Summer 2018 Week 2

Week two and I hate to say it but Summer is looking to be a bit of a slow season. While there’s plenty here that might end up being fun enough to watch, there are very few if any shows I’m going to recommend any time soon. There’s just so many other great anime titles out there, and this season seems very slim on anime that I’ll even remember the name of in two season’s time. Of course, it is early days and anything can happen. Hopefully some of these shows will find their feet over the next few weeks.

With that said, I’d love to know your early predictions for the anime of the season so be sure to let me know in the comments below. Right now I’d probably put my money on Banana Fish or Angolmois, but there’s plenty of room for both of those to crash and burn.

What I watched

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams (Episode 2)

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

Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion (Episode 2)

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For something I wasn’t planning on trying, the first two episodes of Angolmois definitely got my attention. Whether or not I remain interested in this particular historical drama remains to be seen, but comparatively this was one of the better starts to the season that I’ve seen this Summer so I’m actually kind of optimistic so far.

Angels of Death (Episode 2)

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Rachel had potential to be an interesting character and the setting was perfect for some actual psychological horror. Instead we have look at this thing and then look at that thing moments separated by what I guess counts as banter between the two main characters but it isn’t really all that compelling. Pity really, given there was a lot of potential here.

Banana Fish (Episode 2 – Not Reviewed)

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This is quite the compelling story and while it is playing heavily on the usual gang and gang related cliches, it is actually fairly intriguing. They aren’t above playing the ‘feels’ card though in episode 2, so if you are worried about a show casually knocking off its characters, this may not work for you.

Cells at Work (Episode 2)

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This continues to be quite a lot of fun to watch with exuberant characters, a clear focus, and a general understanding of how to balance information with entertaining viewing. While it may very well run short of ideas before the end of the season, I have to say that these first couple of episodes have been fantastic.

GeGeGe no Kitaro (Episode 16)

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Episode 16 was a bit of a miss for me. It was functional as an episode but probably expresses the problem with this show in general. It isn’t overly exciting at times as it routinely falls back on formula and, particularly in this case, neither the antagonist or even some of the victims get enough development to have much impact.

Holmes of Kyoto (Episode 2)

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They should go back to the antiques as they at least had interesting backstories. Episode 2 pretty much sent the characters on a quest to solve a mystery without establishing why they would do that or why we should care. And then the mystery was so lame it wasn’t even worth the mention. All and all, this has one episode left to convince me not to drop it.

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord (Episode 3)

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There was something of an improvement in episode 3 compared to episode 2 in terms of just how much fan-service was thrust at the viewer. And with the plot seeming to kick off well and truly during episode 3, the writers are definitely hoping the cliff-hanger will push those of us sitting on the fence into continuing to watch.

Island (Episode 3)

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I said this might be amazing or terrible but after episode 3 I’m leaning very firmly toward the side of terrible. What little of interest there is in this show is getting buried under some incredibly flat moments that if executed better might be amusing or coy or exciting or whatever else that scene was going for, but instead it just kind of feels like it exists.

Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi (Episode 16 – Reviewed for Patrons)

Kakuriyo16eAverage seems to be about all this show is going to manage as it delivers another episode fairly consistent with everything else so far. While it works, it is also very forgettable and while the sweet thought that good cooking may solve a lot of problems works well enough, at this stage it feels more than a little bit forced at times.

Lord of Vermilion: The Crimson King (Episode 1)

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This has all the makings of a truly dreadful viewing experience. It dumps the viewer into the midst of things and then backtracks but it seems like one of those shows where explanations only come in exposition dumps and you’ll still be mostly confused about what is going on. That said, it might get better now that it’s had it’s opening act.

Phantom in the Twilight (Episode 2)

Twilight2bWhile I’m still not expecting much from this one, I will admit I liked the second episode a great deal more than the first. This seems to be going more into the supernatural creatures and their origins than it seemed at first and that was kind of fun. If the characters get fleshed out a bit more, this could end up being decent, though it could still just fall completely flat.

Steins;Gate 0 (Episode 14)

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While this week offers us some good movement forward with the plot, I’m still not really feeling a sense that we’re getting anywhere here. There’s certainly plenty of intrigue but a lot of the spark is definitely gone and while Maho returning to Japan will definitely be a turning point, it probably won’t be enough to kick this into high gear at this point.

The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einhenjer (Episode 2)

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I’m still tossing up between this one and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord and this one may have slightly picked up an edge with episode 2. That said, other than a battle sequence where they highlight once again that Yuto is using his research of battles to win wars and then we get a bath sequence and a proposal. So not exactly unmissable viewing.

My Hero Academia (Episode 14)

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My Hero Academia continues on its merry way as the kids learn their ‘ultimate’ moves. Admittedly, this is pretty much some down time for the series but it is laying the foundations for future events and building on previous character dramas so its still working well even if it isn’t quite as thrilling as this series has been previously.

Episode of the Week

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Only because I love vampires and an extreme lack of competition. Phantom in the Twilight delivered an average second episode, which is more than I expected and I ended up having a bit of fun with it. That said, I’m not expecting it to appear here very often during the season.

Character of the Week

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Characters of the week – and this week it is the platelets from Cells at Work. They are super adorable and hard working.

Dropped or On Hold

  • Hanebado (Episode 1)
  • Harukana Receive (Episode 1)
  • Planet With (Episode 1)
  • The Thousand Muskateers (Episode 1)

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


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Karandi James

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Inquiring Minds Want To Know #26 – How Do You Come Up With Content?

If you have a question be sure to ask it here. Previous questions that have been answered can be found here.

Question: How do you come up with content to post to your blog? I’m always stumped and have no creativity. From Rebel

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To be honest, I’m not a very creative person. While there are some writers and content creators that can go with the flow and just wait until inspiration strikes them and get going, that approach doesn’t work for me at all. I’m very much about having a plan and a clear focus as to what I am going to do. When inspiration does strike, I’m not above reworking the plan to fit in an impromptu post, but for the most part everything is worked out well in advance.

With the majority of my weekly posts being episode reviews, the only weeks where there isn’t a clear guide are the first two or three weeks of the season where I’m still trying shows and working out a schedule. However, once week three comes around, I’ll have a note book page with the list of shows I’m following and when their review should be scheduled. This works around the already established posts such as my weekly round up posts, series reviews, and other posts that I do each week.

About the only two posts I actually need to get creative with are the Top 5 posts and the Feature of the week. And I will admit, I sometimes really struggle with these but I’m usually a few weeks ahead in terms of scheduling (though not at the moment because right now I’ve used up my supply of scheduled posts to get me through the last few months when I haven’t been feeling so well). I do have quite a list of potential feature ideas and top 5 ideas that I add to whenever something catches my eye or grabs my attention and when I’m really stumped I go back to these lists, cross out ideas I’ve used, modify something if it doesn’t seem right, and eventually pick something from the list to write, but that’s more a last resort when I’m done staring at the white screen of death without an idea.

I think for me having a schedule and a regular cycle of posts is kind of essential. If I just opened the blog today and tried to think of a post idea, I’d probably not end up producing anything. But because I know that on Sunday I have to have a weekly round up post and at least two episode reviews, and by week three of the season I’ll know what those reviews are going to be on, it makes writing much easier because I have something clear to produce.

I get that this system won’t work for everyone and some people hate schedules as they go to write what they’ve planned and then realise they don’t want to, but for me it is what enables me to post regularly and always having something to write about.

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What about the readers? How do you come up with content ideas?


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Karandi James

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How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 3: Fight the Fallen

Apparently the writers are aware that a lot of viewers call it at episode 3. Fan-service is low comparatively this week and plot stakes are high ending in a cliff-hanger designed to force viewers to commit to at least one more. Was it successful?

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While it might have been very easy to dismiss this title as just another fan-service laden isekai story adapted from a light novel there have been definite signs of some thought put into this anime right from episode 1. Whether or not the aspects it gets right are enough to offset some of the other elements is entirely up to the individual viewer, but episode 3 is probably a good indication of what this show might be able to do. With the fan-service dialled back to about a five instead of a nine out of ten (there’s some low angle shots of the girls, an ongoing focus on bouncing breasts, and a sequence where elf-girl squishes herself against Diablo for the length of a conversation), there’s actually time for some plot development and this is actually going fairly well.

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The story Rem told in episode 1 about housing a demon’s soul is fairly relevant as is the discontented Mage who has been mostly the butt of jokes for the past two episodes. We also get more of a sense of who Diablo is going to be in the world as he steps up to the task of defending others for little gain of his own. The duelling personalities of the main character continue to work well with his in-game persona carrying him on even as his inner self kind of freaks out at the thought of fighting.

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I’m not about to proclaim this one a master-piece or even particularly great in the grand scheme of things, but realistically, there’s actually a fairly solid story being set up here and these first three episodes have given me reason to believe that the plot is even going to work on being cohesive and tying points together making encounters not feel so pointless or random. It could all still just become a boob and butt fest with the girls, but this episode came with a decent enough attempt at narrative and characterisation.

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Friday’s Feature: Angels and Demons in Anime

One thing all anime fans know is that if it exists as even a vague idea, somewhere, someone has made an anime about it. Probably more than one someone. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that many stories in anime are built on some of the trappings from the Christian and Catholic church. While some of these stories might attempt something resembling a realistic representation, more often than not, in true anime fashion, an idea is borrowed and then it gets the full anime treatment. And while some people might dislike the way various religious icons and ideologies end up being represented, the end result has been a range of interesting stories that might not otherwise have existed.

Now using religious ideology as the basis of a story, or borrowing heavily from religious texts for characters, themes and ideas, is nothing new, there’s something quite interesting in the way anime tends to do it. With only around 1% of Japan actually identifying as Christian, writers can take quite a few more liberties with the subject matter they are borrowing from without as much fear of audience backlash as writers in more western countries. And while movies like Dogma and the like show that even western writers can get away with subverting the original message, there’s a much greater risk involved.

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And while at some point I’d probably like to get more into the various influences of religion within anime narratives, today I’m really just wanting to look at how angels and demons have been represented in a small section of the medium. There are far too many stories that have borrowed these iconic characters to really generalise across the board, but there’s a definite trend that has surfaced in how angels and demons are being depicted.

The trend I really have noticed is that angels are getting a really bad reputation in a lot of these shows (a trend that also seems to be taking place in the west with fallen angels being a trend that bubbled up after the success of Twilight and the market over-saturated with vampire romance and so people jumped on the fallen angel bandwagon instead). While it might be a little earlier than that bubble, Angela/Ash from Black Butler is a prime example of the type of character and depiction that angels regularly get given.

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Cruel, sadistic, and slightly crazy, Angela is very driven by her goals which may or may not have anything to do with a higher will power. Her actions are justified as righteous in her own mind even as they leave the audience wondering who the real demon in the show is. And that isn’t to say that Sebastian comes off looking saintly given his violent and predatory nature is well known. It’s just that when you compare him side by side with the angel there’s definitely a question of which one is supposed to be in the right. Even the neutral Grim Reapers end up siding against the angel toward the end of the season as their plan threatens to upset the balance of the world.

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If we look at something more recent and comical, Gabriel Drop Out gives us essentially a lazy, drop-out of an angel who’s inherent good nature is so easily corrupted by the pleasures of earth (gaming) and very quickly abandons her original mission. While I didn’t get far into the series, I found this to be an interesting depiction of an angel. It didn’t paint Gabriel into shades of gray, but simply had her become a slacker, which really doesn’t fit with the image of an angel but at the same time didn’t necessarily make her bad either. Throw in the fact that the ‘demonic’ characters in the show seemed to be genuinely sweet and there’s a mess of ideologies going on here that are played for laughs and humour but have probably strayed a fair way from the borrowed religious themes.

Even The Devil is a Part Timer works on subverting the audience’s expectations. It sets up a standard Satan versus Hero situation and Lord Satan (Maou) is corrupt and trying to take over the world. There’s no question of his evil nature in the first episode or of the hero’s righteousness. However, as the series progresses, Emi (the Hero), resorts to stalking, petty rumour spreading, jealousy, and other underhanded tactics while Maou pretty much conforms to the new world’s rules and laws. We also learn that Emi is part angel which begins to subvert the idea of what an angel is before Mitsuki shows up.

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Despite being an angel, Mitsuki is very much on par with Angela from Black Butler. He kidnaps characters, he tortures them while laughing about it, he’s petty and vindictive, and ultimately he’s overwhelmed by the power of Maou. And at that point no one feels even slightly sorry for him because he’s a complete an absolute jerk who totally had it coming.

One anime that takes a different approach is Angel beats where Angel (or Tachibana) is originally portrayed as a cold and efficient killer, but later it is realised she is acting in the best interest of others she’s just a really, really bad communicator and no one had ever taken the time to ask her what she was doing. Turns out she isn’t an angel anyway which kind of makes the title of the show a bit odd (unless you count the fact that the computer program she’s using to generate some of her weapons is called Angel Player). Ultimately though, Tachibana is actually trying to help the other students live a happy school life, make peace with their previous life, and move on. Which is probably the most angelic sounding character I’ve mentioned so far.

Angel Beats

Demons in anime go anywhere from being mindless beasts hell-bent on destruction, to articulate and savvy romantic interests. The defining trait of being evil is questionable in most of these characters and a lot of them are portrayed as being very human or having very human motivations. And regularly there is no connection between demons and any specific religion as they come across more as random monsters then creatures from the pits of hell. Frequently demonic characters are ones a human audience can sympathise with. It’s an interesting trend though it does make you wonder where all the ‘evil’ demons went. You know, the ones that actually wanted to devour human souls and lead us into ruin.

Now as I said at the start, there’s nothing new about the borrowing of icons and ideologies from religion in narratives, and trends in narratives come and go. But it will be interesting to see what sorts of angels and demons we get from here on out.

And on that note, I’d love to know who some of your favourite angelic and demonic characters are from anime so please be sure to leave me a comment below.


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Karandi James

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 14: What Happens If Okabe Isn’t The Protagonist?

It seems Okabe’s friends might be getting a little tired of waiting for the passive protagonist to act and now they are taking matters into their own hands. What does this mean as we go forward?

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There’s no doubt that Steins;Gate 0 has been characterised primarily by an Okabe Rintaro who is determined not to build a time machine and will not risk moving world lines. However, that’s always a dangerous stance for a story to have a character resist taking an action. It kind of leads the plot to stagnation and ultimately the only real way to resolve a situation like that is to either have the character do something else instead or to force their hand. After half a season of meandering, it seems like the support cast have decided to rise to the occasion with Suzuha and Daru enlisting Maho to help them recreate the time leap machine. While they aren’t the team that Okabe and Kurisu were, I’d have to say their likelihood of success is pretty good particularly this far into the season.

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But what does that actually mean for the narrative? Has it actually outgrown Okabe or is this just a way of forcing his hand without having him do a complete back-flip on his own decision not to mess with time? And part of me can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just do this earlier rather than waste all that time trying to get Okabe to come around when clearly he was adamant about not moving from his current position.

It also, of course calls into question the motives of the characters. Daru wants to help his daughter and Suzuha has always had pretty openly stated motivations to change the future from the one she escaped. It is Maho’s motive that seems fairly murky and I wonder what that will do to the enterprise.

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Well, plenty of possibilities as always for this show and yet overall I can’t help but note that I’m still not enjoying this anywhere near as much as the original. I’m not disliking it but it kind of just is at this point and while that’s kind of enough it isn’t a show I’m going to rush to recommend whereas I firmly recommend watching the original Steins;Gate.

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Karandi James

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episodes 1 + 2: Okay, You Got My Attention

Full disclosure, I’m not big on real historical settings or situations. Fantasy ones with historical trapping are fine but mostly the warring states era, samurai and the like don’t make for overly compelling viewing (with some exceptions). So while I originally avoided this one, some heavy praise from fellow reviewers and a feeling of minor desperation for something actually good this season rather than just tolerable, had me trying the first episode of Angolmois. So what did I think?

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While this one isn’t to my usual tastes, and the weird visual filter over everything (particularly noticeable over moving images of the landscape) makes it look kind of ugly and murky (I’d also suggest leads to feeling slightly queasy when the background but not the foreground moves) there was something quite compelling about the first two episodes here. Possibly not being filled with characters trapped in another world, happy go lucky teenagers, characters whose entire lives seem to be defined by weather they can hit something over a net or sing really good, and an absence of gratuitous fan-service made this one stand out regardless of some of its lesser qualities. But that probably isn’t giving it credit for what it did well.

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However, before I get onto those positives, I’d also like to throw in that this one did start as in what looks like the end of a conflict before going back to show us how the protagonist got there and while the technique is a little more affective here than in something like Lord of Vermilion, it still isn’t the best way to get me interested in a story, particularly when the sequence on the boat would have been a perfectly fine introduction and a much better hook.

I don’t have enough familiarity with this particular historical era or conflict to comment on the accuracy or lack of it of anything going on here. My Mongolian history is limited strictly to their invasion of China and even then it lacks anything resembling depth. That said, while there might be something for history buffs, it isn’t a prerequisite as they aren’t expecting you to know what is going on and in just two episodes, without a massive exposition dump, this show has managed to establish where the island is, why the Mongols are invading it and what their overall objective would be, and why the character who seems to be the protagonist is there and is clearly going to end up fighting. That’s more or less enough to get into this story even without a larger context. Though I’m betting the protagonist wishes he hadn’t been asked to hold out for a set number of days.

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And while the characters are so far fairly standard characters for this kind of historical drama they aren’t too boring and there’s potential for them to become interesting as we learn more about the exiles and the inhabitants of the island (assuming they don’t all get killed).

I’m enjoying the pacing of this so far as it isn’t moving at breakneck speed but I don’t feel like it is lingering too long on any one moment. And so far the fights have been interesting enough to watch though I worry they might become a bit too similar as the story continues.

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Still, given I originally passed on this one from the premise, I ended up enjoying it a great deal more than I expected. I’ll see how this one goes.


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Karandi James

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 2: Old School Vampire Alert

I was pleasantly surprised that episode two of this was reasonably decent given the first episode’s shortcomings. The focus is very much on Vlad but the other characters definitely get a little bit of a look in as this supernatural story continues.

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It has been awhile since vampires actually had issues with garlic, crosses, running water and were held to the belief that they couldn’t enter a building without being invited and while Buffy made good use of the mythology around vampires, most stories take great liberties with discarding the old legends or openly scoffing at them. While that doesn’t make this show any better, it does make me more interested in it if the characters are going to have a more traditional portrayal (despite all appearing to be generically good looking, young guys). If that was the only thing episode two offered, I’d probably still be more inclined to watch this show than I was last week, but overall I was generally left with the impression that this episode was better.

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Ton was still not what I’d consider a great protagonist, but on one or two occasions she actually called Vlad on keeping information from her even if she didn’t press the point. The introduction of Wayne was kind of entertaining and I can see him being immensely useful as a plot device but he was just kind of fun as a character. Even Luke and the other guy (I keep missing his name) got a bit more detail about who they were and there was groundwork laid for an ongoing story with Luke that looks like it will get fleshed out next week.

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Of course, the attention was on Vlad a lot and his vampire powers are pretty cool. He’s fairly stereotypical as a character and yet not annoyingly so, but he may not be all that interesting to some viewers. Plus he has absolutely zero chemistry with Ton so the scenes with the two of them that could have been charming or fun mostly end up being just a back and forth of flat dialogue that does progress the plot but isn’t overly interesting.

I think i’m in with this anime though. The heavy supernatural focus in this second episode really sold it to me and even though I’d like a bit more from the cast, there were improvements from episode 1 to episode 2 and hopefully they will continue.

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Goblin Slayer Volume 3 Light Novel Review: It’s A Date, And Goblins

The Harvest Festival is on its way and all the female adventurers and friends suddenly have one thing on their mind. Too bad Goblin Slayer only ever has one thing on his mind – killing goblins.

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Review:

Of the three volumes I’ve read so far, this one is probably the weakest. And that’s because instead of feeling like we were on some epic adventure (albeit to fight goblins), this one genuinely felt like we were reading a harem based light novel with a wishy-washy protagonist, girls who have no purpose outside of their pursuit of him, and ultimately a conflict that felt like it was thrown in at the end for the sake of having a final fight. And while none of that makes this a terrible read, it certainly wasn’t as compelling as previous entries.

However, the positive would be that Goblin Slayer is given more time to become a bit more humanised in this volume. He’s still the enigma and still has complete tunnel vision for goblin killing, but his interactions with the rest of the cast help to paint a broader picture of his overall personality when removed from blowing up goblin nests. Priestess also comes out of this volume looking reasonably good with her being able to showcase how far she’s grown since the opening of volume 1 where she was the scared little girl in need of rescue.

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Unfortunately, the rest of the cast, whether it is Guild Girl, Female Knight, Cow Girl, High Elf Archer or Witch, they all just come off looking pretty vapid and silly as they scurry about trying to attract this or that guy’s interest at the festival. Then again, it isn’t as though Dwarf Shaman or Lizard Priest come off any better. While they aren’t trying to attract a partner they seem to spend almost two thirds of the book doing nothing but taking part in various eating and drinking activities.

And that’s more or less the whole problem. Even though Goblin Slayer is preparing for something from the beginning, it is easily dismissed as his usual eccentric paranoia and doesn’t really count as foreshadowing. The disgruntled adventurer is an obvious flag early on, but it doesn’t amount to very much. So by the time things start happening and the much needed goblins arrive (needed because how can he be Goblin Slayer if there are no goblins), the reader is more or less suffering from festival fatigue and it is almost a relief to see the town plunged into danger.

The danger itself though never feels all that real. Unlike in the previous volumes where the Goblins attacked either a farm that was pretty remote or were underground, here they attack a town. There’s very little reason why our plucky adventurers seem to be fighting without back-up given how many adventurers are in the town (and I don’t care how drunk they claim they might be after the festival), and yet the book insists on having the core group take on much larger numbers by themselves. While it is an excellent showcase of their abilities, it kind of pushes plausibility and after a fairly dull set-up it isn’t really much of a payoff.

So I left this volume with mixed feelings because there are some great character moments here for Goblin Slayer and Priestess and the final fight is actually kind of exciting even if it makes little sense in context, but there’s just too much down time here and too many female characters being too cliche female character from a light novel. I’m hoping the next volume picks back up because if this is an ongoing trend with this series I may very well let this one go and that would be a shame. It has been a lot of fun up until this point.


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Holmes of Kyoto Episode 2: We’ve Ditched The Antiques For a Pretty Bland Puzzle

What this episode had to do with anything I will probably never know, but as a follow up to a fairly ordinary first episode it really didn’t do much to generate any more interest in this anime.

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There’s a very good chance that I’ll drop this at episode 3. Episode one gave us all antiques and no mystery. Episode two changes that around and other than meeting the family in the shop there are no antiques. It makes for a fairly unexplained situation where you have to wonder why they are asking Kiyotaka to look into threatening letters in the first place. This seems like something that could have been explained and wasn’t, and why Aoi is dragged around makes no sense given it has nothing to do with the shop or her job.

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And even if we ignore that contextually it makes no sense, it isn’t very interesting. They go look at some flowers, talk to some angry girls, and then conclude with what was probably obvious from the get go, though the motives explained might have been overlooked given neither was all that interesting.

Visually this show remains good enough, though the sequence under the trees made for some distracted viewing as the sun spots on clothes and faces didn’t seem to move even when the characters did. It seemed like they were overly ambitious adding all those sun streaks into the scene but then didn’t really do anything with them leaving me wondering just what was going on at times.

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But yeah, there’s not a lot here to be excited about. It’s working, kind of, but it hasn’t done a lot to ensure the audience knows who these characters are nor has it tried to actually make us care about them. So all that is left this episode is a bit of a puzzle that it would really be an over-embellishment to claim was a mystery.

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