part of the series, but is the student still finding his way and looking carefully at all the angles and trying to find the best solution to his ‘problem’. That Naomi pushes him nearly to the brink before he succeeds is wonderful and there’s a real sense of tension in the entire exchange. My heart honestly fell a little when I realised Light had come out on top. I’d kind of hoped Naomi would find a way to be the first step to Light’s demise.

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Naturally Ryuk is another big draw to the show. His observations about humans and his general disinterest in the overall situation is quite entertaining. I would have liked him to have had a more active role at times given sometimes he seemed willing to help Light and other times he seemed obstinate for the sake of it. But still, as a Death God with no actual loyalty to Light, he was a pretty well done character.

I guess I should bring Misa up. She is kind of a necessary character for the plot to get going given without her mistakes they may never have gotten close to figuring out what was going on. Otherwise, most of her interactions in the story are pretty forgettable.

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The overall atmosphere and tone of the anime are wonderful. I love the use of symbolism and colour, even if it is in your face obvious most of the time (back to that idea of being a little juvenile). It just works beautifully at building tension and suspense. Also drama. How they manage to make a kid writing in a note book that intense is one of the absolute mysteries of the show.

The first opening theme is also fantastic. The second one however… well it isn’t a total train wreck is probably the nicest thing I’m going to say about that screaming drone with eye-hurting visuals. Of course, the second opening kind of coincides with where I usually stop watching because to be honest, after L leaves the story there is little real appeal in this show anymore. The end is worth watching the first time so you know how it ends, but rewatches allow you to just stop and not have to deal with the Mello and Near fiasco.

And that makes Death Note truly unique in that it is an anime I absolutely recommend even while admitting I don’t rewatch the end of it very often because it isn’t very good. That first half is pretty compelling and well worth trying if you’ve never given it a go.


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Juni Taisen Episode 4: Nobody Died, Though My Interest Took A Hit

Review:

From the first episode with the Boar, this show has been a little bit peculiar. For all the good qualities it has, the one thing it has failed to do is grab my attention. The third episode with the Chicken came the closest because her character had a little bit of humour about her, and then we are hit with this episode.

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Rat talks to Monkey in the sewers. He challenges her about her pacifist stance (not aggressively mind you, because that would require being fully awake which is something he is steadfastly refusing to do).

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Monkey talks to Rat. She defends her position and we see many flash backs of her life up to this point.

The whole thing could work if I actually found either of these characters even vaguely interesting. And yet… Rat is an incredibly boring character. He is literally sleeping through this series. Monkey’s pacifist stance means she is pretty straight forward and predictable and just a little cringey to watch.

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The last five minutes saw us reintroduced to Rabbit and while a flock of zombie birds is pretty cool I’m just not thinking the brief chase sequence and minor skirmish we got between Rat, Monkey, Rabbit and zombie twin boy was sufficient action to make up for the nothing that had happened for the entire rest of the episode.

However, one positive I took away from this is that I really enjoy the opening theme. It didn’t do much for me the first time but it is definitely growing on me and was my favourite part of this episode.


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Land of the Lustrous Episodes 2 + 3: It’s Like Someone Broke My Pet Rock

Review Episode 2:

I cannot believe how attached I’ve gotten to Phos in only two episodes but the end of this episode was a little heart breaking even if I don’t think this is going to be permanent – the earlier conversation would suggest transformation though it will be interesting to see where they go. However, the episode starts with Phos being sent by Jade to look for Dia because she might have a new fighting style or something.

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The conversation and then fight sequence with Dia and Bort is pretty intense but it is more the possibilities raised by Dia’s comments about her being hard but fragile that really take root. Then the fight moves to their base and that’s where things get kind of messy.

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I really love this so far. I love how much character these gem stones have and how none of the scenes linger to long. I love the small details like the light shining through their hair and leaving patterns on their uniforms and the blades of grass that blow in a way that looks so incredibly real and yet doesn’t make the characters look fake. The story itself is kind of nebulous but it is so much fun learning about this world and just watching it that I’m not all that concerned.

Review Episode 3:

This was a fantastic follow up and I loved seeing Dia and Cinnabar working on the problem together as they are the two characters that have so far forged any real connection with Phos.

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Dia really carried this episode given Phos was out of commission for most of it, and who knew snails could emote that much. Her defence of Phos as she hears her friend run down (more or less continuously during the episode) and her refusal to give up was fantastic.

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Cinnabar was equally interesting as she chooses to not call Phos a liar for a little longer even though Phos is no closer to finding something Cinnabar can do. She’s holding tight to that tiny light of hope that Phos gave her and the result is truly fascinating to watch.

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Fortunately though, humpty dumpty could be put back together again and this episode ends on a high note even as it raises yet more questions. This show is definitely a gem. It has a few rough edges but overall it just shines.


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